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Saturday, November 10, 2012

"Go Straight On"...

On the road of life, do you ever feel like you may have taken the wrong exit?  I do.  I look up and think where am I and how did I get here!  Where did I miss the road sign?  Or, I could have seen a road sign that look really interesting and I just exited.  Sometimes we didn't take the wrong exit, we were just not paying attention.  We are traveling along, almost on auto-pilot, our speed regulated by OUR cruise control and then ....you have to hit the brakes.  Or more often than  not, someone or something just comes out of nowhere and BAM!



The road I travel now is a change in route.   My GPS (who I call Lola) would have probably said more than once, "turn around when possible".  I am not on the original road.  It can be a little hilly and curvy.  There have been times I have asked, "Lord, what is the road I am traveling on?"  "Why in the world did You allow this thing to hit me unaware?"  "I was just minding my own business!"  Yet, here I am, doing what the rock & roll singer, Chuck Berry, sang about "traveling along in my automobile" "with a safety belt that wouldn't budge!".  Therefore, I travel on.  Sometimes this new road is fun.  Sometimes I desperately want to go back.  That familiar road seems in the distance now.  God has changed my route and because I know and love Him, I trust that the new road will carry me to the next destination in a way that is best.  Quoting "The Word For You Today", "Before God establishes the procedure, He decides the purpose."  


The book of Isaiah is one of my favorites.  God says, "I will be your God throughout your lifetime until your hair is white with age.  I made you, and I will care for you.  I will carry you along and save you.  Only I can tell you what is going to happen even before it happens.  Everything I plan will come to pass, for I do whatever I wish."  (Isaiah 46: 3&4, 10)  "I am holding you by your right hand - I the Lord your God.  And I say to you, Do not be afraid,  I am here to help you."  (Isaiah 41: 9&10)

If you have taken the wrong exit, get back on the right road ASAP!  If God has changed your path, stay buckled up and keep traveling.  When He is ready for you to change lanes or roads, like your GPS, He will say, "right turn ahead".  Keep listening. 

Shoulder2Shoulder thoughts:
One of the ways I would like to begin to use this blog is to post ministry news, upcoming events and pictures for our women's ministry.  I have added a page to share WM content and may add other pages as the new year progresses.

Thank you for your support.  God's up to something good!  "Right here, Right Now!"

Until our next visit....
Be Blessed
Carmen





Saturday, October 27, 2012

Restating...




I have fallen for fall!  This weekend in the "land of pine trees and lakes" is really our first weekend of cool, crisp temperatures.  I cooked chili last night and my dear husband was baking his famous pumpkin bread this morning.  Pumpkin bread in our house is the sign that fall has arrived.  Forget about turning leaves, pumpkins, festivals and candy corn, at our house, it's pumpkin bread. 
It smells heavenly about now!  I should have taken a picture of his loaf before he had it all wrapped up to give away.  Take my word for it, it looked as pretty as it smelled! 

Life has slowed a bit for me and I have some time to write.  I love to write.  I wonder if that's because I love to talk.  The Bible says in Ecclesiastes 5:3 "...If you talk too much, you will say the wrong thing".  (CEV)  The truth in this verse has certainly shown itself many times :)  Yet, here I am, talking!  Oh  Lord, guard my tongue!

Our small group at church has been studying together Margaret Feinberg's book "The Sacred Echo".  What a wonderful read.  The videos that accompany the workbook are also so full of truths.  In studying the repetitive nature of God, I have experienced Him echoing a lot lately.  Just this morning I was listening to an online devotional and the speaker said this, "Restating - something God has already said but needs for me to remember".    She went on to say, "take notice when He makes a big deal of restating something to you.  When He times it perfectly.  God is using time and space to get a word across to us."  Love it!  Now get your toes tucked in, she also said,  "when we say something is a coincidence, it is an insult to God".  Psalm 37:23 (NLT) says, "The Lord directs the steps of the godly.  He delights in every detail of their lives."  All good things come from God and thank goodness, He takes all the not so good and uses it for good for me.  I don't always understand how, when and why but I believe it because I have seen it in my own life.  Joseph reminds us of this when he said, "You intended to harm me, but God intended it all for good." Genesis 50:20. (NLT) 

Hearing what God has to say can sometimes take a little time. Recently a friend and I were discussing the upcoming lesson for Sunday School and I said, "If we didn't wait to the last minute when studying, we might have time for God to speak to us". Often we have a questions, an issue, something we need to hear God about and we stop for a couple of minutes and say "OK God, I'm listening. Come on, speak up and speak quickly!" Maybe we should develop the practice of pondering. Webster defines pondering: A verb. To think about something carefully. 

