The Journey

A new journey begins today; the annual spiritual pilgrimage to the cross. For Christians around the world, today marks the beginning of the Lenten season, the 40 days leading up to Christs’ crucifixion.

Many people will celebrate this season by giving something up for Lent, a symbolic representation of a sacrifice made in their own lives to acknowledge the sacrifice Christ made for us. While a humbling and copacetic recognition of His sacrifice, I challenge you all to go deeper this Lent.

As I was cleaning files in my home office a few weeks ago, I came across a Lenten Devotional journal I had received long ago from Insight for Living ministries. This journal will be the basis for my journey this Lent, and I invite you all to come along!

My journey for Lent begins with a funeral; a funeral for a lovely Christian woman who fought a hard battle with cancer and went home to be with Jesus last Saturday. We will miss her greatly, but are so very thankful that we know where she’s gone and we will see her later in Heaven. It is because of His sacrifice that we have the promise of eternal life

I hope you’ll join me in reflecting on the words in today’s devotion. Sin is serious business, and the price that He paid so we wouldn’t have to is enormous. At the very least, let our hearts be humbled today as we begin our spiritual journey.

Blessings,

SB

Copyright 2018 Journey For Life. All rights reserved

Make good choices.. Love, Mom

After a brief text exchange with my college son last night regarding various recent events in his life, he replied, “I’m making good choices, mom”.

When our children are young, we make their choices for them, but as they begin to grow up, they need to begin making choices of their own so that we can help to teach them the difference between good choices and bad choices. We’ve all made bad choices, and so will they. It’s funny, though, how our perspective changes once we are the parent. The truth is, we don’t like to see our kids make choices hat we know will lead them through heartache because we know it will be painful. Worse yet, they could make a choice from which is hard (or impossible) to recover.

When the time comes for them to be completely independent (which, although sad in some ways, IS what we want for our children) I want them to be prepared to think through the consequences of all of their decisions. One method I have used is this admonition: MAKE GOOD CHOICES.

Life is all about choices. I have seen people make some very, very good choices in life, and I have seen people make some very, very bad choices. For every choice car we make, there are consequences. If we are forward thinking enough, we can think about what tho consequences might be given choice A or B, which may help guide us to the best choice. Ultimately I know my children will own their own choices, both big and small. Who to marry, field of employment, place to live, church to attend. I want to equip them with all of the tools to make the very best decisions. But how do we do that?

1. Teach them to think and seek advice from wise people.

The Bible is full of wise advice, as well as examples of good and bad choices. Life, too, is full of good and bad choices. It’s important to talk with our kids about choices we see others make, and point out alternate choices that could have been made to affect different outcomes. This process will help develop critical think skills essential in making good decisions.

Finding other people who can be trusted with choices is also important as we teach our children; people other than their parents who they can trust (face it, when our kids are working hard to prove their independence they may not seek our advice).

2. Let them fail. (This is hard)

This advice is hard to execute because we want our children to have everything better than we did. If we can teach them to own the consequences of their choices in the smaller, seemingly insignificant choices , they will be better equipped to own the big ones too. As we’re teaching them, it is important to refrain from the dreaded, “I told you so” responses that do nothing for building healthy relationships. Let them discover, on their own, consequences from negative choices. Again, this helps build their own decision making process.

3. Love them

Most importantly, continue to love them and keep open relationship, even if the choices they make are different than those you would have made. This step is particularly difficult if their choices are poor, but even more important in this case. Our kids have got to know they always have someone who will help them in time of need.

4. Model itWhether we like to admit or not, our kids follow our lead; the good as well as the bad. For this reason, it is equally important for us to model the lessons we are trying to teach. MAKE GOOD CHOICES.

copyright 2018 Journey-For-Life. All rights reserved

Please follow my journey!

New Years resolution flunky?

As January comes to a close, I wonder how many New Years resolutions are still being actively pursued. Oh, it isn’t that we don’t intend to give our best. In fact, I think, quite honestly, sometimes it’s the opposite. Sometimes in our initial zeal, we start out too aggressively, and pour everything we have into focusing on that resolution. While focus is normally a good thing, when combined with obsession, can lead to burnout. I have experienced this first hand.

