Thursday, September 6, 2018

100 Days to Brave: Final Update

This past Tuesday was Day 100 of the 100 Days to Brave devotional book I was doing this summer. It felt good to get to the finish line and complete a goal that I had set for myself. Overall, I enjoyed the book and the daily readings. They pointed me to scripture each day and gave me some good journaling/thought prompts.

I think I mentioned at the beginning of the 100 Days to Brave that I don't necessarily consider myself to be brave or to be lacking in courage. I guess I just do what I think I need to do (or what is asked of me) and "just keep swimming" (to quote an animated fish named Dory).

While reflecting on the book on Day 100, I realized that I had several situations this summer where I needed courage, and found it each time, with God's help:

  1. When I started out reading the book, it was Memorial Day and I was living with a dear family who opened their home to me while I was in limbo after selling my house. I was also praying about the possibility of an "outside of the box" living situation and was excited and nervous about how that would look.
  2. Just a few weeks later, the decision was made that I would go ahead with my original plan of buying a house and I made an offer on a town home while on a weekend get-away to Boston. There were many reasons why that took courage and faith, but God led me through it and I felt a peace about it.
  3. The family I was living with was also in transition, so we all couragously walked through the next few weeks waiting for two closings and making preparations for moving. I tried to be an encouragement to them while they were taking very brave steps to move their family overseas!
  4. Last Saturday, I did something that took bravery (and some called crazy): I took a hot air balloon flight! I'll do a separate blog about that experience, but oh, it was so much fun!
Some scripture passages that have stood out to me from this study are:

Bravery and courage come from the Lord. When we trust Him and His ways, He will lead us and help us and strengthen us for whatever He asks us to do! Praise the Lord that He never leaves us nor forsakes us!

Thursday, August 16, 2018

100 Days to Brave: 80-Day Update

I have been plugging away at the 100 Days to Brave devotional book this summer. In full disclosure, there have been some days when I had to play catch-up, but I believe I'm still on track to finish on September 4 (or whenever it's scheduled to end).

One thing that I have appreciated from this book is that the author, Annie F. Downs, shares real examples from her life of how God has been leading her to be brave. You would expect this from an author, but I think sometimes books can be more theory than practice.

The past few days have been having us look at practical areas of our lives:  eating, exercise, rest, time. These are all areas that I need to be consistent about evaluating in my life and it's given me ways to pray and look at what I need to work on.

Eating:  For three and half months, I was not in my own kitchen. I gladly shared meals with my friends who I stayed with, and am thankful for those times around the table. Now that I've moved into my new home and have a functional kitchen, I'm trying to get back in the groove of meal planning and cooking food for myself to eat throughout the week. I need to curb my sugar habit, but that is an ongoing struggle in my life.

Exercise:  Over a year ago, I began experiencing lower back pain, which also started affecting the range of motion in my hips. Thanks to the skilled hands and ideas of Rebecca Lowe, Manual Physical Therapist, I have a new plan for strengthening my core and getting cardio by walking and doing the recumbent bike. My goal is to get stronger and pain-free enough to be able to go sky diving someday!

Time:  This is a broad area, but I want to be more intentional about how I spend my time, mainly when I am away from work. My evenings are a lot freer since I gave up my part-time job at the Y, but I can easily fill up my time with social events, church events and frivolously wasting time on social media. I don't have set goals for this area, but being more mindful of time will hopefully help me to be more intentional.

I'm looking forward to the next 20 days and to getting to the finish line of this book. I think looking at ways that I am brave and at how God is calling me to courageous living has been good for me this summer.

Thursday, June 21, 2018

100 Days to Brave: Day 25 Update

Hi! I'm still here, still working through the 100 Days to Brave devotional book by Annie F. Downs. Today is Day 25, so we're one fourth of the way through. I've been journaling each day and thought I'd share some of my thoughts.

1. My idea of what I thought I might need to be brave about when I started the book and what I'm actually having to be brave about are different 25 days later. On Day 1, I was waiting to find out if I was going to be a part of a unconventional housing situation, something that sounded exciting to me, but also made me wonder if I had it in me to do it. As of today, I am under contract to buy a townhouse and I still wonder if I have what it takes to actually do it . . . and also have to keep reminding myself that it's really happening.

2. In a whirlwind of activity, I went to see four townhouses in about an hour and half on a Thursday afternoon, then flew to Boston early Friday morning for a fun weekend away, and while there determined that I could put a viable offer to buy my top choice. By the time I got home on Sunday night, we had a verbal acceptance and on Monday morning I signed the written contract.

When I opened my 100 Days to Brave book that Monday morning, we were in a new section titled, "Brave Enough to Believe God. He is who He says He is, I promise." The verse was from Jeremiah 33:3: "Call to me and I will answer you and tell you great and unsearchable things you do not know."
I had definitely been calling on the Lord throughout the past few months and throughout that weekend and having the answer come so loudly on that particular morning was such an encouragement to me.

