Finding Purpose in God’s Plan

I am a planner. I have to know what I’m doing and when.  It’s a struggle some days when life throws a curve ball that I can’t catch. Depression, and overcoming it, is truly one of life’s lemons.  I am learning how to make lemonade though.  It’s sweetness completely depends upon what God has planned for me that day. Depression, and all that accompanies it, is a day-to-day battle.

“You will seek me and find me when you seek me with all your heart.” – Jeremiah 29:13

Let me be clear about something in regards to my depression. When I’m in the throes of a deep depression, to the point of suicidal ideation, I don’t want to find joy or think about things that might make me happy. I want to curl up on my bed and wallow in my tears. I have no motivation to do much of anything. I’m argumentative and easily agitated during this period. Emotionally distraught, I tend to shut down and shut people out.

“Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest.” – Matthew 11:28

My mind was in a very dark place but I heard God calling me. He was offering me respite from the darkness. The next thing I know, I was on my knees calling out to Him. It wasn’t easy. The tears were flowing down my face. I spent most of the time in silence, waiting to hear my Heavenly Father speak to me. I heard Him. He was telling me to reach out, not only to seek Him, but to bring some very special people closer to me. I needed accountability to overcome what I was going through. One of the hardest things I had to do was face myself and to lay my heart out to these women. I continued to pray before I picked up my phone to send the first of many text messages. I never realized how much I needed to have Godly women in my life. When I started the process of reaching out, I felt a light come on inside of me. There was a yearning that I hadn’t felt before. I had to humble myself in order to feel God’s presence.

“Humble yourselves, therefore, under the mighty hand of God so that at the proper time he may exalt you,” – 1 Peter 5:6

Admitting that I needed God to combat the demons of darkness that were waging a war in my mind was one of the hardest things I’ve ever done. Only God could cast out my demons. He is doing just that and I believe He has used my depression to draw me nearer to Him. It’s my fault that I never looked to the heavens first when I was trying to battle depression on my own. I never acknowledged God or even that He had a plan for me.

I’ve spent a good portion of my life searching for my purpose. I have wasted precious time focused on the things I have failed to accomplish. I failed at marriage. I failed at motherhood. I have failed at finding love. I have wasted time on the wrong people, those who loved me for what I could do for them, and when I failed at that, I failed their expectations of me. The bottom line is that I have felt like a failure and that I had no purpose in life.  Boy, was I wrong! The only place where I have truly failed was in not seeking God first in my life.

“But seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be added to you.” – Matthew 6:33

By putting God first these past two weeks, I have seen a change in my heart. It doesn’t matter to me if others have seen it; for some people, visualizing change takes time. I’m on God’s time and I refuse to fail Him. I know I will disappoint the people in my life but this time, it does not matter. I am learning to not be so caught up in what others think of me. Over the last two weeks, I have still been searching for a purpose for my life in God’s plan for me. As I walk faithfully towards Him, I know that He will use me to His benefit.

As I take my baby steps, my faith grows. Trust is still a struggle though. I wish I could say that it is difficult to trust in something that I cannot see but I see God every day, in every thing. God isn’t just in the things that we find beautiful; He is in the sunsets and sunrises and bouquets of flowers.  He is also in the thunderstorms and the floods and things that many people find to be ugly. The situation doesn’t matter; God is there!

“Many are the plans in the mind of a man, but it is the purpose of the Lord that will stand.” – Proverbs 19:21

At one point in my life, I had plans and goals for myself. Each of those plans fell through. Now, my only plan is to look to God for my purpose in this life.  There’s a joke that goes something like this:  If you want to make God laugh, tell Him your plansI know there have been a few occasions where I’ve made Him laugh. I’ve tried to plan my life but God has thwarted those plans. He has His reasons. I’ve seen some of those reasons in hindsight. I’ve been protected during those moments.

“For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future” – Jeremiah 29:11

God has protected me in so many ways. He has provided me with a direction that may have seem detrimental to my life but everything I have done has had a purpose. The good, the bad, and the ugly has all been orchestrated by the hands of God. While I have felt like I have failed in the things I had wished to accomplish, the reality is that I’ve only failed God by not looking to Him for guidance. I’m at the point to where I refuse to fail God for the remainder of my days. I do not know my purpose, but I am asking Him to use me however He wants. I’ve turned my life over to God and He will give me a purpose that has prosperity beyond measure.

“Commit your work to the Lord, and your plans will be established.” – Proverbs 16:3

“The heart of man plans his way, but the Lord establishes his steps.” – Proverbs 16:9

I can make all the plans I want. BUT are they the plans God has made for me? My will is not my own. My plans are not my own. My life is not my own.

“Behold, God is my helper; the Lord is the upholder of my life.” – Proverbs 54:4

Finishing Well

I used to run. I ran a lot a few years back. I have medals from running 5ks and even a medal from running a half marathon. When I ran these races, I didn’t worry about the time it took for me to finish the course. I simply wanted to finish. I’ve always loved the freedom that running brought to my head. I had mental clarity, my emotions were in check as running was an outlet for my frustrations, and my physical fitness was decent. I haven’t ran in many years and I have excuse upon excuse upon excuse as to why I don’t run anymore. I blame other things instead of accepting responsibility and just doing it. I will have to work on that. I am a work in progress and God isn’t through with me until He tells me it’s time to come home to Him.

