What I Learned When Tradition Was Broken

By: Ms. O

For as long as I can remember, Christmas Eve meant burning bayberry candles. Growing up,  it was a given that after dinner, two bayberry tapers would be lit and would burn to the socket during the night. There were some years that we would mess around, running our finger through the flame, pretend to blow it out, but to my recollection, no one ever snuffed them out. It was meant to bring good luck….I was never sure why, so I had to google it and got this:

“Bayberry candles burned to the socket, bring health to the home and wealth to the pocket.”

I knew my grandparents burned them each Christmas Eve, as did my mom. When I married and moved away, I would do the same. My husband would have a fit…probably because he was in the safety division at work and could see eminent danger in leaving candles burning all night…but it HAD to be done….because it had always been done.

This year….on Christmas Eve….I opened my drawer that I kept my secret stash of bayberry tapers, only to find it empty. Panic set in…big time.

If you don’t know it, bayberry tapers are not an easy find…especially in the south. Christmas Eve is not the time to go looking. Throughout the day, I played the war of emotions….pondering how dire my circumstances will be if I don’t burn the “good luck” candles. I had never missed a year since 1980 when I moved out….

How could I have let this happen? What will happen to me now?

Would a bayberry Scentsy suffice? Glade makes a bayberry air freshener…I think. Maybe the mall would be worth fighting in the off chance that Yankee Candle would have some semblance of a bayberry candle that I could carve into a taper…ugh.

It was in my anguish that I reflected back over my life…the changes that came…not because of the “good luck” candles….but in spite of it.

My grandparents passed away…as did my aunt. Our family has had its share of heartache. We saw the oilfield in its heyday and then the bottom fall out of it. I lost a baby….said “goodbye to friends”…went through a divorce…the list goes on….even though I burned those candles each and every year…no matter what.

Constant Flame

What I have come to know is this: God was faithful through it all. In the wonderful mountain top events…God was there…as He was in the depth of my despair.  He is the constant flame.

“For I the Lord do not change; therefore you, O children of Jacob, are not consumed.” Malachi 3:6

That comes from the last book in the Old Testament…Malachi 3:6…before the silent years…those 400 years between the Old and the New Testament. Malachi finishes with the promise of the Day of the Lord…of His coming…but it would be a while. The passage in Malachi 3:6 is a reminder to all…that God does not change…therefore we are not consumed.

So Christmas Eve passed this year without my burning of the bayberry tapers. I am not saying I won’t ever burn them again.  If I come across the candles before next year, I will most likely buy them so I can relive an old tradition in my family…but I know it is not a do-or-die situation. The world did not end the next day. Quite the opposite in fact.  This year….we had  something new…a granddaughter that reminds me of God’s faithfulness each and every time I gaze in her eyes.

linda and E_for blog

Praise God from Whom all blessings flow….amen.

What divides us…

By: Ms. O

I am not a math whiz. Sure when I was in elementary school, I was all over addition tables. At that point in time, there was no magic five point way of doing a math problem. We memorized the tables. I knew what went with what number…pairs mind you…that made up the sum I was looking for. Subtraction…well, that was not as easy but I was still okay. When we moved on the multiplication I was back in my element….until division came and once again I was floundering…big time.
Maybe that is my problem with the word today…I am not big on division.

The older I get, the more I realize it is all part of life. My two children divided from me by the miles that stood between home and the college they attended. That did not sit well with me. It created sadness in the “in between”…and that never went away.

Marriage divided by divorce equals a great amount of sorrow…remorse…souls that need repair. The line is there…between married…and not…with the healing process that is anything but simple.

Living in the world today it seems all the focus is on division. Along party lines…there is a chasm that separates the two. What made this country what it is…living with the freedom to choose…only caused us to distain anyone who opposes our point of view.

Religion…ugh…the great divider that was never meant to be that. Four of the five siblings in my family all attend different houses of worship. Same God…different approaches…and the world will tell us that the differences are meant to do just that…divide us.

