Seeing Through the Obstacles

A lake retreat brings God’s lessons.

The house was beautiful. Decorated like those in a magazine with the latest touches from the Pinterest boards. Plenty of bedrooms, windows overlooking the lake, and a dock perfect for jumping off of into the refreshing waters. But my favorite part was the huge deck that stretched the length of the back of the house. And being a writer, my favorite place on that deck was at the charming wrought iron bistro table with my back to the windows, my Apple in front of me, and a panoramic view of the deep green waters. There, each day, I spread out God’s word and my journal and leisurely visited with my Abba.

Almost immediately there was a fly in my ointment so to speak. (But even those flies carry lessons!)

My table, appropriately located in a cozy nook beside the door and just outside the kitchen window, had one drawback. A large red oak had, years ago as a little acorn, made his home about 8 feet from me, directly in front of my favorite chair looking off the deck toward the lake. Now he was a big old boy, probably 2 feet in diameter, that blocked a large chunk of my lake view. With the door and porch railing hemming me in, there was really no place to move the table that would make a big difference. Adirondack chairs had their place on the other side of the door, so it was my opportunity to enjoy the blessing in spite of an imperfection.

As I sat watching my kids jumping off the pier that second afternoon, leaning this way and that to see them well around the tree as they floated off on tubes this way, or kayaked around that way, enlightenment came. God did what He so often does with me, He made a lesson out of the mundane and the annoying.

As I stood up and moved toward the railing to call to them for some reason, I realized a truth: the closer I was to that obstacle (the tree) the more of my view it blocked. And the antithesis of that: the further I drew away from the obstacle, the more clear my view was of the reality around me.

My spirit stirred. I suddenly was aware of the spiritual ramifications of this lesson from the physical world. We humans frequently have obstacles come into our lives. Whether it is the relatively minor getting a head cold the day you have a big presentation at work, a larger obstacle like having your taxes audited, or a really huge life issue such as a serious illness or tragedy. We tend to see these obstacles as material, physical world problems, but they greatly impact our spiritual walk.

As we face the larger obstacles, we become just like I was with my tree. We are consumed with the big thing in front of us, and not with the rest of God’s plan being carried out beyond that. We can sit in a ladies Bible study, so inwardly focused that we miss tuning in to God’s great plan going on around us. We can stay cooped up in our homes staring at that “tree” of grief in front of us and not be aware of the beauty of the “lake” just beyond us. We may verbally gripe so much about our current obstacle tree, that the only words that escape our lips are negative, bitter, sour words of disappointment and fear. And we may even hide behind our obstacle tree, because we are so used to that ongoing obstacle in our lives, it becomes easier just to live hidden behind it than to make the effort to reach out to the world beyond, despite our obstacle.

So what’s a girl to do? We all have problems.

First, get some distance on that tree whenever possible. When you are staring down that problem a foot away from you every day, it looms huge in your line of vision blocking the majority of what you see. Granted, we have huge obstacles crop up, but we don’t have to give them the central place in our lives and cozy up to them. Just as when I stepped back on the porch I could see more of the lake, when we step back from those obstructions we see more of the world beyond our difficult situation. A rebellious teen in the house? Accept the husband’s offer of a get-away. Finished that chemo and waiting on results of scans? A family celebration or second honeymoon trip might be a good choice. Your best friend is in financial crisis? Offer them your home free for the weekend for a romantic vacation while you are on that road trip to visit the in-laws. Find creative ways to give yourself (or others) a bit of distance from those besetting hindrances and the perspective and refreshment that come with distance.

Second, look beyond. God is carrying out a good plan all around us. If you can’t pull away for a while from troubling issues to get some perspective, then refocus your outlook, and start looking at the part of that view beyond that tree that you can see. The world is carrying on around you, and God has a role for you in that world as long as you are breathing – problems or not! Invest your life in God’s plans beyond your problem. When we invest in others, both are blessed.

Third, examine that tree. It’s just a tree. One with dead leaves and bark and ants crawling on it. It may be a 100 foot tall, 2 feet in diameter tree, but it’s still just a tree, a created thing. It’s just an obstacle. Nothing is impossible with God. Because of fear maybe, have we mentally made that obstacle more mighty than the Creator? He is still in control. He is not surprised by that tree being there; He saw that little acorn fall there and plant itself before we ever had an inkling we’d even be in the same neighborhood as that tree, maybe even before we were born. The good news: He has the axe necessary to get rid of that tree!

Fourth, move to one side. Look at your tree from a different angle. Could your parent’s diagnosis of Alzheimer’s be a blessing to draw you two to spend time together in their later years? Could your broken heart over that rebellious teen prepare you to minister to other broken hearts you encounter along the way? Could that car wreck bring a hidden blessing? Could this trial be drawing you back to prayer? Obstacles, in some way, have God’s hidden blessing and glory tucked behind them. He is active in your life. So get a different perspective on that tree and see what good God may be bringing along with it.

Fifth, pray in faith for God to chop it down. There’s never harm in asking God to remove obstacles from our lives. Jesus did that the night before He was crucified; ” ‘Abba, Father,’ he said, “everything is possible for you. Take this cup from me. Yet not what I will, but what you will.” (Mark 14:36 NIV) That last statement gets us! Are we willing to live with that obstacle always there if God chooses NOT to remove it? He’s got a good plan for us. And He’s got the axe… remember?

IMG_5875And last, see the good in that tree. Count your blessings. My tree has a cheerful little squirrel who chatted with me every day of my vacation and a gorgeous green canopy that shaded me from the heat of the afternoon sun. It’s massive presence reminded me of the strength and stability of the Father, and it’s leaves offered pleasant whispers in the breeze. Your obstacle has hidden blessings too. Maybe it restores a broken relationship, brings a new friend into your life, humbles you, makes you sit still and enjoy the moments more, changes the direction of your child’s life, or causes you to listen and understand new life lessons. God is using it in your life.

So let us not grow so focused on the negative. Yes, bad things happen, but like a diamond, they are many faceted, and may have hidden treasures bound up with them. Are we embracing the spiritual lessons that come our way through the pain? Are we consumed with the Father, or are we consumed with the fear, dread, confusion, doubts, and what ifs of this obstacle? Are we angry or tender-hearted? Let us look with spiritual eyes to really see – to look beyond that obstacle!

And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose. Romans 8:28

Why Through Pain, Lord?

By Guest writer Angelia Hendon

July 7, 2012. I woke up early on this Saturday morning with all my plans for the day running through my head. Little did I know, God had different plans for me that day.

My husband got up and asked me what I had going on that day. I impatiently went down the list. “Quick” time with the Lord and breakfast, go to the gym, rush home, shower, dress and head to Jasper for a baby shower. Then back home, to work on plans for our daughter-in-law’s baby shower the following week. His next words would come back to me later, and I would never forget them. “Do you think you could have some time for me today?” My reply… maybe when I’m finished. I saw the hurt in his eyes, but I was a woman with a plan, and that plan could not slow down or be altered!

