Gaining a New Perspective

I recently posted about a “dry fire” I had at my house on Mother’s Day. (https://lindadelaywallace.com/2022/05/13/smell-that-smoke/) It was quite an experience and because there was no soot or ash–only a house full of smoke–insurance would not cover anything. That meant that everything in my house had to be cleaned by yours truly, and luckily some faithful friends and family! It was an interesting two weeks following the incident.

Photo by KWON JUNHO on Unsplash

As I washed every cabinet and closet (and everything in them) in my house, I noticed that I had items I never used taking up space. Some of them were beautiful pieces of crystal that just sat in my upper cabinets the entire six years I have lived here. Some of them were clothes that I wondered what was I thinking when I purchased them. I have a fairly neat house, but when you must take every single thing out and clean it and evaluate it, it gives you a new perspective. My daughter cleaned my spice cabinet and ended up with about half the items I had before, because, well, you do not want to know how many expired spices I had!

After I disposed of expired items, gave away some of the crystal, and took bags of clothes and unused household items to the thrift store, I felt like a burden had lifted. I was unhindered by all of the things in my house that had been bogging me down and I look forward to not needing to “spring clean” or sort through clothes or cabinets. For now. Because no matter how careful I am, somehow clutter starts again, spices get expired, and laundry still needs to be done. But for all the hard work, there is a great freedom in the process I went through after the smoke cleared.

With all of this, I was reminded of a scripture in Hebrews 12:1. The writer of Hebrews is talking about all of those who have gone before us and were witnesses of the greatness and goodness of God. He says, “Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles. And let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us.” (NIV) Hebrews 12:1

I love the way it is paraphrased in The Message, “Do you see what this means—all these pioneers who blazed the way, all these veterans cheering us on? It means we’d better get on with it. Strip down, start running—and never quit! No extra spiritual fat, no parasitic sins. Keep your eyes on Jesus, who both began and finished this race we’re in. Study how he did it. Because he never lost sight of where he was headed—that exhilarating finish in and with God—he could put up with anything along the way: Cross, shame, whatever. And now he’s there, in the place of honor, right alongside God. When you find yourselves flagging in your faith, go over that story again, item by item, that long litany of hostility he plowed through. That will shoot adrenaline into your souls!” (The Message)

It took a house full of smoke for me to do some deep cleaning. In the same way, in my spiritual life, I need to always be evaluating where I have let sin in my life, always letting go of the things that tie me down to this earth, and racing toward the finish line to heaven. I love the part where it says, “When you find yourselves flagging in your faith, go over that story again, item by item, that long litany of hostility he plowed through. That will shoot adrenaline into your souls.” Maybe it will take some “dry smoke” for me to evaluate my life sometimes, but it will be well worth it in the end!

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.

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.

Dinosaur Days

Today it is once again gloomy, with weathermen predicting anything from sleet, to snow, to ice, and to rain. And really, who knows? But I know on days like this I sometimes just need a little laughter in my life.

A few months ago, my grandson left his toy dinosaur at my house. I guess I was just a little bored, because I tagged my son in a post on facebook.

“Will you please tell your son that I have been trying to take good care of T-Rex after he left him at my house. But today I found him in my refrigerator trying to eat all my pepperoni. It was a tough battle to get them back, but I got ‘er done!”

T-Rex was still at my house a week later, so this time the post read “Well, it would seem that I made it on Nana’s Naughty List. I was supposed to go home with my boy when he was here, but I have been having so much fun I wanted to stay here. So I hid and no one could find me. I got really hungry waiting to be found and FINALLY Nana found me today. When her back was turned, I headed straight for the refrigerator. I ate all her pepperoni before, but I found something even better this time. BACON. Unfortunately, she found me before I could eat more than one piece. But it sure was good and so worth it, even though I did get scolded. Guess now we wait for when my boy comes back.”

From T-Rex: “It is 2 more days until my boy picks me up from Nana’s house. This morning I saw Nana make some apple cider from this thing. I figured I would have some too. I waited and waited with my mouth wide open and nothing! I guess Nana is still put out that I ate her bacon. So much for getting a drop of apple cider!”

T-Rex got to go home the next time my grandson came over. But it sure was fun while he waited at my house. I can see why people enjoy Elf on the Shelf so much. I think that those posts got more likes than almost anything I have put on Facebook.

The thing is I think a lot of people forget to laugh. I just can imagine Jesus laughing and cooing at a baby brought for him to hold. He certainly loved the children who came to him. And I am sure some of them had grubby, dirty hands from playing before they came to be held by him.

Chuck Swindoll said, “Laughter is the most beautiful and beneficial therapy God ever granted humanity.” Used properly, laughter indeed helps us by providing added endorphins to our bodies. I have a friend who goes on vacation with me frequently. We have so much fun together and she makes me laugh so hard over the silliest things and I am sure my endorphins go up. I love that God put her in my life.

