The Weekend

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I know it’s Tuesday. We just finished a 3 day weekend though and I had some reflections.

I had Monday off of work . Our company observed Juneteenth on Monday, June 20 since June 19 was a Sunday. If you aren’t aware of this new federal holiday, take some time to educate yourself on it. It has been celebrated for many years by the black community. June 19 was the day slavery ended. The Emancipation Proclamation had been signed but it wasn’t until 2 years after that, on June 19, that the slaves and slave owners in Texas got the memo. The significance of this holiday is now honored as a federal holiday. However, I don’t see much knowledge of it yet. I think it will take some time and education to get our communities to understand the significance of this day. Summer school still started, business was as usual at most places, and other than my church, I didn’t see many public celebrations. I am grateful for my new understanding of this day and my coworkers who threw a Juneteenth party at work.

Sunday not only was Juneteenth but it was Father’s Day as well. I spent the morning with my dad. We had breakfast burritos, good conversation, and some cookie cake. It was lovely. I hope you had time to honor your dad, or father figures, in your life this weekend. Father’s Day, like Mother’s Day, often is a complicated day for many. Missing a dad who passed away, grieving the dad who was absent in your life, celebrating a dad who was present and still is, or maybe being a single mom and being alone that day. Regardless, the one true Father we can celebrate every day is God. He is our father, daddy, Abba. I had the pleasure of leading worship on Sunday. We sang a hymn called This is my Father’s World. It speaks of everyone and everything giving praise back to Him. The birds’ song is praise. The morning light is praise. The flowers blooming is praise. If you don’t have an earthly father to celebrate, celebrate the One True Father – God. He will never leave you, disappoint you, or harm you. He will hold you, comfort you, guide you, lovingly correct you, and always be there.

Do you not know?
    Have you not heard?
The Lord is the everlasting God,
    the Creator of the ends of the earth.
He will not grow tired or weary,
    and his understanding no one can fathom.
 He gives strength to the weary
    and increases the power of the weak.
Even youths grow tired and weary,
    and young men stumble and fall;
 but those who hope in the Lord
    will renew their strength.
They will soar on wings like eagles;
    they will run and not grow weary,
    they will walk and not be faint.

~ Isaiah 40:28-31 NIV

My weekend had set plans. Walking the Rose Bowl with friends. Time with my dad on Father’s Day. Leading worship on Sunday. Monday hanging with my kids. However, 2 unexpected plans came up for me. We often plan our days and most likely, our weekends, to be how we want them to be. Sometimes other things invade those plans. Some good and some bad. I had the pleasure of making my weekend even more full by spending time with my college roommate Friday night. I knew she was in town but we hadn’t solidified our time together. It was Friday night. As always, we pick up in the middle of a conversation. Our friendship just deepens with time and distance doesn’t harm it. Grateful to have added Friday night plans. Saturday had an unplanned event too. My dear friend lost her father a week ago and pulled together a funeral service that happened on Saturday an hour from my home. Of course, I made it fit into my full weekend. It’s what we do. We are there for those we love. A beautiful service and wonderful time of connection with her and her family, who I have known since Junior High. God’s presence invaded the day. I got a front row seat to a father who raised a family to love Jesus and His legacy continues in the faith of his children and grandchildren.

I had a lot to juggle for my weekend. I usually don’t fill my weekends because I need down time. I need my tea with God. Yet, God showed up in the events of the weekend. He sat with me and my college roommate on her mom’s patio while we chatted. He walked the Rose Bowl with me. He definitely moved mightily at Saturday afternoon’s funeral and dinner afterwards. Sunday, He enjoyed time with my dad and me and spoke to the congregation through hymns. Monday, He enjoyed the laughter and pleasure of my kids and I enjoying one another.

When your weekend, or your day, becomes more full than planned, regroup and invite God. See Him in the “unplanned” parts of your day. It was no surprise to Him how my weekend would be. He provided exactly what I needed when I needed it. He gave me words to speak to encourage and comfort friends. He gave my friends words to return the favor. He is in the weekends of our lives – planned or unplanned. I hope you met Him this weekend. If not, invite Him next weekend. It will fill your time with joy.

