When in Doubt – Pause

Decisions, decisions. Every day we are faced with hundreds of decisions. Some are as simple as what to have for breakfast and others as complex as whether to stay or leave a relationship. Some people are good at making decisions quickly. Like the pro football coaches who have to make quick decisions about the next play. They have limited information and are under a lot of pressure, but yet they are responsible for making calls that could make or break the game. I have to admit, I would never make a good football coach. On the other hand, making decisions too quickly can be just as bad or worse than taking too much time. Sometimes I’m guilty of that, too. As a single mom of two boys, I’ve had a lot of decisions to make. The problem it seems is when to wait and when to act. I flounder in a sea of doubt. Perhaps you, too, struggle with this.

The decisions we make determine the path of our lives and so it can be somewhat stressful when one is unsure of how to proceed. Here’s a situation that happened to me this week I found post-worthy. I’m sharing it for those who, like me, have a bit of difficulty knowing when to pause.

It was Wednesday. A decision about whether to contact a certain party had been looming over me like a dark grey cloud on a summer day.

“Should I call them or should I wait to hear from them?”

The sun was beaming through my window, and I sat silently cross-legged, meditating on a verse from Psalm 46 which says “Cease striving”. Another version says “Be still and know that I am God.”

Which is it, Lord?

When I thought about it, the two translations were similar. When I cease striving, I let go. I give it to God. I am still. I paused and pondered the decision hanging over me in light of this verse. Then the phone rang.

I usually don’t interrupt my quiet time to answer the phone, but I felt the need to do so on this day. “Unknown” read the caller id.

“It’s probably another one of those telemarketers calling,” as I’d been receiving a slew of calls lately. But something, or someone, told me to answer the call so I did. It was the person I had been debating about calling. I lifted up a silent prayer when I realized who it was. Now you can call it coincidence if you want but I don’t believe anything happens by chance. God is in everything.

Waiting is tough for most of us humans, I’d say. We like things to happen on our time-table. We want it NOW. Many times we take things into our own hands and make it happen. The discipline of pausing seems to have been lost in the hustle and bustle of today’s fast-paced culture. Patience is a learned skill which we only acquire by waiting. The answers don’t always come immediately as in this case. Sometimes weeks, months, or even years go by. Yet, we must learn to pause.

When we learn to pause, we give ourselves time to reflect. We give God a chance to work,to intervene, to assist. As a single mom, I have always done things myself because I felt I had to. I am learning that I don’t have to take care of every thing myself. God is there. He can make things happen I can’t. But I have to give him a chance.

So what decision are you facing today? Is there doubt in your mind about it? If so, take some time to pause. Give it to God and wait for an answer. It may be a phone call, a knock on the door, or simply that still small voice inside that speaks to each of us when we quiet ourselves enough to listen.

Please let me know your thoughts on this post. If you liked it, pass it on to a friend, leave a comment below or on Facebook. We all struggle with decisions from time to time, so I hope this post has been helpful to you.

Until next time, keep looking up!

Ariel

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What To Do When the Unexpected Happens

Do you often find yourself frustrated and worn out trying to solve every problem on your own? We think we’ve got all the bases covered and then, poof – something out of the blue tries to put a monkey wrench in the works. What then? Do we yell and scream? Cuss out the cat, the dog, the kids, or the spouse?

As a single parent and the child of an alcoholic father, I have felt the need to control situations probably more so than I need to. Perhaps, like me, you’ve felt you have to “do it all” and found yourself crumbling under the mountain of to-do lists. In the past, I chalked it all up to “being responsible” but I think there is more to it than that. No matter how much I may think I have things under control, inevitably something happens to let me know that I am not. What’s good about this is that no matter what happens, all I have to do is give it to God and He will step in and make things right. Somehow. God’s grace is an amazing thing and when we start to expect it and look for it in our lives, more of it seems to show up. To give you an example, allow me to share a situation that happened this week and see what you think.