“But I do not account my life of any value nor as precious to myself, if only I may finish my course and the ministry that I received from the Lord Jesus, to testify to the gospel of the grace of God.” – Acts 20:24

On June 16, 2020, I started something. I began a renewal of my relationship with God. I have always had God in my life but never have I ever felt His presence more than I do now.  Some events have happened in my life that left me in a state of despair. This situation caused me to learn a few things, some of which are sadly negative and a huge cup of reality, and others have shown me how displaced I really was. The biggest thing I’ve learned is how to not trust people. That’s sad when all we have in life is each other. One thought that was on my mind was about how I’m currently living with my mom. (I’ve had a recurring dream about something I’m not ready to discuss.) When she is gone, I will have no one left. It will be just me and I will die alone.  That is painfully sad. Nobody should ever die alone. We have God but it’s nice to know that we are loved during our time on earth.

I just want to finish the mission God has placed upon me well before I die.

“I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith.” – 2 Timothy 4:7

That’s no small feat! When God put me back on the path to Him, my heart knew that I would have a challenge in front of me. I’m still not sure of what that challenge is or even what my purpose is. I only know of the rewards that await me in heaven. I plan to stay the course and finish strong. In the meantime, I have established goals for myself. The most important goal is to ensure that God comes first. This morning, I got on my knees and prayed. I had to. Something is plaguing me and I have continuously asked God to take it away. This situation that I have asked for removal is like the bratty sibling that constantly wants to invade your privacy when you are with your friends or need to be alone. Even right now, it’s in the back of my mind and I am patiently waiting for God to eradicate it from my brain and heart. But, at the same time, there’s nothing but love there. Painful love.

“pray without ceasing,” – 1 Thessalonians 5:7

I don’t ever stop praying. I prayed for each person I came into contact with yesterday. I prayed for some friends, whom I know are struggling, and I prayed for opportunities to arise so that I can share my relationship with God with them. I have some opportunities coming up! That’s exciting!

When I am struggling or a challenge arises, I want to face it head on and finish strong in my walk with God. I want to embrace my responsibility for my actions and have the ability to humble myself when I’m wrong. While I cannot change the actions I have already committed, I am not a victim of my circumstances. I can be accountable for what I do.

“Do all things without grumbling or disputing,” – Philippians 2:14

There are some things I just absolutely loathe. One of those things is humbling myself to ask for forgiveness. It’s gotten easier as I practice forgiving myself and asking for forgiveness but at the same time, the level of humility I have to accept in order to correct my wrongs can be excruciatingly painful at times. It’s a lesson for my heart though and to keep my walk with God upright.

I think I will always struggle with obedience to God. I know I need to take Philippians 2:14 to heart when I am asked to do something. I need to work on accepting criticism and instruction from others. By being obedient to people like my boss and mother, I am demonstrating obedience to God.

“Honor everyone. Love the brotherhood. Fear God. Honor the emperor.” – 1 Peter 2:17

“Honor your father and mother, and, You shall love your neighbor as yourself.” – Matthew 19:19

I started a race that will last me a lifetime. This time though, God is running beside me. He is encouraging me, uplifting me, humbling me, and through my actions, I will bring Him honor. I want to finish strong. I will finish well.

My Dear Heavenly Father,

Thank You for being with me at the start of this race. I am grateful for the strength and encouragement that You have provided. I desire to honor You in all my actions and I accept responsibility for my wrongdoings. You are my strength, my hope, and my joy. No one can take that away from me. My eyes are on the prize at the end of the finish line. With Your presence, I will never be alone and will be blessed with the fruits of Your Spirit. You have equipped me with the tools I need to run this race and to finish well. Please help me to reach for You at all times, in all things.

In Jesus’ name, Amen

It’s Not My Problem

Oh how I’ve said that a lot in my life! I think we all have. I really believe the problems of others are not my issue. However, those problems cannot be overcome without God’s help. Which means, when we come together and are united in Christ, there is more power to overcome the struggles we face. God didn’t design Adam to live in social isolation; He created Eve as a companion.

Think for a moment… Why is the situation at hand not your problem? Is it because you don’t want to become involved? Is it because you want to fix it for someone else but don’t know how? Is it because you don’t want to be held responsible for the outcome? I don’t like to involve myself in other people’s relationships. I have a friend who is constantly telling me that they are going to file for divorce. It’s been said so many times that I’ve gotten to where I roll my eyes and I do not believe them. In fact, after the last time the comment was made, all I said was “Okay”. I was very apathetic and unbelieving of the words. I didn’t even understand the point of why they were telling me this. It’s not like I was interested in having a relationship with this person. I can see through the lies. A couple of days later, I sent my friend this text:

I know you weren’t expecting my response when you told me you were filing for divorce but try looking at it from my perspective. You’ve been saying that for over a year now. Did you really expect me to believe you? I never told anyone I was divorcing L until I actually filed. So, when you actually do it, I’ll be supportive. Divorce is hard no matter what. Our time is over, so I’ll always be your friend no matter what.”