I know that there are clear differences with even something as simple as cuisine. Whether or not I like sushi or Indian food…neither of which I can stomach….divides me from a good part of the staff at work. There are vegetarians who if I took up their “way of eating”… I would starve…since there is a clear dividing line between me…and vegetables.

I grow weary with keeping up with who stands on which side or …even more so…that we have to take sides. That it not God’s original intent…not by a long shot.

If you have any encouragement from being united with Christ, if any comfort from His love, if any fellowship from the Spirit, if any tenderness or compassion, then make my joy complete by being like-minded, having the same love, being one in spirit and purpose.” Philippians 2:1-2

Perhaps we all need to read this each and every morning….just saying.

Five months into World War 1, on Christmas Eve in 1914…both sides knee deep in mud and muck…fighting and defending their own trenches….way too far from home…and family…when the sounds of a Christmas carol could be heard across enemy lines. The haunting words of “Silent Night” song in German lingered in the night air… between a space that separated the sides by a mere one hundred yards. After the German troops finished singing their version of that song, cheers rose up from the British side and they returned “fire” with the same tune…in their own language. Christmas morning, opposing sides came out of their trenches…and met in the middle…among a land littered with the ravages of war…to celebrate….Christ. They shared make shift gifts of chocolates, sausages, liquor, cigarettes and pudding…mixed in with stories of…home.

War resumed the following day…and peace would not come about until November 1918…but that Christmas Day four years before left its mark. A British soldier wrote of that day saying….

“I wouldn’t have missed the experience of yesterday for the most gorgeous of Christmas dinner in England.”

I sincerely doubt God takes pleasure in our differences…where we disagree…. in places we don’t see eye to eye. When we divide, we take away from God’s original intent….being likeminded…not in the way we think…but in the way we love….when we model after HIM. We lose focus…on what it means to be united.

The best way I learned to deal with division is to turn the problem into an adding on instead of a taking away. What multiplied by 9 makes 27?….3 of course. It takes both numbers multiplied to make up the sum…together.

As we enter into the season of Advent I pray we take a page from history…and call a cease-fire to all our fighting.

I believe that God takes great joy in the growing that came from my children growing up and into their own lives.

He celebrated my strength that came through during my post-divorce years.

I see nowhere in the Bible that God is a Democrat or a Republican…He is more about along the party line of love…His Love. 

Sure God created vegetables and I don’t fault Him for that …I simply happy that He created fruit too…which is much more appealing to my palate.

I don’t think He sees me and my siblings entering into different houses of worship…He takes delight in the fact that we enter.

I may not be absolutely certain of much in my life…time and circumstances cause change…and we have to adapt or stand firm…..depending on what is best. One thing I do know for sure…no doubt at all…God is love…He created me in His image…so His intent is that I live out that love I inherited. Our common ground between the trenches…is the birth of our Savior…what better reason than that to say…enough. Amen.

Who are you fooling?

By: Amy Dalke

Do you think you're fooling God by your do-gooding? Or doesn't he see your motive? Come find the freedom to just be you...

I walked in the front door of my friend’s house to find her angrily mopping her floor (an activity with which I’m vaguely familiar myself).

As she yanked the mop back and forth, she groaned about the audacity of boys who don’t remove their baseball cleats on the front porch. And of course I heartily affirmed her frustrations as I thanked God that my own son knows better than to drag his mud-laced shoes across my sparkly clean floors. (Yeah, IN MY DREAMS, people.)

She collected the last stray parcel of dirt, only to notice sugar cookie crumbs had suddenly formed a trail down the hallway. Her face turned red as her 6 year old son strolled down the corridor with a baseball glove in one hand and leftover cookie crumbs in the other.

(It was unfortunate timing for him, to say the least.)

His mother gave him the look that says she already knows the answer, but still she asked, “Who dropped cookie crumbs all over the place?

With cookie icing caked across his cheeks and one last bite that he quickly moved towards his pocket, he looked boldly up at his mother and affirmed, “Not me!

I worked hard to keep laughter tucked inside my mouth, because-oh-my-word he totally just said that. And the confident grin on his face said he was convinced his mom was fooled.

