12/23/08

LOVING THE UNLOVELY

"If you love those who love you, what
credit is that to you? Even 'sinners' love
those who love them. And if you do good
to those who are good to you, what credit
is that to you? Even 'sinners' do that."
(Luke 6:32-33)

These verses kept popping into my mind as I read some of the posts of a fellow blogger who I know loves the Lord with all her heart, and this morning I woke up feeling strongly convicted that I needed to send her an e-mail of exhortation. An e-mail written in love, acknowledging that the words I was writing were intended just as much--if not more so--for me than for her. But instead of sitting down at my computer and impulsively dashing it off, as would be my normal way, I decided to let the thought percolate on the back burner of my mind for a while.

As I went about some other tasks, I prayed for guidance as to what exactly I should say, when suddenly the thought came to me that since this is an issue that I myself grapple with BIG TIME, maybe it's something I should be blogging about rather than bringing to someone else's attention, no matter how lovingly. So here I am writing this post, and suddenly drawing a total blank as to what to say next.

I know that God loves each and every one of us unconditionally, and that He sent Jesus to die for all of us so that there would be hope even for the most seemingly hopeless. I know that no one is beyond redemption, and that there is no sin so great, no life so base, that it cannot be forgiven. So then who am I to pick and choose, to look down on, to criticize, to judge?

Every one of us is a Divine Original, created for a special purpose that no one else can fulfill. If we find ourselves living a blessed life rather than a wretched one, it may be good to remember that it is not the result of our efforts, though it may seem so in the eyes of the world. It is only by the grace of God.

Instead of being so quick to condemn, I need to give thanks as I remind myself that there but for the grace of God go I. I need to open myself up to be His instrument so that He can extend that same grace, through me, to the hurting and unlovable folks He has put in my path. That is so contrary to how my natural eyes see things, or what my intellect would tell me, but then that's what faith is all about. We need to have the faith of a little child to be able to enter the kingdom of Heaven (Matthew 18:3).

One of my favorite passages of Scripture is found in 1 Corinthians 1:27-29, about how God has chosen the foolish things of the world to confound the wise, and to bring to naught the things that are, so that no one can boast. There is a wonderful paraphrase of this in The Message translation that says it all.

"The Message that points to Christ on the Cross seems like sheer silliness to those hellbent on destruction. . . . This is the way God works, and most powerfully as it turns out. It is written, 'I'll turn conventional wisdom on its head.' . . . Since the world in all its fancy wisdom never had a clue when it came to knowing God, God in his wisdom took delight in using what the world considered dumb--preaching, of all things!--to bring those who trust him into the way of salvation.

. . . Human wisdom is so tinny, so impotent, next to the seeming absurdity of God. . . . Take a good look, friends, at who you were when you got called into this life. I don't see many of the 'brightest and the best' among you, not many influential, not many from high-society families. Isn't it obvious that God deliberately chose men and women that the culture overlooks and exploits and abuses, chose these 'nobodies' to expose the hollow pretensions of the 'somebodies'? That makes it quite clear that none of you can get by with blowing your own horn before God. Everything that we have--right thinking and right living, a clean slate, and a fresh start--comes from God by way of Jesus Christ. That's why we have the saying, 'If you're going to blow a horn, blow a trumpet for God.'" (1 Corinthians 1:18-21 - The Message)

What else can I say, but Amen!

12/18/08

WORDLESS THURSDAY

Just wanted to share what I got from my NJ grands. Are they precious or what?

12/10/08

IT MUST RUN IN THE FAMILY

A week ago I made a delicious pumpkin cake to take to a book club breakfast. Even more delicious was the Duncan Hines Creamy Home-Style Cream Cheese frosting that tasted just like fudge. Well the recipe makes two cakes, so I froze one to use for company tomorrow evening. I'm not sure what my reasoning was, but I decided not to frost it until I took it out of the freezer to thaw. What a mistake! Well, almost.

Every day I dipped into the leftover container of frosting in the refrigerator and helped myself to a large spoonful, until this morning it suddenly dawned on me there might not be enough left to cover the entire cake. So I immediately took it out of the freezer to thaw, and was ever so relieved to find there was still enough for a thin layer over the top. Phew!

Visions of Christmas past when I had wrapped up several candy bars to give a friend for Christmas, but she didn't come when she was supposed to. After a couple of days, unable to contain myself, I unwrapped the gift and ate one of the bars, then rewrapped it, which would not have been so bad except that I continued this pattern until there were none left.

That, in turn, led me to thinking of the story about a favorite uncle who when he was a young boy (almost a century ago), lived in a small village in Hungary. He loved to eat. One day he discovered a large piece of salted meat his mother had hanging in the cellar for a special occasion. Every day he went down to the cellar with his little knife and cut off a slice or two, thinking his mother would never be the wiser. When the day of the celebration arrived and his mother went down to the cellar to retrieve the meat, she was quite shocked to see nothing but a very small piece remaining.

It must run in the family. LOL

11/27/08

IT'S THAT TIME OF YEAR AGAIN

Here's something for you to enjoy.

Need a Snow Day?

Click on the picture and create your own snowflake(s).

THANKSGIVING '08

"And I will restore to you the years that
the locust hath eaten, the cankerworm,
and the caterpiller, and the palmerworm..."
(Joel 2:25)

This Thanksgiving marks a year since my move, and the above verse totally captures the essence of how it feels. Even though it has not been a year without challenges, the Lord has awesomely intervened to work them all out for my good and for His glory.

As I get ready to celebrate, I think of each child, grandchild, and great-grandchild, and feel so blessed to see how our family has grown and, most of all, blessed that the Lord has allowed me to be a part of it. There was a time when I never even dreamed of the possibility.

