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

 

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

 

Susan Miller signature

Don’t just give me a fish sandwich, teach me how to fish

fish sandwichI was married to a man who cherished me as his wife and demonstrated his love for me in countless ways.

He was also a great “fixer” around the house.  Bill took care of most of our home repairs—from putting things back together that I had broken to repairing a leaky toilet.  He could assemble anything that came in small packages or large boxes – from toys to kitchen chairs.  When I wanted a room repainted, I taped the baseboards, he painted. He trimmed, cut, and maintained our yard while I planted the flowers.

Together we were a team.  I was the keeper of our home. He made sure everything was in working order.

For the most part, Bill enjoyed home maintenance. He loved seeing my smile of appreciation, hearing me say, “I love it!”, and especially when I put my arms around him and gave him a kiss to express my gratitude.

Over the years, our teamwork became not only a shared responsibility for our home, but a shared memory of our life together in our home.

When cancer knocked at our door and quickly took Bill’s life, my world was shattered. I had lost my best friend, soul-mate, and keeper of my heart. The personal loss was devastating. Trying to keep from drowning in a sea of emotions was about all I could do.

In the midst of my grief, I also felt the walls of our home collapsing around me. The responsibility of maintenance and upkeep was overwhelming. The things Bill naturally took care of, or what we shared doing together, I now faced doing alone. For the longest time, the simplest task was left undone. I felt inept and ill-equipped at doing anything. These feelings only intensified my grief and my aloneness….
But not for long. As I became emotionally stronger, so did my determination to rise above feeling helpless.  I wanted to learn how to do everything I could physically do on my own. I wanted to feel confident in being able to take care of my home and feel empowered by being able to do what I could by myself. I prayed for God’s confidence to fill me and His power to strengthen me.  Then, I…

teach me to fish…went to sprinkler school on a Saturday morning at a home and garden store. I can now fix, replace, or splice my sprinkler tubing, and know what sprinkler heads work best for my yard. I taught myself how to work the sprinkler system control box (which was a real challenge!).

…went to an auto shop and had them show me how to replace the bulb in my turn signal and to change the oil.  The tires are next…

…felt like I was driving a computer, so I went to a class at the auto dealership to learn how my car works.

…bought a tall light-weight ladder that I could easily carry. Now, most recessed ceiling light bulbs are not too high for me to change. The rain gutters around my patio are also accessible to clean out with my handy ladder.

…learned by asking. My friends shared their tips and methods for repainting a room and the best way to paint wicker patio furniture. You should see the finished room and furniture now. A friend also taught me how to remove wallpaper.

…learned how to replace my air conditioning filters and any other filters in the house.

…googled how to remove dirt dauber and wasp nests from outside my house. I learned and conquered. (In fact, I google any question I have about how to do anything.)

My list could go on and on. There are so many little and big things I have learned out of necessity, perseverance, and determination.

I also learned a lot from Bill. He taught me well through our years together and shared memories. I often remember the little things – what tools he used for what, the right nails to use for concrete, hanging a picture the right way, how to plug holes in the wall with spackle, how to caulk, fix something broken, or put the parts together. I know he would be so proud of me today.

Yes, there are tasks that I can’t physically do (or don’t want to do). Dear friends will come to my rescue, or I’ll have to call a repairman. But I’ll always say, “Teach me how. If there’s any way I can do it, I want to learn.”

He gives strength to the weary and strengthens the powerless. Isaiah 40:29

But those who trust in the Lord will renew their strength;

they will soar on wings like eagles;

they will run and not grown weary;

they will walk and not faint. Isaiah 40:31

 

For You are my hope, Lord God, my confidence from my youth. Psalm 71:5

For the Lord will be your confidence… Proverbs 3:26

From my Heart to Yours,

Susan Miller signature

Lost your bloom? Take heart!

Susan Miller, America's Moving CoachDon’t you just love this time of year! Spring is in full bloom! Nature is in harmony with colorful flowers, new green growth on tree branches, and birds chirping with joy.

