Jeremiah 29:11 – For I know the plans I have for you,’ says the Lord, ‘plans for well-being and not for trouble, to give you a future and a hope.
Gratitude Day 767
For the last 32 years, she has been known as The Flower Girl. Or The Flower Lady. Sometimes, she has been called a variety of other things.
She is my sister Debbie. And this past week, her flower shop, Creative Touch Flower, closed it’s downtown location in Augusta, WI.
Just 21-years-old when she opened her flower shop, Debbie has faithfully served the local community for over three decades. She has provided funeral flowers, wedding flowers, baptism carnations, Easter lilies and Poinsettias. For many of those years, people ordered tuxes for Prom, a wedding or other special occasion. The last several years, she has been the local place to get a photo printed, cropped or reproduced. If you needed a last minute Mother’s Day gift, Augusta Beaver clothing or balloons, she could set you up.
Debbie helped people plan and celebrate the most special events of their lives as well as say good-bye to a deeply loved family member. She has tied more bows than most of us have had meals, can close off a balloon filled with helium quicker than anyone I know and whip out a unique and special funeral piece with the best of the best. She took care to making sure every corsage, cemetery wreath, and anniversary bouquet met their customer’s expectations. More than once, there MIGHT have been a baby lamb warming in the back room or bottles of milk for a baby lamb sitting in a bucket of hot water.
Recently, Debbie had the opportunity to sell her building. A neighboring business wants to expand their business. It made sense for this business to purchase Debbie’s building. Many small town retail businesses have struggled since the pandemic began. This, along with a few other reasons, encouraged Debbie to allow this neighboring business to grow.
I am proud of what Debbie has accomplished these last decades. She is also ready to re-evaluate life, think about what might be next for her and her family and explore some other passions.
A few years ago, I stepped back from full-time ministry to pursue other options. While some of my hopes and dreams have come true, one being writing a book, at times, I have felt that I have not accomplished as much as I should have since leaving full-time clergy ministry. Yes, my perpetual Martha voice within me has me doubting if I have done enough, put my time, energy and resources into the right things and question why I have not accomplished more. Part of the reason I wrote The Mary Experiment was to discover more Mary-ness in my life. Yet, that noisy Martha continues to chirp that I could have done a lot more these last few years.
Not everyone may feel that they can step back from what they are currently doing right now for a variety of reasons. Some people simply do not want to and that is great! Yet, I do believe a take-away lesson from living through a pandemic is that it is imperative that we take stock of our lives more than once a lifetime. Or decade. Consulting with God about how we should best use our gifts and talents, our skills and our opportunities for God’s kingdom should be an ongoing and regular part of our conversations with God. Why? Because this is how and why we discover the direction God may be encouraging us to go.
As I have reflected upon Debbie’s decision to step back from the flower shop, I find myself reflecting upon little lessons that we can and should embrace for ourselves. These are lessons I have discovered and continue to work on. I encourage you to think about them as well.
God has great plans for everyone.
I do believe that God has an over-arching plan for each of our lives. I am not convinced there is only one “correct” plan for us to do life. No matter what choices we make, God can help steer us in a different direction if we are heading down a non-helpful path. I believe we get a lot of say in what our path looks like. This is called free choice. Even when we mess up, God can help us find a more helpful path if we allow God to do so.
Personally, finding this plan and path remains a daily challenge for me. There are parts of my life where I feel that I have it figured out and other days and times when I feel like a new baby bird, fledging along without wings to take off. Daily, and I mean daily, I pray to God, “Guide me today. Help me make good choices. Steer me in the right direction.” Somedays this feels more manageable than others. There are days when life feels like an overloaded cart and I, as the driver, have no idea what direction to go or if I should be moving or staying put. This does not mean God has given up on me. It simply means that I need to stay close to God, asking for guidance and awake that God’s leanings maybe very different from what I would prefer.
Figuring Out God’s Leadings Is Not Always Simple.
Try as I might to listen and hear God, sometimes God feels very quiet. Distant.