So, off to the races I went! Everything was going according to schedule, until I ran through the den on my way to leave for Jasper an hour away. I passed my husband, Greg, sitting in his recliner. He had been to the gym and was covered in sweat. My first thought was, keep going, don’t stop, just yell goodbye. But, for the first time that day, I listened to the Holy Spirit say, go kiss your husband and tell him goodbye.

So, I stopped, put the baby gift down, and went to the den. That is when God revealed His plans for that day. As I bent over to kiss my husband goodbye, I noticed his lips were clammy, and he was very pale. I asked, “Are you okay?” He opened his mouth, but couldn’t get any words out. I once was a nurse, so I immediately went into Supernurse mode! Also in God’s divine provision, I had just completed a course on CPR and stroke awareness for our business.

Greg is a diabetic, so my first thought was his blood sugar is low. I ran and grabbed a spoonful of jelly and stuck in his mouth. Nothing. No change! Then I remembered the stroke protocol. I got aspirin and gave it to him screaming, “Chew it, chew it!” I went into the bathroom to call 911, afraid he wouldn’t approve.

Up until this point , I was calm, cool, and in charge! After I called 911, I called my daughter. She was supposed to be working, caring for foster children that day. I didn’t think she could help, but called anyway. As soon as I heard her voice I broke down, and tried to tell her what happened. Again God’s provision, she had been called and told not to go to work. She said, “I’m coming. Wait for me!” Relief! Help was coming. What I didn’t see at the time was that my help was already there!

I went back to Greg, held his hand and told him I had called an ambulance; they were on the way. I knew in my heart he was having a stroke, but couldn’t believe it. It was like a cruel nightmare, and I was just dreaming all this.

It was only a few minutes and they were there. They came in, took his vital signs, and said, “Your husband is having a stroke.” I knew it, but when they said it, I lost it again. My neighbors, whom I had only met, came in saying they worked in the medical field, and helicopter-flying-medical-float-65943asked to help. They began telling me to get his medications and his wallet and send with him. The medics had decided to fly him to either Birmingham or Huntsville. They were taking him on a stretcher out the door, and said, “We’ll let you know which one.”

How was I supposed to know where to go, they didn’t have my phone number! This could not be happening. They’re taking my husband somewhere in a helicopter! What is happening, God? This was just an ordinary Saturday!

The helicopter landed on an empty lot by our house. (God provided a landing pad!) As they rolled him in, they yelled, “Your husband wants to go to Huntsville, meet us there!”
My daughter had just gotten there, so we got in her car and headed to Huntsville, neither of us knowing where the hospital was.

We rode in silence, praying. I was begging God to let my husband live. That’s when I remembered his words, “Could you have some time for me today?” Please God, don’t let that be the last words he says to me!

We made it to the hospital and found him. He seemed ok. At some point my daughter had called our pastor and told him what was happening. In a few minutes, in walked in our former youth pastor and close friend. He had been at the hospital visiting someone, and had heard about Greg. Again God’s provision. He began joking with Greg, as usual. Greg started smiling and laughing. I knew then he was ok.

A few days later, they sent him home.

medicine-2361046_1280We followed up with his neurologist. At this visit, we walked in, sat down, and he pointed to some X-rays. He said, “This is your brain. You’ve had 2 small strokes in the area that controls speech. You should recover completely. But…” What he said next, I wasn’t ready for. “You could have another one any time. You might not survive it. I’ve had 3 patients this week, younger than you, who didn’t. There’s really nothing you can do, go home, reduce your stress, and enjoy your life.”

It was like being punched in the gut, hard! I couldn’t breathe! Somehow we managed to walk out of there. I turned to Greg and said, “We’re getting another doctor!”

While I went to get his records at the hospital, I left Greg in the waiting room. He was very weak. When I returned, our pastor was sitting there with him. He “just happened” to be at the hospital in Huntsville visiting someone. We tearfully told him what the doctor had said. He prayed for us, and tried to encourage us.

When we got home, I sat in his lap, and we cried out to a God. What is going on?! We had no answers, only fear and discouragement.

The next morning I got up early to pray. God spoke to me that morning. He gave me a verse of hope. It is marked in my Bible, July 16, 2012, God is fighting for Greg! Nehemiah 4:14-15. God said, Angelia you and your children are to fight for your husband and father! On your knees! I have frustrated the enemy’s plan! My faith grew that day, as I trusted that He would heal my husband.

And I looked, and rose up, and said unto the nobles, and to the rulers, and to the rest of the people, Be not ye afraid of them: remember the Lord, which is great and terrible, and fight for your brethren, your sons, and your daughters, your wives, and your houses. And it came to pass, when our enemies heard that it was known unto us, and God had brought their counsel to nought, that we returned all of us to the wall, every one unto his work. Nehemiah 4:14-15

That was 5 years ago. I would face many trials after that, some I wasn’t sure I would survive. But, God is faithful! Ps 33:18-22 says, “The Lord’s eye is upon those who fear Him, who wait and hope in His mercy and loving kindness. To deliver them from death, and keep him alive in famine.”

Yes, Lord, it is through pain I have learned to trust You! May I know You and the power of Your resurrection and the fellowship of Your suffering! (Philippians 3:10) My hope is in You alone!

We never know what God has planned for us sometimes, but it is for our good and His glory!

Never forget – Always kiss your husband goodbye, and have some time for him! It could be the last time.

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Back to Basics: Doing a Topical Study

Grab your coffee! It’s time to learn to do some Bible researching. It’s not hard! Don’t panic!

Ever been at the office or out with friends and a subject comes up that gets uncomfortable for you? Maybe it’s a hot topic from the news that has spiritual overtones, or perhaps a spoken opinion on a moral issue that goes against what you believe. Whatever it is, it pricks your heart, or conscience. You feel internal distress. You know you disagree with what is being promoted, but you can’t pull up the scriptural principles you need to be able to support your point, so you sit in tacit agreement even though you know you disagree. Most likely, we’ve all found ourself in this position at one time or another.

Fast forward 2 hours. Dinner is over and you’re home mulling over your regrets about not speaking up. What do you do?

May I suggest doing a topical study of the subject in scripture? You may have felt a bit like you failed because you could not or did not speak up. But as my sweet husband says, those failures or problems are just creative opportunities. So NOW is your opportunity to make sure you are never caught in that place again (on that subject, at least)! Let this “failure” move you to take action, and take an hour to dig into the Word of God to see what it has to say, so that the next time you will be prepared.

