Empty Nest, Abundant Life

Nag Less, Pray More

Category: My Walk with Jesus (page 1 of 3)

A Retreat for One

It’s hard to believe that we’ve already reached the final days of January.   One month ago today, I left home for hours to go on my 2nd annual one-woman, one-afternoon retreat.   I do it on the last Friday afternoon of the year, but you can anytime you have at least three hours in a row and enough energy to do some deep thinking.

In the past, when I thought of retreats, I imagined driving with a van full of ladies to a rustic setting in the mountains for a weekend of fun, worship, and teaching.   I have been to many retreats like this, and they required preregistration, paying around $100, packing, picking just the right time to ask my husband if he could watch the kids, and gearing up my introverted self for a lot of “together” time.   Don’t get me wrong;  I have enjoyed, learned from, made great memories, and even taught at some of these experiences, but I was looking for something different.

In December of 2016, I listened to a podcast by one of my favorite nonfiction authors, Sally Clarkson.  She explained the benefits of getting away alone for a yearly reflection.  She also referred to materials from an author whose name I had never heard before, Lara Casey.  I went to both Sally and Lara’s websites and read all they had to say about this event,  put their suggestions into two Microsoft Word documents, and made plans to take my retreat at ….. Starbucks.   Much less money and planning!

I took the following things with me:

  1. My Bible
  2. A ton of notebook paper in a folder
  3. An assortment of brightly colored pens
  4. Inspirational stickers
  5. Highlighters
  6. Posterboard
  7. A Sharpie
  8. Kleenex

I found myself experiencing the entire spectrum of emotions as I sat nestled in a booth sipping on my mocha, thinking about all the wonderful events of the past year and setting goals for the following one.  Because I was alone, I could think objectively about my marriage, my children, and my own life, evaluating the good, the bad, and the ugly, and praying how to work on the difficulties.  I came home refreshed and ready to implement my plans.

Do I achieve every goal I set?  Definitely not, but I like having a direction I am choosing to travel in my life and page after page written in my own handwriting.  I would highly recommend this activity to you and can’t wait to see what God shows you about your life!

New Year, New Word

The new year always brings a flurry of thoughts about how this year will be different from all the ones in the past.    It causes us to analyze how we can be more effective and make resolutions to change habits as a result.    I struggled to harness these strong feelings of resolve and to fine tune them, and I have found success in doing this for the past five years.

My secret?  Choose a word!  Just one word.   A word that you want to aspire to learn more about and one that you will come to resemble more and more as the year goes by.

I read a great book on the topic, One Perfect Word, by Debbie Macomber, at the end of 2013, and I was inspired.    On January 1, 2014, I dared to write down my word for the year and pray it each day for myself.  The word terrified me; my word for the year 2014 was Surrender.  I wanted to surrender my plans, hopes, dreams, and agenda to God, who had an even better plan for my life.  I had no idea how strongly this word would play out until I found myself in ICU not able to breathe on my own in June of that year.

By the end of 2014, I had not only gained my strength back but had also learned far more about surrender than I ever imagined possible.  I was hooked on choosing a word, now not only for myself but for each member of my immediate family.  My word for the year 2015 was Rejoicing.   I wanted to learn to rejoice not only when circumstances were going my way but also in the deepest disappointments.  It was a worthwhile journey.  The words I chose for my family were endurance, maturity, and trust.

When 2016 rolled around, I couldn’t wait to do this exercise again.  My word for the year 2016 was Renewal, as I looked at my new life with children moving away and going on the international mission field.  My words for my husband and children were balance, faith, and courage, as they all were learning huge lessons of their own.

By December of 2016, I even took myself on a one-woman, one-afternoon retreat to evaluate my life, set priorities, and, most importantly, determine my word.  My word for the year 2017 was Freedom as I sought to be released my own self-doubt, others’ expectations and opinions of me, and the limits I had placed on myself due to fear.  I experienced my best year yet, achieving more than ever and daring to do activities I never expected that I would.  My words for my family were fortitude, security, and maturity.

This year is no different.  I have chosen my word.  It’s another scary one because I know that there are many lessons I need to learn about this subject.  My word for this year is Humility.    True freedom only comes when I choose to humble myself before God and trust Him completely for my future.   The words I have selected for those closest to me are direction, leadership, and abiding.

I have found a great website that has also helped me in this journey:  www.oneword365.com.  It’s a wonderful community of people who have also chosen one word for the year so we can support one another as we live out our word for the year.

