Thursday, December 2, 2010

Baby Sister

I was six years old and in the first grade…I had finally mastered tying my shoes 2 months earlier. We lived in a 2 story home in base housing in Minot, North Dakota and it was the beginning of December so it was cold…stinkin’ cold. The Monkees were singing “Daydream Believer” on the radio, “Family Affair” was my favorite show on TV and I had the Mrs. Beasley doll to prove it.

We were expecting a new little brother or sister…this was back in the days before ultrasounds gave you a sneak peek into the womb to clue you in on if you should buy blue or pink receiving blankets. Lucky for this baby there was an older brother and two sisters with hand-me-downs for either need.

I don’t remember much about the day she arrived. Mom went into labor while it was still November and had the baby in December. Apparently our baby sister had a difficult time making her debut. At one point during her delivery our mom remembers my dad was asked who to save, the mother or the baby. I can’t imagine being forced to make that choice but my dad, choking with emotion, gruffly replied, “You better save the mother we have 3 children at home”. But- God…He had better plans for this little baby and both mother and baby made it through safely.

Before mom came home with our brand new baby sister I remember sitting in the back seat of the car with my sister Pam and dad asking us if we wanted to name the baby Patricia or Paula. I don’t know if Phil was part of that conversation, if so he was in the front seat because I can’t remember him sitting with us. I was adamant we needed to name her Paula. There was a girl in my class named Patricia and she wasn’t very nice to me. Funny how you remember things like that from your childhood.

From the start we all adored Paula. I think it’s safe to say she is our favorite sibling. Of the four of us she was the only one to keep her blond hair, she also got the curls…the rest of us have dark, straight hair losing our battle with silver as we get older…her silver just blends in with the blonde.

Before she was a year old she was a world traveler, traveling to Japan. (It should be no surprise to anyone that she loves being on the go- it started early in her life!) From there we went to Okinawa, and back to Minot when she was four.

One of the scariest memories I have involving my sister Paula was when she was about 5 and I was 11. Our laundry was down in the basement. She and I had taken our baths and we had to carry our dirty clothes and wet towels and wash rags down stairs so we went down together and placed them in the correct laundry piles. As we turned to go back up the stairs I said “Race ya!” and we went racing up the stairs side by side. Before we reached the top 2 steps she slipped and fell between the railing down to the concrete floor below, landing between the water heater and the furnace. I can still see her little body sprawled out, her eyes closed and her blonde curly hair fanned out on the floor.

Screaming I ran into the living room and told my mom Paula had fallen down the stairs. Dad was gone…the military life seems to require that the active duty member be gone when major things are happening back home. Mom called the neighbor across the street and he ran over through the snow, barefoot (remember - winter in Minot North Dakota) and carried Paula to his car, taking off with Paula and mom to the hospital. I don’t think I’ve ever felt worse in my life, I thought I had killed my baby sister. Again, God’s hand was on her and she suffered no serious injury. How she managed to fall between the water heater and furnace without hitting either one can only be explained by her guardian angel…he was on duty that night.

After I got married and left home Paula and I stayed close. I think in many ways she is the glue that holds our family together. She has always been the peacemaker, always been the voice of reason when tempers flared. She has a huge heart; she would rather cut her arm off than hurt someone intentionally. She is fierce in her loyalty and convictions. She loves her family and her friends so don’t be messing with them!

For many years she and I would talk over the phone long distance about the day when we would live close to each other…wouldn’t it be cool to live down the street from each other!? We don’t live down the street from each other…but when the house next door to hers was for sale earlier this year I tried to convince Carl it was a sign from heaven that we were to move to Kansas City. We live 3 hours apart now and I absolutely love going to visit her. We laugh, we cry, we shop, we work on projects, we fuss, we share our hearts, we sing (really loud) and we eat.
If you know her then you love her…you know what we knew 43 years ago, that she is a precious blessing sent to our family straight from God.

Happy Birthday Paula! You are so loved and I am so glad to be your sister.


