Thursday, January 28, 2016

Life Is A Treasure

I just spent a week in Pensacola visiting my daughter and family.It was a long overdue visit (over 4 years) but trips to the other side of the country are not easy to come by. When my daughter and I hatched the idea for me to visit it was back in September and I had no idea how I'd pull it off. But God did. Shortly after I set a visit date of January 2016, I was offered the part time job at Family Christian Store. It was an answer to prayer. Still, it took awhile to save enough funds for the trip, because as soon as I started saving other things came up. Things like a major car repair, an unexpected medical expense, a higher than normal electric bill. In other words, life. Funny how that happens. Still, by Christmas I had the money to buy the airplane ticket.

We had some grand plans at first. A trip to Atlanta Georgia to attend a Women of Faith Conference. A side trip to Alabama to see my son. As the date got closer and reality set in we had to trim things back and then I got an upper respiratory infection that almost made me postpone the trip. It was with a resigned spirit that I boarded the plane last Wednesday. I say resigned because I really was disappointed that the WOF Conf wasn't happening. A visit to my son was probably not possible either and while the Rx was kicking in, I still felt exhausted and wimpy due to all the coughing and sniffling. And did i mention I had laryngitis? But as the plane carried me through the air I thought about how blessed I was to take this trip at all. The whole purpose of the visit was to spend time with my girl. It didn't matter what we did, just that we did it together. As for the laryngitis, didn't God give me the word "listen" for the year? Well, I'm still chuckling over that one because with a raspy voice it was certainly easier for me to let my daughter and grandkids do all the talking while I sat back and just listened!

The week went incredible fast, as vacations are always prone to do. I saw where my daughter works, met some of her co-workers and friends, surprised my granddaughter at school by showing up for lunch, met my oldest grandson's 'friend-girl' (not girlfriend he says) got reacquainted with my step-grands, watched my grandchildren play, took them on a field trip, went to the beach (in spite of very cool temperatures and threatening skies) and went clothes shopping with my girl. In between, we just enjoyed each others company, shared secrets, laughed, cried, and laughed some more.

My grandkids are growing much too fast! The boys are taller than me! Their voices have changed. There's facial hair!! My granddaughter is wearing a bra! In less than 2 years the oldest will be 18 and graduating. For crying out loud! Stop!!

 Life goes on, whether you are watching carefully or not. I've been home for just a couple of days and as always, in retrospect I think of all the things I had wanted to do but didn't. But I look at the pictures of all the things we did do and I recall the conversations that took place and the memories we made. There will be more trips. We'll fly the kids up for visits over the next few summers. We'll skype and text and facebook. It's not the same as having them down the street just 10 minutes away but this is life. It's not perfect but I'll treasure it.

Thursday, December 31, 2015

Listening for the New Year

New Year's Eve... with many thoughts swirling through my mind, I sip another cup of coffee and reflect.

My dad at his favorite watering hole; Dunny's in Nooksack.
He met many a friend there for coffee several times a week!
Nine years ago this morning Dad passed away. I wonder how many cups of coffee he's enjoyed with Jesus since then? (I'm sure I acquired my love of coffee from my dad. After all, he started me on it about the time I was weaned!)

 I don't spend a lot of time wondering what heaven is like but when I do, I'd like to think we'll still drink coffee. Can you imagine sitting across the table from Jesus, and chatting over a steaming latte? Perhaps some biscotti to go with it. (Calories and gluten intolerance wont exist in heaven, of this I am certain!)

I do love a coffee date with a friend and many a great conversation takes place while we sip. What do you suppose one would talk about with Jesus? Oh, the possibilities are endless.

Speaking of talking, Jesus has been. Talking I mean. To me. I've been choosing a word now for the past several years, a word that would be my focus for the year. Love, Grace, Relationships, have been some of the words I've committed to. So, of course as this month started to close in I began thinking of a word for 2016. There were a couple of words that immediately came to mind. I even had a word for my sweetie (of course he was ever so grateful for me sharing that with him! HA!!) After I have a few words, I then bring those words before the Lord and ask Him to direct me.

He did. He brought me the word "listen"

What? That wasn't on my list. I shook my head when I heard it. "Listen? Really Lord? That's what you want me to focus on in my new year?"

