Living Through a Major Renovation

Steve and I moved recently into a home that, while relatively new, needed some renovations, particularly in the master bathroom.  We had hoped to have the master bath remodeled before we moved in, but for reasons beyond our control, that did not occur.  Thus, we find ourselves in the midst of a major renovation project.

Home remodeling projects are never fun, easy, or inexpensive.  We have tended to buy newer homes and have generally limited home upgrades to cosmetic changes, such as painting or changing the floor coverings.  Our largest projects prior to the current one involved converting a screened porch into an office and finishing a portion of a basement.  Neither of those projects inconvenienced us much.

Renovating the master bathroom, however, is a totally different story.  Naturally, we had to remove all of our belongings from the bathroom and relocate them to the small guest bath down the hall. Since the closet is accessed through the bathroom, we had to empty the closet.  Our clothes are distributed among the closets in the three extra bedrooms. Unfortunately, for the sake of time, we did not perform this task in any organized manner. Getting dressed in the morning requires a search through all the closets for the desired clothing.

The existing tub and shower had to be gutted.  At the end of the first day of demolition, construction dust coated every piece of furniture in the master bedroom.  That night we vacuumed the carpet, dusted the furniture, and washed the bedding.  Then we covered every inch of the bedroom with plastic drop clothes.  Again this was done without proper forethought.  I wish I had retrieved clothing I would need from the dresser, but alas I did not. At least I know where the desired items are as I fight my way through the yards of plastic covering the dresser.  The first time we had to access the answer machine on the night stand, we moved it into the guest room, as well.

More plastic is adhered to our staircase and upstairs hall.  It keeps the debris off the carpet but not off our feet. I avoid going upstairs as much as possible because I don’t like getting bits of plaster stuck to the soles of my feet.  No matter how much we sweep, we cannot get it all up.  I look forward to the day we pull the plastic up and I feel carpet under my feet again.

Remodeling is messy, it’s inconvenient, it’s time consuming, and it’s costly.  So why are we putting ourselves through this process?  We do it for the end result, of course.  We are expecting to have a beautiful master bathroom that meets our needs when the remodeling is complete.  And although it feels like the remodeling has been going on forever, the entire project should be completed in only a few weeks.  We are willing to endure a short period of unpleasantness in order to achieve the desired finished product. We look forward to the day very soon when our master bathroom will be completed to our specifications and will once again be a usable part of our home. 

As I have watched the bathroom transformation, I have been reminded of the way God moves in us to transform our hearts and reform us to be useful for His needs.  Our old bathroom was operational but it didn’t meet our needs.  The old fixtures had to be demolished and the space cleaned of all the debris before the workers could install the new fixtures.  God has to rid our lives of everything that hinders His work before we can be fully useful to Him.  Sin has to go, of course, but also bitterness, pain, and unforgiveness.  When we give those things to God, He removes them from our hearts and fills the empty spaces with His love, peace, forgiveness, and understanding.  The old has to give way to the new.  The process is often messy and painful but the end result is more beautiful than we could have imagined.

I’m looking forward to the day that my bathroom renovation is complete and even more so to the day that my personal renovation is complete and I stand in the presence of my Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.

If your life needs a renovation, Jesus Christ is the answer.

My One Word for 2012: Intentional

I have been pondering my One Word for 2012 for two months now and have finally chosen ‘Intentional’ as my word for the year.  When I began considering what my focus for the year should be, I recalled a note a co-worker wrote me upon her retirement a few years ago.  She thanked me for reminding her “to keep the important things the important things.”  I wasn’t aware that I had ever done that, but I appreciated the compliment and have tried to live up to it. Of course, I fail more often than I succeed but I keep trying.

In trying to find a word which would encompass “focusing on the important things,” I considered thoughtful, purposeful, and balanced, before deciding on intentional.  The dictionary definition of intentional is “done with intent or purpose; deliberate.” I want to live my life with purpose and be deliberate in my actions.

My goal for 2012 is to be intentional in focusing my time and energy on what is truly important rather than simply responding to situations that present themselves.  This will require me to set priorities and take actions that will help me to accomplish my priorities.  

