Wednesday, December 14, 2016

Tonight I am Thankful

I'm feeling kind of blue tonight, so I sought the Lord. Immediately I heard "in everything give thanks." So here I am, using the 21st century medium of social media to shout it from the rooftops.

I haven't been able to blog lately. The words just wouldn't come. It seemed like I had nothing of any consequence about which to write, no encouraging words, no funny stories. So I kept quiet.

Tonight, though, I know that I must praise the Lord anyway. This may be a very short post, but I can't fall into the trap of feeling I have to have quantity to have quality.  I can and will encourage myself in the Lord. If someone reads this and is encouraged, that's wonderful, but if not, He still deserves my praise and thanks.

Tonight I am focusing on the real meaning of Christmas. I am thankful for it.

He loves me, and you, with an everlasting love. That's what this season is all about; the baby in the manger who came to die for my sins. Who came to die for ALL our sins.  I have spent years trying to comprehend that very truth; to wrap my mind around it. I have accepted Him as my Savior, but wow.
It's such a BIG truth and I'm merely a frail human. How can I possibly ever fully understand?

I don't have the answer to that, but tonight I am here to say:

In everything give thanks.  

I know; it doesn't seem to fit into the Christmas season. It seems like I should be quoting Luke 2 and the story of the birth of Jesus. However, it is the reason for Christmas that I am thankful for. So it does fit.

Are you thankful for the real meaning of Christmas?  Stop for a minute and say thank you to the God of the universe Who loved you and me enough to send His son to live as a human and ultimately die for our sins. He wanted a relationship with us that badly.

Tonight, as I said before, I am thankful in spite of everything that is going wrong in my life right now,

Be blessed. <3

In every situation [no matter what the circumstances] be thankful and continually give thanks to God; for this is the will of God for you in Christ Jesus. 1 Thess 5:18 AMP

Saturday, October 29, 2016

The Story of the Isabels

It's national cat day again. According to Facebook's reminders of my posts from a year ago, 2 years ago, etc., a year ago on this day I showed a picture of my cat Isabel and said someday I would blog about why she is named that. Well, that day has come. With all the serious and depressing stuff going on in this election year, I thought a lighter, somewhat whimsical post might be in order.

Jennifer and Tom
In the mid-eighties when my kids were, well, kids, we were visited by a gray tabby cat quite frequently. She was a sweet cat, but somewhat skittish around people. My children loved animals, though, and she warmed up to them eventually. They named her--you guessed it-- Isabel. I think the name was from a character on a cartoon they liked to watch, but I'm not certain.  

Isabel made herself at home in our carport. In fact, one day we discovered she had a litter of kittens there. Five kittens, to be exact.  The kids were ecstatic to discover this and started in with pleas of "can we keep them?"  At first we said no, but with time they wore us down and we kept two of them: a gray tabby they named Tom and a orange tabby named Tiger. 

I'm foggy on what happened to Isabel;  I think she disappeared one day and we never saw her again. We still had 2 kittens, though. Then one day we found Tom in the street where he had been run over. We were heartbroken; we all cried over Tom and I started letting Tiger come inside more to keep him safer. My husband wouldn't let him stay in all the time until he got in the fan of the car and almost died. Then he became an indoor/outdoor cat.

But I digress. This story is about the Isabels in our lives.

Isabel II and Tiger
In 1986, we sold that house and moved temporarily into a duplex while we looked for another house. We managed to get Tiger to move with us, even though everyone always said you can't move a cat; they will always go back to their old territory. 

Enter Isabel II. Yes, Tiger started hanging out with a gray cat who looked a lot like the original Isabel, even though we knew it wasn't her. So of course they named this gray cat Isabel II. 

This Isabel also had kittens on our carport, and then promptly got herself killed when they were only about 2 weeks old. I know, right? This is why I do not condone indoor/outdoor cats anymore except maybe in the country. Too many cars.

We moved to the country and took Tiger with us. He was such a good, sweet cat. Tiger was the best cat we have ever had (shh...don't tell Izzy). He was an indoor/outdoor country cat for the rest of his days. We moved him twice and he chose to stay with us. He would jump right up into my arms when he wanted to be held. I've never had another cat do that.

Years went by, during which Tiger passed away. The kids grew up and Jeremy, then Jennifer, went away to college. I went through a divorce in the late 90s and then in 2000, Jeff left for college and I was alone. Really alone, for the first time in my life. I did not handle it well. I went through major depression, a condition it took years to overcome. 

I was encouraged to get a cat to keep me company. So I adopted a black and white cat which turned out to be possessed.  She was downright mean. She didn't like anyone but me, and she even bit me sometimes just out of the blue. I didn't know what to do about her. She actually made my lonely, depressed existence worse.

