Looking in all the wrong places

looking in wrong placesWhen I was growing up, mama used to always say,

It’s right under your nose, Susan!”

In our family that always meant that what you are looking for, or what you need to do or say, is so obvious.

The other day I had a “right under my nose” moment. I needed help with moving furniture and painting my guest bedroom. I went through a list of handymen and came to the conclusion I couldn’t afford hiring someone. Then I thought of a friend I hadn’t seen in a while who loved to paint and re-arrange furniture. It was so obvious to ask her, that I almost found myself saying, “Duh!”

I called her and she was delighted to help. I reaped the reward of enjoying the company of an old friend as we worked side by side for the morning, redecorating my guest bedroom.

So, what are some of the things that could be “right under your nose” as you begin a new year?

Maybe it’s an old habit you want to change or a new habit you want to start.

Or as simple as an attitude adjustment about someone or something.

This could be the year to let go of anything that has you stuck in the past and begin to move forward with your life.

You might need to write a note to someone encouraging her through a difficult time, or write an overdue letter asking for forgiveness.

It could be something you’ve always wanted to take the time to do, a dream you want to make a reality, a promise you want to keep, or a phone call you need to make.

Perhaps you’ve been looking in all the wrong places and making all the wrong choices this past year—

new year's prayerto fill a need,

to avoid the obvious,

to cloud your judgment,

to distract you from what’s important,

to keep you from doing the right thing…

when the answer has been right under your nose the whole time.

Susan MillerFrom My Heart to Yours,

Susan

 

 

Yes I can!

Susan MillerIf you’re like me, and have experienced a life-changing loss, the holiday season could look and feel different to you. You might somehow want to escape all the memories, traditions, and decorations. It’s just too hard, and you’re just too numb to face the pain of what will never be the same again.

As many of you already know, my life-changing loss was the death of my beloved husband, Bill. Your loss may be different from mine, but it can still be life-changing. It could be a job loss, the loss of your home and your possessions through a natural disaster, or the loss you experience from having to move away from family, friends, and all that is familiar. Perhaps it’s the loss that comes with divorce, a broken relationship, a deployed spouse, or a debilitating illness. You too, have probably asked yourself, “How am I going to get through the holidays?”

yes I canA friend gave me a little wooden angel that sits on my kitchen counter. She has both arms stretched out, and raised above her head as if to say, “Yes, I can!” Every morning when I walk into my kitchen that little angel is a visual reminder that I want to be a woman who, in the midst of life-changing loss, says, “Yes, I can!”

I can be grateful this holiday season for immeasurable blessings, in spite of my emptiness—and so can you.  

I can focus, not on my loss, but on the undeniable faithfulness of God, regardless of my circumstances – and so can you.  

I can trust Him in all things—and so can you.

I can lift up my hands with praise for a Savior who comforts and soothes me in my loss like none other—and so can you.

This much I know: God will not leave us or forget us in our loneliness, pain, or suffering. His mercies are indeed new every morning.

By claiming these truths, my friends, we can get through the holidays. We can also create new memories, start different traditions, and choose to decorate less.

May you feel God’s presence and peace this holiday season as you focus on the birth of our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ.

From My Heart to Yours,

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The Hidden Box You May Not Have Unpacked

hidden boxA friend stopped by our Just Moved office for a visit and during our conversation she said, “I know why I’ve never settled in and feel so disconnected since I moved here. It’s taken me a long time, but I’ve finally figured it out. I’ve never completely unpacked and gotten rid of all the boxes that I brought with me!” She went on to explain how she had quickly unpacked all her belongings and discarded those boxes, but still had boxes of emotions and feelings that she had never unpacked.

They had become her hidden baggage of grief, loneliness, anxiety, fear, comparison, inadequacy and loss of identity. The tightly packed emotions and feelings she felt inside had kept her from starting over and moving forward with life since she moved here.

Our conversation brought back memories of my own “unpacked boxes” when we moved. Too often I became withdrawn and disconnected because I never unpacked boxes of stuff inside that needed to be handled with care and understanding. I suffered silently as I did the next thing in the routine of moving– getting our children nestled in to school and activities, settling in a new home, finding a church and learning my way around the area. With Bill’s new job being all consuming, there was little time left for us. I kept that box of hurt inside, too.

