Monday, October 11, 2010

God's Garden

Fall is one of the most beautiful times of the year here. The trees are magnificent with their palette of colors, like God took his paint brush and splashed the most brilliant of colors He has all over them. The sky is the most pure of blues. The sun, while still warm, is gentle on your face. But it is also a time of transition - transition into winter.

It can be bone chilling cold here in Michigan in winter. The kind of cold that takes your breath away. The kind of cold that makes you feel like your bones could just snap. The kind of cold that makes you long for spring. The blue of the sky is rarely seen. Instead it is usually a dark, heavy gray that you can feel weighing down on your shoulders. But every once in a while there is a day that is sunny & warmer than normal and teases you that spring is on the way, a promise of things to come. But winter here is much longer than the calender tells us, lasting sometimes into mid April, so you know you must wait a little longer. But then......

The days get longer, the temperatures stay warmer for days at a time and the wind blows in the smell of spring. The smell of wet, dark earth and the fresh, clean, smell of green. The rains come and wash away the leftovers of winter. Things that were brown begin showing tinges of color. Branches that have been bare become heavy with buds. Spring bulbs poke tentative, tiny green shoots up through the ground. And you long to be out in God's creation. The time of self-imposed hibernation is over and the outside beckons.

When I pull those dead leaves off & uncover tender, new green shoots poking through the dirt, I am always reminded of the work God has done in my life. Of how He rescued me from a very long, dark winter season in my life. I had buried myself in more than leaves for several years. God gently uncovered all the dead & dirt from my life to show me how I could become new in Him. He breathed new life in me through His Son.

And yet, the gentleness and newness of spring does not last. Soon, the sun will become fierce and the rains that were so plentiful dwindle or stop all together. If these new plants are not watered and fed, they become wilted and brown. New growth dries up and if not tended and cared for, dies. Yet if nurtured and tended to, these plants become strong. They grow tall, reaching up to the sun and can withstand the heat it will soon bring.

Very much like my soul. If I do not let God nurture and tend to me, my soul dries up, withers, becomes brown. I do not grow tall or strong and cannot withstand the heat of the circumstances of my life. God does not wish for my soul to become brown and brittle. Jesus said ,"I am the vine and my Father is the are the branches. If a man remains in me and I in him, he will bear much fruit;.....This is to my Father's glory that you bear much fruit..." (John 15: 1, 5, & 8)

God, this is my prayer:
Tend to my soul and nourish it. Remind me, when necessary, that I cannot feed myself, only You can reach those places in me that need tending to the most. Help me to remain in You, so that I can bear much fruit for You, no matter what the season of my life. Amen

Please, God, can I stay up on this mountain top with You?

We've all been there.....

You have been to a worship service or a retreat or a concert that has so uplifted you, has so inspired you, that you know this time it will stick. You feel like you have been to the mountaintop. You feel so connected with God. You can see the woman He wants you to be all the time and you know you can do it!

You will write those notes of encouragement, you will be a nice to your husband and kids no matter what their attitudes are, you will keep your house in order (after all, God is a God of order, not chaos, right?), you will pray daily for all the people on the prayer list, you will take time to visit with that neighbor you don't know very well but seems lonely, you will not join in the gossip at work, you will share your faith with others...And the list goes on and on - the things we know we are supposed to do, but don't always because life and our own stuff gets in the way. But you know this time will be different from the others. This time, you won't let anything stop you - you are on fire for God. You are ready to be used for great things.

And then you get home......
Back to real life....
Home to the same dishes that were in the sink when you left....
Home to homework left until late Sunday night to finish....
Home to an urgent message from work that has to be handled now...
Home to crank, needy kids...
Home to .....lots of things that weren't up there on that mountain top.

And you feel your inspiration and resolve deflate a little, but that's OK. You take a deep breath, breath a little prayer, paste a smile on your face, and dig in to what ever needs to be done and try to stifle that little feeling of resentment that you feel building. That feeling that tells you that these things could have been taken care of without you. That feelings that says "Do I have to handle everything myself?" That feeling that says, "I was created for bigger things than this."

And that feeling of connectedness with God seems a little farther away. But once you get all this mundane, every day stuff handled, you will get it back. That connection you felt. That inspiration you felt. That feeling that God was about to use you for BIG things.

