Category: Faith, Peace & Love

When You Know Better, Do Better

Lesson Learned from Grace to Serve – Part 2

The older I get the one thing that I continue to be astounded by is the bad, immature, and selfish behavior by those around me. I’m not talking about children or even teenagers, but the adults that I encounter on a regular basis. On a day to day basis, I am appalled by the lack of basic social manners and decency towards each other that is displayed. (see my post here about kindness) Scrolling through social media, at times, I’m surprised to see how many of my high school classmates are still behaving just as they did when we were in high school.

Not that I am sitting in a place to judge anyone, but most of my classmates and I are 40 years old now or older. Something about us should have changed and matured a bit. We should be making wiser choices and setting positive examples for the younger ones who are coming up under us.

The same thing applies to us in the Christian life. As my pastor said in Part 2 of his series, Grace to Serve, we have to start to grow up in our relationship with God AND with other people. Day after day, year after year, there is no way we should be the same.

But this is not something that magically happens. When you wake up on your next birthday, you don’t automatically just become a better person. (Ask any child how they feel on their birthday and they’ll tell you “the same as yesterday.”) Getting older doesn’t guarantee wisdom, maturity, nor good, sound judgement. Now, we’re all entitled to our mistakes, but does that mean we should be able to make that same “mistake” over and over again?

Does it mean that we can go through life completely oblivious to how our words and actions impact others?

Of course, it doesn’t. Hence the title of this post: When you know better, do better! 

What is your ultimate goal in life? Is it just to please your own selfish nature and then die? Is it to gain a bunch of worldly wealth and then die? Is it just to have all the fun you can have regardless of the consequences and then die? You know the reasoning that You Only Live Once. Some of us have used it as a justification to get away with anything and everything instead of as an opportunity to live a rich, fulfilling life where you worked not only to make yourself happy but to positively impact the world around you.

Every day we have the choice of whether or now we will remain the same or if we will become a better version of ourselves. Pastor told us that we are to work towards maturity in God, that we are to bear much good fruit, and that our ultimate goal is to be more like Him (Jesus).

I’m not sure what that looks like for you, but for me it means being a better person each day, striving to make a positive impact wherever I go, choosing how I will react to situations, and purposely, intentionally choosing to love those who are difficult to love.

I am working to do my part while here on earth and part of that deals with leaving childish things behind and behaving as a grown woman. Thinking, speaking, and reasoning like a grown woman. I may be a child of God, but that doesn’t mean that I shouldn’t “grow” up.

I will seek the counsel of wise people. I will adjust my attitude, my mindset. I will work hard to see people the way that God does, to serve them for Him. I will work hard to help others achieve their goals. I will not allow greed, jealousy, envy, selfishness, or insecurities to rule me. I will let love be my guide: love for God, love for myself, love for others. I will not rely on myself to do it all either because I know that I can’t do it all alone. 

But most of all, I will strive to be more and more like Jesus every day. That is the ultimate goal! Choosing to become more and more like Him is a true sign of maturity. 

What Will Be Your Legacy?

Welcome to a new series entitled, Lesson Learned, where I discuss what stood out the most for me from Sunday’s sermon at church. Basically, it will be about the epiphany I got or the light bulb that went off, something that resounded with me at the time and that I think others can benefit from hearing. I hope you enjoy!  

Grace to Serve – Part 1

Last Sunday’s sermon was phenomenal. The title was “Grace to Serve” and it was all about how we were created to do God’s work here on Earth. Towards the end of the sermon, my pastor asked a series of questions, but one stood out more for me than the others. He asked us what type of “con” were we? At first we were puzzled, unsure of what he meant. Then he asked a profound question about how we were living our daily lives, “Are you a CONsumer or a CONtributor?” 

Take a moment to think about it.

Pretty mind blowing isn’t it? 

Image result for mind blown emoji

I mean if you really stop to think about your life, every aspect of it, you may be proud of yourself in some places and ashamed in others. The “consumer versus contributor” concept is not about money (although it can be). It’s about life in general. When you go about your day-to-day life, are you adding to other people’s lives or just taking what you can get? 

I know, personally, that I really had to consider just how much I am contributing to the world versus how much I am taking. What difference am I really making in the lives of others? How can I be more intentional about putting the needs of others before mine in my home, at my job, my church, and when I am out and about? 