As I began to grow in my relationship with God, I knew that I had to begin the process of unpacking those moving boxes that seemed to accumulate move after move. I prayed for His guidance to not only help me unpack, but to get rid of those boxes. I began to cling to the promises in His word (and believe them).

This is the life-changing sentence of scripture in I Samuel 17:22 (NASB) that helped me know where to begin…

Then David left his baggage in the care of the baggage keeper

David, the shepherd boy, left his “baggage” in care of the “baggage keeper” when he had to overcome and defeat the giant, Goliath. He left behind the things that would keep him from moving forward to get to the battle line to defeat Goliath.

You can leave your baggage of unpacked boxes, full of feelings and emotions, in the care of your personal Baggage Keeper–Jesus Christ. He is the one who can carry all your “stuff.” Nothing is too heavy for Him. Not only will He lighten your load, He will bear your burdens. He will equip you to unpack, overcome, and release whatever is keeping you from moving forward.

In other words, lay it all down at the feet of Jesus. Daily let it go. Daily remind yourself that you are not unpacking alone. Yes, I said daily. It’s so easy to pack those boxes and pick them up again each day. We try to handle our feelings and emotions in our own strength and manage them alone. It is an everyday battle, my friends.

I, too, have to choose to leave whatever giant emotion I’m facing for the day at the feet of Jesus. Many a day, He carries me in His arms because I’m too weak to stand alone. I fight the battle of emptiness with the loss of Bill. Many a day, I fight feeling overwhelmed with house maintenance, ministry needs, people needs and even my own emotional needs. Some days I fight feeling inadequate to write or speak and battle the giant of comparison. There are times when unpredictable grief washes over me like waves in the ocean. These are all boxes of giant emotions that I choose to fight as I lay them down daily and give them to my Baggage Keeper.

What still needs unpacking in your life? What feelings and emotions are keeping you from starting over and moving forward after your move, or any time?

Choose now to run to Jesus and lay them down at His feet. Begin to start over with hope and move forward with faith.

From My Heart to Yours,

Susan Miller signatureSusan

 

Tempted to ignore God’s nudge. Glad I didn’t!

God's nudgeI will confess. I am not very friendly on an airplane. Those travel hours are my down-time before I step off the plane to give my all to the women where I will be speaking.  It is when I switch hats, pray, calm my spirit, and focus my mind and heart.

A smile and a hello is about all you will get if you sit next to me. I’m not looking for a new friend or to start a conversation with anyone. “Please and thank you” for a cup of coffee and peanuts or pretzels is pretty much my verbal communication.

That is, until this tall, young, handsome, muscular African-American man, with arms built like a line-backer, walked down the aisle, stopped at my row, and said, “Excuse me, we have the middle seat.”

He was carrying a little boy, who appeared to be about a year and a half old, along with a diaper bag on his shoulder and a backpack on his back.

Oh.my.goodness, I thought. Why next to me?

I had on the clothes I was going to wear that afternoon for speaking. I envisioned sticky fingers. There was no time to change when I arrived, so I was dressed and ready to go on stage. I was planning to go over my notes during the flight in the solitude of silence.

He quickly placed his backpack under the seat and crammed the diaper bag in next to it. There was no leg room left for him. He then quickly turned his little boy to face him, with his little legs around his daddy’s waist. The child lay his head on his daddy’s chest in total contentment and stared at me with a captivating smile. His daddy gently placed his arms around his son, to keep his little arms and hands from touching me or the man by the window. He maintained this posture during the entire flight. I could only imagine how uncomfortable it was for this man, while his son seemed delighted to have his daddy’s complete attention and to be held so close. There was an obvious bond between them.

Once we were in the air, he pulled out the diaper bag, took out a bottle with apple juice, and gave it to his son. This huge, football-player-looking-man smiled and talked lovingly and quietly to his son as if it were just the two of them with no one else around. He then gave the little boy a pacifier and he slowly drifted off to sleep on his daddy’s chest, with only the sound of his daddy’s heartbeat in his ear. He gave him a cookie when he woke up and then wiped his little hands so they wouldn’t accidentally touch me. They never did.