Thursday, November 4, 2010

Be careful what you pray for...

I got in line with my grocery cart and knew I had waited too late in the day to do my shopping.  People were getting off work and buying groceries on their way home.  I resigned myself to standing in line and began people watching.  Wal-Mart is a great place to watch people…everyone goes to Wal-Mart.  I had decided to make an effort to connect with strangers and prayed for God to help me strike up a conversation with the people I come into contact with.  If I was going to be a blessing to others than I had to open my mouth and speak. 

An older woman was paying, the next lady in line was Asian with 2 small children. Her little boy was sitting in the shopping cart, the little girl was trying to add things to the cart as her mom unloaded items. I glanced at the cashier, she was watching the young boy in the cart as he and his older sister interacted, the cashier looked at the boy and I thought she tried to smile but it didn’t really happen.

Directly in front of me was another lady, she started unloading her cart when it was her turn and I decided to speak to her, just to be friendly. I said something about the fact that there should be an easier way to shop, you know- just have it delivered to your house so you don’t have to stand in line and waste your time after work. She smiled and nodded while focusing on her cart and items she was placing on the counter.  She was pleasant but not really open to conversation.

I started watching the cashier and she seemed so tired, or sad so I prayed about what to say to her as I got up there with my items. Cheryl was her name according to her name tag. So I smiled at her and I told her she looked tired. I asked her if she was almost done with her day or just getting started. She said she would be there until eleven. She said she was tired. She wasn’t sleeping at night, her daughter-in-law had left her son and taken her granddaughter with her so she hadn’t been able to see the little girl. I could see the sadness in her eyes as she told me this; I thought how much pain her heart must be in and it brought tears to my eyes.

I asked her if she had a church that she attended. And she said yes and shared the name of the church. I said that at times like this it’s good to have a church that you can have pray with you. She didn’t say anything else, so I told her as I left I hoped she was able to get to sleep that night.

I thought all the way out to the car, how could I have helped her, what could I have said to lift her spirits? I was at a loss. I wondered what good does it do to be sensitive to others pain if when you know what that pain is you are helpless to do anything about it. What do you say?  How do you comfort a stranger in the few moments it takes to make a purchase? Once again I felt like a failure.  “Really Lord?  You want to use me to bless others, to shine the Light of Your love through me?  Because honestly…I’m not all that good at it!”
When I prayed that God would break my heart with the things that break His heart I didn’t expect it to happen at the register at Walmart.  I wasn’t prepared for Him to answer in the way He did. God is determined to let me know that He works how He wants to work, in the way He chooses to do so, any time He wants to.  As much as I try to keep God in a nice and tidy box where I think I can understand Him and how He works—He refuses to stay there!   I’m really glad He is bigger than that.

Later that evening I thought of Cheryl and prayed for her and her son, her daughter-in-law and her granddaughter. I prayed that Cheryl’s heart would be comforted that she would be able to sleep, the daughter-in-laws heart would be softened so the family could see the granddaughter and that the granddaughters heart would be protected from the fall out of parents that are having marriage difficulties.
I prayed again for God to use me in spite of my emotions, in spite of my fear of making a mess of it.  He assured me that He did…there’s a woman who was reminded that there is power in prayer and that she could and should share her burden with her church family. He assured me that He does…her name, her family, her cares were lifted to the throne of grace in prayer…my prayer.  He assured me that He will…as long as I am willing He will use me to accomplish His purpose for my life, He will show me hurting people if I will keep my eyes open and my heart tender.

Since that first encounter at the check out at Wal-Mart nearly three years ago there have been brief conversations with strangers as they have made purchases where I'm the lady behind the register.  I work at a Hallmark store.  There was the woman who needed a card and gift for her grandaughter.  The grandaughter had just been to the doctor where they could not find her baby's heart beat, the baby she was scheduled to deliver in a few days.  There was the elderly couple who came in together.  He was a retired Air Force officer and served in Korea.  We chatted for a good fifteen minutes about the military community and how much we missed it.  A few months later I saw the elderly woman come into the store alone and asked how her husband was doing.  He had lost his battle with cancer.  I hadn't known he was dealing with cancer.  We shared the memory of our conversation that day months before and she smiled as I commented on what a nice and gentle man he was.

