Friday, December 31, 2010

Courage in the New Year


Hello there! I'm so glad you're able to stop and share a moment or so with me because there's something I want you to know from the most sincere part of my heart. I want to start the year off in prayer for you.

Ok, to be more specific...I’m praying for courage!

Courage for you and for me.

The kind of courage that grabs you by the hand and pulls you through the flames unscathed.

Courage to lift your eyes off the ground and up to the cross. Courage to let your heart lead the way when you’re tempted to pull the covers over your head and slink back into the safety of self doubt.

I pray you’ll find the purest form of courage in the darkest places.

COURAGE…

to wake up each morning victorious

to take the stairs 2 at a time

to think about what if...

to color outside the lines

to let “yes” replace a lot of your “nos”

to finally shine the light of the Lord on that dream of yours

to go confidently forward

to dance through every season

to praise God uninhibited

to pray for those who choose darkness

to pray through the pain

to enjoy the sweetness of God’s peace

to extend grace to the hard hearted

to lift weak arms in the midst of battle

to look beyond the storm and into the light of the Lord

to surrender your will to His

to ignore whispers of criticism and doubt

to laugh in the face of fear

to love the unlovely

to believe in yourself; a child of God

to believe in eternity

to simply...believe!

You fill in the blanks and let God breathe courage into your soul this year, and remember that I'm praying right along with you.

May you experience every blessing and success in 2011, and may you seek Him every step of the way.

God Bless You!

No, dear brothers and sisters, I am still not all I should be, but I am focusing all my energies on this one thing: Forgetting the past and looking forward to what lies ahead, I strain to reach the end of the race and receive the prize for which God, through Christ Jesus, is calling us up to heaven. (Philippians 3:13-14) NLT

Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Power Source


I didn’t want him to go out for a bike ride so close to dinner - so close to dark. The possibilities of all that could happen nearly paralyzed me. A couple teenagers riding across town in the bike lane during 5 o’clock traffic posed too many what ifs for me. But he’s 18 now, I reminded myself; an avid hiker and a total outdoorsy-type guy. Still, I suppose I’d opened the door to my “mom worry” and allowed the knot to form in my stomach…again. I have total confidence in my son, but not in the merriment of holiday drivers.

That’s when it flashed before me; that spark of a moment I could almost reach out and grasp. The Lord reminded me of the simple task of cleaning up the Christmas from our front yard earlier in the day and unplugging the many strands of lights and outdoor decorations from the power strip. As I did, I happened to consider how each light strand, each decoration couldn’t possibly illuminate until it was plugged in to a true power source. Relying on its own abilities produced feeble results. There was nothing God-glorifying or beautiful about the many elements strewn about the lawn…until they were plugged in.

In essence, I needed to plug into the right power source; not by trusting my own dusty faith that sometimes wavers with fear and doubt, but a solid faith in the giver of life, the One who waits patiently for me to turn from my own abilities and let His strength and His power illuminate from within. I needed the only source of power I know who relieves me of the overwhelming fear and worry that so often holds me steadfast, powerless and weak.

So, I prayed for the moment. Prayed for His perfect protection over my son and prayed for strength to release all that inhibits me from opening my arms wide enough to give flight to the chains that bind and grip me.

“For God has not given us a spirit of fear and timidity, but of power, love, and self-discipline.”

(2 Timothy 1:7) NLT

Lord Jesus,

You and only you have the sustaining power that equips us to move forward. I pray each person who reads this will realize the power they have in you to overcome the fears that hinder both our spiritual journey and our day-to-day choices. Strengthen, motivate and encourage all who seek it. In Jesus’ name.

Amen.

Monday, December 27, 2010

An Obedient Heart


The last cloud burst drew me to the window. I couldn’t believe how quickly the rain grew from a sprinkle to a downpour.

That’s when I saw her; a young woman sitting on the benches in front of the church. She sat silent in her long plaid coat, the legs of her thin pants hanging sloppy in soggy weight. With head bowed, she clutched a large purse and a plastic bag, and her coarse hair streaked of haphazard attempts at coloring.

I paused for a moment wondering why she didn’t choose to stand beneath the patio overhang of the church. Instead, I grabbed my umbrella and went to the door.

Her head lifted at the sound of the latch and a warm smile broke out through tears.

“Hello. Can I help you?” I called.

She rose and met me, and we stepped inside to talk.

In a voice, weak and mousy, she spoke of hardship and want. She sought direction in many forms, and despite the uneasiness in my spirit, for some reason the Lord brought her to me on that cold, wet day.

