SPREAD A LITTLE KINDNESS

How can you spread a little kindness each and every day for Christ?  When we do any little act of kindness, we should do it freely, not counting the cost or looking for repayment–and, keeping in mind that our giving is unto the Lord.  Jesus gave himself so freely for each one of us–shouldn’t we, with His power, be able to do the same?

To help us spread a little kindness, we need to forget about ourselves and our trials, and put other people as a priority.  We also need to slow down a little in order to be aware of other people and their needs.  Think of how you can show some kindness toward the people that God puts in your path each day–be it family, friends, coworkers, or even complete strangers.

Your kindness might be:

  • Asking about a relative
  • Calling a neighbor who is home-bound
  • Giving a young mother a break from her children
  • Leaving a “surprise” note to brighten someone’s day
  • Defending someone you see being wronged
  • Giving some extra money to someone in need
  • Speaking a sincere “have a nice day” to the stressed cashier

Every person we meet is an opportunity to spread Jesus’ love through our kindness.  We just never know the circumstances or situation that someone is facing or experiencing.  By spreading a little kindness, we may ease their problems without ever knowing it while on this earth.

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Photo courtesy of Barbara Mazz under Creative Commons License (CC BY-NC-ND 2.0)

We may not always feel like showing some kindness to someone and it might not always be easy, but it certainly is a blessing knowing that it is exactly what the Lord would do and expects from each of us.

Jesus’ life gave us  examples of spreading kindness to others.  It did not matter to Jesus whether the people were lowly or lofty. Jesus showed kindness in healing the ten, lowly, outcasts of leprosy and with acknowledging the rich Zacchaeus, who was in a tree trying to catch a glimpse of Jesus passing by.

In our reaching out to one another in Jesus’ name, we will be following in His footsteps, and our reward in heaven will be great!

He who despises his neighbor sins, but blessed is he who is kind to the needy. –Proverbs 14:21

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Photo courtesy of MTSO fan under Creative Commons License (CC BY-NC-SA 2.0)

INSPIRATIONAL LIVING

Is there anyone in your life who you consider lives a truly inspirational life?  By this, I mean that their whole life is a true inspiration. I have found the people’s lives that have the greatest impact on me are the ones who endure lives filled with physical challenges.

As I was thinking about the people I have known through the years, two special people fall into that category of “Inspirational Living” for me.

When I was a young teen, I started volunteering at a local hospital delivering flowers to patients, working in the coffee shop and doing various other activities. As time progressed, I eventually got to help out on a patient floor as well.  During that time, I met a special lady, Veronica Dribnock, who ended up being a patient at the hospital for three and half years. She was soon nicknamed “The Sweetheart of North Tower 4.”

When I met Veronica, she was a quadriplegic and had lived that way for 18 years.  I had the blessing of knowing her for about 3 years before she died.  Here is a short synopsis of some of the physical challenges she faced so valiantly.

By the time Veronica was a senior in high school, they learned she had a disease that caused her to have a weakness in her arms and legs.  Eventually, she was diagnosed with Syringomyelia, which is the growth of tubular cysts in the spinal cord.  As the cysts grow in length, the nervous system’s messages to various parts of the body weaken and will eventually be shut off. Unfortunately, many times the cysts can not be removed surgically because of their location.

When Veronica was about 25 years old, she could no longer work due to the progression of the disease. She became completely paralyzed except for some movement in her hands.  Veronica was able to stay in her parent’s house for 18 years. They put her bed in the living room so she could see out the big picture window. When Veronica was 43 years old and developed pneumonia, it was decided she would stay permanently in the hospital because the weakened condition of her chest muscles made her very susceptible to respiratory infections.

By the time she was in the hospital, the disease had claimed the little movement she had in her hands. Veronica did not want to be a burden for anyone and wanted a little bit of independence.  It was such a blessing that a friend of hers who was also an electrician at the hospital invented a device that enabled Veronica to have a control box resting on her chest.  This control box had some tubes coming out of it which she could use her chin to activate.  In the beginning, there were three controls…one for the TV, one for the telephone, and one for the nurse’s call button. Shortly before Veronica died, the electrician had perfected a nine function device for her use.

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Veronica Dribnock
Photo credit:  Hi-Lights of Wilson Memorial Hospital-June 1980

 Despite being a quadriplegic for 21 years, Veronica’s life exemplified many things that we can all learn from.