I have become more sensitive to the leading of Holy Spirit.  It's amazing how He clues me in to a heart that's hurting.  I'm going about my business, working, doing what I do and seeing people come and go.  Out of the blue God will give me a 'nudge'...I'll take a second look at someone.  I'll wonder if I'm making assumptions or if it's really God through Holy Spirit getting my attention.  I wonder how many times I've been too busy and missed the promptings and the opportunity to be a blessing.  Those times I connect with someone- I know God is answering my prayers to make a difference in a life.  I still get teary when I hear someones heart is breaking but that's just the way I'm wired so I push through my emotions and I silently pray for words of comfort and encouragement. The words come.  I never know what their impact will be but I leave that for God to sort out.  I have to pay attention, look past the surface- past age, gender or social standing.  I have to ask Him fill me with a love for others, a love that comes straight from Him so I can see past everything that gets in the way of really seeing the person.  

I remember the people, I remember their pain, I wonder if there has been healing. I continue to ask Him..."break my heart with what breaks Your heart".     

Walking in Love,

Monday, October 25, 2010

It’s Monday…thank you God…

131. for my health…one of my husband’s extended family members starts chemo this week.

132. that I have a good relationship with my grown children…I know some grandparents who have never met their 2 year old grandchild because of words spoken in the past.

133. I have a seasonal job.

134. I came home from work and my husband was folding the laundry for me.

135. homemade chili-dogs with lots of cheese for supper.

136. foot rubs from my husband after long days on my feet.

137. Goop…gets the gravy stains out of a white shirt.

138. driving home with the window down and the radio playing.

139. watching a family gather around one of their own…a quiet testimony that they are family and are there for one another.

140. a Saturday that started out gray and rainy but turned into a beautiful sunny day filled with the colors of fall.

 Visit the Gratitude Community by following the link below.

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Monday, October 4, 2010

Another Gratitude Monday

holy experience

111. the feel of my daughters embrace
112. seeing Cardinal's baseball in person

113. the smile on my husbands face while watching the baseball game
114. the gathering of family...if only for an afternoon
115. sharing a lap blanket with my daughter-in-law on one side and
 my husband on the other

116. trees losing their leaves and exposing a birds nest
117. peanuts and cracker jacks
118. the first frost of fall
119. finding a new herbal tea flavor to enjoy
120. the shade of blue that the sky reserves for fall
121. extra blankets on the bed
122. snuggles to share the warmth
123. new soup recipes to try
124. switching out the summer clothing for the winter clothing
125. washing away the chills with a long soak in the tub
126. the scent "Autumn Wreath" by Yankee candle drifting through the living room
127. spending quiet evenings working on cross stitch projects
128. the taste of a hersheys kiss melting in my mouth
129. seeing a drop in numbers on my bathroom scale
130. the "Cuppy-Cake" ringtone signaling a text from my Babygirl

Join the Gratitude community over at "Holy Experience" with Ann - begin counting your own graces!

Walking in love,

Saturday, October 2, 2010

Broken Pieces

Several years ago I was preparing to leave the house and in my rush my purse connected with an old tea cup and saucer displayed on a ledge.  I cringed as I watched the tea cup and saucer decorated with purple violets crash to the floor, the shattering of china made me gasp.  The damage was done.  Bits and pieces of white shards lay scattered between the larger pieces of cup and saucer.   What had been a set of four cups and saucers’ belonging to my great grandmother was now reduced to three.

How could I have been so clumsy?  I kneeled down to pick up the two pieces that had been a saucer and tried to fit them together like pieces of a puzzle.  I picked up the largest piece of the cup that included the curved handle and felt sadness well up within me that one of the few tangible connections I had of my great grandmother was lost.