My other observation, particularly with fitness goals, is this: the gym-rats art not always welcoming to the “newbies”. Even when I was a regular gym-goer as a new year began, I heard others make negative comments about new people invading their space, using “their” equipment, etc., as if it was a bad thing. I always thought we should be patting them on the back for making a healthy choice, and encouraging them to take it slow enough not to get burned out. After all, the Bible’s tells us to encourage one another, right?

In the past, when I’d become burned out on my venture, I’d simply give up, with an overwhelming feeling of failure that did little for my soul. Perhaps, instead of simply giving up, we should consider that new beginnings happen every day.

If you’re one of the zealous, New Years resolution flunkies, take heart! A new day is beginning, and a new month is about to start! So get ready! Pick yourself back up and let’s get going! I’ll be right there beside you to encourage you every step of the way!

 

Copyright 2018 Journey-For-Life    All Rights Reserved

Overwhelmed!

On a brisk, no bitter cold, Friday morning in November, I pulled into the lot at the office.  Immediately I noticed there were fewer cars in the parking lot, and thought to myself. “This is great. I can get caught up on all the things I couldn’t get to this week.”

I plugged my laptop in and got started.  Then my phone rang. While I was on the phone, in instant message popped up, and then another.  One thing after another, and before I knew it I was feeling overwhelmed.  

Reminiscent of days I’d take a vacation day from work to deep clean the kids’ room, I didn’t know where to start.   I thought back to those days. At the time, I didn’t fully understand anxiety.   I’d start early in the morning, just after they got in the 🚌 bus for school.  The first couple of hours were the worst.  I’d literally hyperventilate, having to remind myself that it was going to be ok 👌.  However, looking at the ridiculous mess in front of my eyes foreshadowed the enormity of the task I felt I’d never complete. 

Slowly, I would begin to make progress, starting in one area.  I found that as I began to organize a bit, throwing away things no longer needed, and grouping together like items, a new pattern of organization began. 

After a few hours, I could begin to see a clearing through the mound of toys and stuffed animals and my anxiety would subside a bit.   I had to see the progress so that I could feel better.  Baby steps.  

As I thought about those days, I tried to apply the advice that I now give to my piano students when they feel overwhelmed with a new song to learn. There are some principles that, if I can remember to apply to all of life’s situations, I would be much better able to eliminate anxiety.

1.  Break big problems into smaller ones and tackle one at a time. 

When we look at an enormous problem, sometimes the anxiety we feel over that problem can immobilize us, which sometimes adds to the anxiety. Before long we feel as though we can’t do any of it, so we don’t.  

2. Get moving 

The longer we procrastinate the worse the problem feels, which adds to our anxiety and makes everything seem worse.  When we move past inactivity, even in something small, we see progress, which helps us to move to the next thing, and then the next. 

3. Look back to see how far you’ve come 

Take time periodically to look around and acknowledge progress. Whether looking around at the toys that are now organized, being able to play the measure that we previously couldn’t, or seeing that the pile of mail is smaller than before, acknowledging the progress we’ve begun to make has a subconscious affect on our psyche.  The message confirms that we are headed in the right direction and motivates us to keep going. 

4. Celebrate the success and take a breath

It may seem sometimes that the hamster wheel never stops, but it’s important to find times when we can pause to celebrate what we’ve accomplished.  Even if we take only 60 seconds before moving to the next task, take the time to figuratively cross the task off the TODO list.  If you are a list maker, cross the task off the literal list.  In doing so, we celebrate the accomplishment which motivates us to keep going.

My Friday didn’t get any easier, but by following the advice above, I was able to cross a few things off my list and motivate me to keep going.  
Blessings

SB

Resolve

At 13 she gave her life to Christ, determined to live a life to honor God for her whole life.  At 23 she met the man of her dreams and married him.   He, too, loved Jesus. Within the first five years of their marriage she suffered three miscarriages.  At 28 she and her husband adopted a beautiful baby boy and named him David.  When David was three years old there was a terrible fire at their home.  She was burned over 80% of her body trying to smother the flames the engulfed her beloved son.   He did not survive.   She spent six weeks in the hospital, refusing the morphine offered her because she didn’t like the way it made her feel.   Doctors visited from all over to observe her healing, amazed that she had survived.  They told her she was a “miracle'”.   She knew that God was with her. Her faith unwavering, her inner resolve and refused to allow her to succumb to her injuries.  

