I’ve noticed something different, on dog walks through our neighborhood. In previous Septembers, the acorns fell from the trees and popped me in the head or hit the top of the car, but I haven’t gotten pelted once this September. I’ve noticed this fall the squirrels seem manic to pick them off the trees before they even fall to the ground. As I’m walking the dog, the discarded shells crunch under my feet. It is systematic of God’s creation. Acorns ripen, squirrels forage, winter comes. I’ve always been told it is a sign that winter will be cold if the squirrels act this way. In Florida, a girl can only hope.
My work load has grown this year, and recently I took a course on Productivity for Creatives, for we creatives are known to be heavy right- brained individuals, and are viewed by society as often scattered between our inspirations. I can’t speak for all creatives out there, but it is true for me. In fact, all along I thought multi-tasking was a skill resume-worthy. I can swing a skillet with one hand, have the laundry going, pop some Goldfish in Bella’s mouth, all the while typing out an essay on the computer while my paint dries on a canvas nearby.
The teacher of the course pointed out that multi-tasking is not something to brag about after all. In fact, recent studies have shown, that those that multi-task regularly produce below-par product, have trouble getting larger projects completed, and may be hurting their brain in the process. Gulp! Our brains are not wired to do more than one thing at a time hence multitaskers are not actually working on multiple projects at once, but are switching their attention from one project to another often only getting small parts done.
The Time Management Class for Creatives, (You can find the class here:Creative Live Classes) taught the time-blocking method. In a nutshell, you keep a master running list of everything you are working on, and place the items in blocks of time on your daily schedule. One project should never take more than two hours (which is the brain’s limit on one task) and there should be a fifteen-minute break between each.
I’ve been trying it out, but I have to admit it’s been a challenge, for someone who has the attention span of a gnat add to that three children at home, one at college, three pets at home, one at college, and husband. Discipline Tammy…Discipline…Bang head on desk…Focus!
One summer, we took the kids to Belize. We rented a house that sat atop a mountain and overlooked the tops of the trees in the rainforest. Several days, we walked down the mountain, through the woods into this beautiful meadow by a river. It was what I imagined the Garden of Eden to look like. One day in the meadow my sons pointed out the leaf cutter ants to me. They had cut this distinct trench through the grass and were carrying leaves five times their size through the trench. Thousands of ants working together climbed up the tree, and came down in this clean pattern to take the leaves to their nest. I was mesmerized and stood watching them for a while. It reminded me of the passage in Proverbs.
“Go to the ant, thou sluggard; consider her ways, and be wise” Which having no guide, overseer, or ruler, provideth her meat in the summer, and gathereth her food in the harvest.” Proverbs 6:6-8 English Standard Version. If you observe the ant, it is an example of not only diligence, but organization as well.
Then there’s God Himself. Think about the story of Creation. I went back and really read it recently, and noticed that God created A before creating B in order to get to C. It was a very systematic and sustainable way of creating the world. In order to form man, I must have the soil, I will create soil first. In order for man to survive there must be fruit, I will plant fruit trees.
I am filled with awe.
God is creative and not scattered. He works systematically and within blocks of time (days). He’s also managed to find time to rest.
Is there hope for me? For you? For us?
“Then God said, “Let us make man in our image, after our likeness. And let them have dominion over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the heavens and over the livestock and over all the earth and over every creeping thing that creeps on the earth. So God created man in His own image, in the image of God He created him’ male and female He created them.” (Genesis 1: 26-27 ESV)
We were made in His image. He’s creative and organized, so we must have the ability buried in us somewhere. We just need to develop it. And you know, God must believe in our abilities too, for He made us managers of all His creation.
Something to think about.
Enjoy the fall breezes and take a minute to check out those squirrels, what are they doing in your area?
Something happens to me when I hop on my bike and head out for a ride; in my mind, I become a 10 year old. It’s as if I have no fear, and I’m transformed into that dirty, stringy, tow-headed girl who wanted desperately to keep up with the country boys. I probably smell like her too. This morning, I flew through our neighborhood gate right before it closed, jumped a few curbs, and twisted through traffic. Afterwards, as I’m parking my bike I have a conversation in my brain that goes something like this… “that was really stupid, you could’ve hit the gate. Praise God, that driver saw you! Tammy, if you wipe out jumping that curb you’re not going to jump up and yell, “That was radical!” You’re going to lie there crying, “Dial 911!”