But what if the great things God wants to use you for start with the little, mundane, every day things like being patient with cranky kids and co-workers? What if the great thing He wants you to do is to write notes or make encouraging phone calls? What if this - your every day life -is where God wants to connect with you?

Many Scriptures talk about "everything":
So in everything, do to others what you would have them do to you, for this sums up the Law and the Prophets -Matt. 7:12.
....and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.Matt. 28:20I
Do everything in love. I Cor. 16:14
Since we have these promises, dear friends, let us purify ourselves from everything that contaminates body and spirit, perfecting holiness out of reverence for God. II Cor. 7:1,
Do everything without complaining or arguing, Phil 2:14,
Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. Phil 4:6,
In everything set them an example by doing what is good. In your teaching show integrity, seriousness,... Titus 2:7

Does God mean everything that we think is worthy? I don't think so. If that was what He meant, wouldn't He have said that? God can surely use us for BIG things, but since He is the God of all things, can't He also use us in mighty ways in all the things that seem not so mighty to us? If He had intended for us to be on the mountaintop all the time, that is exactly where we would be. But instead He put us in our families, in our neighborhoods, in our jobs, and even in our churches, where we can make a mighty difference in sometimes very small ways.

I think He takes us to the mountaintop sometimes to give us a little preview of what Eternity with Him will be like. But for now, in this earthly life, He has placed wherever we are to be His light in both big and small ways.

"His master replied, 'Well done, good and faithful servant! You have been faithful with a few things; I will put you in charge of many things. Come and share your master's happiness! Matt. 25:23

Sunday, October 10, 2010


Remember when you were little and you would share secrets with your best friend? You would tell your secret only after your friend had pinky-sworn not to tell anyone. Sometimes, it was at a sleep over and you were in the dark under the covers, which made the shared secret seem even more special. There was power in that shared secret that only the two of you had -you had a special, often fragile bond formed by that secret. There was also the potential for betrayal with a shared secret, so you had to pick who you shared with very carefully. Sharing a secret implied trust in the person you were sharing with. Sometimes that trust was betrayed bringing embarrassment and anger. But for the most part, when we were young, secrets were special - something to giggle over in the dark or behind the school.

And then there were the secrets we didn't dare share. Dark secrets that were somehow our fault and we were warned not to tell as no one would understand and it wouldn't be special anymore. The longer a secret is kept, the stronger it becomes and the more the power the Enemy can bestow upon it. Power to make us feel ashamed and guilty. Power to make us feel unworthy of any of the good things life has to offer. Power to make us unworthy of any kind of love, especially the most powerful love there is - the love of God.

We hide our secrets in deep, dark places inside. And they become deeper and darker until there is no deeper, darker place they can go and they have to come out. They come out in anger and rage and bitterness, they come out in control issues, they come out in depression and eating disorders, they come out in addictions and broken relationships. Because we don't deserve any better - we have become the shame of our secret. We have believed the lies the Enemy has whispered in our ear for years. You see, the Enemy thrives in the dark places of our life, the places we have shut out the light.

We may or may not be successful in hiding our secrets from the people in our lives, but there is One we can never hide them from. He is there in the darkest, deepest places we can find to bury our shame and hurt. He is there and waiting - waiting to light the darkness; waiting to mend the broken, torn places; waiting to the expose the lies we have been told and believed and replace them with Truth. But we are the only one who holds the keys to those hidden places and we have the choice whether to unlock the door or keep it locked up tight. We have the choice to accept the love & grace he offers or we can choose to be a prisoner of our past, whatever it holds. He sent His most precious offering, His Son, Jesus Christ, so that we no longer have to be in bondage.

"What, then, shall we say in response to this? If God is for us, who can be against us? He who did not spare his own Son, but gave him up for us all—how will he not also, along with him, graciously give us all things? Who will bring any charge against those whom God has chosen? It is God who justifies. Who is he that condemns? Christ Jesus, who died—more than that, who was raised to life—is at the right hand of God and is also interceding for us. Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall trouble or hardship or persecution or famine or nakedness or danger or sword?

As it is written:
"For your sake we face death all day long; we are considered as sheep to be slaughtered.", in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us.

For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, (absolutely nothing - the Message) will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord. (Romans 8:31-39 NIV- italics mine).

