Saturday, December 28, 2013

Goodbye 2013

Last night I talked with a friend who said she could hardly wait to say goodbye to 2013. To say that this has been a rough year for her and her family would be like saying the ocean has a little water. I can sympathize...a lot of us can. We are all hoping that as December 31st passes by, somehow we will finally be able to put this year and all its ugliness behind us and move forward into a fresh new year.

I admit, I love New Year's Day. It is my most favorite holiday, simply because it represents a new start. I need a new start...again.

For many, 2013 has been a tough year. At times, it seems that the world has gone crazy! All this was on my mind the other night as I went out to do some errands and discovered it was dark. I don't mean your normal, night-time dark. It was DARK! To make matters worse, for some reason it seemed that half the street lights on my route had mysteriously gone out. The headlights on my van seemed to be swallowed up as I drove to my destination. It was more than a little scary...for those of you who might be scared of the dark. 

To make things even stranger, when I got home I started to watch on old Dr. Who episode and in that episode, shadows could creep up on you and eat you! (Well, actually it was some sort of weird "Dr. Who piranha" that lived in shadows, but that's not the point!) It was a REALLY dark kind of night. I posted something on facebook about it being dark outside and a friend sent me a post. It said that this particular night was the darkest night in over 500 years. Some sort of solstice lunar eclipse or something. All I knew was it was DARK! Yet the next morning when I got up, the sun was shining. It hadn't gone anywhere, even if I couldn't see it.

I was reminded of the old saying, "it's always darkest before the dawn!" Okay, maybe that's just a saying, but I like it...and by now you can see where this post is going.

Each day with God is a new beginning. We have not yet see what He has planned, but we have His promise that somehow He will use it for our good and His glory. Each day is filled with possibilities that He has placed before us. Each day is another chance to get it right.

As hard as 2013 has been for many of us, if we look back, we can see how God has carried us through it all. After all, He did not promise us that life would be easy. Quite the contrary, He let us know that life would be HARD, but He did promise that He would go through it all with us...and that He would never leave us or forsake us no matter how much it seemed as if He had.

As 2013 draws to a close, I reflect over the year. For the past four years I have chosen one word to help guide me and keep me focused. One year the word was "hope" and another "anticipation". This year it was "move." As I look back over 2013, I have seen this word played out in ways I could not imagine. There have been times it was easy to see as in my move to another school and there have been other "moves" that fewer know about. As I look back through it all, I can see how God has been there.

As 2014 approaches, it is comforting to know, God is already there. He has already walked through each day of the coming year and He has made a way. It will not catch Him by surprise. Perhaps that explains my "one word" for 2014. But that's a blog for another day.

Goodbye 2013. Can't say I'm all that sorry to see you go, but I will remember you...because in the midst of all that has come, you've helped me to see God. No matter how dark the night, He has been there. Thank you for that.

Lamentations 3:22-23 (ESV)

22 The steadfast love of the Lord never ceases;
    his mercies never come to an end;
23 they are new every morning;
    great is your faithfulness.

Sunday, December 22, 2013

This Mom's Christmas list

This Christmas, I have decided to make a Christmas wish list.

No, I'm not asking for world peace or freedom from diabetes, although both would be wonderful. I'm also not asking for diamonds, or  a new vehicle, or even clothes (and certainly not a pajama gram!) All those things are nice, but I'm far more realistic with my wishes. Since no one other than a few friends and my husband read this, I feel free to be honest (as if I have ever been anything else!) But this year I'm hoping that maybe, just maybe, Santa will read my blog.

This is my version of a mom's REAL Christmas wish list - room by room - but mostly from the bathroom since that is where this random thought began!
      *A new toilet seat. What is it with these? I admit I usually purchase some of the least expensive ones since with teenagers in the house these aren't exactly treated with kindness, but come on! These wear out way too fast. Oh, and by the way, I'd REALLY like to have it cleaned by someone else than me!
      * Toilet paper, soap, and razors. Again, two teenagers in the house....enough said. Not complaining because I love my kids, but seems like I'm having to restock these all the time!
      *Towels that match, or at least that aren't frayed! Having them last more than one bath would be nice as well. Why do kids think that they should use a towel once and then drop it to the floor?
      *Speaking of towels, it would be really nice to have some dish towels not stained from years of coffee and tea spills.
      *A new broom that actually gets put back where it belongs.
      *Trash that gets put in the outside container WITHOUT a reminder.
      * Plastic containers with lids that match and can be found together - no, butter dishes do not count. They only make me think we have butter when we're out...let's go ahead and add more butter to the list!
      * Someone to figure out why we have so many fast food cups would be nice. Replacing them with matching cups would be even nicer...and no, matching fast food cups don't count!
     *Dishes that find their way to the sink without me or my husband helping. Heck, why not dream big. Dishes that actually get washed, dried and put up without our help would be amazing!
      *Food in the pantry two days AFTER I spend a small fortune restocking everything. 
      *Dogs that have already been bathed, brushed, and fed
      *A clean car
      *Laundry caught up AND put away!
      *Pillows that are not too hard, not too soft....just right.  Oh, and not stained from years of use. I'd ask for matching sheets, but no one sees them but us and I'm usually way too tired to care.

Yep, my list just goes on and on. There's one thing that I want more than anything else. It's what every mom longs for. I want to see my children happy with what they receive and I want to hear those four words that I know are meant but rarely heard. "I love you, Mom."

I know it's asking a lot, but I still believe in miracles.

Merry Christmas, my friends.

Friday, December 20, 2013

no excuse

Been thinking a lot lately...about things we use as excuses. We all do it. We "excuse" what we do by saying, I can't help it; this is just the way God made me. To coin an old phrase - Hogwash!

Perhaps I can explain in a "gentler" way. I'll use something in my own life as an example of what I mean.

I am a diabetic. People often ask me questions about diabetes and how, at the age of 53 I could be diagnosed with this disease. No, I am not overweight. No, it does not run in my family. No, I don't really know why I have this disease. What they really want to know is "What can I do to make sure I don't get it?" It kind of brings to mind the story of the man that Jesus healed. Everyone around wanted to know did this man sin or his family. Neither - but it was allowed so that God might be glorified.