But, then… it’ll happen all over again tomorrow.
I have a hybrid. I love my bike. It has the wider wheels that can get me through packed sand, turf, or city traffic. Last weekend at the farm, I was eyeing my friend Ed Kobel’s bike in his garage. It had extremely wide wheels. I’d never seen a bike like it.
“That’s the wheels it takes to get down these sandy roads?” I said nodding at the bike. “I’ve been wondering if my bike could handle it.”
“Oh yeah,” Becky, his wife said. “A normal tire can’t make it here. You have to have thick wheels to get through thick sand.”
Thick wheels to get through thick sand…
This morning on my ride I was thinking about fear versus faith. How Satan loves to throw the stick of fear into our spokes knocking us off the course God’s cleared for us. God never leads us to a place of fear. He may ask us to do something that gives us fear, but the feeling of fear and trepidation is never manifested by God. It is propagated by the enemy. It is the enemy’s way of getting you to doubt the Father. So, if you are feeling fear about something God is leading you to do, don’t let the enemy win.
“Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God.” Philippians 4:6 English Standard Version.
According to the Anxiety and Depression Association of America, “anxiety disorders are the most common mental illness in the U.S., affecting 40 million adults in the United States age 18 and older, or 18.1% of the population every year.” How is it God tells us in His Word be anxious for nothing, yet anxiety is now the most common mental illness in the US?
As Christians we are equipped to deal with anxiety and fear. The anxiety or fear I’m referring to is not birthed biologically or traumatically, it is the fear produced by insecurity in who God is, and who you were created to be. If you truly believe God and His word, you won’t let fear rule your life.
Thick wheels can cut through thick sand. The most important tools we have to combat fear is God’s word and the Holy Spirit. If the word of God is your foundation throughout your life, you will have the ability to glide through whatever season or calling your are in. When the sands of life get thick and you feel fearful of the trail ahead, you have God’s power inside of you to break that debilitating stronghold and pedal forward.
Remember, “I can do all things through Him who strengthens me.” Philippians 4:13 ESV.
I was a witness to the enemy’s fear tactics when my sister, Tricia was dying of breast cancer. It was around two months before she passed, and I found her sitting up in bed one morning.
“I know you’re not going to believe me,” she said, “but Satan was whispering to me all night.”
“What were you hearing?” I said, a bit skeptical.
“Sinister laughing. Then he told me that God could’ve healed me, but He didn’t love me enough. He told me the work I did for God won’t matter once I’m gone. He told me my life with cancer was a waste, and never made a difference like I wanted it to. He was constantly repeating, you’re going to die and laughing.”
She grabbed my hand, her palm was clammy.
“Tammy, I know where I am going. I don’t fear dying because I know I’m going to heaven, but do I have to be terrified in the process? It was so real, I looked over at Thomas to see if he was hearing it too, but he was asleep.”
The passage in Psalms popped in my head, so I recited it to her. “Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil, as You are with me; your rod and your staff they comfort me. ” (Psalms 23:4 ESV) For the first time in my life, that passage came alive between us. I fully understood God was warning us that Satan was not done with her. It wasn’t enough her body was riddled with pain. He wanted to discourage Tricia even on her death bed. We prayed that God would intercede on her behalf and He would give her peace. The Bible reminded Tricia that God is there with her in that valley, she just needed to grab on to Him.
Tricia destroyed the bondage of fear with her faith. The next night, Tricia slept with no problem.
“For the weapons of our warfare are not of the flesh but have divine power to destroy strongholds.” (II Corinthians 10:4 ESV)
Looking back now, I think about what the enemy was telling my sister. Her cancer didn’t matter… Her life didn’t make a difference to anyone. If you’ve been following this blog, you know her cancer made a difference in the life of my friend Vanessa who died one month ago from brain cancer. Vanessa Raghubir’s decision to follow Christ started by reading Tricia Baines’s story, yet Tricia died not knowing the impact her life and death had on others.