This year I want to be intentional (1) in getting deeper into God’s Word and growing closer to Him, (2) in seeking His will for every aspect of my life, (3) in putting relationships ahead of accomplishing a to-do list, and (4) in taking steps to maintain my health, which will include losing weight and exercising more.  I want to intentionally choose activities that will enhance my life and my relationships rather than those that simply fill my time.

Living intentionally this year will mean that I will spend less time mindlessly watching whatever show happens to be on television or surfing the Internet, less time playing Solitaire and Angry Birds, and less time stressing over situations that may or may not occur and that won’t matter to me a week later.  I’m sure I will fail often–it’s so easy to fall back into old habits–but my hope is that by making a deliberate decision to live intentionally, I will move closer to my goal of focusing my attention on the truly important things in life.  As I do that I will come closer to accomplish my life goal of bringing honor and glory to God in all that I do.

Groundhog Day Reflections

 

Groundhog Day was my great-grandmother Loflin’s favorite holiday.  I have no idea why she was so fascinated with this day.  It’s really not a holiday at all, but rather a celebration.  I do remember vividly how excited Grandma Loflin would be to find out Punxsutawney Phil’s prediction for the end of winter. Ironically, she died on Groundhog Day 1963.  After all these years, the arrival of February 2nd always makes me think of her.

Phil Connors and Punxsutawney Phil

In 1993, the movie Groundhog Day was made starring Bill Murray.  As soon as I heard of it, my interest was piqued and it quickly became one of my favorites.  I love watching Murray’s character, Phil Connors, transform from a selfish, womanizer into a warm, caring individual.

Against his opposition, Connors is assigned to cover the annual Groundhog Day festivities in Punxsutawney, Pennsylvania.  A major snowstorm forces the crew to spend another night in the small town.  Connors awakens to find that it is again Groundhog Day.  He is forced to relive Groundhog Day repeatedly, with seemingly no end.  He reacts initially with anger, violence, and even by committing suicide, only to reawaken to yet another Groundhog Day celebration.

Eventually Connors stops fighting his new reality and begins to change.  He uses each new Groundhog Day to learn more about the members of his news team and to fall in love with the people of Punxsutawney.  He becomes the polar opposite of what he had been.  He genuinely cares for people and goes out of his way to help others.  In fact, by the end, he is the most loved man in town.

The transformation of Phil Connors in Groundhog Day parallels the changes Christians undergo as God works to shape their lives in accordance with His Word and His plans for their lives.  Removing negative qualities and replacing them with godly characteristics is the goal of the purification process God sends our way through tests and trials.  In the book of James we are told, “the testing of your faith produces perseverance.  Let perseverance finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything.”  (James 1:3, 4)  And in Romans 5: 3, 4 we read “suffering produces perseverance; perseverance, character; and character, hope.”

Phil Connors went through a time of suffering and testing to become a man he was meant to be.  God brings trials and tests to our lives to help us become the people he wants us to be.  If we fail the test, He brings another one our way. As we pass each test, we become more mature and take another step toward completion.  The trials refine our character and increase our hope in Jesus Christ as our Lord and Savior.

It took Phil Connors a long time to grow and mature into a warm, caring man.  I pray that I respond to God much more quickly and that I allow the trials God sends my way to refine and purify me.

‘My One Word’Experiment for 2011—Closing Thoughts

Last year I heard about the “My One Word” challenge on my local Christian radio station. The idea is that instead of creating a list of resolutions, which are generally broken and long-forgotten by the time February 1st rolls around, we should choose a word to focus on for the year.  The originators of this idea refer to it as an ‘experiment.’  Their web site states that choosing one word “provides clarity by taking all of your big plans for life change and narrowing them down into a single thing. One word focuses on your character and creates a vision for your future.”  For more information on the My One Word experiment, you may go to their web site:  http://myoneword.org/.