Christmas 2005 rolled around, and the kids were coming home for Christmas. My daughter, Jennifer, called and said she and her husband were just getting in to town and would be at my house in about 10 minutes, and would I please lock the demon cat up in my bedroom?  (I won't even bother telling her name. Everyone called her the Demon Cat). This was a reasonable request, so I did. I was used to no one liking my cat.

Jennifer came in carrying a little bitty calico kitten that she had adopted from the humane society in the town where she lived. We talked, and it was decided I had to take the mean cat to the humane society the next day.  It was hard to do, but Jeff was home for Christmas and he went with me. I cried, oh boy, did I cry. I figured it was a death sentence for her, and I didn't want that even though she was almost feral and even bit me. But I did. If they weren't able to adopt her out, I reasoned, at least she was put down humanely.

Isabel III in Dec 2005
So....a new cat entered my life on Christmas 2005, a tiny squeakbox that could barely meow. Jennifer introduced her to me as Isabel III. I'm not sure why; she is not gray like the first 2. I think it was in memory of those 2 sweet, gentle cats and in hopes that she would be a sweet cat, too. 

She has turned out to be a good cat. Eleven years later, Isabel, nicknamed Izzy, is still my roommate. She is a sweet cat who used to spend her days on various window seats, curious about the cats outside and the squirrels in the yard. These days, though, she shows little interest in the goings on outside and prefers to sleep in a patch of sunlight in the laundry room or curled up at my feet. She follows me around like a puppy, and is great company. In the mornings, after I have gone to the bathroom she loudly protests if I don't immediately put food in her dish. She has some arthritis and has trouble jumping up on things, so she mostly stays on the floor, or occasionally on the couch with me if I have a blanket. 

Side note: The Blanket of Incentive is what Jeff started calling a soft, fuzzy blanket that I got for Christmas one year. Every time I settled in with my blanket and a book or a movie here came Izzy. The blanket was soft and inviting and she could never resist it. So after a while, if I wanted her to come sit with me all I had to do is get out the Blanket of Incentive and she would come running. That's the story of the Blanket of Incentive, which is bonus. You get that one for free. It goes hand in hand with the story of Izzy so it had to be explained.

Isabel III today
She is the last in the line of Isabels. The first 2 never really adopted our family and didn't stay around long, but this one came to stay. I hope she has several more years left; she is not getting around very well these days.

Izzy is spoiled rotten, and she is getting up in years. She is a sweet cat like the first 2 and deserving of the name she was given. 

And that's the story of the Isabels.

Wednesday, September 21, 2016

How to Get Through Tough Times

This post may seem scattered, but it's burning in my heart and has to get out.

I've been camping in the Psalms for a while now. Over the years, I've found that I tend to do this when times are tough. And frankly, times are tough right now.

I have not said anything because I'm not the only one hurting. I didn't feel like I had the right to complain. It's not complaining, really, though; it's just being honest. My heart is broken, and I can't be silent anymore.

Oh, I've been crying out to the Lord. I know He hears and cares. But then I remembered that sometimes...not always, but sometimes, I am supposed to share my pain and the remedy for that pain.

I forget that sometimes.

Yes, I get caught up in appearing to brave and strong. We all do that, don't we? We need to come across like we've got it all together. That's what we're expected to do, right?

No, not exactly. God jogged my memory while I was sitting in church tonight. (Don't worry, He did not jog me too hard....)

So I'm admitting that life has been hard lately and I can't do it alone. And I also admit that I have to share my struggles and how I get through them, because that's part of the reason God allows me to write this blog.

I am reminded again and again, that whatever I'm facing;

whether it's

.....the death of a beloved family member.... struggles....

.....or sickness....

Or all of the above at the same time...
There is a SOLUTION. There is only one way to get through the storms of life. It's exactly opposite of what you would think you would need to do, logically, but here it is:

I praise the Lord. No matter how I feel, In everything I give thanks. GOD HAS NEVER AND WILL NEVER FAIL ME.

"I will bless the Lord at all times; His praise shall continually be in my mouth.
My soul will make its boast in the Lord; The humble will hear it and rejoice. O magnify the Lord with me, And let us exalt His name together.
I sought the Lord, and He answered me, And delivered me from all my fears. They looked to Him and were radiant, And their faces will never be ashamed.
This poor man cried, and the Lord heard him And saved him out of all his troubles. The angel of the Lord encamps around those who fear Him,
And rescues them...

The Lord is near to the brokenhearted And saves those who are crushed in spirit. Many are the afflictions of the righteous, But the Lord delivers him out of them all" (taken from Psalm 34, NASB).

The Lord is good, and He has never and will never fail me. I have His word on it.

