Posted in Dreams, faith stages, Family, peace, Promises, self-examination

When The Path Is Unclear

 

cliff overhang

I generally don’t give much sway to my dreams however I woke one morning, not long ago, troubled by a dream in which I was walking on a path along a pleasant, sandy shoreline when gradually, the path began to narrow then suddenly it disappeared. As I looked around there was water as far as I could see on my right and in front of me it snuggled up close to the towering cliff on my left. My claustrophobia kicked in and  I began to feel very anxious.

I turned quickly to take the path back however it had become narrow as well and the cliff now was stretching out over the water.The path had also become rocky and difficult to navigate.

The obstacles in front of me seemed insurmountable and I feared going forward.  The narrow, rocky path going back was very difficult at  best.  My fear of water and heights kept me from going forward and my fear of the pain and difficulty I might experience on the path behind me kept me from going back. I felt trapped. Anxiety became all out panic and I woke with a start.

I was grateful to be awake and realize it was only a dream but later as I began my morning routine I still felt restless and even a little anxious. I couldn’t get the dream out of my head.

In preparation for my morning devotions my thoughts drifted back to the path in the dream. I suddenly realized how similar it was to the path I was on in my life lately. The anxiety and panic in the dream was similar to what I had been feeling all to often these days.

My husband and I had been sensing God’s call for us to relocate to Macon, Georgia to serve for a year at Hephzibah Children’s Home and to be part of a new church plant in Macon. We had worked at the children’s home for years but only for a couple of weeks each year. This time it would be for a year.

We had already begun preparations two years before because God impressed on us that a change was coming and we needed to get out of debt. We sold our home and found a rental house. We paid off our credit cards and did some major downsizing. We signed a lease for one year on the rental feeling we would have time to pray about what God had in mind for us. During that year God made it clear that we were to go to Macon. Though I wanted to go and was excited about the possibility of being part of these ministries the thought of being so far from family, especially our grandchildren, had kept me from making the commitment and taking those final steps of faith I needed to take.

The year was up, the lease was up and it was decision time! Taking the path forward would mean leaving our family and friends and most of our belongings 950 miles behind not knowing for sure what all would be waiting for us in Georgia or what would happen at the end of that year. But to stay would mean taking a painful path back of starting over from scratch.  I knew I would always wonder what could have happened if we had gone.

In the dream I had focused on the obstacles and fear kept me from going in either direction. I began to understand that I had to look past the obstacles and move forward, trusting God for whatever lie ahead. I also  realized that to refuse and turn back would be to live in fear of moving forward as well as to live in defeat. As I looked past what I saw as obstacles on the path it became clear. I had waited on God for direction, He had given me confirmation and now He had made it clear that I should take the next step in moving forward. God would give me a place to put my foot now and for the next step after that when I needed it. I needed only to stayed focused on Him.

We have been in Georgia for almost four months now and we certainly miss our family, but  are in contact with them regularly. God has blessed us to be able to go home for a visit already and we will also be able to go home for Thanksgiving and Christmas and return to finish our year commitment after the holidays. The blessings we receive as we serve the Children’s Home and the Church are more than we could have imagined.

None of the things I feared came to pass. We haven’t missed a thing we sold or left behind, except our kids of course! 🙂  And we are actually planning on down-sizing even more in the future when we return home.

Yes, there was so much more beyond the end of the path that was visible!

What path are you on?

What obstacle do you see that keep you from moving forward?

What struggle would you face by going back or not moving at all?

Look up my friend! Look up!

God is ready and waiting to clear the path for you to take that next important step that will put you in the center of His will.

“For I know the plans I have for you, declares the Lord, plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.”              Jeremiah 29:11

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Posted in Children, communication, humility, Kindness, Uncategorized

Going Out While Staying In

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I was recently challenged to do a 7 Day Experiment in Intentional Living from John Maxwell’s blog.

The first day of the experiment was about putting family first and the exercise was to pick a family member to do something special for them. It was suggested to take them out to a place that I knew they would enjoy. (if your interested in doing this experiment go to John C. Maxwell and Intentional Living).

