What are you resolving to do in 2019???

I’ve always found this week to be interesting.  People have navigated through the Christmas season and a collective “sigh” has been heard from people everywhere.  This week is pivotal, it’s a time where I personally look backward at the past year and reflect upon the ups and downs of the year and the craziness that was endured through the year.  It’s also a time many people look to make New Year’s resolutions to change their life for the better over the next year.  According to U.S. News & World Report, 80% of New Year’s resolutions fail by February.  Yes, let that sink in!

Why do you think that is?  My personal opinion is that most resolutions are for outward changes, something tangible that other people can see in you.  Changes that we want other people to see in us… losing 10 lbs, or exercising 3 times a week, or even committing to being on time.  What if we focused this next year on the within, what our heart and soul needs, over what we want to look or feel better outwardly?

The mission of The Good Shepherdess is to help lead you to tending your flock well and keeping them safe.  The key to that is to ensure that YOU are tended to and spiritually healthy as well.  God built us to live in community with each other.  Although this verse is commonly used in the terms of marriage, its background is in the form of companionship (sharing with others) when Solomon was lamenting the perils of isolation.

9Two are better than one, because they have a good reward for their toil.
10For if they fall, one will lift up his fellow. But woe to him who is alone
when he falls and has not another to lift him up!
11Again, if two lie together, they keep warm, but how can one keep warm alone?
12And though a man might prevail against one who is alone, two will withstand him—a threefold cord is not quickly broken.
Ecclesiastes 4:9-12 (ESV)

This passage references sharing with friends your labor/task gets better return (v. 9), help in time of difficulty (v. 10), comfort in time of need (v. 11), and protection in time of danger (v. 12).  And if two are better than one, then three are even better!  The more confidants that you have as a Shepherdess, the more you have to lean on.  This also means that you have to allow yourself to be leaned on!

24And let us consider how to stir up one another to love and good works,
25 not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another, and all the more as you see the Day drawing near.
Hebrews 10:24-25 (ESV)

God clearly says that we need to encourage each other to love, and “meet” regularly.  Now I’ve just heard the collectively “Oh no, I don’t have time for this!!!”…  God also gave us tools today that allow us to lean in and be leaned on without having to physically sit across the table with each other at Starbucks over a coffee.  I do not want to discount face to face time.  That is critical, to learn about another person because written words can easily be taken out of context, but it does not need to be the sole source of communication.

So where am I going with this?  Well, it’s another challenge!  Ladies, I challenge you this year to pray about and identify one or two people, who you maybe already have a close relationship with, or maybe not, but you feel God calling you to lean in on, and allow them to minister to you this year.  Maybe do a verse of scripture each day and tell each other how it impacts you.  Find a devotional or book to work through together.  At the very least, pray for and lift up each other on a daily basis, providing verbal or written affirmation for that person.  Talk about life, your feelings, your worries, your faith.  Talk about what God is doing in your life.  Conversation must be honest, real, and no-holds-barred.  Conversely, allow another lady or two to lean in on you.  It may be the same person, maybe not.

12With the help of Silas, whom I regard as a faithful brother,
I have written to you briefly, encouraging you and testifying
that this is the true grace of God. Stand fast in it.
1 Peter 5:12 (NIV)

Good Shepherdess, don’t go this life alone.  Jesus had his disciples and Paul had Silas just to name a couple of examples from the bible where it’s better for two or more to traverse life together.  God will find great joy in seeing his people lean in on and experience His grace with each other.

Cara

Inviting evil into our lives…

Yesterday was a day of frustration.  Instead of an enjoyable day at a shooting competition, after multiple equipment failures, it culminated with a small temper tantrum in which I let anger get the best of me.  We’ve all had those days, right?  We’ve had a negative conversation at work, the kids don’t want to mind, or maybe a small spat with the husband?  Then we have to face the world, who may not see where you’ve been or what your day has been like, yet we unleash a short temper on them.

 One who is wise is cautious and turns away from evil,
but a fool is reckless and careless.
A man of quick temper acts foolishly,
and a man of evil devices is hated.
Proverbs 14:16-17 (ESV)

These verses specifically addresses our quick temper and how flying off the handle can cause someone to do or say things that they may regret.  It may not be the event that caused our anger emotion, but because of our hot-headedness, we react poorly to a situation.  Let’s say you had that bad day, and now you are fighting Christmas traffic.  Someone cuts you off.  You lay on the horn…  Or in the store, you grab the essential items like eggs and milk and head to the express line, only to find a person with 21 items starting to check out in front of you, and they need a price check.  You audibly sigh and mumble under your breath while your body language clearly shows your disdain for that person in front of you.