Building a Legacy

My question to you and to myself is: What legacy will you leave behind? Will people remember you with your hand out because you were always begging for more, in your pockets because you kept everything for yourself,  or clenched in someone else’s because you were always lending a helping hand? 

We all matter already; we’re all important. I mean, we were created in God’s image and loved by Him before we were even thought of by our parents. Therefore, our mission in our lives should be to make our lives matter in an even bigger way. I’m not referring to obtaining fortune and fame. I’m talking about doing those things that will matter most to God, that will matter in eternity, those things that will most impact other people’s lives and eventually draw people to Him. Isn’t that what this life is all about?

Whether or not you’re a believer, you should understand that there is no way that we were put on this earth to just look out for ourselves, not when we’re constantly surrounded by so many other people, not when we’re constantly seeking companionship, to feel loved, appreciated, and accepted by others. Our lives were made for so much more than working, gaining material wealth, and dying. We were created to be there for one another.

Your life cannot be just about yourself. While we can work on making ourselves better every day, part of that should be about our working hard at helping other people. How do you feel when someone does something helpful for you, puts your needs before their own, or goes out of their way to make you happy? How do you think it would feel to make someone else feel that same way, not just once, but over and over again?

Moving Forward

I’m challenging not just myself but you as well to try to spend every day being more of a contributor than a consumer. What can you do to be more giving in your own home? How can you help out more at work? What can you do for your neighbor, your friend, that stranger you pass each day? What can you do to make the biggest impact here on Earth?

It can be as easy as being determined to do one good thing for one person each day. Imagine your impact on the world in just one year! 

What legacy are you leaving behind? What difference will you have made to the world around you? Will the world be a little better because you were here?

Will you be remembered for being a CONsumer or a CONtributor? If you don’t like your answer, I dare you to make the necessary changes starting TODAY. 

Peace & Love,

Michelle 

What Happened to the Golden Rule?

I’m sure while growing up all kids were often told to follow the Golden Rule, especially in school. This reminder normally occurred after one child had been mean to another child and had gotten caught. It was basically a reminder to be kind to one another. However, after hearing this over and over again, most children eventually learned to tune the teacher out and thought of the Golden Rule as another annoying school rule that only served to stop them from having fun. Its importance was not grasped by our young minds, becoming something we could all recite, but not something we practiced daily. (I mean, you have been to school, right? Not the nicest place at times.)

That was then…this is now.

But as adults, you would think that we would have this thing mastered. We would understand that we should treat others the way that we would want to be treated. I mean, the “Golden Rule” is not really some made up rule. It’s so much more than that. It is a guiding principal given by Jesus, yes Jesus, as to how we should treat one another. And it makes perfectly good sense. Can you imagine what the world would be like if we all treated other people exactly how we wished they would treat us?

Some days I just want to hide in my house and not deal with other people. I get tired of dealing with rude customer service, people swerving in and out of traffic and blowing horns, people pushing past you without saying “Excuse Me.”  My list could go on and on. I’m not asking for everyone to behave like angels, but what happened to common courtesy and simple manners?

But I can’t stay hidden in my house just to avoid some rude folks, and Jesus wouldn’t want me to do that either. How can I be a light for Him, if I am hiding from the very people He wants me to shine His light on?

No, I’m not perfect (in case you thought that I thought I was), and I am writing this even for myself to remember that while I’m out and about and interacting with others, that it would be wise to remember Jesus’ urging that we do unto others as we would have them do unto us. Unfortunately, we can’t control the actions of others, but we can control what we do and say and how we react to how others treat us. It won’t be easy, but I feel like if more of us tried to show love everywhere we went, to be intentional with it, that we might be surprised by the reactions we get from others. (more…)

Saying No to Doubt (An original poem)

She is stalked, hunted,

Pursued by a supernatural presence

For every attempt she makes to evade it

It falls back in step right behind her

She steps

It steps

She sprints, desperately running for her life

It follows behind, an easy-paced jog

Yet it continues to shadow her

She yells out, breathlessly,

pleadingly

“Why won’t you let me be?”