  • Veronica always had a big smile on her face
  • Veronica was always positive no matter what her circumstances
  • Veronica always cared about others, asking about  them and their family
  • Veronica always made you feel special and like you truly mattered to her
  • Veronica faced life with courage and faith
What a wonderful example of a grace-filled life Veronica’s life on earth was for each of us that came in contact with her.  I am so blessed that I had the opportunity to meet her and to call her friend. For me, it was always a blessing to help her in whatever small way I could.  I am sure that her life and example to me when I was a young teen has helped shaped me into the person I am today.

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It has been a distinct honor and privilege to have an inspirational couple in my life, who have really come to mean even more to me these past few years.. Dr. Gregorio Pedroza, and his wife Lilly.

It is amazing to think I met them about 31 years ago, but during the past 2 1/2 years, I have gotten to know them more personally through frequent visits to let them know how much we love and care for them, and to provide assistance in whatever small way we can.

Greg’s story began back in 1981 when he was 40 years old.  At that time, Greg & Lilly’s three children were ages 18, 17, and 16 years old.  Their middle child, Vince, was my husband’s best friend while growing up.

Greg was experiencing some tingling in his right hand. At this time in history, there were no MRI’s or CAT scans available, so he endured many difficult tests to determine the cause.  Greg ended up seeing 19 doctors before a Dr. in NYC (about 3 1/2 hrs from their home) finally discovered he had a tumor at the base of his brain inside the spinal cord.

Drs. told Greg if they operated, he would have a 99% of being a quadriplegic, and if they did not operate, they gave him six months to live.  The tumor was located near the area of the body that controls your heartbeat, functionality to breath, and other involuntary bodily functions.  The Dr. also said if they operated, whatever condition he woke up in, would be the way he would remain.

After this final diagnosis, Greg came home for a year at which time he basically slept all the time.  It took that long to find a Dr. who could operate using high frequency sound rather than a knife because the tumor was such a bad one, and in a location which made it even trickier to operate on.  The Dr. they finally found in NYC had actually only performed this procedure on children, never on an adult.

Sept. 7, 1982 was operation day for Greg.  He was in the hospital for two weeks, and then spent three months in rehab in NYC.  The result of the surgery was that Greg lost the use of his right arm, his balance was not too good, and he could walk only with assistance. His left side was left strong but numb. Greg arrived back to his home on Dec. 20, 1982. He endured both chemo and radiation as the tumor was cancerous. Jan 11, 1983, Greg returned to his job at IBM as an engineer manager.  When he returned to work, he used a scooter to start with and eventually he graduated to a walker, then cane. Greg was able to work for 10 more years before his health challenges forced him to retire.

The Dr. ended up “unroofing” Greg’s spinal cord, so in addition, he was left with continual, chronic pain, 24 hrs, 7 days a week, that he has now endured for 32 years.  This is called Reflex Sympathetic Dystrophy Syndrome which is characterized by severe non-stop burning pain, and extreme sensitivity to touch. “Dante’s Inferno”, the feeling of constantly being on fire is another constant in Greg’s life.  Sleep is the only refuge he gets from this feeling of fire.

Two and half years ago, Greg & Lilly were at a friend’s cottage celebrating the Fourth of July holiday.  He was pretty much wheelchair bound as his condition was deteriorating his leg use even more.  He had an unfortunate accident where he ended up hitting the back of his head on three steps as he fell while in the wheelchair. This event paralyzed him, but he did recover some use of his left hand from the elbow down. He is now considered a limited functioning quadriplegic who is wheelchair bound.

Greg ended up in Syracuse, NY (about 1 1/2 hrs from their home) at a hospital for six weeks and then in a rehab unit  for another six weeks.   It was at this time, that we would go visit him and where I gained even a greater appreciation for what he and Lilly were going through. It was so hard to see what he was enduring after already living for so many years with such physical limitations.

It has been a long road for him and Lilly these past few years.  We were so happy they were able to bring Greg home after rehab despite the additional physical challenges and limitations.  With Greg’s great mind thinking of ways to do things and different inventions, my husband, and other people Greg knows have adapted different things in their house to allow him to stay at home, which has been a huge blessing.  It has helped Greg still be somewhat independent. Their house now sports a pretty amazing contraption they came up with to help Greg go to the bathroom by himself.

