Tuesday, July 18, 2017

If you missed it the first time

If you missed this post from a while back, you may want to check it out. It includes a favorite quote from my little friend McCoy.  HERE for "If you have a case of saditosis.

Tuesday, July 11, 2017

When you've got it all wrong


Early one morning, Jerry and I stood staring at the top of a huge metal power pole near us. A pecking sound closely resembling the decibel level of a jackhammer resonated throughout the neighborhood. The crested head of a giant pileated woodpecker bobbed up and down at the pole apex.
 


 

“So what do you think he’s doing?” I mused.

Pileateds are magnificent birds and I love seeing them, but his incessant drilling was puzzling and annoying. The woodpecker had been there several mornings in a row.

We batted theories around. Jerry thought he was hunting for food. I thought the constant hammering on the metal pole had jarred his brains loose addling him so much he’d lost his ability to differentiate metal from wood and just kept boring into the steel. He didn’t seem to be the brightest bulb in the box.

Again, this morning, I heard him. Rat-a-tat-tat. Rat-a-tat-tat. You’d think he was drilling through concrete.

I decided to do a little research.

Turns out both Jerry and I were wrong.

He was not looking for food. He was looking for a honey.

The loud rapping is something of a mating call. “I’m available,” He was saying. Far from dimwitted, the smartest woodpeckers find something to make the loudest sound so they can establish their territory to all the other woodpeckers.

Well, hello. We’d completely missed it.

That’s when I heard that still small voice telling me there was a lesson here. Sometimes, I draw conclusions about other people based on my perspective rather than stopping to ask for God’s perspective―the truth.

It reminds me of what God told Samuel, “God judges persons differently than humans do. Men and women look at the face; God looks into the heart” (I Samuel 16:7 The Message).

Ah, the heart. God looks past all the exterior smoke and glass and sees what is really going on. God responds to that deep need.

My friend Betty recently shared a quote she’d heard that if you’re not standing in the gap for someone, you’re standing in judgment.

Ouch, Betty. Another reminder that God calls us, too, to look on the heart.

The woodpecker’s drumming has stopped. He must have found the woodpecker woman of his dreams.

But his presence in our part of the world left us much to think about. Now we can do that thinking in peace.

To hear his drum and learn more about the pileated HERE.

Tuesday, July 4, 2017

Dream Summer Revisited, Mount Rushmore


For the Fourth of July, a  re-post from the Dream Summer Series about our family's 7,000 mile cross country trip.  Also, HERE is a link  for a World Radio Segment I recorded about this adventure. Happy Fourth!

According to the parking pass in our scrapbook, we entered Mount Rushmore at 1:21 p.m., way past lunchtime. So we headed for the cafeteria at the base of the monument. The dining room was divided into sections by state, each one designated with a flag. We found our spot under the red and blue Georgia colors, which gave me a twinge of homesickness as we sat down, but not for long.

That’s about the time I looked up at the monument and had a very North by Northwest moment. I’ve never been sure if the movie was shot on location or just had a very convincing set. In any event, I could picture Grace Kelly and Cary Grant bursting in any time.

The faces of Washington, Jefferson, Lincoln, and Roosevelt were ever with us as we devoured our food. Jerry and I marveled at the engineering feat creator Gutzon Borglum had accomplished through his Mount Rushmore sculpture. Borglum, according to the guide for Mount Rushmore, had studied under Rodin and also "designed the flickering flame on the Statue of liberty’s torch."  He "created more art displayed in our Nations’ capital than any other artist.” 

After we finished our food, we followed a path along the base of the monument to get a closer look. I felt I was living in a Weekly Reader. As a child, I never dreamed that my universe would expand to a point where I’d actually visit the places we studied. In contrast, my children have probably never dreamed they wouldn’t visit the places they study. 

