His wonders to perform."
Today was a momentous day. I heard from a cousin I have never met, and I really want to blog about it, but my mind is so full of sad and joyful thoughts all jumbled together, I can't seem to find the right words. So let me go back a couple of months to a day I was surfing the Net and had a sudden impulse to look someone up. Someone I knew half a century ago, and who I haven't even thought of for years and years.
To my surprise, I saw that he had written a book entitled Dreams and Tears, a chronicle of his life during the holocaust. Well, long story short, I ordered the book and read it, never imagining the impact it would have. Not only did it connect me to roots on my father's side of the family I was unfamiliar with, but through its pages I also discovered that I have a cousin, alive and well, living on the other side of the world.
So back to the Internet I went in an attempt to track down Erwin Koranyi, the author of the book. This done, I contacted him to express my gratitude. He, in turn, sent me my cousin's address and e-mail, and not even knowing whether she spoke English or not, I dashed off a message to her, introducing myself as the cousin she had never met. Well actually, I didn't really dash it off. At first I was hesitant to do so because I was afraid it might be an intrusion after all these years, but my wise daughter convinced me to go ahead, and now I'm glad I listened.
So back to my jumble of feelings I started to write about at the beginning of this blog. The joy part has to do with hearing back from my cousin and knowing she is genuinely happy that I got in touch. The sad is for lost years, and fleeting time, and regrets over things done or not done that I wish could be re-done. But that is futile thinking, I know. The clock can never be turned back.
Well today I received an e-mail forward from a friend of mine, entitled "I am thankful for..." (and I won't list everything here, other than just a couple of items to give you the flavor of it) -- "I am thankful for...
- ...the taxes I pay, because it means I am employed.
- ...for the mess to clean up after a party, because it means I have been surrounded by friends.
- ...for the teenager who complains about doing the dishes, because it means she is at home, not on the streets.
- ...for my huge heating bill, because it means I am warm.
- ...for the pile of laundry and ironing, because it means I have clothes to wear. "
Looking at it from that perspective, I guess I could add one more item to the list: "I am thankful for my HUGE water bills because it means I have an abundance of water to drink and wash with, I am never thirsty, and I don't have to make the long trek down to the river and back with a jug on my head to collect it, or be concerned about it being contaminated."
How Much You Matter - #5445
Friday, November 23, 2007
I got every baseball card but the one with my hero on it. When I was a kid, I'd go to the vacant lot near our apartment on the south side of Chicago and I'd collect old pop bottles. Then I'd go to the little store on the corner, trade the bottles for money and the money for as many baseball cards as I could afford. My team was the Chicago White Sox. My hero was an All-Star, Hall of Fame-bound second baseman named Nellie Fox. I got every White Sox player except one. I could never find a Nellie Fox card. Fast forward about 25 years. My nine-year-old son is now a determined baseball card collector. He has saved all his allowances for a while to go with me to a special baseball card show. At one of the first tables we visited, my son said, "Dad, look!" And there he was, under glass - Nellie. My Nellie! The card did exist after all. But being all grown up now and needing every dollar, I looked but I didn't buy. My son and I agreed to meet a few minutes later up front. He came with his hand behind his back. I said, "What did you get?" He looked up at me with those huge blue eyes, held out his hand, and handed me that Nellie Fox baseball card. Needless to say, I was a mess.
I'm Ron Hutchcraft and I want to have A Word With You today about "How Much You Matter."
I could not have felt more loved by my boy. He had literally spent everything he had on me! That's how God feels about you. He loves you very much, and He proved it. He spent everything He had on you. He gave His one and only Son for you. His love is the love you've been looking for your whole life. His love is the only thing that will fill the hole in your heart that has never gone away.
That love is expressed in our word for today from the Word of God in Romans 8, beginning with verse 32. It says: "He ... did not spare His own Son, but gave Him up for us ... neither death nor life, neither angels or demons, neither the present or the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord." Do you realize what God's offering you? A love that spared nothing for you. A love you can never lose. You can lose the love of a husband or wife, of a boyfriend or girlfriend, of a good friend, of a mom or dad - and maybe you have. But God says "nothing in all creation" can separate you from His love!
He spent it all on you. That's why what you do with Jesus is the most important decision you will ever make. All eternity - your heaven or hell - hinges on whether or not you take what He bought for you with His life. He paid for your sin. He paid the price for you to have eternal life. He's the only One who can give it to you because He's the only One who paid for it.
Imagine my son coming to me with the love gift that he had spent everything on and me saying, "That's nice, son, but I don't care." ... (I)f you've never reached out and received from Jesus what He died to give you, you are ... rejecting the greatest love there is. Forgiveness and heaven and a life that means something - bought with the blood of the Son of God.
Today He holds out to you His gift of eternal life. And you have a clear-cut choice to make. You don't need to outright reject Him to miss what He died to give you. You can just smile politely and do nothing. You're still rejecting what He did. And that could cost you heaven. ... The gift is in His hand. He spent everything He had on you. Don't just walk away. He loves you.
for this is God's will for you..."
