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.
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