Still Living Abundantly

It’s been two and a half years since I posted about living abundantly. I took my own advice to claim Jesus’ statement and made radical changes to my life. So much so, that it’s only now that I have time to write about those changes and the impact they have made on my life. So, what’s been happening in my life since Jan. 1, 2014?

In late February 2014 I answered God’s call to participate in a missions trip to Sierra Leone. It’s funny how this came about. In the fall of 2013 I sat down in a normal church service (Church sSAS with boyservices really shouldn’t be normal, should they? A good topic for later.) and read about an upcoming trip to Africa in the church bulletin. I said to my friend sitting next
to me, “Well, that sounds scary.” She agreed. By the end of the service I felt a tugging on my heart and knew I’d be on that trip. Needless to say, that trip was life-changing. Not only did I fall in love with the people I met in Sierra Leone and develop a strong bond with the ministry that is happening in the areas we visited and ministered, making that trip emboldened me to trust God more than ever.

I previously experienced what God can do when we just trust him when I obeyed his call to become a foster parent. Even though I have never had children of my own (regardless that I think of my nieces and nephews as my children) and didn’t really want the responsibility, God kept at me until I said yes. That took quite a bit of nudging because I was justifying my decision based on my own limitations. Though there were some naysayers and interference from some who thought they knew better, God continued to unfold every step of His plan perfectly. That experience was the catalyst to my strengthening faith and obedience. Not every foster situation turned out as expected, but I know God placed me in that position to reflect His love to those who needed it most. I am forever changed because of events during those two years.

So, back to 2014 and my decision to live abundantly. After I returned from SL, Satan began using various people in my life to create obstacles and to make life more difficult. But God is good. Before all the negativity and  backstabbing began, He sent a job notice across my path that changed everything. My dream has long been to finish my professional career teaching my craft in a college setting. Of course, in my plan, that happened about five years from now. The job notice I saw in an online newsletter was just what I wanted to do. I couldn’t pass it up, even though at that point I wasn’t looking for a career change. Following up on that job was the start of a four-month process in which I applied to many more positions, participated in telephone and Skype interviews, and made campus visits. In the end, I accepted a position 700 miles from home and family doing exactly what I wanted to do.

Since my move from Mississippi to central Florida in August 2014, life has been a nonstop adventure. With class preparations, acclimating to the academic work setting, buying a house and looking for a church home — not to mention finding doctors, a dentist and a hairstylist — I have been quite busy in the last two years. In fact, I barely remember the first year. It was a whirlwind of all things new, and I was exhausted. All the time! But as always, God’s grace is sustaining. I think I’ve finally gotten the hang of teaching full time. There’s a lot more paperwork involved than when I was an adjunct, and the pace is much faster than I expected (but that may just be me and my corporate habits making it busier than necessary). After visiting several area churches, I found a congregation that has been welcoming and, most importantly, where God’s word is taught and practiced. It’s a different denomination than I have attended in the past, but I’m learning about the differences, and I’ve joined a couple of small groups. I’ve become involved in a local professional association, and I’m singing in a community choral group. I’m starting to make friends and establish roots in this community.

Right now as I sit at my dining room table and watch the rain pour, I am content. My life is abundant. All because I chose to trust God completely.

I have been crucified with Christ. It is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me. And the life I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me.
                                                                                                                                                      Galatians 2:20 (ESV)

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Life More Abundantly

pink_abundance_Jn10-10

Jesus said, “I have come that they may have life, and that they may have it more abundantly (John 10:10, NKJV).” This means that for we who follow Christ, a life forever in Heaven after we die AND a full life here on Earth. Take a moment to think about that. This is great news! Even while we anticipate an eternal life with Him in Heaven, we are given the freedom to enjoy life right now!

Too many Christians choose to merely endure this present life while awaiting the promised eternity with Christ. We’ve all probably been there at one time or another. But, I don’t think this is how Jesus wants us to live. He says we can have an abundant life! A life “marked by great plenty,” according to Merriam-Webster. Plenty of what? you may ask. Here is a short list to start:

  • Joy
  • Peace
  • Beauty (natural and man-made)
  • Love
  • Fun (yes, we’re given freedom to have fun!)
  • Fulfillment
  • Laughter
  • Music
  • Happiness
  • Material needs (not necessarily the same as “wants”)

What other items would you add to the list?

