The day I finally made it from Salamanca to Barcelona after spending 12 hours overnighting on a bus, I was met with a storm. This was just fine with me as I absolutely love storm clouds. Storm clouds plus a choppy ocean, feisty waves, salty wind, and warm sand in my toes...ah, a piece of heaven.
And then there were the sunny skies of Valencia down the eastern coast of Spain and the beauty of windy city, "Little Venice" or Aveiro, Portugal, on the opposite side of the peninsula. This part of Europe attracts millions of tourists each year to its stunning beaches and enticing climate.
“The ocean is a mighty harmonist.”
One of my favorite Bible events involves a shipwreck. In Acts 27, we read about the treacherous voyage from Myra in Lycia (Turkey) to Rome, Italy, in which the Apostle Paul was held as prisoner to await to be heard before Caesar. There were 276 people aboard ship to include sailors, prisoners, the centurion, as well as the captain and the pilot. The description of the voyage offers a vivid picture of how we may also face "storms" in our lives.
"The next day as we were being violently storm-tossed, they [presumably sailors under the authority of the pilot/captain and the majority on board] began to jettison the cargo; and on the third day they threw the ship’s tackle overboard with their own hands. Since neither sun nor stars appeared for many days, and no small storm was assailing us, from then on all hope of our being saved was gradually abandoned" (vv. 18-20).
The storm raged violently against them for two more weeks. Eventually, the ship struck a reef near land; everyone jumped overboard and safely made it to the beach by swimming or clinging to planks or other items from the ship.
There are some things
you learn best in calm,
and some in storm.
In this account, Paul remained full of hope and stood strongly on the vision he had received from an angel of God that all would be saved. During the trial, they were throwing a lot of things overboard to lighten their load -- at one point they even cut the ropes to the life boat. They felt desperate.
I've heard it said that true inner peace is not situational. Nor is it based on surroundings or the events going on. Many of us "abandon hope" during especially violent storms, but indeed that may be the first step toward ultimate surrender and dependency on God's authority and truth.
Are you in a storm at present? Are you exhausted physically, mentally, and spiritually?
If so, can you jettison your fear overboard? Can you let all your "props" in life fall to the wayside? Can you ask God to help you to put your hope directly in Him and Him alone? Can you muster the courage and wherewithal to express gratitude to God for something? Try to eat a little bit to find strength and stamina. Be encouraged. Trust Him, perhaps like never before. Be the witness of His goodness.
the beach is just ahead.
God will lead you there.
Please shoot me an email about how you have or are weathering the storms of life. I would love to hear form you! Or please like my Start with a Grateful Heart page on Facebook and find me on Instagram where I post many pics of beautiful Midway, Ky., as well as the daring, 5 pound doggie named Rico the MorKY.
Several years ago, I started the tradition of choosing an item to photograph when I visit another country. It's really fun to do as it takes me on a scavenger hunt of sorts and gives me a travel theme to ponder during my sojourn.
When I went to Spain this summer, I had chosen to snap pictures of doors.
I found doors made of wood, wrought iron, and glass in untold shapes and sizes. Some "gates" stood majestic, stately, and positively gargantuan. On one cathedral, I even snapped a pic of doors (they looked like flaps) carved out of a larger door that probably was seldom opened. Other entrances appeared much smaller, unassuming, even rickety.
A few doors boasted ancient fixtures, such as golden knobs, handles, and hinges. Maybe the door was paneled, had intricate carvings, or multiple pegs, bolts, heavy bars, numeric indicators, kick plates. Some doors displayed graffiti from our modern day era.
What do doors represent or symbolize to you?
Perhaps they denote possible choices we are faced with, a means to communicate (or not), as well as conduits to something new or different in our lives.
The first thought for many folks is that doors represent possible choices that we are facing. These gateways exemplify options, decisions we are to make, and selections (think of "The Lady, or the Tiger" and even the popular game show "Let's Make a Deal").
Doors mark a distinct point between "here" and "there." They are the conjunctions that serve as pivoting or connecting points between what was, what is, and what will be.
Doors may represent a place where folks communicate and take care of business. When you hear the rap on the door, you know that someone has a question, someone needs you, someone wants to sell something or share something. If you open the door, there will be something to discuss during the exchange.
