A few years ago a friend agreed to go to Daytona Beach with me. Right away she said, “But I am not bringing my bathing suit.” I responded, “What do you mean? You definitely want to bring two or three bathing suits because that’s what we’ll wear during the day.” She continued to resist, saying, “well I just don’t look very good in a bathing suit and I’m not planning to wear one.” Obviously she had not been to the beach in a while! I explained to her, “Trust me. Bring your bathing suit. I promise if you’ll put it on and go down to the beach with me to take a walk, within five minutes you’ll get over any self-consciousness!” There are a lot of people on Daytona Beach and you would not believe what some of them wear! Once she saw the variety of beach attire among others she became very comfortable with herself in her bathing suit. I knew it!
Bathing suits can be a bit of a nightmare, especially for women. I don’t like shopping for anything, and shopping for this item of apparel is the worst. A few years ago I went shopping for bathing suits with my mother, my daughter, and a good friend. We all tried on suits and had a hilarious time rating the ones that looked good and the ones that looked awful. It has become a sweet memory we all share. The good news is that I found several bathing suits that I liked that day and bought them all. This year I knew it was time to shop again as my “old faithfuls” are starting to fade. Shortly before coming to Florida I went shopping, thinking this would be easy. (Now what made me think that I do not know!) I went to a big store and looked over a huge department of bathing suits, thinking, “surely I can find one or two here that will work for me.” Well, let me tell you, something has changed in the last few years since I last shopped for this item. For a start I didn’t seem to find the typical brands I’ve bought in the past. The new names were foreign to me but it seemed each suit had a big tag saying something like “new slimming design,” “makes you look 10 pounds lighter,” etc. I thought, “well that’s a nice feature,” and I gathered 10-12 suits and headed to the dressing room. Boy, was I in for a surprise! For a start I could hardly get them on. I was in a sweat by the time I pulled each suit up and over my knees! They were all so tight! That promise of looking slimmer obviously comes with a price! Once I got adjusted in each of these suits I felt like I was in a very tight old-style body girdle. If you don’t know what that is, imagine being wrapped super tight in colored saran-wrap. It was awful. Some looked terrible on me and I was wishing my daughter, Mary Margaret, was in the dressing room next door so we could laugh our heads off as we have done so often. I continued trying on these torture suits, trying to adjust to the fact that this is just how they make bathing suits these days. Does everybody want to look 10 pounds slimmer? Finally I settled on one that looked okay and I liked the style and color. I went back and got the suit in a size larger trying to make this new fit be more comfortable for me. I really could not tell much difference but I bought it and came home. As I was beginning to pack for my trip to the beach I opened my drawer and pulled out the comfortable old suits I’ve worn the past few years. I knew immediately I had to take that new purchase back and return it. Who wants to be miserable and squeezed to death while enjoying vacation time at the beach? Not me!!
So here’s my summary on the subject. Trends come and go, even in bathing suit world. I was embarrassed to death a few years back when the thong bathing suits were popular. I was embarrassed for the women wearing them as well as for my family and all the others who had to observe those awful string jobs. But guess what? I don’t see them anymore and I’m guessing those girls got smart and decided to wear something a little more comfortable! I think the same is going to happen with this new trend of “ultra-slimming” bathing suits. I am going to wait till the bathing suit companies figure out they need to go back to making what I’d call “normal” bathing suits. Then I will make a new purchase! In the meanwhile my “old faithfuls” will just have to last me another season.
My words get me in trouble sometimes. I speak too quickly, say the wrong thing, or say something with the wrong attitude, tone or body language. My family has called me out on this and I realize that to argue is to bury myself deeper in the offense. For example, passion on a subject I am discussing is sometimes perceived as anger. But I am not mad – just strongly expressing an opinion. Guarding what comes out of my mouth is something I have been working on (for a long time!) and I’m grateful to tell you that God regularly convicts me and prompts me to make changes that are beneficial, not only to me, but to the people in my life. It’s a good thing to recognize a weakness and intentionally seek God’s help, depending on him like a drowning man hangs onto a life raft. The best news is that God is faithful and he will meet me at my point of need when I ask for help. My job is to ask, trust his directives, and obey, even when it goes against my grain.
When the Lord convicts me of something in particular I am always amazed that lessons on that subject jump out from every bush around me. It is not a coincidence; it is God making himself and his instructions known.
A soft answer turns away wrath, but a harsh word stirs up anger. Proverbs 15:1
A few months ago I had an appointment with a man in my hometown. I had not seen him since I moved back so I began by recalling to him all the people we knew in common and how much I thought of his parents and grandparents. I was just trying to be friendly. He did not look me in the eye, ignored what I said and just immediately went to the business of the day. I was offended and later when I saw another old friend who is his colleague I told him with great detail how rude I thought this guy was. After a minute the friend said, “well, Shugie, you may not know this but he suffers from a social disorder. He is a fine guy and very competent professionally but he just cannot relate socially like the rest of us do.” I wanted to crawl under a rock I was so embarrassed! Me and my big mouth!
