Tag Archive | faith

Holey Places

She slipped quietly into the pew next to me as the congregation was singing. I gave her a hug and I could feel it. She was just hanging on. The feeling got stronger and I started to pray. “Lord, fill the hole in my friend’s heart.” This dear friend had just lost her hubby of 55 years in a sudden and unexpected manner. This was her first day in church since we celebrated his life a week ago and, as she cried, she acknowledged that this first trip to church was much harder than she thought it would be. They did everything together…truly experienced life together… and I can only imagine that every place and memory from here forward will hold an abundance of joy intermingled with the painful absence of her soul-mate.

There is a time for everything,
    and a season for every activity under the heavens:

    a time to be born and a time to die,
    a time to plant and a time to uproot,
    a time to kill and a time to heal,
    a time to tear down and a time to build,
    a time to weep and a time to laugh,
    a time to mourn and a time to dance,
   a time to scatter stones and a time to gather them,
    a time to embrace and a time to refrain from embracing,
   a time to search and a time to give up,
    a time to keep and a time to throw away,
     a time to tear and a time to mend,
    a time to be silent and a time to speak,
    a time to love and a time to hate,
    a time for war and a time for peace.

Ecclesiastes 3:1-8

I always tell my kids that death is a part of life. During this past week, this has never been more obvious and glaring. There were 4 funerals at our church in one week and then I got a call about one more. A friend lost his 2 year old and the funeral was at my parent’s church on Saturday. All of this loss…all different ages and different circumstances. I know that God has appointed a time for each of us and thankfully all of these folks have a relationship with Christ. While Heaven awaits them and we are joyful for that fact, the gaping holes left in the lives of those left behind during this time of mourning are deep.

For my friend, I know she is so grateful for the time that she and her dear hubby had together and I know that she takes comfort that he is in Heaven viewing the stars from a perspective he could have never dreamed of here on this earth. Oh, but the holey places. The Lord knit these two together and while they will always be knit tightly, his physical absence is painful.

So today, I simply ask that you pray for people experiencing loss. Whether it be by death or divorce, expected or unexpected, young or old, temporary or permanent…all forms of loss. Please pray that they all take time to mourn and weep so in the future they can mend and heal and even laugh and dance. Pray that the Lord will send someone to cry with them as well as encourage them. Pray for comfort. Most of all, pray that the Lord Himself will fill the holey places in each heart so they may be whole in Him.

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A little slack

I love nights like this. Well…I love hearing about nights like this.

You see, I came home from school and hit the ground running. (After I had been running all day.) Putting away groceries…homework…dinner for tonight and preparation for tomorrow’s slow cooker creation…two loads of laundry…lunches packed for tomorrow…bath night. It’s 8:30pm and I just sat down. Not bad for a four hour sprint. While I was elbow deep in after dinner KP, hubby took the kids and the dog for a walk around the block. When they returned- I sat down while my hubby told me a story.

I love stories like this. You know, the kind when you learn something about God from your kids and a knuckle-head dog? THAT kind of story. And from this Mama’s perspective- it makes my heart soar to hear these things come from my son. So I’ll share…

Hubby was giving our son a refresher course on walking the dog. Cooper loves to walk, but he gets a little excited sometimes. The many, many (…many, many, many…) rabbits in the neighborhood taunt him with every hop as he pulls on that leash and he can be quite a challenge- especially when the walk begins. I have no clue what breed he is, but Cooper is the kind of dog who has a very keen sense of smell. In fact, his sniffer completely takes over and his ears shut off altogether! We keep the leash short so Cooper is beside us. Yep, we walk the dog- we don’t allow him to walk us. If the leash is too short he gags and huffs and pulls- resulting in sore muscles for all so there must be balance.

This was the lesson that hubby was teaching tonight and our son did a great job. A half-mile later, the bells and whistles went off. Yes…our son had a lights-ON epiphany. He went on to explain how this leash thing is much like our walk with God. God doesn’t choke us. He doesn’t pull and tug and wrestle. He sets parameters and lets us know how to walk and then if we pull…wait…I want to get this right…”If we pull too hard and choke ourselves then it’s our own stupid fault”…or something close to that. ha ha ha

Ok…so not a perfect picture, but I love his insight.

