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Live On Purpose

by Texas Stready

The other day, while standing in line at Publix, I was chatting with a lady about losing the fog light on my car. (Darn it! Still can’t figure what happened.) How we got on this subject is beyond me. The conversation was an accident of sorts, and losing the fog light was definitely not on purpose.

Life’s full of accidents. Things that don’t happen on purpose. I’m not just talking about situations that happen to us, I mean the huge disasters that occur when we don’t take time to look for God’s purpose in our circumstances.

Look Both Ways

The gentleman behind us overheard our conversation and informed me that he worked at a salvage yard. “I have hundreds of cars and I’m sure I’ll be able to find you something, if you’ll come see me.” Then he handed me his business card.

As I pushed the grocery cart towards my car I was slapped in the heart when I re-noticed the gaping whole in my front bumper. Yuck! Not a good look for any car. Then I thought to myself, “Thank goodness for that chance encounter. Maybe dude can help me.”

Around The Corner

Most of us overanalyze—especially when it comes to cause-and-effect. If you’re anything like me you could easily spend the next hour analyzing why your so analytical. This problem stems from being caught up in the effort rather then the effect.

Why things are happening around us is far more important than how they happen. No one’s reasoning is the same and this means our actions and reactions are understandably different. That’s why it’s so important that we stop thinking we know everything. I mean, it doesn’t require a professional life-coach to teach you to never dive head-first into such a shallow perspective.

Take A Chance

A few days later I headed down to the salvage yard to see what could be done about my car’s missing eye. I was blindly certain that losing that light served no purpose. As my new-found friend and I sat looking at the computer screen waiting for the parts man to return, we began to talk.

His niece just moved into his house because she has nowhere to live. She’s a meth-head who’s burned all her bridges. I could tell by many of his responses he has no idea what he’s getting into. But I do. So I told him where I attend church and gave him my business card.

By the time Sunday rolled in on me, I’d forgotten all about him. Until I noticed this waving motion from the corner of my eye. There he sat, a few rows back to the left of me. What do you know! The missing fog light was no freak accident.

Let It Happen

Admitting we have no idea what God’s up to, places us in the perfect position to witness the miraculous. We can’t just hang out expecting purpose to plop into our laps because discovering what I’m here for is a lifelong process. One that requires interruptions in the neatness of life.

As much as we act like we are, we’re not self-sufficient. We did not create ourselves and therefore cannot unveil our purpose without consulting our Creator.

Now Is The Time

Although we’ll never fully comprehend our existence, embracing where and how we find ourselves brings a sense of security and satisfaction that can’t be touched.

Taste, touch, see, and hear your life. It’s the only one you get, so notice everything. Even when it doesn’t add up or look ideal—right there in the midst of the mess—you have what it takes to live on purpose. Come on. I know you can do it. One extremely exciting, under-analyzed, step at a time.

Does it Matter What It Looks Like?

by Texas Stready

Last week while walking through the mall I heard a teenager say to her mom, “This outfit just looks like me.” When I glanced her way she was wearing a huge smile that went quite nicely with her high-waisted, bell-bottom jeans.

No doubt we live in a society that cares about appearance. We determine all kinds of things by the style of someone’s clothes, hair, or car. Tattoos, piercings, or the color of their skin as well. But trust me when I tell you, this can be a damaging practice.

I Think I Can

It sure seems as if it would be a relief to all of us to say, “It doesn’t matter what it looks like.” But it does. And in many instances it should. I mean no one wants their husband picking up prostitutes and driving them to their desired destinations.

Thinking we can do or say whatever we want is sure to leave us in a pickle. Our behavior speaks volumes, even when we wish it didn’t. As parents, neighbors, and friends, we are—like it or not—people of influence.

Then Again

Decision-making can get hectic when it comes to the outsider. I mean few people want their 14 year old wearing shorts that show too much cheek. But the “Does this matter?” question takes a sharp turn when it comes to people outside our sphere of influence. I mean what if your daughter brings home a friend who’s dressed that way. Should that matter?

As followers of Christ, it can’t. This shifts the question from, what it looks like to what’s my role in this. There’s a reason this girl is in my home. You catching my drift?

The longer we live the more we find ourselves in situations we have no control over. This truth is another reason our constant communication with Christ is necessary.

