Wednesday, June 26, 2019

Expectations



"Boast not thyself of to morrow; for thou knowest not what a day may bring forth." Proverbs 27:1

You were waiting for this big event. It was going to change your life. Counting down to the big day was like watching paint dry. The moment you’d been waiting for finally arrived. But wait…it wasn't so special after all. What happened?

You expected it to be better than that. Expectations are such a plague.

My expectations are a Me-Problem. Your expectations are a You-Problem.

You waited for your wedding day and when it finally arrived, you soon discovered that weddings come with marriages attached. Marriages are a work of heart.

You waited to have a baby and then you finally gave birth to the most demanding little boss you’ve ever met. Parenting is a work of heart.

You expected more of that person, but they disappointed you. Relationships are a workout for the heart.

Expectations magnify events to epic proportions. No wonder they fail to please us. 

When we're waiting for any change in life, it usually comes with a vision in our minds of how life will be once our expectations are met. Visions hold hands with expectations, skipping into our lives looking so ideal, and then reality shows up.

God waits for us to get this: He doesn’t want us looking at tomorrow on the calendar with longing in our hearts. He also doesn't want us stuck in the past. He wants us to live the moments He grants us. Why are we squandering today’s moments on the yesterday we no longer possess or the tomorrow that has yet to come?

Our expectations are in constant combat with reality. It is very rare that the things we’re expecting live up to our imaginations. What can we do with our tendency to live in a state of continuous waiting for people, places, and things to live up to our dreams?

We can take all expectations to God and leave them as prayer requests. When we transform an expectation into a request, we can detach from it. Our demanding expectations do not have to rule us. We can unplug the power of expectations by passing them to the Lord and leaving them there.

Expectation is not a bad word. It's actually biblical, when it comes in the form of hope rather than a demand. If we're pouting because something didn't go the way we wanted, that is demanding expectation. When we're able to sincerely pray, "Lord, your will be done," that is hopeful expectation. Prayer transforms demanding expectations into hopeful expectations. 

Hopeful expectations are never followed by adult temper tantrums because whatever happens, we have already accepted that God is doing what is best for our lives. Abandon the demanding expectations. Trade them for hope.
"And now, Lord, what wait I for? my hope is in thee." Psalm 39:7
Francie Taylor


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Saturday, April 6, 2019

The Not Yets


We pray. We wait.

We repeat.

We pray. We wait.

We repeat...

What's on your waiting list of prayers? I call this my list of Not Yets. 

The waiting period of prayer is labor, and this labor builds strength. We may think that we would prefer to just have our answers without the strength-training, but God loves us too much to give us whatever we want. 

It is possible for an adult to be just as spoiled as a toddler.

Parents know what happens when they let toddlers have their way. It's chaos and crabbiness. We are grown up toddlers if we are only happy when things are going our way. Waiting and praying through some very uncomfortable situations is "wait training" at its best. We wait. We grow. We learn how to patiently endure, and then the next waiting period doesn't seem as hard.

"Wait on the LORD: be of good courage, and he shall strengthen thine heart: wait, I say, on the LORD." (Psalm 27:14)

The list of Not Yets is often filled with people and circumstances that matter to us most. We are not taking these prayer requests lightly, and have often soaked a pillow with tears while praying...and waiting. We know that God answers prayer in the manner and timing that He deems best, and we realize that can't rush Him. It's just challenging to wait for answers to things that weigh so heavily on our hearts. 

God is building our strength along with good courage while we pray and wait. We may imagine that it would be easier to just put in a prayer request by 10 a.m. and have the answer by 4 p.m., but having our answers on demand would train us to expect life to be easy. Life is not an endless series of easy paths. Extended times of prayer are also extended times spent with God. We want a stronger relationship with God, so we need to learn to accept that sometimes that depth is developed in the dark and needy times.

What about those times when the answer seems to be "no"? It may actually be a different "yes." When I was praying for my husband Norman to be healed from cancer, I really meant this: "Dear Lord, please heal my Norman and spare his life." God's answer was to heal my Norman by taking him where there is no cancer. A very different yes.

God hears and answers prayer repeatedly. We don't know how or when our particular answer will come, but we have not been forgotten. Until we have an answer, the best position is keep our sins confessed, keep our attitudes right, and trust God. He knows what He is doing, as well as when He will do it and why.

Keep praying. He hears you. And for loving reasons that only He knows, the answer right now is not yet. Pray on.

