Saturday, June 30, 2012

The Welcome Mat

I have the best neighbors in the world. Really, I do. The Jordans, the Morrisons, the Campbells--all of them are more than neighbors. They are my family. They are the village that helped to raise my children. I can count on them for anything: mechanical advice for our beat-up vehicles from Jim; a fresh loaf of homemade bread from Ms. Marilyn; a smile and a hug from Ms. Bertha; a fervent, on-demand prayer from Mr. Coyt. 

Just yesterday, when I knocked on Ms. Bertha's door at eight o'clock in the morning to share some extra squash I had, she opened the door with a smile and said the same thing she says every time I go over there: "Come on in!" And you know what? She meant it. Still in her robe, with no makeup on yet, that early in the morning, she sincerely wanted me to come in for a visit.  She wasn't just being polite. I declined her invitation because I was on my way to the store, but I swear, I felt guilty about it. 

I didn't want to disappoint her.

Why? Because I recognize the effort being made to reach out and love me. I know that all of my neighbors are dealing with their own pain. Emotionally and physically. The Morrisons have known unspeakable horror. Twenty-five years ago, their only daughter was brutally murdered at the unbelievably young age of 19. They could choose to be extremely bitter at God and at humankind and shut everyone out. But they don't.  

They choose to forgive and they choose to love. They unselfishly take time for others.

When any of my neighbors say, "Come on in!" they truly want their guests to feel welcome and to sit and visit for a long time. If you show up unannounced, they will stop what they are doing and give you their full attention. They ask questions and are truly interested in your answers.

No lip service here; I'm not sure they would even know how. 

They love to tell funny stories about their childhood, about each other, and about their children. They all wrap their arms around my children and love them as their own, despite how much pain they may be feeling. The Morrisons often tell me how much Abbey reminds them of their Rhonda when she was little.  I think it may be healing for them to remember the sweet things about their child.

I love being around my neighbors.  I love helping to take care of them. And that is healing for me.

I have another Neighbor as well. When I knock on God's door, He greets me with, "Come on in!" He invites me to sit with Him and talk about my stories, my pain, my drama and my crazy dreams.

He, too, has a sad heart about this fallen world. And many days, about me. But that doesn't make Him unapproachable. He forgives and chooses to love me. I am always welcome in His home and I always love the healing time I spend with Him.  

And I believe He is disappointed when I am too busy to come inside and take time for Him. He doesn't care what time it is, He just wants me in His presence.

I don't even have to have on my makeup yet. 

"Your friendship was a miracle-wonder, love far exceeding anything I've known— or ever hope to know." 2 Samuel 1:25-27

Tuesday, June 26, 2012

I Know the Plans I Have for You

"Not my will, but thine, be done."  Luke 22:42

Jesus spoke these words knowing he was about to die.  I know Jesus lovingly did what He had to do in order to fulfill God's will, or plan, for His life, for all our lives.  His utter surrender was and is  beautiful. 

But here's what I have come to know on the subject of God's will:  God doesn't want my own will for my life laid begrudgingly on His altar.  Not at all. Instead, He wants me to learn to desire and actually love His will for my life, just as Jesus did.  Why?

Because therein lies our happiness and Spirit-rest.

In God's will for me is the joy and peace I am so desperately seeking for my troubled soul.  

Learning to pray that way takes practice. I have to pray---not only to accept His will for my life, but to know and to love Him more. In learning more about who God is and what His nature is, comes the certainty that He knows best and that He only wants the best for me.  It allows me to willingly desire His plan for me.

To be honest, I still have days when I feel confused as to why God has not answered the way I want, when it makes perfect sense to me to continue on the path I am on.  In reality, He is hearing my prayers...and I know the prayers that fall within His will for my life, He answers in the best and quickest way possible.  But when I am headed down a path on which only God can see the destination, and that destination is detrimental to me, He will go to great lengths to stop me and set me on the correct path. 