It is vital that we learn to love completely, without being harsh, and judgmental. That’s what Jesus looked like, and as Christians we are called to be reflections of Him. Think about it— Jesus didn’t say to the woman at the well, “Get up, pull yourself together and stop acting like a ho.” Often, even though we may never say this, our behavior screams it.

What’s The Matter?

Wisdom is a critical variable that must be used appropriately if we hope to be successful in any walk of life. If we aim to be beneficial parents, neighbors, and friends, open and honest communication must be on the top of our have-to list. Hopefully your hubby already gets why the prostitute deal is not a good idea, but in many instances discussing subjects in depth brings clarity and promotes alternative thinking.

Who we are matters far more than what we look like, but the richest parts of our character are always reflected in our appearance. Not just what I wear but what my body language speaks and what My words reflect. We do not need to fit some stereotypical criteria but we do need to fit the Jesus mold.

Do It Right

The thing to remember is this: God has placed me in authority over certain people. But while I must take that responsibility seriously, I can’t change or fix anyone else. The only person I can do that with is me. That’s a good thing because the fastest and easiest way for other people to learn is by example.

The privilege of speaking into someone else’s life is something we must earn. And the best path to accomplishing that goal is found by loving that person right where they are.

So does it matter what it looks like? Yes, but what matters most is that my response is one that’s appropriately dressed in love.

What Are You Desperate For?

by Texas Stready

My life can easily be compared to having a kid from a crappy father. As much as you wish you’d made a different choice, that child is who they are because of that choice. Now don’t go spreading rumors—I love my babies’daddy—but I don’t feel the same way about all of my past choices. You see, I’m familiar with what desperate looks like. Are you?

The great thing about today is, I’m absolutely crazy about who I’ve grown into. Guess that’s part of the Romans 8:28 deal. It’s amazing what God can create from our worst messes.

No Limits

All those years of soaking in that same tub of bad habits left me shriveled, infected, and weak. I lost my ability to climb from, or even recognize, the cesspool I was caught in. One day, when the water of consequences got too deep, it became obvious to me that I was drowning. Through the tears—and between my gasps for air—a sense of desperation arose.

It always amazes me the lengths we’ll go to accomplish a desired goal. The key components to change are never found in a state of relaxation. That’s because major alteration requires we become willing to do whatever it takes. And so I ask you today, what are you desperate for?

Be Open

We all have different ideas. For instance I do not like my grandchildren outside without shoes, while their mother has no problem with it. To me it looks trashy, like you have no manners and no money. To her it looks like you’re footloose and fancy free. Is one right and the other wrong? No, they’re just different.

Our expectations range from grandiose dreams to rigid guidelines. But every choice we make is first filtered through our history of life experiences. This reality requires we remain open to outside input, otherwise, as taught in AA, “We do what we’ve always done and get what we’ve always got.”

If we hope to mature into productive followers of Christ, we must replace our limited applications of truth with God’s far superior version of reality. (See Romans 12:2)

Divine Desperation

If you slow down and review the details of your past you’ll notice this. After every crisis there comes an opportunity to gain an alternative perspective on your situation. That’s because God is always inviting us into a new and spectacular mindset. One that we’re not capable of without Him.

Because of God’s endless dedication to freedom, the option to reject His way remains available to us; but doing so leaves us caught in the tail chase of a lifetime. Stuck like Chuck. Smack dab in the middle of our hurts, hangups, and habits.


The course we’re on is rarely a simple one. At times it’s hard to find the hope we need to continue. That’s why the only thing worth being desperate for is the mind of Christ. That’s what transforms our view into one that’s filled with promise, passion and purpose. The very things that make this life worth living.

Some say that people who follow Christ are brainwashed. Well, the harder I’ve looked at this accusation, the more I’ve come to hope it’s true. Reason being? We live in a diluted and disrespectful world, one that stays busy forever trying to pollute any form of wholesome thought. Knowing this, makes it easy to acknowledge that our brains could use a good washing.


How to Put Your Pride to the Side

by Texas Stready

I was given a car last week. It’s not brand-new, but it’s new to me. The finest of luxury automobiles. It’s appearance and running condition are impeccable—something you could easily take pride in. Yep, it’s the red Caddy in the picture above. Wow! Ain’t God grand?

