Hidden Potential*

When they were first married, my son and his wife purchased a home that was a short sale. When they first brought me to see the house, it was somewhat difficult to look past the dirt and junk. There were piles of toys, clothes, and miscellaneous items that had been left by the previous owners.  In the bathroom, the tub surround was full of crayon scribbles and the toilets were in dire need of a good cleaning and disinfectant. In the basement the refrigerator still had food in it, and the smell was rank when the door was opened. Even trash had been left in the kitchen can.

The outside had ivy growing unchecked around the entire foundation. The large back yard was full of weeds and shrubs that had been allowed to grow wild, not to mention a pile of cinder blocks that served no useful function that we could see. Dead trees had fallen and the decaying logs were lying on the ground.

Most people would have walked away after seeing the first room, and indeed, at first I just saw all of the surface issues. But on a deeper, second look, I could envision the possibilities they saw in the home. As they worked hard at making the house into a home, a beautiful picture emerged.

Everything was sorted and either thrown away or given to the thrift store. The walls were cleaned and painted. Hardware was stripped of years of grime and coats of paint and looked new. Hardwood floors were sanded and sealed. Broken windows were replaced, and ivy was pulled. Suddenly the house was living up to its potential. It was not an easy task and took hard work and perseverance.  

Just cleaning the refrigerator and stove were huge chores. My daughter-in-laws’ Dad and Mom literally took them apart and cleaned them piece by piece. As layer after layer of dirt and grime was washed away, the stove and refrigerator became clean and sparkling. After all was finished my son and his wife had a home that showed its true character. Underneath all the junk was a jewel waiting to be discovered.

All of this made me think that it is a wonderful thing that God sees beyond our flawed selves to the beautiful people we can become. He takes lives that are broken, used, abused, and discarded, and makes them into something beautiful. Sometimes it entails a lot of hard work as God cleans up the garbage and throws out the bad things in our lives. Sometimes it means that God takes us apart piece by piece, stripping us down to our bare selves so that he can bring out our true beauty. Sometimes it means pulling out all of the weeds and dead, rotting timber in our lives so that we can grow something beautiful.

When God sees us, he sees the hidden character beneath and when we allow him to do his work in us, suddenly the hidden jewels shine forth. I am so thankful that God looks past the surface to see the potential. Aren’t you?

*originally posted April 4, 2011 on CWRN blog.

Smell That Smoke

On Mother’s Day many families choose to grill something for Mom and a commonly heard phrase is, “Smell that smoke.” It invokes memories of grilled pork steaks (if you live in the Midwest), grilled chicken, or maybe even grilled steaks. They are all typical b-b-q fare where I live.

But on this Mother’s Day, “smell that smoke” took on a whole new meaning. My son and his fiancee came over after church. I started cooking some ground beef on the stove because it needed to be used, and I thought I could fix spaghetti or sloppy joes–something quick and easy. My son quickly informed me that they were going to take me to lunch and so we started talking about where to go where there would not be a long wait. We have a Townsquare Pub close to me that serves good food, so I called to see what the wait time would be. She indicated that right at that time there was no wait. So we got in my car and off we went.

We were seated in the restaurant fairly quickly and had a leisurely meal. When we arrived back home, I noticed a funky smell in my garage, but could not quite identify what it was. Then I heard the smoke alarms blaring. When I opened the door to the house, thick, gray smoke billowed out. Unwise I know, but I quickly ran in and realized I had forgotten to turn off the stove. I turned it off, and ran through my house and threw open windows in every room. My wiser and anxious son kept reminding me, “Mom, you need to get out of the house. You have breathing problems already and the smoke will make it worse.” He was right, but sometimes in a situation you do not stop to think through the wisest course of action!

Luckily I had put a lid on the pan, and it created a barrier for the charred meat, but the odors left by the burned pan and smoke were just about unbearable. The fire department did come out and checked for any hot spots and deemed the house okay to be in.

But the smell. It has permeated everything! And much to my dismay my insurance will not pay on the accident because there was no soot or ash. I guess I could have emptied all of the ash out of the pan, but I did not think that would be a very good thing integrity wise. It did not matter that every single thing on my main level must be washed. It did not matter that my furniture and rugs and light fixtures will need cleaned or the walls will need washed and probably painted. It is not covered. Period.

Leaving cabinet doors open to help clear out the smell. Even with washing every dish and cleaning all the surfaces, the smell lingers.

