When I think……

 

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How can I say thanks for the things you have done for me? Things so undeserved yet you gave to prove your love for me. The voices of a million angels could not express my gratitude. All that I am and ever hope to be…….I owe it all to thee. Andrae Crouch, “My Tribute”  1942-2015

When I think of God’s presence all through the years I like to think of this patch of sunlight on the path that is my life. He has simply always been there and how can I ever explain it? Some of my earliest memories are of talking to God. Is it the imagination of a child that makes it less real? Maybe that’s more real than anything else. All I know is that I talked and I knew He listened. And I still do, and there’s a miracle if there ever was one.

In my quiet moments all it takes is a little serious reflection to humble myself to the place beyond words. I am struggling to find them, the words that is, but that’s okay. The Holy Spirit speaks His language. When I think of my life…….when I think of all He’s brought me through, (and you too, I can imagine) I am struck silent with wonder.

In this quiet space on a Friday evening I am filled with amazement that He has stuck it out with me. He says: “I will never leave you or forsake you.” And He never has. All through the awful. All through the very best times of my life.

Through the piano weight of grief on my chest when I couldn’t put one step in front of the other…..through the years of terrible skin when I wanted to wear a veil all through Jr high and High school….through the years when I thought I could make myself disappear if I lost enough weight….through it all.

Because the truth is, you feel He is there during the wonderful times. When the world is smiling on you, you can know He is smiling too and even if you can’t put your spiritual finger on the God part it’s easy to believe He’s there.

In the staggering news feeds where the news is so horrific you can’t even catch your breath and somehow you sense that it’s in these little in between quiet moments where your soul is resurrected once again, that He is there. More real than ever before. He’s in it all and through it all. Seeing it all.

And it makes me relieved that I know He will stop at nothing to make sure that it all gets made right. In fact, He already has. In Easter. I remember the why of the Cross and how it was finished once and for all. Perfect justice through perfect injustice. Only God could and would have enough love to make that happen.

May prayers embrace this world, yours and mine. We need God more than ever. May this benediction draw you close to His Presence and those around you. Live with heart eyes open this weekend, my friends. Because you never know when it will be your last one on this precious earth.

“Peace I leave with you, my peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your heart be troubled and do not be afraid.” John 14:27

The unchanging nature of God

 

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God is not human, that he should lie, not a human being, that he should change his mind. Does he speak and then not act? Does he promise and not fulfill? Numbers 23:19

Jesus Christ is the same yesterday and today. Hebrews 13:8

Every good and perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of the heavenly lights, who does not change like the shifting shadows. James 1:17

I don’t know about you, but I draw tremendous comfort from a God who never changes. People and relationships will change. Circumstances change. Life is all about change and frankly, I am tired of it. I want a settled life.

But the fact that I am tired of it won’t change it. Change won’t stop until we take our final breath and part of what it means to be well-adjusted is to make peace with that.  I am learning to breathe and find peace in the moments. I have spent way too much time mired in anxiety since we moved and it has stolen too much of my joy.

I remember going out in the early morning dark when I was trying to make this big decision and praying while gazing at the moon. It’s kind of like God’s face. I made the decision to leave my comfort zone, one of the hardest things I’ve ever done. My life is open-ended, there are no conclusions, no end results yet. But here is the line of the song that just came through my headphones:

But He’s alive and there’s an empty grave……my redeemer lives.

And when He said, “It is finished,” He meant it. What that means for all of us that believe His words are true is that the biggest conclusion of our lives is all wrapped up. The struggles and questions we have down here, well, He is totally equipped to help us with those too.

So until the dust settles, I am thanking Him for all those moments when I surrender my anxiety and exchange it for His peace. And when my time here runs out and it will for all of us, I will be able to say with Him. It is finished, and the end result will be very, very good.

Down a dusty road

 

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Lest I forget:

“……..And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age. ” Matthew 28:20 ESV

“And He has identified us as His own by placing the Holy Spirit in our hearts as the first installment that guarantees everything He has promised us.” 2 Corinthians 1:22 NLT

It’s easy to get lost down here. Lately I have forgotten my place in God’s adopted family; that in fact I am God’s own, that I belong to Him. I guess I just haven’t felt like it. It’s like there is a mist between us, and yet I know from years of traveling this road of faith with Him that it’s never God that pulls away. The Holy Spirit has promised to go the distance with me until we are reunited with the Trinity on the last day.

And yet……I do believe sometimes God withdraws (as if behind a cloud) just enough to allow us to draw on our memories and assurances so that our faith has a chance to stretch and grow. This morning, as I felt that familiar emptiness that has enveloped me for months, I sensed Him telling me:

Look back along the dusty road we have walked together, you and I

“Remember me on that foggy morning right around Christmas long ago? Remember how I filled the room with my Presence and how it’s just as real today as it was all those years ago?”

I was with you then and I am with you now

“And remember when you took those first shaky steps down the aisle at church?”

I am just as real today as I was then

It’s true, He is…..(You are, Lord)

I have volumes and journals of our travels together, Jesus and I. Almost fifty-eight years full, and I can rest on faith even when I feel a distance, and that makes us all the closer in the long run.

