I have three beautiful daughters: Abbie (age 19), Alex (age 17) and Avery (age 15). Being their mom is one of the greatest joys in my life, and being married to their dad is another. :) Our church is going through a sermon series titled "Family Matters". The staff have shared some interesting statistics, one being that we have 936 weeks with our children from the time they are born until they graduate high school. Seriously?! That seems like a long time, but it's not. Life moves fast! My girls have grown up so quickly, and I often find myself wondering: Was I there enough? Did I do enough? Did I love them enough? In order to help work through my questions, I sat down and wrote out some words I wanted my girls to have forever. I decided (with some encouragement and maybe a little push from my TWU friends), to share this here too. I hope and pray my girls remember these things, but I also need to be reminded. And maybe you do too.
Dear Abbie, Alex and Avery,
I remember each time I found out I was pregnant and the day each of you were born. Three girls born within four years meant that I would have a little one to rock for quite a while. I thought you would be little forever. But forever actually lasted as long as it took me to type the last three sentences. *sigh* This time last year, Abbie, you graduated from high school and became the first child to leave home for college. I cried for months. Alex, this time next year, you will be graduating from high school and heading off to college. I'm getting teary eyed just thinking about it. Three years from now will be a double whammy. Avery, you will graduate from high school/leave for college, and Abbie, you will graduate from college and begin your teaching career. Avery, how does online college sound?
Recently, I was thinking about the next few years, and I thought about the things I want you to know. Some are serious, some are simple, but all of them, I feel, are equally important.
This one may seem like a given, especially since you have been raised in church, but it is something you have to do for yourselves. You were all young when Grandma passed away in 2004. You may not have many memories of her, but she was a strong godly woman with an amazing relationship with the Lord. She was a godly example to all who knew her, especially your daddy. After she passed away, Dad struggled in his faith. Was his faith genuine or was it based on Grandma’s faith? After much soul searching, his faith became stronger as did his relationship with God. I don’t want you girls to love God because we tell you to. I want you to love God because it is a natural response to a relationship with Him that only you can have.
Success. What is it? We are constantly bombarded with the world’s idea of success. A nice home, a great car, lots of money, etc. All of those things are nice, right? But what does God’s Word tell us about success? I think when we live our lives focused on God and his will we will succeed. His desires will become our desires. The things that matter to Him will matter to us.
Forgiveness doesn’t mean that what happened is ok, but rather it’s an acknowledgment of a wrong that has been done. When you were little, I didn’t allow you to just say “sorry." You had to say, “I’m sorry for …” Why? Because you needed to take ownership of the wrong you had committed. As a mom, I’ve had to learn to ask forgiveness from you. That’s been a hard lesson to learn. I grew up in a home where forgiveness wasn’t sought, nor was it given very often. I hope that you will forgive and ask for forgiveness often. We have too many people in this world that don’t own up to doing wrong.
The world tells us that strong women can do anything they put their minds to, can be anyone they want to be, and can say anything they want to say. Dad and I have encouraged each of you to pursue your dreams, to try new things and to speak your mind. But none of that matters if you are not living life to the best of your ability. I love this definition of a strong woman: “A strong woman is someone who is walking in her God-given identity, unaffected by the world’s image of the feminine role or the religious pressure to conform to some reduced version of herself.” - Kris Vallotton from Fashioned to Reign. Stand up for yourself. Stand strong in what the Creator says about you and who you are.
Believing in yourself is empowering. Think back to a time when you knew you could do something and you accomplished it. Avery: the first 3 point shot you ever made. Alex: submitting a piece to an art show and getting an acceptance letter. Abbie: that mid-term that you crammed for all night and aced. How did you feel? Amazing, right? That’s what believing in yourself feels like. You gain confidence. You sense your purpose. You can conquer the world. And don’t worry if you fail. Look at it as an opportunity to learn.
The first six months that we lived in Louisiana, we weren’t really there. Our hearts were back in Alabama with our family and friends. As often as possible, we would “go home” for the weekend. We had to learn to be “at home” in Louisiana. It was hard making new friends and finding a new church, but looking back at the moment we decided to be where we were, we began to experience new and wonderful things. Whether you are working a job that gets you through school, or you are in a place temporarily, don’t miss out on the opportunities God has for you there. When we stop looking too far into the future or missing the past, we will learn to enjoy the present moment. Eight years later, I can say that Alabama no longer feels like home. Home is wherever I am with you and Dad.
