Sunday, August 12, 2018

Just Follow Jesus~



Some of you may recognize this photo.

It is the cover of my new book, IF ONLY I COULD.

It is also the exact spot
where my husband and I were married.

It's precious, indeed.

Each year on our anniversary,
we always returned to this spot
and renewed our vows
to each other
and to the Lord.

The last two years,
I've returned to this spot alone.

Last year,
I went to thank God -
on behalf of my man and myself -
for seeing us through our vows
until "death do you part".
Any one married knows
it is only by God's grace
that this is even possible.

This year,
last Tuesday as a matter of fact,
I returned again.

Knowing this book
was on the horizon,
knowing God
was doing a new thing,
I prayed for
unwavering faith and Godly courage
to walk this new walk,
now as a "me"
instead of a "we".

And while I still don't know
where I'm headed
or in which direction
I'm going,
I'm ok with that.

All I need to do
is follow Jesus.
If I do that,
I will be right where
I need to be.

It's the same for you.

Just follow Jesus.

Always and in all ways.~

For information about my book (which at the time of this post is ranked #1 in NEW releases in  "Christian Death and Grief" - thank you, Jesus!) or to purchase a copy - simply follow this link. 
Knowing many of you live outside of the United States, "If Only I Could" ,
is also available for purchase on Amazon's Europeans websites
including Amazon.co.uk, Amazon.de. Amazon.fr, Amazon.it, and Amazon.es.


IF ONLY I COULD



Tuesday, August 7, 2018

Becoming One Again~

“You know what it is?”
I ask out loud to a living room of one.
“It’s the whole 'two are better than one' principle.
That’s exactly what it is.”

(And, admittedly,
talking out loud to myself,
is part of what it is, too.)

Two are better than one, 
because they have a good return for their labor: 
If either of them falls down, 
one can help the other up. 
But pity anyone who falls 
and has no one to help them up. 
Also, if two lie down together, 
they will keep warm. 
But how can one keep warm alone? 
Though one may be overpowered, 
two can defend themselves. 
~Ecclesiastes 4:9-12

One too many ice cream shakes.

Far too many sleepless nights.

Harder falls with even harder pick-me-back-ups.

Too much taking myself seriously
and not enough of you
to put my eyes back on God.

“Yes, this is what it is, Handsome.”

Marriage isn’t easy,
make no mistake about that.

Two lives,
two minds,
two hearts,
two dreams,
two opinions,
two “know it alls”
trying to mesh into one.

No wonder marriage is for life –
without a doubt,
it takes a lifetime
for the “two to become one”.

It takes a whole lot of dancing
to learn the steps
and to finally enjoy
waltzing through life.

But, what happens
when death cuts in
(unwelcome, uninvited, unplanned)
and leaves you dancing
on the dance floor
alone?

What happens
when one of the two
who have become one,
is now
one again?

Yes, two people becoming one flesh is hard.

The only thing harder:
Becoming one again
after having been joined as two.

Yes, I have family.
And, yes, I have friends.
And, yes, Handsome –
everyone has gone above and beyond
to encourage,
to comfort,
to support,
to be there for me.

But the thing is this:
No one knows me like you do.

No one understands my hopes
and is aware of my fears.

No one can predict
how I will react
before I react.

No one can hear
what my eyes
are saying.

No one can
talk me down,
talk me up,
balance me out
and keep me grounded
like you.

No one knows our history.

No one can sight
a leading of God in the past
to encourage me
to step out into the future.

No one can quote a scripture
with a memory
connected to it.

No one can
rekindle my faith,
reboot my courage,
re-ignite my passion
like you.

Except God.

And, of course,
God is always the exception
who is exceptional
at all of this and so much more.

But, I miss
the second best part of me, –
the part that was second best
to the best part of me,
God.

I miss my dancing partner.

I miss your words
and your humor.

I miss your look
and your hand in mine.

I miss your zeal
and your enthusiasm.

I miss your honesty
and your spontaneity.

I miss your hugs
and you wrapping me
in prayer each morning
and each night.

“The hardest part for me
was feeling like part of me
was missing.
Because, it was.”

My mom told me these words
a couple of days
after you were gone.

Kneeling on the floor in the hallway,
outside the bathroom door
where you took your last breath,
sobbing uncontrollably
and wanting nothing more
than you back,
she –
having walked this walk before me –
walked over to me
and said those words.

A couple of months later,
one night while talking with her
on the phone,
she said them again.

No wonder I feel so lost.

No wonder I feel so empty.

No wonder I feel so “not like me” anymore.

“Yes, that’s what it is”
I say out loud
to a living room of one.
“It’s the whole 'two are better than one' principle.
That’s exactly what it is.”

While the missing you is hard,
and while the trying
to become one “me” again
after years of becoming one “us”
is pulling me apart,
I lift my hands to Heaven
and thank God
for the better
I had with you.

A beautiful better.

A better beyond
what I could have ever
hoped better to be.

A better
I would choose to do with you
over and over and over again,
if only I could.

If only I could . . .



( August 7, today, our anniversary
and this - another excerpt from my book,
“If Only I Could”, releasing soon. )


 

Sunday, July 29, 2018

Resting on The Rock~

When you find yourself in a place where
there are no clear answers,
no defined roadmarks,
no easy choices, -
it's easy to feel as though you are
lost in a sea of confusion,
pointlessly drifting along,
aimlessly treading water
just to keep breathing and stay afloat, -
with no progress and
with no end in sight.

It's easy to feel overwhelmed.

And yet,
there is an Anchor for our soul.

There is a place where we can
rise above the circumstances,
rest on a firm foundation,
and see our situation
from a higher vantage point.

The Rock, Christ Jesus.

This is the cry of my heart today
(and everyday):

From the end of the earth
I will cry to You,
when my heart is overwhelmed;
Lead me to the rock
that is higher than I.

There,
we will find all we need.





Wednesday, July 25, 2018

If Only I Could~

As soon 
as I step out the front door, 
I see it.

Big, bold, beautiful.


The first bloom on our hibiscus.
As soon as I see it,
I whirl around and head
straight for the front door,
straight back inside to tell you.

Only, as soon as my hand grasps
the cold metal of the doorknob,
my heart grasps the cold, hard reality
of your absence
once more.
Tears spill down my cheeks
and drop onto the welcome mat.
And, the longing of my heart
spills out into words
that aren't merely running through my mind,
but are tumbling out my mouth.

