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Hope is a Choice

If you know me you probably know that I believe everything we do, where we find ourselves in life, the people who are in our lives . . . all are the result of choices we made.  It took me a long time to accept this truth (because I’ve made some colossally unhealthy choices in my life) and now I “preach” it often. 

Our choices lead us to people, places and situations in life, and they are almost always choices we have consciously made.  Furthermore, we are responsible for choosing our responses to people, events and circumstances.  Accepting that our choices are ours alone, and taking responsibility for the harmful ones as well as the healthy ones, is vital to our growth.

Recently, I gave a talk to a group of women about choices – taking responsibility for them and making healthy ones.  A couple of days later God used my own words to snap me out of a very dark place I was [choosing to be] stuck in.  I had been going through a major season of struggle and felt like I was losing.  I finally came completely untethered in my prayer time one morning and was railing at God through my tears of hurt and anger, and yelled out to Him that I was tired of hoping and being disappointed, and “why should I bother to keep hoping anyway?!” And you know what He graciously said? 

God’s response: “Hope is a choice.”

That pretty much stopped me dead in my tracks. 

I made the healthy choice.  The circumstances haven’t changed.  The answers haven’t come.  The waiting continues.  But choosing hope – sometimes multiple times a day – has made it easier to be where I am, in the uncertainty and the often uneasy stillness.  Choosing hope gives me the courage to dare to look forward to whatever God has in store for me and to rest in the knowledge that it will be good because He is good.

Of course, I can’t post something about choices or about hope without saying that we can also choose whether or not we respond to God’s call on our life, be it to salvation, a career, a geographical location, or whatever.  If you want to talk to me about that choice, and about the ultimate Source of hope, please message me and I’d be honored to talk to you about this.

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Gauge Your Goals!

So.  How are those New Year’s resolutions going, now that we’re a few weeks into the new year?  Are you scoring 100% success on the goals you set?  If so, huge congrats to you!  Take a deep breath, pat yourself on the back and give yourself a gold star (really – I do this sometimes)!  But this post may not interest you – yet, anyway.  Come back in a month or two if you need to.

For the rest of us – the ones who are coming close but not quite nailing it the way we want to, or those of us who are really struggling to meet our goals, or even those who don’t remember what their goals were – I have a couple of reassuring thoughts to share.  They’re ideas you are probably already aware of, but sometimes we need someone to remind us . . .

  • Reevaluate.  Consistently and frequently re-evaluate your goals.  I do this every couple of weeks anyway, and again at the end of the month, to keep myself from getting too far off track.  If you’re really frustrated and your goals are so overwhelming at this point that you don’t even want to review them, it’s likely that you have overestimated your time and capacity for meeting your goals.  Take a deep breath and remember that it’s okay!  This is totally fixable!  Tell your ego to hush and let you think . . .  
  • Reclaim.  Make sure the goals you set are your goals, not goals you think you should set because of outside influences.  Be careful that you set goals that you can take full ownership of, that you are motivated to work toward; and know your “why” behind each goal or set of goals. 
  • Resize.  Consider downscaling the goal.  Breathe.  It’s okay!  Downscaling takes courage for some of us!  It’s easy to be caught up in the “new year, new you” mindset and be overly ambitious right out of the gate, then look at our goals and think we must have been crazy for setting them or feel completely overwhelmed and want to throw in the towel.  Don’t give up!  It doesn’t have to be all-or-nothing. 
    For exampl
    e, if I set out to read one book per month but school is taking more time than I anticipated this semester, or work has gotten crazy busy and looks like it’ll stay that way for a while, I might need to set a goal of one book every two months.  Or maybe I simply need to let myself off the hook for that January book, read what I can, and try again next month.  This is not the same as quitting!
  • Reset.  Pick yourself up, dust yourself off, set your chin, square your shoulders, and start working toward your shiny new/newly revised and more achievable goals!  (Andpat yourself on the back for adulting like a boss!)
  • Reflect.  Set a reminder on your calendar or your to-do list (or both!) to come back and review your goals regularly, as it works best for you.  Maybe it’s monthly, maybe quarterly, or more often if you need to (and can do so without slipping into perfectionism).  It’s easier to make tiny adjustments than huge ones, so don’t go too long without checking in with your goals for making your hopes and dreams become reality!  And you may even want to bookmark this post or save it somewhere for future reference.
  • Reach out.  If you’re struggling with goal-setting and/or maintaining your goals and you want some help, contact me for a bit of coaching to set you on the right track for your unique needs!