Yet for many of you who are in the emotional upheaval of a move, or face an unknown future with moving, the season of spring has not arrived in your life. There is a lack of harmony with those around you, you don’t feel personal or spiritual growth in this transition, and there is no joy in your heart – yet.

Let me encourage you dear sisters, your spring will come, you will bloom again! This is a season of life you are going through; it has come to pass, it has not come to stay. I know, because I have gone through the same dry and dormant seasons before, during, and after a move. I have felt the same feelings and faced many of the same situations spring flowersin moving that you have, and I too, could not feel the sun shining in my life.

Even when I couldn’t pray for myself during those difficult times, God put other people in my life to pray for me. Now is the time for you to rest in God’s promises, in His word, and in His faithfulness – and to know that I will pray for you.

So, tell me, how are YOU doing? How can we pray for you across the miles as we hold you close in our thoughts and hearts? Please take a minute to email us (prayerrequest@justmoved.org) with your personal prayer requests. You will be prayed for by our faithful prayer team for 30 days.

bouquetIf I could send each of you a spring bouquet of flowers to encourage your heart, I would. Instead, I’m sending you a bouquet of prayers, wrapped with my love and tied with a ribbon of God’s hope.

“In the morning, O Lord, Thou will hear my voice; In the morning I will order my prayer to Thee and eagerly watch.” – Psalm 5:3

“…Be gracious to me and hear my prayer.” – Psalm 4:1

Susan Miller signature

 

Let’s do this together!

1501.bibleI came up with a great idea for the New Year! It’s something you and I can do together even though we are miles apart. It will connect us each day. It will bring us hope, encouragement, and comfort as the days of the New Year unfold. It will deepen our relationship with God and draw us closer to Him. Pique your interest yet? 

As I read from two daily devotionals on the first day of January, my heart felt refreshed and renewed through the soothing, calming words, and the reassurance of scripture. My thoughts turned to you, as I knew how much you probably needed the same words and the same scripture to give you hope and encouragement each day too. Because I so want to connect with you, my idea is to read a devotional together each day!

So I ask you now, not to make another New Year’s resolution, but to join me every day in 2015 reading God’s word or going through a daily devotional. If you need some suggestions, the two I am reading each day are Jesus Calling (Sarah Young), and the timeless classic, Streams in the Desert (Mrs. Charles E. Cowman). Another classic devotional book I love is My Utmost for His Highest (Oswald Chambers). Perhaps you have a favorite that you would like to suggest. Email me your favorite and I’ll pass it on to our moving friends.

A year before Bill died, we had started reading through the Bible together. We would put a bookmark where each of us had read for the day. His bookmark was always ahead of mine. Sometimes I would have to catch up at the end of the week. He loved to share with me the insight he gained from what he read. Little did we know then what our year would hold with Bill’s cancer diagnosis. I am grateful we shared God’s word together daily until he went home to be with Jesus.

The following year, I finished what we started together as I completed the book Meet the Bible; A Panorama of God’s Word in 366 Daily Readings and Reflections, by Philip Yancey & Brenda Quinn. It took me through the Bible in one year. I knew that would anchor me for the year ahead and would please Bill very much.

Now, I have started re-reading my Bible again from the beginning, and continue to find God’s word and His promises to be what I cling to daily. It will anchor me all the days of my life, and would bring a smile to Bill’s face.

The Lord’s lovingkindnessesindeed never cease,
For His compassions never fail.
They are new every morning;
Great is Your faithfulness.
Lamentations 3:22-23

I wish you an amazing New Year, full of surprises and excitement for all that God has planned for you!

From My Heart to Yours,

Susan Miller signature

 

P.S.  Don’t be a stranger, you matter in my life. Send me your prayer requests at PrayerRequest@JustMoved.org and stay in touch this year. I’m just a phone call (480-991-5268) or an email away. (susanmiller@justmoved.org).

Remember that we have many ways to connect—through our website at JustMoved.org, our Just Moved Facebook , the Just Moved Sisters, Weekly Words of Encouragement, and our Bloom publication, and my Twitter account.

A toothache, a root canal, and a dental visit I’ll never forget

dentistIt isn’t actually the tooth that hurts, it’s the gum above the tooth, I told myself.