So many emotions.

  1. Gratitude—words can’t express.
  2. Unworthiness—I don’t deserve this.
  3. Disbelief—is this real?
  4. Excitement—it is, it is!
  5. Fear—what if I get in an accident?

Most of the feelings are good ones, but as usual, somewhere below the surface pride slithers around waiting to strike. This sneaky little reptile is a fabulous masquerade artist. Stay alert, although she enters the room with a mesmerizing air, she leaves the ominous oder of self-righteousness in her wake.

Smell possesses an acute ability to bring back memories. Pride’s scent is sharp, yet so sweet it almost gags you. Discipline yourself to remember this fragrance, then recall will become an active anti-venom that can keep you from the repercussions of her poison.

A Fine Line

Many times in life I’ve asked myself, “Do you have any shame at all?” Funny question, because an honest look into my choices reveals shame to be what’s prompted me most. Now that my life is different, I have to be aware of what motivates me in the other direction. Pride or dignity?

  • Pride – a deep satisfaction from one’s own achievements.
  • Dignity – the quality or state of being worthy.

Which cup are you drinking from? One gets you drunk and the other keeps you hydrated. The most noticeable difference between these two descriptive words is: the first comes from doing and the second from being.


I got what felt like a random call last week asking, “Mom, how much money should I ask for at this new job?” No matter how old they get, children long for guidance. Lucky for us our Father knows and loves this about us. No wonder He refers to us as His children. Left to our own devices we’re immature and ineffective.

How many failed attempts at successful finances, marriages, friendships, or ministry opportunities must we have to identify the fact that we’re incapable of producing any good thing in our own strength? It would do us good to follow the life map our all-knowing Heavenly Father has given us. The Bible.

Numbering our faults is not the remedy; recognizing our need for spiritual assistance—that’s the answer. The Holy Spirit is with us. He’s our helper. The best teacher, coach, or guidance counselor a student could ever hope to be blessed with.

Let it Shine

There are many times on this journey through life when we arrive at a fork in the road. Our God is no dictator and so we have choices. This is why keeping our spiritual wires clean, and properly connected to the appropriate source, determines how well our lives run.

Maybe you don’t know me personally, so let me tell you, my three children are mixed. This makes the racial issues in our country hit closer to home for me. Although I fully understand the term Black Pride. I purposed to be the kind of mother who taught my children Black Dignity instead. The reason for my change in terminology is this: pride is forced, dignity just is.

Clean It Up

No one wants to be around someone who’s full of themselves. Still, pride comes naturally to us. Interestingly enough, we possess the power it takes to alter our thinking patterns, and a different thought produces a different action. This fact makes shunning pride as easy as looking at the situation with a new view.

I don’t know about you, but I long to be someone who sees things accurately and responds appropriately. We are powerless over thousands of things in this world, but we are the only living beings who possess the power to choose what we believe.

The way we put pride to the side, is by accepting how little we know. This requires we listen to alternative perspectives. We don’t have to agree with others to be Christlike, but Christ never argued His point. Having influence requires we respect people’s right to choose. If assisting another doesn’t matter to you, guess what, pride hasn’t just bitten you, it’s swallowed you alive. Yikes!

How Do We Get from Here to There Without an Occasional Freak-out?

by Texas Stready

One day last week I woke up and my mind was racing.

  • Seems like I never talk to my oldest son.
  • How will I sell all these dang books?
  • Wonder if I’ll be single forever?
  • What will I do if my car can’t be fixed?

The questions kept coming but the answers were nowhere to be found.

The next round went something like this.

  • Is this always going to happen?
  • I thought this new life meant I’d never go through freak-out again.
  • What does God expect?
  • Aren’t I doing things right?

Ever run into these type questions? They don’t exactly bring on fluffy feelings, do they?

Feelings Are Temporary

For 90% of my life, 90% of my life was run by emotions. Perilous practice. It took some serious anarchy, but I finally overthrew that old mental government by accepting the fact that feelings come and go. They can’t do anything alone. Although they can stir things up a bit, they only possess the power I give them.