My husband came upon the scene as I was sweeping the fragments into the dust pan.  He recognized the remains of the cherished cup and saucer and offered words of comfort at the loss of the irreplaceable. 
Later that night I thought about the cups and saucers and my great grandmother.  I was reminded that nothing in this world lasts.  Some day the other three cups and saucers will be passed on to family members and will eventually be broken or passed on to others who don’t know the family history they represent. 

As I laid there contemplating the shattered and broken I talked to God.  My thoughts turned to events in my life that had left me broken and emotionally shattered.  Childhood abuse that had lain buried beneath the surface for years until the light of God’s love made it possible to uncover it and deal with the pain and damage.  In my hands the broken shattered pieces had been impossible to fit back together but in the healing hands of a loving God the pieces of a broken heart and life had been repaired.

He took His time and tenderly guided me through the sharp, cutting memories.  Some of the broken pieces had left wounds that had become infected with unforgiveness and bitterness.  He washed them with His Word and poured out his healing love upon them.  Sometimes the washing in the Word stung…I had to let go of the bitterness and unforgiveness before deep healing could begin; other times the washing in the Word brought peace and joy even in the midst of tears.  He was gentle and compassionate, at the same time He was persistent, even relentless in His desire to see the healing begin.

One of the amazing things about God is that He wants me to come to Him just as I am…bruised, battered, broken, and shattered…but He refused to leave me in that condition.  My brokenness was not a surprise or a challenge for Him.  He delights in taking those very things that had left me wounded and scarred and showing me how He can use them for His glory.  When I look to Him to do His healing work, trusting that He will not allow my pain to be wasted, then my brokenness can become my testimony of His love for me.

Walking in love,

Thursday, September 16, 2010

Hearts Knit Together

Recently I had the opportunity to visit a friend in Virginia. My only travels to the east coast before last week were when we were leaving for Germany. Our son was a year old and we had to drive to New Jersey to drop off our car to be shipped overseas. From there we took a taxi to JFK for our flight to Germany. We didn’t have much time for sight seeing but the scenery through the Smokey Mountains was so beautiful I remember commenting to my husband how nice it would be to live in that area.

My friend Julie lives in the Shenandoah Valley of the Commonwealth of Virginia. From her back porch you can see the Blue Ridge Mountains and from the front of her house you can see the Allegheny Mountains in the distance. The area is rich in history with more interesting things to see and do than we had time for.

One of the things we did was to drive along a section of the Blue Ridge Parkway. We took along pizza and sodas and set out around 5:30 in the evening. We stopped and looked out over the valley, taking pictures and enjoying the scenery. We found a picnic table at one of the trailheads and had our pizza and sodas. The breeze was strong and the sun was warm. The trees are thick, green and lush. I can only imagine how beautiful the fall colors will be in a few weeks, there were the occasional splashes of red or yellow as the colors of fall are just beginning to make an appearance. We were able to look out over the valley and watch the sun set. It was a beautiful ending to a wonderful day.

 We went shopping, visited a small store that has nothing but cross stitching supplies called the Cross Stitch Station. We both were inspired to get busy with projects for Christmas. We visited Liberty University where Julie’s two sons are going to school. We walked all over the campus then went downtown and had a picnic near the James River in Lynchburg. The day I left we visited Thomas Jefferson’s home, Monticello. Jefferson must have been an interesting man; he loved books and was very creative. I wanted to spend time in his library just looking through his collection of books…not allowed of course but I was very curious about the books he read.

 The best part of my visit was the time Julie and I were able to spend sharing and praying. We have been prayer partners for 2 years now. For the last 10 months since she left for Virginia we have had prayer time over the phone. It works but it sure isn’t like sitting across from each other and sharing face to face. We pray for each other and for each others families. Last week we talked about all the prayers God has answered and we are more convinced than ever that prayer is the most important thing in our relationship. How gracious God was to bring us together. What a privilege it is to share my heart with another in prayer.

