Category Archives: Relationship with Things (Time, Talent, Treasure)

JUST BREATHE

dentist-674654__180Yesterday, when I should have been posting a blog, I chose elective dental work. What was I thinking? At my recent cleaning, my dentist suggested we might consider replacing a crown because she was afraid it was aging and it would protect my tooth and possibly prevent a root canal if I was proactive in replacing it. FAT CHANCE OF THAT! So as much as I hate dental work (which is probably about as much as you hate it), I set the the appointment and actually showed up yesterday morning. The worst part of any dental procedure is the shot(s) to numb the pain. Let’s just say that we had to do five series of shots to get that tooth numb. And when the drilling and grinding was FINALLY all done, she squirts something on the tooth that made the nerve react even though it was really numb by that point. So pack it all up and ship me off to get a root canal. Exactly why did I elect to do this? Oh, it must have been that $1,100 in my bank account with no place to go.

Besides the many complications and frustrations of that day, the one thing that stuck out in my mind was when my dentist stopped everything and gave me lessons in breathing. “Carol, take a deep breath in and let it out–like this. In and out, in and out.” Now I’ve had many years of breathing experience so if things hadn’t been so dire, I’d have laughed at how crazy it is for a grown woman to need breathing lessons. And every minute or so she’d say, “Carol, you are not breathing again.” Well, what did she expect? Lessons or no lessons, it was a hold your breath and pray it all goes away kind of day.

How many times in my life have I held my breath or tucked my head back under my proverbial pillow in hopes that it would just all go away? It never did. The theory that “If I don’t think about it or look at it, maybe it’s not there” has never worked for me.  It’s always there. Life is just full of these difficult things that come at you like a curve ball when you least expect it–when you are trying to do all the right things. Once I realize it is there (and not likely to go away), I always rolled up my sleeves, put my head down and tunnel through. It’s truly like being in a tunnel where all the air is stale and so you hold your breath and just keep tunneling. Unfortunately, all that tunneling took a lot of effort and I forgot to breathe along the way. I focused so hard on the problem that I failed to ultimately see all the good around me. All I saw was the tunneling that needed to be done. And so as not to beat myself up too bad, someone needed to be tunneling. But maybe I could have taken a little break now and again just to breathe. . .just to enjoy life. . .just to enjoy those around me whom I cherish and adore.

So now that I’ve had lessons on how to breathe–that take it in and let it out effort–I’m going to try it in other parts of my life. Life is messy. It’s unpredictable. It can be painful. . .but if you breathe, it’s a lot easier to bear.

So take a breath today. Lay your burdens down for just a little while. . . and breathe. Breathe in His goodness. Exhale your tension and pain. Psalms 150:6 says, “Let everything that hath breath praise the Lord. Praise the Lord.” So tomorrow when I have the root canal, I’ll turn my thoughts to praise and try breathing.

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TIME TRAVEL

photo-1430760814266-9c81759e5e55Yesterday I set out to visit a former coworker in the hospital who had hip replacement surgery the day before and stopped to pick up some flowers for her on the way. As usual, I was in a rush. My husband was with me and he was going to wait in the car while I visited with my friend. I swept into the lobby which had undergone a recent renovation and asked the gal at the desk for direction to the elevators and, of course about that time, I saw them on my own and rushed to catch the lift. I punched the three for the third floor, but as elevators have a way of doing, it stopped on the second floor. As the doors opened, I stepped off assuming that was my destination. And suddenly I’d stepped back in time about 15 years. I stood frozen, my chest felt full, tears pressed against my eyelids and ran down my cheeks. You see, the last time I was in this particular hospital, my mom was a patient on the second floor–third room on the left. While the lobby was new and unfamiliar, this floor was untouched. It’s a rehabilitation hospital and she was there for about three weeks recovering from a hip fracture. If only I could walk to that third room on the left and my mom would be there. I found a vacant hallway where I could lean against the wall and try to regain my composure and come back to the present and ultimately head to my third floor destination.

As I lay in bed last night my mind kept going back to that hallway. I so wanted to go to that third room on the left. What would it be like to talk to mom? Our paths have taken different directions these many years since her passing. Would we laugh at the wrinkles and pounds that have joined my journey? She’d love to see pictures of the kids and grandkids and we’d have so much to share–videos of Lorelei and tales of the children’s successes and adventures. Would she be excited about my book? I know she would love to hear about what I’ve learned about God, but no doubt she would be the one with the real knowledge of who God is. She would have so much to tell me and I’d want to hear every word. I know she’s happy there with dad where they are without pain and they are enjoying the fellowship of so many loved ones. But I miss them; I miss our times together. I took them for granted. Per my usual rushing, no doubt I didn’t realize the treasure of each moment spent in their presence. Who would have thought those high pressure days of trying to juggle a job, a home life and deal with all the issues of mom being in the hospital would bring such poignant and sweet memories? I’m so grateful we had a good relationship. Oh we had the typical mother/daughter differences in viewpoint on many topics, but there was love and commitment, acceptance and encouragement. We enjoyed many years as coworkers where I got to know my parents as adults and to share in their passions and pursuits–this was a particular blessing that not all children are given. We became friends and I respected them for who they were as individuals and as contributors to society apart from just being my mom and dad.