I think of the previous 12 years after I left New York and settled in Virginia, and the bittersweetness of it all. The feeling of isolation, the difficulty making friends, perceiving myself as being on the outside looking in at a church where the teaching was good but I never felt truly included.

It was a lonely time, a time of struggle, a humbling time, a time of feeling that the Lord had put me on the shelf, a time where I learned much about patience and trusting Him even when I could not understand the whys or wherefores, and then finally, a time of resignation and acceptance.

I think of how it was when I reached that point of acceptance that the wheels of change were set in motion, and suddenly, between the events that took place one evening and the decisions made the next morning, the Lord unexpectedly took me off the shelf and landed me in this small town that I have grown to love.

Here I became part of a new church family that has embraced me with open arms and enabled me to make use of the gifts God has given me. Since day one, I have felt loved and valued. I have wonderful neighbors too, and once again, the walls of my apartment ring with the echos of joy and laughter as friends and family come to call.

I don't know what the next year has in store, but I intend to gratefully seize the moment and savor every blessing the Lord has provided for me to enjoy right now.

11/24/08

EEK, THERE'S A MOUSE IN THE HOUSE...

...or there WAS a mouse, in the pantry.

I'm not quite sure why I didn't think to blog about this at the time. Probably I was too traumatized and tried to shove the experience into the deep recesses of my mind. But this morning it all came back to me in vivid detail as I read a post that made me laugh and laugh while I pictured myself reacting the same way.

My mouse experience started a couple of weeks ago when I was looking for something in my pantry and noticed a hole in a bag of Oodles of Noodles. I figured it must have torn as a result of being carelessly bagged at the grocery store, or as I tried to shove it into an overcrowded pantry shelf. Then, a couple of days later as I was putting some groceries away, I felt something lightly skim my forearm and roll under the stove. I assumed it was something that fell off the shelf, so I looked under the stove with a flashlight to retrieve it, but couldn't see a thing.

That evening my daughter and grandkids came for dinner, and I asked my granddaughter to look under the stove with the flashlight and see if she could find what had rolled under there. She couldn't see anything either, and must have thought I was having another one of those senior moments.

Anyway, the next day I decided I really had to do something about the pantry and started taking everything out of it so I could reorganize the shelves. In the process, I noticed a hole in a bag of egg noodles...and then some mouse turds...and then it struck me. There had been a mouse in my pantry. There were mouse turds everywhere--even on the wall behind the shelves. Yuck, gross!!!!!

I practically fell to my knees thanking God for His grace in keeping me from actually seeing the mouse or even imagining that that was what had so lightly brushed my arm as it jumped out and went scurrying to safety under the stove. Knowing that I had no hubby to call who could come to my rescue, and I would have most likely run screaming into the street, not even closing my apartment door beind me, or perhaps fainted or died on the spot--not a pretty sight for my daughter and grandkids to be greeted by--He came to my rescue Himself. Now how cool is that?

So try to make a long story a bit shorter, I had the handyman in my complex come up and move the stove, and sure enough, there was a mouse hole behind it which he plugged up. And God was gracious to me once again by keeping the mouse from returning before we did this, because the thought of setting out mouse traps freaked me out even more than the thought of seeing a live mouse. That just seemed too, too cruel. And if we would have used the Have A Heart kind that just traps them in a little cage so you can dump them elsewhere, my mice phobia is so extreme and irrational, I think it would have scared me just as much to see the poor little thing sitting behind bars as to see it running free.

11/19/08

BATTLE OF THE BULGE

"...keep thy soul diligently, lest thou forget
the things which thine eyes have seen, and
lest they depart from thy heart..."
(Deuteronomy 4:9)

Now there's a verse I never thought would apply to me, and yet another reminder to never say never.

The battle of the bulge is something I have struggled with for most of my adult life, and I have tried many weight loss programs, including a Bible study I posted about a while back, which is not so much a weight loss program, as it is a study that delves into what God has to say about the topic. So I have had many opportunities to see what works and what doesn't.

Well, for quite a while I was able to maintain an ideal weight for me--until I started taking it for granted and slowly let the things I knew "depart from my heart." It started with, "Oh, an extra bite or two won't make a difference," to "It's okay to eat as much as I want on special occasions," and I think you can get the picture of what happened after that.

In a few short months I gained back everything I had lost, plus some, and was pretty much eating whatever and whenever, upset that I could no longer fit into most of my clothes, but not really doing anything about it except make excuses. "I'm always hungry." "When I'm eating something I enjoy, I can't tell when I'm full." "If I exercise I'll lose the weight."

This weekend we went to visit my new grandbaby in NJ on the occasion of his Christening. It was also the first time I got to see him in person. We had a wonderful time, and many pictures were taken, and it was when I looked at those pictures that I went into shock. I knew I had gained weight, but never realized what I really looked like. What a jarring eye opener.

The next morning I decided to start Weight Watchers again (I am a lifetime member). I picked that so I would be able to compare what an appropriate amount of food for someone my size is to what I've actually been packing away. Needless to say, it confirmed that by "forgetting the things my eyes had seen and letting them depart from my heart," I have allowed myself to become a full blown glutton.

So once again, I have humbled myself and gone back to my Lord to ask for His forgiveness and grace as I renew the commitment I once had. And God has such a sense of humor. This morning he spoke to and encouraged me through a cartoon I saw on my friend Rachel's blog. It was just what I needed to see.

11/10/08

CHRISTMAS IS A COMING

Just love this clip I saw on Kat's blog. What a great concept.

11/7/08

ON ABORTION

"You created my inmost being; you knit
me together in my mother's womb. ... I
am fearfully and wonderfully made."
(Psalm 139:13-14a)

Just prior to the elections, I posted a link to an article on my blog, and I also posted it on the agent bulletin board of my virtual job. It led to an interesting debate on abortion.

