Thankfulness and Millionaire Pies

Nothing whets your appetite like someone sitting down beside you with a slice of millionaire pie.  For many years, that pie was a staple at my family holiday gatherings.  Of course, we still get together with or without the pie and this past Thanksgiving was no exception.

Image result for millionaire pie images

The holidays have become more meaningful to me as I grow older and more reflective.  I think of how blessed I am to have had my mother’s love and support for these 50 plus years and then my hearts grieves for those who will spend their first holiday season without the presence of their mother, grandmother, or another loved one.  I am so thankful for my children whom I get to see nearly every holiday with, yet I am still mindful of those who are not so fortunate.

For me, the real beauty of genuine gratefulness rests in the apostle Paul’s Philippians 4:11 revelation. Not that I speak in respect of want: for I have learned, in whatsoever state I am, therewith to be content. Of course, this thankful contentment did not come as easily in my younger years as it does in my more “mature” season of life.  Nevertheless, gratitude and thankfulness are now daily things for me.  Especially during the holiday season.

And, they can be for you too.

Again, I know that the holidays can be challenging times for some, but maybe a different perspective can help. There is a commercial for St. Jude’s Research Hospital that admonishes us to give thanks for the healthy children in our lives and give to those who are not. The annual St. Jude marathon was recently held here in Memphis and parents of sick children participated in the marathon either honoring or remembering their child.  Remember, giving is not just financial.  You can give of your time, you can give of your talent.  You can give hope by offering something that is priceless.

Maybe you are thinking, no one will have you on their minds this holiday season, rest assured God will.  Maybe you feel unloved.  Know that God love you so much, he sent his only son down from heaven to come here and die just for you.  He knows you so well he can tell you the number or hairs on your head (Luke 12:7).

Maybe you have been in a rough place so long, that you believe that there no one else can have it that bad.  Trust me, someone does.  And, just as God delivered them in their season of pain, he will deliver you also.

My favorite thing about the holiday season is that it begins with Thanksgiving.  I know that we should be thankful daily for the many blessings of God, but I am extremely grateful that we do set aside special time to thank God and thank those people in our lives who make it as special as it is.

So, this holiday season, whether you find yourself in a house full of fun-loving family and friends or a room with just you and God, there is always someone or something to be grateful for, even if it’s as simple as a warm place to lay your head.  Give thanks for all the people in the world who are celebrating a joyous holiday season.  And, give to those who are not.

Embrace that.

Be Blessed.

 

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I Am Not My Hair…Am I?

“I need hair help, ya’ll. Always have! Always will!”  This is not my own personal cry for help.  It is the title of a video that my youngest daughter recently posted on Facebook.  She lamented the woes of having long, thick natural hair that looks pretty cute close up but from far away looks like a “cotton ball chia pet”.   She got a lot of replies offering helpful recommendations for various conditioners, special scarfs and pillowcases.  None of which appealed much to her.  I was tempted to respond with a reference to verse in Luke 12:48 that reminds us “to whom much is given, much is required.”  But, I refrained.

We all know that woman who seems to literally never have a hair out of place.  I actually admire them very much.  I’m not one of them.  But, I still admire them.  Especially if they also have a variety of styles that just work for them.

For the most part, I am the woman that sticks with the same hairstyle most of the time.  And, the easier the better.  I think my sister saved my life when she taught me how to wrap my hair.  For those of you not familiar with that concept, you literally wrap your hair around your head.  Well, actually brush it around or use a wide tooth comb for the same effect.  But either way, you secure your hair around the circumference of your head, wrap a scarf around it and go to sleep.  The next morning you spray on some oil sheen, brush it out, bump the ends with a curling iron and go.   How easy is that? And now that buns are back in style, I’m pretty happy about that also.

