Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Chaos


"That's not fair! Just let me look at it for a minute!" Demanded my five year old.

"No, make me!" My seven year old stood firm.

"Come on guys, knock it off." My fifteen year old tried to defuse the situation.

"Ok boys, come in here, let's work this out." I waited in the other room. No boys ... just more yelling, crying, fighting.

"Guys, did you hear me? Get in here." Again, no boys.

These were the statements bombarding my house on Monday. Each boy was completely convinced they were correct or right in their behavior.

Chaos ... that one word could describe my lunch hour on Monday afternoon.

I came out of my bedroom and made each of them sit down at the kitchen table.

"Didn't you guys hear me calling you?" I asked.

Each boy lowered their head in embarrassment ... "yeah, we heard you."

"Then, why didn't you come to me? I could've fixed the problem before it got this bad." I stood in front of them with my arms folded across my chest. A stern look.

All three of them shrugged. No answer.

As I talked them through the disagreement, something struck me. I am JUST LIKE THAT. This world is filled with noise, distractions ... I spend so much time trying to put out small fires by my own means, that I forget to listen to what God is telling me. And, then the small fire becomes a HUGE fire. There have been so many times in my life where I ended up making things worse, rather than better. All because I tried to "fix" it on my own. Or, I thought I was right and I could make others see it "my way".

If I would just sit back and listen, I would hear God's voice saying "Come to Me, let's work it out."

Instead, I stay in the world filled with noise and distractions. A world full of hurt, pain. When I've finally had enough ... all I have to do is cry out and there He is ... waiting to fix what I've messed up. He asks me, "Didn't you hear me calling? I could've fixed this for you."

Are you listening to His call today? Whatever problem, trouble you have in your life, give it over to Him. He can fix it and give you the strength to get through it.

John 16:33 "These things I have spoken to you, that in Me you may have peace. In the world you will have tribulation; but be of good cheer, I have overcome the world."

Matthew 11:28 "Come to Me, all you who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest."

Jeremiah 29:12-13 "Then you will call upon Me and go and pray to Me, and I will listen to you. And you will seek Me and find Me, when you search for me with all your heart."

Saturday, December 5, 2009

In Plain Sight



My sister and I walked past the sheet covered object a thousand times. The sheet was plain, ordinary and boring ... for two little girls anyway. There were many other things that held our interest. So, we paid little attention to the fact that something might be under the sheet ... something special.

This memory is from a Christmas in my childhood. My sister and I had begged our parents for the "Barbie Doll Dreamhouse." It had been on every commercial and every magazine advertisement for weeks and ... it was at the top of our Christmas wish list. On Christmas morning, we woke and ran to the livingroom. There in front of our tree sat the object of our wishes.

Years later, Mom told me of the way she saved to buy that dreamhouse and then hid it beneath a sheet. The dreamhouse was too big for her to hide in a closet or beneath a bed. So, she put it together and draped a bedsheet over it until Christmas Eve. Right there, in plain sight.

As Mom talked about this special memory, I began thinking about other things hidden in plain sight. Things I pass each day and never really take the time to think about what lies beneath the surface.

Things like ... the young mother struggling with her little ones at the grocery store. Maybe her husband is working long hours, she's exhausted and just wishes someone would help instead of stare at her as she tells her youngest for the third time to stand still.

Maybe the older woman who interrupts your coffee break. She might just want to reminisce about her husband who passed away last month. She misses him and wants someone to care that she is lonely.

What about that man who sits in the back pew of your church every Sunday. He's there when you walk in and there when you walk out ... do you know his name? He tries to look you in the eye, but you walk away ... you're in a hurry to get wherever you might be going. He wants someone to say "Good Morning" to him, he wants someone to notice that he gets up every Sunday, walks to church from 5 blocks away and then walks back. It's cold outside... have you ever thought of giving him a ride home?

On the outside, these things are ordinary and plain. On the inside, they have so much to offer.

The young mother is a great listener. She would love to listen while you talk about your day, your struggles and life in general. She would drop everything to pray with you.

That elderly woman in the coffee shop, she was a teacher for 45 years. If you stopped to listen to her, you would find out that she taught your Dad in school and she would tell you all the great memories she has of him.

The man in the back of your church, he's a plumber and would help you when your pipes burst in the dead of winter. When you ask how much you owe him for the job, he'll tell you nothing ... because he recognizes you from the choir in church. He loves to listen to you sing and thanks you for sharing your gift every Sunday morning.

During the course of our everyday lives, we walk past thousands of people. Do we take the time to see them? I mean, really see them? Do we stop and look beyond the exterior to find the special things hidden underneath?

I don't ... I'm usually too busy. I hurry in and out of the grocery store, I want/need to get home to my husband and boys. I tell myself that I'll stop and talk to that young mother if I see her again. I'm annoyed when someone interrupts my coffee break, I think I need the quiet time more than I need the conversation with that elderly woman. I look away and hurry past the man sitting at the back of the church. I have a thousand things on my "to do" list ... I don't have time to stop and talk with him.

Eight years ago, I was flat on my back in a hospital bed. There were doctors and nurses scurrying around, trying to figure out what was wrong with me. I spent a week in that bed. I went through multiple tests and screenings. I was exhausted, afraid .... I woke up after being sedated for a test. My vision was blurry and my body felt like it was floating. I could hear a soft, low voice whispered in prayer. When my vision cleared, there stood at the side of my bed ... a man no one ever notices from our church. He's the man everyone rushes past to avoid. I had never spoken to him, never taken the time to get to know him ... BUT ... He took the time to drive 30 minutes from his home to stand by the bed of a person who never took the time for him.

Will you take the time today? I will ...

Matthew 5:13-14 "You are the salt of the earth'; but if the salt loses its flavor, how shall it be seasoned? It is then good for nothing but to be thrown out and trampled underfoot by men. You are the light of the world. A city that is set on a hill cannot be hidden. Nor do they light a lamp and put it under a basket, but on a lampstand, and it gives light to all who are in the house."

Monday, November 30, 2009

Sunday Morning Christian


Words ... Words hurt, words heal ... words tear us apart and pull us together ...

What are your words doing?

Actions ... Actions hurt, actions heal ... actions tear us apart and pull us together...

What are your actions doing?

"Give me my ball back!" My seven year old raised his voice so the laughing teenagers could hear him.

"Haha ... want your ball back?" They tossed it over his head, back and forth. Tormenting him the whole time, mocking him and gaining laughs from my son's frustrations.

My son reached, jumped and ran between the two teenagers as they tossed his ball back and forth.

Eventually, the ball was retrieved, retrieved by an older child ... but my son's feelings were left ... hurt. Hurt by someone's words and actions.

This situation took place at church yesterday morning. I wasn't in the hallway when it happened. So, I have to be fair and say that my son might have colored this picture in his favor. The ball was a prize won for bringing his bible to church, saying verses and memorization. He'd worked hard for it and wanted to share it with his brothers.

When he told me the story late yesterday afternoon, I was mad. Mad that someone would do this .... in church. Shouldn't church be a safe place? A place where we and our families feel love and acceptance?

I was still thinking about it this morning. While reading my devotions, I realized something... This shouldn't happen in a Christian heart. This shouldn't happen at all. As Christians, we should have love and acceptance in our hearts ... always... not just Sunday morning.

That brought back a lesson my parents taught me growing up and somehow I lost it on my way to being a grown up ... Don't just be a Sunday Morning Christian. Ouch! Am I a Sunday Morning Christian? Do I put on my Sunday Morning mask and then take it off for the rest of the week?

While yesterday's experience was small and my son is now past his hurt feelings, I'm left with a lot to think about. I could stay mad at the other children involved. Or, I could be thankful they reminded me of something I somehow forgot ...

I think I'm going to pick ... thankful. Those other children, I don't even know who they were. I don't even know if my son's version of the story is completely factual. All I do know is ... my attitude, my behavior ... should reflect God everyday, everywhere and with everyone ... not just Sunday Morning.

Proverbs 3:3 " 3 Let love and faithfulness never leave you;
bind them around your neck,
write them on the tablet of your heart.

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Tell Me the Stories


"I'm starting to forget, Mom." My fifteen year old sighs and looks out the rain streaked window of our car. Fields of weathered corn stalks soak up the water as we pass.

"Like what?" I try not to cry at his honesty because I never admit that I sometimes forget.

"Like ... you and Dad say we would go there every weekend and you guys would play cards until like 1:00 in the morning. I don't remember that." He looks at me with a sadness.

