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16 December 2010

Life is More than Food

Watching old home movies is sometimes more than I can bear. The memories in and of themselves are happy ones, seeing the joy on my children's faces ... just seeing them at those young ages makes me smile. What I cannot stand to see are the images of myself on those tapes. After seeing those pictures, I look in a mirror and ask myself "What happened?"

As a nurse, I see the evidence of self-destructive behavior every day. What hurts even more is to look in the mirror and see the evidence of my own such behavior. How do you stop the vicious cycle? Only one who has never been through such a thing can even remotely begin to understand. My own personal problem? Food. I love it. Even when I see the evidence of how much I love it, I eat anyway. Do I really enjoy it? How can I when I've gained nearly 80 pounds in the last ten years? I'm effectively carrying around an elementary school child every day!

I've weighed all the alternatives, considered the surgical route, tried nearly every diet known to man. What it all boils down to is the simple fact that I eat what I shouldn't eat and often, when I shouldn't. How do I change that? I have been successful on various diets, but as the old joke says "ever notice that most of the word diet is the word die?" Funny in a not so funny way. I am not sure that you can be successful over the long term if you always consider yourself on a diet. I'm not sure who started using the phrase "lifestyle change," but in reality that it what it will take for weight loss to be successful for me. I have no desire to spend the rest of my life counting calories or feeling guilty for eating a piece of cake. What I do have a desire to do is be able to move without becoming short of breath, be able to sit down on the ground without requiring a crane to pick me up, and shop for clothes that do not have an X on the tag.

At my last doctor's visit, I brought up the subject of bariatric surgery, and my physician didn't even blink before he said no. Why? "Eat less, move more. Surgery isn't a cure, it's a crutch." While realistically I can understand his point of view, the little fat girl sitting in the chair thought scornfully "easy for a skinny person to say." I wish I could just unzip the fat and let the smaller me out. Inside this fat chick is a smaller woman screaming. Usually, I shut her up with potato chips.

I have to find the strength within myself to stick with a healthier lifestyle when it comes to food. Denying myself certain foods won't work for longer than a short while, and will probably end up backfiring. Two words that need to be remembered? In moderation!

Tomorrow is another day. Maybe I can take the first step on a road to better health. I am certainly going to try. I can't do it on my own, but at least I have a huge support system behind me!

Jesus, I ask once more for your help. Sometimes I wonder if you get tired of me asking. Thank you for blessing me with abundant food, the skill and knowledge to prepare that food, and the ability to know when enough is enough. With you, I can do anything.

Then Jesus said to his disciples: "Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat; or about your body, what you will wear. For life is more than food, and the body more than clothes."~Luke 12:22-23 NIV

07 December 2010

Carry On {My} Wayward Son

Who knew what Kerry Livgren was trying to say when he penned these words in 1975? Listed on VH1's Top 100 Hard Rock Songs, this guitar slamming anthem reverberates through your brain as the angst filled vocals of Steve Walsh entwine with the plaintive notes of the keyboard.

You may wonder how I can interpret the lyrics of a rock song as relating to Jesus. I guess there is enough of the child left in me to see God in everything. If I choose to take the words to a classic rock song and find Jesus in them, who's to say I'm wrong? After all, we are not the writer, so we don't know what he meant for us to find in his words. What Kerry Livgren and Kansas found in these words was a hit single for their Leftoverture album, and that was more than they'd gotten from their first two releases. But I digress. Let's look at what are probably the most recognizable words in the song.
Carry on my wayward son
There'll be peace when you are done
Lay your weary head to rest
Don't you cry no more

If I lay my weary head to rest on Jesus, I have no more reason to cry. I can carry on, even though I have transgressed, for He has forgiven me, and at the end of my journey, I will find peace in Heaven. Makes sense to me. Still not convinced? Well, let's dig a little deeper.

Though my eyes could see I still was a blind man
Though my mind could think I still was a mad man
I hear the voices when I'm dreaming
I can hear them say

What do I hear Jesus say? I hear him say "relax Denise, I've got it from here." Before Jesus, I saw without seeing and I thought without knowing. Until I listened to the quiet voice of God, I heard nothing. Once I opened my ears, the meaning was crystal clear. If I follow with trust, He will lead me home.

Carry on, you will always remember
Carry on, nothing equals the splendor
Now your life's no longer empty
Surely heaven waits for you

Heaven does wait for me, because I believe in the power of Jesus. Heaven waits for me, because I trust in Him. Heaven waits for me because I chose to give my life to He whose power is the greatest of all. Without Him, I can do nothing ... but that's another song ...

Lord, I thank you for the gift of trust. I thank you for the gift of faith, and for your neverending, all encompassing love. Thank you for deeming me worthy. Please help me show your amazing, wonderful grace.

"I will heal their waywardness, and love them freely, for my anger has turned away from them." ~Hosea 14:4 NIV

01 December 2010

The Sound of Silence

"First God created two part harmony. And then there was Simon and Garfunkel." I don't know who wrote those words, but I certainly believe that they are true. The shatteringly wistful voices of Paul Simon and Art Garfunkel give life to the lyrics that Simon penned more than forty years ago.

As I was scrolling through Facebook catching up with friends and family,the words to an old Simon and Garfunkel tune started running through my head. While I can't imagine the song being unfamiliar, I'll break down why it appeals to me so. To start, look at the first verse:

Hello darkness, my old friend
I've come to talk with you again
Because a vision softly creeping
Left its seeds while I was sleeping
And the vision that was planted in my brain
Still remains
Within the sound of silence

If you've never been in the country at night, you may not be able to imagine a silence so absolute. There's a funny thing about that night silence, however. The longer you listen, the more you hear. Depending on where you are, you may hear the croaking of frogs, or the call of an owl, the cry of a wild cat, or the bark of a restless dog. Have you ever thought about what it is that you're hearing? I hear, and see, God. His voice and His presence resonate within me.

Let's look at another verse. In the fourth verse, Simon writes of listening:

Fools, said I, You do not know
Silence like a cancer grows
Hear my words that I might teach you
Take my arms that I might reach to you
But my words like silent raindrops fell
And echoed
In the wells of silence

Could not that be God's voice beseeching us? Asking us to hear His words, to heed His call? And, just like Paul Simon so eloquently wrote, His voice falls on sometimes deaf ears. We ignore Him until we are in need. Why do we wait? Why do we choose to live in silence?

God's symphony is all around us. Let us listen with open ears ... and an open heart. Even in the silence, God is present.