Now, you might think this story leads to some kind of instruction on What To Do When Your Kid Tells a Lie.

Instead, let’s put ourselves in the shoes of that 6 year old.

I don’t know about you, but I can be a sucker for my own lies. 

I can pretend that my sin isn’t that big of a deal; and since I’ve got it under control, it won’t negatively impact others. If I tell myself this long enough, I even start to believe it’s true. It’s like the sin becomes so intertwined with my everyday life that I assume this sinful habit is just part of who I am.

Or, for example, I chalk up the chronic dissatisfaction of my body as “something we all deal with.” After all, the magazines at the cash register prove my issue is normal. Prevalent, even. (But am I really okay with the world’s normal?)

Maybe you tell yourself that just because you have a glass or 3 of wine with dinner doesn’t mean you have a problem. But your shaking hands and mental angst say otherwise.

We tell ourselves that the cherished sin in our heart isn’t consequential because we’re obviously on good terms with God. We go to church almost every Sunday, drop money in the offering plate when we have leftover change in our pocket, and we even do that Angel Tree thing every Christmas.

That’s great and all…but God isn’t fooled by our do-gooding.

You and I are hardly different from that 6 year old who claims he didn’t eat the cookie.

We can try our best to shove the crumbs in our pocket so others don’t see the extent of our mess, but in the end – what good does that do? The life we crave, the joy we so desperately want, is only found when we get gut-deep honest with ourselves and God…and have the courage to face our sin.

Rather, speaking the truth in love, we are to grow up in every way into him who is the head, into Christ, from whom the whole body, joined and held together by every joint with which it is equipped, when each part is working properly, makes the body grow so that it builds itself up in love. – Ephesians 4:15-16

When we allow God to change us from the inside out, we are free from a lifestyle of crumb management. We’ll still get messy for sure, but we’ll look in the mirror and deal with our dirty face instead of pretending we can hide it.

And I’m praying today that we will both have the courage to face that thing we hold onto…because our family, our neighbors, and this community will be blessed when we live headlong into the TRUTH of who we were made to be.

Are you trying to fool God today?

How is that impacting everyone around you? 

What would it look like to just be yourself with him?

How To Embrace Your Inner Lovely

2 Life Coaching Tips Help You Embrace Christ’s Love…

Your Inner Lovely

Thanks for being lovely

I have to admit these coaching tips are inspired by Moo. Not the cow. The online printing company. If God can use a talking donkey…he can use something called Moo! (See Numbers 22:21-35.)

This company included the card shown above in the box of business cards I ordered.

I think it is meant to be handed to someone along with a business card. But I’ll have to pass it on to you here instead. I liked the sentiment so much the card is now stuck to my bathroom mirror!

Now, whenever I pass by the mirror, my thoughts are immediately directed to the truth: ‘I am lovely.’

Words of Encouragement

God loves encouraging words…

Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable – if anything is excellent or praiseworthy – think about such things.

Phil. 4:8

This is what I get from the words of encouragement on this card.

a. You are lovely.

b. We appreciate your loveliness and thank you for being lovely.

c. Please share your lovely – pass it on!

Moo preached the gospel in just 7 words! Thanks for being lovely. Pass me on!

It’s a perfect reminder of the love of Jesus living inside of us. Jesus has made us lovely. This truth lives deeper than our reflection in the mirror. It is born of God’s grace, and gifted to you and me by the Holy Spirit.

How do we embrace our lovely? Here are two life coaching tips that may help.

Life Coaching Tips

#1: Take Time To Be Lavished In Love

Take a moment and think about the times you’ve used some really great soap or lotion and it feels thick and luxurious going on. This is what comes to mind when I linger on the word ‘lavish’…being drenched in richness.

In those times when you may feel inadequate or insignificant, take a stand against such lies and make time to intentionally reflect on the extravagant, lavish, drenching love of Christ.

Consider the kind of extravagant love the Father has lavished on us—He calls us children of God! It’s true; we are His beloved children.