The best application of this love I can give is parenting my children.  My life experiences and mistakes have given me an insight to the error of making certain choices, taking certain paths.  So, with the motivation of great love for my children, if I see them heading down a destructive path, I instruct them to make a different choice, even though they may disagree.  More often than not, they often decide that their idea stills sounds better, convinced and determined they won't make the same mistakes I did.  And because life is about choices and free will, I let them go and ask God to take over.  And true to His nature, He gently brings their prodigal hearts back into alignment with His will.  But the pain and heartache that could have been prevented leaves its mark on their young souls.

So it is with me.  

Old as I am, I still stomp my foot sometimes at the path to which God is currently leading.  But instead of arguing so much now with my Maker, I am learning more and more to love Him for seeing ahead of me, around the blind curves, and putting up the necessary road blocks for me. 

I now know and lovingly accept that His will is beautiful and motivated by the Greatest Love known to our souls. 

"Turn me away from wanting any other plan but yours. The Lord will work out His plans for my life."  Psalm 119:37, 138:8

Saturday, June 23, 2012

Amazing Grace, Revisited

I attended the funeral of the father of a good friend of ours recently. I was very moved by the entire service; the sweet spirit of the preacher and the awesome pomp and circumstance of the military at his graveside. I swelled with pride at the soldiers and their absolute professionalism.  The playing of "Taps" on the bugle and the presentation of the precisely folded U.S. flag to his widow was overwhelming and emotional but so beautiful. 

During the service, the preacher read the verses of the song, "Amazing Grace," including two unknown verses that struck my heart:

Yes, when this flesh and heart shall fail,
And mortal life shall cease;
I shall possess within the veil,
A life of joy and peace!

The earth shall soon dissolve like snow,
The sun forbear to shine;
But God who called me here below
Shall be forever mine!

My favorite part of the bonus verses: "...I shall possess within the veil..." defines a veil as "something that covers, separates, screens, or conceals." When Jesus died on the cross for our sins, He eliminated the need for a veil between us and God. Through Jesus, we have direct access to the throne of the Most High who shall be "forever mine.”  
What a wonderful thought!! A forever mine Lord and possession of a life of joy and peace within the veil

I hope that brings you as much comfort as it does me.  

Saturday, June 16, 2012

Be Nice to Spiders

“I don’t like spiders and snakes, and that ain’t what it takes to love me…”  Truer words have never been spoken (or sung). I am scared of those creatures; they absolutely give me chills. And there is such an abundance of them in south Alabama, I can’t get away from them!  I am a firm believer that the only way I like to see a spider or a snake is dead.  

And then I read a book to Abbey the other night… 

Silly as it sounds, this classic storybook about a spider named Helen that takes up residence at a zoo and begins helping the animals with their “fly problem” reminded me that God doesn’t make mistakes.  In the book, one of the zookeepers sees the spider web in the corner of the camels' cage one day and tears it down with his broom.  Days later, the animals are miserable again, as the flies have returned to torture them. It is then that the zookeeper makes the connection about how helpful the spider can be. 

Helen went from one building to another,
spinning webs and eating up all the flies.
The zoo became a peaceful place.

While this story gives me a wonderful excuse as to why I have so many cobwebs in my house, there is a deeper story here; one that makes me a bit uncomfortable. I really do consider myself a tolerant person because of all the different places I have lived and all the different cultures I have experienced, but how often have I looked down on another human being because they didn’t look right or smell right or act right? I hope the answer is not very often, but if I’m being honest here—I have done it one too many times.  And I am ashamed and have been very convicted as I formulated this post in my head and heart over the last couple of weeks.  

You just never know who God will send to test you, so I have got to learn to not be so quick to judge.  Because of my troubled past, I do not do the 'trust' thing too well.  I tend to judge first and get to know people later.  Sometimes this is spiritual discernment, but most often it’s just plain ol’, ugly prejudgment. God only knows how many messages I have missed because my heart was closed. Forgive me, Lord.  I really don’t want to miss another opportunity to show mercy and grace to others, or to receive what You have for me from them.