Sitting on her back porch watching the sunrise over the Blue Ridge Mountains was so peaceful. God speaks to us through His creation if we take the time to listen. We shared tea, banana bread, and devotions in the early morning sunlight. I was making memories with my dear sister in Christ to carry with me back to Missouri.

Before I left we both decided we need to plan for my next visit. Lord willing and details fall into place I hope to visit in October of next year…maybe I’ll catch the leaves in all their fall glory. Until then we pray for and with each other long distance. We are separated by miles, mountains and rivers; but we are brought together in the Spirit when we pray. Together we meet before the throne of God submitting our requests at His feet. I know He hears us. He knows us well…Julie and Penny…two hearts He knit together in friendship and fellowship through prayer. What a blessing.

Walking in love,

Thursday, August 26, 2010

An Empty Nest

(Photo found online)
School is back in session. College students have descended on our small town crowding the aisles at Walmart as they stock up on toilet paper and other necessities of life…like Mountain Dew and Doritos. The parents of these same students are touring the town, stopping in at the local shops, exploring what is now their child’s home for the next several months. The students act excited and the parents…not so much. I’m not sure if that’s due to the fact that they are paying for these same students to attend college or the prospect of leaving town to go back home without their child…probably both.

My brother and sister-in-law just dropped their youngest off at a school of higher learning. Their student was excited and ready to move on to the next phase of his life. My sister-in-law on the other hand has struggled for weeks at the prospect of his leaving.

When our first born left home I saw him off at the airport and then went to our Wednesday evening activities at church. My emotions were under control but right at the surface. I was doing fine talking about our son until a friend asked me how I was doing. Tears welled up in my eyes and I told her I couldn’t go there or I’d be sobbing that ugly cry. She nodded and changed the subject. Our son went into the military so he left his room just as it was. We would go in and just sit on his bed, it made us feel closer to him.

Our youngest spent the next 7 years wishing there were other children in the family so she wouldn’t be our only source of interest. While she would be the first to admit that being the youngest has its perks; seeing the two of us standing in her doorway just watching her do her homework those first few weeks her brother was gone wasn’t one of them.

The day we moved our daughter into her apartment I returned home to her nearly empty room and sat down in the middle of the floor where her bed had been and cried. The things she had left behind were things she had outgrown or didn’t have room for. Those things are now boxed up and in our basement.

Once both children had flown the coop and we were left with the empty nest, life went on but it didn’t feel right. If we as parents do our job correctly we have prepared our children to leave home but…it feels very much like being fired from a job that you love.  I think the grief surprised me more than anything.  I was happy they were out on their own, living their dreams but I was overwhelmingly sad as well.

Now life with my husband brings back memories of when we were first married- just the two of us. We have less stuff to pack into the car when we take a trip and only two opinions on where to eat or what to do. I miss being able to share the things with my daughter that I know she would find interesting or funny. It has gotten easier. After three years I can look at our home as being spacious instead of empty. I like that when I clean, things will stay clean. I don’t miss the staying up until they come home, or the falling asleep and waking up when they come home late.

I miss the laughter and the togetherness. The everyday familiarity of my children living at home. The spontaneous hugs, the notes left for each other, the shared meals, just hanging out together. Those times we are able to be together now are all the more precious, they seem to be over sooner than I would like.

As with every new circumstance in life there are adjustments to be made. I spent a lot of time in prayer asking God “What now?” God must have been waiting for me to ask that very question because He has given me plenty to keep me busy.

To my sister-in-law I would say...keep breathing.  Put one foot in front of the other and move forward.  Cry if you need to, talk it out with someone who has been there, we understand.  Just because we are not part of the everydayness of our childrens lives doesn't mean God isn't.  When our children move on to the next thing in life they don't go alone...God goes with them.

I’m thankful for snail mail, phones, texting, email and Facebook, all options for staying connected. God entrusted two children into my care for a season. I pray I didn’t let Him or them down. Though they are no longer living in my home, they remain in my heart. I look forward to someday beginning a new season in life…grand parenting. I think I might enjoy it…there’s room in my heart and home that’s for sure.

