Just Sing To Me, Child

sparrow song pic 6The Lord has always been my ‘booking agent’.  I never know just what’s ahead.  I’ve never sat down with a board of advisors to develop a business plan for the future. Whenever I try to do that my plans turn to dust.

I don’t trust myself to know the way, because I’m too enamored with worldly success.  So, I’ve always sought His direction and reassurance that I was on the right road. Years ago, when my singing ministry was at its peak,  I was always getting career opinions from people.  “The day of small beginnings is over for you.” they said.  Or, “You could be so big if you only marketed yourself properly.”  But, talk like that always made me lose my peace. Was it fear, or His warning?

I was huffing up a steep hill on my morning walk. “Lord, please show me once again what Your plan is.  Am I on the right track?”  

Suddenly, a picture of a chubby sparrow entered my mind.  She perched on a branch in front of a run down house in the heart of the inner city.  The little bird was not impressed or depressed about where she was.  She just lifted up her head and sang a clear song unto the Lord.

Then the vision changed, and the cubby sparrow flew to a branch in front of the White House.  Again, the little sparrow was not impressed or depressed about where she was.  She just lifted up her head and sang unto the Lord.

Don’t try to be famous, big or important. Just enjoy My freedom. I will lead you. 

Weeks later I received an invitation to sing at the International Women in Leadership  conference in Washington, DC.  Senator Jepson’s wife insisted God wanted me there.

sparrow song pic 3I had no idea what I was in for.  The glitz and bling nearly blinded me as I walked in wearing my $35. polyester dress.  The only new thing I had on were a pair of super-tight, control-top pantyhose.

sparrow song pic 1I hovered around the refreshment table looking for a little chocolate comfort.  Without warning, the elastic waistband on my pantyhose began to ROLL! I quickly jammed my elbow against the waistband to stop it.  No use.  The pressure was just too great.  To my horror, my new slimmer-you panty hose sprang over my old,  fatter-me creating a bikini tourniquet tight enough to stop the blood supply to my legs!

sparrowsong pic 4My life flashed before my eyes as I quickly waddled to the ladies room and hid in a stall, fixed my problem and ate all the chocolate on my plate.

“Hey, Marji . . . you in there?  The program is starting.”

Rush of panic.  If I named the women at the head table you would recognize them – big wigs, the seen and the famous from every mega ministry in the country . . . and me.

I choked down some chicken and the Dove Award winner sang.  She brought the house down.  People were on their feet.  Then you heard, “And now we are going to hear from a little housewife from Rush, NY.”

That was the signal.  Out from the kitchen poured dozens of busing people to clear thesparrow song pic 2 800 dinner plates. Clang. Crash. People started talking, and before I could give the cue the sound man started my back-up tape.  I couldn’t hear a thing.

Red-faced and dying inside, I struggled to find my place in the song.  The Dove Award winner took one look, turned her back to me, and got everyone at her table talking.  Even the women at the head table began to talk to each other.

Lord, have you brought me all the way down here to humiliate me in front of all these people?  Can’t you humble me in my living room?

Once again, the picture of the little sparrow filled my thoughts.  Just sing unto Me – don’t be impressed or depressed about where you are. 

I lifted my head, ignored the crowd, and sang as if Jesus was the only one there.  Half way throughout the song the tangible Presence of the Lord began to fill the room. Voices hushed, an insistent “Shhhhhh” rippled across the audience as all eyes closed.  When I finished, no one moved.  Silence.  God had arrested their attention – not me.  Not my dress, or my reputation. . . it was the Spirit of the Lord.

I went back to my room and with sweet relief . . . cried myself to sleep.

- to be continued.

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Even In The Night . . . You Are Always With Me

Have you every had something work beautifully for years then suddenly stop working?  With material things, you just replace them, like a toaster, or a car, but what if it’s a talent, or an ability, or worse . . . a passion?  What then?

Have you ever felt as if you just didn’t ‘have it’ anymore?  Suddenly you find yourself embarking on a wilderness experience you never planned for, the loss of identity, and the test of faith of a lifetime.

I’d like to share my story:

singing 1I was born with music in my bones. My grandmother sang at the Metropolitan, my father sang on Broadway.

I started at six-years old entertaining the neighborhood with talent shows held in my basement.  (I was the whole show!!)

As a young person, I sang in America’s Children, sang for USO tours, was the lead soloist in a rock band, recorded radio jingles, sang in nightclubs and even wrote music for a national award winning documentary.

pavilI met Jesus in my early twenties, dropped out of secular music entirely and dedicated my voice to Him. I was fully engaged with being a mom and working on our old farmhouse. Bill was starting out as a school teacher.

I sang my prayers, spent countless hours worshipping in my home with my guitar. Music was the way I connected with God and He was inspiring new songs almost daily.

I never expected to become public, but in 1970, I was surprisingly launched into ministry when I received a phone call to sing at a church in town. I had no idea how they even knew I sang. One invitation led to another, until I was traveling regularly.

