Who Do You Turn To?

It’s 8:30 at night – I’m sitting in my recliner – in my pajamas – and I’m crying!

The tears are partly a result of the tension of the past few days.  For over a month I have been planning a women’s retreat for my church.  With the guest speaker, who is my youngest daughter, I have brainstormed picking a theme, planning the lessons, the decorations, the music.  I so wanted it to be a success.  But as the weeks went by I had to ask myself – why do I want it to be a success and what needs to happen for me to consider it a success?

I have questioned my motives.  Do I just want to impress everyone with how smart I am?  Do I just want everyone to see what a great speaker my daughter is?  Do I want the women of my church to be encouraged and help them better understand God’s Word?  Do I want to see spiritual growth among my “sisters?”

Will it be a success if we have a large number show up?  Will it be a success if everyone has a good time?  Will it be a success if someone really is encouraged, really does develop a greater desire to know God, have a better appreciation for God’s Word?

So I have prayed that my motives would truly be pleasing in God’s sight and that there would be nothing in my efforts that would desire anything other than that God would be glorified and lifted up.  I have prayed that there will be a good response, that the women will show up, will enjoy, but most of all will draw closer to God as a result of the weekend.

Then, there was the worry of getting it all to come together.  Finding the right decorations to set the scene (but at a cheap price as I promised the church board it would not cost the church anything so the expenses are on me).  Getting volunteers to bring food for our Friday night snack and breakfast and lunch on Saturday.  Will I have enough food?  Finding volunteers for the skit I want to do on Friday and for worship on Saturday.  Praying for my daughter as she prepares the lessons I have asked her to do.

In the middle of all this I start having terrible pain in one of my teeth.  I had it filled last year but the dentist told me the tooth was really bad and he was not sure the filling would hold. A call to the dentist and off I got to get it pulled.

I’m feeling great!

Everything is coming together!

I have my tooth pulled on Wednesday.  Dentist tells me I can expect pain, bruising and swelling.  But here it is Friday.  I have had no pain, there is no sign of swelling or bruising.  My husband says it’s a God thing.

I truly believe my heart and my motives are right – that my desire is only for God’s glory.  I find most of the decorations at the Dollar Store – budget saved.  Tables are decorated and the room looks great.  My daughter sends me her notes for the handouts and they look perfect.  Volunteers have all responded and the skit, the worship, the food – it is all on track to be a great event.

Oh no!

Friday morning I start cutting up veggies for the Saturday lunch.  Suddenly my carefully laid plans all seem to come apart.

My husband comes up from the family room in the basement and he looks white as a sheet.  He tells me he almost passed out and off we go to the doctor’s office.  After examining him and talking to his heart doctor, we are off to the emergency room for further evaluation.  He had a heart attack in 2009 and has had 4 stents put in since then so the fear of another heart issue makes me very nervous.

Now I’m getting up tight.  Clearly I need to be here with my husband, but what about all the things I still need to do to be ready for tonight?  Is he going to be okay?  Is he having a heart attack?

While waiting for the doctor to evaluate the EKG and the blood work I pick up my cell phone to start calling our kids to let them know their dad is in the ER.  Before I can dial out, my phone rings and it’s our son.  When I answer he tells me that he has just had a call from his wife and he is rushing to the ER in their town.  Their daughter has been in a bad car wreck.  He doesn’t know more than that but wants me and his Dad to be in prayer.

Now I’m really stressed!

I try to hold back the tears as I think – “What do I do?”  I have to tell my husband, but is that going to add to his stress and cause a heart attack?  After sharing the news with him, we hold hands, crying and calling out to God for our granddaughter.

I watch the clock waiting for the doctor’s evaluation pulled between needing to be with my husband and needing to get back home and finish final preparations for the night session at the retreat.  Of course, my husband keeps telling me I need to go on and get ready for the evening and I keep telling him no way I’m leaving him until we find out what is going on with his heart.

And we keep waiting for our son to call with more information on our granddaughter.  How badly is she hurt?  Is she going to be okay?

He’s going to be okay

The doctor finally comes in and tells us that he is not having a heart attack but they do want to keep him overnight for observation and possibly do some tests in the morning.  When I am assured that he is in no immediate danger, I finally leave, hurrying now to get cleaned up myself and get to the church to finish final preparations.

