FOCUS on my NEW WORD… being DELIBERATE

Wow, where did another year go? I look back at all the many blessings and I choose to FOCUS on them – the blessings and not the hard times. (Focus was my 2016 word so it is only fitting ). I took a leap of faith and left a job I thought I would retire from. I walked through the door God opened and let Him close it behind me.   This summer we put in a swimming pool – life changing! For the first time in my life I left down my worry about our home and opened the doors wide. Those that came knew they were stepping into a crazy house, but we were there with our arms wide open full of love, acceptance, and friendship. LIFE CHANGING!!!! I could easily focus on the years that I missed those types of friendships, but I choose to FOCUS on the now. Our whole family has felt the most amazing return on love from the people who have swam in our pool, sat by the bonfire, shared at our table, played zombie apocalypse (An original game by Sam), etc… The church family, the youth group, and new friendships. The tears truly run down my cheeks of the deep friendships and the richness they have added to our lives.   When you are a momma to children who don’t fit the “normal” and your children discover genuine love and friendship it is life changing. Had I left my guard up and not opened our home and left myself be vulnerable to judgement, the friendships may not have happened. Instead, at any given time friends are welcomed in… around the table… in any room of the home…   Food will be offered from peanut butter filled pretzels to tacos and if it is warm bonfires provide hot dogs, campfire pies, and smores. Sam developed friendships that are indescribable. Hours on end spent playing with other kids who either “get” him or don’t really care there is a difference. Mary’s friends are like my children. The table is always open – I may need to dump everything into a laundry basket to clear the seats – but it is always open. The table has been a place of many conversations, games, and even a place to stand for Nerf wars. We got to meet the incredible guy that Mary has fallen in love with as he spent time with our family over the summer. Sam describes him as “he is like my brother”, and honestly he just fits right into our craziness. It is hard to see your children grow in some ways, but when you know they have chosen a good partner to go through life with, who respects and loves your child, then you have done your job. It is Mary’s Senior Year and though she does not have all the directions in life figured out, she has a great head on her shoulders, an incredible heart to share, and has a huge future in front of her to live out exactly as God has planned. We also got to spend an amazing week at Virginia Beach and another two weeks out to Yellowstone and South Dakota area. So much family time and we did amazing! FOCUS was an amazing word….

So onto 2017, another fresh start… For 2015 and 2016, we started the year off at Virginia Beach. We had plans for a small get away to Gettysburg this year, but my temporary “crud” put that on hold. I was even a little slow at creating a list this year of possible WORDs for the year. I usually mention it to a few people and that will trigger me to start hearing words that make me go “oh, that is a good word”. I think what happened is when we went out west I read a book Present Over Perfect and deemed Present would be my word and that held me back from entertaining others. I still love present because I often get distracted when I am doing one thing, so… the list began of possibilities:

  • OPEN – I could open my home more, my heart more, my hands more, etc… I could be OPEN to other’s ideas and OPEN to new things for me and my family
  • CLEARING – this is a great word and thought of clearing my home of more stuff, clearing my schedule to make room for people, clearing my mind of unnecessary clutter
  • NOTICE – I want to notice more details of life, little things people say and do instead of rushing thru life and missing those things about others
  • RESTORATION – I have some relationships with people that could be restored, my spiritual life could use some restoration, and so could my physical body
  • PUSH – I need to PUSH myself often to accomplish little and big things. It is so easy for me to get comfortable where I am and not push or challenge myself. I also could use to lovingly Push others in the direction they need to go
  • BIG – I was listening to the radio and they mention how God did not make us to do small things but to shine BIG. I have a mug that says PRAY BIG. I am guilty of doing things at a minimal level. I don’t think I shine BIG for others to know God through my life.
  • CULTIVATE – This is the one I thought I would be doing. I listened to some videos by Lara Casey and she talked about cultivating what matters. Cultivate them by spending time doing little by little to build up relationships, habits, etc… Hearing her and my childhood on the farm, I was sure this was the one… until God kept laying a word on my heart.

DRUM ROLL….

DELIBERATE will by my word for 2017.   I heard this word on a podcast and I thought that is a good word and put it on the potential list, but really was trying to convince myself on my words present and cultivate.   But over and over, God made things happened that made me realize I really need to be DELIBERATE in my actions. Deliberate to control my procrastination. Deliberate in every area of my life – my spirituality, my health, my relationships, our home, our marriage, our children, my time, finances, and the list goes on. I can be deliberate in being open… clearing… noticing… restoring… pushing… making life BIG… cultivating… I want an even more amazing life. I don’t want just to take life as it comes, but be deliberate in the things that matter.

I always try to pick a scripture that goes with my word, and I could not narrow one down. Then, I thought of Proverbs 31 about the virtuous woman and thought how deliberate she was in her life. Then, I found this commentary and it confirmed it – “ The virtuous woman of Proverbs 31 can best be described as deliberate in her actions and duties. Her decisions and undertakings are purposefully in line with her calling, resulting in such a well-run family…” My goal in being deliberate is Proverbs 31:28 “Her children arise and call her blessed; her husband also, and he praises her!”

Look out 2017, here I come….

p.s. I have plans to be deliberate with some blogs too….