Talking about Jesus was easy.  Every song I wrote came with a story and singing at noela lesson showing how He was changing my life.  His gift of music became a gentle bridge to sharing the gospel at a time when women in ministry were frowned upon.  Often Pastors told me, “You are the first woman we’ve ever had in our pulpit.” (picture with Surgeon General C.Everett Cook)photo-keeper

NOEL 1

I never had a manager, a business plan, or an agent.      God kept confirming that I was to “live orderly, simply and close” to Him, take care of my growing family, live a life of devotion, and let Him open the doors . . . and unganda 2they did.

He put me in places, and before audiences I never would have expected.  From one enthusiastic listener to another,  He took my music all over the world . . . on a quiet spirit-led journey.

 

 

In 1998, everything changed…

“The stairs were not locked to the platform . . .” they told me. “A bone was severed from your spine.”

It was a terrible fall,  just at the start of a conference in Pennsylvania.

Months later, my doctor reviewed my progress, “Fibromyalsia often follows an accident or great trauma.  You’ll have to learn to manage your life differently now.”

God miraculously healed the severed bone.  The first x-ray showed it gone… the next day, the bone was re-attached to my spine eliminating the need for back surgery (PTL).  I never questioned that my recovery would be quick. God would heal me because surely I was meant to return to what I’d been doing. It was working.  I was being successful.  His name was being proclaimed . . . why wouldn’t I return?

The bone was healed…but for reasons only God knew, the muscle spasms didn’t go away. The minute I tried to return to my normal routine I realized things weren’t the same. I couldn’t even walk on uneven ground without triggering spasms in my back.

Life-altering tremors continued. That same year my producer, Larry Ellis, suddenly died, ending a twenty-year friendship and halting the recording of my eleventh album.  My mother became ill and died. My multiply disabled brother became my charge. Both my sons got married.  We were suddenly empty nesters,  and I entered the craggy mountain range of menopause.

even nite shall be lite 72Even if you learn to tune it out, chronic pain is continuous stress. I was always hurting somewhere.  My neck would burn, then my legs would throb, then my arms.  I’d wince with the slightest touch to my hip or shoulder.  Depression.  Exhaustion. Sleeplessness. Mood swings.  My poor husband looked at me one day and said, “Where has my wife gone?”

He explained it perfectly… I’d gone somewhere, the real me, the one full of song and inspiration.

“I just didn’t have it anymore.”

Singing was becoming very difficult. I couldn’t get through one song without crippling muscle spasms up the back of my head. But worse than that, I was losing the desire to sing.  I just didn’t have it anymore?

Invitations for ministry slowed to a trickle. I gained weight, lost the rhythm of my quiet time, picked up the unwelcome companion of depression and anxiety – and entered the wilderness.

I didn’t know me anymore.  I remember standing in line at Macy’s noticing a women across from me who looked vaguely familiar…then I moved!  I was standing in front of a mirror!  I’d suddenly been swallowed by a fat lady with glasses.

- to be continued -

Quiet place song2 72Quiet Song3 72

 

 

Now available:

Marji’s cassette recordings are now available in CD.

Volume 1 (not pictured) contains albums: Jesus Is Lord Now and Totally New

Volume 2: contains albums:  Keeper of My Heart and     Lebanon Cedar

Volume 3: contains albums: Worshiping Army of God and       In The Pavilion

To order yours today

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Jesus My Morning

A stream of light pierced the darkness and cozy warmth trickled in my bedroom window. Jesus, I love You.  I could feel Him drawing me.

shadows on entrance I wandered through the house . . . attentive . . . drinking in the medley of shadows, line and shape . . . the ordinary being transformed into a canvas of light. 

Jesus, my morning, Jesus, my song. . . I hummed as I retrieved my camera from my studio.

shadows on doorbell shadows on door“And the light shines in darkness; and the darkness comprehended it not.” (John 1:5)

“I am the light of the world: he that follows me shall not walk in darkness, but shall have the light of life.” (John 8:12)

Scientists have found that light deprivation causes depression and profound changes in the brain.  When rats were kept in the dark for six weeks, they not only exhibited depressive behavior, but researchers discovered “neurotransmitters involved in emotion, pleasure and cognition in the process of dying.”

 

shadow on plant

We need light to live.

My husband had a near death experience two years before he died.  I thought he was gone but just as the ambulance men were coming up the stairs he suddenly spoke:

“Mimmy, I’ve just seen Heaven.”

He couldn’t find the words to describe the color he saw.  Colors our natural eyes cannot detect.  In Heaven, our light will not be the light of the sun, no natural light is admissible.

“And the city had no need of the sun, neither of the moon, to shine in it: for the glory of God did lighten it, and the Lamb is the light thereof.” (Rev 21:23)

Psalm 119:105 tells us His word is a lamp unto our feet and a light unto our path. 

shaddows 1

shadow on chair

Help us, Lord. To be aware of Your Word.  Not just on the pages of our Bibles, but on the canvas of our life.

Help us see Your full spectrum of life.  Help us be aware of the moment by moment nudges of Your Spirit and hear the whispers of Your unfailing love through the day.

In Him was life; and the life was the light of men. (John 1:4)

I lift up my friends this morning, Lord.  To those who are struggling with deep shadows.  For those who are tempted to despair. Cover them with Your light, Lord.

Here are the words to one of the most beautiful hymns ever written:

“Be Thou my Vision, O Lord of my heart;  naught be all else to me, save that Thou art.  Thou my best Thought, by day or by night, waking or sleeping, Thy presence my light.”

