What’s in YOUR bag?

packed bagRecently I was asked what was essential to have along for a two week trip to Hungary so I have been mulling that over a bit.

Of course, everyone has their different idea of what is absolutely necessary for a trip. So I can offer what I think is important but we all come from such different needs and experiences that it is hard to come up with that comprehensive packing list.

Overseas trips and trips within the United States are two similar scenarios yet different enough to require a bit of thinking.

 

What do you consider absolute essentials?

Some of the things that impact what we pack involve:

  • weather forecast
  • anticipated activities
  • the length of time of the trip
  • our accommodations
  • our mode of transportation
  • our dietary preferences or restrictions
  • our medical needs

I am a pretty flexible traveler but here are a few of my non-negotiables:

  • Q tips
  • emery board
  • fingernail clipper
  • extra emollient night cream
  • deodorant
  • toothbrush/toothpaste

But even more important than what we pack to take along, I think of a few other things that important to have on any trip as well as in life:

  • a sense of adventure
  • flexibility
  • grace
  • good attitude
  • effort
  • love
  • faith

I honestly don’t know where I would be if I didn’t have those essentials along with me. Above all, traveling throughout life without faith would really impact my journey. I just can’t imagine where I would be without knowing Jesus and God’s promises!

If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness. [1 John 1:9 NIV]

“For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.” [Jeremiah 29:11 NIV]

Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways acknowledge him, and he will make your paths straight. [Proverbs 3:5-6 NIV]

 And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose. [Romans 8:28 NIV]

For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God— not by works, so that no one can boast. [Ephesians 2:8-9 NIV]

In the same way, the Spirit helps us in our weakness. We do not know what we ought to pray for, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us through wordless groans. And he who searches our hearts knows the mind of the Spirit, because the Spirit intercedes for God’s people in accordance with the will of God. [Romans 8:26-17 NIV]

On the way,

Liz

Photo credits to my sweet friend, Annette, who would be a blast to travel with!

Step By Step

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I love Proverbs! We have this great reminder in our home and I wondered if it might be a good reminder for you today! Just for fun, I looked this verse up in The Message. It isn’t the version I typically look at but I wanted to see at Proverbs 3:5-6 from a different angle because sometimes a look through a different lens gives new insight:

Trust God from the bottom of your heart;
    don’t try to figure out everything on your own.
Listen for God’s voice in everything you do, everywhere you go;
    he’s the one who will keep you on track.
Don’t assume that you know it all. [Proverbs 3:5-6 The Message]

There are times I want answers for life challenges. I know quite a few people in the middle of some pretty big stuff and I wonder what God is going to do with all of it. I know He will do something because He doesn’t waste any experience. He doesn’t want crummy things to happen to the people He loves but there are always consequences to sin. Of course, we each have sin in our lives. But there are many times our lives are impacted by the sins of others. Sometimes I try to figure it all out but it is beyond me. I don’t know it all. I don’t see the bigger picture just yet. I may never know the bigger picture of things. Ever. I just need to trust God. I need to pay attention to His words and follow in His way.

Some days it isn’t easy. Other days it is. Staying “in step” with God is the key.

How do you stay “in step” with God?

Heavenly Father ~ I know that you are working in my life. I trust you are working out all the details. I don’t need to know it all, I just need to know the next step. Help me to do what I need to do today so that I am ready for the next part of the process tomorrow.

On the Road,

Liz

Tealeaves

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Chinese Tealeaves!

I had some tea at my friend’s house the other day. I like tea but I had no idea how real tea really worked. I mostly just figured tea was tea. I never wondered about it, actually.

When my friend asked if I would like tea, she listed all the typical options. But then asked if I wanted real Chinese tea. She had been a missionary in Taiwan for over three years so she knew quite a bit more about how real tea worked. I was intrigued so that is what I chose.

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These little guys are just a little bigger than a whole clove.

First she tossed a few of these little things in a special teacup with a filter. I like strong tea so it didn’t really look like enough but she assured me it was. Then we added some hot water. We dumped out the water after a couple of minutes and then added more boiling water. This was all new to me! But it was a necessary part of the process.

We were waiting for the tealeaves to open. It takes several minutes.

It turns out she had dumped in a few too many because as the tealeaves kept relaxing from their dried state they nearly filled the filter. But the tea was delicious. I kept adding more water to the leaves and they continued to provide me with tea.

I am surprised how dried and compact tealeaves are. They look so small and unassuming but then open up to be five times their size. It takes time for them to move from the dried state to being able to steep and provide flavor but once they are ready, they can provide multiple pots of tea. I know there is much more to learn about tea but I am glad to have added to my knowledge. I am sure my friend thought I was crazy because it was so interesting to me. I am glad she took the time to teach me some of what she knew about tea.

Dried tealeaves don’t look like much. The process of getting tea from them seems a bit like some events in life. Sometimes what you have to work with doesn’t seem like much but God transforms that “little bit” to be sufficient or even abundant!

Do you recall a time in your life where God’s provision was more than you imagined?

On the Road,
Liz

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Steeping the leaves!

Road Conditions

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This was a great road, except for the fog.

Anytime I travel somewhere, I notice whether the roads are new, renewed, or in need of repairing.

If I am in a vehicle that has bad shocks and I am on a bad road, well, it can be an unpleasant experience. But set me on a well-maintained or new road with a well-maintained car and the trip might be pretty smooth. Of course, weather plays a role. On our recent trip we traveled through fog, rain, sleet, snow, and icy conditions. We also watched cars swerve, travel too fast or too slow, and many drivers just not paying attention. I am often doing more than simply driving when I am in the car; sometimes I am snacking or singing or even just thinking. When I think about it, there are so many factors that play into a safe and enjoyable road trip. Some of those factors have little to do with me while others are definitely in my control.