"Yes, we did. But, you might not remember that part because you and your cousins were busy doing other things while we played cards." I look from the road ahead to his face. I can see he's trying to remember, something ... anything.

"I do remember playing Fuzion Frenzy. Uncle Kregg was always Samson in that game." He smiles that crooked smile of his and leans back into the leather seat. "Hey, can you tell me again about the Christmas he gave me the fish beanie baby?"

"Well, Uncle Kregg had a collection of Beanie Babies. You loved standing in front of the glass case at their house, just looking at all of them. You really liked the one called Lips. So, for Christmas that year, he and Aunt Jenny gave you one just like his." I smile remembering happy times just like that one.

"We should talk about him more, Mom. That way we don't forget him." He rests his head back against the seat. We ride the rest of the way home in silence. Each of us remembering good things and missing Uncle Kregg.

Seven years ago today, our family lost Kregg to brain cancer. He was a wonderful husband and father. He left behind a loving, devoted wife and two beautiful daughters ... an entire family filled with people his life had somehow touched. Kregg was funny ... he made everyone laugh. He was great with children.

During the time he battled this disease, I watched Jenny do what I could never do ... she was completely unselfish with her time and strength. Jenny took care of her girls and her ill husband. While Kregg fought cancer with his entire body, she fought cancer with every ounce of her heart.

On the day she lost Kregg, I called her and listened as she cried. I wanted to give her some kind of profound wisdom that might ease the hurt, the pain. There were no words ... just me listening.

In the weeks after Kregg's passing, I began to live my life differently ... in small ways. We ate lasagna in our "good living room" on the "good furniture". We watched movies in the middle of the week, on school nights. We used our "good towels" for everyday.

We started doing these things and haven't stopped. Why? Because everyday ... is good.

Is there someone you are missing today? Take time to remember them, remember their smile and laughter, remember the good times and ... talk about them.

Today ... live your life on earth so that when you pass from this world ... the earth mourns your passing and angels rejoice.

That's how Kregg lived his life.

Thank you Kregg. For showing me how to enjoy everyday goodness. Thank you, Jenny. For teaching me about unselfish love and strength through difficult times. Thank you to my two beautiful nieces ... for smiling through your hurt.

Monday, November 16, 2009

Exactly What I Need



How is it that God knows exactly what I need?

The past two weeks have been incredibly difficult at work. I've been in fraud recovery for nearly eleven years ... these two weeks have been more than I can handle. Worse than any other time before ... and, I've been questioning my abilities, my place ... am I right where God wants me?

I've needed some kind of "fill up" ... something to pull me up from this place where I feel out of sorts. Have you ever felt that way? Wondered if the path you are on is the one God chose for you or did you at some point take a wrong turn?

Today, I feel like I'm right in the place I should be. No, I didn't have some divine revelation. No shout from the heavens that said ... yup that's it, you're on the right road. It was more like a whisper. One that said ... God has it all, every second of every day.

Today, I spent an hour at my youngest son's Thanksgiving Day program.

As I watched my little boy's big brown eyes dance and listened to his little voice sing those big songs ... I started thinking about his life. Sure, he's only five ... but he has a story of his own already in the making.

Kregg was our last child and a total surprise. We hadn't planned on having anymore children. Our two boys were a blessing and we felt complete in our perfectly planned family. A third child just wasn't something we had planned.

I remember the day I found out I was expecting Kregg. I felt like I had the worst flu imaginable. I couldn't eat anything, I couldn't stay awake. My husband finally figured it out over breakfast. I was trying to choke down eggs and ended up in the bathroom for the third time that morning. Jerry looked at me and said "What's going on?" It was one of those questions that we both knew the answer to.

I remember being scared to pieces. How would we afford another child? Where would we put another child in our small house? How would I raise three children and work a full time job? Would my husband and I have enough love to split three ways?

There were a million reasons why having another baby just wouldn't work. But, there were even more reasons why it would be a blessing. Some of those reasons I am just now realizing and some I will see more clearly in the future.

Today was one of those moments. A moment when I realized God knew exactly what I would need on November 16, 2009.

Today, my five year old stood in front of parents, grandparents, aunts and uncles ... he sang the words he memorized and went through the motions along with his classmates. Each time our eyes met, he smiled this huge smile. The smile I've memorized. Afterward, he ran up to me ... "Mommy, Mommy!" and hugged me tight.

How did God know ... how did He know I would need that hug, that smile on this very day?

Have you ever sat back and really thought about that? Today I spent time thinking on God's amazing plans. I know each of my children are ordained by God, their days are already planned ... and, I'm sure Kregg's purpose goes beyond a hug on this day. But, I also know that my God is a God of both big and small things. He has every last bit of it planned for me and today was part of that plan.

I don't know if God wants me working in fraud recovery for the rest of my life. I don't know if I somehow missed the sign on the road telling me to turn onto a different path. But, I do know that God has every moment of my life in His hands.

Are you where God wants you?

Jeremiah 1:5 "Before I formed you in the womb I knew you; Before you were born I sanctified you."

Sunday, November 1, 2009

For the Love of One






"What is it dear?" A quiet whisper in the farmhouse darkness.

"Clay." A simple answer as the bedsprings creaked beneath the farmer's shifting weight.

"How it is you know these things ... well, it's beyond me." She sighed and turned to switch the light on the nightstand.

Each was up, donning rubber boots and thick farm coats. The farmer's wife knew to trust her husband's intuition. After all, he had been right on so many occasions. Besides, she loved Clay as much as the farmer. She'd been there on the day of his birth and fed him from a soda bottle when his mother struggled to drop her milk. He was ... special.

Flashlights in hand, the pair walked across the yard and entered through a squeaking gate. The barnyard was quiet with night save the occasional dog barking in a far off distance. It was late September and the winds had already taken on a chill of autumn.

As they neared the barn, Farmer Jack saw Tink in the doorway ... her eyes told him what he already knew ... Clay was gone. Off again on some foolish adventure. Tink was the barn cat. She kept watch on the farm animals and took pleasure in outing any animal that misbehaved. Tink's black velvet coat glinted blue in the moonlight. She curled her tail around the feet of her master as he came near the fold.

Farmer Jack counted ... one, two, three ... eight lambs all snuggled beside the wool of their parents... there should have been nine including Clay.

He and his wife exited the barn and began swinging their lights across the fencing. Most lambs would get tangled in the barbed wire, they looked there first. No Clay. Behind the barn in the midst of wild clover, no Clay.

That's when he heard it ... the low howl of a coyote. Farmer Jack turned and found his wife's eyes. They were moist with tears.

"Those coyotes sound closer than any time before." Her voice was muffled with fear. "What if Clay made it out of the fence again?"

Another low growl ... closer still and another on the opposite side of the barnyard.

"They're circling now. Go to the barn, up to the hayloft. I won't have you walking back to the house. Not knowing those coyotes could be somewhere between here and there." He gave his wife a push in the barn's direction.

Obediently, she went where he bid. In the loft, she looked down on the yard and area beyond the fence. She squinted her eyes and tried to make out shapes in the blackness.

Clay was a curious little fellow. Since the day of his birth, Clay had been trying Farmer Jack's patience. Just when he thought there was not an ounce of patience left in his heart, Clay would do something sweet. And, that sweetness would fill him up to face the next challenge.

Clay had out done himself in the testing of fences. Literally. He no longer found satisfaction in the normal lamb rompings. Clay had already grown tired of "king of the mountain". While the other spring lambs found contentment inside the fences, Clay found thrill in adventures outside the fence. On more than one occasion, Farmer Jack had found Clay roaming the backyard in search of a good chase with the barn cat or Laddy the Golden Retriever.

Farmer Jack took hold of the long staff leaning against the barn entrance. Why was it that this one lamb tested him so? What was it that caused him to come to the barn and check on Clay this far past sunset? Farmer Jack knew ... it was a sense. Something within his heart stirred for this one small member of his flock. He knew when Clay was safe in the barn, safe within the fences crafted to keep the flock in and the predators out ... and he knew when Clay had ventured too far and gone outside the fence, out where a little lamb might meet with danger.

The sound of coyotes came closer and Farmer Jack began to call for his lamb. From the shadows, a movement near his tractor caught Farmer Jack's attention. Two coyotes circled the back tires. Their eyes glowed with hunger. Clay was there, Farmer Jack knew it. Without thinking of his own safety, the farmer ran at the coyotes. He swung his staff back and forth, jabbed at their sides. Each animal turned on him. Taking their attention away from the prey hiding behind the tires, they lunged at Farmer Jack. He thrust his staff at them, swinging it back and forth ... catching the predators on either side. Soon, the animals gave up. The far off howl of their pack called to them and they went back into the shadows.

