Monday, January 20, 2020

Weekly Gratitude Post

I'm feeling so grateful for God's goodness to me this past week. The week began with me on a personal spiritual retreat at the beach. I was at a point of spiritual depletion and weariness that left me feeling inwardly fragile. On Monday morning I woke up in my little hotel suite, bundled up in my favorite cozy sweater, made my coffee, lit a candle, turned on the gas fireplace and sat down with my Bible and journals. The minute I wrote these words in my journal, "I surrender this time to You and what You want to do in me", I immediately heard the word "fortify" in my spirit. I knew God wanted to strengthen me in my innermost being. I returned home on Wednesday, and on Friday night we began a full weekend of meetings at our church. The speaker opened his remarks by saying that God wants to impart strength to us and fortify us. What a confirmation of what God had spoken to me in my time at the beach. What a confirmation of God's care for me when I was feeling weak and weary. I am so very grateful that God meets us in our neediness. He's such a good and loving Father!
Since 2009 I've been counting my blessings thanks to the prompting of Ann Voskamp.
 I continue to count my thanks, 
piling up gratitude day by day in my journal.
(and capturing some of my blessings via my camera or iPhone)

-the sound of the sea
-the cry of the gulls
-a walk by the sea in spite of the rain
-God speaking to me clearly that He wants to fortify me

-gray skies that turned to hail and then snow and then cleared up to blue skies as I walked on the beach
-an answer to prayer for a dear friend
-a text video of my five year old grandson trying to learn to sew

-this time away with God at the beach
-a safe drive home
-middle daughter and our eighth grandbaby-to-be doing well at her check-up
-a new computer with lots of memory

-being home

-trying a new recipe
-oldest granddaughter stopping by to say hi to me

-an answer to prayer for a loved one
-time to get some writing and my Saturday chores done before a full weekend begins
-rejoicing about everyone who came to tonight's meeting at church

-God's leadership in our life and the way He has brought new people in our lives to walk in relationship with
-confirmation from the Lord about His desire to fortify us
-an amazing day with our church and and this evening meeting with our church leadership

-beautiful worship and presence of God with us
-God's Word to our church
-lunch with friends

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Saturday, January 18, 2020

How To Take A Spiritual Retreat - Part One

"He makes me lie down in fresh, tender, green pastures. 
He leads me beside the still and restful waters.
He refreshes and restores my life..." 
Psalm 23:2-3 AMPC

This past week I had a three day personal retreat all by myself at a cozy little hotel at the beach. This time of spiritual rest and refreshing was exactly what I needed. I am so blessed that my husband and our church leadership recognized what I needed as well and provided this getaway for me. 

Lest you think, "How lucky is she? She gets to get away from life and responsibilities whenever she wants!" The truth is, this is only the second time in my sixty two years of living that I've gone away by myself like this. Yes, I've been to many retreats with other women, but only twice have I gone away all alone. I can't just take off for a few days at the beach every time I feel depleted. (Although, if anyone has a cottage at the beach they'd like to donate for this purpose I wouldn't turn it down!)  So, I've had to learn to take times of personal spiritual retreat right where I live. But, if you can take some time away, I highly recommend it! I've decided to make this a three part blog series. This week  I thought I'd share some symptoms of spiritual depletion/weariness. In part two I'll share some suggestions on what to do on a personal spiritual retreat and in part three I'll share how to build times of personal spiritual retreat into your normal everyday life.

Signs of spiritual depletion.
First of all, I think that those who are in any kind of ministry or occupation that involves caregiving are most prone to physical, emotional and spiritual weariness and depletion. From mothering, to caring for aging parents, from nursing to teaching, from counseling to pastoral ministry, when your full time job is caring for others than I would assume that it's more common to experience times of emptiness, depletion and weariness. It makes sense that those who spend their lives pouring into others would, on occasion, struggle with their own emptiness.  In my life, I've learned some preventive measures that usually help me to not become completely depleted. However, there have been a few occasions, these past few weeks being one of them, when I felt like I needed a more intensive time of getting filled back up and refreshed than I normally get through my daily devotional time.   (Join me for the rest of this post on Sunday, January 19th, at Woman to Woman Ministries, where each Sunday I share a bit of Sunday Soul Food!)

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Monday, January 13, 2020

Weekly Gratitude Journal

I'm on a little personal retreat- a couple of days of rest and spiritual refreshing here by the sea is just what the doctor ordered. Without further ado, here's last week's gratitude journal!

