A chair, a raspberry scone, and words remembered

words hurt or helpA southern brunch in the deep south–aahh, there’s nothing like it. Shrimp, sausage and grits with gravy, hot biscuits stuffed with country ham, egg casseroles with melted cheese on top, a fruit compote with whipped cream, homemade scones dripping with butter.

my.oh.my. bring.it.on.

I can smell the aroma and taste the goodness right now. The very best part of any southern brunch gathering is being with family and friends that I don’t get to see often enough.

Yes, the food is great, but family is greater. Yes, I can still taste the food, but I savor the relationships. 

I bridge the miles between Arizona and Georgia with cherished memories that I bring back with me to tuck away in my heart. One particular memory involved a chair and a raspberry scone.

We all heaped our plates with food and sat in the dining room, kitchen area, or outside on the deck. Ten of us gathered around the dining room table as we talked non-stop to catch up with one another. My niece’s six-year-old little boy sat next to her so she could watch him closely, and carefully help him with the food on his plate. Then, in an instant, what every mom dreads happened. The raspberry scone crumbled from hand to mouth, fell in his lap, and then nestled on the beige fabric dining room chair. I could see the panic on her face as she smiled and quickly tried to brush the crumbs in a napkin, only to find the raspberries left their lovely red color imprinted on the chair.

We’ve all been in similar situations when we are in someone else’s home and we break a glass, spill coffee or red wine, or food somehow slips off our plates and hits the white sofa. Accidents happen to adults and children.

After we finished eating and everyone left the dining room, she quietly tried several different stain-removal methods – none of which seemed to work. My heart hurt for her, knowing how bad she felt about the stain on the chair. She looked up at me and said, “I’m so sorry Aunt Susan, I’ll tell Ann that I will pay to have the chair repaired.”

At that moment I realized what a serious issue this was in her mind and how it could quickly ruin her day. How I responded could either defuse the situation and put it in perspective, or lead her to remember the incident more than the wonderful time we were all having together.

Without hesitation I said, “Hey girl, flaws build character in a chair, and messes like this make memories!” She looked up at me, smiled, and said, “Yes, I guess it does.” Her spirit seemed lifted and we spent the rest of the day not mentioning the chair or the raspberries.

I quickly forgot about the raspberries and the chair after I came back home, and settled in to my crazy, but wonderful ministry life.  I received a text last week from my niece with some family pictures taken during our day together. It was what she said in her text that brought tears to my eyes and reminded me of the impact we have on others by the words we choose to say. “Thank you for the kind and supportive words you shared over the raspberry stain. I have repeated those words to myself every day since Sunday. It is such a wonderful reminder that it is the flaws that really make us and the messes make the memories.”

Oh, how many times I’ve blown a situation and hurt someone I love by choosing to react in a harsh voice, rather than respond in a loving manner. Our words can hurt or heal, encourage or discourage, build up or tear down, and can make or break someone’s day–or heart.

O Lord, may this be a reminder to me, and perhaps to you also, to be sensitive, kind, and caring in a sticky situation. May we never forget that the words we choose to say can make an impact on someone’s life and be long remembered.

…Say only what is good and helpful to those you are talking to, and what will give them a blessing. Ephesians 4:29 TLB

Susan MillerFrom My Heart to Yours,

 

Susan Miller

This Little Light of Mine

 

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

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

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

to a spotlight that focuses on just one person.

to a 150w light bulb that brightens a room.

to a flashlight that lights a pathway,

a candle that only holds a glow for a while,

or a match that burns down quickly….

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

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

Stuff happens.

Life brings hard knocks.

Emotional and physical pain can consume us.

Disappointment and heartache can cut us off at our knees.

Perspective goes sideways.

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

Inadequacy sets in.

Then the downward spiral spills over to negative  thinking,

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

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

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

Lord, you have brought light to my life;

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

Susan

Lessons from a cat named Chloe – lost, then found

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Susan

 

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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12 summer challenges to do or not to do

flowerJune will be here soon, and I’m already breathing in the anticipation of slowing down. For the three months of summer, 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. Yes, let’s seize the summer for a change of pace, but also seize the challenge to make daily choices in our attitudes, words, or actions.

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 when September comes, you’ll have a summer to remember.

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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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Lost without it

I had to part with my Bible recently to have the outside cover replaced and the inside repaired. It was falling apart after years of gentle wear and tear. The cover had completely separated from the spine, and the pages were loose. Over time, it had become more difficult to hold it together. When my Bible was sent to the bindery, I wasn’t sure how long it would take to repair, when it would be returned, and wondered if I would even recognize it when it looked all shiny and new. 

Bible inside

Being without it left such a void in my life. Although I have other Bibles that I used during that time, they just weren’t like my old
one that had become an inseparable and intricate part of my life.

It was like saying goodbye to a beloved, intimate friend that I’d grown so comfortable with over the years. A friend that would shower me with unconditional love and joy, speak truth into my life, and give me encouragement when I needed it. A friend that I trusted with all my heart, and would be there for me when times were tough. A friend who was a lifeline of hope and gave promises of good things to come. The pages of her life had been a model for all I wanted to be. My Bible had become over the years, my beloved, intimate friend.

The days slipped by, and then the weeks came and went, until it was repaired, restored and whole again. At last– it was ready! I could hardly wait…

Bible reboundWhen I first saw it, it looked so unfamiliar. When I first held it, it felt so stiff in all its newness. I felt like I had to get reacquainted with an old friend that I hadn’t seen in a long time. Would we bond together as before? Would we pick up where we left off and resume the rhythm of our friendship?