Out loud.
For anyone and everyone to hear.
"If only I could tell you!
If only I could run inside,
grab your hand,
and lead you outside
to see this beautiful bloom!
If only I could . . ."
Tears take over
and all I can do,
despite all I wish I could do,
is cry.
Looking down at the welcome mat,
this new place I find myself,
here without you,
feels anything but welcome.
And, if truth be told,
without you
sharing our address,
sharing our kitchen,
sharing our conversation,
sharing our prayers,
sharing our bed,
and sharing "us",
I no longer feel welcome here either.
It's as all that once was,
no longer is.
Everything is new.

Only none of the new
I am experiencing
is welcome here, either.

None of it.

Except, maybe,
the beautiful bloom on our hibiscus.
IMG_7009
I  still remember the day
you bought it for me.

That day,
knowing how much I love
these big, bold, beautiful blooms,
you were the one heading
straight for the front door,
straight inside
to grab my hand
and lead me out
to see the new "beautiful"
you had bought for me.
"Look, Beautiful!
Just for you!
And, look how beautiful!
Just like you!"
I loved it.
And, I loved you all the more
because of it.
As I stand in the doorway,
half way in and half way out,
I realize I have a choice to make.
I can let this moment
steal the beauty
of what now is
by longing
for what used to be,
or I can let this moment
stir up thanksgiving
for the beauty
you have left behind.

I can choose
to stay in the past
or
I can choose
to step into the future.
As new tears
slowly make their way
down my cheek,
landing once again
on the welcome mat,
I choose to welcome
this new bloom,
this new beginning,
this new moment into my life.
"Thank you, Handsome.
Thank you, that even now,  you are
still making my heart smile,
still starting my day in a beautiful way,
still reminding me of your love,
still leading me out to see
the beautiful new thing
God is doing
here
in this new place."
If only I could tell you.  If only I could . . .

For I am about to do something new.
See, I have already begun.
Do you not see it?
I will make a pathway 
through the wilderness.
I will create rivers
in the dry wasteland.
~Isaiah 43:19

(Sharing with you today, the first reflection in my new book, "If Only I Could".  Coming soon!)



Monday, July 23, 2018

The Want To~

His answer was simple enough.
Or, was it?

Driving home from work,
I hit the scan button on my radio.
A few short seconds later
I found myself listening to NPR
(not my usual choice, by the way)
and eavesdropping on a conversation
between two gentlemen.

I had landed on this station
just in time
to hear the host of this radio show
ask the following question:

"So what kind of qualifications
does one need
in order to succeed
in your line of work?"

The man being interviewed
simply responded,
"the want to".

I was hooked.
I quickly reached for the scan button again.
They had my complete attention.

The interview continued
and so did my curiosity.
As I listened,
I speculated about what occupation
they might be referring to.
Imagine my surprise
when I finally figured out
what this man did for a living.

Any guesses?

According to this gentleman,
if you have the "want to",
you, too, can become a.........
drum roll, please...........
professional rodeo clown!

I had to smile.

Of all the occupations
that had popped into my mind,
I have to admit
professional rodeo clown
was not one of them.

But then,
it all started to come into focus.
Having the "want to"
made perfect sense.

I have a feeling
if this radio host
had been interviewing
any one of the twelve disciples,
they too,
may have responded
with the exact same answer.

Walking along the beach of Lake Galilee, Jesus saw two brothers: Simon (later called Peter) and Andrew. They were fishing, throwing their nets into the lake. It was their regular work. Jesus said to them, "Come with me. I'll make a new kind of fisherman out of you. I'll show you how to catch men and women instead of perch and bass." They didn't ask questions, but simply dropped their nets and followed. Matthew 4:18-20, The Message

Were any of these men qualified
to be a disciple of the Most High God?

What did they themselves
even know about God?

How could they possible
lead others to God?

And yet,
Jesus called them into service
and they took Him up
on His invitation.

They had the "want to"
and that was all they needed.

What about you?

What about me?

Over my lifetime,
I have passed up many
God-given invitations
simply because I felt I was unqualified.

I have a feeling you have, too.

Like me,
you have probably
heard the voice of Jesus
calling you to follow Him
into a new place,
a new career,
a new direction,
a new life and yet,
you opted to stay put,
right where you were.

You may still be in this same
seemingly "safe" spot
today.

The disciples could easily
have talked themselves out of
this new calling.

After all, they each already
had an occupation.
They were each already
knee-deep in their livelihood.

Peter and Andrew knew how to fish
and they were good at it.
Matthew not only knew how to collect taxes
for the government,
but for his own pocket, as well.

These men weren't listening
for the knock of opportunity.
They weren't looking
to "find themselves".

They weren't looking for God.

Yet, when the knock came
and the door to a new life in Christ
was opened before them,
they took the leap of faith
and jumped in
with both feet.

They were caught....hook, line and sinker.

Why?
Because they were qualified?
No.
Simply because they had the want to.

The Jesus
who gave these fishermen
the invitation of a lifetime
is the same Jesus
who calls out to you today.

He is still looking for people;
people who are willing to follow,
people who have "the want to".

When Jesus calls you,
He is not looking at your qualifications.
The one who created you
knows better than you
what you were created to do.
The one who formed you
in your mother's womb
knows better than you
that for which you were formed. 

And He's calling you to follow.......

Will you?

All you need to have is the "want to".




Saturday, July 14, 2018

Holy Ground~

That the Holy One
would bend His ear
to listen -

That the Holy One
would draw close
each time
we draw near -

That the Holy One
would dare
to love us
and keep on loving us
and to
graciously indwell us -

This place of meeting
can be nothing less
than
Holy Ground.








Sunday, July 8, 2018

I'm So Glad I Asked~

"How, Lord?
How does that happen?"

My questioning heart
didn't even realize it had
spoken these words out loud
until the rest of me
heard myself hearing them -
out loud.

And, as He is always faithful to do,
God answered back.

Only His answer,
as it so often is,
was simply a prodding of my heart
to dig in deeper.
To pray for the Holy Spirit
to illuminate my mind
and then to mine this verse
that had prompted the question
like a jewel hunter
mines a field for diamonds.

But those who wait on the Lord
shall renew their strength;
they shall mount up with wings like eagles,
they shall run and not be weary,
they shall walk and not faint.
~Isaiah 40:31

I knew this verse.
I had read it time and time again.
I could probably even do a fairly good job
of quoting it back to you
without even looking.
But, living it -
nope.

