Give Thanks

Give Thanks!

Thankfulness and worry cannot simultaneously coexist. Thankfulness displaces worry, discouragement, and anxiety. We can be caught in the throes of despair but our soul suddenly begins to lighten when our focus and energy turns to Thanksgiving! It truly is an amazing phenomenon how hope pervades the spirit once our mind remembers all our many blessings!

So count them, each and every day … count the extraordinary and the ordinary… you will be surprised how your soul sprouts wings and soars. There is no complicated formula nor specific phrases to be chanted. It’s simplistic in nature but takes focus and perseverance to remain in a perspective of thankfulness. Make it a habit to practice thankfulness.

“,,, continue to live in Him, rooted and built up in Him, strengthened in the faith as you were taught, overflowing with thankfulness.” Colossians 2:6-7

Tools to Incorporate this Season:

  • ·         Read One Thousand Gifts by Ann Voskamp

  • ·         Keep a Thankful Journal by your side

  • ·         As family and friends meet this holiday season, may your table be an opportunity for each to share the blessings of the year. Watch out: it can be contagious!

  • ·         Wake each morning and name three things your thankful for before your feet hit the ground.

  • ·         Volunteer; the experience of volunteering can remind you of all the gifts you have been given.

Shagae Jones
Changing With the Seasons

The multi-colored shade of trees,

     the crunch of brown and brittle leaves underfoot,

          a sea of brilliant red and orange hues that span acres,

               the crisp and invigorating air,

                    a flickering flame of a bonfire dancing in the night,     

                         the lazy afternoon spent at the apple orchard sipping on a cider slushy,

                              the plump and deep orange pumpkin find,

           freshly baked glazed pumpkin cookies,          

                pumpkin seeds roasted with just the right amount of seasoning,

        melt-in-your mouth pumpkin pie with a dollop of whipped cream

--- did I say pumpkin?!

Fall is one of my favorite seasons, and not just because I love everything pumpkin. Something about the crisp fresh air after the scorching heat of summer refreshes my soul. The beauty of the leaves as they change colors overnight and the ground covered with a rainbow of yellow, orange, and red always brings a smile to my face. “Autumn shows us how beautiful it is to let things go.”

Yes, you heard me right. I realize I’m one of the last people to welcome change. I tend to be the one to cling to something because it is familiar, known, and comfortable. But this season teaches a different lesson. The trees let go of their leaves for a time in order to prepare for the future bloom. Fall reminds us that change is inevitable but always involves a beauty that was not there before. Change can be terrifying and difficult, but at the same time captivatingly wonderful.

For as we learn to “let go” as the trees shed their leaves, we are able to embrace the growth within us. As the old saying goes, “God cannot fill hands already full.” Think about it. If we are holding on to past hurts, habits, and attitudes, noticing the potential growth and change within will be problematic. In order to embrace what will be --- to embody what God is blooming within us ---we must be willing to let go of what was. As we hold in awe the unwrapping of the leaves from their branches, may we ask ourselves what habits, mindsets, addictions, and worries do we need to “let go” of. In return, what passions, thought processes, behaviors, and attributes do we need to fill our being with? For as Holley Gerth says, “Let’s remember we are all still in the middle of the messy, beautiful work of becoming.”

 

Shagae Jones
Be Attitudes

Do you want to live an abundant life, overflowing into the lives of others? If yes, follow these “Be” attitudes and watch how it impacts you and the world around you.

Be salt; be the difference maker who adds flavor and purpose to the lives of those around you!

Be rare; keep your word. Do what you say!

Be peaceful; live at peace with others, and when possible and healthy, seek out restoration with those you are at odds with.

Be careful; what your eyes see can make an unhealthy home in your mind, convicting you as if you had acted upon it.

Be merciful; you never know when you may need mercy.

Be humble; it’s been said people will follow a leader who is real more than one who is right.

Be loving; always do well for others even when it’s hard.