Was I wrong to say what I said? I don’t think so. My friend’s issue is not my issue but what I can do is pray for them. I also know quite a bit about the relationship and I believe if they focused on God, they will be able to work out the challenges in their relationships.

“Therefore, confess your sins to one another and pray for one another, that you may be healed. The prayer of a righteous person has great power as it is working.” – James 5:16

My problems are not unique. At some point, we’ve all had the same problems or even issues with similarities. What makes me different, is that I’m learning to rely on God to help me with the issues. God is not going to fix it for me, but He will lead me in the direction He wants me to take. I have a huge issue with men and physical attraction. Every day for the last 10 or so days, I have been on my knees, begging God to remove this temptation from me. He won’t cure me of my struggles but He will provide a way out

“No temptation has overtaken you that is not common to man. God is faithful, and he will not let you be tempted beyond your ability, but with the temptation he will also provide the way of escape, that you may be able to endure it.” – 1 Corinthians 10:13

Right now, I’m tempted to not finish this blog and go get a cup of coffee. Or go back to bed. I digress, I have to work today.

Jumping right back into an issue when I haven’t healed is another challenge I face constantly. I have a tendency to be very impatient. Until recently, I had internally fought against the idea of waiting on God. Had I been doing what God has been asking of me, I might not have had to suffer the consequences of my actions. Waiting on Him has become a priority. I am rather excited to see what happened when I wait for His sweet timing in my life!!

“keep yourselves in the love of God, waiting for the mercy of our Lord Jesus Christ that leads to eternal life.” – Jude 1:21

God is very interested in our problems. He won’t fix them or remove them from our lives, but He will help us take the necessary steps that draw us closer to Him. Remember the “still, small voice” I posted about yesterday?

“Therefore we must pay much closer attention to what we have heard, lest we drift away from it.” – Hebrews 2:1

When life gets difficult, it is easier to turn away from God and try to solve the problems ourselves. It doesn’t work very well, does it? He is there, on the back burner, waiting for us to call on Him so He can show us the way.

“And see if there be any grievous way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting!” – Psalm 139:24

“And you know the way to where I am going.” – John 14:4

God knows where we are going. He knows every struggle we will face before we face it. He will provide the way out from under temptation. I don’t want God to remove my problems. Although, I will admit, I would like them not so hard! But He does give me ways to overcome the issues. I’m still learning how to listen for Him and seek His guidance. Work in progress, people.  Work in progress.

Traveling a Narrow Path

Two roads diverged in a yellow wood,

And sorry I could not travel both

And be one traveler, long I stood

And looked down one as far as I could

To where it bent in the undergrowth;

Then took the other, as just as fair,

And having perhaps the better claim,

Because it was grassy and wanted wear;

Though as for that the passing there

Had worn them really about the same,

And both that morning equally lay

In leaves no step had trodden black.

Oh, I kept the first for another day!

Yet knowing how way leads on to way,

I doubted if I should ever come back.

I shall be telling this with a sigh

Somewhere ages and ages hence:

Two roads diverged in a wood, and I—

I took the one less traveled by,

And that has made all the difference.

The Road Less Taken – Robert Frost

When I chose to walk the narrow path, I knew it would not be easy. As I was standing at my crossroads, I knew I could not follow Jesus and follow the world.  The world with its wicked pleasures and false sense of security! Every little indulgence that promises happiness is a fake, phoney, disruption of the truth. It is only in truth that a genuine happiness can be found.

One thought that has been running through my head this past week (and it’s popped up quite frequently – I’d say at least once a day) is…

Why am I trying to fit in when I was born to stand out?

I always wanted to be popular in high school. Hang out with the “A” crowd, be a cheerleader who dated a football player, the one girl that was invited to all the hot parties, etc. I wanted to be liked by everyone. I wanted people to know my name. Sadly, it was a blow to my self-esteem that I had never fit in. I still don’t fit in as an adult. I am learning to live with that and to accept that.  The reality is, the only person who has to accept me on this earth, is me.

God accepts me as I am. I am HIS daughter. I am loved, cherished, and valued by God.

“Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect.” – Romans 12:2

I’ve spent the last 47 years of my life searching for acceptance on earth. I’ve been disappointed every time. People are flawed; I’m flawed. Imperfectly perfect as Heidi Powell would say. Over the last week, I’ve spent a lot of time with God. I’ve spent time on my knees praying. I’ve shed enough tears to fill an ocean. I’ve been waking up early every morning to start my day with God.

Now, I do not particularly care if the people on this planet like me, love me, or accept me. It is not my place to seek solace in mankind. My value and worth comes from God. He is my judge and the only Being that can deem me to be worthy to inherit richly treasures that exceed my comprehension.