But those who wait on the Lord
shall renew their strength.

To me,
up until now,
waiting had been the opposite -
more exhausting,
than renewing.
There was a certain tension
that came with waiting
and to be honest,
it usually left me feeling drained.

This time,
as I read this old familiar verse -
I realized I had yet
to truly grasp the meaning
or live it out in my life.

And,
that's when
my heart blurted out
what it was thinking:
"How, Lord?
How does that happen?"

And,
that's when
my God led me to this amazing,
life-changing,
faith-infusing,
strength-renewing
discovery-
better than all the diamonds in the world.

The word wait
used in this verse
is the Hebrew word קָוָה (qavah).

It has two meanings -
one figurative and one literal.

The meaning I was most familiar with
was the figurative one:
to wait, to expect, to hope in, in anticipation.

It was the literal meaning of this word
that opened the eyes of my heart
and unlocked the true meaning of this verse:
to bind together like a cord

(Honestly,
have you ever thought
of the word "wait"
as meaning "to bind together like a cord"?
What a thought.
Go ahead -
feel free to take a few minutes
to let that sink in.)

To bind together like a cord.

Dictionary.com  defines a cord as:
a string or thin rope made of several strands braided, twisted, or woven together

A cord isn't made of one thread,
but several.

In fact,
if you think about it
(which God definitely had me doing,
and now,
hopefully you are, too!)
the very strength of the cord
lies in the fact
that it is not a single unit,
but is instead made up of several -
all braided, twisted, and woven together.

So - back to this amazing verse,
the question that started this search,
and you and me.

But those who wait on the Lord
shall renew their strength;
they shall mount up with wings like eagles,
they shall run and not be weary,
they shall walk and not faint.

"How, Lord?
How does that happen?"

(And I almost feel a little hesitant
to share with you
what God shared with me
because I have a feeling -
knowing our God the way I do -
He has already begun
opening the eyes of your heart
to see the treasure He has for you
tucked into this familiar text.
Isn't His Spirit such a precious teacher?!)

If I am to truly wait on the Lord -
it is more
(so much more)
than me
looking forward to,
hoping in,
anticipating
what God is and has yet to do -
it is also
(and here's where
the strength part comes in)
me binding
myself,
my thoughts,
my actions,
my reactions,
my prayers,
my desires,
my very will,
together with that of my God.

To wait on the Lord
is to intertwine me -
every part of me,
with Him.

And, as I do -
my strength is renewed.

As I do,
I am no longer
a lone, thin, single string -
I become part of a strong cord.
(Is anything stronger than God?!)

"How, Lord?
How does that happen?"

Naturally,
if we wait on the Lord
we will mount up with wings like eagles,
we will run and not be weary,
we will walk and not faint.
because His supernatural power,
braided and twisted and woven together
with ours,
will make it happen.

Naturally,
if we wait on the Lord
our strength will be nenewed
because His supernatural strength, -
braided and twisted and woven together
with ours,
will make it happen.

His strength
becomes mine
because I
become part of Him.

WOW!

(I know -
at the beginning of this post
I should have subtly mentioned
you might want to be sitting down
while reading this.)

And,
as is usually the case,
my mind
couldn't have been more grateful
my heart
had the "need to know"
and the courage to ask the question.

And,
as is always the case,
my heart
couldn't have been more grateful
my God
is always faithful to answer.






Friday, June 29, 2018

A True Reflection~

Never underestimate the impact your life
is having on others.

As you through the
day to day living of your life,
(through your
smile,
demeanor,
disposition,
words,
actions,
reactions,
commitments,
convictions,
aspirations,
involvements,
decisions,
to name only a few . . .)
God has an opportunity
to touch a life
by being showcased in yours.

Whether we like it or not,
whether we remember it or not,
whether we are mindful of it or not,
whether we want them to or not,
people are watching us
live out our life.

What do others see
when they look at me?

What do others see
when they look at you?

Do they see a true reflection of our God?~♥



To call yourself a child of God is one thing.
To be called a child of God 
by those who watch your life
is another thing altogether.

~Max Lucado






Wednesday, June 27, 2018

When Almost Was More Than Enough~

It was 4:50 pm.

Trying to wrap up everything on my to-do list before heading home from my office,
I was busily working away when my phone rang.

"Hi, Beautiful. Do you think you'll be able to get away right at 5 tonight, or will you need to stay late?"

"Hi, Handsome. No, I should be able to leave here in about 10 minutes."

"Instead of running errands, do you think you could just come straight home?"

"Sure. Is everything ok?"

"I think I might need to go somewhere for some help. I'm not feeling quite right."

"I'm on my way. Don't worry.  I'm coming right now."

I grab my keys and purse, and as I head out the door, I mention to a co-worker my husband needs me and I have to go. NOW.

Buckling my seat belt and starting my car, I phone my husband.

I talk with him all the short 6-8 minute drive home, assuring him with each turn and each intersection passed I am almost there.

"I'm going to call an ambulance," he finally says. "That way I will be able to get in to see a doctor sooner once we're at the hospital."

"Ok, Handsome.  Hold on, I'm coming.  I'm almost there. I'm almost there, Handsome. Love you."

And with that, our conversation ends.

Traffic begins blurring with panic and erupts in heart cries to my God.

"Oh, Lord. Be with my husband. Help him, Father God.  I'm almost home.  I'm almost there, Lord.  Help him.  Help me be able to help him once I get there.  Oh, Father God, I'm almost there."

A half a minute or so later, I pull into the drive.
It's 4:58 pm.
I race to the front door and into our home.

"Honey, I'm here. It's ok, now. I'm here."

My ears and my heart met with only a deafening silence.

"Honey!!  I'm here!!"

I turn the corner of our hallway and see his legs and feet (and his phone), lying motionless.
And, I see him there, lying in the bathroom, and I know.

I was too late.







Only,
looking at the radiantly peaceful look on my man's face,
feeling surrounded by the gentle hush of angels,
experiencing as never before the peace that can only be the presence of God,
I know in the deepest place of my heart,
God is here,
in our bathroom,
in our home,
in this moment,
in this timing.

I was almost there,
but God,
God is here.

Here with His kindness and His mercy.
Here with His "in an instant" blessing.
Here with His arms open wide.
Here with my husband then,
here with me, now.

And all I can do,
as I hold his hands tight,
rest my head on his chest,
and cry until I feel as though my own heart will give out,
is thank my God.