Now, I'm not sure why I am diabetic...I just am. I could use the excuse that this is how God made me and dive into the disease with abandon. I could eat lots of breads and sweets...I do love chocolate. It calls my name. At times, I am not exaggerating when I say it is all I can think of! If it is in the house, the temptation is greater than my inner strength to abstain. But since this is "how I am made" why not just give in to the temptation. Why? Because it will kill me, that's why.

Remember the scene from The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe? The white witch temps Edmund with the Turkish Delight. Once he has tasted it, it calls his name. He can think of nothing else. Yeah, that's what it's like.

So, did God "create me to be diabetic" or is this the result of sin? Well, I guess since God doesn't create something that is imperfect, it must be a result of sin....of sin in the world. The flaw in me was dormant for over 50 years, but then life happened. And yes, I admit I helped it along with my choices.

I can go long periods "thinking" I'm okay - then I'll slip and eat the sweet - it's pretty much downhill from there. I can convince myself it doesn't affect me - my sugar can get QUITE high and I don't FEEL it - but it effects my body and little by little it destroys. I may "feel" fine...but this insidious disease is working to steal away my life.

Sin is a disease. Like diabetes, it is carried in the blood...and it destroys. There are lots of sins listed in the Bible that are now "politically incorrect" to believe....but it doesn't change the fact of what they will do. Sin still kills. Sometimes it does it slowly, sometimes at hyper speed...but it still kills.Whether it's gossip or adultery or drugs or lying or gluttony or any of the other sins listed...all will kill. They destroy.

So, do I just give up and do what I want? Do I try the excuse that this is just the way I was made? No. God did not make me to be a diabetic, but I am one...and my choices can kill or give life. Yes, He loves me just as I am...but it won't change the fact that the disease within me will kill.

Maybe it's time we gave up our excuses. They don't really change the truth, they just give us permission to keep on doing what is killing us. None of us is perfect, but facing the truth goes a long way toward stopping the enemy of our souls.

Romans 6:14-18

The Message (MSG)
12-14 That means you must not give sin a vote in the way you conduct your lives. Don’t give it the time of day. Don’t even run little errands that are connected with that old way of life. Throw yourselves wholeheartedly and full-time—remember, you’ve been raised from the dead!—into God’s way of doing things. Sin can’t tell you how to live. After all, you’re not living under that old tyranny any longer. You’re living in the freedom of God.

What Is True Freedom?

15-18 So, since we’re out from under the old tyranny, does that mean we can live any old way we want? Since we’re free in the freedom of God, can we do anything that comes to mind? Hardly. You know well enough from your own experience that there are some acts of so-called freedom that destroy freedom. Offer yourselves to sin, for instance, and it’s your last free act. But offer yourselves to the ways of God and the freedom never quits. All your lives you’ve let sin tell you what to do. But thank God you’ve started listening to a new master, one whose commands set you free to live openly in his freedom!

Sunday, December 15, 2013

At Christmas - a stable...

This is a repeat of a post from December 2008....but since it is one of my all-time favorite "Random thoughts", I'm sharing it again.

The following "random thought" actually came to me while teaching in Kid's Church one Sunday just before Christmas. I don't think I've ever heard this fact, I had never thought of it before the words began to come out of my mouth that Sunday morning.

It was a typical Children's Church service a week or two before Christmas. I had a wonderful group of kids, most of whom I had known since they were born. These children knew the Christmas story quite well, so making it real and new was quite a challenge. I had told the story and tried to paint a picture so that the children could experience the story anew. It was then that I asked the question - "Why was Jesus born in a stable?" 

Of course, the response was "Because there was no room in the inn." Then I asked a question even I hadn't considered before. "Why wasn't there room at the inn? Did God forget to make reservations?" Of course, we all laughed at such a ridiculous question. Obviously the birth of Jesus being in a stable was no accident....but why would God allow His Son to be born in a stable?

It's not like God didn't know when Jesus would be born. Yes, the city was crowded, but couldn't God have made room for this family in an inn somewhere? After all, He's God! He knew when the angel told Mary she'd have a son that they would be making this trip 9 months later! He could have made arrangements! I understand that there are many different views as to what this stable might have been, but it doesn't change the fact that a stable isn't a place for a baby to be born! That's where animals are born....animals like sheep. The kind of animal you'd use for a sacrifice. In fact, it has been asserted that it was specifically the place ewes were safely brought to give birth to the lambs. In this sheltered building/cave the priests would bring in the ewes which were about to lamb for protection.

You know, every time I think about that, it causes a lump to rise in my throat. Jesus, the King of Kings was born in a place where sacrifices are born. Wrapped in swaddling cloths, much like the lambs were to protect them from injury. 
He was born in Bethlehem, at the birthing place of the sacrificial lambs that were offered in the Temple in Jerusalem.
 Jesus - born as a sacrifice.

This Christmas, as you take time to read the original Christmas story, may your heart be filled with the knowledge of God's love for you. There is so much more to the "story" than we even know. Merry Christmas.

John 1:29 "Behold, the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world!"

For an interesting read, check out the article at the following link -  ( It has much more information on this topic than I knew when I wrote the blog!

Saturday, November 30, 2013

I am a fan of football...

It's the weekend after thanksgiving and that means lots of football on tv. This is a good thing because I am currently going through some major withdrawals. For the past few months, I have planned my every move around football and before I knew it, the season (for our high school) was over!

Every afternoon I knew I'd be at the school till at least 5 (if not 6) waiting on my son to finish practice. Every night there would be a football game on tv, either in real time or a repeat and you could be sure my son would be glued to every move. Every Friday night I knew I'd be at a football game somewhere, sitting in the heat, the rain, and finally - the cold. Every weekend I knew I'd be listening to a play-by-play of the Friday night before. I'd be asked, "Did you see when...." about every moment of the game. My life was consumed by football.

Now, for a time, it's over; and I am truly missing it. This comes as a surprise to me. You see, I really don't care that much for the game. (SHOCK!) I actually watched the Superbowl only for the commercials. Until a few years ago, I could count the number of games I'd even paid attention to on one hand. It was just....a game.

Then came Levi, and everything changed! I have a picture of him when he was about 2 and he's holding a small stuffed football. I guess that should have been a sign for me. This boy was going to LOVE this game. It wasn't until 5th grade that he actually rediscovered it, but once he did...well, life changed for all of us. (Levi has a way of making sure EVERYONE is interested in what he's interested in.)

Now...well, I love football. At least, I love high school football. Pretty sure in a few years, I'll love college football. Seeing a trend?

