Tuesday, March 21, 2017

Coming at you fast

The end is actually in sight on a new book project, but still lots of work ahead. I'm trying to stay focused, so, that's why I'm reaching into the archives today. I love this picture of our dog Charlie, who sadly is no longer with us, but the photo brings back great memories and a wonderful lesson he left me.

Our poodle Charlie has a problem whenever we go to the beach. With Charlie being so small, and the wind currents strong, he appears as if he’s going to lift into the air like the “Flying Nun.”

Now’s there’s a dated reference for you.

As you can see, his little ears stand at right angles to his body the whole time we’re there. Somehow, it doesn’t seem to affect his enjoyment though.


I've often known how he feels. I’ve been in the middle of some strong winds myself during which I could hardly catch my breath before another problem presented itself.

Jesus offered wisdom for times like this. “If you work these words into your life, you are like a smart carpenter who built his house on solid rock. Rain poured down, the river flooded, a tornado hit—but nothing moved that house. It was fixed to the rock” (Matthew 6: 25 The Message).

Sometimes life comes at you so fast, you hardly have time to process. You don’t want to lift off your foundation when rains, rivers, and tornados come, which often appear as health issues, family problems, or financial struggles.

The thing I know about Charlie is that when he’s at the beach, someone’s always holding him, and that makes him feel safe.

And if we allow God to plant His words of truth deep within us, We’ll be secure through any storm.

So, if you see me, and my ears are flapping, don’t worry.

The winds may howl, but God’s got me.

Tuesday, March 14, 2017

When you need a chicken


I dashed down to the cafeteria to grab a bite during Jerry’s recent stay at the hospital.

Eating alone in a hospital cafeteria is one of my all time least favorite things to do.

I would have loved to sit on the patio but it was too cold that day, so I chose a table next to the windows. I'm munching on one of my fries when I catch movement on the patio in my peripheral vision. I turned and saw this―the last thing I thought I might encounter at the hospital that day.
 
 

 
In all her feathery glory, she walked over to me. I laughed out loud. I stood to take pictures then looked around to see who else might be watching. A hospital employee noticed my amazement and said, “Oh, she’s often out there seeing what she can find”.

I guess the crumbs from a hospital hoagie are preferable to the chicken feed she had at home. Where home was, though, I had no idea in the middle of this in town setting.

Years ago, during one of many hospital stays, my mother received a terminal diagnosis. During that time, I found myself in the cafeteria alone again, because Jerry was caring for our children so I could be with my mother. In the middle of that crowded place, I felt like the last person on earth in my grief. But after I took a seat and was just about to take a bite of my cold salad, I heard someone call my name.

I looked up to see my next-door neighbor, Joyce, sitting near me. Joyce was something of a celebrity at our house. She fed a dog biscuit every morning over the fence to our back yard labs, Freckles and Sunshine, as well as our poodle Charlie, who had been my mother’s dog before she could no longer care for him. Charlie could be upstairs but still know when Joyce opened her back door and  would race down the stairs like a wild dog to get to her.

Well, when I saw Joyce, the tears started to flow. She wasn’t there to visit. She didn’t even know about my mother, but was meeting a few friends to eat. However, it felt as if God sent her on my account that day. What a comfort to see her.

God knows what we need when we need it. I guess like most folks, I tend to get a little uptight when someone I love is undergoing medical procedures. I needed something to break the tension when Jerry was in the hospital, so God sent a chicken to make me laugh.

I needed to cry after my mother’s diagnosis, and God sent my dear neighbor Joyce, a loving familiar face to let me know I was not alone.

I tell you, God has these divine appointments down.

We often quote Philippians 4:19-20 regarding monetary supply, but these verses go so much further. In the Message, it reads like this, “You can be sure that God will take care of everything you need, his generosity exceeding even yours in the glory that pours from Jesus. Our God and Father abounds in glory that just pours out into eternity. Yes.

Oh, yes, He does indeed take care of everything we need.

Sometimes, He can even use a chicken to do it.