It is God who blessed me with this man
25 years ago when we first met.

It is God who blessed me with the gift of being his wife almost 16 years ago.
(We had dated 10 years before saying I do because he had to be sure he was sure!)

It is God who blessed me to be the one to live alongside this man as he lived out the day to day
living of his extraordinary life.

It is God who blessed me with his last words, and almost his last moment.

And, it is God who was with my husband at his last breath.

When I was almost there,
God was there,
more than I could have ever hoped or imagined,
more than I could have ever wanted for my husband.

When I was almost there,
less than half a minute away,
God was there,
and it was more than obvious
God was (and always will be) more than enough.





This was my unexpected moment -
February 4, 2016.

Retelling it again because so many of you are new here
and because
even now,
two years, and almost 5 months later -
God is here
and He is more than enough.

Great is His faithfulness.


Monday, June 25, 2018

A Prayer for Today~

Thank you, Lord,
for a brand new day.

Thank you for Your mercies
that are new every single morning
and for Your faithfulness
which has no end.

Thank you that You have already provided
everything I will need today . . .
love, wisdom, patience, self-control,
joy, inspiration, faith,
strength, protection, and provision.

Thank you that You and I
are in this day together.

I can't wait to spend it with You!

In Jesus' precious name I pray,
Amen.




Thursday, June 21, 2018

God is in the Details~

So often
we find ourself weighed low
beneath the details of life.

We wonder if we are
making the right decision about this
or if we are doing what is best
in handling that.

We think,
and we fret,
and we worry,
and we wonder . . .
and in doing so,
we often forget that
God is in the details.

He who designed water from a lake
to evaporate to the sky
only to return as rain to water the earth
is here working in the details of your life, too,
causing one action
to prepare the way for the next,
one step at a time,
all in His perfect timing and perfect way.

He who breathed the stars into being
and then orchestrated their orbit,
along with that of the sun and moon
and a million other celestial wonders,
is here orchestrating every single detail
of that which concerns you, too -
delicately considering all involved
and intertwining it all in heavenly fashion.

He who designed the metamorphosis
of a lowly caterpillar into a glorious butterfly
is here, too,
in the details of all
that is changing around you, -
gently,
miraculously,
amazingly,
creating something new,
that no doubt
will be unlike anything you've known before,
but beautiful in its own way.

Trust Him.

God is in the details.

Commit your ways to the Lord [roll and repose each care of your load on Him]; trust (lean on, rely on, and be confident) also in Him and He will bring it to pass.
~Psalm 37:5 (AMP)



Monday, June 18, 2018

Who Do They See~

His words broke my heart.

Partly because I have been in his shoes,
but mostly,
mostly because I could only imagine
how this whole scenario
must have broken the heart of Jesus, Himself.

Mean people and Jesus followers -
together,
all mixed up,
professing to be one and the same.

A grown man,
he told the story of growing up in church.
How each week his Sunday School teacher
scolded him,
pointed out every wrong thing he was doing,
and told him
if he didn't straighten up,
he was going to Hell.

One day she added,
"What's wrong with you, boy?
Don't you want to be with Jesus?
Don't you want to go to Heaven?"

A mere six year old,
he lowered his face to the ground
and shook his head, "no".

The teacher was appalled.

"You don't want to go to Heaven?
How could you not want to go to Heaven?"

This young boy,
with all the innocence and honesty
his heart could muster into words,
looked up at this "woman of God" and replied,
"Well, you're going to be there, right?
I, uh well, I just don't want to be there.
I don't think I would like it there
with you and Jesus,
especially with no way to leave
or ever go home."

And, who could blame him
for coming to this conclusion,
for deciding if Jesus was anything like this woman,
he didn't want anything to do with Heaven,
or anything to do with Jesus?

Thankfully,
as a child,
most of the people who told me about Jesus,
not only talked about Him,
but walked out the beauty and love of Him
in their lives.

Sadly,
as an adult, however,
this hasn't always been the case.
Those professing to be Jesus followers,
those serving in His name,
those called into ministry,
have been some of the most un-Christlike people
I have known.

If they were the only view I had of Jesus,
if they were all that I glimpsed of His character and heart,
if they were who I thought Jesus was like,
just like this young boy,
I wouldn't want anything to do with
Jesus or Heaven, either.

Especially not forever and ever and ever and ever.

Mean people and Jesus followers -
together,
all mixed up,
professing to be one and the same.

And, I sit here thinking of me.

What is it that people see when they watch my life?

How is this Jesus I talk about
being conveyed to their hearts?

Am I truly showing them
the fullness of who He is?

Or, am I a deterrent?

Is the way I live my life
causing people to turn tail and run
as far away from God
as they can go?

Am I drawing others to God
or pushing them away?

Whether we like it or not,
whether we admit it or not,
whether we are even aware of it or not,
the salvation of others -
to a large extent -
depends on us
unwrapping this,
unpacking this,
digesting this,
pondering this,
remembering this,
and then,
living out the truth and beauty of who God is
in our day to day living
of our every day lives.

Who do others see
when they see me?

When they see you?

May it be Christ
and Christ alone.








Tuesday, June 5, 2018

Just Passing Through~

"You just weren't made for this world, Beautiful."

And,
each time my man would wipe my tears,
wrap his arms around me,
and say these words to me,
it always replaced some of the
awkward,
just-don't-fit-in,
feel-so-out-of-place feelings
with thoughts of
"I think you might be right, Handsome."

And,
almost as if he knew what I was thinking
he would add,
"You know I'm right.
None of us were  made for this world.
It's just some of us
have adapted to this world
a little easier and a little better
than others.
But you - no,
you definitely weren't made for this world."

He was the one who
always stayed up-to-date with world happenings,
was constantly in the know about this and about that,
was hip,
was in tune,
was connected.
Now, without my connecting to the world
by connecting to it
through him,
I really feel out of sorts.

Tonight, as I sat in the still of our living room,
I heard myself say out loud to God,
"I'm just not wise in the ways of the world, Lord.
I'm just not.
I just don't have any interest in the things
most people are so interested about.
I just don't."

And,
I was reminded of the words of my husband,
and as I was,
it was almost as if God came along
right behind the memory
and seconded the motion.