“Be Though my Wisdom, and Thou my true Word; I ever with Thee and Thou with me, Lord; Thou my great Father, and I Thy true son; Thou in me dwelling, and I with Thee one.”

“Riches I heed not, nor man’s empty praise, Thou mine Inheritance, now and always: thou and Thou only, first in my heart, High King of Heaven, my Treasure Thou art.”

God bless you today, friends.

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“Like . . . Sick!”

“Sick!” she squealed as I spread face mask on her perfect seven-year old skin.

“Ohh, do you feel ill?” I teased.

beauty time 2Hazel went into gales of laughter, “No, I don’t mean sick-sick . . . I mean sick, you know, cool.”

“Cool? Do you need a sweatshirt?”  Now we were both laughing.

beauty time 1

I dare some of the older children in my life to eliminate the word “like” just to see if they can still make a sentence.  It’s comical to watch them struggle.  It’s their culture (or lack of it).

An idiom is a word combination which has a different meaning than the literal meaning. We use idiom all the time without realizing it. Think about the pictures we paint with these phrases: raining like cats and dogs,  bull in a china shop, dressed to kill, green with envy, laugh your head off, play it by ear.

There are many idiom in the Bible. Jesus was very fond of idioms of overstatement, or hyperbole, used to reinforce a point:  “If anyone comes to me and does not hate his father and mother…” or “If your right eye causes you to sin, gouge it out and throw it away.”

It’s a fascinating study and important for avoiding misunderstandings.  Every writing class I’ve taken warns us to avoid idiom.  I think as Christians we should speak with honor.  It’s just tacky to swear, but phrases like: Holy cow, holy crap, etc.  There is nothing “holy” about those things.  How about: ‘That sucks’?  It’s not befitting of a king’s kid.

When I was a child, it was totally acceptable to say someone was “mentally retarded.”  Now, you risk a law suit. For a while “special needs” was acceptable.  Gay meant lively, and happy.  I understand the need for sensitivity and I certainly don’t want to offend, but it seems to me people are poised for offense these days.

like this guy 72I’m all for talking plain, and eliminating confusion.  For example, I frequently use the phrase: quiet time. To another believer it is very plain that I mean that period of time that I set aside to read the word and pray.  To the non-believer it could mean taking a nap.

When my son, Kyle, was about three I asked him if he’d like Jesus to come and live in his heart.  His eyes when wide.  He looked down at his chest and said, “There’s no room.”  Of course, a large grown-up can not squeeze into his tiny little heart.  I needed to use words that he would be able to grasp.

“Have you found the Lord?”  What? Was He lost?  It seems more accurate to say, “He found me.”

I recently asked a group of women, “Are you sure your name is written in the Lamb’s Book of Life?”  Afterwards it occurred to me: Do they even know what that is?  I failed to explain it plainly.

We have to choose our words skillfully, because of  concern that we are speaking the Gospel as plainly as possible.

beauty time 5

(Guess who Hazel takes after?)

Father, we want to be your witnesses in this generation.  Give us plain speech and a powerful anointing so nothing will hinder Your truth from being shared.

 

 

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“I’m Sure Glad I Don’t Have Your Job!”

The day after I speak at an engagement I often feel a bit of a letdown.  I’ve been gearing up for days, weeks, packing up inventory, practicing the guitar . . .  anticipation bubbling. Suddenly, it’s over.  (below: the lovely conference hall spring luncheon at Le Tourneau christian conference center)Le Tourneau 1Le tourneau 2It’s an odd job I have.  It’s not like housework where you can see the reason why you’re tired.  I come home exhausted, spent, and wondering.  It’s unmeasurable. I have to wait until I get to heaven to know the true results.

Sometimes I have bad dreams before speaking. I dream of a sudden onslaught of some strange digestive disturbance sending me into a burping-belching-hiccup wrenching bundle of inappropriate sound affects leaving me red-faced and wordless in front of a stunned crowd.

huh?Then there’s always the threat that in the middle of a great oritorical emphasis my control top panty-hose will suddenly spring a mind of its own and flop down over my stomach leaving me with a lumpy, flatulent bulge!

Usually the day before I speak I’m mentally flatline – unable to rouse the slightest spiritual thought.  I’d forget my own kid’s names if I didn’t have them written down just for days exactly like these.

Thoughts tumble through my mind: what will I wear, everything is so old.  I’m not meant to do this.  It’s not supposed to be this difficult.  Have I packed everything? And of coarse, I revisit the time when I showed up LATE because I left the directions on the kitchen counter, only to discover I forgot my Bible and notes, too.

display 2 display 1Then there’s the time I was racing off to a ‘gig’ (as my kids called it) and asked my teenage son to put my guitar IN the back of the car.  The car was locked, and it didn’t occur to him he should tell me that he put the guitar in FRONT of the trunk not IN it!  I bounced out of the house, talking in a flurry of over-the-top excitement and back OVER the guitar!

My husband tell me all the time: “I’m sure glad I don’t have your job.”