About a month ago, I purchased airline tickets online for my mom, my son, and myself. My mom’s tickets were purchased on a different airlines since she would be flying from another city. I filled out the credit card information, selected seating, and even put in a request for elderly assistance. My mom was adamant that we get the flight paid for quickly since she was getting a good price. When I submitted the information, I am quite sure I received a confirmation message because I remember uttering a sigh of relief.

Fast forward to this week, my mom was asking questions about her ticket.

“Let me see if I ever got an email from the airlines confirming your flight,” I said as I perused my inbox.

“Nope, nothing. I don’t see anything from them. I don’t remember whether I put my email address on your ticket or not,” I said.

A few hours later, I’m taking a nap, and my cell phone starts going off. It was my mom.

“I just called the airlines and they said my ticket was cancelled. I called my bank and they have no record of the ticket being purchased either,” she said in a frenzied tone of voice.

“Ok, Ma, calm down. Let me call the airlines and see what happened.”

Sure enough, the agent tells me there was one ticket in the system but it was put on hold and then the system cancelled it out. This certainly seemed bizarre to me. There was no way I had put that ticket on hold, as adamant as my mom was to get the fare.

“Is there any way I can get repurchase the ticket?” I asked.

“Not at that price,” replied the agent. “That price is no longer in the system.”

Not knowing what else to do, I asked to speak to a supervisor.

“Hold please, while I get one for you,”.

It was quite a while before someone came back on the line but I did have time to send up a prayer.

“Lord, please show us your favor in this situation. Thank you so much.”

When the supervisor finally came on the line she said her name was Miss Sophie. Funny, that is my mom’s name too.

To make a long story short, the supervisor agreed to repurchase the ticket for us at the exact same fare, with better seats and with no additional fees for phone service.

I hung up the phone.

“Hallelujah! Thank you, Lord!” I exclaimed.

I have to admit. This is quite a change of behavior from years past. I would let someone else’s upset become my upset. Now I have learned I don’t have to take on emotionally or energetically someone else’s problem. I don’t have to fix everything by myself. Here are some simple steps I use to help keep from losing my cool when something unexpected happens.

1. Take a deep breath and pause before responding.

2. Maintain my composure by keeping my voice low and slow.

3. Reassure the other person everything is going to be fine.

4. Pray! Ask God for wisdom and direction.

5. Take time to step back and think logically about a solution.

6. Take the necessary action steps without apprehension about what could happen.

7. Relax and give the outcome to God. Trust Him to handle it after I’ve done my part.

We all have unexpected events show up in our lives. The key is to not let them throw us of kilter for very long. If we get really good at it, perhaps there will come a day when they won’t throw us off kilter at all!

Love to hear your feedback on this post so please leave a comment or click the +1 icon. Until next time, keep looking up!

Ariel

Life, Lent, and Distraction

Life can get so busy, can’t it? There are many distractions and unexpected challenges that show up such as inclement weather, car problems, relationship issues, sickness, to name a few.  How does one move forward and stay focused during these busy times? Could it be that the church, imperfect as it is, has provided us with a natural season to recalibrate?

Lent falls during the dark, cold, days of winter and is a perfect time to slow down, refocus, and reprioritize on what really matters in life. Many of us set goals the first of the year, but then get off track way too quickly. Why is that? Because of distractions, that’s why! Let’s take a look at a few biblical examples to understand the real intent of the season.

First we have Moses. Now Moses, you will recall, was raised in the royalty of the Egyptian palace. After realizing his true identity as an Israelite, he decided to leave the luxuries of Egypt and go live in the desert. Ever feel like you’re in a dry, barren time in life? I have. It’s not much fun. But back to Moses.

What was he doing out there those 40 long years? Or rather what was God doing in him during this time? God never wastes anything in our lives. Perhaps he was learning to trust, listen, & depend on God. I bet he did an awful lot of thinking during those forty years. Maybe he even thought his life was over. His executive position at the palace, surrounded by servants and riches, was a distant memory and now he was a nomad surrounded by mostly sheep. But wait, God had big plans for him, didn’t he? Remember the burning bush? God sure has a way of getting our attention suddenly. God’s plan was to use Moses in a BIG way, which leads us to the next example, which shows us what not to do in the desert.