"It's OK, sweet girl.
To be wise in the ways of the world
isn't necessarily true wisdom.
To be investing your time and your energy
in what the world views as important
isn't necessarily a wise investment.
To be caught up in the opinions of others
and gaining the approval of man,
isn't necessarily the opinions or approval that matter.
To be rich in worldly possessions
isn't necessarily to be rich at all."

And, then
I remembered these precious words
God placed in front of me last week
as I was leaning in to hear
what He might want me to share
at an upcoming speaking engagement.

Thus says the Lord:
"Let not the wise man glory in his wisdom,
Let not the mighty man glory in his might,
Nor let the rich man glory in his riches;
But let him who glories glory in this,
That he understands and knows Me,
That I am the Lord,
exercising lovingkindness,
judgment, and righteousness in the earth.
For in these I delight," says the Lord.
~Jeremiah 9:23-24

"You know Me, sweet girl.
Each day as we walk together,
you are getting to know Me more.
This is what matters most.
Don't worry about the other.

Choose to know Me.

Make this your life pursuit.
Make this your ambition and passion.
Make this be what you
talk about,
write about,
study about,
invest in,
walk in,
live in.

And then,
share Me with everyone you meet
so they, too,
can choose to know Me."

"You just weren't made for this world, Beautiful."

No - no, I don't think I was.
And that is more than fine with me.










Thursday, May 31, 2018

The Mark of Time~

I'm sure you've probably seen them.
Markings on a wall,
tiny nicks on a wood pole,
the measuring of years and inches
in a child's life.

Each time it's time to "measure up" again,
there is definitely something to document.
Each year, the mark noticeably higher
than the year before.

And, I've been thinking
what it might look like,
if somehow, someway
we were to mark off our spiritual growth.

How do you measure this kind of growing up?

And I guess the greatest question of all:
If we did,
if we could,
would there be something to document?
Would there be significant space
between each of our marks?

Is our faith walk noticeably different today
than it was
10 years ago,
1 year ago,
1 month ago,
1 week ago,
1 day ago,
one hour ago?

Have we truly allowed Jesus to
forgive us and redeem us?

Have we truly allowed Jesus to
mold us and shape us?

Have we truly allowed Jesus to
change us and re-arrange us?

Have we truly allowed Jesus to
heal us and mend us?

Have we truly allowed Jesus to
free us and restore us?

Have we truly allowed Jesus to
calm us and refresh us?

Have we truly allowed Jesus to
love us and fulfill us?

Have we truly allowed Jesus to
guide us and lead us?

Have we truly allowed Jesus to
empower us and equip us?

Have we truly allowed Jesus to
call us and send us?

Have we truly allowed Jesus to
consume us and overtake us?

Have we truly allowed Jesus to
be Jesus in every area of our life?

Does our life show it?

Does our faith reveal it?

Do our actions reflect it?

Do our choices prove it?

How do you and I "measure up"
when it comes to growing up
in Christ?

Just something God has me thinking about today.
And maybe now,
something He has you thinking about, too.











Sunday, May 27, 2018

Well, That Was Awkward~

Is there anything more awkward than life?

(Even death,
with the awkwardness it brings
is really just a part of life, too.)

I don't know about you,
but anytime anyone knocks on my door
(especially when I'm not expecting anyone -
and honestly - even sometimes when I am!)
awkward usually shows up.

And yesterday,
(when only a few short minutes
after arriving home from my morning walk,
I heard someone knocking on my door),
was no exception.

Looking through the peep hole
I was more than sure
I had no idea who this "knocker" was.
And, because I didn't know him,
I had no intention of opening my door to him.

But, my not opening the door
didn't keep him from knocking.
And, waiting.
And, knocking again.
And, waiting.
Minute after minute after minute.

It was during one of these waiting moments,
that his phone rang.
After a short conversation,
he was back to knocking,
but not only that.
This time when he knocked,
he called out my name.

"S t a c y?"
"S t a a a a c y."

This was getting more awkward by the moment.

To open the door or not to open the door?
This was the huge question.

Covered head to toe in sweat
from my morning walk,
I quickly went to the bedroom,
changed into a fresh t-shirt
and came back to the door -
only to discover he was (finally!) gone.

It was at this exact moment,
I received a text from my next door neighbor
letting me know their 20 something year old son
was climbing the tree in my backyard
attempting to get a cat
belonging to the neighbors
who lived behind them.

And, that's when it hit me.

The man at my door was the owner of the cat.
This man lived behind the neighbors who live beside me.
Having recently moved into our neighborhood,
I had seen his wife and two daughters
out in their backyard,
but never him.

Yep - this whole situation
had awkward written all over it.

I made my way outside to
where all the action was -
over by the tree,
in the far corner,
where our three yards converge.

As the young man scrambled his way
around in my tree
trying to get his hands on this runaway cat,
I scrambled around in my mind,
trying to get my thoughts on the right way
to apologize to this new neighbor.

Before I could mutter a word, though,
the wife of the man who had been at my door blurted out,
"I am so, so, SO sorry our cat is in your tree.
I feel so bad about all of this."

Awkward was obviously having a heyday with her, too.

"Oh, no!" I tried to assure her. "Don't worry about it.
I'm the one who needs to apologize.
I'm so sorry I didn't open my door.
My husband always counseled me to never open
the door to anyone I didn't know.
I had no idea he was your husband."

"Well, we're sorry our dogs 
chased your cat up into her tree."
This from the neighbors who lived beside me
and had texted me about the whole incident
going down in my backyard.

Evidently, awkward was on a roll
and had scored a triple play this day.

Finally, the cat was retrieved
and handed over to his owners.
And, eventually, the young man made his way 
back out of my tree.
We all smiled, 
waved,
and nodded our heads at each other
as if to say "All righty, then"
as we all headed back inside.
No doubt, all of us relieved
this awkward incident was over.

What is it about awkward 
that makes it so very awkward?

I think it all boils down to this:
Awkward reminds us of our humanness.

Awkward catches us in the moment,
without a script,
without a dress rehearsal,
without a plan,
without a facade.

It - like almost nothing else -
levels the playing field 
and brings us face to face with
our flaws,
our insecurities,
our social ineptness,
all the while reminding us 
of the total unpredictability of life.

Awkward reminds us we are not in control -
ever -
no matter how hard we try,
or how much we think we might be.

Awkward is awkward because
it is the truest, most vulnerable times of life,
and reveals to us 
the truest, most vulnerable places of ourselves.

And, who likes or enjoys that?!

(Now, even this post is getting awkward, isn't it?)