I was so entranced by how this man was so intentional in keeping his child occupied and contained with his arms circled around him. I could tell that he didn’t want to disturb anyone on either side of them. That middle seat seemed to shrink even smaller with the two of them in it. He got up once to go to the “lounge” in the back of the plane and took the little boy to stretch his legs.

It was when he sat back down, that I turned to him and said, “I just have to tell you what an amazing dad I think you are and your son is so well behaved for his age.”

“Thank you ma’am,”  he said. “He wasn’t this good on our flight from Hawaii. He didn’t sleep at all with the time change, and that five-hour flight was rough.”

Then out of the blue, it hit me. “Are you military?”

It was then that my heart melted for this young man. He smiled and told me proudly that both he and his wife were in the Army, stationed in Hawaii. He had gotten orders to deploy and was on leave to visit his mother and family in Alabama before going to a remote part of the world. He was taking his son to see his grandmother for the first time. He said how anxious he was because this was his first deployment in a dangerous place. He never mentioned where, or what his mission was. I could only imagine.

I told him my name and he introduced himself and his little boy. As we began to talk, I shared that my dad, brother, and husband were military men. He told me about his family and how proud he was to serve his country in the Army. I shared God’s words of encouragement and hope. I reached over my seat, touched his arm, called him by name, and said I would pray for his safety and protection in the months ahead.

I think of this young man quite often and pray for him. I remember his gentle strength and tender heart for his son, how his eyes lit up when he talked about his wife and his family in Alabama. I remember how Army Proud and Army Strong he was. By now he is far away in another land…

I shudder to think what I would have missed that day if he hadn’t sat next to me.  I’m embarrassed to think how preoccupied I was with myself and my “outfit.”

If God hadn’t nudged me to say more than hello, I wouldn’t know his story.

I wouldn’t have shared God’s hope and encouragement, which seemed to soothe his soul. And, I wouldn’t have the privilege of praying for a dedicated and committed husband, father, and Army man.

Nudge me Lord. Use me where I’m needed. When I feel comfortable, make me feel uncomfortable. Take me out of my little world in an aisle seat and stretch my boundaries to the middle seat and beyond…

Susan Miller signaturesusan miller

 

This Little Light of Mine

 

shine your lightI don’t know about you, but there are many times when I feel like my light  is not only flickering, but growing dimmer by the minute .

If I can be really honest and vulnerable  with you, there are times when I feel so completely inadequate to shine for anything, or anybody.

I can go from a roaring fire that sparks everyone around me with enthusiasm,

to a spotlight that focuses on just one person.

to a 150w light bulb that brightens a room.

to a flashlight that lights a pathway,

a candle that only holds a glow for a while,

or a match that burns down quickly….

You get the picture. You can probably identify with one of those as a mom, career woman, ministry leader, single woman, volunteer, or a leader in your community.

We can’t possibly be a bright, shining light all the time.

Stuff happens.

Life brings hard knocks.

Emotional and physical pain can consume us.

Disappointment and heartache can cut us off at our knees.

Perspective goes sideways.

We can’t seem to get a grip on a situation.

Inadequacy sets in.

Then the downward spiral spills over to negative  thinking,

…and Satan has a field-day.  He’s got a threshold  into our life, our emotions, and our thoughts. He would love nothing better than to over-power our light and claim our darkness.

We may not be a bright, shining light all the time, but we can claim Jesus Christ as our light, even on the darkest days. That little flicker of light will bring hope to someone in our family, a friend, a co-worker, or even a stranger.

So keep on shining girl, however small your light might be.  You are indeed the light of Jesus in someone’s darkness.

Lord, you have brought light to my life;

my God, you light up my darkness.  Psalm 18:28  NLT

Susan

Lessons from a cat named Chloe – lost, then found

lost catAbout three months ago, I received an email from a young girl I don’t know who lives somewhere in my neighborhood. The subject line read: Lost Cat.

I could tell by all the email addresses listed that she had sent it to everyone in our Homeowners Association. It was a simple plea for help to all the neighbors.

Chloe, her beloved eleven year old, long haired gray cat was lost. The email said she was a very timid, indoor cat. She somehow got outside and couldn’t be found anywhere. We were asked to please keep an eye out for Chloe in the neighborhood.