Be giving; the saying it’s more blessed to give than receive is true. Try it!

Be relational; relate authentically to your Creator for He knows you best! You can’t be the best version of yourself without this action.

Be sacrificial; abstaining from something for the right reasons provides proper perspective and purpose moving forward.

Be joyful; shove worry out of the picture as it seeks to rob you of joy.

Be forgiving; pull the weeds from your own garden rather than judging someone else’s! There’s plenty in your own garden to keep you busyJ

Be silent and receptive; the voice of Him who created you and can rescue you is often a quiet whisper. Ask, seek, and knock… and then listen!

Be unique; the path of most resistance is usually well worth the challenge.

Be productive; seek the gardener of your soul as He is the only One able to bear the necessary fruit that gives life and blessing to those around you.

Be resolute; build your life upon a foundation that will withstand the storms of life and allow you the freedom to dance in the rain!

Be still; create space to be in His presence and learn to trust again!

Be renewed… restored… rebuilt!

These “Be” attitudes may seem suspiciously familiar to those who have read chapters 5- 7 in the gospel of Matthew (the first part commonly called the Beatitudes). Recently, while reading these passages, I grabbed my journal and allowed the pen to quickly travel across the paper in an attempt to capture at least a portion of how Christ might utilize these principles within our lives. However, I know that many of you may not share my faith. Even so, most of these “Be” attitudes can still be applied to your life and bring benefit. If you pursue the ultimate endeavor (seeking the One who created you and holds the keys to your purpose- filled future), I believe you will be blessed beyond measure!

Shagae Jones
The Enneagram Journey

Who would have thought that a casual conversation with a friend at the NCCA Men’s Swimming and Diving Championship Meet would have motivated me to join the ranks of those pursuing the life journey of the Enneagram? Then again, I’ve never believed in coincidence, instead carrying a firm faith that our seemingly simple dialogues, unplanned circumstances, and surprise encounters are divine appointments orchestrated from above to place us exactly where we need to be on our journey called life. Let’s just say that my interest was piqued enough that I made a healthy contribution to an online shopping destination by purchasing four books on the ancient Enneagram. As I dove into my research, a spark was ignited that has not occurred when exploring other personality models.  My daughter says I’m obsessed, and she’s intrigued, which ironically fits our presumed types quite well.

One major caveat before I embark on a brief overview to whet your appetite to pursue this journey… this ancient personality guide doesn’t have all the answers; it won’t solve all your problems, and it shouldn’t be lifted to a pedestal ignoring all other models. However, treat it as one tool that will provide guidance in understanding yourself and others better and assistance to moving towards a healthier version of your type (1-9).

Enneagram comes from the Greek words ennea (meaning nine) and gram (figure or drawing). Nine specific personality types are distinguished and analyzed. Each type determines what you do and why you do it (behaviors and more importantly the motivation behind those actions), lays out the healthy and unhealthy side of your specific personality, and the needs and deadly sin correlated with each type.  In addition, there are triads, wings, and stress/security numbers that contribute to helping each of us discover more insight into what makes us tick. The goal is not to identify your type and then conveniently say, “Well, too bad, I’m a _____________ so that’s my excuse to be this way.” The challenge presented is to begin to address the unhealthy thinking/behavior/perceptions of your type and seek specific growth in these areas.

As we gain insight into how we perceive and interact with the world, we naturally become inquisitive to how other types might see things a bit differently. We receive insight on how our type interacts with others and the nuances associated with other types. This knowledge is powerful for relationships in friendships, marriage, parenting, work, etc. After I was introduced to this, I turned to my husband and said. “If we had known this when we married, we would have had quite an advantage in understanding each other.” Likewise, if we had known this information when our children were younger, many of the big, bold question marks of the reason behind their actions would have been discovered.  And how much better would working environments be with this enlightenment?