"Hear, O LORD, when I cry with my voice: have mercy also upon me, and answer me." (Psalm 27:7)



Saturday, December 22, 2018

People Are Gifts

Tribe of Taylor--June 2018
On the first day of Christmas break I went to the car wash. At the end of the process where the attendant wipes down the car, I rolled down my window and said, "Merry Christmas! Here's an invitation to a beautiful Christmas service if you and your family would be interested." And of course, there was a generous tip sticking up out of the tract-invitation. The attendant smiled and said, "Thank you very much, ma'am!" And that was the beginning of Christmas vacation. People are gifts.

I was up until 11:00pm on December 21st doing the gift-wrapping while music played. Norman used to be summoned to the dining room to help me with this task. Now I am learning to do it without his help, but I still have the funny memories of watching him wad up the ends of the wrapping paper in his signature "Norman H. Taylor" style. He used a lot of tape on the ends of those wads. The English language fails to describe how much I miss my Norman, but I can finally smile and even chuckle at some of the memories from our family traditions. Good memories are gifts.

And speaking of gifts, every year I say the same thing: "Next year I'm shopping early."

And every year I'm in the stores with the mobs a few days before Christmas. Usually, my sister Janelle and I are shopping together, failing to change our ways and laughing about it as we shop the picked-over stores. 

Don't try to give me any ideas on how to improve this area. I'll admit the truth: I rather like the mobs. And it totally tickles me to shop with my sis. We pick out our gifts for each other right there in TJ Maxx.

"What do you want?" Janelle asks as we run into each other again.

"More flatware to handle all the dinner fellowships I'm hosting," I say. She plunks it into her cart.

"What do you want?" I ask Janelle.

She drops blouse into my cart, and then we head back into the fray. When all the shopping is done, we find her husband, my bro-in-love Dennis and take the poor bedraggled man to dinner. Some men love shopping. Others hate it. Many just endure it. Dennis endures.

This will be our first family Christmas in Florida, and I am grateful for God's gifts to our family:

The gift of Christ.
"Thanks be unto God for his unspeakable gift." (2 Corinthians 9:15)

The gift of family.
"God setteth the solitary in families..." (Psalm 68:6)

The gift of continued healing from deep grief.
"He healeth the broken in heart, and bindeth up their wounds." (Psalm 147:3 KJV)

The gift of grace and peace.
"Grace be unto you, and peace, from God our Father, and from the Lord Jesus Christ." (1 Corinthians 1:3)

God also gave me the gift of my oldest Austen son and his lovely wife Jessica as neighbors here in Pensacola. They live a mere 15 minutes from what we now call "the Florida family home," and I can have popcorn and old movie night with them whenever we want.

Daughter Hillary and youngest son Collin are flying in from Minnesota for their Florida home Christmas. My sis Janelle and bro-in-love Dennis are already in town. Nephew Joshua arrives soon as well, and then we'll begin the new tradition of Christmas in Florida.

Home in Minnesota was cold and snowy. Home in Florida is still brisk in December, but sunny and tame enough to grow cold weather crops like collards and lettuces. We are learning a new normal, and God is giving us the grace to do it.

Time spent together is a gift.

Cherish your loved ones now, because you don't know if you'll have them by next Christmas. 

Christ gave Himself as a redemptive gift to humankind, and then blessed us with our families and friends. Love them all abundantly, and don't let anything get in the way of that love.

I had to resist the urge to text my adult children this morning to see if they were at their airport gate. I didn't want to be a Smother Mother, but it was hard to wait for news that they had made it through security at Minneapolis-St. Paul airport, which looks a lot like the Minnesota State Fair.

"Don't text them. Quit being so impatient," I told myself. 

And then Collin texted on behalf of both: 

"We're at our gate!"

People are gifts.

Christmas blessings to you and your family. 

"For unto us a child is born, unto us a son is given: and the government shall be upon his shoulder: and his name shall be called Wonderful, Counsellor, The mighty God, The everlasting Father, The Prince of Peace." 
(Isaiah 9:6)

If you have questions about life after this side of Heaven:

Francie Taylor
Founder of Keep the Heart


Saturday, September 1, 2018

not so COURAGEOUS




If I had ten dollars for every time someone commented on how "courageous" I was for handling the changes I've experienced in this past year, I could buy a year's supply of Dunn Bros coffee beans.

Truth: I am not so courageous, and neither are most people. "Press on" is an operating system, not a character quality.

Fact: Numbness resembles courage, and allows people to do things as if they were robots. 

Courage is a real thing, but if I've had any courage this past year, God graciously flooded me with it to complete the next task. 

And the next.