Cliché, I know, but it’s a good mantra to have. Worrying is a time waster. It can cause stress and wrinkles. But most importantly, it takes away our trust in God. One of my favorite passages is Matthew 6:26-27: "If the God of the universe will take care of the birds, He will take care of you." I’m not saying that I don’t worry because I do, but I also trust that God is going to provide (because He ALWAYS has in the past). He’s got your back. You can trust Him to take care of you.
When you have a bad day, remember it’s only 24 hours long. You just have to get through the next few hours before you get a new start. Bad days will come, but that’s all they are. A day. Twenty-four hours. And when you’re having a bad day, just call your mama. I’ll be happy to listen as you vent and remind you of how awesome you are.
Have a servant’s heart. Invite people over. Feed them. Laugh with them. Cry with them. Share life’s joys and heartaches with them. It doesn’t matter if you eat pizza off of paper plates or steaks off of fine china. Take the time to invest in those around you. Find a way to serve the ones God has put in your life. It may be as simple as listening to a friend share what they are going through or cooking a meal for a family in need. It’s easy to serve the ones we care about, but I challenge you to find ways to serve outside of your comfort zone. The quantity of time spent with someone is never too little when it’s done in love.
When each of you was a baby, we dedicated you to the Lord. As much as we love you, our love does not compare to the love your heavenly Father has for you. When you feel unlovable, know that you are loved. When you make mistakes, know that you are loved. We may not always agree with the decisions you make, but we will always love you. You are loved. You always have been, and you always will be.
You have us. You have your friends. One day, a long time from now, you may have husbands and a family of your own. Relationships are hard work. A good relationship requires communication, trust, and a little give and take. Always keep the lines of communication open. Learn when to speak and when to keep quiet. Be trustworthy and bestow trust. Nurture those good relationships, and recognize what harmful ones look like. And remember, Dad says you can’t date until you're 30.
Pursue your dreams. Follow your heart. Do whatever the cool t-shirts tell you to do. Just don’t earn a degree because you think that’s what Dad and I want for you. God has placed within each of you a talent, a gift, a passion to do something special. Find it. Grow it. Live it. Life is too short to be stuck in a job that you hate, not living life to the fullest. Take time to find out what your best life might look like. If it lines up with the calling you feel God has on your life, then pursue it!
And last but not least…
Laugh until you have to cross your legs. Make that ugly cry face. Sing along to the car radio. Yes, people may stare at you for any or all of the above but not the people who love you. Dad and I, and your sisters, we are your people. I hope you find others to embrace the crazy and become your people. Welcome them into your inner circle.
I hope that you don’t see this as a to-do list but attainable things that might make life a little more enjoyable. Things, I hope, that I have modeled for you. Dad and I love you. Our desire has always been to raise you to be godly women. Girls, we may not be able to give you everything you want, but hopefully we have given you the things you need: LOVE. ENCOURAGEMENT. SECURITY. Home will always be a soft place to land. I’m blessed to be your Mama.
Embrace life to the fullest,
God's been challenging me this summer. Actually, He and I have had a few wrestling matches. Through these spiritual wrestling matches, I've learned one thing ... He. Will. Always. Win. Why do I resist? Why do I think that my ideas and thoughts are better than what He has planned? When will I ever learn to trust Him? I'm human. It's in our human nature to want our way. To fight for the right to be heard, to be right, to do things the way we want them done. I'm not making excuses; I'm simply stating a fact.
This summer, Bronie and I have been spending time together doing Jennie Allen's Bible study “STUCK: the places we get stuck and the God who sets us free.” I have had this study on my shelf, collecting dust, for over a year now. Every now and then, I'd take it off the shelf and look at it, knowing that I needed to start it but never did. Finally after a conversation with BV, we decided that we would start. It looked like an innocent enough study, BUT after watching (with tears rolling down my cheeks) the intro video, my heart was pricked. Was it too late to back out? I thought, "Uh, BV, I can't do this! I'm tapping out. Good luck with the study." But I knew in my heart it was exactly what I needed. Over the last few weeks, I've had to analyze myself. (Do you know how uncomfortable that can be?) And through this process, God has called me to surrender. I have had to surrender so many areas of my life; my thoughts, my worry, my anxiety, my family, my everything to Him. That is hard for someone like me who has major trust issues. He even challenged my to surrender that, too! All of these things had become a security blanket for me. If I could worry about it, then in my mind, I had control over it.