I had called my bulletin board post FOOD FOR THOUGHT, and many thoughts were posted that ranged all the way from:

"As to abortion...you have the right to NOT get pregnant...but the baby has no rights at all. I wish some of you could actually watch a full term baby being killed. This is a living human being. It feels pain, has a heart beat and a soul. Just cause it hasn't breathed it's first breath outside the womb does not make it nothing,"

to the thoughts expressed by a pastor's wife who asked her husband,

"If our beautiful daughter was raped by a serial killer, would you advise her to carry the baby or get an abortion? if she got an abortion would God forgive her or doom her to hell?. . . everything changes when the light shines on you personally. . . just a little food for thought."

Well, I do acknowledge that rape or incest is a horrendous thing, and that yes, God does forgive us for any and all sins we truly repent of and ask for forgiveness for, and that by His grace "the light has not shined on me personally," but I still have a question. What does all that have to do with the unborn child?

It's not the baby's fault. He or she is an innocent who had no say in the matter. So how does the terrible circumstance of the conception make the murder right? I've never been able to figure that one out.

11/4/08

FROM THE MOUTH OF A CHILD

Saw this on a friend's blog, and today being Election Day, I decided to put it on my blog too. It started my day off with a good chuckle. And yes, I AM going to vote!

10/27/08

ARE YOU GOING TO VOTE ON ELECTION DAY?

To vote or not to vote has been a real dilemma for me this year since I really don't care for either candidate, but then I read this article, which left me wondering how can I not vote.

I know that very few people read my blog, but if you do read this post, please, please read the article by clicking on this link. This is the one time in my life I wish I could reach more people.

9/4/08

COOL QUOTE

Today I came across this really cool quote taken from one of C. H. Spurgeon's sermons, How to Read the Bible. At least I think it is cool, because it showed me a whole new perspective I had never considered before.

"As I sat last year under a widespreading beech, admiring that most wonderful of trees, I thought to myself, I do not think half as much of this beech tree as the squirrel does. I see him leap from bough to bough, and I feel sure that he dearly values the old beech tree, because he has his home somewhere inside it in a hollow place, these branches are his shelter, and those beech-nuts are his food. He lives upon the tree. It is his world, his playground, his granary, his home; indeed, it is everything to him, and it is not so to me, for I find my rest and food elsewhere. With God's Word it is well for us to be like squirrels, living in it and living on it. Let us exercise our minds by leaping from bough to bough of it, find our rest and food in it, and make it our all in all. We shall be the people that get the profit out of it if we make it to be our food, our medicine, our treasury, our armory, our rest, our delight. May the Holy Ghost lead us to do this and make the Word thus precious to our souls."

Have any of you ever thought of it this way?

8/23/08

WINTLEY PHIPPS -- JUST THE BLACK NOTES

I had never heard of Wintley Phipps before receiving an e-mail forward from a friend with this video clip of Amazing Grace - Just the Black Notes. Wow!



Then I found this other clip, with an awesome testimony at the beginning, and wanted to share it too. I have definitely become a Wintley Phipps fan. Enjoy and be blessed!

8/18/08

TEARY MONDAY...

...but in a good way.

Downloaded some music from a link on Kat's blog






Then I read a post on Angie's blog that could melt the stoniest heart.

Yes, a teary, but very blessed start to a Monday morning. If I could but love the way these ladies do.

MUCH TO PONDER

A few posts ago I wrote about how convicted I was feeling after reading Quaker Summer by Lisa Samson, followed by two very thought provoking blog posts by Annie and Kat. Well now I've just finished reading another book that's left me with much to ponder.

The book is entitled Justice in the Burbs: Being the Hands of Jesus Wherever You Live, by Will and Lisa Samson. It talks about living justly in an unjust world, having the eyes of Jesus and the heart of God, caring for the needy and those left out, loving our neighbors in a hands-on, life changing way. In the author (Will's) words, "It's hard to convince the world that Jesus cares when we don't."

Much as I hate to admit it, I've never really loved in a hands-on way, I don't think. The scales tip towards me-centeredness rather than Christ centeredness when it comes to acting justly. Truth be told, I tend to hide behind the business of my life, and when there is time to spare, am more concerned about my comfort than giving the gift of my presence to the needy.

Though I'm free with my resources, that's certainly not true of my time, and until recently I believed this was enough. Now I have an awful lot spinning around my brain and my heart.

8/16/08

A NEW GENRE



Just have to brag on my 9-year-old granddaughter, Kaitlyn, who gave me this masterpiece she created at camp. It was painted in shaving cream. How's that for a new genre?

Proud grandma just bought a frame for it and is about to hang it in a prominent spot.

8/14/08

SWEET - SOUR - SWEET

Got to my 7:00 AM Bible study on time for a change - SWEET

Prepared and delivered a gourmet meal to an ailing senior - Double SWEET

Needed $2 to pay for an interlibrary book I had ordered, and didn't have any cash. Drove to the ATM and rolled down my window to make the transaction. Started to roll the window back up and something snapped. Couldn't roll it up or down - SOUR

Heavy rain in the forecast, window wide open. Drove to the dealership for a fix. Needed a new window regulator to the tune of $325 - Mouth Puckering SOUR

Went to pick up an expensive prescription and discovered I had a mysterious $98 credit - SWEET, SWEET, SWEET!

8/6/08

G-GG AND THE BEANSTALK














Well it's not really a beanstalk like in the fairy tale. It's actually a tomato plant that hasn't stopped growing, and now I'm having to stand on a ladder to reach the top of it.

This is really an against all odds story, because from the day these plants were seedlings, they have been buffeted by storms. My daughter laughed at me when in the midst of one I ran out to the balcony and secured a branch the wind was about to snap.

So why this obsession with the survival and wellbeing of these plants? Well, in a way I can't quite put my finger on, they seem to mirror my life. Sort of an illustration of one of the six word memoirs I posted a while back, Bop Bag Keeps Bouncing Back Up. When I see what they have become, despite the obstacles along the way, it gives me great hope and fills my heart with peace.