1John 3:1 (The Voice)

Schedule some luxury into your day. Stop and be lavished by God’s extravagant love.

#2: Ask As You Pray

Paul lifts a prayer on behalf of the Ephesians in the book of Ephesians 3:14-19. He asks God that they would:

  1. Gain inner strength
  2. Invite Christ to live in them
  3. Be firmly planted in love
  4. Reach out with Christ’s love
  5. Experience the length, depth, and heights of his love
  6. Live a full life in the fullness of God

What more could they – or we – possibly desire?

Why not make this beautiful prayer of Paul’s yours? It might go something like this.

My response is to get down on my knees before you Father, the magnificent Father who parcels out all heaven and earth. I ask you to strengthen me by your Spirit – not brute strength but a glorious inner strength – that Christ will live in me as I open the door and invite him in.

And I ask you that with both feet planted firmly in love, I’ll be able to take in with all the followers of Jesus the extravagant dimensions of Christ’s love.

Reach out and experience the breadth!

Test it’s length!

Plumb the depths!

Rise to the heights!

Live a full life, full in the fullness of God.

If you find yourself feeling unlovely, intentionally ask and pray this scripture. It may seem a little selfish at first, but this is not a love rooted in pride. It is a love centered on Christ.

Go ahead. Embrace your inner lovely.

Then do as Moo suggests…pass it on!

Purpose Steps

  1. Make the above personalized scripture your prayer each day this week. Journal about any changes you experience in your feelings or attitude about yourself or situation.
  2. Put a word of encouragement or this Moo card on your mirror. What a great reminder to start your day!
  3. Pass your lovely on!

Purpose Prayer

Speak out loud the personalized scripture prayer above. (Ephesians 3:14-19)

Listen to Your HeartSong! (Click the link below)

Isn’t She Lovely/Stevie Wonder

Live the song written on your heart

* The heart on the card is not original to the Moo card.
** This is not an endorsement of Moo printing nor do I receive any payment for bragging on them. It’s simply my way of applauding the encouragement they desire to pass along.

Confessions Of A Recovering Perfectionist

Confessions of Perfectionist Instead Seek Me

By: Gail Armatys

I confess. I am ~ a recovering perfectionist.

It’s not that I think I’m perfect. Not by any stretch of the imagination. But, I have been known to strive for it. Perfection, that is.

Prefectionist Found Out

Somehow, it wasn’t until earlier this year that I finally realized I have been a perfectionist much of my life. This revelation surprised me. I uncharacteristically mentioned this trait to friends recently and one of the women nodded saying something like, ‘I knew that.’

I was shocked!

First, I couldn’t believe it was so apparent. Second, her statement was like an arrow that had pierced the armor this perfectionist hid her imperfections behind.

If you know anything about perfectionists, we think we run a pretty tight ship and strive to be put together and cinched up. The fact that this characteristic was apparent hit me like a wild pitch in a baseball game.

I was totally unprepared, left slightly bruised…and ultimately appreciative.

Jesus Desires Perfection…Really?

When Jesus taught the ‘Beautitudes’ he said we were to ‘be perfect’ immediately after speaking specifically about loving our enemies.

Therefore, be perfect. Just as your Father in heaven is prefect.

Matthew 5:48

Most of us would probably agree, pulling off love for our enemies might take more perfect than we’ve got…it takes Jesus’ merciful perfection in us.

That being said, the Greek translation of ‘perfect’ here means completeness, growth. An appropriate definition offered might be this.

Be that which God has designed you to be.

Sweet words to a recovering perfectionist and career encourager ~ and to you who join me in your perfectionist armor!

Be who God designed you to be! Be perfectly you!

True Story

Just before I began writing this blog with ‘perfectionism’ as a possible topic, I thumbed through my journal.  The one I write scripture verses, prayers, and Holy Spirit inspiration in during my early morning time with God. This was what I found written on January, 2015:

“Instead of seeking perfection in this fallen world,

pour your energy into seeking me.”

Clearly, God intended to peel back yet another perfectionist layer by leading me to I write this blog.

