Recovering Joy 🌻

Feeling blue?

Down? Depressed?

Ever heard of the term “acedia?”

Acedia s from Latin acedĭa, and this from Greek – “negligence”, ἀ- “lack of” -κηδία “care”).

This term has been defined as “a state of listlessness or torpor” of not caring or not being concerned with one’s position or condition in the world.

Felt this way lately?

SO many have and still do.

In ancient Greece akidía literally meant an “inert state without pain or care.”

Early Christians used the term to define a spiritual state of listlessness and from there the term developed a markedly Christian moral tone. In modern times it has been taken up by literary figures and connected to depression.

Well…
I felt this way last week.
So have some of my friends.
It’s hard not to.

Covid days, a polar vortex storm, days on end of passions and purposes thwarted leads to downward spirals.

Countless days have been downers.

We’ve lost people we cared about to Covid – great people.

The power outages and ramifications of the recent snow storm seem unending. A friend in Texas said “well, our power stayed on but I feel I’ve lost all MY electricity and energy.”

So. Much. Awful.

I get it. It’s everywhere.

But…

WE CAN’T STAY THERE.

Depression, malaise, the blues, anxiety & acedia need to be exposed and banished.

You CAN do that.
Together, WE can do it.

Gordy Guest and I prayed that feeling of acedia away on Saturday and, within a few hours, joy was back. Literally, a heaviness over and in our home lifted. We felt it leave.

Friends, these are tough days.

We can be tougher. 💪🏼🙏🏼

We MUST chose to go after the negativity and get. it. OUT.

We were SO encouraged today, at Asbury, our church in Tulsa by our Sunday School class, by Pastor Tom’s awesome message (go to Asbury on Facebook and tune in) and by one worship song in particular called “King of Kings,” by Hillsong.

My favorite lyrics in that song are these beautiful words:

“In the darkness we were waiting
Without hope, without light
‘Til from Heaven You came running
There was mercy in Your eyes
To fulfill the law and prophets
To a virgin came the word
From a throne of endless glory
To a cradle in the dirt”

We can combat acedia through tapping in to the love of Christ.

Talking about this “acedia” feeling with those you trust, praying with others, PRAISING in the midst of pain and being with the body of Christ all help.

Because we are empty nesting, we worship at both Asbury & at Life.Church. We love both places and are grateful for encouraging people and wonderful pastors & messages.

Tap in, friends.

Don’t stay down.

Choose.
Choose joy.
Choose joy TODAY.

Choose to go after joy, hope and let’s collectively wake up.

Tough times call for us to arise in Whose we are and who we are.

We were not made to stay down, to live with the blues or in a state of “not caring”.

On a wonderfully encouraging Empty Nest Guests podcast, I interviewed Michelle Van Loon, author of Becoming Sage. She’s awesome and taught me about the term “acedia”.

Acedia is gripping our society…even the most positive people and it’s time to expose it and rise against it.

It’s time to recover joy.

May the song King of Kings bless you.

May Pastor Tom’s message bless you.

Turn on praise music.
Call a friend.
God wants so much more for His people.

The snow will melt and the sun will emerges this week. Praise Him for that.

As power is restored to homes, may His power be restored in you.

“CHOOSE this day whom you will serve. As for me and my house, we will choose to serve the Lord.”
Josh. 24:15

Together, let’s battle the blues wreaking havoc on our world.

Here’s the song we loved:

And, to listen to the podcast with Michelle Van Loon, go here:

Thanks for reading the blog. May you be blessed today and know how special you are. 🌻

The Gift of Growth During Covid

As I begin this blog post, I am thinking about the ways I have grown during this crazy Covid pandemic and the beautiful growth I have witnessed in people and in creation.

It’s been almost a year since the pandemic infiltrated our country and our communities. A year ago, no one used the word “Covid” unless you were, perhaps, a doctor and used that word in a chart documenting a strain of the common cold.

I recently stayed with my Aunt Harriet, in Denver, as she began recovery from ankle surgery.

We discussed that COVID-19 is much different. It has infected people, our livelihood and, for many, it has been deadly. We are in the middle of making history and hopefully will be on the other side of this horrible plague soon.

Aunt Harriet and I talked about the beginning of the pandemic and how we all sort of enjoyed staying home and cleaned out every drawer, pantry, nook and cranny. We productively re-organized our homes and lives.

I remember walking through our neighborhood and seeing almost every garage door up. Neighbors smiled and waved as they threw out clutter.

We all thought this pandemic would be “over” in a couple of months. I also remember being extremely concerned. We needed to get our youngest daughter, Cambri, home from Los Angeles. Things felt a bit safer in Tulsa and we wanted to get her home as, at the time, we were not experiencing as many cases as Los Angeles.

Cambri drove to meet me in Phoenix. I flew one way, on one of the last flights out of Tulsa, (thank you Southwest) to meet her there. We would make the rest of the drive back to Tulsa together.

One thing that has grown inside of me, during this pandemic, is the ability to hear the voice of God. Not audibly but, deep in my spirit. I feel the Holy Spirit guiding me now more than ever before.