Psalm 23 (KJV)

The Lord is my shepherd; I shall not want.

He maketh me to lie down in green pastures: he leadeth me beside the still waters.

He restoreth my soul: he leadeth me in the paths of righteousness for his name’s sake.

Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil: for thou art with me; thy rod and thy staff they comfort me.

Thou preparest a table before me in the presence of mine enemies: thou anointest my head with oil; my cup runneth over.

Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life: and I will dwell in the house of the Lord for ever.

Psalm 23 is what came to mind. The Lord leads…we need only follow.

CHOOSE to follow.

He is the GOOD Shepherd, but we can be some hard-headed and seriously stubborn sheep. A fickle flock! Green pastures…would I recognize one if I was laying in one? Still waters? Oh…look at that butterfly! Squirrel! We pull, wander, strain and grow weary as we wrestle against God. There are times when we wander because the grass looks greener and others when we walk in stride with the Spirit just as He leads us to do. I just love the picture that my son painted this evening. Comical, yet true.

Lord, you give me boundaries because you love me. Those boundaries give me the opportunity to walk closely with you…near and without fear. Forgive me for the times when I wrestle and strain instead of follow, obey and rest in You.

Consider the Birds of the Air: A Testimony

“Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or drink; or about your body, what you will wear. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothes? Look at the birds of the air; they do not sow or reap or store away in barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not much more valuable than they? Can any one of you by worrying add a single hour to your life ?

Matthew 6:25-27

I shared last week about our new friend, Fabrizio. He is the brilliant, blue tree swallow who has selected our birdhouse as his new home. Earlier this week our area was plagued by a string of storms. We were able to prepare in advance by pulling in the deck furniture, lowering the umbrellas on the deck, and securing any loose items in the yard.  The winds were incredible and resulted in downed trees and power lines throughout our area. After one of the storms had passed, our daughter walked out onto the deck and shouted, “Hey! Where is the red house?”. We went outside to confirm her observation…the little birdhouse was gone.

Some things you cannot prepare for.

My husband went to the garden to get a closer look and found the little red birdhouse lying on the ground. He gently picked it up and noticed that the egg inside had been crushed. We noticed our two little bird friends (also surveying the damage) flying in a bit of a frenzy. I suspect that they were a bit concerned by our presence and possibly shaken from the fall. Fabrizio perched himself on the top of the patio umbrella so he could keep a close eye on us. We went to the garage search for a stronger bungee to fasten the birdhouse back onto the post until we can purchase a different bracket. After the house was secured in place, we began to wonder …will our friends stick around? Do we need to clean the nest out of the house? Will this tragedy force them to move on to a new nest? To search for a new home?

My heart was broken.

What we learned next was a lesson straight from the Lord Himself; another example that He has placed in nature that illustrates and amplifies scripture and truth.

I came inside and did what any concerned bird-hostess would do…I Googled! I did a search on what these tree swallows do when a broken egg is in their nest. I was surprised to learn that tree swallows do NOT abandon their nest. As a matter of fact, they work diligently to remove the broken pieces of egg and tattered remains of the nest and they rebuild. I was encouraged and excited and also hopeful when I read this. The next day, I walked out to the garden and found a bunch of feathers on the ground. They were too large to be tree swallow feathers, therefore I determined that they were the feathers that they had used in the construction of that prior nest. The cleaning had begun. Now- a few days later- they have rebuilt and moved back in. They have moved beyond the initial frenzy of a fallen home and crushed egg; they have cleaned up and are back to the business of being a bird.

