OWN YOUR STORY

sword-790815_1920When you think about your past, what emotions reach out and grab your heart? Do you struggle to keep those feelings inside? Do you fear that others may think less of you if they knew your past?

If this is you, then your story owns you. You have allowed it to define who you are, to shadow all that you could be. It has shackled you and your future.

Why do we do this? Fear? Pride?  These are not words that we should have in our vocabulary as Christians. Christ died to set us free that we might be “more than conquerors” (Romans 8:37). By the mere definition of a conqueror, it means you may have been in a battle, but you were the victor. You won. You have faced the enemy and his plans for destruction in your life and you have overcome (I John 4:4). Now that’s a story to tell not hide–it’s your story.

Did you come from poverty? Were you raped, an addict, pregnant out of wedlock, had an abortion, adopted, suffer with depression, consider/attempt suicide, divorce, commit a crime and have to do the time? Did you lose a job or a business or maybe file bankruptcy? These things do not define you so why are you allowing them any place or power in your life?

What’s your story? As long as you hold onto it and try to conceal it, you infuse it with power it does not deserve to have in your life. But when you take off the glasses of self and put on His robe of righteousness, your story becomes your testimony of His power and grace to you.  It’s how you became His child. It’s about His redeeming power. According to the Word, we are all sinners saved by His matchless grace. My sin and your sin drove the nails into His hands and feet. The price has been paid. You have been set free. Cast off the shackles and live in victory. Victors shout about it. They rejoice. So let your shame turn into music. Let today be the day the tempo in your music changes so you cast off those shackles and put on your dancing shoes.

You’ve given Him your heart and trust Him for your eternity. Try giving Him your past and watch Him turn your story into His story and use it to impact the hearts and lives of others..

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TEACH US TO NUMBER OUR DAYS

As the clock number blog graphicstruck midnight we launched into a new year–2016 is here whether we are ready or not. Many have endured loss, heartaches, hurts and trials that meant they were eager to close the door on 2015, while others had a very successful year and cause for great rejoicing. As we face the new year, some enter it with trepidation while others rush forward eagerly. Regardless of our circumstances and mindset, we each have 365 days stretching out before us. Some of us won’t be given all 365, but for those who are, God admonishes us to number our days and to focus on gaining a heart of wisdom.

WISDOM IS A HEART STATE. Wisdom is not a head full of knowledge. Wisdom is knowledge in action–right action. So we can’t sit around hoping wisdom is going to show up; we have to apply our hearts to learn, to grow, and to properly exercise God’s truth day by day. Wisdom isn’t some lofty state you will arrive at one day and be able to set up camp for the rest of your days. Wisdom is the judicious application of knowledge moment by moment, day by day.

God’s admonition in this Psalm is that we need to recognize we don’t have forever. We must make every day count. How will you number your days this year? Maybe you need a visual–e.g., 365 stones in a bucket or beans/kernels of corn in a jar, a notebook with 1-365 pages waiting for you to journal what you are learning and how it is changing your actions.

I wish I could tell you I’m wise and always exercise wisdom in all my actions. I don’t. But I want to learn and to grow. Joshua 1:8 tells us to get into the Word for as we meditate on it day and night, it will help us observe what the right thing is to do–for in doing so we will have prosperity. I hope you’ll join me in pursuit of God’s wisdom for this year.

So rather than just wishing you a Prosperous New Year, I want to give you the tools for getting to next January 1 prosperously. Find your strategy to number your new gift of 365 days. Memorize and make real Joshua 1:8 and Psalm 90:12 in your life this year. Daily find gratitude and record your blessings. One friend suggested writing down at least one blessing on a 3×5 card each day this year. Be creative and put your jar, book and/or box of blessing notes/cards/stickies where you will see it each day.

Determine with me that this is the year we will not only count our days. . .we are going to make them count for the Kingdom.

Happy New Year!

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PERFECTLY IN-SYNC

CHARGE2My youngest son is a geek in the truest sense of the word. He moved way beyond techie before he was ten years old. Truth be known he is way too smart. I’d like to tell you he got it from his parents, but there’s just no way that happened as is evidenced by our latest saga over the cords that link our I-phones to power.