Seems harmless, right?  Unfortunately these “harmless” situations can become a grave danger to you and your flock.  This is exactly how many incidents of violence begin.  One driver having a bad day, reacting to another driver, and the battle ensues into road rage.  As part of our awareness, we must also be aware of our own emotions and keep them in check to keep ourselves out of harms way.  Worse yet, situations like this could also make it seem like we are the instigator in a violent crime.  Witnesses may not see the initial instigating event, in which you are reacting to.  If they don’t see it, it seems that you may be the instigator and the consequences may be grave.

Know this, my beloved brothers: let every person be quick to hear, slow to speak,
slow to anger; for the anger of man does not produce the righteousness of God.

James 1:19-20 (ESV)

That’s right.  Anger fails to bring us to the righteous life that God desires for us.  God wants us to be a patient people with each other.  We need to train ourselves to be slow to speak (or act) and slow to anger to honor God in all we do.  Not only are we honoring Him in doing that, we are respecting our fellow man and not letting evil invade (back to Proverbs 14:16).  When we are short-tempered, we allow Satan a foothold in our actions, which does not bode well for us, and leads us into sinful ways, which is playing right into Satan’s hands.  Maybe that person who cut you off in traffic is late for an important appointment or the person in the checkout line is in a hurry as well to make it home without paying another hour of babysitting.  Keeping your anger under control shows grace for that other person and Satan hates grace.  You win.

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

Do you have to work on your anger or short temper?  Have a friend keep you accountable and allow them to call you out on it when they have noticed you’ve let it get the best of you.  There’s some good Christian based self-help books you can read regarding healthy emotions, or if severe enough, consider seeking counseling for your anger.  The more aware you are of your emotions, the better you can work on keeping them in check.  Keeping your emotions in check brings health to your flock, glorifies God and keeps you and your flock out of harms way.

Cara

Compromised, but aware!

As you can tell from previous blog posts that Jamie and I are passionate about situational awareness, or the act of being aware and cognizant of what is going around you, without distraction.  This awareness is almost always noted in terms of observing with your eyes other people or “people watching” to put it bluntly.  More often than not, if you are aware of what is going on around you, you can pick up on something that tells you something isn’t right or something is going to happen, and take action accordingly.

Every once in awhile I like to be pampered, as I’m sure most of you ladies do.  It’s a part of many of our life routines, where we may get massages, facials, or other activities which are meant to relax you, and generally involve covering your eyes to relax.  Jamie and I decided to indulge in an hour long foot massage at a new business not knowing what to expect.  Most places I had been to had not covered my eyes, but this place did.  And thus this relaxing foot massage turned into a very fascinating lesson on how our other senses emerge when one sense is inhibited.  What happens if you don’t have your sight?  Does that put you immediately into a state of non-awareness?

I knew I wanted to stay alert, to be able to react if something bad was going to happen.  Let’s face it, there’s so much evil in the world today, and even places where people go to relax can have horrific violence (note the tragedy not too long ago at a yoga studio in Florida).  We have to be on the alert everywhere today, there is no safe place.  So I had made a conscious decision that I could not allow myself to fully relax, which in my case means falling blissfully asleep.  Instead I started to focus on the only other senses I had, mainly my hearing.  It was amazing how I started to listen, and as I could hear other people breathing, I began to take note of where people were, and general proximity.  I heard every time the main door opened and a new client came in.  I listened to the hushed conversation and could hear it more clearly than I would expect.  It became a game.  When I heard someone move, I peeked out of the blindfold to see if I had correctly determined what had happened.  Even though my sight was gone, I was fully aware of my surroundings and was ready to react if needed.

We live by faith, not by sight.
2 Corinthians 5:7

We have our faith and trust in the Lord, by hearing from others, reading His word and feeling/experiencing His love, even though we have never stood face to face seeing Jesus.  We relied on our other senses to make that important life decision to follow Him.

Obviously this situation during my massage was not ideal, and we all have to make hard choices on whether we put ourselves into situations where we may be compromising our own and our flock’s safety.  I’m not sure if I will put myself in that situation again.  I may ask to not have my eyes covered, or find another establishment that has me in a more aware position, sitting up without an eye covering.  Another tangible example…  Jamie has decided that no movie is worth watching in a movie theater.  Think about how a theater changes what you can do to be aware, and limits your actions.