I’d seen and dealt with similar “situations” before. A church seems the first stop for even the non-believer and unfortunately a target for those with deceitful hearts. I remained cautious and guarded having heard stories from other church secretaries of dangerous situations brought on by desperation.

“Then the King will say to those on his right, ‘Come, you who are blessed by my Father; take your inheritance, the kingdom prepared for you since the creation of the world. For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in…”

(Matthew 25:34-35) NIV

I offered what I could, wished her well, and watched her disappear around the corner holding my umbrella against the wind and rain. Whether her story was fiction or non, rehearsed or from a truly desperate heart, only God knows and He will take her motives into account.

However, sharing the incident later in the day with the pastor revealed that I had indeed been taken advantage of as she had received a free meal from him the week prior. Her story, rehearsed and written on a small tattered card had fallen on ears of others eager to offer assistance.

It’s a struggle when, as Christians, we are called to respond to such instances with the knowledge we’ve been given. Our human nature wants to pull us back, warn of possible hurt by laying our good intentions on the line to be either trampled or to bless. Either way, God will be the judge of both.

But if anyone has the world's goods and sees his brother in need,

yet closes his heart against him, how does God's love abide in him?

(1 John 3:17) ESV

Let the thief no longer steal, but rather let him labor,

doing honest work with his own hands, so that he may

have something to share with anyone in need.

(Ephesians 4:28) ESV


Thursday, December 23, 2010

The Work of His Hands


Each year I resurrect the old candy dish and relive the memories that make it dear. It holds laughter and love of family, cherished Christmases past spent in a much simpler time.

Proudly displayed on Grandma’s Christmas table since the 50’s, it’s held all sorts of treats from candied maple nuts to chocolates, to peanut butter cookies and old-fashioned ribbon candy. I remember Grandma’s swollen fingers as she tied the ribbon to the top to make it more festive. The ribbon remains, and always will, just as she tied it her last Christmas with us.

It’s this time of year when I miss her the most – when my own bones and joints scream with the cold. When the wonderful aromas drift from my kitchen and I sense her warmth, almost hear her voice, and imagine that gleam in her eyes.

I consider the many hands at work this time of year; those that know more work than leisure – those unaccustomed to such things as paid vacation days.

I think of the many hands folded in prayer, searching through thin, warn pages of God’s Word for just the right verse, just the right answer to ease the worry and fatigue. What will the New Year bring?

God bless the hands that add a little water to the soup to make it reach to every mouth around the table.

I think of precious little ones learning, kneading, and straining to see above the counter. And how they look to the more skilled hands that offer guidance and instruction; hands that help make a house a home; a place of refuge and peace.

Likewise, teach the older women to be reverent in the way they live, not to be slanderers or addicted to much wine, but to teach what is good. Then they can urge the younger women to love their husbands and children, to be self-controlled and pure, to be busy at home, to be kind, and to be subject to their husbands, so that no one will malign the word of God.

(Titus 2:3-5) NIV

These are the hands that work love into every task. They bring forth moments that steal away little pieces of the heart forever. They hold and comfort, nurture and protect.

As with the hands that first brought forth life and spun the world into being, we can’t undo the work of the Lord – can’t unravel the work of love when it’s born of a sincere heart and embraces another.

The heavens declare the glory of God;
the skies proclaim the work of his hands.
Day after day they pour forth speech;night after night they reveal knowledge.

(Psalm 19:1-2) NIV

May the Lord richly bless the work of your hands!

Wishing you a very Merry Christmas, from my heart to yours.

Monday, December 20, 2010

I Love the Reign


It started when the sun took its rest beyond the trees

That perfect, random rhythm on the roof that makes you stop and listen

You know it's nothing you've created - it's the work of the Lord

It's out of your control.

I've waited all day for the gentle song of peace that now feeds my soul.

I've spent a restless, uneasy day - shifting moods and stumbling around with the clouds

As if switching unsteady dance partners in a darkened room

But then, I hear the voice in the rain:

"Be still, and know that I am God;

I will be exalted among the nations.

I will be exalted in the earth." (Psalm 46:10) NIV

He brings the sun and the stars, and the wind that grows my strength

It's the work of the Lord - it's out of my control

He gives vision to see more clearly the blessings that surround me

He brings the dark when the day is done that I may take refuge in Him

And he brings the sweet song of rain on my roof that I may simply stop....and remember

It's His reigning power over my life and my home that comforts me

It's the work of the Lord...and I'm so glad He is in control.

"And he who searches our hearts knows the mind

of the spirit, because the Spirit intercedes for God's

people in accordance with the will of God.