Farmer Jack heaved a sigh, shivering from the cool air and his battle with the enemy. He moved slowly toward the tractor. Hiding beneath the tarp hanging over Farmer Jack's orange tractor, there was Clay. His creamy coat was covered in dirt and his floppy ears were wet with blood. He'd been caught in the barbed wire and snagged his ears trying to get free. The coyotes had taken the scent of his blood and found him.

Clay nudged out from his place of hiding. His eyes questioned the Farmer. He'd done it this time. A foolish adventure after dark had caused trouble and nearly gotten the Farmer hurt. He hung his head low and shivered with the knowledge of his wrong doings.

Gently, Farmer Jack reached for the lamb. He pulled a handkerchief from his pocket and began to wipe Clay's face and ears. The farmer's wife joined them from her place in the loft. Together, they went to the house to tend Clay's wounded ears and heart.

After being cleaned and fed, Clay found comfort in the farmhouse laundry room. He couldn't sleep with the fold tonight. The scent of blood would bring danger back into the barnyard.

Sometime near sunrise, the farmer came to Clay. He knelt beside the lamb and lifted the youngster's face so their eyes met.

"Clay ... you've done wrong. Why must you always leave the safety of our fence? Why must you always go where danger awaits?" Farmer Jack's voice was soft and reprimanding.

The lamb tried to look away but the farmer's grip wouldn't let him. Tears formed in the lamb's eyes. Clay whimpered and let those tears begin to fall.

"You're sorry, I know." Farmer Jack let his hand fall and he rubbed Clay's back. Then, he lifted the little lamb and carried him in his arms, close to his heart. "I forgive you, Clay. You are one of my fold. No matter where you go, what you do or how far you wander ... I'll always come for you. I'll always forgive you. You are mine."

Isaiah 40:11 "He tends his flock like a shepherd:
He gathers the lambs in his arms
and carries them close to his heart;
he gently leads those that have young. "

Sunday, October 25, 2009

The Secret Ingredient


In my mom’s kitchen, there is a stool. This stool has been a fixture since my youth. It was a place for “time out” when I had exhausted my mother’s patience. It was the stool where I sat and talked for hours on the phone with my husband during our dating years. It was also the spot I sat and learned to cook.

I would sit there as my mother prepared meals for family gatherings. I watched her hands measure, mix and serve. I loved this spot for several reasons … one, I could visit with my mom; two, I got to sample everything she was cooking and three, I could learn how to cook as well as she always had for our family.

After I was married, I assumed all those things would automatically follow me to my kitchen. I wanted those same things in the kitchen I would share with my husband and someday children. I remember the day I unpacked all my kitchen wares. Each utensil and canister had a specific place. I chose the place according to what I had seen in my mother’s kitchen. I unpacked countless recipe books and hand scribbled recipes from my youth. I recall thinking how great it would be to have my husband and his friends enjoy a meal I fixed with my own two hands.

Surprise, I found I could NOT cook! I made a disaster of recipe after recipe. I tried so hard and got myself so upset, I made silly mistakes … like the time I mixed up the measurement of sugar and salt in a pumpkin pie. Yes, I did! I put a cup of salt into a pie! I wanted desperately to make “biscuits and gravy” for my young husband. I wanted it to taste just like my mom’s and his mom’s gravy. I had the recipe and all the perfect equipment. Why wasn’t I achieving my goal?
This entire frustration came to a boiling point when I was about 7 months pregnant with our first son. We had been married 8 months and I still did not know how to make gravy. My husband was craving it and our moms lived about twelve hours away. So, there wasn’t a simple fix of driving to our parents for a quick satisfying meal. I called my mom … she said yes I was putting in all the right ingredients. I stewed and fretted … and then my husband did something that I nearly beat him over! He called his mother and gave the phone to me … he told me to listen to her and do it her way. Oh yes, he did! My mother-in-law is a great cook ... one to take advice from and I love her ... but in that moment, I wanted to be the great cook. I didn't want another woman telling me what I was doing wrong. We can laugh about this now but as a very pregnant woman … this was not funny and not a happy moment. I listened and did it … still it didn’t work.
I ended up calling my mom and telling her I was a complete failure. I couldn’t cook my husband’s favorite meal and I had boiled my frustrations over a phone call to his mother. There was a moment of silence … then, my mom’s soft laugh.
“Aine Marie, did you remember the love?”
“What are you talking about Mom?” I was not in the mood for any hidden meanings.
“It won’t taste the same without the love.”

Stop and think about that for a minute … It’s not the same without the Love. I ended the call and spent a lot of time thinking about her words. I had used up so much energy trying to perfect my cooking skills. I was doing it for all the wrong reasons. I wanted to impress everyone with my abilities. I wanted … I wanted … in all my wanting I forgot about the wants, desires, needs or pleasure of my husband.
This situation reminds me of my walk with God. And, it reminds me of the scriptures in 1st Corinthians 13 “The Excellence of Love.” We can do all sorts of things trying to find a perfect recipe for salvation and pleasing our Father. But, if we forget to do it with love … it just doesn’t come out right.
Today, when I make a meal for my family, the most important ingredient ... the secret ingredient is love. I put my love for each person into the meal.
How about you … do you remember the love in your daily walk with God?
1st Corinthians 13:1-3 “If I speak with the tongues of men and of angels, but do not have love, I have become a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal. And if I have the gift of prophecy, and know all mysteries and all knowledge; and if I have all faith, so as to remove mountains, but do not have love, I am nothing. And if I give all my possessions to feed the poor, and if I deliver my body to be burned, but do not have love, it profits me nothing.”

Saturday, October 24, 2009

Two Bare Feet

My husband and I maneuvered across the ice covered sidewalk. The large cardboard boxes in tow made it difficult to keep our balance. Our destination was a small white house filled with children longing for Christmas gifts. It was early Saturday morning, the air was cold and icicles hung from every possible point. I looked up the steps and noticed one thing ... no festive lights were shining from the windows.

We reached the door and knocked ... once, twice and a third time. The door opened to a smiling woman still wearing pajamas. She looked from me to the boxes. I recited the speech given at each house before ...

"Merry Christmas, we're here from Operation Elf."

Again, the woman smiled and then whispered "Thank you." She reached for the boxes.

From behind her, a small boy of maybe 7 stepped out of the half darkness and pulled the door further open. His smile was huge and his eyes were bright. What caught me the most was his hair, a mohawk style haircut ... Having three boys, I know this haircut is huge with the little guys.

"I love your hair, that is so cool!" I leaned down and met his gaze as his mother took the boxes from us and placed them inside.

I glanced over his shoulder, my eyes adjusted to the half darkness and I saw bed sheets hanging
over the windows and very little furniture. Something caught my eye, in the middle of the room was a mattress. I could see tussled hair from three or four sleeping individuals sticking out from thin blankets. At the bottom of the blankets ... two small bare feet poked out.

I swallowed hard at the lump growing in my throat. We finished our delivery amidst the little boy's reciting of his Christmas wish list. I swallowed again, his wishes were not in those boxes. My oldest son and I had helped wrap those gifts. So, I knew there wasn't a Nintendo DS in any of the brightly wrapped boxes. We made our way back across the ice and into our warm car.

There were no words at first, just the quiet and exchanged looks between my husband and me. Our three boys sat in the back seat, bundled in their winter garb. I felt the tears form at the corners of my eyes ...

"Jerry that house felt really cold." On a day like that, heat would normally welcome you from the doorway. I had felt no heat from this house.

"Yeah, it did ..." Jerry's voice trailed off and he looked back at our blessings.

"Did you see those little feet poking out from the blankets?"

"No, I couldn't see past the door."

I went into an explanation of what my eyes had seen and my heart had felt. We fell silent and drove to the next delivery point. In my mind, I started a wish list of my own. I wished I had enough money to go and buy that little boy everything on his list. I wished their house was warm. I wished the provider in their family could find work and provide things for his children.

I didn't wish that because I felt those parents were failing their children. I wished them because I think those parents were wishing the same things.

That was mid December last year. Our family signed up to be part of a community project to provide presents for struggling families. We're planning to take part in the community service again. But, just taking part doesn't seem like it's enough. I am still adding things to my wish list. I wish I could do more. I wish there something I could do for those families. I wish I could provide jobs for each family.

Why is it some people pray and get a miracle and others pray and get the answer no? Have you ever felt this way or questioned this same thing?

For me, this is the most difficult aspect of my faith. With every other question, every other hurt ... I can find peace in my faith.