The suffering, beaten, down-trodden people of Israel. These were the chosen ones and look how much they suffered all those years in Egyptian captivity. Have you ever suffered many long years? I have. Enter Moses, stage right, to lead them out of bondage. How many miracles did they see? Hint: watch the movie “The Ten Commandments” or better yet, read the book of Exodus. The promise of a better life was before them, but what did they do? Complain, complain, complain; they complained about the food, the water, even the leadership. Sound familiar?  FYI, God doesn’t like complaining.

So they spent the next 40 years wandering the desert while God patiently waited for them to learn to trust him and accept their circumstances happily. But they didn’t, and God said “Trip cancelled”. The entire generation died off. But we do have a much better example of how to respond to times in the desert. Let’s take a look at Jesus.

He, too, spent time alone in the desert. Forty days to be exact, which may be why Lent is 40 days. What did Jesus do during his desert time? Fast and pray, that’s what. Commune with God. The disciplines of solitude, fasting, and praying, draw our attention away from food, drink, and the distractions of the world. They open the channel to hear from the Lord. In his weakest moments, the devil tried to tempt Jesus with the promises of worldly pleasure, power, and significance. His tactics have not changed one bit since then, have they? Many seek fame and fortune, power and luxury. But will that really give us the peace and joy we so desperately crave? I think we know the answer.

God has a plan and a purpose for your life, too. As we look at these examples, we see that removing ourselves from the distractions and luxuries of this world can lead us into the plan God has for our lives. During times of fasting, prayer, and quiet reflection we can hear that still small voice more clearly. We, too, can conquer the temptations that beset us and learn to trust God more fully. That, dear friends, is what Lent is all about.

Do you want to be more focused? Feel a clear sense of purpose? It starts by learning to hear the voice of God more clearly and that happens by spending time in quietness, meditation, & reflection. Will you make time for spiritual disciplines this year or will it just be business as usual?

If you enjoyed the thoughts in this post, I’d appreciate if you would leave a comment or share it with your friends. Until next time, keep looking up!

Ariel

When Life Doesn’t Make Sense

Ever feel like you don’t understand life sometimes? Why good people die? Why tragedies occur?  When you don’t know which direction to go in life? Why prayers go unanswered?

prgrsvimghttp://ts1.mm.bing.net/th?id=H.4921127425345689&w=207&h=207&c=8&pid=3.1&qlt=90&rm=2I’m sure many felt that way twelve years ago, when their lives were suddenly turned upside down by the impact of the terrorist bombings in New York, Pennsylvania, & Washington, DC. Loved ones said goodbye to their spouses never to kiss them again. Husbands were killed in the line of duty saving others. The stories are too many to list here, but I’m sure many asked these tough questions.

Perhaps some of you may be like me – I want to know why.  I want to find meaning. Friends tell me I’m a deep thinker and maybe that’s true, but it can be frustrating trying to find answers.

Sometimes the Lord takes us through times we don’t understand. I went through a season this past winter when everything in my life hit the fan. When we cry out “Abba, Father, help me”, in desperation and in sorrow and our voice echoes in the stillness, there is still hope. There is always hope.

Jesus tells us to keep asking, keep knocking, and “keep seeking and you will find” (Luke 11:9). We may not agree with the timeframe, but we will find if we are faithful. We have not been abandoned. The Lord is always working, although we may not always see how. God is working on BIG things in your life and BIG THINGS take time, yes? Now that is something to get excited about!

So, dear one, are you feeling a bit lost? Prayers gone unanswered for far too long? Not sure about which direction to head in? The answer is to keep on trusting God. He will make a way where there seems to be no way. He will make your path straight. If we are faithful and obedient, we will arrive at the Promised Land of our dreams although it may not look like what we have anticipated. God has a funny way of doing that, doesn’t he?

Until next time, keep the faith. Keep looking up and do write and let me know your thoughts. I get lonely out here all by myself 🙂

Is it Really Luck?