Dream Big! Pray Big!

Into the Light

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The light shines in the darkness , and the darkness has not overcome it. ~ John 1:5 NIV

It’s time to shed light on all things. Things hidden bring shame. Freedom comes when we release hidden things. This past year our church has emphasized the importance of confession. What have you kept in the dark that needs light shed on it?

I am part of a life group – a group of women who gather weekly to share life. We confess, pray, encourage, and love each other. When u step into confession, it needs to be done with safe people who live in God’s grace and know how to extend it to others. Facebook is not a place for confession. Who are your safe, grace-filled confidants?

Scripture tells us, if we confess, we no longer need to feel shame or accuse ourselves of being “bad.” We are forgiven and receive God’s gift of grace.

If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness. ~I John 1:9 NIV

Sometimes confession is just revealing more of who you are, not just an admission of sin. Today I want to reveal a part of me some of you don’t know. I know for a fact that I am fearfully and wonderfully made. I am fully loved by God. I have hesitated sharing this part of me because people have strong views on the topic. If you read my blog, you know me, my heart and my desire to seek God and His way. So, I confess I am divorced. I am not going into details here, but am happy to talk privately with any of you who want to. I felt such shame my marriage failed that it kept me in a marriage that needed to end a long time ago. Once I brought it into the light, I found support, grace, and understanding. I also was met with judgement and loss of some friendships. From this day forward, I come to you as I am – a woman of God, single mom, and lover of truth and His way.

Find your safe place of friends to confess. Don’t allow those things that shame you stay in the dark any longer. Bring them into the light. You are loved right where you are.

Dream Big! Pray Big!

This is Us

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I promise – no spoilers!!!

If you are a fan of this show, you know the series finale happened last week. I absolutely loved this show. It gave us permission to feel our feelings, share our truth, be messy, and be real. The only thing missing in this show was faith. If they had Jesus, it would have been a perfect show. This show allowed the viewers to see humanity played out in a fictional family. The writers are incredible. I hope they write another show or movie soon. If you haven’t ever watched, or maybe stopped halfway through, join in. You will cry a lot, laugh some, but most of all, you will think.

“A Really Lovely Show About Flawed But Lovely People at a Time When the World Needed a Little Bit of It.” – Dan Fogelman- the creator of This is Us

I know TV is just TV but sometimes it strikes a chord in our nation. This show did. I believe it allowed those who truly investing in watching it and loving the characters, a chance to grow. One of my favorite scenes is when Rebecca shares the most honest mom feeling in the world in a counseling session with her kids. The next day on Facebook, I read several posts from my mom friends sharing how relieved they felt that they weren’t alone in having those same feelings.

I love stories. I invest in good stories. If I’m reading an incredible book, I don’t put it down. When my kids were little, I didn’t read a lot of fiction because once I’m invested, I can’t stop reading. This is Us did that for me, but only for 42 minutes at a time. A good story can be an escape. A good story can also be a teaching tool. When you identify with the storyline of a character or the feelings of a character, you can see alternate paths and choices for yourself. We saw Rebecca as a tired mom of babies. She was a woman who put dreams on hold to care for her kids full-time. We saw her struggle in her marriage and enjoy her marriage. We got to see 3 adult siblings face life too. I didn’t identify with each character’s crisis. I did relate as a person who had to be there while someone they loved went through a crisis.

This is Us is over. I am sad. I tear up when I think of various scenes throughout the years. I loved the story. I loved the free therapy. I loved an opportunity to cry. Now, I have the chance to apply what I have learned. I can embrace all the moments of family – big, small, intense, funny, and best of all, loving.

Dream Big! Pray Big!

3 times

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Do you remember Jesus predicting that Peter would deny Him three times?

Truly I tell you,” Jesus answered, “this very night, before the rooster crows, you will disown me three times. ~ Matthew 26:34 NIV

If you want to relive Peter’s actions, you can find that incident in Matthew 26, Mark 14, Luke 22, and John 18.