God, I pray daily for your strength to aid me. I love hearing your presence in the silence, for it tells me that I am not alone. Thank you for blessing me with the ability to hear you.

"For your name's sake, LORD, preserve my life; in your righteousness, bring me out of trouble. In your unfailing love, silence my enemies; destroy all my foes, for I am your servant."~Psalm 143:11-12 NIV

17 November 2010

Me and Jesus

A couple of my friends started the month on Facebook by making daily postings of things they were thankful for. That started me to thinking (scary thought, I know) and I decided I needed to give thanks as well. Think about that for a moment ... have you counted your blessings lately? You just might be surprised just how very much you have to be thankful for.

Today's post, completed when I returned from a walk with Trina, just seemed to roll off my fingertips. It is as if I sat down at the computer and the words just fell out of my brain through my fingertips. For some reason, the words of the old Tom T. Hall song "Me and Jesus" came to mind, and so here we are with this devotion.

Tom T. Hall was born in 1936 and has been referred to in various articles as a country balladeer. Merriam-Webster online defines balladeer as a "singer of ballads." Okay .. I have to say it ... duh. I guess I don't know what I was thinking but that simplistic answer was not it! Back to Tom T. I remember several of his songs from childhood, and I guess country balladeer is a pretty good description. His songs told stories. I don't remember the first time I heard the song "Me and Jesus," but even today, just thinking the words made the lyrics start playing in my head. It makes me smile.

Let's look at the chorus, if you will:

Me and Jesus, got our own thing going
Me and Jesus, got it all worked out
Me and Jesus, got our own thing going
We don't need anybody to tell us what it's all about

Yes, if you're not familiar with the song, it pretty much plays like it reads. Hand clapping and flat top guitar as accompaniment. Catchy, is it not? But look at the words, and read what they say. Our relationship with God is not about the biggest and baddest church, it's not about the "church clothes," it's not about the preacher. Your relationship with God is just that: you and God. Or as the song says, me and Jesus. No more, no less.

Look at the first verse:

I know a man, who once was a sinner
I know a man, who once was a drunk
I know a man, who once was a loser
He went out one day and made an altar out of a stump

Go ahead and smile. Maybe even say to yourself, "yeah but I'm not like that." Well I do see myself in that verse ... because I was, and am, a sinner. I try very hard to live as Jesus would have me live, but I fail sometimes. And I ask Him to forgive me. It doesn't make me a bad person ... just makes me forgiven. Because Jesus does forgive. Verse two?

Jesus brought me through all of my troubles
Jesus brought me through all of my trials
Jesus brought me through all of my heartaches
And I know that Jesus ain't gonna forsake me now

Simple words. Powerful statements. Jesus is here, with me now. He's going to be here tomorrow, just as He was yesterday. Thank you Lord, for deeming me worthy, sinner though I am.

"For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord." ~ Romans 8:38-39 NIV

30 August 2010

Potato Chip Memories

Today while I was aimlessly meandering through Kroger, I ended up in front of the potato chip display. No matter how I try to restrain myself, at least one bag of chips manages to jump into my cart nearly every time I go to the grocery store. And yes, I'm aware that I could avoid such a mishap if I would simply ignore the aisle altogether, but I digress. I was already in somewhat of a befuddled state of mind due to earlier events, but a simple red, white, blue, and yellow bag stopped me cold in my tracks. I'm sure the poor fellow tasked with stocking the aisle was shaking his head in bewilderment, wondering why on earth a bag of potato chips was so fascinating.

Magic City (aka Birmingham, Alabama) became home to a snack company started in 1923 by Mose Lischkoff and Frank Mosher. The main product of Magic City Foods was a crispy potato chip. This two man operation expanded as the Birmingham area grew to appreciate the quality and service provided. The company excelled under the leadership of Helen Friedman, and was purchased by the Bashinsky family in 1946. When the company sold in 1956, it stayed in the Bashinsky family but changed names, becoming Golden Flake, Incorporated. (For the interesting details of how Helen became the owner, check out the history page on the company's website at www.goldenflake.com)

Why a discourse on a southern potato chip company? My daddy loved potato chips. His favorite? Golden Flake Thin & Crispy. As anyone who has lost a loved one can tell you, sometimes it is the seemingly inconsequential things that can trigger a memory. Maybe today's jolt was a direct result of the morning's events, but I was flooded with reminders of daddy at the sight of that bag of chips. He particularly liked the little bags, I guess because there were just enough chips in there to satisfy that chip craving without loading on the guilt for eating the whole bag!

In the last spring of his life, he was frequently an inpatient at UAB. Danielle and I had gone up for a visit, and that day he wanted some Golden Flake chips. Kathy's sister had stopped at Walmart and gotten him a bag, but it wasn't one of the little ones. We decided that we would find him some. We thought we remembered seeing a gift shop, so Danielle and I went off to find it, hoping that they carried small bags of chips! We found it, they had little bags, and I'm sure the very nice lady working that day probably thought to herself that we were kinda strange when we told her we wanted every bag that she had in stock. When we strolled back into daddy's room, and proudly presented him with a bag full of little bags, you would have thought that we'd given him gold instead of Golden Flake!

Today, I left Kroger with my own bag of Golden Flake Thin & Crispy chips. As I sat down to lunch, I thought about daddy with every chip. And I smiled, knowing that he was smiling with me. Simplistic? Maybe so. Who says life always has to be complicated?

All the money in the world cannot buy the breathtaking beauty that God unfolds for us each morning with the sunrise, nor can it purchase the fiery splendor that is the sunset. The most powerful man on earth and the least beggar get to heaven via the exact same route: belief in and acceptance of Jesus Christ as Savior and Lord. Is it not just amazing that this is a gift freely given?

Lord, please remind me to be thankful every day for the small miracles. Help me to see your presence all around me, and wrap me in the safety of your love and forgiveness. Give me the words to say that glorify you. Never let me forget that your hand is always over me: protecting, guiding, and giving me strength. Remind us that love is shown in many ways. Sometimes, it's even a bag of potato chips.

"Jesus replied: 'What is impossible with men is possible with God.'"~Luke 18:27 NIV

21 August 2010

I Think I Love You!

The internet is an amazing tool. I sit in my living room and listen to a radio broadcast originating more than 500 miles away. Listening to Allen on Jukebox Saturday Night, I remember my teenaged years when one of our favorite things to do was call in to the radio station and request a song, or just talk to the DJ (who we just KNEW was adorable).