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FOCUS on Mary (and makeup)

For the last couple years Mary has asked me to write a blog just for her. Sometimes it comes easy and sometimes the “struggle is real” as she would say.  (This is over 6 months overdue). How do you possibly put all the wisdom you want to share in one little letter? How do you possibly tell her everything about how much she means to your family? How do you possibly tell her how much she is loved by so many?!  You can’t.  Heaven knows in the 17 years of her life I have made mistake after mistake, and had to explain things that now she understands about some of my difficult choices. But, I will never be able to give her all my lessons to prevent her from making her own. In fact, I am learning one of the only things I can do is let her also learn some lessons the hard way, and love and support her when she does.  But I know the material ways to my daughter’s heart… food, music, and makeup.  I understand the whole food thing.  I did not earn my beautiful curves by eating too much lettuce.  I get the music because there is an amazing feeling when I get in the car and the perfect song comes on the radio.  Sometime it is a song that speaks to me through word and sometimes it brings back a memory of a younger life.  Sometimes it is sitting at the piano and playing and thinking of Mom and Grandma… But, one of the areas I don’t really get is Makeup. However, when your child loves something, it is important to learn about it and not judge them…. Or they will take that passion to someone else to share.   However, over time I think there are many valuable lessons that can be made in relation to makeup

Some makeup is seasonal… so are relationships. Through my life I have been blessed with some amazing lifelong friendships. I also have been blessed with relationships that were just for the season. People/friends have been planted in my life for me to bless them, or for them to bless me and fill a gap I needed. However, relationships often change, and that I believe is by God’s design. Sometimes the circumstances change and your friends fit differently because of the change in priorities. Sometimes their presence is less, but resumes in another season of your life.  Sometimes they are present only for a brief season to reveal something from God. The biggest piece is loving and savoring the season you are in – even the hard winter seasons. There is always something to learn, and it may not be noticed until later down the road. I have noticed how when a new season on the calendar comes, so does makeup. (And God bless the salesperson who knows we are from out of town and hooks us up for the season’s specials before they are ever on the shelf – another lesson to follow!). Mary can’t wait to score some of the new specials, but at the same time, she loves her tried and true products. God has also blessed me with new friendships that have poured deeply into my life. I would have once tried to hold only onto the ones I knew and were comfortable with, afraid to try new friendships and trust them with my life.   How I would have missed out! I am so blessed with my tried and true that even if I can’t see them, they are a text or Facebook message away to ask for a prayer, for wisdom, etc…

Makeup is a great disguise to cover up physical blemishes. In life, I have used many things to cover other problems. I have used food to cover the hurt I was feeling. I have used little words like “I’m fine” to cover up what I am really feeling. I have used over working to cover up my insecurities as a wife, mom, friend, etc…   Makeup allows you to apply as many layers as needed to hide the blemish, and so does life.   I have put layers and layers of projects, to do lists, commitments to hide behind my insecurities, etc.   But at the end of the day, the makeup comes off, and the blemishes are visible. At some point, I eventually crack and all my inward blemishes are revealed – my weaknesses, my insecurities, my pain, my fear, my hurt. Learning who you can trust to see you without the makeup… see all the outward (and inward) blemishes… is life changing. I love that you have “found” some amazing friends that are exactly that to you!

Do not be afraid to ask questions… a lesson I have watched you overcome in the makeup section. We do not have all the answers in life, but often another person does. We have to ask questions sometimes to find what we are looking for. Without the asking we may miss out on something. The perfect example was recently when we went into a new store and you had a wish list of seasonal items that you could not find. I asked the clerk and she knew exactly where they were. They were not even on the shelf yet, but she hooked us up with them. A simple question changed everything.  Don’t be afraid to ask… and also be willing to help someone find an answer if you can (and don’t be afraid to say you don’t know but will try to help).

Not everyone will understand your passion, but look for those who at least listen. In life, some people are not going to understand your passion about make-up, and this can become quite frustrating, I am sure. However, I have learned that the key is when someone is at least willing to listen to your passion (even if they will never understand it or be willing to try it). Find the ones willing to go on the occasional excursion to find that one makeup product you are missing, even if they think you are crazy. They will be the one who will be there for other crazy adventures. They will support you, even when they don’t understand. They are the ones who accept unconditionally and don’t ask you to change. You also be that one for your friends too… the one who may not understand the friend’s passion, but accepts them. Supports the difference as long as it does not compromise your morals (and preferably does not land you in jail – and if it does, as always, call me no questions asked – lol).

Try new thing… just like makeup, some items you enjoy may one day not be a good fit, and other ties you become so comfortable with them, you don’t try new ones. That is true with life. You may think a certain career path is a good fit (and it may be for a season), but that may change and you may need to try something new.   Can you imagine all the things you would have missed out on had you only stuck to one brand of makeup?!? (I would have saved a fortune, but you would have missed out on colors, and pigments, and all the products that can make you smile. Enjoy life like that… don’t get too comfortable that you won’t try new things, just think if you would have not tried a new setting spray, you would be missing out! Don’t’ let fear get in your way to try new things either. You may miss out on an amazing experience or beautiful view.

