Staying Power for the Holidays

Every morning when I turn off the alarm clock, I glance over at a little pad of post-notes sitting on my bedside table that are imprinted with two words: “Stay Thoughtful.” Every morning these two words start my day. They are a gentle reminder of what I should already know. “Stay thoughtful today, Susan, in what you say and in what you do.” It doesn’t say, Be Thoughtful, or Try to Be Thoughtful, or Remember to Be Thoughtful… it reminds me to stay thoughtful, not just over the holidays, but every day.

Then my mind began to think of other ways to stay:

Stay Kind

Stay Joyful

Stay Peaceful

Stay Compassionate

Stay Loving

Stay Content

The obvious became so clear to me, I can be these things when my focus stays on Jesus and stays on living out His love to others daily.

My mind is like a merry-go-round, whirling with things to do this time of year.  A full calendar, a busy ministry, thinking about finding the right turkey on sale, finding my holiday recipes, making a list of ingredients, pulling fall decoration boxes from the garage . . . you are probably not far behind me. Our list can go on and on. Let’s take a minute from this craziness before it consumes us. You and I both know there is so much more than the tasks and to-do lists over the holidays.

I know I need to stop and get off the merry-go-round I am riding. I need to refocus from doing to being, from rushing to staying. I need to stay focused on Jesus and I need to stay intentional about living out His love to others.

I think it’s a good idea to start our day with this little prayer. I’ll place it right next to those post-notes by my bed so I’ll see it each morning when I start my day. What about you?

Oh Lord, with this holiday season approaching, and all the distractions that can so easily rob me of reflecting YOU, may I be ever mindful to . . .

Stay Thoughtful in the busyness of the season,

Stay Kind in my interaction with people,

Stay Joyful even when I don’t feel joy,

Stay Peaceful in the midst of holiday chaos,

Stay Compassionate with those less fortunate than I am,

Stay Loving to those who are unlovable, and

Stay Content in my circumstances.

Have a grateful Thanksgiving, my friends, and happy cooking!

From My Heart to Yours,

Susan Miller

Comfortable with Silence

I recently spent a weekend with a friend at her farm to enjoy cool weather, a change of scenery, and some down time before my busy fall schedule began.

serenity

Her home was only accessible by miles of dirt road and was completely surrounded by acres of beautiful green farm land. An occasional creek would wind through the spacious land and ripple over all sizes and shapes of rocks. A quiet, still lake, as smooth as glass, was in full view from the back porch. Only an occasional fish jumping from the water broke the stillness of the water.

My friend took the opportunity to spend a morning with her family in a nearby small town, so I had this magical place of solitude all to myself. I gathered my pen and paper, a few devotional books, and nestled in on the inviting porch swing. My eyes were held captive as movement across the lake and near the woods revealed a fawn with a mama deer not far behind. For the next few hours I was isolated from the rest of the world.

I actually found myself uncomfortable with this new-found silence.

silence in nature

I kept getting up to go back in the house to get another cup of coffee, then to refill a glass of water. I walked around the porch that extended from one end of the house to the other, to look for any movement or signs of life in the vast landscape around me. A squirrel scampered by on the porch, as shocked to see me as I was to see him. I went for a long walk, crossed a creek, and soaked in the silence. A startled deer quickly ran across my path as our eyes briefly met.

Unlike back home, there was no sound of cars, no UPS or Amazon truck to stop at my door, no neighbors passing by as they chat and walked their dogs. No sound of sirens or traffic in the distance. No internet, no wifi, no TV, no ping of incoming texts or messages. Nothing but the whisper of wind in the trees, a bird chirping to his own tune, and a chorus of crickets in harmony.

Slowly I became comfortable with myself and with the quiet of my surroundings.

I headed back to the house and the porch – my newly discovered place of refuge and peace.

I returned to the porch swing and gently swayed back and forth for hours without feeling restless. I began to think through things, not just about them. I began to breathe deeper, relax, and drink in the quiet that filled my soul. I could hear myself think and pray without interruption or distraction. The words of scripture in my devotional penetrated my heart with clarity and new meaning. I had found a renewed and refreshed sense of myself.