I knew that I would be all right, on that airplane, and that we would make it back home safely. I felt an overwhelming sense of trust and gratefulness as I walked through an empty airport and boarded an airplane with just two other passengers. It was one of the strangest experiences I have ever been through…yet I felt His assurance.

This Southwest plane was virtually empty. I was one of three passengers. It was wonderful to talk with these two stewardesses who were strong Christian women.

In my life, God always has spoken to me through other people, His people, in the body of Christ. I certainly saw growth in this area escalating all through the pandemic as believers became even more outspoken about their faith.

I know I grew, personally, in this area as I believed the one thing I could offer, in the mist of fear and uncertainty, was positivity.

Cambri and I ended up staying in Carefree, Arizona for eight days. Covid-19 cases began to grow in Tulsa and Arizona was more open at that time so we stayed. Our almost empty timeshare property offered the ability to soak up the sun in a very special patch of green grass.

Cibola Vista will forever hold a special place in my heart as, there, we were surrounded by bright, vibrant flowers, sunshine and a very special horse stable across the street.

Snow and her little one, Arizona.

As Covid days lingered on, noticed the beauty of creation even more. I’ve spoken with others who have shared that they too, paid attention to things they never would have without the pandemic.

Sunrises and sunsets became topics of conversation. Flowers blooming and birds singing blessed my heart.

Seeing those horses simply living was comforting.

My husband Gordy and I returned to Cibola Vista about 10 months after Covid began.

What a joy it was to see little Arizona all grown up. He was strong, frolicked about and carried his head held high.

Covid has left so many discouraged, disheartened, depressed. Some we know, have lost a family member and the death toll rises.

Little Arizona reminded me, to hold my head up, and to keep living and trusting. As I witnessed his growth, I felt encouraged.

I have grown in many ways over this past year. I have found myself slowing down, taking the time to go deeper in many ways.

I have grown closer to many, many people that I love and for that I am thankful. I’ve learned to really let go of little things that don’t matter. I’ve learned that the days and nights are much better when I give them over to the Lord and to trust Him along the way.

My love of art and painting has grown and I’ve gained confidence to paint larger pieces. I treasure hearing the Lord speak to me, even just a while back, telling me to just paint for pleasure and to encourage those who like my work to donate to a charity instead of pay me. That was definitely His idea and it will be fun to see whom I can bless as He continues to whisper me along.

Our home in Broken Arrow.
A painting for a friend.
They donated to First Tee.

I’ve realized that Covid has allowed me to grow deeper and some purposes I already have. One of them is working in the therapy dog world. I have served for several years with the Alliance of Therapy Dogs.

During Covid, I decided to grow deeper in this area as well and became an area tester. Now, I am helping certify other people who would love to serve with their dogs to bless others. This growth has been especially rewarding.

As I wrap this blog up, I’m thankful for growth and I’m prayerful. Many family friends are Covid positive and continue to battle on.

It’s my goal to stay positive, to remain encouraging and helpful and to continue to grow, spiritually, physically, and mentally.

Mother Theresa said, “Not all of us can do great things, but we can do small things with great love.”

For me, meaningful growth has come from enjoying, noticing and doing small things with love and a joyful heart.

I encourage you to seek growth opportunities that are both around you and also within you.

John Maxwell said “If we are growing, we always are going to be out of our comfort zone.” Let’s live there and continue to grow each and every day.

2021 – A New Year, Passions & Purpose

A New Year is a wonderful time to begin many things and return to things you love. I’m returning to this blog, the first blog entry in a while.

2020 was full of many things but mainly Covid, cautions that come with an unprecedented pandemic and, for me and many others last year, many things seemed to stand still.

I learned at the end of last year, after much time to ponder, that much of what I feel led to do begins with the letter P.

Peace, Prayer, People, a Podcast, Painting & Puppies.

I clung tight to prayer & my faith and certainly tried to keep the peace in 2020…and stay positive (another great P word). Being in the midst of this continuing, strange pandemic is just awful.

As I write today, it’s hitting closer to home as we have lost some we know and love. Our thoughts are with many who are mourning those they love and others who are fighting on.

I will forever remember going to Arizona in the beginning of Covid last year to meet our youngest daughter who needed to get out of Los Angeles. The pandemic swept through there in a fury and shut LA down before it hit other parts of the country. It’s still shut down and I admire our daughter as she maintains positivity and pursues her education, still out there, online.

In 2020, Cambri and I stayed in the Scottsdale area for eight days. Flying to and from Tulsa was so strange as hardly anyone was on the airplanes.

So many planes were grounded and I realized then that so much of what I love to do in life was grounded as well. A lot of my passions were grounded. The days all ran together and malaise and heaviness was everywhere. It still is as Covid lingers.

Thankfully, devotional readings and staying grounded in the word kept (and still keep) hope alive for me. I realize that desperate times to call for desperate measures and positivity. I want to be an ambassador of joy and peace and hope in the midst of the pandemic and always.

I read of others in the Bible who continued to press on knowing that the Lord was using them to be a positive influence. People like Esther, Paul, and all of the disciples knew their purposes and, despite hardships, pressed on with their passions. Mainly, the passion of Christ.