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 8:27-28) NIV

Thursday, December 16, 2010

Is There a Hallmark Card for That?



It’s been 22 years since I agreed to unconditionally love, honor, cherish and yes, obey my husband. We’ve come a long way since our "deep-fried days" before I learned to cook. Wow – 22 years! Who really knows what you’re signing up for when you’re young and in love? In reality, I should have said, “I vow to…”

  • look for something cute about the way you snore and keep me awake
  • keep your sock drawer full (most of the time)
  • listen to you “practice” your trumpet each day at the stroke of 7:30am
  • keep your dinner warm until you stumble in late from work
  • smile from the inside out when you play guitar and sing mariachi songs…to the dogs
  • not complain when you leave the toilet seat up and I find out the hard way at 2am
  • learn to pack a travel bag for your 5-day business trips at a moment’s notice
  • be your partner through life’s rainy days…and walk with you in the sun
  • appreciate your drive and ambition
  • appreciate your passion
  • appreciate your heart
  • learn when to hold back…and when to let go

I agreed to compromise, overcome, accept and adapt, to understand, to forgive, to see straight through to the heart of the man my God and savior chose for me – and to be truly thankful for him. I agreed to grow old and gray together with my best friend, to trust and believe in forever.

Still looking forward to spending my forever with you, Matthew. I love you and thank God for you always. Happy Anniversary!

Saturday, December 11, 2010

Peace, Joy and Hope


It was a simple, rustic plaque; a picture of me with my horse, Wendy, set inside a horseshoe cutout and the bending, curling of rope to fashion her name above it. I opened it and the tears spilled overcome by the love of a daddy wanting to give what he could for his daughter at Christmas.

Nothing shiny with sale tags dangling or gleaned from a department store shelf surrounded by mobs of holiday shoppers; one hardly acceptable by the world’s standards. But instead, a gift constructed from the calloused hands of a dad spending a late night out in his workshop in a worn flannel shirt bent over the swirling steam of his coffee cup. I imagined him sanding the wood. The tapping of the hammer, working love into every last detail and how he meticulously chose and cut out just the right picture and fit it in place, then with his own hands wrapped it up to rest alone beneath the tree.

I didn’t know about Hope back then…but Hope knew all about me. And He knows you too - even now; even when the peace and joy of Christmas seems overshadowed by the demands of it. The pressure builds on our shoulders when we think we have to follow society’s standards of what we should be doing simply because we’re only a twinkle away from that magical day.

My prayer is that you won’t let the reality of a harsh situation demand your peace, joy and hope this season. Your father has already given you the gift of His Son, and in that you already possess such things.

For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life. (John 3:16) NIV

If peace hasn't found you this season, then create it by surrounding yourself with joyful people. Have faith and know that God is aware of your situation, and that He’s already working love into every last detail, meticulously constructing each element of His plan.

"Therefore, since we have been justified through faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have gained access by faith into this grace in which we now stand. And we rejoice in the hope of the glory of God. Not only so, but we also rejoice in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance, perseverance, character; and character, hope.” (Romans 5:1-4) NIV

Thursday, December 9, 2010

It Only Hurts When I Love


I don’t think I’ll ever understand the mystery that lies in the murky waters that flow and sometimes stagnate between mother and daughter.

There’s a significant transformation that takes place when the teen years set in that somehow morph a perfectly sweet, innocent, pony-tail bearing, giggly girl into a fire-breathing, venom-spewing, ulcer-inducing…..oh, sorry. Now you know how my morning went!

Whether a child, a spouse or any other person who owns a significant piece of your heart, it seems those we hold the closest also possess the power to hurt us to the core. Their love touches and grips like none other, yet also pierces the heart with jagged words that resonate deep within long after the door slams. It’s the kind of hurt that leaves you wounded, examining yourself and doubting your motives.

But I’ve come to understand and believe that the only way in which to overcome the hurt and ultimately undermine the one intent on inflicting pain is simply consistency:

  • Consistency in our love
  • Consistency in our reactions
  • Consistency in our forgiveness
  • Consistency in who we are as individuals

And so we know and rely on the love God has for us.
God is love. Whoever lives in love lives in God, and
God in him. (1 John 4:16) NIV

“Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall trouble or hardship or persecution or famine or nakedness or danger or sword? As it is written: “For your sake we face death all day long; we are considered as sheep to be slaughtered.” No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.” (Romans 8:35-39) NIV

Lord Jesus,

I pray and ask that you would guard the hearts and minds of those often the target of defiance and pain. I pray that you would not allow hurtful tendencies of others to soil or tarnish the work you’ve begun in us. Equip us and help us to live consistently yours, strong in our beliefs, patient and bearing with one another, and not as martyrs quick to bear scars of resentment. Help us to consistently train up our children in the way they should go, and may we consistently look to you as we sometimes strive to love the unlovely. In Jesus’ name. Amen.