The weekend slipped by much too quickly. Before I knew it, I was back in Phoenix. Life resumed its normal rhythm and the noise of my world didn’t missed a beat. On especially busy days, when my world is spinning non-stop, I close my eyes for a minute and remember that gift of solitude and silence. I breathe in the memory as if I was there and, for a moment, my world stops spinning. Within that moment, I find comfort in silence once again.

The Lord is my shepherd, I lack nothing.

He makes me lie down in green pastures,

He leads me beside quiet waters,

He refreshes my soul.

He guides me along the right paths

for His name’s sake.

Psalm 23:1-3

My friends, wherever you live, whatever your surroundings may be, make the time and take the time to find silent moments in your world.

Perhaps it’s in the solitude of early morning or in the quiet of late night. It could be as simple as taking a long walk or going to a nearby park. It can be as easy as not turning on the TV, Spotify, the computer, or your phone. Let the only sound of distraction be the coffee maker dripping in your cup.

Be still and know that I am God.

Psalm 46:10

…in quietness and trust is your strength…

Isaiah 30:15

From My Heart to Yours

Susan Miller

Beat the Summer Heat of Emotion

Sometimes the heat that comes with the summer is not always about the temperature.

Sometimes the heat in our lives rises to the pressure point or the stress level because…

the unexpected happens,
our circumstances change,
the rug gets pulled out from under us,
life comes crashing down,
hopes and dreams are shattered.

When the pressure is on, we need to keep an eye on our internal thermometer to gauge the heat caused by stress.

Just like a cup of cool water will replenish our body, God’s word will refresh our soul, renew our mind, and restore our emotions. Remember, God doesn’t always change our situation, but He will give us strength, hope, and encouragement so we can face each day. Reading scripture can be like a soothing balm to help us beat the heat that will inevitably come during any season of life. Redirecting our focus on God and His word, will help us to live above the stress and pressure of our circumstances.

I am constantly reminded that the issues, problems, and trials in life will constantly change, but God never changes. He is our anchor in the droughts and the storms, our lighthouse to guide us when we cannot see what lies ahead. Be encouraged and never lose hope, my friends.

These are some summer Bible reading tips that I enjoy. You might want to consider some of them.

  • Read a verse or a chapter out loud. You not only see the word, you also hear and say the word.
  • Memorize a particular scripture that is meaningful to you by repeating it over and over to yourself.
  • Personalize the verse by inserting your name. After all, God IS speaking to you!
  • Underline, date, and make notes in the margin when scripture speaks to you.
  • In a blank journal, write topical headings like hope, peace, contentment, etc. Write down verses you read that apply to each topic. Keep the journal with your Bible for easy reference and to add more as you discover a verse that fits your topics.
  • Write a “P” beside the scripture that is a promise from God and a “C” that is a command from God.
  • Read entire sections so you will not take anything out of context or misunderstand what you are reading.
  • Do a word study to understand what the word or phrase means.

Clip the verses below and post them on your refrigerator, mirror, in your car, or by your bedside. Add your own favorites to the list.

A Summer Reading List to Help You Beat the Heat

Jeremiah 29:12-13
Then you will call upon Me and come and pray to Me, and I will listen to you. And you will see Me and find Me when you search for Me with all your heart.

Lamentations 3:19-25
The Lord’s loving kindnesses indeed never cease. For His compassions never fail. They are new every morning; great is Thy faithfulness. “The Lord is my portion,” says my soul, “Therefore I have hope in Him.” The Lord is good to those who wait for Him, to the person who seeks Him.

I Peter 5:10
And after you have suffered for a little while, the God of all grace, who called you to His eternal glory in Christ, will Himself perfect, confirm, strengthen and establish you.

John 14:27
Peace I leave with you; My peace I give to you; not as the world gives, do I give to you. Let not your heart be troubled, nor let it be fearful.

Isaiah 40: 28-31
…Yet those who wait for the Lord will gain new strength. They will mount up with wings like eagles. They will run and not get tired. They will walk and not become weary.

Isaiah 41:10
Do not fear, for I am with you; do not anxiously look about you, for I am your God. I will strengthen you, surely I will help you, surely I will uphold you with my righteous right hand.

Psalm 37:3-5
Trust in the Lord, and do good; dwell in the land and cultivate faithfulness. Delight yourself in the Lord, and He will give you the desires of your heart. Commit your way to the Lord, trust also in Him and He will do it.