But it is mockingly silent

For she already knows the answer

It seems to blow in, riding on the wind

In a whisper that is unnaturally loud

“Because I live within you!’ It says

And she know it speaks the truth

This thing she cannot shake

Is something she must deal with from within

A thought that both excites and frightens her

She must elude it

Step by step

Day by day

Until it’s no longer within reach

Until it’s no longer a part of her

Until she accepts the truth about who she is

She knows she’s fighting for

Her potential, her purpose, her dreams

Only until then

Can she be free

Of the doubt that makes her second guess

What she knows is her destiny

What she was created to do, to be

Until she finally stops running

And turns around to face it head on

“Doubt,” she says, “You can no longer control me!”

“You are no longer welcomed here!”

And she steps into the light

Of a brand new day

Where it can’t find her

She smiles

Hopeful & confident

Because she remembers a promise

And accepts the truth

For she knows that with God by her side

Anything,

yes anything,

is possible for her.

Feeling Misunderstood? Some Reasons for Our Confusion

Have you ever been misunderstood? Have you ever had your words and actions misinterpreted? Have you ever set out with the best intentions only to have someone get upset with you and accuse you of being rude, disrespectful, or selfish? I know the answers to these questions are a resounding, “Yes!”

No matter how “good” we are as people, there will be times in our lives where people will get offended by something that we said because they understood it differently than what we meant it to be. You understand what I am saying?

But in those people’s defense, I know that we are also guilty of doing the same thing. We, too, have misunderstood what a person said or meant, gotten offended, upset, resentful because we felt disrespected, hurt, falsely accused by the words that they were saying. Sometimes we find out that they never meant it that way. Sometimes we never find out, and we run around upset with someone who never meant to hurt us. (more…)

You Are Valuable, You Are Loved

In life we all want to feel like we are loved and appreciated by those around us. We want to know that we are valuable to those with whom we spend our time, for whom we spend and give our money, talents, skills, and resources. However, this is not always the case. Some days it feels like the very people that we pour the most energy into are the ones who least appreciate it, the ones who take us for granted the most.

Feeling unappreciated can lead to feelings of resentment and hopelessness. Why am I doing all that I do? What’s the point? No one cares. They don’t realize just how much I do for them!

I feel like women are especially vulnerable to these feelings of being used and unappreciated. Naturally we are nurturers, always looking out for everyone else’s needs, making sure everyone else is taken care of, comfortable, fed, happy, and content.

But in the meantime, as we pour out to others, we are often time left feeling empty with no thank yous coming our way, no we appreciate all that you’ve done. It’s almost as if everything we do is just expected of us. That’s our job, and we shouldn’t expect anyone to acknowledge all that we’ve done.

This “ungrateful” attitude may come from our spouses, our children, our coworkers, our bosses. I can speak on this because, I too, have felt these same feelings. Feeling like this can make you bitter and upset, even make you want to just stop doing what you’re doing. You may want to scream, cry, run away.

Again, I know because I have been there; I have felt that way. I’ve been hurt and discouraged by other’s lack of appreciation. I’ve stood back, resentful and upset, ready to speak my mind about how no one appreciates all that I do. Don’t you now how hard I work for you! 

But this past weekend, I had a revelation, an epiphany, a brand new understanding of how I should view this.

This new understanding is so good, so profound, that I knew I had to share it with others especially other women who right now may be feeling overwhelmed by all that they’re going through, all that they take care of every day.

Who may be frustrated by the lack of appreciation from those to whom they give the most.

Who may be looking for some reason to continue, to keep going, to push forward, to keep giving.

For all of you ladies, this is what I’ve learned.  (more…)

We Are Called to Love

It’s November already.

Wow.

Where has the time gone?

I remember the beginning of this year and the promises that I made to myself to make this year my best year yet. I was determined to be #unbothered by life and people, to focus on setting goals and achieving them, and to change things in my life that were no longer working for my good. I am happy to say that while I may have lost my cool a few times (or many), I didn’t reach all of my goals that I set, and I haven’t made every change that I wanted to make, my life has improved drastically by what I have accomplished thus far.

Spend more time in the presence of God. Check!

Lose weight. Check!

Transfer to a new school. Check!

Reduce my debt. Check!

These were just some of my goals that I made and achieved, and my life has definitely been much more fulfilling. I must say that I am quite proud of myself. When I do my check-ins with my accountability partner, I get a certain sense of satisfaction when I realize all that I’ve done to improve my life and my state of mind.