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

He Listens For Your Voice Too


You think you’re all alone in the middle of your worry.
The middle of your grief and anguish.
You’re sure He’s turned the volume down on your prayer time too, that He couldn’t possibly know the battle you’re facing and the frustration it brings.
It’s too big – too loud.
You think He’s much too busy dealing with more pressing affairs of the world to care about your demons.
You think He doesn’t see your eyes wide open in the dark of night while the rest of the house sleeps; when the knot in your stomach tightens and the little voices pierce the silence with fear and doubt.
You’re certain your little breath prayers throughout the day well up from that turmoil within and spill into the air only to mingle with a hundred others.
Even the comfort of well-meaning friends rings of trite consolation as they search for that one little phrase that will somehow fix it all and smooth out your rocky road. Perhaps they quote a scripture you’ve heard a thousand times or offer a quick prayer, then meekly shrug their shoulders as if their little offering bag is now empty – that’s all there is.

Yet…it’s… ALL… you… need.

But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you,

for my power is made perfect in weakness.”

Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my

weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me.

(2 Corinthians 12:9) NIV

What else are we to do as Christians?
Where else should we turn but to the Word of God?
Where else should we go but to our knees?

I am the Alpha and the Omega, the First and the Last,

the Beginning and the End.

(Revelation 22:13) NIV

There’s no point at which we’re to stop speaking the scriptures or praying through our storm. Our God was, is and always will be the One who guides and loves us through it all. His Word will always hold the power, the answers and the comfort.

When darkness settles on your world and you find yourself on that narrow road, you haven’t really lost your way. The light is there! Simply open your eyes and run to the light of the Lord.

Always…to the light of the Lord.

God Bless you today and every day.

Sunday, December 5, 2010

I'm Thankful for the Music


David and all the Israelites were

celebrating with all their might before

God, with songs and with harps, lyres,

timbrels, cymbals and trumpets.

(1 Chronicles 13:8) NIV

I’m taking a diversion from my regular bloggy-type posts today to confess there’s a song that plays in my head constantly…actually, it rattles my fillings. You wouldn't recognize it. It has no real name, yet it flows on jagged sound waves from my dining room each morning at 7:30amsharp.

From the well-worn pages of the beloved Arban’s rigorous workout for trumpets, my husband serenades each new dawn with my personal favorite, exercise #15, before moving on to Haydn’s Concerto. He throws in a taste of Bolero, some “…doggy in the window…” (for our two fur-bearing buddies) or maybe even a little mariachi tune, depending on his mood, and likes to wrap things up with either The Old Rugged Cross or My Tribute.

Various guitars, banjos, a piano, trumpets and more trumpets, even a flute, saxophone and baritone have become as cherished family members over the years. They each serve a purpose in our home. They all bring joy (even when they’re safely tucked away in their cases).

Actually, I’m very thankful for the gift of music; the way it reaches in and soothes the soul…or injects a burst of John Philip Sousa into a perfectly nice morning as I inch my coffee cup closer to my lips.

I’m grateful for a husband who has shared his love of music and his abilities with our children since they were old enough to hold an instrument. Way back then, I had no idea we would be a band-geek family, but I wouldn't have it any other way.

I’ve probably complained more than necessary over the years about the lack of peace and quiet in my home (hence, the blog), especially now that our parrot has also joined in our “family band” with some random opera song that smacks of Ethel Merman on steroids! Please, stop the madness!

Honestly, I love my band-geek, drum-corps loving, marching band family and the music that fills our lives. My mom-heart overflows each time my kids take the field, suited up, shined up and confident. With pride, I watched my son receive the Louis Armstrong Award for his trumpet abilities last year. I’ve smiled with pride each Sunday for the past 9 years as he has sat next to my husband in church playing with our worship team. And I love that my daughter can switch from mellophone to flute to saxophone depending on the season. But the best instrument of all? The one that plays in my mind that reminds me of the bonds, the friendships and the memories created and bound together by the love of music.

Check out my original version/venting session in “Confessions of a Trumpet-Player’s Wife” at Halftime Magazine…

http://halftimemag.com/articles/web-exclusives/personal-confessions/confessions-of-a-trumpet-players-wife.html

Son-In-Your-Eyes Sunday

In keeping with the spirit of the season, I’d like to offer a gift to each of you who are kind enough to spend a few minutes of your day with me. I want to share “a few of my favorite things” each Sunday during the month of December. If you haven’t visited these great sites, you’re missing out on some real comfort food for the heart.