So I am now awaiting quotes from the restoration companies (that in itself takes a week to a week and a half) and then I will see how much my forgetfulness has cost me! It will always be a Mother’s Day to remember.

But never fear, I do have some things I am thankful for. I am thankful the pan did not catch on fire, spreading quickly to the rest of my house. I really think that was only God’s doing since we were gone quite a while for lunch.

I am thankful I have a finished basement and am able to sleep there since it was spared the smoke damage. I could have stayed with any number of people, but then it would be a hassle coming back and forth to clean at home.

I am thankful for friends and family who have helped me with cleaning.

I am thankful that I have a new awareness of having too much stuff, despite having pared down when I initially moved here. So I have started a give-away pile.

I am grateful that we had two days of moderate weather so I could initially open my windows, as opposed to the record high we had on Tuesday.

But most of all I am thankful that God helped me to remember, that after all, it is only stuff that needs cleaned and that is truly not the important things of life.

Five Things to Remember When Life Becomes Overwhelming

One of my friends shared on facebook that she is really struggling with all the things that life is throwing at her right now. Unfortunately, I think we can ALL identify with that feeling of being overwhelmed on occasion! Women, who tend to be fixers, sometimes have difficulty admitting they need help when life becomes overwhelming for them. So how do we learn to swallow our pride and ask for help? How do we let our friends and family know that we have reached a point where we are ready to scream, or cry, or just hide, until we can face life with equanimity again?

Photo by Anh Nguyen on Unsplash

For those of you who find yourself in this circumstance, here are five things I’ve found helpful.

5.  Everyone feels overwhelmed occasionally–you are not alone. When life is coming full throttle and sometimes circumstances are conspiring to get us “out of whack” we sometimes feel a sense of helplessness and a loss of control. We may often feel that we are unworthy and unloved because we cannot keep it together. Most women I know have been there at one time or another. It’s okay to express your feelings of inadequacy, fear, frustration and even anger to a person you trust. You may be surprised at how many others have felt the same way.

4. It is okay to be honest about your feelings. For most women, friends and family really do care, even though sometimes it may not seem like it. They may be oblivious to your feelings because you have never let them know you are struggling! It is okay to be honest with your spouse and children to let them know in age-appropriate ways that you are sad, or overwhelmed, or even angry with life. You may be surprised at how honestly sharing with them can make a difference. Just be sure not to make it a blame game, which only complicates everything in unhealthy ways. My husband would often say he was not a mind reader, but many times I expected him to be one!

3.  Feel free to ask for help!  Don’t feel like you always have to do everything on your own. Sometimes people just need to know you are struggling and when they do, they will be there for you. Find a trusted friend, a pastor, or a counselor to give you honest feedback and support. In all honesty, I am not always good at picking up those verbal and visual clues when someone is struggling, but if they share their struggles with me, I am there for them. So if you are acting like everything is alright, do not be upset with your friends and family because they do not know how you really feel. Sharing burdens is actually a biblical concept.

2.  Take drugs! I say that jokingly, but seriously, sometimes there are chemical imbalances that lead to feelings of depression, anxiety, and sadness. Don’t be afraid to talk about it with your physician and GET HELP if you need it. There should be no shame in seeking the help of a professional, be it your physician, a therapist, or a psychiatrist. I say kudos to you if you recognize that it can be a life changer.

And just as a side note, it is okay as a Christian to be treated for depression or anxiety. Do not let someone guilt you into thinking you are not a good Christian just because you are struggling.

1.  Take your struggles to the Lord. Pray about it, journal about it, trust in Him to send you deliverance. He truly cares about our struggles and hurts. It is easy to feel distant from God when we are struggling, but this is the time we most need to saturate ourselves in His Word and recognize that He is ever-present in our lives. Even if he feels far away, do not stop immersing yourself in his word. Even if you feel that he doesn’t hear your prayers, he does. Sometimes we cannot trust our “feelings” when it comes to thinking about how God loves us, but instead we just cling to his word and trust his promises are true.

I caution women not to be too hard on themselves when life seems overwhelming and they have a crying spell about some seemingly insignificant thing. Sometimes it is a good release valve for all that tension. It happens when we live in an imperfect world, so we need to cut ourselves a little slack on occasion! Life happens and struggles happen, but it helps to know, we’re not in it alone.

Psalm 55:22, NLT Give your burdens to the Lord and he will take care of you. He will not permit the godly to slip and fall.