Four months after losing their son, they adopted a beautiful baby girl with big brown eyes.  Almost two years later, they adopted another baby girl, and it seemed as if life was normalizing, as much as it does after the death of a child.

Three years after adopting their second daughter, her husband was diagnosed with cancer. Unwavering faith, the two of them remained strong in their relationship with one another as well as with God.  

After five years in remission, her husbands’ cancer returned with a vengeance, this time taking his life and leaving her to raise two small children. 

Undaunted on the outside, the inner strength of this woman taught her daughters that belonging to Jesus does not shield us from bad things happening.  Instead, she couldn’t imagine going through these battles without Jesus.  

It would have been easy for her to become a victim of any one of the difficult life circumstances, let alone all of them.  Undoubtedly there were moments of doubt along the way, but her obligation to her children – to instill in them the faith she clung to – motivated her to show strength.

In some ways, people would argue God didn’t hear her prayers, but she knows that He did.  He answered them in ways that He knew would ultimately be best for His purpose.  

Copyright Journey-For-Life. 2017. All rights reserved. 

Isaiah 54 (the living translation)

Future Glory for Jerusalem
1″Sing, O childless woman,

you who have never given birth!

Break into loud and joyful song, O Jerusalem,

you who have never been in labor.

For the desolate woman now has more children

than the woman who lives with her husband,”

says the LORD.

2″Enlarge your house; build an addition.

Spread out your home, and spare no expense!

3For you will soon be bursting at the seams.

Your descendants will occupy other nations

and resettle the ruined cities.

4″Fear not; you will no longer live in shame.

Don’t be afraid; there is no more disgrace for you.

You will no longer remember the shame of your youth

and the sorrows of widowhood.

5For your Creator will be your husband;

the LORD of Heaven’s Armies is his name!

He is your Redeemer, the Holy One of Israel,

the God of all the earth.

6For the LORD has called you back from your grief–

as though you were a young wife abandoned by her husband,”

says your God.

7″For a brief moment I abandoned you,

but with great compassion I will take you back.

8In a burst of anger I turned my face away for a little while.

But with everlasting love I will have compassion on you,”

says the LORD, your Redeemer.

9″Just as I swore in the time of Noah

that I would never again let a flood cover the earth,

so now I swear

that I will never again be angry and punish you.

10For the mountains may move

and the hills disappear,

but even then my faithful love for you will remain.

My covenant of blessing will never be broken,”

says the LORD, who has mercy on you.

11″O storm-battered city,

troubled and desolate!

I will rebuild you with precious jewels

and make your foundations from lapis lazuli.

12I will make your towers of sparkling rubies,

your gates of shining gems,

and your walls of precious stones.

13I will teach all your children,

and they will enjoy great peace.

14You will be secure under a government that is just and fair.

Your enemies will stay far away.

You will live in peace,

and terror will not come near.

15If any nation comes to fight you,

it is not because I sent them.

Whoever attacks you will go down in defeat.

16″I have created the blacksmith

who fans the coals beneath the forge

and makes the weapons of destruction.

And I have created the armies that destroy.

17But in that coming day

no weapon turned against you will succeed.

You will silence every voice

raised up to accuse you.

These benefits are enjoyed by the servants of the LORD;

their vindication will come from me.

I, the LORD, have spoken!

Thoughts and prayers

I read a tweet shortly after the reports of the mass shooting in a church near San Antonio, that said, “thoughts and prayers failed again.”  My heart is broken.

Did our thoughts and prayers fail?

I’ve spent evenings this weekend watching episodes of horrific real life stories on ID TV, which left me thinking about all of the evil that exists in the world.   Episode after episode, incredible stories of wives who murdered their husbands, boyfriends who murdered girlfriends, friends who murdered friends.  While I find the stories fascinating, I must admit that the sheer volume of stories of such violence is alarming.  These are only the ones they’ve publicized.  Our morning news is polluted with acts of violence. I can understand why someone could draw the conclusion that our prayers failed.