Tuesday, March 7, 2017

Lean on Me


We maneuvered up to the curb in front of the physical therapy center. He with a new knee only a week old, stared at the elevation of the concrete edge a moment.

Sometimes a single step can seem mountainous.

“I think I could do it if I had someone to lean on,” he said.

Over the years, he’d battled cancer, had a heart attack, and multiple knee surgeries, but I never heard him say this before. He’s an “I can do it myself” kind of guy.

He could probably dead lift me, no problem. Strong for a man of any age.

Though he outweighed me by sixty pounds, I didn’t hesitate. “Lean on me,” I said.
 

I had leaned on him plenty of times. After breast cancer surgery, when trying to emerge from a Phenergan and morphine fog, I had to walk, and it seemed impossible even to stand. I leaned on him.

So now he put his arm on my shoulder, lifted the good knee up to the curb, and followed with the bruised one, raising himself to the sidewalk.
 
He wasn’t heavy at all.

In another cultural reference that’s sure to date me, a few lyrics drifted to mind from Bill Wither’s song, “Lean on Me,” and I hummed the tune under my breath as we navigated through the door of the center.

I once witnessed a friend who was recovering from having suffered over forty broken bones in a car accident try to get out of bed one afternoon. She stared at the floor a long, long time.

Sometimes that single step takes all the courage we can muster, but we can climb all kinds of mountains if we have someone to lean on.

As Bill wrote, there will absolutely come a time when each of us, without exception, will need that shoulder. That is true in the natural realm and in the spiritual realm.

Deuteronomy 33:27 reads, “The eternal God is your refuge and underneath are the everlasting arms.”

This morning, after I had already written this post, I came across these words in Streams in the Desert, “God is constantly trying to teach us our dependence, and to hold us absolutely in His hand and hanging upon His care. This was the place where Jesus Himself stood and where He wants us to stand, not with self-constituted strength, but with a hand ever leaning upon His, and a trust that dare not take one step alone. It teaches us trust.”

We will face situations for which a human shoulder just will not do. So good to know that God is eternally steadfast.

D.L. Moody once said, “When a man has no strength, if he leans on God, he becomes powerful.” I love that in our weakness, we may lean into his strength and find grace for every situation.

It’s my privilege to have my guy lean on me. But more than this, we are both leaning hard on God.

Tuesday, February 28, 2017

A new knee and a new plan


By the time you read this, the deed will be done.

My hubby is getting another new knee.

Those glory-filled years as a college football player came with a price―the deterioration of joints never intended to take that kind of grueling punishment.

It was not a happy experience (nightmare is a closer description) when he had the other knee done a few years back.

Here’s praying knee 2.0 will be much better.

In any event, I’m bracing myself.

He’s not a good patient. By that, I don’t mean he whines and whimpers and wants me to fulfill his every little desire.

No, I mean he won’t let you do anything for him. He tries to do it himself.

He’s a case.

One health care professional called him an “overachiever.” That means if he’s supposed to do five of an exercise, he thinks doing ten is even better. Or thirty.

After he had a heart attack a few years ago, I had a dream one night that I was taking care of a lion. There was good news and bad news in that dream. The good news―my husband was still a lion, not a kitty cat. He was as strong as ever. The bad news―I WAS TAKING CARE OF A LION.  It’s not a job I envy anyone.

Trying to keep him from doing too much is just about impossible. I actually think it’s one of the reasons he had such a difficult time last go round.

I have a new technique in mind, though.

He has to go to rehab for a couple of days and even got special clearance for his dog Lucy to visit him. Neither one of them can be away from each other very long. He mopes. She pines.

When he starts trying to gallop instead of walk, I’ll just say, “Think of the dog. If you hurt yourself, you might have to stay longer, and what will Lucy do without you?”

That ought to work. He’ll do anything for the dog.
With Lucy as a pup.

Lucy in all her full grown glory.
 
I’ll let you know how it works out.

However, if you passed the hospital and saw Jerry lapping it, you’ll know my plan fizzled. Back to the zoo with the lion for me.

“ . . . they will run and not grow weary, they will walk and not be faint” (Isaiah 40:31).