I have actually never been good with hair as a rule.  Not a great testimony for someone who was blessed with two daughters, I know.  But, somehow all three of us survived those years of school pictures featuring bad hair days and successful attempts at doctoring semi-permanent styles (cornrows and micro braids) to last as long as possible.  Of course, some attempts were more successful than others.  My locks have been relaxed (permanently straightened) for over 40 years but both of my adult daughters now wear their hair natural.    But, all three of us still contribute to the estimated $473 million dollars that African-Americans spend on hair care in a year.  So, if you didn’t already know, hair and hair care is serious business.  I had a conversation with a woman recently who said that hair was such an issue in her marriage that it almost took them to divorce.  She was exaggerating, (I think).  On the other end of the spectrum, I also knew of a lady who finger combed her hair each morning before she got out of bed.  And, least you think this is a women’s only issue, I once dated a guy who told me he always combed his hair before he went to bed.  I never did figure that one out, but I digress.  The issue also crosses racial divide.  However, I should throw in here that African Americans spend 9 times more or hair care than their white counter parts.  So, let’s move on.

Crystal Evans Hurst is one of the Proverbs 31 Ministries speakers and writers that I follow.  One of her laugh out loud blog post is entitled “Black Girl Perms.  White Girl Perms.  All God’s Chillun’ Got Perms.”  She tackled this often-misunderstood topic with both humor and humility.  The first time she got her hair pressed (straightened with a hot comb) she said that she whipped her hair back and forth so much that she almost broke her neck. That’s my translation, not hers.  I don’t have permission to quote her.  But, before you think I’ve taken this faith-based blog down an errant path, let me try to make a point.  She shared some insightful and hilarious stories and echoed one of the replies my daughter received on her Facebook video post.  Hurst concluded that there is nothing wrong with spending time and money to get that fresh salon look if you understand that you and your hair are good looking enough without all the extra fuss.  That’s not to say that you shouldn’t make sure your hair always looks it’s best.  A bad hair day is one thing.  Completely ignoring that responsibility is another.

A great hairstyle just puts the finishing touches on a great look.  If you are dressed to the nines and your hair is not combed, it does make a difference as it takes something away from the whole look.  Someone else will have to make that a blog post discussion, however.  While not every woman can be that “never a hair out of place” diva, this day and age, any woman can have hair any color and any style that she likes, depending on how much she is willing to pay for it.  And sometimes the only price is an extra couple of minutes in the morning or an extra hour one or two nights a week before you go to bed.

But back to my point, Chrystal Evans Hurst echoed one of the responses to my daughter’s Facebook post.  Many women are often dissatisfied, overwhelmed and/or obsessed with their hair all at the same time. But she also made the point that there is nothing wrong with all the different variations of hair styles available to women, and/or their desire to achieve the perfect style with their natural, relaxed or purchased hair.  However, there is a something wrong with spending so much money or time on it because we want that to be the thing that makes us something we are not.

We all know those thoughts that the enemy will whisper in our ears.  Maybe I would be prettier if I just had long straight hair.  Maybe that group of women would accept me better if I start wearing my hair natural.  I can’t be the perfect executive, mother, daughter, wife, etc. if my hair is not perfect every second of every day. Maybe he would love me more if I was a blonde or brunette.  His girlfriend has short hair, so maybe if I cut mine, he’ll like me too.  Don’t listen to those lies.  Chrystal Evans Hurst and India Arie got it right.  You are not your hair.  You are not your skin.  It’s what’s underneath that counts.

It’s not about the grade of hair you have on your head or the quality of hair you can afford to buy and wear on your head.  Whether you can afford the most expensive hair and/or hair dresser is irrelevant in the full scheme of things.   If you need a little bit of help, a lot of help or if your hair is so fly, you don’t even sweat it out during Zumba, you are not alone.  Maybe the very hint of humidity makes your salon relaxed “Ooh Girl who does your hair” falls hopelessly into an “Ooh girl!” hot mess, there is a hairdresser or Facebook friend out there who can help you.  Likewise, we serve a God who can meet you and your hair wherever you find yourself in life.  If your hairdresser charges by the hour or you must go to the beauty supply store, come home, put on your plastic gloves and work you own magic, the “potential” for greatness is still there.