Has God been "restating" or "echoing" in your life lately?  Have you noticed that your Pastor's sermons or your daily devotionals have been saying some of the same things?  Did you come across an old note, highlight in your Bible, letter or email that you received earlier and now what that thing contains is something you can use today?  It appears God may be speaking to you.  Pay attention!  Listen up!  Take some time and ask, "Lord, what are you saying to me?"  "What do You want me to remember?" 

Have a wonderful weekend!

Until we meet again...

Live blessed
Carmen

Saturday, June 30, 2012

Thank Heaven for Girls...

Have you ever noticed that women often have an unexplainable hope when all hope seems useless?  When faced with situations that make many men run for cover, women are often able to survive.  Not only survive, but thrive.  Women are a resilent bunch as a whole.  Resourceful too.  This by no means should be interpreted as man bashing!  Far from it!  I love my guy more than I can say.  I appreciate and respect him tremendously.  But today, I'm thinking about women. 

There have been and still are strong women in my life.  My grandmothers, mom, daughter, sister, mother-in-law, aunts, cousins, sister-in-laws and many of my dear friends have amazing stories of surviving situations and events that at times seemed unsurvivable.  Each of them have made such an impact on my life.  I only have to look around and realize that anything I go through, they have walked the path before me. 

The Bible recounts the stories of many strong women also.  Recently I have been reading about Deborah.  You can read her story and the song she wrote in Judges 4 & 5.

Deborah was a prophetess and judge in Israel. The only female judge and all of Israel was under her jurisdiction.  She ruled in a culture that did not value women.  My first thought when I began to read about her was "Were there no qualified men?"  Of course, God knew her potential, her heart, her integrity and her courage.  Verse 1 tells us that, "Israel again did what was evil in the LORD's sight."  I suspect many of the men were tired, depressed, discouraged, and if we really knew the whole story, some of them were caught up in the evil God was speaking of.

God had a plan.  He always does!  Verse 3 "...Then the Israelites cried out to the LORD for help."  Deborah was a part of the plan.  Reading her story we find out she was:  a prophetess, judge, warrior, poet/singer, "mother of Israel".  She responded to God's leading and called Israel to fight the Cananites.  The commander Barak said, "I will go, but only if you go with me!"  She went.  Her wisdom and confidence came from a relationship with God.  She knew God's voice when He spoke!  We don't really know if Barak was a man of little faith or if he wanted her there as prophetess.  Whatever his motive, his decision to question God did not please Him.  "But since you have made this choice, you will recieve no honor.  For the LORD's victory over Sisera will be at the hands of a woman."  Barak's decision brought great honor to Deborah and another brave woman, Jael (read her story starting with verse 17.  Exciting!) .

God uses whom ever is willing, men, women, boys and girls.  He is constantly calling His children to step up in their area of influence.  Deborah didn't let cultural norms stop her.  She was a survivor!  She was godly and courageous.  She obviously had a very secure husband to allow her to become so prominent.  When Deborah's people and her country were burdened under captivity and oppressed untill they cried out, she was serving, working, doing what God had called her to do.  Just like many of us. 

There is not alot recorded about Deborah but what we have is good reading.  Verse 24 says, "And from that time on Israel became stronger and stronger against King Jabin, until they finally destroyed him."  Chapter 5 closes with, "Then there was peace in the land for 40 years."  All because this wife and godly woman was willing to step up and be used by God.  Please take the time to read her story.   Her song in chapter 5 tells much more of the oppression her and her people lived under. 

God placed the stories of these and other courageous women in the Bible for you.  Yep, just for you!  They are apart of His love letter to us.  They are meant to encourage and inspire.  Be of good cheer!  God has a plan!

Until we visit again...
Live blessed,
Carmen

Sunday, June 17, 2012

It's Complicated...

Last year on this day, I wrote my first blog.  It was father's day, my dear husband was under the weather, I had some time on my hands so I decided to give it a whirl.  I've enjoyed the opportunity and still feel humbled at the kindness of my dear friends and a few strangers that stop by.  Thanks for listening.

