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.

Thursday, September 10, 2015

It Starts With Worship

All week I've been humming or singing the words from a song by Matt Redmond. It's called "The Heart of Worship" and it is a powerful reminder to me of what Worship is... and what it isn't.

It is absolutely true that God deserves our worship. Scripture says if we don't praise Him, the rocks will cry out. And when you look around at creation, a crashing wave, a soaring eagle, a mountain splendor, can't you see the glory of God? Does your heart swell like mine does, in giving thanks and praise to Him for creating such wonders? 

Over and over in the bible we find verses on worship, of praising God. Like most people, I first and foremost tend to think of singing  when I hear the word worship. I read somewhere the other day that music is the one thing that affects more parts of our brain than anything else. Music stirs the heart and emotions and stimulates the brain and becomes imprinted in ways like nothing else. So it's no wonder than that we often think of music and worship simultaneously. 

The story about the song "Heart of Worship" goes something like this: the pastor of the church where songwriter Matt Redman attended, deeply concerned with an attitude of apathy sweeping through the church, got rid of the sound system and instruments for a season. For many Sundays it was just the voices of the people being lifted as they gathered.  The idea was to find their way back to the true heart of Worship and the only way to do it was to strip everything away. The pastor began asking the congregation "When you come through the doors on Sunday what are you bringing as your offering to God?" Initially that led to some awkward silence but eventually people began to break out in spontaneous, genuine, heartfelt praise to God. They found their way back to the True Heart of Worship.

When the music fades
All is stripped away
And I simply come
Longing just to bring
Something that's of worth
That will bless your heart

Worship is all about the position of my heart.

When I have challenges or things just don't seem to be very positive, it's very easy to lose focus and go the way of the grumpies. From there it's a slippery slope into cranky-ville. But having the right position in my heart allows me to put my focus on God rather than the difficulties I'm having.

One of the best depression-busters I've found is to put on worship and praise music and flood my soul with it. When I step into worshipping Him, it reminds me of His faithfulness. It also reminds me that worship does not stop when the music does.

Everything I do as a Christian, can --and should be-- done as an Act of Worship. For me that equates out to taking care of my household in ways that honor God. Living within our budget. Serving others with love. Being responsible with the things God has given me to care for. Valuing friendship. Honoring marriage and my husband. Even, yes, even taking my anti-depressant can be an Act of Worship.

We all worship something. I want what I worship to be Jesus.

King of endless worth
No one could express
How much you deserve
Though I'm weak and poor
All I have is yours
Every single breath

Worship sets the stage for me to walk forward with Jesus.

Our pastor asked the question last week, "When was the last time you had a planning session with God about your future?" It brought me up short, because, even as I start my day with devotions and prayer, my goals are usually short term-- 'help me get through this day' seems to be the MO of most of my morning pleas. But if I am going to live the life of a true worshipper, who has Christ at the center, I must think and plan strategically about my future. At my age that might seem a little late to the game, but until Christ calls me home, I have work here to do on earth and I want it to count for something. I don't need to map out the rest of my life, or even the rest of my year but I do feel I need to submit daily to whatever calling He has on my life today. And if He has stuff for me to do (which I am sure He does!) I need to be in a position that is ready and willing to do it. The positioning starts with Worship.

I'll bring You more than a song
For a song in itself
Is not what You have required
You search much deeper within
Through the way things appear
You're looking into my heart

I'm coming back to the heart of worship
And it's all about You
It's all about You, Jesus
I'm sorry, Lord, for the thing I've made it
When it's all about You
It's all about You, Jesus

Yes. It's all about You, Jesus.

Tuesday, September 1, 2015

Joy in Jesus. Jesus Alone.

If I don't find my  joy in Jesus, I will forever fall short of joy in everything else. 

When Jesus prayed for his men (John 17) one of the things he prayed fervently is for them to have the full measure of joy. Have you ever stopped to wonder about this? What does a full measure of joy look like? And why does Jesus want his guys-- and us for that matter-- to have it?