The Enneagram is a gift to help us better understand ourselves and the lens through which others see. Think going to an eye doctor…He switches out lenses quicker than a wet pig slipping through our hands. He does it with such expertise and quickly determines which lens will best suit our eyes. None of the lenses are wrong or defective just because they don’t fit our eyesight needs. We are all distinctly unique; even within each personality type. But just like the optometrist’s lenses… there are no wrong lenses… just unique and specifically suited for each of us.

The purpose is never to pigeon hole ourselves or those we love but gain insight and understanding to the motivations, passions, and behaviors all around us. This is one way to bridge the gap between misunderstandings, conflicts, and polar opposite ways of thinking. This path of exploration has the ability to open our eyes not only to self- awareness, but compassion for one another as we see people as they are. Understanding others perspective through their specific lens, frees us to not take people’s idiosyncrasies so personal and to recognize the strengths and weaknesses within each type. And the beauty is each type has something unique and essential to offer the world around them.

Thanks Anne Dobbs (www.annedobbs.com) for that poolside chat that has led me on this path of personal transformation!

Have I created enough interest for you to desire to learn more? If yes, here are just a few ways to begin this journey:

  • Check out these books: The Sacred Enneagram (Christopher L. Heuertz), The Road Back to You (Ian Morgan Cron & Suzanne Stabile), and The Path Between Us (Suzanne Stabile)

  • Check out You Tube series by Sandals Church (Enneagram)

  • Take the test to begin the discovery of your type at www.enneagraminstitute.com; take the RHETI test

  • If you live locally (Indianapolis area), contact me to join my small group to explore this topic together

  • Contact me to speak to your business, group, organization on this topic

 

Shagae Jones
Procrastination No More!

The little boy steps to the plate, licks his lips and chokes up on the bat. Will he swing today or remain in place banking on the chance that the pitcher will throw four balls. He was known for waiting for that elusive perfect pitch; he was content to take a walk. However, today he began to wonder what it would feel like to hear the bat connect with the ball in such a way that it sailed past the heads in the outfield. He knew he would have to swing at some point; you couldn’t move up in little league without some hits. As the ball came straight at him, he had another thought that entered his mind leading to his paralysis on the plate --- “What if I strike out?”

And there lies the authentic reason many of us procrastinate. We may tell ourselves we are too busy, the timing is off, or more resources are needed. These make us feel better, but they in no way assist us in moving past our fear of moving forward. Here are three simple steps that have aided me in reducing the habit of procrastination in my own life.

  •  Accountability --- If that little league player continues to stand at the plate without swinging, his coach is going to have a heart to heart conversation with him in an attempt to hold him accountable. Every time I’m accountable to someone and set deadlines, I become more productive and kick procrastination to the side. I actually fear having to report back that I didn’t try than I attempted and failed.
  •  Accept Uncontrollable Variables --- Often what leads to procrastination is the inability to control variables like the unknown, other’s acceptance, or outcomes. The critical decision when overwhelmed with what might occur (and to which you have no control) is to step forward despite realizing you only have control over your own actions.
  • Utopia doesn’t exist --- Stop waiting for the ever elusive perfect scenario to move forward with your hopes and dreams. Dreams are made in the mire of messy lives, less than ideal situations, and a simple hope for something different. Dreams are attained or lost by the faith to see what could be even though it is not so now. Learn to dream with your eyes wide open making them a reality.

Yes, you will strike out sometimes. However, you will never even have a chance for a homerun without swinging. Swing away by applying these three principles and watch procrastination become a distant memory and the potential of success at your fingertips!

Shagae Jones
Letting Go

“Sometimes you need to let go of the person you think you are, in order to become the person you are meant to be… But the letting go, as we must all learn from experience, isn’t just a simple choice between one way of being and another. Suffering is almost always part of it… Identities die hard. And new ones take shape slowly, in increments.” --- The Gift of an Ordinary Day

I’ve sensed a letting go in my own life… letting go of perceived control. Letting go of my carefully ordered world so that my hands are open to accept what God is desiring to give me. Letting go of past regrets, pain, and sin so that I can move forward to the new thing God is working in my life. Letting go of what could have been to leave room for what is yet to come! Letting go of the person I thought I was, the one I’d packaged to the world, in the belief that God has other plans for whom I’m meant to be! You see in order for God to do His new thing in my life, my hands must be empty! I can’t be holding onto my past thought patterns, fears, trappings, or masks! To let new in, we must train ourselves to let go.