The morning of my last engagement, I knew just what I was going to wear – except for shoes.  My general clod-hoppers looked a bit tacky with what I was planning.  Quickly I dove into the crawl space . . . where ARE those old beige heels?.  I pulled a few dusty shoe boxes off a metal shelf hiding behind a stack of Christmas decorations.  Ahhh, my black patent leather… and the beige heels!  Jackpot! 

However . . . when I slipped by foot inside the pointy heels my toes screamed,  “You’re NOT Cinderella, your pointy-shoe-days are over, consider yourself warned.”

If I wasn’t meant to do this I would have quit a long time ago – too much stress. The lovely fact is – it is God’s will. I’m  a storyteller of Monday-Tuesday living with Jesus.

I just love Jesus – and for reasons only He understands, I’m given the privilege of speaking into women’s lives.  I don’t know what the future holds, but I am sure about one thing:  the pointy shoes are going to the Goodwill! 

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Give Up . . . or Press IN?

Giant turkeys roamed slowly across my lawn. I grabbed my camera and tried to get a good shot.  I opened my window and they scurried into the neighbor’s yard.

turkeys

I had to chuckle because my neighbor regularly goes on turkey hunting trips.  One year he went all the way to Texas – saw nothing – came home to find we’d spotted twelve in the field behind his house.  This time they were literally on his door step!

My neighbors are the best, he’ll get a kick out of seeing these pictures. I was the wife of a hunter,  I understand the thrill of a getting geared up to travel for a big adventure. Sometimes, just being somewhere different can be revitalizing.

Often, however, what we are hunting for has been with us all the time. Sometimes it takes us leaving home to realize how blessed we are at home.

turkey2

I’ve often made the mistake of thinking what I needed was out there somewhere.

Last night I went to the Elim Leadership Conference.  Pastors and ministers from all over the United States gathered together to be “recharged.”

filled with HS 72Our hands raised, reaching for more of God, as the music billowed over us with waves of worship.  The blessed assembly of believers is a powerful heritage to be a part of, and there’s nothing like corporate worship. The vitality of the Holy Spirit filled the assembly.  Heads were bowed. Tears flowed. Some knelt with faces to the ground.

I was impressed with the thought that what we came hoping for . . . His touch, His presence . . . also waits for us at home.  Even in the middle of the stress, and busyness, and work . . . He is with us.  Here, just as much as there.  The difference is when we gather together, we pull one another up . . . if I can’t get into worship, I’ll be ushered in by the worshippers around me, until I can join in myself.  At home, it’s much easier to give up when we need t0 press in.

I would never deny the importance of gathering at these special conferences, but I was reminded that I can have the same experiences at home, every day, every moment, as I live in the conscious awareness that He is always with me.

Awareness of God’s presence takes deliberate focus and the renewing of our minds with scriptures that tell us the truth of His continuous, personal presence.

Think on these things:

Surely the righteous shall give thanks to Your name; the upright shall dwell in Your presence. (Psalm 140:13)

Keep your life free from love of money, and be content with what you have, for he has said, “I will never leave you nor forsake you.”  (Hebrews 13:5)

I have been crucified with Christ.  It is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me.  and the life I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me. (Galatians 2:20)

Or do you now know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit within you, whom you have from God?  You are not your own, (1 Corinthians 6:19)

We are the temple of the living God; as God said, “I will make my dwelling among them and walk among them, and I will be their God, and they shall be my people.” (2 Corinthians 6:16)

It is to your advantage that I go away, for if I do not go away, the Helper will not come to you.  But if I go, I will send him to you. (John 16:7)

I give them eternal life, and they will never perish, and no one will snatch them out of my hand.  (John 10:28)

 

 

 

 

 

 

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I’m Tired of Dull and Steep – Are You?

Show me your ways 72How is your devotional life?  Do you have one?  What do you do when things get (forgive me Lord) boring?  I know what it’s like.  I won’t admit how many times I’ve reached for a show on my I-pad instead of my Bible.  I’m attempting a new adventure combining art and devotions because my quiet-time life has become somewhat stagnant.  What do you do to keep motivated to set that special time aside?

In the ideal world one might say, “I’m always inspired to read the word and be with Jesus.  How can you not?”  But unfortunately, I don’t live in an ideal world and I experience ‘lifeless’ times when the last thing I want to do is read the Bible.  (shocking?)

There are times when the waters flow free and full . . . (I spotted this waterfall as I was driving to past Hemlock Lake … the Lord prompted me to turn the car around and go back.  I’m so glad I did.  These pictures can’t capture the feeling of standing beside a rushing spring creek.  The air is so alive and invigorating.)

warerfall 1 warterfall 2

Then there are times when our spiritual life becomes like this forest path. . . steep, dull, and just too difficult to try . . .

pathway up

Interestingly, the above photo was directly opposite the waterfall.  They were in the same place, all I had to do see the waterfall was turn around.

God hasn’t moved.  WE move.  Away. Maybe not in our hearts – but in our intentions.  We have to live intentionally in the spirit.  We have to purpose to turn around, repent from drifting with the current of the world, and focus on God.

I read a verse the other day (which I cannot find – argh) that stopped me in my tracks:  (my paraphrase)  I felt on top of the world until You looked away – then I fell to pieces.

