One way to look at life is to see it as a continuation of stories strung together end to end like sheets fluttering on a clothesline. What may seem like a “one liner” in my mind’s eye may actually have an intriguing beginning, exciting middle and a rewarding ending in yours. Other people’s stories often have more appeal than my own and what follows is one of those. Omit for book: (The players in this story are very close to my heart and naturally, I enjoy sharing bits of their lives with readers. In anticipation of Valentine’s Day, which will follow the blustery days of January, I share this sweet story with you.) ( update for book: Call it what you like. I call it diversion therapy. When I am down in the dumps doing a bit of shopping can lighten my mood. It seems to run in the family . . . )
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“It was one of those weeks at work that left me as drained as a bathtub. By Thursday I was tired of work and feeling the need for some retail therapy, although my small salary wouldn’t buy much more than a lip gloss. But looking wouldn’t cost me a dime, right? So looking is what I’d do as I headed to my favorite store. The anticipation changed my mood making me almost giddy. Excitedly, I perused through dozens of gorgeous garments. Each one I touched had something to draw my eye, but nothing worth the price tag. And then a saw it. Sandwiched between a bevy of beauties was a simple black summer dress with bright red poppies splashed all over it. It definitely gave me a pick-me-up from my grueling week and made me smile just looking at it. Although it wasn’t on sale yet, there was always hope that it would be in the near future and at that point I would return and buy it. My mine raced ahead of my wallet, already creating a special event in which to showcase this lovely frock.
And then, I stepped over the line. If you are a serious shopper like me, you know exactly what line I am referring to. I took the dress with ‘Be Mine’ written all over it to the dressing room to try it on. After all, I had to see if it fit, right? Maybe I wouldn’t like it once I got it on, but you know the drill. Once we try something on it makes it that much harder to resist . . . and the argument began to play in my head ~ the same one that plays in yours and it goes something like this, doesn’t it? No matter how gorgeous it looks on me, I still can’t afford it. But what if my size is not available when it goes on sale? Wouldn’t it be better to stretch my budget and get it now? I promise to resist shopping ever again . . . or at least until my next paycheck. Besides, wouldn’t he love it too?
Wow. It was jaw-dropping perfect! The delicate chiffon fabric floated down my curves, hugging me in just the right places. The bright colors complimented my skin tone and hair. I felt pretty and smiled back at my reflection. The argument in my head continued in earnest, but finally common sense won out. Just finding the dress gave me the confidence boost I needed to carry me through the rest of the week. It almost made it worthwhile leaving something so lovely behind. Of course the sales clerks’ disappointed faces threatened to crumble my resolve, but I squared my shoulders and walked right passed them and out into the sunshine. But I would be back.
Temporarily my fiancé and I lived about 2,000 miles apart due to the our career journeys, so we spent time on the phone catching up on each other’s day, trying mentally to shorten the distance between us. Casually, I mentioned that I had stopped by my favorite store after work to take my mind off my heavy responsibilities and to enjoy the sights and textures of beautiful things. He, of course, asked if I bought something or liked anything in particular? I loved that he asked, so I relayed my interest in the perfect dress and the ‘mature’ decision not to bring it home. I would be strong. I would wait for it to go on sale. He agreed . . . maybe a bit too eagerly? I was to find out.
A couple of days later, like being pulled by a powerful magnetic force, I found myself back at the same store again . . . just to see if ‘my’ dress was still there. To my surprise there was a sale in progress. How grand! My heart beat faster as I hustled to the rack where I had remembered finding the dress. My size was gone! I scanned through all the racks to no avail. Someone else must have purchased ‘my’ dress. Bummer! Feelings of regret filled my head as I combed the store hoping to see poppies smiling back at me but, sigh, the beautiful dress was no longer to be found.
I stepped up to the counter to speak to a clerk. There was probably zero chance of there being one in my size at another store, but I had to ask just to be sure. No way! You mean you have the dress I fell in love with in my size and you have it on hold for me? Seriously? Not bothering to question how it happened to be set aside, I happily jumped at the chance to buy it while it was still available and on sale! With the reduced price I had just enough money to pay for it. While fishing in my purse for my wallet, I caught something the clerk was saying. What? What did you say? To my disbelief the sales clerk was trying to tell me that ‘my’ dress had already been purchased and was waiting for me to return. My mouth dropped open in disbelief. The clerk smiled as she explained that my fiancé had called the store the very next day and bought it for me. How thoughtful of him. My eyes filled with happy tears.
What a guy! I was in serious shock about this amazing, romantic gesture from the man I loved. After listening to my story about the dress and from thousands of miles away, he took the time to call the store and buy something for me just to give me joy. I didn’t need to feel embarrassed as I looked around at the faces of women smiling back at me. They were equally impressed with the generosity of a man who would call store after store in search of the perfect dress to fulfill his girl’s dreams.
Immediately I called him. He laughed and said that he wanted to do something to surprise me. He knew I was having a rough week and had been racking his brain for a way that he could help. As he listened to my story unfold, he knew immediately what he would do to make me feel loved and special.
Suffice to say, I am now married to this wonderful man and he continues to nurture our love by surprising me in unique ways and with simple gestures that say, ‘I love you.’ In my heart I know that God has gifted me with a wonderful husband. In my heart I know that am the luckiest woman alive!”
So like God to give us what we need. So like God to give us not only what we need, but to satisfy the desires of our hearts.