Spiritually, when the heart's door is open, one desires to commune with God--God is welcome to enter there amidst tears and prayers. Open heart doors are verbal expressways for repentance.
‘Behold, I stand at the door and knock;
Doors are passageways, thresholds from one place to another. They are channels that lead us from "here" to "there."
We may need to boldly step forward and not look back. Sometimes we stand at the threshold, perhaps paralyzed by fear and uncertainty. Maybe we keep looking back, ever so hesitant to take that first step toward change or a new season of our lives.
THE 3 P's for Making a WISE DECISION
If you really do not know which decision to make, if you're feeling conflicted, postpone making the decision. You may be feeling the "heat" around you, but it is better to delay the decision if at all possible. Choose to wait. You certainly want some degree of peace and assurance as you move forward. Buy some time. Ask yourself:
Prepare yourself to make a calculated, informed decision. Pray. Seek counsel. Make pros/cons list. Research. Remember: the "heart" can be quite selfish and self-focused. Often, we want the quick way out or the path of least resistance. Choose to be a brave, sacrificial hero instead. Chuck the fear. Take the hard way. Be sure to ask yourself:
Project yourself into the future. Consider possible consequences and your core values, your growing faith. Imagine yourself wiser and more mature. Good decisions produce good consequences. Bad decisions bring bad ones. Ask yourself:
ARE YOU A FOLLOWER?
Social media aside, it might be helpful to square this decision out right now--you know, the Decision of all decisions, the decision between life and death.
In many decisions we have to make on this earth, we may feel pressure to decide. This ultimate decision, however, comes with no pressure, no demands, no twisting of the arm. God is the ultimate gentleman. He invites; He does not impose.
Jesus unabashedly declares in John 10: 7 and 9: "Truly, truly, I say to you, I am the door of the sheep....I am the door; if anyone enters through Me, he will be saved, and will go in and out and find pasture." Christ is the Door by which you can pass to find "food" or "supplies for true life." You will encounter moral instruction especially precepts about love.
Christ, the Divine Door, represents the conjunction, communication and transition all in one. We come face to face with Him. We talk to Him, and then we experience the privileges of walking with Him, learning how to live properly and understanding how to love. We are ushered into eternal life.
Where are you, dear reader, in this journey? Do you recognize the Divine Door as the pivot point? Is your heart keen on hearing the knock? Do you dare open and walk through?
If you'd like more information about this type of decision, please send me a DM via Facebook or through email. I would be thrilled to share my own testimony with you.
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I gasped in awe, positively spell-bound, stuck in my tracks. For a brief moment, I closed my eyes, breathed deeply of the antiquity that surrounded me, felt the weight of silence close down upon me. Is this real?
Palacio Real, Madrid, España
This moment of awe-struck wonder occurred in the Royal Palace throne room. I was positively giddy. I've been in a few ancient buildings, but standing in the king of Spain's throne room arrested my heart big time!
Indeed the palace itself took my breath away! It houses over 3000 rooms including a stunning area of the basement that displays armory and weapons dating back to the 1200s. From the decorative walls and ceilings of the palace, the various art collections and artifacts, the nooks and crannies, the untold doors and its sheer size alone, this royal palace is nothing short of spectacular in every historical sense.
Love and faithfulness keep a king safe;
through love his throne is made secure.
But I want to get right to the point. While I stood in that throne room of the Royal Palace in Madrid, Spain, I kept thinking over and over how--in a spiritual sense--I have access to the very Throne Room of the King of all kings.
This is an amazing truth! This royal standing boasts royal privileges that have been passed down from generation to generation. I asked myself, "Do you take advantage of these honors? Do you really know what this means, Victoria?"
Do you remember how reluctant God was to give His people a real-life king? The human heart craves, and unfortunately, for most of us, practically any "king" will do.
I've a confession. Keeping God seated on the throne of my heart is a tug-of-war battle for me. If I am not careful, I find myself bending my knee to idols, such as selfishness, pride, and fear. And, boy, do I pay them allegiance and attention. They are in near constant battle to take their seat, and they beckon me to come near and bow down.
I lose sight of the fact that I have royal blood flowing through my spiritual veins.