And the old identities die hard; so we experience a type of grieving as we gradually let go. We are used to our masks and our fears; it is difficult and painstaking to peel them away from our truest self --- Who we are in Christ! We grieve the deception that we were in control because now we must face the truth that we never really were in control. We grieve what can never be ours, nor should it have been. The healing balm throughout the process is the fact that God is in control of that which we release to Him. We let go, He fills up! 

Letting go doesn’t mean withdrawing; it doesn’t mean we stop caring. It just means we are no longer controlled by our past, hurts, fears, and how others perceive us. We have let go in expectation that God will fill us with what is noble, pure, true, lovely, admirable, excellent, and praiseworthy. He will take the old, broken vessel of who we were and create a new life within. Our lives will still show the cracks and blemishes because the glory, after all, must go to the potter, not the pot! But because we allowed ourselves to let go, we are freed to be consumed with the Potter and the new thing He is doing in our lives.

 

 

 

 

Elizabeth Caudle
Season to Just Be

Could it be life more abundantly involves slowing down, resting in His presence, and ceasing to strive and choosing instead to just be? This season has forced my hand in this department of “being”. I’m a doer by nature --- fix, nurture, teach, train, do and then breathe and do more --- full steam ahead. Someone always needed me, and I was more than willing to comply. Without even trying, I had allowed my worth to be defined by what I did. My mentality embraced the lie that “being” wasn’t enough; there’d be time for that later.

Fast forward to later… my kids are off to college literally across the country (I either did something terribly wrong or terribly right; the jury is still out). I was working in a job that I loved and believed I did well. However, it was full of stress, busyness, and time restraints mainly due to the nature of the work. Little time was left for me to just be and pursue my passion of studying, writing, and speaking. My husband and I had this harebrained idea that if I quit, we would be able to come and go freely as his job was flexible. We could spend weeks, even months out west watching our kids swim competitively for their colleges (they weren’t escaping us that easily). We could integrate a little of the Midwest with west coast life and thrive. “Let the adventure begin” became our motto!

Little did I know that this would be a season of such personal renewal and rebirth. For the first time I don’t have deadlines, kids to run here and there, piles of laundry (who knew that my husband and I weren’t the dirty ones), less food to prepare, and responsibilities at a minimum. The quiet and solitude that I had feared was exactly what the Physician of my soul ordered.

The thought of evaluating your life to date and exploring the coming season can be daunting, even a bit terrifying. But I found doing it with my Creator and Perfector was not at all as scary as I had anticipated. Even in review of my shortcomings and failures, I saw my Heavenly Father’s hand as he added grace and offered a generous learning curve. When I would feel myself drifting to what I had not been able to accomplish, my loving Father pointed out that the detours had added experience, depth, and compassion to my life story. The journey truly had been the substance of His story in me; it entailed the critical crisis that each story must have to be authentic and purposeful.

Every life goes through multiple seasons and various pit stops where we regroup and take inventory before moving forward. We can choose to ignore the season, hibernate until it passes but it just might be the season you’ve been awaiting. I know this present season of just being, ceasing to do and achieve, won’t last forever, but while it’s here I’m going to seize this season of life more abundantly --- I’m going to take time to slow my pace, enjoying the seemingly small things in life that are actually huge in soul nutrition (for these things are fleeting). I’m going to dare to try new things just because I have the breath, health, and energy to do so (someday I may not). I’m going to stop striving, cease performing, and just be in His presence (because I miss a lot when I don’t). This season has been given to me to remind me that being is enough and more than sufficient! So go on… just be!