Well, now look. I like to talk. I mean, coffee dates, hello!
I'm often guilty of interrupting, in my enthusiasm for sharing my opinion or ideas. And I admit, when I'm tired or my internal battery has been depleted, zoning out is much more likely to happen than giving rapt attention to whomever is talking.  As a creative introvert, I am constantly processing internally all that is going on around me. Sometimes this results in getting lost inside my head and I begin to tune out the noise around me. Even when the 'noise' is the voice of a loved one.

But the Lord keeps reminding me that he gave us only ONE mouth and TWO ears so there must be a reason... which is to listen twice as much as we speak. He also convicted me in that its not just my earthly companions I need to listen better for. I need to be listening more for HIS voice....

This is what I read in my daily devotional a few days ago. "Are you interested in praying a prayer that could revolutionize your life? Try this: Begin each day by asking God a series of questions. "Lord how can I love you today? What acts of worship can I do? What words can I utter that will honor and bless you? What act of service can I do to represent your love? How would your scripture inspire me to pray today?" *

Whoa. That's some serious questioning and it will require intentional listening to discern the answers. It almost feels like too much to ask for. Because revolutionizing ones life sounds a little intimidating! Scary! Risky!! But, conviction gripped me and I knew this was meant for me to undertake at this point in my spiritual journey.

A day after this reading I learned from my boss that they were keeping me on after the holidays! I am delighted as this job has turned out to be a blessing in many ways. And when you are in the retail/customer service arena listening is very important. It's not about me, it's about serving others.

Then, just after I informed my husband I was pretty sure this was the word God has given me for 2016, I went on my phone to play a word search game and the very first word that I found was.... "LISTEN". Say what? Oh, God has such a sense of humor and I just chuckled... and the word was cemented in my heart.

*At His Feet; the one year devotional by Chris Tiegreen, Tyndale House Publishers Inc.

Monday, November 30, 2015

Here Comes Christmas

The season of Advent is upon us!

 I'm experiencing the coming of Christmas in a new way this year-- I got a job for the holiday season, working retail.

 Yes, the stories about long lines, hurried shoppers, tired feet and crying babies is true. However it hasn't been the chaos I thought it might be. I guess people shopping for bibles are a little less likely to push, shove, scream and whine.

That's right. My job is working in a Christian book and gift store. I'm enjoying it and especially love helping someone look for a new bible and explain the different types available and then watching the look of pleasure as they settle on their bible. It's a good feeling.

I'm experiencing Advent in another new way-- I already have my tree up!

I know, I know, my rule about not putting out decorations until AFTER my birthday is being broken. But since they are my rules, I guess I get to break 'em!

It's just that my husband and I made the most adorable tree out of pallet boards and its now parked on my front porch and it just makes me smile each time I glance outside and see the little white lights glistening in the dark.

Soon, I'll bring out the inside decorations, which is usually just the nativity set and some special ornaments that speak of the birth of Christ to us.

We are also doing an Advent reading each morning. It's a perfect way to prepare our hearts for the celebration of the birth of Christ and as a reminder that some day He is coming again!

What do you do to prepare for Christmas? 

Sunday, November 15, 2015

Step by Step

O God, you are my God
and I will ever praise you!
I will seek you in the morning
I will learn to walk in your ways.
And step by step
You'll lead me and 
I will follow you all of my days.*

Life has been good. I've been busy. The empty page for writing that used to taunt me has taken a back burner to the activities God's been bringing me. I got a job!
I started in Oct. Its part time and seasonal which means after Christmas we will see if they want to keep me on. But the job is great and I'm helping people and surrounded by good people. Its working in a Christian bookstore-- what a good fit! Books, Jesus and serving others!

I've been too busy to worry about writing although there are days the thought nags at me that I've neglected my blog, neglected my muse, neglected my creative side. But being involved in others lives has kept me from going too deep into worry.

With the changing of the clock and the changing of the seasons came the potential for an increase in feeling lethargic. In times past it's gotten me down pretty low. This year I was prepared for it mentally and it hasn't dropped me to my knees. I still have days when it feels like my anti-depressant isn't working as well as it should but I'm pushing on, refusing to let that stop me from reaching for positive things.