Father's Day.  Just a couple of months ago, my dad packed up his bags and went to live with Jesus.  He is having an amazing Father's Day this year!  I, on the other hand, am flooded with memories, questions and those kind of feelings that say, "I wish this could have been different".  Does that make sense?  Have you ever felt that way?

If you have ever seen a facebook relationship status that read, "it's complicated" that would describe my relationship with my dad.  We lived together for the first 8 years of my life and then it seemed he traveled in and out.  It was never traditional.  Matter of fact, there have been years when we never saw each other and we lived only 5 miles apart.  It wasn't because I didn't try.  It just never seemed to work out for long.  He lived life in his own way and he lived it to the fullest.  It wasn't until later years that I really got to know him.  He was scheduled for triple bypass surgery (an emergency), the hospital called me as his next of kin and that is when I really got to know my dad. 

Over the past 10 years or so we became daddy and daughter.  We had some great fun times and we have had some low, sad times.  He shared his memories of his earlier years, fun times he had with my uncle, places he traveled, memories of his time in the military, thoughts and remembrance he had of my grandparents, uncles, aunts and cousins.  Most of his side of our family I never really got to know.  He just didn't have time for all of that when his kids were younger.  We went for ice cream,  to the grocery store, Walmart and ate at Piccadilly. 

The other side of our relationship was difficult.  My dad had an addiction that ruled his life at times.  He was in and out of the hospital so many times.  Too many to count.  I begged, pleaded, fused and nagged.  Finally I accepted him for who he was.  I did not accept the addiction, I accepted him.  Some one asked once did I think that my dad couldn't change or wouldn't change.  I don't know.  I do know that he hated his life the way it was.  One of the many times we sat in an emergency room somewhere, the hospital chaplain had stopped by before I arrived.  When I got there, dad said "Do you know that song about grace? The one that talks about how I was once lost but now I'm found?"  I said, "Amazing Grace"?  He said , "Yes.  I really like that song."  I knew that he was telling me that he had made his life right with God.  Dad's life was up and down.  He never really understood how to live.  In the last few weeks of his life, he assured me, his sister and my pastor that he was ready to meet God.  That's good enough for me. 

His last years were spent in pain.  Macular degeneration took most of eyesight and the death of almost very joint left him disabled and unable to do what he wanted to do.  He was a fighter though.  I NEVER saw any one fight so hard to live.  He pushed himself to walk with broken bones, he refused to lay in bed, even when I thought he needed to rest.  He went to physical therapy when he could hardly hold his head up.  For every drink he took that was destroying his body, he would then fight to live.  Amazing.  I told him once, "Dad, I hope I inherited your will to live, your survival instinct."  He said, "you did".  He said, "I can't give up. I'm still alive".  I'm not sure what he was taught when he was in the Marine Corp but whatever it was, he was a survivor.  He often said, "once a Marine, always a Marine".   When dad left this world, his doctor said, "One thing I can say about your dad, he was a fighter." 

At dad's graveside service, our sweet Pastor based his message on the verses of "Amazing 'Grace".  It was so uplifting, so fitting.  My cousin sang it a capella.  Beautiful, like an angel.  Today, as I dressed for church, David Jeremiah spoke on the song "Amazing Grace".  He told of the writer's life and how he came to pen those now famous verses.  Father's day - "Amazing Grace".  I just felt in my spirit that God was telling me, "your dad is here and he is doing great".  Now, I don't have any way to prove that but I believe it and I guess that's all that counts today. 

Dad is finally free!  Grace, well, it's amazing!

Until we visit again....
Live blessed,
Carmen




Friday, May 25, 2012

Good, Better, Best...

Today, sitting at my desk at work, I ran across a funny note a co-worker left for me a while back.  It read, "get it together!" 

I so want to "get it together!"   Since we last talked, my family has suffered much loss.  Dear husband and I both lost our dads within 2 months of each other.  My dad had a long hospital stay and DH's dad went quickly, just over a couple of days.  You never think you will EVER pray for someone you love so much to die but there is a time of suffering that brings those kind of prayers.  Ecclesiastes 3:2 tells us that there is a time to be born and a time to die.  It was time.  That time will come to us all (unless you are my mom who says she's not dieing, she's going in the rapture). 