Do you think that every time Peter heard a rooster crow, he felt shame, disgrace, self hatred, and more? I googled “how many times a day does a rooster crow?” The answer: 15. Wow. 15 times a day, Peter beat himself up. He felt terrible. He was reminded of his actions of turning his back on Jesus.

What is your trigger to feel shame, disgrace, self hatred and more? We usually have at least one. For me, when I hear certain songs from my past. I am reminded of behaviors I engaged in that I am not proud of. I remember the incident, then feel regret and shame. In John 21, we find a model of letting go of these triggers.

Peter and his friends are out fishing at night, not long after Jesus’ death and resurrection. They were probably feeling lost and confused. Fishing would lift their mood. However, after a whole night of fishing, they caught nothing.

Early in the morning, Jesus stood on the shore, but the disciples did not realize that it was Jesus.  He called out to them, “Friends, haven’t you any fish?” “No,” they answered. He said, “Throw your net on the right side of the boat and you will find some.” When they did, they were unable to haul the net in because of the large number of fish. ~ John 21:4-6 NIV

Peter jumps in the water and swims to shore while his friends pull in the haul of fish (153 to be exact). He couldn’t wait to be reunited with Jesus.

After breakfast, Jesus asks Peter three times to care for His sheep. I recently learned the significance of Jesus asking three times. Peter denied three times so Jesus asked three times. Jesus was demonstrating that no matter how many times you blow it, you will be forgiven and restored. That’s awesome. No matter how many times. If you let that sink in, truly sink it, those triggers that bring shame and regret back to you, can be released. Peter no longer needed to allow the rooster’s crow to drag him into despair. The rooster’s crow could now be a reminder that he is restored. Let’s do the same.

Dream Big! Pray Big!

Mother’s Day

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Mother’s Day is a trigger for many. I have always been sensitive to women who desire to have children and haven’t been able to. I am aware of some who are estranged from their children and find Mother’s Day difficult. Maybe you are not in a good place with your mom (or never have been). For me, this year is a different kind of Mother’s Day.

I’ve already had one Mother’s Day since my mom passed, but I was still in heavy grief and expected to be sad. This year, I am thrown back into that grief in a way I haven’t experienced before. Her birthday was hard. The anniversary of her death was a tough day (I spent it at the beach). Mother’s day is knocking me out. I was in Target and I saw the card aisle for Mother’s Day. I started crying. Just typing this I’m welling up with tears. I don’t have a mom to buy a card for. I don’t. I miss her so much right now. I want her to know I have a new job and I’m happy. I want her to see and hear about my life. My friend (who lost her mom a few months after I did) made a statement that I will always carry with me: “Jesus knows, she knows.”

This is also my first Mother’s Day without all my kids at home. Two are in college and won’t be able to be home this year. I don’t like it. Not at all. My heart is sad. I fully understand the reality of their lives and why they can’t be home. I’m still sad. Empty nesters: put any tips you have on adjusting to this new reality in the chat please.

How will I handle this weekend? Not fully sure of all the details but this I know – time with God. Time with Him will fill me with enough love, comfort, tenderness, and fullness that I will be OK. I will plan a day with what I want to do and drag my youngest with me. (Poor guy.) I usually like to spend the day at the beach. Maybe we will do that. I want a great dessert. (Calories don’t count on Mother’s Day. ) I may even cry a bit. I need to release the grief of mom and the sadness/grief that accompanies change.

As a mother comforts her child,
    so will I comfort you;
    and you will be comforted over Jerusalem.”

~ Isaiah 66:13 NIV

Just typing this verse, I already feel the peace of God that passes understanding. Whatever Mother’s Day holds for you – joy, pain, grief, struggle, frustration, happiness – let Him hold you. God is with us in all seasons and situations. I’m grateful!

Dream Big! Pray Big!

Where is Debbie?

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I last blogged three weeks ago. Time has flown by. Hope you had a glorious Easter. He is risen! He is risen indeed! I had a lovely Easter with my kids home from college and my family over for lunch. A sense of some normalcy has returned. Missed mom a lot on Easter. Let myself grieve and still enjoy the day. Easter is that tension of grief and celebration. Jesus died for our sins on Friday and rose again on Easter morning. We grieve for our sin and His sacrifice. We celebrate for our hope and eternal life in Him.