So often, we want God to show up right now and make things abundantly clear! Unfortunately, this is not exactly how God works. I can remember very specific times when God’s desire for me was so clear. And then, I can recall so many days when it felt like there was only dead silence.
We are to be active in seeking out God and God’s wisdom for our lives. Waiting for God to show up is not how it works. We need to show up with God as well! God can use more than God’s voice to encourage us. We may discover leadings through other people, something that we read, and getting into God’s Word on a regular basis. This is our journey. We need to be responsible for our part as well.
God’s call in our lives will change.
What is God’s call? It is what God yearns for you to do. It is finding out how you can best serve God and your neighbors through our gifts, service, time, and talents.
Lots of people experience various calls in their lives. Most often, we think of a clergy as the called people. This may be true, but God can call anyone to serve God and their neighbor in a more specific way. Many people have shared with me that they feel called to be a doctor, teacher, lawyer, parent, truck driver. We each have a call in our lives. This call may be tied to our work, but it can also be lived out in what we do outside of our jobs or work just as well.
What a person’s call looks like today may not be how your call may look next week. I have felt my call change over time. There are many different seasons of our lives. Where we put our time and energy should change in different seasons. Thinking of our lives as having a calling and seeking this call can be very helpful. This is partially how we discover God’s plan for our lives.
We cannot do everything. So, we need to pick the best things and focus on them.
I have many different things that I can do. So do you. Some of these things are daily or weekly parts of life and they simply need to be done. After these things, we all have a lot of hours to fill with a variety of choices. Believe it or not, these are our choices.
Too often, I find myself trying to do a little bit here and a little bit there, which maybe what is necessary in a season of life. I also believe that focusing on a few bigger things as the most important aspects of our lives is also very helpful. This is how we feel that we can make a difference. Dedicating more time and energy towards just a few things allows for impact.
The big challenge is picking those right few things to focus on. I find it easy to get caught up in the daily and weekly tasks and set aside those bigger long-term things that God yearns for me to do. Holding both in tandem is somethings difficult. When I keep those few bigger things before me, I discover more of my true calling. And these are areas of my life where I need to give daily attention.
Be content and happy to make little ripples.
Most of us will not have our name on the side of a building. Or invent something that will change the world. If this does happen, celebrate it!
For most of us, our impact will most often happen within a smaller circle of life. Within our families, our local community, a circle of friendships that is much smaller than those we friend on social media. These days, I think about how and where my little pebble of life can create little ripples within those smaller groups.
My pebble probably will never create huge waves of ripples and I am okay with this. What I can do is create smaller ripples in how I live my life and it is noticed by another person. The choices that reflect my core values. What I say, and do not say, and how this conveys my love for God and my neighbor. I challenge myself to remember and live the gospel daily but only use words when necessary. These are the ripples that I find most meaningful and important in my life these days.
Whether you are 18 or 98, God has a plan for your life. Like sister Debbie’s life right now, maybe your path has changed directions multiple times, Are you in the middle of a slight transition right now? Or know someone else who is? Embrace the opportunity to veer in a slightly different direction. Stay in touch with God so you can be guided and lead in a direction that allows you to love God and those around you in a very special God-created way.
We only get one trip around this thing we call life. I pray we embrace it, live it and celebrate the plans and opportunities God lays before us. Yes, it can be challenging to discover exactly what this looks like. It may change daily, weekly, monthly and yearly.
God loves you and wants you to feel great joy, happiness and contentment in your life. God has plans for your well being which are centered in hope and the future. May we embrace these opportunities in our own lives.
For God’s desire to have a plan for our lives, I am very grateful.
Holy God – Thank you for creating an opportunity for sister Debbie to find new opportunities to serve You and others in this world. For anyone who feels a slight shift in their lives, may You walk in front of them, beside them and behind them as they sort through any life transition. Thank you for creating plans for our lives. Encourage us to seek these plans, allow for the paths to change and live our lives loving You and neighbor as best as we can. Amen.
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