Just weeks after the Mandolay Bay shooting, once again the nation mourns a tragic mass shooting, this time in San Antonio.   We post photos on our Facebook profiles that say, “pray for San Antonio”.

The tweeter’s words are haunting.  Really haunting.  His words make it sound like God has failed us, that our prayers are futile. Have we become so calloused from continued exposure to such evil in our world that our words sound shallow?

Did our thoughts and prayers fail?

Is God turning a deaf ear to our prayers?  The Bible tells of growing evil in the last days.  Though we don’t know when it will be, the book of Revelation is clear that there will come a time that God will say enough is enough.  God is a just God.  However, God wishes that all would come to know Him.

Our message in church today was centered on 1 Corinthians 16:9 “because a great door had been opened and there will be many who oppose”.  As we do more of God’s will, we often face more adversity.  Conversely, in the face of adversity, there are often doors of opportunity to share our faith with others.

At the risk of sounding trite by saying “pray for San Antonio”, I know that the community is grieving this evening, just as the communities of Las Vegas, New York, Columbine, Paducah, South Carolina, Florida, and countless other communities who struggle to understand the evil that lurks among them.    Hard to understand, for sure.  We may never understand in this side of heaven the extent of hatred of the Evil One that permeates our world, but know this: your prayers are not futile, and they haven’t failed.

I will continue praying for the people who have endured evil in this world, that they may know the peace that passes understanding that comes only through our Lord  and Savior Jesus Christ!

I leave you with this challenge today:

As you listen to discussions around the water cooler this week,  keep you eyes opened for the doors of opportunity to open to share a time when God heard your prayers; not only heard them, but answered them; not only small ones, but big ones, too; perhaps even during a time of adversity when it seemed He wasn’t listening.

See, we are His witnesses.  A witness is someone who testified what they have seen.   As believers in Him, we have seen him answer prayers.  It is our duty not only to continue praying for a lost world, but to share with that world what He has done for us individually.

No, our thought and prayers have not failed. Let’s bless others this week with stories of how He has answered our prayers.
Blessings,

SB
Copyright Journey-For-Life. 2017. All rights reserved. 

Achieving Goals

I have long-lived my life by the principal of, “it is better to ask forgiveness than permission”. Though several years ago, I had a realization of how theologically wrong this thinking is, it’s been a hard habit to break. Over the past few years, I’ve developed a hobby of sorts – cruising Craig’s List for “treasures”.   And I have a garage full of “treasure-projects” now… in fact, I have some under my deck as well.   It makes some of you laugh, I know.  It does not make my husband laugh.

Several weeks ago, I came across a guy selling giant wooden cable spools for cheap (sometimes they sell for $$$).   Turns out, he was in the next town over so I made arrangements to pick up – only they didn’t fit in my van.  I had the kids with me and we were driving, and I said, out loud, “If I could only think of someone who has a truck…   well, I mean, your dad has a truck, but he doesn’t exactly like my game…  who else…” and I went through the list of people I knew who had a truck and would be amenable to my ideas.  And I thought of Josh.   Josh has a big ole’ diesel truck just like My husband’s, except an automatic.  So I asked him if he’d be willing to do me a favor and pick up these spools.   I told him my husband didn’t’ know – and he said, “oh, good.  I like being an ‘enabler’”     Turns out, Josh had knee surgery, so couldn’t drive his truck.  But was perfectly willing to let me borrow it, so I asked him to come along.  I climbed up in his truck and he handed me the keys and I started her up – diesel engines are LOUD.   We drove over to pick the spools up – while en route, I asked Josh if I was making him nervous.  “Not at all,” he replied.  (Be sure to tell  my husband!) We picked up the spools and brought them home – now usually I do these things while my husband is at work, but the only time the spool guy could meet was on a Sunday afternoon.  Hubby was home working in his garage.  “there’s NO WAY he’s not going to hear this truck coming up the driveway”, I laughed as we approached.   But as luck would have it, he did not.  We rolled the spools (which fit perfectly in the bed of the truck, I might add), out of the truck and into the backyard, Visible from the driveway, to be sure.   He never came out of the garage.   In fact, he didn’t’ say a word about it that night.  I thought, “There’s no way he didn’t see them… is there?”   Nothing the next day, either.  Then, on Tuesday, when I came home from work, he gave me a great big hug (out of character, for sure).    As he hugged me, he whispered in my ear:  “would you PLEASE quit bringing $hit home!   Please!  You’re killing me”.    LOL,   I laughed and said that I could not make that promise.  Haha.    Well.  That was before the grand-daddy of all projects.   ( I do have plans for the spool(s) – and may have some more coming… shhhhh).