Where have I been? Starting a new job. For the past three years, I worked for New Horizons Learning Group as an instructor of Microsoft Applications. I learned so much teaching Word, Excel, PowerPoint, Outlook, VBA, SQL, Access and much much more. I am grateful for the on-the-job training. It helped me get to where I am today. Where am I today?

I work for Goodwill Long Beach – or Goodwill SOLAC – Serving the people of Southern Los Angeles County. I am here to create a new program to help those who have barriers to employment. My title is Digital Skills Instructor. I will be teaching courses to beginners and mid-skilled level adults. They classes will be weeks for 4 hours a week. I am developing curriculum. I am meeting with potential students. I have the opportunity to mentor, teach, and invest in lives daily. God opened this door for me so clearly.

I had been praying for a job where I could teach a group of students over time not just one day and they were gone. I wanted to invest in students. I wanted to write curriculum to meet specific needs. After many “no’s” in job seeking, this was a big YES. I realized that all the “no’s” were because God knew I would have said yes to the wrong ones. He had this yes in His back pocket until the timing was right. On April 5, it was right.

My life has had a lot of waiting. Mostly because I can’t be trusted to say “no” to the wrong things. I need to grow in that area. When I am done and ready to move onto something else, I grasp at what’s closest. God wants me to prayerfully consider what He has for me. To wait in peace not in desperation. When I was young and single, I would have jumped at any proposal. God knew that. Even my most serious boyfriend never asked me to marry him. God had other plans. Fast forward through life and I see many moments in the desperation of waiting. It took until now to see that my “yeses” need to be bathed in more prayer and consideration.

I’m so glad God protected me from myself. I am weak. He is strong. However, He is making me stronger. This revelation has changed me. I have no doubt this job is a gift from God. It was designed with me in mind. He handcrafted this for me. How incredible are the gifts of a loving Father. More than I could have asked or imagined. I imagined something like this but this is more. That is what He does, if we get out of the way and let Him. That is my hope from today forward.

Now to him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to his power that is at work within us, to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, for ever and ever! Amen. ~ Ephesians 3:20 NIV

Which of you, if your son asks for bread, will give him a stone? Or if he asks for a fish, will give him a snake? If you, then, though you are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father in heaven give good gifts to those who ask him! ~ Matthew 7:9-11 NIV

Dream Big! Pray Big!

P.S. Still figuring out my groove in this new job. I will find a new regular blogging time. Until then, keep your eyes pealed for my next blog. Love you!

Tomorrow

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Now listen, you who say, “Today or tomorrow we will go to this or that city, spend a year there, carry on business and make money.” Why, you do not even know what will happen tomorrow. What is your life? You are a mist that appears for a little while and then vanishes. Instead, you ought to say, “If it is the Lord’s will, we will live and do this or that.” ~James 4:13-15 NIV

What are your plans for tomorrow? Are you looking forward to it? Is it positive or negative? Is it neutral? Are you starting a new job? (I am) Are you facing a medical procedure? (My dear friend is) Are you going to drive your kids to school? Are you meeting a friend for lunch? Are you doing laundry? What does tomorrow look like?

I’m excited for tomorrow. I am starting a new job (more on that in a future blog). I will be driving to a new location. I will be wearing a skirt not sweat pants. I will be packing a lunch. I will be meeting new people. I have plans for tomorrow. I’m sure you do to. However, what tomorrow holds may not be what I planned. Our days can change on a dime. We have seen that this past few years. However, I shouldn’t stop planning. I shouldn’t stop stepping out into the things God has for me. I am confident that this is the job God has for me. All the details will unfold as I step into each tomorrow.

I recently heard a sermon on the passage in James 4. The pastor said, “You don’t have to say ‘if the Lord wills’ all the time. However, you need to live that way.” In other words, make plans and keep your heart open to God’s leading. He may redirect. He may open up another door. He may provide an opportunity within your planned opportunity. God is so good at placing us where He needs us and then uses us. So make plans and be open to God. Let Him direct the day and see what may unfold.