As I look back on those days she was in that hospital, I realized I’d rushed in after work each day to grab her laundry and deliver clean clothes, a book she wanted, the crocheting needle she thought might be helpful with her current craft project, etc. There were hugs and kisses, questions about her day and mine. And again I rushed off so I could get home, fix dinner for the family and do her laundry so I could get up and do it all again the next day. Busy. If I could truly go back in time, I’d pick up chicken or pizza so I could grab some extra minutes just to be with her.

I can’t go back, but I can slow down and enjoy the precious minutes that I take for granted with loved ones. Looking back, it was the simple pleasures–a shared meal, a talk on the sofa, our playing a piano/organ duet, a cup of coffee, a shopping excursion, a stop at her favorite–Taco Bell. I took all of those moments for granted. Today they are my precious memories.

So today, I’m slowing down. I’m savoring the every day kind of moments with family and friends. Moments in time that I’m sure will travel with me over the years to come.

 

 

MEMORABLE or BLEACHABLE MOMENTS

IMG_3328 2Ah, yes. . .memories. They are like sweet perfume that fills the air, reaching into the deepest places of the subconscious, surrounding us with sensations and feelings–real and poignant, yet elusive. I rubbed one of those sayings you can buy in a tube onto my wall over the sofa–it says, “We do not remember days, we remember moments.” And oh how true that is–MOMENTS–both good and bad. And it only takes a moment.

I remember the moment I met my husband for the first time, the first time he asked me out, our first kiss and saying “I do.” Moments forever etched in my mind. But I also remember crazy things–like getting lost and not being able to find our way back to a main road–oh, the frustration. I remember his disapproval when I squeezed the toothpaste right in the middle instead of from the bottom of the tube–his demanding I do this his way. (Now I tell you this as an example because we have long since laughed about this one–and have compromised by just buying two tubes). I remember and cherish holding my baby girl, but with equal clarity I remember watching as they lowered her casket into the ground–intense and unimaginable joy and grief wrapped together in my mind. I remember the birth of each of my children and the many joys of watching them grow up. . .and the call they’ve been in an accident or the disappointment when their love did not call them to obedience. MEMORIES. We’ve all got them. . .good and well, not so good. And just today I was struck by the memory of a dear friend–oh, the laughs we have shared. But overshadowing all that joy is the harsh reality that God has taken her home and there is emptiness in my heart–for me, but more so for her family. When I look in the rearview mirror of my life there are successes and failures, trials and rewards, laughter and tears, JOY & PAIN–wrapped together in my memories.

So which is it–the good or the bad? Unfortunately, life is a road with many twists and turns. There is joy, but there is also sadness and disappointment, success and failure, hopes and dreams yet discouragement. The measure of a man or woman is not the things that happen to them, but the way they deal with each circumstance that comes their way. Do you let your negative experiences become road blocks or do you power through toward your dreams and potential? Do you let a misunderstanding rob you of a relationship or do you rise above it and rebuild? Do you focus on your hurt feelings or do you seek understanding of others? Do you accept the things you cannot change and trust God in those difficult days of loss?

I like to think each of us is writing our story–a story that will be told on the big screen in heaven. Hollywood has portrayed some of the most vivid Biblical heroes on the cinema’s big screen, but throughout eternity we’ll have the opportunity to learn each of our stories from the one who sees our hearts and understands our motives. Many of the twists in the plot of our lives are of our own doing (both for good and bad). Sometimes the attitudes and actions of others interfere with the story line we have planned out in our mind. And sometimes God redirects us for His purposes. How do we respond? Do we respond in faith or fear? Humility and brokenness or pride and unforgiveness? If a scene doesn’t go so well on a movie set, they can “Cut” and redo the scene. Many times the cut scenes show up later as bloopers. But in life, there’s not much chance for a redo.

I find the presence of a camera on the reality TV shows to be interesting–they record everything. I’m thinking heaven’s cameras are exceptionally cool–advanced technology so to speak. They most surely record not only our actions but our heart motives. . .all to be played out on heaven’s big screen one day as God reveals our hearts and we are known as He knows us. Talk about a reality show. . .and we’ll have eternity to see them all.

In 1 Corinthians 13:12, Paul says “For now we see in a mirror, dimly, but then face to face. Now I know in part, but then I shall know just as I also am known” (NKJ). This phrasing indicates that in eternity we shall know others as well as be known by others–truly known. Let’s just say God’s got a front row seat on all our moments and His camera lens is focused on our hearts. He sees the way we treat others and the motives of our hearts. The idea that there will be a day when we stand before the throne and the secrets of man’s heart will be revealed drives me to pursue holiness (Romans 2:16, Luke 2:35, Ecclesiastes 12:14, Matthew 10:26, I Corinthians 4:5, Proverbs 26:26). It motivates me to constantly be checking my heart motives. Romans 3 makes it very clear that we as mere mortals are filled with sin and do not seek God. . .and the final condemnation in verse 23–“For all have sinned and come short of the glory of God.” And Romans 3:10, “There is none righteous, no not one.” It seems we aren’t cast as either a hero or villain; we simply are portrayed as sinners with a foolish and wicked heart. Daily, moment by moment we make scene choices as we respond to the unfolding storyline of our lives.