My prayer for you who wear your armored-up perfectionist wardrobe is that you would seek God in your moments, in your circumstances, and in your days so that you may be all God designed you to be.

Purpose Prayer

Merciful God, thank you for opening my eyes to your definition of perfection. Forgive me for armoring-up instead of seeking more of you to pour into me. Help me strive only to be that which you have designed me to be. In Jesus’ name, Amen.

Purpose Step

Write down one step you can take this week to reveal yourself ~ the true you to others. Be brave. Do it!

Listen to Your HeartSong!

Flawless/Mercy Me

What To Do When Insecurity Calls

By: Amy Dalke

Insecurity can be beaten you know. And I've got 6 ways you can do it.

I know a little bit about insecurity.

Actually, that’s an understatement because if there was such thing as an Insecurity Expert, I’ve basically earned a Ph.D. or something.

The good news for you is, I’m real-life proof that just because you live steeped in insecurity today, does not mean you’re doomed to that life forever. Ideally I could tell you that my own path from insecurity to freedom was instantaneous.

But it wasn’t.

In fact, it’s been an ongoing growth process where those “less than” feelings have been shed layer by layer.

Maybe you don’t have a clue what I’m talking about, and that’s fantastic. However I have a sneaking suspicion that you are intimately aware of this life-stealing issue. If insecurity is your standard MO, then the following experiences may be familiar:

–Insecurity walks into a room, and a familiar wave of “not belonging” begins to fill up your gut.

–Insecurity reminds you that you don’t fit there.

Insecurity convinces you that every eye is on you, deftly picking apart all your inadequate pieces.

–Insecurity whispers that you’re wrong in all the right places, like an uncomfortable waistband that squeezes around your center. (Insecurities about the central region are the real deal, mind you.) (Which is why Spanx generates billion dollars in revenue.)

Insecurity reads between the lines of every word spoken, and hyper-focuses on how others interact with you (their tone of voice, body language, etc.). You’ll use this info later in your obsessive mental replay.

–Insecurity takes the words of others and twists them to confirm that you are wrong, good for nothing, and “less than” everyone around you.

–Insecurity tells you that you shouldn’t get involved at church since you probably don’t have anything special to offer. They seem to have it handled anyway.

–Insecurity keeps you from applying for that job you feel like you were made for…because surely someone more qualified will get the offer.

When you carry insecurity in your heart, you carry insecurity with you into every room, every situation. Is this really how Jesus people are meant to live? Didn’t Jesus say that we’re worth a whole lot? Didn’t he prove we’re worth a lot more than human opinions when he died for us? I mean, that’s kind of a big deal.

So how do we live like that’s really true?

You can’t fix insecurity with a pill, essential oils, or shopping. Not that I know anything about that. (Actually, I know far too much about it.)

Victory over insecurity requires that you have some face time with God. Because God’s view of you is reality. But if you don’t know what He says…then how can you live out the truth?

(1) Rather than nurse your irrational feelings in the face of insecurity, lean into Jesus and ask him to show you what truth looks like in your current situation.

Your freedom is inexplicably tied to knowing the TRUTH, according to John 8:32. And I’ve learned the hard way that feelings are not fantastic truth-tellers. Here’s a handful of truth to keep in your back pocket:

  • You are loved and accepted by the One who matters most. (Ephesians 1:5-7, Ephesians 2:4-5).
  • God gives you strength and dignity (Proverbs 31:25), therefore you are valuable and worthy of respect.
  • You are God’s work of art. (Ephesians 2:10) (This is more than a Christian-y motto: it’s WHO YOU ARE.)

Insecurity doesn't have to your thing. Here's 6 real-life, proven, practical ways to beat it.

2) Go ahead and channel REO Speedwagon. Because you really can’t fight these feelings anymore in your own strength.

So stop trying. (I mean, hello, that hasn’t exactly worked out so well…)

When the self-obsessed drivel works up a chatter for your attention, ask God what it’s all about. He can shine light on the real source and help you deal with it in truth.