Jukebox Saturday Night is one of my favorite radio shows because the music reminds me of a time in my life when worries were few. While I like most types of music, oldies nearly always make me smile. One of my favorite songs may not qualify as an "oldie" (according to Wikipedia, an oldie is a radio format that focuses on songs from 15 to 55 years before the present day) ... although using that range, it certainly qualifies!

I can hardly believe that it was nearly 4o years ago when David Cassidy came across the tv screen and caused my little 6 year old heart to go pitter patter ... 1970! When The Partridge Family premiered in September 1970, oldest "son" David Cassidy was the lead singer of the fictional Partridge Family. Even now, I can still hear those perky words ... of course, he was singing straight to me ... and millions of other young girls!

Think about the song for a moment. On the surface, it is a song about a young man who is afraid to commit himself to a "love there is no cure for." Who wants to be cured of loving someone? I certainly don't! You could interpret these lyrics so many ways ...

I'm sleeping, and right in the middle of a good dream
When all at once I wake up
From something that keeps knockin' at my brain
Before I go insane
I hold my pillow to my head
Spring up in my bed, screaming out the words I dread
I think I love you!

What if our realization of Jesus' love were this way? A sudden revelation can be scary!

This morning
I woke up with this feeling
I didn't know how to deal with
And so I just decided to myself
I'd hide it to myself and never talk about it
And didn't I go and shout it
When you walked into the room
I think I love you!

Do you remember the new days of your love for Jesus? Were you afraid to share? Did you consider not talking about it and keeping it all to yourself? His love fills you up so, that it is difficult NOT to share!! That is one of the beautiful things about it! The song goes on, and then says:

I don't know what I'm up against
I don't know what it's all about
I got so much to think about

As a new believer, there is so much to think about. So much to absorb! The wonder of it is that you are never alone ... share Jesus' love! You may never know just how much of a gift you give someone else by doing so. The only change? There is no "I think" about it ... I KNOW I love Jesus!

Jesus, thank you once more for the blessings you have given, and that you continue to lay upon me. Please help me to be worthy. Give me the voice so that I may share, and that in doing so, be able to touch others with the wonder of your love.

"Love the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength." ~Deuteronomy 6:5 NIV

18 August 2010

On The Road Again

It seems as if it was a long time in coming, but yesterday, I got in my truck and headed west. After nearly four months of living apart, I am going to live in the same house with my husband again! I'll be the first one to admit that driving (especially driving alone) can be a not-so-fun thing to do at times. Add sporadically heavy traffic and not-so-beautiful weather to the mix, and let's just say that I have a renewed appreciation for those who drive for a living!

I started my Monday with the best of intentions. My plan was to get to work on time, get myself organized and be prepared to walk out the door shortly after 11 so I could get home, relax for a few minutes, and get a good night's sleep for Tuesday's drive. Suffice it to say, that plans ... well, we all know what can happen to plans. I did get to work on time (even though I completely forgot about a meeting I was scheduled for prior to my shift), ended up not leaving work until nearly 1 a.m., then got home and couldn't sleep. I finally drifted off around 3 a.m., knowing full well that Miss Sunshine (aka Sami) would be up all perky and cheerful around 6 a.m. Seems that we all were less than perky a few hours later ... Sami didn't want to wake up either! She ate breakfast and got dressed for school, Mom got dressed for work, and I finally forced myself to get dressed and finish loading the final items (computer, cell phone, purse) in the truck.

A couple of quick stops for gas and breakfast, since I'm not a huge fan of gas station breakfast, and I was on my way. The short drive down 231 to I-10 was relatively uneventful, even though it was overcast, the traffic was light. Left turn, and this is it! Some 500 miles later I would reach my destination. Before I had traveled too far, the rain started. Don't misunderstand me: I love the rain ... when I'm inside and don't have to get out in it! I am not particularly fond of driving in the rain, especially when it's raining so hard that windshield wipers on full blast barely make a difference. This was to be my trip ... rain, no rain, light rain, heavy rain, sprinkles, no rain. You get the idea.

My least favorite part of the journey between Alabama and Louisiana would have to be the Atchafalaya Basin Bridge. Twenty miles of not-much-at-all interspersed with some breathtaking scenery (and nowhere to pull over and take pictures) is not my favorite place to be in the rain. Traffic was heavier than usual on this section of my trip, and by the time the bridge ended I was more than ready to stop for a cup of coffee and a stretch! Since there is not a Cracker Barrel nearby, I elected to stop at a Pilot in Breaux Bridge for coffee. At the self-serve coffee station, I had my cup nearly filled when it slipped from my hand and hit the floor, splattering my face, jeans, and sneakers in the process (how it missed my shirt, I have no idea). No burns unless you count the one from embarrassment. Another cup filled successfully and I was on my way.
Signs for Lake Charles finally appeared, and I'm thinking that I'm almost there ... only to find that 5:15 p.m. is apparently not the time to go from one side of Lake Charles to the other via I-10. What would normally take about 10-15 minutes ended up taking nearly an hour, only to get off at the Westlake exit and find that the train comes through at this time of day as well ... another 10 minutes of sitting in traffic and I'm heading home! Finally!!

What makes this trip any different from the others that I've made over the past few months? Driving gives me LOTS of time to think, to wonder, to plan, and even to pray. Yesterday, I did some of each, and was struck by a startling realization. I need to do more thinking, wondering, planning and praying. I need to open myself up to receive what God is saying, and to listen and obey His commands. If I am to effectively serve Him, I need to let Him fill me, then share.

It doesn't take a road trip to realize that God is everywhere, and God is within. Next time you get behind the wheel, take some time to listen to what can sometimes be a whisper. You might just be surprised ...

God, I thank you for the safe journey that you gave me. Bless those who drive every day, and watch over them as they travel. Thank you for opening my mind and heart, and please allow me to continue to receive your many and beautiful blessings.

... "Go in peace. Your journey has the LORD's approval." ~Judges 18:6

13 July 2010

Conversations with God

Last week, I needed to run to Montgomery and didn't want to go by myself. I decided to pick up the phone and call one of my best friends, my cousin Michelle, to see if she wanted to come along for the ride. She agreed, and we set off. What a day. We ended up spending less than an hour in Montgomery, but the conversation we shared made the trip not only fly by, but much more enjoyable!

