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

 

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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A Dippy-Do Day

unraveling ropeEver have a dippy-do day? That’s what I call a day, or even a week, when I’m feeling low, inadequate, not spiritual enough, not smart enough, and overwhelmed by life in general. Surely you must have occasional days like that too.

But then, maybe you don’t. You feel like you’ve got life all together, all the time. You’re organized, efficient, ahead of the game, totally put together, and face the day full of confidence. I have those days too. It’s just that, well…gosh, I don’t do life like that 24/7. Know what I mean?

The only thing I know I do have all the time – Jesus.

On those hard days, I’m pretty much a mess, or a basket case, or both. Funny how Jesus gets right in the middle of my mess, climbs in the basket with me, and holds me together–as I come unraveled.

In my unraveling, I am reminded of stuff I know about Jesus.

He won’t let me go.

He won’t leave me.

He calms me.

He comforts me.

He gets in my face,
looks beyond my makeup,
behind my smile,
and into my eyes.

He’s got me right where He wants me. Up close and personal. Undivided attention. Complete focus on Him.

Let it go, Susan. Lay it down. Give it up. You know, it’s all the things you teach….

It’s kind of like one of the houses on HGTV that needs to be fixed up, or get an overhaul—inside, and out.

wooden toolbox with tools. isolated on white.Knock down the walls and think outside my self-imposed little boxed-in negative thoughts.
(“’For My thoughts are not your thoughts. Neither are your ways My ways,’ declares the Lord.” Isaiah 55:8)

Open up space to expand time for friends who give me a bigger perspective on my life, and remind me of God’s faithfulness.
(“God is faithful, through whom you were called into fellowship with His Son, Jesus Christ our Lord.” I Corinthians 1:9)

Redo the inside by getting rid of old things that pull me down, and add new things that build me up.
(“When my anxious thoughts multiple within me, Thy consolations delight my soul.”Psalm 94:19)

Repaint and repair with a change of attitude and a new outlook.
(“…and put on the new self, in the likeness of God….” Ephesians 4:24)

Replace the landscape of anything growing in my heart that needs to be replaced with the truth of God’s word.
(“Lead me in Thy truth and teach me, for Thou art the God of my salvation; for Thee I wait all the day.” Psalm 25:5)

Well my friends, there you have it. You have sat on my doorstep for a few minutes and gotten a real glimpse inside.

May Jesus meet you right where you are today, at just the right moment, and just when you need to be reminded—you are not alone.

From My Heart to Yours,
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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

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What do you do when you’re in lockdown and have nowhere to run?

Susan Miller, America's Moving Coachby Susan Miller

I was in a lockdown situation not long ago when an armed fugitive, who was a little too close for comfort, was being apprehended by a SWAT team. 

I never imagined being involved in something like that, especially when speaking to a group of Christian women at a retreat – at a camp conference center—in a beautiful forest setting. Although it ended well for all of us, it was one of those times in my life when I asked myself the hard questions.

What do I do now?

emotional and physical "lockdown"How do I stay calm?

How will I get through this?

What will happen next?

The answers surfaced from within very quickly.

It occurred to me after it was all over, that many of us have been on some kind of lockdown in life, either physically or emotionally.

It could be an emotional lockdown from the pain of loss, a broken relationship, fear of the unknown, or shame brought on by circumstances. For those of you who have been there—you know what it’s like. You shut yourself off from everything and everyone, and simply close down your feelings and emotions. You find safety in the lockdown.

It could be a physical lockdown from an illness, a disease, or abuse that is debilitating – crippling your body, mind, and spirit. You are so helpless to do anything about it. Your physical condition dictates your day and you feel trapped. You can’t run, you can’t escape—you have no control over what’s happening to you. You are powerless in the lockdown.

So, you say, what do you do when you’re in a lockdown situation?

First, go back to what you already know. And, if you don’t know it, learn it now so you’ll know what to do then.

Run to JesusWhen you have nowhere to run to, run with all your might to Him. If you think about it, there is really nowhere we can go that is totally safe anymore. He alone is our refuge, our only safe place. Depend on Jesus to give you the strength to endure the circumstances. Dwell in Him and on Him.

Pray—While you are waiting, pray faithfully, and without ceasing. Pray for protection, inner peace, and a calm spirit. Pray for others who are involved along with you. Pray that God will use you for His glory, and that you might be a light in a dark situation.

Recall His Word—In times such as this, rest in His promises. Recall and repeat scriptures of hope and protection to yourself or out loud. Saturate your mind and fill your heart with the remembrance of His word.

Trust Him—When the outcome of your situation is beyond your control, trust Him with your whole heart to see you through it. Don’t panic, know that He will be with you, His presence will surround you in all circumstances – regardless of what the outcome might be.

Be gratefulNo matter what, there is always something, or someone, to be grateful for. Recount your blessings. Focus on being grateful. It’s hard to be negative when you are thanking God. When it’s all over, don’t forget to thank God first before you do anything else.

And last, but not least, practically speaking…

Do the next thing—Whatever that might be, whatever that looks like – do the right thing and do the next thing.

  • Stay focused on what’s important.
  • No matter how helpless you might feel, let your common sense kick in.
  • Respond to the situation, don’t react to it.
  • Don’t do or say anything you will regret later.
  • Be wise; don’t foolishly put yourself in harm’s way.

In a crisis, remember that Jesus is on center stage—reflected in you, and through you by your actions and your words.