But,
if we let it -
awkward can be a good thing.

After all,
it was this awkward incident
that brought my neighbors and me
into conversation with each other
in the very seldom (if ever) visited
back corners of our yards.

It was this awkward incident
that reminded me
(and maybe them - 
and maybe even you, too)
we are not the only ones
going through life feeling awkward.

The whole world -
no matter how hard people try to convince us otherwise -
is struggling with the awkwardness of life.

Maybe if we stopped to realize this,
our stress level would drop significantly.

Maybe if we were more aware of the awkwardness of others,
we would be more inclined to 
offer words of compassion,
instead of words of condemnation, guilt, or shame.

Maybe is we took a minute to remember
others are feeling just as awkward as us,
we would stop competing with each other
and start working together to complete each other.

If a cat needing to be rescued from a tree
can bring three neighbors together 
(albeit in a most awkward way),
why can't a whole world 
needing to be rescued from sin
and from itself,
bring all of us together?
(no matter how awkward 
it might sometimes be
or how awkward
it might sometimes get).

We are all in this life together.
And, its awkward.

And yet,
every time we put down our facade and are real,
every time we let our humanness draw us together,
every time we come together for the common good,
we catch a glimpse of God.

We understand deeper our need of each other,
and our need of God.

Is there anything more awkward than life?

Only you and I trying to live life
as though it isn't.

The cat in the tree incident -
definitely awkward.

This post -
a little awkward, too.

Me -
from having worked my way through both, 
all the more human
all the more aware of my need of my Heavenly Father,
and all the more aware of my need to
let go of my worries,
let go of my insecurities,
let go of my social ineptness
and instead help those around me
through this awkward journey called life.

Is there any encouragement from belonging to Christ?
Any comfort from his love?
Any fellowship together in the Spirit?
Are your hearts tender and compassionate?
Then make me truly happy 
by agreeing wholeheartedly with each other,
loving one another,
and working together with one mind and purpose.
Don't be selfish;
don't try to impress others.
Be humble,
thinking of others as better than yourselves.
Don't look out only for your own interests,
but take an interest in others, too.
~Philippians 2:1-4







Tuesday, May 22, 2018

Stepping Into His~

I feel paralyzed.

I didn't state it as simply and as matter-of-factly as that,
but this -
this is was what my heart was trying to communicate,
without coming right on out and saying it.

Sitting at a table of ladies
who each had suffered loss in their own way,
we were sharing prayer requests.

My turn:
"Please pray I can find my direction
and my place in life."

No, this spoken prayer request didn't exactly cut to the chase,
but it's hard enough
to cut to the chase with yourself sometimes,
much less a handful of others.

"Without my husband here
to help me,
to bounce ideas off of,
to cheer me on,
and to pray for me and with me,
I feel scared (now this - this statement was raw, honest truth).
I feel like I don't have anyone to help me.
I really need for God to show me what to do and how to do it."

From the words of her prayer,
it was obvious the leader of our group
had heard so much more than my spoken request,
(Sometimes, I think we are only fooling ourselves,
but that's a whole different post for a whole different day),
and I left our time together
with a deep sense of peace.

And yet,
despite her prayer and the peace it had brought,
for the rest of that day,
and the day after that,
and the next two days after that even -
my mind was stuck on "repeat'.

Over and over I kept having a deja vu like moment.
I would see myself sitting at that table
and I would hear myself saying that one phrase:
"I feel like I don't have anyone to help me."

Then, last night,
while I was watching a Bible teaching on TV,
it all came full circle.
And in a matter of seconds,
it was as if the Holy Spirit took me
from lying on my couch
to lying by the pool of Bethesda.

Now in Jerusalem by the Sheep Gate there is a pool, which in Hebrew is called Bethesda, having five porches. In these lay a great crowd of invalids, blind, lame, and paralyzed, waiting for the moving of the water. For an angel went down at a certain time into the pool and stirred up the water. After the stirring of the water, whoever stepped in first was healed of whatever disease he had. A certain man was there who had an infirmity for thirty-eight years. When Jesus saw him lying there, and knew that he had been in that condition for a long time, He said to him, "Do you want to be healed?"

The sick man answered Him, "Sir, I have no one to put me into the pool when the water is stirred. But while I am coming, another steps down before me."

Jesus said to him, "Rise, take up your bed and walk." Immediately the man was healed, took up his bed, and walked.
~John 5:2-9

I had heard this story ever since I was a little girl,
but for the first time ever,
here I was
in the starring role.

I was the paralyzed man.

And, here was Jesus,
precious Jesus,
standing right before me,
asking me if I wanted to be healed.

Just like the paralyzed man,
instead of replying with the obvious "yes",
I heard my own words spoken at that table:
"I feel like I don't have anyone to help me."

How precious is our Lord.

To both this paralyzed man that day,
and to me last night,
no words of rebuke
or anger or
"that's not what I asked you" or
"you should have tried harder or done more".

Only words that breathe new life.

"Rise, take up your bed, and walk."

Because, unlike any one else,
Jesus understands
the crippling,
motionless,
"can't help yourself" grip of paralysis.

No doubt this man wanted to be healed.
For 38 years, (38 years!),
he had placed himself
as close as he could get
to his miracle.
Lying by the pool,
day after day,
waiting for the stirring of the water,
only to see the rippling,
than the stirring of all the other people racing to the pool,
while he was powerless to move even his big toe.

No matter how much this man wanted healing,
he physically could not
get himself up and into the water
on his own.

And, I do believe,
there are times in our life,
when we find ourselves completely unable to, too.

Fear.
Failure.
Loss.
Grief.
(and too many more to mention)

All of these can leave us
in a paralyzed condition.

All of these can leave us
feeling as though
our only hope,
our only way out,
our only escape is
through the help of someone else.

And often times,
we become so desperate
to find someone (anyone!) to help us,
we completely overlook
and totally miss
The One who is standing right in front of us.

The One who is not only near,
but who is generously and graciously
stepping right up to us and
extending His hand of help.

(Take a moment and go back a re-read this story.
The paralyzed man didn't call out to Jesus,
Jesus called out to him.)

"Do you want to be healed?"

If we do,
our healing isn't dependent 
on anything or anyone else other
than Jesus' offer
and our acceptance.

If we do,
all we need to do 
is rise.

To rise up in faith.
To rise up in His strength.
To rise up to new life in and through Him.