I sensed this young girl’s panic and worry over Chloe’s welfare and safety. I know how the mind imagines all kinds of scenarios when a pet is missing.

I immediately answered the email and said I would be on the lookout for Chloe, and that I would pray that she would be safely found soon. In the days, weeks, and months that followed, I often thought of this little girl giving up and losing hope of ever finding her beloved cat. Each time I thought of the young girl, I said a little prayer that God would comfort her in her loss. As time went by, I knew the chances of Chloe being found became less and less.

Then, last week I received another email that said, “I wanted to let you all know Chloe was found!!!” She went on to say that Chloe was found barely alive on a golf course miles away. With the contact information on her collar, Chloe’s family was notified, and she was rushed to the veterinarian. She is recovering from heat stroke and dehydration, and may need a blood transfusion, but they are so grateful she is home after being lost for two months.

I couldn’t help but smile and say out loud at the same time, ” Thank you Lord,” when I read the email. These words quickly came to mind, “Never give up, never lose hope.”

It was a reminder to me of the times when I have given up on something or someone, or I lost hope that circumstances would change or that people would change. There were times in my darkest hours when I was ready to give up ever finding joy again and felt hope slip away with the reality of death and loss.

Yet, just when I was ready to give up, the God in me said, “Never give up.” Just when I was ready to lose hope, the God in me said, “Never lose hope.”

His words in scripture would echo in my mind, “I will never leave you… I will be with you…Do not be afraid…I am your refuge and strength…I am your hope…Peace I leave with you…I am the God of all comfort….”

You might feel lost and alone, ready to give up on something or someone—even yourself. You might be on the brink of losing all hope that your circumstances will ever change or the people you love will ever change.

Perhaps you feel like nobody will ever find you and rescue you from the pit of despair.

Read aloud these words from the classic hymn, “Amazing Grace,” written by John Newton in 1779.

Amazing graceAmazing grace! How sweet the sound
That saved a wretch like me!
I once was lost, but now am found;
Was blind, but now I see.

Through many dangers, toils and snares,
I have already come;
‘Tis grace hath brought me safe thus far,
And grace will lead me home.

Never give up. Never lose hope. Run to God right now. Pour out your heart to Him. Let the tears come.

You were lost, but now you’re found. Let His amazing grace lead you home to Him.

Susan

 

Twelve Summer Challenges

1607Here it is July already, and I’m just beginning to catch the breath of summer!

At the end of May, I thirst for a calendar that is less scheduled, more random acts of fun, and frivolous times spent with family and friends. And yet at the same time, I don’t want to waste away the months and find myself thinking in September, “What in the world did I accomplish over the summer?”

All that said, I want to keep a few challenges in mind, something that I can choose daily to do or not to do. They are not necessarily tasks to accomplish, but rather an attitude of the heart, a mindset, or a conscious choice in words or actions.

You might consider coming up with your own list, or even choosing some of mine. Join me as I seize the summer for a change of pace, but also to seize the challenge of making daily choices in my attitude, words, and actions.

Here are twelve choices I’m going to embrace…

Begin anywhere, just begin.

Hold hands around the table and say grace before each meal.

Spread random acts of kindness without anyone knowing you did.

Take time to say, “Tell me your story.” Then take time to listen.

Be the last to criticize, the first to praise.

Spend less, give more.

Wear a smile, even when you don’t feel like it. It will begin to grow on you.

Go the extra mile…for a friend or for your favorite ice cream.

Live in the present. Not the past. Not the future.

See all the good around you, even if you have to squint.

Be loving to the unlovable, even when you don’t feel like it. It may not change them, but it will change you.

Be yourself, nobody does it better.

I’d love to hear about your summer challenges too. Email me at susanmiller@justmoved.org and let me know what you’re doing, where you’re going, and how I can pray for you.

In the meantime, be safe my friends. Make happy memories and take pictures. And, make choices in your attitude, actions, and words that will last long beyond the summer months.

From My Heart to Yours,

Susan Miller signature

 

18 Ways to Reach out to a Military Family Who Has Moved to Your Community

military familyThis is PCS season in the lives of many military families. The orders come, the new duty stations are assigned, and families are gearing up for yet another move. The news of who’s moving where splatters my Facebook pages this time of year. Our connection through social media keeps me in the loop of their lives with their pictures, stories, and prayer requests. They live with a resilient spirit of hope, perseverance, and optimism that defines the life that comes with being a military wife and mom.

