“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.

 

hope in God 72

 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.   

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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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Joy Within Our Reach – Being Honest

Don’t read any further if you don’t like honesty.

fall 1

Two days ago, my friend’s sister died after years of fighting cancer and mental illness.  Another friend is in the hospital now going through very painful reconstructive surgery after cancer.  Another friend’s sister is going through chemotherapy and has lost all her hair.  Another friend just went through radiation because she had breast cancer, too. My son’s friend just passed away this morning at 32 because of cancer,                                  leaving a new wife and child.

bible picThese are people who love God, pray, tithe, quote the right scriptures, try to think on the positive, seek God, deal with sin, take their vitamins,  and truly try to walk the straight and narrow.  People of faith and trust and the right perspective.  People who know and believe the devil is defeated and Jesus bore the curse on the tree of Calvary.  Prayer warriors, pastors, missionaries, sweet, humble people who have sucky things happen to them even though they trust God and believe.

Perhaps it’s not time to be happy when we hear North Korea’s Kim Jung-nu is preparing to assassinate 33 Christian believers because they helped start Gospel-believing churches.  Though called terrorists, their passion for Christ is undeniable – and they will die because of it.

I’d like to resolve this by explaining to you why good people suffer, but I can’t.  I’ve been saved for almost fifty years, and I still don’t understand it. It makes me angry when my friends are in pain, when their dreams are shattered, when their marriages are a wreck no matter how hard they try.

There’s a part of me that wants to hop over all the unpleasantness in the world and just have fun.  I can’t tell you why stuff happens and I’m frankly even more irritated when I meet Christians who think they can, who pontificate their brand of faith with no regard to the hurting one standing in front of them gulping air to survive.

I ran across some of my husbands things, quit by accident, and it sent me for a loop.  Seven years along… and I still know the sting of missing him.  Some will say “you’re stuck”, some will argue with my feelings naming every blessing I have as if I’m blind and stupid and can’t see them for myself.

Where are the hearts that break, that carry people in prayer, that will set aside the normal because it seems just to0 cold to be merry when you’re friends are in pain.

Your sufficiency phot 100God is still good.  I don’t pretend to understand it, but I know because I’ve experienced His presence through every dark valley.  For reasons only He understands He allowed me to go before “the presence of mine enemies,” and there He spread a table, anointed my tormented soul with oil, sat down and stayed with me until it passed.

He didn’t chase away the night, but He held me through it.  He didn’t heal my husband so I could keep him, but He healed him so He could keep him.

He doesn’t bring happiness sometimes no matter how much we may want it, but He always, always, keep His joy within our reach and night never extinguishes His light.

Sometimes we just get “under” – perhaps it’s a burden of prayer even when not one word is spoken. It’s just something we carry.  Carry, until it is lifted.

Sparrow 150Father, I lift up our brothers and sisters in North Korea.  I lift up so many who are suffering from cancer and other sickness.  I lift up the young family who have just lost their daddy.  Widows carrying the burden of widowhood.  God, YOU are faithful to be with them through and in it, if not in sweet release.  We trust You good and faithful Lord. Amen.

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Where Marks Still Remain

joy blocks w web

My house still creaks cold, nearly 200 winters gone.  I turn a simple dial on the wall and warm air blows against my feet as I pour sweet cream into my coffee.

Years ago, we heated with wood. If the fire went out in the night our mornings in March were challenging.  I’d make newspaper knots while Bill gathered wood from the side porch.  I can still remember the sound of him stomping snow off his feet.  joy blocks copy

“I hate the cold.”  I’d hear him grumble.

marks on doorwayHe’d kick the molding to remove more snow – those marks I used to complain about fortunately remain. Scratchings of our history now cherished.

The kids dressed in front of the fire.  When it was so cold pipes froze and ice formed on the laundry room walls, there was always one cheerful in the bunch to proclaim, “Hey, this is fun…we’re roughin’ it!”