I was struck by how many other nationalities I saw visiting the monument. From all over the world they came to see this sculpture in the Black Hills of South Dakota called “America’s Shrine to Democracy.” Some of the visitors I saw probably did not come from countries who subscribed to a democratic understanding of government. I thought of this long after we left the monument, and wished I could have spoken with them about their experience that day. 

I wanted to bring in sleeping bags and sleep under the gaze of these stone men, but of course, the National Park Service would’ve never gone for it. So, we reluctantly said good-bye to our large Presidents and hoped to see them again soon.

President Ronald Reagan said of the Mount Rushmore sculpture, “Even after the many years it will take to wear away these rock carvings, their ideals, the principles of democracy and freedom, will live on. For more than 200 years now, this great country of ours has enjoyed the freedoms these four giants fought for. So, let us cherish that freedom, and never lose sight of this Memorial and the men behind it.”

Today, as Reagan said, let us cherish freedom, both physical and spiritual. If physical freedom is not yours because of where you live, spiritual freedom is always available. “So, if the Son sets you free, you will be free indeed” (John 8:36). Unbelief is the only wall that can separate you from this liberty. 

May God’s freedom be yours today.


More Dream Summer posts HERE.

"Mount Rushmore National Monument Official Guide" and America's Shrine of Democracy by T.D. Griffith were used as a sources in this post.

Tuesday, June 27, 2017

22 days and when you're looking for restoration


“So, have you written about it?” my friend Connie asked me Friday night at the after party for VBS.

I wiped down a table as I shook my head. “I just couldn’t write about one more sad thing.”

For twenty-two days, my Mama Kitty had been missing. She disappeared the week when so many tragic things were transpiring.

This feral kitten showed up seven Decembers ago in our back yard at the same time I was dealing with another painful situation that seemed irresolvable. I couldn’t change that situation, but I could try to save this little kitten that faced temperatures in the single digits. I couldn’t catch her, but I built her an insulated homeless shelter with a warming disc in it. She made it and I eventually was able to tame her, but not before she had four kittens, about which I wrote many stories.

The feral still apparent in her, she wouldn’t stay inside all the time, and literally climbed the walls wanting to get out. My vet told me both Mama Kitty and I would be miserable if I didn’t open the door. She might be gone a day or two but always returned.

After her disappearance, I called for three weeks every morning and night, listening, listening. Only crickets answered. There would be no reason to put out flyers. She’s so stealth, no one would see her grey body as she only moves at night, and if they did, they wouldn’t be able to catch her.

Jerry tried to console me by saying if cats taught survival lessons, Mama Kitty would have been the lead instructor. I tried to take comfort in that thought as well as the truth that God knows when even a sparrow falls to the ground.

 I would have normally cried my eyes out about her, but with all the profoundly sad events, I put my grief in a box and sat on it. There was just too much going on. I didn’t think I would ever write this story.

But my little friend McCoy who loves my cats found out about her disappearance. Sunday a week ago, he came up to me, “Let’s make a prayer for Mama Kitty,” he said then bowed his sweet head. “Oh Holy God, please send Mama Kitty back.”

I have to admit McCoy seemed to have more faith than I did.

Friday night, we got home late.

Jerry got out of the car first. “I hear something,” he said. I jumped from the car. I heard it too. Faint mewing. “Mama,” I called. She called back to me with a louder mew. I followed it to a dogwood tree in the front yard where she had often waited for me to get her. She came down into my arms.

I held her close and took her inside. When I put her down at the food bowls, she had lost so much weight her sides nearly touched, and she had red clay dust all over her.

But she was back.

Mama Kitty was back. Then the tears finally came.

 

I couldn’t help but think of a word we studied at VBS this week.

 

Restored―return something to its former condition.

The Varnado animal kingdom has been restored. All members present and accounted for.

The sense I had Friday night of things being set right was so wonderful.

In a much, much larger sense, Jesus came to restore.

We sang a song this week at VBS, which told this story. I have it on replay and probably will for sometime―How Far Love Goes.