We can’t fathom how much we need God.  We think He’s a special part of our life when the truth is: He IS our life.  If God looked away – “fall to pieces” doesn’t adequately describe what would happen.

‘Dry’ and ‘steep’ is all we can hope for with our backs to God.  Bland struggle. Desperate attempts.  Just going through the motions of life without really living.

I don’t want this.  Sometimes I’ll have a lot of company or grandkids and things will get blissfully busy, those are God’s gifts.  But, there are times when I neglect my devotional life – just because – and like a plant without water,  I begin to wilt inside.

So, what do we do?  I’m constantly looking for ways to spark my fleshy self to seek God. A new location for quiet time helps.  I’ve been up trees, in bee infested campers, in this chair and that, by this window and that.  For a long season it was on the porch swing.  For years I worshipped with my guitar, prayed with song, and all my devotion was expressed musically.

These days, I’m in my studio at 5:30 every morning expressing my devotion through art. First, I  pour over the scriptures looking for a nugget to embed in my picture.  Then, while I paint I’m meditating on the verse, memorizing each detail.  This draws me into prayer.  It is a sweet time.  My focus is not on the product – it’s on the moment with Him.

Do you have a practice that helps you keep your devotional life alive?  Share with me.

 

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 Blessed Lord, where can we go to find the truth?  Only You have the words of life. We need You much more than we comprehend.  We hunger for Your streams of life and refreshment to soothe our aching souls. Help us to live more intentionally in the Spirit.  Help us to be more aware of Your presence and Your moment by moment leadership.  We miss so much when we turn away.  We don’t have to sake You to draw us because You never stop.  Our ears become deaf and our eye see only the things around us.  Help us see beyond the small cloud and hear the torrents of rain from Heaven.  In Jesus name, Amen. 

 

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Do You Have An Assurance Policy?

“May the Lord answer you in the day of trouble.”  Psalm 20:1    That is my prayer for you.

Day of Trouble 100Part of the definition for trouble is the malfunction of something. We can all relate to that if we’ve ever owned a car or an appliance . . .

Don’t you hate it that everything you buy nowadays comes with an insurance policy they also want you to buy?  I’ve always seen it as a racket.  But…

I bought a very expensive GE refrigerator and skipped the policy.  It was such a welcome exchange for our twenty-year old clunker, however, one year later, when the bottom freezer door wouldn’t open I asked a GE repair man to come out. ($75.)  He told me I just needed to get my hairdryer out periodically to de-ice the runners!  WHAT?

Then I showed him the shelf that had already cracked in half.  He told me I was piling too many heavy things on it!  I said, “I’m not running a frat house and keeping beer kegs in there – I just make an occasional pot of soup.”

He said, “Well, the life expectancy of a refrigerator is only three years, anyway!!!”  It was going to cost me $250 for a new shelf, another $75 to show up, and $75. to install it.  I decided I’d live with the crack.

He was no help at all.  The drawer continues to stick, drop ice all over the floor when it’s opened, and the contents thaw-refreeze-thaw-refreeze.  It makes ice, then the ice thaws, and I’m left with a solid block, no cubes.  I ended up buying a small freezer just so my food wouldn’t be ruined.

Yes, I complained, called the company, spoke to customer relations – and yes, I tried meek and sheepish, AND bitchy.  Nothing worked.  They said it was because I didn’t buy the insurance policy.

IMG_0767Life doesn’t come with an insurance policy.  I can’t know if the model  I’ve been given to walk around in will last as long as I’d like it to.  Some of us come from the ‘dent and scratch’ pile, others are streamlined, shiny and outwardly perfect. And with life . . . comes trouble.

We don’t come with an insurance policy . . . but we do have an assurance policy.

We can be assured that whatever comes our way, He will help us through it.  He will be with us, give us wisdom and redemptive solutions.  He will show us the way of escape for temptation, pools of refreshment for our parched souls, green pastures for rest, and friends who’ll let you complain and then pray.  He give us Himself IN the trouble, which makes the trouble endurable.

I do pray that God will be with you in the time of trouble – as well as every  moment of every day, for your entire life.

 

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Can You Define JOY?

If someone asked you to define JOY could you do it?

“It’s a happy feeling…right?”

More than that.  Happiness is usually determined by circumstances.  Joy is deeper.

Chapel and I share JOY together in my studio, making happy messes and memories.

God’s JOY is the product of relationship.

(I asked Chapel to smile for the camera. . . this is what I got:)

chap paint3

Joy, to me, is like being in a storm, in a big ship, in the middle of the sea, opening the hatch to the engine room and hearing the roar of a well-working system and knowing it’s supervised by the best man possible for the job.  Get the picture.

Joy, to me, is knowing God is in control.  When you lose your job . . . God is in control.  When you lose your husband . . . God is in control.  When you sin . . . God paid the price and forgiveness is available.

God’s JOY releases creativity.

chap paint4

I can remember standing beside my husband’s bed and knowing he was about to die.  Sadness gripped me, of course.  I didn’t want to let go, but there was within the folds of this horrific moment another presence.  I felt the deep presence of abiding joy.  Yes, joy.  It was the presence of the Holy Spirit whispering, “All is well, fear not, I am here.”

