The Last Chocolate

Ever felt like the last chocolate left in the box? You know, the one that’s been picked up and put back until smudgy fingerprints decorate the sides. Maybe someone took a little corner off, then changed their mind after that one small bite. Ouch.

I’ve felt like that last lonely chocolate rattling around in the box. The most popular ones are snatched up first, then the next favorites. In the case of a variety box of chocolate, the best is not usually saved for last.

I read an article recently giving the writer’s opinion that companies should do away with the less popular selections. People responded. Oddly enough, not everyone has the same favorite! Even the candies that none of my friends or family gobble up are someone else’s prize. Preferences are a matter of personal taste.

box of valentine chocolates

Maybe it’s the heart shaped box, or the variety, or the fact that everyone has an opinion about which chocolates are the most desirable, but a valentine variety box reminds me of the body of Christ.

Each comes in its own little wrapper and each is unique. They were all put there on purpose. Not a single one snuck in by mistake. You can’t always tell from appearances which one contains the caramel, or where the nuts are hiding. Surprises abound.

All wrapped up and given with love by Love to someone who is loved.

Something to remember the next time I am passed over or suffer a few bite marks before being tossed back.

And then I think maybe I should consider the little bits of sweetness I tend to leave behind, even if I don’t mean to, simply because I prefer another.

There is a reason they are someone else’s favorite. Maybe I should find out why that is.

1 Corinthians 12

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Dealing with Change 3 Rs

barefoot on rocksChange is part of life.

Not all change is bad, but sometimes unwelcomed, unwanted change comes. Things shift. The ground beneath, once solid and firm, suddenly gives, swept away by strong wind. Off balance, we right ourselves only to find the need to re-position footholds again, stability lost in the effort to move ahead.

I don’t like that kind of change. Maybe deep inside pretension deludes me into thinking I finally got it all together this time. I’ve got this life thing figured out. That feeling rarely lasts very long because life has a way of providing reality checks.

As large as grief unexpected and last-straw small as a broken coffee cup, my steps can be shaken if enough change is thrust upon me at once. Floundering is an uncomfortable activity.

And hard adjustments to large losses can leave me weak-kneed and searching for a handhold.

Realign to God’s Word

In this place of uncertainty, solid footing can be found in His Word. His promises are many and always available, even in the smallest of small faith moments. I realign myself to the truth He speaks over me and I know that this too is part of a great plan, regardless of what limited human vision discerns in the moment. Comfort and peace are found here, in the quietness of seeking Him through the whispers of turning pages that contain life giving words.

Recenter in Jesus

I need to find my center, and my center needs to be Him. Centered in Christ, very little can move me. If I know what He says, and I know who I am, it’s a lot easier to do life. When distractions come, and most assuredly they do on a daily basis, I am too easily beset by worldly cares. Easily knocked off center. When that happens, balance is lost and at the very least I stumble. It happens. Time to recenter again. And again. Bigger troubles are sure to come and the practice of remaining in His presence is necessary if I am to hold onto the peace He offers.

Centered in Christ, little can move me. If I know what He says, and I know who I am, it’s a lot easier to do life. (Tweet This)

Rest in Him

Painful upheaval makes it difficult to maintain balance, much less rest. And yet there is a place to find true rest, even on the hardest shadowed days.

I am not alone. When darkness creeps up, and I cling to the very edge of the precipice with my toes, He is present.

I am not alone. When darkness creeps up, and I cling to the very edge of the precipice with my toes, He is present. (Tweet This)
When the fear of falling overtakes, I need to remember Who it is that catches me.

Realign.

Recenter.

Rest.

Proverbs 16:9, Romans 8, Matthew 6, Psalm 138

 

 

Kaylene Yoder

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Goal Setting: What Does God Require?

Goal Setting What Does God RequireI love a good to do list. I actually make goals at a set aside time twice a year. Goals are good and necessary. Without a plan it is virtually impossible to succeed at any large task. But inevitably all my planning leads to more planning.