Remember:  there is no shame, only wisdom, in recognizing you’ve overestimated your time and/or capacity for the goals you’ve set, or that life has changed and so must your goals.  By doing this, you can set yourself up for a happy year-end review that enables you to congratulate yourself for learning to set achievable goals, learning to be flexible without breaking (quitting), and making trackable progress toward your long-term goals, rather than having that twinge in your gut when you have to chalk up another year of not effectively moving in the direction in which you want to take your life.

Image Credit: ShortStatusQuotes

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Monday Moment at the Well

A few thoughts for you to unwrap and spend some time with today:

Before you were born, before the birth of Jesus, before God created the Earth, before time as we understand it, He has been there.  Look back.  All the trials – the ones you’re amazed you survived … well, you did.  Look back at all those perfect moments in the arms of a loved one, at the beautiful sunsets … He gave you those moments, those sunsets.

God was, and is, always there.  You are never alone.  And there has never been a moment in your life when you were not extravagantly loved.

Merry Christmas from The Well.

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Finding Majesty Amid the Chaos

If you know me at all, you probably know that I’m not a snow person.  I grew up in North Florida and lived in the South for more than half my life.  I’ve lived in the Midwest and the North and I’ve never developed an affection for the stuff.  The only kind of white Christmas I’ve ever found appealing was one near white sandy beaches.

But today I was driving in the countryside in Upstate New York after an early morning snowfall, on my way to an appointment.  I rounded a corner and honest to Pete, what I saw had tears rolling down my cheeks in seconds.  I crossed over a creek and it was one of the most perfect scenes I’ve ever witnessed.  All the trees had a coat of light, fluffy snow on them.  The rocks in the creek had a coat of snow on them, and the shoreline and the ground in the woods were covered in that same fluffy white snow.  The contrast of the nearly black creek made it all the more stunning.

I was overwhelmed.  I mean, truly humbled, awed and overcome by the beauty of that scene.  Only God can create such splendor.  And that’s what had me crying.  God’s majesty, God’s power, God’s glory, God’s complete rule and love are all around us, every minute of every day.  And He created something for everyone, didn’t He?  Some of us love summer, some of us dream of fall foliage, some love rain, some love snow, some are mountain people, some prefer flat desert lands, some thrive in tropical climes…  and isn’t it just like our great God to gift us with all of it?

I don’t love snow.  I’m a tropics-loving Southern gal.  But there is no denying that I had a momentary love for snow this morning.  I couldn’t safely stop for a photo, but I will try to hold onto that scene in my memory for a long time to come.  I’m glad I was paying attention, that I allowed myself to break out of my thoughts and my planning to really absorb what was before me.

It’s a busy time of year, when it’s easy to become overwhelmed with “to do” lists and stressed out over our schedules, finances, relationships, and all the “shoulds” in our heads.  But I urge you to take a moment and notice the beauty all around you.  Soak it in.  It may help you to remember that you are small, your problems are small, today is short (as is your life here on Earth).  Savor the scenes in the snow as you drive, the atmosphere of Christmas while you shop – the hustle and bustle, the music, the whole scene – and remember the reason for it all.  Jesus.

Now for a cup of hot chocolate…

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It’s a Wonderful Life

I am so very grateful for my little life right now. I know it is going to change – Andrew and I both feel it in the air, in our prayers, in our growing spiritual passions. And I look forward to that part of our journey, as well.
 
But for now, it is perfect just the way it is.
 