Why is it that one person wins a battle against cancer and another person looses? Why does one child have friends and another not? Why are some wealthy and some poor? Why do some children live carefree lives and other children endure pain? Why do some men find jobs and others don't?

These are just a small portion of the questions fighting for first place in my mind?

It's easy to say ... In God's time ... when you aren't the one facing a difficult situation. Don't misunderstand me, I am a firm believer in God's timing. He sees a bigger picture, the future and all the possibilities and outcomes for each situation. I trust His perfect timing, but that trust doesn't always mean the journey is easy. And, it doesn't make each step certain.
As a believer, sometimes I think I am not allowed weakness or difficulty in understanding God's ways. Sometimes, I feel like any sign of weakness will cause others to doubt the One I put my trust in. I realized something ... in all those things ... I'm the one not trusting. I have to trust in each situation, each answer "no" ... God is in control. My weakness lets Him shine. My fears, let Him prove His love.

In all my wishing ... in that long list of wishes ... I forgot to give it to God.

Have you ever felt that way?

Revelation 7:17 "For the lamb who is in the midst of the throne will shepherd them and lead them to living fountains of waters. And God will wipe away ever tear from their eyes."

Luke 9:23 - 24 "If anyone desires to come after Me, let him deny himself and take up his cross daily, and follow Me. For whoever desires to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for My sake will save it."




Wednesday, October 21, 2009

This House We Built

I love music, especially country music. I'm a huge CMT and GAC fan. There are numerous songs that spark memories of my childhood, my marriage and my children.

Do you have those songs? Maybe a favorite song and when you hear it ... you are immediately caught up in a memory?

Today, as I was driving home from work, Brooks and Dunn was playing on my radio. "I'm Proud of the House We Built" came flooding through the speakers. Every lyric fits the life I have lived with my husband, Jerry.
We were married just two short months after I graduated from high school.
While most of my friends were picking colleges, I was picking out a wedding dress. While those same friends were moving into college dorms, I was moving into my first apartment as a married woman.

A year later, my friends were starting their first summer break from college and I was bringing home my first son. We were barely getting by paying the bills and supporting our little guy.

At the time, I never really gave much thought to how different my life course was from my friends. At sixteen years of age, I knew my days would be numbered right beside Jerry Willis. I didn't want it any other way and I wouldn't trade my today or yesterdays for any other.

When I hear "I'm Proud of the House We Built", I see an 18 year old, brown eyed boy ... asking
me to marry him. I can feel each memory in my heart and I'm very proud of the life we built. I'm thankful God gave me a man who could love me through the tough times and enjoy the good times right beside me.

We don't have a mansion on the hill. There are usually more bills than money. But, our house is stronger than any stone or steel. Our house is built on a strong foundation of love.

One truth kept me going and holds today, lots of things will come and go ... but love never will.

What's your favorite song and why does it mean so much to you?

Luke 6:48 "He is like a man building a house, who has dug down deep and laid the foundation on rock. When a flood came, the torrent struck that house but could not shake it, because it was well built."

Sunday, October 11, 2009

My Favorite Cup


This is a picture of my favorite coffee cup. Do you drink coffee, do you have a favorite mug? If you do, then there is probably a story behind the mug. A reason why it's your favorite. My cup is special because it was a gift from Jerry, my husband. A few years ago, Jerry worked for a trucking company. He was away for days at a time, traveling all across the United States. The one place I wanted to go with him was Maine. Of course, he got a trip to Maine on an occasion I couldn't be off work and the boys had things going that kept me at home. He knew I was disappointed. The trip took him several days, he drove home late at night and crawled into bed. The next morning, I got up and went to get my coffee. This cup sat right beside my coffee pot. It let me know Jerry understood my disappointment and he cared.


Not to mention the words on the cup are true ... "Crabby Till I Get My Coffee." Jerry knows me so well.


Only a few months later, my cup fell and cracked. I was devastated. Sure, it's just a coffee cup to most people but for me, it's the story behind the cup. I spent a lot of time gluing and testing the cup. It took a while for the cup to repair and hold liquid again. And, it may not look the best on the outside but it serves the purpose intended. Not to mention, I can still enjoy drinking coffee out of that cup and thinking about how it came to rest in my hands.


Each time we have company, I make a pot of coffee. Everyone knows where the coffee cups are kept. Each time, it never fails, they pass on my favorite coffee cup. They might reach for it, but when they see the crack ... they pass and pick a different one. In fact one person even pulled it out and told me I shouldn't keep it.


That particular person looked directly at me with my cup in hand and said "You should throw this thing out, no way it's ever gonna hold liquid. As soon as you put hot coffee in that thing, it'll crack again and you'll have a mess to clean up."


I took my beloved cup, walked to the fridge and put some (OK, well maybe a lot, that's how I like it) creamer in the bottom. Then, I moved to the coffee pot and poured the dark steaming liquid directly into MY cup. I held it up as proof. No leaks. I took a sip and said "It's not worthless, it's mine and I love it."


There's another reason I love this cup. It reminds me of my Father's love. Even when I fall and get "cracked", He doesn't give up on me. He picks me up and takes time to repair those cracks. When everyone else is looking at my faults and all the flaws on my outside ... He looks at my heart. He sees the me that can still be used for His purpose. He knows the story that brought me to rest in His hands. That's what He cares about. He doesn't care about the cracks or how much time He had to spend fixing each blemish or flaw.

Sometimes I kind of think about Him holding me up when someone else looks at me and says ... "She's worthless." Or, when I'm looked over because someone else looks better. I can hear Him say ... "She's not worthless, she's MINE and I love her."
Are you feeling worthless today? If so, turn your heart over to the One who can repair those broken places.

Psalm 62:1-2 "My soul finds rest in God alone, my salvation comes from Him alone. He alone is my rock, my salvation. He is my fortress, I will not be shaken."

Every saint has a past ... Every sinner has a future.


Saturday, October 10, 2009

One Tear Drop


There have been times in my life ... times when another person's tear causes me to cry. Thursday was one of those times.
I went to my sister's house. I stopped by to see her and my nieces. Have I told you about those two nieces? I love them like crazy. Outside of my three boys, these are my favorite kids in the world. I've blogged before about my niece who has been touched by Treacher Collins. Her name is Hope and her sister is Alex. Treacher Collin's is a craniofacial syndrome that affects the ears, nose and throat. Hope was born without ears ... only buds (or lobes). Her biggest wish is to have ears just like her big sis, Alex. Why? Because she wants to listen to her MP3 just like all the other kids.
Thursday, I was visiting them because Hope came home from surgery. She had extenders put into the skin just below the hairline and above her ear buds. This was a painful process and it was only the beginning of an even longer process. Those extenders will be inflated once a week for the next eight weeks. Ending with the effort to form ears for her from that skin.
I climbed the stairs to their rooms. Along the way, we passed family pictures and Hope gave an excited breath. "See, my ears are cute like Alex!"

I played Littlest Pets and listened to the girls tell me all kinds of stories about those toys. Then, it was time to get ready for bed.
Sometimes, I forgot how much my sister and brother-in-law handle with Hope's disability. Thursday, I was reminded as we all piled into the bathroom. My sister filled a small cup with a mixture of Peroxide and water. Hope started to whimper, Alex reached for her little hand ... it was time to clean her incisions.
Alex and I held hands with Hope as my sister cleaned the incisions on both sides of Hope's head. My brother-in-law was at work or he would've been right there with us. That's how it works for their family, they are a team.
My sister spoke soft words of comfort, calming words. That's when I saw it ... one small tear slid down Hope's cheek and landed on the bathroom countertop.
In my lifetime, I have cried tears over many things. Some trivial and some not so trivial. This evening, I considered how many tears my niece would cry in her lifetime. She is spunky and full of spirit. She'll endure this pain because it is the path to something she desires ... ears . Something most of us take for granted. For Hope, each piece of independence is gained at a price. That price is pain.
I realized pain is a process that is followed by healing. Most every desire we have is achieved through the endurance of pain. Whether that pain is physical or emotional, it is necessary.
Is there something your heart desires?
Psalm 37:4 "Delight yourself in the Lord and He will give you the desires of your heart."
This picture is our youngest boy, Kregg, with Hope. They are rather impatiently waiting for fireworks to start at our annual 4th of July cookout.

Monday, October 5, 2009

Mama's Hands

Have you ever seen the movie "Beaches?" I love the movie. I cry every time I watch it ... I love movies that make me cry and ones that make me think. "Beaches" does both.