Walking in love,

Monday, August 23, 2010

Counting Graces this week

holy experience

91. Sharing the road with Amish folks and their horse pulled wagons and buggies.
92. The face of an Amish boy peering from the back of a buggy.
93. Dew so thick it looks like it rained.
94. Cool morning breeze as the sun comes up.
95. A weekend spent with family.
96. Long distance chat, laughing, scheming, and planning, with my friend in VA.
97. My family gathered around a prayer bench together at church, heads bowed.
98. Driving through the countryside enjoying the green...a result of so much rain!
99. Vegetable soup with sour dough bread.
100. Peanut butter cookies fresh from the oven...thanks to Pillsbury.
101. My husbands fresh shaved face...smooooth.
102. Plans for a busy September.
103. Washing dishes and seeing the full moon climb the night sky.
104. Watching the meadow larks swooping and diving to catch bugs as the tall grasses were being mowed down.
105. Getting lost in a Bible study...finding my way in Him.
106. Receiving 2 items in the mail with my name written in familier handwriting.
107. Finding cards to encourage people in my life and dropping them in the mail.
108. Listening to the heart of a mom just entering the empty nest phase of life and understanding.
109. Pink flip flops.
110. Pouring "Joy" dish soap into my soap bottle and enJOYing the lemony scent.

Take time to count your blessings and enjoy the simple things.

Walking in love,

Thursday, August 19, 2010

The War Room

He is a warrior. He was trained to handle a weapon, march in formation, and obey orders. He is a Marine. Years have gone by since he wore the uniform and served our country but he is still a Marine…he has the haircut to prove it. He lives by the Marine Corps motto: Semper Fidelis; Always Faithful or just Semper Fi. He has a scrapbook with photographs and memories that he pulls out and shares if you are interested. He shared it with our daughter last fall and she recently told me her favorite moment with her grandpa was his showing her his scrapbook and describing everything. A life story shared, one generation with the other.
He is getting older. He has new teeth now. His body has been sending him signals for several years that it’s not as strong or as fast and agile as it used to be. He isn’t the warrior he was with the strength and vigor he had as a young man wielding a weapon but he is still a warrior and stronger now in other ways.

Every day he goes into what he refers to as “The War Room” and wages war, through prayer and intercession. His weapon now is the Sword of the Spirit…the Word. He studies and reads from the Bible as he prepares the lesson for Sunday school each week. He has read through the Bible several times over the years by reading several chapters every day.

He writes himself notes and hangs them on the hutch over his desk so he doesn’t forget who to pray for and what their needs are. He reads the promises in the well worn Bible and claims them, prays them for the people he has a burden to pray for. His faith runs deep because he has experience with the One who hears the prayers of His children. They have a long history together him and his Lord. He received his marching orders from God many years ago to trust, obey, and follow Him. He hasn’t stopped following Him.

“For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms.”  Ephesians 6:12

He stands in the gap, praying for the lost, the sick, the dying, the prodigal child, his children and grandchildren, marriages that are in crisis, and the hurting. He prays for the soldiers in Iraq, Afghanistan and through out the world. He prays for our nation and our leaders. He prays for the church and for fellow believers. He prays for himself, asking for forgiveness, seeking guidance as well as asking for discernment.
He is a prayer warrior waging war against the enemy using the weapons of prayer and God’s Word. He is a righteous man who has a reputation for being a man of prayer. He doesn’t back down and he doesn’t give up.

“The effective, fervent prayer of a righteous man avails much.”  James 5:16

In this battle I’m glad he’s got my back, and I’m certain many others feel the same way.

Walking in love,

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

In the hands of the Potter

We lived in Germany for three years in the early eighties. It was the one and only overseas assignment that we were able to go together as a family.

One of the neat things about living in the military is that the people you meet and make friends with while on different assignments become your family. We learned early on in our time in the Air Force that every place we moved we needed to find a church and I needed friends. In Germany I met some friends through my husband’s job and it turned out that they were involved in the women’s ministry at the base chapel where I made more friends. One of those friends is Pam; we have been friends now for 27 years. I recently found two other ladies I met all those years ago, one through Facebook.