My eyes are bigger than my planner, and my pencil too fat to scribble in everything I try to fit into those neat little lines. There is no way to squeeze in everything I think I should or could be doing.  There is always a lack, a big hole in my life where I am failing. As soon as I get one area of my life under control I notice, or remember, something else that needs to be done. I am only scattered when I try to do too much. Somehow the idea of a fresh start deludes me into thinking that I am suddenly a woman of limitless energy and the amount of time contained in a day has become infinite.

to do list

Usually by the end of the first week of January my stress level is pretty high. I know I should be organized, scheduled, and have an exercise plan for the new year like everyone else. The truth is, I rarely even have the new calendar printed out yet.

 

 

I know I should be organized, scheduled, and have an exercise plan for the new year like everyone else. The truth is, I rarely even have the new calendar printed out yet. (Tweet This)

I think a great deal of my over planning and unrealistic goals comes from my fear of being inadequate. The tendency to compare my life, my goals, and my abilities to other people’s is a trap I regularly fall into. You would think I would have learned to avoid such a pitfall by now, but the prize looks so shiny. You know, all those filled in little checkboxes that are written proof I have done a good job. This may make me feel accomplished, but in truth all those activities can make me lose sight of what should be the priority.

Years ago God gave me a verse and I wrote this verse on my very first serious planner.

And what does the Lord require of you? To act justly and to love mercy and to walk humbly with your God.

When I become overwhelmed, which is quite often, these words anchor me. All the various goals I made for myself are not necessarily what God has required of me. His requirements are simple. They are not easy. They are infinitely practical. Every day, whether planned out or not, I can be sure that I will be given plenty of opportunities to fulfill my Lord’s requirements for the way I should conduct my life.

I really don’t need to go looking for other accomplishments to try and succeed at. This one verse, Micah 6:8, is a pretty tall order all on its own. I don’t need to over fill calendars, lists or organizers until I feel like I measure up to a self-imposed standard. I only need to stay yielded to the Holy Spirit and remember what is primary.

Keeping my eyes on three things: to act justly, love mercy, and walk humbly with God gives me the focus I need to succeed in reaching the goal that God has for my life.

 Three things: to act justly, love mercy, and walk humbly with God gives me the focus I need to succeed. (Tweet This)

Nothing else required.

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Giving Thanks: Searching the Storm Clouds for Silver

This week I have had several conversations with friends about going through hard seasons. We all have our share. I hesitated to spill words here, for fear of being misunderstood, named melancholy. That is not where I am. I write these words to bring honesty and an attempted measure of comfort. At times it is good to speak of our oh-so-common pain and poorly hidden struggles.

There are times when darkness overwhelms.
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Even though we assuredly know we are blessed, untangling threads of silver from the storm clouds remains elusive. (Tweet This)

I used to say that times are hard but at least . . . and would then consider those things and events that were not, as if comparing tragedy to tragedy would lighten the load.

I still do this and there is a coping value in such a habit, but today I choose to face head on the things here and now. The pain that demands to be felt and not only touched but gripped. There is much to be thankful for in the midst of the human condition we so often find ourselves.

When everything moves off center, regaining a sure footing is a dance too clumsy to perform well. There is a profound lack of grace in the middle of stumbling over a thing so large its impact has shifted your entire world. When this happens, and it will, it is impossible to catch yourself. The ground is hard and strewn with half-forgotten discards that make for a rocky landing. We bruise. We bleed.

But we cannot catch ourselves, even when we realize the hard fall is coming.

I am thankful for the God Who Catches Me.

Today I am thankful for not knowing. For the should have, could have, would haves, the guilt and horrible realization that seizes me as I gape at the depth of my inadequacy. Facing our own lack is a rude and exquisitely singular pain. But I believe in a God who reveals.

The revelation here is that I will never truly be enough or do enough. What arrogance to think I was ever intended to be.

I give thanks for the God Who is Enough.

I am thankful for the desert places. I have been to the place where I have given and given, expecting a return. It did not come. There was a time I would become upset with those who did not respond in kind, not understanding that people cannot give what they do not possess and no amount of striving on my part will cause my need for reciprocity to be fulfilled. That yesterday seems so long ago from the here and now moment my feet are entrenched in today.