The old saying goes "You can pick your friends, but you can't pick your family." If you're fortunate, sometimes they are one and the same. Who better to understand the dynamics that you deal with on a daily basis than someone who was raised like you were, and who knows everyone involved? The ins and outs of family life are sometimes difficult to explain when you have to stop and continually clarify just who it is you are speaking of! When you are with family (genetic or otherwise ... sometimes blood has nothing to do with it), the conversation can flow like a river. We talked for miles.

Think about the most recent conversation you had, and how it went. Did it flow with ease, or were you struggling through awkward silences or disjointed explanations? Transition from that conversation to your last conversation with God. When was your last conversation with God? How did that go? Was it a laundry list or a time of open reflection?

Webster online offers several definitions of the word prayer, all similar. Most common? "The act of communicating with a deity, especially a supplication addressed to God." Well, then, what is supplication? Humble and earnest prayer. Note the defining words: humble and earnest. When I speak with God, do I humble myself before him? Am I sincere? Many of my prayers could almost be tweets. (No, I don't do Twitter.) Short supplications, if you will. What struck me most when reading through the definitions of prayer were the defining paragraphs further down on the page.

Biblical references to prayer are many, varied, and striking in their simplicity. Exodus 32:11 refers to prayer as "beseeching the Lord," while 1 Samuel 1:15 calls it "pouring out the soul before the Lord." 2 Chronicles 32:20 refers to "crying to heaven," but Psalms 73:28 refers to "drawing nearer to God." Hebrews 10:22 reminds us that prayer must be sincere. When we speak to God, regardless of the venue or delivery, remember that He is God. Pray with openness and trust. Sometimes I think the hardest thing to remember is that the answer we think we want is not at all in God's plan for us.

God, I thank you for the blessing of family and friends that I have been given. I thank you for the gift of living in a country that allows me to express my love for you without fear of retribution. I pray that those who do not have such freedom are touched by your mercy. May I never forget who guides my days and protects my nights. Help me to remember that your time and my time are not always the same, that you know what is best for me, and open my soul that I may better hear your voice.

"Who am I, O LORD God, and what is my family, that you have brought me this far?"~1 Chronicles 17:16 NIV

13 March 2010

Bring On The Rain

I'm a little technologically behind the times. Unlike many, I have only just recently discovered the joy of a marvelous little creation of Apple known as the iPod. I did not get one of the elaborate ones, but the tiny version known as the iPod shuffle. Unlike some versions of the iPod, the shuffle does not allow you to "see" what song is playing, so if you randomly loaded music like I did, you never know quite what's coming up next. Driving home from work the other day, I heard the beginning notes of a JoDee Messina song called "Bring On The Rain."

Released in October 2001, this number one song featured album co-producer Tim McGraw. This song reminds me of driving around Birmingham with my sister and my niece, during one of the many trips to UAB when daddy was so sick. I'm pretty sure that during that time period, Cheryl's vehicle was on autopilot between Missouri and Birmingham. Why do the lyrics of this song speak to me? Think of a down time in your life ... how did you handle it? Did you give in to defeat, or stand up and face it with clenched fists shouting "Bring it on!"? Let's look at the first verse:

Another day has almost come and gone
Can't imagine what else could go wrong
Sometimes I'd like to hide away
Somewhere and lock the door
A single battle lost but not the war

What do you think of when you are reviewing your days? Do you reflect on everything that you did wrong? Do you stop and realize where you could have put forth more effort? What about those days when you have given 110%? If I've learned anything, I have come to realize that asking "what else could go wrong" seems at times to be an open-ended invitation for something to go wrong! Yes, there are days when I want to be the proverbial ostrich and just bury my head in the sand, but that is extremely counter-productive. What would that teach me except how to hide? The last line of the first verse is, to me, one of the most potent: "A single battle lost but not the war." We are not always going to win. Does that mean we should just give up? What if Jesus gave up on us because we made mistakes?

The refrain in this song is short and simple, only three lines. Listen to the power they project:

Tomorrow's another day
And I'm thirsty anyway
So bring on the rain

Every day I wake up is a new chance for Jesus to work through me. Each day is a new beginning! How wonderful an opportunity! If we look at it with hope, and with a challenge, Jesus stands beside us. Bring it on ... Jesus has your back!

It's almost like the hard times circle 'round
A couple drops, and they all start coming down
Yeah, I might feel defeated
and I might hang my head
I might be barely breathing, but I'm not dead

Stand up and fight! I won't even begin to say that it's easy, because some days it simply isn't. There are days (surely I'm not alone) when it takes everything I have just to get out of bed. The days when I pray just a little harder, and a little more selfishly, for strength to get me through. When things feel as if they are crashing down around your head, stop. Jesus can get you through anything. If He brings you to it, He will bring you through it! Jesus is in your corner, rubbing your shoulders and giving you a pep talk when you are facing the giant (remember David and Goliath??). Satan may seem invincible, but Jesus is like anti-Satan spray. You may feel weak and exhausted, but Jesus is the best energy boost of all. He is your oxygen tank for life!

No I'm not gonna let it get me down
I'm not gonna cry
And I'm not gonna lose any sleep tonight
'Cause tomorrow's another day
and I'm thirsty anyway
So bring on the rain ...

Look at it this way ... Jesus can be your umbrella, or he can be your rain boots and slicker. Some days we need the protection of the umbrella, and some days we just need to dance in the rain. With Jesus, we are blessed to be able to do both.

Jesus, thank you for the rain ... and the rainbows it brings. Thank you for the love that you unselfishly give even though we are far less than perfect. Thank you for another day! Please help me to use each day I am given to glorify you.

"Let my teaching fall like rain and my words descend like dew, like showers on new grass, like abundant rain on tender plants. I will proclaim the name of the LORD. Oh praise the greatness of our God!"~Deuteronomy 32:2-3 NIV

26 February 2010

Because You Loved Me

The February 1996 release of the single "Because You Loved Me" by Celine Dion gave airplay to this anthem of encouragement written by Diane Warren as a tribute to her father. Listening to these words as I was driving home from work, it began to strike me how much they really applied to Jesus' love for us. Diane Warren won a Grammy award for this song, the song was also nominated for Record of the Year, Song of the Year, and Best Female Pop Vocal Performance, and spent 19 weeks at the top of the U.S. Contemporary charts.

Why do I feel so strongly about the message in this song? Allow me to share my thoughts. If you're not familiar with the song, I suggest youtube or one of the other online video sites, and give it a listen.