Consider this: depression is closing in on every side and then someone walks up to you and hands you ten $1,000 bills. How would you feel? That’s not to imply that money fixes things. It’s to show that circumstances alter and emotions follow suit. They’re much too shaky to build a strong foundation on. They can’t be trusted.

We must learn to do what we know is right no matter how it feels. Can’t help but think of Jesus in the garden of Gethsemane, begging God to allow Him to skip the crucifixion. But as we continue to read, His next move proves what He really believes about the Father. Our Savior ignored His feelings and simply submitted. (Luke 22:42) It was as if He said, “I’ll be okay. These are just My feelings.”

The Journey

Although we often feel we’re spinning our wheels in life’s proverbial mud, believe it or not we’re headed somewhere. Whether our destination ends as good or bad depends on our trust target.

Like it or not, you’re trusting in something. Self? Circumstances? Relationships? Christ? You get to choose—but what you choose, most definitely, dictates where you wind up.

Getting there does not require we know the way, what we need is an adventurous and confident heart. When our stability is found in Christ, this mindset is simple to gain. If not…you finish the sentence. Conclusions differ—but every successful expedition is charted by guidance from the right Source.

Is Freak-Out Frivolous?

Ever wonder why God gave us emotions in the first place? I do. Most often when I’m feeling the negative ones. As best I can tell, it’s part of the order of things. Can’t have the pros without the cons. Good means nothing if it can’t be compared to bad.

Although freaking-out never seems to get us anywhere, I do believe we must give ourselves permission to do it. The ever-evolving, multi-faceted, intensely dramatic world around us is absolutely mo .re than we can handle. If you don’t lose it on occasion, then nothing about you’s authentic

Only you have the power to get real with God—so do it—cause healthy relationship demands authenticity.

God Can Handle It

When will we believe that God is “all that.” Read the descriptions of Him in scripture and you’ll see—there’s nothing He doesn’t know or can’t do. Can you name someone or something that can top that? No!

God can handle our emotions. He knows how they work, He gave them to us. We’ve also been given an invitation into personal relationship with Him. He notices what matters to us and cherishes our feelings. (Psalm 56:8)

How do we get from here to there without an occasional freak-out? We don’t. Living in sincere unity with Christ requires we share all our thoughts and feelings with Him, and freaking-out is part of being human. It reminds us of our need for a Higher Power. Besides, the God I’ve come to know understands freak-out—and has no problem with it—as long as we don’t stay in that state.

Enjoy the Process — That’s the Answer

by Texas Stready

Sunday I got up at 3 AM. Most of the time I make it till 5:30, but on occasion my 3 o’clock potty call begins a sleep-repelling process of over-analyzation that keeps me from returning to Neverland.

After church I kick back on my bed to shuffle through my mental notes of the morning service and I’m gone. Fast asleep.

“Surprise!” wakes me and I open my eyes—not sure where I am—or how my daughter got there. Had no clue she was coming to spend Memorial Day weekend with me.

“What’s going on?” I ask. “What are you doing? You’re not supposed to be here?” My questions take a subtle shift from uncertainty to rebellion, as I hunt for explanation.

Settle Down

Changes are often unexpected surprises that creep up on us, and peaceful compliance isn’t exactly a natural response to them. Feeling uncertain is jarring, as if taking off from a bumpy airstrip. But rebellion brings danger—like a bomb-carrying terrorist’s on your flight.

No one would purposefully climb aboard and aircraft knowing there’s inevitable danger sitting in front of them. So tell me, why do we get so frustrated when delays occur during the process of securing our plane? Doesn’t make much sense. Still, it happens. Often.

Process Has Purpose

Waiting requires patience. Everything’s not meant to happen now. Scripture informs us that life runs on a timetable (Ecclesiastes 3:1-8). We don’t get the entire picture, so we must learn to rest with confidence in the perfect provision of our all-seeing God.

Having a hard time finding the strength to submit?

Try this. Consider what happens to a small child who rushes into oncoming traffic. A brutal picture, but a great way to establish appreciation for the necessary process of looking both ways before you cross the street.

Impatience Slows Things Down

Sure feels like water won’t boil when you’re watching, but if you step away from the stove for too long, before you know it, you’ll be missing an inch of water due to rapid boil.

What do these two scenarios tell us?