Tuesday, February 21, 2017

A telephone with a cord?


My sweet fourteen-year-old friend leaned back against the wall of the fellowship hall at church as a group of us chatted. Her shoulder hit something and she spun around.

“’What is this?” She asked holding out the cord of a wall phone as if it the most bizarre thing she had ever seen.

“Is it a telephone?” She giggled. “A telephone with a . . . cord?”

More laughter from her.

I am not making this up. By this time, the rest of us were holding ourselves as we cracked up with her.
 
 
 

She picked up the receiver and studied it a moment, then put it to her ear. “It works,” she almost shouted her eyes lighting up with delight. She punched in numbers and someone answered on the other end. “I’m calling you on a telephone and . . .” she cackled again and waited for affect, “it has a cord.”

I don’t know if I’ve ever felt as dated as I did witnessing someone who had never seen a landline phone.

Once while on a prison ministry weekend, I was sitting at the piano about to help lead praise and worship when a telephone behind me rang interrupting the person who was speaking. Somehow, I still don’t know how, singers and we musicians simultaneously launched into a chorus of that old rhythm and blues song, “Jesus on the Mainline, tell him what you want.” The song, maybe written early in the twentieth century, brought in a little of the current technology to communicate a spiritual truth. In any event, it was a big hit that day in the meeting.

As I’ve thought of my young friend discovering the novelty of the landline phone and that she could actually make a call on it, as well as the "Jesus on the Mainline" song, I was reminded that we should have the same delight as our girl did over how we can call on the God of the Universe.

No cords required.

Anytime.

Anyplace.

Shouts and laughter entirely appropriate.

Recently, while I awaited a medical procedure in the hospital, I once more marveled at how comforted I was that others were praying for me, and that I too, could call on the Lord as I faced uncertain results. “Tell him what you want,” the song says. And I did. However, I knew that no matter the results, God would still be there.

So there you go. Call him up. No matter what’s going on. And you don’t have to worry about that pesky cord.

I’m pretty sure it’s going the way of the dinosaurs anyway.

Wonder what my friend would do if she saw a telephone booth?

“In my distress I called to the Lord; I cried to my God for help. From his temple he heard my voice; my cry came before him, into his ears”(Psalm 18:6).

Tuesday, February 14, 2017

You Are Mine

“Did Patsy like the flowers?” my sister, Tammy, asked when I answered my cell phone one evening years ago.

I almost dropped the phone. My sister had asked me to take flowers to a friend who had surgery for breast cancer and was hospitalized in my town. I had forgotten, and to make matters worse, I had been the one who originally insisted I could do it.

I hadn’t taken into account Jerry would be out of town, and I would be trying to juggle all the household duties along with childcare during this time.

“She’s supposed to be released in the morning,” Tammy said.

I heard the disappointment in her voice. Heartsick over my forgetfulness, I hurriedly arranged for a babysitter and found a flower shop that opened early the next morning.

As I almost ran to the front door of the hospital, verses from Isaiah 43 came strongly to mind, and I wondered why. It had been years since I memorized them.

Moments later, when I entered Patsy’s room, I had never seen so many flowers in one room in all my life―on every table, windowsill, and all along the floor.
 




 

Why was I there? The last thing she needed was more flowers. I didn’t even know how they would get all these vases in one car to go home.

I introduced myself to Patsy and her husband, and immediately noticed her sad countenance.

“I’m running a fever, and the doctors won’t let me go home,” she explained, disappointment in every word.

She didn’t need flowers, but maybe I could pray with her. I asked and she consented.

As I prayed, those words from Isaiah 43 came back to mind and I prayed them:

 “But now, this is what the Lord says—he who created you, O Jacob, he who formed you, O Israel: “Fear not, for I have redeemed you; I have summoned you by name; you are mine. When you pass through the waters, I will be with you; and when you pass through the rivers, they will not sweep over you. When you walk through the fire, you will not be burned; the flames will not set you ablaze. For I am the lord, your God, the Holy One of Israel, your Savior” (Isaiah 43:1-3).

