Whole-Hearted Living Thursdays~May 31~Liz Murray

On selected Thursdays,  there are Because of Grace Wholehearted Living Stories:

Liz Murray  was born seven years before my daughter. She is the founder and director of Manifest Living,  a company that provides a series of workshops that empower adults to create the extraordinary things in their lives.

Murray was born in the Bronx, New York on September 23, 1980 to poor, and drug-addicted parents who would later each contract HIV. She became homeless just after she turned 15, when her mother died of AIDS, and her father moved to a homeless shelter. Murray fought through some incredibly difficult circumstances and was finally able to turn her life around when she began attending the Humanities Preparatory Academy in Chelsea, Manhattan.

Though she started high school later than most students, and remained without a stable home while supporting herself and her sister, Murray graduated in only two years. She was awarded a New York Times scholarship for needy students and was accepted into Harvard University, matriculating in the fall semester of 2000. Breaking Night: A Memoir of Forgiveness, Survival, and My Journey from Homeless to Harvard is her memoir and she says, “my passion now is to help transform the lives of others.”

Liz Murray has broken the generational pattern of violence, of substance abuse and of homelessness.

And she is all of thirty now.

Your comments and thoughts always welcome~!

Previous Whole-hearted living stories

Mid-Week Question of the Week: Grace-filled Aptitudes and Abilities

Am I going to be more giving or getting in life?

(Pssst…it’s not too late to Undo)

undo

This one nudges me to look in the mirror. And, in looking, may it not be said of me as it was of those before, “But they all alike began to make excuses.” (Luke 14:18)  And perhaps, then, you and I may help your kids/friends/loved ones look at their spiritual gifts, heart, abilities, personality and experiences to figure out their grace-filled aptitudes and abilities.

Define and Refine by asking, “Am I going to be more in giving or getting in life?”
Read more by gently clicking here

Revisiting Rethinking my belovedness

Revisiting belovedness==He Started It

“Once you become aware that the main business that you are here for is to know God, most of life’s problems fall into place of their own accord.”
J.I. Packer

Sometimes we can’t pray away the pain…we have to go through healing first.

The worst thing about believing the lies of another person is the internalizing of the pain of being wrong about them.
I wondered how I could have been so stupid. So blind.

And so willing to believe.

The other worst thing about believing lies is the assault to my confidence. Maybe you have felt this loss too.

Our society deems some sins and some lapses of judgment worse than others. If I listen to these voices of condemnation, mixed with voices of the liar, then these voices can drown The Voice of Grace.

I wrote then, “Knowing the truth of your story is a powerful antidote to the shame, doubt, and the negative voices of others that have infected the story you tell yourself. God wants you to know the truth.”  And so He does. And there is more. There is The Voice of Grace.

And as I retrain myself to listen to the voice of Grace, I remember and re-learn about my Belovedness. Beloved becomes my Focus Word, a sort of “take that” to the lies and the liar.

But…all too soon my focus becomes a spiritual “nanny-nanny-boo-bo0″~~~more about me and less about Him:
A sort of: Sticks and Stones may break my bones but I am Beloved so you can’t hurt me.

The potential quicksand of this is that I may begin to believe more in my belovedness instead of  who died for me and who is The Beloved.

The Voice of Grace

Deceiving voices will twist the best of intentions (recovery) into idolatry (the belovedness of me to the exclusion of the Belovedness of HE). It is essential for me to wait for the sound of His voice before I make decisions and before I believe too exclusively in the exclusive sparkle of my own Belovedness.

In spiritual dyslexia, I reversed the order of Proverbs 3:5: Trust in the Lord with all your heart… And do not lean on your own understanding. It becomes time for me to center and reacquaint the focus word Beloved as being about Him and not me.

Security comes when we bring the empty well of our hearts to Jesus and ask Him to fill and fulfill us with the security of His unfailing love. ~Renee Swope

Possible ways to Stay Centered in or Reacquaint with His Belovedness

  1. Know the names of the Beloved. Repeat and Claim the names.
  2. It’s finals week all the time. Return again and again to give our whole heart to The Beloved. This is not a one-time only “Shazam” prayer or practice. We will eventually come to a place of complete trust, but some days, for me at least, requires a minute-by-minute recall
  3. Study the words of The Beloved. Read the prayers of The Beloved. Read the prayers of the leaders in the Bible. Put these prayers into practice.
    For Ezra had set his heart to study the law of the LORD and to practice it, and to teach His statutes and ordinances in Israel. ~ Ezra 7:10
  4. Baste every hour with Gratitude
  5. Share with others close to you The Truth of The Beloved. Remember, He started it.
  6. A mature man in the faith admonished me to reach out to others in spite of my own pain, “Invest in someone else,” he said. I did not realize what a place of healing and comfort that would become.