I now love football because I love Levi. I love watching him do what he was created to do. We tried him in band for one year - he was miserable and so were we! The boy is simply BUILT for this game! He has a love for it and it is infectious! Mostly, I just love watching him be Levi. And everyone around me knows it. I am a fan! People can hear me cheer in the voice tends to carry. They see me at the games. They see the absolute joy all over my face every time my son hits the field. No matter how far away the game might be, no matter what the weather, I loved watching those games. Whether we were winning or losing, I would be in those stands, watching every move.

I love football because I love the one who is playing, and I'm pretty sure everyone around me can tell that. I am my son's biggest fan!

Then I find I have to ask myself, can people tell that I love God in the same way? Do they see someone who is excited about what God is doing? Do they see someone who is ready to go anywhere at the drop of the hat in order to be a part of what He is doing? Do they see someone who gets up and goes to work each day with anticipation because I know that God is leading me there? Am I a true fan of God?

Will I look forward to church as readily as I look forward to those games? It's far more climate controlled than the stadiums. In my Christian walk, will I cheer each victory that I see and make my voice heard for each injustice? (Oh come on, don't tell me you never got upset over a bad call!) Will I show up no matter what the conditions, no matter how difficult it might be, no matter who else comes? Will God be as big a part of my daily conversation as football now seems to be? Will I be a fan of God in my everyday life?

Yes, I love football because I love Levi, and it's obvious to anyone who knows me....but I hope my love for God shines through even more. I want the world to know that I am a fan of God. How about you?

Oh, and for those who care...I'll be rooting for Auburn today, because that's who my son roots for.

Romans 1:1-2, 9-13

The Message (MSG)
1-2 So here’s what I want you to do, God helping you: Take your everyday, ordinary life—your sleeping, eating, going-to-work, and walking-around life—and place it before God as an offering. Embracing what God does for you is the best thing you can do for him. Don’t become so well-adjusted to your culture that you fit into it without even thinking. Instead, fix your attention on God. You’ll be changed from the inside out. Readily recognize what he wants from you, and quickly respond to it. Unlike the culture around you, always dragging you down to its level of immaturity, God brings the best out of you, develops well-formed maturity in you.
9-10 Love from the center of who you are; don’t fake it. Run for dear life from evil; hold on for dear life to good. Be good friends who love deeply; practice playing second fiddle.
11-13 Don’t burn out; keep yourselves fueled and aflame. Be alert servants of the Master, cheerfully expectant.

Thursday, November 28, 2013

Running with one contact in...

Today I ran the Hobble Gobble Thanksgiving Day race. I love this event because it's for the ARC, it's filled with fellow runners out to have fun, and it's a great excuse to eat whatever I want later in the day.

Today as I ran, I had one of those "random thoughts" that find their way into this blog. Today it was about running with just one contact.

Using only one contact isn't a new idea for me. I know a lot of people who use only one contact in order to see both far away and close up...but today I thought about it in a different way. Today I thought about it in terms of heaven.

This morning, I almost made the mistake of running with BOTH contacts. I figured I wanted to be able to see ahead...keep my eye on the prize as it were. Before going out the door, however, I happened to glance down at my phone and realized I couldn't read the screen with both contacts in. I wouldn't be able to even turn on my music! So, I took out one contact and headed out the door.

That's when it hit me. Running with one contact is a little like living life with heaven in mind. Mind you, it would have been great to see WAY ahead by wearing both contacts, but if I had, I would miss a lot of little things along the way because with both contacts in I have trouble seeing what is right in front of me! Mostly I would miss the faces of those around me. I've heard it said that it's not a good idea to be so "heavenly minded that you're no earthly good." God obviously has a job for me to do or I wouldn't still be here! I need to be able to keep my eye on heaven while still doing what God has for me here on earth!

I can't run without contacts either...tried it a couple of times. I lose sight of my goal all together and simply have to run on "blind faith"...I'm not too good at that. I can do it for a while, because I can see my next step, but I eventually get frustrated that everything else is a blur.

So, today I'm going to try and "run my race" with one contact...keeping an eye on heaven but not forgetting what God places before me on earth to do.

How about you? How's your focus today? Oh...and Happy Thanksgiving Y'all!

Colossians 3:1-2 (MSG)

So if you’re serious about living this new resurrection life with Christ, act like it. Pursue the things over which Christ presides. Don’t shuffle along, eyes to the ground, absorbed with the things right in front of you. Look up, and be alert to what is going on around Christ—that’s where the action is. See things from his perspective.

Wednesday, November 27, 2013

This one is different...

Every parent looks at their child and at some point says those 4 little words...."this one is different." Usually, they are saying this in a positive way, but sometimes.......

It's true. Every child is different, but as a parent and a teacher, one of the things I have come to realize over the years is that while children are different, there are a few things that remain constant in all least the ones I've met.

#1 - Children lie. Unless your name is Mary and your child's name is Jesus, face it - they will lie. It's a part of human nature. I have always wanted to say to a parent who says that their child does not lie, "Well, at least now we know where they learned it from." As a parent, I do not need to be ashamed that my child will lie, but realize it is an opportunity to teach them. Teach them, not just of how wrong it is to lie and the ramifications that come from it, but also that God never lies. His promises are true and He can be trusted. Lies have a way of eroding a person's ability to be trusted in ANYTHING! That's why it's so important to remember that God has NEVER lied...His Word is true.

#2 - One size does not fit all. (Okay, I guess that fits the "this one is different" idea.) What worked in disciplining one child will not automatically work for another. Ask me about the time I tried using psychology and reasoning with my son only to have him strip down to his birthday suit and go out the door! He was only 3 and I caught him before he got to the street...almost. The education plan for one child will not automatically fit another. (I always try to counsel parents who are trying to choose between home-school, private school, or public school to ask God. He knows what is right for their child. Some have a mixture of kids in all three!) The Bible talks about training up a child in the way that HE should go. I may want to train up my child to be a doctor...and God plans for a police officer. I may plan for a teacher, and God may plan for a president. I may plan for a pastor, and God may plan for a CEO. One size does not fit all, and that's a good thing!

