Bridge for Beginners

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But these are written that you may believe that Jesus is the Messiah, the Son of God, and that by believing you may have life in his name.” John 20:31

I grew up in a card playing family. One of my first memories of my Great-Grandma Fran is her teaching me to play Gin Rummy on a tiny table in their compact kitchen. She and my Great-Grandpa Stew had an apartment in the Chicago suburbs and when I was visiting my grandparents, my Grandma Nancy would always take me to visit her parents. For hours we would play. I learned the tricks of the trade and heard stories of my Great- Grandpa’s gambling days when he was a card shark and actually won someone’s car once!  Was I ever impressed with these escapades and I wanted nothing more than to be good enough at cards to play at the adult table someday. This is also where I learned to shuffle the deck with a killer waterfall. I believe this is an inherited trait as my Great-Grandmother and Grandma could both shuffle like no one’s business. I was in great company! In addition to Gin, I learned King’s Corners and solitaire. However, there was one game that did and continues to elude me. My great white whale…Bridge.

I come from generations of Bridge players. My parents were in Bridge groups growing up and it looked like so much fun! My beloved Playgroup was going to learn but somehow we got sidetracked raising kids and that past time fell by the wayside. I would like to learn with my husband so that we can go on the pro-circuit and be card sharks too, just like my Great-Grandpa Stew. There is only one problem…for the life of me, I can’t figure this card game out! The suits, the bidding, scoring, trump, no trump, slams…it’s all Greek to me. In an effort to once again try and figure this game out, I’ve been acquainting myself with was is allegedly the “best Bridge book for beginners of all time.” (quote from my mom) Charles H. Goren’s Contract Bridge for Beginners. Its copyright is from 1949 and opens with Preliminaries in Chapter 1 “For the purpose of this chapter, I am proceeding upon the assumption that the reader is totally unfamiliar with the deck of playing cards. If in your case I have made an incorrect assumption, please do not, out of a sense of courtesy, linger over these pages. Simply skip this chapter on Preliminaries.” In full disclosure, I am familiar with the deck of playing cards but I’m so impressed by the politeness and tone of this book, I will continue to read the Preliminaries!

This task of acquainting myself with Bridge made me start thinking about the Bible. Because I’m in ministry, I get asked all the time where I would recommend people start when trying to read the Bible. I forget that it can be a daunting task. I want to tell people that they too, can skip the Preliminaries. Some days, I start with a particular book of the Bible. Right now, I’m studying the book of Ruth so I’ve been hanging out there quite a bit. Other days, I close my eyes and open to a completely random area to see what God wants to say to me on a particular day. Usually, it is very relevant and something I need to hear. I don’t believe in coincidence so I know I better pay attention. If I feel like praising God, I go to the Psalms. Life of Jesus? I head to Matthew, Mark, Luke or John. Present day church? Acts. History? First five books of the Bible. I guess my point here is that in order to know God, you have to start somewhere. And he wants you to know him. Don’t treat God like he’s your white whale. Start today, whether it’s with the Preliminaries or somewhere in the middle, he’s waiting for you.

“Written by the leading authority, the foremost teacher, and the most successful bridge player in the world, it will prove a boon to the novice and bridge player alike.”

 

 

 

 

I can do hard things

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But the Advocate, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, will teach you all things and will remind you of everything I have said to you. Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid. John 14:26-27

My friend Kate’s mantra is “I can do hard things.” I love this because it resonates with me. I too can do hard things. Now don’t get me wrong…I can count my blessings from here to the moon. I love my husband and have a happy marriage, I am the biggest cheerleader on the planet for my three wonderful sons. I have the absolute best friends that anyone could ever ask for. My parents live close by, are relatively healthy and we have a strong family bond in my nuclear family with my parents, brother, and sister. I love my job and am blessed by incredible co-workers that cheer me on, support me and get in the trenches of ministry with me…side by side. I have terrific volunteers, parents, and children in my ministry. Every day I get to think, plan and create opportunities to share the gospel…I am a truly blessed person!

Then there are the icky parts, the parts that keep me awake at night. The parts that keep me in constant prayer with my Heavenly Father. I have an autoimmune disease that rears its ugly head every so often and reminds me of my humanness. It’s tough for me to put down my cape and tiara and practice self-care in the form of rest. I have an extremely difficult relationship with my ex-husband. How this affects my children weighs so heavily on my heart. Divorce is hard. The ugliness of divorce is hard. The pain years later for my children is hard. Forgiving someone who has never apologized or asked for forgiveness is hard.