My husband is the family member I wanted to do something with and for because I know that after 50 plus years of marriage we can get into a rut now and then and take each other for granted. But I had a problem because going out was not in our budget that week. As a retired couple on a fixed income we have to watch our pennies you know.
As I contemplated what I could do for him I realized that I could go out of my way and comfort zone to do something with him right here at home.

My husband is a real Sci-fy kind of guy and I am soooo not a Sci-fy gal! So in the evenings he graciously hands me the remote and has me watch what I am comfortable with, or if there is a Sci-fy that he really wants to watch I go to the den and read while he watches it.
On day one of the 7 Day Experiment we stayed in and I fixed him a special dinner and after dishes were done and we settled in for the evening I gave him the remote and told him to watch whatever he would like, even the Sci-fy channel and then stayed in the room with him to watch it.
Before we went to bed that night I gave him a card with a poem I wrote ( I use the term poem loosely here) noted below:

“I fixed you a special dinner and gave the remote to you
Because I love you and
I know that you love me too!”

Needless to say he was surprised and pleased and he even mentioned it the next day!
But most of all I was absolutely giddy when I went to bed that night and the world seemed a better place over all! It is amazing what a blessing can come from one little act of kindness, and especially when that act of kindness is for someone you love.
I plan to make it a regular event on my calendar each month!

When was the last time you went out of your comfort zone to spend some special time with a loved one, a spouse, a significant other, a child or parent?

Choose someone today, and don’t forget to write them a note at the end of the day to let them know they are special to you.

 

Posted in Children, Kindness

“The Family Reunion”

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What is the first thought that comes to mind when you receive the invitation to the annual “Family Reunion” ?

I dread it, I will tolerate it, I don’t have time for it, It’s just a bunch of old people and nutty relatives?

Or

I can’t wait, love seeing everyone and catching up, will meet new family members and fellowship with the elders, hope crazy Uncle Larry is there, he is so much fun!

After 50 years of family reunions I have observed that there is a general response that varies depending on what seasons of life we are in and the family dynamics we have grown up with.

As a kid I didn’t go to family reunions because we didn’t have them. Our family was pretty fragmented and had a degree of dysfunction that kept us from being close to family most of the time. So when I married my husband who had a very large family and experienced my first “Family Reunion” it was a bit overwhelming to say the least.

Everyone came Grama and Grampa, Aunts and Uncles, Great Aunts and Great Uncles, all of the cousins from the oldest to the youngest, there was even an aunt who brought her husband and her boyfriend! Everyone brought food of some kind and games to play. It was like a rerun of Walton’s Mountain, as a matter of fact it was on a mountain where my husband’s sister and brother-in-law lived on a farm.

These people were excited to see each other and everyone knew everyone else that was there. I recall thinking “I could probably only recall two of my Aunt’s names and maybe four of my cousin’s”.
Older relatives commenting on how the little ones had grown, younger ones smiling then running off to play, laughing and teasing one another.

The men quickly went off to visit with family members they hadn’t seen which always led to a game of horseshoes and or a discussion regarding fishing and/or hunting.
The women were left to visit, get food set up, and compare notes on kids, husbands and life in general.
My husband’s family was very kind and tried to include me in conversation and activities but, having been raised in the city in a smaller and transient family, I saw nothing that we had in common and felt like a fish out of water. They were country folk and I was a city slicker, they had farms, cows and huge gardens that supplied their families with food. I, on the other hand, depended totally on what was on special at the grocery store to fill our cupboards. I even turned my nose up at the thought of having to dig in the dirt to get my food and drinking milk straight from the cow out of a stainless steel pitcher . I was also somewhat perturbed that the women were left to watch the kids and get the food set up while the men went and played (well, truth be known, probably more than slightly perturbed). After all hadn’t these women heard of the women’s rights movement?

All very foreign to me yet it somehow held a fascination I couldn’t explain at the time.

So for several years my response was “it’s his family so we will go for my husband’s sake”. But after we had a couple of children and they couldn’t wait to go see all their family and play with their cousins my heart began to soften. I thought about what I had missed as a child by not having the same opportunity with my own family and my attitude began to change. I wanted our children to experience family in a way I never had. The realization came to me that I was a part of “this family” now.