Like deciding whether or not to move. And then deciding to say "yes" to the move, which resulted in a sold home. And then teaching a conference in Texas, flying to Minnesota, sleeping in my Minnesota home for one last time and then boarding a flight to Florida all within days.

Days. Saturday night I was flying from Texas to Minnesota. Sunday night I was saying "farewell" to a church family I've known and loved for decades. Monday morning, the moving truck backed into the driveway, put barcode stickers on everything and emptied the house. Tuesday morning, I was flying from Minnesota to Florida.

Delta ticket agent: "Where are you flying today, Mrs. Taylor?"

My reply: "Pensacola, Florida."

Delta ticket agent: "Vacation?" 

My reply: "Relocation." 

When the rececption team in the Delta Sky Club found out that I was relocating (they knew me well), they signed a card and gave me a gift before I left. Their kindness brought the tears I had managed to hold back at the ticket counter.

Courageous?

Robotic. Go. Move. Do. Again. But God does grant courage, and then He tells us to own it. He provides it, but we can choose whether or not we're going to grow into it. 

To "be of good courage" takes action on our part. It literally means "grow strong." And when we allow courage to take root and grow, it strengthens us. But we will need more. Life takes a steady supply of courage.

When things change in a way that you can't undo, courage is a form of life support.

No one signs up for an exclusive membership to the Adversity Club. It's an auto-enrollment. And when it's your turn for a special delivery, the surprise event is on your doorstep, free shipping and no returns.

And that's when we need the kind of courage that comes from God. Courage is better than bravery alone. Bravery is too much about us. Courage is about trusting God for strength we do not possess.

"Have not I commanded thee? Be strong and of a good courage; be not afraid, neither be thou dismayed: for the LORD thy God is with thee whithersoever thou goest." (Joshua 1:9)

God went with Joshua into battle, and He is with me in Florida.

"Wait on the LORD: be of good courage, and he shall strengthen thine heart: wait, I say, on the LORD." (Psalm 27:14)

Never assume that people are as courageous as they seem to be. It is possible to hide a mountain of fears behind a smiling countenance. Courage is not automatic, but God says to be of good courage, so I'm asking Him to teach me how to be of good courage, and He will also strengthen my heart in the process. 

He has an unlimited supply of courage, and we all need it. Especially if you look like you're so courageous when you're really not.
 

"Be of good courage, and he shall strengthen your heart, all ye that hope in the LORD." (Psalm 31:24)


Francie Taylor

Monday, April 30, 2018

Moving is Not for Whiners

When I woke up for the first time in my new town, I said to myself,
"Where am I?"

Now mind you, this is not really a new thought for me, as I often wake up in conference hotels and wonder which state I'm in (other than the state of confusion). But now, I was really wondering about this strange bedroom with the lovely little armchair next to the closet. I didn't recognize a thing in the room, and that's when I remembered...

...I've moved.

Sold in 36 hours
My new hometown doesn't feel at all like home, but I will give it time. It took months of prayer for the Lord to lead me to even consider moving, which eventually led to a position as editor for the Joyful Life Sunday school curriculum at Abeka Books in Pensacola, Florida. Decision day was January 31, 2018.

And then a whirlwind.

And then a huge moving truck.

And then I boarded a flight because in the process of planning this move, I had forgotten all about my car. (Who forgets about their car?) Thank the Lord for my Pastor David Clear and his wife, my sister friend Valerie, as they bailed me out by driving my car from Minnesnowtah to Florida, where we all enjoyed dinner together on my first night in town. Friends sometimes have to double as "keepers." I have some of the very best friends on the planet.

The time between January 31st and moving day on March 27th was a blur that I can only recall in part, as the focus on moving was intense and felt like being on a bullet train! Oh me of little faith, I was quite certain that my older home would not sell in a market surrounded by newer homes. My next door neighbor Andrea was also my real estate agent, and she had complete confidence that my home would sell and sell FAST. She put her head together with my sister friend Vikki, who specializes in staging homes, and before I knew it, my home looked like a model and I was getting nervous.

"I'd better speed up the packing," I thought to myself after returning from a conference and seeing the results of Vikki's home staging. I didn't recognize my own home! And I loved it, so now I was thinking that maybe Andrea was right: this home would sell. Oh oh.