Makeup has also taught you the value of different things. There is a purpose in life for the basics (like from NYX or Elf) and other times high-end are the best to choose (p.s. just because you love Too Faced makeup does not mean you are allowed to be – lol). Life also mimics that… there are times where McDonalds will do, and others a good filet from a high-end steak house is a better fit. There are times when your wallet will support a low end product more than a high-end product. But there are some areas of life you should not “settle” for lesser things. For instance, friendships should always be high-end (I mean high quality not costly). Do not “settle” with “friends” who beat up your confidence, who you cannot trust, who go behind your back, etc…. Do not “settle” for a job that steals your joy, criticizes your skill, tears you down, etc…   Look for higher-end, because you deserve them!

When you try a new product and it “doesn’t feel right”, chances are it is a not a good fit and it needs to be changed. There will be life events that just don’t “feel right”. They may not line up with your life for that season, but may later. However, it may be due to your heart saying “danger”, or your gut knotting up because it goes against beliefs/ethics, or your brain screaming because you know it is not wise decision. If it doesn’t feel right (exercise excluded because it may never feel right), listen to the voice. Make sure what you experience / choose lines up with your beliefs, your morals, your ethics, etc… if it “doesn’t feel right” it likely is not. If in doubt, ask your mom (hint hint) or a trusted friend, who will not steer you in the wrong direction!

It is also true that even if it “feels right”, doesn’t mean it is. You may choose an amazing shade of baby blue eyeshadow, and it feels rights. However, it may not be a wise choice! Listen to your inner voice (and a mirror – lol), that baby blue may have gone out of style a long time ago! However, it is good to be confident and if baby blue eyeshadow makes you feel that it fine. But for big choices that can alter your life – just because it feels right does NOT mean it is. Sometimes it gets confusing about what “feels right” and what “is right”. Sometimes what “feels good” is mistaken to be what “feels right”. Surround yourself with people who can help you make the decision, or pull you out of the situation (or better yet prevent you from the situation). Chances are the ones who will lie and say the baby blue eyeshadow looks good to save your feelings, are not the ones to be trusted for the big things. Keep the strong ones nearby and listen to the strong moral compass you have inside of you!

Take a minute for the little things… like mascara and lip gloss.   There was a day when your obsession with makeup drove me crazy. Now I am blessed to have a daughter who cares about what she looks like before she leaves the house. Many others could learn that lesson! It also amazes me how just taking about five minutes for you to apply a little moisturizer, power, mascara, and lip gloss can also help you face the crazy world. In life, it is often the little things that can make all the difference – a smile from a stranger, a text from a friend, a hug from your brother, a hot bath, a burning candle, a smell of amazing cologne…. Treasure the little things! When I started counting little things several years ago, it was amazing at the change in life perspective! Savor them! Sometimes they are the only things that can help you face the world!

There is a time and a place for drama. So true with makeup and life. For instance, if heading for a trip to Fayette County Walmart, you do NOT need smokey eyes and heavy makeup – lol! Just like makeup, some people add DRAMA where it is not necessary. Save the drama and the energy for an appropriate time – you will know when that is. There is enough drama… don’t become a part of it if you can avoid it! If you see friends in the middle of unnecessary drama – step up and save them if possible – but don’t get yourself sucked in trying.

A product you I hear you speak of is setting spray to hold everything in place despite the heat, the environment, etc. (that and waterproof mascara). It is important to have those sacred things that help you hold life together, no matter the circumstances. First would be your relationship with Christ. He is the one who hears all things, knows all things, sees all things, and can help you hold it together. When the world is crashing and times are tough, turn on the radio (your love language) and listen to his promises! Hold on to your dad and I and know that NO MATTER WHAT the circumstances we are there! We may disagree but will NEVER stop loving you! Hold on to your relationships that are the setting spray to your life – that help you keep it together despite the circumstances, etc.

Concealer is an amazing product… it can hide the dark circles under your eyes from the lack of sleep. There are times things should be hidden from the public. Everyone does NOT need to know your personal life. In this wonderful time of technology, too often, people forget to apply their concealer. They let the world see their “dark circles” and hear the whole story behind it. Only certain ones should be privileged enough to know those “dark” parts. People who will love and not judge. People who know your heart. People who will reach in to help.   Call them, send a private message, a private text and conceal the sacredness of your weaknesses, troubles, etc… Few are worthy to have that close of view to your life – guard it well!

I love how you have evolved to do what you do because of who you are and not caring what the general population thinks (and at times your immediate circle). You follow your internal compass well! You love make-up because how it makes you feel confident (even though your mom rarely wears an ounce of it). You have learned to spend time on you, which is a lesson you learned from me not doing it. You have over time also learned to stand strong for what you believe, play the devil’s advocate, and defend what you believe to be important. I love that you have chosen your own path and loves, including makeup, despite what your friends do… what society does… what your family says you should do. I want what is best for you in this world, and to do that you have to follow YOUR goals, YOUR life, YOUR internal compass… keep going your direction… prove the critics wrong… you are an amazing handiwork that God created to be exactly who you are!

Brand names are important in the makeup world. They make a product special and often limited. They are of higher quality and cannot be substituted easily. People can try to make “knock offs”, but they are not the same pure blend. You have two brand names — Child of God and Wolfe!   First of all you are a child of God! Secondly, you are our child – a Wolfe! You are a beautiful amazing mixture of some pretty crazy genes.   The world cannot change that… people cannot change that… circumstances cannot change that… You are YOU… AMAZING, FEARFULLY, and WONDERFULY made. You are a one of a kind blend. Do not try to be something/someone you are not. You are a limited edition… and for that our lives are richly blessed.

