One Good Thing

I doubt I was alone in making some decisions to eat healthier, exercise more and generally take better care of myself at the start of this new year.  I impressed myself for the first 4 or 5 weeks, making good choices and exercising what felt like super-human will power and restraint.  And then several things happened seemingly all at once causing me to not only fall off the wagon, but to land squarely on my face doing it.  A date night, Girl Scout cookie sales time, a Valentine’s Day banquet following a vow renewal at our church, a family trip to San Antonio and my son’s birthday brought me lots of opportunities to consume foods and beverages that aren’t optimal for health.  All those activities left me little time to work out, but it hardly mattered because all the wasted calories completely drained my energy.

Last Saturday evening, as I was picking at what remained of my son’s birthday cookie, I couldn’t help thinking, “This is it, I’ve gone and done it now, relapsed into my old bad habits.”  Then the devil on my shoulder whispered, “It would be wasteful to throw just it away.  May as well finish it, now.”

Sunday after church, it just seemed like the thing to do to go out for lunch with the family, especially since I couldn’t think of a single thing we had at home to eat.  I could easily blame the restaurant my boys selected for not having a single vegetable on the menu aside from lettuce and salsa on my tacos and the avocado in my guacamole, but the truth is I didn’t have to eat ALL of it.  Even though we had a delightful family meal together and I had no dishes to do, I left feeling miserable, overstuffed, and bloated.

When we returned home that afternoon, all I wanted to do was take a nap.

Monday morning rolled around and I found that the excitement I had been feeling in previous weeks about seeing progress on the scale had been replaced by a somber trepidation.  I don’t even want to know…  What if I’m all the way back where I started?  6 weeks of denial wasted in one week.  Countless hours of yoga and walking, kickboxing and swimming, elliptical, biking and kettle bell routines down the tubes.  All that time and effort to log every morsel of food I consumed was squandered, not to mention the money I spent on a silly tracking device.

So, instead of stripping down, I turned away from the scale and brushed my teeth.  I chose not to condemn myself, but rather to extend the grace I would to a friend to the woman in the mirror.

Downstairs, I was greeted by a few texts from a friend who has been relentlessly encouraging me along the way.  She lives in a time zone an hour ahead of me, so I saw them all at once.

The first one made me cringe.  She wrote, “How was your weekend?”  A sort of code talk for “What did you eat and did you get a workout in?”

Thankfully, she must have been on the same page as I that morning about grace because the second one read, “Scratch that.  Forget about the past.  What’s the plan for today?”

I thanked her for not making me detail my dismal weekend failures, but unfortunately, I didn’t really have a plan for the day.  I had two back to back morning appointments and the potentially icy conditions for the day made the 25 minute drive over several bridges to my usual Monday morning swim seem like an unwise choice.  It was so tempting to just chalk that day up to another skipped work out and meals on the go, justified by the busy mom excuse.

Her next words struck me deeply.  She encouraged me simply to care for God’s temple.

She thanked God for new starts and grace and forgiveness and then told me I was going to have an amazing week!

With her kind words still echoing in my mind, I grabbed the healthiest thing I could walking out the door.  I did one good thing and it made all the difference in my day.  After my appointments I came home and tackled some neglected chores around the house, then I picked up my kettle bell.  And after swinging and squatting and lifting and twisting with it, I stepped up on my elliptical to sweat a little more.  I did one good thing and it led to a string of good decisions.

When I get off track in other areas of my life, it can seem like such a momentous task just to find my way back gain.

When my house is so unkept it is far from the haven I wish it could be.

When I feel isolated because I haven’t put any effort into developing friendships.

When my kids and I are at odds over a never-ending string of homework, clutter and disagreements.

When my husband and I feel distant after too much time facing the TV instead of each other.

When I feel far from God after neglecting prayer and His word for too long.

When a sin eats away at my soul.

I don’t have to take on a full spring cleaning, host a social, plan an intervention, attend a marriage retreat, or go on a spiritual sabbatical.  I can do just one good thing.  Unload the dishwasher.  Send a text message.  Hug my boys.  Tell my husband I love him.  Open my bible.  Accept God’s grace.  Do just one small good thing and see what it leads to next.   I think one of Satan’s most despicable deceptions is convincing us that we are too far gone to save, that we would have so much work to do to get back that it just isn’t worth the effort.  He tells us to take the easy way out, to do what you’ve always done, to just indulge yourself a little.  The problem is that one bad choice, generally leads to more and gives weight to Satan’s taunting that we’ll never make it.  But if you read my post yesterday, you already know that you CAN get there from here.  The Way has already been paved.