That staying aware of what’s happening is just as important as allowing it to happen. Faith is a gift that permits you to relax into the process long enough for the miracle to take place.

Don’t Miss Out

To publish my book I had to ask for donations (no fun), and then wait for responses (less fun). My largest contributions came from totally unexpected sources. This taught me that God’s way is both unexplainable and unsurpassed.

True peace originates in the heart, not the head.

The thing that brought me the most pleasure during this season was seeing God do His work, His way, in His time. It was a trust-builder that expanded my view of His love for me.

Celebrating what we know, instead of dreading what we don’t, distracts us long enough to get the bubbles rolling, shall we say. Why? Because we’re focused on God’s grace instead of our own ability.

Faith Propels You Forward

Walking in spiritual maturity insists we grow up in our willingness to trust. Our Savior has more for us than we could ever imagine (1 Corinthians 2:9).

Receiving the gifts of God requires we submit to His process. This makes it necessary for us to enter the place of peace He’s established for us. The Holy Spirit’s an educated guide. Personal interaction with Him enables us to have unwavering peace in the most rowdy of circumstances.

Enjoy It All

A life of purpose is full of new construction, and every worksite requires adjustments. Process accomplishes two things:

1) Takes us through the steps of getting the job done.

2) Awards us unspeakable treasures that can’t be discovered by any other means.

The kingdom we inhabit doesn’t operate by the wave of a magic wand. So what does it take to get good at a life without fixed results? Learn to enjoy the process—that’s the answer.

I can’t promise the conclusions you want, but I can tell you this: Despising the process will rob you of the beautiful outcome you’re meant to enjoy.

What Makes Your Favorite Jeans So Great? 


by Texas Stready

 At Christmas a few years back I got a pair jeans that instantly became my favorite. I loved the way they fit, the color, the texture, the length—they were fab. Then tragedy struck. My second time wearing them I slipped in a puddle at the gas station and blew out the left knee. Trashed

Your favorite jeans. You know the ones. They’re soft in all the right places and get along well with just about anything in your wardrobe. The All American look. Boot cut, mid rise, skinny leg—we got ‘em all. The huge selection often leaves the most certain of shoppers scratching their heads.

In A Glance

What feels good in an instant rarely lasts. The reality of wrong moves often leaves our lives in the dumpster waiting to be hauled off and destroyed. Creepy place to find yourself. I know—been in that can more than once.

What takes us from treasured to trashed? A negative text that repeats in our skull. This sorta thinking does to our minds what a bad perm from the 80s did to our hair. It leaves our reasoning under-wrapped and over-processed. Fried.

No matter how loud we keep the distractions, Satan’s repetitive racket continually sings a song of hopeless rejection. It plays on and on, until we excuse the sound as if it’s reasonable background noise. Dangerous practice.

Put Your Foot Down

Often, we allow these lies to repeat in our minds until we think we have no choice. But this too is a lie. We always have a choice. Will we keep jamming to that old tune or will we change the station?

I know how uncomfortable change can be. I traveled the same stinkin’ path for so long that just looking at the offramp horrified me. Everyone told me how much better life could and would be if only… All good info but no one can wear my circumstances but me. I’m the one who makes the decisions for my life, and until I ask for help I can’t receive it anyway. Learned that one the hard way.

This not-so-fun fact is true of everyone. No matter what your struggle consists of, only you possess the power to say, “enough is enough” and change your look.

The Trip

The wear and tear of walking through life, that’s what makes our favorite jeans so great—isn’t it? Changing our perspective on the problematic areas of life happens one leg at a time, but with the help of our Creator it can be as easy as pulling on our favorite pair of jeans.

Consider this: why do we glorify the blemishes on our jeans, but criticize the scars on our lives?

  • The things we suffer shape us. We are individually and uniquely designed for a specific task. The perfect fit, shall we say. James 1:2-4 VOICE.
  • Our minds are the most powerful tools we possess. Change your mind, change your actions. It’s as simple as that. Proverbs 23:7a VOICE.

Forsaken or Favorite—You Choose

Love. That’s what enabled me to artfully adapt the jeans I’d ripped into a personalized fashion statement. Instead of trashing them at the first sign of weakness, I loved them so much I busted out the razor and made them wearable. With a few extra slashes, what was once seen as an accident I now sport on purpose.