I have an exciting goal set for January of going to visit my daughter and grandkids in Florida and the job is the blessing that will allow it to happen! It's long past due for a visit.

All in all, life is good. And I just keep taking one day at a time, one step at a time, letting God take the lead.

* lyrics from Rich Mullins, Sometimes/Step by Step

Saturday, October 17, 2015

Jesus Loves Me, This I Know

Not just the words to a Sunday School song, this phrase struck me in a brand new way this morning. The deeper meaning came about in a rather unusual way.

First you have to understand that morning is typically not my best time. I'm not a morning person, and today was unusual in that, it's my one day of the week to sleep in. Yet, when Bruce's alarm went off at 5am, (which typically I don't really hear) instead of snuggling deeper under the covers and snoozing, my mental alarm clicked in and BAM! I was awake, I was up and-- gasp-- I was THINKING.  I mean, my brain was actually forming complete thoughts and sentences and they were coherent and thought provoking! This was all BEFORE I'd even made the coffee!

Once the coffee was made, I proceeded to fix a cup for me and one for him. And since Bruce had hit his snooze button and obviously needed some extra motivation, I brought his to him. I watched him struggle to untangle the bed sheets, find his bathrobe and try to connect the coffee mug to his mouth. I took in his morning look-- his hair a twisted sheaf of golden wheat, his eyelids heavy with sleep and his general demeanor clearly stating what a discombobulated state he was in. Lest you think I am being unkind, please know that I fully understand what sort of state I am in, in the mornings. I give you exhibit A as proof:

my typical morning look

Because I know what I look like every morning, and since almost every morning, without fail, I'm still in my robe and slippers or at best, yoga pants and an oversized T, hair not combed, face unwashed, and feeling just as discombobulated, as I send Bruce out the door, it is a marvel to me that he tells me he loves me. That he calls me 'adorable' or 'cute' or, amazingly enough-- 'beautiful'. Really? I mean, REALLY??? 

But here's the thing... As I watched him this morning, this face that I have loved for over 20 years, I was moved beyond words. But I had to put it into words to really get it. 

He finds me beautiful even in my raw state. This 56 year old body, that has born two children, gone through the ups and downs of weight gain and weight loss, numerous injuries and surgeries; this body a road map of stretch marks and scars; this face devoid of make up,with its weathered lines and crows feet more prominent with each passing year... and more than that, this woman who has allowed her husband to see her in all kinds of vulnerable, he finds her beautiful? It must be love. 

And I, who look at him, his body weighed down by the passage of time. The once tight muscles of a younger man, coming up against gravity and slowly losing the battle. Hands that have worked hard to provide. Shoulders that carry the burden of providing for a family, a responsibility that weighs heavily at times. And I look with tenderness and still feel the stirrings of passion for this man, my life partner. This is definitely love. 

And then it hits me... how much more does our Heavenly Father love? God, who knows me so intimately, with all my faults and failures, yet declares me righteous, blameless, without sin, giving me full access to His Kingdom as a heir of Christ. It's hard to take in.

When I look into my husbands eyes and see the love and adoration shining back at me, I am able to catch a glimpse of how he really sees me. When he looks into my eyes he can begin to believe it when I tell him I find him attractive. And that helps me begin to understand the fullness of just how much more Jesus loves me. If Bruce can see past my wild and wooly morning hair, my sometimes cranky, sometimes confused attitude; if he can see me at my worst and still love me as if I'm the best, it gives me a small sample of the overwhelming love that Jesus has for me. 

As Max Lucado puts it, 

“If God had a refrigerator, your picture would be on it. If He had a wallet, your photo would be in it. He sends you flowers every spring and a sunrise every morning... Face it, friend. He is crazy about you! ”

Friday, October 2, 2015

Number 19

We just celebrated our 19th Wedding Anniversary. That's almost two decades folks. In this day and age, I think it's a wonderment to make it past 10 years let alone almost 20!

What is the secret ingredient that Bruce and I use to keep our marriage on course?
Short answer: God.

Our marriage has always been centered in Jesus Christ. We believe He brought us together, on purpose, for a purpose and each day we see glimpses of those purposes that spur us on to more.