God has really been working on me in the areas of worry and “control”  (as if I had any control, right?) over the past several years. There has been significant financial stress, school changes, and yes…our house even fell as a result of the crumbling foundation that we haphazardly constructed. With each challenge, I have learned (and am still learning) to lean into the Lord. Our needs have always been met, He led us to a wonderful school and He not only rebuilt our foundation, but He rebuilt our marriage on THE SOLID ROCK. Hallelujah and Praise the LORD!

This week, as I watched Fabrizio rebuild his house- I was waiting for medical test results. Through this whole ordeal I have been wondering if I was under-reacting. I have not been afraid at all and have been very confident of two things.

I am NOT in control….and God IS 100% IN CONTROL.

As I was waiting for the results of the biopsy, I called upon my family and close friends for prayer. God even placed a beautiful woman who had recently gone through breast cancer treatments in my immediate circle. Every morning, before school begins,  the teachers at school gather for prayer and this dear woman and the teachers prayed for the Lord’s hand in my situation. The Lord even put me in the waiting room with a very anxious Christian woman who was waiting for the results of her mammogram. As I shared Isaiah 26:3 with her, she exhaled and shared her heart with me. What a blessing.

He will keep in perfect peace
him whose mind is steadfast,
because he trusts in you.

Isaiah 26:3

It wasn’t until yesterday that the “what if” crept into my consciousness. But, it wasn’t fear that I was facing- It was God Himself. As I prayed, He asked me if I would be this calm and peaceful if the results came back positive. Would my response change? My answer to that question was honest…I hope that my response doesn’t change. I want to remain in perfect peace as I trust in Him. Believe me…in all of my years of worry and attempting control things THIS was not a peace that I could ever manufacture. And I didn’t want that to leave. I am not capable of this- It’s ALL GOD.

But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me. That is why, for Christ’s sake, I delight in weaknesses, in insults, in hardships, in persecutions, in difficulties. For when I am weak, then I am strong.

2 Corinthians 12:9-10

I was thinking about that bird as he cleaned up the pieces of shattered shell and removed a tattered nest. He didn’t retreat. He didn’t give up. He just did what birds do. He rebuilt and relied on God’s provision.

I went today and received the good news in the form of a diagnosis. NOT cancer. The next appointment will be with dermatology.

In the meantime, I am thankful.

I am thankful for a family and friends who pray.

I am thankful for a praying school.

I am thankful for time in the waiting room and the ability to extend God’s peace to someone in need.

I am thankful for a negative result and a positive outlook.

I am thankful for the “what’s next?” that is on the tip of my tongue. I know that there is more to this testimony and am excited to see what that is.

Tonight, I am considering the birds…what a fine example of trust, sustenance, and perseverance. Thank you, Lord for your mighty hand. 

 

To Train a Child

Spring has sprug and so has field trip season at school. One of the things I love about my job is the flexibility to chaperone on field trips and learn with my kids. Yes, being a Momma is a high calling and I try to rise to the occasion…as I load FIVE boys into my car for today’s adventure. Praise God for patience, a sense of humor and a sun-shiney beautiful day.

The focus today was seeds: how they grow, how pollination occurs, the parts of a plant, etc. It never ceases to amaze me how God made these plants and flowers and trees and the bugs and birds around them…coupled with wind and water…to all work together. It’s one big life-sustaining symbiotic symphony. After a short lesson with our enthusiastic and informative guide, we went for a walk and a scavenger hunt in the gardens.

This was not just an average garden. This place is known specifically for its magnificent topiaries. Ladew Gardens is a positively beautiful place to enjoy God’s creation and, also, the not-so-natural forms it can take in the hands of a Master Gardener.

This week we weeded the flower beds in the front of our home. I know first-hand what happens to a flower bed that is not attended to on a regular basis. While there are fields that are permitted to grow in a natural and wild manner, the shrubs flowers and plants at Ladew Gardens are constantly manicured, pruned, and trained. As they are sculpted with tender care, the topiaries take on the form of creatures and shapes and whimsical scenes. I wanted to share a few with you.

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While I could have taken in the sights all day (and plan to go back to do so), there is one particular practice that God placed front and center in my heart today.