God does this exact thing with the torn-up areas of our lives. Learning to go with the flow of the Spirit smooths out the rough edges of wrong choice and makes tolerable the stiff stitches of consequence. It breathes fresh excitement and unique enthusiasm into every one of our mistakes.

Favorite jeans are a must-have. Why? Cause life with nothing but new and unfamiliar duds is much too tight and stuffy.

True Freedom—It Can Happen in a Moment and Last a Lifetime

by Texas Stready

I spent part of last weekend waiting for freedom from jail. Sad to say, I’m more familiar with the get-out-of-jail process then I’d like to be. What about you? Maybe you’ve never been arrested, but you’ve definitely been detained in one way or the other. We all have.

It’s easy to get stuck. A problem with your bank card or passport, a grocery line or traffic stop, or maybe you’ve found yourself taken hostage by a customer who asks too many questions or a clerk who has too many answers. Being held up doesn’t exactly promote feelings of joy. Not usually, but my latest trip to the pokey still has me dancing a jig.

Sweet Freedom

Never thought I’d be happy to go to jail. Happy? The sound of the steel door’s ominous welcome always dismissed any form of cheer. But not this trip. “They can’t keep me here.” That’s all I could think.

Ecstatic. That’s a better description. Even now, the recollection brings a rush no clever word can illustrate. There’s been nothing like it. Not in my whole life. Enlightening experience. A bitter reminder of entrapment and a beautiful revelation of freedom—all in the same glance.

All Jails Look Alike

Incarceration. The end of the line. As an addict, it’s like being held for ransom by a second kidnapper. No matter where you are, you’re not really free. Crazy but true. In one instant you’re scared of what you could do, and in the next your horrified by what you can’t.

It’s a been-there-done-that, kinda thing. I know what inmates wear, what they eat, how they talk, and how they think. Nothing’s changed. Nothing but me. I discovered a new fact. Remaining free brings purpose. It builds a relevant platform you can use to share your heart. A hopeful light at the end of someone else’s tunnel. Sweet! 

Know Your Role

I suppose I’ll never see things like the average person does, but some things are true no matter who you are or where you’ve been. The need for different always demands effort, but in and of ourselves we’re incapable of lasting change. This is always true.

Most of us care way too much about things that matter way too little. We deplete our power resource by focusing on what we can’t accomplish. God has given the appropriate amount of get-up-and-go to each of us. (Romans 12:3 VOICE) Faith is not given so we can get up and go our own way, but so we have the strength to do it His way.

And I’m doing it. That’s why when they handed me the mic, I had no fear or reservation. I knew what to say to make them laugh. I knew what to say to make them cry. Not because I’m a fabulous performer, because I’m living proof. If broke-down, busted, can’t be trusted Texas made it out—so can you.

It’s All Relevant

Change. No matter how you view it, it’s an essential part of healthy living. Maybe you’ve heard it said, “God uses everything.” Well this word-picture gained sharp clarity as I traveled with Jack Murphy, into the jails of Orlando, as an advocate of grace.

The Inmate Encounter—Hit Squad (as I call them)—are people who have made the change. Or maybe I should say exchange. They’ve let go of regret and shame and picked up forgiveness and mercy. Swapped humiliation for healing, and traded their past for His future.

Proud to announce they’ve invited me to be a sharpshooter on their leadership team. What?

The Second Act

Are you feeling the resistance of change? Emotions rarely point us in the right direction, yet our nature rebels when we feel suppressed. I think it’s safe to say, no one wants to be forced to do anything. Although God has the power to enforce whatever He wants, He doesn’t get-down like that. Submission. An unexpected and ingenious escape plan.

No matter where you are in the struggle, true freedom is available. It can happen in a moment and last a lifetime. If you let it. You see, the final production isn’t dependent on us. Yeah, we play the lead role in our life story but the world renowned Director is pure perfection. Literally. Recognizing this removes hesitation and replaces insecurity. It develops the beauty of our artistry and frees us up to do our thing.

This show is turning out to be quite the blockbuster. It is. Hard to believe God wrote this spectacular part specifically with me in mind. Amazed. That’s what I am. And I pray daily that I’ll remain forever starstruck by the character of Jesus Christ.

