Looking in all the wrong places

looking in wrong placesWhen I was growing up, mama used to always say,

It’s right under your nose, Susan!”

In our family that always meant that what you are looking for, or what you need to do or say, is so obvious.

The other day I had a “right under my nose” moment. I needed help with moving furniture and painting my guest bedroom. I went through a list of handymen and came to the conclusion I couldn’t afford hiring someone. Then I thought of a friend I hadn’t seen in a while who loved to paint and re-arrange furniture. It was so obvious to ask her, that I almost found myself saying, “Duh!”

I called her and she was delighted to help. I reaped the reward of enjoying the company of an old friend as we worked side by side for the morning, redecorating my guest bedroom.

So, what are some of the things that could be “right under your nose” as you begin a new year?

Maybe it’s an old habit you want to change or a new habit you want to start.

Or as simple as an attitude adjustment about someone or something.

This could be the year to let go of anything that has you stuck in the past and begin to move forward with your life.

You might need to write a note to someone encouraging her through a difficult time, or write an overdue letter asking for forgiveness.

It could be something you’ve always wanted to take the time to do, a dream you want to make a reality, a promise you want to keep, or a phone call you need to make.

Perhaps you’ve been looking in all the wrong places and making all the wrong choices this past year—

new year's prayerto fill a need,

to avoid the obvious,

to cloud your judgment,

to distract you from what’s important,

to keep you from doing the right thing…

when the answer has been right under your nose the whole time.

Susan MillerFrom My Heart to Yours,

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

 

Twelve Summer Challenges

1607Here it is July already, and I’m just beginning to catch the breath of summer!

At the end of May, I thirst for a calendar that is less scheduled, more random acts of fun, and frivolous times spent with family and friends. And yet at the same time, I don’t want to waste away the months and find myself thinking in September, “What in the world did I accomplish over the summer?”

All that said, I want to keep a few challenges in mind, something that I can choose daily to do or not to do. They are not necessarily tasks to accomplish, but rather an attitude of the heart, a mindset, or a conscious choice in words or actions.

You might consider coming up with your own list, or even choosing some of mine. Join me as I seize the summer for a change of pace, but also to seize the challenge of making daily choices in my attitude, words, and actions.

Here are twelve choices I’m going to embrace…

Begin anywhere, just begin.

Hold hands around the table and say grace before each meal.

Spread random acts of kindness without anyone knowing you did.

Take time to say, “Tell me your story.” Then take time to listen.

Be the last to criticize, the first to praise.

Spend less, give more.

Wear a smile, even when you don’t feel like it. It will begin to grow on you.

Go the extra mile…for a friend or for your favorite ice cream.

Live in the present. Not the past. Not the future.

See all the good around you, even if you have to squint.

Be loving to the unlovable, even when you don’t feel like it. It may not change them, but it will change you.

Be yourself, nobody does it better.

I’d love to hear about your summer challenges too. Email me at susanmiller@justmoved.org and let me know what you’re doing, where you’re going, and how I can pray for you.

In the meantime, be safe my friends. Make happy memories and take pictures. And, make choices in your attitude, actions, and words that will last long beyond the summer months.

From My Heart to Yours,

Susan Miller signature

 

Plum Tuckered Out

weary womanHave you ever heard the expression “plum tuckered out?” It is commonly used among us southerners, and is a term for being exhausted. It originates from the “Deep South” during the Civil War. I first heard my grandmother say it after being in the kitchen all day cooking for a family gathering. Then I heard my mother say it when she came home from work after standing on her feet all day. I grew up hearing that expression, along with many others, and continue to carry on the heritage of my southernese.

The term “burn-out” is more forceful and acceptable in this day and age. But as for me, I’m just simply plum tuckered right now. Anybody been there? Done that? Felt that?

I’m not too proud to say I’m just spent. Done. Flatlined. Empty. Nothing left in me to write or to be creative. Don’t want to sit at this computer and have to formulate my thoughts, be profound, spell-check, rework sentences to make sense, segue paragraphs, or be spiritual as I type.