By wisdom the LORD laid the earth’s foundations,
by understanding he set the heavens in place;
by his knowledge the deeps were divided,

and the clouds let drop the dew.
Proverbs 3:19-20 (NIV)

If God needed wisdom, understanding and knowledge for creation, how much more should we gain from having these same attributes for what we do!  With any activity outside the home you must have knowledge of the activity and what it entails, understanding what that does for your awareness, and wisdom to determine whether doing the activity is worth the risk.  You may find that it’s okay giving up a bit of enjoyment to ensure your flock’s safety.  If you choose to still participate in the activity, work to find ways to stay aware and make a plan, even given compromises the activity may place on you.

Shepherdess – wisdom, understanding and knowledge are key for choosing well for your flock’s safety…

Cara

The Best and Worst Time of the Year

Yes, that’s what I said.  The Christmas season, while joyful and bright can also be a very hard time of the year.  I think the best word to describe it is overwhelming.  Whether you are overwhelmed by all of the preparation, shopping, Christmas concerts, or even the thought of having to spend a day or two with some relatives.  It’s just an overwhelming time.

I have to admit, Christmas doesn’t feel like Christmas this year, and it’s my own fault.  I overcommitted to way too many things leading up to Christmas, and I’m plain worn out.  And there’s still a week and a half to go!  I have a feeling I’m not the only one that feels like they are in a sinking boat.

Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest.
Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart,
and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.
Matthew 11:28-30 (NIV)

In this case, Jesus was speaking to us that the weariness comes from enduring our burdens, burdens of sin and its consequences.  Overcommitting a sin?  Well, let’s think about this.  When we commit, seeking to appease or please others (including relatives) or even our own ego, we are overshadowing Him.  Yes, he wants us to help others, but we need to be secure in Him, not proving our worth to others.  Colossians emphasizes that below…

Set your minds on things that are above,
not on things that are on earth. Colossians 3:20 (ESV)

For some, the Christmas season is overwhelming due to loss of a loved one, whether it’s cuts fresh like a knife this year, or an old wound from years ago.  I know there’s a time each Christmas where my soul is overwhelmed for the people that are no longer here by my side and how much my own Christmas traditions have changed over the years and how I would love to have those people back.  My prayer is that you can find hope in the One above and call, or even cry out to Him that you are burdened with loss.

from the end of the earth I call to you when my heart is faint.
Lead me to the rock that is higher than I, Ps 61:2 (ESV)

In any case where you are overwhelmed, seek Him in prayer, seek a close friend for guidance and wisdom in decisions, and be wary of how the devil may be snaring you into a tailspin.  I found out the last few weeks as I was overwhelmed that so much of the rest of your life is affected.  Your relationship with your spouse, children, co-workers and friends, sleep patterns, and just our overall attitude.  But when we are so overwhelmed, by any of the types explained above, we open ourselves up as prey.

I was posed the question…  “How alert was I when I was overwhelmed?”  Well…  I wasn’t.  My mind was always racing, thinking about and checking the schedule, fussing over everything going on, and not paying attention at all to my surroundings.   We become incredibly vulnerable as women when we are on multi-task overload.  No matter what you are feeling or trying to get done, your safety must come first.

Ladies, never lose sight that you must always be in a mindset to protect you and your flock.  I pray that this season you can give your burdens to God and look to Him for your rest as you celebrate His birth.

Cara

It’s the most wonderful time of the year…

For thieves…  Really?  Can’t we talk about the beautiful lights, trees and holiday decorations?  Let’s step back and think about it.  According to the National Retail Federation, this year Americans will spend nearly $720 billion, yes that’s with a “B”, dollars this year on Christmas.  That figures out to an average of $794 per person spent on gifts.  It’s no secret that many of those gifts are desired electronics and jewelry, which pack an expensive item in a small package.

Are you advertising to thieves?  What, who would really advertise that??!?!  The iconic American picture window typically focuses in on the sparkly Christmas tree and the shiny wrapped gifts below the tree.  Consider keeping the presents out of public view, removing the curb appeal for would be thieves.

And speaking of curbs… With so much online retail now, package theft is becoming one of the fastest growing non-violent crimes.  If you cannot be home for your deliveries, consider buddying up with a neighbor who is, or (if you are allowed) have packages shipped to your workplace.  Another option is to have packages held (whether at USPS, UPS, or FedEx) and pick them up.  Most places will hold packages for a couple of days.

