Breaking Bread

I love to eat. My life revolves around “feeding time”. I love all types of food. I get as excited about a corn dog from Quik Trip as I do about a lobster tail. I’m not kidding.

I also love people. I have actually been told that I have too many friends for my own good (I say that’s impossible). I don’t just love people, I love the connection with an individual person. I love the relationship that is cultivated.

A friend told me recently that we are the most connected/disconnected society in the history of the world. Isn’t that scary? Luckily, my love for food and my love for people are married in a way that provides the joy of connection in my life. Every. Single. Day.

When it becomes difficult to get together with friends because we are all so busy (BUSY is a 4-letter-word, the new “B” word). I always say “well, ya gotta eat”. In my case, I eat about 6 times a day which provides lots of opportunities to connect.

I have found that if cultivating relationships is important to you, you have to be intentional about connecting. It is important to plan your schedule according to your priorities. If family and friends are a priority, your calendar should reflect that. I have a very particular way that I use my calendar to run my crazy, hectic and over-committed life. The way I use it to cultivate meaningful relationships is through MAKING TIME to connect and scheduling it.

I have various groups of friends I get together with monthly. Some of my groups have been at it for over 15 years. We typically gather over food- surprise! We gotta eat, right? When I’m not at work, at a volunteer commitment or needing to have a solo lunch to strategize, I am meeting someone for lunch. I actually have a list on my calendar of the friends I plan to do lunch with each month. Trust me- there is power in writing it down. Once it became difficult to schedule more lunches, I started having a “bagel date” with a friend. When my “breakfast schedule” filled up, I started scheduling “coffee dates” (if you recall, I don’t drink coffee). All the while, I protect my precious time with my husband and son. Including non-negotiable meals around the table. Thanks to my parents, even after our son was born, Erick and I are able to plan “almost-weekly” date nights. They always start with dinner. Of course.

I love the idea that when I am meeting with friends and loved ones over food- we are quite literally breaking bread together. On Maundy Thursday, I read to my Life Group (we meet twice a month) from Matthew 26:26-29. This powerful text is about the last supper. My voice cracked and my eyes leaked a little, but it speaks to this sacred time between Christ and his disciples.

26 While they were eating, Jesus took bread, gave thanks and broke it and gave it to his disciples, saying, “Take and eat; this is my body,”27 Then he took the cup, gave thanks and offered it to them, saying, “Drink from it, all of you. 28 This is my blood of the covenant, which is poured out for many for the forgiveness of sins. 29 I tell you, I will not drink of this fruit of the vine from now on until that day when I drink it anew with you in my Father’s kingdom.”

Wow! When you think about the act of meeting over a meal in terms of “breaking bread”, that is powerful stuff indeed! This time together is truly sacred to me. During a time when it seems there is so much brokenness, there has never been a better time to break bread. There has never been a better time to gather around a table to share a meal. There has never been a better time to connect.

In the book of Acts we hear of the people gathering to break bread and to pray. People were in community and sold their possessions to give to those in need. “They broke bread in their homes and ate together with glad and sincere hearts, praising God and enjoying the favor of ALL the people. And the Lord added to their number daily those who were being saved”.

Despite today’s brokenness and disconnection, I have tremendous hope. I predict a renaissance of community. I believe that we are on the verge of re-connecting in an epic way–on a deeper and more meaningful level than ever before. Additionally, I believe that as a society, we will become more purposeful in building relationships than ever before. Probably because we have to TRY HARDER. Our relationships will deepen because we will get past the superficial and get to those deeper layers where pain and vulnerability and self doubt live. Not just broken, but broken and SHARED. Not just broken, but broken and POURED OUT. It’s when the outer layers fall away that unbreakable bonds are formed.

Tonight I will break bread (actually pizza) with my bunco group. We started out 19 years ago as a co-ed softball team. We moved onto bunco, and now we simply meet for dinner. I’ve learned that our bond isn’t about home runs or who gets the most buncos. It’s about 19 years worth of celebrations and heartbreaks. Weddings, bridal showers, baby showers, graduations, promotions, break ups, relocations, divorces, lay offs and funerals.