Coming off of a two-year project of updating and revising my book, After the Boxes are Unpacked, updating our Teacher’s Guide, Workbook, and Facilitator’s Guide, and then updating the twelve teaching sessions for a new Video Series – which I just finished a few weeks ago – has left me plum tuckered. When I finished filming the two, 8-hour days of back-to-back teaching, I stayed in my pajamas the next day and did nothing. I’ve learned that’s not selfish, that’s self-care.

I’ve also learned that God has me right where He wants me – spent, for Him to refresh; done, for Him to restore; flat lined, for His breath of renewal; empty, for Him to fill. And I have found there is still something left in me to write after all, because I write for Him, and for you.

He infuses His strength into my weakness.

His word gives me confidence to overcome my feelings of inadequacy, comparison, and self-doubt.

When I have nothing left to give (or write), I have learned to lean in to Jesus – to rest in Him – and that restores my soul.

If you feel “plum tuckered out,” it might take you just a day to become untuckered. Sometimes, it might take a lot longer.

Go easy on yourself.

Give yourself permission to pull back and rest your mind and your body.

Listen to worship music or enjoy complete silence.

Take a long walk or sit in the sunshine.

Start, or even finish, a good book.

Do something totally frivolous.

Get some exercise or just sit outdoors.

Let your mind wander or focus on your blessings.

Don’t lose heart and don’t give up.

Just give in to Jesus.

 

SusanCome to Me, all of you who are weary and carry heavy burdens, and I will give you rest. Matthew 11:28

 

Susan Miller signature

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

they will soar on wings like eagles;

they will run and not grown weary;

they will walk and not faint. Isaiah 40:31

 

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

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

From my Heart to Yours,

Susan Miller signature

Let’s do this together!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

From My Heart to Yours,

Susan Miller signature

 

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

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

Five Valuable Lessons from My Favorite Squeaky Red Shoes

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

A Summer To-Be List

 

To be list

Is your summer to-do list growing? Mine sure is. Over the next few months, my calendar looks full, not empty. It’s not supposed to be that way. The summer months are supposed to be my time to think about ministry plans for next year, quietly listen to God’s voice, rest my body and soul, renew and refresh my mind.

I am beginning to feel resentful of the time that is so quickly slipping away. Once fall is here, I’m back on the merry-go-round of a wonderful, blessed, but full life. I yearn for a break—to read a good novel, to wander aimlessly through Wal-Mart, to sleep in without guilt, to have nothing scheduled to do for a whole day. It’s so easy for me to focus on the to-do list, rather than the to-be list. Summer is a time I want to “be” more, and “do” less…

 

I want to be more spontaneous, and less cautious.

1307.tobe

I want to be more of a listener, and less a talker.

I want to be more patient, and less annoyed.

I want to be more authentic, and less guarded.

I want to be more of a risk-taker, and less afraid.

I want to be more understanding, and less critical.

I want to be more determined, and less indecisive.

I want to be more willing, and less hesitant.

I want to be more loving, and less judgmental.

I want to be more forgiving, and less intolerant.

And then, I stop and think. I’m looking at my full calendar, when I should be looking at my empty heart—a heart that is weary and worn out from the craziness of a full, non-stop life. It doesn’t matter if it’s winter, spring, summer, or fall—God controls my schedule (and yours) when we give it all to Him. He fills our neediness and instills in us the ability to change our thinking, actions, and behavior.

“Are you tired? Worn out? Come to me. Get away with me and you’ll recover your life. I’ll show you how to take a real rest. Walk with me and work with me—watch how I do it. Learn the unforced rhythms of grace. I won’t lay anything heavy or ill-fitting on you. Keep company with me and you’ll learn to live freely and lightly.”  Matthew 11:28 (The Message)

l know who I want to be with…where I can go to be more… It’s now at the top of my list.

Susan Miller signature

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

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