Read that again & let it sink in - if the King of the Universe, the One who set the stars in the sky, is for us - for you and me - then who can dare to bring a charge of shame or guilt against us? He longs for us to give up our darkness and to give it up to Him. Somewhere along the way, amid the lies, we have convinced ourselves our secret is so horrible and so big that He can't handle it! Or, even worse, that He doesn't want to! So, we think we have to handle it in our own broken ways - ways that always harm us and usually those around us, too.

Will it be easy? No - putting broken things back together is never easy. Will it be terrifying? Yes - but "perfect love casts out fear" (I John 4: 18b) Will it hurt? Yes - Light always hurts after darkness until we become used to the light. Will it be worth it? Absolutely - "The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy, but I have come that they may have life and have it to the full." (John 10:10)

Sunday, May 9, 2010

To My Mama

Dear Mom,
Did I ever tell you that you’re my hero? I know that sounds trite, but when I look back over the years and I think of all the things I have learned from you, I am amazed that a farm girl from a small town could be so wise and so strong.

You have not always had an easy life, but you always persevered. You hung in there when you had to be a full-time single working mother to a little girl in a time when that was not very socially acceptable. You hung in there when you had to move away from your family & friends for your husband’s job. You hung in there when you had a child born with a birth defect. You hung in there when you had a rebellious teenage daughter that ridiculed all the things you held dear. You hung in there when you were diagnosed with a disease that could be managed, but not cured.

You taught me that God will provide when you can’t imagine how. I cherish the story of how you would put your last $2 in the offering at church, not knowing how you were going to feed us for the week, yet somehow, we always managed to eat. Even though I was very small, I don’t ever remember feeling afraid or sad during that time in our lives, even though I’m sure most days you were both.

You taught me that people make mistakes and it’s not our place to judge. When 2 of my friends got pregnant in high school, your response has always stayed with me. You said, “They must have really loved him.” No judgment about right or wrong because you knew that would have started one of those battles that I was so fond of at the time and closed the door for any further discussions.

You taught me that doctors don’t always know what’s best for your child and to trust your heart.

You taught me that home is always home. When I thought I knew everything at 18 & decided to move across country with about two cents in my pocket and dubious travelling company, you told me I could always come home. Your love was always unconditional, even when I made choices that made you angry or broke your heart.

You taught me that nature and the beauty in it are one of God’s nicest gifts to us and to stop and take time to appreciate it.

You taught me that God has a purpose for us regardless of what our circumstances are and will see us through anything. I pray God has granted me the wisdom to impart the faith and strength and unconditional love to my boys that you have given me. I know you don’t always feel strong, but you are one of the strongest women I know. Yes, you are truly my hero.

I love you, Mom. Happy Mother’s Day.

Sunday, January 24, 2010

Growing Pains

My oldest son turns 25 tomorrow. Somehow that seems like such a milestone birthday, much more so than when he turned 18 or even 21. Maybe because he just recently became engaged to his sweetheart of 5 years. Soon he won't be "my" boy any more, he will be someone else's. Even though my husband teases me that neither one of our sons can be rightfully called boys any more, they will both always be "my boys". (Our youngest is 16 & towers over me at 6'2"). There is something special about the bond between mothers and sons. I know our children are temporary gifts from God and I pray we have done well with those gifts.

Where does the time go? I still remember the drive to the hospital for his birth as if it were last night. It was almost 2 weeks before my due date and I was scheduled to start my maternity leave in just 2 days. It was close to midnight, I had been at work on my feet all day & I was almost done for the night when I knew something wasn't right. After calling the doctor and being told to go to the hospital, my co-workers started trying to reach my husband. (This was back "in the day" before everyone had cell phones.) My husband broke all speed records to get us to the hospital. What should have taken 45 minutes from my job only took 20. When we got to the hospital, they whisked me away to determine the extent of the complications. I was soon reassured that everything was fine. Since we already knew this baby was to be delivered by C-section and my doctor had another surgery scheduled the next morning, they decided the baby & I would be fine till then & got us settled in for the night. Not until much later did I know my poor husband had spent all of this time anxiously on the pay phone with his mother as the hospital staff forgot to tell him the baby & I were doing fine! Bless his heart, he spent the rest of the night in a chair next to me and didn't leave my side. Nor did he leave my side during the entire delivery.

