Monday, September 29, 2014

31 days if you're stuck and weary


When I saw the Nester’s invitation to blog for 31 days in October, I thought, “No way.” I’ve done this before. I blogged for 31 days in 2010 for breast cancer awareness month. I once wrote a 50,000-word novel in one month when I participated in NaNoWriMo (National Novel Writing Month). I didn’t even want to think about it, because I know the momentum it takes to accomplish this in addition to other writing that I do.

 I was tired, didn’t want to do it, and didn’t want to hear anymore about it.

But here’s the thing. I’m stuck—in so many ways. It seems I’ve been on dead center for so long, and I’m ready to move ahead. Our church has declared a month of prayer and fasting in October. Prayer and fasting always move us toward God.

Then I read these words a few days ago, “The Sovereign Lord has given me a well-instructed tongue, to know the word that sustains the weary. He wakens me morning by morning, wakens my ear to listen like one being instructed” (Isaiah 50:4).

And I felt the Lord himself was asking me to provide a word for others who might be stuck and weary, too, who are flagging on the journey.

Where would I find the energy for this?
 

The Message translates the words above this way, “So I know how to encourage tired people. He wakes me up in the morning, wakes me up, opens my ears to listen as one ready to take orders.”

So, for all the days of October I’m getting up a bit earlier, maybe while you are still asleep, and listening for a word from the Lord. I find encouragement in these words, as well:

“He’s Creator of all you can see or imagine.
He doesn’t get tired out, doesn’t pause to catch his breath.
    And he knows everything, inside and out.
He energizes those who get tired,
    gives fresh strength to dropouts.
For even young people tire and drop out,
    young folk in their prime stumble and fall.
But those who wait upon God get fresh strength.
    They spread their wings and soar like eagles,
They run and don’t get tired,
    they walk and don’t lag behind” (The Message Isaiah 40:28-31).

As I spend extra time in the presence of God, I’m looking for fresh strength and to get unstuck. If you’re in a similar place, join me on October first as I join 1500 others who are blogging every day in October.

If you’re coming here by Facebook, I’ll only be posting twice a week so as not to annoy my Facebook friends any more than I already do. Please sign up to follow by email, if you don’t want to miss a post.

Friday, September 26, 2014

When you don't know what to do next


Yesterday, I had trouble posting before my feed went out because of IT problems. So here it is today, a post pulled from the archives which initially received a good response. Hope it hits a nerve today.
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).

 

Monday, September 22, 2014

If you think you've lost everything


Some of you may remember the car wreck in the kitchen episode a few weeks back when my husband opened a cabinet door, and an avalanche of glass crashed to the floor.

As I said in that post, I couldn’t really tell what was broken as there was so much glass, and it was in a multitude of tiny pieces.

Last week, my friend, Lynn, handed me a cardboard box from the back of her car.

“What is this?” I asked not understanding.

“I read your post about the broken glass,” she said.

I pulled back wrapping paper, and found a vintage glass serving tray, bowl, and condiment dish.


The serving tray was exactly like one I used to have—one that I hadn’t seen since the big shattering. Though she had read the post, she couldn’t have possibly known what might have been broken.

I thanked Lynn, who I found had taken time from a recent vacation to visit antique stores and find the pieces.

So, I lost a tray, but through the kindness, sacrifice of time, and resources of a friend, I gained the tray back plus more.

This reminded me of a spiritual principle God showed my friend, Marion Bond West, when her husband was dying of brain cancer. She later wrote about it in The Nevertheless Principle and Look Out Fear, Here Comes Faith. The books are now out of print, but the principle is still just as valid as ever. Marion writes, “No matter what is taken away from you, if you keep your eyes on Jesus and praise Him, He will restore it to you. You will be joyful to the exact same degree you have been hurt. What you have lost will be replaced . . . joy for mourning . . . beauty for ashes . . .” Of course her text is from Isaiah 61:3 “ . . . to bestow on them a crown of beauty instead of ashes, the oil of joy  instead of mourning, and a garment of praise instead of a spirit of despair.”

God is in the business of restoration, folks. My broken glass is but a tiny example of what God can do. So amazing that even as I wrote this piece, I received a Facebook message from a man who lost his wife to cancer several years ago and thought his life was over as well. But he found new hope with a Godly woman God sent to him, and they are now happily married.

So if you think you’ve lost everything, you haven’t. Wait and hope for God’s restoration. Remember “. . . joy for mourning . . . beauty for ashes . . . “

Marion’s books are out of print, but you may still find a few for sale here and here.