For 2011, I chose “Delight” to be my word.  The scripture I focused on was “Delight yourself also in the Lord and He shall give you the desires of your heart.”  Psalm 37:4 (NKJV).  The last three years have been challenging, and at times draining, as we faced the loss of my husband’s job and resulting long-term unemployment and the declining health of his parents.  The pressures of life had weighed heavily on me in 2009 and 2010.  I was determined to not let them steal my joy. 

I did none of the suggested exercises.  My total commitment to the exercise was to write two blogs about my word.  Yet, whenever I found myself getting bogged down by cares of the world, ‘Delight’ would pop into my mind.  Just thinking the word gave me a better perspective.  It is almost impossible to say or think the word ‘Delight’ without feeling a bit ‘delightful.’

As the year drew to a close, I once again read Psalm 37 during my devotions.  This time it was the 23rd verse that caught my attention.  It says, “The steps of the godly are directed by the Lord. He DELIGHTS in every detail of their lives.”   What a joy it brought to my heart to be reminded that God delights in me and in everything that concerns me. 

I can come to God with all the details of my life and He delights in guiding me to making the best decisions and the right choices.  God will direct Steve and me as we continue to search for a new home (see January 17th post).  He will guide me to be the best employee I can be and Steve as he continues to seek direction regarding earning a living.  God cares about our marriage, our health, and our relationships.  He is delighted when I bring these things to Him and He delights in helping me.  And those thoughts fill me with ‘Delight’.

I am still praying and pondering ‘My Word’ for 2012.  I plan to make a decision this week.

Will you participate in the ‘My One Word’challenge this year?  What ‘one word’ will you focus on in 2012?

I Heard the Bells on Christmas Day

I heard the bells on Christmas Day
Their old familiar carols play,
And wild and sweet the words repeat
Of peace on earth, good will to men.
 
I thought how, as the day had come,
The belfries of all Christendom
Had rolled along the unbroken song
Of peace on earth, good will to men.
 
And in despair I bowed my head:
“There is no peace on earth,” I said,
“For hate is strong and mocks the song
Of peace on earth, good will to men.”
 
Then pealed the bells more loud and deep:
“God is not dead, nor doth he sleep;
The wrong shall fail, the right prevail,
With peace on earth, good will to men.”
 
Till, ringing singing, on its way,
The world revolved from night to day,
A voice, a chime, a chant sublime,
Of peace on earth, good will to men!

 

These words written by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow during the Civil War are still true today. Hate is strong and peace is not found in the world. Yet, it is possible to be at peace and to find peace and forgiveness in your heart. True peace comes only from knowing Jesus Christ as your Savior.

Christmas is the celebration of the birth of Jesus Christ as a human baby. Jesus left his home in Heaven and willing came to Earth to live as among us and to sacrifice His life for us. Without Christmas, there would be no Easter—no death on the cross, no resurrection, no hope of salvation.

This is the good news the angels spoke about when they announced the birth of Jesus to the shepherds.  “I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all people.  Today in the town of David a Savior is born to you:  he is Christ the Lord…Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace to men on whom his favor rests.”     (Luke 2: 10 –11, 14)

As you celebrate Christmas in a few days, I pray that the true meaning of Christmas will bring joy and peace to your heart.  If you don’t know Jesus Christ as your Savior, there is no better time to invite Him into your heart.

Praise God From Whom All Blessings Flow

Many people take time on Thanksgiving to count their blessings and give thanks, yet they forget to thank the One from whom they have received their blessings.  Thanksgiving is a day to thank God for the blessings He has bestowed on us and our nation.  As you gather around your Thanksgiving feast today, I encourage you to take a moment to thank God for all He has done for you.

I’d like to share a few of the many, many blessings God has bestowed on me.

1) My large, wonderful family.  I am blessed with an amazing family.  We currently number 39 with two babies on the way.

This is most of my family at the time of Jon and Ashley's wedding.
 
 

2) A wonderful church family.  We are members of a spirit-filled, God-loving congregation.  Each week we hear an inspired message from God’s word, and I have the opportunity to minister to children through Girls Ministries and children’s church.

