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By michele

Thoughts For the New Year

I wrote the Christmas card and tucked the gift card inside. Then I wrote her
name on the envelope and attached a string through a tiny hole.
Dear “Friend”,
This is a gift with a string attached. Should you choose to play along with me,
this gift card can only be used at a time when we visit this coffeehouse
together.
In other words, time spent together is really the gift. (So, perhaps this is really
a gift to myself:)
Merry Christmas!
Love, Michele


Thinking I was pretty clever, I told my daughter of this gift idea. She smiled her
cute but sarcastic smile and said, “Mom. Do you really think spending time
with you is a gift? Like, do you really think you’re a gift?”
She makes me laugh.


When thinking about the new year and a fresh start, I sat down to pray and
ponder about what I’d like 2019 to look like. What changes do I want to make?
What are some ways I can make a difference?


I decided I wanted this year’s changes to not focus on self-improvement or
what I can do to better myself; rather, changes that will make a difference in other’s lives. This year I want to be intentional to care more for those around me, to invest in the community(s) God has gifted me with.
I want my life to make other’s lives better.


To that end, these five attributes encompass what I want 2019 to include:
To be more generous
To be more kind
To be more encouraging
To be less critical
To give the gift of time


1) To be more generous-
You’ve heard the old (but true) saying, “You can’t outgive God.” This year I
want to test Him on this. I pray that my giving would be marked by sacrifice
and great joy. I pray for new and creative ways to give generously- not only
financially, but by the generous giving of praise, encouragement, kindness,
and time.


2) To be more kind-
Having or showing a friendly, generous and considerate nature.
I want to be like Tabitha, who lived in Joppa and was mentioned in Acts 9.36.
“She was always doing kind things for others and helping the poor.”
I don’t want to win the approval of others, but simply to live out of the
abundance of kindness the Lord and others have shown me.

3) To be more encouraging-
“You can do this!” “I am for you!” “God is bigger than this insurmountable
mountain you’re facing!” “I understand.” “I’m so sorry.” “I’ve been there, too.”
“Let’s pray.”
Perhaps the most encouraging story in scripture is that of Aaron and Hur as
they encourage Moses.
While Joshua led the troops into battle, Moses, along with Aaron and Hur,
watched the battle from a nearby hill. Exodus 17:11 reads, “So it came about
when Moses held his hand up, that Israel prevailed, and when he let his hand
down, Amalek prevailed.” As Moses became weary both physically and
mentally, Aaron and Hur took their places on either side of Moses and held his
arms high. We all need those in our lives who walk beside us and lift us up.
This year I want to be more of an encourager to those around me.

4) To be less critical-
I had an interesting conversation with a friend the other day. As I was telling
her about this conviction I’ve had of being less critical towards others, I came
to understand how personal a conviction this really is. What is a critical spirit
for me may not be for everyone else. It all comes down to spending time with
Jesus asking Him to reveal your heart and motives.
For me, it is usually birthed out of my thinking someone else isn’t doing a task
the way I would have done it. That my way is the better way.
This year I want to value others opinions and ideas and walk with an open
heart and open hands. I want to hold my ministries, my projects, my ideas
loosely, ready to give up ownership when needed, especially in order to
honor others.

5) The gift of time-
Lastly, I want to give those around me my most valuable asset, my time.
Granted, not everyone’s love language is the gift of quality time, but I believe we all could benefit from a little time spent with a friend. As I decorated our farm house in Ohio, one of the first things I did was add a saying above the
doorway in the kitchen that read, “Never too busy for friendship or tea.” I
cringe when people tell me I’m too busy. I may have a full schedule and lots of things on my calendar, but I never want anyone to think I’m too busy to spend time with them.
People are one of the few things we get to take with us to heaven. They are
where I want to spend my time.

Advent

Advent, my favorite time of year.

I love to sit every morning in front of our tree, the ornaments reminding me of days gone by, many made by my grown children’s little hands of years ago. A cozy blanket wraps me in warmth and reminds me of His comforting love.

The quietness and stillness slows my morning and bids me time to ponder anew the mystery and majesty of this time of waiting. Of anticipation. Of Hope arriving as we usher in the celebration of the Word becoming flesh.

I sit with great expectancy of hearing the “Still Small Voice” whisper a new truth to my heart.

I meditate. I wait. I process. I worship.

The twinkling lights remind me of the Light that has come to pierce the darkness. Once again, I ponder those words. Pierce. To penetrate, to force or make a way into. According to another source, you can “pierce confusion by saying something that makes everything clear.”

Perhaps this is it. This is what the Light has come to do to the dark. It has come to pierce the confusion and to make everything clear.

The Word became flesh so He might live and dwell in us and among us; to rid us of the doubts and confusion, which is this dark world’s only meager offering to us.

Arise, shine, for your light has come, and the glory of the Lord shines over you.

For look, darkness covers the earth, and total darkness the peoples: but the Lord will shine over you, and His glory will appear over you. Nations will come to your light, and kings to the brightness of your radiance.

~Isaiah 60. 1-3

Someday

 

For most of you, today was Saturday.

But for me, it was Someday.

I left work in DC and what should have taken me 3.5 hours to get home took me 7 hours.

Because it was Someday.

I’d taken the back roads home before and as I passed little antique shops in tiny towns, I would say to myself, “Someday, I’m going to stop in those little shops.”

And I passed a beautiful Methodist church and whispered, “Someday, I want to stop and take pictures of their door. And the cross that faces the field.”