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

In this vast garden, there were several visual pictures of just that….training.

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When a gardener trains a plant, they use a series of guide wires, sticks, ties and such to help the plant grow in a manner that is not natural. The above plants have been shaped in to patterns and designs with right angles that are not natural to the plant. This takes years of care, time, pruning, readjustment and patience. When I look at these beautiful images…these trained plants…I dwell on the job that God has given me in this home with our children.

Sin is natural. In Psalm 52:5 the psalmist says, “Surely I was sinful at birth, sinful from the time my mother conceived me.” All throughout the scriptures it is clear that sin is our natural bent. It is natural for us to grow wild; deep inside we are still seeking the Son (or sun in the case of these plants). So the Master Gardener begins to prune…to run guide wires…to tie and cut…to trim and train. They still grow, but they grow in a manner in which they are carefully directed. Carefully guided. At times in the growth and molding of this beautiful creation,  a branch may shoot off the trellis and have to be tucked back into the fold- it’s bound to happen. But, upon maturity, these plants will reflect the design that the Master Gardener had carefully planned and lovingly manicured.

Lord, as I dwell on this beautiful example you have placed before me today, please bless our efforts to train our children up. I pray that when they are old, they will not depart from it.

 

Lessons from the littles: Potholes

This has been one of those weeks. God is speaking (praise the Lord) and teaching me so much through interactions with my kids again. Well, I should say “still”…but, I am actually paying attention this week.

Yesterday, our daughter was asking about potholes. With the recent snowfall, our streets are riddled with ruts, holes and cracks. She asked, “How can ice do that to the street?”

I barely got the explanation out of my mouth when the sermon set in. Oh, mercy! Thank you Lord for this word picture.

I explained:

When the snow falls, the moisture gets into the small cracks in the road. Little cracks that may not be visible to the eye are present because of poor maintenance or just wear and tear. The cold air causes that moisture to freeze and the ice expands because ice is fatter than the liquid water. (She’s 6…she understood that! ha ha) That frozen water/ice pushes the crack opened even wider and when it melts, the crack is larger. Eventually it will happen again and some cars will run over it again and again…then the crack becomes a hole and the hole becomes a pothole.

As I said, I barely had the words off my tongue when “SIN” entered my consciousness. I love opportunities that God places in common everyday life that provide opportunity for me to chat with the kids about God and His character…sin, trials, patience, forgiveness, and anything else that may be tossed this way. So this opened a beautiful discussion on the effects of sin.

If we don’t take our relationship with God seriously -have a daily walk where we seek Him and pursue Him….pray and listen…act in obedience…if we sit on cruise control- then our relationship is not being maintained. This opens us up to the dangers of temptation and sin. Sin may begin to seep in to those unmaintained areas. We may not notice until time passes and a larger crack or a gaping hole makes itself known. I explained that the road crew can patch the road but that portion of road will never be the same. As it is with sin. We can repent and be forgiven but, a scar sometimes remains in the form of memories, consequences or even physical manifestations.

Thanks to my six year old daughter- I will be viewing all of these potholes in a different light. I will also be praying and examining my relationship with the Lord when those quiet times creep in and I have a tendency to cruise a little.

I am so thankful for the many times and ways that the Lord shows himself in the seemingly mundane moments of this life. And so thankful for the “littles” who I have the honor and privilege of shepherding daily.

Thank YOU LORD!

Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength. These commandments that I give you today are to be on your hearts. Impress them on your children. Talk about them when you sit at home and when you walk along the road, when you lie down and when you get up. Tie them as symbols on your hands and bind them on your foreheads.  Write them on the doorframes of your houses and on your gates. Deuteronomy 6:5-9

Childlike Faith

20151212_143228.jpgThis is my daughter. She is six.

On this fine 70 degree December day…this is the ensemble she has chosen to wear.  At 9 am she had basketball (add gray and neon green shoes to the mix) and tonight I will have to wrestle her into something much more tame for play practice dress rehearsal. She does her own hair…usually with a braid on one side and a ponytail or two elsewhere. And her pajamas can include a fedora and pearls.