As I step into a big new tomorrow (new job), I go into the day with excitement, a bit of fear, and an open mind to what God is going to unfold. When I make plans and trust God with the follow through, it’s a much better life. When I make plans, force the outcome, and set expectations, it’s a more frustrated life. I’m not there yet, friends. I get frustrated and disappointed all the time. Yet as I rely on God, put my hope in Him not the outcomes, my life gets less complicated.

What are you doing tomorrow? Whatever it is, let God be a part of it and trust the outcome to Him. He is our yesterday, today and tomorrow.

Dream Big! Pray Big!

Oscars

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If you know me, you know I have an Oscar party every year. Last year was cancelled due to Covid and again this year too. However, I did watch with a friend and what a night it was. The image above is the cast of CODA, which truly deserved the Best Picture award. (they won every award they were nominated for.) I watched most of the nominated movies and am happy to share my thoughts on some of them in this week’s blog.

Before I share how amazing CODA is, I must briefly comment on the big elephant in the Oscar room – Will Smith and Chris Rock. I am not one to stir controversy in my blog so all I will say is the whole thing was a train-wreck. Both sides were wrong. Who was wronger? Not going there. The evening is about rewarding hard work, excellence in your craft, and fashion. Of course, the gossip, jokes at other’s expense, star gazing happens every year. This year, got out of control. Enough said.

If you haven’t seen CODA(Child of Deaf Adults), get Apple TV streaming and watch it. It so deserved Best Picture, Best Adaptive Screenplay, and Best Supporting Actor. Power of the Dog was nominated for 12 awards (it only won Best Director). It was the “favorite.” I watched Power of the Dog and I don’t recommend it to anyone. It was good acting but disturbing to watch and pretty pointless, in my opinion. So when CODA picked up steam prior to the awards ceremony, I was hopeful. If you don’t know the story, it’s a family who is deaf except their daughter. She desires to pursue music. I will warn you there is language and choices against my belief system. Yet, my whole family watched it and loved it. Also, CODA actor Troy Katsur is the first deaf man to win an Oscar. Marlee Matlin (his costar) was the first deaf woman to win an Oscar years ago for Children of a Lesser God.

Several other movies nominated are worth the watch. The Eyes of Tammy Faye moved me to tears multiple times in the show. Jessica Chastain deserved the Oscar for Best Actress last night. If you remember the story of Jim and Tammy Faye Baker’s rise and fall, this movie captures it all. It’s the untold story of this woman who truly loved God and wanted to share His love to everyone. She was unique in her approaches and made mistakes. Yet, her heart for God shined in this movie. I can’t say enough good things about this one.

While movies these days continue to push the envelope on topics that make us uncomfortable and show images that none of us should see, there are quite a few quality movies out there. The lessons I learn and the way I am challenged in the art of film inspire me. I may not like every movie I watch but if I am changed for the better, it’s worth it. One example is Belfast. It was an OK movie. However, I knew nothing of that period in history and did a deeper dive after the movie. Great – I learned and grew from it.

I encourage you to always be wise in what you allow into your mind, eyes, ears, and heart. Watch movies with God’s eyes to see the brokenness of characters and how they overcome or fail. Turn a movie experience into a prayer time with God. Talk to Him about what you learned, saw, and discovered. Seek wisdom from all you input into your life. We shouldn’t live so sheltered that we aren’t aware of the “real” world.

Summing it all up, friends, I’d say you’ll do best by filling your minds and meditating on things true, noble, reputable, authentic, compelling, gracious—the best, not the worst; the beautiful, not the ugly; things to praise, not things to curse. Put into practice what you learned from me, what you heard and saw and realized. Do that, and God, who makes everything work together, will work you into his most excellent harmonies. ~ Philippians 4:8-9 MSG

Go watch a good movie!

Dream Big! Pray Big!

90 and Counting

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My dad turned 90 this month. I am so grateful he is here and in great shape. I wish mom was still here to celebrate with us. My sister and I gave him a surprise party with his friends at the gym he goes to every day. What an amazing day. The next day my devotional had the following question: “Imagine it’s your ninetieth birthday. What kind of tribute would you like to hear? What accomplishments do you want mentioned? What character traits do you want to be known for?” God is so cool. I love His timing which is perfect.