No one knows you better than your Creator, and He has cast you in a part that suits you alone. The time has come to pick up your script, and learn your role in the greatest story ever experienced. Yours.

Lights. Camera. Action.

Thoughts on Turning 74

by Cathee Poulsen

“I have aged…My skin has the crinkled appearance of wax paper that someone has tried to flatten and reuse. My eyes fail me often—in the darkness, when headlights flash, when rain falls. It is unnerving, this new unreliability in my vision. Perhaps that’s why I find myself looking backward. The past has a clarity I can no longer see in the present.”  ~ The Nightingale, by Kristin Hannah

Last night as the timer lit the lights on the deck railing, the lavender twilight caught me away to a series of moments that brought both tears and laughter. I guess I’m getting a bit nostalgic as I turn 74 this month and I couldn’t help but linger on the richness of the life I’ve lived.

What are our lives except a series of experiences strung together in sequence, some of which we remember with shame or regret, but by far, ones we remember with joy and pride? At least those are the ones I choose to dwell on these days.

When I get fearful or things get complicated, I remind myself of this verse:

Then Samuel took a stone and set it up between Mizpah and Shen, and called its name Ebenezer, saying, “Thus far the Lord has helped us” (1 Samuel 7:12).

Then I say, “It’s okay, Cathee. The Lord has brought you this far and He won’t quit now.

Looking Back with a Smile

May almost always recalls the hot morning near the end of sixth grade that I decided to pick a gardenia from the back yard and pin it to my white Peter Pan collar before I set out for school. I don’t remember any time before that day that I intentionally “dressed up” before school. The smell of gardenias never fails to bring forth that memory of me innocent and on the cusp of ending one season and crossing over that summer to another.

Walking into the chapel at Riverside Baptist Church, April 11 1959, to see the entire front by the platform covered wall to wall with flower arrangements for my sister’s funeral. My six young male friends the pallbearers, the man who led me to Christ – Dr. James Parrish – officiating, and my white pique dress. Everything else is a blur. I will always be a sister.

The first time Bob Poulsen kissed me and how different it was from what I’d expected. Four years older than me, a man about town of 20, and I only 16, I don’t know what I expected. It just wasn’t the very sweet tender kiss I received in the back seat of Dick Perkins Bonneville going over Biscayne Bay on the Venetian Causeway. I melted then. Still do.

Me at Florida State, in bed one night, all the lights out in Bryan Hall, when from down on the ground between the buildings, in perfect harmony, the male voices float up in the darkness to our window,

The girl of my dreams is the sweetest girl

Of all the girls I know…

The blue of her eye and the gold of her hair

Are a blend of the western sky

And the moonlight beams on the girl of my dreams

She’s the sweetheart of Sigma Chi

I never discovered who the lucky girl was they singled out that night, but the moment has lasted.

Three years later, Bob and I kneeling by our bed in the honeymoon suite at Key Biscayne Hotel, telling Jesus we wanted our lives to center around Him. That nothing else mattered more than that. And how we’ve kept that promise.

The morning I left the hospital in LaMirada California and they wheeled me by the nursery window. A nurse held up the bundle wrapped in soft pink. No name. Me shut down and bleeding inside, pretending I would be just fine. Wondering who would care for her. It’s one of those moments you never forget.

And then 20 months later holding a tiny newborn with light red fuzz all over his head, knowing no one would ever take him away from me. He got the love of two children and who knew someday they would be friends. How can one even imagine these things at the time?

O, the depth of the riches of the wisdom and knowledge of God! How unsearchable His judgments, and untraceable His ways! (Romans 11:33).

Passing the academy recently where my kids went to school and feeling that deep ache rise in my heart. Such joy every morning when I dropped them off, Journey playing on the radio, them so excited to see friends, the basketball games. Before the hard days rolled in.

The memories crowd my thoughts like bees in the apple orchard at autumn, but time constraints limit the telling.  I’ll never run short of past experiences that still bring a smile, like walking into the lobby at Port of the Islands and pausing to listen to 150 women chattering away, enjoying their overnight for the women’s retreat, anticipating what the Lord will do over the next 24 hours. Knowing I envisioned this and now experiencing it.