Be blessed, friends. <3

Monday, August 29, 2016

Are the Crickets Chirping?

Tonight, I find myself meditating on Psalm 40, verses 1-3:

"I waited patiently for the Lord; he turned to me and heard my cry." 

Really? You might be thinking that you seem to still be stuck and nothing seems to have changed when you cried out to the Lord.

Basically, it's crickets chirping. 

If you don't get that, I'm sorry. Truly. 

Well, the reasons for His silence are numerous, and none of us knows the mind of God and can figure out the exact plans He has for us. When we cry out to God, we don't understand why He doesn't drop everything and deliver us from the mess we're in. Does He not care about our dilemma?

Yes. Yes, He does. It's entirely possible that it's because He cares that He seems to delay so long to rescue us. I believe that while He does forgive our sins immediately when we ask Him to, sometimes the circumstances in which we find ourselves don't change right away. 

Maybe He is taking time to set up the new place in life where He wants us.

Perhaps He wants us to get closer to Him and He uses our painful situation to refine us a little.

Quite possibly, if we had exactly what we want when we think we need it, we would destroy ourselves. 

Don't say it can't happen. We do that, you know. All the time. At least, I know I have. Years ago, my life was a complete shambles and at times didn't think I would make it.  

If we take matters into our own hands instead of waiting for God to work out and orchestrate the details of our lives, eventually we can find ourselves in a real mess. We have to learn to wait on His timing, His plan, His way. He really does know what's best for us. 

After a while, when we wait on Him, we find ourselves saying

"He lifted me out of the slimy pit, out of the mud and mire; he set my feet on a rock and gave me a firm place to stand."

Wow! One day, we look around us and find ourselves out of the pit we were in. How did we get here? Without really knowing the details of how it happened, when we wait on God and continue to climb and follow where He leads we find ourselves proclaiming

"He put a new song in my mouth, a hymn of praise to our God. Many will see and fear the Lord and put their trust in him."

When we give ourselves fully to God's ways and plans, He will bring us out and our lives will become a testimony to His goodness, grace, and mercy.

This may or may not be the most encouraging post I have ever written, but I believe it's truth. Sometimes the truth hurts, but it also heals.

So, be blessed. God loves you and wants you to be all that He created you to be. Let Him lead and you won't be sorry.

That's all tonight, folks. 

Thursday, August 18, 2016


Someone told me a few weeks ago that they had no idea I had ever been depressed. They have only known me a few years, and it was surprising to them to learn about what I have been through.  It encourages me to hear that, because it's a testimony to the amazing work God has done and is still doing in me. I never want anyone to think I take credit for turning my life around. God gets all the glory for that! If not for Him and His miraculous hand in my life, I have no doubt I would not have made it.

Spiritually, the depression I was in made me feel like I was wandering in the wilderness, and everything was shrouded in fog. I couldn't see which way to go, and I ended up clinging to the people who tried to help me out of kindness and love. I needed to know I was loved and accepted so badly. I was desperate for it.

One of the most painful parts of the wilderness was the way that the songs I listened to and loved during that time became associated with pain. Maybe this doesn't happen to you; I hope not. But so much of the way God speaks to me and ministers to me is through music.

For several years before, during, and following my divorce in 1997, I wandered. I had accepted Jesus, and was following Him but I didn't really know how to accept the healing He wanted to give me. There was a lot of rejection and loneliness in those days, and my solace was music. Friends gave me CDs and I would listen to them over and over.

A lot of negative stuff happened during these years, including drama involving people, churches, and even some family members. Some of it was real rejection, and some was only perceived to be rejection because of the tormenting pain in my heart that distorted the truth. In 2003 I hit rock bottom and God finally had my full attention--because He was all I had left. This was one of the best things that could have happened, though I thought it was going to kill me at the time. I did not want to be in this pain, and I fought it. I finally took the hand He had been offering me for so many years, though, and let Him pull me up out of the pit I was in emotionally.

The healing started that year, but because my emotions were such a wreck, or the depression so deep--who knows?--it took a while for God to bring me out of all that. Slowly, I started to change from the inside out, but I still had a ways to go.

The music? Oh, I'm getting there. In the years following the wilderness time, I discovered that when I heard any of that music from those years I would be repulsed by it. Sometimes I would even have physical pain, like a knife in my stomach. It was such a powerful reminder of those horrible years. You see, it wasn't just me that was being hurt while I was in the wilderness. I did my share of hurling damaging words at people I loved, and it broke my heart that I had wounded the ones I loved the most. I quit writing for a long time because I had used my gift of writing to hurt others, even though that wasn't my intention at the time.

Over time, the music I had listened to became synonymous with pain. Music God intended to be healing and soothing became a painful reminder of where I had been, whom I had hurt, and the shame I bore because of it.