Based on Ephesians 3:18-19, God wants us to know “. . . how wide and long and high and deep. . . “ his love is for us is. How he’s searched, and gone the greatest lengths to restore us. He wants us to know that we can be restored, no matter what has gone wrong in our lives, no matter how we may have strayed from his plan, no matter how we have sinned, no matter how lost and lonely we are.

He can restore me.

He can restore you.

He can set things right.

Oh, yes, there may be consequences of sin, but those will be bearable in the context of His amazing love and provision.

Yes, I am a big fan of the word restore.

At this writing, Mama Kitty has made no move toward exiting the house. I asked McCoy where he thought she had been all this time. He said He thought she may have tried to call me from a train station. Hmmm, on a train. Of course. Makes sense to me.

How Far Love Goes HERE.

Stories about Mama and her kittens HERE.

 

Tuesday, June 20, 2017

Prickly pears, Fixer Upper, and Something Good


Jerry and I are walking in our neighborhood, and he stops and points to spiky lobes growing in a neighbor's yard―a plant called prickly pear.
“Do those things bloom?” he asks. I suppose he wondered why anyone would have them if they didn’t.  Neither one of us are big fans of cacti.

“Glad you asked,” I responded as I pulled out my cell phone. “I snapped these pictures a few weeks ago.”

He shook his head amazed as he scrolled through them.


Another day not too long ago, I had been overcome by beauty in the middle of the prickles and stopped to capture the blooms, because I sensed God would use them somehow.

I am not a big fan of prickles, but isn’t it just like God to show us that no matter how much life can stick us and make us bleed, He can bring something exquisite out of the suffering.

Of course, it isn’t always apparent while we’re going through the circumstances, and often it isn’t immediate.

I’m a big fan of the HGTV show, Fixer Upper. Chip Gaines, the contractor on the show, is a big nut, and you never know what he’s going to do. On one episode, he and his designer wife, Joanna, were redoing a house, which had many prickly pears in the front yard. Texas, you know. But they must not love desert landscaping either, because they ripped those things out. Before they did, however, Chip pretended to fall back in them screaming as if he were dying. I happen to know if he didn’t have some sort of body armor on, he would have probably gone straight to the hospital. But the point is, he looked at those cacti and saw a way to make people laugh.

Oh, to have the ability to do that with our sticky situations.

My husband is fond of saying you can lick anything you can laugh at.

I believe that is true.

So friends, even if you fall back into your prickly pears, God will be your body armor and maybe help you see the flowers . . . and the humor in them.
". . . we can be sure that every detail in our lives of love for God is worked into something good" (The Message Romans 8:28).

Tuesday, June 13, 2017

Knocking for joy


 
 
 
 

With the heartaches of the past week, we’re really looking for joy.

The lyrics to a children’s song come to mind, “If you want joy, you must clap for it. If you want you, you must sing for it,” etc.

When you want joy, you must knock for it, because joy doesn’t often come knocking on our door, we have to knock on its door. Often, we have to knock hard and say, “Open up joy, I’m coming in.”

It doesn’t take money, or position, or power to find joy.

What it takes is the ability to see. To find the beauty in tiny things. To set our minds on what the Apostle Paul talked about, “Summing it all up, friends, I’d say you’ll do best by filling your minds and meditating on things true, noble, reputable, authentic, compelling, gracious―the best, not the worst, the beautiful, not the ugly; things to praise, not things to curse” (Philippians 4:8 The Message).

Those things.

It takes being intentional.

Here’s a list of a few joy-full events around here in the last few days or so:
 
  • Snapping those amazing sunset in the clouds pictures above as I was leaving church one evening.
 
  • A red headed woodpecker that flew right in front of us one day. He flashed his red head at me, and it almost seemed he winked. I couldn’t help but smile.