Even if how You have them packaged is not what I would be naturally be drawn to. . .

"Then those 'sheep' are going to say, 'Master, what are you talking about? When did we ever see you hungry and feed you, thirsty and give you a drink? And when did we ever see you sick or in prison and come to you?' Then the King will say, 'I'm telling the solemn truth: Whenever you did one of these things to someone overlooked or ignored, that was me—you did it to me.' " Matthew 25: 37-40
~Be Nice to Spiders, by Margaret Bloy Graham, Harper Collins:1967,

Monday, June 11, 2012

A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the SON

One of the greatest things about homeschooling only one child is how much extra time we get to take for projects each day. But even then, we rarely get to every experiment in my lesson plan book during the year.  

Enter summer, stage right! Time for catching up on all those things we didn’t quite get to during the school year. 

Planting all of Abbey’s new flower seeds was one of the projects.  Our first attempt in recycled, empty yogurt containers filled with dirt from our yard was an epic failure, so we splurged and bought $1 biodegradable pots and a bag of $3 potting soil.  Much better results! 

Within five days, we saw our first sprouts.  Amazing how something so small can make an 8-year old so happy.  She came running through the house to tell us of the first signs of life.  By day two, five of the eight pots had new life pushing to the surface.  Then she began counting each individual sprout, amazed that by the end of each day, there were even more to count.  I think she went from 16 to 28 in one day’s time. They were literally growing right before her eyes! 

Once they get large enough, she is hoping to transfer them out to a flower bed that she and her daddy prepared for this very purpose.  Their chances of survival may actually go down quite a bit at that point, but we’ll cross that bridge when we come to it. 

As I walked by the cups in the window this week, I noticed something.  All the sprouts were dramatically leaning towards the window, reaching towards the Source of light, as all new plants do.  No matter how many times I rotated the pots, within a few hours they would be leaning towards the window and the sunlight again.  

What makes them do that? We know, don't we? Someone is pulling them toward Himself.
God of wonders, beyond our galaxy. . .His hand is so apparent in every living thing.  It just takes opening our own eyes to see it.  

These tiny sprouts really reminded me of a time in my life when I was down in the spiritual dirt, waiting for my life to turn around, waiting for the sun to shine again.  I remembered how hard it was to keep looking up when there was so much darkness around me. 

Thankfully, God loved me enough to keep providing water and light and encouraging my bruised soul to keep growing, to keep reaching towards the surface, where life could begin again.  It was gradual, quiet and unassuming, but He kept speaking to me; He kept leading me. 

And I made it through the valley of darkness.  I had to work at it and it was hard, but I made it.  

Watching these tiny, tender sprouts reach for the sun made me realize how I now instinctively reach for the Son as I continue grow in my spirit. No matter how many times a day I get turned around, I still am pulled back to the Source of life.   I no longer spend hours and hours fretting and worrying before stopping to say, ‘Oh yeah---duh! I forgot to pray about it.”    

The longer I am a Christian the more instinctive it becomes to pray first and worry less.  That still, small voice that provides so much strength in His tender mercies keeps me moving through the valley.

If you’re in a dark time in your life right now; exhausted from trying to climb to the top of the dirt pile, or just exhausted from waiting on God to answer, please don’t give up!  

Life-sustaining Son-light is just around the corner.  

"Get out of bed, Jerusalem! Wake up. Put your face in the sunlight. God's bright glory has risen for you."  Isaiah 60:1

Thursday, June 7, 2012

Mockingbirds and Angels

Walking outside yesterday, I observed a mockingbird attacking a huge blackbird three times its size.  The blackbird had ventured too close to the mockingbird's nest. I just love how they are not afraid to defend their young, even it means facing the giants. Those mockingbirds mean business, I tell ya. She chased that blackbird for a long distance, diving and snapping at the enemy bird's backside all the way.