#3 - Your children don't belong to you. Seriously. I don't care if you adopted them or gave birth to them, they do not belong to you. They don't belong to the world either. They belong to God. He helps US grow up by giving us these children for a time. Our responsibility is to train them to follow Him. Notice I didn't say take them to church, although that is important. I didn't say teach them to follow rules, although that is a part of growing up. We are to teach them to FOLLOW God. They learn that by watching us do the same. They learn when we screw up and run to God. They learn when they see us succeed and run to Him. They learn when they see us do anything and always run to Him. I've tried to "teach" my kids a lot of different things, but it's the things I've lived in front of them that seem to "stick."

There is ONE thing more thing that is true of every child. Each child is loved by God. He loves them even more than YOU do! I know, it's hard to imagine, but He does. He has a plan for them, one for good and not for evil. Plans for a hope and a matter what things look like right now.

During the holidays, when you have your children and a bit of extra stress to add to the mix, you can remember this - while your child is "different", so are you. Know that God doesn't make mistakes.....YOU will, but He doesn't. He really does know what He's doing....and He has a plan. It may be different than yours, but it is good.

Jeremiah 29:11 (NIV)

For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.

Proverbs 22:6 (MSG)

 Point your kids in the right direction—
    when they’re old they won’t be lost.

Can I be honest?

Tomorrow is Thanksgiving...can I be honest? I'm pretty un-thankful.

Don't get me wrong. I am the FIRST to say "thank you" to people for just about EVERYTHING! Thank you to the cashier at the grocery store. Thank you to my students for walking in line. Thank you to the traffic light for finally turning green...I try daily to see my blessings. I am so thankful for my children, my husband, my all around me I am pretty sure that I appear to be a thankful person.

But I know the truth.

I see the success of the "world" and I am jealous. I see those around me with plenty, those who do not seem to serve God, and I get angry. I see the exciting, new toys enjoyed by the "rich" and I secretly seethe. No, I'm not thankful.

I am pretty sure I am not alone. If I am the only one who struggles with this, I simply ask that you pray for me and see me as a flawed child of God who is still growing. You see, I often forget just how blessed I am.

I get my eyes off what God has given me and instead stare at the blessings of others. I am ADHD and distracted by the shiny and sparkly of what I perceive to be as better. I become a person who views the world through the glasses of want instead of those of abundance...despite all that I have. I forget.

Today, I want to remember.

As I clean out my old van that is older than my son who just got his driver's license, I want to look at the stickers that still remain on the back window, a reminder of the vacation taken with my children when they were young. The laughter that filled that van...yes, it's even better than a new car smell could ever be....and I give thanks.

As I pick up the dirty clothes for the millionth time, I want to remember that God chose my husband and me to raise two of His precious children...and while my son talks non-stop or my daughter leaves her stuff everywhere, I want to remember what life was like before them...and I give thanks.

As I see people with jobs that seem perfect - complete with large salaries and bonus perks - I want to remember the blessings of the career God has chosen for me. While there never seems to be money in my account, I can hardly go anywhere without hearing my name called or being recognized as a teacher. (Okay - not sure how thankful I should be about that!)

As I see magnificent homes exquisitely decorated for the holidays, I want to remember that each ornament I hang on my little tree represents a year of my life with family. There is only one tree, but it holds a lifetime of memories, one that, honestly, is filled with far more good than bad....and I give thanks.

I want to remember.....and give thanks.

Maybe I'm the only one that struggles with being thankful. Perhaps people will see this blog and think of me as a horrible person from now on. Or maybe, just maybe, there are other "un-thankful" people out there who like me are learning....remembering to give thanks for what they have.

Honestly, sometimes it's hard...but I'm working on it.

1 Thessalonians 5:16-18 (MSG)

16-18 Be cheerful no matter what; pray all the time; thank God no matter what happens. This is the way God wants you who belong to Christ Jesus to live.

Tuesday, November 19, 2013

I'll never be fast....

I have come to the realization that I will never be fast. I used to be at least "sort of" fast, but as my years have advanced, my speed has diminished. With that in mind, it would be easy to see how I would get discouraged and just give up, but then things like this happen to remind me why...

Tonight I participated in a local "Go H.A.R.D." (Hug A Runner Day) event. It was only a mile run, and totally for fun, but just what I needed as I start to work on getting back into running again.

I started out with all the other runners as they started into an easy jog. The best part was watching all the parents with their kids as they made their way around the course. Before long, I found myself running alone. I've noticed that happens a lot. There are a BUNCH of runners ahead of me and a few behind me, and I run alone. That's okay. To be honest I am kind of comfortable in that spot. I actually like running alone.

It was then that I came up behind two little girls who had sped past me earlier, but now they were walking. I encouraged them a couple of times to keep going. They would, of course, take off at top speed and leave me, only to have me plod up behind them in a few seconds.
Finally, I ran along side the littlest one, (I'll call her "pink kitty" since she wore a pink kitten hat,) and this time I told her I'd run along side her. She started to kick on the jets again only this time I told her to slow down...we'd just go slow. 

She was doing her best, but she looked up at me and said, "My heart hurts! It feels like it's breaking!" 

I nodded and said, "I know, but that's just your heart growing stronger. Don't stop. Don't give up. You can do this!"

We ran along side by side, me talking to her about her really cool hat, asking about her school, telling her she was doing great, encouraging her that she was a really fast runner for a 5 year old..."I don't think I could have run that fast when I was 5," I said. 

She looked up and asked, "How old are you?" 

"I'm 54. Pretty old, huh." Yes, she nodded. ( that moment it felt pretty good to be that old!)

Step by step we ran together. "Not much further," I said. 

The finish line was getting closer, and she wanted to speed up, but I told her to hold back till the final turn. As we approached that last turn, I told her I wanted her to run as hard as she could. I figured she'd leave me behind when she kicked in those afterburners, but we weren't done. She gave it a burst of speed, but then I could see her slowing. I had to speed up and run beside her, egging her on.

That little "pink kitty" crossed the finishing line at full speed, so proud of herself and what she had done! She finished her mile run!

I have to be honest, I was pretty happy too. No, I hadn't run my fastest mile - far from it. Instead, I helped someone else reach their goal.

The Christian walk is a lot like this run. Sometimes I feel my "best" days are behind me. I'm not nearly as fast as I once was. Only now, I have an even better reason to run. I get to run alongside others who are just starting their race....those whose hearts "feel like they are breaking" and I get to encourage them that they are just getting stronger.

I get to talk to them about little things to help get their minds off the pain. I get to remind them to slow down...we'll get there one step at a time. I get to watch them do things they never thought possible and help them simply not to quit.