3. God still speaks and we can still hear Him. Sometimes I want to hear an audible word from the Lord, but His way of speaking to me is always through His Word. God has shown up each and every day and has used His Word and the words of others in my life and in books and social media to remind me of his steadfast love and faithfulness. One day I woke up feeling anxious and the verse of the day on my Bible app was a verse that reminded me that I do not have to go through life on my own strength:  "But those who trust the Lord will find new strength. They will be strong like eagles soaring upward on wings; they will walk and run without getting tired." (Isaiah 40:31, CEV) Then the daily reading plan was Romans 5, reminding me of the rich truth of the gospel. Finally, someone I follow on Instagram posted a video of the ocean with the lyrics from a song that said, "So let go my soul and trust in Him. The waves and wind still know His name." (It Is Well, Bethel Music). My attitude adjusted and the anxiousness in my mind and soul were lifted and I knew again that God was speaking to me and all I need to do is listen.

There's still a lot that God is speaking to my heart and I'm looking forward to continuing to listen through His Word and throughout the next 75 days.

Wednesday, May 30, 2018

100 Days to Brave: Why? and When?

As I am going through the 100 Days to Brave devotions, I am journaling in a notebook and I will also post here along the way.

Day 2 was about the reasons WHY we need to be brave.

The Apostle Paul told Timothy, "We can only keep on going, after all, by the power of God, who first saved us and then called us to this holy work. We had nothing to do with it. It was all his idea, a gift prepared for us in Jesus long before we knew anything about it. But we know it now" (2 Tim. 1:8-9, The Message). Paul was teaching Timothy and other believers (us) that the only way we can be brave is by the power of God working in us and through us.

Annie Downs points out that "seeing other people be brave makes us want to be brave, too," and "when we are brave enough to share the God stories in our lives, it changes the people around us." The WHY is that "others will be inspired to be brave along with us."

Day 3 dove into the WHEN to be brave or WHEN someone else told we were brave. As I said in my first post, I have several times in my life when either I or someone else labeled me as "brave":
  • Choosing to go over a thousand miles away from home to attend college.
  • Leaving friends/family to serve as a missionary for a semester in Hawaii.
  • Walking through divorce.
  • Taking a new full-time job in a different field than I was trained and in a corporate setting.
  • Leaving that job to take a position at my church office.
  • Getting on an airplane alone to travel to the Middle East to visit family.
  • Deciding to sell my house and not having another place to buy and move into right away.
I didn't necessarily feel brave when I was doing those things or going through the decision-making process. In fact, I'd say that I probably had a lot of anxiety and fear of the unknown when I was actually in those circumstances. But the way that I got through it all and the way I live my life today is by trusting in God's grace and faithfulness to me. God has led me and has helped me and has always given me exactly what I need each day. I have no reason not to believe that he will continue to do that and I'm so thankful!

I love it when passages of scripture that I am led to read in the mornings layer the truth and sink it deeper into my soul. Today was no exception. The passage from the 100 Days to Brave reading was Isaiah 30:21 (and I expanded it to verses 18-22) and then my Psalms reading for today was Psalm 145. I hope these passages will inspire others in their bravery and remind us all that the only WHY and WHEN of our bravery comes from God, the One who makes us brave and helps us to be brave.

Therefore the Lord waits to be gracious to you,
    and therefore he exalts himself to show mercy to you.
For the Lord is a God of justice;
    blessed are all those who wait for him.
19 For a people shall dwell in Zion, in Jerusalem; you shall weep no more. He will surely be gracious to you at the sound of your cry. As soon as he hears it, he answers you. 20 And though the Lord give you the bread of adversity and the water of affliction, yet your Teacher will not hide himself anymore, but your eyes shall see your Teacher. 21 And your ears shall hear a word behind you, saying, “This is the way, walk in it,” when you turn to the right or when you turn to the left. 22 Then you will defile your carved idols overlaid with silver and your gold-plated metal images. You will scatter them as unclean things. You will say to them, “Be gone!” (Isaiah 30:18-22, ESV)

The Lord upholds all who are falling
    and raises up all who are bowed down.
15 The eyes of all look to you,
    and you give them their food in due season.
16 You open your hand;
    you satisfy the desire of every living thing.
17 The Lord is righteous in all his ways
    and kind in all his works.
18 The Lord is near to all who call on him,
    to all who call on him in truth.
19 He fulfills the desire of those who fear him;
    he also hears their cry and saves them.
20 The Lord preserves all who love him,
    but all the wicked he will destroy.
21 My mouth will speak the praise of the Lord,
    and let all flesh bless his holy name forever and ever. (Psalm 145:14-21, ESV)

Monday, May 28, 2018

100 Days to Brave

100 Days to Brave is a devotion book by Annie F. Downs and I've decided to start it today, along with others on Instagram under the hashtag #100DaystoBraveSummer.

The book's subtitle is "Devotions for Unlocking Your Most Courageous Self." In full disclosure, I already think of myself as a somewhat courageous or brave person. This isn't because I don't have fears or act out of fear sometimes, but I think of myself as courageous because I have been facing my fears and walking bravely for many years. This has been out of necessity and circumstance and I've only done it by faith in God and by his mercy and grace.