Thursday, September 18, 2014

When it seems nothing is happening


One of the lessons God has been driving home in my life over the past few years is that He is at work even when it seems nothing is happening.

We pray, we fast, we look around, and it seems zilch is going on.

We wonder.

However, God is behind the scenes, moving, changing, solving, undoing, transforming, healing, restoring, loving, inspiring, stopping, convicting, creating, blessing, and on, and on. Then one day, a previously sealed door cracks open, and the sliver of light coming through it makes us fall to our knees in awe.

All the while, God has been moving towards that moment.

Occasionally when I grow discouraged in writing endeavors, I poke around on the internet to see if anything is happening with my writing that I don’t know about, perhaps, a new book review for Give My Love to the Chestnut Trees or Home to Currahee.

While doing that this week, I found something amazing—a lovely video of my “Just a Wobble” devo from last October’s Upper Room Magazine being interpreted into British Sign Language.
 

BSL Daily Devotions is a web-based collection of Upper Room devotions translated into British Sign Language. A battle with cancer spurred Ramon Wolfe toward its development in 2012. “…I felt the need and the duty for this to be shared among our BSL signers in this country so that they can receive the Gospel,” he says according to the BSL site.

I enjoyed the translator’s interpretation along with the bicycle spoke graphic, and then it occurred to me that since the site was developed in 2012, I might have another devo on it. Sure enough. A video of my meditation, “The Whole Picture” is also on the site.

Can I tell you how blessed I feel about this discovery?

When it seems you’re staring at a blank wall, remember, beyond it, God is working in unimaginable ways. It would have never occurred to me to think, “Hey, I think I’ll get on the internet and see if someone is interpreting my devotions into British sign language.” But for about a year, they have been, and I didn’t even know it.

Friend, no matter what you’re praying about, God is working the same way in your life. Be encouraged.

"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).

To see the videos, click here for “Just a Wobble” and here for “The Whole Picture.”

Monday, September 15, 2014

When you forget about rainbows


We were out of town to watch our grandson’s first football game of the season. The afternoon had been cloud covered, and storms had rolled through areas around us.

Our grandson’s team won, and after congratulations, we headed south to his school to pick him up from the bus.

As we followed our GPS instructions, I realized we were nearing a place, which held many sad memories for our family. Now, the outcome of the problem that created those sad memories has had a marvelous resolution, but I still brace myself at the remembrances.

Coming down the road, a twinkling of a rainbow appeared on the horizon. As we neared the sad remembrance place, the rainbow grew larger. A few moments later, it’s as if someone turned up the color enhancement button, and from our vantage point, the rainbow seemed to cover the city of Atlanta.
 
Spectacular.

I’m driving, so all the while, I’m saying to Jerry, “Pictures, take pictures. Are you getting this? Keep snapping.” He’s pressing the button on his iphone as fast as he can go, but I’m not sure he’s really capturing what I want.

He did.
 
 
 

 

When I saw these pictures, I remembered years ago sitting in a plane taking off for a tour of England. My heart was heavy over a situation, and even though God had given me assurances, I still wondered whether God would act. But as we topped the clouds, a rainbow appeared, and in my spirit I heard, “Haven’t I been faithful to this promise?” God reminded me that he had indeed never flooded the earth again since he  set his " . . .  rainbow in the clouds”(Genesis 9:13).

As I stared at the pictures on Jerry’s iphone, I heard that same question. Yes, God has done more than I could ever have asked or thought. 
 
In the future, when I think of the sad remembrance place, I won't forget the rainbow. God has helped me to think of that place of heartache under the arch of His wonder and faithfulness.
 
If you’re facing an impossibility and despite God's assurances, you, too, wonder whether He is hearing your cries, whether He will really come through, take comfort. Say it with me: God is faithful to all his promises.

Thursday, September 11, 2014

A summer of dreams ended, September 11


 I'm slipping in with this edited repost. In the summer of 2001, our family traveled over 7000 miles by car from the South to the West to the East and back. I wrote a travel memoir of that summer entitled Dream Summer which I shared here. It concludes with this remembrance of September 11.
It was a trip of a lifetime, a dream of a summer.

We returned from our travels in late August to resume care of my mother who was recovering from a fall at a rehab center and to relieve my sister and so many who had cared for her during our absence. Still not progressing in any way, we asked that she once more be taken to a local hospital for evaluation. 