Dear Mary, I am sorry it has taken me over 6 months, to slow my world enough to finish this… I am a work in process… every day I am amazed by your love for people (especially Sam), passion for your beliefs, and your wisdom beyond your yours. I am blessed for all of our talks and even when we agree to disagree. When my mom went to heaven, she did a great job to pick you out just for us… she knew exactly what I needed! Love you!

FOCUS on the blesses and not the messes!

I am so blessed and that is where I will focus. Wow, what a year 2015 was. I fell short in so many ways. I didn’t ___________ (fill in the blank). My list would be pretty long. But a few things have brought things back into FOCUS for me and I hope they will you too! Today for example, I slept in… I wanted to go to church, and well… it didn’t happen. I can FOCUS on the sadness all day or I can 1. Make the most of the hours at home and 2. Watch one or more of my favorite online speakers (Steve Furtick, Priscilla Shirer, etc.).

I have been pretty hard on myself for not keeping up with people in 2015. My WORD FRIENDS got a little neglected. Honestly “my word” ACT got a lot neglected too. I wanted to get more done and reach out more. You should have seen the list I planned to accomplish when off for surgery. I don’t really have a great excuse but that I left life get in the way. Unfortunately, it wasn’t because I was always living, but because of the messy parts of life (my attitude, motivation, etc.). As I look forward to 2016, I have been blessed as I reach out to people for their words, that though I may not have lived up to my expectations, my efforts touched them. That is a different FOCUS.   To FOCUS on what I didn’t instead of the few times I could.

I listened to a message by Steve Furtick last weekend that we can choose to FOCUS on the messes of 2015 and the past or the miracles.   I don’t know about you, but I said I wanted to FOCUS on the miracles, the blessings, the right, the lessons, etc.   But, the days roll into each other… and my blessings fall into the cracks un-noticed. My grateful list has faded because I get so busy that I don’t pause for those few minutes to close my day with a thank you to God for the little things. My prayer life since returning to work has changed because I don’t make that time.   Let me just tell you… I AM FEELING IT!!!

Some amazing life changes have happened as a result when I FOCUS on the gratefulness of little things. I slow down. I breathe in. I smile.   Even more amazing life changing things happened as a result of my time on my porch swing with my empty cup waiting to receive from God (a great habit I started when off for surgery and time just passed without anywhere to be). (I started to cry just remembering that time). He honors a grateful heart… an empty soul… and every tear!

So today, since I missed church I wanted to start on one of many little projects and it required going through photos. I want to get a belated card out since I missed a Christmas card. I could say I was too busy but I was off work for 9 weeks due to a surgery and then the blessing of migraines.   But, it’s never too late to keep in touch, so Valentine’s Day or Easter the card may come. Anyway, I had to go through files and files of iphone photos and with every folder I opened, I smiled. My FOCUS became on what an amazing year our little family had. Trips and time together… Laughter and sadness… Sunshine and snow showers… Cuddling and chaos…. In the middle of the mess of life (the hard times, the struggles), some amazing beautiful times happened. I needed this today. I needed to FOCUS on all that is right to point my heart back in the direction it needs to go.

Our family has some BIG changes in 2016. On New Year’s Day, I resigned from my job after 11 ½ years. I made the decision, ironically, at the beach. The irony is because when I resigned my last position to go to my current employer, it was at the beach.   There is something about pushing pause on life and sitting in front of the huge ocean and watching the sun come over the horizon, and watching the waves stop exactly where they are supposed to, and the shells laying out beautifully saying “pick me”, and Sam swimming like a fish in the pool, and Mary falling in love with cheesy grits, and our family of four in a hotel room ordering chocolate cake from room service… that makes you get BRAVE because you know that what matters are the people in that room, and the God who controls that ocean and sun, has our lives directly in the palm of His hands. He was just waiting for me to push pause. I paused a lot on my porch when life slowed and truly believe that it was during that time, He made BIG plans for my family.   He sees us, He knows us, and He has GOT THIS! I just have to FOCUS my eyes on Him. It’s easy at the beach… and as I sorted through pictures and placed my beautiful shells (the most I have ever found there) in a big glass vase on my table as a constant reminder to FOCUS… Today on this snowy day in PA, can be as calm as that day in Virginia Beach… if I FOCUS my eyes in the right direction.

God has BIG BIG plans for us… but if I take my eyes off Him, I might just stumble (voice of experience). Thankfully, He is my heavenly Father and will brush off the dirt when I do, kiss my wound (physical, emotional, spiritual, mental), and get my FOCUS back once again.

So FOCUS on the blesses and not the messes — that’s my new motto!

BRINGING 2016 into FOCUS!!!

2016… where has the time gone… so much more I said I would do, wanted to do, thought about doing in 2015 (and in the 45 years of my life prior…). But all that is gone… no regrets… just moving forward and time to FOCUS on 2016. That’s my word FOCUS!   This was a jointly decided upon word for me with the help of my beautiful family. It is the word I probably utter most to myself, as I have been more scattered mentally than ever….