Notice, this man didn't waste any time
asking how
or 
trying to figure out if,
he just immediately rose to the occasion.
Healing was finally within his reach
and he wasn't about to spend one more minute
in this paralyzed condition.

Why should he?
Why would he?

Can you imagine 
if the story line read like this:
Not sure how this would all turn out,
or if it was even possible,
the paralyzed man decided 
to forgo on Jesus' offer and opted instead
to continue waiting for the stirring of the water
and for someone to come along 
and help him get there in time.

No! 
That would be crazy.
That would be so sad.
That would be such a shame.

And, for the first time in my life,
I thanked God for this story,
and oh, how I longed to be able to thank this
paralyzed man
for choosing to step into God's strength.

And I realized,
all over again -
I didn't need
my man,
or anyone else to help me.

I had my God!

Yes, sometimes the events of life
find us pulled right out of what was normal,
and plopped down
smack dab in the middle
of a season that finds us
unusually motionless,
unusually helpless,
unusually waiting on
something or someone else to help us.

It's life.
It happens.

But, praise God,
Jesus is here.

Last night,
I had absolutely no doubt
He had seen me in this place,
in this condition,
in this paralyzed season.

I could see Him generously and graciously
stepping right up to me
and I could hear Him
offering His help.

"Do you want to be healed?

And, make no mistake about it;
He sees you, too.
He is generously and graciously
stepping up to you, too, and offering you His help.

Admittedly,
I don't know how long you've been down for the count.
But, I do know this:
If a man who had been paralyzed for 38 years
can immediately 
rise, take his bed, and walk,
so can I,
and so can you.

It all comes down to this:

"Do you want to be healed?

Then,
rise, my child.
I will be the strength you need.
Let me do for you
what no one else can -
not even you.

Let Me set your life back in motion.

Let Me help you walk out your faith,
one step at at time.,
moment by moment,
day by day.

I am here.
I am all you need.

Rise, my child,
rise.









Friday, May 18, 2018

It's All in His Timing~

Some have his and her towels,
or his and her toothpaste,
or his and her pillows.

Here, in the Sanchez home,
we have his and her coffee cups.
And, I do mean cupS.

Not just one for him and one for me.
Nope.
13 for him
and surprisingly enough -
13 for me.

(I told you - we have cupS.)

And while some might see 13
as an unlucky number,
to me -
several days ago,
13 was nothing short of beautiful.

To say our kitchen is tiny
doesn't even begin to convey
how very tiny it is.

Storage is almost non-existent.
And whenever my husband and I
were both in this little space together,
it always became a kind of two-step,
minus the music.
We would dance our way around each other
as we worked our way around our kitchen.

"So . . ."  you ask,
"Where might one keep
13 cups for him
and 13 cups for you
in a kitchen so tiny?"

It's a fair question.
And, it was a challenge, no doubt.

To help remedy this problem
(because we all know,
when you have a favorite cup -
or in our case,
13 favorites each -
getting rid of even one,
isn't an option),
my husband installed little hooks
underneath the cabinetry
above our kitchen sink area.

13 hooks to be exact.

And, it was on these hooks
that each of his cups proudly hung.

My cups found a home
which was far less than ideal:
stacked on top of each other
in a corner of our kitchen counter,
taking up precious counter space
that was already at a minimum to begin with.


Ideal or not,
this is how we rolled.
For 15 years, at least.

Until Sunday.

Dishes done,
I was wiping down the counters
when I spotted my cups.

Then this thought from out of the blue:
I sure wish I could find a place for my cups.

And for a reason I can't explain,
I turned my eyes upward to the hooks
where my husband's cups -
all 13 of them,
hung proudly still - even now,
two years after his passing,
untouched, unused,
collecting dust.

Then this thought
(that my heart could hardly believe
my mind was thinking):
I wonder if there are enough hooks
to house all of your cups?

And even more surprising than this thought,
was the way my heart chose to respond to it.
I guess we could count them and find out.

So, I did.
I counted the hooks.
13.

Then,
I counted all of my cups.
13.

Unbelievable!

Then this thought:
Do you think he would mind 
if we packed up his cups?
Not to give away.
Just to store away 
for a little while.

This time,
my heart responded more in character,
showing its true colors
as tears made their way down my cheeks.

Oh so gently, though, my head persisted.
What are the chances you both had 13 cups?
It seems like the perfect solution, doesn't it?
Let's go to the garage and see if we can find
a perfect box to store his cups in.

And, that's what I did.

Moments later found me
packing away "his",
and filling up the hooks
with "hers".

And in that moment,
13 became much more than a number to me.

It became a precious reminder of this precious truth:

For everything there is a season,
a time for every purpose under heaven:

A time to be born,
and a time to die.

A time to weep,
and a time to laugh.

A time to mourn,
and a time to dance.

A time to gain,
and a time to lose.

A time to keep
and a time to throw away.

He has made everything beautiful in its time.
~Ecclesiastes 3: 1,2,4,6,11


Don't worry, honey.
You'll know.
When the time is right,
God will show you,
and you will know.

Words spoken to me
time and time again
over the past two years.

Words that now
are starting to prove true.

And, I'm coming to realize
there isn't a "right time"
or a "wrong time"
there is only
"in His time".

And if we will only
wait
until it's time,
then move
when it is time,
the moving will still be hard,
but it will also feel right -
in a way that can't truly be explained.

And sometimes,
most times, in fact,
we will discover -
what starts out as something
as simple as his and her cups,
when led by the Spirit
and touched by God's hand,
turns into something
that brings healing and growth,
and a peace that passes all understanding.

And, if we let Him,
God can take all
that appears wrong in the world
(like the number 13
and even death itself)
and use it
in a most surprising and unbelievable way
to showcase His
ever-abiding,
never-leaving,
here-with-you-always
presence
and to remind us of His precious love.

And more than a clean kitchen,
and more than free, open space on my counter,
the blessing that blessed me most that day
was the unmistakable evidence
of a heart
continuing to heal.

All in His timing.









Thursday, May 17, 2018

All and Everything I Need to Say~

As I bend down to pick up
the five gallon water bottle,
I remember the words of my husband -
spoken to me only a hand full of times,
when only a hand full of reasons
found me reaching for one,
instead of him.

"Be careful, Beautiful.
Don't hurt your back.
Use your legs to lift it, Baby."

Upon hearing his wise counsel,
I would always look at him and smile,
then reach down and pick up the bottle.