Christ is my number one passion too (a great P word) and secondly my family. My friends and the hobbies and things I love follow behind.

Last year, as I found myself home more, digging into the word and praying I did become encouraged. This time led me to have a new love in a different way for the passions I have enjoyed for a long time. I am painting more and learned of a way to use that gift to bless others by painting for “causes”. Now, I paint and share my gifts. Those who commission me donate to a charity. My podcast, Empty Nest Guests was born and has been such a blessing, offering hope to others in the encore years. I have learned so much from some amazing people.

Find this podcast on Spotify, Podcasts and other platforms. Thanks for listening! 🌻

Much was put on hold for me in the “puppies” world with my therapy dog work but, we got a new puppy, named Pearl and she has taught us so much.

I mainly have learned patience (a great and hard P word) and what childlike faith looks like through her playful offerings snd stubborn spirit…so reminiscent of my own early walk as a Christian.

As I watched our puppy grow and mature and learn from working with me and my husband several times a day, I have certainly seen the value of discipline and the rewards of training. Isn’t that true in our own lives?

I laid this blog down for a while last year which gave birth to other purposes and passions. I decided it was time to pick it back up though and will use this venue to summarize notes from others who have been such a blessing on the podcast. One thing I know for sure is I have been blessed tremendously from others during this time.

I appreciate you following this blog and hope that this coming year will be a blessing for you and yours. I hope to share some things I’ve learned from some really great people and wish you a healthy and hopeful 2021.

As you ponder a new year, a new word or phrase perhaps, may the Lord reveal your purposes to you.

“Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you.” Matth. 7:7

I believe the Lord is desiring for all of us to ask Him what we are to do during these very strange days. Lean in to Him, ponder your purposes and embrace your passions and the people around you.

Stay tuned here, on this blog, for encouragement each month from others, who’ve appeared on Empty Nest Guests. I look so forward to sharing their wisdom with you!

Until then, enjoy this great advice from my favorite coffee mug of the moment:”God is using you to SHINE His love, SHARE his love & to SHAPE His people.

“God is able to make all grace abound to you so that in all things at all times having all that you need you will abound in every good word.” 2 Corinth. 9:8

Here’s to 2021 and finding purpose, passions and learning from great people.

Happy 2021 from my family to yours.
Stay healthy & hopeful!

Lessons Learned from St. Patrick

I’m so grateful a friend wished me happy St. Patrick’s Day. The day might’ve just slipped right on by as I continue to flip back-and-forth between news channels learning about hourly updates regarding the coronavirus pandemic. Inspired by my friend’s text, (thanks Joan) I found a few readings about the life of Saint Patrick and especially appreciate a blog by Kelsey McCain from 2019. Here’s what we can learn from this great saint:


Forgiveness


McCain reminds us that St. Patrick was an English priest who, after being kidnapped at age 16, was held as a slave in Ireland, escaped home to England only to hear God calling him to go back and share the gospel with his former captors. He didn’t just forgive his captors, he prayed for them, chose to love them And saw them as brothers and sisters in Christ who needed to hear about Jesus. Today, Let’s forgive someone.


Perseverance & Faith


Saint Patrick spent most of his life persevering. As a young slave, he held onto the hope and promise of Christ. After he escaped, he chose to return to Ireland to share Christ with his captors. St. Patrick said: “Daily I expect murder, fraud, or captivity but I fear none of these things because of the promise of heaven.” May we not give in to fear. We, too, have the promise of heaven. Today, may we persevere & have faith.

Calling Over Comfort


Despite his calling, backed by even a heavenly vision from the Lord, St. Patrick was insecure because of his education level. He was self conscious and said “ I am unable to explain my mind to learned people.” Yet, choosing calling over comfort, St. Patrick obeyed God and started one of the largest church multiplication movements in history. Where God calls you, He will equip you. During these uncertain pandemic days, ask the Lord, “what’s my calling?” We have more opportunities to “Be still and know.” (Psalm 46:10) He will tell you as you lean in to hear His voice. Today, may we choose calling over comfort.


We’re Better Together


Rather than “go it alone” getting overwhelmed and exhausted by work, Saint Patrick chose to travel in a team and relied on others. He knew that having an extra support system was imperative to his mission. We all need a team. During this difficult time in history, family, friends, neighbors & community keep us connected. For those living alone, connectivity is critical. During this period of “social distancing,” we can encourage through texts, phone calls and FaceTime. We can take groceries to those who need them, drop off supplies and share what we have. We can pray for Team USA and all our leaders (in our own country and throughout the world). We can pray for those on the front lines, those sick and infected. We can encourage the faithless with our friendship and faith. We’re all in this together. Today, may we connect and support each other.

Yes You Can


The story of Saint Patrick is a blessing for all of us. May his life be a reminder for us to forgive others, to persevere and choose calling over comfort and support others well.
Today, we can make a difference, right where we are. Just like Saint Patrick, we live in uncertain times. The only thing certain is the promise of eternity for those who believe. May we cling to the words of St. Patrick as we honor his life and ministry today: “…I fear none of these things because of the promise of heaven.”