(1 Thessalonians 5:18)
Sunday's message was about giving thanks in all circumstances, and today I had the opportunity to put it into practice as I took the backroads shortcut home after Thanksgiving dinner at my daughter's.
Now I have only recently moved to this area, and not yet become familiar with alternate routes, so I was quite taken aback by a roadblock right about where I needed to turn onto my road. I could see flashing lights in the distance, and what looked like a fallen tree, but no clue as to how else I could get to where I was going. So with much trepidation and prayer, I managed to get my car safely turned around on this relatively narrow road with ditches on each side, and headed back towards where I had started. Then, not knowing what else to do, I decided to drive towards my old town and find my way home from there.
Well, shortly after I turned on to the highway, I saw a road to my right named after my new town, and decided that should be a good bet to follow. And it was, except it turned out to be an unpaved, deeply rutted road.
At first I was frustrated and upset by the waste of time and gas, and what damage these ruts might be doing to my car, but then I started feeling thankful that it was still light out and that I wasn't trying to find my way in the pitch dark. That, in turn, got me thinking about the admonition to be thankful in all circumstances, and how it is not telling us we should be thankful for the circumstance, but rather to find things to be thankful for while in it. So I did.
For starters, because of the ruts, I had to proceed very slowly, and had plenty of time to take in my surroundings. The setting sun was painting a beautiful sky, and the mountains looked so magnificent with their plush carpet of red, and orange, and yellow leaved trees, and I found myself wishing I could capture it in words that would bring it alive the way my talented blog friend Jane could have.
When I got home, another surprise awaited me. The town was dark. The fallen tree that caused the blockade had also caused a power outage. Somehow I managed to climb the stairs to my apartment and, after quite a bit of fumbling, get my key in the door lock. That was something to be thankful for. And after that, it got easier.
Once inside the apartment, I reached for the large flashlight on my kitchen counter and was immediately thankful that I had decided to keep it there. I was also thankful for candles, and for battery powered radios and tape players, and for warm socks and PJs on a chilly night. In fact, all sorts of things crossed my mind that I usually take for granted and forget to be thankful for.
It was nice to be able to sit back and relax without feeling guilty about neglecting the chores I had planned to take care of when I got home, and as I watched the candle flicker, I thought of days gone by. I thought of circumstances I lived through that I would never have wished for or chosen, and played a game of looking for what I could be thankful for in each one. A surprising number of things came to mind. In some cases, even a blessing down the road I never would have dreamed would come out of it.
Before I knew it, several hours had flown by, and my reverie was interrupted by the beeps of electrical devices turning themselves back on. So I'm thinking what better way to end this day, than to jot down my thoughts on thanksgiving in the dark.
Why so disturbed within me? Put your
hope in God, for I will yet praise him,
my Saviour and my God."
Just as I was about to renew my lease at the apartment I had lived in for the past 11 years, a chain of unexpected events took place that led to my moving to another complex in another town. A good move, but a very stressful and suspensful one, as the time frame I had to do it in was so narrow there was no time for planning.
With only a couple of weeks to make all the arrangements and start moving myself out of the old place and into the new one, snap decisions had to be made as to what could go with me and what needed to be left behind, as well as how to dispose of those items I could not take. And then, when it was too late to turn back, distressing snags and would-be delays made me wonder if I had made the right choice after all. Yet by the 11th hour, the Lord had worked out all the details in awesome ways.
Not only did He give me supernatural strength to do things I would have thought impossible, but He sent friends to help me, interceded on my behalf with testy people who put obstacles in my path, and provided the most magnificent fall colors for me to enjoy on my endless trips back and forth between one apartment and the other. He even provided a car with a sunroof to transport a tall, gangly plant that would not fit in a van, and that the movers refused to put in their truck.
Yet now that the last box has been unpacked, the last knick-knack set in place, the last picture hung, instead of sitting back in contentment, I have found myself focusing on the negatives rather than the many positives that outweigh them, like the things that should have been fixed or replaced but weren't, the promises unkept and denied, a new and difficult management who I seem to rub the wrong way and whose bad books I have already entered. Not an auspicious start.
But truth be told, even if the clock could be turned back, I would have no desire to stay where I had been, and so I do not want to be like the children of Israel who were so caught up in the stress of the moment that they yearned for the leeks and melons they had left behind in Egypt, forgetting the cost of the brutal whip of Egyptian slavery the Lord had just delivered them from (Numbers 11:4-6).
As always, there are lessons to be learned. For one, my hope should be in the Lord rather than on deliverance from unpleasant circumstances. I need to take a step back and meditate on all that He's done, instead of remaining stuck in the now and focusing on the despair of the moment. And as always, I am so glad that He never gives up on me, that His love is unconditional, and no matter what anyone else may think about me, I am special in His sight, and He rejoices over me with joy and singing (Zephaniah 3:17).
death and destruction. For I command you today
to love the Lord your God, to walk in his ways, and
to keep his commands, decrees and laws; then you
will live and increase, and the Lord your God will
bless you in the land you are entering to possess."