When I finished praying, tears streamed down Patsy’s face. “I just wrote those verses in my journal a few minutes ago,” she said and showed me the words she had inked on the pages.

Even in her disappointment, she penned in her journal the truth that she was God’s.

When I prayed the same verses, God whispered again, “You are mine,” to her heart and confirmed He had not forgotten her.

When I left, I realized God in his mercy had redeemed my bumbling efforts.

When I called my sister later that day, she asked if I wanted to hear the rest of the story. Of course, I did.

“Patsy’s fever broke shortly after you left, and she’s home now.”

Patsy had called my sister to thank her for sending me. God had a plan.

Years later, when I, too, was diagnosed with breast cancer, Patsy called with words of encouragement. She sent me a note that said, “God knows us so well, and even then He knew I would have a chance to encourage you. He can make a way even when we cannot see a way! He will be strong in us because He is in us! Remember our verses. Isaiah 43:1-3.”

No matter where you are or what you might be going through, please know He has etched those words, “You are mine.”  not on pieces of paper, but on our hearts.

On this Valentine’s Day, when there’s so much talk about love, it’s good to remember this greatest love of all.

Tuesday, February 7, 2017

A tribute to Dan, a man with friends in high places

He’s the reason I spent the night in a tent for only the second time in my life.

The first time was in Yellowstone.

Yellowstone was fabulous, but I am not a camping girl.

However, he needed more chaperones for my son’s Boy Scout Troop trip to Camp Rainey Mountain, so my husband and I volunteered.

I remember staring at the tiny canvas structure held up by a couple of poles and wondering how both Jerry and I would fit in it. It was open on the ends. I didn’t know it would be open. Somehow, we squeezed our big bodies under the canvas. Let me add that no one had thought to mention that the women’s bathroom was a half mile down a rutted dirt road.

To get there I’d need a flashlight, because that would be my only light if you’re not counting the moon.

And there were bears. Big ones.

I’ll just have to hold it till morning, I thought trying to console myself.

He’s also the reason I found myself chaperoning a scouting trip to Lookout Mountain. We were to ride the incline railway up the mountain. Not a fan of incline railways, especially ones at an over seventy-two percent grade.

Just don’t look down, I told myself while riding the railway, and don’t think about that big mechanism at the top breaking and sending us plummeting down the side of this peak. (You can understand why it’s not that big of a stretch for me to write fiction).

I pushed past my fear and did it, because he asked me.

Fact is, whenever my son’s Scoutmaster, Dan Bowdoin, asked me to do something, I pretty much did it, because I felt as if I owed him.

And I do.

We all do.

In the late sixties, when I was sitting with my boyfriend chewing my fingernails watching television and waiting to see if his draft number came up, Dan had already earned a Purple Heart for being wounded in Vietnam. He served two tours and was awarded three bronze stars among many other military honors for his heroic actions. That’s when he may have been exposed to the now infamous defoliant, Agent Orange, which has contributed to so many vets’ health issues.

He went on to serve three tours in the Pentagon assigned to the Officer of the Secretary of Defense, the Office of the Army Chief of Staff for Intelligence, and the Office of the Joint Chiefs of Staff.

Major Bowdoin retired from military service, and earned a master’s degree in public health and spent the next chapter of his life in food services administration at a large state university.

He also volunteered in many capacities in his church, military associations, and Scouting. As my son’s scoutmaster, he wouldn’t give up until that boy, Aaron, earned his rank of Eagle Scout.
 
Dan Bowdoin on right, my son, Aaron, his other scoutmaster Mr. Dickerson on right

When the home stretch came for the Eagle, Aaron had to hike twenty miles for one of his requirements. Dan Bowdoin with his bad knees and all, walked for all the hours it took to finish that hike. He couldn’t keep up with my son, but to show his support he just kept moving along, even with his knee pain, until the goal was reached. Soon after, he had a knee replacement. Sorry, Dan.

Dan was always the same―steady, and consistent.

And there was a reason for that. He had surrendered his life to Jesus Christ during his time in Vietnam and never wavered from that commitment.

