The Sunday Wobble: A Lesson on Detours

Broken ShoeA few Sundays ago, I sat down in my car, cranked it up, and put it into gear. I expected all systems to work. They did. Likewise, when I got to my destination, I expected to get out of my car with just as much ease. Sadly, I didn’t. Exiting my car with 3-inch heels, I expected to sashay across the parking lot into the sanctuary. But, here’s what really happened: I swiveled my leg outside of my cherry red Chrysler 300 only to have my foot wobble as it rested on the ground. I tried to put weight on it, but the shakiness only got worse.

I was curious. My foot was fine. However, my designer shoes were not. (See the picture above.) Surely, I couldn’t sashay anywhere with the heel separating from the rest of my shoe. Still, I briefly considered hobbling across the parking lot. After all, I didn’t want to miss the Sunday service.  But, I didn’t want a broken ankle, either. Eventually, I decided to drive back home and check my closet for another pair of shoes to match my outfit. Thank God I had options!

After resolving my wardrobe malfunction, I realized I would be incredibly late if I tried to return to my church. The entire sermon would be over. What a bummer! The good news: I’d be right on time to worship with my college-age daughter. The church she attended that day had a noonday service. A broken shoe couldn’t steal my joy, shake my patience, or keep me from attending a worship service. It simply led me on a detour to hear a sermon I wouldn’t have otherwise heard—and a good one at that!

Similarly, we all have experienced scenarios that have caught us by surprise, tested us, or racked our nerves. For you, perhaps it was a shocking family announcement. Maybe a doctor gave you an unfavorable report. Perhaps your job interview was followed by yet another rejection letter. Like me, was your mishap a simple wardrobe malfunction? Whatever the circumstance, though, we can trust God. The route He chooses may be different than what we expect. But, be encouraged; His way is best. With that in mind, life’s detours are easier to accept—even when our feet wobble and our plans get changed.

I’m always eager to see how God is going to work everything out … in His timing, according to His perfect plan, and for His glory. Despite what things look like right now, what are you trusting God to do? What Scriptures give you hope in the meantime?

Finish Well

Finish WellDuring my walk on the Noonday Creek Trail today, a boy about five years old rode his bicycle while his dad jogged alongside him. But, I noticed the duo stopped at the top of a small hill. That’s when the dad began coaching his son; surely he didn’t want the child to crash into the nearby rock pile, bump into the side rail, or collide with oncoming pedestrians.

In passing, I heard fragments of the father’s hilltop lecture. I imagined the entire talk went something like this: “Take it slow, and remember to use your brakes if you need to, Son. If you follow my instructions, you’re going to soar to the end. It may seem scary, but don’t worry. I’ll be right beside you. Just enjoy the ride.” Then, with his father’s gentle nudge, the boy headed downhill. Because he listened and obeyed, the boy not only started well, but he finished well, too.

Like the elementary school boy I encountered on the trail today, maybe you’re sitting “at the top.” Perhaps you just met your weight goal. You may have just paid off a large debt or purchased your dream home. Maybe a relationship took off to an exciting new level or your family has recently been restored. Regardless, life is good. You’re confident and feel unstoppable. You’re eager to find out what’s next.

So, what’s a woman to do? For starters, we certainly can avoid taking matters into your own hands. Running ahead of our heavenly Father’s instruction could be devastating. Listening to and obeying His instruction is crucial if we want to soar to the end with little (or no) detours. Only God knows what’s next. It could be a valley, plateau, a new hill to climb, or even a cliff. Are you ready? When we travel with the Lord, we’re equipped for anything. Even a downhill ride with Him is amazing. Just remember, whatever we encounter in 2017, our ultimate goal is to finish well. Enjoy the ride. Blessings, peace, and prosperity to you this year and beyond.

Don’t Put Off for Tomorrow…

Last week (December 30, 2016 to be exact) my husband and I celebrated the day we both said, “I do.” Because of God’s grace and mercy (and some compromises and hard work on our behalf), I can safely say we’re in this thing for the long haul–16 years and counting.

However, we didn’t actually celebrate our most recent wedding anniversary. Instead, weGeorgia Snow January 2017 spent the day traveling back home from our annual Christmas trek to see extended family a few states away. Consequently, my husband and I postponed our celebratory plans. Although we had high hopes for a make-up date this weekend, Georgia’s freezing temperatures and icy roads have unfortunately kept us indoors. Our plans to commemorate our nuptials are temporarily foiled. We’ll try again next weekend.