Years went by; I gained victory over some things but not others and went through some ups and downs. Then God started some purifying in me - known in Christian circles as a refining fire - beginning in early 2011 and again I was broken-hearted. Unlike the time before, though, I knew what He was doing and why. So even though I was broken, and it was painful, I embraced it. I knew it had to be this way, that He was ready to deliver me from the bondage and chains of depression, rejection, and need for affirmation from others. I wanted God to heal me and I gave myself over to Him willingly. At this point, 
I finally started going for counseling.

Let me just say right here that there is no shame in getting counseling if you need it. Christians can have depression, anxiety, and a lot of other problems that sometimes require counseling to work through. I sought out Christian counselors who both counseled and prayed with me. If you need counseling, I strongly urge you to get it.

Finally, I had a major breakthrough in 2012, and soon after became aware that things were different. I felt different, my outlook was different, my relationships were different. I realized that I was not the same person as I had been. I had come to know Jesus in a much deeper way, and I realized that my identity was in Him. He was the Lord of my life and He supplied my every need. Affirmation came from Him and His word. It was amazing when I finally grasped that.

But even though I was walking free from those chains, the music I had loved still hurt. I decided that maybe I would always have to avoid those artists and songs from that era, but at least I was free. But God had another plan.

The music came back to me in an unusual way. One of the most enjoyable things I have done in the last year is reorganize photo albums from way before my time through my high school graduation. As I blogged in another post, major chains fell off spiritually during this process:


As I said in that other post, not only did God redeem my past in photos, I was led to listen to all the old, painful music. Gospel music from my teen years came back first. I found myself singing a song from long ago and would have to find it and listen to it. Then, one day out of the blue, the music from the painful wilderness years was finally given back to me. All while I was working on the photos. He gave me back the music I had loved, because He delights in me. 

Today, I can truly say that God has restored what the locusts had eaten. I'm still a work in progress, but I can listen to all that great music again! The root of rejection has been removed once and for all. Praise the Lord! It was hard to allow Him to do what He needed to do to heal me and set me free, but SO WORTH IT!

The Lord says, “I will give you back what you lost to the swarming locusts, the hopping locusts, the stripping locusts, and the cutting locusts. It was I who sent this great destroying army against you." Joel 2:25 NLT

Sunday, July 3, 2016

Perception Problems

I've been going through old photos while listening to old music. Sounds funny, I know, but it's what I have been up to lately.

I've been in a season for the last 8-12 months or so. I can't really remember exactly when I entered this valley I've been in, but it's been at least that long. Maybe a little longer. It's not been a comfortable place to be, which is the case with most valley experiences.

A sadness started to develop in me from dwelling on the fact that all 3 of my children live away from this area. The closest is 3 1/2 hours, and thankfully that is the one who has the grandchildren. The other 2 are nine hours and twelve (or so) hours away by car. I could get there faster by flying, but it's too expensive.

Consequently, I don't see my children often.

So, I was feeling really down, and I sought the Lord for answers. He is the only one who knows why He moved them so far away, after all. So I had questions, and I know He had answers. He just didn't choose to reveal those answers right away. All communication seemed to be one-way--me to Him--although I knew He was right there.

He was just so silent.

I prayed and talked to God every day, and did what I know to do. I prayed for my family and for those He put on my heart. I read my daily Bible reading. I went to church. I had praise and worship music on a good bit of the time.

Meanwhile, I had stopped working on pictures back at the start of this valley when it got too painful, back when I was only working with pictures of my early childhood. Off and on in the last couple of years I have worked on them, more out of a sense of obligation than joy. I am, after all, the family historian by default. My mom, dad, and brother passed away many years ago, so it's up to me. My children are going to inherit all these pictures from our heritage someday, and I want them to know who these people are. Since my parents were terrible at writing on the backs of photos, I had to organize them and write captions to identify people and times.

Slowly, over the course of the last couple of months, I began to have a longing to go through the old pictures again. Simultaneously, I was drawn to Southern Gospel music from my childhood and teen years.


It made no sense to me, because I never liked that type of music, even when it was all there was in the Christian music world. I was the rebel that, once I discovered her, listened to Reba Rambo in the 70s in spite of my brother's protests that I would go to hell for listening to Christian rock. He was halfway kidding. I think.

So, I walked away from all that type of music 25 years ago and never looked back. I discovered contemporary Christian and Vineyard worship music in the 90s. It is still my preference, I might add.

But I digress. Back to the longing to work on pictures and listen to old music. I listened to my Pandora playlists and looked up music on YouTube to access the music I wanted to find, all while working on the pictures.  The two seemed to go together.