God’s JOY helps us remain standing.

chap paint5

(He thought he was being sooooo funny.)

Joy comes from a Latin word, gaudere which means rejoice.  

We don’t rejoice in what’s happening.  We rejoice in the ONE who is with us in what’s happening.

Dear brothers and sisters, whenever trouble comes your way, let it be an opportunity for joy.  for when your faith is settled, your endurance has a chance to grow.” (James 1:12-3)

chap joy 7“The prospect of the righteous is joy…” (Proverbs 10:28)

“May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace as you trust in him, so that you may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit.” (Romans 15:13)

“Your love has given me great joy and encouragement, because you, brother, have refreshed the hearts of the saints.” (Philemon:7)

“For the kingdom of God is not a matter of eating and drinking, but of righteousness, peace and joy in the Holy Spirit.” (Romans 14:17)

God’s JOY is the ‘MORE’ in life that keeps us going.

chapel paint 6

I wish you JOY!

Dear Father,  I pray for my friends today.  I ask that each one will feel Your presence today.  I ask You to turn up their joy, separate from circumstances, and let them experience a tiny part of Heaven we now can enjoy.  Help us all to be Rejoicers . . . happy, faith-filled Rejoicers.  In Jesus name, Amen.

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Have You Lost Your Way Home?

snow fence“Don’t you just hate this?” my neighbor yelled from behind a snowdrift in his driveway. n

I yelled a quick “Yes!” because I figured it was fruitless to try to yell my true feelings.

Beautiful. Enchanting. Amazing. God’s canvas all glorious.

snowy wreath 1birdhouse snowsnow tree(I’m sorry, I know you don’t want to hear it – not this late in the year.)

Snow boots and a camera, what could be better?  A world of texture waiting to be discovered.

car in snowIt certainly comes with its challenges.  I braved the roads last night at midnight coming home from watching my grandkids. They’d begun the evening on mattresses beside my bed.  “Mimmy,  I can’t sleep.  I want to go home.  I don’t feel good.”

“It’s bad out.  Can’t you . . .”

His lip started to quiver as elephant tears turned his pleading eyes into watery pools of turquoise blue.  Shot through with Grandma-juice I said, “Okay, let’s go.”

Five minutes later we were out the door.  I had on my red plaid flannel nighty, boots and my coat . . . ten thirty at night . . . in a stinkin’ blizzard.  Grandma found amazing determination because her mim-lit wanted to go home.

We made it the four miles with hardly a marking on the road to tell me where to drive.  I drove by memory! The little guy barely got his coat off before diving into his own bed – home – asleep within seconds.

Home is wherever the heart finds rest.

Sometimes it’s seems we’ve lost our way home. Life obscures our focus, we discover our path has become invisible, covered over with problems.  We know the path is there – but we can’t find it.

path stopsHome used to be wherever Bill was.  Now home is just me.  For a long time after Bill died, I didn’t realize I was searching for that familiar ‘home’ place in my heart where things felt normal and recognizable.  I felt displaced, even a but ‘homeless’.

There are seasons in all of our lives when nothing seems normal or familiar.  Major transitions can make us feel ‘homeless’ for a while.  Until our courage comes major adjustments can bring those empty ‘lost’ feelings.

I’m discovering ‘home’ is wherever God’s presence is recognized.

It’s more than an address.  More than the stuff surrounding us.  Home is where love reigns and God reigns supreme even when things feels so, so different.

My car ended up buried half way up my driveway under snow so heavy I couldn’t lift one shovel full. . . sticky and dense.  This morning I made a path about eight feet from my door and my back said, “That’s enough, silly, accept the fact you can’t do this yourself.”

With my hair plastered wet against my head and a rim of snow drifting along the top of my glasses, I was blissfully taking photographs when the snowplow man arrived. snowplow 1

“I’ve come to get you out of this mess. Don’t worry.” I could have kissed him.

My home has never seemed so beautiful, even buried beneath this impenetrable blanket, because I have His impenetrable peace.  God lives here – with me.  It’s true.  I lost the way home for a while, but God rescued me. . . . and it’s wonderful.   

Posted in A Widow's Journey | 3 Comments

We Never Outgrow The Need For It

Nestle . . . My grandkids call it shhh-nuggle time. Sitting as close as we can wiggle, a cozy blanket, and soft talk.  Shhh-nuggle time, we never outgrow the need for it.

I miss nestling beside my husband on the couch, but I had forty-years to enjoy it.  That’s more than many can say.  God has also given me seven grandkids who love to hug me and stay close.  And now, I have my precious, Scarlet, the rescue cat.

scarlet face

Scarlet sleepingScarlet n box When I’m snuggled under my blankets at night I’ll feel her soft thump upon my bed and soon she’s kneading me like I’m a giant udder.  Then she’ll come sniff my face, see if I’m available for a head-rub, then she’ll settle and purr blissfully to sleep.

Nestle: to settle or lie comfortably within or against something.  Like snow on a branch, hugging each crevice.  Such a picture of rest.

tree snow

“Come unto me, all ye that labour and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest.” (Matthew 11:28)

God doesn’t promise us a life without suffering and difficulty, but He does promise He will always restore us after any trial we undergo.

