The act of writing, of sharing the circumstances, the gifts and the graces planned and carried out by my Savior and God brings joy, peace, and contentment to know that He has my life in His hands. My prayer for those who read, who share in what I continue to learn each day, many times through my weakness, is that you will be encouraged to look for God's presence and grace in your life also.

Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Bitter or Better??

Years ago.....over 30 years ago....after the car accident, I heard my pastor say, "When hard things happen in life, we will either get bitter or better."

And one thing I did not want to become was bitter, and I didn't.....at least for awhile.

In Hebrews 12, we read:
"See to it that no one fails to obtain the grace of God; that no “root of bitterness” springs up and causes trouble, and by it many become defiled;"

The writer has been talking about hard times, suffering, discipline that "yields the peaceable fruit of righteousness." But that discipline can also bring bitterness, if we don't respond correctly and see God's hand in the difficulties we are facing.

And that's the problem, we don't mean for it to happen, we don't want bitterness to invade like a worm, because it can eat us up. It becomes a consuming cancer within, and sometimes we don't realize it until it is out of control.

 I asked God often to keep me from bitterness because I had seen it in others and realized how devastating it can be.

It took awhile before thoughts were coming like, "Why?"  "God, I have not done anything bad enough to deserve this!"  "This isn't fair!"  "Are you sure this isn't a mistake??"  and so on.  What I was doing was questioning God about this difficult circumstance that he had brought into our lives.  I was questioning his wisdom, his sovereignty, his love because I didn't like the circumstances we were in.  I wanted an answer to the question "Why?"

One thing that God used to bring me back to truth was the book of Job.  There were months and months after the accident that I refused to read that book even though I knew Job had gone through terrible loss and suffering.  I thought that I didn't want to read about "patient" Job because I wasn't feeling very patient....That "worm" of bitterness was growing.

Finally, I sat down one day when the kids were playing, and I began reading the book.  I couldn't stop. I was amazed at what I read.  It was a balm for my weary heart.

Job wasn't patient....he wasn't patient at all.  He actually got pretty upset at God and insisted that he be told why!!  He told his friends and God that what had happened wasn't right because he had not sinned.  And of course we know he had sinned, we are all sinners, but that wasn't why he was suffering.  He was suffering because God had let Satan test Job to see if would still trust God even when things weren't all good in his life....Satan was allowed to take everything away from Job—houses, livestock, crops, children.....even his health.

But Job did trust God even if he was upset.  He trusted God, he believed in God.  He just wanted answers—that sounded familiar. And God didn't seem to mind the questions, the pleading, even Job's demands that God answer.

After Job's three so-called friends got done throwing their accusations (mostly wrong) and advice (also mostly wrong) at Job, they left. Then we see Job seeking God.  He begs God to tell him why he was going through this horrendous suffering.

And finally God speaks and Job listens.

Then the Lord answered Job out of the whirlwind and said:
 “Who is this that darkens counsel by words without knowledge?
 Dress for action like a man;
I will question you, and you [Job] make it known to me.

 “Where were you when I laid the foundation of the earth?
Tell me, if you have understanding.
 Who determined its measurements—surely you know!
Or who stretched the line upon it?
 On what were its bases sunk,
or who laid its cornerstone,
 when the morning stars sang together
and all the sons of God shouted for joy?
Job 39

God never did tell Job why He had brought the suffering. God just explains to Job a little bit about what He God had done in creation and asks Job is he could have done all that. He shares with him secrets that no one else but the Creator would have known.

When Job sees who God is, in all His glory and power,  he falls prostrate before His God and says, "Who in the world am I to ever question what you do.  I repent in dust cloth and ashes."

And God, with his steadfast love and faithfulness, lifts Job up and restores double of everything that he had lost in the plagues and fires.  Double everything except children......

The truth that the book of Job taught me was that I don't need answers to "Why?"  I just need to know my God.  I need to look for Him all around me.  See Him in his creation.  See the wonder of his creation....the universe, the earth, the animals, the flowers, birds, insects, me.