Surrender is a daily process. Just like making wise choices about the things we eat, read and listen to, we have to choose daily to surrender to God. If we chase what the world deems right and good, we will lose ourselves. As Christians, when we let Jesus lead us, we find ourselves. We can't ride the fence on this. It's a choice we have to make daily - do we let Him lead us or do we do our own thing? When we surrender to God, we stop resisting Him. And it's in the moment of sweet surrender that we find freedom. FREEDOM!!! Freedom from this world's idea of the best life. Freedom to be who we are created to be. Freedom to trust God with everything. Freedom to live the life God wants us to have. Freedom to embrace life to the fullest.
I love the way The Message puts it in Matthew 16:24-26: "Then Jesus went to work on his disciples. 'Anyone who intends to come with me has to let me lead. You’re not in the driver’s seat; I am. Don’t run from suffering; embrace it. Follow me and I’ll show you how. Self-help is no help at all. Self-sacrifice is the way, my way, to finding yourself, your true self. What kind of deal is it to get everything you want but lose yourself? What could you ever trade your soul for?'" He is in the driver's seat. He knows where we are going, and He knows how we are going to get there.
Embrace life to the fullest,
Not long ago, it was prom time at the Lockwood Lair. Two of our three daughters headed out for a night of fun with their friends. I think one of the hardest parts of preparing for that night was dress shopping. Abbie and Alex tried on close to twenty dresses each, several during a trip to Missouri. They both have different tastes, but for fun they would try on the same dress. What looked great on one made the other one look like they were playing dress up. As I was watching the dress picking process and giving my humble opinion as a mom, I couldn't help but think of the verses in Colossians 3 that talk about our spiritual wardrobe.
When we become Christians, Christ-followers, we are given a new wardrobe. Our old sinful nature doesn't fit us any more. Paul says in Colossians 3:9-10 (The Message) "You're done with that old life. It's like a filthy set of ill-fitting clothes you've stripped off and put in the fire. Now you are dressed in a new wardrobe." God strips us of that old life and gives us a new one. We undergo a transformation. I love the illustration of throwing our ill-fitting clothes in a fire. It means we are completely getting rid of it never to wear it again. Besides, who doesn't want a new wardrobe?
Paul continues in verse 11 saying, "Every item in your new wardrobe is custom made by the Creator, with His label on it. The old fashions are now obsolete ... from now on every one is defined by Christ ..." I can just imagine the label saying "Made especially for you, handcrafted by the Father." We are no longer defined by the world, but by God. We are chosen by Him for a new life of love.
Paul even tells us the items that are in our new wardrobe. In Colossians 3:12-14 he instructs us to "Dress in the wardrobe God has picked out for you: compassion, kindness, humility, quiet strength, discipline. Be even tempered, content with second place, quick to forgive an offense. Forgive as quickly as the Master forgave you. And regardless of what else you put on, wear LOVE (emphasis mine). It is your basic all-purpose garment. Never be without it." As I write this, I'm being convicted. Am I always "wearing" love? Do I show compassion? Humility? Am I disciplined? No, no, no and NO. Why not? I think sometimes I try to pull out my old wardrobe. I look in the mirror and see my new clothes through the lenses of my past. I let the past dictate what I will wear, sometimes trying to mix and match the two wardrobes. Ill fitting clothes DO NOT go with custom made, tailored ones. I think that is why Paul instructs us to "burn" them. We can't wear them again and shouldn't want to either.
A new spiritual wardrobe is ours for the asking. God is waiting to dress us; all we have to do is trust Him and let Him do the work. We are the most beautiful version of ourselves when we are dressed in Christ's love and righteousness.
Embrace life to the fullest,
Values … you have values whether you can put a name to them or not. Your values are the principles that you deem important, those things that motivate you. They are the driving force behind what you do and who you are. Your values shape your behavior, your relationships and your choices. Having values is like having a firm foundation to build on. The more you know about your values, the easier it will be to understand and prioritize the things you do.
I recently heard a message from Andy Stanley called "Ask It." He used Ephesians 5:15-16 which says, “Be careful, then, how you live -- not as unwise but as wise, making the most of every opportunity." He started off the message with this intro:
What if there was a question that would clarify your best option for ninety percent of the decisions you make in life—a question that answers just about everything? It would have the potential to foolproof your relationships, marriage, finances, calendar, pace and health. It would reduce the complexity of your life. It would save you time, money and tears. You would carry around less regret. And best of all, you wouldn't have to apologize nearly as much.