The Protestant Women of the Chapel or PWOC, is a program that helps women find Christian fellowship. During my time in Germany the PWOC kept me sane which allowed my husband to stay sane. This was before cell phones, home computers and the internet. Our only communication with family back home was letters and an occasional phone call.  It was expensive so we wrote down the important stuff we wanted to share when we talked to family in the United States and we kept it short.

One of the things the PWOC did was go on outings in our local area and on one of those outings we went to a potters shop. The potter showed us how he created his pottery, using the clay, the potter’s wheel and water. As I stood watching the process I remembered the verse from Isaiah 64:8.

"Yet, O LORD, you are our Father.
We are the clay, you are the potter;
we are all the work of your hand."

In the hands of this craftsman a block of clay was molded and shaped using the water and the spinning motion of the potter’s wheel. If he didn’t like how something was turning out he could squish the clay back into a lump and start over. He would begin again to reshape and make it into what he wanted it to be. I remember at one point he was attaching the handle to the candle holder he was making and he didn’t like how it looked so he refashioned it and attached it again to the jar. The whole process was a visual lesson that I have never forgotten.

God is the Master Potter and I am the clay. Everything about my life is used by Him to mold me and make me into the vessel that He can use for His glory. Just as that day, the potter made a candle holder that is used to shine a light in a room; God uses my life to shine His light in a dark world. Sometimes the process of being molded and shaped isn’t fun; it can be painful depending on what I’m going through at any given time but while I’m going through it and when I come out on the other side, God’s purpose is to let people see Him shining through me.

I looked at my candle holder and couldn’t find any evidence of that potter’s finger prints; he had smoothed it with his sponge and water. But God the Master Potter has left His prints all over my life. At times I may not enjoy the process but I am clay in the Potters hands. The clay doesn’t tell the Potter how she wants to be formed.

Every time I look at my candle holder I’m reminded of that day in the potters shop, my friend Pam who has one just like mine, and God- the Master Craftsman and Potter. I am safe in His hands.  Click on the clip on Youtube's one of my favorites.

Walking in love,

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Wednesday, August 11, 2010

“What is the normal Christian life?”

Those are the first words from the book “A Normal Christian Life” by Watchman Nee. The book is one I borrowed from a wonderful elderly couple in my church. It was published in 1959, a couple of years before I was born. It’s been read and reread and has underlined passages as well as some handwritten notes on some of its pages.  It's what I call a "loved" book. After reading just the first four paragraphs I know this is not going to be your regular “feel good” book on the Christian life.

“God’s normal for a Christian…I live no longer, but Christ lives His life in me.”

Just that quote has given me hours of meditating and contemplating as I roll it over in my mind. I’m not a theologian but that statement written simply and straight forward has my attention. Normally, I want to rush on to the next thing on the next page but not with this book.

I can’t count how many times I have thought: I just want a normal Christian life. Well if I’m really looking for “normal” then every thing that comes; every cranky customer at work, every less than helpful sales person, every ding in my car door, every garage door malfunction, every twisted ankle…is an opportunity for me to respond as Christ would. Every complaint that rolls off my lips is one more example of how un-Christ like I can be. Every unkind thought is a reminder of how alive and well my sinful nature is.

If nothing happens in my life that is not first sifted through the loving hands of my Lord then everything that happens to me, around me, and through me is His “normal” for me.

It’s a daily struggle to choose to set aside my own desires and my own agenda. It is only by denying myself that Christ is able to live through me. How can I respond with kindness if I’m totally focused on my irritation with any given person or circumstance? How can I respond with love if I’m so wrapped up in my own life that I don’t see hurting people around me? How can I be an encouragement to someone if I haven’t taken the time to fill my heart and mind with His encouraging Word?