Every year I would get to know this family better and began to see that there love for each other was genuine and that they loved me in the same way. They were actually showing me what being part of a family was really all about. The full impact of their influence on me and how I raised my family was not realized until many years later when my own children began leaving home.

As our kids grew older I began looking forward to the family reunions as I realized the importance of family and that it wasn’t just his family reunion but was our family reunion. I came to look forward to the reunions and the love we found there.

Over the years many of the older generation passed on and finally Dad and Mom Bird went home to heaven too and a strange thing happened for a few years, the “Family Reunion” sort of fell by the wayside. Then all our kids grew up and had families of their own and in-laws to consider and life was so busy that we didn’t see each other much any more. Those of us who were now the matriarchs and patriarchs of our families realized that our grandchildren were missing out on a great family tradition. And as our children grew older and their children as well we began a journey that brought us back to the family reunions.

Things are different now, change happens, and many family members are no longer with us, many have moved out of the area and can’t make it, but we are coming together again and hopefully setting a course that those who come behind us will follow and the importance of family will be passed on to future generations.

In my own extended family we have also developed a new appreciation for each other and have been working to bring our family closer together. Our families have come to be one family as well.

In this winter season of my life I am so grateful for this family that took me in, tolerated me, loved me unconditionally through the rough years and taught me the importance of caring for one another. And I am  thankful for the love that has grown out of it all in our own children for their families.

That love has been passed on to my own siblings and many foster children over the years and it all started at the Family Reunion!

If you’re looking for us the first Sunday in August we won’t be available. We will be at the farm on the hill at our “Family Reunion” where we will find family, food, fellowship, fun, some crazy people, but most of all love!

When is your family reunion?

If you have one don’t miss it!

If you don’t have one, start one!
Don’t have a family? Join us, there is enough love to go around in ours!
Because family matters!

Posted in faith stages, music, Weary encouragement hope

Connecting the Dots

 

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In the process of learning it is the analogies and object lessons that help me learn the most, for they put a principle into simple practical pictures that I can see and relate to.

My favorite analogy of all time is found in the book, Hind’s Feet On High Places, by Hannah Hurnard. It pictures a young girl named “Much Afraid” and her spiritual journey through the difficulties of life with her companions “Sorrow” and “Suffering”. With the Shepherd’s help she overcomes her fears and facing danger and discouragements, Much Afraid, is ultimately united with the loving Shepherd in the “High Places” where she is given a new name and a ministry to those who remain in “The Valley of Suffering”.

You’ll have to read the book to know the rest!

In my meditations today, reading from Streams In The Desert (compiled by L.B. Cowman and edited by James Reimann) I found an object lesson that also helped me to relate to the evils and/or struggles that confront us.

For those who have ever asked “Why me?”, Why now?”, “Why again?” (for I have asked those questions many times) and especially for those who know God and understand that nothing comes to one of His own that doesn’t pass by Him first,  I am posting  portions of that selection from Streams In The Desert for July 23rd, and they follow:

I once saw a man draw some black dots on a piece of paper. Several of us looked at it yet saw nothing but an irregular arrangement of dots. Then he also drew a few lines, put in a few rests, and added a treble clef at the beginning. Suddenly we realized that the dots were musical notes, and as we began to sound them out, we were singing,

Praise God from whom all blessings flow,

Praise Him all creatures here below.”

It is difficult for us to understand, at times, why God allows those “black dots or spots” in the lives of His children. They often seem to come at the worst times, unexpected times and we ask “Why me?”, “Why now?”, Why again?”, and “Why did He permit them?”

But when we allow Him into our life to adjust the dots in the proper way, to draw the lines He desires, and to put rests at the proper places to separate us from certain things, then from the black dots and spots He will compose a glorious harmony. C. H. P

When an organist presses the black keys of a great organ, the notes are just as beautiful as when he presses the white ones. Yet to fully demonstrate the capabilities of the instrument, he must press them all. ” (selected)

Many people owe the grandeur of their lives to their tremendous difficulties.” Charles H. Spurgeon

As we look back over time and begin to “connect the dots” we will begin to see a picture of God’s hand at work in our lives as He creates a beautiful harmony from the events in our lives. A picture of the loving Shepherd, and His grand purpose for us and we can sing, “Praise God from whom all blessings flow”, in spite of what is going on in our lives.