Make Him proud…

God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble. Therefore we will not fear. Psalm 46:1

Lessons I learned on the soccer field

1412.soccerI watched my last three soccer games for the season last Saturday. Yes indeed, back-to-back games, carrying my folding chair from one field to another, I sat on the sidelines, waving my pom-poms madly to encourage all the players. My two grandsons and my granddaughter played their hearts out for their grand finale games. One win, one tie, one loss. To me, they were all winning games. It wasn’t the score that impressed me, it was the team attitude, perseverance, and effort that made them all winners. They gave their all; they played their best.

It’s always interesting to observe and listen to the parents around me during the games. One dad’s words were so tender and kind to his young son, who was struggling as a goalie and felt defeated. His dad’s words were just what he needed to instill confidence that he could block that ball—and he did, the next time the ball came at the goal. I know the dad’s words could have as easily crushed the young boy. I’ve seen that happen too.

One single mom never missed a game, even though she had to rearrange her work schedule to be there. She always came right when the game started. I watched her daughter as she spotted her mother on the sidelines every week. She smiled as their eyes met.

Another dad was on his cell phone texting the entire game. I saw his son keep looking over at the sidelines to see if his dad was watching him. His dad missed his son’s winning goal.

A mom sat down and pulled out a book that she read the entire time. Several couples were preoccupied in a conversation with each other.

They missed the moment to cheer a great move, to thumbs-up a winning pass, to soothe a fumble with encouragement, or show compassion with a defeat.

Just watching your children in a sport, a play, a recital—anything they’re involved in– speaks volumes without a word said.

A kind, encouraging, or positive word speaks volumes too.

What I observed on the soccer field, I took home with me for the holidays.

There are times during Christmas that I’m too preoccupied with my own agenda, and my own busy schedule. I’m focused on checking off my gift list, my grocery list, getting my house decorated, getting gifts wrapped…and on and on, so that…

I forget to look up and notice someone who needs a kind word of encouragement.

I miss the sadness in someone’s eyes because I wasn’t watching.

I don’t seize the moment to cheer on someone who feels defeated and needs to feel hope.

I get so self-absorbed that I’m oblivious to what’s going on around me, or right in front of me.

Oh Lord, may I not just watch, but see.

May I not just hear, but listen.

May I not just observe, but speak.

___________________

My friends, may the love of Christ flow in you and through you to permeate others with a fragrance of kindness and encouragement this holiday season.

But thanks be to God..who manifests through us the sweet aroma of the knowledge of Him in every place. For we are a fragrance of Christ….  II Corinthians 2:14-15

Merry Christmas my friends!

Spread the joy of Jesus,

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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,

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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!”
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Fragile, handle with care

heart in handsIt all started after a sleepless night worrying about all the major repairs – from roof leaks, to inside water damage – that needed to be addressed first thing the next morning. At times, worry does seem to creep in, doesn’t it?

Early the next morning, with coffee in hand, I settled in to my favorite chair to read my devotional, pray for the day ahead, and center my thoughts from worry to trust. My emotions were fragile, and I felt overwhelmed with all that would be involved in the process of repair work, and what I imagined it would cost.

As I prayed, the word “nice” kept surfacing in my mind. “Oh Lord, please let the people I have to talk to today about all of these issues be nice to me.” I just didn’t think I could handle an unkind or rude person in my state of mind. I felt sure I’d burst into tears. Looking back, it’s funny how I felt: if everyone was kind or nice to me, I could handle whatever the outcome.

Each person I spoke with was not only nice to me, but kind as well. They went above and beyond what was required. When I hung up the phone, all I could say was, “Thank you Lord!” I had asked for little, and received more than I could have imagined. People, simply going out of their way to be nice and kind, strengthened my fragile emotions and changed the course of my day. It took so little to make a big difference.

That was the same day a stranger “paid it forward” in the drive-through line at Starbucks and bought my coffee, and I received a lovely card in my mailbox from a friend who just wanted to say she was thinking of me. God is a God of details and surprises, and He encouraged me in the most unexpected ways…and it all began with people being nice and kind.

What if? What if you and I went above and beyond this Christmas and practiced random acts of kindness to people in the most unexpected ways? At a time when “hurry” is normal, what if we slowed down and took the time to send a personal note of gratitude. When lines are long, and patience is short, what if we let someone go ahead of us who has fewer items to buy. What if we paid it forward and treated a stranger to a cup of coffee, or a meal. What if we went out of our way to speak and act nicely, knowing it just might strengthen a fragile heart and change the course of someone’s day.

It takes so little to make a big difference…

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You can never have too much

Susan and GingerWhen my daughter, Ginger, and I go shopping together, we love to buy a little something for each other, even if it’s just a cup of coffee. Often we will both love the same thing, so I buy one for her, and she buys one for me. We’re kind of silly that way, but it makes a memory, and has become a fun shopping tradition.
She saw the little painted, wooden plaque first, and quickly said, “Oh Mom, I love this, it’s so you!” As I picked up the little plaque, not only did I fall in love with the words painted on it, but knew it would be perfect in Ginger’s home too. At a bargain of $5.00 each, we grabbed the last two plaques, and gave them to each other when we got back in the car.
They now sit on our kitchen counters to greet us daily. In cute, colorful letters, it simply reads:

happiness

What a great reminder to not only me, but to anyone who enters my home—we can never be too happy.  It made me think about the reasons why being happy matters in life, and how it affects your heart, mind, and emotions.

Ten reasons you can never have too much happy:

1.    It can change the course of your day.

2.    It can change the direction of your life.

3.    It can change your attitude.

4.    It makes you smile.

5.    It’s contagious and spreads quickly.

6.    It is healthy for your heart.

7.    It can be emotionally healing.

8.    It puts a little sunshine in a rainy day.

9.    It helps you to be grateful.

10.  It is a pathway to joy.

Maybe you need a little happy today. Find it, choose it, create it, make it, embrace it, let it flood your soul. Be happy.

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