I have learned what it is to dwell in desert places, to have someone hold my heart in their hand without even an inkling of understanding what that means. Yes, there is sorrow in the knowledge that this love will not be returned, but there is an unfathomable greatness in knowing that without requital I would walk, with no hesitation, through fire for this one.
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It is in the act of giving, not receiving, that love comes to rest in its true purpose. (Tweet This)

Today I am thankful for the power of love that comes only from God. It pours itself out, watering this desert, and life blooms.

I am thankful for the God Who Fits His Vessels.

I have tried to be thankful through physical pain. This is one of my large failures. I detest measuring my time and energy in small, careful steps when my nature wants to run and dance headlong into adventure. But here I am, creeping along, sweating in a most unladylike manner and uttering words that are equally unladylike. I do not like this weakness, this dependency, this failure. I am not the owner of an angelic countenance and no gentle speech regarding my body’s suffering flows from my lips. My days are filled with physical pain and I bite against the restriction.

Any advice on what the grand meaning of this thorn may be will not be welcomed as long as I remain in this frame of mind. I much prefer being ministered to with soft, encouraging words accompanied by something chocolate and gooey delivered to my door. Yet I am thankful for today’s small victories.There will be an end to difficult times, of this I am sure. My thoughts skip over all the in-betweens.

I am profoundly thankful for the faith and hope that provides me courage to continue on.

I am thankful for the God Who is My God.

Flower with Quote Thankful for the Power

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This post is part of the Thankful for God’s Gifts Blog Hop. Please be sure to stop by the other participants listed below.

11/17/14 Loving Christ Ministries: Thankful In Grief www.lovingchristministries.com
11/18/14 Keeper Ministries: The Barren Woman a Joyful Mother – God’s Perfect Gift www.KeeperMinistries.com
11/19/14 Teena Myers Blog: A Greater Gift http://teenalmyers.com/blog/
11/20/14 Live, Love, Laugh, Post: 7 Reasons I Am Thankful For God http://livelaughlovepost.com
11/21/14 The Green Tomato Experience: To Serve and Capture http://www.thegreentomatoexperience.com/
11/22/14 Donna Stone Blog, Giving Thanks: Searching the Storm Clouds for Silver https://donnastone.me/
11/24/14 Sister We Thrive: Sister, given any thought to being thankful? Well, I have. http://www.lindsyb.com/#!blog/c17x6
11/25/14 Completely Committed Blog: One Grateful Mom http://completelycommittedgirl.blogspot.ca
11/26/14 The Kangacoo Blog Grateful People Share, Daily Bread is Enough www.kangacoo.com/kanga-blog

godsgiftsbloghop

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No Small Act: Learning to Be Kind

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I try to focus on the word kindness, to find meaning in the concept. It’s useless. No idea comes.

Instead, a memory, and not one of a kindness given or received. It is one of those that comes unbidden, in early mornings or late at night when the quiet allows things pushed away into the corners to creep out and demand attention.

In the memory, he is eighteen years old and comes to stand beside me. I am in the kitchen, where moms of many spend a lot of time, my hands busy, taking care, doing one of the small tasks that make up my one best job.

“I have to tell you something,” he says.

His usual method of communication is to launch into loud and long dialog while his audience either keeps up or watches the blur. This preamble means it is serious. He often does this with things that bother him, his expression morose and tragic. Usually the situation is not. He shifts his feet. I finish what I am doing and give my absolute attention to him. He takes a deep breath and blows it out in a hard, fast exhalation.

He looks so very small, suddenly. This is not guilt, or a request, or a confession.  It is something else. He is troubled and sad.

“A long time ago,” he says, “when we were at church, a lady said something really mean.”

This is about his little brother.

A tingle starts between my shoulder blades as the muscles tense, but so many things are open to interpretation. I try to relax. I tip my head to the side and nod for him to continue.