For all those times you stood by me
For all the truth that you made me see
For all the joy you brought to my life
For all the wrong that you made right
For every dream you made come true
For all the love I found in you
I'll be forever thankful ...
You're the one who held me up
Never let me fall
You're the one who saw me through
Through it all

How powerful those words!! When we open our arms, hearts, minds, and souls to the beautiful love that Jesus gives, He becomes everything we need. I can't believe that I have listened to this song for so long and it just now hit me how much this speaks of his love! The chorus, to me, of all the words, seems to say it all:

You were my strength when I was weak
You were my voice when I couldn't speak
You were my eyes when I couldn't see
You saw the best there was in me
Lifted me up when I couldn't reach
You gave me faith 'cause you believed
I'm everything I am
Because you loved me

We should give daily thanks and praise to the awesome God that is ours! What amazing things he has done and will continue to do in our lives, if we but let him. There is more to this song, and I could go on and on ... but sometimes, less is more.

Jesus, thank you for believing in me, and for making me the woman I am becoming. You have given me blessings beyond measure! Give me the words to share that joy with others.

"Jesus replied,
'Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.'"~Matthew 22:37 NIV

24 February 2010

I Am The Warrior!

Listening to 100.5 while I was driving to work, I heard the last part of a Scandal song called "The Warrior." Released in 1984, this song was a familiar sound from my early 20s. For some reason, the lyrics caused me to think about being a warrior for Jesus. I know, not your typical praise and worship music! Take a minute, however, read the lyrics, and see what you think. We'll start with the first verse:

You run, run ... run away
It's your heart ... that you betray

When you are floundering alone in what seems like a sea of uncertainty, what happens when you refuse to turn to the master lifesaver? Jesus is the eternal life ring, the only guarantee that you know 100% is going to be there. He alone can reach out and take you into His arms, sheltering you and keeping you from the storms that life can disperse. When you run from that, you ARE betraying your heart, by refusing to give it the sustenance that it needs to survive. Let's continue with the chorus:

Shootin' at the walls of heartache
Bang, bang
I am the warrior

Giving our everything to Jesus releases those walls that surround us and they fall just as if they are under constant fire. His love is better than any bullet, and when He surrounds us and shoots at the "walls of heartache", the love surrounds the heartache and dissolves it. When we open ourselves to the reality of the incredible love and forgiveness of our savior, we are indeed warriors for Jesus! Another verse reads:

Who's the hunter ... who's the game?
I feel the beat ... call your name

Who is the hunter? You can look at in two different ways. Satan can indeed be the hunter, and we are his sometimes unsuspecting prey. He calls out to us, hoping to deceive. Sometimes the call is disguised sweetly, and sometimes it shows itself for what it really is. How do we know the difference? Depend on the master warrior, Jesus. He has the power (think of it as night vision goggles on turbo) to see through anything, because he knows all. He has the strength to guide us on the right path, no matter how difficult it may seem at times. He will never leave us nor forsake us. Can you say the same about Satan? When faced with Jesus, Satan WILL turn away! Don't let his siren song fool you, depend on Jesus to be your master translator! The final chorus of the song contains the line

Victory is mine!

You know what? It is indeed. The battle is sometimes a tough one, and some days it seems never ending, but as long as I have my Jesus, victory is indeed mine! Praise the Lord!!

Jesus, I thank you for the gift of thought, and the gift of words. Please continue to guide me and allow me to express these gifts in such a way that I may help someone else to come to you. Thank you for your continued rich blessings!!

"For the Lord your God is the one who goes with you to fight for you against your enemies to give you victory."~Deuteronomy 20:4 NIV

29 January 2010

One Small Room

This week, part of our class had to do our 6 hour clinical rotation in a nursing home. I have had little experience with nursing homes, and was rather apprehensive about the few hours I'd spend there. The visit was mostly an observational one, to give us a better picture of RN duties outside the more traditional hospital setting. From the time I entered the facility until the moment I walked out the front door at the end of the rotation, the only thing that matched my preconceived notions (and past experience) of nursing homes were the residents!

When I say the residents, I mean only that I expected senior adults to be living there, and that is exactly what I found. Absolutely nothing else about this visit was what I expected it to be. As we wound our way through the residence halls, two things struck me right away: the cleanliness (it was cleaner than some hospitals I've been in), and the attitudes. That's right, the attitudes. Without exception, every single person on the staff that I encountered during my 6 hour visit was pleasant and willing to answer questions, displayed care and concern to the residents, and presented themselves in a very positive manner. It was obvious that they cared about the jobs that they were doing.

What stood out the most in my mind was the individual living arrangements. This particular facility has a very high number of private rooms; the rest of the rooms are doubles (two residents per room). The administration spoke briefly with our group, giving us a bit of history and a glimpse of future plans. While some administrative people you encounter sound like a walking PR firm, this was not in the least scripted (or certainly didn't sound like it!). It was a story from the heart about people who are passionate about the service that they provide and about the people who become part of their family. We heard funny snippets about shared rooms being divided into two distinct parts (if you ever shared a room growing up you will completely understand!). For the residents at this facility, it truly is HOME.

Look around you, if you're at home. If not, visualize the place you live. Now constrict your vision and realize that you will be living in one room. Just one room! You obviously can't take everything you own ... what matters most? That socked me rather hard. What does matter most? What would I take with me if I had only one room? If I had to condense my life into one small room, what would I take to make it as much home as possible? The one constant that I saw in almost every single room I had the opportunity to view was pictures. I don't know if they were friends, family, or both, but nearly every single resident had pictures on a wall in their room. I think about my living room as it sits right now. Never mind the shoes that need to be put away or the hoodie thrown over the back of the couch, never mind the books stacked in at least two different locations ... there are pictures on almost every available surface. Pictures of our families. They are there with us because our families cannot be. It's no substitute for the real thing, but it's definitely better than nothing.

What would you put in your room, if one room was all you had? I'd definitely have pictures, maybe a rocking chair if room was available. I'd have my Bible, and probably more books than allowed if my eyes let me still read. What else? I don't know. I don't want to think about it ... but maybe I should. What better way to get your priorities in order than to realize that you, too, might be living in a single room someday? What matters most?

In What Matters Most, author Hyrum W. Smith guides you through setting goals and formulating a personal mission statement. Does that sound familiar? Smith founded the Franklin Quest company, which later merged with Covey's Leadership Center to become Franklin Covey Company, one of the best known providers of time management training to both individuals and companies. In a nutshell (and without going back and rereading the book), Smith's book asks that you break things down to their very basic components to determine what is the most important thing in your life. For most of us, an answer wouldn't be difficult to come up with. What matters most to me? My children, my husband, my family, my friends. When you get your priorities in order, your life flows smoother. What should be my first priority? What matters most?