Do you ever feel that way when someone you love is threatened?  Yep, we all do. We want to chase away all evil that comes near them.  But unfortunately, we can't, in our human limitations, protect them from all this crazy world throws at them.

When my older children were still young, I taught them the power of calling on angels to help protect them. I don't mean the fat, sweet, cherub-looking things you see on greeting cards and in mainstream media.  No, I mean the kind in the Bible, that are strong, muscular angels willing to fight for us. The kind like Archangel Michael. The kind that only get stronger as we pray for them. 

In fact, I told my children that as we prayed to God for angels to be with us all around our home, the strongest ones would take their posts at the four corners of our roof and set up watch so that we could rest.  The glory around them and thus, around our house, would be so bright that no evil could come near.   We prayed it around our house, our street, our neighborhood and our town.  Every night. Without fail.  

Just like the mockingbird that takes rest on the highest point it can find in order to survey its territory for intruders, our angels will watch from the absolute best vantage point possible in order to protect us from the enemies of our souls; the angels who work for the bad angel, mob boss himself---Satan.

Because we can't always see the evil coming before it gets too close, they will watch for us. They will intervene and protect us; they can do nothing else when we pray for them. I believe it is their eternal job description. 

They will make us misplace our car keys so we are late and avoid the traffic accident. (And you thought you were just absent-minded). 

They will keep the heavy objects from falling on us until just after we pass by.
They will keep our feet from slipping on the wet rocks. 

They silently hold us with their mighty wings and safely lead us home.

Prayer changes things

And prayer changes God's warrior angels.

Maybe you don't believe in mighty angels or the power or prayer. Maybe you believe everything is coincidence. That is a personal choice, as are all things in a relationship with the Lord. 

Though I never see them with human eyes, I don't want to take a chance that the guardian angel warriors with whom God has so graciously assigned me and my family won't be there, so I will continue to pray for their strength to be greater.  

I don't want any blackbirds around my nest tonight. 

"How then can evil overtake me? For he orders his angels to protect me wherever I go." Psalm 91:11-12 

Friday, June 1, 2012

Through a Glass Darkly

Have you ever noticed how sometimes you get so used to something the way it is, that even if it's not so great, you don't even realize it, until it changes?

Well, I had that exact thought the other day---about my kitchen window!! It had been getting so progressively dirty, that I hadn't even realized it!  Our house backs up to a beautiful pasture, and we often see deer, foxes, coyotes, and other wildlife out there. This kitchen window overlooks that pasture, and as I passed by the window a few days ago, I noticed something out in the pasture.  I stopped to take a second look, expecting to see an animal of some kind.  Upon closer inspection--to my absolute disgust--I realized it was only a large spot on my window!  Good grief!

The very next day, I lugged a 10-ft. ladder over to the outside of the window, climbed up and washed it. It took several passes and LOTS of elbow grease to get it clean.  A thin layer of worm slime, frog spit and other gunk was stuck like glue on that puppy.  Three dirty rags later, I had a clean kitchen window.  Amazing how good something that simple can make you feel.  It was cathartic almost.  I love that view, and I had forgotten what I was missing until it was restored again. 

My life has been like that window.

Covered with slime; spit; sin.

It happened so gradually, I didn't even realize it.  I just kept going through the motions, the bad choices, the missteps that had led to another, and then another, and then another. So on and so on.  The vicious cycle of sin that pulls you down and leaves you spiritually gasping for air...I was there. My window was caked with that junk. 

But praise the Lord, I had Someone who cared enough to come and gently proclaim that He didn't like the view anymore.  Many, many dirty rags later, my soul was clean again. Just like new.  Amazing grace; He shaped a Genesis week from the chaos called my life. 

The difference between walking in freedom and walking in sludge is like night and day....but sometimes it takes a really clean window to notice


~Create in me a new, clean heart, O God, filled with right desires and clean thoughts.~Psalm 51:10



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