The entire movie is based on the friendship of Hillary and CC. Two girls from completely different backgrounds. We watch them become childhood friends and follow that friendship through adulthood. One scene in particular captures me. Hillary had found out she is ill and dying. Her little girl is sitting on the beach with her and makes a comment that they have the same hands. Hillary begins searching for a picture of her mother's hands. It was extremely important to her and CC (her friend) helps her find it. She holds the picture and compares her hands to those of her mother.

As I look through pictures of my own mother, I see the resemblance in my hands to hers. But, it's not the physical comparison that matters most to me. It's the emotional, spiritual comparison that I'm after.

Her hands held me when I was a baby, when I cried and wanted rocking. Her hand held mine while I learned to walk and her hand let go at just the right time for my independence.

Those same hands administered a swat to my backside when necessary. Which seemed to be rather often for me ... I was strong willed and still am.

Her hands could be found baking various things during the holidays. I recall a family friend who moved away and when I saw him years later ... his first comment was "Does your mom's kitchen still smell good?" I looked at him oddly ... and he said "What, you don't know what I'm talking about? You're mom was always baking something and it always smelled so good. I could go for some of her cinnamon rolls right about now."

Those hands decorated our home with Christmas ornaments. They washed my clothes and my face. They held me when I was a teenager and needed a safe place to figure out how to make my own way in this crazy world.

They wiped away tears of disappointed when I lost my first art competition, broke up with my boyfriend and buttoned up my wedding dress. They were there when I had my first miscarriage.

Those hands folded in prayer for me, my sister and our own families.

All of these things were done with two hands.

I stretch my own hands out and look at them. What are my hands doing? Do my boys have my hands? And, what will my boys remember about my hands?

My prayer is that I am using my hands for the purposes God intended. I want them to give love to my husband and boys. I pray they are a safe place for my children and a comfort when my boys need someone to hold them.

What are your hands doing? Whether you are a father, mother, daughter, son or somewhere in between ... God has a purpose for your hands ... for you.

Proverbs 22:6 "Train up a child in the way he should go, And when he is old he will not depart from it."

Proverbs 14:1 "The wise woman builds her house. But the foolish pulls it down with her hands."

Saturday, October 3, 2009

Walnuts


My husband and I built our home just across the yard from my parents. Between my parents house and ours there is a gravel walkway. I couldn't even begin to number the times my boys have ran back and forth across that walk. The boys have carried goodies home from Grandma's and jogged back for lawnmower rides with Grandpa. I, myself, have ran across to gain comfort from my parents when a workday has been especially stressful.


During the summer months, the walk is shaded by a large walnut tree. When the days grow cooler, those walnuts begin to fall and cover part of the walk. This season in particular, the tree produced a large amount of walnuts. I started noticing them scattered across the walk and even part of my driveway. Just this past week, the green balls took over and chocked out any semblance of a path. Our boys used them for batting practice and putting practice. The cats played with the smaller walnuts, batting them around, chasing them and jumping back and forth between the ever growing numbers.

On Wednesday, I decided we better do something about the walnuts. It was getting so we couldn't walk to my parents or them to our house without tripping. So, after school, the boys joined me in the driveway with buckets to collect the pale green balls. We filled one five gallon bucket and turned to see our progress. Honestly, it didn't even look as though we had made a dent in the amount of nuts. There was still this ocean of nuts between our houses. Another five gallon bucket, a little progress ... at least we could see the gravel peaking from beneath the nuts.

My seven year old stopped mid stride, toting a bucket and sweating from the work. "Man, Mom ... this is hard work, it don't even look like we did anything yet!"

I stopped beside him and tussled his hair. "You're right, there are still lots of nuts. But, let's keep going, we'll get it done."

He sighed and heaved the bucket along, collecting nuts as he went. I stood straight, arching my back and realizing he was right. This was pretty hard work. And, in that moment, I saw something.

I saw my life and my walk with God. There are times when it's easy, when the weather may be hot but I walk in the shade He provides. Then, there are difficult times. Those times are usually a result of my own poor choices. My poor choices seem like those walnuts. They scatter across the path between me and God. If I don't take care of the poor choices and clean them up, I find myself tripping and I can't make my way to the comfort He is waiting to give.

Sometimes, there are so many nuts on my path, I feel like giving up. I want to walk away from the hard work and ask somebody else to clean it up for me.Italic When I feel that frustration start to take over, God is right there telling me ..."You're right, there's still a lot of hard work to do. But, keep going, we'll get it done."

How are you feeling today? Is your path cluttered with walnuts (poor choices)? Join me in the hard work, clean the path leading from your house to His heart. He's right there waiting, encouraging you and telling you not to give up.

Psalms 119: 2 "Blessed are they who keep His statutes and seek Him with all their hearts."


1st John 2:1-2 "My dear children, I write this to you so that you will not sin. But if anybody does sin, we have one who speaks to the Father in our defense—Jesus Christ, the Righteous One. 2He is the atoning sacrifice for our sins, and not only for ours but also for the sins of the whole world. "

Sticks and Stones



"Sticks and stones may break my bones, but your words will never hurt me."


I think we've all heard this phrase a time or two. During my grade school years, this was a taunt on the playground. It was usually accompanied by the sticking out of a tongue or an ugly face made to be cruel.

Have you said something ... done something lately without thinking? Have your words been chosen with little regard for how they may hurt?

I wish I could say this happens only in our youth. But, it doesn't ... adults are guilty of this perhaps even more often than children. And, Believers are guilty of this same shortcoming. We are no exception to this fault, we sin and fall short. In thinking about reckless words, I've come to a realization that this is directly related to judgement. Our judgement of others. Don't misunderstand me, I believe we should hold one another accountable. However, I feel there is a big difference between holding someone accountable and judging someone.

Holding someone accountable is to go to them with love in your words and let them know you disagree with something. Whether it is something the person has done, said or a particular behavior ... you are to go to them in private.

Standing in judgement of someone is to "wave a flag" of disapproval. That flag draws attention of others to the person's behavior or actions. It demeans the person and hurts them.
Angry, critical or reckless words are like bullets. Once you pull the trigger, you can't take back that round. No matter how hard you try or how much you wish those words out of existence ... you can't. Long after you've forgotten the words you shot, the hurt goes on. The person you hurt plays those words over and over again. The sting of your bullet doesn't easily heal.

Putting down the gun filled with bullets of angry words takes the help of God and our own personal discipline.

Years ago, my Uncle Leonard gave me a "life lesson." I was young and making a point to let my uncle know exactly how "bad" another child had been. He stopped me mid sentence, took my hand and bent my fingers so I was pointing at him. He asked me "How many fingers are pointing at this other kid?" My answer was "one." Then, he asked "And, how many fingers are pointing back at you, kid?" I remember looking at my hand and the realization of his point hit me. There were three fingers pointing back at me.

In that moment, he taught me something. Don't misunderstand me, there are days when I fall short. I judge rather than hold someone accountable. I say hurtful words rather than words of love. But, I try to remember the lesson he taught me.


Sawyer Brown has a song about this very subject. If you haven't heard it ... find it and listen to it. I believe the title is "They Don't Understand". The song tells judgement from the heart of the judged.

How is your heart today? Do you have scars left from the shot of someone's angry words? Have you been the one shooting bullets of anger or criticism?

Matthew 7:1 "Do not judge or you too will be judged."

Friday, October 2, 2009

Life

Yesterday, our church family celebrated the life of a beautiful young mother. Her life on earth was cut short by cancer. What happens when you hear the word cancer? For me, I feel like my very breath is snatched away. It frightens me because there seems to be no way to prevent it from happening. It makes me think a lot about my own mortality.

Something about this woman ... her life and death ... Something shook the safety net I've knit around my life. Have you ever done that? Created a net around your life to protect you from the world and all its sadness? I do that ... a lot. I think I am healthy, so I won't get sick. I'm a safe driver, so I won't be involved in a car accident. I don't smoke, so I won't have breathing or respiratory issues. I don't drink to an excess, so I won't have liver damage. My children and husband are healthy. I have a full time job and benefits. So, death, injury and financial struggles aren't going to touch my life.

But, then I learned this woman had cancer. A form of cancer someone her age, health and background of life should not have. And, I realized, it doesn't matter what I do, I can't stop death or sadness.

The only thing I can do ... make my life, every moment of it ... matter, count. To live my life so in the moment I pass from life on earth into life in the hereafter ... my loved ones mourn and the angels rejoice. I haven't been living that way. Lately, I've been too wrapped up in my own work and wants.