So what’s the summary of the memorable moments of my life? of your life? Is it the good or the evil? Do you remember some hurt feeling and forget all the good yet cling to the hope that God will forgive your many failures? Matthew 6:12 has something to say about that. So if you are wanting to be the hero/heroine in your story, you need to check your heart. What chapter will you choose to write in your story today? Will it be a story of exceptional faith, unfailing love, undeserved forgiveness? Or will you choose to harbor hatred, revenge and unforgiveness.

It’s your story–and every day you are adding the moments. So as long as God gives you breath–choose carefully the memories you want to make in your story. If there’s a chapter that didn’t turn out the way you’d be pleased to have God play out before others, take the opportunity now to go back and rewrite a new ending to that chapter. I think CLOROX calls them “bleachable moments.” Certainly I can think of a couple I’d like to erase and try again. So here’s to second chances. Just remember, you have to give them as well as take them.

Take heart, focus on Him, let His love be revealed through you and keep writing your memorable moments. Make them God moments.

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SIRI, WHICH WAY SHOULD I GO?

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Have you ever been lost and just couldn’t find your way? I am the biggest fan of GPS and love my cell phone and SIRI–she has gotten me out of a mess more times than I want to admit. Unfortunately, I need an app for those times when I feel lost in a relationship. What’s wrong? How can I fix it? Where do we go from here? It feels like a dead end.

I have a friend who endured a bitter divorce. The relationship left her deeply wounded and filled with self-doubt. For years she carried a crushing hurt and pain that scarred her heart. It was a painful dead end and there seemed to be no way out. Then suddenly, after some 15 years, God intervened and literally overnight doors opened, respect and understanding were offered, healing began. She and her ex found a way to become partners for the sake of their children. It was as if all that hurt, bitterness and misunderstanding just went “poof” into thin air. Gone. And in its place were mutual respect and good communication lines. Healing. Restoration. I was in awe; she was in shock. That’s my God at work. When the enemy has taken enough territory, He says, “Move back!” And the enemy has to flee.

Have you ever had a relationship where you loved deeply, nothing was wrong with the other person from your viewpoint. Then suddenly, from nowhere, it seems they have a boatload of problems with you they’ve never mentioned before? Do you have relationships where it is obvious there is a problem but it is impossible to put your finger on what it is or where it came from? That’s the enemy at work. He’s a master at planting seeds of doubt and hurt. The problem I have in these situations is I usually take matters into my own hands and try to fix things. Let me assure you I, nor you, are a match for the chaos Satan can weave. Inevitably things get worse–much worse. It has taken me years to be able to see the difference between something I did and need to make amends for and something Satan is weaving that I cannot undo–I simply get all caught up in the web. Fortunately, I’m learning.

When the disciples sailed across the river and the storm began to blow, Jesus was resting below. They began to try to deal with the crisis in their own strength: bailing water, tossing things overboard. I’ll give them credit for trying, but the problem was they were no match for the storm. You and I are no match for the storms of life that Satan can stir up. They woke Jesus and suggested He come help them bail water…get on board with their plans. But His ways were so much higher. He just stopped the wind and waves. DONE! How many times do I get embroiled in a crisis and try to bail my way out of it. I come to Jesus and suggest He should wake up and help me with my very good plan. And He says, “I have power. . .did you forget that I can stop this?” You see, I don’t need a bucket. I don’t need to try. I need to have faith in the One who loved me and gave Himself for me. I need to believe that in His time, given His power, He will stop the storm and blue skies will come again. My work is to be still and know that He is God (Psalm 46:10). He will do this and receive the praise. In John 6:28-29, the disciples asked Jesus, “So what must we do to do the works God requires? Jesus answered and said unto them, This is the work of God, that ye believe in him whom he has sent.” Do you lean on your understanding or in all your ways do you acknowledge Him, knowing He will direct your paths (Proverbs 3:5-6)? Whatever burden you are bearing or crisis you are facing, it didn’t take God by surprise. He has a plan and the power to execute it. Just get in His presence and trust Him to calm the storm. I lean on the fact God is not the author of confusion, so when things feel confusing and frustrating and I can’t figure them out, I begin to realize this is the enemy is at work. I can’t win; I’m no match for him. So I call on my Abba Father, the Almighty God, who loves me . . .and I wait.

Patience is hard, but God says if I wait on Him, my strength will be renewed and I will soar like an eagle (Isaiah 40:31). I’ve not had a great track record of waiting. I’m more likely to rush in with my bucket and start bailing water. But I’m learning that the hard work of waiting is the work of believing on Him. It’s the exact right step–it’s called FAITH.