The best part of Jesus’ promise for an abundant life is that it doesn’t matter what our circumstances are at any given moment. Being a follower of Christ means that His Spirit lives in us. We begin to see the world through His eyes, with His love and with a heavenly perspective. Let’s face it; this world can be mean and ugly and hard. However, living life walking side-by-side with Jesus enables us to see past all of the hurt and difficulty and to enjoy the blessings He has given us.

Living in abundance is a choice we make — a choice to accept Jesus’ gift of an abundant life now AND the promise of an abundance for eternity. So, in 2014, I choose to accept His gift and begin to live life more abundantly. How about you?

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“Anyone can serve”

I love this sweet photograph of the monkey feeding the tiger cub, but I love the quote from Dr. King even more.

“Anybody can serve.”

We don’t need any special skills or talents, just a willing, caring heart. A heart that cares for other people or creatures or a cause beyond ourselves. A willingness to be inconvenienced or torn from our comfort zone.

Service can be hard … messy … and scary. It can seem fruitless at times. But it almost always is rewarding, because even if the recipients of your service are ungrateful or unknowing, it is the very act of giving of yourself that brings the reward.

Where have you been called to serve? Don’t know that you have been called? Well, do you have strong feelings about a certain group of people or issue? Do you have heart-wrenching compassion for those in unfortunate situations? Do you have a continuous nagging in your mind to be involved in those situations — to “do something“? If so, you likely have been called.

So, what’s next? First, pray for God’s guidance, then keep your eyes and ears open for the opportunity God has just for you. If you have truly been called, He’ll leave no doubt as to where you are being called to serve.

That’s how I’ve known where to serve in my life — by praying & watching. As a young adult I was called to work with children, which I fulfilled by teaching Sunday school and GA’s at my local church. Then God spoke to me — in a very audible way, I should add — while I was traveling overseas with my job. He told me to take care of the unloved children.

I knew I wasn’t being called as a missionary to this foreign country, but beyond that, I was clueless as to what that meant. So, I just kept my eyes open while I continued to work with kids in my close circle.

Over the next several years, I started feeling great compassion for the poor living in our inner city. When my church youth group held vacation Bible school at an inner city church, I tagged along and served snacks to about 40 children attending one evening. I think I fell in love with those children and that congregation that first night!

After that, I kept looking for ways to get more involved. A few months later, a few young men from church started a tutoring ministry with the inner city kids, and I signed up. That was more than five years ago, and I have no doubt that tutoring these children is my call to service!

Whatever our station in life, we are called to serve somewhere in some capacity. From serving refreshments at VBS, to teaching Sunday school, to rocking newborns, to fundraising for medical research, to rescuing puppies, … the list goes on and on.

For those of us called to be single, whether for life or for a season, we are given, I believe, special favor in order to give of ourselves in a way married people cannot. Yes, serving can be inconvenient, but ignoring our call will make our lives empty and shallow, no matter how busy we make ourselves. Service fulfills our purpose on Earth, if only we answer the call. Anyone can do it.

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Does your success matter?

What a reminder of how we should be good stewards of our time and efforts!

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Deliberate Busyness

Wow! I’ve let another six months fly by with hardly a notice. It’s understandable, I suppose. The beginning of 2012 started of with the unexpected departure of the first foster child in my home. Two months later, two teen brothers were placed in my care. In addition, my mom had knee replacement surgery, with complications. Then I had minor surgery. Work kept me grounded.

So, I’ve been busy. While some of this busyness has been enjoyable, some has not (e.g., sitting with my mom in the hospital praying her kidneys would start working again). Everybody’s busy, so what’s the point?

The point is, I’ve let another half-year fly by without intentional, concious forethought. Just rolling along, going with the flow, reactive instead of proactive. Shouldn’t I be more deliberate about my life? Making decisions? Setting goals? Making plans? Or, should I just trust that God’s in control and let him steer me in the direction I should go? Where’s the balance?

How do you deal with the busyness of your life? Are you deliberate, or do you just roll along like me? Leave a comment and let’s learn from each other.

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I’m really not a Scrooge

 
Stained glass at St John the Baptist's Anglica...