It is not uncommon for me to make a plan, a very good plan, and then to execute it. I don't even ask God what He thinks. My own morality sits on the throne. I do what I think is right. In this way, I keep God in my debt.
Let that sink in.
Do you expect God to do great things for you because of the great things you have done for Him? This is idolatry.
We are the ones who are indebted to God. He made the ultimate sacrifice on your behalf and on mine.
He was a King all right, but He came as a Lamb.
For the Lamb at the center of the throne
will be their shepherd;
‘he will lead them to springs of living water.'
‘And God will wipe away every tear from their eyes.
Biblically, God's enduring and eternal throne is associated with justice, righteousness, judgment, love, faithfulness, sovereign power, dignity, majesty, glory, and victory. Around this throne is where I want to operate and do life business.
I want to make daily decisions here, get advice here, and pour out my concerns here.
Let's take the Biblical example of Esther--how did she approach her king (8:3-5)?
She fell at his feet, weeping, with three desires:
These are the very privileges we have as Christians before the throne of God.
Let us then approach God's throne of grace
with confidence, so that we may receive mercy
and find grace to help us in our time of need.
It is an amazing thought to realize that you and I, Christian, have direct, instant access to our Creator.
We don't have to pay to be admitted to see Him. We don't have to wait in line to get to His throne. We don't have to be handed a scepter to speak to Him. There is no camera on us and no security guard impeding our path and watching our every move.
We only need to step toward Him. We draw near to Him. We confess our transgressions, asking for His mercy and grace. And, He, our Royal Heavenly Father, extends to us His great love. This love flows directly from His heart and is Living Water to our very soul and being.
We will find that He is pleased with us. He favors us. He will guide us in every decision we make.
But you are A CHOSEN RACE,
A royal PRIESTHOOD,
A HOLY NATION,
A PEOPLE FOR God’s OWN POSSESSION,
so that you may proclaim the excellencies
of Him who has called you
out of darkness into His marvelous light;
1 Pet. 2:9
Reader, is God the King of your heart? And if He is, does your life bear witness to your royal lineage? In other words, what does it mean to you that you, Christian, have a royal heritage? How does it make a difference in the day-to-day of your life?
Please post your comment below. It would mean the world to me if you would share this great news on social media as well. :)
I've heard it said that if you want to gain a few pounds, visit Spain.
It's true! Spain is a Culinary King and Queen's delight!
[Confession: I am not a "foodie" by any measure of the word--in all frankness, I really don't enjoy fine food. I am such a cereal or bowl of popcorn kinda gal. But that's besides the point....]
Needless to say, I was indeed on a food mission when I went to Spain this summer. I was positively determined to take a big bite out of all the wonderful dishes I had read about for so long. And I must say that my mission to eat was the ultimate Success!
1) churros con chocolate (kinda like long warm donuts with hot chocolate for dipping): check!
2) paella de Valencia (shellfish and rice dish): check!
3) la tortilla española (Spanish "omelette" with potato): check!
4) jugo de naranja (freshly squeezed orange juice): check!
5) flan (kinda like a cold eggy custard): check!
6) tapas/pinchos (small appetizers): check!
7) jamón ibérico (Iberian ham): check!
8) banana de las Islas Canarias (Canary Island bananas have intense flavor!): check!
9) lots of aceite de oliva (olive, olive, and more olive oil): check!
10) queso manchego (goat cheese from Manchego region): check!
11) almendras (all things almond): check!
12) mariscos y pescados (all kinds of fish and shellfish): check!
13) gazpacho (cold tomato soup): check!
My #1 favorite item hands-down?
Churros con chocolate. I slipped into the famous MERCADO DE SAN MIGUEL en Madrid to try them.
They were amazingly delicious, warm, sweet, and quite filling when you eat the entire serving. Smack. Smack.
Coming in at #2 for me:
Marzipan from Toledo........do you see my tendency for sugar here? I love almonds and this fresh almond paste certainly delivered a scrumptious punch!
Piping hot roasted corn on the cob, slathered in olive oil and lightly salted -- available on the beach in Valencia.
I also really enjoyed the espresso coffee that was commonly served; although when I was handed my first cup, I looked at the server and kindly said, "Sir, I will take 5 of those, please."