About three few weeks ago, I went for a hike at the park near my home. My cell phone rang and apparently, as I was taking it out of my pocket, my prescription sunglass overlay fell out of my pocket, unbeknownst to me. When I discovered the loss, I was quite perturbed. I circled back on the trail to try to find my glasses, but it was getting dark and the park was ready to close. No luck. The next day, I came out again to retrace my steps in hopes of finding the glasses – still, no luck.

I prayed and prayed. I decided to let the issue go and not fret over it. What was done was done, and it was my fault for not paying attention anyway.

So this past sunday was a lovely day and I decided to go for another hike. Something told me to stop in at the Nature Center. “Do you happen to have a lost and found? I was on the trail a few weeks ago and lost my prescription sunglass overlay. I was wondering if anyone had found them,” I explained to the young lady at the desk.

“Wait here and I’ll check,” she said. Now, after 3 weeks, I didn’t want to get my hopes up that the glasses would be there. I decided to remain calm and wait it faith while she checked.

The young lady emerged looking pretty solemn. Then she raised her hand which held – guess what? My prescription sunglass overlay! Now what are the chances of that? They were intact and not even scratched. I burst out with joy and thanked her profusely.

Now, some call this fate, some call it luck; I call it God. I was teary-eyed as I left the Nature Center. To me, it was God’s grace in action once again. He cares about everything we care about, everything that troubles us. “Cast your cares on Him, for He cares for you” (1 Peter 5:7).

What is it that you are fretting about, dear one? Is it a job situation, a loss of some sort, or perhaps a financial issue? Rest in His loving arms, because He does care for you, more than you can ever imagine. When we have done all we can about a situation, it is best to give it up to God and let Him handle it. He can and will!

Drop me a note and let me know what you think of this story and if anything like this has ever happened to you. In the meantime, trust God and keep looking up!

The Waiting Game

What is it that you have been waiting for? A spouse, a job, a new house, to have a baby perhaps? Most people are waiting for something. As I explained to my youngest, who has been job hunting for several months, waiting is a big part of life. The key is to learn how to wait.

Over the years, I have realized there are a few techniques that help during my periods of waiting and I thought I would share them with you today.

The first technique is to wait in FAITH. In other words, to have faith that what I am waiting for is going to come my way eventually. This is a requirement to receiving. If I doubt or have a negative attitude, I slow down and pretty much cancel the flow of good things into my life.

Secondly, and I know this might seem counter-intuitive, but it is true, I must learn to SURRENDER the desire for whatever it is I am waiting for. When we want something we tend to think or talk about it constantly. This is known as obsessing and is NOT conducive to receiving either.

For example, if I am waiting for a boyfriend, let’s say. And every time I go out, I size up every male that walks by and worry about how I look. This behavior falls into the obsessing category. I know many women who do this. Their entire conversation consists of talking about this or that guy. By surrendering my desires, I am saying, in effect, “Lord, I trust that you know what is best for me. I trust you to bring good things into my life in Your perfect timing and I will be content in the meantime and happy with what I have in my life today.”

Thirdly, while I am waiting, I need to SERVE others in some way, shape or form. I can’t just sit back and bemoan my state. This is not pleasing to God. God does not like complainers or whiners, as evidenced by the Israelites who never made it to the Promised Land because of their griping. I must get out there and do something of service to help other people. To paraphrase Christian author and speaker Joyce Meyer, “If I help someone get what they want, God will make sure I get what I want”.

So dear reader, I hope these techniques give you some ideas on how to wait and still enjoy your life. Write and share with me what you are waiting for and what you are doing while you are waiting. In the meantime, keep looking up!

Keep it Simple

Sometimes I think I make life too difficult for myself. After being a single parent for so many years, and being responsible for everything, I still have the occasional tendency to take on too much, do too much, and fret too much. Can you relate?

Think of the story of Mary and Martha. Jesus was visiting their home and Martha was running around doing all kinds of hospitality things and complaining that Mary wasn’t helping. Boy, have I been there. Mary, on the other hand, was enjoying the company of their esteemed guest. Instead of “doing”, Mary was “being”.