It was like the train wreck that you can't stop looking at. I didn't want to listen to that old music, but at the same time, I was drawn to it. I didn't think I could handle seeing all those old pictures of my childhood, because it was just a reminder to me of how alone I was. However, day after day when I came in from work, I would drift into the spare room where I had the boxes of pictures and scrap-booking supplies. An hour here and there, and before I knew it I was into the grade school pictures of my childhood.

A funny thing happened as I listened to old music and looked at old pictures. God was healing me from the inside out. There were wounds from childhood and teen years that I didn't even know about. I had buried them so deeply that I seemed to forget, until I saw a picture or heard a song that triggered a bad or painful memory. This has gone on for weeks now, and as of today, I'm working on pictures from my senior year in high school.

God has redeemed my past -- pictures and music -- in the marvelous fashion that He manages to do while we are tempted to think He isn't paying attention. The music I thought I hated has grown on me. It's still not my favorite, but I can endure it now because as I looked at those pictures with that music playing, He restored my soul in that area. He has attached new memories for the music and the pictures in place of the bad ones by causing me to remember something happy about each section of my life.

I still don't understand how He did it, but it all came into focus a few nights ago. I found I was listening to a mixture of gospel, contemporary Christian, and Vineyard/Hillsong worship music and singing along as I journaled captions about the pictures I am putting in a scrapbook.

I have my joy back! I realized tonight that I am no longer doing this out of obligation; I can't wait to get back to work on these albums! God has downloaded the skill into me to do this and given me a passion for it.

So, nothing has really changed in my life, but now I see it through a different lens. God has miraculously altered my perception in several areas:

Instead of feeling alone and abandoned, I now choose to remember that I have many ways to keep in touch with my kids. The internet is a fabulous tool. I am thankful that I have children and grandchildren, and I proud that they are fulfilling God's purpose for their lives. I still don't know why they all live so far away, but God has a purpose for it, and He has given me grace to bear it. I am blessed.

Instead of feeling slighted by God because I grew up like an only child, since my brother was grown and out of the house by the time I was old enough to begin to know I even had a brother, I choose to remember that He has given me very dear friends who have become sisters and brothers, and as a bonus, I now have nieces and nephews. I am blessed.

Instead of feeling obligated to be family historian, I now choose to see it as a privilege that God allows me to record all the facts and history and I get to journal about the pictures so there is a story told through them! We all know how much I love to write!  I am blessed.

If you're struggling with sadness or feeling alone and abandoned, take heart. God can and will fix that. You just have to give it to Him. He will take it from there. 

Let us then approach God’s throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need. Hebrews 4:16 NIV

Saturday, May 28, 2016

Just an Ordinary Moment

I've been having my morning coffee on the back porch as much as possible lately. Most days I am scurrying around, trying to get out the door to work on time and there's just not time. There would be if I got up earlier, but since I'm a night owl that's not likely to happen.

This morning, though, was a Saturday, so I spent some time praying and listening on the porch this morning.

It was cool out this morning, and a gentle breeze stirred the trees occasionally. It was refreshing, that breeze. I would have missed out on that if I had my time with the Lord inside on the couch, like I usually do.

I heard a buzzing sound, and looked over to see honeybees in the bush by the porch. They were not interested in me. They were doing what God created them to do, pollinating the plants. They were minding their own business. They had no plan to come and sting me at all, I'm sure of it.

But I moved to the chair on the other side of the porch, just in case.

I continued to listen and watch. Birds were singing and flying here and there. Little white cottonwood seeds from the neighbor's tree swirled around and around on the wind and finally floated down to the ground. Squirrels scampered in the trees. I looked up and saw the moon, still visible through a gap in the tree limbs above even though it was daylight. Five minutes later, I looked up again and it had moved farther west. I could barely see a bit of it behind the tree limb.

What's the point of all this? I asked myself the same thing at first, but then I realized a profound, simple truth.

I felt a breeze. I heard and then saw bees hard at work. I saw birds and heard their sweet songs. I watched the snow-like cottonwood seeds ride the breeze. I saw a glimpse, just for a moment, of the moon on its daily path.

I experienced these things because I stopped and took the time. Sure, they don't seem significant in themselves. They are normal, everyday occurrences. But God spoke to me in those daily, ordinary things that don't seem to matter.

I noticed nature this morning because I got still. 
He promised to never leave me, so I know He is with me always. He is always and forever right by my side. many times has He had something to say to me, but I wouldn't be still and listen?

Lord, forgive me for being too busy. I am listening now.

