December

Thank God for this gift too wonderful for words!

2 Corinthians 9:15 (NLT)

December. It’s usually my favorite month of the year. I love “dressing’ the house with decorations and lights, making cookies, wrapping presents, entertaining family and friends, lighting the Advent wreath, singing the Messiah.  I don’t send out Christmas cards anymore but I did for many years.

But this year is different, more sober less frivolity. Moving to an apartment cut way down on my decorating. I saved only my favorite things. But as I look around the rooms, I see different eras of my lie represented. Nativity figures chosen in times of travel, needlepoint items made by my mother, a Christmas picture frame filled with my grandgirlies, a bell made by my mother so many years ago. I had to buy a new tree because the movers destroyed my old one. But, it’s up and decorated with ornaments of meaning and memory.

I’ve been listening to my playlist of Christmas songs on iTunes. Each one wraps itself around my heart and I remember playing it again and again over the years. I listen to an early morning talk show (I mean really early) which is hosted by four people: a man about my age, a woman in her later 40’s and two women who are millennials. They have been playing the top 100 Christmas carols, a chunk at a time. What is amazing to me is the number of songs that are totally unfamiliar to the millennials. I wonder what legacy they will leave to their grandchildren with the music produced in this day and age?

But, the greater feelings of wistfulness come from so many of my friends who are ill either at home or in the hospital. Mark broke his foot this week. A family member needs a job. The past merriment of parties, concerts, and  caroling aren’t carved out on my calendar this year. I decided it was time to change that picture and have invited my small group over for a Christmas gathering. Everyone brings something to eat that reminds them of Christmas. We will have a very eclectic meal but the fellowship will be warm and sweet. I need this for nourishment for my soul.

What says Christmas to you? I encourage you to be pro-active with those who are in your circle. Check in on them. Send a text or email or note of encouragement. We all need hope and what better season then now. The baby Jesus was born and hope was unfurled.

Be of good cheer.

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God Has It

For the Kingdom of God is not just a lot of talk; it is living by God’s power.

1 Corinthians 4:20 (NLT)

Images of candidates crisscrossing this nation fill the television screen and social media. I am thankful to be an American citizen with all of its rights and privileges, but some thoughts in a recent sermon reminded me that I am also a citizen in the Kingdom of God. Dual citizenship occurred when I accepted Christ as my Lord and Savior.

Jesus wanted his disciples to understand their earthly responsibilities to the Kingdom of heaven so rather than writing up a book of rules, He told stories using simple everyday situations and items to make His point. He suggested that the best way to get results is to work behind the scenes, quietly making changes.

His example in Matthew 13:33 illustrates the point; “The kingdom of heaven is like yeast that a woman took and mixed into a large amount of flour until it worked all through the dough.” As a baker, I know that though you can’t see the yeast mixed in with everything else, the results of its addition are unmistakable.

I want to make a difference as a Kingdom citizen but it is reassuring to know that I don’t have to be the center of attention. My contribution may be minor and seem unremarkable but the miracle comes from God’s multiplication factor. He is the one who makes the difference, I am just one of the ingredients.

The election is Tuesday and as Kingdom citizens we don’t have to worry about a thing. We DO need to be responsible and vote but the outcome is up to God.

 

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My Story

You saw me before I was born.
Every day of my life was recorded in your book.
Every moment was laid out
before a single day had passed.

Psalm 139:16 (NLT)

We have been studying Lisa Harper’s recently released Bible study, Job: A Story of Unlike Joy, in our women’s groupLittle did I know how apropos it would be! I was a bit nervous because many of the women had never heard of Lisa and who wants to study Job? But God. He knew the hearts of those that would attend and the hurting places in each of us that needed healing.

As part of the daily assignment, I have been reading Psalm 139. When I think of that Psalm, the verses about the forming of life in the mother’s womb immediately come to mind from my days of working in the pro-life community. But as I read it each day, different parts stand out as the Spirit highlights them in my life.

The last few months have not been the easiest. I don’t know why I think I should get a pass from pain and problems — no one does. But in those difficulties, God has become very real and precious. It’s encouraging to know that He knew what these days would look like before I was born and each step that I have walked has prepared me for today. It was not a surprise to Him.

Job didn’t deserve the suffering and heartache he endured. But in the end, “when God is all you have, God is all you need.” God elevated him and trusted him because He knew how the story would end. Satan may have thought he could get Job to turn away from God, but God knew that Job would remain faithful.

Whatever your story, God will redeem it for good because God is good all the time. Trust Him.

