The Heart of the Matter

The stress of working in retail the last 15 years has given me somewhat of a Bah Humbug attitude during the holiday season.  In fact my holiday motto has been “We Work Because You Don’t Have To.”  Retail employees live and die by the Vacation Blackout Schedule; the schedule that has kept me working during the holidays these last 15 years and even dictated the date of my marriage.  But holiday stress doesn’t just fall on those of us in the Retail profession; it touches everyone. Take a moment and reflect on the true reason for the season.  Jesus.  We celebrate the GIFT of life.  The baby who would grow up and GIVE his life for us.  Strange that the topic of giving should create so much stress this time of year.

When we think of Christmas giving we automatically think of shopping, spending money, wrapping presents and giving sweaters, jewelry and knick-knacks.  But that is not the only way to give, nor is it the best decision for everyone.  If you’re shopping on credit cards to give gifts to everyone in the entire office or every member of your extended family you may want to rethink your giving technique.

And he sat down opposite the treasury and watched the people putting money into the offering box.  Many rich people put in large sums.  And a poor widow came and put in two small copper coins, which make a penny.  And he called his disciples to him and said to them, “Truly, I say to you, this poor widow has put in more than all those who are contributing to the offering box.  For they all contributed out of their abundance, but she out of her poverty has put in everything she had, all she had to live on.”  Mark 12:41 – 44 (English Standard Version)

No, this verse is not telling you to spend your last penny on gifts when you need to pay rent!  It’s asking you to give with the heart of the widowed woman.  Giving is more than dealing with material possessions; it’s the heart of the matter.  Are you giving to suck up to the boss or because you truly want to bless him?

Baking cupcakes & cookies for the office, donating your hair, writing a poem, doing volunteer work or watching a friend’s child for an afternoon are all ways of giving and showing love to those we care about without breaking the bank.  Set budgets and guidelines for giving with your office pals, family & spouse then stick to them.  Money is tight for most people these days and with the rising costs of gas, milk and Starbucks discussing limits shouldn’t be considered taboo.

Stoplight Prayer:  Father in Heaven thank you for placing the desire to give in my heart.  Help me to understand how to bless people with gifts that show your love and mine without putting me / my family under financial strain.

Still Hungry?  Deuteronomy 15 instructs us to give cheerfully as does 2 Corinthians 9, which also reminds us that we reap what we sow (time, money, acts of kindness…).

A Stuffed Heart

It's that time of the year again - - -a time we set aside on the calendar for "giving thanks for our blessings" and "stuffing the turkey."  It's a time when, no matter what kind of trials we have gone through during the year, we find so many reasons to count our blessings and give thanks.  As for stuffing the big bird, we pull out our recipes and head to the grocery store to buy the necessary items needed for stuffing it. When Thanksgiving Day arrives, families gather together, have a time of thanks, and then carve the stuffed turkey waiting on the platter.  For just a brief moment in time, most Americans capture the true meaning of  "giving thanks unto the Lord in all things."

I have to be honest and say that the day after Thanksgiving, I usually come face to face with myself as I reflect on my heart of thanks.  "Will I stay in this attitude of thanks every day of the year, or will I stuff my heart with other things that rob me of an intimate relationship with Jesus Christ?"

And so I ask you, "if you could actually put your heart on platter like the stuffed turkey, what would you see stuffed inside that might rob you of that intimate relationship?"

Would you see some of the following:

  1. Complaining AttitudeThere is a big difference between a complaint born out of a real need verses a complaining attitude.  Chronic complainers play a game called "Ain't it Awful what has happened to me."  Complaining traps us into seeing ourselves as a perpetual victim, leaving no room in our hearts for thanks.
  2. Low self-esteem:  Low self-esteem says:  I messed up, I failed, I'll never amount to anything, I feel so inadequate, my future is hopeless. I have nothing to be thankful for.
  3. Busy, Busy, BusyBecoming busy with the mundane things of life can crowd out our quiet time of prayer and studying God's Word.  Without prayer and the reading of God's Word, thankfulness falls by the wayside.
  4. Past HurtsSome people keep a tally of all the things that have ever been said or done to them.  It's like they have reserved a room in their hearts with a sign on the door that says:  "Hurts - come on in."  Holding onto hurts and always thinking of self robs our heart of being thankful.
  5. Unforgiveness:  Resentment, bitterness and unforgiveness can grow deep into our spirit, and become like an infectious disease that spreads to others.  For example, you may say you love your children, but if you have bitterness and unforgivenss in your heart for someone, you are loving your children with a contaiminated heart. Unforgiveness and thankfulness cannot reside in the same heart.

So, this Thanskgiving season, I challenge myself first, and then you, to judge our hearts.  Perhaps we need to change our recipe for what we have "stuffed into our hearts" and replace it with a recipe for a heart of thanksgiving all year long.

"Happy Thanksgiving."