By way of background, my husband is an E-Bay junkie. Whatever we need, he searches until he finds it for the cheapest price possible–even if it has to come on a slow boat from China. So when I left my I-phone cord in a hotel, he went on-line and found about a dozen great cords for less money than one would have been in the Apple store.  When they came, we had long ones and short ones in a variety of colors. It wasn’t long til I realized they didn’t really work–at least not all the time. I’d plug my phone in at night expecting it to be fully charged by morning only to find out it didn’t sync. FRUSTRATION. I began to get error messages that told me this cord was not an approved device and may not work. Well, I’d already figured that out. And, it wasn’t long until we began to have all sorts of problems with our data syncing between our phones and our PC. Updating apps or uploading pictures became impossible.

So it’s Christmas Day and we could hardly wait for the youngest to arrive. Before I could finish my welcome hug, his dad whisked him away to look at our problems. It didn’t take him long to announce that it was the cords we had been using–those cords I’d been fuming about for months. It seems they are not only cheap and incompatible, they are charging cords, not syncing cords. They looked the same, they connected, but they didn’t work. They were great lengths, bright colors and abundant–but they couldn’t and didn’t get the job done.

Have you ever been frustrated and felt your prayers aren’t getting through. It seems your life just isn’t in-sync with heaven? I realized that sometimes we approach our quiet times with the desire to just recharge our battery. Indeed it might be enough to get us through the day. But are we taking the time to truly sync with God’s will–His plan for our day/our life. Are we ready to tackle the day on our own once we’ve gotten a little recharge or are we completely synced with Him–ready to do His will vs our own.

It’s a simple analogy that has had me looking at my quiet time with renewed fervor. There must be time for God to sync our hearts with His–there must be time for the Word to take root in our lives. Prayer is important–we need to charge our spiritual batteries. But the Word is the lamp unto our feet and the light for our path (Psalm 119:105). Sync up.

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TALK! TALK! TALK!

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Morning talk shows. Late night talk shows. Afternoon talk shows. Sports talk. Money talk. Movies. Documentaries. Books (silent talk). Teacher lectures. Mom chats. Kid chatter. Calls, texts, face-to-face. So much talk–from everyone–all the time. So what’s all this talk about? It boils down to sharing–sharing what’s inside us with those around us. . .with the world.  It can be information, excitement, disappointment, dreams, anger. . .silliness. It’s all inside and it all comes out at some point or another as talk. This past year as I’ve studied personalities, I realized that each personality type has a talk style. My husband tells anecdotes (jokes)–it’s his speech pattern. My personality engages in self talk. We aren’t narcissistic–just our speech pattern. Some speak in dissertations or love offering advice (even when they have no clue what they are talking about)…just their speech pattern.  Realizing this has given me cause to pause–to listen to others to see if I can identify their speech pattern–a clue to who they really are. I’ve loved listening. I’ve heard hurts and disappointments turned to triumph, wiped tears, received encouragement and love, listened to jokes and passions with renewed interest. It’s a new way I’ve found to love those around me.

So as I approached the Christmas story I thought it might be interesting to see what God had to say, “And the angel said to them, ‘Fear not, for behold, I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all the people. For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, who is Christ the Lord. And this will be a sign for you: you will find a baby wrapped in swaddling cloths and lying in a manger.’ And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God and saying, ‘Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace among those with whom he is pleased!'”

God sent His messenger. First He wanted us to know we need not fear. He wanted us to know His message was of good news. He wanted to share the joy of heaven with mankind–to bring great joy to all people. And the best way for Him to do that was to send us Christ the Lord–God Himself. He wanted man to find Him–gave signs and instruction to look in a humble place.  And His message brought about great praise in the heavens as we see and hear the excitement of the angels celebrating God’s announcement of the birth.

I recently heard someone say that small minds talk about things, average minds talk about other people–but great minds talk about ideals. Great minds see problems, but they see that a difference can be made and they get involved in trying to make it come about. God saw a world lost and undone. No doubt heaven’s talk was of finding a way to save mankind. That Christmas on that hillside, God heralded the beginning of His plan. Talk about a great mind and great talk. What a wonderful example He gave us all. There was compassion in His first words as He told them not to fear. There was a plan given–the unfolding of the salvation plan. First steps–find Jesus. End result–peace.