It is a simple question. “What is the wise thing to do?” Andy called it a litmus test for every decision we make. I believe that our values also play a huge part in this test. When we know our values and we ask, “What is the wise thing to do?”, we are putting our best interest first. God has our best interest in mind; shouldn't we? When we consider our values and “what’s the wise thing to do” in regards to our past, we can keep history from repeating itself. For example, I value loyalty. When I consider loyalty and what the wise thing to do would be based on my past, I know that I am putting my marriage first. I am breaking the cycle of divorce that runs in my family. When it comes to my current circumstances, my values of faith and trust coupled with “what’s the wise thing to do” empowers me to release the situations I cannot control over to God. Legacy is important to me, and in light of my future hopes and dreams, I can focus on leaving a spiritual legacy for my daughters and future generations. Do you get the idea? Our values can and should make decision-making easier. They must be a gauge by which we measure everything in our lives.
Hopefully by now you are thinking about your values. I want you to write down at least 10 values. I know this is going to be hard, so let me give you a few examples.
Now that you have your ten values, I want you to narrow them down to five. You might be thinking ”FIVE?!” Yes!!! I want you to narrow them down to five. You need to laser beam focus on five values that mean the most to you. You may need to walk away from them for a bit.
Our goal with this exercise is simple. The things that we say are important to us must line up with how we live our lives. If integrity is on our list, our words and deeds must match up. If we value service, we must use our talents to serve others. You've heard the TWU Faculty and teachers say that we are all created on purpose for a purpose. Our values shed light on our purpose. All of us are on a spiritual and creative journey to become all God created us to be. By knowing our values and standing strong in them, we are on our way to becoming the women we were meant to be. I firmly believe that when we learn more about ourselves and who we are in Christ, we gain wisdom and insight.
My prayer for you today is that you understand yourself a little more. Pray and seek God’s Word to help you design your core values. When our values line up with God’s, we will look at things from His perspective.
Embrace life to the fullest,
My name is Stefaney, S. T. E. F as in Frank. A. N. E. Y., but family and close friends call me "Stef." I was born and raised all over Alabama, calling it home until moving to Slidell, Louisiana, in 2007. After living in town for six years, my husband and I moved our family twenty minutes north to our own little piece of heaven in Picayune, MIssissippi.
I received Christ as my Savior at the age of four. I was baptized at age seven. I grew up In the church. I heard all of the stories. I knew who Jesus was. BUT because of the father figure I had in my life, my view of God was skewed. I thought God was someone that I could easily anger, that He loved me -- but conditionally, that He would leave. It wasn't until I was eighteen, almost nineteen years old, that I really understood who God is. HE is LOVE and HE loves unconditionally. He is relational. He wants the very best for me (and for you), but we have to be willing to be used by Him. I have to be willing to let Him be in control. He knows more than I do, and He sees the big picture.
Mr. Incredible (aka Kevin) and I have been married for twenty years. I am a stay-at-home/home-school mom to our three beautiful teenage daughters. The girls keep us busy with basketball games and art classes. Kevin and I serve our local home-school community as Presidents of Slidell Christian Home Educators Fellowship (http://www.slidellchristianhomeschool.org/), and I teach High School science for our local Co-op. I also dabble in machine embroidery, monogramming and vinyl personalization. It's a hobby, but family and friends keep me busy.