“Man does not know its worth, and it is not found in the land of the living.” – Job 28:13

“I tell you this, brothers: flesh and blood cannot inherit the kingdom of God, nor does the perishable inherit the imperishable.”  – 1 Corinthians 15:50

Imagine you are standing on a platform. There is no way to get down from this pillar. You are hungry and the only source of food is on another platform, across the way. There is a rope connected to between your platform and the other; the rope isn’t very wide or thick. The platform with the food has a ladder leading down to the ground. When you look down, you see that the people look like ants milling about and you feel faint from the height. You can smell the delicious food, but are looking down at the people on the ground. It’s a long ways down! You tremble with trepidation and fear begins to consume you. The food is beckoning you, calling you to come satisfy your hunger. Although you are afraid, you take that first step. Unsure, unsecure, a bit wobbly, but your foot is on the rope. You take another step. Then another, becoming more balanced than the first step. You have your eyes on the prize: the delicious food. You pause, listening to the grumbling of your stomach, and try to regain your balance on the narrow rope. You reach your arms out, not only for balance but also to possibly reach what is ahead. Step by step, you grow closer and closer to the food. Your fear begins to dissipate and you focus in on what is in front of you. A quick glance behind you shows how far you’ve come. Don’t look down though; you aren’t a part of the crowd and they are not a part of your journey.  Keep your eyes ahead, you zone in on the platform and keep walking. Finally, with one last step, you have reached your reward.

“For the gate is narrow and the way is hard that leads to life, and those who find it are few.” – Matthew 7:14

God is on that other platform but in order for us to reach Him, we have to take the first step and walk the narrow path that He has placed us on. He is our food!  Our life-sustaining food! That narrow path He has set before us has no room for the treasures of earth.

I will admit that I have some fears about the ever-narrowing path I’m on. At the same time, I also know I’m finally on solid ground.  My relationship with God is growing and I am tasting the food He is providing.

“For I do not want you to be unaware, brothers, that our fathers were all under the cloud, and all passed through the sea, and all were baptized into Moses in the cloud and in the sea, and all ate the same spiritual food, and all drank the same spiritual drink. For they drank from the spiritual Rock that followed them, and the Rock was Christ.” – 1 Corinthians 10:1-4

Jesus is our food, people.  I hunger for God and His Son more than anything. Only God can take care of my hunger, my thirst, and the void in my heart. Are you hungry enough to walk the narrow path? If you are, then it’s time to set aside your fears. I will warn you though, you will stumble. It’s because we are human and therefore imperfect and prone to sin.

I’m not walking my path alone. I find great comfort in that. I can feel God’s presence and it fills me. I am walking alongside Him and when I grow too weary to walk, I know that God is carrying me. I will have to step outside of the path on occasion; there may be several reasons for this. Whatever those reasons are, it will be to help me grow and go further in my walk with Christ. I did step out of my comfort zone today and I shared the life-changes I have been making this past week. I shared them with my doctor. She didn’t think it was weird, although, I did preface my statement with “You’ll think this is weird”. I don’t know what she believes or what her faith is or even if she is a follower of Jesus but I planted a seed by proclaiming my walk.

I can only hope and pray that my walk will inspire someone else to seek the narrow path and obtain the right food to fill their bodies.

“Then you will walk on your way securely, and your foot will not stumble.” – Proverbs 3:23

Waiting on Him

I was listening to John Waller’s song While I’m Waiting earlier today…

“I’m waiting
I’m waiting on You, Lord
And I am hopeful
I’m waiting on You, Lord
Though it is painful
But patiently, I will wait”

There are things in this life that my heart desires. I don’t want to spend the rest of my life on earth alone. However, if that is God’s will, I will accept it. I’m learning to be patient and wait for my needs to be provided for. One crucial thing: only God can fill the void in a human heart. I won’t ever find comfort in a man’s arms until I can find comfort in God.

“Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies and God of all comfort.” – 2 Corinthians 1:3

So, I’ve made the decision to wait. Wait for what? I have no idea. But I’m going to wait until God decides to give me what is His Will for me. I already know I will be impatient. I will be frustrated. I may even get angry at times. I could kick, scream, cry, and throw the very same temper-tantrum that a 3 year-old would when they can’t have a cookie. Yes, I am quite capable of doing all those things; after all, I am a child of God.

“I am weary with my crying out; my throat is parched. My eyes grow dim with waiting for my God.” – Psalm 69:3

It will be exhausting waiting on God to provide my heart’s desires. Not everything I want in life will be given to me. If it doesn’t jive with what God’s plans are for me, then when I make piss-poor choices, my life will go awry. I already know this, God! I know when I’ve made some really bad decisions and I’ve had to live with the consequences. It has not been fun to untangle the web that I created with my attitude on doing whatever I wanted. If anything it has only served to bring me misery. There. I said it. I’ve been miserable in the choices I’ve made for myself instead of listening to God. What’s ironic about all of this is that that I know that God was watching. He was sitting in the back, where I ushered Him, with His feet propped up and munching on a bowl of popcorn. Yummy. I’m quite certain it has been a very entertaining show so far.