Since 2009 I've been counting my blessings thanks to the prompting of Ann Voskamp.
 I continue to count my thanks, 
piling up gratitude day by day in my journal.
(and capturing some of my blessings via my camera or iPhone)

-God speaking to me through His word
-a fun day with our two middle granddaughters and the two youngest grands
-lots of grandbaby hugs and kisses

-the smell of pot roast cooking in the oven
-2 Samuel 22:7 MSG-"my cry brought me right into His presence"
-the power of speaking God's word aloud
-praying and worshiping with our small group

-a morning with the three youngest grandkids
-a sweet conversation with an elderly lady at the park
-my daughter's outpatient procedure going well
-my husband's tenderness to me

-revisiting a life changing book that's like an old familiar friend
-phone calls with both of my sisters 
-creamy Trader Joe's white roses in full bloom
-seeing God at work in a friend's life

-Friday date day!
-Papa buying our middle grandgirlies a surprise
(She wanted this shirt so bad!)
-our middle grandgirlies spending the night with us
-watching Secondhand Lions with them-they loved it!

-making crepes for breakfast with the grandgirlies
-our granddaughters being so good in spite of being housebound due to rain
-my granddaughter reading aloud from my memory box that my daughters made me
-my husband getting my car all ready for my trip tomorrow

-a safe drive to the beach in spite of all the wind and rain
-the sweet presence of God as I worshipped on the drive
-our church praying for me
-the vase I've been eyeing in the Safeway floral department on clearance for $2.25 here at the beach
 and a bouquet of flowers for $5 to cheer up my hotel room
-dangerous king tides at the beach today-seeing the awesome power of the sea
 and remembering that even the winds and waves obey Him

still following,

Saturday, January 11, 2020

God Makes My Life Complete

"God made my life complete when I placed all the pieces before Him." 
2 Samuel 22:21 MSG

When I was six years old our family traveled cross country from Oregon to Maine to visit my Mama's family for the first time. I fell in love with the people and the place. When we got home from Maine, Mama and Daddy's already rocky marriage continued to disintegrate. Mama spent some time in the mental hospital due to depression. Daddy eventually left Mama for another woman. Maine became a place I escaped to in my daydreams. In my little girl mind I was convinced that Maine was the place where I would feel whole and complete again and less broken. I suppose it's because it was the place where my happiest memories were before everything fell apart.   (Join me for the rest of this post on Sunday, January 12th, at Woman to Woman Ministries, where each Sunday I share a bit of Sunday Soul Food!)

still following,

Monday, January 6, 2020

Weekly Gratitude Journal

During Christmas and New Year's weeks we keep our church schedule clear of everything except Sunday services so everyone can have some down time with their families. Today, life gets back to "normal" and the January calendar is already filled up. Here we go, full speed ahead into a new year1

It's easier to face an unknown future when I've got numerous journals full of entries recording the ways that God has faithfully cared for us through all of life's ups and downs in the past. He has been faithful, He is faithful and He will be faithful in the future. I give Him thanks.

Since 2009 I've been counting my blessings thanks to the prompting of Ann Voskamp.
 I continue to count my thanks, 
piling up gratitude day by day in my journal.
(and capturing some of my blessings via my camera or iPhone)

-Psalm 91:14 "I'll give you the best of care if you'll only get to know and trust me."
-going to see the new "Little Women" movie with two of my daughters
-my husband facing a big unexpected financial need with calmness

-finding out that we are going to be having another grandson-an even 4 granddaughters and 4 grandsons!
-our son-in-law and nephew helping to get my car home to a car mechanic that we trust
-medicine for our sweet youngest granddaughter who has been so sick with stomach flu

-facing a new year by recalling the history of God's love and faithful care for us through the past and knowing He will continue to do so through the future
-beginning a new year with my guy
-new running shoes found on the clearance rack

-a "picnic" of to-go food in the car with my guy while out running errands
-doing a bit of sketching and realizing how much creativity ministers to my spirit
-staying up late together watching a Brit Box show we've gotten hooked on

-snow covered Mt. St. Helens and Mt. Hood
-a dozen creamy white roses from Trader Joes for only $6.99
-all of the remodeling debris in our garage finally hauled away to the dump!

