How to Have A Happy Heart

love-tree-1077047-mI’d been at my new editing job for less than a week, and already I’d offended someone. No matter that I’d prayed over every single article, prayed for my attitude, humility, comments and thoughts–still, somehow I’d allowed an author to feel as if her work wasn’t good enough. It was an accident! I want so much to honor the writers I edit.

A brief email. She wasn’t rude, but I could read between the lines. I’d hurt her feelings, maybe overstepped my bounds with the changes I’d made to her article.

It took a few hours, a few emails; finally we seemed to resolve the issue. Surely, I could carry on with my evening–just let it go. But my heart was still stuck in my feet. I hate to let someone down. I hate to hurt someone’s feelings. Back to the computer, I kept reading, kept typing, kept working.

Ding! A new email, but I was hesitant to check it. Bravely, I clicked through to a message from another author. She wrote, “Hi Abby, Rough day? Feel free to do anything you want [when you edit my articles]. (They are His articles-not mine!) Rewrite, edit, change, etc.”

My spirits rose. As I whispered a prayer of thanks. Proverbs 12:25 came to mind, “Anxiety in the heart weighs a man down, but a good word makes him glad.”

Whose heart can you buoy with a good word today?

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Change is Good

Hello Friends,

I want to let you know about a small, but good change coming to Predatory Lies. For a while now, I have felt God tugging me toward the realm of editing.

I am passionate about this. I love reading the work of other Christians. I’m enthralled by the breadth and depth of creativity that God has gifted to us, His children. When I think I’ve exhausted ideas, I read someone else’s work and marvel, “How did they come up with that?”

Already, I have been serving as senior editor of My Daily Armor. Recently, I assumed that same role at The Bottom Line and I’m working very part time as an editor for FaithWriters. 

Alas, there are still only 24 hours in my day and to explore these new opportunities, I have to do a little bit less in some other areas of my life. To that end, I will be posting LASTing Peace every Monday and a written article on Thursdays; so our schedule is changing slightly.

I would love your feedback about this change. Please let me know in the comments what you’d like to talk about either in the videos or here in written form.

May God Bless and Keep You!

Light and Splintered Tree

I wept as I was overwhelmed

By lists and piles of things.

I longed for simpler

Winsome days of sand and plastic swings.

Now life is running on the sand.

Each step sinking low –

Like trudging through molasses.

Frustration. Agonizing. Slow.

Must. Get. There.

Must finish, arrive.

But I often wonder what

For I am compelled to strive.

Sweat pours mingled with tears of loss.

I refuse His yoke and the weight of the cross.

If I would but stop and lower my knee.

Bend and take up that splintered tree.

If I would walk with Him, strive with Him, pull with Him.

He vowed to lessen the load.

“Easy,” He called it. “Light,” He said.

Why my pride, march on instead?

SPIN – it’s more than a workout

I recently wrote this for another blog, Moms Who TRI. However, it’s a theme God has been repeating in my life so often lately, it bears repeating here. Enjoy!

If I say SPIN, what do you think of?

If you’re reading this in the framework of fitness, you probably just imagined a room full of low-profile bikes. Dozens of sweaty people are pedaling as fast as they can and getting absolutely nowhere! But they’re loving it. Someone is at the front of the pack screaming directions over the crush of loud, motivating music.

And you’d be right, that’s definitely SPIN.

Or you might think of the bajillion proverbial plates you have in the air. Somehow, in a superhuman feat you manage to keep your life precariously balanced and a serving of every friend and family member’s happiness whirling at all times. Good for you! Right? Is that good?

In light of a greater fitness – your soul’s fitness and your mental health, I want to propose another definition of SPIN. I recently heard an interview with a couple, the authors of a new book, From Hectic to Healthy. As time marches on and we are entering into the unrelenting demands of a new school year, I think this is appropriate.

Seasons: We often refer to our lives in seasons. There’s the season of singleness, newly wed, parent, mid-life (crisis), retirement, elderly, etc. Cognitively, we’re OK with that, except for always wishing we were younger. But do we live happily in the season God has given us? The authors of this book suggest that we begin to feel overwhelmed when we try to live outside our season.

If you’re struggling to find time to fit in your workouts, or any other important aspect of your life, ask yourself if you are trying to
do this thing in light of your current season. Be reasonable, give yourself some grace. Challenge yourself, yes, but remember
there is season for everything and the time for all your dreams and goals will arrive in God’s timing.