When I'm not teaching, chauffeuring, or cheering on my girls, you can find me in the kitchen. I taught myself to cook at the age of thirteen in order to help my mother. My kitchen is my favorite room in my house. I read cookbooks like most people read novels. Mr. Incredible is teaching me the fine art of gardening. I love growing our own veggies, and I really want to plant some fruit trees this spring. I "collect" shoes, purses, big necklaces, earrings, rings and jeans. I "heart" iced coffee, homemade ice cream, monogrammed anything, lace tablecloths, doilies, history books, vintage Pyrex dishes and antique stores! I have an eclectic taste in music (60's-90's, jazz, country, worship, etc). I enjoy watching period shows such as Downton Abbey and Mr. Selfridge (a recent find on PBS), but I also love reality t.v. like The Voice, this season of American Idol, and the Sing-Off. I tend to sing really loud and really off-key in the car, so you won't be seeing me try out for any of those shows. :)
I moved a lot growing up. I mean A LOT. Like fifteen different schools from Kindergarten to 12th grade A LOT. I was very shy as a child and had a hard time letting myself open up and make friends. Even now I tend to be a bit reserved until I get to know someone really well. That being said, or typed, I took our move from Alabama to Louisiana really hard. We left behind my family, all of our friends, and a really great church to move to a place that I equated to Africa. We might as well have moved across the Atlantic to a whole other country. God was working behind the scenes, like He seems to do, and was preparing me for something I never imagined. By 2009, we had found our way to Northshore Church, and I was going to attend a women's event called "Who is SHE?". I didn't know many ladies at the church, and I really didn't want to go by myself. I came up with lots of excuses as to why I shouldn't go, but none of them were good enough. I went to that first SHE event and was so blessed. So extremely blessed, that I found Jenny immediately afterwards and told her that if she did another event, I would love to help behind the scenes. I don't think she heard me because I was asked to speak at the next event. Remember me saying that I was shy? Yeah, I don't think God or Jenny got that memo. Anyway, ten events (nine women's and one teen) later and I 'm still being pulled out of my comfort zone, but it is all good. : ) I love the prep work that goes into the events. I am honored to serve as Co-Executive Director and Secretary of Total Woman U. I firmly believed that God has used Total Woman U to not only equip me but to empower me to do things I never imagined possible. Through TWU, I have made friends that literally walk alongside me and encourage me on this beautiful journey of becoming all God created me to be. Won't you join me too?
Embrace life to the fullest,
Why is it so hard to be obedient?
When I was a child, it was easier. I was either obedient or I would be in trouble. Something was either right or it was wrong. Not much gray area there. But as I got older, the temptations were stronger, the gray area between right and wrong got bigger and obedience was a little bit tougher. I wonder why…maybe it was because I wanted to fit in. Maybe it was because it was easier to go with the crowd than to take a stand. Whatever the reasons were, the decisions were not based on biblical standards and they led to guilt and regret. I do know this, when we choose to be obedient, we save ourselves from lots of heartache and set ourselves up to succeed and receive God’s blessings.
At the last workshop, I shared a personal story about learning to be obedient. My husband and I had bought a house that was priced at the very top of our budget. It was a foreclosure and the bank wouldn’t budge on the price. We bought the house, moved in and a month later Kevin lost his job. The house literally became a noose around our necks. We talked about selling the house, but pride kept us from doing so. We struggled for 4 ½ years to keep that house. When we listed the house last September, I thought we would have time to look at houses, pack everything up and move at a leisurely pace. Boy, did God have other plans! Our house sold in 3 days, we had 1 week to find a new place and had to be out before the holidays. We lost money on the house, but that was a small price to pay to be able to walk away.
As Paul Harvey says, Now, for the rest of the story…We moved out of our house (with a little lot of help from our friends), put stuff in storage and waited to close on our new, less expensive but oh-so-much-better house. We waited. Celebrated Thanksgiving. And waited. Celebrated Christmas with our version of a Charlie Brown tree. Waited some more. Rang in 2013. Waited 2 more weeks. Finally on January 15, 2 months after closing on our old house we were given the keys to our new home. The wait was finally over! We felt like we had finally reached the Promised Land. God had blessed our obedience.
The new house was only the beginning. Our desire as a family, has been to simplify: our lifestyle, our schedule, our clutter. Simplifying for us meant to be able to spend more time together as a family. It is hard to do, when Kevin works in Belle Chasse and our move added 25 more minutes to his commute. We have been praying for a while for a new job closer to home or at least this side of the Crescent City Connection. God has answered our prayers. Kevin has a new job that he recently started. Not only is this new job this side of the CCC, it is only 10 minutes from our driveway.
So many blessings and all because we chose to be obedient.
Is God asking you to do something that you don’t want to do? Don’t let pride or fear of failure hold you back. If God is asking, then you can trust that he will be faithful. He will provide. Give Him control. It will be worth it and will be better than you ever imagined!