  • Wilbur the menace (I love that cat even though he's always in trouble), who has taken up residence on a backdrop I’m working on for VBS. I decided I’m going to paint him right on the walls of my clubhouse mural. I can’t wait to see the kid’s faces when they see him.



  • This video my son sent me which I've repeatedly watched because joy just keeps bubbling up when witnessing a dog help his brother. ( If you can't get the video to play go here and here's hoping for no inappropriate ads) 
 
 

Often, it's the really small things that help you weather the really big things.  Yes, friends, if you want joy, you have to do whatever it takes to get it, because we can never forget, “ . . . the joy of the Lord is your strength” (Nehemiah 8:10).

So, let’s get out there, do a little knocking, and see what comes up. 

Tuesday, June 6, 2017

When tragedy comes fast and furious



So, this is the second post I’ve written for today. The first sits idling on my computer. I have struggled to know what to write because tragedy has come fast and furious these last few days.

 
 

 
We had just returned from the sparkling blue waters of the Atlantic Ocean a day before. Saturday morning, I was still thinking about those sun swept days as I took another bite of my eggs at breakfast. Jerry was on the phone in another room, and though I couldn't understand his words, somehow I knew something was going on. I put my fork down.

He returned to the table. “What is it?” I asked.

“I’ll tell you when you finish your breakfast,” he said.

I didn’t pick up my fork. “It’s bad, isn’t it?”

He nodded and knowing I wouldn’t finish eating, he said, “----- took her own life yesterday.”

A Mom of four school-aged children.

I slumped in my chair awash in the numb shock that comes over us when we hear this kind of news.

Still reeling from this circumstance on Sunday, we learned a player on the football team for which Jerry is an FCA chaplain, had an accident on a skateboard, and was on life support. He died Monday.

I have found myself asking the same question that the Psalmist asked. “How can we sing the songs of the Lord while in a foreign land?” (Psalm 137:4). The Message reads, “How could we ever sing God’s song in this wasteland?” Because I’m telling you folks, these kinds of heartbreaking tragedies make life seem like a wasteland. How can we sing? How can we praise?

Yet, the Psalmist answers his own question a few verses later in chapter 138. “I will praise you, Lord, will all my heart . . . I will bow down toward your holy temple and will praise your name for your unfailing love and your faithfulness . . .

I will.

No matter how we feel, we will to praise. We choose to praise. We put our eyes on the only One who can give us the power and strength to navigate these tragedies.

Yes, our hearts are broken. Yes, we are sad.

Yet, even in the darkest, most terrible circumstances, God has a way through. He offers us hope in the face of tragedy. He grants us life in the midst of death.

In these grief-filled days, we look to the one who is greater than all of this heartache and trust Him even with our unanswered questions. We will praise Him.

The Psalmist also said, “God is close to the brokenhearted and saves those who are crushed in spirit” (Psalm 34:18). Friends, I would ask you to join me in praying these verses for four children who have lost their mother and a family who has lost a precious son. We pray God would be especially real to them with His healing presence.
 

Tuesday, May 30, 2017

Black goo and when you can't keep your mouth shut


As summer approaches, we're facing some home improvement projects, and I remembered this post from a few years back when God taught me an important lesson from a floor covering mess.

 Yesterday, Jerry and I embarked on a home improvement project. At the outset, we envisioned the project taking two or three hours and afterwards, we’d stand back and say, “Wow, that sure was easy, and look what we’ve accomplished.”

Historically, however, our experience involves an unexpected twist which causes someone to say, “Oh, no, I never saw that coming.” And of course, a lot of Googling for answers, several trips to the home improvement store, and at least one special order, follows.

The carpet in our den is old and terrible. The last company that cleaned it pronounced last rites. “We’ve done all we can,” the man said as he turned off his cleaning machine, took off his hat, and placed it over his heart.

In anticipation of replacing the carpet with laminate flooring, we thought we’d strip it to the cement slab, and install flooring later. We could live with a little concrete for a while.