“Wait for the Lord; be strong, and let your heart take courage; wait for the Lord!” – Psalm 27:14

I was texting with my friend T this evening, moments before typing this blog. He actually inspired it. Our conversations are always appropriate, God-driven, and nurturing. Tonight’s conversation was no different. T is an incredible man that any God-fearing woman would be blessed to have. Heck! I’m just blessed to call him my friend! T and I met on a dating site. We exchanged a few messages back and forth but it never really went any further than that. In fact, we’ve never met in person.What? Yep. We’ve never met face to face. One of these days we will. God willing! I digress. T and I were discussing relationships and he has assumed that I had gotten married. For the record, I’m not married and I’m not even close to thinking about it right now. My focus is on strengthening my relationship with God. That’s all that matters. T is single too. I told him that he’ll find someone. God has a plan for all of us.

T’s response? “I’m waiting on Him.”

Please, allow me to repeat that… I’m waiting on Him.

This has been my mantra all day.  I want to wait for God. I’ve been praying about that statement all day. But to see it in a text message from T, was all I needed today. The tears came next. I know I put too much stock in having a relationship with a man. Perhaps it’s overrated at this conjuncture in my life. I know what I have to do right now. In this season. It will be the hardest thing I have ever done. Yet, I know it will be the most rewarding. Please, Father, grant me some patience? I’m going to need it as I wait on You. I have to close several doors. I’ve already started doing that and from a physical perspective, it’s been rather refreshing and freeing. I want to stay away from relationships that can create a disturbance in my relationship with God. Is that even possible?

“Jesus looked at them and said, ‘With man it is impossible, but not with God. For all things are possible with God.'” – Mark 10:27

I simply cannot do much of anything without God’s help. I know He is there for me and will remove temptations from my path. He will provide a way out and surround me with His Warriors to protect me when I feel weak. As long as I stay focused and keep my eyes on the rewards that can only be found in heaven, I will wait.

Dearest Father,

You and only You know the deepest desires of my heart. A woman’s heart is as vast as the ocean and often filled beyond capacity. I ask that You guide me as You see fit so that I may strengthen the bond I have with You.  You are my Father and have made me Your daughter. Please teach me patience, just as You have taught me to give unconditional love.Please help me to stay on the narrow path and to fully understand how You are carrying me during the hardest times of my earthly life. I know You have plans for me to prosper, to have peace, and to be loved. My heart knows that You only have the best in mind for me. I ask that You provide Your will for me in Your time.

In Jesus’ name, Amen

Do You Have the Time?

It’s morning, and honestly, I have no clue what time it is exactly unless I take a moment to look at my phone. There is a clock on my laptop but I still have this habit of reaching for my phone to check the time. That’s not the only thing I look at on my phone. I look at emails, InstaGram, and not too long ago, Facebook.  I recently shut down my Facebook account. Sure, it’s great for keeping up-to-date on what everyone is doing, but the reality is, it’s a time-waster.

“I rise before dawn and cry for help; I hope in your words.” – Psalm 119:147

For the past week, I’ve been getting up early to spend time with God. Those who have known me for years could tell you that me waking up early to read the Bible or pray is out of the “norm” for me. They wouldn’t believe it and might even say that it will only last for a few weeks due to my “noncommittal” nature. They could very well be right. I have a tendency to be noncommittal in so many areas of my life. Nor do I share about my relationship with God and His Son, Jesus Christ.  I will attest that getting up early every morning has been difficult. The alarm goes off and I hit snooze a few times. It’s not that I don’t want to get up, but rather, this is a process that I am working on. I’ve never really been the type to just jump up and bound out of bed to do whatever activities are on my to-do list for the day. What typically occurs is I will tap the snooze button on my phone until the actual time I have determined to physically extract myself from the luscious comfort of my bed. Sometimes it’s 5am; sometimes it’s 7am. It all depends upon what I need to do for daily earthly living (work, school, etc).

“O Lord, in the morning you hear my voice; in the morning I prepare a sacrifice for you and watch.” – Psalm 5:3

God says we are to spend time with Him. I’m getting to where I don’t feel right without spending time with Him first thing in the morning. It does make for a super craptastic day in my personal experience. Yes, I said “craptastic”. In examining my past days, I noticed that when I don’t spend time with God right away after waking up, I’m moody, my mouth has no filter, my temper flares and I fly off the handle, and I’m just plain mean. Nothing about me demonstrates any of the godly qualities that I have been gifted with. Nothing demonstrates the love I have for others; nothing is kind or gentle or truthful.  Ugh! It makes me appear to be an awful person! I hate that person! (Hate is a very strong word that I try not to use often.)

My mornings upon waking go something like this: I hit the snooze until it’s the actual time, then I use the bathroom, make a cup of coffee, and then I’m on my knees beside my bed. I don’t care how you pray but for me, praying to my Heavenly Father on my knees is a blessing! I am grateful that I have the opportunity to be able to move my body in a way that allows me to worship God.