As his former pastor so eloquently said at his service, “Dan was more interested in leaving a legacy than leaving a memory.” That’s why he was renowned for lifelong perseverance  in his intentional efforts to share the gospel with others.

I didn’t even know Dan had been sick when my husband called and told me he’d read his obituary that morning.

Really? No, it couldn’t be.

But it was.

As I sat at the service proudly wearing my Eagle Scout Mom pin to honor Dan, I observed the pew full of Purple Heart recipients, many high ranking military officials, and a host of other community and church friends including one former United States Congressman.

Dan had friends in high places.

However, He most wanted to please his friend in the highest place named Jesus.

The pastor concluded by saying there are not many people of whom it can be said on their passing that they helped enlarge the population of heaven, but it could be said of Dan.

What a legacy!

The pastor went on to suggest that our goal should be to have the same thing said about us on our passing.

A great challenge, but if we have that friend in high places like Dan, it’s absolutely possible.

I am going to miss Dan, as I know many others will, and my prayers go out to his family.

If I ever spend the night in a tent or ride an incline railway again, I’ll think about him. However, if I don't manage to get around to those things, I can honor him most by doing what he did, and tell others about Jesus. He’d like that best, anyway.

I love that one of Dan's favorite scriptures has always been one of mine, too: "Those who go out weeping, carrying seed to sow, will return with songs of joy, carrying sheaves with them" (Psalm 126:6). I'd say right about now, Dan's laughing that belly laugh of his, arms  loaded with a harvest.
 

Tuesday, January 31, 2017

Glenn, Fisher, Reynolds, and Moore, what to do when the icons fall

When John Glenn made history by being the first American to orbit the earth in 1962, the mission impressed me so much, for Halloween, I eschewed the girly princess and fairy tale costumes, and instead chose an astronaut uniform. Because of John Glenn, I believed I could actually be an astronaut.

How amazing that when my own children were about the same age I was when Glenn circled the earth the first time, he went into space again as the oldest person to ever do so, a member of the space shuttle Discovery crew.
Me as the astronaut and my sister as Mickey Mouse.
Tall for my age, those cowboy boots helped cover the short pants gap.
My son as the astronaut, but my daughter didn't just wear girly costumes.
 I also have a photo of her as a pirate, one of my favorite pictures.
 
A bit of that childhood aspiration came back, because once more John Glenn was teaching me something and that is we can never let age determine how high we can go.

A decorated World War II and Korea fighter pilot as well as a United States Senator for twenty-four years, He died at 95 on December 8 of last year.

Flags flew at half-mast. We grieved.

Then on December 27, we lost Princess Leia, Carrie Fisher. I cried when I read the news. I saw the first Star Wars, yes, on the big screen when I was in college. Later, when my little son became fascinated with the Star Wars story, Princess Leia began showing up on the den floor, the dining room table, and occasionally even went on vacation with us as a little plastic figure wearing an amazingly detailed replica of her movie attire. I was privy to many of her new adventures above and beyond the ones depicted in the movie.

Who could believe only five days after Carrie’s death, her mother, Debbie Reynolds would die? Debbie Reynolds of Singin’ in the Rain fame, who danced and sang her way alongside Gene Kelly and Donald O’Connor in what some have called the best movie musical ever made. At our house, we have laughed ourselves silly many times over a lesser-known movie she made playing opposite Tony Randall oddly called The Mating Game. You can’t watch it and not laugh out loud at the slapstick comedy.

Then last Wednesday, while sitting in a hospital with a family awaiting news of a family member’s surgery, a television played in the background and someone said, “Mary Tyler Moore died.” For just a tiny moment, the earth seemed to pause, as I looked up and saw the news bulletin on the screen. I had just been writing in recent days about Mary’s influence on my life in a book project I’m working on. I called her my seventies “paragon of fashion,” but I’m wondering now, if she’s been that for my whole life. She was even the reason I liked orange for an oh, so brief period. If you know me now, orange is not even on my color wheel.

However, Mary was much more. She inspired a whole generation of women like me, that they could after all life had thrown them really “make it.”  And when things don’t go the way you’d hoped in your life, it’s a good thought to hold on to.