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Fear–of Death/Dying (Part 4)

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FEAR OF DEATH:

We don’t like to think about it, much less talk about it. Whether you’ve placed it on your bucket list or not, Hebrews 9 reminds us that it is appointed unto man to die once–after which comes the judgment. Because of my faith in God, I feel confident in His provision and plans for what comes after death; therefore, I have no fear of the after-life. I’m excited to see my Savior and loved ones. I want to see the place He has prepared for me. If you don’t have this assurance, the rest of Hebrews 9 explains that Christ became your sacrifice through His death so you might inherit the Kingdom and be welcomed as a son or daughter by the Great I Am. Now is a good time for you to take care of this critical decision.

Step 1. Know you are a sinner. Romans 3:23 tells us that we are all sinners and fall short of God’s glory.

Step 2. Accept God’s Plan. Romans 6:23 explains that our sin has caused death to come upon us but that God has a better plan–eternal life with Him through Jesus Christ. John 3:16 tells us of God’s love for us and great sacrifice to bring us to Himself.

Step 3. Repent of (turn from) your sins and accept God’s gift of salvation (explained in Romans 6:23 above).

Step 4. Ask Him to come into your heart. Romans 10:9-10 says, “That if thou shalt confess with your mouth the Lord Jesus, and shalt believe in your heart that God hath raised Him from the dead, thou shalt be saved.” It takes heart belief and a confessing mouth. There’s no time like the present to get down on your knees and admit you are a sinner and ask Him to change your heart by His saving grace. Romans 10:13 tells us that “Whosoever shall call upon the name of the Lord shall be saved.” I put my name where that ‘whosoever’ was and called upon His name and He saved me and took my fear of death away. Put your name in place of that ‘whosoever’ and receive His grace and plan for you.

Step 5. Thank Him. . .and let the praise begin. One great fear settled.

FEAR OF THE DYING PROCESS:

Even though my after-life is settled, I still found I feared the dying process. Will I spend years in a nursing home lost in my own mind because of Alzheimer’s? Will I suffer injury or experience a painful debilitating illness? Matthew 6:34 tells us not to worry about what might or might not happen tomorrow but rather focus on the present. Over the years I’ve walked through death with my daughter, dad and mom. In each instance, there was peace for them. I watched God’s grace in their lives. I felt His near and dear presence in my own life as I walked beside them. Psalm 34:18 (NLV) “The Lord is close to the brokenhearted; he rescues those whose spirits are crushed” was manifested in my life. I saw Him gently take their hand and lead them home; there was joy and peace. There was sweet comfort and assurance in my heart. Oh, He was faithful to them; and I know He will be faithful to me. 

My dad had Parkinson’s disease and dementia was beginning to cloud his mind. Early one morning before anyone else had risen, he sought me out as I worked on my  PC. “Carol, I can tell my mind is going.” “Dad, does that worry you,” I asked. “Yes. that worries me. I don’t want to be a burden to you girls or mom.” “Oh, dad, you will never be a burden to us; we love you. Will you stop loving me if your mind goes dim?” “Never, sweetheart!” ‘Well, dad, I’ll always love you, too. And love covers a multitude of evil, so let’s hold onto love as we walk out these days. The rest will take care of itself if there is love.” He smiled and began to teach me about death. He said, “Don’t be afraid of death for me. It’s all part of His plan. Did you know whenever God speaks of death He used words like “shadow” (Psalm 23:4). The Bible also talks of the separation between those who are living and those who are dead as being a ‘veil.’ Carol, while a shadow or veil may conceal, they are harmless. They don’t hurt. Crossing over to the other side will be like stepping through a veil. I know God will walk through that veil with me and welcome me home.” I watched my loved ones step through that veil and there was peace. While I wish we were not separated by that great gulf (Luke 16:26), I know that as I step from this life to that great shore that the angels will carry me as they did the beggar Lazarus (Luke 16:22). I know that had God removed the veil I would have seen the angels take my loved ones and heard them rejoicing at their homecoming.

Oh praise God, He has conquered death, hell and the grave and has a resurrection and transformation plan. I Corinthians 15:54-55 “Death is swallowed up in victory. O grave, where is your victory? O death, where is your sting?” This passage explains death will not have the victory and it’s sting will be taken away. God’s plan is for resurrection and the transformation of our old body into a new body, free from illness, unthreatened by death. And praise God, the sting of death (sin) will no longer rule and reign in our bodies for we shall be like Him.  Yes, that will be a victorious day. Is there any wonder why my favorite hymn is Victory in Jesus?

So exchange all your fears for confidence in His victory and let your praise begin.