The next morning, a healthy baby boy was delivered at 10:30am. I didn't get to hold or feed him right away because of the surgery and the anesthesia, but the next day I did. I still remember that tiny little baby in my hospital bed with me and the indescribable feelings welling up in me. To this day, I tell soon-to-be moms that no one can describe the depth of feelings that this tiny person will bring out in you - the awe that this little person came from you, the beauty you see in the red scrunched up face, the perfection of the little fingers & toes, the absolute wonder of it all.

And then the fear sets in - the huge responsibility of it all. This is not a baby doll that can be put away, this is a live human being that you have been given charge of. It is an awesome and overwhelming feeling. I was absolutely terrified. Again, since this was "back in the day", I was in the hospital for 5 days with my son being brought to me only when I wanted him or he was hungry, so I had lots of time to dwell on these fears & build up my inadequacies in my head.

Through God's grace and perfect timing, I began attending church 6 weeks later & started my walk with the Lord soon after. He has seen us well through these 25 years and I am so proud of the man our son has become. He is kind, compassionate, funny, and secure in who he is, and loves the Lord.

Our son has survived a new mom who didn't know what she was doing most of the time, bad advice from doctors (his first pediatrician told me I couldn't feed him any more than every 4 hours - for the first 2 weeks of his life I'm afraid I almost starved that boy!), a heart murmur, bad home hair cuts, stitches, broken bones, more than one broken heart, and lots of other growing pains.

I have survived, too. I survived being a new mom who didn't know what to do with a crying & hungry baby, his first & subsequent bouts of croup in the middle of the night, bad home haircuts, his first boo-boo, his first day of kindergarten, stitches, broken hearts, graduation, going 1000 miles away to college, and lots of other growing pains.

Someone asked me recently, "How do you let them get married?" I have prayed for this girl for him since he was a toddler and she is all that I have asked God for for him. So, with mixed emotions - joy, gratefulness, and yes, even some sadness, I share our gift. I know I will survive this growing pain, also.

Happy 25th birthday, son. We love you.

"Behold, I am doing a new thing."
Isaiah 43"19a

Friday, January 22, 2010

Life's Little Irritations

Ever had one of "those days"? Those days where a million (OK, I exaggerate - maybe just 100) little things go wrong? Nothing catastrophic, mind you, just extremely annoying things? On those days, life's little irritations seem to just keep coming and suddenly nothing is going smoothly or as planned.

I had one of those days a couple weeks ago. It was the came on the tail of 3 days of 3 different non-working coffee pots (2 of them brand new from the store). Anyone who knows me even remotely, knows you don't mess with my coffee! The cat doesn't even rub against me in the morning before I've had my coffee. But, I took that all in stride & even viewed it as somewhat comical, making jokes with the customer service person at the store as I was buying my 3rd coffee pot in 3 days. (Which by the way, we love & works just fine. Third time's a charm....)

But the next morning, when I got up to start the coffee in my brand new working coffee pot & the dishes from the night before were still in the sink and on the counter after my teenager told me he would do them before he went to bed, my humor level dropped a little. OK, so I would deal with looking at dirty dishes all day. There would just be more for him to do when he got home from school.

When my laptop wouldn't turn on, even after I plugged the power cord in and fiddled with it, I felt any level of humor I might have had plummet. So, I dragged out the old computer with the key board & bulky monitor & plugged it in and was grateful when it powered up just fine. However, I couldn't get to the internet. Irritation was quickly setting in and rising rapidly. My husband finally solved that problem for me after doing his magic with it. So, out onto the worldwide web I go. Except, none of my settings or passwords are saved on this computer. So, now I have to find the piece of paper I have somewhere with all that information. Mission finally accomplished & I got the all work done that I had wanted to, but the tone for the day had been set. What else would go wrong? Plus, I had spent much more time on this whole process than I had intended. My timing and my plans for my day off had been totally interrupted.

Not sure if that was when the light bulb went off or not - my timing, my plans? Somewhere along the way, interested only in what was inconveniencing me, I had lost sight of the fact that I could go out & buy a new coffee pot if I needed to, that we had electricity to run the coffee pot & coffee to put in the coffee pot. I had lost sight of the fact that we had food to put on dishes. I had lost sight of the fact that we even have a back-up computer. I had lost sight of the fact that I had a day off that I could enjoy. I had lost sight of all the many ways my life is so blessed. I have a roof over my head, running water, electricity, heat, food in the cupboards, a closet full of clothes to choose from, my husband & I both still have jobs (no small feat in Michigan these days), & I know where my children, my healthy children, are. I had completely lost sight of the many, many ways the Lord has blessed me.