However, lately something has been missing. There’s been this empty space that’s been longing to be fulfilled. While I’m not a selfish or self-centered person (although we all are in some way), I didn’t feel like I was doing all I needed to do in the area of service. My heart has always gone out for other people (I mean, I am a teacher), but I have not been consistent with going that extra mile to help others.

Lately, I’ve felt the need more to do more to help others especially when I consider how I can have a bigger impact on the lives of my children. How do I really get them to love and to appreciate and to be grateful for their lives and all of the blessings they have?

How do I get them to understand that they should give more than they take in this world?

What is the legacy that I want to leave behind that my children can take up and continue even when I am gone?

That’s when I decided enough was enough. The end of this year would be the beginning of my journey in purposeful serving. In other words, I would be purposely seeking opportunities to be a blessing to others. Some things that I have done thus far:

  1. Gotten more involved in my Raktivist (Random Acts of Kindness Activist) community on Facebook, getting inspired by all of the wonderful, beautiful things other people are doing to serve others selflessly. These people have hearts so big that I don’t know how their chests can contain them.
  2. I’ve joined a campaign this month called Neighborly November. Instead of just doing 30 days of Gratefulness in which most people document 30 things for which they are grateful, we are challenged to put action with our gratitude. Every day I must find a way not to just speak of my gratitude but to actually live it out. (Created by Carrie Wisehart)
  3. I took my younger son (6 years old) to my school’s sorting of the items from our Harvest Drive. We had an enjoyable time while running food from the center of the gym floor to the designated areas around the room. More than 100 families were able to receive food just in time for the beginning of the holidays because of this Harvest Drive. I felt so fulfilled just watching all of the volunteers running back and forth cheerfully sorting food even after a long day of school and work.
  4. I started working on a community service project with my team at work so we can get our students involved in serving others while learning the concept of giving without expecting to receive something in return (more to come on this in future posts).

While it’s easy to live in our bubbles and focus on just our own problems and needs, God has called us to love and serve one another, to use our gifts and talents to be a blessing to others and that’s just what I want to do. I want to do it and teach my children and my students the same thing. I pray that my children and my students will learn to love helping others, not because they will be rewarded, but because it feels good to do so, that they become intrinsically motivated to do what’s right.

I write this post not because I want any accolades or praise but to hold myself accountable. If I tell everyone what I am going to do, I know that people will be checking to see if I’m doing what I said I will do even on those days when I don’t feel like it and just want to focus on self.

Maybe I can motivate others to do the same.

Maybe I can start a small movement.

Maybe I can open more hearts to the love that God has called us all to show.

Stay tuned for more…

In the Eye of the Storm

In life we will all experience many ups and downs, highs and lows, good days and bad days and everything in between.

We are content and excited when we’re up, when we’re on top of the mountain; during that time life is beautiful and we’re dancing with joy.

However, many of us get extremely upset and discouraged when life is down, and we’re looking up from a valley, believing that we don’t deserve to experience the lows of life because we’ve been “good” and that life is just being unfair to us.  Why me? Why me? We fuss; we pout; we whine. We may throw tantrums and even threaten to give up on life. How can we ever recover from such heartache and pain? What’s the point in even trying?

I believe that how we respond when life gets hard, not when life is easy, when we’re in the “eye of the storm” says a lot about our character and our view and appreciation of this gift called life. Our responses during these times affect our happiness because we truly do have the choice to ride out the storm, to run from it, hiding away in fear, or to just let it toss us all around slamming us against waves, drowning us in a sea of despair.

I consider myself to be an optimist, always looking for the light at the end of the tunnel, the silver lining on the cloud. So with the approach of this storm, Hurricane Irma, I am looking for the good that will come from this bad.

I am being hopeful and trusting God to perform a miracle.

I am refusing to let the negative talk make me panic or feel guilty for not evacuating (since this wasn’t really an option for my family).

While I am not pretending this literal storm or the figurative storms of life are easy, enjoyable, or insignificant, I am saying that I will not allow any of these storms to steal my joy or cloud my outlook on life or my hope for my future.