No, I'll never be fast like some others, but this is my race, the one that allows me to meet people all along the way that simply need to hear, "You can do this." This is why I run this race called life.  Care to join me?

1 Thessalonians 5:11 (Msg)

So speak encouraging words to one another. Build up hope so you’ll all be together in this, no one left out, no one left behind. I know you’re already doing this; just keep on doing it.

Hebrews 10:22-25 (MSG)

So let’s do it—full of belief, confident that we’re presentable inside and out. Let’s keep a firm grip on the promises that keep us going. He always keeps his word. Let’s see how inventive we can be in encouraging love and helping out, not avoiding worshiping together as some do but spurring each other on, especially as we see the big Day approaching.

*Note: I originally said this was Pink Kitty's FIRST mile. I later discovered after reading a post from her mom that it was not her first mile. Thanks Christy for allowing me to run with your precious child. 
I also realized, it was probably one of the most fun miles I've run in a long time....Pink Kitty took my mind off my own labored breathing for a while!

Saturday, November 16, 2013

An unlikely couple...

We've all seen them - that unlikely couple that makes you wonder, "How did THEY wind up together?" Maybe  she's gorgeous and he seems dorky, or his is bold and she is meek, or like me and my husband, she is hyper and loud while he is quiet and calm. Whatever the mix, they just seem like they don't fit, but they are obviously perfect together.

This week I've been thinking of another "unlikely couple" - Confidence and Humility.

On the surface these two might seem like they don't fit together, but when you look closer you find that you can't possibly have one without the other!

Think of someone you know who walks in confidence. You know them. When they walk into a room, people are drawn to them. They aren't cocky or full of themselves, they just are.  They do their job in confidence, parent their kids in confidence, even play in confidence! They just seem to not worry and instead walk into any situation as though they know what to do.

I've been thinking a lot about what makes a person confident. Is it their ability? Is it their knowledge? What is it about them that allows them to walk in such confidence? That's when it hit me. It's because they aren't just confident, they are also HUMBLE! Yes, you heard me right, they are humble....THAT'S the reason they can be so confident. They realize it's not about them. 

A humble person doesn't think too highly of themselves, in fact, I'm pretty sure they aren't thinking of themselves at all. They seem to be "about their Father's business," and that is enough. The confidence is intertwined so closely to humility that they can't be separated. Think about it, no one ever has walked in more confidence and humility than Jesus. He could have called down angels to do His bidding at anytime, but instead He walked with sinners, sick people, and thieves showing mercy and grace. He just went about doing his Father's will.

Unfortunately, I find that I more often walk with another "odd couple"....the evil twins of Confidence and Humility - Low-self esteem and Pride. Confusing, I know! Most people see someone who speaks of themselves with words of debasement and self-depreciation and think THAT is the person who is humble. Like most things, however, looks can be deceiving. After all, those words are usually mostly about THEM. It's about what they can or cannot do. The focus is on THEM. What seems to be Humility is actually Pride in disguise. While
I'd like to believe I can walk in confidence, I more often seem to walk in pride. I want to lose the focus on myself, but often that's exactly where it lands. On me. Not a very pleasant thought, I know.

Confidence knows that everything isn't based on our own ability to make things happen. It's hard to get to this point because the toughest part is that all this requires Trust. It's a simple word, but that doesn't make it easy. 

We have to Trust that our Father God loves us more than we can imagine. Trust that He sees all the days of our lives and has already walked through them. Trust that He has planned an end that will be for our good and His glory. 

Now that I think about it, maybe it's not that Confidence and Humility are a couple. Maybe they actually walk as a trio with Trust. I want to hang with these friends a lot more than I do their evil counterparts, Low Self-esteem, Pride, and Fear. How about you?

Luke 2:49
He said, “Why were you looking for me? Didn’t you know that I had to be here, dealing with the things of my Father?”

Psalms 25:9 He leads the humble in what is right, and teaches the humble his way.

James 4:10   Humble yourselves before the Lord, and he will lift you up.

 Ephesians 2:10 - For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus unto good works, which God hath before ordained that we should walk in them.

Sunday, November 10, 2013

George Washington slept here...

Today I was listening to an interesting story about someone who had been given a guitar. It was a very nice guitar, top of the line. It was, however, extra special because it had been signed by Eric Clapton. Because of this, this guitar was extremely valuable. The new owner took great care of this guitar, making sure he cleaned it after each use, storing it in a special place - not exposing it to elements that might cause it harm. You get the picture...and I'm pretty sure you see where today's post is heading. 

All this got me to thinking about all the other things that we see as valuable because some great person signed it or used it. In the past, people would claim importance to some place that looked like just a shack to most people...its one claim to fame was that "George Washington slept here." The name of the famous person was used to garner recognition, prominence,  even money. It is not the HOUSE that gave the place value, but who had stayed there.

Tying these two stories together, they both got me to thinking...what makes a person valuable? Is it our gifts? What we look like? The other "houses" around us? No, what really makes a person valuable is who lives within the house...whose "signature" is on it.

Because Christ lives in me, I have value. So do you. I'm not going to "trash" the house, or bring in things that might destroy it or ugly it up. I'm not going to cover my "valuable guitar" with cheap stickers from a gumball machine. I'm not going to allow political ads, product billboards, or just plain weeds to diminish the importance of the dwelling. It's too important. No trash of un-forgiveness can be allowed, no language that paints the house in cheap neon green paint, no habits that block the view like a tacky billboard with lights. The focus isn't even on the house at all. The focus should be on Who lives there.

No, George Washington didn't live here, but the One who DOES is far greater than any man who has ever lived. That makes this house valuable. That makes me valuable...and it's what makes you valuable, too.

Romans 8:9-11 (MSG)

9-11 But if God himself has taken up residence in your life, you can hardly be thinking more of yourself than of him. Anyone, of course, who has not welcomed this invisible but clearly present God, the Spirit of Christ, won’t know what we’re talking about. But for you who welcome him, in whom he dwells—even though you still experience all the limitations of sin—you yourself experience life on God’s terms. It stands to reason, doesn’t it, that if the alive-and-present God who raised Jesus from the dead moves into your life, he’ll do the same thing in you that he did in Jesus, bringing you alive to himself? When God lives and breathes in you (and he does, as surely as he did in Jesus), you are delivered from that dead life. With his Spirit living in you, your body will be as alive as Christ’s!