In spite of our long to-do lists, my bunco girls will meet for dinner tonight. After all, “we gotta eat”.

Who will you break bread with today?

 

Bonus video: This is for anyone who is struggling today. The video doesn’t necessarily fit my post, but it is on my heart to share…

 

 

Grace Colored Glasses

Before I turned 40, I had crazy good vision. I’m talking vision so good that I could read  teeny tiny writing right up in my face and also read signs far away. So far away that people would ask “Can you really read that or do you just know what it says from seeing it before?” Additionally, I can remember my parents asking me “don’t you want me to turn the light on so you can see what you are reading?” Why bother? I could see perfectly fine in the dimly lit room.

After I turned 40, I started to notice that books and magazines were suddenly being printed in a really SMALL FONT. It didn’t make sense. Were they trying to fit more words on each page to save money? My arms weren’t long enough to hold the pages at a far enough distance where I could read them. Furthermore, I wondered what was up with all of the dim lighting? When did stores and restaurants get so dark? I needed a flashlight to see what I was buying or to order my lunch. Another thing I noticed was how many cards, invitations, advertisements, flyers, etc. were printed in some funky light-pastel-colored ink on something other than white paper. Who could possibly read it? I decided that if someone has something that actually needs to be read, it needs to be printed in black ink, Times New Roman font and on bright white paper. Exclusively.

It wasn’t until I was 40 years and 6 months old that I realized in an A-Ha moment that it was ME. No joke! It took me 6 full months to realize that the whole book, magazine, newspaper, direct mail and menu printing industries weren’t conspiring against consumers via small and difficult to read print.

I just needed reading glasses.

The moment of truth happened in a dimly lit restaurant with my husband and another couple. I was flustered that I could not read a single word of the menu. I looked around…hmmm- everyone else seemed to be able to read it just fine.

Thank goodness my vision hadn’t slipped too much. All I needed was a pair of the lowest magnification of reading glasses (1.0) from the Dollar Store. Don’t hate- the eye doctor approved of my cheap readers. I am now the proud owner of not 1 pair, but about 10. I keep them in my purse, car, living room, office, bedroom, kitchen, etc. When I meet my bunco girls for dinner, I try to throw in a couple of extra. They won’t buy their own because they “don’t need them”, but they sure like to borrow mine! The first moment I tried on my 1.0’s, it was a revelation. I CAN SEE AGAIN!!! Everything looked so different to me. It made me so grateful for the gift of sight.

Another thing has happened to my vision over time. This one is a positive change, one that I am grateful for. I see the world around me through grace colored glasses. What does that mean? I like to think of it as my super power. The super power of a 40ish year old mom wearing dollar store readers, a cape and 6 inch Louboutins  flip flops (who am I kidding?). So, here’s how it works:

~If I’m working with children and observe “bad behavior”, I don’t automatically assume that they are bad kids or have bad parents. Through my grace colored glasses I see things like pain, rejection, insecurity, learning disabilities, anxiety and issues at home. Maybe even just a bad day. Isn’t it funny how grown ups are allowed to make mistakes and have crappy days/bad attitudes but children aren’t?

~When I’m out running errands and I see someone dressed in tattered or dirty clothes, I don’t turn up my nose. Through the lens of my special glasses, I might see struggle, poverty, lack of educational opportunities, brokenness, low self esteem or heartache.

~When I’m working in the hospital and encounter frazzled and frantic patients (or their loved ones), I don’t pretend not to notice. Through my grace colored glasses I see one or all of these: despair, fear, struggle, addiction, anguish, mistrust and anger.

Sometimes Way too often my grace colored glasses slip from my eyes. Sometimes Way too often I am easily agitated,  irritated at slow drivers in the left lane,  wonder why my students can’t “get it together” and almost come unglued when people chew SO LOUD! I’m human and I’m a work in progress.