Today, I want to say ... Thank you, Angie. Thank you for your life and death.
Your death has reminded me of things I take for granted. Your passing made me realize there are things I should be enjoying, because tomorrow isn't a guarantee.

Today, I will stop to color pictures with my 5 year old instead of doing the dishes. I'll listen to my 7 year old talk about football and StarWars instead of doing the laundry. I'll talk to my 15 year old and let him share his thoughts, feelings. And, I'll let my husband know how much I love him, I need him and ... even after 16 years of marriage ... I still love it when he stops to see me at work with a cup of coffee or even just to say "hi."

"Life is not measured by the number of breaths you take but by the moments that take your breath away. Cherish the memories, the laughter and love"

Friday, September 25, 2009

A Stirring of Echoes




Somewhere between my childhood and my life as an adult, there are echoes. Reflections of sounds from days gone by. I recall moments from my youth. I sit and allow memories to pass through my mind in a parade of black and white images. There are some images stamped upon my memory in colors muted by age. Others I remember and others I wonder if possibly I only recall because of pictures.
So, I close my eyes and think ... what do I remember?
Milkshakes and popcorn. My sister and me all curled up under the blankets on my parents bed. I remember watching reruns of The Honeymooners. What was it Ralph always said to Alice during one of his many temper fits? "One of these days, Alice ... straight to the moon!" But, at the end of each 30 minute show, Ralph loved Alice ... over the moon.
Vacations to Michigan, The Henry Ford Museum. The Old Car Festival in the village and my dad telling stories about the different vehicles he rode in during his childhood. Music from days gone by pumping from the street speakers. Lots of people dancing and my parents laughing. Feeding the fish from red and white striped boxes of popcorn.
My parents in gray sweatshirts. The ones with SHS Cheerleader Parent printed on the front. The two of them, sitting on bleachers in the heat, cold, rain or snow ... watching my sister and me cheer for the home football team.
Me, leaning against my mom when my first boyfriend broke my heart. Her, not saying anything, just letting me cry. Now, I'm thankful he broke my heart and she just held me not trying to fix it. I met my husband a year after that heartbreak.
Mom sitting out in front of the local McDonald's until midnight, waiting for my late shift to end and her to drive me home. It never mattered how late it was, she didn't complain. There was always a smile and "How was work tonight?"
In every memory, I can hear the people I love ... their voices and laughter. Echoes from my past. Reflections mirrored in pictures. I wonder what my boys will remember when they are all grown up and on their own. Will they hear my laughter, feel my hands on their faces and my kiss on their cheek? Will they recall the love their father and I share?
What do you remember about your childhood? Are there pictures that stir echoes in your mind?
Wherever you are today, whatever your schedule ... take time to make memories with the ones you love.

Sunday, September 20, 2009

Sacrifice


I met someone this week. I've worked with this person for about 5 years and known her for that same number of years. But, this week ... I really met her. Do have someone like that in your life? A person you meet, you enjoy their company and you think you "know" them ... until they share a part of their life with you and all of a sudden, you really know them? I've always thought she was a nice girl, pretty and all around good gal. However, while at work last week, she shared a story with me. A story that has changed my daily thought process.
She told me of her mother's death. You see, her mother was diagnosed with cancer while pregnant. At that time, she had a choice. Receive treatment for the cancer, saving her own life and sacrificing the life of her unborn child. Or, she could protect her unborn child and sacrifice her own life. She chose the latter. My friend's mother passed away only two months after giving birth to her one and only child.
After hearing this, I asked ... "How did you turn out to be such a nice person when you have experienced so much pain?" Her answer came easily. She told me this ... "I wake up each day and am thankful for that day. I live it the way I know my mother would have me to live it. I do that because I know she sacrificed her life so that I can live each day."
I hope her answer does something to your heart. It did something to mine. I sat there, thinking about her answer. I couldn't place the feeling I had deep in my stomach. At least, not right away. It took me several days to realize exactly what I was feeling ...
Guilt. Guilt because that's exactly how I should be living each day. And, I haven't. Christ came into this world to give His life for me, for each of us. He gave His life to separate us from sin. The ultimate sacrifice ... His life for ours. Christ purchased my days with the giving of His life.
Since that conversation with my co-worker, I've tried to live in gratitude. I want to live each day exactly how my Father would have me to live it. He sacrificed His life in order for me to enjoy mine.
John 15:13 "Greater love has no one than this, than to lay down one's life for his friends."

Friday, September 18, 2009

The Best of Me



This week started the same as many others. A race to keep up with work and home. A balancing act between pleasing my employer and enjoying my husband and children. Somehow fitting football practice for our middle boy into the already cramped evening schedule. Finishing homework in time for supper, baths and maybe a little tv time. Helping a teenager with homework that doesn't look anything like what I did in high school. The house always needs cleaning. And, all the time, I'm feeling like there is something I've forgotten to do or someone I didn't give enough attention.


Have I given each person the best of me?

I'm in a hurry ... pretty much all the time. I work a forty hour week and I have three boys. Between work and keeping up with all our schedules, there is little time in between for quiet or slow time. My husband wants me to stop and sit with him for just a little while. The boys want me to read a book before bedtime. I say no to both because there is housework to do and there are clothes to get ready for the next day.
Who is getting the best of me?
This week, I took a few days off work. This morning, I drove the boys to school. I don't get to do that very often. I'm generally at work by the time my husband pulls into the school parking lot to send the boys off for school.
First stop, the high school to drop off our oldest boy. I think he's grown a foot in the past few weeks. He knows I love him but I say it one last time before he leaves the car. I watch him until he's inside the doors. Then, I pull away for the second stop ... the elementary school for our younger boys. We were a little early, so I parked and waited for a few minutes.
That's when I found it. The best of me. The me I was looking for at the beginning of the week. I planned out my vacation days. I needed some "me time." I had been feeling spent at work and the vacation days were an effort to "fill up." I needed something to help me focus, something to let me know this crazy race is worth every step and breath.
In that moment, my youngest boy asked to move up to the front and sit on my lap. Our middle boy was in the passenger seat and for the first time ... in a long time ... I said "yes." I'm usually in too big of a hurry to stop and let them in the front. Today, what would it hurt? He crawled over the armrest, laughing. We turned up the radio and pulled down the sun visors. Country music spilled out of the speakers and we started making silly faces in the visor mirrors.
My boys ran into school ... laughing and smiling. They turned back long enough to yell ... "love you, mom!" And, in their smiles, I saw the best of me.
The best of me is ... the mommy who takes time to be silly, the wife that stops to sit and talk, the child of God who slows down long enough to enjoy the life He's given me.
Are you busy? Do you find yourself going so fast you can't keep up? That was me at the beginning of the week. Trust me, slow down. If you do, you'll find out ... the house will get clean later, the clothes will get washed and put away later, so what if the kids don't go to bed at a set time every night ...
The best of me has been there, right in front of my eyes. All I needed to do was slow down long enough to see it.

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

My Son, the Snake Hunter


We have this small white laundry basket. Since the day we received it as a baby shower gift, it's been the "sock basket." I hate to match socks. Other than scrubbing toilets, it is my least favorite job. So, all the socks go from the dryer directly into the sock basket. If you need socks, better check the basket before your dresser drawer. With five people in our house, you can imagine how many socks are collected. There are all sizes and colors.

When my two younger boys were around the ages of four and two, they came up with an idea. We were in the living room watching National Geographic. The story for that particular evening was snakes ... snakes in a huge pit. A brave man was sliding down a rope into the mass of vipers. I made the mistake of telling my boys I hate snakes (Note to mothers of boys, do not let them know when something frightens you! They will use it against you.) So, I'm sitting there folding laundry, watching the wonderful snake pit show. I loaded all the socks into the basket and left to put away everyone's clothes. I came back to find all the socks spread out across the floor. My boys were standing on the coffee table with fly swatters in gloved hands (their grandpa's farm gloves). Each wore a devilish grin.Hissing of all types followed. There were socks on the curtain rods, ceiling fan and every piece of furniture.

Turns out my children decided to play "snake hunter." In that moment, I made an attempt to hide my amusement. I could see in their eyes the snake pit was every bit real and my living room was a thing of the past. Those boys were in some far away place, battling the snakes and saving everyone.

As I watched them play, I thought ... let this moment last. Let them stay this way forever. I never wanted them to know the hurt of this world. Never wanted them to feel disappointment or make bad choices that just might put them into a "pit of vipers" of sorts.