I encourage you to take time to find the joy in life and laugh a little—or a lot!

“A joyful heart is good medicine, but a crushed spirit dries up the bones.” Proverbs 17:22

“Then our mouth was filled with laughter, and our tongue with shouts of joy; then it was said among the nations, the Lord has done great things for them.” Psalm 126:2

My View from the Pew

Well, technically my view from the pew is really from the chair. We never had pews at my church. Believe me, chairs are far more comfortable and during the height of Covid-19 they were able to take out a lot of chairs in order to provide safe distancing. But I digress from the real point.

I am short and usually I sit toward the front of the church because I can see better. Invariably I will end up moving because someone tall sits in front of me. Last week, I came into the auditorium just before service started and had to sit toward the back. It was interesting how different the perspective was for me. But the cool thing was, I saw from the back what I normally did not see from the front.

I saw an arm with a tattoo sleeve lifted high in praise and a row back I saw a tiny older lady with her silver hair and dangling bracelets lifting her arms in praise also. I saw a man with black earrings in his gauge piercings, singing with all his heart. In the row in front of me sat a man dressed in a plaid flannel shirt who could have been an double for Paul Bunyan, beard, height and all. I saw black, white, and Indian cultures represented; and they were all brothers and sisters, worshiping the King of Kings.

Every Sunday you can count on two things being said from whomever is speaking. The first is, “Jesus is the lead story” and the second is, “This is a safe place for you to ask your questions.” The wonderful thing is, this is a body of believers who take that to heart. In an age when many churches are closing their doors, our church is reaching people with the powerful love of Jesus. We encourage everyone who comes through our doors to become involved in a ministry and be part of a home team, where they build relationships with other Christians.

As I observed from the back, I thought this is what the church should be–People from all walks of life who desperately need Jesus. We all have sin and we all have been recipients of Christ’s love when he ultimately shed his blood for us. From my seat in the back of the church I watched in awe as I saw God’s Spirit at work in a group of diverse people who crave a relationship with him.

We are not perfect, and anyone looking for flaws, can certainly find one. But the fact of the matter is when a church embraces their love for God and their love for people, God can work powerfully. What about you? What do you see when you watch from the back? What you see can tell you a lot about your church. I hope that it is God’s love shining through.

“Hearing that Jesus had silenced the Sadducees, the Pharisees got together. One of them, an expert in the law, tested him with this question: ‘Teacher, which is the greatest commandment in the Law’ Jesus replied, ‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all you mind’ This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: ‘Love our neighbor as yourself. All the Law and the prophets hang on these two commandments.'” – Matthew 22:34-40

Finding Joy in the Chaos, Part 1

If most of you are like me, the last two years have been frustrating. Covid has changed our world and stress levels are at an all-time high. Our lives are nothing like we envisioned them. I retired when Covid-19 hit such high numbers in 2020.

My expectations for retirement were drastically changed. My bucket list hit the trash can. There would be no road trips to see family and long-time friends, no cruises, and no extra vacations. Suddenly instead of the retirement I envisioned, I was left with the fall-out of Covid and it was hard to find joy in my life.

The fact is that many of the women I talk with are struggling to find joy in their lives amidst the chaos right now. They are tired and worn out. They are juggling their lives, trying to be everything to everyone. You are not alone if you are struggling.

According to Dr. Steve Stephen, in his book The Worn Out Woman notes studies done estimate there are more than sixty million worn-out women in the US alone and just as many are on the fast track to becoming exhausted and overwhelmed! It is no wonder we are having difficulty finding joy in our lives. I suspect those statistics are higher since 2020.

The fact of the matter is what we are feeling now is not new. Psalm 6:6 says, “I am worn out from groaning; all night long I flood my bed with weeping and drench my couch with tears.” Psalm 10:1 is a cry from David, “Why O Lord do you stand far off? Why do you hide yourself in times of trouble?

I want to find joy in my life and instead it seems that stress has become a daily part of it. So, what happens when you are stressed?  Stress can lead to health problems, broken relationships, severe depression, and a number of other difficult consequences. If you ignore these issues, they do not go away. Trying to tap into joy when you are struggling is extremely difficult because the issues sometimes grow and steal our joy.

And the thing about joy is not that we are happy all the time. Instead it is an intrinsic emotion that helps us know that things are well with our soul. The Webster definition for joy is a feeling of great pleasure and happiness, but for the Christian it combines that with a deep satisfaction and knowledge that no matter how our lives are going, God is with us every step of the way.

Joy is a term that appears approximately 165 times in the KJV translation, 182 in the NASV, and 218 times in the NIV.