(3) Think “Drop It Like It’s Hot” when perceived slights creep into your insecurity loop. Don’t even give those thoughts a chance to make one full spin around the mental track. Because over-analysis is sort of what got you here in the first place.

It all sounds pretty easy tucked into neat bullet points, but this is one of the hardest battles I’ve ever faced. Time and time again we need to stick our nose in scripture and beg God to give us His perspective so that we don’t just fold up into our own shaky self esteem.

But watch out, world. Because when we apply God’s truth to our insecurity, we will be unstoppable. And friend, that’s exactly what God wants for you.

Will you believe it or not?


p.s. Quick before you go! Here’s proof that freedom is possible for you:

Exhibit A: Referencing REO Speedwagon does not fall into any kind of hip category. (I own my nerd-ness.)

Exhibit B: Drop It Like It’s Hot. I don’t even know, y’all. I’m blaming it on hormones or Jesus. Because seriously.

Will You Choose To Surrender?

The Truly You Purpose Project

The Truly You Purpose Project God Knows and Loves You Anyway

Truth Tip #4

Surrender to Your Purpose

This is week 4, Truth Tip #4, of the Truly You Purpose Project. We’ve been learning how to live who we truly are by understanding our inherent and sacred worth, accepting God loves us anyway, and remembering God has a plan for each of our lives. This week we end our project with Surrender to Your Purpose.

I appointed you as a prophet to the nations.

Jeremiah 1:5

Your Assignment…Should You Choose To Accept It

You have been appointed, ordained by God for a special work, called to a certain mission. And, you are in good company.

Jeremiah was appointed to be a prophet to the nations, Mary was pre-ordained to bear the Savior of the world, the woman at the well was intended to tell others what Jesus said and did for her, Philip was to teach the Ethiopian eunuch, Mother Theresa was assigned to serve the poor, sick, and dying. Jesus came to save the world.

Everyone who breathes, high and low, educated and ignorant, young and old, man and woman, has a mission, has a work. We are not sent into this world for nothing; we are not born at random; we are not here, that we may go to bed at night, and get up in the morning, toil for our bread, eat and drink, laugh and joke, sin when we have a mind, and reform when we are tired of sinning, rear a family and die. God sees every one of us; He creates every soul, . . . for a purpose.

Cardinal John Henry Newman

Surrender to willing obedience

Like those whose names and stories fill the pages of your bible, you have been given an assignment. You may never be written about, sung about, or quoted but your willing surrender to your mission makes a difference in the lives of others where you are today and those who follow in years to come.  None of us have gone untouched by those who displayed willing obedience to God’s calling.

Exposed and Surrendered

In the New Testament Greek, the word purpose most often means intentional, to set forth, be exposed before God. In another word…surrendered. Yikes! Full exposure! Could this mean that we must willingly and intentionally expose ourselves, our sin, pride, and plans at the foot of the cross in order to live fully our purpose?

Jesus submitted himself to God’s will as a boy in the temple and as he walked out his ministry as an adult. It’s exactly what he did in the Garden of Gethsemane, too. He surrendered his human desire to take a pass on the degradation and pain of the cross in order to fully expose sin and accomplish the purpose for which God sent him…in exchange for the glory before him.

Surrender to Your Purpose

For us, there is another option…

When it comes down to it, we may not really want to know the purpose God has in mind for us. Or we may be afraid of what God’s purpose will require of us.

Dr. Katie Brazelton

My hope is that you choose to know God’s appointed purpose and joy for your life. Like Jesus, you must surrender your will…a moment by moment process for us.

And although God’s plan probably doesn’t require you to die physically ~ brutally ~ in order to know and fulfill your purpose, you surely must die to yourself. When you do, yes, you will be exposed. But you will also live as you were meant to…truly you.

Purpose Step

What will you surrender today to help expose yourself to God’s purpose for your life?

Purpose Prayer

Lord, thank you for appointing a unique purpose for my life. Help me to boldly and humbly desire and accept your will for my life surrendering myself completely to you. In Jesus’ name, Amen.

Listen To Your HeartSong (Click the link below.)

Surrender/Lincoln Brewster