Crossroads Require Choices

The New Year of 2014 is upon us and my mind is swirling and whirling and twirling with thoughts and plans and adjustments that I intend to make in the year to come. Many people embrace the concept of New Year’s Resolutions. I suppose I am one of them. I grow very contemplative during the last week of any year and consider what I’ve done right and what I’d do differently if given a chance. Then, I consider the brand spanking new year ahead and realize I do have a chance to do many things differently. I think somewhere along the way, a New Year has become my ultimate chance at a do-over. It is my chance to make amends, start again and try one more time.

This year I am going to approach my goals a bit differently. As I’ve prayed and pondered what needs doing, my dreams and desires, the many challenges that I am already aware of, I find myself standing at a crossroad. I think for some time now I have been traveling a multi-laned, fast-paced, alarmingly-busy road. And now, suddenly it seems to me, I find myself at a point where I know I can’t continue that route any more. Looking back over my shoulder I am fully aware that I went to some remarkable destinations as I zipped through life these last few years. I have no regrets. I did what I felt I should do. I did what I wanted to do. I made choices and I buckled in and I took the ride. But, things are about to change.

I suspect that I’ve been anticipating this new direction ahead for some time. For months I have been attempting to adjust my speed and avoid traffic jams. I’ve been careful about watching for road signs along the way that caution me about upcoming curves or possible hazards. I cautioned myself about too many distractions and tried to avoid being sidetracked. I did all I knew to do so that I could continue my journey. Then, last week, I received a call from the doctor who had recently tested two of my seven children for dyslexia. She told me that one of my sons has two forms and the other has all three. I was astounded. We were doing the testing to rule out dyslexia. Instead, I realized that we were about to embark on a brand new journey for our family and I felt totally unprepared.

I don’t mean to imply that this was a life threatening disease or an insurmountable task. It is doable, I understand that. But, it needs doing and quite frankly, I was just about done out. After a good cry and thorough nose blowing, I began to gather info and the more I read, the more astounded I was. This was going to not only be a journey, this was going to reroute our lives for a season. We were about to take a new direction.

As I prayed and wiped more unbidden tears, I attempted to process the flood of emotions that washed over me. Guilt – what had taken me so long to get this testing done? Fear – this is brand new territory and I don’t know what to expect. Guilt – I am going to have to make adjustments in my commitments and projects. Relief – now I know the name of the battle we have been fighting. Guilt – I am going to disappoint some folks. Frustration – my plans were being suddenly altered and I had been caught off guard. Guilt – I have failed my children.

Sound a little over-dramatic? Well, perhaps, but, it was no performance. I was as honest and transparent and sincere as I could be as I poured my heart out before an audience of one, The Lord. Did you notice how amid all the emotions there was one more prevalent than the others? Guilt. Boo on guilt. It immobilizes us, freezes us in place and prevents progress. Thankfully, some precious friends stomped the guts out of guilt right away and my rock here on this earth, my husband Henry, comforted and encouraged me. My mom, who is also such a great friend, let me pour it all out and then helped me mop it back up.

When all was said and done, there I stood at a crossroad and there were choices to make. The choice was clear. I would take the direction that led me away from the superwoman highway and divert my energies, time and efforts towards this new journey of understanding and addressing Dyslexia. Although I can’t see it yet with my naked eyes, I am convinced that down the road I may be able to merge again with the main road I must leave for now. I will be ready to pick up the pace and zip along happily towards exciting destinations ahead. As for this season, I will be the stronger, the better for it on the other side.

I don’t know what may have you feeling sidetracked as you face 2014. It could be so many things. Finances, health issues, grief, relational conflicts, on and on I could go. But, whatever it is that you face, consider the crossroads before you. There’s no going back, no room in the trunk for regrets and guilt, no place in your life for unnecessary loads of frustration, no passengers allowed who are proven peace-thieves. It is time to make a decision. Are you ready for a journey? Are you willing to take the lesser traveled road? It is your choice, choose wisely. I certainly plan to.

“The Lord said to His people: ‘You are standing at the crossroads. So consider your path. Ask where the old, reliable paths are. Ask where the path is that leads to blessing and follow it. If you do, you will find rest for your souls.'” Jeremiah 6:16

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The Prince of Peace and Peace-Thieves

As December approached and all the activities that accompany it, my thoughts turned towards peace. Peace on Christmas cards! Peace in Christmas Carols! Peace on earth! It seems that there could be no better season to embrace peace, than this season that we are celebrating.

Unfortunately, like so many other words, peace can be misconstrued to mean something that it doesn’t. So what is peace? Peace can be defined as tranquility, harmony or security. Variations of the word peace are found in the KJV Bible 429 times. There are different sorts of peace. There is inner peace, false peace, peace with God, peace with man. There is perfect peace, perceived peace, peace offerings, peace covenants.

In the Old Testament the primary word for peace is shalom. That word applies strongly to relationships – relationships between people, between nations and with God. It is often tied to a covenant, a promise. It indicates a level of trust, a true friend. Perhaps as many refer to such relationships, a safe place.

Our PEACE is a covenant between us and God! It is not about trying to keep people happy. During the holidays we are sometimes expected to sacrifice the peace of our own hearts for the sake of others who refuse to enter into the covenant of a trusting relationship that produces peace. We are tempted to compromise our peace to satiate the peace thieves. (aka joy-stealers , hope-grabbers.) Do not compromise your covenant with God and forego ‘Perfect Peace’ for the sake of a ‘Perceived Peace’.