Can anyone understand what I'm trying to say? Can anyone relate?

7/26/08

DISCRIMINATION?

The view from my window is a bird watcher's paradise. All kinds of small birds live in the maple trees across the way. Some of them have come to feed at the bird feeder on my balcony which has replaced the original finch sock. It has been so relaxing to sit and watch them, it's been well worth cleaning up the mess. UNTIL...

...until the day I settled in, ready to bird watch as I ate my breakfast, and was horrified to see a young pigeon (no older than maybe a pre-teen in human years) sitting on the railing. I had never seen any pigeons in this neck of the woods before, and in total shock, mindlessly shooed it away. All I could think of at that moment were the swarms of city pigeons in NYC, and all the talk of them being dirty birds, disease carriers, and such.

That afternoon, in the courtyard, I saw the same pigeon standing forlornly by itself while the smaller birds gathered together on a different patch of grass, totally ignoring him(or her). After a while he turned around and just slowly hopped away to the shade of a tree.

Now I know a bird is not a person, but my heart went out to him and I felt so bad for having shooed him away. He looked so lonely and out of place, I vowed to be kinder if he ever visited my balcony again. Nevertheless, I was secretly glad he only paid me one more visit. I'm hoping he's found his family and rejoined them some place far, far away.

7/23/08

CONVICTED

It started while reading Quaker Summer by Lisa Samson, and was fueled by two very thought provoking posts--40 Day Fast - HEART, and The 40 Day Fast: How To Be A Rock Star. Surely the Lord was speaking straight to my heart, convicting me of something that is way out of my comfort zone.

Communication has always been difficult for me. It's a skill I never learned growing up, and I'm often at a loss as to what to say and when. That's why I like to blog. When I blog I can write about the things I wish I had said but didn't think of until after the fact.

On the other hand, maybe there's a greater problem at the root of this, a heart problem, a love problem. Unconditional love is something I've never experienced, and I find myself floundering in my attempts to practice it. Maybe that's why I give in ways that don't involve any real investment of myself. I never thought about it that way before. What an eye opener.

Maybe if I stop trying to do the things I don't think I can and let the Lord do them through me, all the rest will follow.

Pray for me, please.

7/18/08

NO PAPER PLATES

Today I decided to clean out my e-mail In Box, and read those e-mails that have been accumulating unopened, for months and months. Mostly an overwhelming number of daily devotionals that I obviously have not been reading on a daily basis.

In the interest of time, I started quickly skimming through them and deleting, until I got to this one by Ron Hutchcraft, which I would like to share.


No Paper Plates - #5615
Friday, July 18, 2008

A couple of times this week I ordered out for lunch and it came on a paper plate. Guess what I did with the paper plate when I finished my lunch? No, I didn't wash it; I didn't save it for later. In fact, I've never done that with a paper plate. Now, look we've never had a lot of money, but I've never in my whole life saved a paper plate. I throw it away, of course, like you probably do. And I don't feel any great sense of loss or regret, "Oh, I can't believe I lost my paper plate." No, it doesn't bother me. But we have these other plates at our house, we keep them in a cabinet in our dining room and we save them for special occasions. We wash those when we use them, because it says "fine china" on those. At least that's what my wife wrote with a magic marker on the back. It's the best we've got. And when we're done, we put those plates away very carefully. In fact, if you drop them you're out of the family. What's the difference? Paper plates are cheap, practically worthless, right? You throw them away. Now, fine china on the other hand is expensive; it's too valuable to throw away. Do you know which one most people feel like today?

I'm Ron Hutchcraft and I want to have A WORD WITH YOU today about "No Paper Plates." I think most people feel like paper plates.

They've been put down, they've been hurt, they've been neglected, they've been compared, they've been ignored, backstabbed, abused, and they feel pretty worthless. And they are throwing themselves away. Maybe you've been doing that. It's a lot of waste to throw yourself away. You could throw yourself away socially by the friends you choose, or academically by not trying or just giving up, you could throw yourself away alcoholically, chemically, romantically with the people you date, sexually, musically - by the music you listen to, or even suicidally. And here's what's so tragic about that. God didn't make any paper plates! If you think you're not worth much, you're wrong about who you are. Anyone whose treated you like you're not worth much doesn't know who you are either. The one who knows what you are is the One who gave you your life in the first place - your Creator. And here's how He feels about you.

Our word for today from the Word of God, Exodus 19:5, "You will be," God says, "my treasured possession." God says you are a treasure; you are fine china! You're not trash! You're too valuable to throw away, but there's more in God's appraisal of what you're worth. Ephesians 2:10 says, "We are God's workmanship." Now, workmanship isn't thrown together, it's no accident, it's not random. You're a masterpiece; you're a handmade creation of a God who only does beautiful work. And then it goes on to say in that verse that you are designed, "...for good works He prepared in advance for us to do." You are uniquely designed to make a unique difference in certain people's lives. But there's more. 1 Corinthians 6:20 says, "You were bought at a price, therefore honor God with your body."

God says you're His treasure, His workmanship, and the one He paid a lot for. You can tell how much a person values something by how much they're willing to pay for it. Well, God paid for you with the blood of His one and only Son, Jesus, and even though you had left His Creator plan for you and sinned, He wanted you back so much He sent His Son to pay the death penalty in your place. You are very expensive!

So don't believe the lies in your brain that keep telling you you're a paper plate, that you're worthless, that keep tempting you to throw yourself away. You are fine china! You're to be reserved for special purposes. If you feel like you're not worth much, then it's time to pay a visit to the cross where Jesus Christ died for you. That's how much God thinks you're worth - the life of His Son.