I need to let God be God and trust him .... the God of the universe, the God who cares about each of us and has a perfect plan for me, for my life, for my future.  I needed to forget about me and my dreams, desires and plans and realize it is all about Him and what He did in sending Jesus to die for His people—His sacrifice.

When I realized that, the bitterness left.  I knew I was in good hands and who was I to question God, to not trust Him.  I was able to relax.  I was able to sleep better.  I was able to have joy and smile. You see God is in control and whatever He brings into my life, He will give me the strength, the courage, the help I need to go through it.  And through it all, I will  thank Him for bringing the circumstance, the difficult person, the hard things into my life so I am pushed to lean on him, trust him, and thank him for what I see him doing in my life.

After all, His steadfast love and faithfulness will never let me down.  Never.

Monday, March 26, 2012


Had an interesting thing happen this week—which always means God is being sovereign again and again and still.  He always works out things for His glory at the perfect time to remind me that He IS HERE NOW.

The "theme" right now seems to be encouraging others, like Paul did a lot of.

 "We always thank God, the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, when we pray for you since we heard of your faith in Christ Jesus and of the love that you have for all the saints,  because of the hope laid up for you in heaven...
 And so, from the day we heard, we have not ceased to pray for you, asking that you may be filled with the knowledge of his will in all spiritual wisdom and understanding,  so as to walk in a manner worthy of the Lord, fully pleasing to him, bearing fruit in every good work and increasing in the knowledge of God.  May you be strengthened with all power, according to his glorious might, for all endurance and patience with joy,  giving thanks to the Father, who has qualified you to share in the inheritance of the saints in light." (Colossians 1)

Thanking God for others,
     Praying for others,
           And telling others that you do that
                So they are encouraged in You.

That is so encouraging.....encouraging to all of us.  

"Therefore encourage one another and build one another up, just as you are doing."  (I Thessalonians  5:11)

Funny thing is, those who encourage are also encouraged.  

I know from experience—years ago I realized when I was shopping, I would rather purchase beautiful cards, notes, and stationary, than other things.  But if I was going to buy the cards, I needed to use them so I began sending letters and cards to friends. I usually found myself praying for the person I was writing the note to.

Then about nine years ago when I became a Stampin' Up demonstrator,  I began making my own cards and before I knew it, I had hundreds of beautiful cards just waiting for an owner.  And so I began sending cards of all kinds.  

Writing a note can be hard....
  I mean what am I going to say?
    What can I say that won't seem like flattery?  
        What can I say that will encourage them in their relationship with the Lord?

That's when I look at various Scripture verses like Colossians 1. 
"I thank God for you......." 
"I thank God for the work He has done in your life to make you a blessing to so many." 
"I thank God that He has gifted you with gifts that enable Him to change lives."

Lately, I also realize, because of I Thessalonians, that I need to remind others of how God sees them—covered in the righteousness of Jesus.  He sees them as holy, blameless, a vessel worthy of His use.  He loves each of us and we need to remind each other of that fact.

Sometimes we are so busy thinking about our failures, our shortcomings that we get immobilized and do nothing.  But a word from someone we trust reminding us of how God sees us can help us depend on Him more. Then we can begin living as His child—loved of the Father.

I know I have been encouraged many times by the notes others sent me.  Their words are always appropriate and uplifting.  They just encourage me as I thank God for what He does in others because of the work He has done in me. 

I actually have kept all the notes I have received through the years....they are in a box and when I need some encouragement, I have opened that box and read a few.  Then I pray for that person and thank God for them.

I hope you will all go to A Holy Experience today (3/26/2012) and read Ann's post.  It is powerful stuff about being thankful and writing notes to others.  You have to read her stats on what the benefits are to the person who writes the notes—you will be encouraged and you will feel better.  She also has great ideas to instill a sense of gratitude in children.

Writing notes to others, email, snail mail, Face Book messages, or hand delivered, all work.  I always feel like the 45¢ I spend on a card is the best money I spend.  Besides another weakness of mine is stamps—postage stamps—they are beautiful and look so nice on cards.  I have lots......