 

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MY BUCKET LIST

photo-1420330454265-b682d57d0592I’m the first born–your typical Type A personality. I have got to be doing something all the time and it’s really great if I can multi-task. My husband is on the opposite end of this spectrum. He isn’t from another planet, he’s moved to an entirely different galaxy. Part of this is his personality but it has been enhanced because of a bum knee which means he is struggling to walk until we can get that knee replaced. He can put on headphones and listen to music and be lost for hours. He voraciously watches (or re-watches) movies or some series and gets so engrossed in them that he cannot hear me. There’s part of me that envies that ability to just relax and let go. If I sit down to watch something with him, I’ve got to be doing something–whether it is a crossword puzzle, editing a blog, working on a favorite craft project–SOMETHING. And apparently I’m never going to run out of things to do. I must confess to having checklists, with back up lists, just in case I should ever get to the bottom of my list. I’ve been guilty of putting completed projects on the list just so I can enjoy the satisfaction of checking them off the list. Let’s just say I’m a bonafide, card-carrying doer.

Now when it comes to serving the Lord, I bring this doer mentality. And I must confess I’ve taken working for the Lord to a level most will never achieve (hopefully). I’ve literally worn about every hat I’ve ever heard of in a church. Some fit me better than others, but at least each of them gave me lots to do. Could anyone give this Martha a high five. Surely God must be pleased that I do all this for Him (now my heart was always in the right place even if my theology wasn’t.) But praise God, He didn’t give up on me.  In recent years I’ve had recurring bouts with mononucleosis. Yes, I know you’re only supposed to be able to get it once. Let’s just say I’m not most people and specialists believe the Epstein Barr virus remains in your body forever. Fortunately for most, their immune system keeps the virus at bay. Apparently my immune system has taken a permanent sabbatical which leaves the door open for the mono to rear its ugly head periodically–experts label it chronic fatigue syndrome which is shorthand for ‘we don’t know what to do about that.’ My mom would tell you I burned my candle at both ends for all these years and now I am reaping my reward. So as I sit in my bed for weeks on end, I turn my eyes to to the Lord and say, “WHAT AM I TO DO NOW, LORD? What possible good can I be sitting at home in bed while all my friends are serving the Lord with our church’s weekend of community service called I-SERVE? Don’t you know I’d excel at something like that? I could have signed up for several things to do. Lord, what is it you want me to do?”

My approach has always been much like the disciples in the midst of the sea when the storm began to rage. The God of glory is definitely on board and I’ve seen Him work miracles, but when I get in the midst of a storm I have a memory lapse just like the disciples. You see, they had just witnessed him feed the 5,000, yet in the storm, they began to deal with the issue themselves–in their own strength. And like the disciples, I grab my small bucket and start bailing water–it’s what us doers DO. My prayers sound like the disciples as they woke Jesus–“Hey, can’t you see there’s a storm raging? Are you sure this is a good time for you to be taking a nap? What say you come join me in my bucket ministry and let’s get this water out of the boat.” And God says to my heart “My ways are not your ways.” And He calms the storm and the raging seas because its what POWER does. And I know He shakes His head at me and says, “Give up your bucket and tap into my power. You can do NOTHING of yourself. Oh, ye of little faith.” Let’s just say my bucket seems to have holes in the bottom of it lately so I turn my eyes to Him, questioning what He has in mind.

He is so faithful. He took me to John 6:29: “Jesus replied, ‘This is the work (service) that God asks of you: that you believe in the One Whom He has sent (that you cleave to, trust, rely on, and have faith in His Messenger).'” God wants me to rest in His ability to do. My WORK is to believe. My work is FAITH. My work is holding onto Him, trusting Him, relying on Him. I’ve never been good at this resting thing. I never saw it as WORK. But let me go on record as saying it is the hardest WORK imaginable for this card-carrying doer. There is a storm raging around me, the waters are swelling and threatening to sink my boat. But God has put me in a unique place where I have learned what it means to rest in Him. So I’ve decided to add FAITH into my time of resting. My quiet times have sharpened my focus on the One Who put the stars in place, and commands all things. My prayers are changing from “Come help me bail water” to “Lord, thy will be done on earth even as it is in heaven. Just give me a front row seat to the demonstration of your power.” Now instead of getting up and tackling my bucket list for the day and fretting over the things I cannot control, I’m learning to take my seat by Mary at His feet. I lift my eyes to the Almighty One Who speaks and the winds and waves obey His voice. I wait for Him to speak–not only to my heart but the hearts of others. Because you see, the root issue for my (and your) problems is the need for heart changes. It’s work ONLY He can do. So I look to, wait on, trust and watch for Him to do His great work–it’s called FAITH.

FAITH–it’s increased in the trial, the storms of life. It’s hard work. But it’s the only way to actually accomplish anything. So Lord, here’s my bucket and all my lists. I don’t need them any more.

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TIME TO WATER

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Ecclesiastes speaks of a time to plant and a time to pluck up that which is planted. . .a complete crop cycle. But in between the planting and the plucking up, there’s work to be done. There’s soil to til, watering and fertilizing, weed pulling and waiting. . .oh, and the joy of the harvest; eating the fruit of your labors. I personally am all in for the planting and harvesting parts of this cycle. I can even endure a little tilling, watering and fertilizing. But I do not like weed pulling. And most of all, I hate to wait. Why is it we put the seeds or young plants in the ground in April/May and don’t get a tomato or a bell pepper for months? Nonetheless, we scurry out to the garden every day just to see if a shoot has come up. We check under leaves to see if a small vegetable is forming. We watch it carefully til it is of full size.