My relationship with God is at the top of my list. Without Him, I have nothing, I can be nothing, I can do nothing. Because of Him, I am blessed to have three beautiful children, a loving and supportive husband, family that loves and cares for me, and friends that I can depend on. Because of Him, I have reasons to live. Because of Him, I have a future. I never need to lose sight of that simple fact. God, I am humbled by the richness of my blessings. What I have done to deserve such bounty, I do not know, and may not know in this lifetime, but I am eternally grateful. Please continue to lay your hand upon me and guide me along the path that you have determined is mine.

"To love him with all your heart, with all your understanding and with all your strength, and to love your neighbor as yourself is more important than all burnt offerings and sacrifices."~Mark 12:32-34 NIV

20 January 2010

What I Really Am

When something triggers an idea strong enough for me to sit down and write, I have no idea where it will end up. I don't know if that's because I'm untrained, or if that's just the way my brain works. There are times when I go back and read what I've written and it surprises me. I'm thinking to myself "I wrote that?" Last night, I was driving home in the light fog and the ideas were flowing. Fog, how the spectral shapes can make you think you see things that are not there, the eerie feeling that comes when you are out in the fog ... anyway, you get the idea. Today when I sat down and began writing, a line from the Nickelback song "How You Remind Me" flashed through my mind and sent me down an entirely different path.

Nickelback frontman Chad Kroeger penned the lyrics to this particular song, the first single released from 2001's "Silver Side Up." I haven't heard the song in several weeks, but I've almost stopped questioning why things direct me to write. Because I'm not totally familiar with the lyrics, I looked them up. Reading through the entire song, it's not so much the whole song as parts of it that made me sit up and take notice. Kroeger starts:

Never made it as a wise man
Couldn't cut it as a poor man stealing
Tired of living like a blind man
I'm sick inside without a sense of feeling
And this is how you remind me
This is how you remind me
Of what I really am
This is how you remind me
Of what I really am

Let me break my thoughts down for you. First, I don't claim to be wise, and although poor, I don't steal because that's just wrong. The next few lines were like a sledgehammer. Tired of living like a blind man, I'm sick inside without a sense of feeling. This is how you remind me of what I really am.

Wow. When I was walking through life without Jesus by my side, I really was living like a blind man (woman). Without his guidance, there are obstacles everywhere. There was always a sense of something missing, feeling like I was not where I should be and unsure if I was going to get there. Thinking back reminds me of just how far I've come, and what I would be without him.

It can be difficult to turn your back on what you've done in the past. Ask for help. None of us are perfect, but we are all God's children. He sees, he hears, he loves, and he forgives. Every blessed day he reminds me of this fact: I am His!

God, I thank you for loving my imperfections, for steadying me when I stumble, and carrying me when I fall. Thank you for guiding my path, for showing me what we can do together. Please help me to let others see you in me.

"If we claim to be without sin, we deceive ourselves and the truth is not in us." ~1 John 1:8 NIV

15 January 2010

The Reason

Do you ever wish you could change the radio station in your head? You know the one I mean ... the one that just arbitrarily plays bits and pieces of songs until you have to find the music and listen to it on an external component (in my case, it's usually the computer). Today's tune? "The Reason," the 2004 hit by the California grunge band Hoobastank.

While grunge is not the type of music that I ordinarily listen to, this particular song struck a chord from the first time I heard it. Written by lead singer Doug Robb, "The Reason" climbed the US charts to peak at #1 on the Top 40 charts, and at #2 on the Hot 100. The song is probably most famous for its airplay on the final episode of "Friends."

Why does this song stick in my head? I don't know what Doug Robb was writing about, but "The Reason" has been referred to as an "anthem for change." Look at the words and decide for yourself:
I'm not a perfect person
There's many things I wish I didn't do
But I continue learning
I never meant to do those things to you
And so I have to say before I go
That I just want you to know

I've found a reason for me
To change who I used to be
A reason to start over new
And the reason is you

What comes to mind? A relationship that has suffered? For me, it speaks volumes about my relationship with Jesus. He knows, of course, that I'm not a perfect person. He doesn't expect me to be. What does he expect? That I do the very best that I can. But you know what? The more I learn, both about myself and about Jesus, I realize that there have been many times in my life when I have disappointed him. What makes me want to change that? To change who I am? He does. Jesus is the reason to start over.
The apology of the next verse is especially true for me. For those that I have hurt, I'm sorry doesn't seem to be enough. I'm sorry, too, for disappointing God.

I'm sorry that I hurt you
It's something I must live with every day
and all the pain I put you through
I wish that I could take it all away
and be the one who catches all your tears
that's why I need you to hear
(repeat chorus)

Music is a powerful tool. Interpretation is largely left up to the listener, and for ten people, a song will probably have ten different meanings. Doug Robb's song may not have been written as a tribute to Jesus, but that's the interpretation that works for me. Those are the words laying on my heart.

Jesus, I'm sorry is a pitiful phrase to offer for the mistakes that I've made. Fortunately, you have blessed me continually, absorbing the hurt and standing strong beside me even when I chose not to notice your presence. I pray that you continue to guide me, and to keep my eyes open.

"...'What was your reason for doing this?'"~Genesis 20:10 NIV

12 January 2010

Never Alone

Music is almost a constant in my life. I'm listening to it, reading about it, or it's playing in my head. Sometimes, a thread of a song will make me stop, think, research ... and write.

Today, a phrase from the Green Day song "Boulevard of Broken Dreams" started running through my mind - "I walk alone." I thought about it, and wondered why that particular phrase came to me. I don't walk alone ... but I have.

Look at Billie Joe Armstrong's lyrics and think for a minute.

I walk a lonely road
The only road that I have ever known
Don't know where it goes
But it's home to me and I walk alone

There have been times in my life when I've been there. On that road, feeling like I am truly alone. Never mind the fact that I have a rather large extended family and group of friends ... never mind the fact that the feeling could come when I was in a large group ... the feeling of being terribly, utterly alone.

Looking back, I realize where that disturbing sense of loneliness came from. It came from my refusal to reach out and grasp the one lifeline that is always there. Even though I dedicated my life to Christ when I was a child, I did not faithfully follow the path that God had set for me. There were years-more years than I care to think about-that He was no more than a strong presence in the back of my mind that I refused, for whatever reason, to bring forward. The amazing thing is that He never left me. Through the ups and downs of my life, through the things that I probably never should have ever even thought about (or done), though I turned sideways to block Him from my line of sight ... God never left me. What in the world did I do to deserve that?