Life would be normal if the weather wasn’t too hot or too cold, our bills were all paid and we had a few dollars left over, both cars were running well and filled with gas, the pantry was full and there was a plan for supper, everyone who needed a job had one and the people that I know and love would all be healthy and happy. But that’s not the real world. It’s stinkin’ hot outside today, we are paying off debt, my daughter-in-law needs a job and people I know and love are dealing with cancer, learning how to do life now that the kids are grown and leaving the nest, facing decisions about their elderly parents or grieving the loss of their parents.

I read somewhere that normal is just a setting on your dryer. I might be wise to begin to make that my new definition for the word. God isn’t interested in how I define normal for my life. Would I need to seek the Lord in prayer if everything were normal? Would I need to search for answers in His Word? Would I be dependent on Him for anything if everything was going great for me and everyone I care about? I doubt it. I’m fairly certain I would be a very shallow, self absorbed person too.

Trusting God with what is normal for my life is a day to day choice. I choose to surrender to Him everything about the life I’m living and He shows me that He has it all under control, working it all together for good, for His glory. I don’t always understand what He is doing, how it’s going to be worked out but I never doubt He is with me and loves me. The normal process of life with my Lord is different than anyone else. He tailors it specific to me and what He wants to see happen in my relationship with Him.

There are times I am completely surrendered and following Him closely, other times I’m digging in my heels and doubting Him at every turn. He knows these things about me and He continues to love me through them…just like normal.

Walking in love,

Monday, August 9, 2010

Fruit Inspection

When I was a teenager I picked peaches one summer. Picking peaches in July/August in Southeast Missouri will give you a new appreciation for air-conditioning. I worked alongside several of my friends from school and church so it was fun. We all were friends with Don, the son of the farmer who owned the peach orchard.

Peach trees are not very tall so climbing the trees to reach the peaches was not a challenge. We were each given a bag to strap on that we would drop the peaches into. When it was full we would swing the bag over the edge of a trailer, unhook the fold up flap on the bottom of the bag and pour out our peaches.

Picking peaches is hot and sweaty work and you spend the whole day looking up while reaching for the fruit. At some point in the afternoon on my first day I made the mistake of rubbing my face. Back then I don’t remember ever using sun block so I was sunburned and the peach fuzz mixed with sweat clung to my face making it itch. It was uncomfortable to say the least. But those peaches were the juiciest and sweetest I ever tasted. The smell of fresh peaches will start my mouth to watering.

This is the time of year when fresh fruit of all kinds is plentiful in the grocery store and road side stands. Peaches, nectarines, cantaloupe, watermelon are just a few of the choices as summer is drawing to a close, but there is other fruit available to us as believers.

“But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control.” Galatians 5:22-23

This fruit is evidence of the Holy Spirit living and working in our lives. If we are living our lives so that others see this fruit growing in us then people are going to know that we are followers of Christ.

News reports of aid workers killed in Afghanistan last week because they were Christians is a strong testimony of how effective the evidence of the fruit of the Holy Spirit in our lives can be. By all accounts none of them were proselytizing but they were offering medical assistance to the poor of that nation. Just by the way they lived their lives they had an impact on people who have never entered a church building.

I wonder if there is enough of that fruit growing in my life to convict me of trying to convert others to a belief in Christ. I pray that others will see evidence of the fruit of God’s Spirit in my life even if I speak no words.

“Preach the Gospel at all times; if necessary, use words.”

I’m not saying that we should not share with others the hope we have in Christ, indeed we are told that we are to do exactly that. It is by the power of the Word of God that lives are changed. But does the life we live before others reflect the fruit of the Spirit so clearly that others see Christ in us?

Pray for the families of those killed for their faith.

Walking in love,
Counting my blessings on Multitude Monday: giving thanks for this and so much more...

91.  That God's Word is powerful.
92.  That God's Word is trustworthy.
93.  That God's Word is alive.
94.  That God's Word is sufficient.
95.  That God's Word is comforting.
96.  That God's Word is eternal.
97.  That God's Word is life changing.
98.  That God's Word is convicting.
99.  That God's Word is healing.
100. That God's Word is enough.

holy experience