Topical studies are easy-peasy! Here is the scoop:

  1. Grab your Bible, a pen & paper, and a Strong’s Exhaustive Concordance, either paper or online.
  2. Jot down on the paper key words related to the topic you want to discover more about.
  3. Look up each word in your concordance and jot down the scripture references that use this word.
  4. Take time to read each scripture on your list.
  5. As you read a scripture write down facts you learn. (Realize that these may support what you believe, or they may not. In the latter case, they may cause you to change your belief.)
  6. Pray over what you have learned and tuck away those ideas for the next time you feel challenged to speak about what you believe on this subject.

Example:

At a wedding shower yesterday you found out the bride-to-be has been living with the groom-to-be and they’re not married yet. You were always taught this was wrong, but you know it’s very acceptable in today’s society. You feel tongue-tied, can’t really remember why you believe what you believe, and it’s not the place to speak up anyway.

So you go home with these thoughts nagging at your brain. You drag out your commentary and Bible. (This is step 1.) You write down general words having to do with the topic: marry, marriage, wife, husband, and virgin. And then you think of more specific words and Biblical words: sex, unfaithful, chaste, fornication, etc. (Step 2) As you go to the Strong’s you find L-O-N-G lists of scriptures. You notice that the Strong’s also gives you a phrase beside each scripture reference so you can get the gist of the meaning of that verse. The phrases that don’t seem to relate directly to your topic you skip over and just record the most pertinent ones. (Step 3.) Then you grab your Bible and paper and notate that a man and wife become one flesh (Matthew 19:5-6), that there should not be any impurity or any hint of sexual immorality in our lives (Ephesians 5:3), and that in Ephesians 5:22-33 husbands and wives are seen as a picture of Christ and the church – and you are very aware that Christ would never be seen in an immoral act like sex before marriage. (There are many, many more scriptures on this subject area, but these give us a view of what steps 4 & 5 might look like.) You end your study with prayer for wisdom, prayer for your own strength of character to obey in this area, and prayer for the bride and groom-to-be that triggered your interest in this study. (Step 6.) Notice that there is no “Step 7” that has you go back and bash-with-scripture the people who disagreed with you earlier. You are NOT their Holy Spirit. But you are now better equipped in this area to speak your beliefs in love if the appropriate opportunity arises in the future.

So I challenge you, as you drain that last sip of cafe-au-lait out of your cup, dig into God’s Word in areas where questions have come up in your daily life. Do topical studies. Try it! Today even. Don’t wallow in your ignorance as my grandmama used to say, but take time to learn and “grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.” (2 Peter 3:18) We don’t grow in knowledge to be able to correct others or put them in their place. That mentality comes from a heart of pride. Rather, we grow and learn to know God more intimately and to become more like Jesus Christ, thereby being lights to the world that draw people to Jesus like a moth to a flame.

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A Weird One

Giggles. “I just noticed how weird his….Bahaha his eyes look.” – Shelton.

Weird had most definitely been the word of our day. As this weird day had drawn to a close I was snuggled on the couch with Shelton and Maggie. We’d watched a special on the Terracotta Army buried in China and a documentary on William Shakespeare. We’d decided we would like to visit China and Stratford-on-Avon. The classically educated Shakespeare provoked the weird eye comment. Words like rhetoric and logic Latin and Greek recognized by my own classical learners. Shelton’s giggles and observations served to remind me of the bizarre and weirdness of that day.

As the dawn broke that morning and the earliest of Martin risers meandered to the kitchen it was apparent that today would be an “off” day for Maggie. Her choice of a paring knife to spread her homemade butter and jam onto her scrambled eggs evoked a foreshadowing of the “off” day. She “forgot it wasn’t toast.” Those days are ones where things are just off. Her struggles more apparent and obvious to those of us who spend everyday with her. It grieves my heart but kicks me into gear knowing she needs more in the way of help.

Scott Martin had finals that week. Finals mean the louder of the Martins vacate so as not to disturb the test taker. An off day, a plan to vacate, and a to do list a mile long. I should 2005_honda_odyssey_lx_-_nhtsahave deduced early on… weird was in my future. So as my tired old minivan wandered down the roads of Gardendale I shouldn’t have been surprised when the low flying bird collided with the front of my van, death instantaneous, the impact propelling the dead bird carcass onto my windshield wipers where it became lodged.

A little known fact, when I get nervous I laugh. I laugh a lot, an uncontrollable, awkward laugh. Birds are not my favorite. Birds make me nervous. The dead bird on my windshield thrust me into such a fit of laughter I could no longer drive my vehicle and was convinced I might be forced to abandon it on the side of Mt Olive Road. The Martins all having witnessed the event and now witnessing their Mama lose it all had various comments.

“Did that really just happen?”

“Oh it happened!”

“I can’t even!”

I fought hard to compose myself. The decision was made to pull over near a grassy area and propel the dearly departed via a wiper blade into the grass where he would return to earth from which he came. Still experiencing after shock fits of laughter, a short time spicy20chicken20cowlater we reached our destination, the local Chick-fil-A. Charlotte had been saving her gift card she earned early in the summer rocking babies and feeding toddlers during a babysitting gig. The time had come for her to relinquish it in exchange for a much desired spicy chicken sandwich.

As is customary, Shelton chooses a table, gathers condiments, and the girls and I obtain the food. As we sat down at the table I was seated directly across from Maggie. In the same position at the table behind us was another family. A common denominator was obvious to me as I looked around our dining table: three separate families, all with multiracial children, two of which were seated in the exact position. To my right an exasperated mom of said children and who, in the words of Maggie, was “talking mean to her kids.” Soon the mean talker mamma left and another weird thing happened. Maggie and her opposite table counterpart were clearly affected. Maggie watched intently as the woman gathered her children and looked at me with the question she asks often, “Why do people talk mean to their kids?” The counterpart at the opposite table shed tears. Soon he was wiping his eyes with the recycled paper made napkin. Within moments Maggie was doing the same.

54c6bfefb302dd3b87d157dae74c5981I offered all I could to Mag’s, the only balm that can truly ease a broken heart, prayer. We prayed for the mama and we prayed for her kids. We prayed for the weary and the broken. We asked for forgiveness if we’d acted in such a way that doesn’t honor our King. After our prayer we carried on with our meal. The crying counterpart continued to mourn.

The weirdness of the situation, the seating arrangements, even the unspoken thread that seemed to link them, a history of mean talking did not escape me. Wounds made long ago by mean talking and mean acting that still feel fresh when confronted with that mean talking mama. Soon our meal came to a close and we moved on with our day. We giggled as we talked about the bird incident and how Daddy would react when we told him. We laughed hysterically when I purchased “Jesus’s head stickers” that Charlotte promptly placed in the glove compartment for safe keeping. Everything about that was weird.