We finally hear from our son.  Our granddaughter was hit in the passenger side by a young man drunk and high on drugs.  He hit her at such a high rate of speed it flipped her car over twice, crushed in the front and they had to pull her out through the windshield.  But, miraculously she has no broken bones, no life-threatening injuries, but is terribly bruised and some cuts on her arms from being pulled through the broken windshield.

While working with my daughter to put the finishing touches on everything at the church, we get a text from my son.  He has sent us pictures of my granddaughter’s car.  When we see the pictures my daughter and I both began to cry and to spontaneously praise God.  From the pictures of the car we realize we have seen a miracle.  There is no way anyone should have walked out from the car alive.  The whole front and right side is smashed in, the windshield completely broken out.  We get pictures of my granddaughter’s neck and front of her chest.  She looks like someone who has been severely beaten.  Clearly she has subsisted some terrible bruising and will be in pain for some time.  But no broken bones, no concussion.

As we praise God, I feel the tension drain from my body for a moment.  Then my husband calls.  They are going to do an angiogram tomorrow morning.  Doctor thinks they may be more blockage.  I start to get uptight again, but I’m reminded in my spirit that the same God who protected my granddaughter is the same God who will be with my husband in the morning.

Long day at hospital

But now, of course, I cannot be at the retreat on Saturday.  I know between my daughter who is speaking and the women who will be leading worship I don’t have to be there.  But I’m disappointed.  I have enjoyed watching the women in our Friday session and seeing their hearts being opened to God’s Word – just as I had prayed – and I really want to be there Saturday to share with them.

But I know there is no question about where I belong.  I love my husband – my best friend – and I not only need to be with him, I want to be with him.

The procedure is done and they have to put in another stent (his fifth).  The doctor shows me an area where there is a 50% blockage but says he will not touch it until it becomes blocked enough to be life threatening.  Because of its location it will require open heart surgery.  This makes me nervous.  How will he know it has become life threatening until it is life threatening?  On top of that they had trouble getting the bleeding to stop and have had to put a pressure cuff on his groin which is pushing down and is very painful.  While normally a person has to lay on still on their back for two to three hours, he lies all day – over six hours – not being able to move from his back and having this pressure cuff pushing down on his groin.  A rough day for both of us.  Since he cannot sit up, I help him try to get some food down.

The day is over!

Granddaughter is very sore – will be out of commission for a few days – but she is alive, she is going to be fine.

My husband is out of immediate danger.  He has to stay overnight in the hospital just to make sure he does not move too much and the bleeding stays stopped.  But, all is well with him.  I can bring him home tomorrow.

The retreat appears to have been well received by everyone.

Who Do I Turn To?

So, I need to be rid of all this tension.  What do I do?  Guess I could pick up a glass of wine.  I could put on a favorite movie.  I could take a hot shower, a sleeping aid and go to bed.

But I turn to the one I have always turned to.  My Savior, my Lord, but also my friend.  I put on a CD by Selah, lean back and think of all the times in my life – when my father walked out on the family, when my first husband was accidentally killed and my daughters came home and found him dead, when I was diagnosed with cancer and told I did not have a very good chance of making it – and so many other times when crisis came and how Jesus has always been there.  Giving me wisdom, peace, comfort.

And as I meditate on His goodness, His love to me, the tension drains from my body and my tears become more than just tears of release.  They become tears of love and gratitude.

I turn to Jesus.  Who Do you turn to?

When I’m far away from home
And the cold wind starts to blow
When I’m empty and alone
I turn to You

When there’s hardness in my heart
And I can’t see the truth
And I’m wondering in the dark
I turn to You

And here in Your holy presence
It’s all that I can do

For the faith to move ahead
And to let go of the past
And to see me as You do
I turn to You.

I turn to You, Jesus
I turn to You, Lord
What else can I do
I turn to You

You alone are worthy
The one and only God
The Ruler of the nations
And Father of my heart

I turn to You, Jesus
I turn to You, Lord
What else can I do, Jesus
I turn to You

Selah

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Life can pass us back while we wait for “Someday.”

via Daily Prompt: Someday

How often we say we will do something “someday.”  Especially at this time of year we make New Year resolutions that starting the first of this year I am going to actually do those things I keep saying I will do “someday.”

Unfortunately someday seems to never come.

Because I seldom kept those New Year resolutions, because my “someday” never seemed to really come, I quit making resolutions many years ago.

But this year I sat down on New Year’s Eve and wrote down several resolutions, several things I have kept saying I will do “someday.”  For me 2017 is the year I must keep those resolutions.