Like my belated anniversary celebration you may have postponed something in 2016, too. Perhaps it was a book you neglected to write, a career opportunity you didn’t follow up on, or an “I love you” that you never verbalized. Regardless, 2017 is your chance to make things right. Find out what’s hindering your progress and then take action. In other words, what will you say “I do” to in 2017? After all, we believers can do anything in Christ who strengthens us (Phil. 4:13).

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In my Twitter poll, I ask folks to share why they procrastinate. Consider participating in the poll (if you have a Twitter account), and then, see how your answer compares with others’ responses.  Act fast though, the poll will close in six days.

Roadblocks: Getting on the Right Path

Roadblock: Fallen TreeMost days, I go for therapeutic walks; however, Georgia’s “winter” weather introduced challenges to my morning regimen a few weeks ago. In Cobb County where I reside, residents experienced unseasonably high temperatures, rain, a tornado, and then, an extreme drop in temperature the very next day. What a surprise!

The debris I saw during my trek was evidence that strong winds had ripped through the area. But, my morning journey halted as I approached a tree that had toppled over and blocked my path.  It was too large for me to consider moving—that was a task for the county cleanup crew. I didn’t want to go around it because the ditches on both sides of the path were slick with mud. I even considered cutting my walk short and turning back around. Eventually, though, I decided to step through the branches and maneuver my way to the other side. (I’m glad I wore my thick sweat pants that day. Otherwise, I’d have the scrapes on my legs to prove it.)

Our lives can sometimes feel messy like the trail I encountered. Sometimes, it’s a sudden illness that turns our life upside down. At other times, a disagreement with a friend or family member dampens our spirit. Perhaps hierarchical changes, downsizing, or plummeting sales threaten our careers and leave us concerned about the future.

Whether our hindrance is a literal obstacle like the fallen tree I encountered or something intangible, our options are similar. We can wait for someone to resolve our problem (or try to fix it ourselves). We can maneuver around it. Or, we could do an about-face and declare the issue too big to tackle. Like me, though, some of us have navigated through our rough patches and have emerged unscathed.

Still, you may wonder what’s right for your unique situation. For starters, with a thankful heart, you can present your requests to God (Phil. 4:6) and trust Him to reveal your next steps. When He does, will you be willing to follow His lead? Know that if God allows you to encounter a “roadblock,” He can also equip you to come through it—sometimes without the tiniest scratch. So, get your big girl sweat pants on, and be prepared to step confidently wherever the Spirit leads.

As Good As New

Good As NewI knew I should’ve been grateful. Still, I complained about my Toshiba touch screen laptop. Although less than a year old, it seemed much too slow. My applications didn’t work according to their design. And, I grew weary of the daily pop-ups suggesting I accept the free upgrade to Windows 10. I decided to make the switch to the new operating system—as soon as I wrapped up a writing contract due just weeks later.

But after the upgrade, my laptop stopped functioning altogether. (Ok, occasionally, it would boot up after 20 or more minutes, but its capabilities were severely limited.) Microsoft’s phone support couldn’t provide an immediate solution. Consequently, the customer service rep suggested I take my laptop to a Microsoft store to be inspected. The nearest one was more than 20 miles away. Ugh!

With that, I complained some more—to the person on the other end of the phone, to the folks in my household, and to anyone else who’d listen. I wanted to trash my laptop and start over with a new one. The past several months had been a nightmare. After all, a writer needs her laptop, right?

After visiting the Microsoft store, I was glad I’d backed up my data because the prognosis was grim. The technician needed to wipe my laptop clean and reload the operating system. My equipment would stay in Microsoft’s capable hands for a couple of days. I signed a few papers and said, “Good riddance,” to the computer.

To my surprise, when I went to pick up my equipment, it worked better than it did 10 months prior when I first brought it home. It was equipped with Windows 10, ran more quickly, and had a few new features that I grew to love. Plus, as I reloaded my data, I got to reorganize everything for optimal accessibility. All was well.

The folks at Microsoft were a joy, to boot. Of course, their services were free of charge. I couldn’t get enough of these folks. The next day, I even drove the 20+ miles again to attend a free workshop they co-hosted with another company.

Folks, sometimes we simply feel like complaining. We dislike the way things are headed in our lives. We want new homes and cars or perhaps better wardrobes. Maybe we’re new parents and just want a little extra sleep. Some folks even consider ditching a marriage or some other relationship that’s hit a hard patch. And I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention the “stuff” that’s ballooned alongside the 2016 U.S. presidential election—the complaints, taunts, and divisions—oh my! 

