Psithurism

I do not have now nor have I ever had an exceptionally green thumb. Green is my favorite color and I love to be outside. The appreciation of the smell of grass, trees, and dark dirt runs deep in my veins. I come from a long line of bare feet preferred to shoes.

legs-1149846_1280My Mama’s mama, my Mam-Maw was green before it was even a thing. She composted before it had a name in hoity-toity magazines as a way of enriching one’s soil. She never discarded a non-biodegradable milk jug in the trash. She repurposed them into bird feeders, kitchen scrap collectors, toilet brush holders, and ice water containers. She would fill them with water from her kitchen tap and place them in her ancient non-frost free refrigerator. I can still remember my sister and I scraping the “little ice” from her freezer and eating it – we ate shaved ice before it was even a thing! That milk jug ice water was the coldest and best tasting water. I’ve had all manner of bottled waters since and they all pale in comparison.

She’d take a brown paper grocery sack and reuse it until it was soft and leathery-like and no longer good for hauling stuff to and fro and then she’d cut it up for us “youngins” to play with. I’ve purchased many a pretend item from an imaginary store with tender made from paper bag scraps. She made clothes from old Jim Dandy feed sacks, and she could and did make an entire quilt out of scraps of fabric. I doubt she ever called it “repurposing” or “reusing” or “reducing” she seemed to believe everything, even bits of rubbish deserved a second chance at life, and she aimed to accommodate.

robin-3474979_1280She loved trees, she loved to watch them and smell them. She would go outside, sit, and then she’d grow quiet. She would speak only to point out a squirrel nest or a particular kind of bird home. She used to tell me that each of her grandkids was represented by a particular kind of bird. I wish I’d had the foresight then to remember everyone’s. I only remember mine. A Robin red breast, she’d say “because they are unique and Mamie you are a unique youngin.” She saw something in me I reckon that I didn’t and evidently the Robin red breast had the same qualities.

The trees and outside seemed to give her life and as I’ve gotten older I’ve witnessed my mama head out-of-doors for some life giving and soul filling. As I have gotten older, I to do the same. I have a particular place in the backyard that serves to recharge me when I am depleted mind, body, and soul. I talk to the King there and listen to the breeze whisper through the leaves. It never ceases to amaze me that wind through trees sounds so much like rushing water in a stream. All of my senses are fed as I sit in the quiet of that place. Often I will leave my phone inside so as not to be distracted by the things of this world, half an hour there can fill me up for ten fold that time of pouring out.

birch-bright-countryside-618608.jpgI was spending an afternoon doing the aforementioned, when I thought about life-giving trees. As I exhaled deeply, the thought that my carbon dioxide would be turned into oxygen confirmed that life-giving hypothesis. I pondered on and chatted with the King and I recollected another kind of life-giving tree. The one my precious King was nailed to. The tree that ran red with blood spilled so that I could enter the Holy of Holies and talk freely with the God of the universe. A tree that lent itself to an unimaginable death so that I, we, could be part of a new covenant established and be in relationship with God.

I recently learned that Psithurism is the name given by science to the sound of the wind through the trees. I also learned that spirit in the Greek is pneuma, or breath. Perhaps the Creator purposely designed it so that when that pneuma, or spirit, was breathed into us, a holy CPR of sorts took place. The catalyst for that Life resuscitation began on that tree with the death of Jesus. Death defeated and the King resurrected.

My Mam-maw wasn’t super theological. Her eighth grade education carried her as far as possible given her difficult life and hard economic times. She knew the Bible. She couldn’t really quote the Word verbatim, she would have buckled if she would have had to preach a sermon, but preach she did. A different kind of preaching I suppose, the kind where words are few and actions speak loudly. She loved the Creator and she valued His creation, I strongly suspect that is why she honored it the way she did.

bloom-blossom-flora-60006.jpg

The Journey: The Road Less Traveled

Unknown

How do you want to be remembered? Boil it down to one sentence – what you would like people to say about you?

Why don’t you write that down in a journal or your planner, or put it in the Notes app on your phone.

Make it a goal.

Often we wander through life thinking things will turn out the way we want while living in a way that prevents that. The road you take in life determines your destination, both literally and metaphorically. You won’t get to New York by taking the road to Atlanta. Nor will you live a life of character while taking the path of sin and compromise. So if you really do have an image of what you’d like to have said about you, are you living in a way to make that become a reality?

If a person’s goal was to be on the Fortune 500 list there would be many steps to take to achieve that: education, training, starting your business, making sound decisions for your company, hiring the right people, and keeping up to date in your field. If you set out to accessories-adult-blur-935943become National Teacher of the Year that would require development as well. It would mean getting the proper education and training. It would also require development in specific areas: classroom management and organizational skills, understanding children and learning styles, getting continuing education and National Board certification, and mastering the dynamics of being a highly contributing, highly respected part of a faculty.