Through Just Moved Ministry, God has given me the privilege to be in the lives of military women all over the world. I am in my sweet spot of ministry when I can teach, mentor, encourage, listen to, pray for, and be with these women. From year to year, I see many of them again in different parts of the world and at different military installations. They become a part of my life, my heart, my prayers, and my memories.

They have become my friends and I have become their cheerleader.

You can do the same thing. Be a friend and a cheerleader to the military wife. Show tangible ways of love and care, pray for her, and encourage her. When a military family moves in your neighborhood or community, make every effort to meet them.

The following suggestions, in their own words, come straight from military women who shared with me how you can reach out to them when they move.

  1. While a greeting and a smile is always appreciated, don’t let it stop there. Be bold. Keep calling, encouraging, and inviting us to lunch, shopping, etc.
  2. Provide us with a list of local services: a handyman, mechanic, hairstylist, babysitters, churches, restaurants, etc.
  3. Offer to be our emergency contact for schools. That’s the first question the schools ask, and the one we never have an answer for.
  4. Offer to drive us to functions. We don’t know our way around, and that would encourage us to go.
  5. Invite us to church, or even lunch or dinner on Sunday. That’s a lonely day for us.
  6. Express your support. We appreciate hearing and reading your encouragement.
  7. Let us know you are praying for our soldier and for our family. Ask about our specific prayer needs. Don’t assume you know.
  8. Please don’t wait for us to ask or come to you. Knock on our door, talk to us at the mailbox, invite us over when we are out in the yard.
  9. We spend so much time making sure our children are settled in, but we don’t take care of ourselves during these transition times. I need to be included in Bible study, a girls’ night out, a lunch group.
  10. Accept new military families as if they are moving in for a lifetime–not just passing through. Please invest time in us.
  11. Include us in neighborhood parties. Wear name tags to help us learn names.
  12. People have picked up our check at a restaurant, or even paid for a cup of coffee. It brings tears to my eyes every time. Our family is so grateful.
  13. Churches can be a great help in our transitions. Welcome us and include us along with other newcomers at functions and events.
  14. Invite our children over for a play date.
  15. On special occasions or holidays at school or church, honor the dads or moms who are deployed. This means so much to our children.
  16. When my husband was deployed, a family in our church “adopted” our family. They helped us with house and yard maintenance, celebrated Birthdays, and included us for holidays. We will never forget them or what that meant to us.
  17. Be understanding and be listeners. Sometimes our needs go beyond a plate of cookies.
  18. Risk a broken heart. Love and support a military family even though we will eventually move and leave you. Allow your children to love ours as well, even though they may be sad when we leave.

So bring out your pom-poms and be their cheerleaders.

It’s time to get off the bleachers and move from the sidelines to run with military families to the finish line!

 

 

SusanSusan Miller

From Susan’s updated and expanded new edition of After the Boxes are Unpacked. A Focus on the Family and Tyndale book available from Just Moved Ministry.

 

A Move in the Right Direction

When I was a young girl, Mama and I went on a trip to South Carolina to visit my grandmother, aunts, uncles, and cousins. Daddy was stationed in Korea at the time, so we decided the best place to be was surrounded by the comfort and warmth of family. Off the beaten path of interstate highways, we traveled along on the typical two-lane roads that led us to our small town destination. Captivated by the beauty of farm land with perfectly planted rows of crops ready for harvesting–we took a wrong turn, and got lost.

old gas stationWe stopped at a little country gas station, known back in the day as a “filling station”, in the middle of nowhere. An old gentleman was sitting in front of the gas station in a chair that was leaning back on two legs against the wall. He wore overalls and a wide-brim straw hat that shaded him from the hot sun. We pulled off the road in a cloud of dust. Mama rolled down the window and said, “Excuse me, sir. Could you tell me how much farther it is?” He got up from the chair and walked over to the car. He scratched his head as he replied, “Well, ma’am, it all depends on where you’re comin’ from and where you’re goin’ to.” Mama realized how funny her question was, and we all laughed together. She then gave him the information he needed to tell us how far we had to go.

wrong waySometimes, when I find myself moving in the wrong direction, the old gentleman’s words come back to mind. I ask myself, Where am I comin’ from and where am I goin’ to? It always keeps me focused on making sure I’m moving in the right direction, especially since it’s so easy to quickly get off track with wrong priorities, or sidelined with distractions.