 

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Simplify

But I am trusting you, O Lord,

    saying, “You are my God!”

My future is in your hands.

Psalm 31:14-15 (NLT)

The last two months have been at times challenging, exhausting, enlightening, discouraging, and now transforming. Moving is never easy but this particular move had twists and turns that I never expected.

The plan had been to downsize to make life a little easier. I thought that meant a smaller house — maybe a townhouse because I didn’t want to take care of a yard. But God had other plans and we are now proud apartment dwellers. I’ve never lived in an apartment and I had my doubts and qualms about the size, noise, and neighbors — to name a few. When we signed up for this place, a small storage room was available adjacent to our front door which was perfect for those things that you only need occasionally. I snapped it up. 

After living in a house with a garage and lots of storage space, this move required getting rid of about 90% of our stuff…some of the stuff collected over a lifetime. Making decisions is usually not a difficult task for me but when you consider a household of possessions, what stays, what is given away, and what goes becomes overwhelming. 

Three days before the move, I received a call that the storage room was no longer available. Nor was the garage that had been promised as an alternative. It was the straw that nearly broke me. My lack of control over the situation brought me to tears. Mark got on the phone and found a small storage unit at the local Public Storage. My nightmare of never ending boxes in each room and patio was now put to rest. With the help of friends from church, we survived the move. 

I think God has an interesting sense of timing. He provided a garage three weeks after the move, #7. I didn’t realize how much that garage meant to me as a sign of stability and normalcy until it was no longer available. But God wanted me to trust Him with my needs. He has brought me through this journey of releasing so that I am able to pick up new things. And in the end, He provided an unexpected blessing in that garage. Do you know how many boxes are left? About 12 and half of them are Christmas. That is all.

After a couple of months of living with much less, I’ve experienced great freedom and relief. It could be that at this stage of life, the goal of acquiring and accumulating has run its course. Just open a magazine and you will find an article on simplifying. I think I’m going to like it.

I’m not sure what He has in mind for this next season but I’m ready for something new. I’m trusting Him to show me the way.

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Muddy Path

Life’s body blows hit when we least expect it. The reasons don’t even matter yet the sting is searing, our breath is labored, and we wonder if we can go on. Where is God in all of this? Why now and why me? Why my family?

I found this poem in Streams in the Desert and it gave me comfort and a reminder that the path, at times, will be muddy and hard to see – but He is there!

If we could see…

 

If we could see beyond today

As God can see;

If all the clouds should roll away,

The shadows flee;

O’er present griefs we would not fret.

Each sorrow we would soon forget,

For many joys are waiting yet

For you and me.

If we could see beyond today

As God doth know;

Why dearest treasures pass away

And tears must flow;

And why the darkness leads to light,

Why dreary paths will soon grow bright;

Someday life’s wrongs will be made right,

Faith tells us so.

“If we could see, if we could know,”

We often say,

But God in love a veil doth throw

Across our way;

We cannot see what lies before,

And so we cling to Him the more,

He leads us till this life is o’er

Trust and obey.

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Find Rest

Find rest, O my soul, in God alone: my hope comes from him.

Psalm 62:5 (NIV)

What’s your greatest fear? My counselor must have asked me that dozens of times during the course of my time with her. Depending on the circumstances, some days it was finances, others security. Often it was loneliness. Today, it might be health or lack of it. What is my purpose? I jotted down a sentence recently that started me thinking: Whatever you fear is where you put your hope.

Trusting in my bank account is sure to bring jitters. The rise and fall of the market is enough to cause loss of sleep if you let it be where you put your hope.

Security? Are you like my grandgirlie, Tori, who likes to have all her “peeps” around?  Friends and family move. I move. Divorce happens. Illness and death steal away loved ones.

I have been both alone and lonely. Usually it is pretty easy to solve the alone part by picking up the phone and calling a friend to go out to dinner or a movie. But loneliness strikes at our core. Am I loved? Do people even like me? What’s wrong with me?

As a young woman, I never thought about my health. I didn’t have any problems and as typical of that age, I thought I was invincible. Interesting how age changes that perspective. Daily living becomes a challenge when things begin to fall apart. In fact, you can’t even count on tomorrow. I don’t fear death but dying is a little scary. 

Fears? Yes. But rather than having them overtake us, cripple or destroy us, turn them over to the One who made us. Jesus is our hope and gives rest to our soul. Lay them at the foot of the cross. 