I take zero credit for the things that I see through my special lenses. I’m not sharing my observations to come off as ‘holier than thou’ or to condemn anyone who sees things differently. I am grateful for these grace colored glasses. I hope that God, the giver of grace, continues to make my prescription more powerful as the years go by. Besides, what we see isn’t so important. What we DO in reaction to what we see is. I wholeheartedly believe everyone would respond in the same way if they saw things the way I do.

I can’t wait to hear what you see when you put on your grace colored glasses! More importantly, I can’t wait to hear what actions you take when you see more clearly!

Be a blessing today.

Bonus video- all the feels!

 

 

 

 

 

3 Days

We are living in a broken world but I see the miraculous and the beautiful and the hopeful every single day. The stark contrast between brokenness and miraculous/beautiful/hopeful is as great as the contrast between Good Friday and Easter Sunday. The pain of Good Friday and the elation of Easter Sunday. Just 3 days, but worlds apart.

During Holy Week it is an unwritten rule that we (my family) watch at least one movie on the life, death and resurrection of Jesus. Is it just me, or do you catch yourself wanting to change the story? It is LITERALLY the greatest story ever told, but I sit on the edge of my seat, palms sweating, biting my fingernails just hoping that the story changes this time. Someone please “save” my savior from the horrible things that I know are about to happen to Him. I have created lots of alternate plot twists.  Just this once could Judas not betray Jesus? While on trial, could the high priest just say, “Yes! I believe you are the Messiah! Case closed!”? Could Peter NOT deny Jesus 3 times before the rooster crows? At the very LEAST could Pontius Pilate just LISTEN to his wife when she tells him that Jesus is an innocent man? How about at the Passover feast, the crowd chooses to crucify Barabbas and LET MY JESUS GO!? Can justice please be served this time?

I can not suffer again through (puhleez- how can I even fathom my own suffering as these events unfold) watching this PERFECT man be punished for “no good reason”( it’s actually the best reason in the history of forever). I know what is about to happen. I have wrapped my brain around the significance of this single most important event in ALL OF history. I understand that we have to get through the pain of Good Friday in order to celebrate the resurrection on Easter Sunday, but I still can’t handle this part of the story. The mocking, slapping, beating, suffering, falling down repeatedly under the weight of the cross — of this sinless man on the way to die a death only intended for the worst criminals is just SO WRONG.

Then Christ arrives on calvary.  The pain, exhaustion, hunger, thirst, the sting of the wounds from his crown of thorns. As if He hasn’t already suffered enough, we all know what happens next. I can not bear to see him nailed to the cross. Does your heart break into pieces when you see the stakes driven through his hands and feet? Do you ache for Mary? Do you get angry with God? When Jesus cries out, “My God, my God why have you forsaken me?”, do you feel that you are there with your fists raised to the heavens with that same question? My God, my God why have you forsaken Him? Why are you doing this to your only son? Why all of the suffering? YOU can save him from this!

Before He breathed His last breath on the cross, he said, “Father, into your hands I commit my spirit”. At this point I can breathe again. I can stop negotiating with God to save the one who died for me. I can see the light at the end of the tunnel. Resurrection day is right around the corner!

Can you believe that I actually wanted to change the story? The crucifixion is so hard. But, can you imagine if there was no Easter? No third day? No empty tomb? The pivotal moment in human history around which even our entire concept of tracking time is constructed- thank you God for pushing us through Good Friday to get us to Easter. Furthermore, thank you God that your plans are always better than mine! Each time I pray for a plot twist, please just shake your head and continue with your own script. Your ways are always greater than mine.

Continue to linger on this – that moment when He BECAME sin on the cross to die for our sins. It is fitting that the earth shook! That moment when He paid a debt He didn’t owe. That moment when we were purchased by His blood. If you have only celebrated Easter without observing Good Friday, where is the joy? In just 3 days we go from hurting to healed, lost to found, judged to accepted, rejected to loved, powerless to powerful, unworthy to loved, suffering to victorious, hopeless to hopeful, oppressed to inspired and most importantly, from death to eternal life.