Because of Grace, i have received shared belovedness from The Beloved. Step 7 in this list is empty. Might you also share through a comment your step 7 here?

To the Only God

More of You Less of Me

Monday Words for the Soul~Memorial Day Thank You

Memorial Day Monday Words for the Soul: Thank You

I have no illusions about what little I can add now to the silent testimony of those who gave their lives willingly for their country. Words are even more feeble on this Memorial Day, for the sight before us is that of a strong and good nation that stands in silence and remembers those who were loved and who, in return, loved their countrymen enough to die for them.

Yet, we must try to honor them — not for their sakes alone, but for our own. And if words cannot repay the debt we owe these men, surely with our actions we must strive to keep faith with them and with the vision that led them to battle and to final sacrifice. ~President Ronald Reagan, Remarks at Memorial Day Ceremonies at Arlington National Cemetery May 31, 1982

Memorial-Day soldier salute

Michelle Malkin and Andrew Malcom both have tributes to our honored heroes.

Picture Source

Previous Words for the Soul

A Word from The Sponsor~May 27

A Double Portion Bible Verse

colossians 2:2

For I want you to know  how great a  struggle I have for you and for those at Laodicea and for all who have not seen me face to face, 2 that  their hearts may be encouraged, being  knit together in love, to reach all the riches of full assurance of understanding and the knowledge of  God’s mystery, which is Christ, 3 in whom are hidden all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge. Colossians 2:1-3

Previous Words from The Sponsor

This Weekend~Easy Weekend Activity~Tell Your Story

This weekend, spend just a few minutes telling your story

to Yourself

Remind yourself of your oops-moments, your triumphs, your strengths, your talents,

and how God’s Grace was there at every step.

your story matters

For we are God’s handiwork,  created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do.
~Ephesians 2:10

Previous Weekend Activities

Picture Source

Color Poems~special night posting

There are a bunch of windows open on my taskbar. Kind of a cafeteria-style approach day where I am trying to sift, decipher, learn, respond, and create all at once.

Perhaps it’s best to think less and pray more, as friend Carl urges. Especially after reading this post by Rick Hanson, in the window that’s currently open.

…Our ancestors probably experienced more physical but less mental fatigue than most people today in the developed nations. Consequently, our bodies are adapted to weariness – but our minds are not. For a brief time – finals week, an intense month at work, a demanding year with a new baby – OK, sometimes we just have to crank the mind up into overdrive and tough it out. But as a way of life, it’s nuts.

We have to take a stand against the crazy mental busyness that has become the new normal. We’re bombarded with things to think about all day long, flooded with words and images to process, and forced to juggle unprecedented complexities. Our minds are being hauled along behind a culture without a speed limit – but the human body and brain does have a limit, a natural carrying capacity, and when we exceed it there’s always a price. It’s like being trapped in rush hour your whole life. Each time you know this, each time you pull out of the mental traffic, it’s an act of freedom and kindness and wisdom. ~Rick Hanson

There are a bunch of windows open on my taskbar. One is a Pinterest picture of a favorite color of mine: Carnelian—take a click and look at the deep color  I have always had this color around, in varying intensities. It is the pendant stone of my favorite necklace made by friend Vicente.

Another open window contains a happy post by Jennifer called “This is the Day the Lord Has Made” over at Getting Down with Jesus

Jennifer wrote about her daughter’s experience writing a poem. And when she included the poem-writing website, I was hooked. There are so many great poems within her website comments and word pictures. I mean really. My favorite poem is Cerulean Green (scroll down in the comments and you’ll see).

What a fun vacation this last hour has been! Reading/Exhaling/Nodding/Smiling/Nodding some more

Might you also take a little vacation, think less, pray more and create a little color poem? Here is the website to create the poem: http://ettcweb.lr.k12.nj.us/forms/color.htm
Here is mine:   <blush>

Carnelian
deep sunset
the textured wallpaper of my room in high school
my favorite pendant, long and smooth, and slightly cool to touch
million
guardian
pedestrian
Dried Apricots
Hot Tamales
Applewood Smoked bacon
velvety protective cushions
hugs that envelope and sustain
glowingly radiating lampshade, forty years old
Restores vitality, gives courage, helps in trusting myself

Would you share your poem here?