Some of the beautiful girls in Girls Ministries
 
 

 3) A great job that I love.  In a time when so many, including my husband, have been unemployed for long periods of time, I am thankful that I have a job with great benefits that I enjoy.  I am rewarded each day as I help individuals desiring to start a business to assess their options, evaluate the opportunities, and navigate the requirements for opening a business.

4)  The freedoms afforded us in our great nation.  It’s true that our nation is facing many challenges and that many of our religious freedoms have been restricted in recent years.   However, America is still “the land of the free and the home of the brave” and I am proud to be a citizen of this great nation.

5) All the comforts of a middle-class lifestyle.  We aren’t rich, but in comparison to most of the world, we are extremely wealthy.  I am thankful to have a warm home, plenty of food, and more clothing than I really need.  All of my necessities are met and most of my wants. 

6) The ability to share my blessings with others.  Opportunities present themselves each day to share the blessings God has bestowed on me and my family with others who have not been blessed as much materially.  It is a privilege and a joy to sponsor a child in the Dominican Republic, to donate food to locate food distribution ministries, to pack shoeboxes for Operation Christmas Child, and to take advantages of other opportunites to bring hope and joy to those from whom life is more challenging.

When you count your blessings this day, I pray that you will be filled with joy, hope, and thankfulness and that you will remember to thank the One who has so blessed you.

“Let us come before him with thanksgiving.”  Psalm 95:2

“Praise God from whom all blessings flow

Praise Him all creatures here below

Praise Him above ye heavenly host

Praise Father, Son, and Holy Ghost.”

 What blessings are you most thankful for this Thanksgiving?

 

Restorations and Reconciliations: Stories of Finding God’s Love and Forgiveness

Everyone messes up from time to time, probably more often than we care to admit.  I try to make a joke at lunch and end up hurting someone’s feeling.  The prank you play on your friend goes awry and she winds up needing stitches.  I fail to give my full attention to driving and cause a fender bender. 

Mistakes make us feel foolish, and they cost us something.  We may have to humble ourselves and apologize or make restitution.  We may be assaulted with thoughts such as “I’m the world’s biggest idiot” and “How could I have been so stupid?”  However, we typically forgive ourselves for our blunders quickly and move on.  Unless…

Unless the mistake has larger consequences.  Unless the mistake results not in embarrassment or damage that is easily repaired, but rather in broken lives and broken relationships.  Such as the mistake Karen Harper made. 

Restorations is the story of Karen Harper’s journey to find forgiveness and a second chance at love after turning her back on God and damaging her most important relationships.  It’s been two years since her husband’s death. Karen knows that he would still be alive if she hadn’t…well it’s just too painful to think about.  Karen knew her actions were wrong but she never imagined the pain they would cause.  Hoping to escape her past, Karen moves to Fredericksburg with her three sons.

She has a new job that she loves and she’s dating Kevin, a man she met on the Internet.  Although Karen thinks Kevin may be “the one,” her oldest son, Trevor, hates him.  Of course, Trevor hates everything these days and he barely speaks to Karen.  He blames her for everything that’s wrong in his life.

When the nightmares start, she realizes she will have to deal with her past and forgive herself for her mistakes before she can hope to move forward with her life.  As Karen allows God back into her life, she finds the forgiveness she desperately needs.  Then God begins the work of restoring the broken relationships in her life.

In contrast to Karen Harper, Kevin Peterson hasn’t made any big mistakes in his life.  He knows he’s not perfect, but by almost anyone’s standards, he’s a pretty good guy. He’s an honest car salesman, a loving son, and a loyal friend.  Kevin is doing just fine without religion or God in his life.

In Reconciliations, God shakes up Kevin’s life to show him his need for a Savior.  Kevin has to learn that “all have sinned and come short of the glory of God” and that no one can ever be “good enough” on their own.

Kevin’s life is going along pretty well except that he’s been unlucky in love.  Christine, his ex-wife, left him three years ago after he caught her with another man in his bed.  He dated Karen Harper for a while until she got religious.  Religion might have helped Karen deal with her past, but Kevin wanted no part of it.  He’s glad to have both women out of his life.

