Do You Need a Comma or a Period?

“To everything there is a season, and a time to every purpose under the heaven:”

Ecclesiastes 3:1

 When I write an article or story I struggle with what NOT to say more than what TO say. I endeavor to know when to pause, when to begin a new chapter and when to stop. Today, I had to end a “life-chapter.” A resignation letter has closed a three-year chapter of my life. Ralph Waldo Emerson said “This time, like all times, is a very good one, if we but know what to do with it.” I know what God wants me to do with “this” time but that doesn’t make actually acting on that knowledge any easier.

It has been difficult to put the period on my educational career. I have thoroughly enjoyed the professional and personal growth I experienced during this chapter. The validation and security I gained was something that God knew I needed. After my first husband’s death I found myself without a job and benefits. After moving into my new career, I thrived in the comfort of an exciting, stable job. I am amazed at the opportunities that God provided and the confidence I gleaned from this last chapter. Nonetheless, I feel direct leading to use a period to end this chapter.

Grammar rules are clear on the ineffectiveness of run-on sentences. Continuing to head in a direction after God leads you to put a period (or sometimes an exclamation point) on a sentence just creates an ineffective “run-on” life. In Ecclesiastes 3:1, Solomon reminds us that everything has a season. “To everything there is a season, and a time to every purpose under the heaven:” God has been so faithful to direct my life story in the past. I should rest in the assurance that His faithfulness is bound to his character and I can trust God. Friends, I don’t know about you but I find that letting go and trusting God is much easier in theory than in practice.

 As I place the final period on this chapter, my eyes are drawn to the clean, new page that awaits my next “life-chapter.” What will be next? Wait… I feel it! Behind the stress headache and the lump of unshed tears I feel the tingle of excitement. God is not restricted by what I think I can accomplish but what he knows he can accomplish in me. “…this mystery…is Christ in you, the hope of glory.” Colossians 1:27

 Still Choosing Faith,

 Evona

Climbing Down the Ladder in Flip-Flops and Stretchy Pants

“Cast thy burden upon the LORD, and he shall sustain thee…” Psalm 55:22

I love the imagery used in the book title Climbing the Corporate Ladder in Heels. As a home school mom and teacher, this arena was new. I eagerly put on my heels and headed up the ladder at the end of 2010. I read all the “how to” books on moving up in a company. I listened to motivational speakers and worked really hard. However, along the way it began to get harder and harder to climb. I had begun to accumulate additional items as I climbed. My new position required travel. I was now lugging a suitcase up the ladder with me. For the record, it was an incredibly cute suitcase but heavy none the less. The toll that traveling took on me physically and my family was steep. However, we managed with the aid of spreadsheets and a very patient and understanding husband and I kept moving. Once I got the suitcase balanced I began to take on more responsibilities at work. I volunteered to fill in and do extra to be a “team player.” I missed the marriage of “Q” and “U” in my son’s kindergarten class and he was the best man in the wedding! (You know how the letters “Q” and “U” always go together in words….they are married!) I was out-of-town for two out of three of my “Smelly Monsters” (my boys) birthdays. By the time I reached a new high in 2011 on the “Ladder of Success” I looked down and realized I wasn’t alone. In my wake were my family members trying to reach out to me. I noticed discarded along the way a computer logged on to online classes half-finished, several field trip forms past due and unsigned, a husband that was entirely too good at laundry and cooking and many half-done projects.  I saw a lot of “things” that I had thrown down at them to assuage the guilt I felt at being absent. My kids and family were only getting the leftovers of my emotional energy. 2011 brought great success in my job. However, during the year I walked through the valley of cancer again at Moffitt, this time with my dad. I watched my mom love and care for my dad with unending patience and grace. His death at the end of the summer was a devastating loss that closed a chapter of my life that can’t be rewritten. October brought the 5th anniversary of the death of my husband followed closely by my 40th birthday. We spent the last day of the year remembering Cliff’s sweet grandmother and then buried her in same cemetery as Cliff. The year took a toll on my health. One morning I woke up and realized that my heart had run out of compartments. I would no longer be able to stash away my feelings for another day. I decided I needed a change.

Recently, Larry and I went to an antique store and noticed a loft area. It had a sign posted that we could get access to the loft by climbing the stairs at our own risk. I looked quizzically at Larry and he said, steep stairs are not bad going up but coming down will get you. I am now living that life analogy. I have not found any “how to” books on getting back down the Ladder of Success. So I am muddling through on my own. I have traded my heels for flip-flops and my business suits for stretchy pants and am finally starting to feel better. I am not sure where I am going from here but God has promised me in Isaiah that he is going to do a “new thing” this year and I am willing and ready and I don’t have to do it alone. “…he shall sustain me…”

Still Choosing Faith,

Evona

Who Will Take Care of Me?