I absolutely love choosing a word for the year to set my mind on. Every year I generally choose one to combat one of my largest weaknesses – procrastination. I have come a loooong way, but definitely a looong way to go! The biggest moment of reality for me is when our daughter started walking in my very deep footprints of procrastination. It took me watching her trip over her own footprints that I knew I had to change. I had to be the change I wanted to see in her. I have procrastinated everything from homework assignments, work assignments, and even my health with my do it tomorrow attitude. So as in previous years, my word will continue to help me fight the battle of procrastination.

I am finding I notice little things like I can’t remember where something is. When, I generally am the girl who can remember where anything is as long as I have touched it at least once. Even on Christmas, after shuffling things around to be ready for the day, I had misplaced my wallet. Keep in mind, the last prior place I had been was Walmart. All I could think of was that our account would be hacked, and that would be on top of an issue I was already facing regarding finances. After much loss of valuable time, I had to FOCUS of where I had been last and recall if/when I had touched it. I found it, in the bottom of a laundry basket that had been further covered with a load of laundry or two.

What’s changed… I multi-task more than over. I pause less than ever. If I were to dump my mind out on a table, it would resemble the bottom of my purse (or even worse my Grandma Frazee’s purse – lol). I would know everything in there, but some things would need to be thrown away, some would need removed but saved for a later time, and other things would deserve more care! Most importantly, it would make room for other things that needed to be in there!

I recently was off of work for about 9 weeks after a routine surgery. The last time I was off that long was to deliver a child. Well, when you are off and come home with a baby, there is no focus on the mama. This time, I could FOCUS on God, on me, and on family! I found a stillness that I didn’t remember existed. I sat on my porch swing almost every morning for weeks, holding my cup, empty before God, and listened! I blocked out the to-do list, which had shrunk immensely without work. I didn’t even touch my “while I am off” dream list including photo organization, lego organization, house projects, books to read… But I did restore ME… Sheri, the mom, the wife, the friend, etc. I was able to be there… physically and mentally… I could FOCUS on the people that mattered.

I watch Mary… when she is in “school mode” she has a focus – her planner for the week is done, post-it notes for the days work is complete, projects are organized, everything has a color. The end result of her focus is some amazing grades and a happy daughter! When things start swarming in that pulls her away, the focus becomes foggy, she gets flustered and feels overwhelmed. (I can relate).   Then she goes back to the steps she knows to focus and produce. …. (Of note, this beautiful system took place after a hard fall from stepping in my footprints of procrastination, and her watching me constantly refer to the importance of my calendar).

I watch Sam… his focus for whatever his passion is for the moment – Legos, action figures, or Minecraft. His concentration is amazing. He can block out the rest of the world and FOCUS on just that one thing. The result is an amazing creation and/or hours of play. He can become so focused on a project, that he can stay up most of the night or at times wake in the middle of the night to complete what is in his mind. The result is a calm and happy son!

I watched the movie War Room over and over recently. Life changing! When I was off, my porch was a mini war room. The peace after that time spent with God was priceless and poured into my whole day. But when I returned to my pre-surgery schedule, I let my old routine seep back in and I didn’t make time to go to God. When in reality is when I need that FOCUS most.  It is like a puzzle, with FOCUS (especially on God), all the pieces fit. Without that, I discover pieces are temporarily misplaced! (I say replaced because once I focus, I will find the missing item – Jim and Mary will both tell you… 1. If I have ever touched it, I will know where it is. 2. If it is to be found, it will be done by me, and 3. I won’t rest until it is found).

God has some amazing things ahead of me in 2016, I am sure! He promises in His word that He has a plan for me…. A hope and a future… Unfortunately, if I don’t keep my mind fixed and in FOCUS, I just might miss things, because I am so busy looking for the pieces I have misplaced. I think about binoculars (or me without my glasses), the object maybe in “view” but it’s just a blurb. With my glasses or binoculars, I can FOCUS on what it truly is.

It is only a day into 2016 and I have already made some changes…

  • My calendar has shrunk in size. If I have smaller “blocks”, I will be more careful to FOCUS on the things that should be there! (People over projects as Lysa Terkeurst refers to).
  • I have said YES to two major decisions that will change my FOCUS in a new direction. (remember the analogy of dumping out my mind is like dumping out a purse – it is getting rid of some of the garbage that took up too much space and making room for new exciting things – more in near future)
  • I am spending the weekend with my family. We have talked and laughed. They have listened to me talk about all the WORDs my friends have chosen. When I didn’t want to commit (another great word chosen by a friend) to FOCUS, I did a typical search looking for something temporarily misplaced and said (what I thought was under my breathe) FOCUS SHERI! They have since not let up to remind me why this is the word – FOCUS!
  • I chose a word… the one I was avoiding, because it’s the one I need most in my life most.

So a couple things I generally do in choosing a word is to look up definition, find a song, and find a scripture…

Definition (using verb – because I like my one word to be an action because in procrastination I put off, by choosing an action I feel it combats that habit more): 1. To be directed at something specific… 2. To direct attention / effort at something specific…. 3. To adjust to make an image clear

Scripture: wow there are a few… but I like Isaiah 26:3 as it is a promise to ME (paraphrase by me) – He will keep ME, Sheri, in perfect peace, when my mind is steadfast (FOCUSED) on Him!