I once heard someone say that if you own your own home you are among the richest 3% of the world's population. That blew my mind - I would never have considered us to be materially wealthy! We often have more month left than paycheck, only have one car, and for heaven's sake, don't even have cable TV! And for the most part, I am very content with that, but there are days ......

When did my joy & contentment get tied up with how my day was going & my checkbook balance? When did outside things start to matter more? I don't want to be one of those people that is never satisfied and never happy and always wants more and for the most part I am not. But there are days.....

And on those days, I must just break my Heavenly Father's heart. There is an old song that we don't sing very much at church any more, but it is strongly on my heart today.

"Count your blessings,

count them one by one.

Count your blessings,

see what God has done."

Maybe that's exactly why we have "those days". Maybe it's God's way of gently saying, "That doesn't matter, my darling daughter. All that is just stuff. Look at everything else I have done for you. It is enough."

Monday, January 11, 2010

Paper, Paper Everywhere

I have never been able to conquer the paper mess. They seem to be everywhere - on the table, on the desk, on the counter, in my purse, stuffed into my work bag.

papers to be sorted
papers to be filed
papers to be paid
papers about what I have already paid
papers to be read
papers I have already read but might want to read sometime again
papers I haven't read and probably never will but then again might someday
papers with addresses and e-mails I should use but probably won't
papers with website addresses that sound interesting but will probably never visit
papers with knitting patterns I have already made
papers with knitting patterns I would like to make
papers about meetings
papers from meetings
papers about school
papers from school
papers about great savings if only I would remember to take them to the store with me
papers about things I would like to buy but never will
papers about where the things I need to buy are the cheapest

I have read all the "organize yourself" articles, books, and websites. I probably have some of those articles laying around here somewhere. I know the "handle it once rule". I have file cabinets with hanging folders and labeled folders, alphabetized even. I have an expandable file, I have baskets on shelves, I have 3-ring binders with dividers and paper protectors. I know the "set a timer" strategy. Yet the papers remain - and more keep showing up. They haven't taken over - yet. I do not need to sign up for the crew of "Hoarders" to come to my house - yet.

The papers move frequently. They move from the table to the refrigerator, they move into the "to be filed" pile, from the kitchen to the office, out of my purse to the table, and round and round they go. When do I actually file the "to be filed" pile, another one soon mysterously takes its place.

I tell myself that I am creatively disorganized, that I can locate what I need when I need it. And I usually can. But not without first spending some time going through the things I don't need first, sometimes a long time.

The thought of sorting and organizing all these papers seems like a daunting task, yet when I think of all the time I have spent looking for a particular piece of paper, it may be one of those it pays off in the long run things. I don't want to be remembered by my boys someday by how long it took them to clean up all my papers. Is there a 12-step program for paper addicts? Maybe I'll give the "set the timer" strategy another shot.

Sunday, January 10, 2010

Sunday Morning worship

Sunday morning.....
This is my first post - inspired (or not - if any one reads this you can decide if it is inspired or not!) by a conversation I had yesterday with other womem from my church while planning for an upcoming retreat. One of the topics we were discussing was worship.

It is about time to wake the family up & start the process of getting ready for church. The routine is the same every week. I get up ahead of everyone else, get showered & wake my husband & son, one at a time to use our only bathroom. While every one else is getting ready, I start getting dinner prepared so we can eat as soon as we get home. I am already wondering what to wear & whether it will be a good hair day or not, which or my friends I will see & have a chance to chat with.

With the exception of the late 70's & most of the 80's, I have gone to church on Sunday morning for my whole life. When did church (the building) become synonymous for worship (the action)?

The Israelites had to prepare before they went to the temple to worship the great Jehovah- they had to be cleansed - physically & spiritually. They had special clothes they wore, had sacrifices to make - it was not a let's sleep in as late as we can & then rush in, irritated because they had to rush, at the last possible minute. They planned & made preparations to come before their God.

So when did worship become common place & just a thing you do every Sunday? Is it a sign of the times? Or is it a sign of our hearts?

Don't get me wrong - I love going to church. I love the singing, listening to the Scriptures & the lesson for the day. But I think I will go with a new appreciation of the privilege it is to go & stand before my God & offer my worship to Him.

I have to go now - I have to finish getting prepared to worship.