None of us have reached perfection yet and we will certainly see setbacks, failures and derailments this side of heaven.  However, if we accept the forgiveness freely given to each of us by God (Colossians 1:13-14), remember that in Christ we are made new (2 Corinthians 5:17), forget our past mistakes and reach forward, press on toward the goal, then on that last day we will hear the upward call (Philippians 3:13-14).  God’s grace comes first, but we determine what to do next.  We must choose to do one good thing, not to earn our salvation, but because we live motivated by Christ’s sacrifice for us. (2 Corinthians 5:15)

Where in your life is Satan trying to convince you it’s too hard to go?  If you could do just one good thing today, what would it be?  Who can you enlist to help you?

 

“He has delivered us from the power of darkness and conveyed us into the Kingdom of the Son of His love, in whom we have redemption through His blood, the forgiveness of sins.”  Colossians 1:13-14

Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; old things have passed away; behold, all things have become new.”  2 Corinthians 5:17

 “Brethren, I do not count myself to have apprehended; but one thing I do, forgetting those things which are behind and reaching forward to those things which are ahead, I press  toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus.”  Philippians 3:13-14

“and He died for all, that those who live should no longer live for themselves, but for Him who died for them and rose again.” (2 Corinthians 5:15)

We can’t get there from here…

As a girl growing up in Northern Virginia, we took family vacations all up and down the East coast.  Every once in a while we would struggle to get from point A to point B, and my Dad would exclaim, “We can’t get there from here!”  This was back in the days before GPS and in-dash navigation systems and well, if I have to admit it, before cell phones and mapquest, too.

I got to pass this family tradition on to my husband many years ago on a camping trip to the Outer Banks when the road literally ran into the ocean.  There *may* have been signs warning us of this hazard, but we must not have believed it at the time.  Standing on the beach, we could see where we needed to go, but without a ferry or a bridge we were stuck.

Now, my children even joke about similar situations.  We live less than a mile from the boys’ elementary school, but there is no safe way to walk or bike there. Between our house and the most direct route to the school looms a large overgrown area that occasionally has water, sometimes stagnant and other times flowing.  Apparently, one of my son’s friends played in that ditch once and found a very large snake.  There is no way I’d cross that ditch alone.

We need a bridge!

Standing between me and heaven is this overgrown, sometimes frightening chasm of my sin that I cannot cross on my own.  Sometimes I find myself hip deep wallowing in that mess with the evil serpent that tempts me, drags me in, pulls me back and convinces me I’m never going to make it.  Like, when I realize I’ve lost my temper with my kids for the umpteenth time in one day, and then guilt washes over me as I hear his attacks:  “You are a terrible mother!”  “You claim to be a Christian?”  “What if your kids grow up hating you?” or worse yet, “What if your kids grow up just like you?”  Like quicksand he drags me down as his lies threaten to convince me that I will never reach righteousness from where I stand.

The truth is we already have the bridge.

God spanned the distance with His very own Son’s sacrifice.  We did not build it ourselves, but we must, with the help of the Holy Spirit, choose to cross it by our faith in Jesus.  His blood alone brings us near to God.  (Ephesians 2:13).  He bridges the gap between us and our eternity.

The words of the bible are the most powerful road sign we could ever hope to have guiding us on this journey.  We CAN get there from here if we simply believe in Him and the power of His sacrifice to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.  (1 John 1:9)    Not only is Jesus the bridge, but through the work of the one He calls the Helper (John 14:26), the Holy Spirit, He will pluck us out of the miry clay, place our feet on solid ground, wash us off and point us in the right direction. (Psalm 40:2)

Whatever the enemy seeks to drown you in today, whether it be guilt, shame, comparison, unworthiness, jealousy, doubt, pain, lust, anger or any other lie, I urge you to remember to reach up and grab hold of the truth that has the power to see you safely to the other side.

But now in Christ Jesus you who once were far off have been brought near by the blood of Christ.”  Ephesians 2:13

 If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins; and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.”  1 John 1:9

But the Helper, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in My name, He will teach you all things, and bring to your remembrance all things the I said to you.  John 14:26

“He lifted me out of the slimy pit, out of the mud and mire; he set my feet on a rock and grave me a firm place to stand.”  Psalm 40:2

 

Compelled to Write

Dear Friends,

Some of you may know I started this blog to write about crafting and all the fun I was having with My Messy Desk, but you may have noticed God had other plans for this platform.  I will still occasionally throw in a post or two with a crafty tutorial, but my writing has been predominantly Christian devotional in nature.

I feel compelled to write and to share what God is teaching me.  Not because I think I am so wise, but because I have realized how very much I have to learn.  Not because I have all the answers, but because I have so many questions.  Not because my life is perfect, but because I am so flawed.  Not because I have anything earth shattering or unique to share, but because I’m making connections through the unique fabric of my very own story about things that so many wise and scholarly people before me have written.  My hope is that you who are within my circle of love and friendship will find these stories relatable to your own lives because you and I share common bonds.

