Faithinflipflops

Living simply, loving deeply!

Archive for the tag “inspirational”

Whack-A-Mole Living

This blog has been about six months in the making. It began percolating last fall. The Women’s Bible study I teach fueled it further. The tipping point was a couple of weeks ago.

A couple of weeks ago I was having lunch with a good friend. We were talking about some serious stuff…struggles, sins, victories…it was an incredibly real and raw conversation. She, too, is getting her physical health under control. She said what I have thought, said, and written many times over the past nine months, “It seems as I get one area of my life under control, three other areas that need attention pop up.”

I call this Whack-a-Mole freedom. You know the game at a carnival or Dave and Busters where you have a mallet and you have to hit the mole in the head? And once you hit one mole, two more pop up and pretty soon those stupid moles are popping up everywhere! And by the time the game is over, you are exhausted.

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Everybody is fighitng some “mole” in their life. This game frustrates me. I am not coordinated enough

That is exactly how many of us view following Jesus. This is how I have felt for years. We are constantly trying to fix ourselves, to make ourselves presentable to God and to the world.

It is similar to pulling weeds. We pull one out and notice five more that need to be pulled instead of focusing on the beautiful rose bush that is in full bloom with vibrant reds and a fragrance no perfume could ever match. We focus on our stuff instead of the really beautiful work Jesus is doing in and through us as we simply follow Him.

 

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My mom’s rose bush. It is over 30 years old and survived many weeds and transplants. Still blooming beautifully.

 

We try to be better, to do better, look better and it is simply EXHAUSTING.

I have been discouraged, exhausted, frustrated, and angry all in the name of trying to be and do better. And we Christians know how to spiritualize it. We call it becoming holy. Or constantly remind ourselves that we are Jesus’ representatives in the world. The pressure can be overwhelming.

But when do we enjoy Jesus? And the abundant life He called us too? When do we live with joy and peace? When do we stop worrying whether we are good enough? One of my favorite books, How People Grow by Dr. Henry Cloud and Dr. John Townsend says, “Imagine that: Doing good, enjoying good, and not even thinking that we were “good”. Instead of being concerned with “Am I good enough?” we just lived and experienced life?” God simply wanted us to live life, not worry about whether we were good enough. Not worry about whether we were enough. I am tired of not being enough. Sin screwed that up for us, but Jesus fixed it. That’s the beauty of the cross.

I am not saying we do not have to continue to grow. I am the most introspective person you will meet. One of my life mottos is, “If you are not growing, you are dying.” I am on a quest to be physically and financially fit by 50. I have to address some demons in my closet. But I’m not doing it for someone else…to get their acceptance, respect, affection. I am doing it because I want to live this life fully, with joy and peace. And these areas will hinder me.  Jesus shows us how to live like that. Free. Unhindered. Arms wide open. Soaking up and enjoying every moment.

When do we stop trying to fix ourselves?

When do we stop trying harder?

When do we stop always looking at what’s wrong with us and start looking at what’s right with us?

When do we stop looking at the weeds and gaze at the beautiful rose?

 

What if I simply enjoyed my relationship with Jesus?

What if I stopped worrying about whether I was good enough and just accept Jesus’ love, acceptance, and forgiveness?

What if I simply relaxed and stopped trying to improve every part of my life, every second of the day?

What if I simply learned to appreciate and love who God has made me to be?

Weeds need to be pulled. Moles need to be whacked on the head. I get it. But we don’t have to go looking for them. When they come our way, God will show us. And we deal with it. And in the meantime, we simply enjoy our relationship with Jesus and His people. Jesus really did mean it when He said that He came to give us abundant life.

I have realized that I will never, ever have it all together here on Earth. No one will. Striving for perfection kills. I am 47 years old. I love Jesus. I have made some horrific mistakes and committed some heinous sins. I am tired of trying to whack the guilt down. I am tired of trying to fix myself. I am tired of thinking that I am too much. I am tired of toning down my personality and who God made me. I am forgiven and I choose and am choosing to enjoy my relationship with Jesus and the people in my life. I am choosing not to punish myself by closing myself off to certain areas of life because I feel like I don’t deserve it.

I choose freedom. I choose life. I choose love. I choose Jesus. I choose to follow Him wherever He leads.

