Saturday, March 28, 2020

LET’S CHANGE THE ATMOSPHERE!

Hello friends. 
I know it’s crazy and scary right now. There is enough news coverage on all platforms on the COVID crisis that you could saturate yourself with it all day long. News is good and it’s important to be informed, but this new daily habit can be dangerous and toxic for your soul. This kind of atmosphere can fill our hearts and homes with anxiousness, fear, and worry… emptying it of all HOPE. I want to challenge you during this season to purposely do things to change the atmosphere in your homes for good. 

Unfortunately, at this time we may not be able to change our circumstances, but one thing we CAN do is change our attitude.

Our attitude affects our atmosphere!


We can walk in an attitude of thankfulness for what we do have, thankful for what we can do, thankful for those serving selflessly to keep us safe, and thankful for those we have close to us to share in it all… or we could fill our minds and hearts with negativity, anxiousness, anxiety, fear, doom, and gloom. 

One attitude brings PEACE, while the other leads to hopelessness and despair.


Let’s focus during this season on being people that “CHANGE THE ATMOSPHERE”!

There are people around you in your circle of influence that NEED you! They need you to speak HOPE, they need you to be agents of PEACE, and they need you to show them Jesus in how you respond and walk through these unprecedented times. Jesus brings peace to the storms of life. I know this first hand. If you don’t have a personal relationship with Him right now, I encourage you to seek Him. His personal presence in our lives changes the atmosphere of our hearts and minds!

Take time to seek God FIRST before you check the new reports or get all the updates. Read the Bible and spend time feeding your spirit. Spend time talking to God for you and others. Crank up the worship music and soak in His presence. Then... start your day with a new attitude that can change the atmosphere around you. Watch out, it's contagious!

Will you consider joining me on my “SMILE PROJECT” journey? Will you make an intentional effort to lighten the mood and create a pause in the crazy of these days to restore smiles, giggles, and memory making moments for those close to you.

Check out my latest attempt below (which was a HUGE success) ….

I started yesterday with “Christmas in March”. I decorated the house, played Christmas music, and woke some of them up with “Merry Christmas”. LOL. They were SO confused. There were lots of smiles, giggles, “You’re crazy mom’s”, and singing. It was fun!

We ended the day with a GAME NIGHT competition to see who gets to pick the family movie we watch tonight. We played RISK… a game I haven’t played in 10+ years. Guess who won? You guessed it, ME! Yay! I could have really made the boys suffer the loss with a girly chick flick choice, but instead we are watching Jumanji 2.    You can do this friends! “Take a moment to create a pause in the crazy to bring a smile to someone else’s face today.”

Do you have any creative ideas? Don’t be shy, please share. The mission, if you choose to accept it, is to restore the smiles and giggles of those around you. The repercussions could be life changing and life giving moments. Will you accept?

Living to leave a legacy,
Julie
CREATE A PAUSE IN THE CRAZY TO BRING A 
SMILE TO SOMEONE ELSE’S FACE TODAY!                                       

Friday, February 7, 2020

Can we PLEASE begin again?

Can we please begin again?  I NEED a do-over! Have you ever been there before, friend?  Maybe you are there now? Was last year a wash for you? Are you a little anxious about this new year?  Are you hopeful for a new beginning, a fresh start, or maybe a new page to be written in the story of your life?  I don’t know about you, but I am!!! 

Last year didn’t go as I had expected!  It started out well, but… life can get in the way of our best intentions.  I had goals I was processing, plans I was making, and things I was hoping to do.   I was laser focused on being intentional, purposeful, and so forth. My “WORD” for the year was RELENTLESS.  Word… What word?  Some of you may be a little confused.  Some people like to choose a word to focus on for the year to keep them moving forward toward their goals.  RELENTLESS was mine. “Relentless” can be described as this…

never ceasing, persistent, continual, unrelenting,
determined, unyielding, unstoppable, stubborn, and incessant.  

Yep, I guess now that I think about it,  that could describe my last year. No matter how many times I felt knocked down, I kept getting back up.  I kept moving forward. At times, I moved slowly, but FORWARD is the only direction I purposed to go. Why? Why did I not allow the seemingly challenging times I faced to paralyze me or turn me around in a different direction?  I believe it was God’s fault. I didn’t know any other direction to go.