“…but perfect love drives out fear…” 1 John 4:18

Ponder Your Purpose, Decree Your Desire


For this month’s blog I consulted some notes I compiled a few months ago from women younger than me. I had asked this question: “What would you like to read about in my blog?”

One of my friends said “I would love your thoughts on trying to be deliberate and living God’s plan, not living in fear, planning for the future but cherishing the day, being a devoted wife while trying not to exhaust myself in motherhood.” She then added, “I’d also like help with being a supportive wife and mother while still trying to develop the skills and gifts God has given me.”

Another dear, younger friend said, “I hit 40 last March and feel that I’m pondering different issues than five years ago for sure. I’m at a sweet spot with my kids as they are independent yet love hanging out with family as well as friends. I feel like I’m entering a new stage where I’m considering possibly goingback to work.  I’d enjoy reading about purpose and making an impact at whatever stage you are in. How can I be my best self at this stage in life?”

It was so timely that I found these notes and requests as, just earlier this week, I enjoyed some precious time with my mentor, Shirley Staires. She’s 84 years young and is one of the wisest, most insightful and wonderful Christian women I know. (Some of you may know her as “Sally Mulready’s mom” or “Kelly Gibson’s mom.” Their Brothers are Mike and Clay Staires. This family is very dear to me.)

Shirley and I enjoyed talking about many things including the new year and purpose. I shared with Shirley that I had been given a word for the year, one I felt the Lord wanted me to work on: gentleness. (I’ve been enjoying studying Courageous Gentleness – Following Christ’s Example of Restrained Strengthby Mary Ann Froehlich and will write more about that in the next month.) As always, Shirley inspired me. She shared that not only did she have a word for the new year, she also had “decree.” 

I leaned in to hear more.

Dictionary.com defines decree as: “A formal andauthoritative order, especially one having the force of law: a presidential decree. Law. A judicial decision of order. Theology. One of the internal purposes of God, by which events are foreordained.”

Shirley said you can have a word or a mission statement for the year but, until you “decree it,” you have no power. She said “what you speak is what you become” and led me to Job 22:28. “If you decrease something it will stand, and light will shine on your ways.”

Shirley shared that her word is “more…abundantly more.” She then explained how she is decreeing this, claiming that “more” will happen in her life by knowing scriptures where God has promised “more.” 2 Peter 1:2 says “May you have more and more grace and peace through the knowledge of God and Jesus our Lord.” Then, with a smile, she added, “If God says it, I believe it.” 

​She shared a wonderful message with me from Christian author, speaker and teacher, Dutch Sheets, from January 3, 2019 entitled “Starting the Year Off Right.” In that message he shares that God said, “Let there be light” in Genesis 1:30. He “decreed” creation…he spoke it, and us into existence. God spoke to storms and stars, mountains, mankind and more. He speaks to us today. Luke 1:37 says “For no word spoken by God is without power.” Sheets explains that the “word of the lord (a decree) will produce the will of the Lord through the power of the Lord.” Isa. 55:11 says “So…my word that goes forth from my mouth; it does not return to me empty…it does what I want and accomplishes what I intend.” 

As for me “decreeing” gentleness, this scripture is helpful: “Put on my yoke, and learn from me. I’m gentle and humble…and you will find rest for yourselves.”

Matthew 11:29. For me to be gentler, I deliberately will have to put on Jesus (His yoke) and learn from Him. 

Like my younger friends, I, too, desire to have purpose, make an impact, to be intentional and live in God’s will. I do agree with Shirley. A key to fulfilling our purpose in Christ is to “decree what we desire.” As I desire more gentleness I can decree that I am gentle – in Christ. As Shirley desires abundantly more, she will decree that she is and has more – in Christ. 

I used to joke long ago with our three children that if you go to Sunday school and don’t know the answer, you can always say “Jesus.” He really is the answer to most things. He decreed who He is. He said “I am the way, the truth & the life.” John 14:6. 

Jesus not only had a mission, a purpose and plan; he decreed his very life. He was and IS the plan for mankind. He is the way. 

Each year, as I pray about my word for the year, sometimes I think about it in December during the busy holiday time. This year, I spent the entire month of January praying about what God wanted…His word for me.

If you haven’t done this, it’s not too late. February is the month we celebrate love. God loves you so much and made you for a unique and special purpose. He’d love to give you a word and something to decree…a special valentine from Him. 

The word, mission or purpose he will have for you to decree will look different than a spouse, good friend or relative. It will be unique to and for you.

Before the year begins to get away from you, I encourage you to give yourself a valentine. Spend some time, in a quiet space or place, asking the Lord what he has for you. It may take more than just 30 minutes of listening. Consider actively listening, along the way. Jesus accomplished much along His way. 

I encourage you to create more moments of silence. Turn the TV off; abstain from social media and technology for a while. Forgo a favorite TV or Netflix show and enjoy asking the Lord what He has for you regarding a word or theme for the year. He can’t wait to unveil it. He promises us: “Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you.” Luke 11:9 

I hear more from the Lord when I get out of my own way. When I am seeking and knocking, waiting for the Lord to reply, I find what I’m looking for. So far, in this new year, I’m catching glimpses of gentleness and that has brought such joy. 