I put up with the discomfort for a week, but when a week came and went, my better judgment said go to the dentist. I called my dentist office; they got me right in. One look, one x-ray, and he sent me straight to the endodontist.

“It’s an abscess. You’re going to need a root canal, and then some further surgery due to bone loss,” he said.

Oh, this is just great, I thought. Like I need the expense and inconvenience of a major tooth problem right now.

I took a deep breath as the dental chair reclined and the shot in my gum began to numb the areaI knew I’d be held captive with my mouth open and the sound of the drill for at least an hour. My nerves began to kick in and I could feel my heart rate increasing.

I kept repeating over and over again in my head, take my hand, Lord, take my hand. I envisioned God placing His hand in mine and squeezing it tightly to calm and comfort me. I even opened my hand slightly, eagerly waiting for His calming touch to come.

As if the words were audible, I heard, “I don’t want one hand, I want both hands.”both hands

Pretty profound, huh? It was for me.

I took another deep breath and wrapped my thoughts around what had just happened.

As a visual learner, I clearly got the message. God wanted all my anxiety and fear, not just one handful. Let go, Susan. Don’t hold back. Give all your emotions to me. I will calm you, comfort you, and give you peace.

…and I did…and He did.

No matter where you are, even in a dentist chair, God will speak to you – somehow, someway – when you call out to Him. Perhaps His message to you will be similar to mine:Let it goGive it all to me. I will calm you, comfort you, and give you peace.

Let Him have all your worries and cares, for He is always thinking about you and watching everything that concerns you. I Peter 5:7 TLB

From My Heart to Yours,

Susan Miller signature

Five Valuable Lessons from My Favorite Squeaky Red Shoes

I was on a shoe mission, determined to find a pair of red flats. I spotted them down the aisle and picked up my speed to get there quickly. I envisioned everyone else in the shoe store spotting them at the same time and racing to get them before me.

squeaky shoesMy heart skipped a beat when I stood in front of the red shoe display with no one else coming from either direction. “I’m safe,” I thought. Mission accomplished. My eyes glanced up and down the shoeboxes for my size. There was only one pair of size 8.5 left! Yay! I quickly opened the box, tried them on to make sure they fit, and admired them on my feet. Perfect! “Thank you Lord!” I whispered. (I thank God for everything—even shoes.)

The next day, I slipped on my jeans, a white shirt, some chunky jewelry, my red shoes, and I was ready to go to the office. My motto is, “Dress yourself, then forget yourself,” and I was ready to do just that.

I took a step…then another step…then another. With each step, I heard a noise. Oh no! Could it be? Yes, it could, and it was—my shoes were squeaking!

I knew I couldn’t return them for another pair since there weren’t any more in my size. I certainly didn’t want a refund, and be without the red shoes I loved. So, I decided to keep them and make the best of a squeaky situation. (I even asked on Facebook how to get rid of the squeak in shoes….)

If you ever have an unexpected squeak in your shoes, or in your life, don’t lose heart my friends. Remember these things to help you take the next step…

  • A little color goes a long way to make your day. Whether it’s red, orange, or purple, sometimes stepping out in boldness and adding a little color in your life, or shoes, is just what you need to brighten your day, and lift your spirit. Go for it! 
  • Overcome the squeak. Life, like shoes, can squeak, hurt, or even fall apart. Don’t give up when the unexpected happens. Persevere to get past the issue. Rise above the obstacle. In the long run, it can be worth it.
  • Attitude can make the difference. Keep your focus on the positive, not the negative. My red shoes might squeak, but they sure are cute. I always laugh and say, “Well, you always know it’s me coming when I wear these shoes!” It’s amazing how a positive attitude can affect your day, and the people around you.
  • Make the best of your situation. There are times when there is no turning back, no do-overs. The choice has been made and it may not have been the right one, but it was the best one at the time. You just have to make the best of the situation, learn from it, and move forward. I’ve done it, so can you.
  • Don’t lose the joy. There will always be something or someone who will try to rob the joy or the enthusiasm you feel. Remind yourself that true joy is internal and comes from a deep inner relationship with Jesus. Nothing can rob you of that joy. It’s the external things that bring you happiness—like cute red shoes. Shoes come and go—Jesus comes to stay. Don’t confuse the two.