Be blessed today.

 

Complaints

If compliments are life giving, complaints are the opposite. Well,  complaints won’t necessarily kill you, but they sure are a major downer! I am 100% guilty of complaining. I am a positive person, but I admit that I complain too much. Have you noticed how many people seem to have made a habit of complaining? People complain about spouses, kids, work, school, finances, etc. Wouldn’t it be great if we could all break that habit? We would all be happier and the world would be a more positive place.

Over the next 24 hours, take inventory of your complaint quota. Keep track of the number of times you complain about anything. Then track your improvements over the next week. I am reminded of a story from years ago about a pastor who started a campaign to end complaining. It really took off! It involved a purple bracelet. Each day  would begin with the purple bracelet on one wrist and it would be switched to the other side anytime “the wearer” would complain. The goal was to go 21 days without having to move the bracelet to the other wrist. In other words, NOT COMPLAINING ABOUT ANYTHING FOR 21 DAYS! Can you imagine? How amazing! And how intimidating!

How on earth are we supposed to completely eliminate complaining? If I can’t complain about my hair, my clothes, my busy schedule, lazy people, the sound of people eating, people watching videos on their phone in public without earbuds, traffic, the cost of cable t.v., Kim and Kanye, losing my wifi signal… what will I do with all of the extra time and energy?

We should spend that “found time” programming ourselves to switch our thinking and ultimately eliminate complaints from our verbal repertoire. Words have power! Consider adding positive affirmations to your morning routine. Like these:

  1. I am a positive thinker.
  2. I effortlessly deal with negative situations.
  3. I am optimistic.

I am hopeful that this simple tweak will have a profound impact on your life, and mine.

Be a blessing today!

 

 

 

 

Compliments

This time of year I find myself extra-pale, extra-“fluffy” (thank you Halloween candy, Thanksgiving desserts, Christmas favorites that are enjoyed for the entire month of December, New Year’s indulgences, Super Bowl snacks and of course Valentine’s Day candy), extra-stressed and extra-homely. Also, extra-frustrated because I don’t  know what to wear when it’s too warm for boots and too cold for flip flops. Can you relate? Another thing….have you ever thought “maybe I just walked around naked this time last year because I LITERALLY HAVE NOTHING TO WEAR” ? Maybe the clothes I wore this time last year are in the same dark abyss as all of my missing socks? Don’t judge me. I am fully aware that there are far worse things in the world than me being pale, fluffy, and wearing seasonally inappropriate footwear/outfits.

I know you are familiar with this universal rule: the degree of  your homely appearance is directly proportional to the number of people (friends/acquaintances) you will see when you run into Target to grab just a few items. In other words, if you look like you just rolled out of bed, you will see approximately 100 people you know. Especially the ones who look like they spent hours prepping for a red carpet appearance.

Picture this, I’m schlepping down the aisles in my yoga pants (my 11 year old asked me recently, “do you wear those pants so people will think you work out?” Ha! No- they accommodate my extra fluff) the t-shirt I slept in and my (seasonally inappropriate) flip flops. My hair has been (partially successfully) wrangled on top of my head and I am wearing zero makeup, except for leftover smudge from yesterday’s mascara.

During this particular Target run, one of the (many) friends/acquaintances that I passed in the aisles, said the 6 sweetest words to me. She said “you always look so put together”. Whaaaaaatttttt? Let me tell you, that compliment made my day. Even if she had her fingers crossed behind her back or really wanted to add, “but today you look like what the cat dragged in…” We all know the power of kind words. Compliments are like kind words on steroids.

My pastor says, “When you think something nice, say it.” Anytime we fail to let those words come out of our mouths, we are robbing others of joy.

A thoughtful compliment to a friend, family member or stranger can be a gift. A sincere compliment can drastically change the trajectory of a person’s day (or week or month or life). Moreover, the compliment that you are withholding, just might be the thing that he/she so desperately needs to hear.