 

Heart Shaped Rocks: A Tale of an Optimist

Mondays are my day off. I sleep in and unplug for most of the day. I try to go for a long walk or bike ride somewhere new. I stuff a blanket in my back pack along with my journal and Bible and just go.

Today I went to a place I just discovered a few weeks ago. Sheldon’s Marsh is in the next town over I never knew existed. You walk for about a mile and a half through a beautiful marsh and come out at a barrier beach on Lake Erie. The beach stretches for over a mile. Absolutely amazing. I spent most of my time today walking the beach.

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Flowers in the marsh

Flowers in the marsh

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Beautiful butterfly

Beautiful butterfly!

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Sheldon Marsh

Sheldon Marsh

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Find the heron

As I was walking I noticed a heart-shaped rock. I stopped and took a picture of it. As I continued to walk down the beach, I saw about 6 or 7 more rocks in the shape of a heart. It’s interesting after you first notice something, you begin to see it everywhere. Maybe it’s because you’re actually looking for it.

Heart-shaped rocks

Heart-shaped rocks

Heart

Heart

You find what you are looking for!

You find what you are looking for!

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As I continued walking, I began to think of all the Scripture I knew with the word heart or love in it. What a great exercise. It helped me center on God and His love. God’s love is evident all around us if we are looking for it.

And I thought about church. I love church. I get so frustrated with people who constantly criticize and make fun of the church. The Bible teaches that the church is not a building, it is the people who accepted Jesus and everything He claimed to be and have chosen to follow Him. Scriptures also teaches how much Christ loves the Church. She (the church) may be imperfect and not always live up to her potential but she is who Christ has chosen to represent Him.

As I discovered more heart-shaped rocks on my walk, it reminded me of people who say they do not like going to church or use the excuse of not going to church because the church is filled with nothing but “hypocrites”. My answer to that is whatever you are looking for you will find. If you are looking for a hypocrite in church you most definitely will find them. If you are looking for a man or woman who sincerely loves God, you will find them as well. And you know what? They are probably the same person.

I am an optimist by nature. I recently took a strengths finder test for some coaching I am doing. One of my top 5 strengths is positivity. I understand that a person can be a hypocrite and a person who loves Jesus at the very same time. I am such a person. The heart-shaped rocks I found today reminded me to keep looking for positive. Because you really do find what you are looking for. If you are looking for negative stuff, negative is what you will find. If you are looking for positive, positive is what you will find. What are you looking for?

 

 

Personal Reflections on 9/11

I wrote this a year ago in honor of 9-11. Hope you enjoy.

Faithinflipflops

9/11. This day impacts me every year. It impacts all of us. It has been 13 years since the planes were flown into the towers, the pentagon and a field in Pennsylvania. It seems like yesterday that our security was ripped from us and we realized that we were not untouchable on our own soil. It seems like yesterday we lost over 3,000 of us in less than an hour. It brings me to tears every year. It is a day of reflection for me. It is the day that began the closing of one chapter of my life, preparing for the next.

I was living in Waynesboro, VA at the time on staff at a church. I had just come through a tough season. The battle had been challenging but I had overcome. But not without a cost. I was left with some war wounds…wounds that penetrated the deepest part…

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Lessons learned while Kayaking: #1 Do not panic!

Sunday, I took my kayak out on the lake for the first time this year. I was so excited!!! Kayaking on the lake is much more fun and peaceful than the river.  I  got to Main Street Beach and launched out. I had my life jacket on, phone (for pictures of course) and other necessary items secured in my waterproof bag…all systems go.

My kayak!

My kayak!

I was paddling along for about ten to 15 minutes…enjoying the sunshine and the waves and the quiet. I decided to coast for a little bit to soak it all in and relax. That morning we had a powerful healing service in church…and I got to enjoy God’s presence with His people — and now a few hours later I was enjoying His presence in another part of His creation…Lake Erie and sunshine! I love being outside!

Lake Erie in my kayak

Lake Erie in my kayak

As I was coasting and soaking it all in…half way to my destination, I heard a sound…a gurgling sound…I turned around to look at the back of my kayak and that’s when I noticed the one thing I didn’t check before I launched…the stopper. If I had checked, I would have known that it was gone. Vanished. Not there.

Where the stopper should be.

Where the stopper should be.