As you gather with friends and family this year, listen to the talk around you. What will your talk center on? Will it be talk of peace. Make sure it includes telling others about the baby in the manger.

Merry Christmas!

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CAN I REALLY TRUST GOD?

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Loving my first born took me by storm–she took my breath away. I never knew you could love anyone that much–I loved her with complete and total abandon. And then the unthinkable happened. She was diagnosed with a rare cancer at three months of age and died just before she turned sixteen months. Those thirteen months were a hell no mother should ever have to endure. Burying her was like watching the worst nightmare of a movie only to find you have the leading role. You wake up each morning and the heartache and pain roll over you like a tidal wave threatening to pull you under.

You pray for another child knowing in your heart they will never fill her shoes, take her place or fill this gigantic hole in your heart. But you need someone to hold, someone to love. And when God blesses you with that little bundle of joy, it is as if God gave you the greatest gift–the gift of hope and renewal. He was a promise I could learn to love again–live again. But every day as I looked at him, I held my breath. Would he be all right? Would God take him, too? God blessed us with three little boys and a little girl. What a special gift each of them were to us. But the thought of losing one of my children consumed me. I loved them with every ounce of love a mother can have because I knew how precious they were. But I held my breath. I’d never take them for granted a day in their life. I saw the potential for a cloud in the sky even when the sun was shining as if turned on high.

Overprotective became my motto. I’d sit in a rocker by their crib or keep their bassinet next to my bed where I could lay my hand on their chest just to make sure nothing happened to them in the night. One gurgle or peep and I was there. If there is a protective measure to ensure they didn’t fall or take a bump, I was there. Let them struggle at school and I’d draw a sword. Yes, I’m the mom who decided to work in their school because I couldn’t bear to be very far from them. You don’t even want me to unveil the panic in my heart when they learned to drive.

My conversations with God were reflective of my heart. “Lord, you can have all of me, even my life–but don’t touch my children. I couldn’t bear it.” I trusted God. . .with my life, my eternity, our finances–everything–just not with my children. After all, He took my firstborn. It was a trust breaker. I wish I could tell you that a couple of months of this attitude and I grew out of it, but fear has gripped my heart every time the phone rings. If they developed friendships that I thought may hurt them or took up dangerous activities (like wrestling), I was in panic mode. How could I sit in a stadium and watch someone wrestle and potentially inflict pain on my precious son? It made me panic and run out behind the auditorium where I stood in the rain nauseated and crying. Yes, I was one of those moms.

Let’s just draw this line without further description and say “letting go” was not my strong suit. But you know where this story is headed–they grew up. They have become strong, independent, capable men and a woman. They no longer need me to cluck over them like a mother hen. In fact, they outgrew that clucking before they hit double-digit birthdays. But I didn’t. Even if I was smiling on the outside and acting like I wasn’t obsessed, when my son tells me he’s bought a new motorcycle at age 32, inside I’m a mess. I have completely worn out the carpet by my chaise lounge. . . dented it in praying for my children. Because, you see, as they took the reins of their own lives, that’s the only control I could exert–I could move heaven on their behalf.

God has been faithful and has put a hedge around my children. But the work He wanted to do was inside me–and boy, did He have His work cut out for Him. He needed to teach me about faith and trust. He’s had to teach me they are His children and not mine. I’ve had to come to the place where I acknowledged He created them and has a plan for their lives, that He is as faithful to them as He has been to me, that He loves them even more than I do, that He will draw them to Himself–I don’t have to preach at them, that He can work in their hearts now that I must refrain from sharing my opinions (and I must be honest and admit I still have some work to do in this area). He’s been working against all odds to build faith in me–a complete faith that includes even my children. It’s taken something just under 40 years.  The deeper or more painful your hurt, the bigger the scar that stares at you day by day. Taking my eyes off that scar and placing them on Him with full trust has taken a lot of testing–painful testing–James describes them as trials.

Is there a part of your life where you are struggling to trust Him? Put it out before Him and ask Him to help you. He will. I must tell you indeed it is the trials that build our patience–which looks a lot like faith and trust. It’s been a rough road learning to ‘Let Go and Let God.” These cliches can roll off the tongue; but when it comes to putting them in practice where your fears and hurts run deep, it’s a whole different story. Each of us must take our own journey of faith. God isn’t satisfied with 95% of your faith and trust–He is going after that one little part of your heart you’ve reserved for your control. It will probably hurt as He gently wrestles it away from you and begins to show you He’s got even this. But in the end, that faith He is building in you will bring you the sweetest peace.