I Peter 5:7, NLT Give all your worries and cares to God, for he cares about you.

Other verses to study: Psalm 27:1, Isaiah 41:13, Joshua 1:9 There are many verses in scripture that remind us of God’s care for us. Scriptures about fear, anxiety, and worry abound. The fact is that God encourages us to rely on him and reminds us over and over again that he loves us and cares about our lives.

End of an Era

There are times in our lives that we consider milestones. Becoming old enough to get a driver’s license, graduations, college, marriage, birth of our children, and more all fall under that heading. But for me, yesterday was an opportunity to travel back in time to one of the biggest milestones in my life—college.

Photo by Cindy Bingamon

The Bible college I attended for four years has come to the point where they merged with another college and the existing campus will be sold. Yesterday was the last opportunity to visit the campus to see the dormitories where we lived and walk the halls where we had classes.

Saint Louis Christian College was small, but it was just what I needed for my hungry heart. I think I would have been somewhat lost in a larger university. My freshman year was everything I dreamed of, despite the fact that first semester I failed a couple early morning classes! I was challenged to grow in my knowledge of the Lord and to develop more than a surface relationship with God. I was exposed to new ways of thinking and looked at theology in a whole new light. I found relationships with peers, faculty, and staff that turned into lifelong friendships.

I made four years of memories. Attending classes, participating in skip days, going to basketball games, meeting at the picnic table under the huge, old mulberry tree—all these things I look back on with nostalgia. Traveling for a summer with the Kaleidoscope Players (our drama team) and going on choir tours provided their own unique memories. College was where I experienced my first heartbreak, where I realized that just because you are a Christian does not mean you will not have struggles, and where people on pedestals were revealed to have flaws just like everyone else.  

I have always maintained strong ties to the college. I taught drama classes and coached a drama team before I got married. I served on the Alumni Steering Committee for several years, two of them as President. My husband was their Vice President of Development for almost fifteen years, and I was manager of the bookstore for nine years. One of my sons and daughter-in-law received an associate degree from there.  So to say I had many memories is an understatement.

Some of the class of 1974

Yesterday was a day to reconnect with so many of the people who made those memories a reality. I saw an old roommate who always greets me with “Hey, Roomie,” every time she sees me. I saw several of my graduating classmates and many other people I have known through the years. It was a time to reconnect with those I only see occasionally, and to catch up with others I see more frequently.  

My senior year

And so yesterday was bittersweet. I realized as I was leaving there were some I would never see again on this side of heaven and that made my heart sad. But then I remembered to be so, so grateful for everyone whose paths have crossed with mine because of Saint Louis Christian College. My life has been richer because I have had the privilege of knowing so many brothers and sisters in the Lord because of one small college.

Worry Warts

This past week I was able to vacation at Walt Disney World in Orlando, Florida. I have been two other times with my friend, who swears it is her happy place. And I believe her. She makes a better guide than most of the employees since she has been there so often! For a newbie like me that is a blessing, because she doesn’t get lost (unlike I would) and knows shortcuts to take through the parks.

Normally, I would be walking with her ahead of the vacation so that I am not utterly exhausted at the end of each day. About three weeks out, I was having a problem with my foot hurting, but assumed I needed new shoes. So I went to my favorite store and got fitted for my shoes. I picked out a cute (as much as tennis shoes can be cute) corn yellow Hoka shoe and was so excited. But alas, my foot still hurt when I walked.

I exchanged those favorite-colored shoes for another expensive pair of recommended walking shoes, and still had difficulty. Of course, by then I figured it wasn’t the shoe and would have gone back and traded for the Hoka’s again, but they were already gone!

I had a vision of wearing a boot the entire time for a stress fracture (which I have experienced three times before), and I was bummed at the thought. All I could think about was that maybe I needed to rent a scooter and how much that was going to cost and how inconvenient it was all going to be. I fretted about it for the two weeks I had to wait to see my podiatrist. When I finally was able to see my podiatrist three days before leaving, I was relieved that there was no fracture.

Now you need to understand this about me. It is an unwritten rule that I am always the one to get something weird. All my friends and family know it, and no one is surprised by it. It is almost as universally true as my waiting in line–even if it is the shortest line, it takes the longest time.  

Apparently, I had seed warts (as opposed to plantar warts) growing inside a callous on the side of my foot. Who knew such a thing existed? I didn’t. But it must be more common than I think because the doctor knew right away what it was. With just a simple excision they were out, and my foot immediately felt better.