 

They put holes on one of end of kayaks so that you can drain the water out when you are finished. It is on the top of the kayak and on a river really wouldn’t be a problem but on the lake where it is wavy and boats create a lot of wake, it could be a problem. I decided it wasn’t that big of a deal and started rowing again. I figured I could drain it at my destination before I turned back for the return trip. I went another 10 or 15 minutes. That is when I saw the water by my feet. I decided it was time to turn around. For a brief moment, I felt a little panicked. After taking a deep breath, I knew I was fine…I had my life jacket, everything valuable was secured and I was prepared. Even if I capsized or sank, I wouldn’t die. I would just have to swim to shore. I continued paddling back to the beach, enjoying the journey (and taking a few pictures along the way).

It made me think that life is a lot like kayaking. We prepare as much as possible for problems we think we will encounter on the way but something always comes up that we weren’t anticipating or simply overlooked. We can look at the circumstances and begin to panic which only makes matters worse or we can look around, assess the situation, and decide even in this I will relax and enjoy the journey. And take some pictures along the way!

Aim for the Stars

My last blog was about my experience about the time I fell from the zip line when I was a teen-ager. In that blog, I mentioned Bill, the one who gave me the piece of wood from the tree that I fought with (I have since shellacked it)…Bill has been a role model for me for many years. He is a good man who loves God and people. He served in Vietnam and also was a State Highway patrolman for years. He is a great teacher and a poet. I always love hearing the poems he writes. He came into the office today and gave me something he wrote. I asked him for permission to post it on my blog. So sit back and enjoy our guess blogger today! 

Aim for the Stars

Dot and I went to work Tuesday morning as we always do. We were both tired. Monday afternoon we had driven to Toledo for our grandson’s track meet. It’s a two-hour drive each way.

Duncan is in the seventh grade. This is his first year on the track team. He throws the shot-put and the discus.

When Duncan was two years old, he was diagnosed with autism. Since that day, our daughter, Jodi and our son-in-law Chad, have done everything possible to help Dunc be all that he can be. He goes to public school. He’s involved in sports. He is tutored all year round. He is an A and B student. Jodi ran a 26 mile marathon to promote Autism awareness. Dunc ran the last 100 yards with her. He was also a spokesperson for autism on a special program on T.V.

Dunc’s track team only had one coach at the track meet. There was no coach to help Dunc at the shot put or discus event. Dunc’s first shot-put throw was not real good. Then Dunc got a foul for walking in front of the ring instead of the rear. He was upset and discouraged.

I threw the shot-put and discus in high school, so I showed Dunc a few things and tried to encourage him. His next two throws improved. His last throw was a personal record.

Dunc moved to the discus field and his first throw was 38 feet. We talked some more. I told Duncan to release the discus in an upward motion and aim for the stars. His second throw was 52 feet. I could see his confidence growing. His last throw was 58 feet, another personal record for Dunc.

As we were leaving the track meet, Dunc gave us a hug and thanked us for coming. I reminded Dunc to always aim for the stars.

It’s now about 4 p.m. Dunc called to tell us at practice today that he threw the discus 70 feet. He thanked me again for helping him.

It’s now about 4:30. It has been a hectic day. All morning we had equipment breaking down. In the afternoon I worked on billing with Dot. It did not go smooth. As we were closing, Dot told me about some equipment she rented for the weekend. I got upset because she did not talk to me first, as if she really needed to. She knows more about the business than I do. Dot got upset, there were some words and she left upset.

I got home before she did. I was trying to stay angry so I could convince myself that I was right and she was wrong. I was thinking about all the stuff that happened that day. It had not been a good day. Then it hit me. 

The stuff that happens in life does not really matter. All that really mattered today was that Dunc threw the discus 70 feet. He was aiming for the stars.

No matter what comes our way during any given day, may we always fixate on the good things that have happened. May we always aim for the stars!

Scars, Trees, and Zip Lines…Musings on Easter

Before our first service on Easter Sunday, Bill, a dear friend of mine, a wonderful man of God, whom I deeply respect, asked to speak to me. He had something he wanted to give me. I was talking to Bob at the time. Bob was like a 2nd dad to me growing up. Bill wanted Bob to stay as he presented me with the gift.

