I Have A Choice

https-amensistablog.wordpress.com (1)

My pastor’s sermon this past Sunday was centered on living life joyously.  A well-planned and appropriate topic as we enter into our holiday months which features thanksgiving, joy, peace, and love.  Normally I am right there with his sentiment, but I am falling short this time.

Generally, I am the glass is half full kind of gal.  I always look for the positive in any circumstance.  But recently, I feel like the cheerleader in me is sitting on the sidelines with a big pouty face, and no rah-rah left in her.  So starts the pity party.

I know, first world problems, right?

I am truly blessed.  I have a beautiful family, my health, a roof over my head, clothes on my back, and food in my belly (maybe a little too much).  So what is wrong with me?

I need a little perspective adjustment and to CHOOSE my attitude.  It is all about choices for me.

When I am melancholy (and we all experience it at one time or another) I have to face the fact I am not in a right state of mind and need to focus on finding my way back to appreciating my blessed life.  How do I do this?

PRAY-I don’t always feel like doing this, but it is a must.  It helps me re-center, recognize and find my joy.  I am able to lay down my blues and woes to Jesus and leave them at His feet.  I can release the sadness and worries and lighten my load.  It may not be overnight, but I eventually fill up with His truth and am reminded I am adored.

READ-Another choice I make is to read the bible.  It is full of stories of how others who have experienced similar circumstances chose God and walked with Him, regardless of the outcome.  Life is not perfect and the bible is full of examples of poor choices, forgiveness, redemption, and fulfillment.  God’s mercy and grace gives me the ability to acknowledge I have a pretty awesome life and should be thankful and humble about my reality.

ACT-A third choice for me is helping others in need.  Volunteering is a way for me to provide compassion and concern for another person and demonstrate God’s love for all of His people.  When I can feed the homeless, take supplies to hurricane victims, and pray for the sick and grief-stricken, I am reminded how wonderful is my situation and how I need to give back to the less fortunate.

Bottom line is I have a choice in my perspective and attitude and know what I need to do to keep myself positive and uplifted.  Guess what?  I am feeling more positive now after reminding myself of what I need to do in order for my desired outcome.  If you find yourself sometimes feeling the same way, give it over to God and see what He can do for you.  I would love to hear any suggestions which help you change a downer day into a grandiose celebration.  Please leave a comment below.  Blessings!

“Never be lacking in zeal, but keep your spiritual fervor, serving the Lord.  Be joyful in hope, patient in affliction, faithful in prayer”. Romans 12:11-12

 

*The Holy Bible, New International Version Copyright 1973, 1978, 1984 by International Bible Society

Advertisements

I know Who To Blame

I Know Who Is To Blame (2)

“But now, Lord, what do I look for?  My hope is in you.”-Psalm 40:7*

For the past few days, I have been rendered speechless, profoundly saddened, and intensely angered.  The almost daily displays of murderous and heinous acts continue to take center stage in our world and beg us to question our policies on gun control, mental illness, freedom of speech, and religion.  But there are not any profound answers.

I have one; it is evil and I know who to blame.

As a Christian, I believe in my God who stands for righteousness, grace, mercy, and love.  There is opposition to Him and has been for a long time.  The antithesis represents disdain, ugliness, mercilessness, and hate for humanity.

I am calling him out.  Satan is to blame.

Our leaders, law enforcement, and media try to find the answers and bring clarity to the senseless and brutal murders of innocent people. For me, I already have the answer.  And sadly it will continue until Jesus comes to claim His victory.

But I have hope.  Because I believe my God will win it all and destroy Satan forever (Revelations 20:7-10*).

So the big question for me is how to currently live in these circumstances?

Faith-I firmly believe in God, the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit.  I believe that Jesus Christ died for my sins and is my Lord and Savior.  I believe He has a purpose for me and I am to listen, learn, and obey.  I am to live out my beliefs, humbly and unashamed.  I believe He is the judge of mankind and I am to love all as He loves me.