I had wall to wall carpet in my bedroom closet growing up. This farmhouse had no closets, and the only hint of carpet was the unpainted portion on the old wood floors.  The kid’s bedrooms were so tiny we kept their bureaus downstairs.  Storage was any space we could find, behind doors, under beds, in trunks.  We became great “tuckers.”

hall-ironing board copyEverything about this old farmhouse stretched me.  I learned to paint, drywall, manage crazy flies and wasps, kill critters, plus garden, can, freeze and cook venison.  The walls were so rolly I had to learn how to hang a picture crooked so it would appear straight from a distance. Our garage sale refrigerator held salmon eggs for fishing, and fox urine concoctions for scenting traps. Pelts dried in the side tree, and a record of cored woodchucks kept on the blackboard in the hall.  Yes, we were rough’ it.

God knew.

Here in this old farmhouse I found the road of faith. Here deep streams of creativity found their way to expression.  Here, within these ancient walls,

scarlet closeup w webI found a communicating God waiting to share His life with me.  Beside these aqua marine, wavy-glassed windows, I watched countless sunrises, my Bible on my lap.

“Sweet Jesus, come to me…sweet Jesus, come and be the ruler of every single day…”  songs of the morning, born of budding devotion. He left his mark upon my heart . . . I’m so thankful still remain.

Scarlet by chair w webYou’ve heard, old farmhouse, each lilting song of praise, each giggle, fight and sob.  You’ve watched me grow from child to listener.  You’ve sheltered five generations of family and friends, seen gold stars hung for soldiers lost, and watched dark caskets cross your threshold. You’ve been the canvas for my dreams.

I sit alone, Scarlet purring on my lap, and think of the life touches in this old place.

Now, women with paint-stained fingers gather to create art and eat soup every Wednesday. Musicians practice in the make-shift garage studio. Grandkids thunder through, and roam the fields where their grandpa, and great grandpa, and great-great grandpa grew.

My son stops by and I hear it… stomp, stomp…kick.  More marks to etch our history deeper still.  I’m still here, Lord . . .  my wavy glass restored, the view unchanged.

shelf with marblesw web“To you, O LORD, I lift up my soul; in you I trust, O my God. . . teach me your paths;  guide me in your truth and teach me, for you are God my Savior, and my hope is in you all day long. . .” (Psalm 25)

 

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We ARE Coming Through

spring 5Next weekend we change the clocks back!  Do you know what that says?  We’ve made it through! There’s nothing more glorious than the first sight of green in a frozen, barren winter worn garden.

How is your heart-garden?  It’s been a long hard winter wilderness for so many of my friends.  Perhaps it’s been season of bad-news and bad-lands, sickness and struggle. It can leave our hearts stunned and frozen no matter what the weather outside.

The word on my heart this morning is EMERGE… it means to move out of or away from something, to recover from or survive a difficult or demanding situation, to break out from (like an egg, cocoon, pupal case). It’s a word of BREAKTHROUGH.

I’ve emerged from a long season of grief, and recently I’ve emerged from 26 pounds of weight I didn’t need…and I’m still emerging!

This picture was taken March 20, 2013!  That’s only a few weeks away!

spring2Emergence is a process.  Let’s say you’re at letter “A” and you want to leap to “Z”.  How is that working for you?  I did NOT want to lose weighed 1/2 pound at a time.  The minute I decided to be serious about losing weight I wanted it to just happen!  Instantaneously.

Nothing was going to change without some struggle.

When my children struggle, I wish for a magic wand to sprinkle “Be Happy” over their heads. I get angry at hard things that hurt them.  I want to fix, rescue, deliver, heal, rearrange their circumstances so things are “all better” NOW.

I love the toddler years when life was much simpler and I was their hero. I could scoop them up and kiss the boo boo, and say, “all better now.”

It amazes me when I see the force of  new life enabling  the tenderest of  plants to split the angry ground of winter.  Each tender life has to struggle through and groan past the barriers until it breaks free into a plant standing tall in the sun.

spring 1I believe God has placed emergence in our DNA.  We are created to “come through.”  He has breathed tenacity into our spirits that aches for growth and fruitfulness.  We are all meant to grow – no matter how hard the ground.

I was powerless to change my circumstances after Bill died. I wanted God to give me one big kiss and make the pain go away. I wanted to bypass the process, but that wasn’t His plan. Sometimes our greatest fruitfulness comes through the struggle to break free.

spring 4It was seven degrees when I stuck my head out the window briefly to reach for an icicle hanging from the roof… and I heard hope ringing in the air… the birds are back!  They know something… 

It’s coming…we ARE coming through.

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