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THE WAITING GAME

rings-566180_1280Standing in line at Walmart to return a string of lights ignited my impatient heart as if it was a rocket. Upon arrival, my #8 place in line might as well have been on the moon as there was only one customer service representative.  It didn’t take long to determine she had no interest in moving this line along. After ten long minutes of watching her struggle to help the woman at the front of the line, she left mid-transaction and a new gal took over for awhile. Before me stood four cash registers crying for a representative to help speed this line along. Just to our left six female customer service reps stood talking to each other about their weeekend. And to our right, one young male representative spent over 15 minutes chatting amiably with an elderly woman as he held her new cat house. I began to fantasize he would take her purchase to her car and return to rescue us from this line. The clock on the wall ticked and after 45 minutes my internal clock was going bonkers. We had not moved one inch in this line and no one was rescuing us. I knew we were a thin cord away from my finding a manager and giving him or her a piece of my mind. Then reason arrived and I realized I didn’t have any gray matter I really wanted to leave at WalMart. So I took a deep breath and maintained my #8 place in line. With a little effort, I diverted my mind to more productive uses and lowered my blood pressure in the process. It was obvious I wasn’t going anywhere in the near future, so I might as well make the best of it. Maybe I’d just make a list of all the things God has done for me this year and praise Him. No doubt He would pay closer attention to me than any manager to a complaining customer.

I’d been patting myself on the back these past two weeks as we waited on word from our prospective buyer for our home. They had called late on a Friday afternoon to say they were removing the contingency off the contract and that all the paperwork would come on through on Monday when the banks opened. Believing her at her word, we set out for Nashville to select a neighborhood, a lot, and a floor plan so we could get a contract in place for our new home. After all, it would take 150 days given the holidays and impending bad weather at this time of year to build the house. Since we had to make a trip there anyway, we decided it wouldn’t hurt to clear the house of all the boxes we had packed–just get this stuff a little closer to its final destination instead of having it underfoot. And the weather was good at the moment which we couldn’t count on at the end of December/January. So my husband drove the truck packed with our belongings and I followed in our car. We accomplished all the things we set out to finalize, but the paperwork hadn’t come through from our buyer. When we returned home on Saturday, we discovered our buyers had hit a snag in financing. Now what? Start marketing the house all over again? Are we to continue waiting on this prospective buyer or are we waiting on another buyer? It didn’t really matter. . . we were thrust into a holding pattern. CHOICE! Would we throw up our hands in despair. Maybe a rant or two would feel good especially if we could stomp our feet a time or two. You know the feeling.

Instead, we looked at each other and said, “God’s got this. He knows where we need to be and when we need to be there. He has promised to lead, guide, guard, protect and provide for us. Let’s trust Him with this.” So we took a deep breath and found that faith and trust is a good place to dwell. The Lord has assured us we need not be anxious for anything but simply to pray and trust Him. He says if we wait upon Him, He will renew our strength and we will mount up with wings like eagles(Isaiah 40:31). While our faith in the economy, the real estate process, our buyer, etc. isn’t very high, our faith in God is at an all-time high. Faith isn’t faith until it’s tested.

That Sunday morning’s message was on Paul’s journey in Acts 16. He had set out for Phyrgia and Galatia, but the Spirit did not permit him to preach in Asia. Then he tried to go to Bithynia, but the Spirit did not let him go there either. My husband and I looked at each other. Was this message for us? Over lunch as we discussed the message, we felt comforted that even the Apostle Paul didn’t always know where God wanted him to go next. The important thing was that he made himself available to God — wherever/whenever. And God led Him and used Him.

Are you feeling anxious over little things that cause you to wait? Are major life changes or choices looming overhead causing anxiety about your future? Is God testing your patience? God didn’t promise us He would lay out our life’s plan like a roadmap and send us off to complete it. Instead He said, “Come, follow me. I will lead you. I will be with you” (Matthew 4). He promises us that patience will have a perfect work and we will be wanting for nothing (James 1).