Prayer-I believe in the power of prayer.  I pray in good and bad situations.  Sometimes my prayers are obviously answered, and sometimes not.  I believe God is in control and knows much more about the overall puzzle of life than I could ever comprehend.  It is not my will, but His.

Honor-I believe in honoring my God.  He created all of us uniquely and in His image.  Because of this, I will respect those who do not look like me, believe like me, talks like me, or thinks like me.  I believe we can co-exist and agree to disagree, without malice or spite.  Even those who break the laws or commit unspeakable acts towards others, they need to be held accountable for their actions and forgiven.

Hope-My hope is in Jesus.  He will come back one day and claim this world as His and there will be no more room for evil.  Sin, illness, death, and destruction will no longer be a part of our daily lives.  He will have claimed His believers forever.

This is where I need to focus.  I ask for a little grace as I cry and vent in processing such horrific acts of evil.

I know who to blame. And I believe in God’s promise.

Tomorrow is a new day where I will put my faith in action and ask God to show me the good in humankind. I have hope for the future.

*The Holy Bible, New International Version Copyright 1973, 1978, 1984 by International Bible Society

 

Start By Walking

Start By Walking

“In everything I did, I showed you that by this kind of hard work we must help the weak, remembering the words the Lord Jesus himself said; ‘It is more blessed to give than to receive.’”-Acts 20:35*

We sat around the table and discussed our options.  We had gift cards, cleaning supplies, water, and snacks to give to those who were impacted by Hurricane Harvey.  We needed to find a place where thirteen people, including children from age’s two to nine, could safely make a difference.  We selected LaGrange, Texas which is a short distance from my mom’s in Brenham, Texas.

Why LaGrange? It is over a hundred miles inland from the Gulf of Mexico and was not a direct hit in the hurricane’s path.  This is why Harvey was such a catastrophic event.  From where it made initial landfall at Rockport, Texas the flooding and wind damage ravaged the coast, almost three hundred miles, all the way to Beaumont and as far inland as LaGrange.  Record amounts of rainfall, up to thirty inches, raised river levels to all-time highs and became the secondary disaster to the actual hurricane.  LaGrange sits alongside the Colorado River, which came out of its banks ten to twelve feet.  This little town of 4600 saw many of its community members lose everything.

We packed up and headed out on a Sunday morning in three vehicles.  As we drove the back roads, life appeared to proceed at a normal pace.  We pulled in LaGrange and found a volunteer station off the main street.  We divided up and some family took the donated items to a church, while the rest of us decided to go to a trailer park. As we turned the corner, I felt sickened as to what waited for us.  We slowly evacuated the sanctuary of our comfy cars and stood in front of mangled metal, wood, furniture, clothing, and the emptiness of bare slabs where mobile homes once stood.  For a brief moment I stood completely overwhelmed, how could we help with cold drinks and snacks?  “Start by walking” whispered in my ear.  And we did.

We met Patty, who stood in front of a concrete slab. Tears rolling down her face as she mumbled to herself.  Her entire trailer had been swept fifty yards away into a ravine.  For the past week, she had been sleeping in her car with what few items she saved.  She was waiting for her son whom she would move in with and formulate a plan for her future. We were able to give her some gift cards, a couple of starter kits for a kitchen and bathroom created by a dear friend who had survived Hurricane Katrina, some hugs, and prayers.

I could see how this mission trip registered with my family’s spirit in what they had witnessed and their determination to do more to lend a hand.  We drove to another neighborhood which came to close proximity to the Colorado River.  We parked and walked around from house to house offering gift cards, cold drinks, and snacks.  My granddaughter and nieces walked up to strangers and offered them a cold beverage.  This experience taught a valuable lesson for the girls to witness such loss and offer compassion to people in need.

The human spirit and fortitude radiated in this community.  Makeshift dining tables were set up in front yards, under trees for shade, and the families were taking a break and eating together.  Talking, laughing, and resting to fuel up and face their problems head-on.  A gentle reminder that material possessions can be replaced; people and relationships can’t.