I challenge you to look for the dots, the lines, the rests. Look for God’s hand at work in it all and praise Him for the work He is doing in your life to help you fulfill His purpose and plans for your life and His kingdom and glory!

“For I know the plans I have for you”, declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.”  Jeremiah 29:11 (NIV)

 

 

 

 

 

 

Posted in faith stages, humility, self-examination

Life Strategies, Hard Questions

Hard questions

Have you ever wished you could talk with a loved one who has gone home to be with the Lord?

Recently, I was actually challenged with some “hard questions” posed to me by my sister Lois from her own last days on this earth. No,  she didn’t contact me in an audible voice or as a spirit but through her journals, that I was blessed to end up with after her death.

I have had these journals for many years and had scanned through them on occasion but recently was drawn back to them during a time of questioning about my own life and wishing I could talk with her. Suddenly, one particular page jumped out at me challenging me to evaluate my own life strategies with the following “hard questions.”

1.  Am I really headed where I want to go or am I wandering around with no purpose failing to seek God’s purpose for my life?

2. Is what I’m doing today really what God wants me to be doing and gifted me for, or am I “doing” to please others?

3. Do I really have a God-given strategy in my life or am I allowing someone else’s strategy to guide me?

4. Do I make initial assumptions because of what I want to be true or am I seeking God’s truth?

5. Do I practice deceptive and/or manipulative behaviors to have things my way ?

6. Am I in denial about anything in my life or am I allowing God to search me and know me, all of me, to reveal anything in me that is not right and help me follow him in His truth?

My Sister was asking these same hard questions in her last days on this earth as she was bedridden with Emphysema and I find them challenging me today.

I have been blessed with two great lessons through this experience.

First, I believe my sister would have wanted me to search for the answers to these questions earlier on than she did and to know a part of her heart that she had not had the opportunity to share with me before she went to Heaven.

And secondly, as I have been feeling that my journaling and blogging are not all that important to anyone but me, now  I can see how God can use  “journaling” in whatever form we may put it (a journal, a blog, writing a book, or even a personal note to someone) to help someone else who may be struggling with the same things we struggle with bringing hope to them as they see the victory God will give for our good and His glory.

I may, and most likely won’t, ever be a famous blogger or writer but as I ask myself these questions I am finding that the love of study and writing is a gift God has given me. It is my hope that one day something that challenged me will challenge someone else to ask the hard questions and find God’s purpose for them.

And my sister Lois, Well, I know from her other journals that she faced these questions , answered them and surrendered it all to her heavenly Father, who gave her His grace, wisdom and strength to accept the things she couldn’t change and to change the things she could and to know His peace in and through it all even into eternity.

And today all her questions are answered and are yes Lord yes!

I challenge you to not wait until your last days to ask the hard questions! Start today for it is the first day of your remaining days on this earth!

For He (God) says, “In a favorable time I listened to you and in a day of salvation I have helped you.” (Isaiah 49:8) Behold, now is the favorable time; behold now is the day of salvation. (2 Corinthians 6:2)

Posted in character study, communication, faith stages, Weary encouragement hope

From Frustrated Perfectionist to Perfect Melancholy!

WARNING! This may be the worst blog you ever read!

Today I am just writing what is on my mind. No planning, or thinking it all through first (as I am sure you can tell) Just writing, writing, writing and hoping that what I am working through might be of help to someone in the blogosphere or on facebook who may struggle with spinning their wheels and going nowhere.

I have been labeled, by some a perfectionist and even by a few obsessive/compulsive about it. However as I look around there seems to be a great deal of imperfection, both in and around me.

So what’s the deal here?

My intentions are good…I’m going to organize my stuff, I’m going to finish that book, finish that cross stitch I started (5 yrs ago, mind you).  I’m going to make a schedule and a to-do list for the week (and stay on it for a change), cook better meals, work on a better budget and start writing on my blog every day. Meanwhile, it all seems so daunting that by the time I get the lists made and the plans made , and re-made I end up getting very little of it done, if any.