Today I enjoyed a nice hot shower after I walked downstairs on capable legs to go out and brush off my nice car that runs well, so that someone could plow the lot so I don’t have to shovel. I spent a long time in prayer, Scripture reading, and other stuff without being rushed. I have our Christmas lights on in our warm apartment in the middle of the day, which I rarely do (you’re welcome, National Grid). I have a cozy, purring, loving kitty draped over my shoulder. I have a full belly and I’m sipping hot cocoa. I have a husband and friends who love me and a chosen family I’m honored to be a part of. I have hope for the dreams God is giving me, and hope and peace through the assurance of His presence with me in this life and the next.
 
So, rather than complaining about this stupid snow (oops) or that this is our most frugal Christmas yet (I am NOT trying to garner sympathy – we knowingly chose vacation over December’s Christmas/anniversary/birthday treats and continue to affirm what a perfect choice it was!!), I am genuinely overjoyed and my heart is so full of love that it seems to want to keep leaking out of my eyes. Of the people on this planet, I am among the richest … in every way imaginable, and I just wanted to share that with you today.
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Monday’s Moment: When God is Silent

We show up.  We carve out the time (time which, incidentally, He saw fit to give us), turn off the phone, computer and television, make arrangements not to be disturbed, settle in with a clear mind and an open heart and a passion to hear from Him, and … silence.

We wonder where He is.  I mean, we’re here.  We’re seeking Him.  Isn’t that what we’re supposed to do?  So, we wait.

And wait.

And still, nothing.

So eventually we get up and get on with the business of living, without having experienced fireworks in our prayer time; without even hearing that whisper we know to be His voice.

Please realize, dear believer, that this is not a spiritual crisis.  It’s a day, an hour, or a moment – one of many come and gone.  No more, no less.  (It’s important to clarify that the silence I am referring to is different from hearing nothing but “noise” in your head (clutter from daily life, etc.) and it’s not the same as having a spiritual block due to sin.  It’s simply silence.)

Here’s the truth of it: we cannot control God

Having a hissy fit won’t do it.  Fighting that silence, begging for God to “show up,” struggling against the reality that He is not meeting us in our chosen moment … all these are useless.  Worse, such activity makes it nearly impossible to hear Him when He tries to start a conversation with us.

When this happens in my prayer time, as it did on a prayer and meditation day I recently took, I know in every cell of my being that my God is still with me.  And I know that He loves me unconditionally, no matter how often I disappoint Him.  No, God has not forsaken me.  He is simply choosing not to speak, not to show Himself in that special, powerful way He sometimes chooses to.

I wrote the following in my journal that day, and I want to share it with you with the hope that it will encourage you (and be a reminder to me as well):

“Today, He is demonstrating His power, His sovereignty, His authority.  And because I love God, I also love what He is (not) doing today.  I love this display of Who He is, this reminder that I’m not God – He is.

As a woman who tries to follow Christ and who tries to surrender to God daily, I must be willing to walk the path He put me on with trust and faith, with confidence in who He is and in my relationship with Him, even when He is quiet.  So, I am at peace, even in the silence.

I will continue to show up, continue to call on Him, continue to make space for this precious time.  And I will do so knowing that He will show up again and fill my spirit in that way only He can and does…and He will do it in His time, as He chooses.  When He does, I will, as I always do, bask in His glory, dance with Him, sing with Him, walk with Him and talk with Him, knowing that every moment fades away, going sometimes with joyous praise and sometimes with peaceful silence.

Then I will wait for the next moment – wait and be watchful, wait and listen for that whisper that says, ‘Come, My child … I want to make Myself more fully known to you.’  For I know that moment will come.  I will choose not to be disappointed or frustrated; only to be accepting of what God chooses to do or not to do. For He is great and good and just and will not be controlled.  I am His child.  And because He is the best Father ever – the perfect Father, He will shine His brilliant, warm, loving smile on me again and it will ever be a balm to my spirit.”

And so, I will cherish even His silence.