“There is a time for everything, and a season for every activity under heaven,” Ecc. 3:1.

Priorities: set your priorities according to your season. By the way, your health is YOUR responsibility and it’s important to your family too! So don’t put that at the bottom of the list. God has been persistently reminding me lately that REST is a key component of health!

Isolation: You probably feel like isolation is something you would pay to have! Many women are in the season of kiddos and chaos; happy family times, but tiring nonetheless. Or you may be feeling isolated from adult companions. Spinning your life faster to include more things isn’t the answer! Find one thing, start with just one, from the bottom of your priority list and draw a big black line through it! Now, go join a Moms Who TRI bootcamp – get your friendship and fitness in one, enjoyable hour!

Neglect: This is MOMS Who TRI, and the only things moms frequently neglect is themselves. That’s what Moms Who TRI is all about. It is an environment for busy moms to prioritize their health, spend time with their children and enjoy fellowship with other women.

SPIN – This fall, ditch that feeling of spinning your wheels and getting nowhere. Discover and fully live in your SEASON. PRIORITIZE and let something go! Don’t ISOLATE yourself, or maybe you need to eliminate something so that you can hide away by yourself and refresh for just a moment. Don’t NEGLECT your health behind the guise of being too busy to workout. You are important, too!

Prayer for Crushing Idols

Last weekend, I was disappointed because Patrick had to work. I look forward to our Saturday morning coffee times. We roll out of bed about 7 a.m.  and sit our butts right back down in cozy living room chairs with steaming cups of banana nut-flavored coffee and the computer. Sounds romantic right? Well, we don’t get cable and we don’t pay for newspaper delivery, so Yahoo News, and FOX online do the trick. After browsing a few depressing stories, our search deteriorates to the funniest pictures of animals, or YouTube bloopers.

But this last weekend, one of his soldiers got a DUI, so Patrick called the whole company in for a corporal punishment of 8 hours of safety classes. But my greatest Lover, my Heavenly Father, met me right there. This week, I promised to share Scripture prayers with you. The Bible is laced with perfect narratives, supernatural dialogue and personal scripts for prayer. I am without excuse for prayer-less-ness. Saturday morning, God got personal.

I am doing a wonderful Bible study called In His Image, by Setting Captives Free. I had been doing it infrequently, a day every couple weeks, but I’ve been missing out! God has used my study mentor and the probing questions to dig deeply into the lingering worship that I ascribe to food and exercise. The Bible talks several times about the Israelites “following God,” and yet at the same time refusing to tear down their high places of idol worship. I often find myself in that exact position: daily serving and following God, all the while with my idolatrous alters standing in the background. Why? Is it a safety net? The idea that I can always go back?

So, Father brought me again to a place of surrender. I want to share with you the verses that He strung together and draped as a garland around my neck. When I am inhaling, exhaling, gazing at and living in God’s word, then I am beautiful.

“My son, preserve sound judgment and discernment,
do not let them out of your sight;
they will be life for you,
an ornament to grace your neck.” Proverbs 3:22

Father, today (Saturday, April 28, 2012) I lay my body and my appetites before you in reasonable and rightful worship. [Romans 12:1] I choose to renew my mind in your word and conform it to your perfect, personal will. I am setting my mind purposefully on your Holy Spirit, grateful for and convinced of your promise of life and peace. Just as you raised Jesus from the dead, you can and will fill my body with life. [Romans 12, 8] I confess to you that I am unable to do this at all – but you promised to help me in weakness. Intercede for me and personally meet my needs and bless me. I am opening my very mouth before you – fill it. [Ps. 81:10] I will feast on your sufficient word, it is my delight. [Jer. 15:16] I hear you call my name. Speak Lord, your servant is listening.

P.S. Check out this WONDERFUL WEBSITE!(picture above courtesy of… 365 Promises

Do As I Say, AND As I Do

I’m not very good at resting. In fact, if I were training myself, I would be on my own nerves. How many times I have advised someone, “Take a day off. It’s OK. It’s not helpful to over-stress your body.” I usually feel my conscience tapping me on shoulder saying, “Are you listening to yourself?”

I got a good, pointed reminder of this as I studied the materials for my NESTA personal trainer certification. God made our bodies capable of hard work, and it is good. We imitate our Father in heaven when we work, like He did when He created us. But, as modern, 21st century humans, we conveniently forget that God rested too. God then instituted the Sabbath, commanding us to rest as well.