So, in a few short weeks, several iconic figures fell. Although, I may not have been in the same political, spiritual, or ideological camp as these folks, still they had given me much.

As those pillars start toppling, what do folks do who don’t know there is One who will always remain steady in our lives?

When a beloved pastor and mentor planned his move from this town many years ago, it left me and many others devastated. What would we do without him? We had so counted on his wisdom and guidance. However, in his final words of the last service he preached, he gave us these words from Hebrews 13:8, “Jesus Christ is the same, yesterday and today and forever.”

Those powerful words sustained us in the days and weeks ahead as we realized that we had been clinging to Him because He loved God, and now it was time to cling to God alone.
When the lifelong heroes like John Glenn die and the cultural landscape shifts as it has in the past few weeks, we once more take comfort that there is One who never changes, who is eternal.


Many years later those words became part of Glenn’s social media hashtag: #Godspeedjohnglenn.

So, God Speed John Glenn . . .  and Carrie Fisher and Debbie Reynolds and Mary Tyler Moore.

Thank you for being part of our lives.

Tuesday, January 24, 2017

When you're up against impossible, yet again


As I shared last week, I’m deep into writing another book project.

Nonfiction this time.

From everything I read, it’s almost impossible to get a nonfiction book published these days. Many publishers are looking for a person who already has a sizable platform, someone famous, which would translate into mega book sales. I am not anyone famous and actually prefer anonymity in many ways.

Yeah, that word impossible haunts me.

So, why would I write this book?

Because I believe God is leading me to do it.

The messages began last April. Nine months prior, I had written “The End” on a novel on which I was working. That evening, I received a phone call my dad had suffered a stroke. Twenty-two days later, he died, and since then, I had only edited what was already written and kept up with posts on my blog. A hard grieving time, it felt as if someone pulled the plug on all the creativity that drove my fiction. I had worked continuously on a fiction project as either a screenplay or novel for almost ten years.

Now―nothing.

I almost became panicky about it, thinking the work I considered my calling was over.

Then, God began sending dreams and scripture all with a message indicating He was doing something new.

What, I wondered. Did it have anything to do with my writing?

I had absolutely no idea.

I’m keeping the details close for the time being, but in June, I read a humorous nonfiction book from a Christian author I know. As I read, God brought ideas to mind for my own book project―a memoir.

No, no, no, I thought. I have never wanted to write a memoir. First, it’s so difficult to find a publisher for them, and I didn’t want to be that person at writer’s conferences going around saying “I’m writing a book about me.” Most of the folks I meet at conferences are doing just that. Nothing wrong with it and great to have for your kids, but it’s not what I wanted to do.

Additionally, I already have a blog with over 700 posts on it. That’s a whole lot of what I think about a gazillion topics.

However, this new project was a unique perspective from a very narrow period in my life, which made it a little more palatable for me to accept.

I made an appointment with the book’s author to discuss his process while writing the book and found him helpful as well as encouraging when I shared my idea.

Then, I did what I’ve done many times when faced with a situation that seemed impossible, I began―one page at a time.

I worked on it for several months, and then I hit a wall. In order to write this project, I would have to go back through my journals from that period. Even though the struggles noted in those journals are resolved now, still those times were hard to relive. The pain of those difficulties on top of the grief, which I was still experiencing, seemed too much.

 I put the project down.

When the ginormous viral bug hit Jerry and me over Christmas, and I was out of commission for weeks, it gave me time to think once more where I was headed with my writing. The end of December is when I set up writing goals for the next year. What were my goals?

God began bringing this project back to mind.

Dread came over me, but at the same time, God brought a dream back to mind that He gave me weeks earlier. I was in my back yard and a red Chevy Nova was chasing me. I knew when I woke that because Chevy Novas are considered muscle cars, God wanted to give me power, but I was running from it. But power over what?

The truth is probably obvious to you as you read this, but it was quite oblique to me. Then at a speaking engagement, I was sharing this dream just off the cuff with another woman who experiences dreams in the same way I do. “Oh,” she said, “It’s your back yard, so God wants to give you power over your past.” I couldn’t believe I hadn’t seen it.