“But thou, O LORD, art a shield for me; my glory, and the lifter up of mine head.” Psalm 3:3

Illness impacts us all at some point. It may be a grandparent or parent. It strikes the young and the old and we have to respond whether we want to or not. I know I have thought privately and talked to those close to me about the concern of facing an illness that makes me unable to care for myself. None of us want to be in that position but we do not dictate when and if we have to face that challenge. During my first husband’s illness we wrote a blog. We shared many personal moments but not all. Cliff became so ill during one of his stays at Moffitt that he didn’t know who anyone was around him and needed constant care. I would lie beside him in the hospital bed and rub his hands and feet and put cream on his sweet bald head. I wiped tears from his face and lifted him up to drink so that he wouldn’t become dehydrated. After his passing, there were days that I couldn’t physically get out of bed. I would turn my face away from Cliff’s side of the bed and weep. I remember crying out to God asking him who was going to take care of me. He showed me Psalm 3:3 that was underlined in Cliff’s favorite Bible.

 “But thou, O LORD, art a shield for me; my glory, and the lifter up of mine head.”

GOD was going to take care of me. God was personally going to reach down and lift my head and offer me protection, comfort and support. What an amazing gift. I still argued with God many times after that over my human lack of understanding and desire to have Cliff back to lift my head but God has been compassionate in spite of my frailty.

Are you broken and needy today? Have you suffered new loss or relived a past loss? Are you dealing with illness or heartache? Accept God’s offer to provide support and comfort as the “lifter of your head.”

Still Choosing Faith,

Evona

Table of My Heart

Table of My Heart

“Let not mercy and truth forsake thee: bind them about thy neck; write them upon the table of thine heart:” Proverbs 3:3

I love notepads and journals. I always have one with me. If I were able to spend the amount of money I would like on journals and notepads we would be eating beanie weenies for dinner for the rest of our lives. I not only like notepads and journals, I like sticky notes and tablets. Recently, I bought a stack of legal pads with pink lines and flowers on the bottom. If it puts your mind at ease, I used a coupon! I wake up and my mind begins writing lists. I list ideas, things to do, books to read, writing nuggets and on and on! I not only make lists for myself but I make lists and notes for my loved ones. My boys are not big fans of my “love notes.” I make them lists every day. Recently they complained a little too loudly about my list and I changed my strategy. Instead of making the list FOR them, I have them make the list and then bring it to me for “proofing”! I wonder when they will realize I am always one step ahead of them?

Caleb is my lowest maintenance “Smelly Monster.” He is so easy-going and sweet. However, it takes him a very long time to wake up in the morning. This was not a problem when we home schooled but now that they are in a traditional school it poses some challenges. When we first started having to get Caleb up and ready (I say we, because it is a group effort) I thought more time would help. I made sure he went to bed early and then got him up well over an hour before he needed to be walking out the door. Since Caleb doesn’t really care if he has bed head hair or not, an hour is PLENTY of time to put on a school uniform and eat Fruity Pebbles. This however, didn’t pan out. He just stared into space for longer and wasn’t any closer to being ready when we left than before. Short of dressing him myself, I was at my wits end. I finally had a “Jesus meeting” with him and asked what I could do to help him get ready for school so we could leave on time. He said he was so sorry and wasn’t trying to make us late, but in the mornings he just can’t remember what he is supposed to do. Those of you who have been to my house can attest to the marker board I put on Caleb’s wall that solved almost all of our morning issues. I wrote every step of his morning routine on that marker board in a list and had him mark off each item as it was completed. It looked like this:

  1. Wake Up
  2. Brush Teeth
  3. Take off PJs
  4. Put PJs Away
  5. Put on Shirt
  6. Put on Pants
  7. Put on Socks
  8. Put on Shoes
  9. Put on Belt
  10. Make Bed
  11. Eat Breakfast
  12. Brush Teeth (Again, total of 2 times!)
  13. Grab Lunch and Backpack
  14. Get in the Car

 In Psalms 3, I believe that God is reminding us that we need to make a list of His Word and write it on the safest place of all… our heart. I find that I accomplish more and am more motivated if I have things written down. Let’s remember that God knows how we are wired because HE did the original wiring! He knows we need constant reminders. Even those people (mostly male) who think they don’t need to write things down forget much more than if they made a list. Ok, maybe they don’t need to use my pink, flowered legal pad but any kind of list would help. God wants us to bind his Word around our necks and write them on our hearts. The benefits listed such as favour and good understanding with God and those around us are worth the effort to record and memorize God’s Word.