It both pains and puzzles me to know that there are folks who struggle desperately to lose weight, or to overcome some other stronghold in their life, and who will try anything but a Bible study on the topic because they feel that to do so would be an attempt to manipulate God. Who can know best what steps we need to take to remedy our problems than the God who created us?
God knows what makes our bodies tick, and just as a manufacturer provides consumers with an instruction manual, He too has given us a set of guidelines to follow that cover every possible scenario we may be faced with in this journey through life (Deuteronomy 30:15-20).
Some of these guidelines, for example, relate to how we need to fuel our bodies for optimum energy and good health, and if we follow them, weight would never be an issue. So how then is getting together as a group to study these principles so we can see where we have gone wrong and correct it, an attempt to manipulate God?
Somehow I am reminded of the prisoner anguishing about being locked up in a dark prison cell with no way of escape when all along the door was unlocked and he could simply have walked out anytime he wanted to.
a harvest if we do not give up."
A few posts back, I wrote about my huge tomato plant that grew only one small tomato all summer long. Now, here we are, mid-October--just about--and it is heavy laden with fruit. God surely does use the foolish things of the world to confound the wise (1 Corinthians 1:27).
cannot be offended." - Phillip Keller
Having grown up in a family where silent treatment was the favored punishment for real or perceived wrongs, I became supersensitive to being ignored. To this day, not being acknowledged is a major frustration.
Now I do see the wisdom in Phillip Keller's words (taken from Chapter 6 of his book, A Shepherd Looks at Psalm 23) , and it is something I am working on, but I am puzzled as to how one applies these principles to practical situations that do require responses.
For instance, here I am, supposed to be moving to a new apartment on October 15th. Have friends coming to help me move stuff on the 16th, and a professional mover a few days later for the heavy stuff. Have already made arrangements for my utilities and Internet to be switched over. Apartment needs to be inspected before I can sign the lease, but with only four business days remaining, still can't get any answers from the Housing department or the property manager as to what's going on. Phone calls and e-mails remain unacknowledged. Very, very frustrating!
Not as fancy a prize as namesake Alexandra's GPS system, but hey, it was fun to find out I had won something, and now I can look forward to watching the four younger grandchildren divvy up the spoils.
Tsion Ben-Judah is a fictional rabbinical scholar who has been commissioned by the Israeli government to conduct a study on how the Jews would be able to recognize the Messiah when he comes. He likens the process to the way a letter placed in the mail will be delivered to the one person it has been addressed to, with not even that many markers needed to track them down.
In other words, by sending the letter to a particular country, you eliminate much of the world. The city narrows it down even further. Then the potential recipients are cut into smaller and smaller fractions as the letter makes it way to a certain street, a certain number on that street, and then a certain apartment. And finally, with the recipient's first and last name on the envelope, you have singled him or her out of all the billions of people who populate this planet.
In the same way, the Old Testament has given many clear prophecies that only one person in the entire human race could ever fulfill. Like the address on the letter dropped in the mailbox, these Messianic prophecies eliminate, eliminate, eliminate until only one person can be their fulfillment.
Since I'm not sure what the rules are for posting long quotes on a blog, and I don't want to wind up getting in trouble for not having the authors' permission, I'm not going to copy this process of elimination that Tsion goes through. However, if you are interested, you can find it on pages 391-396 of the book. Of course, none of it is new, and it can all be found in your Bible too, but I just thought it was a fascinating analogy.
protect me from trouble and surround
me with songs of deliverance.
Well it's that time of year again when one lease ends and another begins, and my thoughts turn to greener pastures.
Not only am I facing another increase to a rent I'm already having problems coming up with each month, but there has been a mass exodus from my apartment complex and the management is desperately trying to fill the empty apartments with an offer of a free plasma TV to anyone who moves in before the end of the month. Does this also mean they will relax their standards and we will wind up with troublesome tenants as in earlier days before the new administration stepped in and cleaned things up?
And then there is the matter of church, which has been an increasing source of frustration. It is a cold, cold place I attend but where I've never felt I belonged. Why do I stay? Because it is close to home and the teaching is sound. And yes, I have tried to make a difference by involving myself in various ministries and trying to reach out to others, but I am not seeing any fruits of those efforts.
My thoughts keep going back to an ad I saw for a church starting up 60 miles from here. It sounded so welcoming, and so warm, and I wished it were not that far away. Imagine my delighted surprise when on an impulsive check of www.rent.com, I saw an ad for a new apartment complex located close to that church, where the rents were half what mine are. It sounded too good to be true. I was so excited I couldn't fall asleep, and the next day being Sunday, I set out to visit the church and apartment.
Half a tank of gas and 165 miles later, I discovered that the grass is definitely NOT greener on the other side of the fence.