As I drove north on Hwy 213, I came to the crossroad of Main Street in Cecilton and told myself, “Someday, I’m going to

take a detour and drive by Mike’s Nana and PopPops house and reminisce about all the ice cream we ate on their front porch.”

“Someday, instead of passing over the Chesapeake City Bridge, I’m going to go under it and see what’s on the other side,” I declared to myself.

So, guess what? Today was my Someday.

I stopped in those little shops and met friendly locals and told them that my husband was born just up the road.

It was drizzling and dreary when I came to the Methodist church, but I pulled over and got out of my car and took those pictures.

I took a left onto Main Street in Cecilton and stopped to take a picture of Mike’s grandparents’ house. And pulled into his elementary school to turn around.

I was so excited when I got to the drawbridge a little further ahead, and I had to stop so a boat could pass through the waters!

And I was tickled to drive under the bridge in Chesapeake City and get a glimpse of a beautiful wedding party, including the new bride and groom!

I’m so grateful today was Someday.

And I look forward to adding more of them to my calendar in the days ahead.

What are you waiting to do Someday?

Listening Well

We’d heard about each other and finally had a few quick minutes to actually meet. She introduced herself and told me about her husband and children. She was so excited and continued to share a bit about her background, where she was from, how long they’d lived in the area, some friends she’d recently met and a quick synopsis of what God was doing in her life.

In a matter of minutes, I felt like I knew her.

About that time her husband joined us and as quickly as she came, she had to leave.

 

As we parted ways, she exclaimed, “Wow! I just talked about myself the whole time and I didn’t learn anything about you! Next time I want to hear all about you.”

 

She reminded me of my prayer life on some days.

 

I have so much to tell God about internal struggles, new challenges I’m facing, concerns with the kids and other family members, friends who are facing health crises, self-discovery, praises for the things that are going well and asking for my trust to increase through it all. I finish my laundry list and am interrupted by yet another distraction. “Amen,” I whisper, as I complete my time in prayer.

 

“Wow, God, I just talked about myself the whole time and I didn’t learn anything about you! Next time I want to hear all about you.”

Nowadays I’m learning that prayer really is a two-way street. And I need to spend more time listening than talking.

As I think of friendships and relationships, I’ve come to realize the way to get to know someone is to spend time with them. Listening. If you want someone to know you, the natural way is to spend time sharing about yourself and your stories. But Jesus already knows me.

So, in order to get to know Jesus more intimately, I must spend time listening to Him share about Himself and His stories. It’s been said that God speaks in several ways. The most common would be through prayer, His Word, His people and through circumstances. Along with sitting quietly before Him, I listen for His heart as He speaks through these ways.

 

I long to abide with Jesus. Sitting at the feet of Jesus, listening intently with a heart to obey.*

 

“O, Lord, may my prayer to you be that of sharing my heart, and may my longing be that of listening to Yours. And may I always listen more than I speak. Amen.”

 

*The definition of abide by my friend, Cynthia Heald

 

 

They “Just Happened to Speak Chinese”

Walking home from the beach, we spotted a homeless woman on the other side of the street. We approached her and sat and talked to her several minutes.

As my son-in-law, Drew, continued to engage her in conversation, I noticed traffic slowing and a car stalled in the intersection.

I alerted Drew to the car, and he walked over to see how he could help. After 10+ minutes, he and a few other men were able to push the car onto a side road. As my daughter, Mallory, and I walked over, we met the driver, Mr. Lee, an older gentleman who spoke little English. We headed home and left Drew with him as they considered options for his car. About an hour later, Drew came home and told us they eventually got the car started and Mr. Lee was able to get home. They exchanged phone numbers and, not surprisingly, Drew invited Mr. Lee and his wife to dinner that night. (Thankfully, Drew has never met a stranger and invites everyone home with him.) But they didn’t show up. After all, he spoke little English and his wife spoke even less. And really, who goes to dinner at someone’s home they don’t know?

Drew continued to text Mr. Lee and encourage him in the days ahead. He shared Jesus with him as best he could due to the language barrier.

Two weeks later we were back in Chicago after the arrival of our grandson, and three friends of Mallory and Drew’s came to visit their new baby. These friends “just happened” to all speak Chinese. A little while later, a knock at the door and in comes an older gentleman, his name was Mr. Lee. Initially, I made no connection with the name. I assumed he was a neighbor in their multi-cultural neighborhood.

I had just changed the baby and was holding him when I introduced myself. He softly stroked Baby Courtland, and he moved to a chair and motioned he wanted to hold the baby. As I handed Courtland to him, he had tears in his eyes. He was so moved by this little one.

I stepped into the kitchen for a moment and my husband excitedly told me this was the same Mr. Lee whose car was stalled in the intersection weeks earlier!

He had come to see their new baby.

He walked up 3 flights of stairs, stopping to rest several times along the way, and brought a gift bag filled with Chinese tea and cakes.

What a great sight it was, seeing him talking with the three young Chinese friends who not only spoke his native language,

 

but also shared the gospel message with him.

As he readied himself to go, he slipped a red envelope underneath Courtland’s blanket and whispered to him, “I’m going to be your grandpa.”

The friends gathered with Mr. Lee and prayed for him before he left.

Continuing to be amazed at God’s orchestration of our lives intertwining with Mr. Lee’s, we are excited to see how this friendship develops as Mr. Lee embraces his new role as “Courtland’s Grandpa.”

And we are reminded to be alert and prepared to respond to opportunities God places in our paths, never fully comprehending the impact of His Divine appointments.