Likewise, if your goal is to be a godly mom, a faithful servant of the Father, a shining light for Christ in your company, or whatever, it doesn’t just happen. It starts with a choice: the choice of committing to Christ above all things. That is followed by more intentional choices including studying God’s Word, pursuing mentoring or training, and taking any other particular steps that would lead you to become the woman you hope to be. It would mean choosing a different path in life, one that would lead people to say of you, “She was a worshipper of God and her heart was open to the Lord,” as scripture says of Lydia in Acts 16:14, or “She was always doing good works and acts of charity,” as Luke says of Dorcas in Acts 9:36, or “I commend her to you. She is a servant of the church and a benefactor of many,” as Paul said of Phoebe in Romans 16:1-2.

The following line by Robert Frost may be one of the most well-known lines of poetry of any American author, and it has been interpreted by many.

Two roads diverged in a wood, and I—
I took the one less traveled by,

And that has made all the difference.

As we think today of our life, our goals and wishes, it would serve us well to recall this brief line of poetry and to ask ourselves some questions.

In light of what I wrote down a few minutes ago about how I’d like to be remembered, am I on the path that would lead to that being said about me?

If I want a Godly, noble, upright outcome, then am I choosing the path that leads to that?

Is the path I am currently taking today preparing me for what I want to become?

Am I on the path I am today because it is the well-traveled path and I can’t shake the insecure neediness of being like everyone else?

Am I too fearful to choose the path “less traveled by?”