My advice: Hold on and know that God is the One who will one day “make all things new” (Rev. 21:5, KJV). In the meantime, He can revive marriages, renew our love for an estranged sibling, and help us to appreciate the things we already have. He can bring judgment upon a nation and expose sin. He unites people for His purposes, and He can also change hearts. Whatever He’s up to—whether it’s something as simple as working out an issue with a laptop or handling a nation’s crises—I trust Him.  Will you?

In a Dark Place?

cat-on-the-prowlAs I raised our garage door one Sunday morning to begin our drive to church, my children spotted it. But, none of us could make out what it was. A bird? Lizard? Rodent? No use guessing…the animal had been completely mutilated. Since my husband was out of town (and my previous night had been restless) I was certain of one thing: I wouldn’t stick around long enough to fathom what happened in my driveway the night before. So, off to church I went.

In the days that followed, my mystery unraveled. I noticed a stray cat roaming through my back yard. On one occasion, I watched it crouch behind my neighbor’s garbage bin with its gaze fixed on something nearby. Another day, it pranced across my patio with a small animal swinging from its mouth. Finally, I saw the orange and white feline in action. It jumped on my retaining wall and chased a chipmunk into its burrow. Three days passed before I saw one of the tiny rodents surface from the hole. Even then, the chipmunk wouldn’t move more than a few inches away from the entrance.

Like the chipmunk in my back yardentrance to chipmunk burrow, many of us retreat to dark places when we feel threatened. Some folks become promiscuous once their hearts have been broken; they refuse to fall in love again. Others might turn to a gang for brotherhood or sisterhood when family has failed them. And, when our prayers aren’t answered according to our timetables, do we begin to practice self-reliance instead of waiting on God? Dark places … unfortunately, we can nestle in them so deeply that we forget our way out.

Still, I have good news: We don’t have to stay in a pit of despair. It’s natural to feel afraid, overwhelmed, and even overpowered after a devastating or hurtful experience. But continuing in such debilitating mindsets isn’t healthy. In time, as we seek help, healing, and encouragement, we can emerge with a plan to exit our dark places stronger (and wiser) than before. Do you have an escape plan?

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Since October is Domestic Violence Awareness Month, I’ve included links to sites that offer advice on developing escape or safety plans for those who are in dark places because of abuse.

A Shift of Focus

A Shift of FocusThe aroma of yeast rolls and fried chicken wafts out from the fellowship hall and travels into the sanctuary. Suddenly, our focus shifts. Instead of feasting on the preached word, we anticipate the mouthwatering spread we’ll soon face. Before we can say amen, we strategically place one foot into the aisle and gather our belongings. We hope to get first dibs on dinner and dessert—a pound cake or peach cobbler, of course.

Okay, this may be an exaggeration, but you get the picture. When we anticipate something good, we can hardly wait to receive it:  a new baby, a gift, a special meal, or maybe a visit from a distant loved one. But what happens when we receive something that leaves us puzzled, and consequently, we don’t know what to expect?

That’s the position I was in a few months ago. I was consistently drawn to two songs, “Safe in His Arms” by Rev. Milton Brunson and the Thompson Community Singers and “He’s Preparing Me” by Daryl Coley. I purchased and downloaded copies of the music. (I still play the songs daily.) Around the same time frame, I kept seeing verses that reminded me God would sustain me. Still, I didn’t understand it all.

Weeks later, though, I experienced a sudden onset of a chronic illness. When I felt like my body was shutting down, those verses gave me strength. Plus, the songs God put in my Spirit encouraged me. He had prepared me in advance for the struggles He knew I’d face. Everything became clear: I was indeed “Safe in His Arms,” and I was comforted in knowing God would sustain me. (Praise report: I’m much better, now!)

In the months that followed, He gave me additional verses to increase my faith. He’s used them to draw me nearer to Him. I’m sharing some of them with you today in hopes that you, too, will gain strength from God’s Word.  Click here to read them.

Dear sister in Christ, you, too may have recently received some news you didn’t expect. Perhaps you anticipated something good, but it hasn’t yet occurred. If so, the stench of doubt and mistrust could easily waft into your personal space and change your focus. That’s why it’s important to have your own arsenal handy: Scriptures that speak to your unique situation. Gather them. Say them aloud. Then, trust God in the meantime, and know that whatever your concern, God is in control. He’s got this. Yes … even this.

The Invisible Woman

Invisible WomanLast week, I wrote about feeling invisible during a crisis. But, what about times when all is well, yet, we still feel unnoticed—even though we’ve brought our A-game? Giving her take on the issue, Andrea Merrell, an editing professional who encouraged writers at the Atlanta Christian Writer’s Conference last month, suggested that sometimes, God purposely “hides” us. During these times He’s equipping us and helping us to refine our craft.