At my 90th, I hope to be healthy and able to communicate and know everyone at my party. I want to have friends and be seen a good friend. I desire to be known as a woman of faith. I would love to be surrounded by my children and their children.

As I write this, I realize, I have this now. I am relatively healthy (still have my Covid weight to work on). I am a good friend and have good friends. I am a woman of faith and those that know me experience that. My kids are young adults and I love when they are with me (2 are off at college). So if I’ve already achieved a lot of my hopes for my 90th, how do I keep these part of my life thriving until then?

My health needs to take a higher priority in my life to get back to an optimal weight. I have a plan and am implementing it now. My mind is being challenged with work and learning. Trusting that will keep my brain healthy.

I need to keep investing in friends I have, but also keep making new friends. My dad’s friends have developed over the past few years at the gym. He still has friends from his past, but his daily life interactions are with those in proximity. I see that not being open to new friends as I age, would limit me greatly. My closest friends today will always be in my life but may not live nearby. Life draws us to new homes, jobs, and situations. Staying open to friends in new contexts – especially those nearby – is required in life. As you reenter the world after the Covid lockdown, be intentional in your friendships (old and new).

My faith is a daily choice. I won’t lose my salvation but I can lose my closeness and awareness of God. Daily I must be with Him. Daily I must learn from God. Daily I must be in His word, praying, and relinquishing control to His will. Someone could “fall away” from God and reclaim faith later in life. I strive to stay strong in my walk with God. He is my strength, my rock, my guide, and my hope.

Keeping my kids close is about intentionality in parenting. I have young adult children. I am more of a coach/encourager with my kids these days. To be intentional at this stage of parenting, is to listen more and speak less. When I lecture or question, it drives a wedge between my kids and I. Being on my knees for them is my most powerful tool to guide them because I am asking God to guide them. Pray, pray, pray. When I have time with my kids, I strive to love, love, love and laugh, laugh, laugh.

Friends, who do you want to be when you are 90? How do you want others to describe you? What can you do today to bring that reality into your life today? I encourage you to take a moment to answer these questions and ponder.

Dream Big! Pray Big!

P.S. I apologize for my absence to my blog last week and being late this week. I’m missed writing and reaching out to you.

Pilgrimage

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Most of us think of the image above when someone says the word Pilgrimage. A long trek with religious significance. Yesterday I had the pleasure of leading worship at a service in a retirement community. Their pastor said “a pilgrimage can be any faith journey you take where your perspective has changed at the end.” I like that. He used it in reference to Lent. We go into Lent (40 days before Easter not including Sundays) to prepare our hearts for the celebration of Jesus’ death and resurrection on our behalf. Many of us observe Lent by “fasting” something in our daily life. Others, add something that draws them closer to Jesus for that 40+ days. If we view this Lent as a pilgrimage, we are anticipating change by Easter. A new way of seeing life. A new understanding of Jesus. A new spiritual habit.

I love the idea of pilgrimage but I’m not a traveler. So for me, taking an intentional journey toward growth is pursing a Lenten style journey. A time frame set. A focus on a goal set. Doing it. For lent this year, I am following an online study for the next few weeks until Easter. I’m already changed and anticipate more. The focus is on gratitude. The other day the teacher encouraged using my creativity to show gratitude. I like that challenge. Paint a picture for someone, write a poem, send a card, drop off an unexpected treat (or DoorDash one). All creative ways to let someone know I am grateful for them. Love that. At the end of my pilgrimage, I want to be a woman marked by gratitude. That’s my hope and prayer.

Whether you engage in the practice of Lent, travel to Israel to retrace Jesus’ journeys, or just create your own scenario for growth – you are on a pilgrimage. Let’s journey toward change. Our goal – to be more like Jesus.

but whoever follows His word, in him the love of God has truly been perfected. By this we know that we are in Him: the one who says that he remains in Him ought, himself also, walk just as He walked.

~ I John 2:5-6 NASB

Dream Big! Pray Big!