While the control side of me likes to know all the details and have a plan I can execute, I’ll gladly trade it in for the promises of my great and gentle Shepherd. So if you find you are anxious in the waiting, find a quiet place, if only in your mind, that you can fill with praise. God promises us that if we keep our minds focused on Him, He will keep us in perfect peace. Why? Because we trust in Him (Isaiah 26:3).

So next time you are forced to wait, thank God for the opportunity to build strong muscles of faith in you. Our faith pleases Him (Hebrews 11:6).

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The First Thanksgiving Parade

WIKIPEDIA:

The American tradition of Thanksgiving

Saying grace at Thanksgiving dinner. In some American Christian families, either the head of the household or an honored guest often recites or improvises a special grace on Thanksgiving, Christmas, and Easter, while the others observe a moment of silence. In some households it is customary for all at the table to hold hands during the grace. 

 

At our home, we go around the table and each person tells what they are most thankful for that year. Sometimes it’s a new baby, a new job, a new love. I’m always truly thankful just to have them around the table. It’s my definition of love and evokes special memories of family. As I thought about offering grace as a thanksgiving to the Lord, I was reminded of Scripture that declares our God is a God of grace. It’s not just something we offer up to Him at mealtime–it is a divine attribute He uses to describe Himself–He is full of grace.

 

As Moses huddled in the cleft of the rock, hoping to catch a glimpse of the Holy One, God placed His hand over the opening to protect Moses from the impact of His holiness. I’ve played this scene over and over in my mind asking God to show me Himself in new ways. Somehow through all these years I overlooked the fact as God passed by that He spoke audibly, “And the Lord passed by before him, and proclaimed, The Lord, The Lord God, merciful and gracious, longsuffering, and abundant in goodness and truth.” (Exodus 34:6 KJV)

 

Here we see a record of the first parade–a Holy parade–the Holy One passed by as Moses strained to get a glimpse, and he heard the declaration of God graciousness, mercy, longsuffering and abundant goodness and truth. In the presence of such greatness, Moses’ response was to fall on His face and worship–He gave thanks–grace.

 

So as you and your family watch the parade on TV this year, let your mind also think of that first parade–a parade of His goodness to us. And may you and yours join Moses in worshipping and thanking Him for His goodness and grace as you gather around your table. My prayer is that He will pass by your home with a declaration of His grace, compassion and great mercy toward you and yours.

HAPPY THANKSGIVING~“The Lord is gracious, and full of compassion; slow to anger, and of great mercy.  The Lord is good to all: and his tender mercies are over all His works.”  (Psalms 145:8-9 KJV)

 

 

I HATE GOOD-BYES

goodbye-705165_1920Hank and I are moving back to Tennessee, our home. We are excited about the new home we are building, reuniting with loved ones, being near family and old friends, making new friends, etc. God’s been leading and opening doors and this is the right move at the right time for us. But moves, especially across the country, are overwhelming physically. This particular move has proved that statement. We are not as young as we were when we moved here 26 years ago, so the work of preparing a home for sale, dealing with the open houses, overseeing items on the inspection list, sorting, cleaning, packing, shipping, etc. has overtaken our lives.

Today I came face to face with the one thing I’ve tried to avoid with all this busyness–the emotional part of our move–saying good-bye to our friends, the familiar and the history we have here. It took me totally by surprise. I knew it was going to come. . . some day; just not today. I would postpone that pain for later. Then the girls in my Bible study group surprised me with a little going away gift. The tears fell as I thought about not meeting with these precious sisters in Christ again until we meet on heaven’s shore. My heart broke because I love each of them and I love studying the Word with them.

Afterwards I bustled off to pick up some Panera soup to take to a former coworker who recently had a hip replacement. She lives in our old neighborhood. Somehow I missed her street and ended up right in front of the house we lived in so many years ago. The side porch drew my attention as it needed some repair. Suddenly my mind took a step back in time. I could see my mom helping my dad down those stairs–walking down that street hand in hand. I had sat on that porch as my second son left for college–all the way across the United States to El Paso, Texas. Would I see him again, would he ever return home again? My heart rejoiced for him and broke all at the same time. I placed my head in my lap and cried — much like the day I took him to kindergarten and then sat in my car crying my eyes out.