Parenting can be very difficult. I have said and done things that I could never imagine in my wildest dreams. We’ve been down some deeply challenging roads. I couldn’t be more grateful for the people who have stood in the gap to provide leadership, integrity, a strong moral compass and grace for my boys. Nothing has had me on my knees at the cross more than praying for my children. Someone once told me that when you become a mom, your heart lies outside your body. To that…I shout a resounding at the top of my lungs AMEN!

I’m reminded of the lyrics to the theme song of one of my favorite childhood shows. “You take the good. You take the bad. You take them both and there you have the facts of life.” I hope that I’m able to enjoy the good things in life because I’ve experienced the bad. It definitely makes the good taste sweeter, seem more special and creates in me a feeling of gratitude for the good and thanks to God for providing it. This doesn’t mean that I can forget or blow off the bad…I hate the bad. I really really hate the bad. I will listen to my body and rest when it needs rest. I will continue to pray for healing in broken relationships. I will continue on my knees in prayer for my beautiful children. God sent me the world’s greatest advocate in the Holy Spirit (sent in HIS name) to be on my side. And when my wings are down or I feel hopeless I pray for a loud reminder of this and God reminds me of his peace and to not be afraid. I think this is really important. God is NOT giving me the peace that is of this world. We live in a world of sin that’s full of the icky stuff….but God gives us something even better. HIS peace. The peace of God. This is how I know I can do hard things. God is my Heavenly Father, he has prepared a place for me and I can rest in his peace.

I can do hard things.

The Dirty “D” word

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Where for forty days he (Jesus) was tempted by the devil. He ate nothing during those days, and at the end of them, he was hungry. The devil said to him, “If you are the Son of God, tell this stone to become bread.”  Jesus answered, “It is written: ‘Man shall not live on bread alone.’” Luke 4:2-4

I’m going to say it right off the bat…The Dirty “D” word is for DIET. I think I’ve tried almost every diet known to man. Weight Watchers, Jenny Craig, Nutrisystem, Atkins, Mediterranean, Whole 30…I’ve been in (and out) of The Zone. And guess what? I think they all work! If you are determined and have committed to making the long term changes affiliated with these dietary plans then I think anyone can be successful. Then why have I failed? Why do I have a trunk full of weight loss books waiting to be sold back at my nearest neighborhood Half Price Book Store? I’m pretty sure this is because I have FOMO (fear of missing out…on the next food driven celebratory soiree) or maybe I just get lazy. I’m not big on New Year’s resolutions but I did vow that I would look at how I approach areas of weakness in my life and how I could do a better job at being intentional in those areas to see growth and progress. I purchased the book Full, by Asheritah Ciuciu (I know. I know. Another book…I AM an author and will tell myself that this is for the great good of authors everywhere). The difference is that this isn’t a diet book. No quick fix, no easy meal plans for busy moms on the go and no diet. This book is about the connection to healthier relationships with food and a healthier relationship with Christ. Well, who wouldn’t want that?!? I read on….

I have a lot highlighted in this book so far but here are a few of the “big” ideas that have really resonated with me.

“No matter whether we’re eating healthfully or bingeing on comfort foods, we will not find the satisfaction we seek until we realize our cravings are meant to point us to God.”

“We don’t need another diet; we need the sanctification that comes by the power of the Spirit.”

“No comfort food can match the comfort I’ve found in Jesus.”

“Food cannot fix anything-God is the only one who can satisfy us because He created us to find our satisfaction in Him.”

There’s LOTS more in this book and it’s taking me a while to not only read but process what God is saying to me through this study.

I’ve decided to practice the discipline of self-control while I read this study. I’m doing it through IF (Intermittent Fasting). I fast for 16 hours and can eat during an 8-hour window. I take this one day at a time. I’m trying to really depend on Jesus for EVERYTHING and this includes finding satisfaction in Him. Living for Him does take sacrifice and it’s NOT easy. But His death for my sins wasn’t easy. Nowhere in the Bible does it say life will be easy. And I know that I can’t live on bread alone and word of God is the living word and I’ll serve that up on a platter any day of the week!