Thursday, November 7, 2013

Thank you...

The following is a re-post of one of the first blogs I ever wrote. "Thank you" for reading....

Today, as I was on my break (those who are teachers will find that term laughable), I came upon one of our special needs students who was outside enjoying the beautiful sunshine with his teacher. As soon as he saw me, he called out "Thank you" and held out what could best be described as a broken weed. Of course, I went over to him to say good morning and he called out again, "Thank you." I reached to take the weed he offered and he gave it, then reached for it again all the while saying "Thank you." The smile on this child's face was so peaceful, I was quite captivated. His teacher smiled that loving smile I see so often on her face as she works with these little ones and she said, "That's all he knows how to say."

I watched as this angel dressed in everyday clothes walked back and forth between his teacher and me saying "thank you" and alternating between giving and receiving that broken weed. His teacher and I talked for a moment and he smiled and toddled tirelessly between the two of us. His teacher said, "He could do that all day." I'm sure he had no idea how much joy he was sharing with each "thank you."

As we ended our conversation, I laughingly commented that perhaps he could come and teach my 5th graders a thing or two...but as I turned to continue on my way to the office I thought perhaps it was ME that needed to be taught.

How often do I complain when life hands me less than what I think I deserve? How often have I grumbled to God and all those around me when life wasn't "fair"? How often have I spewed negative words into my situations because I had to wait longer than I wanted for my turn? And let's be honest...most of my grumbling and complaining isn't because of some great trial; it's because I've been inconvenienced in some way. When traffic doesn't go fast enough for me, (usually cause I'm running late), or someone does things differently than I think they should be done, or - let's be truthful - someone gets the credit for something that I feel like I should be noticed for....I go and throw myself a two year old fit! How dare life not go my way! How many times have I been unhappy with the broken weed I've been given... and how many times has the peace that this child had escaped me?

We all know that the Bible tells us to give thanks in all things - not for them mind you, but in them. We can do this because we know that God works all things for our good and His glory in those that love Him and are called according to His purpose. I know there will be times when I need to cry out to the Lord or to my brothers and sisters in Christ....there is no shame in being honest about our feelings, but I don't need to set up camp there. I need to take my broken weed, look up, and move on.

Lord, help me remember this child's face and the peace and joy he expressed each time he said "thank you." Help me to remember that life will hand me broken weeds at times, but I don't have to be bitter or grumble and complain. Help me to live each day able only to say two words....thank you.

Thank you, Lord....thank you. 

Colossians 3:15 - 17 (MSG)

15-17 Let the peace of Christ keep you in tune with each other, in step with each other. None of this going off and doing your own thing. And cultivate thankfulness. Let the Word of Christ—the Message—have the run of the house. Give it plenty of room in your lives. Instruct and direct one another using good common sense. And sing, sing your hearts out to God! Let every detail in your lives—words, actions, whatever—be done in the name of the Master, Jesus, thanking God the Father every step of the way.

Saturday, October 26, 2013

Fewer words - greater meaning

This past week in my class, we have been working on learning how to present our "claims", what we believe. In the process of helping students clarify what they wanted to say and cut out some of the unnecessary fluff, one of the students spoke up and said, "Oh, I get it. Less words, more meaning!" Exactly! 

I tweaked the wording of her comment and created a chart for my room that said, "Fewer words - Greater meaning." Since that time, this phrase has been rolling around in my head.

Now, those who know me might find it unusual that I would write a blog about using FEWER words. I have been known to talk a little...okay, I talk a LOT! But lately I'm finding that I am choosing my words far more carefully.

There was a movie a few years back, A Thousand Words. In this movie, the character Jack McCall, played by Eddie Murphy, finds an unusual tree in his yard after an encounter with a spiritual guru. He discovers that when he speaks, a leaf drops off of the tree. When all the leaves are gone, Jack's life will be at an Jack refuses to speak at all! Of course, his life is affected by his choice. By the end, Jack has to find a way to choose his words carefully because each word has to say as much as it possibly can. Each word must be worth spending a part of his life on. Fewer words - greater meaning.

The Bible does have a verse that talks about all this. Proverbs 10:19 says, "The more talk, the less truth; the wise measure their words." 

This could prove a problem for me. I do love to talk and make people laugh. I decided maybe I should look to the author and finisher of my faith for an example of what this might look like.

If I look to Jesus and His words that have been recorded - honestly there aren't that many! I have to believe Jesus said more than was recorded; I can't picture Him sitting around a campfire with the disciples and saying little to nothing unless it was to be recorded. I can picture Him laughing and even joking with His friends. With that in mind, I have to consider that the words that WERE recorded must have been times when He was trying to get His point across - He was measuring His words in order to teach. No one can deny that the words of Jesus had meaning.

I know that I want to live and teach like Jesus. This means that I will have to first clearly know what I believe. I will also need to be able to listen to and gauge the understanding of those around me. Jesus obviously had high ideals that He wanted His followers to reach. At the same time, He could see where their understanding was. This must have meant that at times He stopped talking and listened. Instead of focusing only on where He wanted His followers to get to, Jesus also recognized where they were...and He scaffold-ed (my teacher friends will love this term) His teaching so that they could follow. He wisely chose each word to lead His followers from where they were, to where He wanted them to be.

They're just words...or are they? Maybe like Jack in the movie, I'm realizing that my life is closer to its end than ever. Definitely I want to live my life more like Jesus. Either way, I want the words I choose to have have meaning. Fewer words - greater meaning. If we all did this, who knows where it might lead?