It is always fun to get a surprise gift for no reason so one other thing I sometimes do is include a little gift....a packet of seeds (especially this time of year), a bookmark, a tea bag or a packet of powdered hot chocolate.  I love to give gifts and little things are non threatening....people don't feel the need to give back.

Praising and thanking you for others reminds me of what you have done for me.
Lay on our hearts the names of those who need to be 
    encouraged to continue to trust you,
        encouraged to love you, 
              encouraged to know you better, 
                   encouraged to know they are covered in your righteousness.

Encourage each of us as we listen to the promptings of your Spirit and follow your leading.
Father, more of you and less and less of me and my desire for others spiritual growth.

Continuing my thanks for gifts and graces:

#381...Lunch on the deck...no wind...perfect temps....restful

#382...Pansies and primroses to plant

#383...Sunday lunch with daughter and friend

#384...Montagues for tea and brunch

#385...A wonderful "tea" find at thrift shop, 3-tiered china server

#386...A friend's gift of flowers to grow

#387...Discretionary income...and the reminder that most in the world have none...help me to be wise

#388...Yard work....dirt to dig in....time to soak up the sun and see Your green life returning

#389...Lovely tea in lovely surroundings, harp playing, tasty morsels with tea and the company of friends

#390...Finches building a nest

#391...Morning doves' sweet song

#392...Pictures of stars in Utah....Amazing pictures (click to see)

#393...Reminders of your love and care.... 

#394...Finished lecture on "prosperity" that impacts me more than listeners...Help me never to forget

#395...Your provision....abundant....of cards and stamps to bless others

Monday, March 19, 2012

Too much to do.....

Psalm 61:1-8 
   Hear my cry, O God,
     listen to my prayer;
from the end of the earth I call to you
    when my heart is faint.
Lead me to the rock
    that is higher than I,
for you have been my refuge,
    a strong tower against the enemy.

Let me dwell in your tent forever!
    Let me take refuge under the shelter of your wings! Selah
For you, O God, have heard my vows;
    you have given me the heritage of those who fear your name.
Prolong the life of the king;
    may his years endure to all generations!
May he be enthroned forever before God;
    appoint steadfast love and faithfulness to watch over him!
So will I ever sing praises to your name,
    as I perform my vows day after day.

Sometimes I feel like I'm on a merry-go-round that I can't stop. There is so much to do and I never seem to make headway.
The list includes:
•writing [blog, book, lectures, encouraging notes]
  •books to read—fiction, biographies, books on Bible topics, tea time books, recipe books, craft books, photography books, gardening books, and so on—I love to read.
    •Bible study to do and prepare for
       •gardening—cleaning, planting, watering, weeding, fertilizing
           •read the paper
               •magazines to read
                  •new recipes to try
                       •sewing—I love to sew
•Spending time with family and friends [praying for them, encouraging them, loving them]
[Please know that I do love doing everything on that list]

And then did you ever think about all the things we "should" do for ourselves in a day, or week, or month....
•have my devotions
  •pray for hours or at least minutes
    •exercise for 1 hour
      •sleep for 8 hours
        •drink 10 glasses of water
          •brush and floss my teeth at least twice daily
            •take a walk every day
              •call my kids
                •brush my hair 100 strokes (just to let you know, that has never, ever happened)
                  •housekeeping—that is one thing I don't enjoy BUT I love a clean, uncluttered house so
                        am frustrated in that area
                    •de-clutter the garage, storage room, laundry room, office, stamp room, bedroom
                     •do exercises to keep my mind active [after all I don't want to let my mind go]
                       •do something relaxing just for me

And the list goes on, and on, and on.

So what do I do???  I get busy and do what I can while I remind myself of my God....and His Word.....from memory

Psalm 23
 The Lord is my shepherd; I shall not want.
    He makes me lie down in green pastures.
He leads me beside still waters.
    He restores my soul.
He leads me in paths of righteousness
    for his name's sake.

Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death,
    I will fear no evil,
for you are with me;
    your rod and your staff,
    they comfort me.
You prepare a table before me
    in the presence of my enemies;
you anoint my head with oil;
    my cup overflows.
Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me
    all the days of my life,
and I shall dwell in the house of the Lord

Oh, how knowing Psalm 23 in my heart helps.  Just repeating the words brings a feeling of quietness, a sense that what is important is HIM and His presence—not the stuff of everyday. It is not what I do but where I abide—Who I think about, and who He leads me to....to love, to encourage, to pray for.  

And now for a fun thing....want a big help in memorizing verses....in practicing for real?

  Try this: Scripture Typer
If you go there, you will find a great place to learn, practice and master verses by typing them over and over.  I am learning the Sermon On The Mount (relearning in ESV) with Ann VasKomp— if you click on the "Sermon on the Mount" button on the right you can join in too.  Or you can learn other verses or sections of Scripture.  If you don't know Psalm 23.....start there.

Also want to suggest that you don't miss Ann today since she is talking about being still...... Great post and worth the read.

Psalm 1:1-3
Blessed is the man
    who walks not in the counsel of the wicked,
nor stands in the way of sinners,
    nor sits in the seat of scoffers;
but his delight is in the law of the Lord,

    and on his law he meditates day and night.
He is like a tree
    planted by streams of water
that yields its fruit in its season,
    and its leaf does not wither.
In all that he does, he prospers.

Continuing to give thanks:

#361...babies to hold in nursery—6 weeks old....sleeping

#362...music, beautifully sung by the Moody Bible Chorale...Larry didn't fall asleep, he smiled

#363...Simeon Trust Workshop—challenging, insightful, convicting

#364...Chicago and Pizzeria Uno—Chicago Deep Dish Pizza—where it all began

#365...warm, warm days in Colorado in March

#366...garden clean up—finding once again the sure promise of life

#367...surprises....new (used) bone china tea cups from a friend cleaning out

#368...fish in pond....orange, iridescent, bigger, enjoying life—along with one baby

#369...Sunday lunch with daughter...delightful conversation—Thai pineapple curry

#370...recovery from a "cold"

#371...ice cream cones

#372...memorized scriptures to comfort, relieve, and bring peace

#373..."enough" to share with others—help me Lord, to be generous

#374...barley ball to keep pond clean

#375...new seeds to plant—Chocolate Cherry Tomatoes

#376...a yard to work in with good soil

#377...water to "water" with

#378...lecture to prepare on "prosperity" and the conviction and truth that comes with it....Lord, give me wisdom

#379...mountain to look at everyday...this morning with sun on white snow and dark blue background—stunning reminder of what an amazing God You are

#380...things to do.....for your honor....for your glory

Monday, March 5, 2012

Giving Thanks for Steadfast Love and faithfulness

Psalm 138: 1-3 
I give you thanks, O Lord, with my whole heart;
    before the gods I sing your praise; 
 I bow down toward your holy temple
    and give thanks to your name for your steadfast love and your faithfulness,
    for you have exalted above all things
    your name and your word.
 On the day I called, you answered me;
    my strength of soul you increased.

David, here, in Psalm 138 really gets to the heart of being thankful.

He gives thanks with his WHOLE heart [thanks is always a heart issue, gratefulness springs from the heart]

He bows toward God's holy temple [on my knees before God]

       He gives thanks to God's name 
a Name that God has exalted above all things—a name that is higher than anything else—that is Who we are thanking.

But then we find out what he is so very thankful for.....

David had been through a lot....the King wanted him dead, many had chased him, hunted him down like an animal.  At times he was totally surrounded by enemies and yet even when he felt defeated, he could always rely on his God and his God's steadfast love and faithfulness.

How do we ever understand, fathom, grasp just what that kind of love and faithfulness God has for us?  By looking at what He is doing in us, for us and around us in the lives of others.  

The examples we have here on earth  in others, ourselves, of love and faithfulness so miss the mark.  We all fall short of that kind of love—steadfast, never ever changing, no matter what I do or don't do. 
Faithfulness that is really faithful which means there is no selfishness, no underlying motives, no deceit, no self-serving control on His part.  He is just faithful, always there, always on our side, always encouraging.