Yes, the folks at the church were very warm and welcoming, and as I entered the building, I thrilled to hear the choir practicing the old choruses I so miss. But when the worship started, I had to keep my eyes closed to keep from being distracted by all the chit-chat going on around me, and found myself missing the reverence in my church's sanctuary where people stand to sing, raise their hands in praise, and this sort of behavior would not be tolerated.
As for the apartments, it took me three hours to find them--despite my MapQuest directions--and when I finally got there, the complex was not at all what I expected. For starters, it was definitely not new, the rental units lacked most of the amenities I currently enjoy, one of the buildings had recently burned down and stood like a charred eyesore in the midst of the property, and a bunch of youth loitered under one of the stairwells, engaged in who knows what. In the end though, none of it mattered because there were income restrictions that I did not come close to qualifying for.
By the time I got home, I was exhausted. I regretted having missed communion at my church, and also the delicious London broil my daughter and son-in-law were cooking that I had been invited to share. The day had started out with such great hopes and expectations, and all kinds of plans already mapped out in my head. But along with the disappointment, I was also grateful that the Lord loved me enough to take me on this little adventure rather than zap me with a bolt of lightning for murmuring and complaining about my current circumstances.
I thought of all the times I have given up something in favor of something else I thought would be better, and then lived to regret what I no longer had. This time, by His mercy and grace, I had only given it up in my imagination run wild, and still have a second chance to stay where I am and view it from a different perspective.
My well tended seedling quickly grew to be almost as tall as I am--and is still growing. It is covered with yellow flowers, and every day there are more and more of them, but only one small tomato, which has not grown or changed in appearance since my post and pictures a couple of weeks ago. Even the bug waiting to take that first bite has long since given up and hopped away.
According to Dr. Google, who I consulted about my plight, the bountiful harvest of tomatoes I had eagerly anticipated is not about to materialize. It seems I coddled my plant too much.
On the other hand, its stunted and neglected brothers and sisters back at the camp are just teaming with tomatoes. Go figure!
Could the lessons be something like all that glitters is not gold (not even golden flowers that are supposed to turn into lush red tomatoes), or appearances can be deceiving, or don't count your chickens (or tomatoes) until they're hatched? Hmm!
Jesus Christ, and the Father of compassion
and the God of all comfort, who comforts us
in all our troubles, so that we can comfort
those in any trouble with the comfort we
ourselves have received from God.
(2 Corinthians 1:3-4)
Well, it started out innocently enough. A passing twinge of resentment at an e-mail that failed to thank me for something I had done--not even an acknowledgement of it. But then that was par for the course where this person was concerned--and others too. And now the twinge became more than a passing one as I started thinking about other people I had sent things to who had failed to acknowledge receiving them either.
At this point I decided I had better get back to work before my thoughts became totally unbridled. But that was not to be. The Internet was down, and a little demon perched himself on my shoulder, gleefully pushing buttons that filled my mind with hurtful memories from the past. As each one resurfaced, it triggered a bunch more, and soon I was partying with anger and resentment at all the wrongs done to me (both real and imagined) from as far back as the day I was born and disappointed my mother by being a girl instead of the boy she had hoped for.
Things were starting to get a bit out of hand, when I was rescued by an unexpected phone call from a good friend. By the time I got off the phone, the Internet was back up and I decided to check out some blogs before getting back to work.
One friend's post piqued my interest in another one posted on SmallGreenRiver's blog. As I scrolled down, the header Bam Bam caught my attention and I started to read it--including the comments. What was left of my pity party came to an abrupt end, as I shamefully realized how petty it had been.
Hurting people hurt people, but God can turn it around for good and for his glory. Like Joseph said to his brothers, You intended to harm me, but God intended it for good to accomplish what is now being done..." (Genesis 50:20)
So thank you, James, for not deleting those comments, devastatingly painful as they must have been for you to read. If you had, the Lord could never have used them to shock me back to reality. And who knows how many other folks he may have ministered to through them as well.
Well, as you can see, it is a tomato plant after all, but maybe an overly coddled one, for it's not near as fruitful as it's more neglected sisters and brothers still at the camp.
After the initial shock wore off, a battle plan was put into action. Baking soda mixed with vinegar was poured down the drain, followed by pots of boiling water, and for a few short hours it seemed to have worked. The victory was short lived, however, and the swarm reappeared with gathered forces.
More baking soda and vinegar were poured down the drain, followed by even more pots of boiling water, but by the end of the day a new battalion was steadily marching up the drain.
I repeated the procedure a third time, and still the troops kept escalating, so on to Plan B, which was to put bay leaves in and around the infested areas. This proved to be a total waste of time, and didn't daunt them one bit.
At this point I turned to Google (which is probably where I should have started), and was informed that whereas my previous strategies had been good, there could be no long lasting results until the queen had been destroyed. I didn't know ants had a queen. My visiting granddaughter assured me that they did. So now how to go about toppling her from her throne?