I realized something ... I think God feels that way about us, His children. Think about it with me for a minute. As new believers, we are completely consumed by God's love. We follow Him in a way that most likely leaves Him feeling in total awe of His creation, His children. He probably watches us learning from His book, sharing our enthusiasm with others and just loving Him. And, I wonder if He ever thinks ... stay like that. Don't ever change. Don't ever fall back into your temptations. Don't ever fall away from me and into the things of the world.

In Romans 12:2 ("And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, that you may prove what is that good and acceptable and perfect will of God."), His word tells us to live in this world but not to take on the characteristics of the world.

God calls us to a child like faith. I believe this means to follow Him in a carefree abandon. The kind our children have ... the way my boys play ... the way they don't care at all who's watching, they are completely lost in a world others might not understand or might not see.

I'm thinking of the poem ... "Dance Like No One is Watching" ... I have a different spin on that one ... "Dance as if Only God is Watching".

Luke 18:16 "But Jesus called the children to Him and said, 'Let the little children come to me, and do not hinder them, for the kingdom of God belongs to such as these'.

Monday, September 14, 2009

The Prayer of a Servant's Heart



A few days ago, I was visiting with one of my friends. We were talking about devotions, prayer and praise. Each of us had been feeling a bit ... dry. Have you ever felt that way? With all your heart, you want to praise God, commune with Him in devotions and prayer without ceasing. But, for some reason, you can't concentrate. You feel as though your prayers are bouncing off the ceiling, never reaching God's ears.

Even on days when I feel dry or empty, I still sit at my kitchen table with my bible open. Why? Because, I know just the sight of a believer in prayer or devotion drives Satan crazy.

Today was one of those days. I sat trying to read, concentrate and pray. It was no use. My mind kept wandering. My heart was heavy. I felt a sadness beyond explanation. Have you ever experienced a burden so great you feel as though you can not move?

A young woman from our church family was diagnosed with cancer ... I hate this word ... cancer. It comes like a thief in the night. It plunders a house of peace and leaves a broken spirit in its wake.

This woman is a wife, mother, daughter and sister. She is loved, cherished and adored. She is strong and couragous ... faced many battles in her young life. More than most face in their entire lives. This child of God has two beautiful daughters. Their eyes are bright and reflect their mother's love.

The scripture is very clear about prayer. We are to pray without ceasing, bear one another burdens and cry to the Lord in prayer.

2nd Chronicles 6:19 "Yet regard the prayer of Your servant and his supplication, O Lord my God, and listen to the cry and the prayer which Your servant is praying before You."

Galations 6:2 "Carry each other's burdens, and in this way you will fulfill the law of Christ."

1st Thessalonians 5:17 "Pray without ceasing."

Our God's love is as vast and mighty as the ocean. There is nothing so great our God can not do.

Today, I am doing something I have never done before. I am offering my blogspot for prayers and prayer requests. If you have a burden on your heart, need a prayer warrior or feel the urgency of God's calling to prayer for a brother or sister in Christ ... please leave those in the comment section.

I give my word, I will pray for each request. God knows our every need, our every want and care. His promises are new every morning.

I ask each person reading this ... please pray for this woman. Pray for healing and peace from the Master Physician.

Psalm 46:10 "Be still, and know that I am God. I will be exalted among the nations. I will be exalted in the earth."

Sunday, September 13, 2009

The Value of a Heartbeat


My father knelt in a freshly plowed field. He sunk his fingers into the soil, a handful sifted through his grasp. Another plunge of his hand, again the soil ran through like sands in an hour glass. This is where my father went to "get his spunk back."
At 64 years of age, my father suffered a massive heart attack. I can't tell you the time, the date or even how I ended up standing in the ER. All I can remember today is my father lying in a hospital bed. Looking down at him, I felt a fear I can not put into words. I remember thinking ... "My Dad is the strongest man in the world, this kind of thing doesn't happen to him. Someone has made a mistake. In a minute, he'll get up and walk out of here." That didn't happen.
I grew up in an extremely close family. Losing either of my parents would devastate me. Going through the motions of tests, decisions and acceptance of my father's condition ... those were difficult days. After determining he would need heart bypass, my father made a decision. Regardless of the doctor's wishes, he would go home for several months. Dad wanted to wait for his surgery. There were multiple reasons but the one that sticks in mind ... Dad told me he needed his spunk to make it through the surgery.
For my father, spunk came from his land, his farm. He worked hard for every acre, each parcel was earned with a steady pace of "blood, sweet and tears." He came home from the hospital and walked into his field. The field he had plowed, planted and harvested for years. He dropped to his knees and ran his hands through the soil. It was medicine for his soul.
My father made it safely through his surgery. He spent this spring planting and harvesting a garden on his farm.
Just as the heart surgeon repaired my father's arteries, God repairs our spirit. He is like the soil
on my father's farm. God's richness, goodness fills our hearts and mends the hurt in our lives. He is the only One who can perform spiritual heart surgery.
Today, if you're hurting, feel hardened by the weight of this world ... turn to the One who can ease your pain.
Ezekiel 36:26 "I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit in you. I will remove from you your heart of stone and give you a heart of flesh."

Friday, September 11, 2009

Did They Win?


I was wearing an olive-green shirt, buttoned down. Fall leaves embroidered across the front. My khaki pants were two sizes smaller than the ones I wear now. I walked back from the break room carrying my decaf coffee. My stomach was a bit queasy as I was only a few weeks pregnant with our second child. I found my co-workers gathered around a computer screen ... terrorists, bombing, planes. I leaned in and felt ill, confused at the pictures. Someone said "it's not an accident, it's terrorists." Again, I was confused. Terrorists could not get into America. Those things didn't happen in our country. Two women began arguing over the possibilities. I went to my desk and pulled up the news site. No one worked much that day.

Looking at picture after picture of destruction, I became ill. Just hours after the attacks, it was clear ... my co-worker had been right, it was no accident. Terrorists had come to our homeland. I laid a hand to my middle. What kind of world waited for my child?

For days, I sat on my couch watching the news. My husband and oldest boy sat with me. We ate meals in front of that tv, stayed up late to watch more and spent weekends watching Prime Time and 20/20. The terrorists were winning a battle they most likely didn't even realize. They began to demolish my safe haven.

Water-cooler talk went from kids, school, ballgames and movies to terrorists and fear. The terrorists were winning. They stole our laughter.

Ballgames went a little longer as we played the American anthem and bowed our heads in a moment of silence. The moment of silence lasted well into game time. The terrorists were winning, they stole our cheers.

Life changed for every American on that cool September morning. Whether we lost loved ones in the towers or prayed for those who did, life changed. I did not have a loved one in the towers. I knew no one lost in those moments.

If I had lost someone dear that day, I would not want today marked by the terrorists. I would not want to see their pictures, hear their voices or their names. In my opinion, that gives them a victory and glory ... something they do not deserve. For me, I am spending today in gratitude of the lives lost and sacrificed. I will be thinking about the firefighters, police officers, volunteers and innocent victims.

To those who lost their family or friends on 9-11, I wish I could sit down and have a cup of coffee with you. I'd like to see pictures of the people you are missing today. I'd like to hear about their lives and the memories you are holding dear on this historical day.

If you have thoughts, feelings or stories to share, I ask that you leave those in the comments section. I'm offering that area of my blog for you to pay tribute to your family and friends.

The question remains, did the terrorists win? No, they did not. They showed us our brotherhood, faith and devotion to America. The moments spent in front of the television were moments devoted to those loved and lost. Water cooler talk was devoted to the memory of those held dear and perhaps some felt just as I did ... grateful no one I loved was lost that day and guilt for that same fact. The American anthem played before each ballgame and the moment of silence ... those were a reminder of our bravery and devotion.

As you watch the news today, remember the lives given by our brother and sister Americans.
Today, I am grateful to them ... because of them I spend more time enjoying my boys, I spend more time reading my bible and much time loving my country.
John 15:13 "Greater love has no man than this, that he lay down his life for his friends."

Wednesday, September 9, 2009

Tilt-a-Whirl


Have you ever been on a tilt-a-whirl? You know the ride ... you sit down, hold on tight and spin around. There is no way to guess which way it will go next or how fast. There are ups, downs and crazy spins.

I rode on this particular ride with my 7 year old over the summer. I hadn't been on one of those in years and he had only ridden once before that day. We both screamed from fear, excitement and the thrill. Anyone who knows me ... you know jumping on a tilt-a-whirl was a huge accomplishment. For some, that may seem silly. Some might enjoy the huge roller coasters. Not me, I am one hundred and ten percent scared to pieces of rides.