There are other forms of advertising that we do harmlessly that put us at risk!  Traveling at the holidays?  Have a neighbor pick up your mail and newspapers.  Consider timers on your outdoor lights (preferably dusk/dawn timers).  And you could be popular in the neighborhood.  Offer to let neighbors park extra guest vehicles in your driveway while you are gone!  These tips make it look like someone is home, or at least going in and out.

And if that wasn’t enough, we all want to show our travels and gifts to others, but please be aware that airing that picture of your fancy new 75″ TV to all your Facebook friends or sharing pictures of your holiday cruise (while still on your trip) could make your home an easy and desirable target.

Do not neglect to do good and to share what you have,
for such sacrifices are pleasing to God.  Hebrews 13:16 (ESV)

This Christmas season, Jamie and I encourage you to give to those less fortunate.  Whether that be of your time, volunteering with organizations to help collect and distribute gifts, delivering and serving food to the hungry, or by donating financially to worthy organizations, but please be careful…

Thieves aren’t just out after your gifts either.  Every year scam artists take advantage of unsuspecting people by soliciting donations for bogus organizations, which in essence is a donation right into the thief’s pocket.  Make sure you are gifting to organizations in which you know and trust are legitimate.  Do your research on lesser known organizations.  Make your donation directly to the organization, not through another organization or person, who may be skimming portions of the donations for themselves.

Be sober-minded; be watchful. Your adversary the devil prowls around
like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour.  1 Peter 5:8 (ESV)

Shepherdess, be wary of the wolves that lurk behind the rocks and bushes in your pasture for easy opportunity to attack.  Be on the watch and guard your flock.

Cara

Setting your focus for Advent…

I’m a sucker for Christmas music.  There are rules in my house that it cannot be played out loud until Thanksgiving Day, but I start listening through earbuds in October.  If I had my way, Christmas would last for 3 months!  “O, Come All Ye Faithful” is one of my favorite carols this time of year.  The other day a post on Facebook caught my eye the other day.  “O, Come Let Us Adore Him” beautifully painted on a wood block like so many other we’ve seen gracing homes during Christmas season, but do we really adore Him?

Webster defines adore is to regard with utmost esteem, love and respect; to pay divine honor to; to worship.  Wow.  That’s amazingly deep meaning, much more so than the common use of “that’s adorable” when talking about a cute outfit or hairdo.  What can we do to show Him divine honor this season?  What are acts of adoration that we can worship our Savior with?  I think on it’s most simplest level, it’s to be quiet, even just for a few minutes each day and reflect on the amazing miracle of Jesus.  An ordinary girl and an unexpected fiancé being thrust into a divine appointment, birthing and parenting the Son of God.  That Son being rejected, beaten, scorned and sentenced to death on a cross, one of the most brutal ways to die, only to negate our wayward ways of sin and allow us to have an intimate relationship with our God and Savior directly.  Doesn’t that warrant adoration on a daily basis, regardless of the season?

You who fear the LORD, praise him! All you descendants of Jacob, honor him!
Revere him, all you descendants of Israel! Psalm 22:23 (NIV)

Adoration can also come in ways of connecting with God and His word for us.  Prayer is adoration, whether it be prayers of thanksgiving, or prayers of your deepest darkest hurts and needs.  David throughout the Psalms showed great adoration for the LORD, whether it was crying out in praise, or lamenting with his entire soul.

Another great idea gleaned from Facebook (yes, I might spend TOO MUCH time there) is to start reading Luke, one chapter a day starting TODAY the 1st, and by Christmas Eve, you will have read the entire story of Jesus’s birth, death and resurrection.  Many churches and websites also offer Advent devotionals, in which will email or text you daily during advent for reflection.  For some, music is a very personal time praising Jesus.

Advent (meaning “coming” in Latin) is a time of waiting and preparation leading up to the celebration of Jesus’ birth.  What a better way to celebrate what Jesus has done in our lives than to prepare our hearts for Christmas.  I challenge you this Advent season, take up something that will turn your eyes to Jesus during these hectic days leading up to Christmas to give him divine honor and adoration to celebrate His birth.  What will you do to give him divine honor and adoration?  Do you have other ideas?  Please share in the blog or Facebook comments for others to see and encourage you on your journey.

Cara

The battle of good vs evil…..

I cannot bring myself to listen to newscasts anymore.  They make me feel depressed, heart-broken, and disgusted at our society.  How did this happen?  When did the world become such an awful place?  I want to imagine life as God created it, in the Garden of Eden.  Oh, what a beautiful, majestic place it must have been!  But wait…  newsflash!!! Dateline Garden of Eden….. Eve eats what God says not to, Adam didn’t stop her, she blames him, and he blames the serpent!  Hmmm, maybe the “apple” hasn’t fallen too far from the tree.  Continue reading “The battle of good vs evil…..”