But, don’t misunderstand.  There is a reason hair stylist can charge us what they do.  They are trained professionals and we pay for their service because it what they do and if they are especially good at it, we are even willing to pay them a lot more.  There are even some hair care products that you can only buy as a licensed professional hair stylist.  Not many amateurs can do a professional job on a hairstyle even if they are “good with hair”.   What we might see as good enough, a hair stylist would spend a little more time making perfect and worthy of their name.  The reason God does a much better job of handling our lives is that he is our creator.  We are his handiwork.  Just like that created especially for you favorite style that you leave the salon with.

There are some things that God can do that you are not equipped to handle.  You must accept that.  If you don’t know how to style your hair, there are people who will do it for you for a price.  One woman mentioned that she hates washing her hair so much that she just goes to the hair dresser every time it needs washing.

How do we feel when we walk out of the beauty shop?  Admit it ladies.  There is nothing like it.  Even if it is not from the beauty shop.  Whether we get it done by Cousin Sally, an upscale salon stylist, or at our kitchen sink, when that hair is slayed, we feel good.  And that’s okay.  Even the bible says that a woman’s hair is her crowning glory (l Cor. 11:15). For those Bible scholars out there, who think I’m stretching the context here.  Well, you might be right.  I know that the true meaning of that scripture goes much deeper than what’s I’m discussing here today, but that’s a topic for a less candid blog post, so stick with me.

Not many people are blessed to have a stylist come in and give them a showstopping style every morning.  Some of the responsibility will still fall on you.  Even if it’s nothing more than wrapping a scarf around your head at night and shaking out that ‘praise Jesus’ look the next morning.  But, the initial responsibility to get you to where you can manage it on your own rest with the stylist.

And there is someone trained to work with your hair type, no matter what it is.  Just don’t forget that it’s what underneath those golden or ebony tresses that’s important.  Take all the time you want on your hair, treat it like the crowning glory it is.  But just remember that for your hair and for your life, take that need to be perfect, that need to be accepted to Jesus.  Let him show you the fearfully and wonderfully made beauty you already are.  Whether you rock it natural or relaxed, or whether something unimaginable or of your own doing leaves you with a shining, bald crowning glory, the real glory belongs to the one who loves you so much he even knows the number of hairs on your head.

 

Be Blessed.

Shelia

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Seasons Of Life

Did you know that Punxsutawney Phil recently spent some time in the hospital? Well, he did.  It happened in April when we were a full month past his Groundhog Day prediction of six more weeks of cold weather and Spring was starting to feel a lot like winter.   So, naturally a Facebook meme appeared showing him bedridden after being beaten by an angry, cold person somewhere digging out of an unseasonable Spring nor’easter storm. 

Now, you and I both know that the fate of our climate does not rest on a groundhog’s shadow.  But, when I heard a local weatherman share the Facebook story, I still laughed at the absurdity of the whole thing.   

It was just interesting to me because even though all the cold, snow and ice made it feel like winter, it is still Spring.  I wondered if sometimes human nature feeds an innate need in us to find a place or person to lay blame on for a bad season in our lives.  Even if a lot of stormy seasons are of our own making.    

One factor that determines whether or not you will experience colder or warmer weather is your geographic location.  Here in the deep south, it can feel summer warm all the way through October or longer. Likewise, winter cold can linger through April or May in the Northeast.   

Ironically, the weather these past couple of weeks has everyone saying that we skipped right over the warm breezy climate of Spring temperatures and went straight to full blown summer heat.

Of course, in keeping with our theme here, that made me ponder this “seasons of life” thing even more. How many times have we thought we were nearing the end of a bad season and looking forward to a little bit of a reprieve only to have life throw us another “hotter than July” situation? 

I thought of the words of Ecclesiastes 3:1.  To everything there is a season, and a time to every purpose under the heaven.  Seasons are just that.  Seasons.  Three short months on the calendar of your life.   Granted, there will be uncomfortable seasons that will last much longer than three months.  Some bad seasons can last for years. But, rest assured that God will orchestrate those days accordingly.  It’s okay to trust him even when life throws you a winter curveball in the middle of your “happy dance” Spring.  No matter how hot it gets, it won’t replace the forthcoming Summer season.   For that matter, even if we get a blizzard in April, winter will not return until December.  Why not reflect on that some today?