He tells me the words she said and the words, though spoken years ago, are still sharp. “Shouldn’t be allowed” and “normal” and more. They buzz in my ears too loud and hurt, hurt, hurt. The air and sun of seasons gone by have not diluted their terrible power to cut.

The greatest danger of motherhood is the inevitable vulnerability of her tender, unguardable heart.

He stands there, with little boy eyes and slumped shoulders. He has borne this burden a long time, taking the arrows for his brother, for me. The man and the boy are all mixed up. Here is my child, made a man too young, now a grown man with a five o’clock shadow at eleven in the morning, still carrying manly boyhood wounds.

Why would a person say such things to a child about his younger sibling? I want to bind my boy’s hurts, to gather up the pieces of his grief and take them away, to cry, to scream, to use my own words against the one who has injured him so. Instead, I am quietly still. Tight anger is my shield against overwhelming helplessness.

He will not tell me who. He says he does not really know her. He doesn’t remember. But his eyes shift. Still taking arrows, he stands on this with fists clenched tightly around small secrets. There is nowhere for my Momma Bear fierceness to go.

I offer cliché-filled wisdom and rub wide circles on his broad back, pat his arm. We talk. I fix him a glass of sweet tea, give every bit of motherly comfort I can scrape up.

Life goes on and I try to forget about it, to disregard the mutterings of a mean-spirited woman and the scars left behind. I say to myself, “This is her problem, not mine,” and I shake my head at people like that.

Yet it haunts me. The pain in his eyes, and the unspeakable words still there, swirling about in the air and in my mind, never fading.

Kindness. This was not kindness. Then, out of the salt, I know what to do.

I pray for her.

I am surprised by the way it washes me, this act of kindness. And in this, I discover an even greater act of kindness, one toward myself. In one step of faith and obedience towards forgiving the unforgivable, the impossible happens.

quote 'with one small step of faith ...towards forgiving...the impossible happens." donnastone.me

In one step of faith and obedience towards forgiving the unforgivable, the impossible happens. (Tweet This)

Healing and freedom begin to take root.

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Dwelling in the Valley

Autumn Valley

 

Is this it? I look back and see the path. It all makes sense now. But still, the destination, where I stand now, is not what I expected.

I mourn.

The gains seem so small to have traveled such a long and treacherous journey. My eyes were on the mountains and here we are at the end—another valley.

I feel cheated. More than that. Defeated. How can this be it?

My ways are not your ways.

I know. Fleshy logic and spiritual faith have worn a rock strewn battlefield across my deep places. There is a way which seems right to man, but that’s not the right way. As confusing as the path has been, His directions always worked better than mine. After all, He designed this path.

When I quiet the wailing of my soul I hear it. Static I can only discern in the midst of purposeful stillness. A hiss. The Lie. The lie that tells me I cannot trust Him. That ancient deception started so long ago when the world was a young garden.

I make the obvious choice, to choose belief in the Faithful.

The scales shift.

No sudden, new eyes. No great moving of mountains. The valley is still a valley, and I still mourn. Yet the breeze carries sweetness. I close my eyes to inhale.

This valley is not the mountain top, but it is a green valley, and my Father has brought me here. (Tweet This)

This is it.

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Overwhelmed

Being pressed from every side and pulled apart, continually on the edge of frustration. The needs of others demanding immediate attention and then, when the list is already impossibly long with too much to do, more uninvited complications come.

Spring colds, backed up plumbing, the insurance bill you forgot was due, car repairs all have to squeeze into an overcrowded week.

On Monday, if you’d asked me, I would have said this is what overwhelmed feels like.

Today is Good Friday and meditating on that fact, I am reminded.

For while we were still helpless, at the right time Christ died for the ungodly. For one will hardly die for a righteous man; though perhaps for the good man someone would dare even to die. But God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us. Romans 5: 6-8 NASB

I am reminded of the smallness of these temporal and momentary struggles. I am reminded of my own unworthiness without Christ and of His unfathomable love that is beyond my ability to comprehend.

I am overwhelmed.

See how great a love the Father has bestowed upon us, that we would be called children of God. I John 3:1 NASB