We, as Christians are God’s army. We are all a threat to the enemy. He would love to keep our journey’s stagnant our lives meaningless because we are ill- equipped with skinny tires in thick sand or paralyzed in fear of what’s ahead. Are you going to let him derail you from God’s plan for you? Or are you going to place the thick Word of Truth as your foundation and utilize the Holy Spirit’s power in the pedals?
Is God calling you to speak? Just do it.
Is God calling you to write that book or article? Do it.
Is God calling you to forgive someone? Do it.
Is God calling you to try out that Bible study? Do it.
Whatever God is calling you to do, don’t let fear win. And believe this, whatever God is calling you to do, it will be a success if you get on that bike and pedal. Ride your faith like you’re 10 years old. You’re life will be powerful!
See you on the trails! Until next week…
My latest article written for She Leads Daily is a subject I feel strongly about Abortion. I really prayed over this one. I thought my readers would like to see it, but you have to go over there to She Leads Daily to read it. I’ll make it easy on you just click on the link below…
In 2001, we rented a small house that backed up to a preservation on a lake. My boys, Nicky and Christian were before-the-sun risers, and a routine morning consisted of me brewing a pot of coffee before taking my boys out to the pier. From the gazebo, I drank coffee as the sun came up and shined away the mist floating on the surface. Some mornings I’d pray, while Nick peered over the edge for the turtle we named “Hook,” (a fish hook was caught in his foot.) The mornings we were lucky, we’d see the surface sliced by the resident gator, who nestled into the uninhabited reeds during the day or the pair of bald eagles nested in our trees. It was a quiet little oasis for me in a bustling tourist town.
On the morning of 9/11, we returned from the dock, everyone was dressed, fed and “10,000 Maniacs” was blaring through our home. I was twirling my soon-to-be-one year old Christian in my arms while Nick was shaking his booty on the floor at my feet. Natalie Merchant’s edgy voice sang “These are the days to remember…” as I dipped my heavy Christian over the sofa, and he belly laughed.
Then… the phone rang. It was my husband.
“What are you doing?”Jay said.
“Dancing with the boys.”
“Turn the news on. One of the twin towers in New York was hit by an airplane!” He said.
Music went off.
The news came on.
I nestled Christian in my arm and slid onto the sofa. Nicky plopped by his basket of toys.
On the Today Show, the World Trade Center gaped open while fire and smoke poured out. Katie Couric and Matt Lauer interviewed witnesses via the phone. Control tower problems? Something wrong with the pilot? Engine failure? Were all discussed possibilities, but then…another jet sliced into the second building.
“I think it’s undeniable this is an act of war,” One of them stated.
Nicky jumped up. “Kaboom! Crash!” Flailing his arms in front of the television.
“Nicky, come sit.” I wrapped my arms around them and held tight.
The words of the song still rang in my ears.
Today, I’ve thought about how rapidly our world has changed since that devastating day. Here is a small list of all that’s happened: terrorism, culture of consumerism, social media, political correctness, global awareness, increase in technology, celebrity worship, culture of acceptance and self-love, texting instead of talking, political bullying, Keurig Coffee makers, airport security, Oxycodone addictions, Amazon shopping, cell phones that act like computers, Drones, social protests of every sort, Christian bakers sued for not baking a gay wedding cake, multiple threats against Christianity, and somebody please explain why we had to close Blockbuster Video for goodness sakes? Whew! Depressed yet?
I’m in awe that at a time in history when Christians were staked and burned so Nero’s garden could have light for his dinner parties, Paul sat on the stone floor of a dank, dark prison knowing he was going to die. He penned the following letter to his young friend and co-worker, Timothy.
“But understand this, that in the last days there will come times of difficulty. For people will be lovers of self, lovers of money, proud, arrogant, abusive, disobedient to their parents, ungrateful, unholy, heartless, unappeasable, slanderous, without self-control, brutal, not loving good, treacherous, reckless, swollen with conceit, lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God, having the appearance of godliness, but denying its power. Avoid such people. For among them are those who creep into households and capture weak women, burdened with sins and led astray by various passions, always learning, but never able to arrive at a knowledge of truth.”
He goes on to say, “Indeed, all who desire to live a godly life in Christ Jesus will be persecuted.” (II Timothy 3:1-7 and 12, English Standard Version)
Do you think he was writing about today?
