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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

they will soar on wings like eagles;

they will run and not grown weary;

they will walk and not faint. Isaiah 40:31

 

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

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

From my Heart to Yours,

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Heroes: Military wives etched on my heart

Many of you followed me through pictures on Facebook as I traveled from Vicenza, Italy to Ansbach, Germany to Wiesbaden, Germany to speak to military wives. A picture speaks a thousand words. Take a good look…

1506.military collage

 

These women, along with many of their husbands and children that I met, are etched in my heart. We shared Christ together, life together, prayed together, worshiped together, ate meals together, laughed and cried together. We made cherished memories, and took countless pictures. I taught them about our unchangeable God in their ever changing world. They taught me about rising above ever changing circumstances, in unchanging life situations.

I’ve been back home a while now…

and I still see their smiling faces.

I see their stress released through laughter.

I see their eyes, filled with tears they’ve learned to control, begin to spill over uncontrollably.

I hear them pray for each other, as they put a friend’s needs above their own.

I feel their hugs and the reluctance to let go.

I’ll never forget their testimonies of profound faith and trust in God in the midst of hard circumstances.

I’ll never forget their gut-wrenching stories of situations they are much too young to experience.

Many of them face the stress of living on the edge of uncertainty and with fear of the unknown.

Yet, they also live with a resilient spirit of hope, perseverance, and optimism that defines the life that comes with being a military wife and mom.

These women are my heroes. They are the keepers of their home, committed wife to their soldier, and devoted mom to their children.

I hope you’ll take a closer look at the women in the pictures. Choose one, (or two, or even all of them), and take a minute right now to stop and pray for the woman behind the picture, her soldier, and her children.

All those faces will suddenly become etched in your heart too…

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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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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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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

Running away to the circus


A young mom in my life who has five children, including a toddler and a baby, sent me a text recently. It’s worth sharing since we can all resonate with the feelings behind the words, and have probably felt like doing the same thing at one time or another.

circus tentMy friendToday is the kind of day I’d like to run away and join the circus…I’m going to the mall instead. I’m fighting discouragement…internal struggles.

MeDiversion is sometimes my sanity, until I realize the circus doesn’t need me like my family does. Let’s play on the trapeze for a while, then regroup with facing the elephants in life. We can do it, you hold my hand, and I’ll hold yours.

Then, silence, until I hear a text beep again…

My friendSpent an hour alone. By the time my husband came home I was done with the circus…and ready to face my real life.

MeSounds like you played all alone on the trapeze for a little while, looked at life from a different perspective, and decided the circus wasn’t for you. 

I loved her visual word picture! Oh, how many times I have wanted run away from emotional pain, circumstances I can’t change, and a heaviness in my heart to “join the circus” and escape from it all!

And yet, this much I know…

Running away might bring instant gratification with something new and different, but the thrill of it all fades fast.

Running away might mask the pain, until, when you least expect it, the mask slips off.

Running away might be a temporary escape from permanent circumstances, but reality is just around the corner.

Running away might relieve a heavy heart for a little while, but won’t take away the heartache you feel.

I know, because I’ve been there… done that.

I was running in the wrong direction. Take it from me, instead of running away from, try running to Jesus.

Run to call out to Him. Hey, you can even yell and scream at Him, He’s big enough to handle it. Jesus not only loves you, He knows you inside and out. He even knows you want to run away!

Run to Him in prayer. Tell Him how you really feel. Then ask for His grace and mercy.

Run to His word in scripture. I run fast to the Book of Psalms for comfort.

Run to lay your burdens at His feet. Then stand up and know the heaviness will become lighter.

Run to remember: His faithfulness to you, His provision for you, His presence that will never leave you.

It works. I know, because I’ve been there… done that. I learned that “joining the circus” doesn’t fill my heart like Jesus does.

Susan

A Roadway in the Wilderness

Isaiah 43:19roadway in the wilderness
Behold, I will do something new,
Now it will spring forth;
Will you not be aware of it?
I will even make a roadway in the wilderness,
Rivers in the desert.

Many of you, like me, have had a “wilderness experience” in your life. It’s when uncontrollable circumstances, or a life-changing crisis rocks your world. When you feel like you are aimlessly trying to find your way through a maze of darkness, and just survive–one step at a time. You feel empty, confused, overwhelmed, and desolate.

I know some of your stories, your struggles, your heartaches, and your pain. Your wilderness experience could be with a physical illness, with emotional anguish, with financial hardship, or with a broken relationship. It could be in your marriage or in being single, in your aloneness, or in coping with a loss.

My wilderness experience began on a Sunday morning when the surgeon gave us the news that Bill had an aggressive and rare form of colon cancer that had spread to his liver–and there was nothing they could do. Then, just four months later on a Sunday morning Bill went home to be with the Lord. That was almost three years ago, and there are still days when I struggle to get through the emotions of my loss. I choose daily to put one foot in front of the other and press on.

God made a roadway to survival in my wilderness. In the midst of my sadness, God made a roadway to finding joy. In the midst of my loss, God made a roadway to finding contentment. In the midst of my longing for Bill, God made a roadway to finding peace.

God will provide a roadway in your wilderness, my sisters! Listen to His voice when you feel confused. Learn His word when you need comfort and reassurance. Lean on him when you don’t have all the answers. Rest in Him when you are weary and worn-out. Trust Him when your circumstances overwhelm you.

It’s not always easy, in fact, it’s downright hard some days. There will be times when you feel like you can’t do anything but breathe. But remember this: When God provides a roadway IN the wilderness—He provides a way OUT of the wilderness. He did it for me, He will do it for you.

It is Jesus who will meet you at your point of need. It is Jesus who will soothe your soul, and comfort your heart. It is Jesus who will give you hope to face tomorrow.

Susan Miller