Ladies and gentlemen, when I look at this little girl I see FREEDOM.  I absolutely love the liberty that she has. She lives!

Believe it or not, this freedom – while inspiring- is nothing compared to her faith.

 

Truly I tell you, if you have faith as small as a mustard seed, you can say to this mountain, ‘Move from here to there,’ and it will move. Nothing will be impossible for you.”

Matthew 17:20

At that time the disciples came to Jesus and asked, “Who, then, is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven?” He called a little child to him, and placed the child among them. And he said: “Truly I tell you, unless you change and become like little children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven. Therefore, whoever takes the lowly position of this child is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven. And whoever welcomes one such child in my name welcomes me.

Matthew 18:1-5

Thankfully, I have been doing some work at her school this week. When news came that she was crying and in pain, I was readily available. However, even she knew that I was not the ONE who could make it better. She has been having belly pain…nothing serious or new, just very uncomfortable. On this particular day, it hit her fast and hard. When her teacher left us, my daughter was doubled over and in tears. Ten minutes later, she was walking out to the playground with a smile on her face.

The teacher came to me later and asked, “What did you do for her? What can I do to help her in the future?”

I explained that we are making some dietary changes to help her out in the long-term.

She clarified, “What did you do to get her from crying to smiles in a matter of minutes?”

“Oh! I didn’t do anything. She prayed. She went in to the quiet solitude of the bathroom stall and prayed that if she was going to get sick, that it would just happen. Otherwise, she asked that God would take away the pain. Just like that…she wiped her eyes and walked out and gave me a hug. All the glory goes to God.”

I told her teacher that as she has been enduring this belly pain, there are times in the middle of the night where she will wake me up in tears and just say, “Mommy, will you please just pray?” And I do. The pain subsides and she goes back to bed.

So my advice to the teacher…”Just pray with her.”

Her teacher was pleasantly surprised. As a woman of faith herself, she was amazed to see such faith in this little one. Enough faith to move a mountain.

I am thankful for a Christian school with teachers who have the liberty to do just that–pray with her. And I am thankful for this little one’s testimony of faith as it is unfolding before our eyes.

My prayer for both of our kids has been…and is…Philippians 1:9-11.

And this is my prayer: that your love may abound more and more in knowledge and depth of insight, so that you may be able to discern what is best and may be pure and blameless for the day of Christ,  filled with the fruit of righteousness that comes through Jesus Christ—to the glory and praise of God.

I am so thankful to see these kids grow and the opportunity to learn from them. I think sometimes we grown-ups just think too much…make things way more complex than they really are. I am thankful for the fullness of her childlike faith on the days when I need to rest in the Lord and all HE CAN DO.

Lord, give me a heart that sees more clearly than my eyes. I desire Hebrews hall-of-fame faith with child-like simplicity. You can… simply because You are…the great I AM! In JESUS’ name. Amen.

Flat Water

In May, I found a new hobby: Kayaking! My hubby hadn’t been since our oldest was born and I had never tried it. Since we are surrounded by water, it seemed like a good idea. We now have a whole family of kayaks and this has become an activity that we can do together. It has been a real blessing!

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Our daughter’s favorite part is seeing the cranes and turtles along the way. I have always liked being on or near the water so I feel like I have found “home”. My husband is eager for the day when we all become comfortable and confident enough to set out onto “bigger water” so he can catch some fish. And our son…well, he is getting a bit bored waiting for adventure outside of the little marsh we have been practicing in. But, he is also a little cautious and apprehensive to go out into unknown territory.

Until Tuesday….

This past Tuesday, we went out after hubby got home from work. We always go in the evenings and the water has always been choppy at our entry and then calmer as we enter the marsh. Tuesday, something was different.

FLAT WATER. It was like glass.