I believe we’ve lost so much more than the lives that perished on 9/11 in this fast paced, approval based, trying to keep up with the Joneses world of ours; and there are times I wish I could push rewind and the buildings would re-erect, and the workers would be leaning over their desks again. I’d be back watching the sunrise, brewing a pot of coffee, and dancing with my kids, instead of drowning in media. What would be different in your life if 9/11 never occurred?
Then again…have you ever noticed it is in darkness that a beam of light shines brighter? It pierces through the dark and creates focus. With focus, we see the lit path we are to take, and ahead the destination, which becomes our vision. It is in our darkest hours with which we feel God’s presence closer. I thought about Elijah standing on that mountain in I Kings.
“…And behold, the Lord passed by, and a great and strong wind tore the mountains and broke in pieces the rocks before the Lord, but the Lord was not in the wind. And after the wind an earthquake, but the Lord was not in the earthquake. And after the earthquake a fire, but the Lord was not in the fire. And after the fire the sound of a low whisper.” (I Kings 19:11b-12 ESV)
You see, God is not in the devastations, He is experiencing them right next to us. So, maybe these are the days.
Something to think about…
Prayers for those in the storm.
For those of you who haven’t been following my friend Vanessa Raghubir’s story and you would like to read more, you can find her story at these links: Half-Naked and Picking Weeds,Half-Naked and Picking Weeds part 2,Half -Naked and Picking Weeds Part 3,When Being Still Seems Impossible!,When Too Much Gets to be Too Much!,When God Stretches Your Heart,Today: August 20, 2018,A Funeral…A Birthday…A Calling.
My friend Vanessa Raghubir passed away on August 20, 2018. She was 33 years old, a smidgen from her 34th birthday. Ironically, she died at the same age as Christ her Lord, but her time in the faith was about a year. She didn’t leave behind a surviving mate or children, instead she left behind a great testimony that has already been shared over and over. This was her dream, to share her testimony. She taught us many lessons in faith and love. Lessons I felt we could all benefit from.
“Look carefully then how you walk, not as unwise but as wise, making the bet use of the time, because the days are evil. Therefore do not be foolish, but understand what the will of the Lord is.” (Ephesians 5:15-16 English Standard Version)
I asked Vanessa if there’s something she’d like everyone to know. She thought for a moment before forcing the words from her slow mouth. “Everyday counts,” she said. “I want them to know everyday counts.”
I couldn’t help, but wonder even this day? You’re bedridden, with a bald, swollen head that aches, it takes all your concentration to utter incomplete jumbled sentences, but before I could ask she went on…
“The doctors told me I had two months… months ago…I still have life. They don’t know. Every day counts.” She answered my question…even that day. I felt convicted. How many hours do I waste away on things that don’t matter when facing eternity.
After being diagnosed with Pancreatic Cancer, Steve Jobs stated, “Remembering that I’ll be dead soon is the most important tool I’ve ever encountered to help me make the big choices in life. Because almost everything—all external expectations, all pride, all fear of embarrassment or failure-these things just fall away in the face of death, leaving only what is truly important. Remembering that you are going to die is the best way I know to avoid the trial of thinking you have something to lose. You are already naked. There is no reason not to follow your heart.”
Make your days, hours, minutes, even seconds count. You don’t know how many you have left.
Love people no matter who they are, what they believe, right where they are.
“The greatest among you shall be your servant. Whoever exalts himself will be humbled, and whoever humbles himself will be exalted.” (Matthew 23:11-12 English Standard Version.)
Vanessa had an eclectic collection of friends from all races, backgrounds, and beliefs. Too often the gospel is strangled by the snake of self-righteousness. We forget one of the greatest commandments is to love our neighbor. We know how to preach it from the soapbox, but fail to practice it. How many times do we feel we need to stick up for God while beating our neighbor with the club of truth? Meanwhile, we wrap the like-minded in loving care because its easy. God commands us to humble ourselves and become servants to all neighbors.
Allow others to share in your pain.
“For to this you have been called, because Christ also suffered for you, leaving you an example, so that you might follow in His steps.” (I Peter 2:21 ESV)
One of Vanessa’s greatest gifts was allowing me a front row seat into her pain and suffering. For this, I was drawn to her bedside. I wanted to hold her hand, because she wanted me there. Her vulnerability was endearing. She was humble and not filled with pride. She scolded us once for not telling her one of her eyes was darting in another direction, but after scolding us busted out laughing.