Then as I opened my Bible, the pages once again wrapped around my heart. The scripture – underlined from years of use, notes in the side columns used in teaching, dates written by verses that marked milestones in my life – embraced me like an old friend. The familiar words comforted me again with God’s love. As I turned the pages, I felt joy within, the power of encouragement, the impact of truth, and hope that permeated my mind and emotions. Hello, old friend…

God’s word withstands the changes that occur around us. Life can fall apart, we can be worn out, feel like we’re coming unglued, or even useless to anyone. It’s what’s inside us, written on the pages of our heart, that will sustain us in the wear and tear of life. Don’t wait until the years go by, and you become older, make God’s word an inseparable and intricate part of your life now. Welcome an old friend…

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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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Life Lessons on the Hiking Trail

hiking trailI did some hiking recently in, what was to me, uncharted territory in northern Arizona.

It was quite an adventure since I am a novice when it comes to hiking. I love to walk, mind you, but hiking is quite different, so I learned. I do believe one of the hikes was several miles long. It was a totally isolated trail in the woods, leading to the top of a mountain.

My friend and I headed up the narrow trail, stopping occasionally to take a quick break, drink water, and marvel at how far we had come. I’ve learned over the years, it’s always best to have someone walk beside me when I’m on any unfamiliar path, or trail in life.

And isn’t that true – having someone come along side you when you are going through something you’ve never experienced before can make it a little easier. It’s also helpful to have the support and share the experience together. Besides that, it’s certainly better than talking to yourself.

There were a couple of times I just wanted to give up, turn around, and go back. I have also learned over the years, that when any journey I’m on seems steep, long, and difficult, I put one foot in front of the other and keep moving forward. It’s never easy, but reaching my goal is worth it. In times like this, I remember the story of “The Little Engine That Could”. I think I can, I think I can, said the little engine, as she pushed up the hill. I become that little engine pushing on up the hill.

About half way up, we met two people on their way down the trail. Well, let me tell you, it’s always good to meet someone who’s been where I’m going. If for no other reason than to know someone else has made it! I asked the first questions that came to my anxious mind as they passed by rather quickly. What’s it like ahead? How much farther is it to the top? What’s it like there? They calmed any fear I had of the unknown trail ahead. They told us how much farther we had to go and gave us insight into what we could expect.

It’s kind of like anything we’re going through in life, isn’t it? There is comfort in knowing someone else has been there, done that. There’s nothing like someone saying, it’s going to be alright, here’s what you can expect, I’ve been through this and you can make it.

Needless to say, we made it to the top of the mountain… and back down! The amazing views of the landscape below were breathtaking. The emerald green forest was rippled with wild flowers and distant lakes sparkled and swirled like ribbons. I wouldn’t have missed it. It was worth every step, every anxious moment, every tired bone in my body.

The next time you face a challenge, or something unfamiliar ahead of you—don’t do it alone, don’t give up, and be on the lookout for someone who crosses your path, who’s been where you’re going. You will learn a lot along the way and discover you really do have the ability to reach your goal.

I’m not saying that I have this all together, that I have it made. But I am well on my way, reaching out for Christ, who has so wondrously reached out for me. Friends, don’t get me wrong: By no means do I count myself an expert in all of this, but I’ve got my eye on the goal, where God is beckoning us onward—to Jesus. I’m off and running, and I’m not turning back. Philippians 3:12-14 The Message

Run the Race

run the race“I’m going to run in the Pat Tillman race,” she said.

“That sounds great,” he replied.

“It’s only 4.2 miles. I know we could do it,” she continued.

Running had become a bond between a brother and sister as they grew up, and as they got older over the years.

Even though they lived in different states, there was a competitive edge between them when they trained for a race. “I ran 5 miles today,” he would say. “I ran 5 ½ miles,” she would respond with a smile. It was the motivation needed to reach a common goal together. Their claim to fame had been running a half marathon and crossing the finish line side by side.

“I’ll be traveling with my family that weekend, so there’s no way I can be there,” he explained.

“Oh, okay,” she answered, with a hint of disappointment.

On the day of the race, she got up at 5:00am to get ready and quietly slip out of the house while her family was sleeping.

Her phone beeped. It was a text that said, “I’ll be thinking of you this morning. Good luck in the race.”

She smiled. His text was the encouragement she needed as she got in the car and drove to the city to find her place among thousands of runners.

An hour later, she was at the starting point when her phone beeped again with another text.treadmill

The words simply read, “I’m with you this morning. Check out the treadmill. Have fun.” She took a closer look at the picture. The numbers displayed on the treadmill read 4.2 miles.

Tears came to her eyes. He had gotten up when she did, gone down to the hotel workout room, and ran the exact distance of the race!

He had run the distance to encourage her on to victory, and indeed he did.

My daughter, Ginger, finished the race in record time, and my son, Bill, had been right there for his sister,  like so many other times over the years– in spirit and support.

Sometimes all it takes is for someone to “be there” for us, believe in our ability, or come alongside us when we need encouragement to reach a goal, push through circumstances, or take the next hard step in life.

Take a minute and think of who you know that needs an extra measure of kindness and thoughtfulness today. It could be as simple as words in a text or a caring gesture that expresses your support.

It just might spur them on to the victory line.

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