Small steps compared to some I know.

Just wish I had known two weeks prior and then I would have been more prepared for all the walking we did at Disney World! And I would have saved myself a lot of what if scenarios. Fortunately, I was able to walk (with some resting in between) and did not need a scooter, although it was tempting on some days!

Isn’t life like that sometimes? It throws you a curve and your plans seem to go awry. But then just when you think you are going to need to make big adjustments, a solution is there for you. We get so fretful and imagine all the what ifs and in reality, there is a simple solution.

The Bible says so many times “fear not” and “do not worry,” but I find myself doing it anyway. What about you? What things do you worry about and make much bigger than they are? The reality is I should have just given it to God and let my worry go. Whatever the outcome, be it a stress fracture or a seed wart, He has got it covered.

They Did Not Know It Was Good

This evening as I was sitting in our Good Friday service, listening to our minister eloquently speak on the significance of Good Friday, I couldn’t help but think that for everyone who was present that day, it was not such a good Friday.

The fact of the matter is that not one individual who was present that day knew with certainty what was really occurring, not even the disciples who had spent the last three year with him. Indeed, even the last week with Jesus did not prepare them for what they experienced, even though Jesus himself spoke of what was coming.

Following an evening where Jesus was falsely accused, tried, struck, beaten, and flogged, it wasn’t such a good morning. For those who watched Pontius Pilate as he tried to set Jesus free by offering Jesus or Barrabas, it was not such a good day (oh, how fickle the people when riled up!).

For Jesus’ followers watching him along the road to Golgatha, and seeing him so faint that another carried his cross, it wasn’t such a good day. For Mary, Jesus’ mother to watch her son being nailed to a cross, and then hoisted in the air to fall with a thud into the earth, the small death to her heart was not a good day. For the many disciples who were probably scattered, maybe fearfully watching while their heads were covered, hoping that no one recognized them, it was not such a good day. Especially, for Peter, who had denied Christ three times the evening before, it was not a good day.

For John who listened as Jesus spoke to him from the cross and gave him the responsibility of being a son to Mary, it was not such a good day. For the women who had followed Jesus and been given value and had been known Christ’s love, it was not a good day. Even for the centurion, who realized a huge error had been made and acknowledged that surely this was the son of God, it was not a good day.

Photo by Alicia Quan on Unsplash

For Joseph of Arimathea, who begged for the body of Jesus to be laid in his very own tomb, it was surely a day filled with sorrow. And for Mary Magdalene who had been delivered from seven demons, and the other Mary who were sitting across from the tomb and watching, it was not a very good day.

The good news is that after three days, what was surely so sorrowful for all who loved Jesus became a day of joy as the news of his resurrection filled the rooms where they were gathered. But even then, I am not sure they realized the huge ramifications of what Jesus had finished.

But for us, we who can look back and see what Jesus has done–for us it was a very Good Friday.

The Last Week

Photo by Cody Board on Unsplash

Today is Palm Sunday, but for Jesus it was a week that was just beginning. Palm Sunday is a day that many churches celebrate with waving of palm branches, emulating the people of Biblical times who proclaimed “Hosanna!” and “Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord!” while he entered Jerusalem on the back of a young donkey. It is a day when I will be speaking to a group of individuals at an Assisted Living facility. As I wondered about what to speak on, I realized that, of course, I need to speak about the last week of Jesus’ life.

All four gospels, Matthew, Mark, Luke and John, share the triumphal entry. When Jesus came to Jerusalem the crowds were already being stirred up by the disciples and started chanting together “Hosanna! Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord!” You see the crowds welcomed him thinking he was going to be their earthly king. They were expecting a Messiah who was going to deliver them from the Roman rulers and establish the kingdom of Israel once again.

In fact, they did not recognize that they were actually fulfilling the prophecy of Zechariah 9:9, “Rejoice greatly, O daughter of Zion! Shout aloud, O daughter of Jerusalem! Behold, your king is coming to you; righteous and having salvation is he, humble and mounted on a donkey, on a colt, the foal of a donkey.”

But that same crowd who cried out “Hosanna,” cried out “Crucify Him” when they realized that their dreams were not coming true. So let’s talk about Jesus’ week and the things he did after his triumphal entry.

Jesus honored his Father by visiting the temple.