Soon we arrived home and the weird gave way to mundane, that was until the Shakespeare observation. Did Shakespeare have a lazy eye in need of correction? Maybe some not yet named ocular disorder. Perhaps the artist’s rendering was inaccurate or he spilled some ink in a most unfortunate place when depicting the famed playwright. As Shelton surveyed the likenesses on the television screen, he had drawn the conclusion that regardless the etiology, Shakespeare looked weird. As I made my way to bed that night I gave thanks for weird, for unique; most of all I am thankful for laughter and for a King who freely gives it as a balm to the weary and broken soul.

A bit more weirdness to brighten your day!

Pig photo credit

 

My Bethlehem – My “House of Bread”

After 25 years a house gets old and begins to need major repairs. Living through that is an interesting experience. So as the pounding of the hammers and roar of saws and rivet guns and whatnot began to put This Girl into adrenalin overload, I escaped to the nearest  quiet restaurant for peace to focus on a Bible study I was writing. Day 1 was so productive that this escape became the norm for a few days.

On day 5 as I sat in Panera enjoying my coffee, I took a deep breath, stretched, and thought how very thankful I was for my life. As a semi-retired, empty-nester I was getting to do what I loved most: research and write Bible lessons. I was digging into Revelation at the moment and 1:3 hit me with power and beauty, “Blessed is the one who reads aloud the words of this prophecy, and blessed are those who hear it and take to heart what is written in it, because the time is near.” All I could think was Yes! 

pexels-photo-179912.jpegWith my Bible open before me and a table full of commentaries and notebooks strewn all around, a strange thought came to my mind. Here you are sitting in a bread shop consuming the Bread of Life. This is your House of Bread, your Bethlehem.

I’ve always been intrigued by names and symbolism in scripture. And the Word Bethlehem is one of my favorites. From the first mention of the Bethlehem in Genesis to its distinguished spot as the birth place of Jesus in Matthew 2 and Luke 2, Bethlehem, the House of Bread, intrigues me. Many years ago in a Christmas message, I first heard my pastor speak of Bethlehem as the House of Bread. I’d never caught that before. But it dawned on me that day, the one who said, “I am the bread of life,” was born in the House of Bread! (John 6:35) Bethlehem, the place where the Son of God came to meet us and meet our evey need – how symbolic.

If you follow the word “bread” beginning in Matthew, you’ll find it a thread woven heavily in the gospels and on throughout the New Testament. One of the first mentions of bread in the NT is Jesus reminding His enemy, and us, that man doesn’t live by bread alone, “but on every word that comes from the mouth of God.” (Matthew 4:4) In His model prayer Jesus prays for God’s kingdom to come (a grand thing) and for our daily bread to be provided (an ordinary thing). (Matthew 6:11) One of his many miracles was multiplying bread to feed thousands! (Matthew 14:7)  He ate the consecrated bread in the temple (Matthew 12:4) and reminded the disciples not to even worry about taking bread with them as they went out to minister. (Mark 2:26 and 6:8) And in his final hours He took bread, fed His closest 12, and set up a symbol of His life with bread – “Take and eat, this is my body.” (Matthew 26:26) Who knew bread was such an important symbol in God’s word?

pexels-photo-461313“Jesus declared, ‘I am the bread of life…” But the thing that hit me that day sitting in Panera Bread was the rest of Jesus’ words in John 6:35, “…Whoever comes to me will never go hungry, and whoever believes in me will never be thirsty.’ ” The spiritual reality hit me heavily that morning. So many days and seasons and years of my life have been spent hungering. Hungering for that undefined, unfulfilled need to be met. Stuffing in anything to fill that hole in my heart that hungered and yearned for meaning and for purpose and for more out of life. And this day I encountered the “Bread of Life” in a new way. I realized a satisfaction and fulfilled hunger in my soul as I sat with Him “listening” to His written word and absorbing His love for me, His purpose, and His ways that are beyond my understanding.

I leave you today with a hope for you and a challenge. I hope you too will find Jesus to be the Bread of Life that satisfies your hunger. And I challenge you to dig into His word, and as Jesus challenged His disciples in John 6:27, “Do not work for food that spoils, but for food that endures to eternal life, which the Son of Man will give you.” In your soul hunger, turn to The Bread of Life and find satisfaction living in your Bethlehem!

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A Letter to My Child

 

The Outpouring of a Mom’s Heart to Her Daughter Heading Off to College

“May the God of HOPE fill you with all JOY and PEACE in believing, so that by the power of the Holy Spirit you may abound in HOPE.” Romans 15:13

Oh my precious girl,

I can’t believe this day is actually here. The day you begin a new adventure. One that is all your own. One that will be incredibly difficult and more rewarding and beautiful than you could ever imagine.

All I can see in my mind’s eye is a replay of your life. The first time I saw you and fell instantly in love. Holding your little three-month-old hands while we prayed for God’s pexels-photo-236164provision so I could stay home with you. Watching you with shock as you took your first steps at NINE months old. You never were much for sitting still. Learning what it means to parent a stubborn, strong-willed toddler – the stand-offs over nap time and sippy cups. Sheesh!  Being amazed by your three-year-old self – watching those raven curls bounce as you climbed and played and bossed your siblings around. I’ll never forget how you would look at me with that mischievous grin and those gorgeous chocolate eyes of yours and I would feel equal parts of frustration and adoration (truth be told, I still feel that way about you some days). The day you fell in love with Jesus. The days when I knew He was transforming your stubborn little heart. Watching you grow through the elementary years and discovering just how unique and remarkable God made you and what a one-of-a-kind gift He gave you in your ability to think deeply and drink in knowledge. The teenage years were a bit rough and rocky. You made lots of mistakes. But you learned to lean in to Jesus and find His grace was sufficient for you. You were cautious and careful about the choices you made and the people with whom you chose to spend your time. You grew in wisdom and in stature. You were willing to stand with truth, even if it meant standing alone. You showed yourself a faithful, loyal friend (even when it caused you heartache). You have the most genuine love for God and others I’ve ever encountered. You do not seek attention or applause. You simply love Him. You are steadfast. You love for Christ is deep and true.

beach-1868772_1280For that reason, I am continually praying that your love for Him deepens and the roots of truth dig down deep in your heart. The branches may be shaken by experiences, but if the roots are solid, the tree will stand firm no matter the storms that blow. Know that you can take your cares to Christ—all of them, ALL OF THEM. Remember your life verse, “Trust in Him at all times, O people; pour out your heart before Him; God is a refuge for us.” Psalm 62:8 He hears. He knows. He cares. He answers.