Am I willing to try a better path starting today?

~~~~~

Frost was correct. The path we are on does make all the difference. God’s word said the same thing hundreds of years before Frost did. It says:

Choose this day whom you will serve, whether the gods your fathers served in the region beyond the River, or the gods of the Amorites in whose land you dwell. But as for me and my house, we will serve the Lord. Joshua 24:15 ESV

          There is a way that seems right to a man, but its end is the way to death.                      Proverbs 14:12 ESV

Enter through the narrow gate. For wide is the gate and broad is the road that leads to destruction, and many enter through it. But small is the gate and narrow the road that leads to life, and only a few find it. Matthew 7:13-14 NIV

agriculture-arrows-asphalt-977603.jpg

Today we have a choice. We can choose to follow along with other sheep happily wandering around the pasture with no direction and no leadership. This is a well-worn, wide path. Or we can choose to follow the Shepherd closely, staying right at His side, listening to His every word, obeying His every command, and making choices that lead us to the lofty goal we desire. It won’t happen in a day, a month, or even a year. But we will find ourselves growing toward that goal of godliness, holiness, and wisdom year by year. So here is the choice:

This day I call the heavens and the earth as witnesses against you that I have set before you life and death, blessings and curses. Now choose life, so that you and your children may live and that you may love the Lord your God, listen to his voice, and hold fast to him. For the Lord is your life, and he will give you many years in the land he swore to give to your fathers, Abraham, Isaac and Jacob. Deuteronomy 30:19-20 NIV

What do you choose? What will be said of you when you come to the end of your path of life? Will you take the narrow way, the road less traveled? It will make all the difference.

curves-grass-landscape-210092

Treading Water

She calls it the Lord’s Pool, God’s Pool on occasion. I have no idea why, but if I had to guess I would say that I told her it was His pool because He provided the way to go there.
As long as she’s been alive it has been a staple in the Martin Summer. My niece Ellie Grace, gets to spend a large majority of the summer as a Martin and because we frequent the pool so does she. That particular pool became a part of our everyday many years ago.

It all started one summer some years back, to date one of the most difficult summers for Scott Martin and myself. We were ill-equipped house parents at the local children’s home. We had 3 unique Martins of our own, a home full of diverse and unique children, and some marital trials that we just were not equipped to sort through. The pool became beach-children-enjoyment-870170.jpga welcome and frequent diversion. I remember spending those first of many pool-going times counting. Counting people to make sure all were afloat, no one had drowned on my watch. I also spent a lot of time treading water. Hours in the deep end turned to days it seemed. Teaching children the art of something that is second nature to me, something I could do long before I could walk. Reaching for little hands extended in my direction constantly encouraging and cheering on, “just a little farther, you can do it.” Reassuring time and again that the water was nothing to be really afraid of but to be watchful and on the alert at all times, a healthy fear, is what my Mama calls it.

I spent time squeezing those same wet extremities into puddle jumpers and arm floaties. Applying layer after layer of sunscreen. I applied sunscreen like layers of sealant covering sun exposed bodies. Countless cans, bottles, tubes in all manner of SPF but none less than 30, have sacrificed themselves in the name of UV protection within its enclosure. I’ve secretly often wondered if all that sunscreen has left a hole in the ozone just above this tiny oasis. And I would tread water, sometimes for hours. Trying with everything that is in me to stay afloat. I would cheer from the water as wobbly terrified knees made their way to the end of the diving board, the dull thud typical accompaniment for the inexperienced jumper in contrast to the high-pitched clang of the experienced diver.

I’ve judged multiple cannonball, back buster, belly buster, toothpick, can opener, and amateur diving contests, all the while I would tread water. Unable to take hold of anything but the water itself. I’ve witnessed countless Mamas utter words I’ve uttered myself and seen record numbers of cardboard crust pizza place pizzas make their way there, their boxes discarded in the familiar garbage cans that dot the perimeter. Things have changed, yet somehow they seem to stay the same, and I would tread water. I would return home exhausted and energized all at the same time. My own stringy wet hair, sun-kissed shoulders, and “noodle legs” proof of the day’s adventure. The deep never alarming or scary to me, but exhausting just the same.

I’ve packed thousands of pool snacks in all manner to feed the hungry masses declaring their starvation. Their behavior and famished declarations would lead you to think they’d never seen food. Needless to say, a mere 30 minutes before they had devoured a Popsicle from the snack room freezer purchased with quarters from a ziplock bag that is itself a staple in the pool bag. The plastic ziplock bag of coinage shares space with books that have worn and tattered covers, dog-eared pages made that way from constant trips home and back alongside soggy towels and pool toys. I carry them just in case, not because they’ve actually been read, because they haven’t. To date, I can not think of one book I’ve actually started and finished there.

benches-clouds-daytime-832975.jpgThese trees that surround that place have witnessed much. In the Martin home alone it witnessed, Ellie Grace’s first steps, the emotional caution that always follows a period of uncertainty, countless refereed arguments amongst those named Martin, milestone birthdays, a visiting raccoon that had a hankering for sweets, his craving quickly satisfied by said arguing Martins. Each upcoming school year lesson plans laid out and navigated on the umbrella covered wrought iron table, none exceptionally level, but very functional all the same.

The Martins have always had an uncanny knack for ushering in thunder, requiring a 20 minute hiatus. I don’t mind the hiatus so much yet the snack bag is given a workout.