The first thing we see is Jesus going to the temple. And what does he encounter there? The outer courts were filled with people who were taking advantage of those who came to celebrate the Passover. By selling sacrificial lambs and doves at inflated prices, they were taking advantage of people. Jesus was angry with a righteous anger. It led him to turning over tables and scolding the merchants for their greed and dishonesty, even accusing them of being a den of thieves. (Matthew 21:12-13)

Even while anticipating his death, Jesus did things for others

 Jesus continued to heal. The blind and deaf came to him at the temple and he healed them. He had compassion on the servant who had his ear cut off by Peter, and he healed him. Despite knowing he was facing his death at the end of the week, he still had compassion on the afflicted.

Jesus still taught, sometimes in parables, and sometimes in illustrations, but he used every opportunity to teach his disciples and followers.

He taught in parables still–the parable of the ten virgins, the talents, and the sheep and goats. He taught about the signs of the end of the age. He taught about the greatest commandment, as well as the seven woes. He taught about prayer as he prayed for himself, his disciples, and all believers.

Jesus honored others with praise.

We read of his visit in Bethany where he was anointed with a costly perfume., possibly by Mary the sister of Lazarus. While she was criticized by others for wasting this costly perfume instead of selling it, he praised her for her act of worship. He pointed out the sacrifice of a poor widow’s offering as something to be praised, rather than to be proud and self-righteous in your giving.

Jesus was still pursued by the Pharisees, who sought to entrap him in any way they could.

The Pharisees questioned his authority when they asked by whom he did his miracles. They tried to trap him by asking him about paying taxes to Caesar. And finally, they tried to find any way they could to take his life.

Jesus spent the Passover with people he loved.

Jesus knew his time was short, but he chose to spend it by washing the disciples’ feet and sharing one last supper with them. Jesus comforted his disciples after the news that he would be killed. He also took the opportunity to talk to them about the coming of the Holy Spirt and the work of the Spirit.   

Jesus chose to have his disciples with him while he went to pray in the garden, even though they slept while he prayed. And as he was greeted by Judas’ kiss, he did not falter in his determination to do God’s will.

Jesus stayed true to his mission

Throughout the false accusations, the mockery, the beatings, and the actual crucifixion, Jesus did not waver in doing God’s will. Knowing that the worst part of all was taking on our sins and becoming the sacrificial lamb by the shedding of his blood, Jesus still stayed faithful and resolute to his purpose.

So that is how Jesus spent his last week here on earth. But the good news through it all? Sunday’s coming!

Now when they drew near to Jerusalem and came to Bethphage, to the Mount of Olives, then Jesus sent two disciples, saying to them, “Go into the village in front of you, and immediately you will find a donkey tied, and a colt with her. Untie them and bring them to me. If anyone says anything to you, you shall say, ‘The Lord needs them,’ and he will send them at once.” This took place to fulfill what was spoken by the prophet, saying, “Say to the daughter of Zion, ‘Behold, your king is coming to you, humble, and mounted on a donkey, and on a colt, the foal of a beast of burden.'” 6 The disciples went and did as Jesus had directed them. They brought the donkey and the colt and put on them their cloaks, and he sat on them. Most of the crowd spread their cloaks on the road, and others cut branches from the trees and spread them on the road. And the crowds that went before him and that followed him were shouting, “Hosanna to the Son of David! Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord! Hosanna in the highest!” And when he entered Jerusalem, the whole city was stirred up, saying, “Who is this?” And the crowds said, “This is the prophet Jesus, from Nazareth of Galilee.” – Matthew 21:1-11

Help My Unbelief

Recently I have been wondering why I ever thought I could retire. I have been trying to avoid taking money out of my 401K until I hit 72, but in all honesty with today’s inflation I am thinking that may not be possible. I went to the store today to buy something to make a dessert for my home team and was shocked when the items cost $18—just for one dessert made with Jell-O and strawberries. Like many individuals on a fixed income, I worry about having enough money to meet my daily needs, let alone all the things on my “want” list.

The past couple of weeks have been a little rocky for me. Without going into detail, let’s just say God and I have been having conversations about the depth of my faith and trust in Him. But recently as I was reading the story of the widow and the oil in 2 Kings 4:1-7 it reinforced what God has been telling me all along. Trust me. I will meet your needs.

Sometimes I feel like the father who brought his son to Jesus for healing. In Jesus’ encounter with the young boy’s father, the man said, “If you can do anything, take pity on us and help us.”  Jesus replied, “If you can? Everything is possible for him who believes.”  And then the father said something that most of us can identify with on occasion, “I do believe; help me overcome my unbelief!”