I am so very thankful He has promised to go the distance with me.

Happy Birthday to my bestie

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“As iron sharpens iron, so one person sharpens another” Proverbs 27:17

“Two are better than one, for they have a good return for their labor: If either of them falls down, one can help the other up. But pity anyone who falls and has no one to help them up.” Ecclesiastes 4: 9-10

Here she is in her happy place and it made me glad she could be there. There I can see in her face that her burdens are lightened. Today, I honor her because everyday she does things for me and makes my life a blessing.

She is God’s girl.

She’s the one who pays for the person ahead of her at Sonic Burger and never tells a soul, but I find out. Just the other day when she went in to pay for my cookies at the bakery, she noticed a WWII veteran struggling to open the door (he had a cap on).  She opened the door for him and then paid for his order without him knowing…….these are the kinds of things she does everyday and I always tell her, “God is smiling on you….”

She lives out her faith in a simple practical way by noticing strangers who need help……by leaving the last serving of what she thinks I might want. She loves until it hurts.

She does things for my Aunt every single day without saying a word because she knows living here is a blessing and she cares for her and my whole family. She breathes life into situations and life into a party. She moved with me all the way to this state even though it meant leaving a life and friends she loved.

She was always the one to work out difficult situations at work. She was the one they sent to train the “challenge” person. She never made the big sales in Insurance because she wouldn’t sell little old people something they couldn’t afford.

I know I make her sound like somewhat of a saint, and she is in the “Christian” definition. But like all of us, she knows her failings, but everyday her motto is to make something a little better than it was before. We all need someone in our lives that sees the best definition of us and she is that for me.

Only God knows her better than I do.

She encourages me every day, but she also loves me enough to let me know when I am not being honest with myself. Sometimes best friends have to be tough as well as tender, if they truly love.

Today I honor her life. For 28 years we have been best of friends. Through moves, up s and downs, victories and failures, joys and heartache, but most of all laughter. She lights up my days and I thank God for her.

She’s my friend, my sister in Christ, my soul-mate who laughs at all the same things I do.  Happy Birthday, Elaine Dupree!

 

Tea and toast and self preservation

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Yesterday I fought through my route, feeling sick. I felt better at the end of the day but today I awoke still feeling puny. I needed a day for tea and toast. I am washed out, washed up. Stressed. I am so very blessed. Elaine made me scrambled eggs and bacon and my Zen tea. The kind I used to get at the Intel cafe when my life was ordered and predictable. Today I am missing my old uncomplicated life. From a distance the stress I had there seems minute.

It was a beautiful weekend at the ocean, in one of our favorite places. It didn’t disappoint…..it never does. Moss Landing is a little fishing village along the Pacific coast by Monterey, California. There is no shopping, and only one hotel. Nothing to do but eat at Iconic Phil’s Fish Market and walk for miles on the beach. It was just what we needed.

And, after hemming and hawing with my finger on the “Book Now” button on my IPhone for an hour, I decided to do something I have wanted to do for years, I went on a whale watching charter. After I got over the strange reaction from the motion sickness patch the night before, we headed out at 7:00 AM the next morning. And we were rewarded with whales! They didn’t get as close as I thought, but we saw them. And I didn’t get sick. On the way out I wanted to hear John Denver’s, “Calypso” played loud over the speakers.

The sea was rolling and some fog swallowed us up for a time, but it was magical to be in their playground.

Our last day we had another lunch at Phil’s looking out over the Pacific. We collected a few shells and bits of seaglass before packing up and heading home. We were greeted with warmer temperatures when we got there. At last we were settled in. I called my Mom and her voice was tight with stress.

Then I got the horrible text that I didn’t deserve and that I wasn’t expecting. Welcome home……Can I go back to the ocean please?

And I have been sick for two days. Yesterday, I quit fighting and took a day off  and went back to bed. Some days you have to take care of yourself and let others take care of you. Last night I crawled into the peaceful magic back space in the Motorhome with my book and fell into a dreamless sleep. I awoke to “Dinner’s Ready” and the sound of Amazing Grace playing on the smooth jazz station where we have never heard it played before.

Sometimes God gives you exactly what you need right when you need it.

I am guarding my heart today and yet I hope God will show me how to keep it open enough to extend grace. I am learning that protecting myself is okay.

 

Mom’s Day

 

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With my mother’s death all settled happiness, all that was tranquil and reliable disappeared from my life. There was to be much fun, many pleasures, many stabs of joy; but no more of the old security. C.S. Lewis

I searched for this quote because it really affected me when I read it in one the Mitford series books. I realize that for many, this quote would not be so moving or strike such a chord as it did for me. For many people, today is a hard day fraught with mixed emotions and guilt. For that reason I hate the commercial aspect of it.

I wandered through the card aisle yesterday and saw many perplexed expressions and furrowed brows. I remember how my Mom always hated this day. She could never find the right card. My Grandmother wasn’t what you would call affectionate to her kids, although she provided a good home and delicious smells from the kitchen always. In that way, she did show love.