After surfing through various sites for new strategies, I decided on the following.
Mix 1 cup of warm water with 1/2 cup of sugar (I used brown since it's all I had available), and 2 tablespoons of Borax. Then soak the mixture up with cotton balls and place those cotton balls near any trails the ants have established.
I placed the cotton balls in strategic places along the counter, window sill, and ledge behind my sink. Then I turned off the light and went to bed.
The next morning, I could hardly believe my eyes. No trace of an ant anywhere. All was still, and my kitchen resembled a ghost town dotted with mini mountain peaks of brown sugar fudge. The battle was over, and I had won!
Today she walked over to my car and asked if I knew anyone she could give her perishables to. I asked if she was moving out. She nodded, and my heart sank. She said it was time to move on, and I wished her a safe trip.
A pang of shock hit deep in the pit of my stomach, and as I turned and walked towards my apartment, I felt overwhelmed by unexpected grief. Why do I so deeply mourn a friendship that never was?
nothing this truth can dim,
He gives His very best to those
who leave the choice with Him.
Instead of going to Book Club today, I decided to stay home and write a Dear God letter about the ever growing mountain of frustrations I have been battling these last few weeks. Computer glitches that hold me up and keep me from doing what I want/need to do, friends who don't answer e-mails even when a response is repeatedly requested, legalism that doesn't allow for special circumstances, and on and on.
It all came to a head yesterday when I received an announcement from one of my job managers that we were getting yet another pay cut. Thanks to outsourcing, the choice has become work for less, or not at all. And the solution for keeping up with the growing cost of living? Work more hours and be grateful that there is still work out there to do. Kind of like the Israelites being told they had to continue making the same amount of bricks, but now they also had to collect their own straw (Exodus 5:6). Well, maybe that's a stretch, but it definitely described my frame of mind as I decided to take it to the Lord.
As I furiously scribbled, a couple of Scriptures came to mind. Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart, as working for the Lord, not for men (Colossians 3:23); Promotion comes neither from the east, nor from the west, nor from the south. But God is the Judge: He puts down one, and exalts another (Psalm 75:6-7 ); Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your understanding; in all your ways acknowledge him, and he will make your paths straight (Proverbs 3:5-6).
Now I started feeling a little sheepish, and even more so when I felt that still, small voice in my heart gently questioning me: Have I not always taken care of you? Was there ever a need that went unmet? Have I not proved myself to you over and over?
Memories started popping up of my circusmatnces 11 years ago when I found myself uprooted and transplanted into an unfamiliar town, and how different things are in my life today. I remembered the days of overwhelming debt, the days of looking for change in the parking lot so I could go grocery shopping, the days of calling in sick to work because I didn't have money to put gas in the car. And I also remembered how the Lord provided in miraculous ways--not only for my needs, but for some wants as well. A crumpled $20 bill by the door of the supermarket; bags full of very gently worn designer clothes from a boss/friend who was constantly buying more and thrilled to find someone who would take the old ones out of her closet to make room for the new; a brand new car when the old one died.
Not that I would necessarily want to relive those days, but they were days when the Lord was able to reveal Himself to me in awesome ways. They were days when I learned to trust Him more than ever as I experienced first hand the manifestations of His faithfulness and love.
Today I am completely debt free, working in the comfort of my home at two jobs I really enjoy. Those are things I would never have dreamed of years ago when I first landed in this neck of the woods. And the Lord still continues to surprise me with little unexpected gifts from time to time. Like the check I recently received in the mail in an envelope with no return address. The name and address on the check were Paraclete, Philippians 4:19 (which for those of you not familiar with the Scriptures, is the address of a verse that reads And my God will meet all your needs according to his glorious riches in Christ Jesus); the check number was not a number, but the sign of the fish; under the amount to be paid was a single line in bold print--With God All Things Are Possible; and the check was signed Paraclete. I still haven't figured that one out.
With each memory,the praises and thanksgiving flowed, and before I knew it, all the frustration had melted away, replaced by overwhelming peace and joy. Nothing had changed really, and yet everything had.
shine upon you and be gracious to you; the Lord turn his
face toward you and give you peace." (Numbers 6:24-26)
To my beautiful Alexandra Rose--my first grandchild, my Godchild. Being your grandma has been a very special gift, and I have treasured every moment of watching you unfold, petal by petal, on your journey to adulthood. Your mom and dad very appropriately gave you the middle name of Rose, although I'm sure that's not necessarily what they had in mind when they gave it to you.
Happy 21st birthday to a very cool young lady who will always a hold a special place deep in my heart.
every activity under heaven." (Ecclesiastes 3:1)
If I have learned one thing on this journey through life, it is that things change--often unexpectedly. Some of these changes have been welcome, some not, but even unwelcome change, if I look hard enough, usually contains a blessing easily overlooked until things change again and the gift is lost.