Whether you are facing a tsunami of emotional life changes or a tornado of teenage drama, he will never leave you nor forsake you.  The damages can be minor or they might be catastrophic, but remember this.  You are not alone in the storm.  Even the winds and rain obey him.  Matt. 8:27.

Douglas Miller wrote it like this in his song, My soul’s Been Anchored 

But if the storms don’t cease
And if the wind keeps on blowing, (in my life)
My soul has been anchored in the Lord.

So, whatever season you find yourself in. Don’t live your life in fear of the storms.  Be prepared like the man who built his house on a rock instead of sand (Matthew 7:24 -27).

Be Blessed, 

Shelia  

 

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TGIF : Friday Fun Challenge

Challenging Thought for Today:  For in six days the LORD made heaven and earth, the sea, and all that in them is, and rested the seventh day: wherefore the LORD blessed the sabbath day, and hallowed it.   Exodus 20:11

 

TGIF.  Thank God, it’s Friday.  It’s the weekend.  Friday Fun Day.  Casual Friday.

You’ve heard them all. I know you have seen the Facebook memes comparing  work enthusiasm on Monday to Friday.  Someone peeps out from under the covers on Monday, trying to muster up enough energy to drag themselves in for the start of another workweek. Then you see the same person in their car leave work burning rubber on Friday.  I don’t say this judgmentally.  I feel you.  I have posted a couple of Facebook Friday memes myself and have eased out the door (with permission of course) a little early on Fridays.  However, as I had one of my many TGIF moments today, I started to reflect on today’s challenging thought.

Now, I know that the general work force’s fascination with Fridays does not stem from the fact that it’s a day of rest, because surely none of you would go to work on Friday and spend the whole day doing nothing but waiting for quitting time, would you?

My point is that the Lord spent a full 6 days working to create this beautiful world for us.  Then he sanctified the 7th day as the Sabbath and blessed it for us. I could go into a little bit of reflection here on the fact that while Friday is for most people the end of the workweek, it is not a workweek Sabbath or day of rest.  But, I don’t want to burst your Friday bubble, so I’ll take off my supervisor hat and put back on my Friday fun hat as I finish my lunch break.  Today’s challenge is super simple.

Reflect on those blessings that bring you to TGIF.  That could include your faith, your family, or your job. Whether you are working or unemployed, you still made it through another week.  No matter what your week looked like, someone in your circle of influence is glad you were a part of theirs.  And, even if your calendar for next week is already full, at least you have a couple of days of rest before you have to deal with it.

It’s the Weekend.  Enjoy it.

Blessings,

Shelia

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A New Year, A New Beginning

Challenging Thought for Today:  “Let us begin again.” Reverend Henry Biggs, The Preadher’s Wife

Along with this opening quote, two lines from Courtney Vance’s character in the  movie, The Preacher’s Wife have always stayed with me. “When we love someone, we are really loving God.  Look in wonder at those you love, for they are the face of God.”  The pastor in the movie did not just wake up one day and have this revelation.  He was going through a difficult time and was in danger of losing his church.   Additionally, he was questioning his faith because the compilation of ministry and family struggles made him feel like his work was in vain.

Then he prayed a very simple prayer: “I know you are extremely busy this time of the year, but I could use a little help right about now”. Although God responded immediately, the troubled pastor was not easily convinced.   An angel in human form was not how he thought relief would come.

This scenario makes me wonder how many times we continue to stress over a prayer that God has already answered simply because the answer does not come as we imagined or hoped it would.  Just like the character in the movie, we continue to search desperately for what God has already provided.  Fortunately, by the end of the movie, the pastor realized how much he was missing and the many things and people he was taking for granted.