Of course. Power over my past. Great, but what in my past? I still didn’t associate it with my writing until I began looking at the writing goals for this year. God wanted me to write this project, and He was already saying He wanted to give me power over my past to do it. He would help me face those journals.

Amazing.

So, I’m on the 1,000 word a day trajectory and then there’s all the editing to do. Most nonfiction books are sold off a proposal, but anything to do with a memoir needs to be finished up front.

I walked into my office the other day and picked up a gift I received from my granddaughter at Grandparent’s day in November. She had made a paperweight for me. Guess what the verse is?

“. . . with God all things are possible” (Matthew 19:26).
 

When I received it, I loved the idea of it, but it wasn’t until the past few days it hit me―God had used that sweet girl to send me the message nothing is impossible with Him and that I can write this book. The paperweight is a constant reminder to keep at it.

So, my computer is like another appendage these days. Some folks don’t realize that writers really do work eight, ten, sometimes twelve hours a day. My physical therapist knows it, because my back is such a mess because of the writing I do.

But I am determined. I’m not sharing the details of the project, because someone has said, if we talk too much about our writing, it has a tendency to get away from us, but I’ll keep you updated on my progress. Friends, if I come to mind, would you pray for me regarding this new endeavor?

It will be much appreciated.

If you have an impossible type project facing you, well, we’re in it together. But most importantly, we’re in it with God.

Tuesday, January 17, 2017

When you don't know what to do next


I am currently immersed in writing a new project which seems to be using every creative cell in my brain. So, today, I'm pulling a post from the archives, which God is using to speak to me. Hope it helps you, as well.
Sometimes the path seems a little fuzzy.





And we long for definite direction a message in a dove's beak or a sign. 


 
A few days ago in Streams in the Desert, I read an excerpt from F.B. Meyer, “Beloved, whenever you are doubtful as to your course, submit your judgment absolutely to the Spirit of God, and ask him to shut against you every door but the right one… In the meanwhile, continue along the path, which you have been already treading. Abide in the calling in which you are called, unless you are clearly told to do something else.”

Oswald Chambers says, “Do the next thing.”

So, we continue even if the road narrows to a barely discernable trail in a dense wood. We take the next step in the light we have.

It’s good to know that even if our way at times feels like a dead end road to nowhere, across it falls the shadow of two cross members.




Early in last century, Jessie Pounds wrote these lyrics:

I must needs go home by the way of the cross,
There’s no other way but this . . .
The way of the cross leads home.

Jesus goes before us, and his way leads home.

Consoling words for confusing times.

“Commit your way to the Lord; trust in him… “(Psalm 37:5).

Tuesday, January 10, 2017

What to do when you're snowless


The weatherman pointed to the numbers on what I assumed was a green screen. “Two to three inches of frozen precipitation,” he said confidently with a big smile on his face. He seemed trustworthy.

I just love snow.
 
 

So, like others in our area. We battened down the hatches. We made the trip to the grocery store, actually two grocery stores, because that precooked bacon with no nitrites at Trader Joe’s is yummy(they don't even pay me to say that). We added a trip to a big box because I had to stock up on birdseed and suet, too.

I made sure the Styrofoam covers were on the outside faucets and swept the patio so the snow wouldn’t have leaves sticking up through it. I wanted some great pictures.

We fetched the formerly feral Mama Kitty and brought her inside. She was extremely grumpy about being pinned up for days.

Then we waited.

And waited.

I even got up during the night to check outside.

Four flakes and cold rain.

Seriously.

Then for two days, temperatures that would make a polar bear shiver

Snowless.

If I’m going to be cold, I’d like to have something to show for it.

But nature didn’t see it that way this time.

Mama Kitty glared at me. I went out and knocked the ice out of the birdbaths. Disappointment and big sigh.

Perhaps, in a greater way, here at the beginning of the year, you’re experiencing disappointment because you thought things would be different today. You trusted someone who didn’t come through. You’ve gone to great measures to prepare in anticipation of what you thought would happen. But it didn’t.  