After still more tests, she was diagnosed with inoperable ovarian cancer on September 3, 200l. She’d been hospitalized more times than I can remember during her eight-month stay in the center and visited doctors on a regular basis before her fall. Still, no one caught this until it was too late. Had I known her condition I would have not left her those weeks of the summer, but I didn’t know, and I think somehow God, for reasons I don’t fully understand for me and my mother, shielded us from this knowledge.

The sadness was so great. She suffered a stroke as well just a couple of days after her diagnosis so her condition rapidly deteriorated.

On September 11, I was feeding her breakfast when I noticed the clock--8:45. I had to go home so my husband could go to work, and I could start homeschool. In the few minutes it took me to drive home, our world changed forever. In our schoolroom, I took the apple with the eleven stamped on it and placed it on our calendar. A few minutes later, the phone rang. The caller identification indicated it was another homeschooling mom. Homeschool Moms don’t call each other during instruction time, so I knew it was important. I answered.

She told me the news of two jets hitting the twin towers of the World Trade Center. It was so unbelievable, I said nothing, and when my children were working alone, I excused myself to go upstairs and turn on the radio. I heard the news on the radio but wanting to think it might be an Orson Wells “War of the Worlds” type scenario I then went to the television in the den. There I saw shocking pictures and wondered how it could be true. As I watched, the Pentagon disaster also unfolded.

 For many weeks in the summer, we had devoted ourselves to seeing America. What we learned in our travel studies is that what we have today has come at a great cost. As I learned the news of that September morning, I realized the very freedom so many had given their lives for was under attack. I began to have flashbacks of Mt. Rushmore, Gettysburg, Old North Church, The Freedom Trail, Concord, the lights of the Capitol building. Some of the places we’d visited were closed for a time. Freedom was under attack and all that represented freedom was being protected.

A travel memory from another time came to mind. On a November night years before, some business associates and I found ourselves at the top of the World Trade Center at a restaurant called, “Windows on the World.” It seemed as we ate our overpriced chicken that we could see forever and as we ate, it began to snow. A magic moment. That memory stood in stark contrast to the images of the grizzly events on September 11.

In the days to come, it would be hard to separate the grief I had over my mother from the pain I felt for those who lost loved ones in New York or Washington. I spoke with a Hospice chaplain who was losing a parent and who of course worked with many others experiencing loss. He said everyone was having the same problem. All the sadness just got mixed up in the same pot. 

In the summer of 2001, I think our family gained some understanding of what it means to be an American citizen and how many have laid down their lives so that we night have ours.

For the heroes, who include the man who helped begin our freedom trail one dark night in April 1775 to twenty-first century firefighters in a cataclysmic disaster, to those serving in the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq in these intervening years, we give thanks.

Special prayers for the families who have lost loved ones in these conflicts. For it is these courageous ones that have made our “Dream Summer” and the telling of it possible. For the heroes that are yet to be, we pray a firm resolve and that scripture from Ecclesiastes 9 that God would grant them a “wisdom which is better than weapons of war.”

And from the mountains of Montana,

To the prairies of South Dakota,



To the lovely shoreline of Massachusetts, 
 

To our own sweet home in the South,

We pray indeed that God would bless America.

Monday, September 8, 2014

If you think it has to be perfect and The Nesting Place by Myquillyn Smith


 

Some of you might glance at a few photos in the book, and say, “That’s not my style.” But this book is not about style or taste. It’s much bigger. It’s about pushing past our fears, perfectionism, and other’s opinions to create a beautiful home. It’s about doing it on a shoestring. It’s about loving the home we’re in, not wishing for another one.

I can’t tell you how liberating The Nesting Place was.

She notes that fear and perfectionism are the biggest obstacles keeping us from creating the home we want. We’re afraid we won’t do it perfectly. I had to laugh when I read that you might be a perfectionist if you have a stack of art in a corner that’s waited to be hung for weeks.

Oops.

I have some botanicals I found  for a song at a church bazaar while vacationing. They’ve been sitting in the same spot in my bedroom for two months.

“It’s less about doing the ‘right’ thing and more about  creating a home that works for your family right now, a home that fulfills its purpose in this season,” Smith writes.

“Wait,” you say. “What about that old saying, ‘if it’s worth doing, it’s worth doing right?”

I have to tell you that old saying has dogged me my entire life. Kept me from pushing forward because I might not do it right. I’m fairly sure that some folks think it’s in the Bible.

It’s not.