Crosswalk website notes, “As we read in Scripture, joy is a state of being, and it differs from happiness, which may come and go. Happiness is usually measured by our circumstances, whereas joy is measured by what we have been given. As Christians, we have been given something that cannot be taken away. We have joy because of the grace of Jesus Christ that lives in us. We can hold onto joy, we can feel joyful, and we can rejoice with praise no matter what our circumstances may be because no matter what is going on in our lives God is always near.”1

Valorie Burton, A Christian life coach who regularly appears on the Today Show says, “If you want to be happier on a regular basis, there’s one really simple piece of advice to follow… Happiness is actually contagious, so be intentional about surrounding yourself with happy people.”

So, how do we find joy in our lives? The first thing is to recognize that we really do need to identify the areas in our lives that are joy stealers. In others words, we need to evaluate what circumstances take away our joy and then try to develop healthy habits that help us renew our joy in life. So how and why do we do this? Stay tuned for Part 2 tomorrow as I lay out a key Scripture to focus on to help you find your way to joy.

Fleeting Moments

Recently I was nestled in the Ozark Mountains during a writer’s retreat. It snowed most of the day and I awoke to a beautifully white, frozen world. The snow was pristine in its freshness because no tracks had marred the surface. The lovely white landscape was stunning. And if I had had the foresight to bring snow boots with me, I could have gone outside to play in the snow. But alas, no snow boots. By the afternoon all that lovely snow was fading away, and the moment for playing in the snow was gone.

Photo by Linda DeLay Wallace

But I savored that small moment where I glimpsed a serene beauty during the midst of winter. It gave me a sense of peace and contentment and reminded me that God is the best artist there is. But it took little time for the peace of the moment to flee.

I thought to myself, isn’t life like that? We have these beautiful pristine moments that are given to us. If we are lucky enough, we can luxuriate in the moment and bask in the joy it brings. The moment may be shared with someone we love or enjoyed with our children and grandchildren. It may be that we can just sit and breathe and appreciate the beauty around us. Sometimes those moments seem so fleeting and are gone before we even realize their presence. We return to our mundane, frequently hectic world, but we can take the moment out of our memory bank and remember the feeling of peace and joy that it brought.

Frequently we get so caught up in the past or planning the future, that we forget about the present. I am not saying to dismiss the past because it helped mold us into who we are today. Nor I am saying to neglect planning for the future. What I am saying is to live today with an awareness of your surroundings and looking for the little moments to capture in your mind.

My sister’s favorite verse is, “This is the day the Lord has made, let us rejoice and be glad in it.” (Psalm 118:24). She tries to see the positive in everything. And she is remarkably good about capturing special moments on her camera and then making them into a scrapbook!

Capturing fleeting moments can seem magical. So today ask God to help you recognize the fleeting moments that bring special joy to your life. Who knows, it may be one of those special nuggets you store in your memory that brings you wonder all over again each time you think about it!

Resilient or Defeated

re·sil·ience/rəˈzilyəns

  1. the capacity to recover quickly from difficulties; toughness. “the often remarkable resilience of so many British institutions”

Today I was reading through the book Successful Women Think Differently by Valorie Burton. I sincerely wish I had been able to read a book like this when I was in my twenties (which is way further back than I like!). The chapter I read today was on resilience. As I read through the chapter I realized that resiliency is one key thing that makes all the difference in the world for people who have faced adversity.

Burton defines resilience as “the ability to bounce back from setbacks.” She further notes that “resilient people thrive and grow in the face of adversity, challenges and change.”1

While I was in the Ozarks I noticed that throughout the rocky ground, there was life. Bushes, trees and even weeds managed to thrive and grow despite their less than ideal environment.

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Worth Something

Recently I ran across a quote that said, “Every kid needs adults who love them in a way that convinces them they are worth something.” I have to admit there was something about that statement that resonated profoundly within me. As I thought about it over the next few days, I had to dig deep to see why it struck such a cord with me.

photo by Gean Montoya on Unsplash

Without going into a ton of detail and lots of history, I realized that one of the reasons it resonated so strongly with me is because I struggled with my own worth as I grew up. Having a mom who was a perfectionist taught me all kinds of things about doing stuff right, but it also placed a lot of unrealistic expectations on me as a child. I always felt no matter what I did, it was never enough. That really did influence my feeling (or lack) of self-worth. To this day, I still struggle with believing I am worth something.

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God Cares About Justice

I have been trying to write this blog post for two weeks and yet, here I am, still struggling with what to say. When I saw the news about Ahmad Arbery being shot by two prejudiced vigilantes, I cringed and was heartbroken. When I saw the video of George Floyd as a policeman kneeled on his neck and indifferently snuffed out his life for the world to see, I was appalled and heartbroken. When I watched as a delivery driver was trying to leave after a delivery and got blocked because of the color of his skin, I cheered him on for videoing the encounter, but was heartbroken because I know that when he finally left and had time to breathe, he probably broke down and cried. Continue reading