Theme Word 2018: Listen

Any other theme word junkies like me out there? Yes, I am indeed hooked on the practice of choosing a theme word for each new year. For a goal-oriented gal like me it seems only natural to have an over-arching word—a quality, an attitude, or an action—that I can focus on and that can give me direction throughout the year. 

In November and/or December I start thinking and praying about what my word for the upcoming year should be. Some years I think I know what it will be and then the Lord brings another word to mind or to my attention through multiple avenues. When that happens I know God is at work directing me to the word he has for me in the upcoming year. I so appreciate his guidance. After all, he knows the future and he knows what I need to help guide me through it.

This year the Lord has directed me to the word listen. As usual at this early stage, I don’t know all the ways God will use this particular theme word in my life over the next twelve months. I just know it’s a word I’ve been noticing and that has been resonating in my spirit. And so, I want to listen to those inner nudges and begin to focus more on listening this year.

So here’s hoping by the end of 2018 I will have grown in my listening skills. Listening more often and more attentively to God, to my loved ones, to others, to the natural world, and even to myself—to what my body or spirit may be trying to tell me.

And as ever, it will interesting to see what God has in store this year and how he will use listen in my life. He has a way of surprising us, doesn’t he? So I say, “Lord, help me keep my ears and my spirit wide open so I don’t miss a thing!” 

“. . . Everyone should be quick to listen . . . ” James 1:19

*Have you chosen a theme word or anchor verse for 2018? If not, feel free to adopt mine!

The next issue of Life Notes, my quarterly inspirational newsletter, comes out in early February. One lucky subscriber (new or current) will receive $15 gift card to Starbucks and a signed copy of my book to use personally, give as a gift, or donate to a library. Sign-up is free and to the right! (If you’re on a mobile device, scroll to the bottom of the screen and click View Full Site to find it.)

*Flickr photo by mpeterke, Creative Commons License

2017 Theme Word: Trust

15004178998_fdf4bb1e5c_zThe launch of a new year means different things to different people, but for me it means it’s time to focus on a new theme word for the year. I’ve never been big into New Year’s resolutions, but the past several years, I’ve chosen a theme word to help guide me through the year. It’s a practice I highly recommend. I can honestly say it has benefited me time and again.

This year the word the Lord kept bringing to my attention in the waning weeks of 2016 was trust. It wasn’t a word that was on my theme-word radar so to speak. Initially the words balance and simplify came to mind, but as I asked God to guide my choice, the word trust kept popping up, first in one place and then another. Isn’t it great how God gives us direction as we seek his guidance?

I’ve got to admit when I sensed God directing me to the word trust, fear tried to sneak in. Why was God leading me to the word trust? Is something bad going to happen? Is God trying to prepare me to trust in him? Of course, I immediately realized I would have to trust him even with this. I shouldn’t run from the word trust. I needed to follow his lead and yes, trust him come what may.

So, I don’t know how the word trust will play out in my life this year, but it will be interesting to see how it offers me direction, comfort, peace, and yes, perhaps even challenge as the year goes on.

Right now when I think of trust, I think of believing, resting, or staying faithful, and I know it will be good to grow in all of these areas. But who knows, God may have something in mind that hasn’t even occurred to me. After all, he works like that quite often, doesn’t he?

One thing is certain, though—God is trustworthy. So with trust as my word for the year, I’ll go forward fully trusting in him and the good work he will do in my life. Join me?

“LORD Almighty, blessed is the one who trusts in you.” Psalm 84:12 NIV

*Have you chosen a theme word or an anchor verse for 2017?

*The next issue of Life Notes, my quarterly inspirational newsletter, comes out in early February. One lucky subscriber (new or current) will receive a Starbucks gift card and a signed copy of my book to use personally, to give as a gift, or donate to a library. Sign-up is free and to the right!

*Flickr photo by SFB579 Namaste, Creative Commons License

Waste Nothing

3910415397_5974dca644_z“When they had all had enough to eat, he said to his disciples, ‘Gather the pieces that are left over. Let nothing be wasted.’” John 6:12 NIV

Jesus’ miraculous feeding of the 5,000 is one of the most well-known stories and miracles recorded in the Bible.

We remember the massive crowd of people who followed Jesus to a remote area. We remember the worry expressed by the disciples over how to feed such a large crowd. We remember the boy with five loaves and two fish and how Jesus gave thanks for the food and then had the disciples distribute it to the people. And we remember the twelve basketfuls of food that were amazingly left over. But do we remember what Jesus said (as recorded above) when everyone had had enough to eat?

Jesus said, “‘Let nothing be wasted.’” We don’t know exactly what Jesus had in mind with this instruction to his disciples. Maybe he wanted to provide the people with a powerful visual of his abundant provision and power as the leftovers were placed into baskets. Or maybe he wanted to teach his disciples to fully use all that he provides.

Whatever the full intention of Jesus’ instruction that day, we can apply the lesson of “let nothing be wasted” in our lives today, can’t we?

On a physical level, we can all use a reminder to be good stewards of God’s provision. Unless we’ve known poverty and extreme hardship, most of us occasionally—or even regularly—waste the resources at our disposal. Food gets tossed out, water goes down the drain (literally), electricity flows when not needed, and money gets spent on foolish things at times. So yes, we need this reminder today.