When I look back across my life I see God’s fingerprints all over it.  He led me, guided me, comforted me, and encouraged me all along my journey with Him and continues to do so today.  I was never alone. Since the day I invited Him to become a part of my story, things changed and definitely for the better!  He wrapped me in His love and filled my life with HOPE. He gave me purpose, direction, and a reason to look hopeful toward my future no matter how bleak it seemed to others.


When we surrender our lives to God, He doesn’t promise us a life filled with rainbows and lollipops. 

Everything won’t be perfect from that moment forward (Even though I wish it would!).  His promise is that we will never be alone.  We won’t have to do life alone! He will be there to walk through the ups and downs of life with us. He will carry us when we don’t have the strength to push forward, hold our hand when we feel anxious, and pull us close when we are afraid. God has never abandoned me! He has ALWAYS been there for me in good times and bad.

Last year was disappointing for me personally.  Many things contributed to this...
I had ongoing health issues… I struggled with side effects from medication, I found out that I had bone spurs in both heels (which caused excruciating pain as I walked), and I got a concussion from slipping on water on my living room floor (causing migraines, light and noise sensitivity, trouble processing things, sleep issues, and so forth).  The concussion caused many limitations for me. I had to wear sunglasses all the time (inside and outside), I couldn’t be around noisy places or it made me feel nauseous (Going to Walmart was off limits… too bright and noisy for me. LOL), and I couldn’t sit in church during the sermon time, read, study, or watch any movies with any type of suspense in them. Basically anything I had to sit and think about or process triggered severe headaches. Needless to say, my time on my phone and computer was very limited too.

It was a very challenging season for sure! If that wasn’t enough, I had low iron issues which required minor surgery (lady stuff… TMI. Believe me, you don't want to know. LOL). Afterwards, as I was attempting to recover, I acquired a series of infections that lingered longer than normal.  Over the course of my year, I had meltdowns, emotional challenges, and frustrating moments. I was spent. My family was beyond supportive and encouraging during everything, but sometimes that isn’t enough. 

When life isn’t going the way we hope and it feels like everything is crashing down all around us, which way do we go? WHO do we turn to for comfort and support?

One thing I have learned along my journey is that even when my life feels very out of control, God has things under control.  He is there. I'm not alone.

When I don’t understand and things don’t make sense. I trust HIM! When I can’t see an end in sight to relieve my pain, discomfort, or emotional heartache, I trust HIM

I keep moving FORWARD toward Him. My pace may be slower or different (depending on the season or difficult time), but my destination is crystal clear to me. I'm moving FORWARD! I want to do my best to move closer to my greatest source of strength… My Savior!  


To say in the midst of all of this that I don’t struggle is an understatement.  I most definitely struggle. I just choose to struggle differently. I struggle through.  I push forward to the other side of my difficulty keeping my laser focus FORWARD on what God has ahead for me.   I do what I can at the time to stay connected to Him.  If I can’t go to church, I try to watch a service online or listen to sermons on my phone.  If I can’t read the Bible, I listen to it. If I can’t pray the way I want, I listen to worship music and soak in the songs of prayer being lavished on God.  

The point is this... don’t allow your struggle to become an excuse to walk away from God.   I heard a quote years ago that still resonates with me today...

“When you wonder where God is or why you can't hear His voice in the midst of your trials or difficulties remember this... The teacher is always quiet during the test.”


This is SO true!  Everything has always become more clear for me on the other side of my struggle.  Even though my year was not a stellar year in my eyes, God was there.  He met me in my moments of frustration (feeling helpless to fix things), He filled my heart with peace as I faced the next challenge ahead of me, and consumed me with His presence as I put one foot in front of the other attempting to move closer to Him (despite my obstacles).  As I walked in surrender (trusting Him with the outcome of my current frustration), He used each struggle or challenge I faced as an opportunity to open doors to expose His love to others.

2 Corinthians 12:9-10 says this...

“My grace is enough for you. When you are weak, my power is made perfect in you. So I am very happy to brag about my weaknesses. Then Christ’s power can live in me. For this reason I am happy when I have weaknesses, insults, hard times, sufferings, and all kinds of troubles for Christ. Because when I am weak, then I am truly strong.”