If you’d seen the carpet, you’d understand why hard cement is preferable to tufted nylon Berber upon which a tanker truck load of apple juice has been spilled and a menagerie of critters has trod upon not to mention their other unseemly indiscretions.

We ripped up a section of carpet, peeled back the pad, and about then, is when the, “Oh, no, ” sounded.

I had some vague memory when the carpet was replaced years ago, of a little residue left from the previous owner’s indoor-outdoor carpet. I thought it was just in a few places. But I had little children then, and was probably sleep deprived at the time. In reality, black carpet backing covers the entire floor.

Surely, we thought, it’d be a cinch to get that stuff scraped off. It wasn’t. We used snow shovels, paint scrapers, razor blades, you name it, and it was like trying to peel a whole pack of bubble gum off the bottom of your shoe using a toothpick. Finally, after removing the carpet, we decided to leave the carpet pad down until we installed the laminate because although you can’t scrape that black crud up, it releases little bits which are tracked everywhere.

You can imagine how lovely this all looks. We have a section of black gunk, which we exposed before we realized the impossibility of it all. Then the rest of the floor is mottled blue foam. Someone, please call House Beautiful.



 
To all you floor covering installers out there, I just want to say, I’m sorry. I didn’t know how difficult your job is. I have a new respect for all that you do. Jerry and I have sore backs, sore hands, and if it weren’t for the dust masks we wore, we would probably have had to call the Centers for Disease Control to consult on some terrible air born bacteria we inhaled from the yucky carpet.

So this morning, I’m looking at all this mess on my floor, and I hear something in my spirit.

I’ve been troubled over words I spoke this week. In a twenty-four hour period, I opened my mouth on three different occasions and said things I shouldn’t have.

Hurtful things:  gossip I shouldn’t have repeated, judgments I shouldn’t have made, and a misguided response to another’s pain.

Why did I do that? I hate gossip, because I know how it feels to be the subject of it. The same for judging. And someone else's responses don't give me the right to act the same way.

“For out of the overflow of the heart the mouth speaks” (Matthew 12:34).

Why did those words spill out?

Just like when we peeled back the carpet pad and found the black goo, when I allowed God to strip me, unresolved anger surfaced, black goo of my own. And unforgiveness, too.

And like that black carpet mess, which had been there for twenty-five years, covering over it won’t make it go away.

Confession is the only answer. Dragging it out in the open and saying, “Oh, Lord, I was wrong. Please forgive me. Wash me clean and heal my heart, because I spoke out of my own woundedness."

And of course, apologies all around.

Though, I know the Lord has forgiven me, I’m still looking at the ugly consequences. Because words, once they’re spoke, aren’t easily retrieved.

I look to the only one who can mitigate for my failures, who can scrape the black from my heart and make me new.

“Create in me a pure heart, O God, and renew a steadfast spirit within me” (Psalm 51:10).

“Come now, let us reason together, says the Lord. ‘ Though your sins are like scarlet, they shall be white as snow, though they are red as crimson, they shall be like wool” (Isaiah 1:18).

I’m going to have to wait on the new flooring, but I’m so grateful to God that he’s already working on my heart.

Tuesday, May 23, 2017

Short and Sweet: Small Words for Big Thoughts


One of the first writing classes I had at the Blue Ridge Mountain Christian Writers Conference was with Susan King, a long-time editor at The Upper Room Magazine. Over the course of the class, she asked us to write a 250-word devotion only using one-syllable words except when quoting the Bible, using contractions, numbers, proper nouns, and five letter or fewer words.

Her purpose for this?

Susan writes, “Simple, direct, down-to-earth communication tends to be the most effective kind.”

We writers become smitten with our ability to string words together, and in so doing, sometimes distort our meaning with over embellishment.

Susan helped us address this problem using this mean challenging exercise.