Our last stop was the church where some of us had taken donations earlier.  We offered to stock up their coolers with cold drinks for the volunteers who were assisting at ground zero.  A twinge of guilt hit me as I would head back to an air-conditioned home with no worries about storm damage.  How many people in how many towns, cities, and suburbs, were doing the same cleanup efforts as this little town?

I admired their determination to dig out of the destruction and chaos and start over.  I saw resilience and I sensed hope.

Later we reflected and shared our experiences with one another.  We were reminded our family is extremely blessed for what we have and our ability to come together to help others in need.  We were able to demonstrate a valuable lesson to the younger family members on how to put aside our wants and desires to serve others.

This year has been highly active with natural disasters and there is still an opportunity to help others who have been affected by hurricanes, storms, and fires in the United States.  Please continue to pray for the families who face loss and ask God what can you do to bless others.

*The Holy Bible, New International Version Copyright 1973, 1978, 1984 by International Bible Society

A Mission Trip In My Own Backyard

A Mission Trip

“I tell you the truth, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for Me.”  Matthew 25:40*

“Lord, keep my family and me safe as we head to Texas” is the whisper I exhaled deeply as we embarked on a longer than normal road trip to my mother’s house in Brenham, Texas.  We rolled out in the early morning hours of Labor Day weekend and I was driving a truck, pulling a U-Haul trailer, my son following me in another car, and our usual route was flooded due to Hurricane Harvey.  We were driving into the aftermath of this terrible storm.

I had already planned a long weekend trip to my mom’s and rented a U-Haul to move some bunk beds down to her property.  Then Harvey made an unwelcomed visit to Houston.  I watched my Facebook feed fill up with friends flooding, evacuating, and losing everything.  My heart broke for so many and I had to do something.  My mom was safe in Brenham, no flooding or storm damage, but the normal route to my mom’s flooded between Lake Charles and Beaumont on a major highway.  I had to find a way there and assist.

I did not live in Louisiana in 2005 during Katrina but let me tell you, the people of this state are survivors and know a thing or two about hurricane preparedness and clean up.  I put a note out on Facebook to my local community and told them I planned to drive to Houston and would be willing to take basic cleaning supplies, toiletries, diapers, wipes, water, and gift cards if they were willing to donate.

I had the room on the trailer.

The local peeps had the compassion to act.  WOW, did they deliver.

It started with a few friends bringing over items.  Next, some small businesses received donations at their locations.  At the end of the week, our garage overflowed with tangible items for the physical needs but even more, was the presence of hope and love.  One person told me “Texans were so helpful during Katrina; it is my turn to give back”.  Another friend said, “I know the overwhelming feeling of where to start, and when someone showed up with a cold drink and some cleaning supplies, I knew I was going to be okay.” My mission was to deliver both the physical donations and the emotional support from Louisiana to Texas.  Lofty goals, but my God was able and would make my way.

It took about seven and half hours to get to our first stop in Spring, Texas.  This is where I grew up and I knew of friends and their families in this area who were affected.  I decided to go the Spring Baptist Church, designated as a donation point, and unload at least half of what I had brought.  I knew they were equipped to get the items to those who needed it the most.   The volunteers were so appreciative and they promised the generous gift from Louisiana would be used for the many in need.

Next, I headed to a friend’s parents’ house where they had taken on about six feet of water.  I pulled into the neighborhood and I held my breath.  The traffic alone stood at a standstill as you could only drive in one way.  So many people were pitching in to help those who had been flooded and hardly any place to park.  Picture where house after house people were throwing out their material lives to the curb; furniture, carpet, and appliances while others sobbed and took pictures for documentation.  I found my friend and when I got out of the car, I was overwhelmed.

Tears rolled down my face as I processed the chaos around me. The devastation, the smell, the loss.