Let’s also consider how this important “let nothing be wasted” lesson can apply to other aspects of our lives as well. What about trials? Let’s not let the hard things in our lives—the pain, losses, disappointments, challenges, injustices, etc.—be wasted. Let’s learn from them or grow in character. Let’s be moved to some positive action.

And what about the blessings in our lives? Let’s not waste an ounce of the goodness God lavishes on us. Let’s fully enjoy and utilize and share them. And let’s continually give God praise and glory for all the wonderful things he does for us.

So friends, whatever comes into our lives, whether good or whether bad, let’s heed that same instruction Jesus gave to his disciples so many years ago: “Let nothing be wasted.”

When times are good, be happy; but when times are bad, consider this: God has made the one as well as the other.” Ecclesiastes 7:14a NIV

*When have you grown through a trial? How have you fully used a blessing God has given you?

*The new issue of Life Notes, my quarterly inspirational newsletter, came out last week. It’s not too late to receive it. I feature a giveaway in every regularly scheduled issue so don’t miss out. Sign-up is free and to the right!

*Flickr photo by K.Hurley, Creative Commons License

Beauty and Blessings on the Way to a Goal Achieved

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When we’re trying to achieve a challenging goal, we may find the climb especially difficult. We may grow weary and wonder if we can hold out to see the view from the top, from the vantage point of a goal achieved. We may feel sorely tempted to give up.

But I’ve got good news. Good news that can help keep us pushing onward.

We don’t have to wait until we achieve the goal to experience the joy of the journey. If we take time to look, we can find beauty and blessings along the way.

This summer on our trip to Colorado, my sisters and I got a reminder of this truth when we decided to take the hike to the top of the mountain at Hoosier Pass on the Continental Divide. The information we had about the hike made it sound fairly easy, but we got more than we bargained for. The altitude along with the steady and sometimes steep climb had us huffing and puffing and wondering if we’d be able to achieve our goal after all.

I’m happy to report we did indeed reach the top, but we also stopped frequently along the way to catch our breath and soak in the beauty of the natural wonders around us. The mountainside dotted with the reds, yellows, purples, whites, and blues of happy little wildflowers. The majestic snow-covered peaks in the distance. The winding river and reservoir in the valley below. Each one a blessing along the difficult way to our goal achieved.

If any of us find ourselves on a difficult or painful journey today, let’s keep our eyes open for the joys that can be ours when we stop and look for them. Let’s take frequent breathers when we need them. Let’s allow the wonders we see to recharge us for the rest of the journey. Let’s enjoy the beauty and blessings along the way.

“. . . the LORD’s unfailing love surrounds the man who trust in him.” Psalm 32:10b

*What beauty or blessings have been yours on a difficult road?

*My photo

Dream Like Crazy

13026914033_d92fcaf0b0_zDo you have a dream? If so, be encouraged by my post today. Over seven years ago I wrote a piece called “Dream Like Crazy” for my very first Life Notes newsletter, and the dream I shared in that piece is in the process of coming true right now. That’s right, my first book will be released on July 1st!

So won’t you read “Dream Like Crazy” today and rejoice with me at how God is honoring the dreams of little ordinary me. Hope it encourages you to pursue those dreams of your own!

Dream Like Crazy (written in November 2008)

Are you a dreamer? I am. When I sleep, I dream like crazy, but for the past several years, I’ve become a dreamer of a different sort. I’m a writer now, and writers have to be dreamers. Not only do we have to dream up ideas and words, we must have vision—dreams and goals—if we hope to have our work published.

My writing dream didn’t start until I was 40 years old. Just as the world was telling me I was over the hill, I saw a new hill to climb. And even though I’ve had to take a couple of detours along the way, I’ve been climbing slowly but surely ever since. One step at a time.

The dream to touch other lives through my writing has grown over the years. When I began, I just hoped to have some articles and poems published, but within a few years, a desire to write a book took root as well. Now I have more than one book project tumbling around inside my mind and out onto my keyboard. I continue working at my ongoing goal of having more of my work used in various publications, compilation books, and on greeting cards, but now my dream encompasses seeing books of my own published as well.

A book sounds like a pretty big dream for a small-time gal like me, doesn’t it? Especially given the fact that my over the hill 40th birthday is now a distant memory. You know what keeps me pressing on, though? I believe God has given me my dreams and called me to write. I’m just following his lead.

As far as traditional book publication goes, I know the odds are stacked against me. In the publishing world, the market is more competitive than ever before. Some might say, “Why bother? Why go to all that effort? You’ll probably never get a book contract.” And you know what? They may be right. If so, I’m okay with that. I still feel incredibly blessed to have any of my work out there touching the lives of others.

Even so, I’m not ready to give up my dream of book publication. Those voices could be wrong. Jesus said, ‘”…with God all things are possible…'” (Matthew 19:26), and after all, God is the One who has given me my dreams as well as the ability to write. I’m just getting ready for his blessing. Just doing my part to see my dreams become reality!

*Do you have a dream? Take it to the Lord and get ready for His blessing!

*Sign-up for my free Life Notes newsletter is free and to the right!

*Flickr photo by Moyan_Brenn, Creative Commons License