She shares that over the years some had suggested they be collected for a book. Her reply, “What would be the theme of the book, ‘One Syllable Words’?”

A few weeks ago, I received an email from Susan that Grace Publishing is indeed going to release a collection of these one-syllable pieces entitled, Short and Sweet: Small Words for Big Thoughts. To my amazement, a piece I wrote over ten years ago will be included.

Go figure. You just can’t imagine what God will do sometimes.

Susan believes this book will help anyone who writes or speaks. A quote attributed to various authors reads, “If I had more time, I would have written a shorter letter.”

Shorter takes time, energy, ruthlessness, focus, determination, and wisdom. It’s far easier to spread out in every direction, but much harder to trim your thoughts down to the essentials.

I’m looking forward to reading the book, seeing what others wrote, and learning from them. It's an honor to be included.

This development with the book makes me ponder anew these words by Paul, “God can do anything, you know―far more than you could ever imagine or guess or request in your wildest dreams!” (Ephesians 3:20-21 The Message).

Years ago, I never imagined while sitting in my hotel room working on this piece that it would go any farther than Susan’s eyes.

I’m reminded again that we follow God’s call surrendering our time, talents, and service as an offering, however, the rest is up to Him.

If you’re interested, you may get your own copy of Short and Sweet: Small Words for Big Thoughts HERE.

Tuesday, May 16, 2017

On creating and who you really are


I’m knee deep in proposals, one sheets and manuscripts right now, because in a few days, I’m heading to the Blue Ridge Mountain Christian Writers Conference. It’s been a while since I attended the conference and have met many incredible people there, so I look forward to reconnecting with long time friends. As I’ve written here before, I once told the founder of the conference, Yvonne Lehman, that almost every good thing that has happened in my writing is somehow connected to the Blue Ridge Conference.
 
Bev and Yvonne Lehman at the Blue Ridge Conference a few years ago
 
Yet, like almost all the writers I know, I have suffered angst at the thought of pitching my work to others. I’ve seen writers in tears, locked in restroom stalls agonizing over the dreaded pitching session. I’ve shed a few tears myself, and dread stalks me at these things.

However, a couple of years ago, I had the privilege of hearing Dr. Brene Brown speak at the Catalyst conference. I found one of her books, The Gifts of Imperfection in my daughter’s car recently and decided to read it myself. I’m amazed at the timeliness of her words in my life.

The challenge for any creative is when we put our hearts out on a platter for someone to judge, and they reject those words, it feels like they’re rejecting us. It hurts. A lot.  We’ve made a huge investment of time and thought and then . . . nada. When you read of folks sending out thirty or forty query letters only to be turned down―well, you can see how that adds up.

A New York Times bestselling author now, Dr. Brown still knows a bit about this rejection road as she sent out over forty inquiries for her first book, I Thought it Was Just Me. After no one expressed interest, she self-published. A shame and vulnerability researcher, Dr. Brown talks about how we can become resilient to shame, which is what many of us feel when we receive those rejections.

She writes in Daring Greatly, “Because of how you were raised or how you approach the world, you’ve knowingly or unknowingly attached your self worth to how your product or art is received. . .  If they love it, you’re worthy; if they don’t you’re worthless . . . With an awareness of shame and strong shame resilience skills, you still want folks to like, respect, and even admire what you’ve created, but your self worth is not on the table. You know that you are far more than a painting, an innovative idea, an effective pitch, a good sermon, or a high Amazon.com ranking.

"This effort is about what you do, not who you are.

"Regardless of the outcome, you’ve already dared greatly, and that’s totally aligned with your values; with who you want to be.”

I have often said, “I am a writer.” But no. As Brene says, this is about what we do, not who we are. I am not a writer. Writing is what I do. I am a child of God. We writers are successful not because of our acceptance but because we are courageous, putting our work out there and following God’s purpose for our lives.