You know, the reason we feel so worthless is we are away from the One who gave us our worth in the first place. The wall between you and your Creator could come down this very day, if you would in your heart get to Jesus and say, "Jesus, You died to bring me back to God, and I am Yours." We'd love to help you get started with Him. Our website is set up really to do that. It's yoursforlife.net. I hope you'll visit us there right away today.

And please, live like the treasure that your Creator says you are.

7/16/08

THE SEVEN DEADLY SINS

The other day, just out of curiosity, I took the "Discover Your Sins" test on Rachel's blog. What I expected to see confirmed is that I am a glutton, but much to my surprise, it was ENVY that got the highest score.

That got me to thinking, and I found myself transported way, way, way back in time, dredging up some really early memories. Memories of not fitting in, of feelling "different" (like from the rest of the class), of being made fun of, of being embarrassed by some of the things my parents did.

I'm sure my parents meant well, and my sheltered upbringing was their attempt to shield me from harm or pain, but the result was quite the opposite. The secrets and the lies confused me, and I longed for family ties, for roots, for unconditional love. What I wanted more than anything was to feel included instead of always being the odd one out.

Things have changed since then, but maybe my actions haven't. I guess it's something I have to work on, and not feel so easily slighted.


Greed:Very Low
Gluttony:Low
Wrath:Very Low
Sloth:Low
Envy:Medium
Lust:Very Low
Pride:Low



The Seven Deadly Sins Quiz on 4degreez.com

7/13/08

IMPOSTORS







Not long ago, I posted about some birds who had come to feed at my finch sock. There have been quite a few since then, but none are yellow. And yet I was told that only goldfinches have thin enough beaks to be able to eat from the sock.

Does anybody have any idea what my hungry little visitors are?

7/11/08

COULDN'T BELIEVE MY EYES

This has to be one of the most amazing things I have ever seen. It's the Chinese Ballet Circus' unusual interpretion of Swan Lake. The skill and strength involved in what they are doing is phenomenal. And don't stop watching after the frogs. It get's way more incredible after that.


7/8/08

A NEW BABY

"...to him who is able to do immeasurably
more than all we ask or imagine..."
(Ephesians 3:20)

It seems like only yesterday that I was a young widow with two small children and a real concern about what would happen to them if anything happened to me. My fervent prayer was that I would at least be there to see them grow up.
Not only did the Lord answer that prayer, but he has enabled me to see two grandchildren grow up, four more in the process, and even blessed me with two great grandchildren.
Welcome to the world little Dominic. I love you so, so, so much.

7/2/08

NOTHING TOO SMALL



A while back I visited a friend who introduced me to goldfinches and finch socks. I can't recall ever seeing a goldfinch before, and was fascinated by these colorful little birds feeding on thistle seed from the finch socks in her garden.

Well I live in an apartment, so I don't have a garden, but I do have a terrace, and on the way home I picked up a thistle-stuffed finch sock to hang from the rafters. Then I eagerly awaited the finches, but none came.

Days passed, followed by weeks, and at the end of a month I was wondering if maybe the frequent storms in our area had made the thistle seed unpalatable, or if, perhaps, finches didn't live in this neck of the woods. What to do.

My thoughts turned to a loving God who cares about the most minute details of our lives. Nothing is too small to bring to Him in prayer. And so I prayed that He would send one little finch my way.

I guess the picture speaks for itself, even though I could not get close enough to capture their colors on film.

6/16/08

OF MANY MINDS

Almost two weeks ago we were hit by the first and worst of several storms to pound our area. It was short but extreme. A tornado that didn't hit the ground. Something noteworthy enough to be a blog post, but before I actually sat down to write it, the theme had changed several times.

As I surveyed the damage--a flood in my bedroom where the swirling rain had been propelled through the top of the windows; the pot of tomato plants on my terrace that had toppled over, emptying itself all over the floor; my little miracles lying there uprooted and pathetically flattened out; the prospect of another lengthy power failure--the first thing I thought of was AFTERMATH OF A VIOLENT STORM.

Variations of that title ran through my mind as I mopped up the water in the bedroom, thanking the Lord for keeping the nearby computer and TV dry; as I scooped the dirt and seemingly lifeless plants off the terrace floor and dumped everything back in the pot while praying for a second miracle to revive them; as I opened up all the windows; and as I drove to the store for ice.

Although the store was dark, and the automatic doors weren't supposed to open with no power, they actually did--in slow motion. I was greeted by an astonished manager, who asked how I had gotten in. When I told him I had come in through the door and needed to buy some ice to keep the contents of my freezer from spoiling, he informed me that he could not sell it to me because the cash registers weren't working and the store was closed for business. But something caused a change of heart--whether my downcast face, or pitiful little old lady image, I'll never know--and as I turned to leave the store, he relented, called me back, and gave me a 10 pound bag for free. (Actually, he first tried to give me a 20 pound bag, offering even to carry it out to the car, but I pointed out that it wouldn't be any use to me if I wasn't able to carry it up the stairs when I got home.)

When I returned to my apartment it was much cooler than the near 90 degree weather outside--one of the benefits of not having direct exposure to the sun--and there was a nice breeze wafting through the open windows. So once the ice was in the freezer, I settled in to a long day of reading. The books were by an author I had never heard of before. My introduction to them had been through a friend's blog, and the titles seemed so engaging I borrowed the whole bunch from the library just days before. What a delight. By the time the power came back on some 28 hours later, I had made my way through two of them. Things were looking up. Maybe I would change the title of my post to LOOKING ON THE BRIGHT SIDE OF THINGS.

