How To Ruin a Bad Mood

I’m in a bad mood. 

Just when I thought 2020 couldn’t get worse—the entire west coast became an inferno. My flammable neighborhood is within spitting distance of some of these wildfires. And the smoke is so horrendous that I’ve developed a smoker’s cough.

I’m not alone in this.

Some of my friends had to evacuate their homes. Others fear for the safety of their loved ones who are firefighters. School kids stuck at home, due to the pandemic, are now stuck indoors due to the poor air quality.

People who grumbled about wearing masks in public, now wear masks outdoors so they can breathe. Even restaurant owners can’t get a break. Customers have to dine outside, but who wants to eat in the smokey section?

So yeah, I’m in a bad mood.  

When COVID-19 entered the world and rocked my personal axis, I considered myself a patient soul, but … my patience is treading thin ice.

Living in uncertain times (indefinitely) is difficult even when we try to be patient, grateful, eternal minded.

I’m also tired.

Tired of encouraging others to keep “a stiff upper lip” while I mask my sulky expression.

Tired of people glaring at me over their masks and standing six feet away like I’m a leper. 

I could shake this bad mood if I could see the light at the end of the tunnel. Or, know for sure there’s an end to this tunnel. And I don’t mean heaven.

Even so, I asked God to use the events of 2020 to teach and change me for the better. I didn’t expect Him to reveal the dross inside of me. There’s nothing pretty about it. And yet, if I want to be more Christlike, I need the Refiner’s fire to purge the worthless rubbish.  

“Take away the dross from the silver, And there comes out a vessel for the smith” (Proverbs 25:4).

I’d rather God purify my heart with a cooler method, but dross removal takes heat.

“Behold, I have refined you, but not as silver; I have tested you in the furnace of affliction” (Isaiah 48:10).

My mentor, Loretta, describes how she endured the furnace of affliction when four of her family members died in a twelve-month span.

“I hated the night. Dark thoughts and death consumed my mind. When morning came, I had no energy or desire to get out of bed. I’d stick my leg out of the covers and say, ‘Father, I can’t. Help me! That’s when I learned that when I can’t, He can. God’s strength is perfected in weakness. God enabled me to get out of bed and get on with my day.” 

Loretta Chalfant

When I consider what Loretta endured (and how people are suffering now) I’m challenged once again to follow her advice,

“I get to choose, like Job, how to respond to my circumstances. I can either bend and let God work in my life and change me. Or I can resist and lose out on His lessons.” 

Time for me to surrender what I can’t control and bend so God’s refining fire can work . . . even in this bad-mood day.

You can read how Loretta learned these faith lessons in my book Lunch with Loretta: Discover the Power of a Mentoring Friendship.

Photo: Karen Foster

Weight a Second: The Secret of Good Health and Godliness

Standing on the scale, I watched the digital numbers escalate while my weight was calculated. The final number made me cringe.

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How can I exercise all week, control my appetite, and not lose an ounce?

Five weeks earlier, I faced two choices: Lose weight or buy a bigger pair of pants. I elected to spend my summer eating more fruits and vegetables and exercise regularly.

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I was motivated as long as my pounds decreased. When I hit the plateau, self discipline took a nose dive.

That evening, I indulged my craving for a HUGE bowl of popcorn…smothered with melted butter. Yep, ate the whole thing.

I don’t know how many calories I consumed, but I didn’t taste an ounce of guilt when I licked the bottom of the greasy bowl.

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Contrary to all the weight loss miracle ads, losing weight (in a healthy way) is a slow, methodic process. And when it comes to building and toning muscles, forget instant gratification.  

However, since I began eating healthier and exercising, my pants are less tight. I have more energy; more strength. My mental outlook improved. Isn’t that worth the process?

Or am I only focused on an end result—reaching that ideal number on my scale? If that’s true, my healthy regimen is a temporary fling like a summer romance instead of a necessary, life-long commitment.

The same holds true for spiritual growth.

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Years ago, whenever I wanted to experience more of God’s presence and become a “better Christian,” I’d pray more and inundate myself with reading the Bible and Christian material.