The reason I think this book is compelling and the timing is good for me to start reading and following along is because I am in a place of waiting and contemplating. I recently sold my house where I lived for over 20 years. I haven't found my new place to live yet, so I'm staying with friends who have generously given me space in their home. Last year, my only son graduated from college and is thriving as a young adult out in the world. I am feeling unhindered and have a world of possibilities in front of me, a 51-year-old single woman. I want to live with my hands and heart and mind open to what God has for me and to do that courageously and bravely . . . maybe even having to face fears and trust God more than I ever have before.

So, here I go!

The verse for Day 1 of 100 Days to Brave is from Isaiah 41:
"For I am the Lord your God who takes hold of your right hand and says to you, Do not fear; I will help you" (Isaiah 41:13, NIV)

I wish I knew how many times this verse in Isaiah has spoken deep into my soul and has comforted me. It is too many times to count on all my fingers and toes, I'm sure of that! The first time I remember it speaking so profoundly to me was on the night that I knew my marriage was probably over. I went to my bedroom alone and got my Bible and turned to these verses in Isaiah (starting in verse 10).

I don't know if I was led there through a devotion I was reading or a Bible study lesson or simply by the Holy Spirit guiding me in that moment, but I read the words and found comfort for my heart, mind and soul in a very uncertain and scary time of my life. I already trusted God and I could believe that his words were (and are) true.

Since then, God has reminded me over and over again that he is holding me and helping me. I don't have to be afraid. I can be brave because he is with me and for me.

Yesterday at church we sang a favorite chorus of mine (written by Keith Green):

Thank you, oh my father
For giving us Your Son
And leaving Your Spirit
'Til the work on Earth is done.

Monday, October 23, 2017

Graduation Day

The day finally came:  May 13, 2017 - Daniel's graduation from the University of Tennessee.

And what a great day it was! We drove up to Knoxville on Friday and got to Thompson-Bowling Arena bright and early on Saturday to get good seats. The ceremony lasted a couple of hours, but the speakers were interesting and it was worth it to see Daniel walk across the stage to receive his well-earned degree.

Fun facts:
  • The graduates don't sit in alphabetical order. They are given a placard with their name as they want it read and what degree that they are receiving.
  • The diplomas are mailed out later, so the graduates received rolled up fake diplomas.
  • The College of Arts and Sciences is the largest college at UT and is the longest commencement
  • Daniel received a Bachelor of Music degree in Studio Music and Jazz w/emphasis on Drum Set 
  • Daniel and one of his friends, John Dooley (pictured below), have known each other since the fifth grade at Meigs Magnet School and went to Hume-Fogg together before ending up at UT.
  • Daniel and his roommate, Luther (also pictured below), also a drummer, met the first week of Freshman year and became fast friends.

He's down there in the section in the foreground, somewhere in the middle
Daniel got to sit with some of his friends

Daniel and John Dooley

Grandma and Mom with the graduate
Analese, Anita, Dad and Noah with the graduate

Mom and Dad with the grad:  We all did it!
 After the ceremony, we headed over to Daniel and Luther's apartment and had a delicious catered lunch with both families. Luther's mom ordered some good Southern food from a local restaurant and I provided a cake. It was a fun time to hear stories of Daniel and Luther's years in the dorm and rooming together and Luther showed us some video from his Senior recital.

Laughing about some antics that Luther and Daniel told about from their dorm days
Luther's Senior recital

Luther and Daniel

We didn't notice until later that the cake has some typos!

Showing their true personalities

Should I Stay or Should I Go?

Well, Hi!

It's been a while since I have posted and I'm honestly trying to decide if I'm going to continue with the blog or let it come to an end. I do enjoy writing and am glad that I have this outlet for sharing thoughts and memories. I think I'll try catching up on some major events that have happened over the past six or seven months and then see how it goes from there.

Before I go on, my salutation at the top reminded me of one of my favorite stories from Daniel's childhood. He was about two or three years old and Halloween was coming, so I thought I should teach him how to trick-or-treat. One day I told him that in a few days he would get to wear a costume and we'd go to our friends' houses to get candy (of course, this sounded like a great idea to him).

I had him go in his room and close the door and told him that I would knock and he should open the door. When he opened the door, I said, "Trick or Treat!" very enthusiastically and offered him a pretend bag for him to put pretend candy inside. We did it that way a couple of times and then I told him that I'd stay in his room and he could go in the hall and knock on the door. When he knocked on the door, I opened it and smiled at him, waiting for him to speak first. After a couple of seconds, I said, "What do you say?" Daniel smiled real big and said very confidently, "Well, hi!"

I burst out laughing and reminded him to say "Trick or Treat!" in order to get candy on Halloween. We've gotten a lot of laughs out of that memory for the past twenty or so years!

So, stay tuned for some new posts coming soon!