How do you get it together?  I asked a dear friend and Christian counselor once would I ever get it together, handle my life the way I really want?  His answer, "Are you doing life better today than you did last year?  Can you see progress?  You have a lifetime to work on it and then when this life is over and you are living with Jesus, it will be all made perfect."  Good answer! 

Oswald Chambers writes, "The greatest enemy of the life of faith in God is not sin, but good choices which are not quite good enough.  The good is always the enemy of the best."  We're not talking perfection here, we're talking doing this good thing and not waiting on God to reveal His best.  I want God's best!  Don't you?  Watching my dad live those last months of his life, reminded me that there are some things in life that really matter when we get to the end and a lot of things that don't amount to a hill of beans as my sweet Papaw would say.  I'm trying to not loose focus on that as I run this race called life. 

One of the wonderful things I spend time on is women's ministry.  I LOVE women's ministry.  Often we wonder how we will know when we are serving God in our calling, and I can honestly say,  you know.  I'm right where God wants me right now.  I don't really understand His timing sometimes.  It seems to me it would have been much easier before I was working full-time outside our home, but....God. 

Good, better, best.  How do we decide?  If you're trying without the leading of the Holy Spirit, then expect lots of side trips.  He is the giver of direction.  We need Him!  Proverbs 16:12 says, "We make our plans, but the LORD determines our steps."  Solomon also says in Proverbs 16:3, "Commit your work to the LORD and then your plans will succeed." 

Good, better, best, Lord, help us decide.

Until we visit again...
Live blessed!
Carmen

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

Expanding Time...

It has been so long since we talked!  More than a month!  My life in this little corner of "the land of pine trees and lakes" has been as full as yours has been.  Welcome to 2012!

January brings new adventures for me.  I now lead the Women's Ministry at my local church.  Excitement and a little fear flood my spirit.  Being given this opportunity is so humbling.  I have had a heart for ministry to women for a very long time.  It swells with love when I see a group of women studying the Word together, learning from each other and loving each other.  Oh girls, we so need each other. 

It hasn't taken me very long to discover that organization and discipline are going to be very important in my life this year.  I have often said that working full time gets in the way of my fun!  Full time career and ministry can be overwhelming.  Years ago, I was a Mary Kary Cosmetics beauty consultant.  I do love makeup! Women who do not need or want makeup are mysteries to me.   My sweet mom told me years ago that it takes pains to be beautiful and I took that to heart.  If you see me at WalMart without my makeup on, you need to stop and have a word of prayer.  I am in a crisis!! 
I wasn't very successful at sales but I learned so much about life.  Ideas and concepts that I still use today.  The sales director for my unit, Karen, often said, "Work expands to the time allowed".  Sage advise.  Example, a friend calls and wants to stop by for a visit.  You kick yourself in high gear and in that few minutes before she arrives, you get more done than you did all morning.  This is a principle that I am reminding myself of alot lately.

There is so much to be done.  2012 is so full of hope, dreams and uncertainty.  Psalm 119:105 says, "Your word is a lamp to guide my feet and a light for my path." (NLT)  That promise tells me that I'm not going to see very far ahead, and neither will you.  Our path will only be illuminated for a short distance.  There is a great plan for our lives that God designed before we were born.  He just doesn't give us all the details up front.  We are on a need to know basis :)  What I do know is that we need God!  We need the Holy Spirit for guidance or we always end up in the dark and off the path.  It's all about relationship.  God wants to be intimately involved in our lives.

The challenge for all of us this year and every year we are allowed to remain on this side of heaven will be to deepen our relationship with our Savior.   As brides of Christ, He is crazy about us and He wants a marriage, not a date.  Make time for Him.  Begin talking with Him everyday.  As you become better acquainted, you will find your conversation to not be quite so uncomfortable.  Start reading your Bible.  There are so many great Bible tools these days.  The Word is the same on your IPhone and Kindle as it is in your copy of the Word on paper.   Just begin.  God will send the understanding.  Isaiah 55:11 says, "It is the same with my Word.  I send it out, and it always produces fruit.  It will accomplish all I want it to, and it will prosper everywhere I send it." 

Life can be tough.  With all of life's conveniences, we are stretched more than ever.   My hope for all of us is that we will simplify our lives and make room for the love of a lifetime - Jesus. 

Live blessed my friends,
Carmen