The items of the lost and found have never stayed lost for very long, the Martins have a way of finding something lost or broken and giving it purpose. Recently a game of “whack-a-mole” was played in the 4 ft by Charlotte and Shelton with an abandoned and faded pink noodle. Imagination, necessity, and discarded rubbish are the makings of invention for the Martins.

As time has passed and much has changed and much has stayed the same, I find that I don’t tread water as much. I’m finding that the investment early on is paying off. I suppose that pool, the summers are an allegory of parenting itself. Invest early, do your dead level best not to drown or let someone else drown, and when they are older they’ll take to the water with a healthy fear, never fully aware of the sacrifice that was made on their behalf. As second nature to them as anything, and they will pass that art on to their very own.

The King’s Word says something to that effect:

Proverbs 22:6 Train up a child in the way he should go; even when he is old he will not depart from it.

The days of being waterlogged and weary have turned into life lessons and memories that they will carry with them forever. Ellie Grace named it the Lord’s Pool and it is indeed, both metaphorically and literally. I am beginning to understand that all those days of treading water, I was never alone, laughter was never in short supply, and watchful eyes from above were always present.

Featured photo (edited):
Photo by Sgt. Ken Scar, 
01.29.2015,
CLEMSON, SC, UNITED STATES
108th Training Command- Initial Entry Training

Psalm 29

by Joni Shankles

I admit it.
I am afraid of thunderstorms.

Growing up and living in tornado country, I am an experienced weather watcher.

Let me clarify. I’m not brave enough to go out and actually watch storms. I mean watch in the sense of heightened awareness, of being on guard. I’m better characterized as a weather listener. For me, thunder is an audible signal that danger looms. Where there is thunder, there is lightning. And if the storm is severe, thunder warns me that tornado winds are possible. Better check my weather radar app.

I hide my fear pretty well.
Except that I had bicycle helmets in our tornado closet twenty years before the weather experts began recommending them. Getting trapped in our outside entrance basement with two kids under two years old, watching a tree fall against the door – let’s just say I respect the power of storms.

Psalm 29 is giving me a new perspective.

David issues an invitation for all to ascribe, or give credit, to the LORD his glory and strength, and to worship the LORD “in the splendor of his holiness.” To help worshipers understand God’s power over all creation, David uses the imagery of a storm.

David compares thunder to the “voice of the LORD”, an audible reminder of God’s power and majesty.

The voice of the LORD is over the waters;
the God of glory thunders,
the LORD thunders over the mighty waters
The voice of the LORD is powerful;
the voice of the LORD is majestic. (v. 3-4)

David compares the “voice of the LORD” to the intensity of lightning, and to the power of winds in a storm to shake, twist, and break trees.

The voice of the LORD breaks the cedars;
the LORD breaks in pieces the cedars of Lebanon. (v. 5)

The voice of the LORD strikes with flashes of lightning.
The voice of the LORD shakes the desert…
The voice of the LORD twists the oaks
and strips the forests bare.
And in his temple, all cry, “Glory!” (v. 7-9)

David is saying: When you hear thunder, when you see lightning, when you see the power of stormy winds, it is the voice of the LORD inviting you to worship, to cry, “Glory!”

This is a game changer for me.
Thunder as the voice of God, not the voice of doom.
Thunder as an invitation to worship, not as a trigger for fear.

Psalm 29 reminds me that God is more powerful than any storm. It reminds me that God reigns over all creation, even thunder, lightning, and wind.

“The LORD is enthroned as King forever.” (v. 10)

And the psalm closes with a promise I can cling to whenever storms arise.

The LORD gives strength to his people;
the LORD blesses his people with peace. (v. 11)

For now, I live in tornado country. Storms will happen.

Psalm 29 reminds me that I can be prepared, but I don’t have to be afraid.
I can hear God’s voice when thunder rolls.
And when I hear it, I can choose to worship.

Father, I give you the glory due your name. You are enthroned as King forever. Your power is greater than any storm. Help me to hear your voice in the thunder. Let worship be my response to storms. When storm winds blow, thank you for the gift of your strength and the blessing of your peace. Amen.

psalm 29

We the People…

We the People of the United States, in Order to form a more perfect Union, establish Justice, insure domestic Tranquility, provide for the common defence, promote the general Welfare, and secure the Blessings of Liberty to ourselves and our Posterity, do ordain and establish this Constitution for the United States of America.

The Preamble to our U.S. Constittution is such an inspiring and noble statement of intent. Our forefathers who had dealt with tyrannical control sought to create a lasting and worthwhile means of government.

Today that new nation they established is probably not exactly what they thought it would be. I guess it just shows that We the good People of America may not be as good as was hoped. We the People of 2018 exemplify the antithesis of the Preamble: injustice, turbulence, self-focus, degradation, and enslavement to sins by our own choice.

As a science minded person, I see our founding father’s work as a giant experiment that we are still observing 200 years later. And what does that experiment reveal?

As noble as We the People would like to think we are, we have succumbed to the slippery slope of sin. We have slipped further than we thought possible, and there is no end in sight. Our greed, selfishness, and immorality have yielded a rotten fruit.

We the People cannot rescue ourselves. For years we’ve hoped to turn the decline around: new Presidents, new political parties in control, new laws, new social programs, protests, marches. All our best intentions have failed because we are flawed people, sinners in need of a savior. We need Gandalf to ride in on his white horse and rescue us.

Suicide rates are at an all time high. Despair permeates our precious United States of America. Looking through human eyes we see a bleak picture.

Where is hope to be found?

Psalm 33:18-22 – “But the eyes of the Lord are on those who fear him, on those whose hope is in his unfailing love, to deliver them from death and keep them alive in famine. We wait in hope for the Lord; he is our help and our shield. In him our hearts rejoice, for we trust in his holy name. May your unfailing love be with us, Lord, even as we put our hope in you.”