Let the lyrics of a song, In You, by Mercy Me refresh and encourage you:

I put my hope in You
I lay my life in palm of your hand
I’m constantly drawn to You Lord
In ways I cannot comprehend

It’s the Creator calling the created
The Maker beckoning the made
The bride finding what she’s always waited for
When we find ourselves that day

[CHORUS:]
In You where the hungry feast at the table
The blind frozen by colors in view
The lame will dance, They’ll dance for they are able
And the weary find rest
Oh the weary find rest in You

It’s no secret that we don’t belong here
Those set apart by the grace of You
And we look for the day when we go to a place
Where the old becomes brand new

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Attitude Adjustment

Seek his will in all you do, and he will show you which path to take.

Proverbs 3:6 (NLT)

Years ago, when the littles were little, I chuckled to myself when I would hear my daughter tell one of the grandgirlies that she needed an “attitude adjustment.” I knew that this little one had probably been overly whining and had finally stepped on the last nerve of her mother and consequences were just ahead. Depending on the situation, there might be instant obedience … or not, on her part.

The same holds true for all of us. I remember an attitude change that I needed, not too many weeks after my first baby was born. All was well while my mother was there to take care of both of us but the day she left, my world turned upside down. Nothing seemed to get done and I was very frustrated. “When are things going to get back to normal?” I wondered. I fought each day’s schedule with that as a goal. After about six weeks of this nonsense, as I was rocking that sweet little girl after the 2 AM feeding, I suddenly realized that we would just have to make a “new” normal. Things were never going to get back to the way they were. Life as I knew it was irrevocably changed and I needed an attitude adjustment.

The following day’s agenda was still just as demanding but I chose not to let it get me down. I learned to enjoy that sweet baby and take each day as a gift. I don’t mean to say that I never had frustrating moments and wished for the peace and quiet of earlier times but I noticed that that no matter whatever our stage in life, we still encounter “new normals”: children in school, children out of school, new job, empty nests, retirement, moving, illness. Each change is a test and requires patience, energy, planning, and trust. But, the challenges of life level out and become manageable if we trust God to lead us rather than trying to control them ourselves.

This latest move has tested me to the max. I don’t know whether it is because I am older or that the next step was not on my plan. However, our Father is right there to encourage me, smooth out the rough places, and plant my feet on a firm path.

So take a walk with an attitude of thankfulness and love and see what good things are right around the corner.

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Boundaries

The day is yours, and yours also the night;
you established the sun and moon.
It was you who set all the boundaries of the earth;
you made both summer and winter.

Psalm 74:16-17 (NIV)

I’m sitting here with my keyboard in my lap because the desk is too high. That is just one of the many changes that have occurred in my life in the last 10 days. I don’t know what it is about June, but it is a lousy month to move in Arizona because it is so hot. The day that the movers were there, I tuned off the air conditioning and it quickly registered 95 degrees in the house.

But we are now settled in our little rental home for the next six weeks of our “stacation” while we wait for our apartment to become available. One friend characterized it as “cute and cozy. Kind of like God is wrapping you in his arms.” And it does feel like that. It’s totally furnished so all we had to bring was our clothes, personal items, and Rusty. After the frantic race to complete the estate sale, move, and finish the closing on the house, I can just sit. God knew I needed a break before we begin the move and settling in to our next abode.

When I read these verses this morning, the word “boundaries” lit up. This move has tested and stretched me so that the knowledge that there is an end is reassuring. I have needed a boundary to show me when the old is complete and the new begins. It’s easy to run them all together but then fatigue and frustration hit.

God promises us that one season will end and another begin. We don’t have to worry that the cold of winter will be unending. That as dark as the night may be, morning will break forth as the dawn. When waiting becomes arduous, remember, God has His limits. I love the verse that parallels this: Weeping may last through the night, but joy comes with the morning. Psalm 30:5.

So join me in a time of rest this summer. Enjoy small pleasures. Pay attention to your surroundings. Tomorrow will come.

“Morning Has Broken”
Morning has broken, like the first morning
Blackbird has spoken, like the first bird
Praise for the singing, praise for the morning
Praise for them springing fresh from the word

Sweet the rain’s new fall, sunlit from heaven
Like the first dew fall, on the first grass
Praise for the sweetness of the wet garden
Sprung in completeness where his feet pass

Mine is the sunlight, mine is the morning
Born of the one light, Eden saw play
Praise with elation, praise every morning
God’s re-creation of the new day

Morning has broken, like the first morning
Blackbird has spoken, like the first bird
Praise for the singing, praise for the morning
Praise for them springing fresh from the word

 

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Twelve years

“A woman had been sick for twelve years…He said to her, “Daughter, your faith has healed you. Go in peace and be free from your sickness.”