The next morning, the power was still out, but the apartment remained cool, and the tomato plants showed signs of survival. Since I couldn't get any work done without my computer, it seemed like a good time to tackle some dreaded chores--like the siding on my terrace. That's a task I had been putting off since the day I moved in here many months ago. It took quite a few hours to complete since I worked slowly and took several gingersnap cookie breaks (shame on me), to make it seem less overwhelming. That made me reminisce about my very first post--TRADER JOE TRIPLE GINGER SNAP COOKIES --and wonder whether my new post should be something like REPEATING PAST SINS, or DEJA VUE.

Well, that evening the power did come back on, but not the Internet. I was a little disappointed, but figured it would be back up by morning. Fat chance! Service was not restored for another three-and-a-half days, and by then I was no longer looking on the bright side. Since I work as an independent contractor from home, there is no benefits package. When I don't work, I don't get paid, which is not a happy thought for someone on a very tight austerity budget. I was also disappointed not to be able to start blogging while ideas were still fresh in my mind.

When the Internet finally did come back on, work needed to be my highest priority. And I did manage to get in almost a full day before the next round of storms, which caused the power to flicker on and off several times, sending the Internet down for another day, and frying my power surge protector in the process. At this point I started thinking maybe the title of my post should be FRUSTRATION, FRUSTRATION.

Funny how the same event can be experienced in so many different ways according to our perspective at the time.

5/29/08

JUST WANTED TO SHARE

This morning, while searching for something else, I came across two links that piqued my interest, and after checking them out, thought they might be worth sharing.

The first is a Blog Bible Study by Lisa McKay, entitled "I AM--SO YOU DON"T HAVE TO BE." You can work at your own pace, and there are links that enable you to share comments and thoughts.

The second link takes you to a blog spot called Internet Cafe, which is described as "a place to kick back, grab a virtual chair at our table, and allow God to fill your cup to running over. It's addictive, but only He can satisfy the craving of your soul. Join us for your daily dose of inspiration." Lots of food for thought here as you enjoy that cup of Java. The menu includes daily devotions as well as a weekly chat topic in meme format.

Now I'm all set for a new adventure--once I figure out what a meme is. :-)

5/24/08

COUNTING THE COST

"On hearing it, many of his disciples said,
'This is a hard teaching. Who can accept
it?' . . . From this time many of his disciples
turned back and no longer followed him.
'You do not want to leave too, do you?'
Jesus asked the Twelve. Simon Peter
answered him, 'Lord, to whom shall we
go? You have the words of eternal life."
(John 6:60b,66-67a)

Shortly after my move some months ago, I joined an early morning Bible study at the local book store. The first study was very interesting and practical, and I really looked forward to each session, even though I'm ashamed to say I overslept and missed a few. However, this week we started a new study by Kay Arthur, the title of which made me so uncomfortable, I seriously considered dropping out for the summer. The study is called BEING A DISCIPLE: COUNTING THE REAL COST, and unlike our previous study, this one is inductive, which means we have to dig into the Word and find our own answers.

The Scriptures for Week One did not include the feel good verses about love, and forgiveness, and grace, but rather, the kind of verses that make me squirm. The ones about what the lifestyle of a believer should be, and about being hated and persecuted, and about taking up our cross to follow Jesus.

In the discussion that followed, we pretty much agreed that what Jesus tells us in these passages does not sound very appealing or attractive at all and my thoughts turned to the quote at the top of this post, a quote that was often in my mind during the early part of my West Virginia odyssey twelve years ago. I remembered asking that same question over and over when things seemed so overwhelming I was tempted to drive over the side of the mountain, but there was never any other answer than the one Peter gave.

Now looking back, I see how faithful the Lord has been, how He was always with me, how the trials drew me closer to Him, and enabled me to see Him work in awesome ways that would never have been possible if the going had been smooth.

There are so many things I will never fully understand while I am in this world, but of one thing I can be sure. God loves and values each one of us. We are all Divine originals, created with a very special purpose that nobody else can fulfill. And even if we can't see why things are the way they are, we can trust that God is on the throne and in complete control. We can be sure that even though it may not seem like it, He is working things out for our ultimate good and for His glory.

5/7/08

HOW DID I END UP HERE

My granddaughter tagged me for this six word memoir, and at first I had a hard time thinking of anything with six words, but then ideas started flowing, and I wound up with a couple of pages of six worders and the even harder task of trying to pick just one. Eventually I was able to cross off most of them, but couldn't decide between these five. They all seem to fit.
  • Expected one thing, got something else
  • Bop bag keeps bouncing back up
  • God's agenda proves better than mine
  • Weary traveler on the road home
  • When all else fails, God doesn't

I'm tagging my bloggy friend Average Jane because I just love the way she writes, and am most curious to see what six words she would come up with.

And I'm tagging Sandy's Smiles, because I haven't seen anything new on her blog for a while, and I miss her, and hope this will encourage her to start posting again soon.

The rules are:

1. Write the title to your own memoir using 6 words.
2. Post it on your blog.
3. Link it to the person that tagged you.
4. Tag at least one more blog. (I changed that rule from the original 'tag five,' because I had a hard time thinking of five people who hadn't already been tagged, or that I know read my blog).

4/25/08

WITNESSING A MIRACLE

"...A man scatters seed on the ground.
Night and day, whether he sleeps or
gets up, the seed sprouts and grows,
though he does not know how."
(Mark 4: 26b-27)


This year I decided to try growing tomatoes from scratch (seeds instead of adopted seedlings). However, remembering my experience last summer, I did not want to over coddle them. So instead of first planting the seeds in little cups indoors (as per the instructions on the packet), I planted them right in the two big pots sitting on my terrace.

The day of my venture dawned warm and sunny, but as I planted the seeds, I realized my terrace, though bright, does not get any direct sunlight. Furthermore, the pots are somewhat sheltered. And then the next day, the temperatures dropped drastically from the high 70's to the low 50's, and a couple of days after that, we had some thunder storms and heavy rain, which I felt sure must have drowned those poor seeds. What to expect?