To help him forget about his pain, Greg, through the years, has turned to storytelling and writing.  He has traveled extensively sharing his stories, laughter and joy.  It helps him forget for a few moments the constant pain he endures. I think his poems of alliteration are pretty amazing. Greg has published the following:

“My Glow Days”-Book of poems about his pain

“Short Stories from the Heart”-Book of short stories

“We”-Love poems to his wife, Lilly

6 CD’s of Short Stories

Throughout Greg’s constant pain and health issues through these 32 years, Greg’s life is characterized by service to others and love for others.  I am always amazed to hear how he is tutoring someone in college, ministering to others who are suffering, calling shut-in’s to check on them, writing to inmates in prison, praying for people who send him cards, and the list goes on and on.  What a beautiful example of sharing Christ with others no matter what your circumstances!

In sharing Greg’s story, I can’t help but also say how much respect and credit that I have for his wife, Lilly. She, too, lives an inspirational life because she is always there to support Greg with his physical needs and in doing so many things around the house that Greg can not do.  She literally has become Greg’s hands and feet to keep their house still running. The patience, unconditional love and service she provides is exemplary. Another of Lilly’s gifts is her love of cooking to serve others.  But, thinking about how she does even all the cooking herself with such love, is also an inspiration.  Shopping, cooking, and cleaning up every single day, at every single meal with no break without complaining is a wonderful thing.  She too, is also always upbeat and loving.

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 Dr. Gregorio and Lilly Pedroza

Despite the many health challenges and constant pain Greg has endured the past 32 years, Greg has also presented us with many positive examples of ways to live that we can benefit from:

  • Greg is always cheerful and has a great smile to share
  • Greg is so positive and finds the blessing in everything
  • Greg has a great faith which helps keep him going
  • Greg always cares about how others are doing
  • Greg is always expanding his knowledge and learning
  • Greg continues to help others no matter what his physical limitations might be
When I go to visit Greg and Lilly, I am always refreshed and inspired, leaving much more blessed than when I came.  Greg and Lilly are such wonderful examples of making YOU feel special, loved and cared for and how to not let anything stop you from doing what God has called you to do.

I am so thankful for the wonderful lessons that Veronica, Greg, and Lilly have taught me by their truly inspirational lives.  I wish they did not have to suffer, but some day they will be free of their physical limitations again.  In the meantime, it is a blessing to view the inspirational lessons their lives are and to try to be there to help others in whatever way we can.

…And we rejoice in the hope of the glory of God.  Not only so, but we also rejoice in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance; perseverance, character; and character, hope.  And hope does not disappoint us, because God has poured out His love into our hearts by the Holy Spirit, whom He has given us.  –Romans 5:2-5

THE GREATEST SERVANT

I know a man who walked this earth a long time ago. His entire life was spent being a servant—serving everyone in love.

While on this earth, He continually served mankind by physically healing the sick, the lame, and blind—as well as restoring their souls and spirits.

This servant came for everyone. He did not discriminate. In His eyes, no matter how “good” or “bad”, all were equal. His love for each person was unconditional in every way.

His servanthood shone forth even on the night he was betrayed by a friend. He “lowered” himself and washed the feet of His friend with so much love and compassion.

The greatest way in which He served all of mankind was when he was hanging on a cross. This servant bore our sins and infirmities—He endured the suffering, agony, and pain in order to give eternal life to us.

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Photo credit by Waiting for the Word under Creative Commons License (CC BY 2.0)

This man’s life is a perfect guide for living the life of a true servant. May we serve one another in humbleness and love as we follow the example of the greatest servant—Jesus Christ.

…Instead, whoever wants to become great among you must be your servant, and whoever wants to be first must be your slave–just as the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give His life as a ransom for many. –Matthew 20:27-28

YOUR WORDS ARE INFLUENTIAL

Have you ever thought about the influence your words have on others? Your words have the ability to build others up in a positive way or tear them down in a negative way.

One weekend this summer, I was trying to decide whether to go on a long trip to a family reunion by myself or just stay home. The first night of the reunion, one of my sister-in-laws at the reunion called to jokingly ask what kind of toppings I wanted on the pizza, as they were ordering some.  It was a joke because they were five hours away!  But, it made me smile to think that she thought of me and called me.  She asked if I was coming the next day.