In the physical realm, it’s the resting that “does a body good.” In the hours after physical exertion, our muscles repair, strengthen and grow; our bones strengthen, too. In the spiritual realm, after we work – serving God and others – rest, quiet mediation on His word is when we regain our strength, grow in the knowledge and admonition of the Lord. It is when we are still that we can know God better, which in turn makes us better able to obey Him in our work for Him. (Ps. 46:10)

God didn’t need to rest. I am certain that He wasn’t fatigued after the strenuous work of commanding the world to exist. But He did rest. I believe God rested in order to show us what was best for us. Proverbially, we preach to our children, “Do as I say, not as I do.” Thank the Lord that He chose to set an example for His hard-headed creation.

Wagon Driver

I wrote this little fiction story for a contest based on the one-word prompt “employment.” To all my stay-at-home-mom friends and especially to my own mother – Thank You!

Bethany laid her head down on her desk. She felt the flame of tears seeping toward the corners of her eyes. “I can’t cry, I won’t cry,” her daily mantra marched through her head. “I’m doing the right thing.”

Just as she gained composure, Conner appeared before her, hauling his little red wagon.

“Conner! How many times have I told you not to bring that inside?” her tone raised in frustration, her voice cracked too,  belying her near brush with tears. Muddy tread lined her white berber carpet from the garage to the school room where her desk was. One more menial job to add to her pathetic to-do list. No pay, no commendation, no recognition, just endless days of the same: muddy shoes, nightmares, temper tantrums, breakfast followed by lunch followed by dinner and a stack, make that stacks of dishes.

Yesterday, she had met the new neighbors on their tiny cul-de-sac of rental homes in suburban Virginia. “What do you do?” It was always the first thing anyone asked. They meant, “What is your employment?”

She imagined they were mentally comparing their paycheck to hers. “I work at home.”

“Oh? What is your business.” Bethany tried to be glib when she endured this conversation. “It doesn’t pay very well,” she would always smile. “I’m a stay at home mom.” She willed herself not to say, “I’m just a stay at home mom.”

“Oh.” No one ever knew where to go from there. Usually, she offered them a way out, returning the question and asking about their occupation. It never failed, “I’m a pediatrician,” “a teacher,” “a lawyer,” “an accountant.”

“Mom!” Conner was still parked at her feet, his wagon shedding clods of dirt. “Can you take me for a ride?” Bethany realized she was staring a hole into space as she replayed yesterday’s scenario.

“Take the wagon outside. Then come help me clean up the mess you’ve made. After that we’ll see about going for a ride.” Her throat squeezed even as she stretched a smile across her face for Conner’s sake.

It took a full half hour to remove the muddy tracks from the carpet. The whole time thoughts of how many more valuable, wage-worthy things she could be doing traipsed across her mind.

What do you do?

“Well, today I spent half an hour scrubbing the carpet.” She might not know law, or be a teacher, but she could tell you how to remove blood stains from white socks. She might not own a pair of pumps, but she could find the best generic deals anywhere.

Finally, Bethany bundled Connor against March’s chill. As she lifted his

dough-boy, four-year-old into the wagon, she felt the ache in her throat relax slightly. She held him to her chest of an extra second and let her chin rest on his straw colored curls.

Before she had gotten pregnant, Bethany could run a 3:45 marathon. She had been proud of her athletic ability. More than once, a complete stranger had touched her upper arm and marveled at her toned triceps. Short skirts had made her feel a little smug, knowing that few women had such shapely thighs.

Now? Tedious wagon walks were her most strenuous exercise. Rising early enough to have 30 minutes to herself before Connor woke was the only reason she was tired – no more long runs. Bethany locked the front door and picked up the wagon handle.

“Mom?”

“What, Connor?”

“I have to pee.”

Pants zipped, shoes re-tied and perched once again on his royal, red throne, Connor rode happily for three blocks.

Bethany knew better than to push her luck. Anything longer than 40 minutes and they ran up against hunger pains, multiple bathroom breaks or nap time. They rolled up to the front porch and parked the wagon, outside.

“Thanks, Mom,” Connor clambered over the side of the wagon, not waiting for help. “Wait out here, I’ll be right back!” Still roiling in her own thoughts, Bethany didn’t argue but sat down on the stoop.

She began to worry when Connor was gone for a full 10 minutes. Finally, she heard the screen door creak behind her.

“Here, Mom,” Connor stuffed $200 of wadded Monopoly money in her hand. “You’re a great wagon-puller!”

I QUIT, Wait, I Lied… can i have my job back?