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On the following Saturday, Hubby was working, so I decided it was the day I would buy the raw materials to finish my basement.  We started it about 12 years ago.   Hubs did.   He made a spare bedroom (which has now become our oldest daughter’s) and a suite for my mom – and it’s beautiful. The rest of the basement was concrete floor and studs.  Several years ago, when the kids were starting to have friends hang out, we covered the studs with black sheets – which was better than studs, but still tacky.  I decided it was time to finish it.  But I also knew that I have limitations.   And I decided it wasn’t worth the hassle of a conversation about it, so I just figured out a way around my limitations.   LESSON 1: WHEN YOU HAVE LIMITATIONS, YOU MAY HAVE TO BE CREATIVE ABOUT ACHIEVING YOUR GOALS.

limitations2

I knew I couldn’t’ carry a 4 x 8 sheet of drywall myself.   And the thought of taping/sanding, etc, was daunting.   I had been thinking about the project for a while, and checking out materials that I thought could be used – I decided I wanted to use brick paneling and make it look like an old exposed brick wall.  “don’t’ make it too dark” someone warned me.   So off to Home Depot I went because they had the brick paneling with the white grout.   When I got there, after I wandered the parking lot for a cart, I asked the man in building materials if he would cut paneling for me.  He said, “No”.   So there I stood in Home Depot, pulling out my cell to call Lowes to make sure they’d cut it for me.  I would have gone to Lowes first anyway (have ALWAYS liked Lowes better)  but their brick paneling had black grout and I was afraid it would be too dark.  “Yes, you will cut it?   Ok, I’m on my way,” I said, and hung up. LESSON 2: SOMETIMES YOU HAVE TO COMPROMISE THE SMALL THINGS, WHILE KEEPING YOUR EYE ON THE BIG PICTURE.

focus.jpg

I went to Lowes and got my lumber cart and entered the paneling aisle.  It’s an aisle I know well, because it has all of the fancy moldings, etc, that I have used on other projects.  I found a paneling that I liked (actually, two different ones, for different walls)  and started putting it in the cart, one sheet at a time.  A customer walked by, looking at something further down the aisle, and then turned around and came back to help me load the rest.  God bless him.   Then, I took the paneling to the cutter and asked if they would cut it at 32″, leaving a 16″ piece – that way, it was small enough to fit in my van and small enough for me to handle, but would still span the 16″ studs in the basement.     They cut all of the paneling – all 16 pieces of it.    Then, I paid for it and wheeled my cart to the car.  Ok – wind gusts of 35 mph that day in Pittsburgh.  Have you ever picked up a thin piece of paneling in a windstorm?  I can imagine that was quite a show!    I wrestled about 3 pieces into the van when another nice man stopped over to help me.   God bless him, too.   He said, “Boy, you are sure a strong and independent woman”.   I looked at him gratefully and said, “well, maybe, but I sure needed YOUR help.”   LESSON NUMBER 3:   DON’T BE AFRAID TO ACCEPT HELP, even if you didn’t ask for it.

help

Well, we got the rest loaded into the van, and I brought it home.  Already sore from running a 5K that morning, I asked my daughter if she’d help me take it to the basement.  We stacked it up… and then I moved it to a location that I thought would be better should Hubby decide to come to the basement (which doesn’t happen all that often).  As I moved it, I dropped a stack of the 16″ pieces down my thighs, and they scraped the whole way down – now I’m brush-burned and bruised.  .. and sore… lol .
I decided that I was anxious to start, but because I could only work on it when Hubs wasn’t’ home, I decided to take vacation days on Monday, Wednesday, and Friday of that week.  The electrician was coming back on Friday, so I wanted to be done with as much as possible.    Things were actually going along quite well – I texted a few pictures out to people I trusted to give me good feedback – they told me it looked good.  :-0     On Wednesday, Hubs said, “do you think I could take your car on Friday to get the snow tires off?  If I do, I’ll be home late. So you won’t have a car.”   “Does that mean I get to drive your new truck?”   “no”  lol   Hot dog, I thought – he’ll be late – I can keep working.   SURE! That sounded great.   And then the weather forecast – 4″ of snow predicted for Saturday.    On Thursday night, he said, “I’m not going to take your car, after all”.   Dang.  Does that mean you’re not going to be late, either?   I couldn’t ask that.   I just had to accept it.