Truthfully, I was still feeling overwhelmed with finishing a long day of work with pressing deadlines, taking care of two kids who had wisdom teeth out, running to the store to get them more varieties of food they could eat and the list goes on. I told her I would wait and decide the next morning.

The next morning came, and I was still unsure what to do…whether to go or just stay home. Once again, this same sister-in-law texted me to say she thought I should come. Her words inspired me to really get ready and start on my journey. I felt she really wanted me  to be present and join in the festivities.

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So, I started to pack up for the long ride. It was suppose to rain along the way, but thankfully the weather was just fine the whole way, I got to play lots of good music, and the traffic was not bad at all. It turns out I was very thankful to go, and everyone was very happy to see me.

At times, our words can have an adverse reaction on a person. Can you think of a time when someone said something to you that maybe was very cutting and hurtful? Maybe the comments even made you feel incompetent in some area of your life.  In many cases, it is very likely that the person did not even realize their comment hurt you.  It might be possible that now you totally alienate yourself from the person, but hopefully, you either told the person how  the comments made you feel, or you chose to forgive them and move on.

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Living Waters by Len Matthews under Creative Commons License (CC BY-NC-SA 2.0)

It is important to remember that your words have the power to built someone up or tear them down. Try to think before you speak in the hopes of not tearing someone down, but rather encouraging them along this journey.

A simple statement or two can have a big influence on how someone views themselves or a situation.

“Gracious words are like a honeycomb, sweetness to the soul and health to the body.”  –Proverbs 16:24

OUR JOURNEY OF THE SEASONS

While thinking about the seasons,
I couldn’t help but think
How our life’s journey is similar
to the different seasons God created.

Sometimes, our walk with the Lord                             970483_10201101467879572_1545651585_n
  is like the springtime.
We see things in a new way
  and have so much hope.
We are like the budding flowers,
  emerging with renewed energy in   full bloom.

1233600_10201732656418891_2051679501_nOther times, our walk with the Lord
  is like the good ole summertime.
We rest peacefully knowing He is
  in control of our lives.
We enjoy the beauty of each day
  and live life to the fullest.

At times, our walk with the Lord
  is like the fall time.fall trees
We see all the beautiful colors that
  surround us,
Yet at the same time, we may grow
  tired and weary,
Just as nature begins to slow down
  and hibernate.

1515035_10202698873573716_1304524868_nOnce in a while, our walk with the Lord
  is like the wintertime–
  kind of quiet and barren
  maybe even lonely.
The winter can be a time to grow
  within and reflect on our journey.

In each season of our journey,
there are good days and bad days–
Just like in the seasons, there are
cloudy days, stormy days,
and bright sunny days.

Each of the seasons has its own beauty
and “specialness”
Just like the seasons
that God’s children experience.

But his delight is in the law of the Lord, and on his law he meditates day and night.  He is like a tree planted by streams of water, which yields is fruit in season and whose leaf does not wither.  Whatever he does prospers.   –Psalm 1:2-3

See!  The winter is past; the rains are over and gone.  Flowers appear on the earth; the season of singing has come, the cooing of doves is heard in our land. The fig tree forms its early fruit; the blossoming vines spread their fragrance. Arise, come, my darling; my beautiful one, come with me. –Song of Songs 2:11-13

CRASHING DOWN

Have you ever been in a situation where it seemed you are on top of the world and everything seemed too good to be true? And then you know what comes next…Your world seems to come crashing down on you. Sometimes it just seems so unfair and you don’t know how you are going to deal with the issue at hand.

Can you think of a time when you felt like that in your life?

For me, I can think of three times in the last few years where I felt that desperation.

One example would be when I was diagnosed with Stage 0 DCIS (Ductal Carcinoma In Situ) Breast Cancer. It is the “best” stage and form to have, but at the same time, it was like a life sentence. The Breast Center seemed to still treat it as “cancer”, and even sent me all kinds of brochures on support groups, etc. To this day, I struggle with saying “I have cancer.” I think it is because it seems  that something with a Stage 0 should be insignificant.