How long has it been since you memorized a verse? Too long?  Ummmm, me too! Let’s include writing God’s Word on our hearts in our daily routine. I just added it to my list. How about you?

Still Choosing Faith,

Evona

It’s Not a Crisis, It’s an Opportunity!

It’s Not a Crisis, It’s an Opportunity!

In November I hit the big 40! I jokingly told my family that it was going to take a lot of gifts and a trip to help me over the hump. They believed me and I had the best birthday ever. However, I don’t think any of us can hit milestones without feeling a little trepidation. I have spent most of the last couple of months reflecting on and evaluating my life. I spend bookoodles of money on “quality of life” items like, instant macaroni and cheese, single cup Keurig coffee, a smart phone to access all my work immediately but don’t have time to crawl in bed and read with Lucas. He is the only one of the “Smelly Monsters” that still wants me to read to him. I found that I was working to make money to spend on conveniences to provide more time that I used for work, not my family! I don’t know about you but I am ready for a change. I want something new.

Of course, God knows the yearnings of our heart and used our Associate Pastor, Tommy Warnock to share a wonderful verse. This verse is now printed and posted in my house. “Behold, I will do a new thing…” Isaiah 43:19a. Micah, my oldest Smelly Monster, is convinced that I am going through a midlife crisis. He cites drastic changes in me such as cleaning the entire house and moving all the items to new places, redoing my room the opposite of any decorating choice I have ever made, laughing and crying at the same time as evidences for his theory. Micah asked my husband Larry why he isn’t more supportive of the “midlife crisis” theory and Larry answers “life experience!” I am sure I am at a crossroads but feel excited and invigorated thinking about what new things God is going to do.

Albert Einstein said that the definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results. What areas of your life do you need God to do something new? In the passage above God reminds Isaiah that earlier He made a way in the sea and a path in the mighty waters but NOW He was going to make a way in the wilderness and rivers in the desert. What powerful imagery God used to show us the magnitude of his power. Can we trust him to do something new for us? I know that over the past several years and specifically 2011 I have felt dry and lacking. Loss, strife, financial pressures, work stress and a myriad of other issues syphon our joy and faith. Let’s open our hearts wide enough to trust God to do something new this year….2012 the Year of New Opportunities!

Still Choosing Faith,

Evona

Waiting on the Right Time to Start

Waiting on the Right Time to Start

 

And that, knowing the time, that now it is high time to awake out of sleep: for now is our salvation nearer than when we believed.”
Romans 13:11

 When exactly is the “right” time to start a new adventure? Over the years I have found that if I wait for the right time, it never seems to show up. I wonder why I hate to wait at a red light, for the band bus after a football game, in the doctor’s office, for my tea to heat up yelling at the microwave “hurry” but yet I consistently sit around and wait for that elusive “right” time? Before Cliff and I had kids, I used to substitute for public schools around our house. We only had one car at the time and he would have to drop me off and pick me up after the end of school. One day I was substituting at a school in our area. The front of the school is painted like a flag. I gave Cliff clear, precise instructions on the place and time for my pick up using the distinctive paint job as a reference. After the bell rang, I was there waiting on him before the kids could even leave the class. I waited and waited for what seemed like hours. (This was pre-cell phone era)It was probably only 20 minutes but at a middle school that is a REALLY long time. Finally I see his cute little red sports car peak around the corner. I jumped in and began my tirade. “How could he be late and leave me to wait for so long,” I asked. Without using any words, he pointed to where were and then went around the corner to where I had given careful instructions for him to pick me up. While teaching, I had gotten turned around inside the school and both the FRONT and BACK of the school were painted like a flag and I was waiting for him at the back of the school not the front as instructed. Do you think maybe we wait for the “right” time in all the wrong places? Ok, time to change the subject; it is getting a little too convicting.

 I could list for you (I did make a list for me) of all the reasons that I have put off writing over the past five years but each excuse has the same answer….. trust God! So today I start. I am committing to you and to God that I will endeavor to not put off what he calls me to do again. Please be patient, I am finding that writing isn’t as easy to pick back up as the proverbial bike. I am out of practice, don’t really have a good handle on the mechanics of my blog spot, and have what seems like 7,000 kids and some residual “issues” from a very hard year. However, what better place to begin moving forward than among friends? I would love to have you join me on my “quest.” As most girls know, even going to the powder room is more fun as a group.

 I am going to post as often as I can. My goal is to write Monday through Friday. I will also create over the next few weeks, a Bio Page to get you caught up on our life events.

 Micah is convinced that I am going through a “midlife crisis”. However, it isn’t a crisis, it is an opportunity! Let’s chat tomorrow about the opportunities waiting for us in the New Year.

 Still Choosing Faith,

Evona