Monday Words for the Soul~May 21~He Started It

He loved you before…

He loved you before...John 3:16

For God so loved the world that He sent His only Son, that whoever believes in Him would have eternal life. For God did not send His Son into the world to condemn the world, but that the world through Him might be saved. John 3:16-17

Have a great start to your week…this is the last week of school in many schools in the Southwest…please remember our talented (but understandably tired) teachers… :)

Previous Words for the Soul

A Word from The Sponsor~May 20

Today’s verse arrives gently from my Double Portion file. About a year ago, I began collecting Double Portion Bible verses: verses with the same chapter and verse. Looking for these verses kept me on my toes while reading the Bible or devotionals. This practice for me, echoes Elisaha’s words to Elijah in 2 Kings 2:2. First Elisha said he would never leave Elijah and then in verse 9 he accepts the inevitable departure of Elijah and says, “Let me inherit a double portion of your spirit”

This is what I need. And this is my prayer for you too.
Today Romans 12:12 is an anchor of Double Portion Blessings:

Be joyful in hope, patient in affliction,  faithful in prayer.

Romans 12:12

Do you have a favorite Double Portion verse? It would be stupendous if you would share it in a Comment here!

Previous Words from The Sponsor

Picture Source

This Weekend~Easy Weekend Activity~Scatter

scatter kindness

:)

Other Posts on Kindness

Previous Weekend Activities

Picture first seen @ http://greenlikebathwater.tumblr.com/

Shade for When You Have Had Enough

Mid-Week Question of the Week: Have you had enough?
Here is shade for you {and me}

God's Shade Tree

The Shade of Grace

Previous Questions from previous weeks

Picture from this uplifting website: http://www.allyouhavetogive.com/ive-had-enough

Overcoming Our Pests

ritzy readersBeen getting acquainted with growing degrees of increasing strength in one area of my life: my reading glasses…

At this half-decade point of life, I reluctantly bid farewell to the cute, fashionable “Readers” and moved on to the “sensible shoes” of the glasses world: reading glasses. It has been a trial-and-error of deciding when I want to see and when I want to see clearly. During a recent talk, I almost had an aerobic workout bobbing my glasses on/off and on/off as I desperately tried to decide if I wanted to, you know, see the beautiful faces of my audience or speak from a blurred mesh of outline notes.

Sometimes I also mistype words. It is comical at best, glaringly mistaken at worst.

Sunday night, emancipated from my glasses, I wrote to my (married) friend Jon and typed an “H” in his name instead.

 “Hi Jon” morphed in to “Hi Hon”…I gasped so loud I woke the dog.

Because of Grace there is “ctrl/z”.
In a techno-spin on royal taste-testers, I need a royal proofreader.glasses on book

Today, in a pre-dawn, pre-coffee, pre-glasses haze, I misread one of Os Hillman’s email devotionals titles. The blog post title Hillman intended as “Overcoming Our Past” I misread as “Overcoming Our Pests”.

My initial confusion yielded to God’s Grace-filled silent nudge: there are pests to swat away…

little foxes that destroy the vine  …little time-wasters, thought-intruders, rabbit holes of redundancy…that steer me away from God

and Grace

In addition to the “big” deals of illness, trauma, addiction, parenting, work, etc… there are little pest annoyances that multiply into a swarm of distraction/busyness/worry/doubt/dread/play/trivia.

For me, it begins as a single thought, then a recurrence, then a growing pursuit or an increasingly dark feeling of dread.

True to Hillman’s misread title, my daily pests must be disciplined and overcome.

let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles. And let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us…Hebrews 12:1

In awareness and willingness to reverse, Because of Grace, God taps me to see with spiritual Readers.

butterflyIt is said that if we were to help the butterfly remove itself from the cocoon, the butterfly would not be strong enough to survive. It is the struggle that prepares the butterfly to become strong enough to fly. Without the struggle in the cocoon, it could not survive as a butterfly.

The Lord prepares each of us in similar ways. He does make all things beautiful in His time if we are willing to be patient. ~Os Hillman

Do you ever notice annoying pests? Do you ever need your spiritual Readers? What spiritual pest-swatter works for you?