-praise God for a correction on a disputed billing
-a morning spent writing
-a walk and heart talk with a friend
-blue hour out my kitchen window

-encouraging worship
-going out for Sunday lunch with friends
-eating still warm sugar free cook and serve chocolate pudding topped with walnuts

still following,

Sunday, January 5, 2020

A New Focus for A New Year

“Here’s what I want you to do: 
Find a quiet, secluded place so you won’t be tempted to role-play before God. 
Just be there as simply and honestly as you can manage. 
The focus will shift from you to God, and you will begin to sense his grace." 
Matthew 6:6 MSG

In the beautiful movie, The Art of Racing in the Rain, race car driver Denny Swift says, “The car goes where the eyes go.”  I think we can take that basic concept and apply it to our lives-our life goes where our focus is. It's the start of a brand new year. We can either face the unknown future of 2020 with a "que sera sera" attitude of whatever will be will be, or we can choose our focus for the coming year. 

Shakespeare wrote these beautiful words, 

"...Love is not love 
Which alters when it alteration finds, 
Or bends with the remover to remove. 
O no! it is an ever-fixed mark 
That looks on tempests and is never shaken; 
It is the star to every wand'ring bark..."

To Shakespeare, love was the ever-fixed mark that could withstand all of the storms and tempests and unknowns in life. But, you and I know the truth-human love is weak and fallible. As Christ followers we know that God, Who is love in all of its fullness, is our ever-fixed mark that enables us to walk through storms and tempests and life's unknowns. 

If it's true that that life will go where my focus is, how do I shift my focus to God? How do I make Him the ever-fixed mark for my life?  Here are some things that I have found helpful.   (Join me for the rest of this post on Sunday, January 5th, at Woman to Woman Ministries, where each Sunday I share a bit of Sunday Soul Food!)

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Saturday, January 4, 2020

One Word 365 - My Word for 2020-

Happy New Year, everyone! My mind can't wrap around the fact that it is 2020. Wasn't it the turn of the century just yesterday? So much in our life has changed since the year 2000! All three of our daughters are married now. We now have seven grandchildren and grand baby number eight, a grandson, is due in early summer. We planted a church in S.E. Portland that God has blessed in amazing ways. Our church moved to Vancouver, Washington and we eventually bought and moved to a home there as well. All of our parents have passed away. Some relationships that we thought would be in our lives forever faded away and new people came into our lives and have become dear to us. By God's grace, we've survived heartache and celebrated victories. Every need along the way God has provided. He has blessed us beyond what we could have imagined and certainly more than we deserve. We've traveled to places we only dreamed of seeing - London England, Paris France, Edinburgh Scotland, Managua Nicaragua, the big island of Hawaii, Maine, (four times in the past twenty years!), Ghana, (numerous times.) While so much in our life has changed, one thing has remained the same-God has been faithful every step of the way. And so, we have begun a new year, confident that He will continue to be faithful as we face the future.

Every year since 2011 I have had a word for the year as a point of spiritual focus. Most often, towards the end of the previous year God begins to show me what the word for the coming year is to be. Usually, it builds in some way on the word from the year before. Last year as I studied my word for the year, comfort, I found that in the Bible it is very connected to the concept of God rebuilding our devastated, ruined places. Throughout the Bible, God comforts His people by rebuilding them. God's kind of comfort is not just a pat on the head with a "There, there, you'll be ok." God's comfort is Him rolling His shirt sleeves up and getting into the middle of our mess with us to rebuild us. What grace! Whether our devastation is contributed to by others or whether we are our own worst enemy and have created our own mess, when we give our ruins to God, He graciously rebuilds us. 

This year in my Advent reading, I came across the familiar passage in Isaiah 9 where the coming Messiah is referred to as the Prince of Peace. In the Message Bible it says, "Prince of Wholeness." 
(For a child has been born—for us!
    the gift of a son—for us!
He’ll take over
    the running of the world.
His names will be: 
Amazing Counselor,
    Strong God,
Eternal Father,
    Prince of Wholeness.
His ruling authority will grow,
    and there’ll be no limits to the wholeness he brings.)
Questioning that translation I looked up the original Hebrew word, "shalom" and found out that it means peace and tranquility but it also means completeness and wholeness. At that point, I began to realize that God was showing me my word for 2020. He was continuing to build upon the concept of rebuilding that He had been speaking to me in 2019. He is on a continuing journey to bring me into the fullness of His peace, His completeness, His wholeness. I'm so thankful that He Who began His good work in me has promised to finish it!

Here are the words from previous years, beginning in 2011 when I first heard of the concept of a word focus for the year.
2011- HOPE
2013 -TRUST
2014- JOY
2016- LISTEN 
2017- ABIDE
2018- YIELD
2020- PEACE

still following,