Oliver Wendell Holmes said, “I find the great thing in this world is not so much where we stand, as in what direction we are moving.” So I ask you, my friend, Do you know where you’re goin’ to, and are you movin’ in the right direction?  

Who you are, who you become, and the decisions you make, are pretty much affected by where you’re coming from, where you’re going, the life you lead, and the choices you make.

But one thing is for sure: you’re moving in the right direction if you choose to follow Jesus Christ. Plain and simple as that. To know Him is to love Him, and to follow Him is life changing. Jesus beckons us to follow Him. He said, Come, follow me (Matthew 19:21). We are to Follow God’s example in everything (we) do…(Ephesians 5:1). The more you read, study, observe, and know Jesus Christ–and then imitate Him–the more He will flow from within you.

In all you do and say, make it a priority to “live out” Jesus’ direction in your life.

I know how easy it is to let my priorities shift, lose my focus, get distracted with stuff, busyness, and the craziness of life. I can easily take the wrong exit and get off the main road to Jesus. I have to be intentional every day to move in the right direction and not lose sight of where I’m going. Some days it’s harder than others. Some days I totally blow it. But He always nudges my heart to get back on the right road that leads me to Him.

You, my friend, are never too lost, or too aimlessly wandering in the wrong direction. Stop. Don’t be afraid to ask Him for directions. Listen…

Come follow me, Jesus said.

From My Heart to yours,
Susan Miller signature

An excerpt of this story is found in Susan’s updated edition of After the Boxes are Unpacked, a Focus on the Family book, published by Tyndale House and available at JustMovedShop.com.

 

Plum Tuckered Out

weary womanHave you ever heard the expression “plum tuckered out?” It is commonly used among us southerners, and is a term for being exhausted. It originates from the “Deep South” during the Civil War. I first heard my grandmother say it after being in the kitchen all day cooking for a family gathering. Then I heard my mother say it when she came home from work after standing on her feet all day. I grew up hearing that expression, along with many others, and continue to carry on the heritage of my southernese.

The term “burn-out” is more forceful and acceptable in this day and age. But as for me, I’m just simply plum tuckered right now. Anybody been there? Done that? Felt that?

I’m not too proud to say I’m just spent. Done. Flatlined. Empty. Nothing left in me to write or to be creative. Don’t want to sit at this computer and have to formulate my thoughts, be profound, spell-check, rework sentences to make sense, segue paragraphs, or be spiritual as I type.

Coming off of a two-year project of updating and revising my book, After the Boxes are Unpacked, updating our Teacher’s Guide, Workbook, and Facilitator’s Guide, and then updating the twelve teaching sessions for a new Video Series – which I just finished a few weeks ago – has left me plum tuckered. When I finished filming the two, 8-hour days of back-to-back teaching, I stayed in my pajamas the next day and did nothing. I’ve learned that’s not selfish, that’s self-care.

I’ve also learned that God has me right where He wants me – spent, for Him to refresh; done, for Him to restore; flat lined, for His breath of renewal; empty, for Him to fill. And I have found there is still something left in me to write after all, because I write for Him, and for you.

He infuses His strength into my weakness.

His word gives me confidence to overcome my feelings of inadequacy, comparison, and self-doubt.

When I have nothing left to give (or write), I have learned to lean in to Jesus – to rest in Him – and that restores my soul.

If you feel “plum tuckered out,” it might take you just a day to become untuckered. Sometimes, it might take a lot longer.

Go easy on yourself.

Give yourself permission to pull back and rest your mind and your body.

Listen to worship music or enjoy complete silence.

Take a long walk or sit in the sunshine.

Start, or even finish, a good book.

Do something totally frivolous.

Get some exercise or just sit outdoors.

Let your mind wander or focus on your blessings.

Don’t lose heart and don’t give up.

Just give in to Jesus.

 

SusanCome to Me, all of you who are weary and carry heavy burdens, and I will give you rest. Matthew 11:28

 

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