Shopping, shopping, shopping!!!

Today is that day!  Well, I guess I could say it started yesterday.  Black Friday and the holiday rush is on.  Ladies, shopping is probably our most vulnerable time to compromise our safety and the safety of our flock.  We’ve all seen the news articles of crazy rushes for merchandise, and tempers getting out of hand, to the point where people do some horrific things.  We’d like to take some time today to give you three important tips about how to keep yourself safe while shopping, and not just today, but each and every day. Continue reading “Shopping, shopping, shopping!!!”

Happy Thanksgiving!

Vacuum, dust, clean bathrooms, brine the turkey, prep the cranberry sauce, and on, and on…  This is exactly what was on my list leading up to today.  Oh, and today has it’s own lengthy list as well!  Is this what your “Thanksgiving” looks like?  Walking through the packed to the gills grocery section earlier this week I could see it on everyone’s faces.  Are we truly thankful, or are we caught up in the most beautiful and tasty meal?

And as I sit to write this, all I can think about is…  stop it Martha!  And no, I’m NOT referring to Martha Stewart.  I’m the Martha that Jesus talks about in the well known Mary-Martha story in Luke (Ch. 10:38-42).

Many of you know that I love to cook and one of my greatest joys is to cook the Thanksgiving meal and to host people.  I cook the same meal (in the same quantity) if it’s just my husband and myself, or if I’m having 8 people over.  And I like to clean as much as cook, so I’m whisking away and washing dishes as quickly as they are dirtied!  But am I truly thankful?  Do I put the time into counting my blessings as much as I put into making the perfect meal and being the perfect hostess?  Not. Even. Close.  Jesus wants us to “choose the good portion” like Mary did.

What does that mean when I’m still responsible for hosting and cooking?  I believe it means to not fuss over the small details and to be with those you love and truly spend time with them.  The dishes can wait.  The TV can stay off for 30 minutes longer.  Talk about your blessings with each other.  And don’t just say I’m thankful for “you” or for “everything God provides”.  Be intentional this year.  Tell the people in your flock exactly why you are thankful for them.  Tell God exactly what you are thankful for Him providing to you.

An exercise one of our pastors encouraged us to do is to use your fingers and list off 10 blessings that God has provided.  And not just on Thanksgiving day, but everyday.  How would our lives change if we started the day with 10 positive acknowledgements of God’s love in our lives?  I dare to say it would be transformational.  If you have an accountability partner, which I highly encourage you do, talk about that with them.  Have them hold you accountable.

Finally, Jamie and I are truly thankful for our flock of friends, readers, and students that we have made through this ministry.  You all bless us more than you know!

Cara

Imperfectly perfect…..

I saw an inspirational post yesterday on Facebook that said “You don’t have to be perfect to be amazing!”.  Most people would have just hit the “Like” button and moved on.  But that post was profound to me.  My first reaction was – “Ouch”.  That one hits home in many ways.  Let’s say I’m a Type A personality.  I personally hold myself to a higher standard than anyone around me.  I hate when something is not done to my standard and this has been a detriment for me.  You know it’s bad when your annual evaluation from your supervisor for multiple years specifically stated that I needed to stop being so hard on myself when I didn’t meet my own standard.

I’m not saying we shouldn’t strive to do good, or to produce quality work, but we must understand that perfection can never be attained.  NEVER.  Only One has been and will ever be perfect.  So what is my motivation for perfection?  Deep down, I want others to approve of what I do, to be impressed, to think highly of me, like me…which is a pride issue.  Life is messy, things come up, computers glitch, plans go awry, people disappoint, and we have no control over these things (which control is a whole other post for another time).  What does approval of our fellow humans gain us?  Our focus has turned to our left and to our right, not up.

For am I now seeking the approval of man, or of God? Or am I trying to please man?
If I were still trying to please man, I would not be a servant of Christ.
Galatians 1:10 (ESV)

Dear friends, when we push for perfection, we are actually turning our eyes from the One above who loves us, no matter our imperfections.  He sees us as amazing, no matter if the spell check didn’t catch errors, or grammar is bad, or anything that fell short of our expectations.  All that matters is that we are a servant of His, doing His will and doing it to the best of our ability.  He will never disappoint us!

Cara