Joshua 1:9
….Be strong and courageous! Do not tremble or be dismayed, for the Lord your God is with you wherever you go.

Romans 15:13
Now may the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace.

Psalm 119:28
My soul weeps because of grief; strengthen me according to Thy word.

Proverbs 3:26
For the Lord will be your confidence and will keep your foot from being caught.

Colossians 3:2
Set your mind on the things above, not on the things that are on earth.

Philippians 4:11
For I have learned to be content in whatever circumstances I am.

Ephesians 3:20-21
Now to Him who is able to do exceeding abundantly beyond all that we ask or think, according to the power that works within us, to Him be the glory.

God, make yourself known to me through your word. Let me feel your presence as I go through a very difficult and hard summer. I am in a very dry and hard place in my life right now. Refresh, replenish, restore, and renew me. Amen

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.

My 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 shoe boxes 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. (Yes, I even thank God for silly little things like red shoes that fit.)

squeaky 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, imagine the two of us on your next shopping trip. Looking for shoes? I’m your girl! I’ll race to the shoe department and help you find just the right size and color. Then we’ll have a cup of coffee afterward and share our “joy” in Jesus ― and in shoes!

Susan Miller

From my heart,
Susan

The View From My Bike

pink bikeExperiencing a Zacchaeus moment. 

You would love my cute pink bike with my pink pom-poms hanging over the handle bars and big gerbera daisies in different shades of pink clipped on the front of my bicycle basket. Oh, and I also have a honking pink horn on the basket! If I add too many more accessories, I’ll have to add a side extension to the bike.

Ever since a good-Samaritan-friend graciously fixed my bicycle tire leaks, I can, as the song says, “ride like the wind” all over my neighborhood. Funny how my bike seems to glide with ease and little effort when there is air in the tires!

With the MapMyRun app on my phone, I can run, walk, or cruise and know how many miles I’ve traveled and how long it took to pedal my way back home. I’ve actually mapped out a cool three-mile ride around my neighborhood. Believe it or not, the last mile ends up through my church parking lot. I can pull in off the street, starting at the beginning of the parking lot’s first lane, and go the full length of each lane, winding up and down all the way to the last lane ― and it’s one mile! Who knew?

There’s something special about riding a bike. (As there is about walking, both of which I love to do.) I know it’s my imagination, but I feel like I could reach up and touch the trees as the sunlight glistens through the branches. I love to be sitting up high, it seems I get a different perspective on everything around me.

It’s as if I’m having a “Zacchaeus moment.” When Zacchaeus was standing on the ground he couldn’t see over the crowds, so he climbed up a sycamore tree to get a clear view of Jesus. (Luke 19:1-10) Life came into perspective for Zacchaeus when Jesus called his name and his life was changed forever. When we focus on Jesus, instead of our surrounding circumstances, our perspective and life can change. In the solitude and silence of riding my bike, I can hear Jesus call my name, “Susan, listen to me, don’t try to figure out everything yourself, you are not alone!”

When steering my bike, the need to focus helps to clear my mind when my heart is heavy over a situation, or when I’ve had a stressful day. Sometimes when I have to go around a hole in the pavement, or hit a bump in the road, it is a reminder to me that life is full of holes and bumps ― much like the unexpected, uncontrollable situations that happen in life. All the more reason to keep my focus on Jesus and trust Him.

So… do you want to know what I actually do on my bike?

I pray as I pedal. It’s the perfect opportunity, without interruptions, to pray for those on my prayer list.

I raise my hand to praise God for the beauty of nature around me. (There was a time I could steer my bike without both hands on the handlebars, but I haven’t tried that lately.)

And what about the pom-poms? Well, you never know who might need encouraging along the way. They always bring a smile when I see a neighbor and wave my pom-poms as I ride by.

By now, you probably feel like you’ve ridden with me on the back of my bike, holding on for dear life. Perhaps you’ve learned a few insider things about my three-mile ride.

The next time you go on a walk, run, hike, or ride your bike, you might think about having a “Zacchaeus moment” too. Perhaps you are going through a heartbreaking situation, a broken relationship, or circumstances beyond your control.