“so that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth.” – Philippians 2:10

Do you have the time? I bet your day is pretty busy. You are working, being a parent/grandparent/spouse, cleaning your house, running errands, and doing all sorts of things on your to-do list. My question is this, how much of that time is spent doing things for other people and not for God?  We get so caught up in those lists we make, focusing on what we didn’t do the  day before that we forget who is at the helm of our lives. God is the Master of our to-do list and Manager of our time. Our time isn’t truly ours; it is designed for us to do what God has asked. In the book I am currently studying, Lies Women Believe by Nancy DeMoss Wolgemuth, she points out that at the end of Jesus’ life, he calls out to God saying, “I have finished the work which YOU have given me to do.” Who’s time are we on? Who’s to-do list do we have to accomplish? I find that as I get older, I place less and less importance on household chores. That does not mean that I don’t keep a tidy home; what it means is if you stop by and the dishes aren’t done, it’s perfectly fine as my priority is doing what God wants me to do – spend time with you. I don’t want to be remembered in death as someone who folded laundry while you attempted to have an adult conversation with me. That’s important. I want you to remember me as someone who was always walking in the light and someone you could count on for godly direction.

Now, as I go about my day, I offer small prayers to ensure my to-do list and time management are in alignment with God’s purpose for me.

“I will not give sleep to my eyes or slumber to my eyelids, until I find a place for the Lord, a dwelling place for the Mighty One of Jacob.” – Psalm 132:4-5

Once my earthly day is over, I spend more time with God. It is the hour before I fall asleep and give thanks for what was accomplished during the day. I have times where it doesn’t seem like I’ve done much in the worldly-sense, but at the same time, I don’t know who I may have impacted by exhibiting Christ-like qualities during my daily interactions. I see hundreds of different people every day; what if, what if, there was just that one brief interaction that allowed God’s love to be demonstrated and called a new life to grow closer to Him? Eh, anything is possible! God works in mysterious ways and I, for one, will not question the work He does. It is in His time that all will be accomplished on His to-do list.

My thought is this: if you have time for social media, then you have even more time for God. God doesn’t want us to keep up with the Kardashians or the neighbors or our friends who appear to have it all. We are not to be comparing ourselves with the business of others. God’s to-do list is different for everyone. Most importantly, He wants us to keep time with Him.

Do you have the time? The time to give God the opportunity to work in your life and strengthen your relationship with Him? Don’t stress or worry over what you didn’t accomplish yesterday. Focus on what you did do on God’s to-do list. He’ll get everything else done for you.

Finding Forgiveness

It is so easy to simplify forgiveness. What does it mean to forgive? How do we do it?

Several years ago, my second husband was having multiple affairs. As a result of those affairs, I found myself placing blame solely on him. It wasn’t my decision to cheat after all, was it?  No, but I also was not being the Godly wife I could have been. After the affairs were over and our marriage had ended, I was still placing blame on him. I had failed to recognize my actions in the situation. I wasn’t blameless. I’m pretty certain that I had a hand in his decision to commit adultery. Now, I accept responsibility for my contributions to a failed marriage.

I forgave him, yet I still blamed myself. As a woman, I find it easier to take on the burden of blame and shame for others’ actions. Notoriously, the statement “it’s all my fault, you did nothing wrong” removes the accountability for the actions that others commit.  To my knowledge, my second husband never accepted responsibility for the things that were detrimental to our marriage. That’s okay though. I don’t have to face God’s judgment for anyone’s actions but my own. I’m working on accepting responsibility for the things I have done wrong. It’s not perfect but it’s progressing.

After the marriage ended, I was in counseling. It was there that I learned how to forgive Jay for the things I blamed him for and to take responsibility for my actions. I came to understand how I was holding on to unrighteous anger and hatred by not forgiving him.

“Be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, as God in Christ forgave you.” – Ephesians 4:32

Forgiving someone else is easy but to forgive myself was another story. During my time in counseling, I was required to read two books – After the Affair and The Miracle of Forgiveness. The former was about moving on in a relationship after the exposure of an affair; the latter, by the late Mormon prophet Spencer W. Kimball, was about learning to forgive oneself. The Bible itself doesn’t talk about how I need to forgive myself – it speaks on forgiving others for whatever they may have done. Unfortunately, I was still in the mindset that I had done nothing wrong to contribute to Jay’s decision to have an affair.

The struggle to forgive myself is real, folks.  It is a constant, daily battle.  Never-ending. I sin on a daily basis. Some of the sins I commit, I’m not even aware that I’m doing them. That’s how human nature works and it can be deceptively ingrained. The best part of these instances is that God will forgive me.

“For if you forgive others their trespasses, your heavenly Father will also forgive you.” – Matthew 6:14

God forgives us because He has an incomprehensible amount of love for us. He wants us to come back and live in paradise with Him. Paradise! That is a place that can be difficult to describe as God has placed some things as beyond our comprehension! It is a place of perfection. I strive for perfection on a daily basis. I also fail on a daily basis. I’m not perfect as I work on the Christ-like qualities that God has requested of me to exhibit. I was given gifts that are found in Christ. One of those gifts has to be cultivated. It was the gift of forgiveness. I still struggle with forgiving myself but I also believe that if God has forgiven me, I need to be able to forgive myself. Forgiving others comes easily now as I practice that gift constantly and I pray that I forget as well.

“Love is patient and kind; love does not envy or boast; it is not arrogant or rude. It does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful; it does not rejoice at wrongdoing, but rejoices with the truth.”  – 1 Corinthians 13:4-6

Replace the word “love” with forgiveness. Forgiveness is patient and kind. Forgiveness does not envy or boast or is arrogant or rude. Forgiveness is an underlying attribute to genuine love. Let me also add that forgiveness does not hold on to the actions that were committed in the first place. Once I forgive, I pray that God will allow me to forget. Not forget the lesson that was taught during the wrongdoing, but to see how the actions can consume and define a person.

