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Monday, September 18, 2017

Lift Your Head (by Debby Thrailkill)

Sometimes I feel as if I am riding on top of Jesus’s shoulders as he carries me along the trail of life. Sure, that is a bold statement (and I’m tempted to knock on wood), but I know He is with me and my life is good. However, it’s not as if I don’t have struggles, we all do. I suffer with ongoing migraines and back pain, many of my loved ones have health concerns, and too many have passed away recently. Plus, the stress of surviving in the chaos that is OC is ever present. Yet I strive to be as positive and happy as I can be because blessings abound everywhere I go.

Many times, I will rush through my day, deep in my own thoughts while out in public. I hurriedly keep my head down, anxious to get everything done and head back home while avoiding interaction with others. And it occurred to me that in those moments, I can have a profound effect on others. In fact, our daily interactions with people can make a difference and sometimes we can be a blessing to others without even realizing it. Being aware of that is the first step!

For example, when our kids were growing up, we attended church quite often. But I was always busy with our four kids, getting them situated and finding a seat next to my husband. I hoped to blend in, listen to the sermon, and get on with our day. But then one day a lovely lady, dressed very elegantly and with a soft voice, pulled me aside and welcomed me. She inquired if we were new and introduced herself warmly. On further visits, she always smiled and took time to visit with me. Even though we never knew each other outside of church, she made me feel welcome… and that truly made a lasting impact on me! I started making it a point that when I was out in a similar situation, I would be welcoming to someone else. I’ve always remembered her grace, and I was saddened to learn recently that she is suffering with ALS. I have her in my prayers now, just as she always included me in hers.

I have a friend who recounts a similarly impactful story. She recently volunteered to lead Vacation Bible School for Foothills Church in RSM and she shared with me how she would be nervous when she was up on the stage, acting and telling a story to the children who were intently watching and listening below. She would smile as she found herself becoming larger than life (out of her comfort zone) in order to entertain and inspire the kids. Afterwards, at a women’s retreat, ladies were encouraged to write anonymous notes to one another. When my friend opened a note left for her it read, “You are the reason I am here.”. It went on to say, “You’ve been a blessing to my family and our son was so touched by you at the VBS he attended, that he encouraged our family to start attending church together.”

As the summer turns to fall and the busy holiday season comes upon us, I encourage you to reach out of your comfort zone. All you have to do is lift your head to realize that your interactions with strangers are just as important to Jesus as your interactions with your loved ones. You can change the lives of others with a simple act of kindness, a friendly smile, or even a simple word of encouragement. Our lives are larger than we think. Just as we are carried when we need it, our thoughtful interactions might just help us carry someone else on our shoulders when they need it.

Even the most routine part of your day can be a 
spiritual act of worship, holy and pleasing to Me.
~ Romans 12:1-2

Monday, September 4, 2017

Appetizer Moments

We have a huge family that’s very close, so we get together a lot to celebrate. It might be a birthday, a wedding, or a holiday, but whatever the occasion there’s always good food to be had. That’s because there are a lot of “foodies” in our family, but unfortunately, I am not one of them. The only thing I can cook is scrambled eggs and it took me several years to learn how not to burn them into oblivion. So I’m often selected to help with the appetizers, instead of the entrĂ©e, and I kind of like that role.

Last week we celebrated my oldest son’s 34th birthday at our Beach House and the whole family turned out. To make it extra fun (and because my son is a huge fan of the show) we set up 3 tents on the beach with a super long table and decorated everywhere with “Game of Thrones” paraphernalia. A lot of people came in costume true to the show and of course we needed food that would be true to the show as well. My job was to barbecue a combination of mini-meats as appetizers, so I cooked up some of those awesome little smoky sausages and miniature veal wieners and used wooden skewers so you could easily munch “meat on a stick” and not even need a plate. I think they were a big hit, but to be honest, they were just a small sampling of the awesome food to come. The main course included Kibbeh, which is a classic Middle Eastern dish made of bulgur wheat, pine nuts, minced onions, and Levantine spices mixed into finely ground lamb (or you can use camel meat if you really want to go uber classic). Kibbeh is something we only make for special occasions (because it’s so labor intensive) but it is absolutely delicious beyond description.

Creating appetizers as a taste of something awesome to come… got me thinking. We experience a lot of “appetizers” during our lifetime. Small moments of joy when time stops and heaven blooms right in front of us. I’m not sure I’ve noticed all of the appetizer moments in my life, but looking back I can see them now.
·         I remember the smile on my Dad’s face when I was 6 years old and I peddled my bicycle in front of our tiny little house in Memphis for the very first time.
·         I remember the pounding of my heart as my dog and I slid together on a big piece of cardboard down a very steep dew-covered grassy hill in the avocado groves of Southern California when I was 10.
·         I don’t remember the first time I ever kissed a girl, but I do remember being about 14 when a girl kissed me for the very first time… and I thought I was going to pass out.
·         And I remember how stunningly beautiful my wife looked as she came down the aisle at our wedding, truly a foretaste of what angels must look like.

Appetizer moments happen all the time and they don’t always come from the kitchen. Sometimes they come from heaven!

I looked at my hands to see if I was the same person. 
There was such a glory over everything. 
The sun came up like gold through the trees, 
and I felt like I was in heaven.
~ Harriet Tubman