After I gathered my composure, I delivered personal packages from her family back in Mandeville, gave them some water, and gift cards.  I had another friend meet me in the neighborhood to give her some gift cards to be shared with a family who had lost everything.

In the midst of this devastated neighborhood, I witnessed love, compassion, and hope.  There were so many volunteers assisting the families in need, handing out cold drinks and snacks, giving hugs, and being the hands and feet of Jesus.  As sad as I was for their loss, it was a reminder of what truly matters in a catastrophic event; the connection between people.  In this moment I was reassured of the goodness in others and how it triumphs over any horrific event which robs us of our stability and comfort.  This was a mission trip in my old stomping grounds where people from a neighboring state showed love, compassion, and hope in simple acts of kindness.

As we got back in our vehicles and headed to Brenham, I started to think what else can we do?  Some of my family traveled to Brenham from the Dallas/Ft. Worth area for the weekend and I still had items in my trailer to dispense.  We had a family meeting later in the evening and developed our plan for the next day.  We were heading to LaGrange, Texas……..

Stay tuned for the second half of our missions trip when we headed into more devastation from Harvey’s fallout.

*The Holy Bible, New International Version Copyright 1973, 1978, 1984 by International Bible Society

A Definitive Moment

A Definitive Moment

“Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways acknowledge Him, and He will make your paths straight.”-Proverbs 3:5-6*

We were on the road by 7:45 am to make the four and half hour trip.  Excitement, nervousness, and an unknown reality filled the car.  My youngest and I were taking a road trip for his first college campus visit.  I was giddy.

My son, Braeden, is a junior in high school and has known exactly what he wants to be when he grows up since the seventh grade.  An architect.  Oh, I admire his decisiveness in knowing where to head in his future.  I did not have the forethought when I was his age.  All I knew was everyone else was going to college, so I guess I should too.  My primary goal was to meet the man of my dreams, get married, and raise a family.  I know, lofty goals, but it was my reality.

Braeden asked me questions about what to expect on a campus visit.  I told him to have some questions in mind to ask, listen to what is presented to him, and take in the surroundings of where he could possibly live for the next four years (five years if he follows the path of bachelor/masters in architectural design).

We arrived in Ruston, Louisiana about an hour early before the scheduled tour.  We walked into the Admissions hall and were greeted by some friendly students who checked us in.  They gave Braeden a welcome bag with all kinds of freebies and told us since we had some time, to walk over to the student center and have some lunch.  So, began our journey.

I have always described Braeden as an old soul.  In so many ways he thinks like an adult, can self-entertain, and looks forward to the goals he has set for himself.  We started walking on the campus and he seemed so natural in the setting.  I could visualize him as a student on this campus.  It was exciting, terrifying, and weepy all in one big breath.  I knew he was ALMOST ready for the next step in life.

We ate lunch and walked around before heading back for our tour.   Our guide was awesome and took us around the campus pointing out various places where classes were held, reciting the traditions on this campus, and sharing his experiences as a student at the university.  I could see Braeden was interested but not sure what he should ask.  I was the one who kept a conversation going with the guide as no one else was speaking up!

Taking the tour flooded me with memories as a freshman at college.  I was clueless as to what to expect when I arrived my first fall semester; not visiting the campus prior to showing up to move in.  I do remember the freedom to come and go as I please, becoming disciplined in achieving good grades without being told and meeting my future husband, Braeden’s dad.  Walking around this particular campus brought back the sweet memories of being young and carefree.

After the campus tour, we had a presentation of the different living choices and met with the admissions personnel.  The last part of the day was for Braeden to meet with a representative from the architectural program and ask questions relative to the curriculum.  We met with the assistant professor of the program and initially I was not impressed.  He was shy and mumbled to himself as we did introductions.  He handed us some paperwork which explained the bachelor’s and master’s program and asked us to follow him.  He took us in a gallery and he stated this was the best way to visually see what Braeden could expect of the program.  As we walked into the gallery, the professor’s demeanor changed and he became quite animated as he showed us projects, designs, plans, budgets, and proposals for each year of the program.  I turned to Braeden and his face had changed as well.  For over half an hour, the two of them engaged in questions, answers, explanations, and experiences.  At one point I could see how much they had in common.  Braeden was in his element, he knew it, and I witnessed it.