So much of our worldview brings with it the impression that our joy can be found in many things the world has to offer. Even seemingly innocent things, things that can truly be counted as good for us. For example, who hasn't desired to find satisfaction and joy in their career? That we should be so blessed as to find a job that is a joy to work at seems like a gift. Indeed, it is. But if I count on my job or my hobbies, even my family to be my primary source of joy, I will always fall short.

I have been impressed with the knowledge that just as true satisfaction can only come through a life centered in Christ, so it is with joy. Experiencing fullness of joy requires making Christ the center, the focus of all.

That said, what about when life hands you lemons?

The same prayer where Jesus prayed for fullness of joy for his men says even when the world hates them.

 Verse after verse in the Bible encourages-- no-- commands us-- to give thanks, to be thankful, to rejoice even, when trouble comes our way. Is it in the tragedies and struggles of life that we become convinced that joy just isn't in the cards for us? Yet Jesus told the disciples "in this world you will have trouble. But take heart, for I have overcome the world!" (John 16.33)

Walking with Jesus has taught me that joy is mine for the taking whether in good times or bad, because my joy comes from Jesus. If joy eludes me it is because I have not set my eyes on Jesus and looked to Him for complete and utter fulfillment. When my joy comes from Him only then will I find true satisfaction and joy in all the other areas of my life.

Thursday, August 13, 2015

Hiking Ptarmigan Ridge

There is something about being outdoors that soothes and energizes like nothing else. Perhaps it's the invigorating aroma of earth and trees, the feel of sun, wind or rain on your face. Perhaps its the sight of towering mountains, swaying trees, rugged crags and tiny wildflowers growing out of tundra. It might be the glimpse of a mountain goat, or the sound of the ptarmigan or a marmot's whistle. 

For me personally, it's the combination of all those things and more. The very idea that God in all His Glory created this world by speaking it into being! And then created man that he might enjoy it with God. 

As the psalmist said:
"When I consider the work of Your heavens, the work of Your fingers, the moon and the stars which you have ordained; What is man that You take thought of him? And the son of man that You care for him? Yet You have made him a little lower than God, and You crown him with glory and majesty! You make him to rule over the works of Your hands; You have put all things under his feet." Psalm 8. 3-6

Sunday afternoon.

Our goal: Ptarmigan Ridge.  

We got a late start and we knew we would not have time to hike the whole trail out and back (10 miles RT) but still, getting out there even for a little ways was worth the effort.
our friend Terry joined us for this hike

Having done the Chain Lakes Trail the month previous for our overnight backpacking adventure, the first mile was like visiting an old friend. An Old Friend indeed watched us as we walked.

Mt. Baker beckons

At the Chain Lakes/Ptarmigan Ridge intersection we took a short break for water and cookies. Then with eagerness we set off down a new to us trail!

Because this year has been incredible dry for our Pacific Northwest, the lack of snow made the trek much easier than traversing ice fields would be! Still, I seem to have developed a fondness for trekking poles.

trekking poles really do make a difference!

The vastness of sky and mountain range is overwhelming in raw beauty and grandeur. How can I not hum "How Great Thou Art" when standing on this overlook?

O Lord My God when I in awesome wonder, consider all the world thy hands have made

Another break here for more water and more snacks. Because, whats a hike if you can't have some trail mix? 

It was here we decided it was time to turn around. Coleman Pinnacle would have to wait for another day. 

From this vantage point we could see the trail we'd hiked in on.  I gain a deeper appreciation with the birds eye view!

How beautiful are the feet... 
on the mountain!

kind of fun to have someone else take a picture of our feet for us!

We took our time hiking. None of us are speedy hikers. I simple must have time to take pictures and also time for truly appreciating the view. It is often in nature that I can lower my barriers and feel more relaxed and open to hearing God speak.

the love-burkes on the trail

The slow sinking sun brought rich golden tones to the rolling mountains.

The Mt. Baker Wilderness Area is indeed a wild, unpredictable, exhilarating expansion of adventures waiting to happen.   

I'm so grateful for every opportunity we have to take advantage of the adventures!

O Lord, our Lord, how majestic is Your name in all the earth!