I often think about the passage Paul writes in 1 Corinthians 9:22 when he says, “I have become all things to all men, that I might by all means save some.”  I certainly cannot be all things and many of you are much further along than I in your walk with Christ, but I am similar enough to most of you that my stories might resonate with you and hopefully encourage you as you go.  Each of us has our own story to tell and the more we tell it, the more Good News we can spread either through written or spoken word or even the example we set as we go about our daily routines and intersect with people in our own circles!

One of my sweet sisters-in-law recently forwarded a link to me about a conference for people who feel called to write or speak or have leadership roles in ministry.  I have shared with her my dream of a larger audience for my writing, and this opportunity would certainly mean making a deliberate step toward that goal, but I’m not going to lie…it is at least as scary as it is exhilarating.  It would mean opening myself up to rejection and sharing my heart with strangers, not to mention the logistical and financial hurdles involved in simply getting to the She Speaks Conference venue.  I just don’t know if I’m ready for all that!

As I researched this giant leap, I came across a baby step that felt much more comfortable.  Proverbs 31 Ministries has on-line lessons called Compel Training for writers covering topics that range from How to Think Like a Writer to How to Write a Book Proposal and so much more.  There are classes I can watch in the privacy of my own home, forums I can post my writing on and not have to physically face the critiquing, and hints, tips and inspiration for me to keep working at my improving my writing.

This I can do, and I’m realizing that I actually enjoy this study of an entirely different creative process.  I have said for years now that I had no desire to “go back to school,” but I think perhaps this is a kind of school I can embrace wholeheartedly!  For all of you who are also compelled to write about any topic, I encourage you to investigate it for yourself.

My request of you is that you would pray for me as I begin this journey.  Pray for encouragement as I study.  Pray for doors to open widely if this conference is part of God’s path for me.  Pray that God would continue to inspire my writing and that it would bless those who read it in some way.  Pray that I would always seek His will and wisdom in both my writing and my life.  Amen!

In Him,

Liz

Company Uniforms

Since I started My Messy Desk, it’s always been a toss up about what to wear for my workshop days or when I participate as a vendor in bazaars.  I don’t want to be too fancy for workshops, because you never know what kind of mess I might make on my clothes, and I want my customers to feel comfortable.  A couple of years ago, I made some aprons with my business name on them to wear when I did events to give potential clients a way to visualize and hopefully remember later my name, but that didn’t completely solve my problem.  After two years of constantly trying to look casual and cute and represent my business in attire that could get messy if things got too out of control, I finally came to the realization a few months ago that I needed a uniform!  For a girl who spent almost 14 years in camouflage, you would have thought that would have been the obvious answer, but you’d have been wrong!  I missed the very solution that was staring me in the face and even hugging me hello every evening when my husband comes home from work.

Uniforms identify something about us – where we go to school, what sport we play, what branch of service we are in, what company we work for.  They tell the world something about us even before we open our mouths.

Uniforms associate us with a certain team, school, business, unit or cause.  When we see someone in the same uniform that we wear, we automatically know we have something in common.  This gives us a sense of belonging and fellowship with people who might otherwise pass on the street without acknowledging each other.

Uniforms level the playing field for all those who wear them.  With the exception of rank worn in the military, uniforms generally make everybody feel equal.  They disguise certain claims to status that we may inadvertently or overtly use to advertise our superiority over others, like a well tailored suit, brand name jeans or expensive jewelry.

Uniforms are generally worn proudly.  There is no hiding in a uniform (except to the extent with which camouflage is intended to make Soldiers invisible).  When you put on a uniform you want to be know as somebody who believes in what they do and you want people to remember it even after you leave their presence.

Uniforms signify that you belong to something that is bigger than yourself.  When you wear a uniform, you not only represent yourself with your actions, but you represent your entire group as well.  That can have an added bonus of making you more responsible for your own actions.  Generally, when you wear a uniform there is somebody who is overall responsible for your team or group and you wouldn’t want to let that leader down.

And, so I came up with a shirt that had my business name, my motto and my tag line.  Now, I have something I can wear anytime I want to advertise.  I can wear it for every single workshop and never waste another moment deliberating about what to wear and nobody will question why  I wear the same thing every time.  I can start making shirts for my customers, so that when two of them meet away from My Messy Desk, they will automatically have something to talk about.

As I was still congratulating myself for this stroke of genius, a friend sent me something she wrote and shared with the PWOC girls at Fort Polk.  In it she talks about Christians wearing a “Jesus Jersey.”  She says that being a Christian “requires you to take off the jersey that says your name (one we all like to wear a whole lot) and put on a Jesus jersey.”  She makes sure to  point out that this is no easy task and none of us could do it without the help Christ.