Song / Hymns – Turn your eyes upon Jesus… Of note, I googled the words of the hymn just to be sure and found this interesting – The lyrics were inspired by the Gospel Tract FOCUSED, by Lilias Trotter… (no coincidence there – lol)…    O soul, are you weary and troubled?   No light in the darkness you see? There’s a light for a look at the Savior, And life more abundant and free!  Refrain: Turn your eyes upon Jesus, Look full in His wonderful face, And the things of earth will grow strangely dim, In the light of His glory and grace.

I can’t wait to watch FOCUS live out loud in my life… and watch your ONE WORD live out loud in yours!!!!

 

ACT by REMAINING

Last weekend I was “handpicked” by God to attend a women’s retreat. My friend, Johnetta, had the task placed on her heart by God to have this, and unlike what I would likely do… she listened.   She knew God would hand-pick women to attend, and I am so blessed I was one of them. I honestly still get tears in my eyes from the experience. The numbers were not huge… but GOD WAS THERE!!! As we laughed, cried, laughed, sang, ate, fellowshipped, and shared in God’s love. Over and over in my mind, I have replayed the weekend. These three things are on replay. It wasn’t just one speaker, but the combination of speakers who chose different scripture from the Old and New Testament, that melded together…

BE STILL (when I Google Be still scripture, there are 36 incredible verses that come up) – my two favorites are

Psalms 46:10 – “Be still, and know that I am God

Exodus 14:14 – The LORD will fight for you; you need only to be still.”

For the last several weeks, I have started a new habit of prayer and often just being still. Almost every morning (sometimes evening and sometimes both), on my porch swing, I sit and pour out my praise and my heart.   I am still… I listen… I breathe… and my soul calms. It can last minutes or long stretches of time. I usually have a song come to mind and I sing with the deepest of my heart. I am changed. I think that change took me into last weekend like a sponge… ready to receive… without my typical mind wandering of all the other things I should be doing… In all honesty, I have sat in retreats and church and made my list mentally and on paper of all the things that needed done for the day. Not this one ….

I have learned stillness is vital to my life – for my spiritual and mental wellbeing. However, I have also learned I need more than just those few moments of stillness… I need to remain in them… In the promises… In the peace…

REMAIN

Being still is great. However, too many times the stillness was short term. I would then return to my every day life after that time and got pulled back in. Then life would get the best of me and I would return to be still for just a few moments. Last Saturday, I heard scripture I had heard a hundred times before… John 15:4-7: vs 4 “Remain in me, as I also remain in you. No branch can bear fruit by itself; it must remain in the vine. Neither can you bear fruit unless you remain in me.” And it became part of life addition problem for me.

Being still is great – but I must remain there… For the last several weeks I have been blessed to re-center life. Most of the external factors of work, people, and appointments have been removed. I controlled the calendar and filled it with family, friends, and church. I find when issues or concerns arise, instead of worrying and dwelling on it, I become still. Still and my life were not words that would have been used in the same sentence. I think it is me learning to REMAIN in the stillness. REMAIN in HIM and not the craziness of the world. When I need to re-center life, I find me returning to the moments I had spent with Him that morning and the days before.

I think of all the people who have posted this month things they are thankful for. I love them! But after the month, many get back in their routines

Have you ever had an amazing moment / memory where you can close your eyes and visualize it? Well, my porch time has become that daily moment when all it takes is for me to close my eyes and I can return to that feeling I had while being still.   If I don’t have it that day, it is a little hard to re-center myself and a little easier to get pulled into the craziness of life and brought down by the worries of my heart.

He is ABLE

Ephesians 3:20 – 20 Now to him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to his power that is at work within us

Hearing Priscilla Shirer speak on this scripture brought it to life for me. [That is how God works and why it is important that I keep reading and hearing His word.  “Old” scriptures can have new life based on the circumstances I am going through.] I tend to put God in a box. I pray to Him with a specific need, and wait (often impatiently) for the answer. Priscilla spoke of God being able to go beyond and beyond. All this time, I confined Him to my thoughts when He can go way beyond that, because HE IS ABLE! All this time, I didn’t even take things to Him because I didn’t want to burden Him, bother Him, rely on Him, wait on Him, and the list goes on. I kept many things in my own little ability, and think now how much more He could have done had I given it to Him. Definitely more than I did on my own!

I have been seeking God for direction in areas of my life. I went to scripture for answers (wow imagine that concept). I found several scriptures that my heart needed to read and put them in a collage picture on Facebook. Then I put what I had to do and His return on my investment. It is pretty amazing (and I only chose 13 scriptures of the 31,103 verses in the Bible).   [Great time investment to use Google to search for scriptures that lead me to more scripture than spending that time less wisely – ie facebook]

If I do 2 things – BE STILL (seek Him and listen) and REMAIN (trusting, waiting) [not my own pattern where being Still would be a few minutes and go on my way]

HE gives me 11 things (and there are many more in scripture) – PEACE, HOPE, FUTURE, WORKING things together for good, DIRECTION, ENDURANCE, STRENGTH, RENEWAL, NEW THINGS, COUNSEL, and going BEYOND BEYOND what I could do on my own….

 

BE STILL (Sheri) * this does not mean that I don’t do my part and just wait for Him to do everything – it’s seeking Him before the world and being quiet and aware enough to Him

+ REMAIN in ME (not in the world or your problems, Sheri!)

= 4 I AM ABLE (Beyond, beyond your imagination, Sheri!)