With a single phone call, God brings both women back into Kevin’s life.  This is more than Kevin can handle.  He needs help. It arrives in the form of Pastor Mark Vinson.  As Kevin spends time with Mark, and members of his congregation, he begins to see himself in a new light.  And he doesn’t like what he sees. 

When Kevin admits that he, too, is a sinner, he is finally ready to be reconciled with God.

Karen and Kevin acknowledged their errors and confessed them to God, and they accepted His forgiveness of their sins.  When they did, they found peace and hope.

You’ve made mistakes, too.  We all have.  Perhaps, like Kevin, you’ve been able to brush your mistakes aside and convince yourself that you are one of the good guys, but you know deep inside that you can never be good enough.  Or maybe, like Karen, you cannot escape your mistakes; they haunt you day by day and make you feel worthless.

It doesn’t have to be like this. You don’t have to ignore your mistakes or be troubled by them. Remember there is hope.  You have another option.  You can confess your sins to God and accept His forgiveness.  Then you, too, can have true peace and the hope that God has great plans for your life.

You’re Blessed!

The Beatitudes from Jesus Christ’s Sermon on the Mount:

You’re blessed when you’re at the end of your rope. With less of you there is more of God and his rule.

You’re blessed when you feel you’ve lost what is most dear to you. Only than can you be embraced by the One most dear to you.

You’re blessed when you’re content with just who you are–no more, no less.  That’s the moment you find yourselves proud owners of everything that can’t be bought.

You’re blessed when you’ve worked up a good appetite for God.  He’s food and drink in the best meal you’ll ever eat.

You’re blessed when you care. At the moment of being “care-full,” you’ll find yourselves cared for.

You’re blessed when you get your inside world–your mind and heart–put right. Then you can see God in the outside world.

You’re blessed when you can show people how to cooperate instead of compete or fight.  That’s when you discover who you really are, and your place in God’s family.

You’re blessed when your commitment to god provokes persecution. The persecution drives you even deeper into God’s kingdom.

Not only that–count yourselves blessed every time people put you down or throw you out or speak lies about you to discredit me.  What it means is that the truth is too close for comfort and they are uncomfortable.  You can be glad when that happens–give a cheer, even!–for though they don’t like it, I do! And all heaven applauds.  And know that you are in good company.  My prophets and witnesses have always gotten into this kind of trouble.

Matthew 5:3 – 12 (The Message)

May your life be truly blessed this week in all the ways that matter.  May you feel God’s presence in your moments of grief, disappointment, and weaknesses. May you know that God loves you far more than you can comprehend and that He will never leave or forsake you.  May you bask in His presence as you read His word and spend time with Him in prayer.

The world offers no peace, no contentment, no satisfaction compared to what God has offered mankind through His son Jesus.  If you haven’t taken the time to know Jesus and to make Him your Lord and Savior, please consider doing so today. Only when you do so will you be truly blessed.

A Prayer for the Twenty-first Century Proverbs 31 Woman

Heavenly Father, I thank you for preserving me as a virtuous woman for my husband.  I ask that your hand would be with me today, helping me to live virtuously and honorably before you.  I thank you for the trust and respect my husband has in me.  May I honor and bless him through my words and actions each day.

As I go through my day, help me to do good to my husband.  Bring to my mind each day ways to lighten his load and make our home a true haven of rest for him.   Help me to remember the small “touches” that let him feel cherished and appreciated.

Please be with me as I work to make my home more comfortable.   Give me creative and economical ideas and help me to incorporate these ideas into my home.  Help me to stretch our financial resources to meet the needs of my family; let me not bring stress to my family by living beyond our means.

I ask for guidance as I plan meals and shop for food for my family.  Let me make meals that are nutritious, economical, and delicious.  Help me to view cooking as a creative challenge and a way to show love to my family, and not as one of many mundane chores.  This also applies to laundry, dishes, and house cleaning—let me view them not as labor, but as labors of love.