I have found that God is magnified MOST through me, when I surrender my struggles to Him.  In my weakest (surrendered moments), people see God MORE clearly through my life and are drawn to Him.  It’s not easy, but in the end God leverages all of our seemingly horrible moments in life for good. Nothing is wasted with God!

Are you struggling today as you look back over the past year?  Was it a year full of regrets and frustration over what could have been?  Let’s begin again, friend! Let’s look hopeful toward a new year full of possibilities.  I don’t know about you, but I need a fresh start!

Living to leave a legacy,
Julie

Saturday, April 27, 2019

My Scars Tell A Story


We all have a story to tell.  You know… you were born and then what?  What’s YOUR story?  Did you know that every story is different?  Not one is like another.  Each story is sprinkled with a mixture of good and bad times spanning the course of our lifetime.  I bet if I took a survey today I would find one thing that each of our stories has in common.  


I’m sure we have all experienced pain in one way or another in our lives... whether it was in our past or currently in the present.  It’s a part of our story.

Did you know that God wants to redeem every part of our story?
(Past, Present, and Future)

 Let me explain.  No matter what season we are facing in our faith walk, God wants us to continue to surrender our lives to Him...  when it’s easy and “in the midst of” the struggle!

There WILL be struggles!  If you haven’t faced them yet, you will!  I’m sorry to surprise you.  When they come, what will we do?  How will we respond? Will we CONTINUE to trust Him with our everything or give up all together?

Think about it… How have you responded in the past when you faced unexpected circumstances or situations? 
I have found that when I surrender “my struggle” to God…
(Whatever it is at the time), that He ALWAYS leverages it for good.

 What I mean is that… Something that may seem “bad” in my life, when placed in the hands of God, always ends up having an unexpected outcome of good. 

 That’s where the redeeming my story part comes in to play.  I have struggled with an autoimmune disease for almost 13 years now.  It is a disease that weakens my muscles.  At its worst I was bedridden for up to a year and lost 75 lbs in 4 months.  At its best I was able to complete a 5K walk… which is a big deal for those who struggle with muscle issues!  I’ve had lots of ups and downs, good seasons and bad, flare ups and remissions, but God has been faithful all the way through.

My husband said this recently at a worship service we had with our young adults and it totally caught me off guard… 
“It’s sometimes our SCARS that draw people to Jesus the most!”

In that moment the Holy Spirit hit me with the realization that one of my “SCARS” is my sickness.  I cannot even begin to count the number of people God has touched as a result of it.  People identify with my struggle and it opens doors for me to share God’s love with others freely.


Scars – Whether visible to the eye or hidden from others are something we all have in common.   I’m sure we have all experienced some kind of pain (whether physically or emotionally) at some point in our lives.

My husband could entertain you for hours with stories about the variety of scars he carries on his body… you would hear about barns, chickens, pitch forks, surgeries, horses, and the like.  I have scars too.  My most recent scar involves an altercation I had with a new kind of curling iron I was attempting to use on my hair.  Needless to say, we have decided to part ways.  My wrist has an unforgivable mark to remind me to this day.

                  “The good thing about scars is that if they heal up 
properly, they don’t hurt anymore.  They may look 
really bad, but the pain is all gone.”

I bet a lot of us have scars on the outside, but how many of us have scars on the INSIDE that others can’t see?  It could be scars of abandonment, betrayal, fear, rejection, or low-self esteem.  Or it could be scars of addictions, bad choices, broken relationships, or grief.  These kinds of scars are more personal and private.  They aren’t the kind of things we share with everyone.

I have experienced scars like this too.  SCARS… of miscarriage, rejection, cutting words that hurt deeply, broken relationships and the like.

My scars tell a story.  They are a reminder to me that God heals on the inside and out.

What stories do your scars tell?  Who have you had the opportunity to minister to as a result of them?

“Scars in a sense are past hurts that tell a story.  When we surrender
our lives to God, our scars will amazingly point people to Jesus!”

Jesus had scars too.  He faced excruciating pain on the cross… the nails in His hands and feet.  I can’t even imagine! 