This aha moment took place for me some years ago when I found myself complaining about all the work coming in (I am self employed). Although I was grateful for the extra income, I was equally distressed that there was no time to clean, cook, sleep, and so on. Life became increasingly unbalanced as health and family were neglected, and I pushed myself to the point of utter stress and exhaustion.
Then one day, when I least expected it, the work dried up and I freaked out. I forgot about its seasonal pattern of feast or famine. I forgot that the Lord is still on the throne and has always taken care of my needs most faithfully. Instead I wound up immobilized by worry about what to do, and frittered away the gift of time.
Before I knew it things changed again. As suddenly as the work had dried up, it started coming in, and I found myself wishing I had that slow season back so I could catch up on my neglected chores and do some of the things I complain about never having time to do. I had never thought about it that way before. This was a moment of insight that totally changed my perspective.
More recently, when my walking partner first moved, going out alone to exercise was painful. I missed her so much, there was a very real void in my heart. At the same time, I realized that dwelling on that void wasn't going to change anything. Rather, I could view this as just another passing season, and accept its gift of solitude.
Instead of savoring the loneliness, I now listen to audio books while I walk. So engrossed do I become in what I'm listening to, that I find myself pushing to walk further and longer. And as I slowly rediscover this whole new world of books I thought I would never again have time for, I am reminded to never say never. But then that is another topic for another day.
It all started when a friend I once worked with popped into mind. I don't know what triggered the memory, but I found myself reminiscing about a particular Secret Santa/Christmas party celebration at our office. Every person who wanted to participate wrote their name on a slip of paper, along with a short wish list. When all the slips had been collected, they were put in a box, shaken up, and then passed around for prospective Santas to pick.
The first four days of the designated week, a small token gift surreptitiously appeared on desks and chairs, and the office buzzed with merriment as folks tried to guess who each other's Secret Santa might be. Then the fifth day, Friday, we gathered together in one of the conference rooms for the Christmas party where real gifts were exchanged, and the Santas' identities were revealed.
This was my friend's first Secret Santa experience, and I soon began thinking she hadn't understood the Secret Santa concept at all. Her pointed questions such as what type of Cd's I liked, and whether I preferred this kind of music or that, led me to believe she was mine.
Unkind thoughts started brewing as I noted that not only had she spoiled my surprise, but she hadn't even picked anything from my wish list for the day one and two gifts. In fact, she had even given me chocolate, which she should have remembered I don't eat. How insensitive was that?
Well, the day of the party a surprise was in store, just not one I would have imagined. When the Secret Santa identities were revealed, it turned out she had not been mine after all.
Then I remembered a birthday party at the same office. Birthdays were always cause for celebration, and although some celebrations were more lavish than others, at the very least there would be birthday cake and beverages.
Well this particular year there were two of us with the same birthday, so when I noticed two cakes being smuggled into the empty office across from mine, I was sure one was for my co-worker and the other was for me. I pretended not to see what was going on so I wouldn't spoil anyone's surprise.
Once again though, the surprise was on me. Both cakes were for my co-worker. My birthday had been forgotten. I guess the hurt could have been avoided had I not made an assumption that turned out to be wrong.
Jumping to faulty conclusions has been a pattern in my life. Many is the time I have assumed one thing, only to find out it was something else. Not to make excuses, but this seems to have been a generational pattern kind of thing. Fortunately patterns can be broken if you see and acknowledge them, but the clock can never be turned back. Words said cannot be unspoken.
It's not the memory of words spoken to me that have been most painful, but rather the ones I have spoken to people close to my heart. It's not the times I was falsely accused that linger in my mind, but the times I have caused a loved one to suffer through my accusations, that live to haunt me.
Today I received a gift for Mothers Day--a book entitled For My Grandchild--A Grandmother's Gift of Memory. At first it seemed like a fun idea, but as I leafed through it I saw several questions I didn't know how to address. Should they be answered with truths, half truths, or just left blank? Or should I avoid the decision altogether by exchanging the gift and not having to deal with the past?
Now you may be thinking that I'm just another one of those prejudiced moms who like to brag about their kids, but please don't let that turn you off. I hope you will read the entry and decide for yourself. It may just speak to your heart too.
do, but what I hate I do." (Romans 7:15)
It took me months to lose eight pounds, but only a few days to gain back two. I am without excuse. I have always loved to eat, and much as I hate to admit it, food has become an idol in my life. I run to it for comfort, when I am faced with a task I would rather put off, and in many other instances that have nothing to do with physical hunger. Much as I desire to put an end to this pattern, my short sucesses seem always to end in major falls. For instance, the chicken skin incident.
Motivated by a strong desire to be able to fit into my jeans once again, and by threats from the doc to put me on medication if I didn't do something drastic to lower my cholesterol, I started Weight Watchers. I also started a Bible study on transfering my focus from food to God. Not a diet per se, but rather an adventure in eating the way God intended for me to eat that would set me free from the stronghold food had gained in my life.