  • Do I do regular maintenance on my vehicle?
  • Do I know where I am headed?
  • Do I have my travel plans mapped out?
  • Am I prepared for weather challenges?
  • Have I factored in other delays?
  • Do I have resources for an emergency?
  • Do I have enough fuel (for both me and the vehicle) for the trip?
  • Am I rested?

I can feel I am as prepared as I can be but there are always outside factors that can make an impact. Put a well-maintained vehicle on a terrible road and in bad weather conditions and it is still going to be an unpleasant trip.

But if I can remain calm and steady, it definitely helps.

Life seems like that too.

The outside conditions can change – and do – frequently. What I have control of is my response and an accurate sense of my own “condition”.

  • Am I rooted in God’s Word?
  • Am I grounded in God’s spiritual truths?
  • Am I aware of His love for me (and others)?
  • Have I watched Him give me His grace and His perspective on difficult things I have experienced previously?
  • Do I adjust my course when I see myself headed down a dangerous path filled with temptations to sin?

As I was reading Ephesians 3 today, this was one of the verses stood out for me:

 I pray that out of his glorious riches he may strengthen you with power through his Spirit in your inner being, so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith. Ephesians 3:16-17a

When God’s Spirit is strengthening my inner being, I can deal with quite a bit of junk. How I respond to circumstances can be evidence for His work on my inner being. I can definitely tell where I am rooted by the way I respond to circumstances.

Have you had your own response to a situation that was evidence of God’s work on your inner being?

When I have a response that defies human understanding, I know it is God working on my heart because apart from him, I cannot do it!

On the Road,

Liz

Routines

When I am home, I have a few routines. Nothing fancy; they mostly involve how my morning starts and how my day ends. But when I am traveling, most routines are out the window.

Are there special ways you start and end your day?

Routines give birth to habits and can be great. Or not. Do I routinely criticize how someone does something? Do I regularly complain about every little thing? Do I have a tendency to give a harsh response to simple questions?

Have I developed some bad habits that I need to get rid of?

Disrupting routines helps me fall out of habits–both good ones and bad ones. But when I get back to regular life, I find that I easily return to the worn path. Those “ruts in the road” are hard to deny so I need to choose my ruts carefully because those will be the very things that pull at me as I am cruising through life.

When I switch up my routine, it helps reveal my habits. And when I find habits that need to change, it’s best to tackle that head on. First, I pray for the strength to go against my sinful nature. There will be numerous times to practice in any given day! Then I might find a friend and tell them what I am hoping to change. Verbalizing my intentions helps me stay the course because I have spoken them to another human and I really don’t want to report back that I have failed. That is because I have a tendency to be an “obliger” read more about the Four Tendencies here…

I have choices on how I can respond. Unfortunately, when I find myself in a “negative” situation I don’t always choose well and sometimes I try to justify my ugly response. But, with God’s help, a little practice, and outside accountability I can choose the better way.

On the Road,

Liz

 

 

Yours, Mine, and Theirs

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Sometimes I wonder. Sometimes I worry. And sometimes I get anxious!

God’s Word tells us “Do not be anxious…” but there are times I am.

I know the truth of God’s Word but we are sinners living in a sinful world. Your sins, my sins, and their sins all can impact us and cause a lifetime of pain and consequences. Life isn’t all about rainbows and fluffy kittens. Some people are living in very hard situations. There are times I look at what some people are going through day after day and I have no idea how they survive except by putting one foot in front of the other and carrying on and clinging to their faith.

But there is more to this life!

Some people are bogged down in difficult life circumstances and others are caught up in the race of acquiring more and achieving more. Sometimes it is easier to hold onto the depths of God’s truths when we struggle because climbing the ladder of success and notoriety takes a lot of time and effort and often some very important stuff can easily be lost in the ascent. Whatever the circumstance,  it is easy to get distracted and disoriented when ugly things happen in life if not grounded in God’s Word and His gifts of grace, forgiveness, mercy, and love.

God’s words go against what we see in our world today. His promises and provisions don’t follow the ways of the world and I am so very glad! Posted below is the first verse of a sweet hymn. I didn’t grow up hearing this one but it is one I love to hear children sing! It is both simple and complex. As I look back over my life, I can see God’s gentle guidance and provision and I know that He will provide for me as the future unfolds before me!

I am Jesus’ little lamb,

Ever glad at heart I am;

For my shepherd gently guides me,

Knows my needs and well provides me,

Loves me every day the same,

Even calls me by my name!

   by Henritta L. von Hayn, 1724-1782

 

On the Road,

Liz

Do Not Enter!

If I ever see this street sign when I am driving my vehicle, I do not intentionally drive down the road that way. But I confess that during my life I have been stubborn, determined, and foolish enough to make choices that took me down a path that was clearly marked Do Not Enter!

I suspect you remember doing something like that too. I hope you can remember both the times when you clearly chose the better path and the times when you blew it because both are important to keep in mind. When I see someone heading down a path that isn’t good, I definitely pray for them. If I am in a position to chat with them, I consider doing that too. But what I really want to do is jump up and down and say “Don’t do it!” Sometimes my concern comes from personal experience — I traveled down a similar path and endured some difficult consequences. Other times my age and life experience can help me see when something might not turn out well.

Where did I get that experience? From making poor decisions and learning where those decisions can lead. There are times lessons can be learned vicariously but there is a certain segment of the population that feels the need to throw caution to the wind and forge their own difficult path. Pray for them as you see them traveling. God can redeem difficult situations and circumstances. He has done it for me and He can do it for you.