Coming up with a word for the year or even a full-blown mission statement is a wonderful tool to assist you in making many decisions regarding your coming year and your ministry…wherever you are. It can help you be deliberate and have purpose in each day no matter what stage and phase. 

What has God called you to do for Him, right now, in this season of your life? Seek and discover words that best describe you and your heart’s desire. This will take some time and thought.

I found some of Shirley‘s notes from one of the classes I took from her called Defining Your Mission and Mission Statement. She suggests you ask yourself these questions:

1. What excites or angers you?

2. If you could teach three things that excite you what would they be?

3. What do you love doing?

4. How do you see yourself in training and training others to establish the kingdom of God?

5. How do you want to contribute to the better way of life for others?

Habakkuk 2:2 says this: “Write down the vision (mission) and make it plain on tablets…” Writing it down is a way to decreesomething.

The mission statement I came up with in her class in January 2008 holds true for my life now:“To abide in Him, brighten where dim, enlighten and love family others & friends.” 

For me, abiding is key. IF I abide in Him, I will brighten enlighten and love well. When I wander off or get in my own way, due to my sin nature, I find myself being the opposite of gentle. 

As I think of you young friends who might be reading this blog, I encourage you to give yourself permission to have some alone time (a day or two without children underfoot if possible) to “ponder your purpose” and “decree your desire.” You may have to arise early, (or stay up late) and ask the Lord “what do YOU want for me?”

Shirley encourages us to catch the fresh winds of the Holy Spirit…to literally go with the flow. We are “called to freedom”(Gal. 5:1) and there is nothing more freeing than knowing Whose you are and who you are in Christ. If you know this, the rest falls into place.

Remember, YOU are the messenger of the creative decree of the Lord that can bring forth the promises of God. This IS the year to decree that all hurts and hardships, illnesses and disappointments will be turned into blessings. Our decrees can plow through weeds and make a way. 

May 2020 be an insightful year for you…full of favor and blessings. As you go through this process, may you remember, believe and decree that you ARE fearfully and wonderfully made for a unique purpose and mission. 

For more information about creating your mission statement, please contact me. I have a lesson from Shirley’s wonderful teaching I’d be happy to e-mail you. 

chargordy@cox.net

To hear or learn more about Dutch Sheets, go to: https://dutchsheets.org/

Equipped & Shipped

If this seems like a funny title, it is to me too. As I’ve shared, I am going to add to the blog when the Lord prompts me to do so. This title kept popping in my head the last two days. “Hmmm, equipped and shipped? Lord, what do you mean?” I asked as I kept hearing this phrase.

My immediate family (husband, Gordy, our three kids and our new son-in-law) all just spent some special time together in Colorado. Our oldest daughter, Kate, graduated with her master’s degree in clinical mental health counseling from Denver Seminary (Yay Kate!) and we all were together to celebrate her graduation.

We spent a few days in Beaver Creek, CO with the younger kids before heading to Denver for the ceremony. While there, my accountability partner, Linda, sent me a wonderful text with this photo of a full bird’s nest, crammed packed with young birds she had seen from a friend.

I’ve been reminded lately of the many, many years of our own full nest and the bustling, busy days and nights spent caring for our young children. In the early years, their every single need was met by our caretaking…feeding, changing diapers, providing comfort, warmth, bath times, nap times and more. Lots of time equipping them – readying them for the next stages for when their own wings were ready and they were strong enough to fly.

I was reminded that we equip as we have been equipped. Thankfully, my husband and I had wonderful mentors in our own parents. They taught us well and passed down many important life lessons. We learned from some success stories and also from some shortcomings and even failures. Other mentors and good friends, with their own full nests, helped us learn how to further equip our children both in the stages they were in and in the preparatory phases before they “shipped out” and flew off to young adult hood.

Young children want to follow something and learn to trust their caretakers (sadly, or not.) They watch how we adults do life. God made us as their parents to be an extension of Him. It’s a tough, tiring and rewarding job I reminded myself as I imagined the mother and father bird, flying to and from the nest, providing for the young birds.

Now that our nest is empty, we have “equipped and shipped.” Our young ones have learned to fly on and they have landed in three different states, Denver (then Alaska) for our married daughter and son-in-law, Memphis for our son and Los Angeles for our youngest.

We have failed miserably in some “equipping” attempts and did our best in other areas. We were able to talk about this for a bit in Colorado, when we opened a time capsule we made years ago…just a little storage box of newspapers and trinkets, letters and keepsakes. Included were letters we, the grandparents and great grandparents, had written to our young children.

We all shared (in our own ways and phrases) that having our own faith and listening to the Lord were the best “equipping” tools. As we talked about this, I felt led to share with the kids, as they gathered around the time capsule box, that if you don’t feel like you are hearing from the Holy Spirit, to remember to ask Him to help you do so. The very best “equipping” comes from hearing from God.

If this phase of life for you, as an empty nester, feels “quiet” or without direction, lean in to the Lord a bit harder and more often. Ask God to show up for you. He will. Talk to Him throughout your day. Ask Him to equip you for what’s next.