Relationships are a lot like that. We plant and then wait for it to grow. That’s why some of our oldest friendships are the most dear to us; they’ve stood the test of time. We’ve watered and fertilized and waited as it turned into something very sweet. Unfortunately, we also invest in relationships that sometimes never grow or they are plucked up and taken away by a job relocation or family move. Often responsibilities or the desires of their hearts lead them in other directions. Sometimes we can accept these shifts with some sense that it is right and cherish the time we had together and the fact that God allowed them to enter our life. Yet at other times it seems we hurt because selfishness, greed, a critical spirit, lust for money, misunderstandings, etc. are the root of our relationship loss. The dreams you had for the relationship disappear into thin air and you are left wondering if you should have used more fertilizer, watered morning and night, etc.–what did you do? What can you do? And so you wait, taking the relationship before the God, the redeemer of your relationships–the God of peace. Your prayers for the relationship are watered with tears. And you wait–the hardest part (but the most important part) for God must change hearts. Sometimes its your heart that needs a change; sometimes it is theirs. Most likely change is needed in each heart. Heart changes are God’s work. Wait on Him.

So what is your work? In John 6, Jesus fed the multitude and then admonished the disciples that they sought him, not for the miracles that He did but because they were fed–they were interested in the material things. He admonishes them that their labor should not be for temporary things but for that which endures for eternity. The disciples regrouped and and asked Him what they might do to do the works of God. John 6:29 (AMP): “Jesus replied, This is the work (service) that God asks of you: that you believe in the One Whom He has sent (that you cleave to, trust, rely on, and have faith in His Messenger).”  It’s just like our gardens. We do what we can, but He is the one that brings forth the fruit. He will do the work needed in hearts. Your work is faith. Wait I say on the Lord (Psalm 27:14).

Solomon goes on to say in verse ten: “I have seen the travail, which God hath given to the sons of men to be exercised in it.”  In other words, our trials are given to us by God to be exercised. These experiences make us wiser, stronger, more grateful for the true relationships in our life. Most of all they point us to God, our true friend. He never changes. His love is unmeasurable. He will never leave nor forsake us. He never condemns. We are always welcomed by Him. And day by day, experience by experience, He teaches us how to be a true friend.

What relationships in your garden need tending today? Watch and pray. Wait on the Lord. He is faithful and true and our Redeemer. May your crop be bountiful.

 

A Time to Plant!

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I love spring with the bright colors of green and blooming trees. But with it comes some work. There’s grass to be dealt with lest you have dandelions, bushes and roses to trim (and all those trimmings to burn/haul off), beds to clean out, mulch to spread and pots to be filled.

Last year we added a new element to our yard–a raised garden. We had so much fun planting all kinds of things. We considered it a learning year for us–what would grow, what wouldn’t. It was a lot of fun and we certainly enjoyed the reward of our labors in so many way. But here we are at spring again and there are decisions to make–what will we plant. It’s time to plant just as Ecclesiastes declares.

We often think of New Year’s as a time for resolutions. Maybe spring is our time to plant something new in the garden of our hearts. Here’s some ideas:

1. Memorize a verse (or chapter).

2. Get involved in a volunteer activity

3. Create a family service; e.g., taking something (a song, bookmarks, flowers, cookies, ink pens) to the local nursing home.

4. Read a good Christian book.

5. Set aside time to pray for your family, friends and church. . .maybe even for your company, boss and coworkers

6. Take a walk in the country with the dog.

7. Spend some time at the ocean reflecting on the majesty of God.

8. Play a game with the family.

9. Take a day trip — make some memories.

10.  Start a journal of the things you are grateful for

Plant a little  joy in your life. You’ll be glad you did!

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My Time to _________.

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Ecclesiastes 3:1-8 “To every thing there is a season, and a time to every purpose under the heaven: A time to be born, and time to die; a time to plant, and time to pluck up that which is planted; A time to kill, and a time to heal; a time to break down, and a time to build up; A time to weep, and a time to laugh; a time to mourn, and a time to dance; A time to cast away stones, and a time to gather stones together; a time to embrace, and a time to refrain from embracing; A time to get, and a time to lose; a time to keep, and a time to cast away; A time to rend, and a time to sew; a time to keep silence, and a time to speak; A time to love, and a time to hate; a time of war, and a time of peace.”

My girlfriend related a story of a time many years ago when her feelings had been hurt. Normally she was very active in her church and S. S. class. But she had been going through some new territory physically which had caused her to step back. She now knows those were the early days of her fibromyalgia. The changes in her health had sidelined her and she was fearful of what was going on–did she have cancer? What was going on inside her? She had no strength to do even the basic routines of life–and she was in pain. An acquaintance said, “You never do anything.” It cut her to the core (as it would have me). Now the gal probably didn’t mean it in the way it came out of her mouth, and no doubt she could not see the physical struggles my friend faced. But nonetheless, her pronouncement felt like an indictment, a sentence that described my friend as worthless. I could feel her pain. I’m a born doer. But lately I’ve been sitting on the sidelines watching others do because I have chronic mono–which means I’m flatlined (bedridden) for months on end sometimes.