“But the God of all grace, who hath called us unto his eternal glory by Christ Jesus, after that ye have suffered a while, make you perfect, establish, strengthen and settle you.”      (1 Peter 5:10)

If little Chapel takes a tumble my daughter-in-law will pick him up and soothe him so sweetly,  “Awww, here’s a huggie?  Dear Jesus, please make Chapel all better, Amen.”

We never outgrow our need for huggies and shhh-nuggles.  They just change in appearance with time.  Obviously, I can’t pick my sons up any more, and they’d probably not enjoy me saying, “You have a boo-boo, need a huggie?” but I comfort them by being available when they want to talk, by cooking their favorite meal, and  I also know it makes them feel good to see me happy.

Sometimes the house will seem so huge and silent and lonesome, but by the grace of God I can whisper,  Holy Spirit, please comfort me . . . 

Jesus prayingOften, when I feel sad,  He’ll prompt me to list every blessing I have… Not because I SHOULD be more grateful, but because He knows it makes us more aware of His presence – and that’s where He wants us to live.  His presence makes everything better.

Thank you for my home, for heat, and light and comfort, thank you for Scarlet, thank you for Owen, James, Hazel, Everett, Chapel, William and Avery.  Thank you for sons who love me and watch out for me.  Thank you for my friends,  and telephones, and fellowship and soup and art. 

It’s miraculous what happens every time.  The heaviness lifts, my mood blends with gratitude and I find my happy again.

We can nestle with Jesus . . . under the shadow of His wing . . . in His presence where there is fullness of Joy.   Gratitude wraps us in heaven’s cozy blanket of comfort.

Father, I pray for my friends this morning.  Will You please give them Shhh-nuggles of peace and comfort.  Let them know they’re not alone. We love how You love us, Lord . . . that’s why we keep running to be close to You.  In Jesus name, Amen. 

 

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Have You Found Your Posture of Patience?

He scooped a pile of fresh snow to his little chin,  “Chill-eee!” he said beaming.

My heart welled with joy watching him try to maneuver around with heavy coat and leggings, and the cutest multi-colored hat with two fluffy exclamation points on top.

Thank you God, for little unmatched mittens full of pure white snow.

snow closeup

snow fence 2

A different kind of patience has come with being a grandmother.  I’ve slowed down enough to see so many things I didn’t have the time for when my kids were little.

I’m learning the sweet posture of patience.

tough get quietPosture is the attitude or position you take in life.  The posture of patience is the attitude of acceptance, even in the face of delay, it’s a yielding of control.  It comes with a deep breath and open heart to stop . . . to see . . . and listen.

I remember a chorus I used to sing:  Better is the end of a thing than the beginning thereof.  And the patient in spirit is better than the proud in spirit.  In your patience possesses ye your souls . . .

Left is a mixed media painting I did with one of my favorite quotes.

It’s a good reminder to keep a posture of patience when life gets tough.

snow fence 4

flowers in snow

When I look at the blowing snow out my window on the 26th of March, it’s discouraging, but experience has taught us we can hope for spring. . . and it will come.

“I wait for the LORD, my soul waits, and in his word I put my hope.” (Psalm 130:5)
snow fence
Lord, I pray for my friends today who are holding out a hope for change, for healing, for deliverance, those needing encouragement and the will to continue.  Grace us all to keep our eyes on You and not lose heart. Give us the endurance needed to persist in doing good for as long as it takes.  Thank you that Spring will come and our hope “maketh not ashamed” when our hope in in You, dear Lord.  Amen.   
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The Diet Breaker

 workout 72I keep getting these phone calls from a cute little minus-year old from the gym,  “Hello, Mrs. Stevens, how are your workouts coming? We haven’t seen you in a while.”

Swallowing an Advil I respond, “oh . . . pretty good.”

pit in mouth72Now, I appreciate her attentiveness to my fat reduction, but she hasn’t got a clue the risk I take just bending over to put my socks on.

“Mrs Stevens, we have a new palotee-yoga-step-dance-butt-burn class for beginners. The first class is 8:00 am, can I sign you up?”

8:00 am?!  Be somewhere WITH my socks AND sneakers on? NOT!

“Thank you for thinking of me.”  I lied. “Maybe next month when I turn 20.”

I’m getting an attitude.

First I pulled my back.  Then my neck.  Then my shoulder.  I thought I was taking it easy, but I didn’t realize how easy, easy was!

I drive to the gym with visions dancing in my head of tight thighs and size 10 shorts only to face the gym’s full length mirrors reflecting a senior citizen with elastic waist, polyester baggy pants.  Reality stinks.  I also start out with all sorts of plans to hit the mall on the way home.  Usually, I just make it in the door before collapsing on the couch.

thrown clothesAs I write this, I’m covered with BenGay and there’s a heating pad cord trailing behind me. There’ll be no gym today because I’m too busy turning into my mother-in-law!

Pain is one thing, but pain and self-pity triggers all kinds of  eat-everything-in sight urges.  I don’t keep candy, cookies, pastries, muffins, chips or ice cream in the house (my first choice)  Last night, after the third round of Advil, the “I’m feeling sorry for myself, crunchy-greasy-starchy-carbo- attack” was in full swing and all I could find was a bag of stale croutons!