“Oh! May the God of green hope fill you up with joy, fill you up with peace, so that your believing lives, filled with the life-giving energy of the Holy Spirit, will brim over with hope!.” Romans 15:13 The Message
Elizabeth Caudle
Original or Carbon Copy

Have you ever heard a quote that just nestled itself within the deep recesses of your mind, pleading with you to notice its value and life-changing potential? If you, like myself, have a love for words, then at some point you have probably experienced this phenomena. Let this one settle over your spirit and marinate for a season --- “All of us start as originals but end up carbon copies.” When I heard this, its truth reverberated with my soul, and I knew it was a keeper, one of those you return to often, allowing it to continually wash over you in a way that demands recognition.

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Somewhere along this journey of life we have forgotten the ancient truth that we are fearfully and wonderfully made and created as an original for unique and specific purposes. The greatest artist of all time created a masterpiece when He designed each of us; He meant for each of us to stand out as an original creation. But instead we’ve convinced ourselves that we are meant to blend in to our environment; we’ve exchanged our originality for group mentality. Conform, blend in, move forward with the group of least resistance, run with the pack. Could it be this mindset has been our downfall? By all of us following each other, have we missed out on how each of us uniquely could impact our world for good? Quite possibly, the lack of joy and peace in our lives is directly related to our choice to refuse the road of originality set by our Creator.

Have you ever noticed the sheer beauty of a soaring eagle as it exquisitely patterns a path in the sky? Interestingly, it reaches new heights all by itself. (I don’t think I’ve ever encountered a flock of eagles.) The flight of this majestic bird can mesmerize us, causing us to long deep within for the truth of who we are and what we were each meant for --- to soar, utilizing our own uniqueness and claiming our originality. It’s a breakthrough for the soul as true joy permeates our being; we become more at peace with ourselves and with our Creator, and a desire to encompass all that He designed us to be takes precedence.

In a movie I watched years ago with my now grown daughter, there was a line that I absolutely loved. “Why do you try so hard to fit in when you were meant to stand out?” So I ask us the same question with a twist. Would you rather be a carbon copy of someone else? Or would you rather seize that originality--- the giftedness, traits, and qualities that are distinctly you ---  that the greatest artist of all time created you to be? When put like that, it makes the decision easy, doesn’t it? So go on --- stand out, embrace your uniqueness, and shine bright!

“For you created my inmost being; you knit me together in my mother’s womb. I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made; your works are wonderful, I know that full well. “ --- Psalm 139:13-14
Elizabeth Caudle
Stuck Between a Rock and a Hard Place

Have you ever found yourself between a rock and a hard place? If you answer yes, you are in excellent company. Who hasn’t been? We find ourselves between fear and freedom, between faith and doubt, between good and great, and the list could continue. It can be paralyzing as we attempt to decide whether to return to that which is comfortable and familiar or to dare and risk for something new and fulfilling.

Bluntly put, we are stuck. We’ve embraced the chasm but now we find ourselves in between what seems appealing to return to and that which is beckoning us forward. That rift can be intimidating, even appearing insurmountable. It deceives us into believing that it is much harder to forge the path forward than to retreat. And if you are one of those lucky few who have trekked further through that terrain, the option of returning looks unfavorable also. Lucky, you say? Yes, if you have ever been hiking in mountains, you know that at times you have to scale a steep passage (okay steep is relative, steep to me is probably the bank of a river), and there is a point that you desperately desire to return to where you started but it seems farther away than reaching your goal which is up ahead. The odds are promising that you will overcome your panic and beating heart and start climbing again --- for down is more formidable than up. Believe me, I’ve been there literally and figuratively sprawled on a rock wondering if it would be easier to return … if I could just find somewhere to place my foot. But alas, I’ve arrived at the point of no return. So I reach onward toward new heights. Ironically, have you ever arrived at the summit of a mountain, okay hill, and thought, “There is no way I’m going to be able to get back down!” The point being, why would we want to? Once we reach that place of freedom, faith, and God’s best, the temptation to return evaporates in thin air. Hebrews says it this way, “If they had been thinking of the country they had left, they would have had opportunity to return. Instead, they were longing for a better country --- a heavenly one.”