“Be still, and know that I am God; I will be exalted among the nations, I will be exalted in the earth.” Psalm 46:10 NIV

Saturday, May 7, 2016

Mothers Day

Mama in her 20s
We are quickly approaching Mothers Day, and lots of people are posting pictures of themselves with their moms. I've not found a picture of me with my mama, though; at least not in the years after I became an adult. She passed away 20 years ago, before Facebook and the mania of having to document everything we do, before digital cameras, and of course before cell phone cameras with which we are so fond of snapping selfies. Back in the 90s when she was still alive I was usually the one behind the camera, taking pictures of my kids and what they were involved in. So there are virtually no pictures of my mother and me. No one thought to take one. 

I've written about my mom on here before.  The most recent one was 4 years ago, though, so I thought it might be nice to post a small tribute to her. She was a devoted mother and grandmother, and her children and grandchildren were her life.

I was a stay at home mom after my youngest child was born until he started first grade. We were a one car family and my husband drove it to work. It was common for Mama to show up and let me take her car to run errands while she either went with us or stayed with the kids. She was such a help and friend in those days. 

After my dad passed away, she spent a lot more time with my kids. I think they helped her get past the suffocating grief that threatened to consume her. It was really hard for her; he was the love of her life. I'm glad that they had the privilege of spending time with her. It was good for her, good for them, and good for me.

Mama and her grandkids in 1986
Sometimes when kids are small life can get overwhelming as any mom with young children can vouch for. My mom had a way of showing up at my house when I needed help the most.  She would help with the kids, fold clothes, help out with housework; whatever needed to be done. I would love to be able to show up to help with my grandkids, but they live too far away for me to be able to do that. This is a part of my life that I am currently struggling with. Even though it's heartbreaking to not be there for them and help my daughter, I know that God has a different plan for me and my place in their lives. If He meant for me to be able to be there more, He would make a way for it. I know He knows better than I what we all need. I just have to trust Him.

Mama and the kids started playing board games when they were old enough. I still have the Monopoly game that they just about wore out. She was delighted to have them come and stay the night with her. They would play games or watch movies and just have a great time. 

I never considered it before, but perhaps this is why we love movies and love to play board games so much.

Happy Mothers Day in heaven, Mama! <3

"Her children rise up and bless her; Her husband also, and he praises her, saying: 'Many daughters have done nobly, but you excel them all.'" Proverbs 31:28,29 NASB

Tuesday, April 12, 2016

Blessings in Disguise

I gave a testimony at church recently about something good God did for me, but ever since that night I've been wishing I had said some things I didn't say. Something about the whole church suddenly listening to me makes me nervous. So, what I said was praising God for taking care of me, but I didn't give some very important details. How I wish I had a platform for expounding on my testimony....Oh wait!  I guess that what a blog is for.

A few weeks ago I noticed a piece of metal in my front driver's side tire. I didn't try to remove it because I've learned from experience that sometimes that's what is holding the air in. So even though the tire never did go down any, I took my car in to the dealership where I bought it because it's under warranty. I was annoyed thinking that maybe I might have to buy a tire.

After about 30 minutes the mechanic came and got me and told me there was a problem. It seems the coolant hose had a leak in it and I was almost out of antifreeze.  I asked about the tire, and he said it was just a piece of metal wedged into the tread but it didn't puncture the tire. So that was a relief! Now I had another problem, though, with the coolant system.  I was set to go out of town to see the grand kids the very next day. Since they couldn't get it done before my trip, the mechanic gave me a container of antifreeze to take with me. I thought this was a very nice gesture.

I made it there and back to see the grand kids with no problems; there was very little antifreeze leaking. Apparently it was a slow leak and had been there a while. I took it in to have it repaired the next week and the whopping cost was:  $0.  One of the perks of having a newer car is the warranty.  Car payment, yes, but....warranty. It balances out for me.

The point of this story is this:  Sometimes we get upset when little things threaten to spoil our plans. I was irritated that I had something in my tire (I thought) and had to address that issue before I traveled out of town. But in reality, I believe God allowed that piece of metal to get stuck in my tire so I would go in to get it fixed and the coolant leak would be discovered. God kept me from having my car break down on the 7 hour round trip to and from my daughter's house. It was actually a blessing that I thought I had a tire problem.

Next time something doesn't go as you wanted or some of your plans get changed, thank God in the midst of it. Sometimes God uses life's little inconveniences to take care of us.

The Lord directs the steps of the godly. He delights in every detail of their lives. Though they stumble, they will never fall, for the Lord holds them by the hand.  
Psalm 37:23,24 NLT.

Sunday, March 13, 2016

All Sufficient Grace

Most of my life up until I was about 40 I was not really organized.  I wasn't necessarily disorganized; I just didn't have any special organizing abilities to speak of. I felt disorganized, raising 3 kids in a 900 square foot home, but I think that was because there wasn't enough storage and therefore not enough places to put everything away. Seriously, is there ever enough storage for all the items you need with babies and children?