At one of her consultations the doctor asked, “How are you doing Vanessa?
“Fine,” she said, as she always said when someone asked her.
But the doctor’s office was the place for honesty. I looked across the room. “Be honest,” I said.
“Well, I can’t see, I can’t walk, I can’t lift my right hand, I can’t speak,” she shrugged. “Other than that, I guess I’m fine.” We all laughed. You see she wasn’t a complainer, but she didn’t push people away from her, she pulled them in and held them tighter when she was suffering. She wanted connection, even if it was just a hand to hold. We were not created to be an island, to withstand the storms of life on our own. God created us to share each other’s heartaches, pains, and joys.
Below Video: A little humor break, I know I look like a professional Physical Therapist, but the truth was I had no idea what I was doing, and Vanessa was too kind to say anything. She was just letting me do my thing. LOL!
Minister to others even if you’re suffering more.
“Bear one another’s burdens, and so fulfill the law of Christ.” Galatians 6:2 ESV
On her death bed, Vanessa asked her friends how they were doing. One day a friend named Fiaz Khan who suffers from MS came in. She turned her head and put out her hand and after several tries asked how his appointment with his doctor went. His eyes widened, and he was taken aback that Vanessa who had lost most of the control of her mouth to the point she couldn’t eat or swallow her salvia forced out the words to ask about him. It was a lesson, I’ll never forget.
We choose to be happy.
“A joyful heart is good medicine, but a crushed spirit dries up the bones.” (Proverbs 17:22 ESV)
The day Vanessa received the worst news, she had my husband Jay, her friend Sunita, and I wheel her outside the hospital.
She glanced up at us, “What should I do?” She had the choice to get on hospice and have two months to live or receive chemo to have maybe four.
“If you weren’t a believer, we’d be having a different conversation,” Jay said. “Vanessa, you have somewhere to go. The Father’s waiting for you. What quality of life will you have on chemo, to just stick around and suffer?”
“I’m tired,” she said. “Did I fight hard enough?”
We all assured her she fought very hard and she could let go now.
She stared at the row of cars piling up in the valet lane, before looking back at us. “Okay, I’m ready to go back in now,” she said.
Jay parked her wheelchair by her mother and aunt in the hospital lobby.
Joan, her mother sighed. “Funny, last month we received such good news and left here so happy,” she said.
Vanessa smiled. “I’m still happy,” she said.
You see, It’s our choice to be happy and not allow the disappointments and heartaches in our life to have the last word, and overcome us. Vanessa leaned on God and she had peace. She chose to be happy the day she heard she was going to die. If she can choose happiness, we can too.
God is worthy or our praise no matter what our circumstances.
“I will bless the Lord at all times; his praise shall continually be in my mouth. My soul makes its boast in the Lord; let the humble hear and be glad. Oh magnify the Lord with me, and let us exalt his name together! I sought the Lord, and he answered me and delivered me from all my fears.” (Psalms 24: 1-4 ESV)
This one hits me in the heart every time. It is the most powerful memory I have of my sweet Vanessa. Some of my visits, I’d play Vanessa’s favorite worship songs either on my computer or on a phone. A week before she passed, I told her we were doing worship. At this time, she could do nothing but lie in the bed, she’d lost her sight, the ability to close her jaw, eat, or swallow. I only tell you this, so you will see how she was filled with God’s spirit. I played one of her favorite songs, “What a Beautiful Name.” You can imagine my surprise when I heard her gurgling the song in her throat. She was worshipping in the only way she could. He was still deserving of her praise when everything physically had been stripped away from her. It made me question, what’s my excuse? How dare I complain when I don’t get what I want or my plans are interrupted, or my heart has been broken over and over. I have no excuse. None of us do.
There were many more lessons, but this blog post has become longer than what most people read.
So, I’m closing this article with my goodbye to a girl who came into my life unexpectedly, whom I had the privilege of sharing the gospel with and became a witness to her salvation, but who in the end taught me more about faith and love than I taught her. This will be my last blog about Vanessa, but there will be more about her in the book I’m currently writing. I hope her story touched you as it did me.
Goodbye for now my sweet friend. I love you!