I experienced spiritual growth spurts; glimpsed moments of euphoria. However, I couldn’t maintain that spiritual high or rate of growth. Finally, I realized…

There’s no such thing as microwave Christianity.

We renew our minds by the daily reading of God’s Word. Then we’re chiseled and changed by the Holy Spirit in the minuscule moments of each day.

This slow, sometimes painful, chiseling process is necessary to achieve God’s finished product: molding us into the likeness of Christ. (Romans 8:28,29)

My task is learning how to obey and cooperate when I’m confronted with God’s Word. For example…

  • Do I listen to my heart’s desire to complain, scold, attack, and ridicule? Or make peace?
  • Do I apply God’s Word throughout my week even though the lessons are painful?
  • Do I sweat to do the right thing? Or cave in when something becomes too difficult?
  • Do I rely on my own strength? Or lean on the Lord to make a way in the wilderness?

“Sanctification is an impartation, not an imitation.” (Oswald Chambers, My Utmost for His Highest).

If I want to strengthen my faith and exhibit the fruit of the Spirit: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control (Galatians 5:22),

I must abide in Christ.

Not sporadically during a spiritual whim, but habitually.

Even in this … endeavor to lose weight and live healthy.

What Do You Hope For?

My youngest child left for college a month ago. With the exception of some furniture, his bedroom is empty as a conch shell lying on a beach.

The occupant left. There’s nothing but a hollow space where there once was life.

View bigger - Conch Shell FREE for Android screenshotGone are most of my son’s clothes, his laptop computer, his Bible, the scent of his cologne. Even his lava lamp traveled East to get plugged into a college dorm.

So I decided to renovate the room. I stripped posters off the wall, and removed the camouflage curtains that I hand sewed.

Then I patched the holes in the wall with caulk…as if keeping myself busy with a room makeover could fill the empty spaces of my heart.

 If only moving into the next season of my life was as simple as replacing the fan blades in the ceiling fan.

Years ago, when our two older children left home at the same time, our nuclear family of five was subdivided. The sensation was like ripping a plant out of the earth, and then tearing the entwined roots apart to create three separate, smaller plants.

Transplanting my last child across the country feels like an amputation.

I’m still a mother, but there are no longer any children beneath our roof. I’ve severed my apron strings that held them within reach.

Those thoughts hovered in my head while the ceiling fan stirred the air which brushed my cheek like a child’s butterfly kisses.

This room never looked so good. But new paint won’t bring this room to life.

People make a house a home.

What happens when they’re missing?

I tell myself, come Christmas vacation, my son will return and this room will look lived in again—an unmade bed, socks scattered on the floor, the closet door ajar, a cup of water by the bed.

Family reunions, that’s something to hope for, right?

Isn’t hope hinged to every goodbye? If not this world, then the next….we’ll be together again one day!

“Faith is.the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen.” (Hebrews 11:1)

I pull the brass chain hanging from the light fixture as the fan blades spin round the globe like planets revolving round the sun.

Who’s the center of my universe? The light of my life?

Have my children and house become the center of my attention…my affection?

If faith is the assurance of things hoped for….what am I hoping for?

Am I hoping my children will move closer? Visit more often? Stay safe? Be happy? Grow strong in the Lord?

“God Himself must be the one object of our hope and trust in our work, our needs, and our desires.

“Just as God is the center of the universe, the one guide that orders and controls its movements, so God must have the same place in the life of a believer.

“With every new day, our first thought should be: Only God can enable me this day to live as He would have me live.” ~~Andrew Murray

When will I learn, its indispensable to meet with God every day in prayer, and allow Him to renovate me.

I can long for the past or fret about the future, but my time is best spent praying for those I love.

So I pray for my children. I pray for my husband of 35 years who walked beside me during the child-rearing years.

And “I pray that Christ will be more and more at home in our hearts as we trust in Him.” (Ephesians 3:17)

Even in this…..season of life.

What Matters Most

Last Wednesday, I flew from California to North Carolina (via Houston) for a She Speaks Conference. I was in the air about six hours. My travel day from the time I left home and arrived to the hotel took twenty-seven hours.

Waiting in an airport terminal was not my first choice however, if you read my last blog, you know I wanted the Lord to teach me no matter the cost.