Waiting at Southwest Regional Airport for the flight that would finally bring that first baby to my arms, after a 40 year separation, as one friend described “Imagine the racket in heaven Saturday night when angels fill the concourse, the din of flapping wings joining in hundred-part harmony of song, and it all rises from the ashes as Dori walks that birth canal between the plane and your arms.”

Weekends on Little Marco Island, Kate lighting the kerosene lanterns along the screened-in hallway, the bonfire outside, us girls celebrating communion together, then enjoying a meal compared to no other because of our tropical setting at the island house.

The publication of my first book. Holding it in my hand, tears flowing. The first time Dori called me “Mom.” My 50th Anniversary party with everyone present.

Worshipping with 13,000 others in Gwinnett Arena at Catalyst. No sound like that one, joy rising as we sing “Oh, I’m running to Your arms…”

Texas standing in morning’s early light, holding a paper bag with her clothing in it, and Pierce, arms flung out as he runs to her, me knowing she is finally free, not only from the metal bars but her past.

Watching my three sons, each of them craftsmen in their own fields, do their work with such excellence it leaves me breathless.

And Now…

There is a sweetness as we age that softens the hard edges of our pain and loss. We are less likely to take things so seriously, things that never really mattered in the first place. And if we have matured in the love of Christ, knowing Him better, receiving His favor, we are able to bestow it on others with gladness.

I no longer fear getting older. My hair is almost gray now and I don’t look like I did at 16 or 25 or 40. I am not middle-aged. I am in the twilight of my life. And that’s where this very long trail of memories began.

May you find joy in what you have learned, the people you’ve met along the way, the friends who remain dear, the precious members of your family, and the experiences you’ve had with God. This life is not all there is, my friend. And the best wine is always saved until last.

True Relevance – Want Some?

by Texas Stready

I cracked the blinds Monday morning and was thrilled to see the sun shimmering off Lake Clay. At 10 AM I pulled on my bathing suit and headed towards the dock. Not for sun, but to begin my spring/summer swimming routine. When my feet hit the mucky bottom the smell of algae filled weeds slapped me square in the face. Ewww, is this really necessary?” I wondered.

By the time I reached the midway mark my arms were burning. Like every pain we encounter, the ache triggered an escape plan. “You’ve lost 45 pounds; swimming across this lake no longer has relevance.” Then a movement to my left interrupted that thought pattern. It was Christi, the friend I’d invited to swim with me. She’d been there all along, but because I was so focused on me, I practically forgot about her.

Where’s the Love?

Last year my grandson made a comment that swelled my skull. “Nonas know everything.” As I further considered his remark I realized, Pierce’s respect for my insight springs from my dedicated love for him, rather then my unmatched brainpower. This tells me, if I want to affect people’s lives I must first establish relationship with them.

I met Christi when she showed up in my family group telling a story that was similar to my own. Her car was hit by an eighteen wheeler a year prior, and what the downtime cost her most was muscle mass. Swimming’s a painless way to regain muscle and I know this first hand. That’s how I got her out here.

I know you seek importance too, but true relevance is only achieved when our choices are motivated from a heart of love.

Time spent with Christi has given us a love for each other. I’ve come to learn that physical pain is a constant since her wreck, and I want to help her make that different. That’s why I can’t turn back. You see, she’s horrified of gators and she’d never swim across this lake without me. Not Christi.

Relevance is More

People are a trip. We’re well rehearsed in “the arts”. The art of make-believe. The art of manipulation. The art of instant gratification. Like me, I’m sure you want to stop actively pursuing things that don’t bring beauty. Let’s work together on becoming the kind of people who lengthen our love stroke and broaden our spectrum of influence.

Want true relevance? Then find an artful way to effectively meet someone else’s needs.

At A Radical Difference, here’s what we believe is relevant:

★ Recognizing our significance to God is what gives us value

★ Listening to His whisper makes what we do beneficial

★ Seeking new insight enables us to clarify how to help others

These three things are about growing and changing. They’re a must if we hope to make a radical difference in the world we live in.

Actions and reactions determine our beliefs, and beliefs dictate what we categorize as relevant. Healthy living isn’t all about me. Once we learn to put self on a shelf, our behaviors take a new course. The Holy Spirit is our Swimming Coach, and paying attention to His constant direction gives every move we make true relevance.

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