During the last weeks leading up to this week of Christmas and gatherings with family and friends, I have posted almost daily a verse of scripture that deals with peace. Each time I shared my thoughts and then reminded myself to ‘Hold my #peace – Avoid the #peacethieves’. Likely, every one of us will face awkward moments of stress in the days to come because we will see people we don’t usually see or on the flip side, not see people that we want to see. It is not uncommon to dread some encounters during what we all wish could be a joyful and peaceful time.

Below are only a few of the peace scriptures I posted on Facebook and an excerpt of thoughts concerning each of them. I pray that you will be encouraged.

*For shoes, put on the peace that comes from the Good News so that you will be fully prepared. (Ephesians 6:15 NLT)
Walking in PEACE is no stroll upon a manicured lawn. Sometimes it means taking the road less traveled. Sometimes it means taking a firm stand when it would be easier to give in. Sometimes it leads to lonely moments.

*Better a dry crust with peace and quiet than a house full of feasting, with strife. Proverbs 17:1
I would rather my children remember a simple celebration with PEACE than elaborate celebrations without it.

*Don’t worry about anything; instead, pray about everything. Tell God what you need, and thank him for all he has done. Then you will experience God’s peace, which exceeds anything we can understand. His peace will guard your hearts and minds as you live in Christ Jesus. (Philippians 4:6, 7 NLT)
You must guard your peace because it is HIS PEACE that will guard your hearts and minds. When we allow our peace to be stolen we have invited the enemy to come in and create confusion, dismay and discouragement.

*You will keep in perfect peace those whose minds are steadfast, because they trust in you. Isaiah 26:3 NIV
GOD’S part – He guards (keeps) us in perfect (constant) peace. Our part – Steadfast mind (stayed on Him).

*Make every effort to keep yourselves united in the Spirit, binding yourselves together with peace.” Ephesians 4:3 NLT
Before we face the next storm, we need to stop and take time to bind ourselves together with peace. Don’t be in such a rush to move on to the next destination that we don’t create a safeguard.

*If it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone. Romans 12:18
“If” changes everything.
‘If’ indicates agreement.
‘If’ promises consequences.
‘If’ creates opportunities.
If it is possible = it may not be possible.

*I am leaving you with a gift – peace of mind and heart. And the peace I give is a gift the world cannot give. So don’t be troubled or afraid. John 14:27
Today, choose to unwrap this freely offered gift. Claim it as your own. Do not be troubled or afraid.

*All your children will be taught by the Lord, and great will be their peace. Isaiah 54:13
Every day I attempt to teach my children. But my best efforts often fall short. I would impart peace to their souls if I could, but, I’m a human just like them with my own shortcomings.
I am trusting the Lord to do what I can’t.

*Because they lead my people astray, saying, “Peace,” when there is no peace, and because, when a flimsy wall is built, they cover it with whitewash,” Ezekiel 13:10
Just because someone talks about peace, declares peace and appears to want peace, does not mean they are willing to change their destructive behavior, their treatment of others or their deceiving ways.

*Too long have I lived among those who hate peace. I am for peace; but when I speak peace, they are for war.” Psalm 120:6 NIV
We can call for peace, talk about peace, desire peace and make efforts towards peace. We can choose our words carefully, consider our actions thoughtfully, and still those who hate peace will reject our best efforts.

There are many more, this is just a sampling. I’d like to close with these powerful scriptures of blessing that should remind us of the value of peace.

For to us a child is born, to us a son is given, and the government will be on his shoulders. And he will be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace. Isaiah 9:6

Now may the Lord of peace himself give you peace at all times and in every way. The Lord be with all of you. 2 Thessalonians 3:16

‘May the Lord bless you and protect you. May the Lord smile on you and be gracious to you. May the Lord show you his favor and give you his peace.’ (Numbers 6:24-26 NLT)

Whatever you do!
Hold your #peace
Avoid the #peacethieves

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Nine-Bean Soup

Several years ago, one morning, I was taking an inventory of my dried beans. I always keep a good supply with a family this size. I decided to make a mix. We love the mixed bean soups. So, we looked at our assortment of beans that morning and we had nine. I commented that this was one variety of beans per person in our family. I used one of my very large storage containers that is clear on the sides. I poured in one variety at a time.

Black-eyed Peas
Navy
Lentils
Green Baby Limas
Small Red Beans
Black Beans
Pintos
Green Split Peas
Large Limas

Because the container is clear, it was really neat seeing the layers that the beans made. It was very attractive, almost artistic, as each bean represented different colors, shapes and sizes. I once again commented that these beans were like us, all unique and different. We don’t look exactly the same, have exactly the same interests or talents.

Some of the children thought they looked so neat in the layers that we should leave them like that until I pointed out the problem. Our goal was to have a mixed bean soup and if we didn’t mix them up and combine them we would never have the full flavor that they could only bring once combined. As a matter of fact I concluded, we wouldn’t even be able to experience the bottom layers of beans for a long time to come and if we weren’t going to mix them up. If we wanted to experience them separately we should have just left them separated. Talk about a teachable moment!

Our family does not consist of all the same ‘variety’ of people. And yet, God Himself combined us together to create a special family that holds a unique flavor, all its own. As an adoptive family, blending together does not necessarily occur effortlessly. As an extra large family we can all feel as if we are being swallowed up and losing ourselves in the mix. While we are each individuals and celebrate our uniqueness, we also celebrate having been put together and made into something lovely…a family! Our flavor is unique because of each individual that makes up the whole.