Monday Words for the Soul~May 14~God Sees Us in the Chaos

More often than not we define faith as seeing God in the circumstance. But in chaos we never see God. Faith should be defined as knowing that God sees us in the chaos.
~Harry Schaumburg

God sees us in the chaos

by Helen Teague

Previous Words for the Soul

A Word from The Sponsor~May 13

Hannah’s Prayer~~A Mother’s Prayer

1 Samuel 1:27

For this child I prayed, and the Lord has answered my prayer made to Him.
1 Samuel 1:27

Hannah prayed and prayed for a son.
She named her son Samuel which means, “I have asked him of the Lord”

I hope you have many “I have asked of the Lord” moments today!
Moments where He reveals Himself to you and you know it!
A special one occurred for me yesterday, courtesy of my friend Janet.

It would be great to have you share them here!

Happiest Mother’s Day!
{I am having the entire tribe over today…pray for kitchen grace!}

Previous post from 2011, When Happy Mother’s Day Isn’t, just in case this is a tough one.

Previous Words from The Sponsor

This Weekend~Easy Weekend Activity~Sleep

for He grants sleep to those He loves. ~Psalm 127:2*
The granting of sleep is the invitation.

CutePupySleeping

Take advantage of the invitation this weekend, and sleep, at least for a little bit.

polarbears a-mom_and baby-sleeping

Need proof? Ok…

The next time youre wrestling with an issue, take a nap. A UC-Berkeley study determined that REM stage sleep helps put problems and emotions into perspective. Brain scans revealed that people who slept between viewings of disturbing images were less upset than those who stayed awake.

“During slumber, memories are processed while stress neurochemicals are suppressed, which helps remove the sharp edges from emotional experiences,” explains the study’s lead author.  Plump up your pillow and click here to read more.

cutepuppies sleeping-1

“The dream stage of sleep, based on its unique neurochemical composition, provides us with a form of overnight therapy, a soothing balm that removes the sharp edges from the prior day’s emotional experiences,” said Co-author Professor Matthew Walker. Snuggle under the covers and click here to read more.