Single or Married, Check one

How is it that almost every single girl I meet has the same exact questions and thoughts I had when I was single?  When will I know when I meet the right guy?  Why have I been single for so long?! It seems like all of my friends are getting married except me!  I mean really, after all this time you would think that there's just this one book that would have all the answers.  But somehow we keep going around and around asking the same old, age question; ‘When will it be my turn?’ I remember being so frustrated at times thinking everywhere I turned someone was asking me if I was single or married.  What does it matter?  Why did it matter if I was married or not when applying for a job?  Was my husband going to be able to come to work with me?  If so, how would anybody get any work done?

The questions go on and on, but what I’ve come to realize is that no matter what stage of life you are in, you will get questions all the same!  When you do say the words ‘I do,’ the questions then start about kids and my favorite,  'Will you stay home or go to work?'  It’s endless!  The key I’ve found is just to know who I am right here and now without worrying about everyone else’s concern for my life; why do all care so much anyway?  Easier said than done, I know!

The tough part about being single or married for that matter, is knowing how to answer those tough questions for yourself regardless of outside commentary based on what others think you should be doing.  Questions are endless from the time you wake up to the time you close your eyes at night and can be as simple as ‘What belt will I wear with these pants?,’ to ‘What school will I enroll my first grader?’  I believe though that once you come to know who you really are – who you really were created to be – the easier it gets to answer some of those tough questions.

The journey to get there….well, that’s another story and one I’m still figuring out. But for now, I continue to walk along the path that I feel I was created to walk in the here and now as a wife, friend, career, daughter, sister - and the list goes on - woman.  Those are all the boxes I choose to check.  And for all the single ladies, check a firm ‘yes’ to the single box and enjoy the stage of life you are in right now and walk with your head held high as you enjoy the journey you are on, now, while you are single!

For more on living a single life with purpose, come out to Elevate 10 on June 18th & 19th

Single in Austin

If you are still single in Austin or for that matter any city in the country, once you get past a certain age, you start getting the looks like, ‘What’s wrong with you?’  Of course people don’t actually say it that way but you know what they mean when they say, ‘Do you think you might be too picky?’ or ‘Have you tried EHarmony? Everyone seems to have the answers and the right direction for you.  The fact is, being single in your 20’s and 30’s or if you find yourself single again for whatever reason, it really is very common unless of course you live in small town like the one I grew up in where it seems like all my classmates except for a few now have teenagers!  The truth is that there is absolutely nothing wrong with that; everyone’s journey is different. However, our culture has changed so much that this generation of singles is really quite the norm.  The problem lies most of the time with how the generation before us paints a picture of how they think it should be – marry at 22, kids at 25, buy a house, send the kids to school and then you’re done – that’s the pretty picture.  But how can we do that when in these days we live in a world that has so much to offer, how can we just sit and wait for Prince Charming to come along?  Yes, he will find me and not the other way around, but there is something more while I wait; a plan, a purpose, a life!  Maybe there was something wrong with me.  Maybe I was not doing what God wanted me to do in order accomplish all that I needed to before I got married.  Or maybe, it really just wasn’t the right time.  No matter what the reason, as long as we search our hearts, trust in God and really be honest with ourselves, it doesn’t really matter what the generation before us says or how they look at us – or for that matter how our married friends look at us, this is not their journey.  Because without a doubt, we are carving our own place in history and times have truly changed.  Don’t get me wrong, I am not saying don’t get married at 22, if you find the right one, then do it, God obviously has a different plan for you.  What I am saying is that if you haven’t found the right one yet, then be comfortable with the fact that God may have a different plan for you and it really will be okay.  I finally started getting that in my late 20’s and I wanted to shout it from the rooftop, but I didn’t; because at that point, who cares what other people think, they are going to think whatever they want, no matter what you say!  Those people will never go away and you can rest assure that once your husband does find you, those same people will say, ‘Well it’s about time,’ with which you want to scream, ‘I didn’t know him 5 years ago, was I just suppose to get married because I was at a ripe age?’  But don’t do it, they’ll never get it!  So if you’re single in Austin or any city in the world, just be secure in knowing who you are and who God made you to be.  God has a plan and a purpose for you even now while you are single! For more on living Single with purpose, come out to Elevate 10!

There’s only one you

I’ve realized lately that no matter how hard we try to look like other women or girls in magazines that we NEVER will but not because they are prettier or skinner then us but because we AREN’T them. We were all created exactly the way we are for a reason and a purpose. From our head down to our feet and everything in between. So let’s start being ourselves and embrace the uniqueness we’ve been given! Here are a few of my favorite quotes about being unique.

“If God had wanted me otherwise, He would have created me otherwise.” ~Johann von Goethe

“To be nobody but yourself in a world which is doing its best, night and day, to make you everybody else means to fight the hardest battle which any human being can fight; and never stop fighting.” ~e.e. cummings

Guest Contributor, Taylor Strauss