Oh, America! Our serving sizes are astronomically super-sized, to be sure. There really are very few heavy weight folks in Spain that I observed despite all of this tasty food; this is quite likely because folks walk so very much as a part of their daily routine. Plus their Mediterranean diet is also so healthy, I've heard!
CONCLUSION ON MY FOOD MISSION: 5 Stars!
I'm not sure about you, but sometimes here in the US, I struggle to find time to "sit a spell," as we say in Kentucky. For one thing, I don't want to overstay my welcome, and second, I've got a list of things to do waiting for me at home.
Spaniards, on the other hand, really do it right. They are a culture that values the importance of connection--real and meaningful eye-to-eye connection. They freely invest time and energy into the lives of others. They even have a special tradition called "sobremesa" where they linger after a meal just to chat. It's no wonder that many people want to live in Spain where life seems to slow down a bit. I saw and experienced the "sit a spell" practice. Folks lingered hours, and they enjoyed it!
To my knowledge, Spain ranks pretty high in the "most chilled nations" report. Of course, there is the siesta tradition which helps them to escape the heat and relax a bit as well.
Here in the US, we are connected all right, but sadly a good portion of our engagement is with our phones--I'm guilty, too :/
Have I told you how just a few years ago, when I walked into my classrooms on university campuses, I would have to hush the students who were happily yapping, chatting, and laughing with their classmates in order to get the class started on time. Nowadays, I walk in to face complete and utter silence which remains until I say, "Tuck your phones away. Let's get started."
In the photos above, meet some of my new Spanish and Anglo friends from the Diverbo program.
Spain is intentional about creating lingering spaces. Outdoor cafes and cozy meeting spots on nearly every narrow, cobble stoned street and in the plazas invite passersby to pull up a chair. Flowers, stunning landscapes, and vistas set the peaceful and magnificent backdrop.
Even with the throng of folks meandering in the ancient plazas and the sounds of city life, I had to pinch myself to see if I was dreaming as I sat surrounded by the historic buildings and structures. What?! I am having a Coke Zero right here in the Plaza Mayor in Madrid? ! This cannot be!
What exactly is the art to lingering? How can we develop this practice in 3 easy steps?
1. Be determined to slow your life down just a bit. Set time in your day to connect face-to-face with someone important to you. This can be over coffee, soda, or a meal, while exercising, exploring, crafting, you name it! It might be a group outing or a more intimate one-on-one. And if distance separates you, use video chat or simply schedule a weekly call. Doesn't matter. Just decide to connect!
2. Be prepared to engage both receptive and productive communicative skills--or put simply: be ready to listen and talk. This is how you will really get to know someone and how they will know you!
3. Make this a daily or weekly priority. You're thinking: Wait. There's nooooo way.... The truth is people do what they want to do. They spend time doing what they value. It's really simple. Here's a challenge: Track your time for one week to see if there is any wiggle room in your schedule--you might just be surprised!
The benefits of consistently connecting with other humans is off-the-chart incredible to your soul! Essentially, you are building a safety net in your life! You are developing purpose and extending all these advantages to others at the same time! It's quite rewarding and will bring joy into your life!
Of course, we can apply the art of lingering to our relationship with God. Your "joy factor" in life may be directly correlated to the time you spend with the Creator of the universe.
Sadly there are seasons of my life when I would have to say I put God on the back burner. I miss out on tasting the goodness of who God is. I take advantage of Him. I ignore what He is trying to teach me. I overlook the blessings He bestows.
My message to Him is "I've got this. I can do my life just fine on my own. I mean, I'm glad you're there, but you really aren't that important to me at the moment. I am too busy for you right now. I appreciate all the food you give to me (and other life necessities) but as to sitting a spell with you, nah. Listen, I'll let you know when I need you, k?!"
Gee. Can you imagine if we did life this way with our family and friends? Wouldn't make for much of a relationship, would it?
What happens when we find joy in fostering relationship is that we want more and more of it. It becomes a cry deep within our soul. We just won't hit hit the mark unless we are communion with others, including God. I hope you discover the art and joy that lingering brings to your heart!
Draw near to God and
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