Because life is passing by much too quickly.  In April I will be 69 – just a year away from 70.  I have never had a problem with aging.  I celebrated those milestone birthdays of 30, 40, 50 and 60 without any concerns.  But the thought of turning 70 – I am not looking forward to that.  To me, at 70 I will be “old.”

It has dawned on me that if I am going to do something “someday” it needs to be now.  Those pictures sitting in boxes that I am going to put in a scrapbook and note who the people are in the pictures….those stories of my childhood I want my grandchildren to know….the will that needs to be updated.

I have also had to acknowledge that if I want to live a healthy, active life in the coming years, losing weight “someday” needs to be now.  Eating healthier needs to be now.

So this year I am going to make my “someday” a reality.  It’s only the 12th of the month, but so far I am doing well at working on that list of someday.

Wish me well!

 

How Did the Baby Change Your Life?

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One last look this time around

Brrrrr!  It’s so cold outside.  So today while staying snug inside I read and thought one more time on the Christmas story which we have just observed.  Now it’s time to move forward and begin thinking about spring and about the resurrection story.

But one writer I read during the Christmas season still speaks to me.

…the Christmas story is not just for observing, but for participating.  A long time ago, Jesus Christ was born.  But today, Christ is born in us.  And so we would be wise to spend some time wondering with the sheep and the shepherds, how does this baby change my life?

Sarah Cunningham

For 2017 – how has this baby changed your life?

 

Reflections on Christmas – Now that it’s over!

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Planning for Christmas

For weeks we have been planning for Christmas.  Looking for bargains, some even gave up their Thanksgiving evening to fight the crowds on “Black Friday.”  Family recipes were pulled out of the drawer, decorations out of the basement or attic.  Children were excited as they made out their Christmas wish list.  Churches were busy planning special observations on Christmas Eve or Christmas morning.

The day comes and goes.  Busy adults breathe a sign of relief and begin the task of taking down the tree and its ornaments, putting all the decorations back in the basement or attic until next year.  Children enjoy their new toys although some are probably already bored and ready for the next new toy on the market.

School opens again and workers return to their jobs many complaining of how tired they are and how hectic the Christmas season has been.  Grandparents are thankful for the memories they made with their families over the holiday but glad to get back to their quiet routine.

Life goes on as always……has anything changed?

Response of Shepherds and those who heard their story

Reading the Christmas story this year I was struck by the scripture in Luke where he tells of the shepherds’ visit to the stable where baby Jesus laid.  The shepherds excitedly told Joseph and Mary about the visit of the angels and their message that the Messiah had been born that night in Bethlehem.    Apparently they also told the people in the village.  Luke tells us that all who heard their story were astonished.

I can imagine that was quite an experience for the shepherds and the people in the village. They probably talked about that night for years to come, telling their children of the visit from the angels.  No doubt there was many a discussion as to what happened to that child when his family suddenly left Bethlehem for Egypt.

But was there any change?

I wonder – did they search the scriptures to see what they had to say about the Messiah?  Did they seek to know more of God?  Or, was it just an exciting experience to talk about around the campfires at night as they continued to watch their sheep?  When Jesus appeared on the scene almost 30 years later, did they question if he was the little babe born in Bethlehem?

We celebrate Christmas

So today we make a big production of Christmas.  You can always count on people saying “Keep Christ in Christmas” and complaining of those who say “Happy Holidays” instead of “Merry Christmas.”  But what about keeping Christ in our lives all year long.  What does saying “Merry Christmas” instead of “Happy Holidays” really do if we go back to our normal life after Christmas content that we “kept Christ in Christmas’?  Did our reflection on the Christmas story make any difference in our day-to-day lives?

Mary’s response

Luke tells us that Mary “kept all these things in her heart and thought about them often.” This was not just an exciting night to be celebrated now and then.  This was a daily part of Mary’s life.  Can you imagine the sense of responsibility and great concern she felt that she and her husband were to raise the Son of God?  Did she totally understand what that meant? And the words of Simon who told her a sword would pierce her own heart had to make her pause and wonder what the future would hold – for her – for Joseph – and especially for her son.

Mary pondered – thought – on all these things.  I wonder how much we ponder and think about the Christmas story and what it really means after the holiday is over.  The Christmas story is old and well-known to us, but after the observation of Christmas is over, has it made any difference in our lives?

I Don’t Do Cookies!

cookies

It’s that time of year!