I’ve told you many times before I never really thought about having kids. I never dreamed of being a mom. I dreamed of being an adventurer. But I knew, when God began to reveal His plan for me and daddy to marry, that kids might be part of His plans. I also knew if I had children I wanted to be all in, invested completely and deeply in their lives. I didn’t want to miss a thing. And I got the privilege of being not only your momma, but your teacher for 18 years. And it has been one of God’s greatest gifts to me. To love you, to pour into you, to cry with you over fractions and research papers and friendships and hard decisions. It is such a JOY and continues to be a JOY to call you my daughter. You can frustrate me more than any one human being ever could, but, honestly, I am astounded by you and who you are becoming. You’ve got lots of growing to do; lots of learning to do; lots of incredible experiences waiting to be enjoyed; and lots of difficulties coming your way. But I know, to my very core, you will be stronger for having walked this road. You will learn even more to lean in to the faithful One and He will prove Himself faithful. Keep your eyes on Him.

Just a few things before I go:

pexels-photo-129859LOVE BIG. When you get bogged down in your own little world, you’ll get depressed. Seek others out and love them big. Remember to consider others better than yourself. That’s one of the secrets to unlocking the true joy of Christ.

TAKE RISKS. New friendships and new adventures are scary. That’s true for everyone. I’ve never known you to be afraid of taking risks when you travel, but take the same risks with friendships. You might find some unexpected treasures.

BE OPEN. Be cautious about who your share your life with, and when you find those treasures, don’t be afraid to be genuine and vulnerable. Guard your heart, but don’t wall it up.

LAUGH LOTS. You are about to jump feet first into one of the most incredible seasons of your life. It will be FULL of potential and adventure and experiences that you may never have an opportunity to experience again. ENJOY the moments. They are a gift of a gracious God.

DRAW NEAR. To Jesus every.single.day. Don’t neglect your time with Him. Not out of guilt or shame, but because HE loves you more than you could ever imagine.

My precious girl you are loved more than you could ever know. It is my honor to call you my daughter. Now go and bring glory to your heavenly Daddy. He has chosen you before the foundation of the earth to be His child. He has chosen this university for you. He has plans for you at this place for such a time as this. Plans I can’t even imagine, but I know they are good. It will be hard and it will be scary, but it will be better than you could ever dare to imagine.

I LOVE YOU.

Mom

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Back to Basics: Faith

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“Now faith is confidence in what we hope for and assurance about what we do not see. … By faith we understand that the universe was formed at God’s command, so that what is seen was not made out of what was visible. … And without faith it is impossible to please God, because anyone who comes to him must believe that he exists and that he rewards those who earnestly seek him.” Hebrews 11:1,3,6 NIV

It’s coffee time! Or tea! Or chocolate milk! Or… whatever. Grab you favorite morning treat and sit back, read, and sip.

I’ve heard it said that we tend to judge others based on their behavior, but we judge our self based on our intentions. I have found this to be true of myself. I intend to exercise and eat right every day, I intend to save more, spend less. I intend to write cards to people more often than I do. The reality is I often find stray cards around my house that have been half written in and never mailed. So I imagine I’m falling short in other areas too.

I intend to walk in faith when tough times come, too. I consider myself a woman of faith. Maybe you want to think of yourself as a woman of faith, too. You know the Word of God, you want to have faith, you intend to have faith, but when a crisis hits… hmmm. Do you walk through it in faith? Or do you find yourself so overcome with the tragedy or the unknown or the fear that faith flies out the window? I’m sure I’m not the only one who has gone to church and heard people say in response to the turmoil, “I’m praying. Trust the Lord. He’ll get you through this.” And you walk away thinking That’s easier said than done!

It’s always much easier to say things than to walk them out. But we want to become women who “Walk by faith not by sight.” (2 Corinthians 5:7) So how do we do that? How do we have faith when we don’t have faith in that moment? If we dig in scripture and make a careful observation of God’s word we get some help.

pexels-photo-259027Hebrews 11:1 tells us that “faith is confidence in what we hope for and assurance about what we do not see.” What do you put your confidence in? Some things I have chosen to put confidence in over the years are my husband, a job, finances, doctors, my “good”-ness, truth, family – and these are just a few. Have these ever rescued me? No. I guess they’ve made my anxious heart quit racing a little at times, but they have never had the answer or the final say. There is only One worth putting our confidence in. Only one that we can be assured has the power to rescue.

Do we truly believe what Hebrews 3:11 says? “By faith we understand that the universe was formed at God’s command, so that what is seen was not made out of what was visible.” Or is this another of those things that we want to believe? If we truly believe in the depths of our being that God formed the whole universe out of nothing, then, mercy, what could there ever be to worry about? The one who made it and spun it into motion is in control! Perhaps that’s our core issue. Because we can’t reason it out, we struggle to believe it.

436b8212d90f6d298b44b1df8e16a243-whirlpool-galaxy-black-holesI see articles on faith issues being “proven” by science. I know these are meant to calm our curious mind and help as we struggle with unbelief. But in reality, faith and science are on opposite ends of a spectrum. Science is based on what can be observed by the senses. But faith… what does it say? It is the “substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen.” (KJV) Totally unobservable by the senses. Faith is based on nothing physical, but on everything spiritual. It goes against our rational 21st century technologically leaning brains. Faith is believing in the unseen, not the observable. But we will see the results after we walk in faith.

In the Gospel of Mark there is a story of a young man who was mute and had seizures. In desperation his father had brought him to the disciples to be healed. The disciples prayed over him, but to no effect. Cue the heralding trumpets… and our rescuer, Jesus, appears in the story! He has come to save the day, as He does. But not without a quick lesson. His first words are not words of healing, but a gentle rebuke, “O unbelieving generation, how long shall I be with you? How long shall I put up with you?” He chastises them for their unbelief! I wonder what He would say to me in many of my trials and unbelief (that I like to call “weak faith,” it sounds nicer).

But today I’m going to call it what it is: unbelief. In their unbelief the disciples wanted to heal the boy. In his unbelief the father brought the boy and “hoped” he could be healed. In our unbelief we come to Jesus and say the exact thing this father said, “But if You can do anything, take pity on us and help us!” (Mark 9:22 KJV) We desperately want Christ’s intervention in our life. We pray for His help, but we come to Him many times on shaky faith-feet just like this father, wondering if He really can.

possible-1060212_1280The story goes on… “And Jesus said to him, ‘ “If You can?” All things are possible to him who believes.'” (Mark 9:23 KJV) Jesus tells us flat-out, all things are possible! The condition on that possibility is belief, faith, trust in God that it WILL happen, not just that it CAN. In the next chapter of Mark, Jesus tells His disciples that “With man this is impossible, but not with God; all things are possible with God.” And Luke 1:37 says it the other way around, “For with God nothing shall be impossible,” (KJV) or as it says in the NIV, “For no word from God will ever fail.” Why are all things possible simply by our believing? Because we are a believing in a God who never fails.