For three months I did pretty well--almost four months, actually--but then I started getting cocky. Far from my mind was the warning that pride comes before a fall, and as the day for my bloodwork drew near, Harris Teeter announced a special sale on rotisserie chickens. Three dollars off--and only one to a customer. Now that was a sale too good to pass by.
I hadn't had a rotisserie chicken in months, and visions of one turning slowly on the spit started to invade my mind. I could see the skin--my favorite part--turning golden brown. I could almost smell and taste it too. Where in the beginning I had found many excuses to try and delay revisiting the doc, now it couldn't happen soon enough.
The day of my appointment, I was like an addict craving a fix. I rushed straight from the doctor's office to Harris Teeter and bought myself a freshly rotisseried chicken, still pipng hot. Then another mad rush home and into my kitchen, where I couldn't get the skin off that bird and into my mouth fast enough.
After that, my conscience must have gotten seared or something, because the next couple of days remain a blur of delicacies downed without so much as an iota of remorse. Only when I stepped on the scale and saw the numbers creeping up again was I finally shocked to my senses. What had I been thinking?
Frustrated and annoyed at allowing temptation to gain the upper hand once again, I picked myself up and pushed my restart button, and in that instant I was overcome by floods of gratitude towards a loving God who is merciful and longsuffering, who never gives up on me--even when I feel like giving up on myself--and who gently reminds me that I may not be where I want to be, but I'm not where I was either.
the morning." (Psalm 30:5b)
What a difference a day can make!
Yesterday was blustery and dreary, but today the sun is shining, and the wind has died down. As I drive to Herndon, I am greeted by an unexpected sight. The buds of the redbuds have not blown away. They are just off to a late start because of the unseasonably cold weather we've been having. Blooming trees line the highway. I will not have to miss their beauty after all!
I think of how hard it has been to make friends in Leesburg. Acquaintances abound, but their life is so hectic, so overextended, so overcommitted, that reaching out has not met with much success at all. The three friends that I did make, and who have been an important part of my life, are in the process of moving away. I feel happy for them, but at the same time pained at the impending loss.
One friend was a walking partner. We would meet on a certain corner and then walk around the outlet mall together--about a mile and a half for me, two miles for her--and exercise our bodies, while baring our souls. We laughed together, and cried together, and would sometimes become so engrossed in conversation that I would continue on with her to her house, making my walk home even longer.
These days I walk alone. It is not the same. There is a deep void in my heart.
I do not want to say goodbye!
is faithful; he will not let you be tempted beyond what you can bear. But
when you are tempted, he will also provide a way out so that you can
stand up under it." (1 Corinthians 10:13)
Hadn't I agreed with myself that I can't have these cookies in the house? Didn't I promise myself before walking out the door that I would not buy any when I shopped at Trader Joes's today? Then why, when I got there, did I immediately think of the upcoming Women's Fellowship meeting, and that we had been asked to bring along something sweet or salty? And why, with all the other choices of things I could buy, did I convince myself that a tub of Trader Joe's Triple Ginger Snap cookies was the only thing that would fit the bill? Did that sneaky little thought lurking in the back of my mind that I would just have to take any leftovers home with me, heh! heh!, have anything to do with it?
Well guess what. The cookies weren't where they were supposed to be. I hunted high and low. I even called over one of the stockers and asked her if she knew where they were, or if she just hadn't put them out on the shelf yet. Imagine my surprise when she apologized profusely and informed me they were all out.
to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you a hope
and a future." (Jeremiah 29:11)
Well, the blasting has started. Actually, it started two weeks ago, but I seem to have missed most of it so far. A couple of times I thought I heard something very muted. The other times, I must have been out running errands or something. Yesterday I went for a walk, and arrived home just in time to see the tell-tale post-blast smoke cloud.
Nevertheless, the view from my living room window remains picture perfect. Dogwoods in full bloom, my favorite redbuds budding, and a clear, blue sky. Of course this sets the old brain rambling again, as I think how blessed I am that the new construction ends to the right of my building, just as the old construction ended to the left, and my view remains unobstructed.
I think back to how disappointed I was some 11 years ago, when I moved in here. The apartment I wanted faced the woods, and I looked forward to enjoying tranquil views of deer and sunsets when I came home from work. By the time I was able to scrape my security deposit together though, that unit was no longer available. Nor were any others on that side of the courtyard.
Reluctantly I moved into the only available dwelling, which to my dismay, had a whole different exposure. Now my view was of a dirt road, and a horse farm fenced off from the road by a line of tall trees--a different type of serenity altogether. What I didn't know was that the Lord, who sees the whole picture and knows the beginning from the end, was surely looking out for me when in His infinite wisdom He steered me to my present apartment rather than allowing me the one my heart was set on.
Less than a year later, the woods had disappeared, and construction was started on an outlet mall. The tenants in the apartment I coveted lived through many months of dust and blasts, and when the mall was finally completed, their original view had been replaced by cement walls, and the back of a parking lot. I, on the other hand, was still enjoying my view of horses romping in the field, deer congregating at dusk, and even an occasional fox making a quick run-through.