And, it dawns on me again tonight,
as I'm heaving this heavy monstrosity
up into my arms
to carry into the kitchen,
 - just like those hand full of times before -
I have no idea what I am using
to lift this bottle.

"Am I using my legs?"

The only answer I can give myself
is the shrug of my shoulders,
only that's hard to do when one is
lugging a five gallon water bottle into the kitchen,
so I don't reply at all.

But, the not being able to reply
doesn't stop me from wondering.

"What does that even mean?
Use your legs?  How? How do you do that?
Use your arms? Now, that. That I could understand.
But, your legs? I have no idea how to do that."

Come to think of it
now that I'm thinking about it -
there have been many words of counsel
given to me over the course
of my 52 years of life
that I have heard
and yet not had a clue one how to execute.

"You better start preparing your heart, Beautiful."

My husband had told me this a few weeks before
my father passed away.
He had seen death inch closer and closer
with his own precious mother years before
and he knew my heart wasn't ready to say goodbye.

I remember looking him right in the eye and asking,
(in a voice barely above a whisper)
"How do I do that?"

His answer:
a tender kiss to my forehead and a squeeze of my hand.

"You need to start building a new life."

I can't even begin to count
how many times these words of counsel
have made their way to my ears
after losing my husband,
followed seven months later
with losing my job.

And yet,
if I can't figure out how to use my legs to
pick up a five gallon water jug,
and if I couldn't figure out how to prepare my heart
to say goodbye to my precious Daddy,
how am I suppose to figure out how to
build a new life?

And -
surprisingly -
it is in this very question
that I find my answer.

Somehow, I just will.

Somehow,
I manage to lift and carry the water jugs.

Somehow,
I managed to wade my way through my father's passing.

Somehow,
I will manage to find my way through this season
and build a new life.

Only, it won't happen alone.
No - it will happen the way it always does.
Because,
for me,
my somehow is a Someone.

"Use your legs to lift it, Beautiful"
found me smiling up at my husband
and my heart crying out to my God -
"Help me, Jesus."

And, He did.

"You better start preparing your heart, Beautiful"
found me in the embrace of my man
and my heart crying out to my God -
"Help me, Jesus."

And, He did.

"You need to start building a new life."

This, honestly, still finds me wiping
one tear after another
(I loved my old life -
I don't want a "new" one)
and my heart crying out to my God,
"Help me, Jesus."

And, He is.

And, He will.

I place the water jug
on the ceramic water dispenser
my husband bought for me
when we first started dating -
almost 28 years ago.

As the water
gurgles and sloshes
and completely fills
what had been tapped dry,
I wipe a tear.

"Oh, sweet girl.
I know all of this caught you
completely unaware.
You had no time to prepare your heart,
(even though you wouldn't have been able to
even if you had known).
It's ok.
It is.
It's ok.
But please, please be careful, precious daughter of mine.
Don't hurt your heart.
Use my Spirit to lift you up."

Thankfully,
when it comes to these words of wise counsel
from my precious Abba Daddy,
this -
this I know how to do.

"Help me, Jesus."

It's all and everything
I need to say.







Tuesday, May 15, 2018

What Would Yours Say?~

As soon as I made my way
up and through the small arroyo
that separates my neighborhood
from the one north of mine,
I saw it.

With six miles clocked on my fitness app,
I was headed home from my morning walk.
And, what a walk it had been.
Every step had brought the most precious
reminders of God's amazing love for me.

At one point, in fact,
my heart had been so overwhelmed,
I had spoken the praise of my heart outloud.

"You. Are. So. Beautiful. Lord."

And while every single reminder of God's love
is precious beyond words,
the ones that had touched me deepest
and had brought tears to my eyes,
were the times when I remembered the way God
had loved me still,
had loved me well,
had loved me above and beyond,
for absolutely no reason at all.
Just. Because. He. Loved. Me.

As these moments came to mind,
it was almost as if
I could hear my Father -
His heart so overwhelmed -
speaking His love outloud:
"You're my daughter
and I love you so very much, sweet girl."

That's when I saw them -
words for the whole world to see.
Well,
at least the corner of the world who,
like me,
might come up behind this vehicle.




There was no doubting
whoever was driving this vehicle
was proud of their NMSU Honor Grad.

But, more than that -
(you can see it, too, can't you?)
they were proud to be the ones
this graduate called
Mom and Dad.

Yes,
the owners were proud
of the accomplishment of their child -
the donning of the cap and gown,
the walking down the aisle,
and the receiving of a diploma -
one earned with honors, to boot.

But, beyond that -
one couldn't help but also sense
this mom and dad
took great pride in having the unique and honorable honor
of being the parents of this graduate.

And, it was as if -
in this moment,
God was standing right beside me,
pointing straight ahead to this window
and saying,
 "See, Stacy.
This  - this is what I was talking about.
If I drove a car,
and I had a window,
I'd write a message just like that about you.
One the whole world could see."

And instantly,
I began to wonder -
What would it say,
if He could?
If He did?

And, I hope
I have you now
wondering the same thing, too.

(In fact, I'm going to leave you alone
for a few minutes right here,
to do just that.
Spend some time pondering
what your Heavenly Father
would write about you.
No need to rush.
When you're ready,
I'll be waiting for you
in the next paragraph.)

How I wish this
was you and I
sharing a table at a coffee shop
instead of you and I sharing company
over a blog post.
I would love to hear
God's window declaration
about you.

And you do realize,
don't you -
that if our Heavenly Father could,
and if He did,
write a window message about us,
unlike this one -
it wouldn't be about our accomplishments?

It would be about us.

That's the heart of our Heavenly Father,
after all.
He doesn't love us for what we do (or don't do),
He loves us for us.

"You're following the Father
of a daughter who delights my heart."

"You're following the Father
of a son who brings me great joy."

"You're following the Father
of a child who makes me smile."

"You're following the Father
of a child I love more than life itself."

Which brings us to the cross,
the place where love always ends up.

If ever we need a tangible reminder
of how our Heavenly Father feels about us -
we just need to look at the cross.

When God chose to announce
His love for us,
He did it so the entire world -
(not just a tiny little corner of it)
would know.

"You're my son."
"You're my daughter."
"I love you so very much."

Words that should make everything
in our tiny corner of the world,
centered,
grounded,
secure,
firm.

As I headed home,
I smiled.

A six mile walk ✅
Loved by my Abba Daddy ✅
Ready to tackle the day ahead ✅