The situation is not bleak when you look at it through the correct lens – the lens of scripture. Scripture tells us we can’t rescue ourselves. It tells us Jesus is our Savior. It tells us God loves us No Matter What. It tells us we are never too far gone, that Father God will forgive anyone who repents and asks for forgiveness. It tells us that we are His Beloved.

When We the People turn our eyes to heaven, seek God’s ways, and live obediently we find hope. We find unconditional love. We find a rescuer. Not as a nation, but as invdividuals created uiquely by God.

The change begins with me not we. Am I willing? Are you? Willing to lay down self and choose God’s ways? To obediently follow, when it goes against the norm of our society?  To become a loving servant and follow in the steps of our Savior?

“I have been crucified with Christ. It is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me. And the life I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me.” Galatians 2:20

cross-918459_1280.jpg

My Chains Are Gone

freedom-2053281_1280

I stand singing to the top of my voice, the sound weak, quivery, and tear-filled. I am overwhelmed by the freedom I have found in Jesus Christ.

My chains are gone. I’ve been set free.
My God, my Savior has ransomed me.
And like a flood His mercy reigns,
Unending love, amazing grace.

It has taken years, but this song is now real to me. I know a freedom in Christ that I’ve wished for these many years. I speak now to you words I wish someone had spoken to me. Perhaps they did and I simply couldn’t comprehend.

I am now in the autumn of my life, (umm, let’s say late summer) and I wish I had taken hold of this freedom in Christ years ago. I grieve for clinging to my chains so long. I see that while I am set free, I have permanent marks left by the chains I’ve worn for so long.

So my encouragement to you today is in 4 parts.

  1. Turn loose of those chains. Christ came to die for our sins and set us free. We may pray to accept Him as our savior at a fairly young age, but we often hold onto the old bad habits, guilt, shame, and sin. Let it go! It’s your choice. Satan will tell you You can’t. You’re not worthy. You’re bad. You’ll never change. What will people think? Do it later. Let go of those chains that bind us!
  2. Ignore the enemy’s lies. Becoming a new woman in Christ and walking in faith requires self-control not only of our actions but also of our minds. Speak the truth of scripture in your heart to combat those fiery darts the evil one throws. Consciously reject those lies and speak truth.
  3. Choose to change today. Don’t waste the years of your life living in fear and defeat. It is a choice. “Choose you today whom you will serve…” (Joshua 24:15 NIV) Choose and act now. There are ramifications on our lives for years to come if we do not choose to walk forward with Christ in freedom.
  4. Look forward to what God has for you, not back on all your failures and regrets. We cannot change our past. But when we walk into the future with faith in Jesus, He will redeem all things even when we see no imaginable way. “For nothing is impossible with God!” (Luke 1:37 ESV) Things from our past can be set right, renewed, restored, and made whole. “Forgetting what lies behind and straining forward to what lies ahead, I press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus.” (Philippians 3:13-14 NIV)

The Lord has promised good to me.
His Word my hope secures.
He will my shield and portion be,
As long as life endures.

I hope you receive these words and act on them. You won’t regret it. Blessings!

rock-3386076_1280

So if the Son sets you free, you will be free indeed. John 8:36 ESV

My Chains Are Gone – Chris Tomlin

 

In Praise of the Ordinary Woman

Our ordinariness offers us kinship with our Savior and reveals the extraordinary love of God.

I am average. I promise I’m not being self-deprecating. As my teens would say, it is what it is. I am average height. I’m not a tiny person nor a tall person. I’m average weight. I even wear a size, wait for it, medium. I have medium brown hair, not dark brown, not light brown, just medium. I’m average looking. I’ve quite often been traveling, and a random person will tell me I look “just like” one of their friends. Yep, because I look like every other middle-aged soccer mom. My name is even average; given to every other girl born between 1970 and 1975.  I used to get frustrated at my ordinariness. Every person wants to have one thing that makes them special, makes them a superstar in some way. I am no different. Yet as I pondered my ordinariness, I kept coming back to Isaiah 53:2:

quaking-grass-1837773_1280“For he grew up before him like a young plant, and like a root out of dry ground; he had no form or majesty that we should look at him, and no beauty that we should desire him.”

When Jesus walked the earth, there was nothing about his appearance that would draw someone to him. He wasn’t tall and handsome like Saul, or even “ruddy and had beautiful eyes, and handsome” like David. His name was even average. The name of every other Jewish boy born in his day. At the end of the day when moms called their kids home for dinner I’m sure the shout of “Jesus! Dinner!” had twenty boys turning their heads. If you lived in the time of Jesus and passed him on the street, you probably wouldn’t have noticed him. Maybe that’s why in Matthew 13, the folks that watched Jesus grow up in Nazareth asked, “Where did this man get this wisdom and these mighty works? Is not this the carpenter’s son? Is not his mother called Mary? And are not his brothers James and Joseph and Simon and Judas? And are not all his sisters with us? Where then did this man get all these things? And they took offense at him.” (13:54-57). In other words, how could this ordinary young man with no apparent special gifts or abilities or appearance to speak of, be doing these extraordinary things?

They didn’t understand that what made Jesus extraordinary was not his appearance or his earthly name or his earthly heritage or even his occupation as a carpenter’s apprentice. All those outward things that we too often put a premium on in our culture—appearance, family, popularity, power, position, achievement–He wasn’t extraordinary because of any of those markers. What made Him extraordinary was who He was—Son of God and Son of Man. That makes His coming to earth even more incredible. He condescended to us—became human. He didn’t enter humanity as the supernatural King of Kings. He came as an average Joe, a regular guy. A man who could identify with His creation deeply and profoundly. He experienced life, not as the King He was, but as an ordinary man. So He could fulfill these words, “For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but one who in every respect has been tempted as we are, yet without sin.” (Hebrews 4:15)

 