I never had a second thought about my decision to move to Pensacola, but I have had moments of high-level stress, like the moment I heard that the house had sold...a mere 36 hours after going on the market! Stress causes the thinking to stray into the panic zone. Thankfully, we can take our thoughts to the Lord and He knows how to settle us down. "Casting down imaginations, and every high thing that exalteth itself against the knowledge of God, and bringing into captivity every thought to the obedience of Christ..." (2 Corinthians 10:5) I needed my imagination to stop running wild and start walking through the process of selling a home and moving across the country. So, I took my fearful thoughts "captive" and turned them over to the Lord. He replaced my panic with peace.

Moving is not for wimps or whiners. It is HARD WORK, and it doesn't end quickly. I wish it could be like dry cleaning: in by 10 and out by 4, but it's more like birthing a child without pain meds! I don't know what course my life would have taken if my Norman had lived longer, but I do know that he and I both greatly loved Florida, so my best guess is that he would have approved of this move and would have been packing boxes way faster than his pokey wife. 

June 2017
Pensacola is growing on me. I love the Campus Church, the ministry of Pensacola Christian College, and the people. And it is no secret how much I love "sea shells by the sea shore," so living this close to the Emerald Coast is no hardship. This move will be good for me, but I do not have a mistaken notion that this will ease or speed up the grieving process. I know better.

I was blinking rapidly to hold back tears as I walked into the church auditorium recently. Here I was, surrounded by over 6,000 people and yet I felt so very alone. I even had a family that invited me to sit with them and have lunch with them after church and yet, I felt so very alone. Only God will be able to heal this broken heart. "He healeth the broken in heart, and bindeth up their wounds." (Psalm 147:3) I don't lack the presence of people. I lack the presence of my Norman, and he is irreplaceable. That knowledge doesn't trouble me. I will forever be grateful for the years we had together. Sometimes the memories bring tears, but at other times, I see his big smile on the movie screen of my mind and it comforts me. Everyone that knew my Norman loved that trademark smile.
My life feels like this at times

Keep the Heart will continue with a focus on books and Bible studies, as previously planned. I will also continue to teach at ladies' conferences around the country, although I have trimmed the schedule to allow me to do my best in both roles. I would greatly appreciate your prayers as I learn the ropes as the new editor of Joyful Life while continuing as Founder of Keep the Heart. I am now in double-full-time Christian ministry. 

I guess that means I'm a double-delivery-girl.

"Man's goings are of the LORD; how can a man then understand his own way?" (Proverbs 20:24)



Saturday, January 13, 2018

Wait-Hate




Sitting at what I was sure was the world's longest left-turn signal, I suddenly realized that I was being impatient for no good reason. After all, I was only waiting to turn left and then right...into the gas station. Not exactly like being late for an important date!

Wait hate. Many of us struggle with it, and the impatience is making life unnecessarily miserable.

Why do we hate to wait? I have some theories and good guesses, but it is possible that one of the biggest reasons why we can't even tolerate driving in a lane with a slow car in front of us is because we've been trained by our culture to expect everything instantly. Have you ever been "that person," driving and yelling "Move over, Pokey Joe!" even though your windows were closed and that other driver couldn't hear you?

Tap. Swipe. Send. 

Wait-Hate is learned, and this impatience is very costly. Instead of praying and allowing God time to provide direction and confirmation, we mentally tap-swipe-send our prayer texts, and then we rush into our own plans, wondering why we feel so unsettled and unstable.

Here's a tough but necessary lesson to learn: we may think we know what's right and best, but God knows for certain, and He even knows our motives. "There is a way which seemeth right unto a man, but the end thereof are the ways of death." (Proverbs 14:12) The word "death" in this verse also refers to "ruin," which is not a happy ending. I've never met anyone that said, "My goal is to ruin my life."

But when we fail to slow down long enough to pray and process decisions with careful consideration, the end result of haste is often painful at best, destructive at worst. Hasty decisions usually come with the hefty price tag of cleaning up the mess that we've made.

Do you have a big decision that you need to make? Join the club. Most of us have big decisions we're facing in a rotation. In fact, having a season in life when no big decisions are pending is like a mini-vacation. Most of the year is filled with the demands of choices, but occasionally, things are quiet and we're simply trying to decide if we want decaf or regular coffee. Ha. So very rare. (And I'll take regular with cream and maple syrup, thank you).

I'm writing this as I sit at the crossroads of several life-changing decisions, so in reality, you are reading a blog that I've written to myself. Waiting for a green light...

"Wait on the LORD: be of good courage, and he shall strengthen thine heart: wait, I say, on the LORD." (Psalm 27:14)

Waiting is more than tap-swipe-send. Waiting is patiently tarrying for God's answer. Pause. Pray. Wait.

"A man's heart deviseth his way: but the LORD directeth his steps." (Proverbs 16:9)

www.keeptheheart.com



Photos by Taniya's Photography.