Since we returned from our trip to visit family in Oklahoma and Kansas, I have quit my job five times. To spare myself further embarrassment, I won’t let you read all the emails that I sent to my boss. Here’s an example:

John, I just have too much going on. I have so many commitments and only 24 hours a day and as much as I love working at South Run, I just can’t do it!

Ok, I changed my mind. I enjoy the income and it’s not that many hours. Can I just work on Monday and not on Saturday?

Wait, wait, wait. I need to just quit working. Can I just volunteer? I need the flexibility.

OK, I’m really, really sorry. Just ignore all previous emails and I’ll keep working my regular schedule. Sorry, I’m just over dramatic and easily ruffled. I just had to catch back up with life after being out of town for 2 weeks. I’ll be OK.

What’s really embarrassing, is that I’ve done all this before, at other jobs. I have also applied, gotten hired, panicked and quit before I ever started. I know, by now you’re convinced that I’m a total flake and you’re really glad that I’m not working for you. Right?

Most of my extracurricular activities revolve around my desire to serve Christ and others for the benefit of His kingdom. Whenever I am asked to serve at the church, to help with a particular ministry, to encourage a downcast Christian, to volunteer somewhere or to join another Bible study, I’m loathe to decline.

By Thursday, I was laden with guilt. What kind of a witness for Christ can a flake possibly be? But is it OK to turn down the opportunity to do something for someone else or for a good cause in the name of Christ?

Anxious to serve his Master, [the Christian] finds his strength unequal to his zeal: his constant cry is, “Help me to serve thee, O my God.” If he be thoroughly active, he will have much labour; not too much for his will, but more than enough for his power, so that he will cry out, “I am not wearied of the labour, but I am wearied in it.” Ah! Christian, the hot day of weariness lasts not forever; the sun is nearing the horizon; it shall rise again with a brighter day than thou hast ever seen upon a land where they serve God day and night, and yet rest from their labours. Here, rest is but partial, there, it is perfect.  – Charles Spurgeon, Morning and Evening

So, in the spirit of anti-resolution, I commit to dissolve my over commitments and my self-imposed efforts to further Christ’s kingdom.

Father, use me as much as, and only as much as, you desire. And leave enough of my frail energies as to fully devote myself to fellowship with you!

Time Warp

I used to think it was just my husband.  Then, I thought it was only me.  Now, I’m convinced it’s nearly everyone.  It’s a talent really: we not so much cross timezones when we travel – we time warp.

Recently, while I was home in Kansas visiting my family, my alter-personality, “Sister” emerged.  I didn’t have my own schedule or set of friends in Kansas, so I clung to Rachelle’s shirt tales.  I had so much fun going to see the play, “The Little Mermaid” with her.  We lost ourselves in the characters of a crime show called, Without a Trace.  We painted our toe nails, ate frozen yogurt, walked her dog, and drank exorbitant amounts of coffee.

“Daughter” also appeared.  I voluntarily washed the dishes and helped with laundry.  Like a cat getting its back scratched I thrilled to my father’s compliments or gratitude.  I put my head in my mother’s lap and let her play with my hair.  For two weeks I wasn’t concerned with groceries, laundry, litter pans, dirty floors or mowed lawns.  When I did chores, it was simply because I wanted to help and it hardly felt like work.

Then, POOF, suddenly I came home.  I mean to my real home, in Virginia, where the adult Abby lives.  Wake up!  The lawn desperately needed to be mowed, the litter pan was lending its fragrance to the entire house, the dishes I had left drying on the counter were still there.  Suddenly I remembered that I need to fix the rusts spots on my car’s trunk, Patrick’s car needs new tires and I had a meeting at the church the very next day.

The stark contrast between these two or three me’s, easily makes one pine for the good ol’ days.  We admire, wistfully, the carelessness of a child.  The truth is: we don’t have to lose it.  I’m no expert, in fact, I rarely get it right, but I firmly believe that we adults have no more reason to worry than a child.  After all, doesn’t God say He is our Father?  I am relieved to still be His child.

I recently visited another blog called, Not Bob.  He wrote this poem that I find mesmerizing and I think it fits here as well.  I hope you enjoy:

I think the world is a pin cushion

There’s a space between everyday matters
that makes someone feel every day matters,
a breath or sigh in the darkness. We surround
our time with excuses and distractions, bind
those we love with commitments when we should be
splashing around in dark puddles while the rain
covers us in nothing more than what it is.

– Robert Lee Brewer, author of Not Bob