I don't know. God does, because He put me here. He kept me alive as a preemie (against all odds) for a purpose that He alone knows. Now, I feel like I'm going through my days trying, somehow, to make up for all the time I lost. I'm never going to be a licensed minister, but that won't stop me from proclaiming my Lord. This may be the only venue that I ever utilize - but God has given me these words.

What song am I singing now? "Have Faith In God." It's credited to BB McKinney, but I can't verify that, and don't have a hymnal at hand to see who they give credit to. Whoever the author was hit it dead on in this particular song:

Have faith in God
when your pathway is lonely
He sees and knows
all the ways you have trod
Never alone
are the least of his children
Have faith in God
Have faith in God

I do. How very fortunate I am that he didn't give up on me. God, thank you, once more, for your many blessings. Help me to be what you know I can be, and help me help others.

"For the Lord is good and his love endures forever; his faithfulness continues through all generations."~Psalm 100:5 NIV

08 January 2010

God Is In Control

Last night's BCS National Championship game was the meeting of two football dynasties. Alabama's Crimson Tide came into this game the overwhelming favorite, in search of their first national title since 1992. The Texas Longhorns were not only ranked second in the nation, but were coming into the game as the underdogs. I'm not going to get into a bowl game history lesson, but some seemed to forget that the last time Texas played for a national championship, they were also the underdogs. Led by Vince Young, they defeated the highly touted USC team in 2005 to take the national title back to Austin.

Reading the posts attached to several of the game stories this morning, I am extremely disappointed. The nasty jibes and often foul comments are simply unnecessary. Yes, this was the ultimate college football game. There could only be one winner. What happened? On the fifth play of the game, Longhorn senior quarterback Colt McCoy was injured. Colt McCoy is not the only quarterback at Texas, nor is he the only player on the team, but when those three words "McCoy is injured" boomed from the television speakers, Texas fans worldwide sat up a little straighter and wondered how this would affect the outcome of this final game of his college career.

Replaced by freshman Garrett Gilbert, McCoy spent the rest of the first half in the locker room and xray in an attempt to determine whether or not he would be able to return to the game. Despite multiple sacks, Alabama quarterback Greg McElroy led the Tide to a 24-6 lead at halftime. Questioned, both coaches simply stated that the game's strategy would change. For Mack Brown and the Longhorns, it would be a fight to get back into the game with an untested leader. For Nick Saban and the Tide, it would be adjusting for the freshman quarterback they were now facing.

Shortly after the start of the second half, fans learned that McCoy would not be returning. He stayed on the sidelines, talked with his predecessor Vince Young, and encouraged his teammates. The Longhorns rallied to within 3 points, but fell to the Tide 37-21. What I was most proud of was the way that both coaches and most of the players handled themselves during this game. After the game, Nick Saban could have gloated. He didn't. He spoke quietly and respectfully of the quality of both teams, giving credit to an excellent season played by the Longhorns under the leadership of Mack Brown. Cut to Colt McCoy. My first thought was "leave the poor guy alone!" That thought went away as soon as the obviously emotional McCoy began speaking.

He told Lisa Salters that he would have liked nothing better than to play, but that he couldn't feel his arm. Say what you want about that, and I'm no quarterback (I'm not even remotely close to an athlete), but if you can't feel your extremities, their usefulness and accuracy are both about tied for zero. McCoy went on to say that "I always give God the glory. I never question why things happen the way they do. God is in control of my life. And I know that if nothing else, I'm standing on the Rock." With those words, I believe we saw the real McCoy.

College football is over for the year. The national championship title returned to Tuscaloosa. For those fans who can only find nasty things to say about either team, their coaches, or about McCoy's injury, God help you. While it's fun to shout and fun to cheer, in the end, it's still just a game. Don't make it more than it is. Growing up and living in the football-loving south, I am very familiar with the phrase "football isn't a matter of life and death, it's way more important than that!" It isn't. When judgment day comes, I seriously doubt God will be concerned with your devotion to your favorite football team, but will instead be wondering why it couldn't have been directed toward His team.

God, please help me never to forget that you are in control. Open my mind and heart so that I may receive your guidance, and continue along the path that you have chosen for me.

"A fool gives full vent to his anger, but a wise man keeps himself under control."~Proverbs 29:11 NIV

06 January 2010

Three Beautiful, Blessed Years

On January 5, 2007, I was in a hospital room in Heidelberg, Germany, trying with varying degrees of success to help be a labor coach. Isn't it strange how things change? It was no laboring mother in that hospital bed, it was my baby (actually my oldest), and I was just praying for strength for both of us to get through this! Some 15+ hours later, January 6, 2007, Samantha Mackenzie was born, and our lives have not quite been the same since.

I'd always heard the stories, but I guess there is truth in the saying that there is nothing quite like a grandchild. From the moment I first held that tiny little angel, she grasped my heart. I have been blessed to spend a lot of time with Sami over the past three years, thanks to the Army. When the Army tells Nik to go, she buckles down and does what so many other military parents do--gives over the care and safekeeping of the most precious thing in her life to the two people she knows will cherish that charge: her mom (me) and her Honey (my mom). The joy of spending time with my only grandchild is dampened by the sadness of having to watch my daughter depart once more.

Today is Sami's third birthday, and like her first, she will be spending it with her mommy. This year there will be more family than mommy, because Nik and Sami are stationed at Fort Drum. Grandpa Jon, Grandma Becca, and Aunt Nannelle will be able to celebrate Sami's day with her. Sami has celebrated each of her birthdays in a different location: her first was in Germany with mommy and friends; her second in Alabama with Neicy, Honey, Rob, Aunt Nannelle and Uncle Creighton; and now her third in New York.

As we go through life, most of us celebrate the day of our birth in some way or another. Even though we have a special day to celebrate our moms, I think that this year I'm going to thank my mom on my birthday. After all, if it weren't for her and my daddy, I wouldn't be here! I won't be able to thank daddy in person, but he will know. Later on this afternoon, I will call to say "Happy Birthday" to my little angel, but I am also going to thank Nikki for giving me one of the best gifts ever!!

Thinking about birthdays and gift-giving brings me back to the holiday season we just recently celebrated. Although we do not know the exact date of Jesus' birth, we celebrate his birth on December 25. It's not about Santa and spending money, it is about the gift of eternal life. Take a minute to thank GOD for giving us the best present of all: his son.