dang it
So on Friday, he left for work, and I got to work in the basement – a whole week has gone by and he has no idea the work is being done.  The electrician comes over and works on the electrical while I worked on the paneling some more.   He told me it looked impressive so far, and he was surprised how much had gotten accomplished – and he was surprised I was doing it all by hand – yep, hand saw, paneling nails.   Jigsaw for cutting out the outlet holes.  Outside wall complete.  Inside walls in the process, but with the hardest areas left – the part where the stairs come down  – because of a piece of drywall that had been ripped off years ago.  The kids come home from school – and they’re all excited to see it getting finished.  My daughter said, “just tell Dad when he finds out that he could have done it his way 10 years ago!  Now we’re doing it your way!”    (she also said she couldn’t wait to come home from college to see what other changes I make in the house… haha  maybe it will be in her room   lol.)     So my son goes back upstairs, but my oldest daughter is standing there with me.  The electrician had left for a bit to take something to his daughter at school.   Then I see it.   Two feet on the stairs… and before I knew it, Hubs was half-way down the stairs with a look on his face like, “what the… ” surprise

he stopped, looked around, and went back upstairs without saying a word.  The electrician came back a little while later and was working on the outlet in the corner when Hubs came down the steps again – twice in one day.   I could tell he didn’t know there was someone else there, so I said, “would you like to meet my new friend?” praying, “God, please let him be civil”.   He was. (Thank you, Jesus).    Later, I said to him, “Please don’t’ judge the work until it’s finished – and then tell me I did a good job”.     (He’s a perfectionist – and good at everything, so I knew he would be tough to please – not to mention that I hadn’t even mentioned the plan to him!)   I said, “Please don’t go down there until it’s done.”   He said “oh, don’t worry!  I don’t’ want anything to do with it!”    ha.   Perfect. Until Saturday, when he, once again, came down the stairs.   “I thought I asked you not to come down here?!”   “I’m just checking out the electrical work,” he said.  Yeah, right.   Ok.    Well, after 17 more trips downstairs “not” checking anything out, he said to me, “you know, years ago, I got these oak wraps for the poles.”   “I know – they’re in the closet over there”   “surprised you know where they are,” he said.   (sheesh, eye roll.)  “Well, when you get to that point, if you want, maybe I could help you with that”    Wow.  That was acceptance.   Ok, things would be ok.   LESSON 4:   TAKE CALCULATED RISKS.   risk.jpg

I say “calculated” because it’s never good to be reckless.   I was reasonably sure that he wouldn’t divorce me over my decision to finish the basement, but it was a risk I took.    (I’ve taken that risk several other times in our 21 years – I don’t recommend it for everyone – but it’s worked out ok for us so far).   On Saturday afternoon, he even asked me if I wanted to accompany him to Harbor Freight.   YES! I love Harbor Freight – and could surely find some tools… but no, I want to keep working here – thanks for asking.   LESSON 5:   WHEN YOU’RE BUSTED, OWN IT.   Don’t make excuses about it..  it just is what it is.

ownership

Gain acceptance and move on. In fact, owning your goals is really important; there is no one who will care more about achieving your goals than you do.  This includes when things are going well as well as when they are not.   You are the only one who can refocus your attention when it is needed.

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ceiling – hung all by myself!
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faux brick wall
There you have it – the 5 lessons I learned about achieving goals – hoping this has been a blessing to you!   Would love to from you regarding lessons you’ve learned through achieving your goals as well! Feel free to comment below!

Blessings to ya!

SB

 Copyright Journey-For-Life. 2017. All rights reserved.