What is God doing? Doesn’t He want to use me? What am I good for like this? What must people think? To look at me, I look fine, but there is no energy to do even the little things we take for granted–like shower or go downstairs for a meal. It would be easy for people to judge if they went on outward appearances. Aren’t we glad that God looks at our hearts? And aren’t we glad we have a God who made and understands the seasons of our lives? At this time, I’m experiencing a time to heal. It’s a quiet time, a still time–and it involves a lot of alone time.

But even in this still, quiet time, God has met me and strengthened my heart, renewing my faith in Him. It has been a time to reorder priorities and adjust plans. It’s been a time to research and pray. It’s provided a time to think and special times to talk with loved ones. It’s been a good time. As I looked at Ecclesiastes 3 and the seasons of our lives, I realized I’ve probably walked through almost all of them at one time or another and in various ways. And looking back brings perspective:

1.  Whether it is a good time or a bad time–it is only for a season. Seasons change. Hang in there. Time changes all things.

2.  Each season has its beauty if you look for it.

3.  Winds blow and rain falls regardless of the season.

4.  Dress is different for each season. Let your wardrobe protect you from the cold when necessary and be a colorful manifestation of your joy in good times (let’s just say I’ve worn out a few pairs of PJ’s).

5.  A true friend will join you in each season and help you grow and move on.

6.  It’s always time to love.

Whatever season you are going through, give yourself space and time and permission to walk through it at your own pace. Don’t worry about what others say or think. God has appointed this time between you and Him. Your only goal is to walk beside Him in His mercy and grace that you may please Him. Walk on. . . .

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Things your mom never told you . . .

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They call it an empty nest. The sneakers are not left where you’ll trip over them and the laundry isn’t piled sky high. Loud music isn’t blaring. They took the squeaky violin with them when they left for college. And, praise God, their rooms stay neat and don’t reek of dirty smelly socks. Bottles of milk and cereal actually go past their expiration dates. And miracles do happen: you get up in the morning and find things exactly as you left them when you went to bed.

In the days when the children were underfoot, I used to dream of a time when I could go to the bathroom or shower—alone. Surely the day would come when ALL the laundry and dishes were done. Were there people who actually got more than four hours of sleep a night? EVER? When will tired cease to be the answer to “How are you?” Will there be a time when their eyes don’t roll back in their heads when you won’t let them do what they want to do because, of course, all the other kids are doing it? Will there be a time when the phrase “because I said so” doesn’t leap to mind?

Yes, aging has some advantages. And I look back and realize my mom was there to coach me through childhood, my youth, the early days of marriage and child rearing. But now that’s she’s gone and I’m traveling this stage of my life without her beside me, I find there are things she didn’t tell me. They were no doubt things she wanted me to know, but there were no blogs in those days where people shared their thoughts or gave advice. And I was too busy dealing with raising my family to stop and listen to advice about my “golden years”– we’d get to that when the time came. But as I look back on these last few years, I wish I’d known then what I know now. So here’s the blog I wish my mom had written.

Holidays are special to them. Holidays are a day when they can hold their memories just a little tighter if only for an hour or so. You’ve moved on and are now creating your own memories in your own home with your own family. Trying to get to see all the parents adds an element of crazy into your holidays. Slow down and remember that the greatest gift you give is your presence. They treasure the gift of you more than your friends ever will. Make them a priority. They’ll be gone soon and you’d give anything if you could have just one more of those Christmases with them.

They dream of all their kids under one roof, around one table or for a few days at the beach. With everything on your plate, their dreams feel like impossible expectations. Face it, it’s a hassle. Just do it. It’s how the best memories of your life will be made. Some day you’ll decorate your tree and pray the kids can make it this year. Then you’ll understand and wish you’d taught and modeled these principles for your children.

Sharing is hard. They are thrilled you have a spouse and are happy to share you with others. But they treasure moments with you, too. They don’t want to compete for your time and attention with in-laws. They want you to love and respect your spouse’s family—after all, they raised you to be that kind of person. And they will love your spouse the more for making sure that holidays and quality time are spent with both sets of parents.

When you said ‘I do” to our son or daughter, we dreamed of a great relationship with you. Oh, we won’t do things the way your parents did. You’ll be more sensitive to the things we say and will take offense even though none is meant. We’ll give advice when none is wanted, be too eager to help with the cooking, and may even buy you things for your house you wouldn’t even hang in the garage. We’re just trying too hard; you are important to our family. We are trying to turn loose. But it’s hard. Our enthusiasm will be mistaken for meddling. Differences will open the door to misunderstandings. Be a peacemaker. Open your heart. Love fiercely. Forgive. Say I’m sorry. Embrace your new family and the traditions important to them with joy. Work together toward understanding and appropriate boundaries.