Delight yourself also in the Lord, and He will give you the desires and secret petitions of your heart. Psalm 37:4, AMP
One can begin the New Year with a list of resolutions, but since that’s been done (and failed year after year by me) I thought I’d try something old and yet surprisingly refreshing. Long, long ago, on a grassy hillside surrounded by His disciples and townspeople gathered from Galilee, Jerusalem and elsewhere, Jesus spoke these words which have value even in 2014. After all, He’s seen it, lived it, done it and challenges us to do the same.
I am beginning this new year reading from the gospels out of the Clear Word Bible. It is a paraphrase and probably different from the story in Matthew that you may remember, but this version gives the sermon a fresh, new perspective and one I can fully grasp. Let’s give it a try:
Happiness ~ comes from having a humble attitude. If you feel your need of God and trust Him, you have the kingdom of God within you.
Happiness ~ comes from grieving when you sin. Confess yours sins and you will be forgiven and peace will spring up in your soul.
Happiness ~ comes from being submissive. When you acknowledge God as the source of life and abilities, you will feel heaven’s joy. One day, people like this will fill the whole earth.
Happiness ~ comes from longing to do what is right. Those who do right will have an inner satisfaction that nothing else can give.
Happiness ~ comes from being compassionate and forgiving. People will remember your loving kindness and return the same to you.
Happiness ~ comes to those with pure hearts and motives. Such people will one day have the privilege of seeing God and talking to Him face to face.
Happiness ~ comes from being a peacemaker, for such are God’s children.
Happiness ~ even comes from being treated badly for doing what’s right. Just remember that no matter what happens, your place in heaven is secure.
Strangely enough, you’ll find yourself blessed even when people insult you, persecute you and lie about you because you have accepted me. when this happens, be glad, because it shows that your name is written in heaven and that your reward will be waiting for you there. Remember the prophets were treated no differently.
If you hold on to these values, you will be the salt of the world. But if you let go of them, you’ll be like tasteless salt. With these values in your life, you’ll be like a city built on a hill visible to everyone who passes by. People don’t like a candle to hide it, but hold it up high or put it on a lampstand so everyone in the house can benefit from the light. In this same way, let your light shine that others will see the good things you do and praise your Father in heaven.
And you, beloved, are the light of the world. Like a city built on a hilltop, you cannot be hidden. You are like an illuminating light shining everywhere you go. Illuminate creation with your light so that men and women everywhere may see your good actions, witness your devotion to Me, and may turn and praise your Father in heaven because of it. (portions of Matthew 5:13-16 paraphrased)
With joy you will drink deeply from the fountain of salvation! Isaiah 12:3 NLT
A few years ago I heard the Holy Spirit speak these words to my heart…Don’t say “no” if you hear me saying “yes”. This was a reminder to me of how important it is to be a good listener and to pay attention to what the Holy Spirit is saying.
When I heard these words, it was very clear to me why the Lord was saying them. Due to a voice condition I had developed when I was in my late 30’s, it became extremely difficult to speak in public. Saying “no” to speaking invitations became a normal response. I lived this way for over 20 years.
One day, while sitting through a church service, this question came to mind, “What if the person preaching today happened to be you?” The thought terrified me. There was no way I could do such a thing. The thought kept me uneasy throughout the day.
Several weeks later, one of the pastors from the church I was attending, made an appointment to see me. During our time together he asked me the following question, “We are soon to begin a new sermon series in our church and we would like you to bring the opening message.” My flesh immediately wanted to say “no”, but before I could give my answer I heard the Spirit’s voice telling me “say yes”.
Although my “yes” answer went against what my flesh wanted to do, God’s peace quieted my heart and calmed my fears. In that moment, I took a faith step of obedience that brought me the joy of pleasing Him. I didn’t fully realize it at the time, but this step of obedience allowed me to discover a new found freedom in public speaking that has continued to this day.
How do you begin you journey into joy in the coming year? You begin by taking a simple step of obedience. Is there anything God is asking you to do that you have been putting off?
Perhaps God is asking you to surrender an area of your life that you have been trying to control; perhaps He wants you to release a burden that has been weighing you down; perhaps He is asking you to extend forgiveness to someone who has hurt you; perhaps it is time for you to say “yes” to something you have been saying “no” to for a long time.
What does your next step of obedience look like? Are you willing to take it? Are you ready to say “yes” and begin your journey into joy in 2014?
God assured us, “I’ll never let you down, never walk off and leave you,” we can boldly quote, God is there, ready to help; I’m fearless no matter what. Who or what can get to me? Hebrews 13:5-6, The Message. God will never walk off the job. He can’t. It would be against who He is. He is everything good: love, compassion, beauty, awesomeness, loyal, forgiving, amazing. Get the picture? No one on earth can compare. Even if you have a perfect love relationship on earth, it still does not come close to what God is. Therefore, He can be trusted, believed in, hoped in, relied on, clung to and hidden in to name a few. You can add more and we would have an endless list of positives. He is our Mighty Rock! Our Half Dome – just breathe it in!
Whatever ails us today, God has an Rx for that. Take distress for instance. God understands our stresses. Just read the following quote and take heart!
“In all their distress he too was distressed” (Isa. 63:9). We can know that in our distress God too is distressed. Jesus understands heartbreak, betrayal, abandonment, loneliness, sorrow, and pain. He is acquainted with grief. He cares. He cares for you.
God promises, “I will never leave you or forsake you” (Heb. 13:5). The original Greek is difficult to translate because of the strong emphasis on never—it’s a triple negative. God wants you to know that you will never, never, never be abandoned by him. Ever. Never ever. He promises to never leave you or forsake you no matter what you’ve done or what you are suffering. We hold on to that.”
With God rests my salvation and my glory; He is my Rock of unyielding strength and impenetrable hardness, and my refuge is in God! Psalm 62:7
~Random Heart Ministries