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

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.