Just for fun, I’ll see you on your next shopping trip, and race you to the shoe department! Let’s have a cup of coffee afterward, and share our “joy!”
Susan Miller signature

The Messy Tree Next Door

rakingIt’s intrusive and messy.

Huge limbs that reach out in all directions not only hang over the wall in my back yard, they also shed leaves that I have to rake up, along with small branches and pieces of bark that I have to pick up. Every time the wind blows or the season changes, leaves, small branches, and bark come tumbling down to mess up my well-kept little yard.

Sometimes I get frustrated and angry, and imagine cutting it down in the middle of the night, or picture a bolt of lightning striking it to the ground. Either way would suffice to take care of the problem.

One day, I decided to change my attitude about the messy tree, and give it a little grace. Especially since I couldn’t control the situation and had to live with the clean-up.

I began to appreciate the shade it provided in my yard. I noticed the hummingbirds that visited my flowers would go back to their nests on the limbs of the tree. I realized the cool breeze I enjoyed came from the long leaf-filled branches. Maybe the trade-off wasn’t so bad after all….

Then I began to think about the people in my life who are a lot like that tree. Their lives are messy, and sometimes their needs intrude on my well-planned day. I find myself trying to pick up the pieces of their brokenness that fall over into my own life. I try to imagine ways I could help take care of their problems, but then realize I am helpless to change or control their situation.

But then I remember–God has given me a lot of grace when I haven’t deserved it. The least I can do is to give a little grace to those who happen to fall into my life. It is a privilege to come alongside a friend in need and help pick up the pieces of her brokenness with the comfort of God’s word, committed prayer, and a listening heart. Friends have certainly picked up my pieces in my time of need. No, I can’t solve or fix their problems, but I can let them know I’m here for them with outstretched arms. Friends have opened their arms wide for me when I came tumbling down.

You see, all of our lives can be messy, even on our well-kept days.

God picks up the pieces of our brokenness. He will “intrude” and make His presence known in the middle of our mess.

Susan Miller signature

Little did I know

mom and daughter readingMy daughter, Ginger, is a substitute teacher at her children’s elementary school every day–but Thursday. That’s the day she takes off to go to a Bible study at her church. 

Recently she was sharing with me how much she loves the study and the women who sit around the table and discuss the teaching at the end of class.

A young woman with three small children spoke up and said how difficult it was to read or study the Bible with the all-consuming time it took to meet the needs of her children.

I was amazed at Ginger’s response. Little did I know…

“Well, I sure understand that!” Ginger said to her new friend. “I’ve got four kids, and I know how hard it was when they were little to do anything for myself, much less read or study the Bible. Here’s what I did that might help you. My kids would crawl up in my lap, or sit beside me, and I would read them stories from their children’s Bible, which had pictures, and story illustrations. Not only did they learn about the Bible, but I did too! It may have been written for children, but during that time of my life, it sure worked for me.” Her friend said profoundly, “What a great idea! I can do that!”

Two things came to mind as I listened to Ginger recount this story.

One, I didn’t even know she was reading the Bible to her children, my grandchildren. That alone warms my heart.

Two, she is now at a stage of her life where she can mentor younger moms through her own experiences.

So, I’m just thinking…

Do I seize the moment to take time to read and study my Bible, even when I am crazy busy? It’s really easy for me to get distracted by all the things on my to-do list, even without having small children. Psalm 46:10 says, Be still and know that I am God—I need that reminder. I’m not very still most days.

Do I seize the opportunity to share my life experiences with younger women who need encouragement on their journey in marriage and parenting? It’s really easy to brush by the need when my schedule is so full. Titus 2:4 says,…encourage the young women to love their husbands, to love their children…I need that reminder. My calendar is pretty full these days.

Thank you, Ginger—you have taught your mom well.

Susan

« Previous PageNext Page »