What will be your word for the year?

Stay tuned to my blog for posts about one-woman retreats and vision boards!

Growing in Gratefulness

On days like today, when life does not particularly go my way, it is harder to show gratitude.  I tend to focus my attention on what is going wrong instead of being thankful for what is going right, yet when I resolve to look for blessings and show appreciation for them, I find my attitude making a change for the better, a smile spreading across my face, and my mind fixed on the Giver of All Good Gifts.  I even find myself thankful for the challenges and obstacles in my life because they cause me to grow in patience, learn humility, and rely on God more than ever!

My Five Project Gratitude Thankful Things for Today

  1. The Soft Fur on my Cats
  2. Stimulating Conversation with a Table Full of Women who Point me to Jesus
  3. Beautiful Rays of Sun Poking Through the Clouds.  (I pulled over to the side of the road and snapped the above picture while driving through town today.)
  4. The Refreshment of Ice Water After a Workout
  5. A Phone Call from my Married Daughter Just to Chat.

What are you thankful for today?

Project Gratitude

It is easy to get so distracted by the hurried pace of this world and everything that is going wrong in our lives that we take our eyes and hearts off the One who has richly blessed us.  When we focus on all the blessings we experience in this life, our hearts fill with gratitude toward God and we feel stronger to face the obstacles and complexity of this life.  November, the month of Thanksgiving, is a perfect month to express thankfulness and gratitude for all we have.  I am challenging myself to find five things to thank God for each day during this month.  Who else would like to join me?

My 5 Project Gratitude Thankful Things for Today

  1. The Smell of Coffee Brewing
  2. A Warm Shower
  3. The Privilege of Teaching Children the Promises of God
  4. Autumn Walks and Talks with Friends
  5. Guacamole

What are you thankful for today?

New Month, New Outlook

I’ve always loved the first day of a new month.  It’s a day for changing calendars, for looking ahead to all the fun that the month promises, for receiving special “first of the month” coupons and emails, and for wiping the slate clean from last month.  I especially love November because I can say, “Thanksgiving is coming later this month,” and  “Next month is my birthday and Christmas.”   When I encounter a flawless, new month, I am empowered to forge ahead instead of paralyzed with embarrassment over the mistakes I’ve made or overwhelmed with too much to do.

May we all greet November with a spirit of adventure and gratitude!

Loving Others Well

I can’t think of a single better way to use the rest of my life than loving others well.   Before my eyes are even fully open in the morning, I have already mumbled “I love you” to my husband and scratched one of the cats.  Before I get out of bed, I express my love to God by reading His Word, applying it to my life, worshiping Him, and praying for over 100 people.  When I spend this time with God, I find that He fills me to overflowing with love so I can’t help but look for opportunities to love others all day, from those closest to me to those I have not yet met.

Love can be expressed in so many ways.  We often thing of it as physical affection, but that is just one way to show love.  We can make time to spend with others in deep conversation.  We can do something kind for others.  We can encourage one another with our words.  We can let someone know we are thinking of them with a text message, phone call, or a gift.  Even a smile to the grocery checker or the person in the car next to you in a traffic jam can ease a burden and make someone feel special.

The current rhythm of modern American life is becoming so fast-paced and impersonal that stopping to unselfishly invest in another’s happiness seems unnatural.  So many days I fail at loving others well.  I get caught up in the rush of life and my own agenda that I view others as obstacles to what I need to do instead of high priorities.  It is only when I go to God to get refreshed in His love that I have enough to give others.

When I am no longer on this earth, I want to be remembered as someone who loved others well!


This post is part of a  31 Day Blogging Challenge entitled Embracing Fifty.  Please click here  to find all the posts in this series.  You can find the work of more bloggers participating in this series here. You’ll be glad you did!

Purpose

We all have exactly the same amount of time in each day, 24 hours or 1,440 minutes.   We also have a limited amount of time on this earth.  Each day, I’m getting a little closer to leaving this earth for heaven.  I have no idea whether today will be my last day here or I’ll live another 50+ years.   With that in mind, I am stating my intent to spend the rest of my days living life on purpose.

Determining the purpose of our life here on earth can be difficult when we are young.  As we get to know ourselves better, we see our strengths and weakness, figure out what we are drawn to and passionate about, and feel a greater sense of urgency to accomplish what we are set on this earth to do and to leave a legacy that will live beyond us.   We also learn to silence the critics easier, whether the criticism comes from those around us or our misconceptions about ourselves.