"Be the one who nurtures and builds. Be the one who has an understanding and a forgiving heart; one who looks for the best in people. Leave people better than you found them." ~ Marvin J. Ashton
I have to admit that lately I have been more of a tearer-downer than a builder-upper. Today was one of those days! I must confess that the one I tore down was my own beautiful, precious daughter. Life has been a little stressful around our house lately and I haven’t handled it well. While there are plenty of things that I should be rejoicing over (such as our house selling within 3 days of being listed) I have allowed the stress (of moving) get the best of me. I, in turn, have taken it out on the ones whom I hold dear. I have had to apologize a lot, and I mean A LOT! Saying I am sorry doesn’t right the wrong, erase the words, or completely heal the hurts but it does humble you. I believe as a parent, a spouse or a friend, we have to be the one willing to say “I’m sorry”.
The flip-side of that coin is that I need to be the one willing to forgive when someone apologizes to me. I need to be willing to say “You’re forgiven." “I’m Sorry” and “You’re forgiven” are 2, two-word phrases that could change someone’s life. Those two little words may be the cornerstone it takes to start strengthening or rebuilding a relationship.
I would like for you to join me and make an end of the year resolution. Let’s be the person Marvin J. Ashton wrote about. BE the ONE who nurtures and builds. BE the ONE who has an understanding and a forgiving heart. LOOK for the best in people and ALWAYS leave people better than you found them.
In part one of this followup, I shared a little bit about wishes and dreams. Today I want to finish up with longings.
Longings. We all have them. Those empty places deep inside us that can't seem to be filled. They won't let us ignore them, no matter how hard we try.
Webster's dictionary defines longings as a strong desire especially for something unattainable. Hmm...If longings are unattainable, then why do we have them? God has packed them inside of us. When we believe that we are created in the image of our heavenly Father, we can fully understand that He has longings, too. He longs to have a relationship with us, to be the center of our lives, and to receive our worship. If he has longings it is only natural that we do, too.
We try so hard to do things on our own. Our success in life depends on how we respond to our longings. We either deny our longings or we try to fulfill them in ungodly or unhealthy ways. In Fresh-Brewed Life, Nicole Johnson writes about different types of longings. I want to mention two of them: the longing to be filled and the longing to be known. The longing to be filled cannot be filled with material things. We try to fill that empty feeling with food, shopping and even people. Whether we are looking to be filled emotionally or physically (with food), that feeling only lasts for a little while and then we are looking to fill it again.
As women, we all want to be known. We want to be treasured and embraced. We want someone to pursue and understand us. While the men in our lives may know us, (our likes, dislikes and crazy little quirks) there is still more to us that is unknown. The same goes for men, too. No one can ever really fill our longing to be known, other than our Father. He is the only one who knows us better than we know ourselves. As fulfilling as earthly relationships can be, our relationship with the Father, will never leave us wanting.
God's desire is that none of us perish, but he has given us the freedom to choose salvation. He is waiting on us to make the choice. When we choose the world or our own desires over him, he is left longing. His purpose for equipping us with longings is to draw us closer to him. He knows longings and he is ready to fulfill our longings with compassion and understanding. Proverbs 13:19a says,"A longing fulfilled is sweet to the soul...". We can trust him to be enough, because he is the one who placed the longings within us.
My challenge to you is this: Talk to God about your longings. Yes, he already knows them, but he longs to hear your voice. Confide in Him. His ways are perfect.
Are wishes, dreams, and longings the same thing? They are similar but different. A wish is a want or desire that can be easily attained. A dream is a strong desire for something that is within our reach. A longing is a persistent desire or craving that is out of our reach. Despite the differences in attainability, they all reflect what is in our heart. In Matthew 6:21 Jesus said, "for where your treasure is, there your heart will be also". What we treasure the most control us, whether we admit it or not.
Let's take a look at wishes for a moment. What do you wish for? Somedays I wish for peace and quiet, adult conversation and an extra hour of sleep. All of those things are attainable, but my calendar doesn't always allow for those wishes to be granted. I have allowed my calendar to dictate my priorities, thinking I can make time for other things later. Has my busy-ness become my treasure? I have to answer yes. If I truly wish to have peace and quiet, then I need to make it happen.
Dreams stem from stronger desires but are still within our reach. Think of dreams as goals. Do you have a goal? Maybe your goal is to run a marathon, to read the Bible in a year, to write a novel, or just to be the best YOU that you can be. No matter what goals or dreams you may have, you need to have a map. You need to chart your course to see that dream become a reality.