Saturday, October 5, 2013

It's all so Jr. High

The following is a post from a few years ago...don't know why it came to mind this weekend, but since it did, I thought I'd share it again.
I am one of the lucky few in the world. I actually get to spend at least 8 hours of every day smack dab in the middle of Jr. High. I can almost hear you gasp in amazement. I know, you are jealous. You wish YOU could spend each day knee deep in drama, hormones, pimple cream and books. It's almost like living in a green house of emotions! Nothing is ever minor. It's just one big life crisis after another. It's just so - Jr. High!
Truthfully, I don't think I've ever met anyone who would willingly go back to their life during the Jr. High years. Just the mention of the words are enough to make grown men shudder and seemingly confident women break out is a cold sweat! It's almost as if when they escaped that time period they were set free! The one thing they knew was that they NEVER wanted to go back.
I recently asked my students what were the toughest parts of being in Jr. High and the answers ranged from pressure from parents to pressure from friends. They deal with mean girls/guys and tests and tough teachers and fickle friends. They are tired and excited and bored and frightened....sometimes all in the same day. In addition, the expectations of those around them seem to, at times, overwhelm these young teenagers. I think every day must be one constant battle of learning who they are and what they can and cannot do. They feel more grown up than they are and yet at times lapse back into being just a kid. They try to wrap their minds around lessons in math, language, history, computers and science all while juggling moods that can be far more frightening than the Tower of Terror roller coaster ride. Oh, and just to make things more interesting,  they are surrounded by hundreds of others dealing with the very same things. Oh yeah, Jr. High is one wonderful/rough place to be.
So often I want to tell my students to just hang in there. Jr. High is NOT the real world. It will be over soon! Yes, they may be dealing with difficult people, even difficult teachers, but it won't last forever. Before they realize it, it will be over and they will move on. The things that seem so huge today won't even be a blip on the radar of their lives in a few years.
And then I heard it. That nudging voice of the Lord inside me saying "That's what I've been trying to tell you." I am still stunned when I think of the simplicity of those words because right then it hit's all just "Jr. High."
The things I am dealing with, which may be tough, are still really just a stage of life. They will pass far more quickly than I realize and I'll move on. My goal is heaven...that's what's really real. Everything else is just Jr. High. Once we reach heaven, we'll be able to look back and see just how Jr. High it really was. We'll see things we wished we'd known then that we know now. We'll see places where we were doing better than we thought, and we'll see things we wish we could have changed. We'll realize we were surrounded by others who were going through their own Jr. High. Mostly, we'll look back and realize - we don't want to ever go back!
Life is definitely much better now than it was in Jr. High....and that gives me hope. If my life now, even with all it's trials, is that much better than Jr. High; then how much more wonderful must heaven be?
For me, this has been such an eye opener. Almost every day, I find myself laughing and saying, "It's all just Jr. High." Graduation day is going to be something else!
1 Corinthians 13:12 (Amplified Bible)
For now we are looking in a mirror that gives only a dim (blurred) reflection [of reality as in a riddle or enigma], but then [when perfection comes] we shall see in reality and face to face! Now I know in part (imperfectly), but then I shall know and understand fully and clearly, even in the same manner as I have been fully and clearly known and understood [by God].

Sunday, September 29, 2013

Elephants, George Bailey, Elijah...and me

In this blog, as in most of them, I share the real and for true parts of life I struggle with. I do this in an attempt to help others, for the enemy would have us believe we are alone in our struggles...that if we were more spiritual it would somehow all be okay. (The enemy is a liar, by the way.)

Today's random thought started this morning while reading an article in an exercise magazine written by a young woman who admitted that her entire life had been ruled by her weight. I shook my head as she detailed events she had skipped and moments missed simply because her thoughts were consumed by how much she weighed. My heart went out to her, not because I deal so much with my weight (thanks diabetes for that much) but because as I read, I realized I, too, am ruled by my own "elephant in the room." For me, that elephant comes in the form of financial worries, but it is an elephant all the same.

This elephant controls everything I do. His name is "How much does it cost?" He has caused vacations to not be planned, dinners never made, parties not given or attended...and let's don't even start to think about Christmas and birthdays because the weight of that elephant grows with each passing thought of their arrival. He's an ugly elephant, even as elephants go. Like most pachyderms, he has grown with age...and evidently, elephants have an extremely long lifespan because I see no hint that he plans on going anywhere.

All this was on my mind as I entered church today. Those around me sang and my mind's eye was filled with the "elephant" that sat on my wallet...make that sat on my chest, making it hard to breathe. When would this elephant go away? 

As will happen, my mind ricocheted to a scene from "It's a Wonderful Life." You know the one, where George Bailey grabs the post off the stair railing as it comes off in his hand and kisses it for joy because he has come to realize how blessed he truly is...then my mind wandered to the scene earlier in the movie, before Clarence the angel makes his appearance. It's the part where it appears Potter has won; George, who has been so positive before is overcome with worry and rants, "This drafty old barn! Might as well be living in a refrigerator! Why did we have to live here in the first place and stay around this measly, crummy old town?...Everything's wrong."

I'm afraid I'm a lot closer to George "pre-angel visit" than I am to the "post-angel" one. I wanted to be more like the happy George who didn't care what happened because he knew now how truly blessed his life had been. Still, inside I was frustrated, confused, and just generally in a frump. That elephant shifted his position, but he still sat clearly on top of me.

My mind then wandered to Elijah. (Hey, who can figure out why or how my mind works!?!) I thought of the old widow who had made her last batch of bread because "that was all there was." Yeah, God! That's what it feels like. I spend my life looking at what I have and wondering or worrying because I know that when this is gone, there is no more till next month. This is all there is! 

Then I remembered the rest of the story. You all know the one. Elijah comes to a widow and asks her to fix him some bread,  basically asked her to give all she had. That widow let him know that this was all there was, but then she made that small cake of bread for him anyway....and there was still plenty for more. That oil and flour didn't run out. She had all she needed, for her AND her child.

All this "thinking" went on during worship, and now it was time for the pastor to finally start talking - as if God hadn't already been messing with me enough already. When our pastor stood up to share, the message was aimed right at me. In a nutshell, the main idea was that we all must deal with FACTS, TRUTH, and OUR INTERPRETATION. Facts - that's what other words, my elephant. Truth - that's what God has to say about things. Our interpretation - what am I going to do about it. Which will I believe?

Our outlook is determined by what God says. While the "reality" of our elephant wants to shut us down, we can know that there is a truth that is bigger than the facts of our situation. Yes, there is a TRUTH that is bigger than your elephant!

The pastor left us with a homework assignment. We are to write in a little chart whatever the "Facts" are that we are dealing with. (He didn't say our "elephant" but I knew that's what it was.)  For me, I wrote, "There never seems to be enough." In the second column, we are to search God's Word for what HE has to say about this. That would be the TRUTH column. The third column may prove to be the toughest...."Which will I believe? As he reminded us today, what we believe in our head, we say with our mouths. What we believe in our heart becomes what I do.

I don't know if you have an elephant that has come to live in your house like I do, but if so, I invite you to join me in this exercise. Perhaps by the end we'll be more like the happy George Bailey. Our elephant won't seem so huge anymore. Maybe we'll even find that it is gone completely....and we can live life knowing that our God is MORE than enough...and there's always plenty of whatever we need, no matter what that need may be.