If you can relate to problems with your mouth let me share with you three tips that may help.
Pause – especially when you are upset. It’s the old “count to 10 before you reply” rule. When you pause before saying something it gives you time to think, “is this the wise thing to say?”; “am I going to regret saying this?”; “could I be mistaken?”; “do I have all the facts?”; “is this the right time?”; “is this going to build someone up or tear someone down?”
The heart of the righteous ponders how to answer, but the mouth of the wicked pours out evil things. Prov. 15: 28
I used to tell our children, “you are never responsible for what someone says to you but you are always responsible for your response!” So slow down and be careful!
Pray – it is always productive to pray, and if you have trouble with your words, specifically ask God to help you. I promise you he will make himself known and speak to you about your speech!
Let the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart be acceptable in your sight, O Lord, my rock and my redeemer. Psalm 19:14
Read Proverbs – this book in the Bible is crammed with practical wisdom for everyday living. It has 31 chapters and it is an easy plan to read a Proverb a day, whatever the day of the month is.
Recently I have noticed so many verses on the power of the tongue – for good and/or for bad. I know God is teaching me and he also is providing opportunities to practice. It is one thing to accept something as truth when you are sitting all by yourself, but we don’t own it until we put it into practice! And that is the hard part.
Let me know if you make progress in this area of your life. I’m sure I will be addressing it again as God is still working on me!
I am devastated. Have you ever felt that way? Just about the time you think things may be going smoothly, the wheels start falling off. All around me – among my close friends, in my family, and also out there stretching to others I know, people are suffering, hurting, and wondering what to do and how to do it. Perhaps you, too, are in a time of challenge or conflict. It’s hard, isn’t it? It’s not essential to identify each of the problems, disappointments, or tragedies that we each are facing. Just for the sake of illustration, some of the tough things I am currently observing include the un-expected death of a young friend’s mother following surgery, heartache of friends whose children are far from God, poor choices with life-long consequences, wisdom needed for best care of the sick and elderly, and damaged or broken relationships that hurt. And this, my friend, is just the short list. The thing I am learning is that this is life. Some cliches come to mind – “life is not a bowl of cherries,” “into each life some rain must fall,” and “when the going gets tough, the tough get going.” just to name a few.
Years ago I read a book by Rick Warren in which he described life not as a single line on a graph that goes up and down over the years. Rather he said he saw life more like railroad tracks. As the years come and go, on one track there are always some good things that are part of our story. But at the same time the other track includes the tough things we experience. I think he is right. For example, I often remind young married couples that in the traditional wedding vows a commitment is sealed with the words, “for richer or for poorer, in sickness or in health, for better or for worse.” Publicly, the bride and groom acknowledge that there will be some better AND there will be some worse (and all the old couples in the audience silently say in their heads, “you can count on it!”).
So, where does that leave us? I have learned that when “the other shoe falls” (whatever that may be in your life), the best thing I can do is to get by myself and immediately ask, “Yes, I’ve got a problem, but what can I be grateful for?” You may think this sounds trite but I can tell you for a fact that it makes a huge difference. When you start saying out loud or writing down all the things you can be grateful for, your strength and confidence and ability to think straight will begin to be renewed. Then you are much better equipped to tackle the problem or issue, whatever it may be.
Besides practicing an attitude of gratitude, the best news for me is that I am not alone. My form of Christianity is not about being religious, following a set of rules, or attending church regularly. Rather it is about an up-close and personal relationship with God, the creator of the universe. Jesus died for my sins, rose from the dead and lives forever. Because I have accepted his gift of salvation and committed my life to following Him, I am never alone and He is my helper, defender, counselor, guide and friend.
His Word is the best source of help for every situation. And his presence and peace overcome the fears and anxieties. He is sovereign and He has my back, even when I do not understand. He is always right and I am wise when I obey. I have often regretted decisions I made wanting my own way. But I have never regretted obeying the Lord.
Consider the claims of Christ and the promises in God’s word. Here are just a few for you to ponder as you face the next hard thing in your life.
“Come to me, all who are weary and heavy-laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me. For I am gentle and humble in heart; and you shall find rest for your souls.” Matt. 11:28-29
“Ah Lord God! Behold, Thou hast made the heavens and the earth by Thy great power and by Thine outstretched arm! Nothing is too difficult for Thee.” Jer. 32:17
“Call to Me, and I will answer you, and I will tell you great and mighty things, which you do not know.” Jer. 33:3
“Trust in the Lord with all your heart, And do not lean on your own understanding. In all your ways acknowledge Him, and He will make your paths straight.” Prov. 3:5-6
Hard times are hard. There is just no way around it and we all have hard times. But you do not have to be alone. God is for you and He will see you through. Will you trust him?