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Rather than focus on my circumstances and become disgruntled, I chose to surrender my desire to have what I want NOW!

Instead of trying to be patient, I chose to abide in the Lord and experience patience which is the fruit of the Holy Spirit.

I cringe to say those words—I don’t want to sound self-righteous. But after years of striving to be a good Christian, I discovered the easier path is abiding in the Lord.

Abiding is how we become more like Christ….loving, compassionate, merciful, patient…which is God’s predestined will for those He has called.

The Holy Spirit does the work, but my poor attitude often slows the progress.

Only this time, I didn’t choose a one-woman pity party. Instead, I prayed for an eternal perspective while I traveled, and I asked to see people through God’s eyes.

He enlarged my vision.

I found myself drawn particularly to the people who served me at the airport and the hotel. Whether they were a maid, a busboy, a cashier, a waitress…..they each wore a name tag so I was able to call them by name. We’d smile, and exchange pleasantries.

Friendliness is contagious.

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Although my goal was to attend a conference to hone my writing and speaking skills, God taught me to do what matters most. Love one another.

My return flight home went without a glitch. Or so I thought. My traveling companion was on a different airline. Her flight was delayed by four hours.

My skin grew warm when I read my friend’s text. The thought of waiting in the airport terminal till three o’clock drained my last ounce of reserve. I’d been awake since 3:30 a.m. East Coast time, and had gone nonstop four days.

Was I going to wallow in self-pity or abide in Christ?

I sat down at a restaurant in the airport terminal—which began to feel like home—and asked the waitress,

“What’s your name? How long have you worked here?”

As I listened to Lynn’s story unfold, waiting on a flight seemed minuscule.

I’m thankful for the myriad of men and women I met last week, and the opportunity to show small acts of kindness.

God is so patient with me. And He can use everything—even waiting in an airport terminal—to teach me what matters most.

Am I Looking at Me?

IMG_4640Two years ago, I wrote about the murder of my Japanese maple.

Murder sounds melodramatic, but that’s how I felt when someone chopped down my tree. “Too close to the house; gets in the way of the footpath.”

Foul words spewed from my lips. I stomped away from the scene of the crime. No one dared follow me. Friends assured me, “I don’t blame you. I’d be mad too.”

Self-justification didn’t make me feel better. I was broken afterwards, knowing if someone pushes the right button—I’ll turn into Gollum.

I only bring this up because I’m resting in the cool shade of my yard while two squirrels cavort among the trees. Birds swoop down to drink from the bird bath. All’s well with my world and my soul.

BUT, push the right button with a critical thought, a fearful what if, a broken sprinkler head, a chopped down Japanese maple—and my happy world evaporates like a desert mirage.

Circumstances pushed my buttons last week. I was stretched like taffy beyond my comfort zone. God’s grace enabled me to control my behavior, but I was mentally having a nuclear meltdown.

And yet, I want to reflect an inward peace that doesn’t vacillate with my circumstances.

So if God’s Word tells me to trust Him even in this—then I need to believe Him. For my life experience has proven over and over and over again, that God is faithful. There is no circumstance where He is not present.

As a believer in Christ, His Spirit dwells within me. When I seek God’s face, He is kind enough to show me the reality of His manifested presence.

Only, too often I’m preoccupied—thinking about me and my circumstance instead of Him.

He will keep in perfect peace all those who trust in him, whose thoughts turn often to the Lord!” (Isaiah 26:3 TLB)

Do I believe it? If so, I’ll trust the Lord and think of Him often. That’s the key to perfect peace, resting in the cool shade of God’s protective hand when life heats up. Or buttons are pushed.

I mentioned my murdered Japanese maple that led to a broken spirit. Would you believe that same tree has been resurrected? It’s sprouting from the small stump that was left in the ground.

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I laughed, and praised the Lord. He doesn’t hold my mistakes and meltdowns over my head. He uses them to teach me and change me.

Unlike Jack’s magical beanstalk, there is no hallelujah pill that will make me grow godly overnight. The only Miracle Grow is the Holy Spirit working within me, to mold me into the likeness of God’s Son. 

If removing a Japanese maple helps me grow, then chop away, Lord!

What circumstance in your life, is God using to make you grow?