All over the country mothers and grandmothers are busy in the kitchen baking cookies with their kids and grandkids.  On Facebook I see post after post of beautifully decorated cookies and smiling faces of children with their mother as they happily put their special touch on the cookies made to look like snowmen and angels and reindeer.  So many creative women out there making wonderful memories with their children.

Then there’s me.  Mother of the year – NOT!

When my girls were little I wanted to be that mother who makes such memories for her children by following that tradition of making cookies for Christmas.  I got out my cookbooks and looked for recipes that said “easy to make.”  All excited, I brought my little girls into the kitchen, sat them up at the counter and explained how we would start our own tradition and have these wonderful bonding moments making memories to last a lifetime.

We followed the recipe and put the cookies in the oven.  When the timer went off, we eagerly opened the door expecting to have these wonderful cookies to decorate.  The cookies were a disaster.  They looked burned to a crisp.

Not one to give up easily, we made a new batch and tried again this time taking them out earlier.  The cookies were still a disaster.  This time they were gluey and clearly not done completely in the middle.

We pressed on!

I tried valiantly several times to make Christmas cookies before I finally accepted the fact that I don’t do cookies.  No matter what recipe I used, no matter how hard I tried, my cookies were always too hard, too soft, overdone, under-cooked.  In other words, I don’t do cookies.

I make a mean apple pie.  At family gatherings, my kids and grandkids always ask for my banana pudding or peach cobbler.  My husband requests my black forest cake and it is always a hit at potlucks or parties.  But cookies?  I don’t do cookies!

Hopefully my daughters were not scarred by being the only kids in the family who did not make Christmas cookies with their mother.  Hopefully my grandchildren have not felt disappointed that Grandma never had plates of delicious, beautiful decorated cookies to eat at Christmas time.

Papa to the rescue!

This year my husband has come to my rescue.  He makes wonderful jumbo raisin cookies using his mother’s recipe.  When my youngest granddaughter came over today he took her into the kitchen and patiently helped her crack eggs, toast walnuts and showed her how to make cookies.

Papa makes the best cookies in the world!

Sampling the cookies when they came out of the oven looking just right, my granddaughter declared, “Papa makes the best cookies in the world!”  She was right.  They are delicious!

raisin-cookies

We made other memories!

Despite my total lack of cookie-baking ability, I know my girls and I made other good memories at Christmas time.

  • Wooden Christmas decorations we painted one year that they still have on their tree
  • Watching the movie, “Popeye”
  • Snuggling in bed and reading the “Ugly Joke Book”
  • Decorating the tree

So as I look at all the Facebook posts of beautiful Christmas cookies, I thank God for all those mothers out there making memories.  But I want to encourage those mothers whose house does not look like it was decorated by Good Housekeeping, whose cookies are a flop, and whose Christmas presents are not elegantly wrapped.

Just love your children and laugh with them.  Cookies or not, they will love you too and treasure their Christmas memories.

My Addiction has Returned

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According to the American Society of Addiction Medicine

Addiction is a primary, chronic disease of brain reward, motivation, memory and related circuitry. Dysfunction in these circuits leads to characteristic biological, psychological, social and spiritual manifestations. This is reflected in an individual pathologically pursuing reward and/or relief by substance use and other behaviors.

Well – my husband and I seem to be addicted to the game “Scrabble.”  I have confessed my addiction in the past hoping that being totally honest would free me from this obsession with the game.  Confessions of a Scrabble Addict!

This summer we spent a lot of time in our hosta garden.  That is another area where we seem to seek some kind of “brain reward” by seeing how many hostas we can plant in our back yard. Our entire back garden is full of hostas!  We have close to 200 different varieties. That  sounds like a lot – but there are over 3000 different varieties registered so it is really not that large a collection.  We would try to get more varieties, but we have run out of yard space.

While working in the garden (we also have roses, columbine and lots of day lilies) kept us busy this summer, it appeared we had conquered our game addiction.  Instead of playing 15 to 20 to 30 games a month, we actually only played five to six games and there were even months we did not play at all.

Then came the cold snap!

We thought we were free!  Then Old Man Winter arrived with bitter temperatures dipping below zero and wind chills readings 20 to 30 below.  Since my husband has a heart condition and his doctor has told him not to go out in these bitter cold temps, we were stuck in the house.

You can only watch so many movies!

I baked an apple pie and we watched some old movies.  But you can only watch so many movies before your brain dies.  So out came the scrabble game.

And we are hooked again!