Jesus came and lived an ordinary life, was an ordinary man, and it was in His ordinariness that He could become the perfect sacrifice, could fulfill the extraordinary purpose of becoming the Savior of the world. The only One who could defeat sin and death and establish an eternal kingdom. Because of Jesus, this ordinary girl has access to an extraordinary God. This God who makes all things new. This God who wants us to come in our weakness and our ordinariness so that we can point others to an extraordinary God. A God who loves us right where we are and just as we are, yet doesn’t leave us as we are. A God who delights in His creation, all of us, those the world perceives as ordinary and those the world perceives as especially gifted or talented or beautiful.

And it is in Christ, that I have a new identity as a daughter of the King, an extraordinary position for this ordinary girl. I didn’t have to earn that position. I didn’t have to look a certain way, or make a certain grade, or perform a certain task, or have a certain ability or achievement. Claiming this new identity simply required my humility to understand I am a broken and needy sinner and I need a Savior, and to receive the gift God offers through Jesus Christ.

I am ordinary. But I serve an extraordinary God. So I will embrace my ordinariness, and allow the extraordinariness of God to define my life. Because when I recognize who I am, the reality that the God of the universe loves me so much He became ordinary for a time so He could rescue me and make me new, is even more mind-blowing. I am nothing special, but my God sees me as someone worthy of His very life. He loved this average girl so much that He came and died for her. And that makes my God extraordinary. And when you are enveloped in His love, and He calls you His daughter, you become an extraordinary reflection of His love.

love-699480_1280.jpg

When I Call on Jesus – Nicole C. Mullen

 

 

 

Good Days, Bad Days

Some days are harder than others, some are chocked full of joy and pleasure, days when a vacation is far from one’s mind. Then there are some days that are down right difficult, from one hard thing to another, the stuff weariness and depletion are made of. Most days are a mixture. Glimpses of both joy and hardship, the mundane and exciting all rolled together, the determination at the end of it all a good or bad day contingent on which of those was the majority.

Recently I had one of those days when at the end of it all I could not determine which of those it was. It began later than it should’ve as I had a restless and sleepless night before, sleep that was tainted with weird dreams not nightmarish but not exactly fun. The kinds of dreams when one awakens one finds herself groping for reality and a sense of “did that really happen?” As I stumbled to the breakfast table, waking Martins along my way, we congregated at the breakfast table.

A weekend of BLAST fun, lack of sleep and routine was catching up. The youngest Martin fresh off a “bad weekend” where at one point she reminded me of someone who had been on a bender still reflected in her dark brown eyes. We were a sight to behold, a group of weary souls seated around our hand-me-down kitchen table.

“Find a verse or scripture and tell me about it.”

I knew, I know that soul refreshment and strength for the weary could be found in the King’s word. We all needed to hear it as much as I needed them to say it. Ragged Bibles spread open amongst cereals and milk, bananas, frozen and rewarmed egg rolls, quick warmed biscuits with homemade jam, leftover pizza and a cup of coffee in a chipped Jesus mug.

The verses chosen were as diverse as the breakfasts.

A verse in the beginning and how it was good, light brought forth from darkness and how we are light, reminders that The King is a strong tower and shelters His own, a comfort and very present help in times of trouble. A memo to the Martin 5 who don’t know what to do but our eyes are on you, a reminder that the battle isn’t ours but His. We adjourned our impromptu meeting and headed to quickly get dressed and brush new braces and orthodontia appliances, put on deodorants and be ready in 10 minutes as now we were late.

We kissed Daddy goodbye, headed to the car and began our trip to doctors, errands, and art. We played “The compliment game” at the youngest’s insistence. She was finally beginning to come around and I gave in to her characteristic pleas; they were a welcome return. We traversed roads and I was glad to see a recliner sitting in the median of 280 because I honestly thought I’d lost my mind last week when I was the only one who had seen it when we’d whizzed by it.

We stopped by a favorite library for “just a minute” and checked out an anticipated movie sequel. We made it to art just in time and by the time I put my tired ol’ mini van in park I was so glad to not be in motion and for an hour to not have to think.

I relinquished the Martins to a favorite art class and for a moment I was still. Within an hour we were back at it again, headed to the pharmacy and back home before dark. flatfoot-76564_1280.jpgWhen the tire blew out I simply stated the obvious and the drive to a safe spot was a difficult one.

I delegated tasks, thrust the van manual in the direction of the panicked one and said, “Sit. Read this and tell me what to do.” The panicked one had no way of knowing this wasn’t my first rodeo and I knew what to do. The outnumbered male went to work, as if it were a second nature to jacking and loosening and changing.

“I’ve got this mom.” I marveled at how literal moments before he’d “Bob Rossed” his artwork and now he was changing a tire. I knelt and helped and reminded and encouraged. When the spare was put on we were pleased with our work, but once was the van was down we were as deflated as it was. A flat spare. I almost cried. It was getting darker; the day nearly caught up with me.

About the time I almost lost it, Fred, who works at Valspar, who wore a yellow shirt, offered to help inflate the flat spare tire. I wanted to say to Fred, the obvious, that the youngest had been struggling for days and so had her Mama and Daddy, the middle was on the Autism spectrum and that wasn’t all black grease in his hands, some of it was paint. I wanted to shout that the oldest beautiful soul may be quiet but I could tell by the look on her face she was churning inside. I wanted to scream that the doctor’s office doesn’t call you anymore when your lab results are sketchy, they send you a text and tell you to follow-up in a few months instead of a year and end their text with their perceived rhetoric of healthy living, diet and exercise, use of sunscreen and cheery call if you have questions closing.