David said, "On the day I called, you answered me; my strength of soul you increased."

He answers us on the day we call.  Don't ever doubt that.  Once we call out to Him, we need to begin thanking and praising Him for answering.  And then He strengthens our souls.  He grows us.....

I am loving keeping my "grace list" of things that I see God has given me, blessed me with.  By looking for those "gifts" all the time,  I am more aware of His presence. 

 Thank YOU Father for —

#341.  Downtime, quiet time, reflecting time because of an ugly/beautiful cold

#342.  Frozen meals to eat and a freezer to put them in for such a day/s

#343.  Warm blankets and robes to keep the chill away

#344. Neti pot

#345.  Again, the quiet, soft beauty of a white snow

#346.  The warmth of the sun, the promise of spring

#347.  A robin bathing in February's cold pond....joy

#348.  A visit from Judy, laughter, encouragement, sharing

#349.  Bible Study small group, love, laughter, sharing, compassion

#350.  Salad lunch after......joy, food, friends

#351.  A visit and smiles from Victoria....and seeing your grace in her life

#352.  Wisdom and direction to prepare lessons for conference

#353.  Finding a swimsuit

#354.  Abbie, 21 years of life celebrated....

#355.  FB to remind of 7th grade "bullying" EVENT and new wisdom to look back and see it 50 years later with grace

#356.  Seeds for garden....even new ones to try like chocolate-cherry tomatoes

#357.  Conviction of sin and wrong attitudes

#358.  Online sermons from great speakers of your truth

#359.  YOUR STEADFAST LOVE and FAITHFULNESS that I feel, see, hear, touch, taste, smell, hang on to, depend on every single day. 

#360.  A camera.....to record beauty, memories, time, gifts, graces, love, life....... [spring is coming!]

I give you thanks, O Lord, with my whole heart;
    before the gods I sing your praise;

Saturday, March 3, 2012

A reminder...go back to the Cross....

Today, I was reminded of an event.....not a pleasant event....but one that taught valuable lessons about people—how people, especially girls sometimes treat each other, even 50 years ago.

It was the first week of school—seventh grade—a time in life I had looked forward to.  It was a small school with all 12 grades in one small building with 10 classrooms. Grades 1-8 with two grades to a room and then 5 rooms for high school classes and the library.  School population was always between 80 to 100.

Everyone knew everybody.....everybody.

Until that year.  A "Trailer Park" had popped up close to the school and there were more than a few "new kids" because of the missile base being built close to our town (the 60's scare of nuclear attacks).  One "new" girl was in our 7th grade class.

It was a good week with my best friend Barbara, we were wearing our look-alike dresses our mothers had made for us the year before.  We were no longer part of the "little kids." We were in Junior High!

Then without warning, on the fourth day of school my world came crashing down.  The new girl, who I thought was really COOL (after all, she lived in a trailer) said something to me I have never forgotten.  She asked sarcastically, "Why have you worn the same dress every day all week??  It stinks!"

I'm sure I said nothing because I was shocked.  Coming from a large family (at that time six kids), living on a dairy farm with a wringer washer and no dryer we had always worn the same outfit for at least three days.  All the dirty clothes were washed one day each week and it took Mom all day. We always changed into our barn clothes as soon as we got home to do our chores so our "good" clothes were never worn to the barn.

That first week of this special year of my life, Barbara and I wore our "best" dresses.  They were hand made, not a hand-me-down like our other school clothes. These dresses, with rick-rack between the skirt sections, were amazing.  If we twirled around really fast like ballerinas, the skirts were full enough to go clear out..... Mine was not dirty.....not one speck. 

I think in that one question my innocence ended—maybe it was the tone or the contempt—in that moment I had been put in my place.  I went home in tears to tell my mother what had happened.  After hugging me, and saying she was sure the new girl really didn't mean anything by what she had said,  she had a solution.  Wear a different dress each day (I did have a few dresses for school) but don't put it in the dirty clothes basket until it was dirty.  She would trust me to figure that out.