Just like Jesus saw Zacchaeus in a crowd of people, He sees you too. You are not forgotten. You are not alone. He’s got His eye on you. In fact, He could be calling your name right now, but you’ve been too busy and too preoccupied with getting through each day to focus on Him and listen for His voice.

Rise above the chaos around you and keep your eyes on Jesus. He can change your life and perspective forever.

Susan MillerFrom my heart,

Susan

Moving with two kids and a dog: What I learned on the road trip to our new home

road trip with kids and dogWe named our small used Toyota “the brown berry”. We always named our cars. We kept them so long, they were like part of the family. When our two children were very young, they thought it was funny for our cars to have names. When they got older, they simply became amused at one of their mother’s crazy family traditions. (I bet they secretly name their own cars now.)

During one of our fourteen moves, my husband, Bill, started to work in North Carolina before we actually moved there. Once everything was packed and the moving van was on its way, I set out to drive the brown berry across three states loaded down with two kids, a dog, and boxes crammed in every available space. Our son, Bill Jr., was six and our daughter, Ginger, was three. I don’t remember how old the dog was.

What I do remember was our road trip. It was extremely hot and the brown berry came down with heat exhaustion. (That’s what I told the kids.) In adult language, the air conditioner quit blowing cold air. Oh, it would still blow air – it was just hot air. So I rolled the windows down to let the hot air out, only to find the air coming in was even hotter.

At that point, Ginger, who was sitting in the backseat, started throwing up all over herself, her doll, and the seat. Bill Jr., who was sitting in the front seat, started gagging at the smell, and the dog had his head hanging out the window, drooling from the heat. I don’t think the smell bothered him. We were not at a place where I could pull over, so with Ginger now crying, Bill Jr. gagging, and the dog drooling, I was held captive at the wheel.

While I was thinking, What else could possibly happen? I began to imagine Bill sitting in a new air-conditioned office somewhere. I started getting furious at him for not being here to share in this memorable experience.

At that same moment, the brown berry must have gotten a tummy ache (that’s what I told the kids) because the red light came on indicating that the engine was overheating. We kept limping along in all our glory for miles until we came to an exit with a gas station. There we found a quick fix for the brown berry, a clean restroom with lots of paper towels, and a grassy spot for the dog. As we got back in the car, Bill Jr. said for the hundredth time, “Mom, how much farther is it?”

I’m sure you can identify with my road trip in some way. We have all had our moments of traveling chaos and calamity that eventually become memories to share and laugh about later.

Whether you are moving, on vacation, or on a road trip to visit family, pack these practical tip ideas to ease the miles to your destination.

  • A kitchen timer can be used on a trip in several ways: “It’s your time to share” or “We’ll stop for a break when the timer goes off.”
  • Take a roll of paper towels, small garbage bags, wet wipes, and Ziploc bags in the car for cleanup, diapers, and trash. You’ll be glad you did!
  • Air freshener really comes in handy. It covers food odors, plus all those other unpleasant smells we don’t have to mention.
  • A first aid kit. Make sure the one you have is not outdated.
  • A cooler with favorite snacks, juice, fruit, and sandwiches. Include a heavy-duty Ziploc bag filled with ice to soothe any minor bumps, cuts, or scrapes.
  • For long trips, take several gallons of water. Small bottles of water don’t last very long.
  • Don’t forget a small water bowl for your pet. Put someone in charge of keeping your dog’s leash.
  • When you are staying at a hotel overnight, stop late in the afternoon in time for the kids to go swimming and work off some energy before bedtime.
  • Get up for an early departure to get a good start on the day. The kids might sleep through the first few hours of the morning.

Here are some things to do that will help your family “move” closer together on any trip:

  • Share your biggest concerns about the trip. Talk about how you can avoid those problems.
  • Practice these words: “This is our big adventure!” Attitude is everything.
  • Start your trip with a “God hunt”. Look for God in everything. It helps your children think about seeing God in every aspect of their lives. “I see God in our move. He did….” I see God taking care of us on this trip. He has….”
  • Give an example of what it looks like to be kind, thoughtful, and patient with one another.
  • Before you begin the trip to your new destination, pray together as a family.
  • And don’t forget to make your road trip an adventure, make it fun, and make it meaningful!