Grandkids make it all worthwhile. The grandkids are the light of their lives. They love doing ANYTHING with and/or for them, but won’t push. Birthday parties and sleepovers, special activities and learning opportunities from swim class to gymnastics will crowd your schedule. They’ll wait; they can’t compete with the attractions of this world. Make time for grandparents in your child’s weekly schedule. Your children will thank you for their memories with their grandparents and it will model for them how you want to be treated. And just so you know, pictures are priceless.

They still celebrate you. Call them when you get a promotion or a raise. Tell them how your presentation went or that you made your sales goals this month. They love to hear of your successes. You can’t brag to someone who dreams bigger dreams for you than you do for yourself. Your successes are made possible by their sacrifices. Let them share in them with you.

They still pray for you. They see you take steps that will hurt you and your family but hold their tongue and wait to be asked for counsel. So when faced with the challenges of life, find time for coffee to lay out the decisions that keep you awake at night. You just might get some great advice you’ll treasure forever. Those moments with my parents spent over a cup of coffee are priceless memories and saved my behind on more than one occasion. Turns out they knew more than I thought they did.

They need help with technology. They thank God for technology so they can be connected with you in any small way. Unfortunately, it doesn’t come naturally to them. It’s frustrating. Help them.

You will age, too. All those supplements they take that you make fun of now. . .guess what, there will be a day when you (and all your friends) start scouring the internet to find advice on how to feel better. You’ll actually change your diet and have your own pill box filled with supplements. WHY? Your body stops making all the good stuff that makes you feel good and you will need to buy it from a shelf and ingest it. So make sure your mom and dad bequeath that big health book to you and not your siblings because they’ve marked up all the good stuff. My sister and I now copy and send each other pages from mom’s book. We would have sworn this wasn’t even a remote possibility when we were in our 40’s and it’s only by the grace of God that we found her book.

Car doors are heavy. I took for granted I could run up and down stairs, jump in and out of cars and drive at night. If you can still do these things without a passing thought, be thankful. Time changes that all too quickly. Be sensitive. Joints give out, muscles lose their flexibility—stuff just happens. Maybe it’s gravity or maybe it’s age—doesn’t matter. It’s hard. Show up to help them with chores some day just because you can make a memory. They won’t ask, but you might just find it will be a memory you’ll treasure throughout your life.

They want you to care about what’s going on in their lives. As my mother aged, she would regale me with the details of everything she had cooked for the entire day via a long distance call (a call that cost me big $’s in those days). I would hold the phone and think, “I’ve fed a household today and moved worlds. I cannot sit here for 20 minutes and actually pay to listen to how you prepared your eggs for breakfast (which is exactly as you prepared them yesterday and last week and last month), how you made your soup or sandwich for lunch and how you put the foil on the baked potatoes tonight—and how you will peel an apple for snack.” I’m glad I bit my tongue, listened as if it was the best story ever, and paid those phone bills anyway, because now I’d give a lot just to have her tell me her stories—even if it was only about how she prepared her meals for today. You won’t have your parents much longer. Time flies by. Slow down. Cherish the moments. Learn their stories. Tell them yours. It’s the stuff relationships are made of.

Respect their decisions. Parents will do things you don’t approve of. Try to understand them and their decisions. If you are still baffled why they do what they do, at the very least, respect their decisions. They have traveled some roads you have not even turned on to yet. Values and priorities have deepened. Give them your support and encouragement.

Don’t be critical; be thankful. You’ll have children and feel that you are so much better at this parenting thing than they were. And then you’ll have teenagers and all the drama they can bring to a household. And then. . . you’ll have an empty nest. And your children will begin their journey as parents. They’ll read a book on parenting and learn to change diapers and sing lullabies and make lists of all your mistakes they won’t make with their children. And the cycle continues. Your parents gave it their best shot. Oh, they made their share of mistakes they wish they could change, and–drum roll–so will you. Children don’t come with instructions and what works for one won’t work on the next one. Human beings are complicated and you will be able to fill a library with the things your children will teach you. Parenting will be your greatest challenge. So do your best and leave the rest to God.

Phone calls are the best part of their day/week. Oh, the person wanting to help them refinance their home, give them a fabulous vacation or remind them of their doctor’s appointment will provide a jingle or two. But it’s not the same as when you call. Every word you say, every story you tell, every ‘I love you’ uttered before hanging up is sweet music to their ears and fills their hearts with joy–until the next time you call. Who else hangs on your every word—call them–often.

Mom and dad are walking streets of gold now. I wonder what they’d tell me about dying and my new life in heaven. So would someone up there please hand them the phone. There was a time when I cringed when someone said I was just like my mom–she was old (probably in her 40’s) and I was young (and thought I knew it all). Now I see life and the world as they saw it. Now, my sister and I laugh when we open our mouths and mom or dad’s words come flying out. We chuckle when we look in the mirror and see their faces shining back at us. I couldn’t have been more blessed than to have these wonderful people for my mom and dad. Please tell them I love them to the moon and farthest stars. Tell them I’ll see them soon.

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