So here's to elephants, George Bailey, Elijah...and us. Good luck to us all on our "homework" as we attempt to eat our bite at a time, make that one word from God at a time.

1 Kings 17:7-16

The Message (MSG)
7-9 Eventually the brook dried up because of the drought. Then God spoke to him: “Get up and go to Zarephath in Sidon and live there. I’ve instructed a woman who lives there, a widow, to feed you.”
10-11 So he got up and went to Zarephath. As he came to the entrance of the village he met a woman, a widow, gathering firewood. He asked her, “Please, would you bring me a little water in a jug? I need a drink.” As she went to get it, he called out, “And while you’re at it, would you bring me something to eat?”
12 She said, “I swear, as surely as your God lives, I don’t have so much as a biscuit. I have a handful of flour in a jar and a little oil in a bottle; you found me scratching together just enough firewood to make a last meal for my son and me. After we eat it, we’ll die.”
13-14 Elijah said to her, “Don’t worry about a thing. Go ahead and do what you’ve said. But first make a small biscuit for me and bring it back here. Then go ahead and make a meal from what’s left for you and your son. This is the word of the God of Israel: ‘The jar of flour will not run out and the bottle of oil will not become empty before God sends rain on the land and ends this drought.’”
15-16 And she went right off and did it, did just as Elijah asked. And it turned out as he said—daily food for her and her family. The jar of meal didn’t run out and the bottle of oil didn’t become empty: God’s promise fulfilled to the letter, exactly as Elijah had delivered it!

Saturday, September 21, 2013

Did I mention I hate hills?

This is a repost of a blog from 2010, but it came to mind again today as I attempted to run up "Mount Kill-a-miss-donna" not once, but two times! (Do not let the picture fool you! This hill is a killer!!!) In honor of making it up that hill, I am posting this blog once again. Hope you enjoy this more than I did that hill!

Okay, I know that as a runner I'm supposed to love hills. I've participated in races where the course was described as having "gentle, rolling hills" and let me tell you whoever wrote that lied! There was absolutely nothing gentle about those hills. They went on forever! And even though the race doubled back to the start, I still haven't figured out how I wound up running uphill both ways! I live in South Mississippi for crying out loud! Where are all these hills coming from?!?

I hate hills. I'm not exactly what you'd call poetry in motion when I run anyway, but when I encounter hills, things gets downright ugly! My heart starts beating out of my chest, my face gets flushed, I start sweating so hard I look like I got caught in a sudden cloud burst, and I run SLOW!!! I hate hills...have I mentioned that before?

I can't be the only one who struggles with hills. Why, even the writer of Psalms 121 said, "I lift up my eyes to the hills—where does my help come from?" The King James version says, "I will lift up mine eyes unto the hills, from whence cometh my help." I used to think that verse meant I looked up to God in some sort of spiritual utopia. Then I read the verse in other versions and realized the author was calling out for help! Seems that he wasn't looking forward to having to take that hill either!

Still, I am coming to realize what most runners already know, hills build strength. Seasoned runners look at hills as an opportunity to become stronger and therefore, faster. They know those hills will eventually benefit them and allow them to win the race!

Life is full of hills, chances to become stronger than what we are. The question is, will I look at those hills/trials as a good thing? Will I choose to remember during the battle uphill that somehow God is going to use this for my good and His glory? As my heart is pounding and every part of me hurts feeling as though this trial will never end, can I keep going? Will I look back at hills past and remember that God is faithful and never leaves me nor forsakes me? Will I look at this trial as yet another chance for God to make me stronger so that I can run the race set before me? Will I learn to give thanks even for those "hills"? If so, it could really change the way I look at life! Those hills serve a purpose!

In Romans 5: 3-5, this is described for us. "There's more to come: We continue to shout our praise even when we're hemmed in with troubles, because we know how troubles can develop passionate patience in us, and how that patience in turn forges the tempered steel of virtue, keeping us alert for whatever God will do next. In alert expectancy such as this, we're never left feeling shortchanged. Quite the contrary—we can't round up enough containers to hold everything God generously pours into our lives through the Holy Spirit!"

The rest of Psalm 121 tells me how I will be able to do all this: "My help comes from the LORD, the Maker of heaven and earth.  He will not let your foot slip— he who watches over you will not slumber;  indeed, he who watches over Israel will neither slumber nor sleep." I'm not running up this hill alone. He is there to hold me up, even to the point that I can almost feel his hand on my back gently encouraging me to go on. He does not ask me to do anything that He is unwilling to do with me. He's taken this hill before and He came back to help me do the same.

Can't say I'll ever learn to love hills, but maybe I'll learn to not dread them quite so much from now on. Perhaps the urge to quit and sit down won't seem quite so attractive now. After all, I've got a race to run, and I want to run it well....for I'm running for the prize! I want to hear "Well done" when my race is through.

More encouragement for the "Hills of Life".....

Hebrews 12: 1-3 (Message translation): "Do you see what this means—all these pioneers who blazed the way, all these veterans cheering us on? It means we'd better get on with it. Strip down, start running—and never quit! No extra spiritual fat, no parasitic sins. Keep your eyes on Jesus, who both began and finished this race we're in. Study how he did it. Because he never lost sight of where he was headed—that exhilarating finish in and with God—he could put up with anything along the way: Cross, shame, whatever. And now he's there, in the place of honor, right alongside God. When you find yourselves flagging in your faith, go over that story again, item by item, that long litany of hostility he plowed through. That will shoot adrenaline into your souls!"

Isa 40:31 (NIV) But those who hope in the Lord will renew their strength. They will soar on wings like eagles; they will run and not grow weary, they will walk and not be faint.

Phil. 3:12 - 14 "Not that I have already obtained all this, or have already been made perfect, but I press on to take hold of that for which Christ Jesus took hold of me. Brothers, I do not consider myself yet to have taken hold of it. But one thing I do: Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead, I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus."

Acts 20:24 "However, I consider my life worth nothing to me, if only I may finish the race and complete the task the Lord Jesus has given me—the task of testifying to the gospel of God's grace."

Matthew 25:21 "His master replied, 'Well done, good and faithful servant! You have been faithful with a few things; I will put you in charge of many things. Come and share your master's happiness!'