I circled the cul de sac and pulled up front where my son had gotten out of an airport limo so many years ago. I had run to meet him, and hug his sweet neck. Oh how good it felt to hold him again and to know he was safe. It had been so hard to let him go so far away–but he was growing up–way too fast. We stood right there in the yard and had a discussion about the ownership of his dog I’d been caring for over the past several months and he said, “I might have known you’d fall in love with that dog.” He knew I would never be able to say good-bye, even to the dog. That dog lays at my feet, snoring away–reminding me of my sweet son.

As I turned the corner I pulled next to the house and stopped. It was here my daughter was parked the night after her wedding. It had been a beautiful ceremony and reception, but she had not finished packing. Her new husband had gone on to the hotel as we sorted through things appropriate for her honeymoon. After loading her suitcases into the car, we had stood right there next to her car hugging and crying, knowing things would change from this night forward. She wouldn’t be coming home any more–she would have a new home with a wonderful man.

It was out that front door my son had left for overseas. As I looked at that front door I was so grateful for the memory of his surprise return home that Thanksgiving–my sweetest Thanksgiving memory ever.

It was in that upstairs room that my dad told me he felt sure he was experiencing the early stages of dementia and I had reassured him that we would always remember love. This conversation was the beginning of a long journey filled with goodbyes for both of us.

Those were precious days, tender memories of good-byes and reunions. Somehow I pulled myself back to the present, wiped my tears and arrived safely at my friend’s door. I knew she had physical therapy today so I was just going to drop the soup off and run. Maybe she wouldn’t notice my tear-stained eyes. She insisted I come in–she had a little going away gift for me. Even though she’s been through three months of physical trauma with two hip replacements, she had a gift for me. . .ME! How had she pulled that off? With all that is on her plate, she thought of me. Oh how I’ll miss my friend. She promises to come visit soon.

When I arrived home, I checked my emails. The girls from my S. S. class sent me an email about a little gift for me and Hank. I’ve taught this class for many, many years–at least a decade. They are all in their late 80’s/early 90’s. I love these gals so much–saying goodbye to them breaks my heart because I know I won’t see them until we are finally home.

I HATE GOOD-BYES!

Even as a little girl I hated good-byes and would cry when our missionaries or guest speakers would leave and it was even worse if it was a relative or dear friend. It was so hard when dad took a new pastorate and we had to leave those who had become like family. My mom always explained to everyone that “Carol has a hard time with good-byes.” Maybe that’s why God worked it out so I could say good-bye to her in a most special way. We had to have her funeral on a Sunday. In Tennessee it is not legal to bury anyone on Sunday, so the burial was scheduled for Monday morning. My sister and our out-of-town guests all had to leave Sunday evening after the funeral to return to their homes and jobs. I asked my husband to allow me to bury my mom alone. Since I was to be the only attendee, I told the funeral director a tent was not necessary. As I drove into the cemetery, her blue metal casket was sitting up on the hill. Suddenly the sun glinted off the metal and spread light shards across the sky. It was breathtaking. I knew my mom was telling me all was well. Though this goodbye may be tender it wasn’t forever–she had just stepped over onto heaven’s shore. Mom is buried next to my daughter–there are no words to explain the pain of that good-bye.

I thank God one day there will be no more good-byes. Just an eternity to spend at the greatest family reunion ever. There will be food, family, fun, music, dancing and rejoicing. . .lots of love and an eternity of stories to hear of each one’s journey home. The Holy Spirit reminded me there had been a a couple of most difficult good-byes in heaven.

  • Heaven must have groaned when Lucifer defied God and left with his followers.
  • It had no doubt broken the heart of the Father and the Son as Jesus prepared to leave glory to come to earth to make salvation possible for you and me. They knew the road that lay ahead, which no doubt made this parting even more difficult.

Somehow knowing He understands and knows all about difficult good-byes is a comfort. I know He’ll go before us and will lead us. Most of all, I’m glad I know He is going with me and we don’t have to say good-bye. And someday He’ll take me home where there will be no more good-byes. Praise God!

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TEARS

woman-1006102__180What turns you from your normal sunny self into standing in a puddle of tears?