Per Dr. Brown’s suggestion, I will be carrying with me a one-inch by one-inch piece of paper in my purse. On it, I will have the names of the people who are with me in all my imperfections and whose opinions really matter to me. I’m not going to worry about the rest of the names that won’t fit on that tiny scrap of paper.

So, if you are a creative (I really think we all are), remember Dr. Brown’s words, “This effort is about what you do, not who you are.” Let those words sink deeply into your spirit. Let them change the way you think about your work and who you are.When those rejections come, remember you are already successful in daring to be vulnerable with what you create.

For me, more than at any other time in these past few years, I feel prepared to go to this conference and more resilient to face the process.

After the conference, no matter the response to my work, I am confident I will have something else good to share with Yvonne Lehman.
 
"What marvelous love the Father has extended to us! Just look at it--we're called children of God! That's who we really are" (I John 3:1 The Message).  

Tuesday, May 9, 2017

My Mom and Rutabagas


This may be the strangest Mother’s Day post ever.

However, while waiting for my food to be prepared at a Southern style restaurant, I knew I had to write it.
 
My mom and I happily hoisting my sister, Tammy, into the air
 
When the server placed my plate on the table, I took in the cubed umber-tinged vegetable and breathed deeply its distinctive aroma.


You may not even know what they are.

The absolute wall flower of vegetables, a cross between a cabbage and a turnip, in some European countries it is considered a “food of last resort . . .  due to its association with food shortages in World War I and World War II.”

My mother knew about foods of last resort having grown up in the heart of the Depression. However, those foods of last resort often became comfort foods as people grew older. Well, everyone except my dad, who, until the day he died called English peas “little green devils” having had his fill of them during hard times.

When I entered middle school, my mother, for various reasons returned to a job she had earlier in life. In our town, women were mostly teachers or nurses, and if unskilled, worked in the textile industry, the largest employer in our town. For many years, she worked what my husband calls “shift work” leaving home mid afternoon and not returning until near midnight. This meant that during the week, I never saw her. I left for school before she rose, and returned after she left.

But, she would sometimes leave dinner on the stove for us, and in the winter, that food might often include rutabagas. Now, I need to tell you that rutabagas are an acquired taste. You won’t eat them the first time and say, “Wow, those things are yummy.” No, it might take a few tries before your taste buds acclimate to the slightly bitter taste. It might have taken me a few dozen tries, but eventually, I came to love them.

After my mother died, my rutabaga consumption went to zero as they never appeared on a menu anywhere.

Of course, they can be found in the homely vegetable section at the grocery store, but unless you have a power saw, you won’t be able to do anything with these root veggies.
 
 
 
They are hard―not potato hard; I’m talking concrete walkway hard. My poor carpal tunnel hand can’t take it.

So, when I saw them listed on the menu board at a place called Rachel’s, my heart did a flip.

“Rutabagas,” I squealed to my husband.

He peered at me in that way that says, “Have you had a stroke?”

“My mother used to cook them,” I said defensively.

Whenever we visit Rachel’s, my ordering never varies and always includes rutabagas. I eat and think of my mother.

Long ago, my sister and I walked into a dark, lonely house after school, but the scent of rutabagas hung in the air telling us mom had been there and that she loved us.

The scent of them says the same thing to me, today. Psychologists tell us the sense of smell, "more than any other sense, is so successful at triggering emotions and memories." Rutabagas and I are proof of that.

I read a post by a friend on Facebook this week, and in it, she honored the passing of a dear Christian friend. She concluded the post in such a poignant way. “See you at the house,” she said.

My mother has been gone many years, but to her I would say, “I still love and miss you, Mom, but I’ll see you at the house.”

And if I know her, she’ll probably have rutabagas on the stove.
 
"There is plenty of room for you in my Father's home. If that weren't so, would I have told you that I'm on my way to get a room ready for you? And if I'm on my way to get your room ready, I'll come back and get you so you can live where I live" (John 14:2-3 The Message)

Tuesday, May 2, 2017

Relay, the whole business, and jitterbugging


Relay for Life rolled around again last week―Jerry celebrated seven years as a survivor, and I am now at seventeen years post breast cancer.