Mark 5:25-34 (NLV)

Our church has been reading through the Bible with the YouVersion app this year. If you have always thought you would like to read the entire Bible but didn’t think you could do it, this is an easy way.

As I read this portion of scripture in March, three things struck me: twelve years, daughter, and faith. Our house has been on the market since June, 2017. I remember praying with the realtor that day that we would trust God’s timing knowing from Jeremiah 29:11 that He has a plan for me. As the months wore on, I was confident that God knew what He was doing and I trusted Him. It was not that we were homeless as we lived in a lovely home. But, there were moments when I wondered “when, Lord?”

As I read the scripture that morning, twelve years lit up in neon because in June, we will have lived here for twelve years. And then Jesus said, “Daughter.” That was me. I am His daughter. And she was healed because of her faith. Faith has been my word for 2018. As I wrote in my journal that morning, I praised Him for His words of encouragement to me. And as the weeks went by and no sale, I thought to myself, “It’s not June yet.”

Last Sunday, a realtor called for a showing for a couple from out of town. We hurried home from church to turn on all the lights and grab the dog. Normally, a showing lasts 15-20 minutes so we decided to just sit in the car and wait…and wait…and wait…for an hour.  At that point it was too late to go grab lunch and it was 100 degrees. Finally, the car drove away.

I received a call from my realtor about 5:30 that afternoon and she asked me if I believed that the house was sold. I said, “No.” How about for full price? Again, “No.” Well, it has and it was a clean offer with an acceptable closing date in mid June. And she told me that her father has a rental house that we could use until we find something more permanent. I have nothing lined up for the next part of the journey because I didn’t want that pressure or disappointment. I have trusted God all along that He would show me and He gave me more that I could even ask or think about. If He could do it for Abraham, He would do it for me.

The tears started flowing and wouldn’t stop. And then I realized it would be exactly twelve years.

When we moved here, I found a saying in a devotional that I adopted; “God is rarely early but never late.” As I have looked over the challenges of this last year, I know He is right on time. With the next step, my faith is being stretched once again. He has proven Himself faithful over all these months so I know He has just the right place in mind. Yes, Lord, I will trust You.

 

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Flyer or Base

 So encourage each other and give each other strength, just as you are doing now.

I Thessalonians 5:11 (NCV) 

My granddaughter, Tori, celebrated her 16th birthday this week, passing her driving test today. Look out world, here comes T! Since she was 7, this girl has been willing to test gravity and take on challenges through the sport of cheerleading. What started as a fun class with a friend in second grade has developed into the position of co-captain of her high school junior varsity cheerleading team.

When she first began, she was a tiny girl with a brave heart, and she learned how to be a flyer. If you watch the stunts that cheerleaders perform, the flyer is the one on the hands, knees, and shoulders of her teammates with arms outstretched, back arched, and a big smile on her face. But for a flyer, it’s all about balance and trust. One bobble, one slip of a hand, one missed cue, and the flyer comes tumbling down, hopefully without injury.

The girls holding her up are the base. Their strength and concentration serve to keep the flyer in the air. Without a coordinated effort between the girls composing the base, the flyer can’t get a footing to complete her part of the stunt. And, it all requires practice, practice, practice.

As Tori grew, her role changed from flyer to base. It was hard to give up that flyer role because that’s the “fun” part, but she was needed in the supportive role of base. Having been on both sides of the stunt, she knows the importance of both roles and plays a leadership role, gaining the respect of her peers.

So are you a flyer or a base? No, not in cheerleading but in your daily life. Are you the upfront person or the behind-the-scenes person?

At different times in my life, I enjoyed both leading and speaking…I was the face of the group. But, there have been seasons when I emptied the wastebaskets, set up the room, took care of the children, or cleaned up the kitchen. I know how much I depend on the church office for support for the Bible Study I currently facilitate. I don’t fret that the flyers will be printed, the tables and chairs set up, and that the equipment will work when I open the door because I know it will be done.

The body of Christ needs each of us to fulfill our roles and do our part so that the Gospel is proclaimed and Jesus is praised. We need each other when life is easy and then turns hard… when we celebrate and when we mourn…when we are on the mountain top or in the valley. We need the support to give us balance and then our job is to trust in God for the next step.

We all have gifting for certain roles but how do you respond when that role changes? Rather than becoming discouraged or frustrated, do you accept with humility the role God has for you today? This may be a permanent position or only for a season but our response is key. Others will be watching. God has a job that only you can fill. He has equipped you, so revel in it and give Him the praise.

 

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