Tuesday, December 19, 2017

What a Year

Our ministry has two churches in one building: English and Spanish. Pastor David Anaya is the pastor of Primera Iglesia Bautista (First Baptist Spanish Church), and I passed him in the foyer the other day. He asked the general question that we all commonly repeat: "How are you?"

The only difference is that he asked me in Spanish, because he knows I'll answer in Spanish (my second language). 

"Hola Hermana Taylor ¿Como  estas?"

Pregnant pause...

At this point, Pastor Anaya, who is also bilingual, switched to English and said, "Oh oh. You took longer than six seconds to answer that..."

My mind was fishing for the Spanish word. I hate when I draw blanks, but a lack of practice causes me to forget words that I would easily know if I would just speak Spanish more often. Fishing...fishing...

"Estoy aprendiendo."

Probably not a perfect sentence (a fragment), but in English it means "I am learning."

Pastor accepted my reply with comprehension and didn't ask any questions. I like it when people don't probe too deeply. In an effort to "say something," it's so easy to say too much. And besides, even if asked, there are some things that I will never share with anyone but God. People can't handle the God-sized burdens anyway. We weren't meant to carry God's cargo.

What a year!

I have learned and am learning, and will continue to learn. And it's not all gloomy, even though some may think that all I can talk about is grieving. Three months into this transition, here are some things I've learned:

1. I have learned that people want to see me smile again. So, I smile for the benefit of others. The "merry heart" mentioned in Scripture is not solely for us. It's medicine for others. "A merry heart doeth good like a medicine: but a broken spirit drieth the bones." (Proverbs 17:22) But there are times when the Lord brings a smile to my face that doesn't need prompting. Like the time I looked outside and the snow was falling in those huge flakes that are the size of quarters. That makes my high-beam smile turn on automatically as I stand at the window, delighted like a child.

Tranquil beauty
2. I have learned that there is still beauty in this world. When I was in Israel with our church group in October (a very brave adventure for a new widow), I often saw things that made me stop in my tracks to capture the scene with my camera. And then I would think to myself, "God wanted me to see that," inspiring a spirit of worship. "Give unto the LORD the glory due unto his name; worship the LORD in the beauty of holiness." (Psalm 29:2)

3. I have learned that death pays no attention to the calendar. A friend's Mom recently passed away and I had this thought: "This is too close to Christmas." But God numbers our days, and He decides when our time on Earth is complete. The fact that houses have lights dripping from them and Christmas music is blaring in every store means nothing to the calendar of God. We see things differently than God sees, and that will always be so. "So teach us to number our days, that we may apply our hearts unto wisdom." (Psalm 90:12)

Be still
4. I have learned that solitude is highly underrated. For the first time in my adult life, I am leaving white space generously on my schedule. There are some days when the Lord wants me to just be still and know that He is God. "Be still, and know that I am God: I will be exalted among the heathen, I will be exalted in the earth." (Psalm 46:10) Do we understand what that means? The Strong's concordance has a list of meanings for the phrase "be still," and here is just a portion: "to sink down, relax, withdraw..." When I "sink down"  and allow myself to "relax and withdraw" for just a season, I can be still in my soul to perceive and acknowledge the presence of God. It's not just a matter of being still in our physical bodies. Our souls need a stillness or we'll wear ourselves out. God knows this, but we have to learn it.

5. I have learned that fear is like boxing with a shadow. My new habit when my soul gets rackety is to stop and ask myself, "What is bothering you?" If I don't address the issue, it brings a floating sense of fear, draining valuable energy. When we don't have time to think, we'll have to make time to fret. Trusting God with our "what ifs" beats fretting any day. "What time I am afraid, I will trust in thee." (Psalm 56:3)

No words
What a year. If you had asked me in December 2016 to "predict" the outcome of 2017, I would never have come up with this ending. But this chapter of the story was written by God in advance, so He knew. And He knows what's next.

The blog will be on break while we do some remodeling of Keep the Heart. Thank you for following this blog for the past five years. I know that many of you will pray with me as I ask the Lord to "establish my thoughts" for the coming days. God bless your Christmas and your New Year with grace and peace.

"Grace be with you, mercy, and peace, from God the Father, and from the Lord Jesus Christ, the Son of the Father, in truth and love." (2 John 1:3)


Francie Taylor, Founder of Keep the Heart 






Expectations

"Boast not thyself of to morrow; for thou knowest not what a day may bring forth."  Proverbs 27:1 You were waiting for thi...