There were a few months of torture, first waiting for tests to determine the diagnosis, then researching options, and talking with others who have had a similar issue.  That was followed by trying to decide what treatment options to pursue, seeing specialists, having one surgery, then finding out I needed a second one a week later and waiting for results.  Thankfully, things have turned out well so far, and I was spared much compared to most people. I am forever grateful for that.  In fact, to this day I wonder why the Lord would spare me, yet so many others suffer through so much more.

Every check up time, I still get nervous and anxious because you just never know if you will remain clear.  Thankfully, there are friends and family there to encourage and support me with a scripture or words of faith at those times.

I have seen friends who have lost their loved ones, had miscarriages, or  gone through so much hardship with their children. Your world crashing down on you could even be something as simple as the thought of losing a friendship over some misunderstanding.

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Photo credit NEWS OF PEACE under Creative Commons License (CC BY-2.0)

When my world comes crashing down, I know I have found that my faith gets shaken, even though I like to think it is strong. Sometimes it is hard to be strong when your world comes crashing down.

So what can we do to try to stay strong in our faith?

***Surround ourselves with faithful people who will encourage us and help lift us up.

***Listen to encouraging Christian music to help inspire us.

***Ask other Christians to pray for us.

***Read the Bible and other encouraging Christian books.

***Look for God’s blessings through the tough times.

***Remind ourselves that God is still in control and leading us even when we don’t feel it.

When we are experiencing these tough times in our lives, it is important to reach out to God and others.

Just as important is trying to be aware of when others need our compassion, listening ear, or encouragement to help them make it through difficult time. Are we there for them when they need a human touch of kindness?

“When the righteous cry for help, the Lord hears and delivers them out of all their troubles. The Lord is near to the brokenhearted and saves the crushed in spirit.  Many are the afflictions of the righteous, but the Lord delivers him out of them all.”  –Psalm 34:17-19

THE MESSAGE OF THE TREE

In the Bible, Jesus often tells us parables about animals and nature to get us to think about our human nature and our relationship with Him.  Consider a simple, big old tree—even it can speak to us about our personal relationship with Jesus Christ.

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Photo credit by Brian Yap  under Creative Commons License (BY-NC/2.0)

Envision the big, sturdy trunk of a tree—representing Jesus—the firm and solid foundation.  From the trunk grow many branches—you and me and all of us—which eventually produce many beautiful colorful leaves.  Each leaf—each of us—reflects the beauty of its source—Jesus—to all who see them.

Consider how the leaves and branches get their nutrition in order to grow more—from the roots and trunk.  As Christians, our main source—Jesus and Scripture—are our major supply of growth.  Without this life-giving supply from the roots and trunk, the branches couldn’t survive—they—we—can’t make it on our own.

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Photo by photosbyflick under Creative Commons License (BY-NC/2.0)

Once in a while, a branch or two gets out of hand a little and grows the wrong way.  When this happens, the branch may need pruning to shape it up.  Don’t we sometimes get that way too?

At times, storms may come along, shaking the branches and leaves, but they will survive if their grip is tight to the source—the trunk.  We, too, will survive the storms and trials of life if our grip is tight to our source—Jesus.  The storms will eventually pass away—and all will be calm again.

“So then, just as you received Christ Jesus as Lord, continue to live in Him, rooted and built up by Him, strengthened in the faith as you were taught, and overflowing with thankfulness.”  Colossians 2:6-7

FOLLOW YOUR HEART

Are you aware of that still, small voice deep inside of you that helps direct your path?  Do you try to listen to it and follow where it leads? The Holy Spirit is within us helping us to follow God’s leading.

I think it is important to follow your heart, that still, small voice, not necessarily what society thinks is right or correct. We might have to endure hardship because of our choices but that is better than going against where God is leading.

There was one major time in my life when after much prayer, and weighing pros & cons, I ended up following my heart rather than do what was expected. It was a difficult thing to do as I am not one to go against what is expected, but I had to follow my heart and trust God that it was the “right” decision for my life.

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Photo credit by pocketful of perspective under Creative Commons License (by-nc-nd/2.0)

Recently a conversation with a friend made me think about how I followed my heart in another life choice I made. The friend believes there was a choice in my past that was not the “correct” one.  The choice was a difficult one but one that I still stand by. In my heart, I feel it was the “right” decision for my life. Yes, it still had some repercussions but it was more important to follow God’s leading.