Just this morning we experienced terrible storms in the Tulsa area. My husband, dog and I spent our coffee time in our storm shelter. I thought of the Christian song “Sometimes He Calms the Storm” by Scott Krippayne. A line in it says, “sometimes He calms the storm, other times He calms the child.”

God equips us in many ways doesn’t He? Sometimes the storm rages and He steps in. Other times, He equips US to stay strong in the midst of difficult stages and phases – like storms, uncertain weather, tornadoes even, like a day when we really miss our children or when we care for aging parents, or face our own health ailments.

Our heavenly father has equipped us through His word, devotional books, inspirational blogs, music, through friends and family and more. Tap in to what will equip you to serve Him well and fulfill the purpose He has for you each day.

As I sip my coffee and watch the weather updates, I am not certain about many things. Will the bad weather continue? Are our kids really okay “out there” on their own? What does the day bring? What does this month, this year hold?

Life is full of uncertainties. It was for the disciples too. Jesus gave them two main “to do’s” – “Love God and love others.” It’s not easy but if we can lean in to that He will show us the way.

Hebrews 13:21 says: “May He equip you with all you need for doing His will. May He produce in you, through the power of Jesus Christ, every good thing that is pleasing to Him.” That is my prayer for our children and us as we all continue to spread our own wings and “ship out” to new adventures and purposes.

Happy New Year! Stay With God…

Happy New Year!

Stay with God…

One afternoon during the Christmas break, I worked out and listened to a wonderful podcast from Ransomed Heart Ministries entitled Christmas Blessings. Allen Arnold shared this simple verse: Psalm 27:14 – “Stay with God. Take heart. Don’t quit.” (MSG version)

As I contemplated that verse over and over while on the rowing machine, I decided to adopt “stay with God” as my motto for 2020. A new year brings with it all kinds of opportunities. Blank white squares on calendars, empty journal pages and stocking-stuffer pens, full of ink, beckon us to write out plans, to do’s and chart our courses.

What if, during whatever comes our way in 2020, we simply remembered to stay with God?

As with many of David’s psalms it is unknown which period of his life Psalm 27 comes from. It speaks of vast trouble from various sources. King David had years of anguish and many, many years of favor.

He was a man after God’s own heart. He learned, through trials and tribulations, that only when he stayed with God was his soul at rest.

The best times in my own life are when I have stayed with God – even when I felt like giving up.

There’s a familiar saying that says this: “If you feel you are far from God, it wasn’t Him who moved.” He never does. He’s here for us. He often carries us. He’s eager to be with us…sometimes holding our hand, sometimes encircling us and our circumstances with His whole being and often by offering a gentle whisper.

When I stay with God, I see Him more. I see God in nature, in ducks, geese and a swan on a pond and in the sunrises that wake them. I see God’s order in the tiny lives in our new little aquarium bowl. I hear God in the encouragement of family and friends, in pastors and podcasts, praise songs and in the Bible.

When I stay with God on the golf course, I learn more from my mistakes. I try again and I see I still have a long way to go as I work on patience and the desire for perfection. When I stay (with God) as I play, I also have more fun. My score doesn’t define me; my attitude and character does.

It shouldn’t be hard to stay with God…but it can be. When I let my feelings overshadow my focus, I can get tripped up. When HALT happens…

When I am:

Hungry

Angry

Lonely or

Tired

I get in my own way. I drift when I’m down and stray when I’m frustrated.

Spending too much time on social media can cause me to not stay with God. I hear voices that say, “you’re not included, not good enough, not invited, not important” and other untrue lies. When I stay with God, my focus is clearer. I celebrate friendships, good news shared and help those in need. When I stay, I hear Him lead me to encourage others, to include, invite, affirm and edify. When I stay with God, His approval matters most. When I stay, I don’t stray from the purposes He calls me to each day. It’s easier to follow His lead.

When Gordy and I attended the Ransomed Heart retreat in Colorado Springs in November, we learned the “power of the pause.” Having a morning and afternoon one-minute pause causes me to really stay with God, completely focused in that 60-second time-frame. It’s been life-changing and also calming.

As I stay with Him, especially during that minute, I listen for His lead. I surrender all people & problems and take some deep breaths. I smile and I’m thankful.

I’m excited for this new year. I have a couple of books to write, people to love and places to serve.

I’m grateful for the encouragement from many and the wisdom of countless others who “paved the way of the stay.”

Here’s to you and yours this coming year. Stay with God. Take heart. Don’t quit.

Thanks for reading this blog: may it encourage you. Please be praying for the “purposes” Gordy and I are involved in and pray we “stay” well where God wants us.

It’s Time To Retreat

Today, I’m beyond excited thinking about what tomorrow through Saturday afternoon brings.

Many of you know that Gordy and I love the teachings of Ransomed Heart Ministries.

The books Wild at Heart and Captivating have been more than influential in our lives. They have helped us learn to love God and live free.

We spent many years, (especially in our 30’s) “doing God” instead of walking with Him. It was tiring, hard, empty at times. We performed through many things…even at attempts to be a “good, Christian family.” Oh how I wish we’d have learned earlier to just “be” instead of “doing” so much the wrong way.