Even if you run across someone who is a complete hot mess on fire (ahem), identify that one thing that you can compliment. Maybe it’s their cute shoes or beautiful smile. It might be a compliment given to the frazzled mom of a flailing toddler mid-tantrum in the middle of the grocery store. Can you imagine the difference it would make for her if you were to say “you are such a great and patient mom” as opposed to gawking, glaring and judging unfairly?

People need to be seen, heard and appreciated.

What is the nicest compliment you have received? Chances are, it was more meaningful than “your shoes are so cute.” We have to start somewhere.

Be a blessing today!

Enjoy this sweet video that demonstrates the power of compliments.

Morning Miracle

I have experienced a miracle. My husband, after much coaxing, convinced me to read  “The Miracle Morning- The Not So Obvious Secret Guaranteed to Transform Your Life” by Hal Elrod. The results have been nothing short of miraculous.

The Miracle Morning (TMM) has transformed my life. For real. I hope you read my last post about “Putting God First”. I credit TMM with enabling me to accomplish my goal of putting God first. Powerful stuff, indeed.

I am a paper person. I read actual books that I can hold in my hand and highlight, underline and write in the margins (sorry Kindle and e-book lovers). I flipped through TMM to identify just a few nuggets to share with you. I have something highlighted, underlined and/or chicken scratched on almost every single page! It is so important for you to read this book, that I am having to make myself not give away all of the highlights.

At the very least, Miracle Morning will prevent you from running around like a chicken with its head cut off in the morning when you are trying to get out the door for work, the bus stop, school, etc. Once you master your morning routine, you will be amazed by how your days run more smoothly.

I am NOT a morning person. If TMM can work for me, it can work for ANYONE!! My friends who have tried it are hooked, too! Read the book TODAY! I can’t wait to hear how it transforms your life!

Oh, one more thing! The author, Hal Elrod, has a miraculous story of survival and perseverance. Check it out:

Be blessed today.

 

In the spirit of full disclosure, I may get a small commission (no additional cost to you) if you decide to purchase anything from the link in this post.  I only recommend products & systems that I use and love.

Putting God First

I submitted the following post to “Life.Church Sisters”. I was humbled and honored when  they posted it on February 1st!! I wanted to share it with you. Thank you so much for taking the time to read it.

In everything you do, put God first, and he will direct you and crown your efforts with success.” – Proverbs 3:6 (TLB)

I started the year with my morning routine established, resolutions written, new bible plan selected and house organized. What a great feeling of accomplishment. Each day I was plugging right along marking items off of my to do list. Everything seemed to be going my way. Then one morning, everything just felt a little “off”. From the moment I poured the wrong cereal, the day was an epic failure.

In order to pursue knowing Him more intimately, I established a daily goal to put God first. Literally. I resolved to start each morning with prayer and scripture. In all honesty, some mornings it is nothing more than a quick prayer as I am hopping out of bed and reading the “verse of the day”.

Putting God first is what was missing on “that” morning. I accomplished all of my tasks except for the most important one. I had crawled out of bed without even a moment of pause for prayer. I grabbed my phone with the intent to read the verse of the day. A notification had popped up. Instead of clicking on the Bible app, I clicked on the notification (darn distractions). I carried on with my routine without the one thing that would have properly prepared my heart, mind and soul for the day. Those precious moments were lost and the rest of my day suffered because of it.

Does spending time with God every morning in a legalistic, if not superstitious, way guarantee that nothing bad will ever happen to you? Does it guarantee that you will make all of the green lights and get the best parking spots? No, absolutely not. However, there is power and purpose in the order of things. Take it from me- intentionally putting Him first in your morning routine is a springboard for your best days.

If we truly desire to know Him more intimately, we will seek Him. When we seek Him, we will make our relationship with Him a priority. In order to cultivate our relationship with Him, we will put Him first in all things.

Are you struggling to put God first?

How do you think your life will change when you put God first?

What action steps will you take to cultivate a more intimate relationship with God?

***This video is not part of the original post. It is a simple illustration of why it is important to put God first. There is power in the order of things.***

Be blessed today.