‘For I know the plans that I have for you,’ declares the Lord, ‘plans for welfare and not for calamity to give you a future and a hope.’ Jeremiah 29:11 NASB

From My Heart to Yours,

Susan Miller

From Susan’s book, But Mom, I Don’t Want to Move!

Just married, Just moved, Just found out the cancer has returned…

just marriedA few weeks ago a beautiful young woman in her twenties, with an infectious smile, and a lovely British accent showed up at the door of our After the Boxes are Unpacked class. I welcomed her with open arms, introduced her to the other women in class, and asked her the usual questions–where are you from and how long have you lived here?

Emily and her husband came from New Zealand. They had been married for two weeks and had been in Phoenix for only two days, arriving here right after their honeymoon. Oh.my.goodness. My first thought was literally, just married, just moved…and so young to be so far from home and family.

Emily went on to share that she had taken an Uber taxi to class that morning since she didn’t even have an American driver’s license yet. That’s just determination. If I had moved only two days ago, my mind would still be whirling with unpacking boxes and finding my coffee pot, much less finding a class someone told me about — even if it was about moving. 

As we continued to talk, I said, “Would you take a few minutes to just tell me your story?”

The words spilled out like a river overflows after a massive storm. Last year Emily had been diagnosed with cancer, had surgery to remove the tumor, planned a wedding, a move—and a future without cancer.  After a routine check-up, it was discovered the cancer had returned. Now here they were — just married, just moved, and just found out the cancer had returned….

As Emily shared her story with our group, it was obvious she had a strong faith and trusted God with all the unknowns she was facing. It wasn’t the typical unknowns you face with a move— not knowing if you’ll like living in an unfamiliar place, whether the new job will work out, or when you’ll begin to put down roots and feel like you belong.

No, the unknowns Emily faced were not knowing the best cancer specialists, what the right treatment plan would be, what the side effects would be like, would she be cancer free, and even how all of this would affect a new marriage. I can imagine it was just overwhelming to think about these things instead of the joy of wedding memories.

As we circled around Emily and prayed, tears of compassion and feelings of empathy filled the room. Words of encouragement came from a cancer survivor who God had placed at Emily’s table, sitting right next to her. A sense of community began to emerge among this group of newcomers, many of whom faced their own challenges and struggles with moving. I could see their focus shifting from their own needs to the needs of this young woman. I could see the body of Christ at work as the women began to plan meals for the freezer and rides to the cancer center for the long weeks ahead of chemo and radiation.

I don’t believe that it was a coincidence, or by chance, that Emily came to our class that day. I believe God brought her there to experience His amazing love through a group of newcomers who He just happened to bring together for a time such as this.

You might want to keep these tips close to heart in case God wants someone to experience His amazing love through you. I have a feeling He just might.

Be available. Let people know you have the time and desire to help out. They won’t know if you don’t tell them.
Be aware. Observe and listen to people and situations around you.
Be sensitive.  You never know what’s going on in people’s lives, how desperate they are, or how hopeless they feel.
Be accepting. Don’t judge a person from the outside until you know her on the inside. Someone might look like they have it all together, but not many of us do.
Ask, don’t assume. Ask what the specific need is, how you might help, when the best time would be to get together.

If God nudges you to do something for someone, do it. Don’t put it off and end up regretting that you did nothing or find that it’s too late to do anything.

God will do incredible things through you and in you, as you live out Jesus to others.  Just watch and see…

Christ has no body now on earth but yours.
No hands, no feet on earth but yours.
Yours are the eyes through which he looks compassion on this world.
Yours are the feet with which he walks to do good.
Yours are the hands through which he blesses all the world…
(Teresa of Avila)

From My Heart to Yours,

Susan Miller signature

 

Five hidden treasures from Daddy’s back yard

A friend was standing in my kitchen the other day, chatting away, when her eyes locked in on a picture hanging on the wall behind me. She walked past me and looked closely at the picture. “This is so lovely! I thought it was a painting at first glance.” She paused, then said, “What is written beneath the picture?” I read the simple words out loud, “Daddy’s backyard 1989. After she left, my thoughts slipped back into my daddy’s backyard once again, and I lingered there a while in the sweetness of childhood memories.