Bill and Bob

Bill and Bob

Before I committed my life to Christ at the age of 15, I spent a lot of time at Bob’s house. His daughter was my best friend. Their home was a source of stability and strength for me growing up…a respite from the craziness that was my life. They lived the street over from me. They took me wherever they went as a family. Often they took me with them to their good friend’s house (Bill and Dot). They would play cards while the kids played.

My first memory – and my most vivid memory of Bill and Dot’s house occurred at the age of 13. They had cool things to do at their house….they had a net  that you could climb that hung over the stream that ran through their property. They also had zip lines before zip lines were “cool”. There was a low one and a high one. I did the low one several times. I finally mustered the courage to do the high one. It was 16 to 20 feet off the ground and went over the stream. There was no harness or safety apparatus 🙂 I did the high one like a champ.

What the pulley looked like.

What the pulley looked like.

The adults must have walked away because what happened next was not the smartest thing I have ever done…Jodi (Bill and Dot’s daughter) and I decided to ride the zip line on the high wire…together!!!! 

Let me paint a picture of why this was not the brightest of ideas. Jodi was/is this petite, athletic 105 – 110 pound cute, little thing…I was none of those 🙂 . We barely made it off the platform when the pulley went to my side and my hand slipped and I plummeted some 16 feet to the earth below. I barely missed landing on a tree stump. I fell on the side of the stream where there was no road…all the adults had to come sloshing through the stream to get to me. So did the rescue squad. I remember Nita (Bob’s wife) and Dot praying over me until the ambulance got there. When it was all said and done, I spent 3 days in the hospital with a fractured back and a broken wrist.

When I finally got home, I remember the youth pastors of the church coming to my house to visit and pray with me. Those youth pastors were Jim and Joyce Cooper, my pastorand boss today 🙂 And that was my first memory of them!

My falling out of the tree has led to many a discussion and story telling over the years 🙂 . Since that time, Bill and Dot have become important people in my life…people who have helped me grow in my walk with the Lord over the years.

Which brings me back to Easter Sunday. Bill shared with me that after seeing the Children’s program on Palm Sunday – The Three Trees – he thought of me. In the story there are three trees who want to do great things when they grow up and leave the forest. One ends up being the manger that Jesus was laid in when He was born, the second one becomes the boat that Jesus sails in when He calms the sea and the third one grew up to be the Cross Jesus was crucified on.

And the day before – Bill said – he had to chop down the tree from which I fell those many years ago. It was rotten and dangerous (like it wasn’t rotten and dangerous before 🙂 . Bill continued “Who knew that particular tree would grow up to become a symbol of pain in your life. He then presented me with a piece of the bark from the fallen tree.

The bark Bill gave me.

The bark Bill gave me.

I was so incredibly touched! So was Bob. Falling from the tree was the first time I remember someone praying over me. It was my first memory of Pastor Jim and Joyce…I remember sitting between them on my couch as they prayed for healing for me and for God to touch my life. It seemed weird to this unchurched 13-year-old but felt right and true.

Pastor Jim spoke on Easter Sunday about scars and how they tell a story. Jesus’ scars tell of His love for us. His death, burial and that He is alive now, today. People in our church shared their stories — of scars in their lives that show God’s grace and healing power; a woman who unexpectedly became a single mom through traumatic circumstances; a young man who saw combat in Afghanistan – and saw and experienced things a 21-year-old should never have to; a man who lost his mom at the age of 13 and stopped going to church but how a rare kidney disease and the love of a church brought him back to God; and a pastor who had been hurt, almost destroyed by a church…

We all have wounds. Life is not always fair. Bad things happen. We suffer consequences of poor choices. The Good News of Easter is we have the opportunity to allow God to heal our deep, gaping wounds. The scar left behind will be a reminder, a testimony, a symbol of God’s healing power, His love, and His amazing grace!

As I looked at that piece of bark from the tree that caused me much pain – it reminded me of the good that came out of it. And how far I have come from that 13-year-old girl, who had no idea of who Jesus was to where I am today…a woman who understands the scars of the Cross and the price that was paid so that I could be free. I am amazed at His goodness towards me.

I am going to write John 20:24 – 28 Scripture on this piece of bark and shellac it as a reminder to me that scars tell a story. And may the scars of my life Always point to Jesus.