Summarizing my purpose into a succinct mission statement is tricky for me.   I have a blurry exposure what my purpose is to be but am slowly bringing that into focus through applying my circumstances and gaining wisdom.  The two biggest words that come into my mind when I consider my purpose are encouraging and teaching.  Sometimes these two purposes can overlap since so much of teaching is catching our students, children, spouses, and friends doing the right thing then urging them to continue in that direction.  I can encourage and teach almost anyone I come into contact with, whether they realize I am doing that or not.

What do you think your purpose is in life?


This post is part of a  31 Day Blogging Challenge entitled Embracing Fifty.  Please click here  to find all the posts in this series.  You can find the work of more bloggers participating in this series here. You’ll be glad you did!

Hope for the Future

One of my favorite Christmas traditions as a child was sitting next to our stereo cabinet listening to Lionel Barrymore’s portrayal of Ebenezer Scrooge on an album of Charles Dickens’ A Christmas Carol.   I loved the sound effects, the background music, the lively reading of the well-loved book, and especially Barrymore’s characterization of Scrooge.  I was a naturally fearful child, and the visits by each of the ghosts caused me to hide under a blanket for protection.  The most terrifying ghost to me was the Ghost of Christmas Future.  In fact, I can still remember the terror in Barrymore’s voice as he pronounced, “I fear you more than any specter I have seen.”   This was my first exposure to the word, future, so I always associated the future with anxiety and panic.

I’m learning that we can anticipate the future with great hope and excitement or we can dread it.  The choice is ours.  The future will inevitably contain both positive and negative elements.  I am assured that I will die in the future, unless Jesus returns before then.  I could choose to focus my life on that so much that it prevents me from living today to the fullest.  I can look forward to upcoming great times with loved ones, the addition of a new generation to our family tree, and the chance to grow and learn into my fifties, sixties, and seventies.   I can’t wait to see just how valuable my golden years will be!


This post is part of a  31 Day Blogging Challenge entitled Embracing Fifty.  Please click here  to find all the posts in this series.  You can find the work of more bloggers participating in this series here. You’ll be glad you did!

Nurturing Myself

 

Nurturing myself seemed like a selfish use of my time when I was raising my children.  My days were already so busy that taking time for myself appeared to be an impossibility.  I felt like nurturing myself would be the opposite of generosity.

Now I’m convinced that the beliefs I had were lies from the enemy to keep me in a depleted, ineffective state.   When I don’t allow time to refresh and recharge myself, my emotional, physical, spiritual, and social “battery” runs out and shuts off, causing me to be useless to myself and others except as an example of what not to do!

However, I don’t think we should go to the other extreme and live in constant indulgence to ourselves and call it nurture.    I used to think a good way to nurture myself was to eat a pound of chocolate and watch hours of television on end to the exclusion of the needs of my family.  We need God’swisdom to determine the balance.

Nurturing ourselves looks different to each person.  The music and activities that soothe me may agitate someone else.  I was so out of touch with who I was as a person that I didn’t know what to do with myself when I did get the opportunity to nurture myself.

Some of favorite ways to nurture myself now are listening to worship music (Sherri Youngward’s Pandora station is my favorite), reading (I’m currently over halfway through Jan Karon’s newest Mitford book), running, writing my thoughts down,  petting my three cats, hanging with my husband, and going to bed early enough to allow myself eight hours of sleep.

What are your favorite ways to nurture yourself?


This post is part of a  31 Day Blogging Challenge entitled Embracing Fifty.  Please click here  to find all the posts in this series.  You can find the work of more bloggers participating in this series here. You’ll be glad you did!

Laughter

Laughter has been one of my favorite parts of life since I was a baby.  There can never be too much laughter in a day.  Laughter can diffuse a tense situation, break down language barriers, lighten our load, relax us, and create joyful memories.  Laughter is a great gift to give to give one another.  One of my daily goals is to make my husband laugh really hard.  We tend to take ourselves and our lives so seriously that it feels good to step away from that just to giggle.   Nothing brings a smile to my face more than the laughter of children.

As I move into this next decade I want the following words from Proverbs 31:25 said about me,  “Strength and dignity are her clothing, and she laughs at the time to come.”  Laughter is the perfect accessory for any time in my life, especially the time to come!


This post is part of a  31 Day Blogging Challenge entitled Embracing Fifty.  Please click here  to find all the posts in this series.  You can find the work of more bloggers participating in this series here. You’ll be glad you did!

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