So, keep the Son in your eyes today, melt into a quiet moment with a great cup of coffee and enjoy these treats for the soul:

Mothers on Mission

http://mothersonmission.blogspot.com/

A Softer Voice

http://asoftervoice.blogspot.com/2010/11/stepping-stones-to-glory_28.html

Heart to Heart with Holley

http://blog.dayspring.com/

A Holy Experience

http://www.aholyexperience.com/

Friday, December 3, 2010

Deflated


My front yard looks like a boneless chicken ranch during the day. Little mounds of color lie heaped on the lawn still, lifeless and begging for CPR. Perhaps I have a few too many inflatable yard decorations; some that sort of scream “Christmas!” plus one blow-up nativity scene.

I really grappled with that one in the store when I bought it last year. Am I insulting Christians everywhere with my plug-in nativity? I thought. It’s a definite conflict of interest for me to stick a Santa Claus on my lawn, and my nativity scene options were very limited.

It’s kind of cool watching Joseph, Mary, baby Jesus and the 3 wise men all spring into action at the flip of the power strip. But honestly, my heart sinks a bit when I have to pull the plug each night before going to bed only to watch them all crumble and give in to gravity.

So, when I went out last night to unplug the yard, I stood in my robe and slippers thinking how easy it is to feel a little deflated this time of year when our emotions are a little more acute than normal.

Played against the backdrop of Christmases past and the expectations of ones yet to come, we try to keep a handle on our time, our finances, our moods and our waist line! We vow not to let ourselves get run down, used up, overextended, affected by hurtful comments, and the list goes on. From every angle we’re reminded of the importance of keeping Christ in the season and to “follow” Him.

But…what does it really mean to follow Jesus not only through this season, but all year long?

I think it means when the worry creeps in, and the sadness overwhelms, before the harsh words are spoken, or the anger snaps its sharp teeth, or when our dark days seem to run together in an endless strand, we stop and recognize the giver of such things and learn to reject all that is not of our God. When we refuse to fall into the chaos of the enemy and choose instead to take that deep breath, we fill our lungs with the power of the One who breathed life into us right from the start. We turn to the scriptures because they heal and guide and comfort. They remind us of the peace only found in Him…the peace available to us all if only we would ask…sort of like flipping the switch.

“Then the LORD God formed a man from the dust of the ground and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life, and the man became a living being.” (Gen. 2:7) NIV

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

The Top of My Christmas List


I used to spend day and night out there with bucket and trowel in hand walking the triangle between garden, greenhouse and compost pit until I nearly wore a path in the grass. Only when night settled did I succumb to the darkness and head inside at a reluctant pace.

It wasn’t the greenhouse structure itself I found so enticing – it was the wonderful rich smell of moist earth, compost, and life in its beginning stages as I nurtured fragile seedlings and cherished memories.

I know it’s strange to be thinking about a greenhouse in December (unless you’re into growing poinsettias), but several months ago I wrote about how my year is divided into two seasons; gardening and holidays! It’s true!

Honestly – I know me, and it’s the same story each year. Even before I'm through picking Christmas ham out of my teeth, I feel that familiar pull to get back in the dirt. Back on my knees in the garden. Back to the essence of who I am; just a gal who grew up in the mountains with animals, a barn and small-town ways who still needs time on her knees digging in the dirt to feel renewed and alive.

Life pulls, tugs, demands and expects. It’s important to find that one thing we can plug into that revives us to our full self…(if only those little recharging mats for your hand-held gadgets came in “frazzled-mom” size…hmmm…).

So this year, it’s more of a feeling that tops my Christmas list. It’s that reconnection with peace, where I feel the sun on my back and the soil between my fingers (almost year-round in my climate). It’s the song of my corner fountain and the busy little finches who share my space. It’s remembering when the kids were young and how we started our entire vegetable garden from the greenhouse; the early-morning scouting through furrows in bare feet and Spiderman pajamas…no, not me – my son! It’s remembering his big brown eyes looking through a tiny pair of glasses perched on his nose when he discovered the masses of zucchini hidden beneath giant leaves, and my daughter’s honey-colored ringlets framing her sleepy face as she followed big brother through swaying corn stalks.

It all began in the greenhouse, the wonder of simple pleasures – the memories still cherished.

Lord,

Thank you for the simple things our hearts seem to hold on to with the tightest embrace. Let us realize and enjoy the sweetness in those simple moments this season, and may we give thanks to you for each one. Amen.

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