When we work diligently toward our calling, God often allows us to “practice” in a safe environment first. At just the right time, He exposes us. Then, voila: Our fifth album is a hit. Our third book sells 100,000 copies. Or, after 12 years of barely keeping our business afloat, we get a contract with a fortune 100 company. Now, we’re ready.

In the meantime, let’s not despair because our walls aren’t decorated with congratulatory plaques. We can’t give up because our bank accounts aren’t brimming with cash from a recent promotion. And, although it seems the people we’ve helped don’t always remember to say “thank you,” let’s not become discouraged. We can be grateful in knowing that sometimes, God Himself is the One “hiding” us.

What talents are you glad God refined in you before you were “released” to the masses?

No Opportunity Wasted

Zion Baptist CShurch Marietta-Women's Retreat 2016This past weekend, about 50 Bible-toting women traveled by coach from the metropolitan Atlanta area to the mountains of Helen, Georgia. I was one of them. We planned to commune with God on a Christian retreat packed with sessions to enlighten us and encourage quiet reflection and fellowship. The theme for our weekend was “No Opportunity Wasted.” However, we never expected an “opportunity” to surface so quickly.

While en route, our coach’s air pressure malfunctioned and the horn began to blare uncontrollably. Then, the bus crept along until it no longer budged. About 45 minutes away from our destination, we found ourselves parked on a two-lane rural road with ditches on either side. Of course, the temperature onboard rose. With our cellular service spotty, we struggled to get help. Cars sped around us; we were seemingly invisible.

Still, we didn’t sit around wringing our hands. A couple of ministers exited the bus to direct traffic. Others ensured passengers with health concerns were able to move to an air conditioned vehicle. (I thank God for attendees who followed close behind in their personal cars!) Then something amazing happened: After we helped each other and served passersby, somehow, the bus began to idle. The horn quieted, and the A/C returned, too.

Like the ladies on retreat this weekend, many of us have felt invisible during a crisis. Maybe you’ve wondered whether anyone realizes your children are hungry. Perhaps you’ve secretly prayed your way home from work on an empty gas tank. Or, you’ve silently suffered through an impending eviction, car repossession, or failing marriage. Although help may seem distant, know that God is watching.

He certainly saw the 50 women on our broken down bus. Who else could’ve prepared us so aptly for our weekend retreat? After all, by the time we arrived at our lodge, our misfortune had already caused us to bond with each other, lift up silent prayers, sing songs, and be grateful for our safety. God allowed us to be humbled; and consequently, our hearts were thirsty for the messages we’d hear that weekend. Our temporary setback became a set up for praise and worship. (At least that was my experience.) Indeed, God makes sure no opportunity is wasted.

Have you recently noticed a bad situation take a turn for the better? How do you personally “know that all things work together for good to those who love God, to those who are the called according to His purpose” (Romans 8:28, NKJV)?

A Trophy-Worthy Effort

IA Trophy-Worthy Effort remember the faux wood shelving unit that lined the wall of our family’s dining area in the mid-1970s. Although I was a child then, I still have fond memories of how that piece of furniture was decorated. Trophies—seemingly dozens of them—lined its shelves. Although one or two of the statues were missing heads or arms from my misguided cartwheels, the awards validated my father’s success in basketball. Because of his accomplishments, my dad had earned some serious “street cred.” He even got a spot in the local newspaper.

As I sat in a conference a few weeks ago, an editor made a comment that caused me to reconnect with my childhood memory. This wise editing professional, Andrea Merrell, said that books shouldn’t merely be deemed as trophy pieces. “Having your name on the cover of a book,” she warned, “does not make you a writer.” She continued, saying that when we jot down what God gives us for the purpose of blessing someone else … that makes us writers.

Whether we’re writers, engineers, medical doctors, or even ballers, most of us want to be good at what we do. That’s why aptitude and diligence are important. And, when we show genuine concern for those we serve, everyone benefits.

Don’t we all want to be deemed as credible, proficient, or important? Sometimes, though, we employ drastic, unhealthy measures in the process. Now days, when we want our children to be successful we resort to helicopter parenting. We embellish our résumé to chase our dream career. And, when we seek significance, we belittle others or expose their faults. In the long run, we find that we’ve done ourselves—and others—a terrible disservice.

Folks, we may never earn a spot in the local paper, receive a trophy for a job well done, or get cheered by spectators like my dad did. But, be encouraged. When we walk in our calling, work diligently, and perfect our craft, we’re one step nearer to making the “goal—”or even sweeter—a slam dunk.

How do you stay encouraged when you haven’t been recognized for your efforts? How do you remain humble when your shelves are decorated with awards? What inspires you to keep it movin’?