Looking back, I even see my mother's wisdom in letting me for the first time ever, invite ALL of the girls in my class to stay overnight on my birthday in October.  And all the girls came and we had a great time running all over the farm, playing in the barn, riding my bike, and sleeping in the two attic bedrooms—my brothers banned from the rooms for the night.  And the "new" girl had a great time. 

Solution solved...right?    Yes, but I never forgot.  I was relieved when that girl moved on—her family moved on to yet another missile base being built.

Today, I was reminded, because that girl, that same "new" girl who found me last year on FB,  put a status update on her wall about bullying and how it is sad that it has gotten out of hand and there was never any of it when she was growing up.  Of course she said, "Well, if there had been bullying back then she wouldn't have let it happen to her.  Her father had taught her to be strong....."

Today,  I've been thinking about bullying.  I saw it when I was teaching....we usually called it "someone is picking on someone else" or "someone making fun of someone else." I know I missed most of it.....kids are sneaky.  But when I saw it happening I watched the offender closely and prayed for ways to teach everyone more about kindness and acceptance.  I'm sure I even "preached" a few sermons.  I tried to be a friend to the "picked" on while I encouraged students to reach out to others with kindness and acceptance.

I know in talking to other women that many carry the scars of hurts done intentionally or not when they were young.  Many times hurts that helped them grow or stunted their growth...stopped them in their tracks.  Today we need to help young people know that they can use the tough things to help them grow, to help them trust God more, to just help others more and help them see that everyONE, everyone feels like the odd one, the picked on one, the one who has gotten the raw end of the joke.

If we could just learn young.....that life isn't about me and how I feel, but it is about "others" and making them feel good, making them feel loved, making others feel like they belong and have a friend.

Looking back I understand why the "new" girl picked on me way back then.  She was in a new school and needed friends.  I'm sure the friendship Barbara and I had was something she wanted—I wonder if she had ever had special look-alike dresses with a best friend.  She knew she wouldn't be in the new school long and I'm sure that hurt.  It must have always hurt to leave friends behind.  I went to the same school all 12 years and I always had my BEST FRIEND or BEST FRIENDS. 

By pointing out the shortcoming in others, we somehow think that makes us better.

And then I look at me—bullying? Picking on others?  Putting others down to make me feel better?

Never!!!  And least not intentionally.

But wait.......

Have I ever looked at someone else as being less than me?
    Less deserving?
          Less knowledgeable?
                 Less savvy?
                        Less skillful?
                               Less anything?
Of course I have.

Have those horrible attitudes affected
       The way I react to that person?
           The way I treat them?
               The time I give them?
Yes, I have to admit, yes.  I know I have.

Today, I am once again brought back to the cross.  I was a sinner in need of Someone to save me.  I had absolutely no hope, no hope because I was dead in my sins.....real sins and then just the fact I was born a sinner and needed a Savior.  My sin had to be paid for and since I was dead in my sins, I could do nothing, absolutely nothing to help myself.

So God provided at the cross His Beloved Son to die for me, to pay a debt I couldn't pay no matter how good I was, no matter how hard I tried.

But Jesus could and He loved with such a love that He would.  He died for me—someone so undeserving....so proud, so arrogant, so nasty, so self-centered, so unholy—He died for me.

Who in the world am I to ever....ever...ever...ever... judge another.  To ever think I am better than anyone else.  To ever put anyone else down in my thoughts, my looks, a little word or deed........

But even when I was still a sinner, filthy dirty, dead, stinky, He died for me.

And then He covered me with His righteousness, a pure, white, unspotted righteousness.  Can't I do that for another?  Can't I see them through the eyes of the Savior, as pure, undefiled, unblemished?   

That's how He sees me... Please, Lord, help me.....

Okay, maybe he sees He sees me in a turquoise checked Indian dress,
     but it is clean,
        washed as white as snow
              and it never needs washing again.

[The pictures?  Barbara and I at that October birthday party; that is the dress preserved in the cedar chest; and me at Christmas dinner at Grandma and Grandpa's in THE dress. It was a sad day when I outgrew it.]