My life definitely has not been all unicorns and rainbows, magical lands and fairy tales. I’ve had so many ups and so many downs as well, but my belief in God, my refusal to give up and give in, and my positive view on life and the belief that I can learn something from everything I experience, all keep me going, moving and pressing forward.

Today, and each day forward, I am choosing to learn the lessons that these storms are bringing to me.

I am choosing God’s joy that He has given me, a joy that cannot be broken just because my circumstances don’t match my heart’s song. I will praise Him during the storm, and I will believe that there’s something greater for me on the other side.

I refuse to be swept away by the storms of life. I will allow the storm to water me so that I may grow and develop even more.

I will love life whether I am in the midst of the storm or I’m riding high on a wave of happiness and peace.

As long as I have Jesus with me, there’s nothing for me to fear.

Mark 4:35-41 (NIV)

Jesus Calms the Storm

35 That day when evening came, he said to his disciples, “Let us go over to the other side.” 36 Leaving the crowd behind, they took him along, just as he was, in the boat. There were also other boats with him. 37 A furious squall came up, and the waves broke over the boat, so that it was nearly swamped. 38 Jesus was in the stern, sleeping on a cushion. The disciples woke him and said to him, “Teacher, don’t you care if we drown?”

39 He got up, rebuked the wind and said to the waves, “Quiet! Be still!”Then the wind died down and it was completely calm.

40 He said to his disciples, “Why are you so afraid? Do you still have no faith?”

41 They were terrified and asked each other, “Who is this? Even the wind and the waves obey him!”

A Forgiving Heart: Letting Go, Moving On

Forgiveness.

In theory it sounds so easy to do, but in reality, it can actually prove to be quite difficult.

Small things can easily be forgiven. Oh, you ate my cookies without my permission. I really wanted them, but it’s okay.

While bigger offenses may take time. I can’t believe you lied to me or about me. You stole something valuable that can never be replaced. You hurt someone whom I love. 

Eventually you forgive the person and decide to move on even if it means that you’ll never forget what they’ve done. Sometimes you may think that you have forgiven someone and you really haven’t.

Sometimes you refuse to forgive, the offense just seems too big to let go. How can you release them from the responsibility of all of the pain that they have caused you? How can you let them just go free like that?

You think you’re punishing them for all that you’ve been through.

But is that really the case? Are they really being punished because you refuse to forgive them for what they have done? Are they even aware that you haven’t forgiven them?

Most importantly… do they even care?

(more…)

…So Plan Accordingly

We all live pretty hectic lives, but I feel women are especially focused on and stressed by all of the day-to-day tasks that need to be accomplished. Whether we are wives or mothers or single ladies or career women, we all attempt to have it “all together.” In the midst of this, many things get overlooked, forgotten, pushed aside. Our perpetual to-do lists are constantly on our minds as we race back and forth from place to place, appointment to appointment all the while neglecting the things that are truly important to us, the things that make us feel like women, that make us happy, that give us our sanity. We struggle with how to organize it all so that all of it (or most of it) can actually get completed each day.

One way that I’ve learned to try to “get it all done” is by taking time to plan out my days, my weeks, and my months while taking time to reflect on how well they went, what I could have done better, what I need to change, and what I should continue doing. I’ve used many different planners to try to achieve this, but none of them took into account one matter that has become more and more important to me within the past few years: my faith. I know some people are wondering how a planner can help with my faith. Well, it’s my pleasure to explain.

Since I switched to my Sanctuary Girl Faith Planner, my life has changed. For a while, my relationship and time with God were separate from my daily to-do list. It was almost as if it that time was something separate from my “real” life. However, since getting my planner, my perception has changed. With this planner, I cannot write my plans for the day without noticing the columns indicating whether or not I have spent time that day journaling, reading my devotional(s), reading my Bible, and praying. If you enjoy utilizing a planner as much as I do, you’ll understand that there is a sense of satisfaction in being able to check off or cross something off your to-do list; seeing that little check mark or that line drawn through the task is (excuse the expression) a high for me. Knowing that I have checked off those four columns each day makes me feel even better than usual because I know that that represents quality time spent with God, time that sets the tone for the rest of my day, preparing me to deal with the other items on my to-do list or situations that I may have to face. That time is not something separate from the rest of my life; it’s an integral part of it. (more…)