Then I say to myself, “Self”, I say, “it’s to hard, you don’t have enough time, your no spring chicken anymore, you will just never be able to do it,” and the best of all “I’m to busy  with all the ‘urgent’ needs every day”  So I am forever planning, preparing and organizing but never actually getting the things that are important done allowing the urgent to take precedence over the important.

Heavy sigh!

What’s a woman to do?

In my striving to do better I have accepted an offer of a spiritual coach to work with me to help me move forward, find God’s direction and get on the right track. The first goal is to know what my gifts and abilities, as well as what my limitations really are. She provided me with a personality test and a giftedness test which has helped me to understand better who I am and how God made me to function in the gifts and abilities He has given me. It appears that I am what is called a “Perfect Melancholy”, and no it does not mean I am perfect or necessarily melancholy (check out “Wired That Way, Personality Profile” (Marita  & Florence Littauer). But it does give me some insight into the whys and ways that I work and respond in different circumstances and what my strengths and weaknesses tend to be.

Through discussions with a dear friend and my spiritual coach I have come to recognize some of my own self defeating behaviors, like, making unrealistic demands on my time and on others, making unrealistic to-do lists, making commitments to projects and/or other requests without thinking them through and praying about them first, and allowing others to dictate my schedule. This led me to make some commitments to my friend, my coach and myself. One commitment was to begin writing again. Therefore I am writing, not listing what I might write about or planning what I will write about, just writing.

The challenge started last Monday and I did spend an hour on my blog, however the whole hour was spent looking at my blog site, reading and comparing others blogs, and thinking and planning what I should blog about.. But alas, I never actually wrote anything!

Today is a new day and I am writing!

I will be writing on my blog for one hour or more twice a week and I welcome my blogging friends to come back and check out my progress and hold me accountable as well! I look forward to your encouragement and your suggestions to help me be a better writer.

My goal is to go from Frustrated Perfectionist to Perfect Melancholy.

What personality are you? I urge you to learn more about yourself and the gifts and abilities God has given you.

What goals do you have? What commitments are you willing to make to reach your goals?

Do you have a friend or friends whom you will give permission to hold you accountable to your commitments?

I would like to hear about them!

JB

Posted in Children, communication, humility

Lessons From a 4 Year Old

Evan Rockin On !

Last week I was on the patio watching our 4 year old, very lively, grandson, Evan, playing in the yard. While he ran around getting rid of some of his energy I took advantage of the time at the patio table to write in my journal and talk with God about a prayer request I had received that morning. After a few minutes Evan stopped on one of his passes by the patio and asked me, “What are you doin Grama?” I explained to him that there were some people who had some problems and I was praying for them and asking God to help them to know what to do.  I asked if he wanted to pray with me and he said yes and bowed his little head and remained quiet until the Amen and then ran off to resume running around the yard and playing.

I then proceeded to get out my phone to look at my schedule for the coming week and once again Evan came over and asked “What are you doin now Grama?” and from there it went like this:

Evan: “What are you doin now Grama?”

Me: “Just looking at all the things I have to do next week and trying to figure out how I can get it all done.”

Evan: “Why don’t you just ask God?”

We went to prayer together again but this time as I was praying I heard Evan say his own prayer.

Evan: “God help Grama!”

Lesson learned: We often pray for others to have God meet their needs and  encourage them to believe He will but then turn around and attempt to meet our own needs without seeking Him first.

God, help Grama!

Thank you Evan, God and Grama love you!!!

“Therefore Whoever humbles himself as this little child is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven.”   Matthew 18:4

Posted in peace, Promises, Weary encouragement hope

Overcome Or Overcomer?

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Oh, what a difference one letter in a word can make! And even when a word is spelled the same it can have a totally different meaning depending on the context in which it is written or spoken.

In the storms of this life there are times I feel overcome with anxiety, worry and fear and what I have learned, after many years of experience in this field, is that how I handle the situation will determine whether I let the negative emotions overtake me or overcome the negative to embrace the peace that is available to me in and through the “overcomer”, Christ Jesus.

Got any rivers you think are uncrossable?

Got any mountains you can’t tunnel through?

God specialises in things thought impossible

He does the things others cannot do. (original chorus written by Oscar C. Eliason)

Lean in on the one who is the Overcomer. His promise is to give you peace, even in the midst of the storm!