Think about the Easter story… Jesus was raised from the dead (experiencing the ultimate healing) yet He still walked away with scars!  The power of death was conquered, but the SCARS remained.  God didn’t take them away!  They were not erased!  Why not? 

Jesus scars tell the story of salvation.  They are scars of HOPE!!!!
They are a reminder to us that healing is possible.   He understands pain and He cares.  He loves us!  Through Him we can find life and He promises to be with us through everything!  We are not alone!

Romans 5:8 says…
“But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.” (NIV)

John 3:16 says…
“For God loved the world so much that he gave his only Son, so that everyone who believes in him may not die but have eternal life.” (GNT)


My scars tell a story.  It’s a story of salvation, deliverance, freedom, life changing moments with Him, healing, and His faithfulness.  He has redeemed my past and present scars over and over again for good!  His scars tell a story that changed my life!

Where are you at in your story?  Have you surrendered your scars to Him or do you have open wounds that still need healing? 

Maybe you need to start with salvation… surrendering your everything to God and thanking Him for the precious gift He sent in Jesus to save you and bring life!

If that’s you or you need to recommit your life to God now, tell Him.  Talk to Him like you would your best friend and lay it all out before Him… the good, bad, and ugly.  Ask Him to wash you clean and come be Lord of your life.

My scars tell a story, His scars tell a story, what story will your scars tell?

“Scars in a sense are past hurts that tell a story.  When we surrender
our lives to God, our scars will amazingly point people to Jesus!”

Prayer: 
God, thank you for the gift you gave in sending your son to die for me.  I can’t even imagine the pain He went through to make a way for me to experience true life and that abundantly.  Today I surrender my life to you… ugly scars and all.  I pray you would leverage them all for good to draw people to You.  Please redeem my story (past and present) for good.  I pray my story will inspire others to pursue you more.  Thank you that I’m never alone.  You are forever faithful and all over my story.  I love you forever.  Amen.

Tuesday, March 19, 2019

What's in your wallet?


My boys LOVE basketball!  They always have and probably always will!  In fact, they both want to have some sort of career centered around it.  Me... I never liked basketball so much.  I didn't understand it.  Too many details to figure out for me to play the game.  I was the kind of girl who didn't like to play sports for fun ever.  I did my time in P.E. class in school to get the grade and moved on.

When I met my husband in college, he loved basketball too of course.  He loved to play and watch it.  I was bored with it all.  Once we got married, I told him when we had kids I would take the time to learn the game and he could be my teacher.  That way I would know how to cheer appropriately for my team.  LOL.

We have been a basketball family for 6 years now... well with me included this time.  I love to watch my boys play and for the most part now I understand the game.  This month marked my youngest son's last season of high school basketball.  It was sad to watch him finish his last game.  He has been a super star on the court.

This month is March Madness.  For those who aren't sports lovers, it's BASKETBALL month.  There are games going on all the time.  Everyone is trying to guess which college team will win the championship.  I'm still not into watching it on television so much, but I know enough basketball lingo to hold a decent (sports intelligent) conversation with my boys... I think. Recently I ran across an article about an incredible basketball legend I had to share with you.  His life is marked by the kind of character every man should possess.  His motivation and call to live at a greater level wasn't from what you would expect.  He was inspired by simple words scribbled on a piece of paper that rested inside his wallet as a daily reminder.

Wow!  What a powerful message for all of us!  That piece of wisdom was there for almost 90 years as a reminder to him.  What a legacy!  This reminds me of the credit card commercial that says... "What's in your wallet?"  If you could hold a paper full of encouraging words to inspire you for a lifetime in your purse or wallet, what would it say?  Be encouraged as you read these words of wisdom.

Living to leave a legacy,
Julie

Why I keep this late basketball coach's 

7-point creed in my wallet

(By Paul Batura)


“Coach Wooden” as he was known, has been gone for almost 9 years. When he died in June of 2010 at the age of 99, the highly-acclaimed basketball genius was lauded and feted as a sage of the sport, and rightly so.

But even nearly a decade following his death, the remarkable life of John Wooden can still teach us, and especially now in the midst of culture’s madness.  Up until his death, the collegiate hall of fame coach kept a folded-up index card in his wallet. On it was a handwritten 7-point creed that his father had given him as a graduation gift from elementary school.