For about 10 days I checked the pots but could see no evidence of emerging life. Then today, when I was about to give up hope, and plant some new seeds, two little sprouts put in an appearance. Hmm. Wasn't that a lesson from last summer too? Something about "...at the proper time we will reap a harvest if we do not give up?" (Galatians 6:9b)

POOF, IT'S GONE!

"What is your life? You are a mist that
appears for a little while and then vanishes."
(James 4:14b)

Now I know that time doesn't change, but these days it feels like it flies by a whole lot faster than it did when I was a child or in my youth. Waiting for things seemed to take forever then, and I must have wished away years, trying to speed things along.

I remember as a 21, almost 22-year-old, despairing of ever finding a mate, and fearing I would wind up an old maid. Those were the days of young love, and crushes, and a broken heart, as I gravitated towards men who were unavailable, or unable/unwilling to return my affections. But, as you can see, I did not stay an old maid forever. and here I am, a grandma, with a granddaughter about the age I was then, who undoubtedly has entertained similar thoughts--I think.

What I didn't realize is that every season has a blessing to be enjoyed, even though it may not be the one we are looking for. There are little windows of opportunity, easily missed, and no longer available down the road, like the free time I have available to do some of the things I enjoy when work is slow. I am self-employed, and tend to forget that my work is cyclical--feast or famine--and until the aha moment, when I realized the predictable pattern of it all, many wonderful breathing spells were wasted while I worried about how the bills would get paid.

There have been events in my life that I would have preferred not to have lived through, and yet, in retrospect, I see how closed doors led to better ones opening, that would not have opened had the original ones not closed. Which makes me think we are like tapestries being woven by a master weaver. It's hard, if not impossible, to see the emerging masterpiece when you are all caught up in the knots and tangles of the reverse side. It's only in looking back that you can appreciate it. Or at least, that has been my experience.

4/15/08

TRIBUTE TO A GRAND OLD DOG

You were a good dog, Alice. We will miss you.

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4/1/08

WHAT'S NORMAL?

I don't know what that feels like anymore.

Yesterday I started to blog about a perfect day, not because it was marked by some special event, but because for the first time in several months I woke up feeling like myself again. All those blessings I used to take for granted, like energy, and focus, and being able to get through a day without feeling overwhelmed. And then I took for granted that I had turned the corner, and now everything would be okay. And even though I know that in the end it will be, it isn't yet, and I'm having a real hard time being patient, trusting, and not giving in to fear.

I have friends who at this very moment are facing mountains in their lives compared to which my challenge is a mere molehill, and I marvel at the peace, and courage, and admirable faith they exhibit in the face of it all.

The promises of God are in my head, and all around me on index cards, and in a notebook where I have recorded all the many ways the Lord has come through for me over the years--even before I got to know Him. It is full of testimonies of His faithfulness, grace, provision, and awesome ways He has intervened on my behalf. He has never ever let me down. How then could I still be such a wimp? Can anyone understand?

2/29/08

FOOD FOR THOUGHT

Just wanted to share a quote I saw on Karen's blog that jumped off the page at me. (Wish I had seen it before Julie's Quirky Quotes Contest.)

"When a train goes through a tunnel and it gets dark, you don't throw away the ticket and jump off. You sit still and trust the engineer." (Corrie Ten Boom)

2/28/08

JUST A THOUGHT - 1

"In addition to all this, take up the shield
of faith, with which you can extinguish
all the flaming arrows of the evil one."
(Ephesians 6"16)

Just got home from an early morning Bible study on the book of Nehemiah, which is about the rebuilding of the walls of Jerusalem, and how a city without walls is an open invitation for enemy invasion. We are looking at the steps Nehemiah took to accomplish this project, and how we can apply them to the rebuilding of our own lives.

Today's lesson dealt with opposition, and one line on the page really jumped out at me: Do you want your life to be comfortable, or do you want your life to count? Hmm. My life has been far from comfortable these days, but I don't know how much it counts.

It seems like every time I give a testimony or post something on my blog that might be an encouragement to someone else, I get attacked by another fiery dart of the enemy. I feel like one of those Rolly-Polly type toys my kids had when they were little, that when punched down would pop right up again, and in that instant that I am down I feel like a hypocrite. Does the fact that I keep popping back up exonerate me? Just a thought.

2/26/08

AARGH!

"And seek not ye what ye shall eat, or
what ye shall drink, neither be ye of
doubtful mind. ...your Father knoweth
that ye have need of these things. But
rather seek ye the Kingdom of God;
and all these things shall be added
unto you." (Luke 12:29-31))

Aargh! That's how I've been feeling lately. Nothing seems to be going right.

The last couple of months have been marked by one setback after another. If it's not health-related, it's finances, or a disappointing turn to what seemed like a great relationship, or something promised and greatly anticipated not coming to pass. Plans keep falling through--even simple ones, like a list of what I need to get done on any given day. Something always seems to come up to upset the apple cart, and for someone like me who likes to feel in control, it has been totally frustrating and unsettling.

Last night I went to bed feeling as though my bucket of dissapoinments was so full it couldn't possibly hold another drop, only to discover yet another one trying to sneak in and join the rest. My transcription software decided to stop cooperating, and I haven't been able to troubleshoot the problem, there is no tech support number for me to call, and my friend's husband who has very graciously offered to stop by after work to see if he can fix it will not be here until the end of the day. So I guess I'm on leave without pay at a time when I really can't afford to be.

At this moment my wish is that someone else would step in and make things right for me, like a fairy godmother who could just wave her magic wand and make all my problems go away, but I know that would only be a temporary fix, and the Lord is trying to show me a far better solution. But what, and how? I'm guessing He's planned this unwanted day so I can ponder such weighty matters and give Him my full attention without any guilt feelings about work not getting done.