What can we do when we find ourselves in these “between a rock and a hard place” seasons? Remember that although it is our current reality; it is not our destiny. It’s a place of reckoning if we allow ourselves the permission to ponder where we’ve come from and where we are going. It’s a place to survey our motives and purpose, gain our bearings, muster proper perspective --- and then move forward. These times are critical to our faith growth; they are essential for us to conquer our fear, doubt and choose God’s best. But we don’t ever want to dwell there; it shouldn’t become our paradise. Christine Caine says, “Don’t get stuck somewhere you should only be passing through.” Our fixation should never be on the problem, despair, fear, or doubt. It should be on Him who authored our life and knows the ultimate destination. Think of the Israelites of old who were “stuck” in the desert for 40 years because they refused to move past their doubt and fear. They chose desert living over “land flowing with milk and honey” because they feared the giants more than they had faith in their Lord and their identity.

With each step forward, you gain greater clarity and perspective. But you have to move from that place of surrender, face down despair, to hope and faith that your destiny, your true identity lays on the other side of that hard place. And what you do as you lay flat on that rock determines your future. Because what you choose to do now does matter! It shapes who you are to become.

So take that first step, look up to Him who created you and has authored your land flowing with milk and honey. Don’t look back! Believe me I know from experience, it causes more paralysis. Just keep your gaze on Him whom is able to calm your panic, cause your heartrate to steady, and permeate your soul with much awaited hope. Get moving!

“Be strong and courageous. Do not be terrified; do not be discouraged, for the Lord your God will be with you wherever you go.” Joshua 1:9
Elizabeth Caudle
Be the Church

“…church as a vibrant community of people consisting of two or more of varied backgrounds gathering around Jesus. Sometimes they are at a place that might have a steeple or auditorium seating. But it’s just as likely that church happens elsewhere, like coffee shops or on the edge of a glacier or in the bush in Uganda.” Love Does by Bob Goff

How this resonates within my soul?! I’m finding this to be true in my own life. The way I’ve in the past experienced church is different than how I currently do. It is more broad than initially labeled. It goes beyond the building, past religion and regimented services… it’s a lifestyle that speaks volumes to how we live Monday through Saturday. It should automatically point to the Author of our Faith! The way we live our lives should reflect Him Whom we belong to. As humans often do, we have attempted to give parameters to the definition of church, thereby, creating attainable measurements, including a place and time. However, we have missed the mark. We have misunderstood the purpose and mission of the Church ---- to go out and spread the gospel of love. In so doing, we are able to design little pockets of Christ’s love over the broader community allowing and laying the groundwork for multiplying!

Please don’t misunderstand what I’m saying. Personally, I love Sunday morning worship in a church building with other imperfect followers of Christ. My soul is refreshed and renewed for the week ahead. It is a celebration of sorts, a refocusing on our Lord as we worship together, recognizing we aren’t alone in our endeavor. There is great benefit that comes from uniting with others in the faith, and God’s Word is clear not to give up meeting together. Here’s the problem--- Going to church involves little commitment and many of us have convinced ourselves that this is all that is expected. But we are wrong, being the Church is what we have been called to do, and it takes great commitment because we have to be willing to be radically altered Monday – Saturday.

Honestly, the world doesn’t need more religion. It doesn’t need more church buildings. What the world desperately needs are people who are being the Church! What it does need is authentic Christ followers displaying His love to the world. They need to see people reach down into the filth and messiness of other’s lives and be willing to dirty themselves with one motive --- to show Christ and His love! Are you willing? Because the truth is, love is much more than going to church, it is being the church outside the walls of a building!

 

 

 

Elizabeth Caudle