We’ve been studying the life of Joseph in my Bible study group using Max Lucado’s You’ll Get Through This. Joseph’s story has been one of my favorites through the years–probably because my mom made a coat of many colors for a church play and I got to wear it. So many times I’ve felt God called my attention to this particular story because He is working similarly in my life. Certainly I’ve found encouragement for my times of pit dwelling.

This week, we found Joseph in tears. I’d never thought much about it, but there was no recording that he cried when his brother’s sold him. Nothing that says he wept when cast into a pit or prison. No tears when he was forgotten or betrayed. Oh, but suddenly he heard the sound of the dialect of his home country–familiar voices. He was busy ruling Egypt and no doubt had only enough time for the passing thought about his family–the brothers who sold him into slavery. Then there they were–face to face with him. He recognized them but they didn’t recognize him. As this part of the story unfolds, drama drips from each sentence. Joseph’s heart is wrenched in two. On several occasions, he has to slip away because he has tears in his eyes. One moment he was a powerful ruler–yet in the blink of an eye he became a blubbering brother.

What moves you to tears? A sad story? A hurt feeling? Like Joseph, I find it is my family that has my heart. If I’m moved to tears, it most likely has something to do with my family. Having lost our first child, I cried for the first five years after discovering she had a terminal illness. Smiles were hard to come by. If one of my children was hurt, sick or struggling in any way, concern was the order of the day and their trials became the source of my tears ad sleepless nights. If there is any disagreement between siblings or us as their parents–just pass the tissues, please. Family means love. Family means commitment. Family means caring. Family means leaving your tender spots wide open–vulnerability. Oh how gentle we need to be with family. Yet like in Jacob’s family the enemy was prowling about causing tension and jealousy–seeking to destroy them as a unit and as individuals.

Jacob doesn’t hold the record for the most dysfunctional family. As we look at families in the Bible, most were quite dysfunctional–they are made up of human beings. Even in the first family, Cain slew his brother Abel. It was interesting to see God get involved in this family’s story. While they thought they’d gotten rid of Joseph, God wanted a united family and He brought them face to face despite the distance. The back stories of Judah and Jacob were almost as interesting as Joseph’s story. God wasn’t slack during all the ensuing years between the time they sold their brother and their arrival in Egypt.  He had been changing hearts and changing men. God was bringing about reconciliation. God is interested in families.  There was testing. There was humbling. There was forgiveness. I found it interesting that the brothers had not forgotten their mistreatment of Joseph and carried a condemnation with them all those years. Wasted years; wasted tears. How sad.

God wasn’t only interested in the family’s story. He was interested in the men. When we tell this story, we recount God’s leading in Joseph’s life. But He was also interested in the brothers. If I had to name the despicable men in the Bible, Joseph’s brothers would jump to mind. Did you ever think about the fact that these brothers were the men whom God chose to be the patriarchs of the twelve tribes of Israel? REALLY? Why them? They sold their brother. They were hard-hearted, selfish liars. They deserved to be obliterated from the face of the earth. But God. . .God is in the business of reconciliation. He is interested in redemption. He takes the unusable and turns them into patriarchs–Kingdom giants. God moves–He is not slack. He calls. He leads. He forgives. He cleans. He restores. He reconciles. He redeems. And praise God He uses.

God is working in your family. He is interested in unity. He is interested in reconciliation. He is redeeming the wayward. He is changing hearts. He is calling us all to love. He is preparing us for usefulness. Don’t let the enemy get a stronghold in your family. Rise up and answer God’s call to reconciliation. Or  . . .get ready for a trip to Egypt.

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The Joys of Moving

candles-209157__180MOVING SALE: It’s been fun to welcome friends in to select items that will feather their nests and hopefully be a little reminder of us. One friend’s daughter bought my dining room furniture complete with china, crystal, tablecloths, placemats–the works. When she got it set up in her home, it was just beautiful and her parents sent me pictures of the before and after transformation. She came by today to return a plastic bin and her eyes shone with delight as she told me she slipped into her dining room several times last night just to make sure she wasn’t dreaming–it was really hers. I told her I remembered doing that exact same thing. It made me so happy to know she delighted in it as much as I did. Another couple came back with pictures to show me how the items they bought fit in their home and brought us a beautiful gift for our new home. Precious moments.