The bark

The bark

Great Things He has done

I have been in bed sick for the past two days. I’m pretty sure it’s the flu. I have been fighting something for 2 weeks now. I am an AWFUL sick person. I don’t even like me when I’m sick. But as I was  getting ready to crawl back into bed, I came out of my flu induced haze and remembered that today is December 29. A very important day to me. It was 27 years ago today that I made the best decision in the world…to follow Jesus. I remember writing something about it  two years ago….I know that I will quickly succumb to the flu haze once again so I am putting this oldie but goodie on my blog! Enjoy as I crawl back into bed….
Great things He has done/Greater things to come: 25 years later
by Heidi Strickler on Wednesday, December 29, 2010 at 3:23pm ·

Birthdays are a big deal to me! Maybe it’s because I come from a large family and it was the one day of the year that was focused on me and because I love being the center of attention (That’s right, I admit it!) or maybe because my mom made such a big deal about our birthdays. We always celebrated it on the exact day of our birthday at 7 pm and all the family would come over. My last couple of birthdays before my mom died, she would come to the edge of the steps at midnight and wake me up and sing happy birthday. Maybe I love birthdays so much because they represent a new beginning. I tend to really love change. My birthday is in a couple of weeks and it is so close to the New Year that the whole new beginning thing has a lot of meaning for me.  But today is not my birthday, at least not my physical birthday. Today is my spiritual birthday, which is probably even more special to me.

 

Twenty-five years ago today, December 29, 1985, at the age of 15, I committed my life to Jesus and following Him. Yes, I am one of those radical, born-again Christians!!! I tend to be introspective on occasions like this. I had it pointed out to me by my Pastor that you see God’s glory by seeing where He has been. Moses prayed that God would show him His glory. God answered by putting him in the cleft of a rock and covering it so all Moses could see was God’s backside.  You see God’s glory by where He has been. As I look back at the past 25 years and I have seen where God has led me, I am awed and amazed! And truly see God’s glory in the great adventure that is my life.  My life has been the most amazing, fun, fulfilling, and at times, hardest life that I could possibly imagine.  Life completely changed for me on that night. Kind of like how it changed for the world when Jesus was born. His birth was so monumental it split history in half…(BC and AD).  For myself, my hopes and dreams completely changed! All for the better! Before that night I wanted to go to college and simply make a lot of money and move out of my hometown.  After that night, I knew all of that had changed.  I did go to college and I did live out of state for about 9 or so years but I am back in Vermilion (LOVE IT) and I make no money! J And I love my life.  We are starting an internship program at our church for young adults who are interested in ministry and finding out what God has for them. I get the honor of helping pioneer all of that. I had two of the interns in my office today, going over expectations and one of them said “I wish I didn’t have to work at all….there is so much I could do here at the church” and the other one said “ I wish I could be at the church all the time because I know God is going to show me what He has for me!” Listening to them reminded me of why I do what I do. I work to live; I do not live to work. Work supports me so I can do all that God has called me to do. And that has been how I have lived the past 25 years. God provides every step of the way.

 

Our theme at church for 2011 is  “Greater Things”. Pastor Jim has been speaking on the great things God has done in our church in the past and that greater things are yet to come. It resonates with me. Great things God has done in and for me over the past 25 years, too numerous to count. He saved me, healed my relationship with my mom before she passed, provided my whole way to college (through my generous church family), my dad and brother were both right with God before they passed, I served for a wonderful 5 years in VA on staff at an incredible Church of whom my friendships made there will last an eternity, countless people saved, placed me back in Vermilion for the past 9 years serving amazing people in the Church and in the community just to name a few of the great things God has done. And yet within my spirit I know that there are greater things to come! That the best is yet to come, that the next 25 years will blow the first 25 out of the water! And it is all because of Jesus and what He did in a 15 year old, messed up teen-ager as she followed Him wherever He led.

 

A quarter of a century of following Jesus and being transformed (hopefully) into His image has made me the richest and fulfilled of girls! On this spiritual “birth” day of reflecting on where I have been and how far He has brought me, I am filled with an overwhelming sense of gratitude, joy, and expectation! Grateful for where He has led for what He has done, and the crazy life He has given me; joyful because He is my strength and life is good; and expecting Him to do even greater things with the rest of my life! Because when you strip everything a way, I am still a lot like that 15 year-old teen-ager, a girl in need of a Savior.

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