We had good intentions and followed many teachings that were meant to help us “do life better.” It was through Ransomed Heart Ministries that we saw the gospel as God intended…full of grace, mercy, forgiveness and, my favorite word: freedom.

This weekend, Gordy and I will be together attending HomeComing the first retreat of its kind for those of us, men and women, who have attended other, former retreats they’ve lead.

We so enjoy listening to John & Stasi Eldredge and their team. I do believe God speaks truth and encouragement through them.

Today’s reading on their Ransomed Heart App shared these words:

He Longs For You

November 14, 2019

What is it that God wants from you?

 

He wants the same thing that you want. He wants to be loved…He wants intimacy with you. Yes, yes, he wants your obedience, but only when it flows out of a heart filled with love for him. “Whoever has my commands and obeys them, he is the one who loves me” (John 14:21). Following hard after Jesus is the heart’s natural response when it has been captured and has fallen deeply in love with him.

 

Reading George MacDonald several years ago, I came across an astounding thought. You’ve probably heard that there is in every human heart a place that God alone can fill. (Lord knows we’ve tried to fill it with everything else, to our utter dismay.) But what the old poet was saying was that there is also in God’s heart a place that you alone can fill. “It follows that there is also a chamber in God himself, into which none can enter but the one, the individual.” You. You are meant to fill a place in the heart of God no one and nothing else can fill. Whoa. He longs for you.

 

You are the one that overwhelms his heart with just “one glance of your eyes” (Song 4:9b). You are the one he sings over with delight and longs to dance with across mountaintops and ballroom floors (Zeph. 3:17). You are the one who takes his breath away by your beautiful heart that, against all odds, hopes in him. Let that be true for a moment. Let it be true of you.

 

God wants to live this life together with you, to share in your days and decisions, your desires and disappointments. He wants intimacy with you in the midst of the madness and mundane, the meetings and memos, the laundry and lists, the carpools and conversations and projects and pain. He wants to pour his love into your heart, and he longs to have you pour yours into his. He wants your deep heart, that center place within that is the truest you. He is not interested in intimacy with the woman you think you are supposed to be. He wants intimacy with the real you.

Thank you! John & Stasi for those refreshing words. See why Gordy and I love to follow them?

As I’m on the plane, I’m reading “No Little People” by Francis A Schaeffer. His life and writings influenced John Eldredge years ago and John references him often. It’s an intriguingly insightful read. Each sermon is a single unit, wonderful for devo time or group chats. With God, there are no little people. We all are made in His image to live and love with purpose and a unique calling.

These words stood out on pages 16 & 17:

“History is not our master. Circumstances should not determine our choices. We are not called to go with the flow, to embrace the average or the convenient or the smooth…we must be willing and able to serve a needy world, to bind up her wounds and to offer real material, intellectual, artistic and spiritual help. We can pray for wisdom to do that and to carry it out faithfully, for in God’s mind and hand we are “no little people.”

I can’t wait to share more Ransomed Heart wisdom after the retreat. Gordy and I would appreciate your prayers as we go learn more.

Until then, love God and live free. (That’s the mission statement of Ransomed Heart.)

Love,

Charlotte

Circling The “Yet’s” & “But’s”

Earlier this month, Gordy and I celebrated 30 years of marriage together.

(We’ve been together for about 34 as we were so young when we dated.)

This year we decided to celebrate in New York City, our favorite big city.

Since we have been to most of the tourist attractions we decided to have a very low-key visit and enjoy people- watching, the theater and exploring favorite boroughs as we walked.

Central Park is a favorite place of ours. It’s magical.

We took a picnic and lingered there for a long time, late one morning. A saxophone solo enveloped our picnic spot and young families enjoyed their younger children playing in the grass. We loved watching one little boy crawling, chasing a pigeon.

We are so enjoying the book, Draw the Circle – a 40 Day Prayer Challenge by Mark Batterson. We took our books and read a bit.

We’ve loved learning a new, deeper way to pray and are “drawing” circles around requests, bold prayers…matched with our bolder faith.

Through this book, we have been experiencing a deeper, more intimate prayer life.

We reminisced about our life over the past 30+ years and talked about one of our devotionals.

We’ve had many “Garden of Gesthemene” times…really hard valleys – infertility, marraige challenges, our son Grant’s battle with a hip disease, career changes, financial stress, major health set-backs including a heart attack, neurosurgery and more.

In the actual Garden of Gesthemene, Jesus prayed these words in Matthew 26:38-39:

“And after going a little farther, he fell face down and prayed, saying, my father, if it is possible let this cup pass from me – yet not as I will, but as you will.”

Gordy and I talked about all the times that we said this prayer over our past years without even realizing it. So many times we, too, have had “face-down” stressors – yet God intervened.

We weren’t sure how something was going to be reconciled but we trusted God.

I shared with a small group just the other day that God speaks to me through mysterious ways. Through the “not yet’s and but” times of waiting for divine intervention, I often see a flower growing through a crack in a sidewalk or find a penny, reminding me “In God We Trust.”

God also uses nature, songs and scripture in my life. I feel extra close to the Lord listening to the voice of Bocelli.

I love when He shows up and shows off. I lean in to His presence and know He’s with me.