I looked at Fred, and all I could say was, “Thank you.” Soon he returned with a good as new spare, his yellow shirt smudged and stained with black. I thanked him again and he told us to be careful. Daddy was now on his way and as the night sky began to show itself we continued on our way. When we arrived home I discovered the frozen dinner I had planned to cook was still frozen and cold; Scott Martin had hesitated to break the bad news to me. As I cooked an alternate dinner and we congregated back at the kitchen table. We thanked the King for supper, protection and healing. We asked for provision and continued as aforementioned. Everyone complimented the chef on her preparation of fish-sticks and potatoes from a box. Her instant pudding dessert was “so good can we eat it for breakfast tomorrow?!”

Some days are hard, others are harder, but there is One who is true, who sends glimpses of Grace and confirmation in the midst of the chaos, reminders that He who begins a good work will bring it to completion and that He is at work even if I don’t think He is.

hand-93168_1280

My Story, His Glory

by Guest author Hope Hill (Re-printed with permission.)

A little over 3 weeks ago I noticed a gray cloud forming and moving across my left eye. One thing you need to know about me is that I am not a person who runs to the worst case scenario. I don’t go to the doctor on a regular basis (sorry mom). But all of that is because aside from the occasional cold or filling I have never been really sick. The blessing of health for someone like me is often overlooked and not appreciated until something happens. So I did what you are not supposed to do….I googled it. And all of my worst fears came true. I was reading about retinal detachment, permanent blindness and other eye-threatening issues when fear started to rush over me.  I noticed that I was fitting nicely into all of the right categories for a major eye problem.

The next day I phoned my optometrist to schedule an emergency appointment because a wise man once told me to never wait if there is an eye problem. As I walked in I started to explain my issue to the doctor. She took some tests, and I waited. I then waited a little longer. And even longer. Until finally the doctor came in and touched my shoulder. Uh-oh – this isn’t starting out great. She proceeded to tell me that it looked like a retinal detachment but I would have to see a specialist to determine the intensity of the issue. My worst fear in this situation came true. I was going to have to have emergency eye surgery that day. WebMD – 1   Hope – 0

Then came the tears. A bunch of tears. After 3 more hours of seeing different doctors to figure out just what kind of surgery was awaiting me, it was time. I was having a full-blown Vitrectomy. I will spare you the details of the surgery because that is definitely not the point of the story and super gross. What is important to know right now is that I have a gas bubble implanted in my eye. For 10 days I had to keep my nose pointed to the ground and sleep on my right side, so that gravity will use that bubble to hold my retina in place. If you do not do this properly the gas bubble can damage your eye and could cause blindness.

The medical term for my state (looking down) is called posturing. The word posturing suddenly captured my attention. I knew I had read it in the Bible, but I just couldn’t remember where. So two weeks later when I was allowed to sit up, I began my research of the word “posturing”.  I found many Biblical references to the posture of prayer. Abraham fell upon his face before God. (See Genesis 17:3, 17.) Moses prayed with his hands outstretched. (See Exodus 9:27–29.) King Solomon knelt in prayer. (See I Kings 8:54.) Jesus prayed looking up into heaven. (See Mark 6:41, John 11:41, and 17:1.)

Communication with God does not require a certain physical position, but postures do give expression to the attitudes of our hearts. Wow! What has the attitude of my heart been? Well, I didn’t know the answer to that question right away so I decided to sit in silence, face down, for one hour to hear from God. ONE HOUR, PEOPLE! First of all it is hard for a busy body like myself to be confined to the house, facing down, listening to podcasts. But now the Holy Spirit wants me to be quiet for one hour.

After many mental lists were made (ladies know what I mean) I began to really be still. As I began to listen a thought popped in my head to read the story about Jesus visiting with Mary and Martha. So I scrambled to my Bible app to read the story.

As Jesus and the disciples continued on their way to Jerusalem, they came to a certain village where a woman named Martha welcomed him into her home. Her sister, Mary, sat at the Lord’s feet, listening to what he taught. But Martha was distracted by the big dinner she was preparing. She came to Jesus and said, “Lord, doesn’t it seem unfair to you that my sister just sits here while I do all the work? Tell her to come and help me.” But the Lord said to her, “My dear Martha, you are worried and upset over all these details! There is only one thing worth being concerned about. Mary has discovered it, and it will not be taken away from her.” Luke 10:38-42

Woah. I am a Martha. As a ministry assistant my entire time is spent running around preparing for events, meetings, etc. And even though all of those things are great and needed, I can’t let the preparation distract me from sitting at His feet. So is it a coincidence that I had a surgery that forces me to posture myself? Is it a coincidence that I am unable to be at work, events, and meetings? No, God is not a coincidence. Romans 8:28 tells us that God works all things together. It is important for us to sit at His feet each day and get a fresh word from Him. God sees and knows what we are going through. He wants to remind us that in whatever situation, He is there, and He wants to be exalted. Every impossible situation is a perfect opportunity for Him to display His power and magnify Himself.