And then comes the part of the story that we need to focus on to strengthen our faith. “Immediately the boy’s father cried out and said, ‘I do believe; help my unbelief.'” (Mark 9:24 KJV) The father realized Jesus’ power, and he realized his own frailty, his lack of faith. This is where I live. I go for days or weeks at a time living life under my own power, doing the routine things that do not require the supernatural. (We can do that, you know? Live from day-to-day without the influence of God.) And then a storm, or trial, or problem comes along where I need God. And it takes that moment for me to realize God’s omnipotence and my insignificance and poverty of soul. At that moment I fall before Him in prayer confessing my total lack of faith and my inability to make myself believe. I believe Lord! Help my unbelief!

So there you have it one of two keys to having faith: ask God for it! So simple. Just ask God, “I choose to believe Lord, help me when I can’t make myself believe.”

pexels-photo-208278And the second key to having faith? It is found in Romans 10:17, “So then faith comes by hearing, and hearing by the word of God.” (NKJV) Our faith comes by hearing His Word. When my faith is weak, I go to His word and read it. And just lately I’ve begun reading it out loud because of this verse. If the Bible says “faith comes by hearing” then I want to literally hear it with my ears as well as hearing it in my mind when I read silently. And at the same time our enemy is hearing the scripture I’m building my life on, and he’s getting the message to “back off” because this is where I stand!

The other verse quoted above from Hebrews 11 reminds us that “without faith it is impossible to please God, because anyone who comes to him must believe that he exists and that he rewards those who earnestly seek him.” If we want to please God, we must choose to have faith. Do you desire to be a God-pleaser? Then it’s time to make a choice and act on it. My sweet husband says that faith is like a muscle, the more we exercise it the more it grows and develops. I’ve found that to be true in my life. As I’ve learned to take a good intention of having faith and turned it into a choice I act on to believe God in any situation, my faith has grown. God proves Himself true by the results, and walking in faith becomes easier year by year as my faith muscle grows.

So ladies, there you have it, some simple keys to faith: 1) Acknowledge our belief and ask God to help our unbelief. 2) Hear the word of God. 3) Choose to believe and act on faith. To believe or not to believe, that is the question. It’s your choice. Will you be a God-pleaser? As Joshua 24:15 says, “Choose you this day whom ye will serve; … but as for me and my house, we will serve the Lord.”

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Spectrum of Faith

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Years ago, I made a conscious decision to see the world the best I could the way my son Shelton does. To understand how he thinks and what he feels, to do my best to understand the world from his perspective. Years ago, the word autism became an everyday part of my vocabulary. Years ago I was devastated, there is no cure, there is no explanation. It simply just is and I was angry that it was our is.

early-diagnosis-autism-neurosciencenews-publicI felt I was armed with little in the way of resources, so I made the decision to learn and understand, to read and to inquire, arm myself with information and pray. I would, I have, I do pray. A lot. In the beginning I asked my King to take it away. Upon reflection of my past behavior, that tends to be my go to with King, just take it away and then I do not have to deal with it. Clearly, I avoid conflict. Clearly He does not seek my counsel on what I think is best for me. When He does not honor said request, I then become angry, indignant, and attempt to give the King the silent treatment. This proves to be a futile effort, rudimentary in its effectiveness. Eventually faith and trust give way. I accept the is, and I make concerted efforts such as the ones laid out above.

Now, many years later, my efforts are not always as intentional. One such instance happened a couple of years ago. I was scanning the radio stations when I heard an interesting talk show debate of sorts. The voice of the host, the lack of inflection and excitement despite the passionate subject matter, seemed vaguely familiar to me and I continued to listen. Over time, I grew to like the show host and co-host. Their discussions were informative and varied, but I could take them, or leave them, all contingent upon the next song played. My opinion and understanding changed entirely the day I heard them discussing how the parent of an individual with an ASD (Autism Spectrum Disorder) was told by a person of authority that this child was incapable of having a relationship with Jesus. In essence, the authoritarian told the parent to give up hope and not to expect from his or her child the impossible. I was stopped at an intersection, headed into Fultondale. That discussion marked me. It immediately gave me cause to listen. I turned the radio up and settled in.

I’ve also made a conscious decision to be honest, to be candid, if I’m gonna lay it all out there I ain’t even gonna try to lie. So here goes honesty, it marked me because if I am honest, I will admit the very thought has crossed my mind. It does not take a Rocket Scientist to figure out that a relationship with Jesus hits the top of my priority list for my children. It is often the answer to the rhetorical “Why I do what I do” or “What are we doing?” If I do nothing else in this life I want their relationship with the King to be better than my own. All of my children have professed a relationship with Jesus, each one fleshing that out as uniquely different as they are.

pexels-photo-207653Shelton, randomly just told me he loved Jesus and that was that. He isn’t such a big talker about it. He rarely gets emotional. Being the overly emotional and dramatic individual that I am, this is a concept I have difficulty with. As I listened to the radio that day the host divulged a fact about himself. He reported that he too was on the autism spectrum. He then debunked the entire theory that the individual in question could not have a relationship with Jesus. I ain’t even gonna lie here, I got out of my minivan elated, an extra pep in my step. Hope again prevailed and I carried on about my day a little lighter.

From that point on I was what they call “a dedicated listener.” Shelton most especially enjoys the show. To date my favorite was his reaction to the discussion that revolved around “Fiddy Cent” and his large donation to the Autism Society (fueled by his indiscretion at an airport involving an individual on the Autism Spectrum). Between Shelton and the host’s explanation on how it feels to be bullied when you are on the Autism Spectrum, I was enlightened. All I can say is, I had no idea. It was eye-opening.

It is now customary for us to listen to the show as we traverse the Alabama terrain going from place to place. On just such a day recently my wandering thoughts were focused on what my ears were actually hearing. It was a discussion on the emotional matters. The scenario being described, I’m familiar with. An emotionally driven and charged time of reflection, worship, prayer, a box (or twelve) of tissues scattered about the premises, crying and hugging and crying and more hugging. My emotionally dramatic self loves a time like that. I’ve been a puddle lots of times, but as my world has morphed into that of being the mom, and as my age has progressed and time has passed, those times are fewer and far between. It is not that I am no longer moved by the King, in fact I am more moved now than ever but those moments tend to occur more in private than in public. (There’s also the small logistical detail that my dry eyes do not as readily produce tears.) Over time though, I’ve come to realize, rarely was I weeping over that which should have grieved me. Rarely did I weep because I was overwhelmed by the goodness of God, or devastated by my own sin.