“But,” you say (Don’t you love how I think I can read your mind?), “what about Colossians 3:23?”

“Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart, as working for the Lord, not for human masters, since you know that you will receive an inheritance from the Lord as a reward.”

Well, yes. Work at making a lovely home with all your heart, but the pieces that make it lovely don’t all have to be perfect. I won’t go any further because as my mother used to say, I don’t want to “steal her thunder.” Myquillyn does a wonderful job helping us embrace the glorious imperfections.

For various reasons, Myquillyn has moved fourteen times in her eighteen years of married life. After buying or renting that many houses of varied descriptions, she writes, “I can accept the fact that my house and life and body aren’t perfect, because I trust there is a greater purpose. I trust that God knows what he’s doing, and I don’t have to panic and attempt to make sense of it all. I’ve given up trying to control our circumstances and instead am determined to create a home wherever we are. And that’s made all the difference.”

Reading her book made me want to paint or move furniture or put branches in vases. I immediately gold leafed a carved picture frame, which wound up looking hideous, but I remembered what she said, “You can’t ruin something you hate.” I never liked that frame much anyway. I’ll do something else to it.
 
No matter what your resources are, whether you're raiding the Goodwill or you inherited museum quality antiques, this book will speak to you.

If you need inspiration for any creative pursuit, read The Nesting Place. Myquillyn Smith will help set you free to use your God-given creativity in a way that perhaps you never have before.
 
I love this writer.

Now, I’m off to arrange a gallery wall in my bedroom. I’ll share a picture later. I could even paint that carved picture frame, again, and use it.

You might also enjoy Myquillyn Smith’s blog, Nesting Place.

Thursday, September 4, 2014

From a life of dread to photo spread


We always knew our Bassett Hound grand dog, Agnes, had star potential.

Possessing almost human-like qualities as she watched television with her friends, great things had to be ahead.
 
Plus, she’s such a live wire.

So, it was no surprise to us here at One Ringing Bell that Country Living Magazine chose her for a photo spread in their October issue (on newsstands now).

When we received our copy, we just had to share a bit with you (Agnes bottom right). You'll have to buy the magazine to get her full page spread.

 
Now, Agnes didn’t start at the top. In fact, if you’d known her back in the day, you might have said, there was not much hope for her. When our daughter, Mari, rescued her, she had been a puppy about to go through a hard winter with no shelter. A life of dread.

As my husband, Jerry, says, “She’s living the life of Riley, now.” (Means advantaged, but I have no idea where the phrase came from. Apparently no one else does either, according to the etymology in this article.)

You can probably see where I’m going with this.

Eugene Peterson translates Colossians 1:13-14 this way, “God rescued us from dead-end alleys and dark dungeons. He’s set us up in the kingdom of the Son he loves so much, the Son who got us out of the pit we were in, got rid of the sins we were doomed to keep repeating.

There may have been a time in your life (maybe now?), like there was in mine, when someone would have said, there was no hope for us. Like Agnes, we were in that life of dread. But thank God, because of Jesus, we’re the ones who can live the life of Riley. Not because of anything we’ve done, but because Jesus rescued us, we’re the ones who are advantaged-- children of the King. Only God could have seen that coming.

Country Living may not call, but you can be sure, God is always calling to lead us toward the destiny he has for us. City or country, that’s really living.

Monday, September 1, 2014

If you wonder if anyone is watching


“He will not let your foot slip—he who watches over you will not slumber…” Psalm 121:3

A couple of years ago on a Saturday night before I faced a drive of almost eight hundred miles from Texas to Georgia alone, I spoke with my eighty-four year old Dad on the telephone.
A blurry picture of Dallas
 
“I’m not going to church tomorrow,” he said, “in case you need to call.”

Dad had traveled the road I would drive several times, and he wanted to listen for the telephone just in case I needed advice or help. During the eighteen hours on the road the next day, I did call. It was nice to speak with him while driving so many miles by myself.

 His actions gave me insight into the heart of our heavenly Father who in a much greater way makes himself available to us. In fact, the Psalmist tells us that out of God’s watchful care, he “will neither slumber nor sleep.” Because of His great love, God’s availability to us spans twenty-four hours of every day of every week of every year no matter which roads we travel.

These days, the effects of aging are making my dad’s life increasingly difficult. I find comfort in knowing that here at the end of my dad’s long journey, the Father watches over him, too,  every mile of the way.

 One Old Dawg

Remember to check out the latest post from One Old Dawg.

 

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