Life can be like that.

However, what you choose next can change everything.

Here at the crossroads of dismay and hope, we have to choose hope no matter what. Because the minute we turn in the other direction, it’s a rough road of constant regret.

Yes, you’re probably going to be let down again at some point. On the other hand, who knows what God will do?

So, even though the temps are going to be in the sixties for the next few days, I’m not putting my snow boots and down vest up yet. The biggest snow of my life fell on April 1, so we have plenty of time.

“God can do anything, you know—far more than you could ever imagine or guess or request in your wildest dreams! He does it not by pushing us around but by working within us, his Spirit deeply and gently within us. God can do anything, you know—far more than you could ever imagine or guess or request in your wildest dreams! He does it not by pushing us around but by working within us, his Spirit deeply and gently within us” (Ephesians 3:20-21). 

Tuesday, January 3, 2017

Your One Ringing Bell January Survival Guide

As I mentioned last week, my husband, Jerry, and I have been trying to get over a bug. Well, bronchitis now. It hasn’t made for a great start to the year. And January is always a challenging time, because I am not a cold weather gal. In fact, I’m very thankful my son and a couple of friends decided to have their birthdays in January to give the month a little happy. When January 1 rolls around, I have to get proactive to fight the cold, dark, often rainy days. It’s easy if your resources are unlimited to book a flight to a tropical island and spend a month basking in the sunshine, but most of us have to figure another way to navigate nature’s nasty nods at the beginning of the year.




Ten suggestions in no way conclusive or in any particular order.

1.       Flowers. If you haven’t already done this, go to a plant nursery and walk around. See what’s blooming and buy it. In my area, that’s probably going to be a camellia, which comes in all kinds of amazing colors. When the ground warms up to the point you don’t need a jack hammer to dig a hole, plant the shrub and look forward to something wonderful blooming in January next year. There’s nothing like having a pink bloom in your yard smiling at you on a gray day. If you live in an apartment or are just not a gardener, go to the grocery store and spend five dollars on a bouquet for your office desk or dining table at home. Best money you’ll spend this month.

2.       Set a creative goal for the month. For me, that often means beginning a new fictional story, which I haven’t done in quite a while. I also plan to complete a couple of paintings this month. When February rolls around, it may have been gray outside, but I’ll have something wonderful to show for the time spent indoors.

3.       While we’re talking about goals, this is a good time to set goals for the year. What do you want to accomplish? Get a list going. Put them on your calendar so they stay before you.

4.       Read a happy book. Or reread a happy book―nothing where someone gets a terminal disease. Anything by Jan Karon usually works. I especially loved her recent Come Rain, or Come Shine. Or read gardening books, if that works for you. If I can’t actually plant flowers, I can dream about what I will plant.

5.       Especially focus on what God is saying. That means keeping his word before you. So, make a point of reading your Bible and devos every day. Keep yourself spiritually strong. I often will jot a verse down and put it over the kitchen sink or on my desk. You’d be surprised how quickly that verse gets commited to memory.

6.       Try to keep the exercise going. Usually there’s at least part of a day that works for Lucy and me to make our rounds.

7.       Go to T.J. Maxx and study the new home furnishings (They do not pay me to say that). I don’t usually buy anything, but I get a few new ideas for how to freshen up what I already have. I can’t tell you how many times that involves spray paint. While reading a Martha Stewart Gardening book, I find she’s a big spray paint gal, too. Even made a couple of Styrofoam garden containers look like burnished copper with the stuff. Brightening the space you live in can help you and your family find a refuge against the cold in more ways than one.

8.       Take a class. My daughter is starting a new oil painting class this month. January is the time new art, gardening, Bible Study etc. classes usually begin, so check online to see who’s offering what. Many classes are very affordable.

9.        Be intentional about setting up lunch dates. It’s a good month to really connect with friends after the blur of December activity.

10.   Finally, put some thought on this particular verse, because I think it helps set the tone for the month. “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 . . .  Do that, and God, who makes everything work together, will work you into his most excellent harmonies” (Philippians 4:8-9).
Happy January, anyway!
 

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