Daddy's back yard

 

Our backyard was truly Daddy’s corner of the world. He planted jasmine that wrapped around the trees, hydrangeas in bright purple and blue, a rose bush in hues of red and pink, and a camellia bush in shades of pink and white. He left most of the backyard as nature designed it, and that natural green landscape framed the bright colored flowers near our house.

The view from our kitchen window was serene and peaceful. When I stepped outside the back door, Daddy was usually there working in the yard, either raking, mowing, trimming, or just sitting in his wooden, straight-back chair.

My favorite times in the backyard were when he was sitting in that uncomfortable looking chair. I would go outside, pull up a chair, or sit on the ground, and just be with him. I loved his stories, told with humor and wit, and I loved how he laughed at his corny jokes. He didn’t talk much about serving in World War II and the Korean War. I could tell by his eyes that his emotions couldn’t go there. Many times I sensed the backyard was his haven for far deeper reasons than my own. For me, it was my special one-on-one time to talk, ask questions, listen, and simply be with him.

When you are young, you don’t always realize the hidden treasures you learn from the simple things in life. They become life lessons that can shape your thinking, your attitude, the way you treat others, and how you, in turn, raise your own children.

I looked back and realize how Daddy’s backyard had hidden treasures of life lessons that continue to influence and impact my life today.

Hidden treasure #1: Be intentional.

I didn’t know I was being intentional when I would go out in the yard to be with my daddy, but I’m sure, in his wisdom, he did. He knew when he sat down in his chair that I’d sit with him.

Intentionally spend one-on-one time with your children, or grandchildren, in their corner of the world. My eleven-year-old grandson loves to jump on the trampoline in his backyard. I climb up on the trampoline, sit across from him, and throw a big rubber ball back and forth to see who can keep it in the air the longest. It’s my time to give him undivided attention away from his three siblings as we share “our” time together.

Hidden treasure #2: Look beyond yourself.

I was always in and out of our family kitchen, most of the time oblivious to looking out the window at the backyard. I was there looking for food. It was only when mama said, “Look at how green the yard is and how beautiful the flowers are,” that I would look beyond my mission in the kitchen to take a peek outside.

Wherever you are, the simple gesture of looking at the beauty of God’s creation around you and beyond you, can often help put life and circumstances in perspective. You don’t have to travel the world to see the magnificence of God’s creation; it can be right in your own backyard.

Hidden treasure #3: Balance busyness with rest.

Daddy wore a red bandana tied around his forehead to catch the sweat that came from his physical labor of mowing, weeding, and raking the leaves. He would work awhile, then rest awhile. Sometimes, he would lean against one of the oak trees to catch his breath, or to take a sip of water from a mason jar, or to “sit a spell,” as he would say.

Are you on the go constantly with a full calendar and a busy life? Taking a break to “sit a spell” is not only a healthy balance, but can give you energy and stamina to finish well. It can also renew and refresh your mind and attitude. Try it. 

Hidden treasure #4: Learn by listening, share by talking.

I learned a lot about my daddy’s life when I stopped talking long enough to listen. He was a quiet, soft spoken man, so asking questions was a win-win. He talked, I listened. He shared, I learned.

Over the years, I began to understand that in all relationships there is immeasurable value in the equal balance of both listening, and talking. If you do all the talking to those you love and don’t take the time to listen, what have you learned about them? If they are not talkers, try asking non-threatening questions that say you care.

Hidden treasure #5: Seize the moment and the memories.

To this day, I can close my eyes and be in the backyard cutting hydrangeas when they are in full color to dry and preserve in a vase. In fact, I have a box of them in my garage and use them ever so gently. I can just smell the jasmine wrapped around the tree and see the brilliance of green shrubbery after a summer rain. I have lovely memories tucked in my heart and in pictures to span the years that have passed. I am all the more blessed that I seized the moment to walk out the kitchen door so many times – as a child, a teen, a young adult, and then a married woman – to talk and listen to my beloved daddy, whose memory vividly lives with me. One of the last things I remember was seeing him reading his Bible in that uncomfortable looking chair when he was “sitting a spell”.

Don’t miss the opportunity to discover hidden treasures in your own life, or in the lives of your family. Step out and seize the moment today. Make a memory that will last a lifetime.

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

 

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

 

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