Can you think of some incidents in your life where you followed the Holy Spirit’s prompting? Try to be more aware of that small, still voice in your life and follow it. It is so worth the hardships you may endure for going against the norm.

Therefore, as the Holy Spirit says, “Today, if you hear his voice, do not harden your hearts as in the rebellion, on the day of testing in the wilderness.”  –Hebrews 3:7-8

GOD’S BLESSINGS IN THE ORDINARY

Isn’t it amazing to experience God’s blessings in the ordinary tasks of this life?  For me, seeing Him work daily makes my heart smile and makes His presence more real.

Recently there were two days, three separate encounters, where God truly blessed me while simply running to the store.

The first was on my usual grocery shopping day. Now, I have to admit that I have been spoiled lately as my oldest son has been accompanying me to the store. I realize what a little thing that is, but I am also discovering what a huge blessing it is at the same time. It makes life much easier to have him there to help unload the cart, even pack the groceries, and then load and unload the car once home.

Anyway, this day I was feeling a little lonely and down as I was going shopping solo.  I was kind of procrastinating and when I got to the store, I stalled a few more moments checking out social media. When I was finally ready to embrace my shopping trip alone, I got out of the car. Much to my amazement, right at that exact moment, I ran into a friend of mine who was just leaving the store.

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What are the chances that would happen? I decided to put my loneliness feelings aside and be open to my friend and take a few moments to converse. I felt terrible as I mentioned to this friend that I was feeling down and lonely. This friend lost her husband unexpectedly, at a young age, a year earlier, so I definitely felt like I put my foot in my mouth. As soon as I got in the store I texted her to apologize. I felt I needed to do that.

I believe that running into that friend was a “God-incident.” It cheered me up seeing God orchestrate our encounter. I am also hoping running into me was a blessing to my friend as well.

The other incident happened after I took my teenage son to check out a summer volunteer opportunity for him and me. We decided to go out to lunch for something different. We drove around a few times in a parking lot trying to find a parking spot to no avail.

What are the chances, that day, on my 27th wedding anniversary, that walking through the parking lot would be the music minister who played the guitar and sang at our wedding? (If I have seen her three times in the past 27 years, I would be surprised.)  I was so hoping for the opportunity to talk with her, but that did not happen as I had to go elsewhere to find a parking spot.

After our lunch I had one more errand… And, as only God could plan it, I ran into another friend who actually gifted us the musician for our wedding and was also involved in our wedding. I had the joy of sharing that story with her.

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Romans 8:28 by Sapphire Dream Photography under Creative Commons License (CC BY-NC-ND 2.0)

I am always pleasantly surprised to see God working in my life and showing His presence through such simple, ordinary ways.

What are some ways you have seen God working in your life?  Our God is an awesome God!

“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

ACCOUNTABILITY

In this world of ours, I think an important thing to remember is that our life is accountable to God and God alone.  The people that we become and the things we do should be based on our relationship with God.  We are only responsible for our own actions, and we need to make sure our heart is right.

I think it is a good thing to keep in mind daily that what others may think about a decision or choice we make does not matter. Other’s opinion of us should not influence our choice.  What God thinks is what should determine the direction we take.

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crossroads by Lori Greig under Creative Commons License
(CC BY-NC-ND 2.0)

Reading the Bible, studying teachings, and praying are different ways to know what God wants from us. Sometimes seeking Godly counsel is the path we need to follow to help us along the way.

For those of us with children, it is easy for us to slip into thinking that if our children’s decisions or choices are not the ones that we would make, that it is a reflection of us.   We need to realize our children become responsible for themselves as they mature.  We try our best to lay the best foundation we can, and then it is up to them how they ultimately live their life. Not having that control is hard for many of us. I need to continually remind myself that I tried my best and that the rest is up to the Lord. As a friend once told me, the Lord deals with each of us in our own way in His own time.

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Holy Bible by maf04   under Creative Commons License (CC BY-SA/2.0)

So, remember to base your decisions and live your life by being accountable to God and God alone. And, you are only ultimately responsible for yourself.

But the Lord said to Samuel, “Do not consider his appearance or his height, for I have rejected him.  The Lord does not look at the things man looks at.  Man looks at the outward appearance, but the Lord looks at the heart.”  –1 Samuel 16:7