The older I get, the more reflective I am on the beauty of God’s love compared to the bounty of the world’s drama.  Trying circumstances shift our focus from the promises of God to the problems of life. We stop cherishing what we have and start bemoaning what we lack.

It’s interesting to me that the end of the holiday season is marked by the beginning of a new year.  What an excellent opportunity to take the preacher’s quote literally.  I challenge you today to take a few minutes and look in wonder at those you love.   Begin this new year with a fresh appreciation for everything and everyone in your life.  Take a walk through the mall or sit in any public place and marvel at the beauty of human nature.  No matter what is going on in your life, or what difficult circumstances you may be facing, God’s love is all around you.  You just need to take time to see it and open your heart to receive it.

Be Blessed,

Happy New Year!

 

 

 

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Friday Fun Challenge : Pass the Test

Challenging Thought for Today:  “Many of life’s failures are people who did not realize how close they were to success when they gave up.” – Thomas Edison

It’s post finals here at the University.  Yesterday was the last scheduled exam for the semester.  As I walked to my last class last week, I overheard a student talking on the phone.  She said, “I love his tests!”  She then paused for a minute before she continued.  “Do I do well on his test?  No, but that’s my fault.”

I wasn’t privy to the rest of the conversation, but what I did hear intrigued me.  I wondered if she loved something that she was not putting forth an effort to be good at or if she was in one of those classes that none of the students do particular well in due to the nature of the subject.

Either way, it made me think of the test and trials that are a daily part of our lives.  I can’t think of a time when I have said aloud or even consciously thought, “Lord, I don’t do well on your tests, but I sure do love taking them.”  Have you?  Should you?

Your Friday challenge: Think about the greatest test before you right now.  Remember our challenge quote for today, consider Philippians 1:6, and remain confident that whatever work God began in you, he is able to complete.

You may have to take the test more than once to pass the class, but as the song goes, “there is no failure in God.”

Think on these things.

Blessings,

Shelia

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I’ve Got the Power

Challenging Thought for Today:    Thy word is a lamp unto my feet and a light unto my path.  Psalm 119:105 KJV

“Well, we’re out of light!”  This was my oldest daughter’s proclamation one evening after the power went off.  At the time, she wasn’t old enough to understand that the light is generated from a power source rather than a particular bulb or fixture.

A brief power outage on last Friday had me thinking about light and power.  Not just how much we take it for granted but also how much we depend on it for quality of life issues every day.

One student must have walked over to the library from the cafeteria only to find the power off here also. “Are you kidding?”  he asked.  “I didn’t get any breakfast and now this.  It’s not a good way to start off my day.”  Hopefully, his day got better after power was restored.

When we told another student that the outage was campus-wide, she moaned, “I’m going to die! I have to print my paper.”  I’m pretty sure she’s still alive and they eventually cancelled  classes, anyway.

Sometimes I think people who are afraid of the dark are not so much afraid of the presence of the darkness but the absence of a source of light.  Think about the India Arie lyrics to the song, There’s Hope.  One verse tells of a young man in the “back country of Brazil” who was extremely poor, living a simple life in a home without windows or doors.  However, his story didn’t end there.  The song continues: “On top of all of that he had no eye sight, but that didn’t keep him from seein’ the light.”

What a powerful message!  No matter what dark place you find yourself in, it doesn’t have to take away your power, which lies in the source of your hope.

So, just what is your power source today? If your hope is built on anything less than Jesus, you are living a powerless life.  Since I could not post last Friday, I decided to there was no need to waste a Friday challenge question and just give it to you on Monday.  What if we were all little light switches connected to heaven.  Would your children, best friend, spouse,  co-worker or customers get Christ-like responses when they flipped your “last nerve”  switch or would a very different light shine through?  Would you make the right decision in a heated moment when the “temptation” switch is flipped or would you listen to the Spirit and walk away?

Really think about what we are plugged into.   If we truly have the power of God through his Holy Spirit, then we don’t have to walk in fear, we can walk in faith.  Reflect on the challenge verse for today and take your power back.

 

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