Within the past couple of days, A large spider has woven the most beautiful web on our patio. It’s been windier than normal and the spider clings to the center as the delicate web blows to and fro. As I watched her the other day, I thought about how uncertain life can feel during this empty nesting phase. Our webs look a little bit different and there are many “not yet’s and but’s” in these transitional times.

That steady little, encircled spider reminded me to remain in the center of God’s will, and to hang on even as the breezes of uncertainty blow.

Gordy and I will continue to circle up, as we are learning, and pray…yet not for our will but for His to be done.

We’ll continue pray for many more years together and for His lead in this new phase of life. It’s my hope to stay centered, like the strong little spider and hang on, drawing circles of prayer and faith around whatever comes our way.

“…yet not as I will, but as you will, Heavenly Father.”

But First…

But First…Let Us Ask God

Reading through the Bible in a year it is a daily part of my life. I started doing this a few years ago as it is something my dad does each day and I admire his heart and dedication.

I also thought it would be a nice way to keep us connected since we live in two different states.

My dad has a One Year Bible, covered with strips of duct tape. It’s well worn from many years of his faithful morning readings.

I found the same plan as a Life.Church plan on my phone app. (The One Year Bible.) I love knowing that I can read the same plan in Tulsa, Oklahoma that my dad reads in Fort Smith, Arkansas each day.

I’ll admit though, I am not a big fan of reading through some of the Old Testament. (I especially dread reading who “begat” whom and about the countless, thousands of sacrifices.) There is so much to learn in the Old Testament, however, yet I am most thankful for the New Testament and the freedom found in the gift of the Holy Spirit.

This particular One Year plan enables you to read passages from the Old Testament, the New Testament, a psalm and a proverb every day.

This Old Testament verse stood out to me from

2 Chronicles 18:3–4:

“Will you go with me to Ramoth-gilead?” King Ahab of Israel asked King Jehoshaphat of Judah. Jehoshaphat replied, “Why, of course! You and I are as one, and my troops are your troops. We will certainly join you in battle.” Then Jehoshaphat added, “But first let’s find out what the Lord says.”

For two kings who were allies, joining forces seemed like a no-brainer, an easy decision. However, I love how King Jehoshaphat said: “But, let’s find out first what the Lord says.”

It has really only been in my later years that I have learned the “power of the pause.” The words “but first” can be all-important words that we too often leave out.

Our small group has been studying a favorite book of mine: Walking With God. In it, author John Eldredge encourages us to ask God about almost everything, even decisions like where should we vacation and should I reach out and call or visit a particular person.

Eldredge encourages us to ask God about almost everything, to lean into Him and to wait for his reply.

I think of many years of doing life without pausing and asking God about decisions. Often, I made rash decisions and barreled through something because it was what I really wanted to do.

Knee-jerk reactions and quick decisions often can have consequences. As Gordy and I have gotten older, we are practicing the “power of the pause” a bit more.

If we have a really big decision, we typically pray about it for three days before making any final plans. We are learning the value in “but first asking God.”

Often times, something that seems like it makes sense to do is really not what God wants at all and He will re-direct us, knowing the big picture we can’t see.

I love how God can direct and redirect through scripture, music, through the words of other people and through the discernment He gives us within our spirits – through what I like to call a “holy hunch.”

Gideon is a Biblical role model I have admired as he boldly asks the Lord to show him how to proceed about a decision through some specific signs.

Gideon was about to plunge down to the plain to face immensely superior forces trained in warfare.

In the book of Judges 6:33-39 Gideon says:

“If you are truly going to use me to rescue Israel as you promised, prove it to me in this way. I will put a wool fleece on the threshing floor tonight. If the fleece is wet with dew in the morning but the ground is dry, then I will know that you are going to help me rescue Israel as you promised.” And that is just what happened. When Gideon got up early the next morning, he squeezed the fleece and wrung out a whole bowlful of water. Then Gideon said to God, “Please don’t be angry with me, but let me make one more request. Let me use the fleece for one more test. This time let the fleece remain dry while the ground around it is wet with dew.”

God wonderfully allows Gideon to dictate the nature of the sign…the “but first.” He stoops to work it both ways, backwards and forwards. First the fleece is to be wet and the ground to be dry, then the fleece is to be dry and the ground wet.

This miracle was a necessary accompaniment of revelation in those early Old Testament days.

Gideon’s “but first” moment also included the need to see a miracle that God granted. This was one ultra-powerful pause with some mighty visuals (wet dew, contrasted with dryness.)

I admire both King Jehoshaphat and Gideon. They demonstrated great faith and an ability to wait on God. They wanted to be so sure of His way rather than impulsively act out their ways.

Thankfully, today we have Christ and the Spirit, and so have a ‘word made more sure’ than to require signs. Yet, signs still happen all around us.

I do believe that our saying “but first, let us ask God, “ still moves the Father’s heart today, and He loves to answer such petitions.

We grow in the waiting. In the “leaning in” we mature and become even better attuned to hear His voice.

May we learn to say, “But first let’s ask God.” The power of the pause is mighty.

What do you need to ask God about today? Lean in, ask and He will answer.