ACT by RECEIVING (and it started with a cup)…

There is something I have a big problem with. It could be called many things – faith, trust, control. They really all wrap in one! My prayer life struggles.  I pray daily in conversation and thank him for his gifts and then give Him my list. I am not still and wait to hear Him back, to hear what He wants for me. After all, I had already given Him my list and usually instructed Him in what specifically I wanted. Prayers like please give Jim safety, be with my friend who had surgery heal her of pain, I am going into surgery give the Dr. wisdom. Yes, I say here is the person, here is their specific need. The irony is He already knows their need! He wants me to come to Him as a child with my small request, something as simple as their name, my needs, my hope, and MY PRAISE and then wait and listen and trust.

So, I struggle with the wait. After all, I just told Him exactly what I wanted, so it isn’t like He has to think about it. I did the problem solving for Him. Not only do I struggle with the wait, but I struggle with the answer is not the option I give him. I do not make my prayers multiple choice. I give one option. Now you see my struggle. I am sure, at least I think, I am not alone in this struggle.

I have refrained from starting to watch TV (except cartoon/ movie marathons with the kids) because I don’t want to get started on something I won’t have time to continue. Plus, I have always enjoyed listening to online videos from Christian authors, online sermons, etc….

One of the videos from speaker/authors I have listened to since being off was by Emily Freeman. She talks about how she holds an empty bowl while she prays – symbolic of having her heart empty and ready to receive. At first I thought… ok that’s different. Then soon thought what have I got to loose. I didn’t choose a bowl, but a new mug from an amazing friend that has one of my favorite verses on it… BE STILL AND KNOW THAT I AM GOD!!!   I struggle with BEING STILL and truly hearing. So for over a week, since I have heard this video, I have sat on my porch or a favorite recliner with my empty cup.

I honestly could just cry writing how this has changed me. I have cried during the silence of holding the empty cup. It truly was symbolic of how empty I felt, and didn’t even realize. Empty spiritually, because I have allowed life’s chaos fill all the crevices of my life and weigh me down. Usually when I pray, my crazy to do list goes through my head. But now that I hold an empty cup I sit and truly visualize me waiting to receive from Him. I give him my small list of maybe just someone’s name – He already knows the need…. I give him what is heavy on my heart and then just sit and breathe and wait for His peace. I am STILL! Sometimes a song may come to mind and I sing a verse. He wants my praise! So many analogies have come out of this empty cup time, of how I have pushed Him away with my business and the need for control.

  • When I hold up a full cup/calendar/mind, there is no room left for His will, for me to receive what He has for me. He knows the plans He has for me, but if I fill that with my plans, I miss out.
  • When I go to Him in a hurry to hand over my list of Dear Lord please bless…. Say amen… and carry on my day. He sits there waiting to hear the heart of His child.   It’s like asking your child “how was your day?” because you want to really hear and they say fine and go on to the next task. As a mom, I sit there wanting to really hear
  • He knows my needs. He wants me to bring them with full expectation of what He can do with the needs and leave them there. He can do so much more than I can on my own strength (but for some reason I believe my ways are better when scripture supports His ways are higher than mine).
  • When my heart is heavy and full He can’t pour into it…
  • When my hands are clutched He can’t fill them (and I can’t open them in praise).
  • At times I thought I should put names or needs in my cup, but again that doesn’t leave it empty for me to completely receive.

So tonight when I got an unexpected email, at first I was truly upset. It was a need I shared with Him over the empty cup. The email really upset me and I went into my typical mode of Why didn’t He answer it the way I expected. What am I suppose to do now? How can I fix this? (See the problem, I… I… I….) The chaos starts stirring and I struggle with faith, trust, and control. I wanted to cry because I wanted a different answer! I did start reacting and trying to fix it.… got a little angry at God… and then I started writing this blog. I am a writer at heart and use writing to empty my head / heart. Unfortunately, often I get so busy that I don’t write… which just keeps my head / heart full. When in reality that is when I should write more.

As I wrote the brewing slowed and the wrestling with God slowed (like I would win – lol). I then realized I needed to go to Him and pour out my heart. So, I paused my writing and grabbed my cup.  I turned out the light and just paused, laid out my heart to God, and relinquished my control. The irony is the door He closed tonight wasn’t necessarily the one I wanted to be opened. I went back to my old ways of fix it mode and not trusting and not being still. I got caught up in the instant disappointment (and anger) that a door was closed, without trusting the answer was the best for me.

Does the cup hold any of the answers. No! But my Heavenly Father does. If it takes a simple act of holding an empty cup to remind me to be ready to be still, to pause, and to receive… then I will hold the cup… and He will bless my willingness to finally come to receive. I will be the woman of the well… thirsty… seeking… waiting…. Receiving!

Fill my cup Lord, I lift it up, Lord!

Come and quench this thirsting of my soul;

Bread of heaven, Feed me till I want no more

Fill my cup, fill it up and make me whole!

ACT by writing again (my lessons on belonging)

My dear blog… sorry you have been so neglected. It is not because I haven’t had a million things to say or write, but filled my life with a million other things and excuses. Well, God has given me a time to be still and honestly I still struggle with it (because I wanted to accomplish much in the off-time).   Life has gotten a little crazier than even I prefer. So, as I seek stillness, it is time to ACT on pouring out my heart and head. I need to return to a place of peace.