But to break it down into applicable illustrations I give you 19 things, in no particular order, that we do that have helped keep our relationship solid.

1. Laughter
a sense of humor is important and laughing releases feel good endorphins! (by the way, laughing together is awesome...laughing at one another is a good way to stay humbled but tread lightly there.)
2. Prayer
praying together, praying  for one another. It makes a HUGE difference. (check out the Power of a Praying Wife/Husband by Stormie OMartia)Try it when you are in the midst of a disagreement and see if that doesn't have an impact!
3. Communication
open, honest, sometimes frank, but always laced with love and respect. And we keep working on making it better.
4. Romance
flowers and candy, that's dandy! But touch my heart and make it spark!
5. Playtime
whether its outdoor activities we both enjoy or just watching a fun movie together.
6. Joint Projects
from big projects like fixing up our vintage trailer to smaller ones like setting up camp, we each have a part to play and it enhances the experience when we each do our part and also when we help the other with theirs.
7. Date Night
So important!! We can get pretty caught up in giving our time to other needs and other people so its important that we stop and evaluate when was the last time we had some quality time alone together. And it doesn't have to be expensive-- coffee and a walk is just fine.
8. Listening
That moment at the end of the day when you sit down and face one another and ask how was your day, and listen to their answer with full attention.
9. R.E.S.E.P.C.T
Find our what it means to me. Now that you're singing it, discovering what your mate values and giving it the respect that deserves is crucial. Speaking to each other in respectful tones matters. Sarcasm cuts deep.
10. Space
giving one another space to breathe, space to rest, space to think, space to just be ourselves.
11. Encouragement
sometimes just hearing the words 'you can do this' can make all the difference in the world.
12. Freedom 
to be the me who God called me to be. and permission to pursue it without guilt. Freedom to make choices. Freedom to express opinions without fear of judgement.
13. Trust
regardless of knowing all the details, I can choose to trust --and be patient in getting all the answers.
14. Understanding
it's hard to know whats going on inside the other persons head but seeking to understand is the first step.
15. Grace
whoa. daily. big time. just extend grace in the moment even if forgiveness isn't possible quite yet... and speaking of....
16. Forgiveness,
always be quick to give it.
17. Words of Affirmation
words of life! express gratitude to your spouse, be thankful for big and small things.
18. Acts of Service
I pack his lunch, he makes the morning coffee. It's little things but it all says I love you.
19. Community
having family and friends who hold us accountable, pray for us and love us has had a major positive impact on our own relationship. We highly recommend every married couple be in some sort of small group for that intimate time of community.

So, there you have it.

 I don't claim to have the answers but this is something that is working for us. We are committed to the marriage and we are committed to Christ who directs it.

Happy Anniversary to Us!

Monday, September 14, 2015

The Power of Prayer

"Ever since I heard of your strong faith in the Lord Jesus, and your love for Christians everywhere, I have not stopped thanking God for you. I have prayed for you constantly." Ephesians 1. 15-16

When I read this scripture passage this morning I was struck by two things.
1.) What my day would be like if I knew someone was praying for me
2.) What their day would be like for someone else if they knew I was praying for them. 

I was actually thunderstruck by this idea. It just felt like a revelation to think about how much different a person's life could be if they knew someone was praying for them, the way Paul prayed for the church in Ephesus. I thought how I might take on my day differently if I knew someone was specifically praying for me this morning. And I wondered  how YOU might feel if you knew someone had prayed specifically for you today.

It sounds so simple but there is power in simplicity. Of course I pray for others. But I'm thinking of specific prayers. I pictured my friend K.T. who is a powerful prayer warrior. I pictured her on her knees before the throne of God, wrestling on my behalf. I thought about how I might tackle this day differently knowing she'd been in her prayer closet contending for me. I know how blessed and empowered I feel when someone lays their hands on me and prayers for me in person.

I've decided to commit to 30 days of prayer. I have a list of people I intend to pray for over the next 30 days. Each day I will take one person from my list and pray specifically for them. In my small group I challenged each of them to join me in this challenge. I am extending the same challenge to you.... Will you join me? I believe this can be a real game changer.

Is someone praying for me?
Am I praying for someone?

The answer is.... YES.