Then came the time when my view was altered too, though not as drastically as I at first feared it would be. It all started the day I drove home from work and was greeted by the sight of those stately trees that had that very morning stood sentry around the perimeter of the farm, now lying in clumps by the side of the road. The horses were gone too. I was informed that the horse farm had been sold, and new construction to erect a Home Depot and Food Lion was about to begin.
This neighborhood has undergone many changes since then. The dirt road has long gone, and been replaced by a four-lane paved one, but the contsruction, both old and in process, has stopped short of blocking the serenity of my view. I still see green grass, and have been able to follow the progress of several rows of saplings planted in the middle of the field, as they matured and grew tall. And most of all, I am filled with a sense of wonder and gratitude towards a God who loves me so much He would concern Himself with such minute details of my life as the view from my window. Truly He is worthy of all my trust.
Trust in God; trust also in me." (John 14:1)
As I read this verse, my thoughts travel back to the day in August, 1975, when I became a young widow with two children ages 9 and 7. My heart was troubled about many things such as how I would raise two children on my own. I was more than unprepared. I was clueless.
An only child myself, and a very sheltered one at that, I was totally unequipped to face the world on my own--let alone be a single parent. I had relied heavily on my husband where the children were concerned, and never in a million years would I have even considered the possibilty of having to shoulder this responsibility alone.
I had always envisioned my husband and I growing old together, walking down the street hand in hand, and with a very close knit family that enjoyed doing things together and was bonded in love. Beautiful fantasy, but shattered dream!
Then another worry started brewing. What would happen to my children if something happened to me? What if I never got to see them grow up? What if? What if? Vain imaginings grew quickly until they loomed large and loud in my mind. Those were the days before I came to know the Lord, and there was no Word to comfort, guide, or encourage me.
Somehow we muddled through, and though I was far from an ideal mom, I did the best I knew how with what I had. Emotionally speaking, it wasn't much. As I look back, I can see how disfunctional I was, and have many, many regrets about things I did and didn't do. I loved my children with all my heart, but I was so easily frustrated and overwhelmed I don't think it ever came through. If anything, I believe I caused them a great deal of unintended pain. Oh but that I could turn back the clock and make it right. But then again, if the clock were turned back, I would still be who I was, and not who I am today.
By the grace of God, and despite my parental shortcomings, my children have blossomed and matured into responsible adults, and I am immensely grateful that they are not repeating the patterns or mistakes I made in their own parenting efforts. It also makes me happy to see them live out some of the dreams I once dreamed for myself.
Mostly I am grateful to a loving God who not only allowed me to witness my own children grow up, but allowed me to see two of my six grandchildren grow up as well. And lest you are now wondering what this all has to do with seven blessings, six of them are my wonderful grandchildren who are the joy of my life. And the seventh, is my little great-grandson who has elevated me to the status of great-granny.
Since I haven't been able to decide whether I'm more blessed to be a grandma or a great-granny, I have decided to blog myself as Great-Granny Grandma. That covers it all!
good I want to do; no, the evil I do not want to do--this I
keep on doing." (Romans 7:15,19)
Frustration at not being able to set up this blog page to look the way I want it to has led me to open up the tightly sealed tub of Trader Joe Triple Ginger Snap cookies made with fresh crystallized ginger that I had bought for my daughter Joanne to try, and "hidden" away until I see her. Bad move! I knew that Trader Joe Triple Ginger Snaps is not something I should have in my house, but I thought that putting them out of sight would keep me from eating any. Ha! That tub of cookies is now 12 lighter. I hope I get to see Joanne soon.
This takes my thoughts way back to a Christmas eons ago when I lived in Jackson Heights and had a good friend, "British" Margaret, who loved those huge, oversized Cadbury chocolate bars with the fruit and nuts, and the caramel, and I don't even remember what all else. That Christmas I decided that the perfect gift for her would be one of each kind. I think there were six varieties, which I purchased, wrapped ever so carefully, and put under the Christmas tree.
Now there were two problems I hadn't considered, and which proved to be my undoing. Number one, I also loved those huge, oversized Cadbury bars, AND, Margaret didn't show up the day before Christmas to pick up her gift as planned.
Christmas came and went, and after a few days of seeing that carefully wrapped gift all alone under the tree, I couldn't take it any longer. It seemed to be calling my name, and after a brief struggle with my conscience, gluttony got the best of me. Carefully I unwrapped the gift, slid out one Cadbury, and rewrapped the other five. She will never be the wiser, I rationalized. Still Margaret did not come, and I wound up repeating this shameful process five more times.
When my good friend Margaret finally dropped by, I had no gift to give her. How embarrassing! Fortunately she was a real sport about it, and we ended up having a good hearty chuckle. Hope this doesn't turn out to be deja vu where Joanne's cookies are concerned.