All of this sounds really good when you are not blind in one eye. Even though I heard that awesome Word from the Lord, I was still upset that I had to go through this process. Not because I think I am above it, but because I know He is bigger than it. I wanted God to heal me before the surgery, take away the pain and discomfort and show up big in the situation. But it was at that moment I failed to understand that the greatest expression of our mission can be born out of the deepest pain. It’s the same way that a crucifixion was necessary to bring eternal hope – to transform sin and death into life and liberty. The same way this trial was necessary to transform my life and my ministry. My question to you is what has been your blindness, your darkest hour? Have you allowed God to transform it into the victory and the calling that He intends for you?

I encourage you not to waste a single heartache but to seek for God’s plan in the middle of it. He doesn’t let us suffer needlessly. And your suffering may be the catalyst to what is next!

“For we live by faith, not by sight.” 2 Corinthians 5:7

Hope Hill – https://hopehill828.wordpress.com

God Gave Me Back My Daddy: A Story of Healing and Hope

Editor’s note: As Father’s Day approaches we share this story of restoration to offer hope. Jesus changes things, even when it seems impossible to the human mind.

img_7187

And I will restore or replace for you the years that the locust has eaten. Joel 2:25a 

In my childhood, all I remember about my Daddy is him leaving for work. He was a bread delivery man. He left between 3 and 4 a.m. and got home around 8 p.m. On his off day he worked in his Father’s produce company. On Sunday he usually got a call from someone to bring bread because they had run out. He worked very hard to provide for our family; I am so grateful for that. It taught me to work hard. But, I missed out on getting to know my Father.

Daddy was an athlete in high school, so I wanted to be an athlete to get his approval. I wasn’t athletic, at least not until high school. I started playing softball in the fifth grade, Daddy never saw me play until I was married and had my own children. We never got to share that experience.

Daddy wasn’t an affectionate person while I was growing up. He didn’t say “I love you,” even though he did. He didn’t hug us. I began, sometime in childhood to believe he didn’t love me. This thought grew and festered until it became an unshakable belief. I did not believe my Daddy loved me until one day in college.

My mother and father were separated at the time. We were having issues with our septic tank, it was leaking in the yard. I called Daddy and told him to come look at it. I remember being very angry at him, even though he had done nothing wrong. This anger sprang from a bitter root I had against him. I began telling him all he needed to do; my words were harsh and critical. I made it clear, I didn’t much like him! Then it happened, tears began to roll down his face. I was shocked. I had never seen him cry, ever! I really believed he wasn’t capable of showing emotion. Then he said something that forever changed our lives. “Angelia, I love you. I need you to love me.” He loved me!? Until that moment I could not believe that. God broke through my hard heart and softened it toward him. I knew things would never be the same.

img_7186Sometime later Daddy came back home for a while. I began nursing school. I was still learning to trust him, and was on very uncertain ground. Just before I graduated, one morning I was leaving for the hospital. Taped to the doorknob on the front door, was a note. It was from Daddy, it said, I am so proud of how hard you have worked in school. You set your mind on a goal, and you have accomplished it. This will bring success in your life. I love you, Daddy. I still have that little note, tucked away in a drawer in my jewelry box, it is a treasure to me!

Not long after, I married and moved away. Our relationship never had time to grow. I remember coming home to visit, as I would leave, Daddy would be standing at the top of the hill crying. I cried too, would I ever know him?

Then tragedy struck. Daddy had to have open heart surgery. After surgery, he suffered a stroke. He was weak on one side and could not talk; his short-term memory was gone. He and my mother had divorced by this time. He was alone. He had no one to care for him. He came to live with us. His speech began to come back, and he began to get better. But he was different. We spent every day together, we would take walks to build his strength, and we would talk and talk. At night, as I helped him get ready for bed, he would hug me, and say I love you. He would thank me for taking care of him. I would go to bed and tell my husband this is so strange, but so good! Our relationship began to bud and blossom. A few months later he went home.

Daddy had met a sweet lady, and one day I got a call from him saying, “Guess what I’m doing?” I had no idea.

“I’m singing in a choir!”

“What, you can sing?!”

They had joined a choir of senior citizens; he loved it. Then someone invited them to visit their church. They began attending, regularly, every time the doors opened. God began a work in him, something I had been praying for years. Occasionally he would mention to me he wasn’t sure of his salvation; when I questioned him, he would change the subject.

Five years ago tragedy struck again, his precious wife, Julia, died. The light of Daddy’s life was gone. He was lost, depressed and lonely. He was unable to care for himself at this time. He wanted to stay in his home, so we hired a nurse for a year. Then the money ran out. So I began going to his house to clean, fix his meds, and spend time with him. We began a routine of me coming and having dinner together. He has been hospitalized several times and God has protected him in miraculous ways. I began to really know my Daddy. He is funny, loves to tell jokes, (I’ve heard them all!) loves to talk, loves history, and his family. He has so many stories to tell about his family, and I love hearing them.

Two years ago, after mentioning again his doubts about his salvation, we sat down and went through the Bible. That night with angels circling around us, Daddy settled this once and for all! What a blessing to be there with him and share that moment. He has never mentioned it again.

We have come to a place of complete healing and restoration in our relationship. Through a series of events, ordained by God, I was given back my lost years with my father. Some might have seen this as an inconvenience, but I saw it as a divine appointment.

The Daddy I never knew, the Daddy I thought didn’t love me, loves me deeply.

Yes, God restored what the locust had eaten. He gave me a gift, wrapped in tragedy, to bring me something I could never have imagined. I don’t regret one single minute, and never will!

And I and my Daddy, will spend eternity in heaven!

IMG_6079