How instrumental of a role did that small piece of cardstock play in the life of UCLA’s coach?  According to friend and NBA executive Pat Williams, it was instrumental.  “I believe,” wrote Williams, “the character and achievements of John Wooden can largely be traced to [that] piece of paper his father gave him on the day he graduated from the eighth grade at a little country grade school in Centerton, Indiana.”

Almost 100 years later, as political, economic, sociological and even spiritual battles rage white hot, we would be wise to also heed the adages of this 7-point creed:

1.  Be True to Yourself.  
Are you living someone else’s plan for your life? Nothing can stifle creativity like conformity and uniformity. What’s “your thing” – your unique ability? Nobody is here by accident. Everybody was placed on earth for a purpose. Be comfortable in your own skin and chase your dream.

2.  Make each day your masterpiece.
It almost sounds like a cliché, but everybody has the same amount of time each day (24 hours, 1440 minutes). Do you treat it like a rare gift?  On average, over 150,000 people die every day. Don’t take these hours for granted. The late Bil Keane, creator of the Family Circus cartoon, once poignantly observed, “Yesterday is history, tomorrow is mystery – but today is a gift, that’s why we call it ‘the present.’”  Don’t waste the day.

3.  Never leave until tomorrow what can be done today.
Charles Dickens once called procrastination the “thief of time” – and he was right.  We so often think tomorrow is going to be an extension of today, but it’s usually not. Rather than treat time like a blank check, think about it in finite terms – because today is all we’ve got.

4.  Help others.
Narcissism is destructive.  Care about others and practice blessed self-forgetfulness. As Dr. Tim Keller says, “Don’t think less of yourself – just think about yourself less.”  Call a friend, visit someone in the hospital, pick up trash in your neighborhood or volunteer in your community.

5.  Drink deeply from good books, especially the Bible.
The late pastor Dr. Adrian Rogers used to say, “What goes down in the well comes up in the bucket.”  Be mindful of what you’re reading and watching. The apostle Paul probably put it best of all when he advised, “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 and the God of peace will be with you.”

6.  Study friendship and make it a fine art.
It’s been said we become the product of the five people we spend the most time with. If that’s the case, are you picking your friends or letting your friends pick you?  The popular writer C.S. Lewis wrote about the origin of enjoyable company. “Friendship ... is born at the moment,” Lewis noted, “when one man says to another ‘What! You too? I thought that no one but myself . . .’” If you want to have good friends, take the time to be a good friend.

7.  Pray for guidance and count and give thanks for your blessings every day. Cultivating a discipline of prayer and a spirit of gratitude will transform your life. It was Albert Einstein who once opined, “There are only two ways to live your life: as though nothing is a miracle, or as though everything is a miracle.” We are living in an age of daily miracles and many of us don’t even realize it.

As the curtain fell on his near century-long life, Coach Wooden reflected that while he tried to live up to his father's creed, he had nevertheless fallen short, saying he was more like the guy who once said, "I am not what I ought to be; Not what I want to be; Not what I am going to be, But I am thankful that I am better than I used to be."

A devout Christian, Wooden saw basketball for what it was – a game that pointed to something of greater significance in his life. "I have always tried to make it clear that basketball is not the ultimate. It is of small importance in comparison to the total life we live. There is only one kind of life that truly wins, and that is the one that places faith in the hands of the Savior."

A slip of paper with Wooden’s wisdom is now in my wallet, and it likewise reminds me that all the madness of this world is manageable – because all the madness is ultimately managed by a God who loves each one of us.


Paul J. Batura is vice president of communications at Focus on the Family

Wednesday, December 19, 2018

The ONE gift everyone must have!


Christmas is just a week away!  Can you believe it?  I can’t!  Time has just flown by.  I’m not even finished Christmas shopping yet.  I’m usually on it, but not this year.  I’ve been shopping later than usual and as a result I’ve been bumping into a lot of grumpy shoppers and drivers.  It’s crazy!  Everywhere I go I’m afraid of getting hit… by other cars driving wildly, by shopping carts being rushed through the store to grab last minute deals, or actual shoppers who are pushing their way through the aisles unaware of those around them.  It doesn’t seem very fun or festive to me.