This past fall, I was dealing with a health issue and didn’t have much energy to do much of anything. Then one day I heard His voice. “Be still and know that I am God.” (Ps. 46:10) I realized it really doesn’t matter to God how much I “do” anymore. I can only “do” by His grace anyway. “Seek ye first the kingdom of heaven and his righteousness, and all these things shall be added unto you” (Matthew 6:33).

Living a life that pleases God is simple. It boils down to two words which I am sure we have all heard before: “Trust and obey.” That’s it. Trust God and do what he says to do. Now that doesn’t mean forsaking all my responsibilities, but when I feel anxious, overwhelmed, or overtired, I know I am doing too much.

How about you? What signs show up in your life that remind you to “be” instead of “do”? What are a few ways you can simplify your life? Write and let me know and until next time, keep looking up!

Faith In the Unknown

Times are uncertain. The economy is unstable. Natural disasters are frequent. No one really knows what the future holds.

No one, that is, except God. Psalm 31:15 says “My times are in your hands”. God alone knows the destiny of mankind. Like the old song says, “He’s got the whole world in His hands.”

But what encourages me is that He cares for each of us individually. Jeremiah 29:11, a verse many know by heart, says this, “For I know the plans I have for you, plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you a hope and a future.”

Those who put their faith in God need not fear the unknown. For we know that God’s intentions are to bless us and to work things out for our good. Our part is to place our trust in Him and Him alone.

Yes, I know that at times situations seem very bleak from our human perspective, but in the long run, can we see God’s hand working out the good in each situation?

Today, dear one, will you put your trust in Jesus? Will you trade your fears for His promises? No matter what tomorrow holds, today is a gift and that is why they call it the present. Let us rejoice and be glad.

Faith In the Unknown

Times are uncertain. The economy is unstable. Natural disasters are frequent. No one really knows what the future holds.

No one, that is, except God. Psalm 31:15 says “My times are in your hands”. God alone knows the destiny of mankind. Like the old song says, “He’s got the whole world in His hands.”

But what encourages me is that He cares for each of us individually. Jeremiah 29:11, a verse many know by heart, says this, “For I know the plans I have for you, plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you a hope and a future.”

Those who put their faith in God need not fear the unknown. For we know that God’s intentions are to bless us and to work things out for our good. Our part is to place our trust in Him and Him alone.

Yes, I know that at times situations seem very bleak from our human perspective, but in the long run, can we see God’s hand working out the good in each situation?

Today, dear one, will you put your trust in Jesus? Will you trade your fears for His promises? No matter what tomorrow holds, today is a gift and that is why they call it the present. Let us rejoice and be glad.

Believe

Ever see those one word signs all around town that say “BELIEVE”? I’m not exactly sure what they are advertising, but I think it is a great reminder to all of us. Whether or not we realize it, everyday we choose to believe.

We believe that we will get up in the morning, that our car will start, that the chair we are sitting on will hold us, that the sun will come up and the moon will too. I could go on and on but you the idea.

So, everyone has been given the ability to believe. The Bible puts it this way, “Everyone has been given a measure of faith” (Romans 12:3).

Sadly, we have all had bad things happen to us that have caused us to lose our faith and belief or trust in God to some extent: circumstances from an unhappy childhood, loss of a parent or loved one, health issues are some examples.

Although we may not understand the reason why, God allows things to happen to us. Remember the story of Job? He lost it all. But he never lost his faith in God. Even his wife instructed him to “Curse God and die.” It is a choice we make on how to respond to great pain and loss.

What have you been through, dear one, that perhaps has caused you to lose your faith in God? I encourage you to begin to trust God again. Whatever happened to us in the past, we must at some point let it go. Until we do so, we will not be able to move forward in our spiritual growth and experience joy in our lives. Romans 8:28 says that God works ALL things for our good, yes, even the painful experiences.

There is always something we can learn from our pain if we are courageous enough to look. Today, dear one, will you let go of your pain? Don’t waste the lesson for sure, but let the pain go and let God heal you. Believe.