What a definitive moment.

After leaving the college and heading back home, Braeden and I reminisced about the day as he made a list of positive and negatives about the experience (there were multiple positives and only one negative).  It was in this moment I knew Braeden would be ready for the transition from high school to college, from teenager to manhood, and from dependence to responsibility.  This was such a grown-up moment for him and me, and I loved every minute of it.  No regrets, but excitement for his future.

This school set a high bar for a great campus visit, and we will be attending a few more before he graduates.  It comforts my heart to know he is pursuing his passion and learning what it will take to achieve his goals.  This mama is going to enjoy the journey of my youngest child who will in a couple of years make us officially empty nesters.   Who would have thought a simple road trip would result in a beautiful blessing for the two of us?

*The Holy Bible, New International Version Copyright 1973, 1978, 1984 by International Bible Society

Make A Connection

Make A Connection

“May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace as you trust in Him, so that you may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit.”-Romans 15:13*

I know it has been a while since I have written, but it is okay.  A break now and then can only help one recharge, renew, and regroup.  I needed all three!  Thank you for those who have missed my writing and reached out to me, I feel so loved!  And you know what?  I needed the connection.

One thing I have noticed in my time away is how important it is to connect with people.  Not in social media, texting, or the internet, but to look someone in the eye and offer or receive hope in the moment we connect.  It is what I crave for anymore.

Hope.

Over the past several months there have been horrific acts of violence, terrible tragedies, and destructive weather episodes.  It is so easy for me to be sucked into the doom and gloom of current events and I realize I don’t want to do this.  I want to find the good, the blessings, and the genuine.

I will choose to seek out hope.  tweet-graphic-4

The first step is to look for a human connection.  Whether it is going into ground zero after a hurricane, meeting new people at church, visiting with family, or feeding the homeless, I choose to look someone in the eye and be available.  Let them know they are the center of my attention and focus on their needs.

Second is to listen.  Listening to someone without formulating a response, resolution, or opinion is a huge challenge for me.  The only way I can get better is to practice, which means I need to have face to face interaction with others.  One thing I have been working on is focusing on keywords which are being discussed and to mention the specific words back to the person.  It helps me retain what is the need and to let the other person know I heard them.

Lastly, I need to follow up and pray for them.  Sometimes the situation may be a one-time connection but I can still pray for the person.  If I am able to continue talking to them, this is where the good stuff starts happening.

We build a relationship.

Not only do we connect but continuous interaction enables me and others to build a rapport with one another and this is where I find hope in humanity.

One connection at a time.

I believe we are created this way, to crave human interaction, to seek networking with one another, and to build alliances.  I believe the only way I will find hope is to trust in God and learn from His people.

Everyone.

Whether they believe in my same God or not, I am not to judge, but tasked with making the connection.

I am going to explore ways of capturing hope in our civilization and sharing the experiences with you through my blog.  I am choosing to focus on the positive, the good news, and the optimism which surrounds me each and every day.  No matter how big or small.  My desire is for you to join me in recognizing and celebrating the daily connections we make with one another and be reminded there is hope.  Blessings on a beautiful week!

*The Holy Bible, New International Version Copyright 1973, 1978, 1984 by International Bible Society

Word Nerd Wednesday

Theology

I am so blessed to write over at my friend’s site, My Messy Desk by Liz Giertz.  She has sponsored #WordNerdWednesday where we sign up and accept the challenge to define a word, dig deep into the Word, and bring it to life through definition and scripture.  I chose the word “Theology” which really stretched me in my writing.  It was not about my experience or knowledge, but how I leaned into God and truly discovered what He wanted me to share.  Please check out my friend’s blog Word Nerd Wednesday.  Blessings!