Two distinctive things happened within a year before and after I turned forty: First, two months before my 40th birthday I had a life-changing, crying and sobbing on the floor God experience when I gave Him my heart. From that moment on, at 12 noon on Oct. 31, 1994, I have never been the same. Second, about a year after I turned 40 I lost my brother and my mother within 3 months' time.

This was a traumatic time in my life. My brother died on Dec. 3, 1995 at only 55--too young to die. It was devastating to my mother, who was 77 at the time. I don't think she ever really recovered.  Not quite 3 months later, on Feb. 28, my mother died suddenly. Even though she was in ICU already from a heart attack a couple of days earlier, they were unable to revive her.

And so I was left the sole survivor of the family I grew up in. My dad had passed in 1983, so I was the only one left. I didn't see how I could possibly get through this and bear these losses.  It didn't occur to me until recently that He knew I could bear these losses.  He sustained me through it all and gave me the grace I needed. It was all part of His master plan.

This brings me to the point of this post. He got me through this difficult time emotionally with a peace that passes all understanding. I can't explain it, I just knew I would come through ok. What I didn't know was how much God was about to change my life.

Suddenly, I had about three weeks to get my mama's apartment packed up and moved to storage until I could get a yard sale together. No pressure at all.

I remember walking into her apartment and looking around the room thinking "where do I start?" And then God spoke to me. It was life-changing to me, but some of you will have heard this if you watch reality TV shows by professional organizers or read their blogs. Bear in mind, though, that this was 20 years ago; internet was just getting started and there were no reality shows on TV. Professional organizers were not really a thing yet. So even though what I felt He was saying is very basic and logical, it had escaped me my whole life. I had never thought of this or heard it from any source. I felt strongly impressed to do the following:

"Focus on one thing at a time. Do not worry about all the other stuff in the room.  Just deal with what's in front of you."  

That may not be earth-shattering to you, but it was revelation knowledge to me back then. Essentially what the Lord showed me was to start at the doorway and move clockwise around the room until everything had been dealt with. For instance, I took a dresser drawer in the bedroom and focused on its contents using the "keep, toss, sell" directions like the organizers do. I boxed it up or threw it away and moved on to the next dresser drawer.

You may be thinking, "wow, she's cold-hearted and unfeeling." However, I am very sentimental. This was a daunting task, and if God had not helped me I could not have done it!  But by the sheer grace of God, I was able to detach myself emotionally from my mother's belongings so that I could sort through it and get it ready to give away, sell, or throw it away. Some of it did go into storage until I could decide, but I was able to decide on most of it during that process. 

It took me 3 weeks, going after work and on the weekends, to box up her apartment. We rented a storage building and stored her furniture to put in a yard sale when I had a chance to get that together. I had some help at times from my husband and kids, but I had to make all the decisions about the stuff. No one could do that part for me. It was mine alone to do, and I knew it.

Because my dad was a photographer, and both he and my mom kept virtually everything, there were a lot of pictures. A LOT. I was finding random pictures in every drawer, nook and cranny and I began to feel the need to organize them chronologically. 

Then I felt strongly--probably the urging of the Holy Spirit again--that I should put the photographs in plastic containers. Maybe this would seem like common sense, but it had never occurred to me until I was in the middle of it.  I went and bought large clear plastic storage boxes and sorted the pictures into them. In April 1996, three weeks after I turned in the key to my mom's apartment, an F-3 tornado came through our town and ripped part of the roof off the storage building where her furniture and personal belongings, including all those pictures, were stored. 

It was over a week before we were allowed to go in and check on our storage, because the storage building was in a heavily damaged part of town. Trees and power lines were down and houses were reduced to splinters. When we finally got in there, a lot of the furniture was ruined due to the rain that continued all night after the tornado went through our area, and a lot of the boxed items were, too. However, the pictures, safe in their plastic containers, were unharmed. Every one of them.  I'm so thankful I listened to that still, small voice that told me to put the pictures in plastic containers.

It's been 20 years this month since I was in the middle of cleaning out my mother's apartment, but through the years I have retained my God-given ability to organize and deal with all manner of "stuff." There are times when I still walk into a room and wonder where to start, but I simply ask God to show me and He does. Every time. Maybe He allows me to feel overwhelmed sometimes to remember that He is my source, I don't know.  I do know this for sure:  I give Him all the glory for my organizational abilities.  I could not do it without His guidance and His all-sufficient grace.

“My grace is all you need. My power works best in weakness.” So now I am glad to boast about my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ can work through me.  2 Corinthians 12:9 NLT.

Thursday, February 11, 2016

Look Out--No, Really...

This is not your normal Valentines post. I'm past the kicking, screaming, and  hating the day. Please hear me out.