Father, help me to rise early and spend some time with you and my husband before we start our busy days.  Please help me to rest well each night and get up feeling refreshed so that I can be a pleasant companion in the morning.  It is important for my husband and I to share some time and eat breakfast together before we leave the refuge of our home for our work places.

As I work, inside or outside of my home, help me to work enthusiastically and energetically.  My family and my boss deserve my best each day.  Help me to make wise decisions that will benefit my employer at work and my family at home.

I know, Father, that I need to take care of myself each day—making time for daily devotions, exercise, and a little pampering—so that I may be strengthened and renewed to care for my family.  Help me to make these activities priorities and to incorporate them into my daily schedule.

Help me, Lord, to be aware of the needs of each member of my family and to work to meet those needs—whether it is a need of new clothing, help with school work, individual attention from Mom, or discipline and instruction.

Help me to use my time wisely each day, while still allowing time for fun.  Help me to limit time spent in activities that are not productive or that bring no real pleasure, such as watching television shows I’m not really interested in or playing computer games.   Help me to redeem this time to talk, read, or play games with my family. 

Father, your Word tells us that charm is deceptive and beauty is fleeting, but good deeds done in your name will last through eternity.  Let me be particularly in tune to your voice encouraging me to write a letter, make a phone call, or say a kind word.  Help me to be generous to the poor and needy, to those who are lonely and need a friend, to a stranger who needs a smile and a kind word, and to friends who need encouragement. 

May I look to you each day, Lord, for wisdom to guide me through the day, and for the strength to be the woman you want me to be, so that my husband and children will feel loved and blessed.  Thank you, Father.

Delight–Revisited

I read a blog yesterday in which the author discussed his One Word choices for the past three years and how he chose his One Word for this year.  While he remembered clearly his Words for 2008 and 2009, he was unable to recall his One Word for 2010 and had to look it up.  Interestingly, the word he forgot was Enjoy.  Enjoy seems like a pretty easy word to focus on for a year, and I was first amused that he had forgotten it.    Clearly, he was not successful in Enjoying life fully last year.

I was less amused as I read his explanation that he failed to live up to his word because he is more of a Martha than a Mary.  That observation hit close to home.  I am definitely more of a Martha.  For those of you who don’t understand the reference, this Martha was a friend of Jesus and sister to Lazarus and Mary.  When Jesus came to visit, Martha rushed around cooking and serving while Mary sat at Jesus’ feet feasting on his words.  When Martha complained to Jesus that her sister wasn’t helping her, he replied that, “Mary has chosen what is better.” (Luke 10:42)

For those of us who are doers, sitting at the feet of Jesus does not come naturally.  It is easier for us to volunteer to teach Sunday school or spend a day helping with an event than it is to spend an hour in quiet reflection in God’s Word.  We get so busy doing that, like the author of yesterday’s One Word blog, we forget to enjoy our time with God.  We may also have a hard time fully enjoying our families, our friends, our hobbies, and our work.

The dictionary defines Enjoy as “to take pleasure in; to find or experience pleasure.”  Delight is Enjoy compounded:  “a high degree of pleasure or enjoyment; to give great pleasure; to take great pleasure in.”

When I chose Delight as my One Word for the year, I was focused on Delighting in God and recognizing that He Delights in me.  I will now add another focus—remembering to take Delight in my everyday life.  I will try this year to Delight in time spent in God’s word, to Delight in time spent with my family and friends, and to Delight in those I minister to or who minister to me.  I will try to relax more and be fully present in each moment.  I will try to avoid thinking about everything on my to-do list and what I could be accomplishing when I should be focused on those I am spending time with.

Several years ago I read Having a Mary Heart in a Martha World by Joanna Weaver.  This insightful book speaks about having a balance between doing goods works and spending time communing with God.  Both are important if I am going to be the woman God has designed me to be.  Every couple of year I reread Having a Mary Heart to help me keep my focus.  It may be time to read it again.

Have you chosen One Word to focus on in 2011?  How is your One Word helping you to achieve personal growth?