God forgave me. He forgives me even when I don’t ask for it. That being said, I do my best to ask for His forgiveness and the forgiveness of others. I want to be held accountable for my actions and correct those actions in this life, not wait until I am on the seat of judgment. Once I’ve asked for forgiveness, I know God wipes my record clean. If I have wronged you, will you please forgive me? Let us go forth in peace and love. Please do not ever hesitate to call me out on something I’ve done. This isn’t easy and I may not always see how my actions and activities are not in alignment with God.

Practice forgiveness. It will be difficult at first, but it will get easier. Start by forgiving yourself for being imperfect and human.

Dear Father,

Please forgive me for the sinful nature I was born with. I know I’m not perfect and I struggle every day. I want to forgive myself for the hurt I’ve caused others and I pray that they will forgive me. Thank you for Your Son, who died on the cross for me. It is through Him that I am able to forgive as You have forgiven me. I love you, Father, and thank You for being my ultimate Provider.

In Jesus’ name, Amen

The Life of a Retail Worker

As the holidays approach, do you think about the people who assist you in retail stores or even scan your items for purchase?  Working retail is a very thankless job.  It’s one of the hardest jobs I’ve ever worked.  There is no gratitude in it. When is the last time you said “thank you” and meant it to someone who helped you?

Although not everyone can be pleased, there are a handful who are satisfied with the service they’ve received.  At many stores and restaurants, have you noticed the website and code on your receipt?  It’s a survey. If you’ve ever had good service at an establishment, by all means, PLEASE fill that survey out!! Many jobs rely on providing wonderful customer service and by letting the company know about the service you’ve received can determine how the company can grow.

As much as I have protested against pronouncing my profession, I am a pharmacy technician.  I do my best to assist my patients (I prefer to call the people I help rather than customers) with excellent customer service.  I work at a very high volume establishment and often deal with cranky, albeit polite, patients.  I am the friendly voice that you hear on the phone.  I am the smile you see at the window or cash register.

I understand that you’re tired.  You may not be feeling well either.  I empathize with that.  I’ve had days where I’ve worked with one of the most intense migraines or perhaps a vicious bout of insomnia.  However, I don’t let that deter from my service.  I have no reason to treat anyone poorly.  I do no like making any patient wait for their medicine.  I may be having a horrible day but I want you to feel important.  You are important to me.  Why?  Because without you, I would not be able to feed my family or have a roof over my head.

I have encountered some of the most awful retail workers around.  I was polite but determined to change how the cashier treated me.  I’ve had many examples but what impacts me the most is how I can make a difference in someone else’s life.  I want you, as a customer, as a patient, to remember me when you come into my pharmacy.  I want to be the one who changes your day and makes it better.  It does not matter to me what kind of day I’m having.  Your day is just as important to me as mine is.

A couple of weeks ago, I was working the drop-off window and had to answer the phone.  My greeting is always the same:  “Thank you for calling your pharmacy, this is Mia.  How can I assist you today?”  On this particular day, a woman was on the other end.  Her first statement to me was, “Wow!  You are so friendly and I really like that.”  She then proceeded to tell me how her experience with my pharmacy has been so bad during this past year that she really didn’t want to get her medicine from us.  I was apologetic and asked how I could make her experience better.  Then, she said if my coworkers could be as kind as I am, then she would continue to come to my pharmacy.  I then proceeded to take her refill request and gave her a time to pick it up.  Unfortunately, I was at lunch when she picked up her medicine but she told the cashier that she enjoyed talking to me and hoped to see me next time.  What the woman didn’t know, was that I was stressed to the point that taking my medicine was useless.  I was so stressed, that I spent my breaks and lunch crying in my car.  She never knew that.  None of the patients I was waiting on knew what kind of day I was having.  Their day was much more important and if I can make them smile, it makes my day.

On the opposite scale, last week I received a phone call from a customer (she didn’t have any medicine to be ordered) who was looking for a particular OTC (over-the-counter) product.  I had a patient at the window and a few others in line.  I asked the woman to hold for a moment as I had to finish with the person in front of me, then I could go to the floor.  I finished with Mr. Smith, then informed the next patient that I would be right with them.  I went to the floor to find the product the customer wanted and memorized the pricing.  I resumed the phone call with the information the customer requested, let her know that there were a variety in stock along with the request that she come in to find which exact item she wanted.  She then told me that I wasted her time and I was totally worthless as a person.  I politely thanked her and told her to have a nice day.  Honestly, there is no point in being mean or rude, despite the desire to bite back when a customer is nasty.  The next patient at the window more than made up for what the mean lady said.  Yeah, she was a mean lady and I’m grateful that I don’t have to deal with her.

I did tell my manager that a customer said I was totally worthless.  I was laughing as was she.