I feel lately like my equilibrium is off and things that never mattered suddenly do. I am generally a self-sufficient person and really don’t like to ask for help, announce issues going on in my life, announce the need for prayer publically, etc. Unless it is something I can be grateful for, it is likely not going to be advertised.  But lately I have been a little absorbed with all the places / situation I don’t really feel like I belong. (Facebook can do that to a person).

I read about people running here and there with their children for sports. It makes me miss the years of being a “dance mom” and running and belonging to the group of other dance moms. We shared so much around while we waited at practice, recitals, competition, pictures, etc. Our children are in NOTHING. To some that is a foreign concept and to others we are judged for lack of socialization. However, for our family that type of belonging is just not in the cards due multiple factors at different times.

There have been many social events that I have also declined. I have declined some due to timing. To be honest, I have avoided some because I didn’t think I would “fit in” /belong with the crowd. They would talk of school, sports, and children. I had nothing no offer – no sports, we cyber school, and well, we have some unique children. There are many times our different life is really highlighted by just simple comparisons.   I honestly wouldn’t change our choices, but it does limit conversation in many areas. I can’t relate to what they talk about, and honestly, I get tired of defending/explaining our choices. However, I eliminated the option of not belonging before ever giving the event/the people a chance.

I struggle often when I know how much Sam misses “friends” because they are busy with life (school and sports). Mary over time has been blessed to find a group of friends she belongs with and is quite content living the life of the introvert. I pray that one day, Sam is blessed that way too. Life is so full of being the perfect fit, doing it all, belonging…. And well…. We just aren’t there…

However, lately I have had some beautiful reminders of just where we do belong. I have worked weekends every year for 11 years. For a couple years I was blessed to go to evenings on weekends and we found a church we loved. We started going as a family. Then life changed and my schedule got rearranged so we had to give up church again. But on a rare Sunday I had off (Jim had class) and I asked Sam, do you want to go to church with me. He quickly replied YES! I was quite surprised! We went and when we got in the car he said I have really missed church. The church had gone back to how we remembered when we first started.   It felt like home… WE BELONGED!!!! I don’t have to explain Sam’s quirks, or feel like excuses are needed if we can’t come (we had been gone for months and there was no judgement), etc… We sat back down where we hadn’t been for MONTHS and the love still spilled over.   Conversation is easy….   We went as a family last week and it was priceless… A place WE BELONG.

I had another weekend I requested off recently to get together for a teleconference for women. We have an amazing women’s bible study/tea on Mondays. Another group where I BELONG! We have a Bible Study and we talk about what the lesson meant to US. No judgement, no explanation, no excuses needed. Well, I expected a large turn out and it ended up being a small group. Only 3 stayed all night (counting me) and 7 total in/out for the Friday/Saturday. It was perfect and amazing. Though the live teleconference was good….. the small group of ladies (of various ages and stages of life) breathed life back into my weary soul. I BELONGED!

Over life I have had some various jobs in nursing. I still see some of the nurses I worked with on Oncology and we can still talk about life – because I BELONGED in that group. Our love and care for our patients was bonding and over the years we watched our lives grow and change. I miss those bedside nurse days (and say that more and more). I am blessed in my various nursing areas to truly feel like I BELONG in some.

I also need to realize it is okay not to BELONG perfectly everywhere. It is not necessarily a statement about me or the others, but the fit has changed. Friendships are the same way. I have some life long friends that I can drop a text to and ask for a prayer and it is said. We have meaningful conversation via technology and I feel refreshed. I have friends that when we talk we pick right back up where we left off. I also have had friendships that no longer fit as we have changed. It does not decrease my love for them, but to wish them well as we BELONG in new areas.

In our home we teach be true to who you are. However, I still find myself focusing too much on where I don’t belong. It probably goes back to one of my strength/weaknesses of people pleasing. I want to be all things to all people. I want to say yes to everyone (which can be a dangerous thing because our daughter just echoed those exact words last night!). I want to understand everyone so I can meet their needs! However, in the end, I am often left drained and alone.

I was not created to fit in everywhere.   Just like a plant and growing – some need more water, more sun, no water or maintenance (Like the only plant I have not killed since getting married – a cactus). I grow where I belong! Just like our children in school – Mary was getting strangled by the weeds and Sam was stuck in a pot with too many seeds (a too large of a class). So we moved them so they could grow.

I have to learn / apply some lessons

  • Appreciate and focus on the beautiful places God has placed me to belong – our church, my friendships, and work. Make sure they know how much they mean to be. Pour back into them.
  • Try new things and see if I really don’t fit (I have made many a decision by the scenario I play in my head of what may happen and never try).
  • When I know I don’t belong, don’t try to fit in… move on and learn from the lesson.
  • The lifelong lessons will be — I don’t have to be all things to all people! People pleasing is not a strength when I am left depleted!

Thank you Lord for this time you have given me to be still…. Thank you for the beautiful places you have planted me that I do belong…. Thank you for the amazing church that welcomes us just as we are… Thank you for my incredible friendships that I never realized how much I needed (because I thought I could do it all on my own)…. Thank you in advance for making me brave to move on and learn…. Thank you for letting me know that I always BELONG wrapped tightly in your arms as your child!

p.s Please Lord, give me the strength to work on the people pleasing!