Gifts… what do you get those hard to buy people?  Whatever you end up getting is never what they like, want, or need.  You know those second hand stores, thrift shops, and Good Will stores have to be flooded after Christmas with unwanted items… or maybe everyone waits until their spring cleaning days to unload it all.  What a waste!


I’ve been thinking hard on this and I think I have come up with one gift everyone will like.  It’s a must have item for everyone!  So… be sure to add it to your Christmas list if you haven’t done so already.  It’s something that will make a long lasting impact on all who receive it, yet it cost us nothing.


What is it?  It’s something we can all do that is free and easy for most if they try… BE KIND!  I know it sounds silly, but how many of us look around while busying ourselves with the holidays to notice those around us.

Do you see the lonely ones who are celebrating this season with out a loved one this year?  Do you see those families who are being ripped a part by divorce?  Christmas will never be the same for them.  Do you see the sick who are struggling through wondering if this year will be their last?  Do you see the overwhelmed people looking for the perfect gifts all the while drowning in a sea of debt?  The broken, the hurting, the hopeless, the grieving, the lost… they are all there.


What can you do to reach them, love them, see them this holiday season?  BE KIND!   Ask God to help you be engaged in what is going on around you instead of being consumed with your list of things to do before Christmas comes.  Ask God to put people on your heart to pray for, send an encouraging note to, buy a meal for, visit, or call.  BE KIND every chance you get!  During this season especially kindness is rare. 

“In a season filled with selfishness,
Choose to BE KIND!”

Recently I went to the post office to mail out some Christmas packages.  I was hoping to mail them sooner, (because I knew the lines would be long at this time of year) but I got sick with the flu.  Normally it probably wouldn’t be a problem for most, but our post office is very small.  The lobby area is pretty much a narrow rectangle.  There are a bunch of individual post office boxes around it and a window where one lady sits to assist you.  While we wait for our turn in a single file line (that runs from the check out window to the door) people are coming and going like crazy.  They are checking their mail boxes (in front or behind you), grabbing boxes or envelopes to purchase, and dropping off mail.   Space is invaded often.  It is not a place for grumpy people to congregate… that’s for sure!

I may have been a little grumpy that day from being sick.  However, I didn’t act on my grumpiness, I just held it all in.  I was frustrated!  My mind was going wild with silent comments … “This is taking WAY too long!”  “Isn’t there anyone else back there who can help us?” “How dare that lady send out 8 boxes now!”  “Ugh!!!”  I didn’t feel good and I was feeling very impatient. 

After a few moments, I noticed a stir at the front of the line.  A young adult was ushered to a table near by to finish getting his box ready to go out.  He had a book he was trying to mail and nothing was ready.  He was completely unprepared.  I was shocked to see the people in line jump into high gear to assist him.  One lady gave him bubble wrap, another packing tape, and the man in front of me offered to help him wrap it all up to go.  I was surprised at their kindness and a little ashamed at my grouchy demeanor.  Even though I was sick, I still needed a lot more KINDNESS in my heart. 

Did you know that “kindness” is a fruit of the spirit?  As we grow in our relationship with God, kindness should naturally flow out of our lives.  If you are short on kindness lately, you might want to check in with your heavenly father.  He is a great gardener of our hearts.  He knows just what to do to get things growing right inside of us.

Galatians 5:22-23 says…
 “But the Holy Spirit produces this kind of fruit in our lives: love, joy, peace, patience, KINDNESS, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control.” (NLT)

            
Did you notice how KINDNESS is packed in their between patience and goodness?  I don’t think that was by accident.  I don’t know about you, but sometimes it takes a lot of “patience” to be KIND.  What about goodness?  What does that mean? It can be defined as an “uprightness in heart and life”.  If each fruit builds on the next (one naturally leading to the other), then we can assume that we can’t truly be good until we are first patient and KIND.

Do you want to see a spiritual revival break out in your city?  Stir up KINDNESS and let it grow in your heart and overflow to others.  Let’s be Jesus with skin on this holiday season!  Give the gift of BEING KIND! 

Living to leave a legacy,
Julie