It was absolutely beautiful and calm and PERFECT! My hubby and six-year-old daughter put their boats in first and paddled out. This time, not into the marsh…but, into bigger water. My son was a little apprehensive to head into the “unknown”, but once we were off shore his sense of adventure kicked in and he was invigorated. “Mom, look at that! Do you see that dock? Can we paddle there?” And then my favorite…”Mom, is that the end of the world?!” HA! Mercy! While he knows that the earth is round, this made for some great discussion about the early explorers and the horizon line. Of all the times we have been kayaking this summer, this night was my absolute favorite.

A few weeks ago we got a life vest for our dog, Cooper. We decided that we need to start taking him with us more often because we have not done a good job making him feel like part of our pack. The first time, he jumped out of the boat thinking that he could just walk across to me…then he sank and had to swim. His eyes were huge as he hit the water! This was Cooper’s second trip out in the kayak and he is still uncertain. As I paddled up behind my hubby, Cooper was growling and barking at a tree limb that was poking through the surface of the glassy river. He is not quite sure what to make of all this just yet.

Mid way through our exciting adventure onto flat water, our daughter got a little tired. My hubby threw her a line and she tied on so he could pull her for a while and give her rest. Cooper, then, transferred into my boat. In an instant, my peaceful flat water paddle became very interesting. My kayak is a sit-on-top, which means that there are no sides. When Cooper sat down he wasn’t sure of his boundaries and occasionally his foot would slip off or he’d dip his tail into the water. He couldn’t just trust…sit…rest. I found myself getting a bit frustrated. It was perfectly calm water! Why couldn’t he just lay down and chill?!

Cooper was trying to see my husband so he’d lean to the left…and all of a sudden my boat would make a sharp turn left. He saw something in the water so he would lean right…and my boat would track hard right. As he leaned, I fought against him. Even though it was perfectly calm, glassy, flat water…I had to paddle twice as hard that night to counter Cooper’s every move.

This morning in my study time the Lord pressed on me hard. I am not trusting right now. He is still in control and I am leaning. In my morning study, there was a story of a backseat driver that the author labeled as a “panicky passenger”. I am studying in the Women of Faith study “Giving God Your All”. This morning took me to the chapter called “Putting it in God’s Hands”.

Panicky passengers “… are the ones who ride with a white-knuckle grip on their armrests. It doesn’t take much to evoke little gasps of fear from them-changing traffic lights, the sight of brake lights ahead, low-flying birds.” The author goes on to suggest that we often try to take God’s place in the driver’s seat or she says “maybe you’re more like the panicky passenger, not quite trusting the driver to get you safely to your destination.”

This is the scripture that the Lord brought to me this morning through that study:

 How gracious he will be when you cry for help! As soon as he hears, he will answer you.  Although the Lord gives you the bread of adversity and the water of affliction, your teachers will be hidden no more; with your own eyes you will see them. Whether you turn to the right or to the left, your ears will hear a voice behind you, saying, “This is the way; walk in it.”

Isaiah 30:19-21

 I have been enjoying some pretty flat water lately. This summer has been a blessing in so many ways. But, this week I have allowed anxiety to flair up and -like Cooper- I am not trusting…sitting…resting. I cannot see under the surface. There are changes coming in the near future and with change comes some uncertainty. Instead of becoming excited and invigorated by this new “big water” experience, I find myself behaving like Cooper. Leaning…looking…frantic.  It’s flat water and I feel like I am paddling twice as hard just to counter my own movement.

If I would just BE STILL.

Yesterday, I found myself crumbled into a pile on the shower floor crying out to the Lord. I could hardly breathe and I felt as if I might drown in those tears. But, I know that the Lord heard me. Now I just have to listen for that voice, “This is the way, walk in it.”

Pray for me in the coming days. Our kids are starting a new school and while they are fine…I am anxious. Do I need to go back to work? Or am I supposed to be still and trust the Lord to provide? I wish I knew what was just under that glassy surface. In the meantime, I need peace and to believe Isaiah 26:3.

You will keep in perfect peace
    those whose minds are steadfast,
    because they trust in you.