For those of you who have already celebrated your 2010 birthday, happy belated birthday! For those of you, like myself, whose day of celebration is yet to come: take a moment in the midst of all the well-wishes to give thanks. Give thanks to your parents for having you! Most of all, give thanks to God for the gift of life ... and the gift of eternal life.

God, among the many blessings that you have so generously bestowed upon me are four bright lights: my three beautiful children, and my precious granddaughter. Make me worthy of such riches!! Happy Birthday, Samantha Mackenzie Magoun! You have brought untold blessings to your neicy! God, I ask that you continue to guide this "neicy's" footsteps so that I can be as much a blessing to my granddaughter as my grandparents were to me.

"From the fullness of his grace we have all received one blessing after another." ~John 1:16 NIV

05 January 2010

It Worked!

Today, I received several copies of an email titled "It Worked!" If I only sent it to 12 of my friends and family, I would be rich in 2 days! If I delete the email, I'll beg. I smile every time I receive this email, because it's nothing new. I have received this particular message too many times to count over the years that I've had email, and I have yet to receive a windfall of any kind.

Think about the tag line used as the header for this particular email: "It Worked!" How many products have used this in the past, and with what success rate? Curious, I set out to see what I could learn about attention-getting headlines. When I typed in the phrase "it worked!" into Google, I received nearly 50 million hits in less than a second. Scanning the links that ranged from Australian sunscreen usage to designated drivers, I was amazed at the results. Typing in other phrases such as "new and improved!" (56 million hits) and "try it!" (47.5 million hits) gave large numbers as well. What do you do when you find something that works for you? As a general rule, we tell others. We want to share our happiness/success/discovery!

Nearly 37 years ago, I accepted Jesus as my savior. Those years have seen peaks and valleys of professing my faith, with nearly as many valleys as there have been peaks. Has Jesus been inconsistent during this time? Of course not! I should have been shouting from the rooftops, telling everyone that I come into contact with, taking out full page ads in the paper ... or should I? Where does it say that I must be the most attention-grabbing believer? Nowhere. My granddaddy was not a teacher, nor was he a preacher, not even one to be overly talkative at times. He lived his faith. He believed that he was a child of God, and believed that God would provide. We are all different when it comes to expressions of faith. My outlet is writing, yours may be singing, and someone else's may be preaching the word. What works for me might not work for you.

The biggest decision we ever make in our life is not whether or not to buy that car/house, or to date/marry someone, but is the only decision that has ETERNAL consequences. If I turn away and deny my God in this life, I can be certain that when I stand before him he will deny me. If, on the other hand, I turn my life over to God and follow his will, believing in his saving grace, he will say to me "welcome home, child" when I stand before him. Can you say the same?

Turning my life over to God was one of the easiest decisions I ever made. I was nine years old at the time. Rededicating my life was a conscious commitment that I made just a couple of years ago. God hadn't given up on me, but I had put him on the back burner. I am truly grateful that he had not done the same with me. What worked for me? God. He did, He still does, and He always will. (How's that for a tag line?)

God, I ask your hands to lie upon me and guide me through all the days of my life. Teach me the words that will let me share your amazing power and glory.

"Teach me knowledge and good judgement, for I believe in your commands." ~Psalm 119-:66 NIV

01 January 2010

Once More, A New Beginning

Today is January 1, 2010. One hundred forty-seven years ago, President Abraham Lincoln issued the Emancipation Proclamation. Fifty-one years ago, Fidel Castro upset Batista and took control of Cuba. Thirty-five years ago, Mitchell, Haldeman, and Erlichman were convicted of obstruction of justice in the Watergate debacle. Sixteen years ago, NAFTA went into effect. Six years ago, Myspace was officially launched. Three years ago, Adam Air Flight 574 disappeared over Indonesia with 102 people on board. One year ago today, the state of California made it illegal to write, send or read text messages while driving.

Looking back always brings a sense of amazement to me, especially when I sit poised on the brink of a new year. Who would have thought that Castro would still be in power fifty years later? Did anyone realize six years ago just how predominant social networking would become? How many people in California have violated the text messaging law? Thinking about these, and other seemingly irrelevant questions, causes me to think about things that are relevant, at least to me. What will 2010 bring for me and those that I love? How will I effect change in not only my life, but the lives of those that I touch? How can I serve others? Will I meet my goals for this year? What are my goals for this year?

Making New Year's resolutions is fairly common. While more women than men tend to make these life-changing goals, men are actually more likely to keep them! Why do we make resolutions at the beginning of the new year? There are as many reasons to make resolutions as there are people that make them. Think back over the past few years. What have your resolutions been? Have you kept them? If not, why not? If you have kept one (or more), how did you succeed?

The first stumbling block in making personal goals or resolutions is a simple, yet sometimes overwhelming, one. Remember to make your goals SMART. What is a SMART goal? Breaking it down, S stands for specific. Instead of making a generalized goal such as "I'm going to get healthier this year," make the goal specific, "I'm going to lose weight this year." M stands for measurable. Measure your weight loss plan by further detailing the goal to read "I'm going to lose ten pounds this year." A stands for attainable. While we are familiar with the phrase "Shoot for the moon! Even if you miss you'll land among the stars!", that mindset does not always work well for goal-setting. If you plan to lose weight, for example, make your goal an attainable one. Discounting measures such as surgery or other diet aids, is losing 150 pounds in one year an attainable goal? You may have that as a large goal, but set smaller attainable goals to reach your large goal. R stands for realistic. A realistic goal is exactly what it sounds like. If my goal to increase my bank account in 2010 is winning the lottery, well, I think you get the idea. Last, but certainly not least, is the T in SMART goals: timely. Set a time frame to achieve the goal you've set for yourself. I think that there should be an B on the beginning of this goal-setting phrase for begin. Why? If you don't begin, even the SMARTest of goals will not see completion.

What is your plan for 2010? My goals for this year are not overly complex. To graduate from nursing school in May and pass the NCLEX to become a registered nurse is one major goal. One other goal? Live each day so that I am a witness for God, being thankful for his abundant blessings.

God, you have stood in front of me, beside me, behind me, and even carried me over the past 45 years. Once more, I ask your mercy and grace in helping me through. Help me to be your emissary in the days to come, for it is truly through you that all things are possible!

"I can do everything through him who gives me strength."~Philippians 4:13 NIV