The month is not over and we have already started out 25th game!  My husband loves to be able to play all his letters in one turn.  In these 25 games, he has played all his letters 22 times.  No matter how hard I try, I cannot keep up with him on this great feat.  However, I am getting better as I have played all my letters 13 times this month.

Do we sound crazy?  Our kids insist when we die they will not have a visitation.  Instead, in our honor, they will hold a scrabble tournament.

Anyone else out there love scrabble?  Are we the only nuts in the world?

Spring will come!

Hopefully with the arrival of spring, we will be able to shake free once again of this addiction.  At least until winter returns in 2017.

 

 

 

Hold the fort!

fort

Defensive mentality

An old hymn of the church which I always disliked tells much about the mentality of the church in years past.

“Hold the fort, for I am coming,” Jesus signals still;
Wave the answer back to Heaven, “By Thy grace we will.”

For many years the church has seemed to view the return of Jesus and our future home in heaven as the primary goal of the Christian.  I remember attending several Bible conferences where people taught eschatology using material from authors like Hal Lindsey and his book “The Late Great Planet Earth.”   A few years ago people were fascinated by the “Left Behind”  series written by Tim LaHaye and Jerry B. Jenkins.

While I totally understand the need to study Bible prophecies of the future, it seems to me that while the church taught of the return of the Lord and often suggested that time was very soon, it made little difference in how the church members actually lived their lives.  The general feeling seemed to be that we needed to make sure we were ready for the return of Jesus so we could go to heaven.  Maybe we should also warn others that if they did not get right with God, they would be going to hell.

But our daily lives were not really changed.  We were basically living in a fort, trying to defend our self from the sin of the world and waiting for Jesus to come and rescue us.

I often have wondered “Is this what being a follower of Jesus is all about.  Living a defensive life against Satan and hoping I can hold out until Jesus rescues me.”  I remember hearing testimonies (at the time when churches actually had a time for members to “testify”) of how rough the week had been, how hard Satan had attacked them, but thank God they were hanging on.

As I wrote earlier this week, I believe the church has not truly understood that when we pray the Lord’s Prayer we are asking for God’s kingdom to be present in our lives now.  Active Anticipation

God’s Kingdom is here!

Through God’s Spirit in us we are to live out the Kingdom values and teachings now in this world.  That means we need to live together as brothers and sisters of God – not separated by race, gender, economic status or any other barrier.  When we get a glimpse of heaven in the book of Revelations we see that there are people from every “tribe, tongue and nation” worshiping before the throne of God.  If we cannot do that now, how will we be able to do it in the future?

That means we do not live defeated lives, but through God’s Spirit we find the strength, the courage, the determination we need to not only overcome difficulties in our lives, but to reach out and be a source of strength, courage and determination for others who are struggling.  That does not mean we will not have times of weakness and discouragement.  But I think it should mean that we always recognize we are children of the Kingdom and have God’s resources to draw on in times of need now.

The best defense is a strong offense!

This statement or basic concept has been attributed to George Washington as well as others and is often used by football teams.  While it is not always true in all situations, I do believe the church would benefit by recognizing that God’s Kingdom is in us now.  If we would more actively study and follow the principles of God’s Kingdom that Jesus taught while he was on earth and begin to allow God’s Spirit to strengthen and guide us, then we could really show the world what God’s Kingdom would really look like.   As the world saw us truly love others, truly work to heal the hurt of others, truly enjoy the peace of God, they might began to want to be a part of this Kingdom also.

David’s example

In 1 Samuel 30 we find a great example of allowing God to strengthen and give us victory.  David and his men had gone into battle.  When they returned, they found that a band of Amalekites had burned their town and taken their women and children captive.  The men wept until they could not weep any more.  They became angry with David and began to talk of killing him.  What a time of discouragement.  But I love what the Scripture says about David in this time of great distress.

David found strength in the Lord his God.

Like all his men, David no doubt was worried.  He had wives and children that were also taken captive.  His leadership was in question, even his life in danger.  But David called on the strength that comes from God.

He then asked for direction from God as to what he should do.  I love what God spoke to him.

Go after them.  You will surely recover everything that was taken from you.

My prayer in this Advent season is that we as the people of God will seek God’s direction for the difficult situations in our lives.  Then, with His guidance let us begin to go on the offensive and pray prayers of faith to reclaim what Satan has taken from our church, our family, our nation.

Let us “get out of the fort” and interact with God’s love, wisdom and strength in this world and show them what God’s Kingdom is all about in the here and now.