It’s not every day that I get thanked for what I do.  At least not by patients or customers.  Think about it for a moment…  The cashier who is ringing up your purchases says nothing.  Not a single word.  Not to the customer before you (as you witnessed the transaction while you waited in line).  Not to the customer after you.  Not to you.  The cashier has their head down as they scan your items.  No eye contact.  No smile.  Just a simple “thank you” as they hand you your receipt.  I’m willing to bet it does not make you feel very good as a customer.  You most likely won’t return or keep your business to a minimum (if it’s the only store in town).

That cashier feels defeated.  At some point during his/her shift, a customer was mean, rude, and downright nasty to them.  The customer most likely complained about the products or services.  It is situations like this that make retail workers feel like they don’t matter.  We do matter.  We are just as valuable as you are.  It is the customers who make us feel like we are doing something worthwhile.  It is so simple, to make someone who works hard for what little they make, for them to feel as important as the customer.

Over the many years I’ve worked retail (in all capacities – cashier, manager, etc.), I have performed a social experiment.  While I’ve not kept track on paper of my study on humanity, I have come up with some helpful tips.  These tips or ideas if you prefer, will help you survive the upcoming holidays as you shop along with any other time you shop at a retail establishment.

  1.  Greet your cashier/assistant by their name.  It’s on their badge.  If the badge is flipped or missing, ask them their name. Saying their name makes them feel human, like a person.  Like more than just a retail worker.
  2. Ask them how their day is going.  They are will ask if you’ve found everything you needed but beat them to the punch and ask them about their day. They may respond with something as simple as “fine” or “good” or “busy”.
  3. Smile at them.  Even if you are struggling to find your smile after a long day at your job or your child is in the cart screaming because he/she didn’t get that toy they saw.  The cashier often will understand and provide you with sympathy about your day. (You will get the cashier that doesn’t understand what you have dealt with during their day but don’t let that stop you from coming back – you never know when I’ll be providing excellent customer service to you.)
  4. Thank them for their assistance.  A THANK YOU can change everything for a retail worker.  It sounds easy but sincerity in your “thank you” is the kindest thing you can give a retail worker.
  5. Do not hesitate to fill out a survey or tell a manager about the service you received, especially if your cashier/assistant was helpful.  Also, if they were not cordial, a manager that is not aware of the issue cannot rectify the situation.

Retail companies depend upon shoppers to stay in business.  I enjoy my job.  Particularly because I believe that something so small as a genuine smile can make a person feel better than any other type of medicine.

The holidays are coming, so please be kind to the person assisting you with your purchases!

Edit: Today, when I helped a patient in the drive-thru (there were two), I received this note when she returned the carrier:

This made my day (as the other patient yelled at me). I really appreciate this note.

Living the Single Life

There are a lot of advantages to being single, especially when the breakup was ugly and difficult.

My favorite advantage is that I don’t have to have a spotless house. If you come over and I’m still in my pajamas, I could careless. I hope you are here to see me and not my sink full of dishes or my over-flowing laundry basket.

I cannot be mad at anyone for the mess. I make the mess so I’m responsible for it. Do you really think I’m going to yell at myself for not cleaning up? Doubtful!

Oh! I don’t have to wear pajamas to bed. I can get up in the middle of the night to use the bathroom and nobody would see anything! Well that’s because there isn’t anyone here and I’m single!

Alicia says, “single and ready to mingle”. Thank you, but no. There is not one single man in this state that I would care to spend time with. I mean other than my Dad and well, Bo is still very much a boy. He’s also my shadow when I visit my parents.

(See my feet? I nearly fell down the stairs when he followed up behind me!)

I can keep chocolate in the freezer for weeks at a time and it will still be there at crucial moments.

If I’m not working, I can get up when I want. There’s no time schedule for me. If I forget to go to the grocery store for almond milk (yes, I am lactose-intolerant), it’s perfectly fine!

If I ignore the fuzzy stuff on my legs, it’s OKAY! Actually, I have to do the girlie stuff regularly otherwise it makes me crazy. But still, it’s not like I have a boyfriend or anything so it’s one less worry.

If a single woman farts in her living room and there’s no man to hear, does it make a sound?

If I feel the need to have a major cry-fest, I can put on a Sandra Bullock or that movie with the blonde and that Gosling dude. There wouldn’t be anyone to hear me blubber. Wait, who am I kidding? I’m more likely to put on a Fast & Furious movie and cry when Vin Diesel crashes that gorgeous 1968 Pontiac GTO. Man! Talk about living life one-quarter of a mile at a time!

What else can I do since I’m single? Oh!

I’m going zip lining for my birthday! Yeppers! I’m flying solo for some fun! Maybe I’ll treat myself to a steak dinner or something I rarely do. Depends upon where I go zip lining, I guess.

I can sing and dance in my living room at the top of my lungs. Off-key and out of tempo if I so choose.

I don’t have to look my best because, honestly. At my age who do I have to impress? Yeah, didn’t think so.

I do t have to explain who my friends are. If I want to meet Maria at Applebee’s after work, I don’t have to explain that to anyone. (Nobody should ever have to go to Applebee’s alone!)

(I didn’t create the meme so I’m not responsible for the bad grammar.)

I’m sure there are more things I could add to this list. I digress at this time.

What are some of the things you enjoy about single life?