Spring is one of my favorite times of the year. Not only does it bring new growth and warmer days, it also brings birthdays at our house. In a 2 1/2 month span, each of my daughters turn a year older. I remember bringing each of them home and thinking that we had a long time to be a family. Now, I realize that I have two years until my oldest graduates high school and goes off to college. Two years!!! Where has the time gone? There was so much I wanted to do, to teach her and to prepare her and now I only have two years left! All those years I spent thinking I have time, and now that time is running out. I can beat myself up with all of the shoulda, coulda, woulda's or I can make adjustments and enjoy the next two years.
Last year, God laid on my heart the phrase "intentional living". He has convicted me of my busy-ness, and challenged me to only participate in things that matter to Him. I have always been a people pleaser, trying to be and do everything everyone else wanted. I want to serve Him and not myself or others. I am in the process of completing a four year commitment that has left me burned out and frustrated at many times. I am learning to think and pray first before committing to other responsibilities. In doing so, I am beginning to live out the plans and purpose that God has for me. The plan and purpose that He packed me with so many years ago.
May you experience "intentional living" as you journey through your wishes and dreams!
Many of you may remember that I used Wilma Rudolph as an example in the Equip and Engage swapshop. For those of you reading the blog that were unable to attend Strengthening Her Endurance, Wilma faced many challenges growing up, one of which was polio. Through her parents’ faithful care and her sheer determination, Wilma was able to walk and then, of course, run. She became known as “The Fastest Woman in the World." She is a role model to all that if you let challenges strengthen you, you can do unbelievable things.
A friend of mine knew that I was going to talk about Wilma and she wanted to know if Wilma was a Christian. She searched online and found this devotion by Wilma in a book called “The Goal and Glory." It has many devotions by famous athletes but I wanted to share the one from Wilma with you. Enjoy!
Wilma Rudolph — Guidance
Gracious is the Lord, and righteous;
our God is merciful.
The Lord preserves the simple;
when I was brought low, he saved me.
Return, O my soul, to your rest;
for the Lord has dealt bountifully with you.
For you have delivered my soul from death,
my eyes from tears,
my feet from stumbling . . . .
~ Psalm 116:5-8
I found out comparatively early in life that it takes a lot of trying to get anything worthwhile accomplished.
When I was only fifteen, I went to Melbourne, Australia, to participate in the Olympics. It wasn't publicized at the time and it was just as well. I had been lazy in practice and in running too. I simply had not done my best. After the Melbourne meet, I had plenty of time to think about my attitude. I came to realize that you have to give your best if you want to win.
So when I went to Rome for the 1960 Olympics, I had already made that truth a part of my life. I had worked hard in preparation. I was in top condition and in the right frame of mind for the events to come.
During our time in Rome my coach and the members of our team got together for prayer from time to time. We felt that with God's help and with each of us doing his best, we could win. In a situation like this, it is a real temptation to pray to win. But we all asked God only to help us do our best. I personally felt that I had let my coach and teammates down in Melbourne. Now I wanted to win and do my best for them.
I asked God for special guidance in the opening event, the 100 meters. I ran hard and won. Later I paused and thanked Him for His being with me. My teammates and I came away with a record number of gold medals. But without God's help and His will in my life, I might have repeated my failure at Melbourne.
I feel I owe God a great deal for what He has done in all of my life. When I was about a year old, I contracted polio. The doctors told my mother that I would never walk. For over three years I made trips to the hospital for treatment and mother would get the same discouraging prediction. But my mother had great faith. Her faith told her to work with me and that with God's help, something could be done.
She worked with me daily, never giving up hope that I could be as normal as any other child. She took me and my brothers and sisters to church every Sunday. Every night we had family devotions. She instilled in all of us the love of God and the importance of giving Him our lives. If it hadn't been for my mother's efforts, I would never have walked, much less competed in the Olympics.
I don't know right now just what my plans are for future events. But I am running and keeping in condition every day. I don't want to do anything less than my best when I try. That day in Melbourne taught me that.
I've learned something else too. A Christian athlete is not a person who practices Christianity only on the track or playing field. God goes with me wherever I go, whether to the Olympics or to class or a party. He guides all of my life, day by day. He is in charge of my future.
There is nothing as important as having God close to you to guide and direct. Win or lose, I want to do His will always.
Heavenly Father, I thank You for Your mercy and loving kindness. I thank You for hearing and answering prayer, for giving direction to our lives and for standing by patiently as we learn to know Your love. In Jesus' name. Amen.
Wilma Rudolph was an All-American track star at Tennessee A & I College and an Olympic and World track champion. She went on to become a teacher in Tennessee.
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