We all do the best we can, I guess. My wise friend never liked this day either. Her Mom was hardly ever affectionate either in word or deed to her daughter, and yet…..when her Mom was pregnant with her and was found with cancer, she refused an abortion. She brought my very best friend into the world 2 months early and I can’t imagine this world or my world without her. For that I will always be grateful to Joyce Dupree who had her first child at 16, a kid raising a kid.

Of both her parents, my friend says, “They did the best they could at the time.” If there ever was a grace-filled statement I don’t know what is. She cared for her Mom all through Alzheimer’s which I have written about here in the past.

And to my Mom, who has always been my friend as well as a great Mom, thank you for making Mother’s Day easy for me growing up. It was always a pleasure to find a card for you.

Mom’s do the best they can, and like this dove, they sit among thorns to keep us safe from the harsh realities of the world outside. And they prepare us the best way they know how. They mark us and imprint us in many ways. We carry some of them with us always, long after they are gone.

I always appreciated my old employer’s approach to Mother’s Day. The guys came around with a rose and a gift to every single woman, asking no questions. Because in the final analysis, all of us women are caretakers in some form or fashion. So Happy Mother’s and Non-Mothers day to all. Blessings on your day.

Nest

 

Think on these things

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Finally brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable–if anything is excellent or praiseworthy–think about such things. Philippians 4:8

Another weekend is here and I can hardly believe how fast the year is going. Working five days a week for me has really been a challenge, though it’s only four hours a day (a laughable amount) and yet it’s still getting up and ready 5 days. Twenty years worth of shift work (and 3 and 4 days off at a time) got me used to really being able to recharge, take trips, have my coveted morning time. So now when Friday comes I want to drink it all in, every drop.

Last night I waited in the brisk air down by the river for my geese family. There are two families with 5 babies each we have been watching. I was just about to pack it up when I saw them, just one family though with their 5 little ones. I got a few shots which I hope to look at today and share tomorrow.

It’s easier to stop the noise of the world immersed in nature. The apostle Paul knew how easy it was to focus on the negative. A cluttered, distracted mind has a tremendous ability to rob one of peace, even the peace God offers. But when we focus on God’s attributes our mind is stilled because we know He has all this in control. And He’s given us nature as a mirror to gaze into and remind us that He does.

I have found that the best way to get rid of distressing events that cloud the mind is to go for a walk. You see things you don’t normally see whizzing by in a car. And maybe try leaving headphones off too. Listen to the law mowers, the car doors, the voices of children…….life.

And know it will be okay. It all will. He’s got this and you.

And if you still have your Mom this weekend, call her or go and give her a hug but don’t get mired down in what the world thinks you should do and feel for Mother’s Day. Be sensitive to those who aren’t mothers who may have wanted to be. And to those without children who others who might make them feel less than. All of us women are caretakers in some form or fashion. Bottom line is enjoy the day whatever your circumstance! Being a good Mom is the hardest job in the world and that’s something we should honor everyday.

 

 

Under the Grace

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“Grace is free only because the Giver himself has borne the cost” Philip Yancey

“Listen to your life. See it for the fathomless mystery it is. In the boredom and pain of it, no less than in the excitement and gladness: touch, taste, smell your way to the holy and hidden heart of it, because in the last analysis all moments are key moments, and life itself is grace.” Frederick Buechner

Sometimes grace slips in unannounced, quietly without fanfare. The thing about Grace is, it’s always there, just like God is always there.  As believers we know we are steeped in God’s grace through Jesus’ redemptive work on the cross. It can also be hard to get a handle on. How can we really fathom the grace that showers down on us even while we are sleeping. Grace is active and living. It’s an offshoot of God’s great love and mercy. Sometimes it’s so big it’s hard to get a handle on.

Years ago I used to listen to a radio commentator named Barry Farber. He had some sayings, one I never forget: “It’s like trying to hit a phantom with a cream pie.” Grace is kind of like that to me sometimes. It’s invisible but always there. And as soon as I take it for granted, it slips away again. Yet it’s still there waiting in the wings, waiting for me to actively acknowledge it.

When we say about someone, “There but for the grace of God go I” we are acknowledging that we could at any given time, find ourselves in circumstances like whoever we were talking about. While we are correct in that assumption, we are also a little misguided because we are kind of implying that person must not have grace in their life, or they must not have as much as we have. See what I am saying?

God made it possible to never lose sight of the grace we are standing under by looking to Calvary. Then it all makes perfect sense.

On my playlist is a song called, “Under the Grace” by Phil Keaggy. I had heard it first about 25 years ago and I scoured the internet until I found it. Certain music just brings you back from the brink, and his was one of the recordings that did it for me long ago. He is known as a brilliant guitarist but it was his voice and the words to this song that brought grace home to me again this morning. (You can find it on YouTube)

I am humbled by Grace this morning. How about you?

“For it is by grace you have been saved through faith–and this is not from yourselves , it is the gift of God –not by works, so that no one can boast.” Ephesians 2:8-9