So, that got me thinking about what our Jesus Jersey would look like.  Colossians 3:12-14 gives us some answers, “Therefore, as God’s chosen people, holy and dearly loved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness, and patience.  Bear with each other and forgive one another if any of you has a grievance against someone, Forgive as the Lord forgave you.  And over all these virtues, put on love, which binds them all together in perfect unity.”

Compassion.

Kindness.

Gentleness.

Patience.

Forgiveness.

Love.

Unity.

These are the things that should clearly identify us as Christians.  The “Jesus Jersey” is not a fancy starched and pressed number filled with badges, tabs and medals designating success in a variety of schools and campaigns like the formal uniform worn by Soldiers to official functions.  The characteristics listed above are not merely for showiness or to prove our accomplishments, but are attitudes that begin from within when we allow Jesus to be the captain of our heart.  1 Peter 3:3-4 tells us that  “[our] beauty should not come from outward adornment, such as elaborate hairstyles, and the wearing of gold jewelry or fine cloths.  Rather, it should be that of [our] inner self, the unfading beauty of a gentle and quiet spirit, which is of great worth in God’s sight.”

“And so, above all else, we should guard our hearts, for everything we do flows from it.” Proverbs 4:23.  And, as Christians, everything we do either brings scrutiny or honor to our entire team.  Its not just about us.  In fact it isn’t about us at all.  It’s all about Him and what He as done for us.  It is His peace that protects our hearts.  Philippians 4:7

When Soldiers go into battle, they wear a lot more gear…  Body armor, helmets, ruck sacks, equipment vests, gas masks and MOPP gear, and weapons slung across their backs.  These additions to their uniforms provide them extra protection agains the attacks of the enemy. Ephesians 6:14-18 outlines the Christian equivalent of the Soldier’s “full battle rattle.”    It says we can protect ourselves from the advances of the evil one “with the belt of truth buckled around your waist, with the breastplate of righteousness in place, and with your feet fitted with the readiness that comes from the gospel of peace.  In addition to all this, take up the shield of faith, with which you can extinguish all the flaming arrows of the evil one.  Take the helmet of salvation and the sword of the spirit which is the word of God.”

Truth.

Righteousness.

Gospel.

Faith.

Salvation.

Word of God.

These are the items that allow us to “stand firm” when evil comes against us.  Once we identify ourselves as Christians by wearing the “Jesus Jersey,” there will likely be trouble for us.  These are the tools we have been given to go into the world.  Jesus said, “In the world you will have tribulation.  But take heart; I have overcome the world.”  John 16:33.  Jesus won the war for us, so we can go confidently into whatever skirmish awaits us here on earth clothed in our “Jesus Jersey” knowing the ultimate victory is ours!

When you are wearing a uniform, nobody expects you to follow the latest fashion trends.  Suiting up for Christianity means you adhere to an ancient and never-changing set of standards that are not effected by what is popular on any given day.  “Jesus is the same yesterday, today and forever.”  (Hebrews 13:8). For those of us bound for the Kingdom of Heaven, the Jesus Jersey never goes out of style!  We don’t have to worry about fitting in or wearing the right thing.  In fact we are called to stand out, to be set apart from the world, to be Holy, as part of His team.

If you have ever worn wet wool in New Jersey in December for 6 hours straight, you’d understand just how uncomfortable uniforms can be.  Stiff, scratchy, tight, heavy, cumbersome…  Some of the pieces of the Christian’s uniform can be difficult for us to put on, too.  I particularly struggle with gentleness and patience, but I’ve found that if I ask God for help, He is faithful to strengthen me, to help all the pieces fit just right.  Romans 13:14 encourages us to “clothe [ourselves] with the Lord Jesus Christ, and do not think about how to gratify the desires of the flesh.”  Our flesh seeks after pleasure and comfort, but wearing the Jesus Jersey means denying those selfish longings and instead yearning for the traits that lead to everlasting life.

Who’s uniform are you wearing?  If God is your coach, president, commander or CEO, are you proudly wearing His uniform?  Can others identify you as a Christian before you open your mouth?  Are your actions and choices everyday making Him proud to have you on His team?  Are you using your uniform to create a sense of belonging among your teammates, both seasoned and rookies, as well as those who are only considering joining?  Or are you wearing it with the intent of making yourself seem superior?   Do you regularly gather with those who wear the same uniform?  Jesus told His followers that everyone would know they were His disciples if they loved one another.  John 13:35.  Would anyone recognize you by this standard?  Are you prepared to go into battle each day protected by the full armor of God?  Which pieces of the the uniform are hardest for you to get into?

Tomorrow morning, ask God to help you suit up and represent His team!