roobee sleeping

“Roobee” Photo by Helen Teague

or just breathe deeply, exhaling more slowly than inhaling and sleep.  :)
~~~~~

Picture Sources:
Polar Bears
Puppies

*(Please avoid the place of “well, i  can’t sleep so God doesn’t love me.” It’s just not true, you know.

Other Weekend Activities

Are You My Mother? Another as Mother?

A major corporation conducted a study on the flight of geese. In their study they found that geese fly in a “V” formation with one goose in the lead. After a period of time, this goose relinquishes the lead to another goose. During flight they noticed head movements of the leader that seem to give signals to the other geese flying, perhaps to let the others know how he was doing. They estimate that the formation flight pattern reduces wind drag due to the lift the other birds receive and believe it increases their performance by up to 70 percent. Whenever one goose drops out, another goes with it. These two geese do not catch up to the original pack, but join another group later. (from a devotional by Os Hillman)

Another
Perhaps, Because of Grace, Another is the Holy Spir’s Love.
Like a Mother’s Love…Maybe in the cycle we have many Anothers

Maybe the lessons for me are:

Sometimes is it ok to drop out
Another is Love and the Holy Spirit
Another is a faithful friend
I can watch when another drops out and fly alongside with them for awhile
I can not worry about catching up to the original pack
I can fly with Another for awhile
I can join a new group later

Perhaps these cycles continue at long and short intervals throughout life. (Is this also the cycle of motherhood… of personhood?)

Maybe in the cycle we have many Anothers

Wondering…

Your comments, wonderings, and thoughts are always welcome!

Mid-week Question of the Week~May 9~Shadows

Mid-week Question of the Week:

What Shadow Do You Cast?

My shadow is relative to my position to the sun.

I need to avoid shadowy moments when I am tempted toward regret, fear, sadness, self-pity.
Or when avoidance is impossible, I must remember to confront these shadow moments with praise for God, Jehovah-Jireh.

Be merciful to me, O God, be merciful to me,
for in You my soul  takes refuge;
in  the shadow of Your wings I will take refuge,
till the storms of destruction pass by.
~Psalm 57:1

Music: In the Shadow of His Wings by Fernando Ortega on iTunes

Other Questions from Other Weeks

The song that silenced the cappuccino machine

The song that silenced the cappuccino machine. From my cousin Nancy…

It was chilly in Manhattan but warm inside the Starbucks shop on 51st Street and Broadway, just a skip up from Times Square.

Early November weather in New York City holds only the slightest hint of the bitter chill of late December and January, but it’s enough to send the masses crowding indoors to vie for available space and warmth.
For a musician, it’s the most lucrative Starbucks location in the world, I’m told, and consequently, the tips can be substantial if you play your tunes right. Apparently, we were striking all the right chords that night, because our basket was almost overflowing. It was a fun, low-pressure gig – I was playing keyboard and singing backup for my friend who also added rhythm with an arsenal of percussion instruments. We mostly did pop songs from the ’40s to the ’90s with a few original tunes thrown in.

During our emotional rendition of the classic, “If You Don’t Know Me by Now,” I noticed a lady sitting in one of the lounge chairs across from me. She was swaying to the beat and singing along.
After the tune was over, she approached me. “I apologize for singing along on that song. Did it bother you?” she asked. “No,” I replied. “We love it when the audience joins in. Would you like to sing up front on the next selection?”
To my delight, she accepted my invitation. “You choose,” I said. “What are you in the mood to sing?”
“Well. … do you know any hymns?”
Hymns? This woman didn’t know who she was dealing with. I cut my teeth on hymns. Before I was even born, I was going to church. I gave our guest singer a knowing look. “Name one.”
“Oh, I don’t know. There are so many good ones. You pick one.”

“Okay,” I replied. “How about ‘His Eye is on the Sparrow’?”

My new friend was silent, her eyes averted. Then she fixed her eyes on mine again and said, “Yeah. Let’s do that one.” She slowly nodded her head, put down her purse, straightened her jacket and faced the center of the shop.

With my two-bar setup, she began to sing.

“Why should I be discouraged? Why should the shadows come?”

The audience of coffee drinkers was transfixed.
Even the gurgling noises of the cappuccino machine ceased as the employees stopped what they were doing to listen.

The song rose to its conclusion.

“I sing because I’m happy; I sing because I’m free. For His eye is on the sparrow And I know He watches me.”

When the last note was sung, the applause crescendoed to a deafening roar that would have rivaled a sold-out crowd at Carnegie Hall.

Embarrassed, the woman tried to shout over the din, “Oh, y’all go back to your coffee! I didn’t come in here to do a concert! I just came in here to get somethin’ to drink, just like you!” But the ovation continued.

I embraced my new friend. “You, my dear, have made my whole year! That was beautiful!”
“Well, it’s funny that you picked that particular hymn,” she said.
“Why is that?”
“Well . ..” she hesitated again, “that was my daughter’s favorite song.”
“Really!” I exclaimed..
“Yes,” she said, and then grabbed my hands. By this time, the applause had subsided and it was business as usual..

“She was 16. She died of a brain tumor last week.”

I said the first thing that found its way through my stunned silence. “Are you going to be okay?”
She smiled through tear-filled eyes and squeezed my hands. “I’m gonna be okay. I’ve just got to keep trusting the Lord and singing His songs, and everything’s gonna be just fine.” She picked up her bag, gave me her card, and then she was gone.

Was it just a coincidence that we happened to be singing in that particular coffee shop on that particular November night?

Coincidence that this wonderful lady just happened to walk into that particular shop?
Coincidence that of all the hymns to choose from, I just happened to pick the very hymn that was the favorite of her daughter, who had died just the week before? I refuse to believe it.

God has been arranging encounters in human history since the beginning of time, and it’s no stretch for me to imagine that God could reach into a coffee shop in midtown Manhattan and turn an ordinary gig into a revival. It was a great reminder that if we keep trusting God and singing the songs, everything’s gonna be okay.

The next time you feel like GOD can’t use YOU, just remember….

He Can

Monday Words for the Soul~May 7~Learn to Release

learn to release

A Word from The Sponsor~May 6~Genesis 22:14

How exciting and appropriate the post #500 is A Word from The Sponsor. The timing is beyond my abilities to plan or orchestrate…

So Abraham called that place The Lord  Will Provide (Jehovah Jireh).
And to this day it is said, “On the mountain of the Lord it will be provided.
~Genesis 22:14

Genesis 22 14 by Enchanted Rock

Picture taken by Helen Teague

Verse idea from  The 160 acres

More Words from The Sponsor

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