So, here we are again in February, the month of Valentines. I was just going to repost last year's post, but I feel like I need to share what's on my heart. Tonight I have a few thoughts on the subject, so here goes.

It's no secret that for many years I hated Valentines Day. It can be a very painful event for single people. Valentines Day focuses on relationships and we find ourselves yet again single. Over the years, though, it has become less painful for me and easier to tolerate by the sheer grace of God. I was just thinking the other day how good it feels not to be in pain emotionally.

Then the Lord reminded me that is still not the case for many of the singles out there. For many, it is still Single Awareness Day, pointing out to them and the world that they are not in a relationship. For those of you who are still hurting because you are in need of that special someone, I offer this small encouragement, though I know from personal experience it is not what you want to hear: God loves you. Turn to Him and ask Him to show you His heart for you, and He will. I know this to be a fact, because He did it for me.

"...may you have the power to understand, as all God’s people should, how wide, how long, how high, and how deep his love is. May you experience the love of Christ, though it is too great to understand fully. Then you will be made complete with all the fullness of life and power that comes from God." Ephesians 3:18,19 NLT. 

It doesn't matter why you are single. You may have never been married. You may be divorced. You might have lost your spouse to death.

The point is there are a lot of people who don't necessarily enjoy Valentines Day to some degree. Some are not necessarily upset over being alone as much as how society views singles; as though all of us--of course--are looking for love and not finding it. By some, we are seen as somehow incomplete because we are not part of a couple.

This post is for those people. I'm here to tell you I feel your pain.

I'm in the category of those who are single because of divorce. I have struggled with my singleness and moved past merely accepting it to actually loving it. I am finally content for the first time in years.  I do enjoy being with family and friends, but there is a time to be with people and a time to be alone. I know that now, and I'm not afraid of it anymore.

The Lord has shown me when I need to be with my family and friends and when I just need to be alone--and He gives me the grace for whichever He is leading me to do.

This year I am being led to "look out" and turn my focus outward to show the love of Christ. You don't have to look very far to find hurting people. So I challenge you to join me in making this a good Valentines Day for someone who is hurting. It doesn't have to be elaborate or expensive. It may not cost a dime.

Here are some ideas:

Visit someone in the hospital or nursing home. 

Spend a little extra time with your kids; snuggle with your little ones and read a book or watch a movie together if you are fortunate enough to still have one or more small children at home.

Call your mother, dad, or a grandparent or neighbor who lives alone. A phone call can be a treasured gift to an older adult. (Note: If any of my children happen to be reading, this is not an elaborate attempt to get you to call me. This is truly what I believe God would have me write.)

There are many ways to show someone you care,  Ask God to show you how to reach outward this year, and I promise He will.  The best way to forget your own pain and problems is to help someone in need. 

"For we know how dearly God loves us, because he has given us the Holy Spirit to fill our hearts with his love." Romans 5:4 NLT.

Happy Valentines Day!

Saturday, January 30, 2016

Living Life

January is almost over, and I am just now writing my first post of the year. In fact, I haven't posted anything since October.

So, we have left 2015 in the past and have begun a new year. As with any year, it had its good and bad moments.  It started off good with my 60th birthday in January, when all 3 of my children came for the surprise party even though they had just been here a month earlier for my college graduation. I was absolutely blown away to see a room full of my friends and family with my children and granddaughter standing among them.  It was the best birthday ever.

I flew to Arizona in May to see my sweet daughter-in-law graduate with her Masters Degree.  That was a great trip; I wrote a blog about it in June.

Everything else was pretty blah until November.  That's when my grandson decided to come at 36 1/2 weeks, weighing 5 lb. 9 oz. but in perfect health, thank God! I took several days off work to help out, and made another couple of trips to see him as well.

My youngest son and his wife came for Christmas and spent a week with me.  It was awesome. We had a great visit, which included seeing several movies  and getting him and his wife caught up on the current season of Doctor Who so they could watch the Doctor Who Christmas Special with me on Christmas Day.  We even went to see their new nephew while they were here, with a detour to see Crystal Bridges on the way back.  The only thing that kept Christmas 2015 from being perfect was the fact that my oldest son couldn't come home.

So, as you can see, I was busy living life and couldn't find the time to write. I am happy to be busy. I am blessed to have family and friends and we have so much to do and say when we are together. I think that's how it should be.

That was my 2015 in a nutshell. The new year came in quietly as most years do in the last few years; just the cat and me. I watched the New Years Day Rose Parade like I always do, and fixed blackeyed peas and hog jowl for supper on January 1.

I promise the next post will be more interesting.  I am already working on it, but I wanted to recap last year and officially welcome 2016.

Stay tuned for a post in the next few days. It is one of those that is like a "fire shut up in my bones." I think God is up to something.