So as the host described such a scene and interjected his perspective of having not understood it. He made the following statements, “Statements of the Day”, maybe of the decade…”All that is emotion. There isn’t much in the Bible about emotions. There is a lot about faith. Faith is carried out dry-eyed serving day-to-day.” I wrestled with that one for the remainder of the afternoon. Those I saw may have even wondered where my mind was. It was here, camped out wrestling over that one, weighing what I know about faith and service against the stated argument. I even went to the recess of my memory and recalled a statement made by a friend of mine several years ago about how the King himself, hadn’t allowed himself to be dominated by emotion and feelings, how when He could’ve buckled beneath it He didn’t. In the midst of Lego sea creations, brain-builds of all sorts, hello’s and goodbyes, errand running and lunch I wrestled, and again the King said to me “What is your name?” He asks me that when He wants me to refocus, to gain a new perspective. Declaring my name gives me cause to pause and reflect. I’ve come to realize that emotion isn’t a bad thing; God made me to feel emotion, but it is not to dominate me. All that emotion doesn’t add up to faith. Emotion is not required for a relationship with Christ, faith alone is.

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Faith is carried out dry-eyed serving day-to-day.

Wisdom from Children’s Books

I was on Facebook this morning and ran across an interesting article called “20 Quotes From Children’s Books Every Adult Should Know” from encurious.com. I enjoyed reading as a child, and I read to my children, so I was interested in the concept and I looked to see which quotes were chosen.

“Promise Me you’ll remember you are Braver than you believe; Stronger than you seem, Smarter than you think.” ~ A.A. Milne

The next was, “A person’s a person No matter how small” ~ Dr. Seuss. I have found a lot of wisdom through the years from Dr. Seuss.

The next quote was, “No act of kindness, No matter how small is ever wasted” ~ Aesop

My mind wandered from the article to think of the scripture from Matthew 25:40 NIV that went along with this quote. “Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me.” As I looked back to the first two quotes, I thought about what scripture would go with each of these quotes. The quote from Winnie to Pooh brought me to Luke 2:52 KJV “And Jesus grew in wisdom and stature and in favour with God and Man.” Then the Dr. Seuss quote took me to Matthew 19:14, “Let the little children come unto me and do not hinder them; the kingdom of heaven belongs to such as these.”

pexels-photo-206673As I read through the list, my eyes stopped on a quote from The Wizard of Oz by L. Frank Braum – “There’s no place like home.”

Home can mean a lot of different things but I consider that Heaven is my home. Jesus said, “I go to prepare a place for you. I will come back and take you to be with me that you also may be where I am.” John 14:3 NIV.

The quote chosen from The Little Prince by Antoine de Saint-Exupery was: “It is only with the heart that one can see rightly; what is essential is invisible to the eye.”

My scripture thought for this quote comes from Romans 10:10 NIV which says, “For it is with your heart that you believe and are justified, and it is with the mouth that you profess faith and are saved.”

The next quote was by Shel Silverstein which said,

“Listen to the Mustn’ts, child –

Listen to the Don’ts.

Listen to the Shouldn’ts,

the impossibles, the won’ts.

Listen to the never Haves,

Then listen close to me….

Anything can happen, Child,

Anything Can Be.”

My thoughts went to one of my favorite verses. “Trust in the Lord with all your heart And lean not on your own understanding. In all your ways acknowledge Him And He will make your paths straight.” Proverbs 3:5-6 NAS.

Then came my favorite Mary Poppins quote: “In every job that must be done there is an element of fun, You find the fun and Snap! The job’s a game.” ~ P.L. Travers

This took me straight to Ecclesiastes 9:10a “Whatever your hand finds to do, do it with all your might.”

As I continued to read through the list of quotes from children’s books, I came to another of L. Frank Baum’s quotes but this time is was from “The Wonderful Wizard of Oz”. The quote is: “The true courage is in facing danger when you are afraid.”

My thoughts turned to Jeremiah 1:8 where the scripture says, “ ‘Do not be afraid of them for I am with you and will rescue you,’ declares the Lord.”

When children ask how much they are loved, sometimes the answer is the next quote, “I love you to the Moon and Back.” By Tim Warnes and Amelia Hepworth.

Jeremiah 31:3 tells us “I have loved you with an everlasting love.”

poor-2754335_1280Another quote in this list came from Dr. Seuss in “The Lorax.” “Unless someone like you cares a whole lot, Nothing is going to get better. It’s Not.”

The Bible tells us in Luke 10:33-37 ESV, “But a Samaritan, as he journeyed, came to where he was, and when he saw him, he had compassion. He went to him and bound up his wounds, pouring on oil and wine. Then he set him on his own animal and brought him to an inn and took care of him.  And the next day he took out two denarii and gave them to the innkeeper, saying, ‘Take care of him, and whatever more you spend, I will repay you when I come back.’ Which of these three, do you think, proved to be a neighbor to the man who fell among the robbers?”  He said, “The one who showed him mercy.” And Jesus said to him, “You go, and do likewise.”

I continued to read the article where Piglet asked, “How do you spell love?” Pooh replied, “You don’t spell it, you feel it.” ~ A.A. Milner ~ Winnie the Pooh.

John 15:13 tells us, “Greater love has not man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends.”

The last quote was from Charlotte’s Web by E. B. White. “Why did you do all this for me?” He asked. “I don’t deserve it. I’ve never done anything for you.” “You have been my friend” replied Charlotte. “That in itself is a tremendous thing.”

My thoughts went directly to my all time favorite scripture, John 3:16 ESV, “For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life.”

As you go through your day, look for God’s word to jump out at you. If God can speak to us through quotes from children’s books, He can speak to us anywhere and through anything. Look for God as you go throughout your day. How is God speaking to you today?

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As It is in Heaven

I sit and wait. I occupy myself with the needful and the mundane. I read to my son. I email instructions to my class. I text a grocery list to my daughter. All the while my heart is in another place, another plane really. My dear friend, one who has taught me so much about the Kingdom of Heaven, is about to step into the Far Greater Country. The last message I received from her family said simply “she has her feet in the Jordan.” She is ready to depart this earthly existence. She has struggled with her mortality and concluded Paul’s statement in Philippians 1:23 is true, being with Christ is better by far.

But leaving is hard. My friend is only in her 50s. She has a husband and children and grandchildren who love her dearly. People she longed to grow old with and watch grow and marry and become who God created them to be. But cancer is a sinister foe and death is a reality for us all. A couple of years ago, she spoke prophetically and profoundly at our local Bible Study. She talked about her journey with cancer and the crippling fear she faced. She shared an analogy the Lord gave her to calm her fears. She recalled restaurants-playgrounds-free-fun-in-austin-salt-licktraveling when her kids were young. The family would stop at rest stops along the way. The kids would play on the playground and run in the grass. They thought the tall metal slides and squeaking chain swings were the most fun they could ever experience. When it came time to leave, the kids cried and protested. And my friend just stood there perplexed. She would tell them in frustration, “Don’t you know where we’re going? We’re heading to Disney World and you’re settling for an old rest stop playground.”