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Christmas is one of my least favorite holidays. There, I admit it. While others this time of year are counting down the days to December 25 in anticipation, I’m counting the days until it’s all over with. (Eleven days from today, actually.)

Just to be clear, my feelings have nothing to do with the true meaning of the holiday. It’s watching the frenzied shoppers, listening to stressful whines of too little time left and watching tv ads that promote the latest and greatest whatever. I just don’t think Jesus is happy with how we approach this holy time.

For the past few years, I’ve slowly tried to withdraw from the whole season. The Christmas cards I’ve received from friends and family have been my primary decoration at home. This year, since I have a foster child in my home, I put up a full Christmas tree and decorated the house. I put a wreath on the front door (which, by the way, was stolen last week).  Following my parents’ example, I’ve bought only three presents for my FC, none of which is extravagant. I also set a conservative budget for gifts for family and friends. Most of my Christmas effort goes toward gifts for the less advantaged in our community.

Yet, still, I feel like it’s not enough. So, with less than two weeks until the big day, I’m going to be spending more time in prayer and meditation about what Christmas is and what it should look like in my life.

So, how would Jesus want you and me to honor His birth?

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Summoning Discipline

I am not a disciplined person. I want to be, but I can never seem to stick to my resolve. No matter what my goal is — regular Bible study and prayer time, diet, exercise, getting to work on time — I always fall short. I’d like to say this is because I’m a creative person who can’t stay on a pre-determined schedule. But while I am somewhat creative, multiple personality tests have told me the logical side of my brain is just as strong. So, here I sit in no man’s land, neither too creative nor too logical to have a valid excuse.

Nike says, “Just do it,” and for some people, it’s just that easy. Not for me. I get distracted, or forget, or say I’ll do it later. No, I’m not ADHD. Too busy? Not really. Lazy? Perhaps. Frustrated? Absolutely!

This idea of discipline has been weighing on my mind this summer as I gear up for myriad changes in the next few weeks. Here’s the short list:

  1. Schools begin to start back up for fall next week. This means a horrible daily commute to work unless I start leaving the house 45 minutes earlier than I do now.
  2. I turn 50 in October and told many people last year I was going to reach my ideal weight by this milestone. (Ain’t gonna happen! I’d at least like to have made a start on it, though.)
  3. I’m in the final stages of becoming a resource (aka foster) parent. When that happens (prayerfully so), I will have more than myself and the cats to consider on a daily basis.

So what’s the solution? Apparently, I can’t summon discipline from within myself. I’ve tried that. For the past five days, I’ve been pretty much home-bound as I recover from out-patient surgery, and I’ve thought a lot about being disciplined: Draw up a schedule and put it all on my calendar (loving my new Galaxy phone, btw), streamline my activities, just do it, and on and on.

Then it dawned on me: I cannot do this on my own. I’ve tried for way too many years (see #2 above) without success. That’s when I heard Stephen Curtis Chapman‘s new song, “Do Everything,” playing on the radio. Here’s the chorus:

“Well let me remind you it all matters just as long as you
Do everything you do to the glory of the One who made you
Cause He made you to do
Every little thing that you do to bring a smile to His face
And tell the story of grace
With every move that you make
And every little thing you do”

So, if I’m doing everything to the glory of God (see Scriptures below) and walking in His will, then perhaps I should draw from the strength that He gives me in that walk. My life verse is James 4:8a: “Draw near to God and He will draw near to you.” There’s the “just do it” part — drawing near to God. I’ve got to take that first step, then He will come even closer. (Why relying totally on God seems to be the last resort is the subject of another post.)

I’m going to rethink this discipline thing and focus first on God, asking for His strength in doing what He’s called me to do. If you, too, struggle with discipline issues,join me in meditating on these verses:

Eph. 2:10. For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them.

1 Cor. 10:31. So, whether you eat or drink, or whatever you do, do all to the glory of God.

Colossians 3:17. And whatever you do, in word or deed, do everything in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him.

1 Peter 4:10-11. As each has received a gift, use it to serve one another, as good stewards of God’s varied grace: whoever speaks, as one who speaks oracles of God; whoever serves, as one who serves by the strength that God supplies—in order that in everything God may be glorified through Jesus Christ. To him belong glory and
dominion forever and ever. Amen.

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