Are you filled with doubts? Do you sometimes wonder if God has left you alone to cope with life the best you can? Do you feel like you are abandoned and there is no hope?  Satan wants us to buy into these lies.

Photo by Tony Eight Media on Unsplash

God is faithful and true. He cares for us. He wants us to believe and trust in Him. When we do, we can watch Him at work in our lives. Believe. Sometimes it is the simplest things that are hardest to do.

Lord, I believe. Help my unbelief.

The Power Source

“By his divine power, God has given us everything we need for living a godly life. We have received all of this by coming to know him, the one who called us to himself by means of his marvelous glory and excellence.”  – 2 Peter 1:3 (NLT)

Recently I was using my computer and a screen popped up notifying me that my battery was at a critical level and needed to be plugged in to a power source. Sometimes the plug that goes into the computer gets knocked loose when I move it, so I just pushed it in a little more, and assumed the problem was resolved. That is, until my screen went black and my computer shut down.

I checked to make sure the computer was plugged in. It was. I took the battery out and reinserted it. I did everything I could think of to get my computer restarted. It didn’t.

Photo by Clint Patterson on Unsplash

I went into panic mode thinking my computer was toast and I hadn’t backed it up lately!  I confess that I have come to rely on my computer for my blog site, paying online bills, banking, e-mail, Facebook, and more.  As much as I hate to confess it, alas, it is true.

As I racked my brains for how to restart my computer, I realized the light for the surge protector was off.  As I flipped the switch back on, all the things connected to it suddenly came back to life.  My problem simply was that I had not turned on the power source!  Once I was connected to the power source, everything functioned properly.

Have you ever been at a point in your life when things seem to be going haywire?  You know there is a problem, and you are trying your hardest to troubleshoot and fix it—but it’s just not working. Those are the times when you need to go to the power source.

My power source is the Lord. When I am not staying connected to Him, I find that things just don’t function right in my life. I will start flagging, losing my energy and my focus.  On the opposite side, if I stay plugged into His Word, spending time in prayer and study, the power starts flowing freely.

How about you?  How do you stay connected to God? Think about ways that you can stay connected to God and make sure that you are truly connected to the power source.

My Comfort Zone

Do you ever go out of your comfort zone when it comes to serving God? It seems that since I have gotten older I have gone out of my comfort zone more frequently than when I was younger. I think when I was younger I was more consumed with parenting, being a spouse, and serving at church, than I was concerned about being out of my comfort zone. I think I worried more about making it through the day without a melt-down–either my kids or mine– than I thought about challenging myself to step out of my comfort zone more!

Recently one of my fellow church members contacted me and asked if I would be willing to speak on a rotation basis at a nearby assistant living facility. That was a stretch for me. I had been asked to speak for their small worship service and believe me, that was way out of my comfort zone. I speak for workshops and retreats for women’s groups, but I had never spoken for a service with older people. I was not sure exactly what to speak about as I wracked my brain for the normal topics I speak on. I prayed about what these individuals would want and need to hear about God.

Then I realized they want to hear the same things I want to hear. They want to hear about a loving God who sent His Son as the ultimate sacrifice for each of us. They want to hear about our walk with Jesus and how it can change our lives. They want to hear that the fruit of the spirit can still be cultivated in their lives, even though their time here on earth can be short.

So I chose to talk about joy. In January I did a two-part blog post on this topic because I firmly believe that like many things, joy is a choice for us. But how would I relate choosing joy to individuals who are dealing with multiple health issues and are just now recovering from social isolation from Covid? I realized having joy is a choice we make whether we are 20 or 80. It is not dependent on what is happening in the world around us or in the challenges of an aging body.

So yesterday I went to our early service at church (which was a stretch for me as I am NOT an early bird) and was challenged and inspired by the message. Then I left and made my way to the assistant living facility. And I talked about joy in our relationship with Jesus, joy in how we choose to interact with others, and joy in the midst of our circumstances (even if they are not of our choosing). I saw several nods and no one fell asleep while I was sharing, so I consider that a win.

I realized when I finished that I was grateful that God stretched me out of my comfort zone once again. And while I hope that the people who heard me speak were blessed by the time they spent with me, I have to say, I was probably way more blessed by being able to share my heart with them for a brief time.

So what about you? What has been asked of you lately that will stretch you out of your comfort zone? I always say, pray about it and listen to what God has to say. Sometimes you will be the one who walks away with the blessing.