She said she knew she was only playing on the old playground right now. She knew her final destination is infinitely more beautiful and breathtaking and overwhelming than anything her mind can grasp. Paul says this earth is only a shadow of things to come. But knowing the truth and walking out the reality is too much for our earthly heart to comprehend. She told me just a few months before her health declined so quickly that she didn’t want to go, but she was at peace. She knew that God knew the number of her days and when she had finished what He needed her to do on earth, He would take her to her true home, and she knew it would be uncomprehendingly beautiful.

After that conversation, my prayers began to change. I asked the Lord to heal her, but more than that, I asked God to have His way. I went back to the simplicity of the prayer Jesus modeled for his disciples, “Thy Kingdom come, your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven.” (Matthew 6:10) Ultimately, isn’t that the most powerful prayer we can pray over those in Christ who are sick and suffering? We can ask God for healing, yes. We are free to ask for it boldly. And we should. But we ask humbly, knowing that this world is NOT our home. On this earthly shore, our vision and understanding is limited. Why pexels-photo-568027would we want those we love so much to stick around this broken, rusting place when Jesus has prepared a heavenly home for them? A home that eye has not seen nor ear heard.

It’s because we selfishly want them here a little longer. We’ll miss them. Our hearts will ache in their absence. The hole they leave behind will be profound and deep. But for those who belong to Christ, those who have confessed with their mouth Jesus is Lord and believed in their heart God raised Christ from the dead, they are citizens of heaven. Their life is just beginning when they take their first breath in heaven. The sorrows and tears of this present place are left behind and complete healing and wholeness are ahead. If, as a follower of Christ, I say this is what I believe. Then I have to walk it out in the hardest places.

Today that place of waiting is painful, but hopeful. I have prayed fervently that the Lord would take her quickly home, but I am resting fully that His will is best. Asking Him to have His way and resting in His sovereignty and love is the only way to grieve with hope. Because of the reality of Jesus Christ who defeated death, even death itself cannot overcome us. In Christ, we are more alive than we have ever been before. May His will be done. I trust Him in life, and in death.

*Epilogue: My precious friend crossed the Jordan and walked into the Promised Land just a few days after this was written. Her memorial focused clearly on the hope we have in Christ. Her life and her death have spurred many on toward a deeper relationship with the One who saved her and made her broken soul whole once again.

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The Day the Cows Came Home

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For reasons I do not know or have yet to fully understand – although I am somewhat convinced it has to do with dependency – financial struggles have been the baseline under which we as a family operate.

There has never been feast or famine, there has always been just enough. The summer months tend to be lean months for our budget, we barely make it to a vacation paid in full. As school starts up and the days shorten, the budget improves slightly and by the calculator-calculation-insurance-finance-53621time the Christmas season rolls around it inevitably proves to be more lean than its predecessor autumn.

We’ve learned to roll with it, define what it is, and in which season we are in. This serves to prime the pump for a miracle. There was a particular day last fall when I and the Holy Spirit alone knew the essential home item, toilet paper, was making its way to the last few sheets. As I took note of such need and asked the King to intercede I had no idea that He had just that day prompted a dear friend to purchase the biggest pack of Angel Soft my eyes had ever seen. Then in a fish and loaves kind of move, that toilet paper seemed to go on and on. When one roll was placed on the holder to either be folded or wadded (I’ve learned there are two kinds of people in this world – wadders or folders – I am the latter, a fact I find ironic as I am disheveled in most areas of life save the one).

The following month The Lord Jesus used various anonymous gifts to sustain us through those lean times: a gift card here, a “I’m cleaning such and such out, you want it?” and the such-and-such would be precisely what we needed. I would find myself recollecting “The Green Grape Story.”

grapes-frozen-fruit-summer-organic-115007.jpegMany years ago, before I knew what it was like to rely on God to provide, I heard this story. I listened and can still recall the details of, at the time, a very foreign concept to me. The speaker was conveying how her young daughter, had requested green grapes for her snack. The Mama knowing full well grocery and payday were a bit away, made no promises that green grapes would be in the near future. That afternoon when the Mama arrived home, someone had left a box of random grocery items for the family and there among the items was a bunch of green grapes. There are times of lean when I recollect the “Green Grape” story, and I am reminded that Jesus knows exactly what we need and delights in giving us good gifts.

The Angel Soft from Heaven has been just one of the tangible ways The King has met our needs, and on a recent Cow Appreciation day I was reminded of another. It is no secret that the Chick-fil-A (CFA for short) is a Martin family favorite. When given the choice, it is always a chosen eatery. As recent as the day before Cow Appreciation Day, I had to decline a request for lunch at the favorite restaurant of choice, noting the dwindling budget and sighting the “sandwich stuff” already at home in the Frigidaire. I reminded my children that we would be dining at home sans chicken and waffle fries. They reluctantly accepted my verdict and we made our way home. Early the following day I was perusing the internet, researching, investigating and figuring out just how to make that tight budget just a wee bit more flexible when I stumbled across the Cow Appreciation day info. As a veteran participant I knew the drill: dress up like a cow, get free food. When I made mention of it to my youngest she immediately said, “But we don’t even have a cow costume Mama but you do have that donkey one.” True, I contemplated, could I pass that donkey for a cow? Not likely. The bushy tail and oversized lopped ears are a dead giveaway. Perhaps we could make a cow costume. Perhaps, one but not the required five. “There ain’t no way” was my exact thought as I yielded to the incessant plea to just go see if we had what would be required to construct the costumes.

As we made our way downstairs I gave her the daunting task of finding white t-shirts. I knew full well we did not possess one, much less five tee shirts of coordinating colors. Our laundry piled high on a table makes finding a white shirt in in that pile more daunting than a two inch straw colored needle in a 75 foot haystack. In a matter of moments I had just what was needed for the base of the cow costume. A little more searching and a few minutes later I had a small remnant of scrap black fabric, I began to cut random cow spots.

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I expected to get no more than four or five spots but it was as if the fabric just kept multiplying. My scissors cut and the moment I looked away there was always more. The final spot was cut and I began to pin those spots in place. In a few moments I had constructed 5 costumes, cow ears and to my amazement they didn’t look all that bad.

As we arrived at our destination I marveled at how smoothly it had all come together, how the King knew the details, how He knew it would delight the hearts of the Martins to have lunch at their favorite. I marveled at how He provided in a most unconventional way. He knew I was capable of making the costumes, he expected me to take a leap of faith and at least make my way downstairs in search of supplies, and he knew I would be delighted to have an opportunity to craft and create with my youngest.

His word says that He will give us the desire of our heart if we delight ourselves in Him. (Psalm 37:4) I forget the delight part. I am all about the “give me” part, but the truth is when we delight ourselves in Him, He puts the desire in our heart and we can trust that desire is in essence His desire and He will use that for good.

The cows came home that afternoon, full and happy, giggling over bad jokes and puns that were “udderly” hysterical, having made a day of delightful memories. I marveled at how once again He who is good provided.

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