The first thought that comes to mind is TRUST. Do I really trust God to keep the promises in His Word, or am I more likely to be moved by the things I see and hear and feel? Trials are one sure way to find out. Without a TEST, there can be no TESTIMONY. How true. I have a little card on my refrigerator door that says "We are not operating in the arena of faith unless we are dealing with problems that at the present moment appear unsolvable." Maybe I need to remind myself of that a little more often.

Now I may not be able to change my circumstances, but I do have 100% full control of the thoughts I choose to dwell on, and if I change my thoughts, my feelings tend to follow, and before long I'm seeing things from a whole different perspective. As Martin Luther once said, "You can't keep the birds from flying over your head, but you can keep them from building a nest in your hair."

I used to think a lot about things like that, and some years ago I started keeping a notebook which I entitled "Memories to Ponder on Difficult Days." It is a personal reminder of God's faithfulness, and the many awesome ways He has come through for me when I was facing issues that seemed insurmountable. It is also a great reminder of His unconditional love, and how much better His timing is than mine. I am so impatient, and so driven by the little piece of the puzzle I am looking at at the time, I tend to forget that He sees the whole picture and knows what is best in the long run. This book helps me see, in retrospect, how grateful I need to be that some of my prayers weren't answered when and how I wanted them to be.

Well, the day is now almost over, and I'm feeling surprisingly relaxed and refreshed. My friend should be here soon to get the software up and running again, and I've actually had a chance to do some blogging, which I haven't been able to get to for quite some time. I'm also looking at a little sticker pasted to the cover of my notebook that says, "God always gives His best to those who leave the choice with Him." So things are looking up again, and I'm feeling hopeful and encouraged. Maybe it wasn't a wasted day after all, and just maybe someone else will find encouragement through these rambling thoughts.

2/17/08

QUIRKY QUOTE CONTEST





Julie is hosting a "Quirky Quotes" contest. Click here if you want to participate.

My entry (which I think will be my one and only--even though we are allowed two) is from W. Phillip Keller's book, A Shepherd Looks at Psalm 23.

"He who has no sense of self-importance cannot be offended or defeated."

1/17/08

TWO GRANDMAS PLAYING IN THE SNOW


There really is a second grandma out there throwing snowballs and building a snowman, but I wasn't sure if she would appreciate having her picture on my blog, so friend Julie cropped her out of it.

I had forgotten what fun it is to play in the snow.

SINGING THE BLUES

"...you created my inmost being; you knit me
together in my mother's womb. ... I am fearfully
and wonderfully made; ... All the days ordained
for me were written in your book before one of
them came to be."
(Psalm 139:13-16)

A few days ago I received an e-mail from a friend, thanking me for a forward I had sent that had brightened her day, and telling me I had missed my vocation because I always have "something nice up your [my] sleeve to send, just at the right time to uplift a day!"

Well, lately I have been feeling somewhat down on myself, and her e-mail made me smile, but soon I was back to singing the blues and feeling how right she was about my having missed my vocation--and my talents, and my education, and my life, as well.

It seems like I started out with so much and wasted it all, and now there is nothing to show for it--except my two children, who I love with all my heart, and who seem to have made something of their lives despite my poor parenting, and who have blessed me with six beautiful grandchildren between them.

Then I thought of the post on my friend Kate's blog, and it brought tears to my eyes, as did my daughter's comment in response to it, and I wondered if either one of them realize how very, very blessed they are. What I would give to be able to turn back the clock and relive those early parenting days when I was a single mom with a fierce sense of the importance of "my" time, with no Word to guide me, and too selfish and overwhelmed to put my love in action the way they do with their kids.

The tragedy of a wasted life! But then has it been? Had I pursued my talents and education to their fullest, would I ever have felt a need for the Lord or for His saving grace? Would I be chasing after the things the world has to offer, instead of the things that have eternal value? Would I have missed God's gift of salvation instead of my vocation, a greater tragedy by far?

The past is gone, and the clock can never be turned back, and maybe it's time for a new song, a song of gratitude that "The Lord does not look at the things man looks at. Man looks at the outward appearance, but the Lord looks at the heart." (1 Samuel 16:7b)

1/11/08

SEIZE THE MOMENT

For almost two weeks now I have been battling a severe sinus/middle ear infection, and have gotten some painful (no pun intended) glimpses into what life would be like without some of the things I take for granted, like being able to see, hear, and walk a straight line.

Until I tried to work with my ears clogged (I do transcription) I never realized the effect it could have. At best, it has slowed me down tremendously as I try to decipher letters and numbers that sound alike. And when my eyes start feeling weird, and the room starts spinning, I have to stop altogether because I can no longer look at my computer screen or even read. Nor can I drive or go for a walk.

And so that leads to another thing I tend to take for granted--TIME. How important to seize the moment and stop procrastinating. Today's open door may no longer be open tomorrow.

1/1/08

A FRESH START

"Two are better than one ... If one falls down,
his friend can help him up. ... Though one may
be overpowered, two can defend themselves."
(Ecclesiastes 4:9-12)

Today, my beautiful granddaughter gave up her New Years Day to come give me a helping hand, and what a helping hand it turned out to be. Armed with sandpaper, a straight edged razor, a tube of caulk, and some touch up paint, she went from room to room taking care of things that needed to have been done before I moved in but weren't, and that cast a shadow over what should have been a joyous event.

Where I had been too overwhelmed to even think where to start, she dug right in, and for the next several hours we worked as a team. I scrubbed floors, and she took care of the more challenging stuff, like sanding and touching up baseboards where dust bunnies that had not been cleaned first had just been painted over.

Now as I look around I am so amazed at what a difference this has made. My spirits have soared, and instead of negative thoughts, hope is in the air. For the first time since moving in, I can honestly say I am feeling content with the way things are.

2007 may have ended on a bit of a low note for me, but 2008 has definitely started on a high!