I've been thinking ... that ride is a lot like life. There are days filled with excitement, fear and anxiety. Lately, it seems I am having more anxious days then ones filled with excitement. I worry ... about work, home, marriage, kids, parents, family, finances ...

My husband was laid off six months ago. I find myself thinking about how we'll pay the next house payment, electric bill, groceries and the list goes on. How will we afford to heat our home this winter? My boys are growing up in a world so different from my childhood. Some of those differences are good and others are a little scary. There are drugs on the school bus ... my boys don't ride the bus anymore. I won't take the chance. My job has become incredibly stressful. I'm employed as a fraud recovery coordinator in the financial industry. It seems there is a new type of financial crime everyday. Will I be able to keep up with the quickening pace?

All of these "tilts" have made me grumpy. Today, I was sitting at work thinking of just how grumpy I am and how tough things are .... basically feeling sorry for myself, something I've become pretty good at in the past few months.

Then, I heard an update on the young man I blogged about a few weeks ago. If you didn't read that blog (I Heard the News Today), it was about a teenage boy struggling with a disease. The update ... the tumor on his young brain is growing down and wrapping around his spinal cord. He's just a boy.

I slumped back in my chair, hands in my lap. My worries, problems, grumblings ... all of it started to fade.

Tumor, mass, cancer ... I hate those words. Where does cancer come from and how does it decide one being over another? How can you prevent it, how can you survive it?
I sat in my office thinking. This boy's mother, she would gladly trade my troubles. I'm sure she would rather worry about a house payment or electric bill. She would rather sit in my office with my worries than sit in a doctor's office with the results of her son's tests.

I left work feeling heavy, sick. The drive home was filled with thoughts of this boy, this mother. When I walked in my house, I was greeted by my boys. We have this special hug ... the sandwich hug. Each of us is part of the sandwich. The cheese, pickle, bun, meat. I got one of those hugs and suddenly everything just didn't matter.

I guess what I'm saying is ... sure there are troubles right now. Sure, things are scary and you might be worrying about finances. But, look around you. Today, I am thankful for this "tilt-a-whirl". I am remembering a phrase from my childhood ... "count your many blessings, name them one by one. Count your many blessings, see what God has done."

James 5:13 "Is anyone among you suffering? Let him pray."

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Roots


My father leans back in the wooden dining room chair. His hands wrapped around a John Deere coffee mug. The coffee is more to warm his hands than his stomach. I see the look in his eyes and the crooked grin ... I know there's a story about to unfold. Mom says I have that same smile. I hope so and I hope that my children will mark a story on its way with that same expression.

After a supper of homemade pizza and a dessert of vanilla ice cream and fresh blueberries ... my husband and I join Mom and Dad for conversation. My house is always a "family circus", as my parents call it. The four of us crowd around the dining room table and visit in between the craziness of my three boys. These are times that I know I will keep close for many years.

I'm listening close, trying to memorize the details. I guess one might say I'm a bit sentimental. I'll admit it, I am. I love stories. I love to hear them and tell them. I want to pass these tales down to my children and someday my grandchildren.

Tonight, the tale was of two young boys baptized in a small creek. I hadn't heard this one before. My father was recounting the day of his baptism. I guess in all the stories my father has told, I've never wondered about his salvation. I just knew he was saved and baptized. This evening, I learned he was washed clean in a muddy creek. Right along with him ... a long time family friend, Bob. At my father's telling, I could just picture him at near nine years old wadding into the water with his friend, Bob.

I found myself wondering what sins were drowned on that day? Maybe, spitting chew on the rump of a white mule (one of my favorite stories from Dad)? Did either of those boys know the difference their choice would make for their children, grandchildren? I'm sure they didn't at that time.

I've known Bob for years. He and his wife have been a part of my life for ... well forever. I remember dancing to Donny and Marie albums with their daughters. My sister and I spent lots of time in their basement and garage ... playing ping-pong, listening to scriptures during youth group meetings and just enjoying their entire family. Bob's wife played piano at my wedding. She helped prepare the meal we shared on the day I was married. Have I ever told them how special those times were to me? I hope so.

One Sunday, after a church service, my sister and I joined their family for lunch at Clark's cafeteria. I recall Bob's oldest daughter dabbed perfume behind our ears. She said her grandpa liked the smell and it made her feel special. I know it made my sister and me feel special. Did I ever tell her how that made me feel? I hope so.

I wonder if either boy knew or even thought that someday their children would make memories together. Did they know we would need them and their stories? I see my father's friend nearly every Sunday. He and his family are a part of my past, present and future.

Tonight I'm thinking about my Dad and his friend. I'm remembering good times, special times. I'm praying my boys have special people and memories. I want my boys to know their roots and to love those roots.

Are there people in your life that have made impressions, ones that will stick with you forever? And, are you leaving impressions that will last long after you are gone from this earth?

There's a song that I love ... Randy Travis' "Three Wooden Crosses" ... It isn't what you take with you when you leave this earth, it's what you leave behind you when you go.

Joel 1:3 "Tell your children about it, Let your children tell their children, And their children another generation."

Monday, August 24, 2009

A Life Touched by Treacher Collins


"Mama, when will I be like Alex?" My niece lets her little feet dangle into the cool lake and she looks out across the choppy water at her big sister splashing into the deeper waves.

"Hope, you know God makes us all different. You won't ever be like Alex." My sister wraps Hope in a warm embrace, holding her carefully by the water's edge. They sit together dangling their feet from the dock's edge.
"You know what I mean, Mama." Hope's voice takes on urgency, frustration.
"Yes, you want to know when you can swim like Alex." Here, my sister sighs and places a gentle kiss against Hope's red curls.
A quick nod is the only response from the little person held by the embrace.
"I don't know if you'll ever swim like Alex. Right now, let's just do what we know you can do. Let's put our feet in the water and watch Alex and Daddy play."
Again, just as so many times before, my sister does what I could never do ... she explains to her youngest daughter that life may never be what we call fair. For the time being, this explanation is satisfactory. Hope turns her attention to the water tickling her toes. And, she smiles. That smile that lights up her world and ours. It's the smile of a child touched by Treacher Collins.
Hope has never jumped carefree into a pool of water. She has never fallen playfully into a drift of snow and she has never danced in the rain. And ... she never complains or feels sorry for herself.
In order for you to understand this moment in Hope's life, I should take you back to the day of her birth ....
On a beautiful, crisp winter morning, we welcomed the second of my sister's girls into this world. Anyone who knows me would tell you I was gushing with excitement. I have loved each of my nieces from the very moment I set eyes upon them. They are each beautiful in their very own special way. I will change their names in this blog to protect their innocence. However, anyone familiar with me will know the identity of these children. Anyone who does not know me ... I pray you will be touched and perhaps somehow changed by this story regardless of their names.
Alex is the eldest of my sister's girls. She is a tall slender girl. She loves dance, the Jonas Brothers and everything bright and cheerful. Alex has her father's bright blue eyes and her mother's grin. She was born with a quiet spirit and a love that would someday later prove to be a safe place for her baby sister to run when the world was cruel.
Hope is the younger of the girls. She too is a redhead but this is where the similarities end and Hope becomes her very own little person. On the day of Hope's birth, I drove my sister to the hospital and dialed my brother-in-law's work number countless times to let him know that the moment he left home, his wife had gone into labor. Hours later, we would learn Hope was born with Treacher Collins Syndrome. TCS is a craniofacial syndrome that affects the ears, nose and throat. Hope was born with lobes and no ear canals. Her lower jaw was too small and the doctors were forced to put in a trach. Because of this, she has a feeding tube. Hope hears with the help of a bone conducting hearing aid. These limitations are the reason she has never and for the time being can't enjoy some of the things we take for granted ... swimmining, playing in the snow ... dancing in the rain...
Alex and Hope are sisters. They love each other fiercely. I know this love because it's exactly how I feel about my sister, Mary. Everyone needs a safe place to run when the world gets crazy. Hope and I have something in common. We have a big sister that we admire, adore and look up to ... our safe place to run.
I have so much more I want to say about my sister, my nieces ... I'll save those things for another day. Today, I want this blog to be an encouragement to those touched by special needs ... an encouragement to those parents of children with special needs. There will be tough days, painful days ... days filled with blessings.
This I say to my sister, my nieces and my brother-in-law ... you are loved. You will always have a safe place to run when the world is unfair, scary ....
Psalms 139:15-16 "My frame was not hidden from You. When I was made in secret, and skillfully wrought in the lowest parts of the earth. Your eyes saw my substance being yet unformed. and in Your book they all were written. The days fashioned for me. When as yet there were none of them."