PLANNING AHEAD: We are looking forward to our new home. I have spent hours staring at floor plans trying to figure out what pictures will fit on what wall. How many books and collectibles will actually fit on the bookcases on each side of the fireplace?Which rugs will fit where? Will that big chair overcrowd the den? I’ve researched new appliances because we had to sell ours with the house. We won’t have time to do that on moving day and we are going to need a refrigerator and washer/dryer first thing. Hank is researching cars because we need to sell my little car and buy a bigger one (so I can pack it with more things we need to transport). And what transportation scheme are we going to actually pull the trigger on–and when? So many decisions.

TRANSITION PROVISION: Friends have offered to let us stay at their summer home should there be a transition time between closing on this home and closing on the next. So we are praising God we won’t be homeless for two to three months. He has provided exceedingly abundantly more than we could have ever asked or thought.

But all of this excitement is wrapped in a disaster of sorts. Our home looks like a bomb went off in it. I never realized I am OCD, but apparently there is a definite strain there somewhere. First, we had to give up cleaning a few weeks ago–there just is no way. So if you could use a dust bunny or two, we’ve got you covered. Then there are the boxes. Hank bought dozens and taped them up so I could start filling them. I’m about half way done because it takes time to wrap everything in bubble wrap and secure it in a box. I’ve had to sort through closets of clothes (most of which I haven’t worn in at least five years). I’m not sure why I have such a hard time parting with clothes. Maybe in the back of my mind I’m afraid I might not get any more and may ultimately need them at some point. Regardless of the reason, I see signs I could become a clothes hoarder. Those of you who know me are aware of my dish and table linens fetish. Hank has done his best to talk me out of them. I have to face the fact we will no longer have three tables to decorate and cabinet/storage space will be limited. If I had actually visualized downsizing meant fewer tables to decorate, I might not have signed onto this downsizing plan. We’ve sold the lamps–so the house is a bit dark. Chairs we usually sit on are gone, so we scramble to fine a substitute. Rooms are vacant. Draperies are disappearing. The pictures have come down. There’s a yard sale of sorts set up in the living room and dining room. And every day a truck pulls up and hauls off another piece of furniture. No doubt by the end of the week we will be sitting on the floor to eat by candlelight (if I can remember where I put them and the lighters).

So I go to bed and close my eyes. The clock ticks, but sleep is no where to be found. My mind races making lists, worrying about trivial details like changing prescriptions and gathering records from doctors to visualizing how large the truck will need to be to carry all of this stuff. It’s not like there’s a science to this. What happens if you run out of room before all the stuff is loaded? And the inspection list has a dozen nit-picky things on it that we now must run around and deal with–caulk this, find a splash for the downspout, tighten the light switch plate on the second floor, replace one roof shingle. And so it is now 5:52 a.m. and I’ve been awake all night.

After tossing and turning I got up, grabbed some hot chocolate and checked my email. My friend had sent me an e-card. When I opened it, a beautiful scene appeared and music played. And across the beautiful scenery words began to appear.

“The Lord will guide you continually, giving you water when you are dry and restoring your strength. You will be like a well-watered garden, like an ever-flowing spring.” (Isaiah 58:11 NLT). 

Oh how I needed to hear this promise from my Lord this morning. Praise God for a friend that just intuitively knows when you need encouragement. Even though we are going home, we will be settling in a new community. The city has changed so much since we left 26 years ago. I’m going to miss my friends, church and the ministries I’ve served in. It’s become obvious I’m not one who likes change–security and comfort and organization are essentials for peace. So in the midst of all this turmoil and all the many decisions, I need to know our Shepherd is guiding, nourishing and restoring us. I needed His reassurance there will be a day when we will be like a well-watered garden and an ever-flowing spring.

So if you are reading this and have time to come by for a cup of coffee, I’ll try to find the Keurig and will assign you your own box and roll of bubble wrap. We’ll talk and hug and may even shed a tear or two. Moving on is hard. But I know God is leading us, so I know everything is going to be all right. He has a plan for us and it is good.

Is God taking you through a season of change, too? Is it hard to imagine how He will take you from your present reality to a well-watered garden with an ever-flowing stream? Like me, just give each day all you’ve got and lean hard into Him, trusting He knows the way when you can’t even see a light.

 

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