This morning, I looked up the meaning of “self-pity”.

“Self-pity is a state of mind of an individual in perceived adverse situations who has not accepted the situation and does not have the confidence to cope with it.  Self pity may be considered normal, and in certain circumstances healthy, so long as it is transitory and leads to acceptance or a determination to change the situation.”  Wikipedia

Transitory is the key. What is perceived as impossible usually will end up unchanged.  My back is not broken, it’s just strained.  I feel alone – but I’m not.  I AM losing weight – and I AM eating healthy. I enjoy poking fun at the whole diet-senior citizen thing.  It helps me accept what I cannot change (age) and keeps me laughing with determination to stay unstuck and moving forward.

How are you doing?  I hope this encourages you.  We all fall prey to self-pity once in a while.  Hopefully, for not too long.  It helps me to remember, God always has a plan and we always have a choice concerning our attitude.  I guess there will be those crouton-crumb days for all of us.  I choose to brush them off, give my back the time it needs to heal, then start fresh… how about you?

Lord, keep discouragement at bay for my friends.  Help us to shake off the crumbs of yesterday and begin fresh.  With Your help, it IS possible.  We love You.  Amen

 

 

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Figuring Out How Much I Need Him

plastic bowlsI hate it when I can’t find a lid!  It’s amazing that a flimsy, plastic, disk can get me so riled up.  Seriously, where do they go?  Who sneaks into my house to rearrange my careful piles and remove all the lids?

I wonder, at the end of my life, how many hours I’ve accumulated hunting for lids and the right plastic container?

Sounds silly . . . but you know what I mean.

blocks3It’s quite another thing when your whole world feels like this.  The pile you’re juggling is about to topple over and you can’t put a lid on anything.  I wonder how many hours in my life I’ve spent going in circles, or making to-do lists I immediately misplace? (Here’s one: how many hours spent making grocery lists that you leave on the counter when you                 go to the store?)

I often feel like this. I’d like to blame it on my creative temperament, but that’s a cop-out.

blocks2Sometimes my spiritual sails are flying high and I recognize I need to stop and ask the Lord for His calming guidance.  Sometimes I spend the entire day frustrated and annoyed running in mad circles.  Generally, it all stems from failing to start my day, or project, acknowledging the One who waits for me to figure out how much I need Him.

blocks1Stop with me for a moment.  Let your shoulders relax.  Breathe in the Breath of Life and let Him pour His peace into you.  Pray with me . . .

Lord, forgive me for not acknowleging You. Please forgive me for wanting to go my way even though I know Your’s is the only path of peace.  Help me find You today.  Help me carry an awareness of Your presence through every moment of the day.  Thank you for Your grace and unlimited patience.  I love You, Lord.  Amen.

 

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Don’t Leave Your Funeral Up To Your Aprons

Have you ever been to a funeral where it’s obvious the pastor never knew the deceased? You hear, “Jim always had a smile,” or “Our dearly departed was, uh . . . nice.”  croak  “Any testimonies?”

I want to be sure my pastor knows me. Maybe I should write a script and leave it for someone to read just in case. Better yet, I’d like to throw a funeral ahead of time so I can be there to screen the comments, or add a few of my own. I certainly hope you won’t hear crickets when it comes time for people to share.

I wonder what the officiating minister would say if all he knew about me was what he got from looking at my aprons?

“We asked for aprons here . . . this is somebody’s drop cloth!”

apron1

“Okay, I see Marji was an starving artist who couldn’t afford paper towel, or was too lazy to reach for one.  Let’s hope Marji didn’t have the same habit when she went out to dinner with her friends.” Joke flops.

apron2

Whispering to surviving family member:  “Who was in charge of collecting the aprons?  We got another drop cloth, here!”  

Pastor holds up next apron, then leans over and whispers to funeral director, “This IS the Stevens’ funeral, isn’t it?  There’s a letter “P” on this one.”

Family member overhears and reassures pastor,  “She shopped at the Goodwill, so . . . “

apron5

“Moving right along, you can see from this apron that Marji fashioned herself as a type of Martha Stewart.  However, it looks to me she got the magazine but didn’t bothered to try any of the recipes. Okay . . . so we now know Marji didn’t cook.”

“The next is . . . a shirt?”  Pastor cups the microphone and whispers again,  “Did she have anger issues or something?  Looks like she threw paint at her husband!”

apron3

Reply: “We did hear she’d get a little grouchy if she felt fat.”

Holding up a hand-painted red apron, the minister continues: “Here is a special apron that tells us a lot about our Marji. . . sniff . . .  She was a grandmother.  Yes, and they called her Mimmy.  Awww, isn’t this sweet, but wait . . . didn’t she have seven?  . . .  there are only five here . . . “

apron4

Whispering to family member again:  “There are two kids missing . . . weren’t they born yet or did she cut the them out of her will?”

Reply:  “She meant to, but never got around to adding their names, what with all the babysitting.”

Pastor returns to microphone.  “And last but not least, we have the final apron . . .  sure proof that Marji was a dreamer:  This one she brought out when she was pretending to have a waistline.”

apron6

(Hmmm… Maayyy-beee, I’ve been in the house alone for too many days?! )

What will they say about you at your funeral?

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