We celebrated big, even jitterbugged for about one minute and eight seconds with the newly replaced knee and broken arm. That’s about as long as we could last with our corrupted sense of balance.


Me with my crazy headband to celebrate our "Carnival for a Cure" theme
 
As I look back, I see all the things God has allowed me to experience because of these seventeen years: my children growing up, their graduating high school and college, the birth of grandchildren and their unfolding lives, ministry in the church, in prison, and to the homeless. Even the privilege of being there for my mother and my father as they slipped from this life was a high honor. I had only begun to write for others to read when I was diagnosed, and God used that event to propel me even further along the path.

A verse God gave me many years ago has been in my head lately.

I first read it in the King James version, “. . . but thy life will I give unto thee for a prey in all places whither thou goest” (Jeremiah 45:5).

Let’s move from the language here and turn to how Eugene Peterson translates it in The Message, “ Don’t worry. I’ll keep you alive through the whole business.”

So, God has kept us alive through the "whole business."

The "whole business," of course, has included treatment, recovery and  some other messy hard times, but all worth it to be here for the many milestones and ministry we have been honored to see.

Oswald Chambers views this verse as having to do with abandonment, that having your life as a prey means you have let other things go. He writes, “When you do get through to abandonment to God, you will be the most surprised and delighted creature on earth; God has got you absolutely and has given you your life. If you are not there, it is either because of disobedience or a refusal to be simple enough.”

When faced with a grim diagnosis, things that previously held high importance slip away and show themselves for the time and life wasters that they truly are. We are almost forced into making our lives “simple enough.”

But all that is for naught, if we reach the other side of the crisis and take up our old ways. It’s a daily challenge to sort out what’s truly important. But worth it.

I love what Chambers says, “God has got you absolutely and has given you your life.”

It is enough to make us want to jitterbug.
At least in our hearts.

Bragging a bit about our church's participation--raised almost $11,000. My friend and breast cancer survivor, Brenda, raised around 4500 herself. Stunning. She's the number one fund raiser in the county. Co-leaders, Brenda and Lynn, coordinated the church relay effort while shining in their tutus. No surprise we received second place for "Best Costume." So cute. 
 
Lynn and Brenda

 

Tuesday, April 25, 2017

Tearstained Shoes

While cleaning out my closet, I raked out a pair of black shoes and  examined the soles--too worn to be given to charity, I wondered, could I actually throw them away?

You see, those shoes represented a touch point for a favorite devotion of mine that I wrote, which first appeared in the Upper Room Magazine.



 I went to my computer and hunted down that meditation, deciding to share it with all of you, today. It references Psalm 56:8, “Record my lament; list my tears on you scroll—are they not in your record?”

“I’m in a group that volunteers to work with inmates in a maximum security prison for women. One of the rules we’re constantly reminded of is this: Don’t take anything in the prison; don’t take anything out of the prison. We are not allowed to give the women a piece of gum, a pen, or even a note. They are not permitted to send anything outside the prison with us. 

Every time we visit the prison, we spend a few minutes with the women who desire our prayers. We hold their hands and pray for them individually. Many of the women cry. A couple of months ago, during the prayer time, I happened to open my eyes and looked down at my shoes. The toes of my shoes were dotted with the tears of the women for whom I had prayed. When I left that evening, I did take something with me:  tearstains.

God has made a record of our tears and is touched by them. In the same way, every time I wear my tearstained shoes I am reminded to pray for the women who are incarcerated, asking for healing that comes from God.”

 So, I have to tell you, I put the shoes back, deciding I couldn’t part with them. Not now, anyway.
 
Friends, if your heart is especially hurting today, remember that God knows and cares about your tears. Every single one.



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