Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Great is Thy Faithfulness...

I woke up singing this favorite hymn this morning...


"Great is Thy faithfulness," O God my Father,
There is no shadow of turning with Thee;
Thou changest not, Thy compassions, they fail not
As Thou hast been Thou forever wilt be.

"Great is Thy faithfulness!" "Great is Thy faithfulness!"
  Morning by morning new mercies I see;
All I have needed Thy hand hath provided—
    "Great is Thy faithfulness," Lord, unto me!

Summer and winter, and springtime and harvest,
Sun, moon and stars in their courses above,
Join with all nature in manifold witness
To Thy great faithfulness, mercy and love.

Pardon for sin and a peace that endureth,
Thy own dear presence to cheer and to guide;
Strength for today and bright hope for tomorrow,
Blessings all mine, with ten thousand beside!

It has been a favorite truth to stand on for a long time...but I really needed the "spiritual kick in the butt" this morning.

I'm still soaking in the last verse - Pardon, peace, presence, cheer, guide, strength and HOPE.  Keywords to live by today, tomorrow, and I'm sure through the holiday season.

Peace to you as you celebrate His birth, and live in the knowledge that He loves you!!

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

It's all about .... um... Jesus!!

It was never meant to be about clever marketing and fad items...giving just for the sake of giving...or raising our kids expecting to receive...oh goodness!

It breaks my heart to see people, out of work, out of money, and still scraping together EVERYTHING they can to "give their kids a good Christmas"....they'll not have adequate food on their table, but there will be gifts from Santa under the tree.

I can almost see Saint Nicholas rolling over in his grave...this is not what he intended either. Stand up people!! Find your spiritual backbone!

OK - so I'm a Christmas nut - but before you write me off you have to know the journey He took me on...from a spoiled So Cal girl that grew up in a house where it was ok to lie (starting with Santa), to a broken hearted, wounded life young adult that discovered the TRUE meaning of Christmas as the little church down the roads steeple bells pealed carols at midnight on Christmas Eve. It hit me then - Christmas was all about Jesus. ALL about Jesus. All ABOUT Jesus. PERIOD.

And through raising kids; arguing with grandparents about why it's ok to "not do Santa" (we'd rather the kids know that the gifts were from you...than to lie to them...), through teaching the kids that it's ok for others to "do Santa" (we respect you and trust you with the truth, and in a few years they will know the truth too, but it's not up to you to tell them), to realizing that others may not have those same convictions, and trusting God to allow the kids (and their now spouses) to set their own holiday traditions (so far no one is "doing Santa").

Isn't Jesus' birth ENOUGH reason to celebrate??

BE INTENTIONAL - in how you prepare for the season, how you spend the day, who you spend the day with! Put a plan together and stick to it!! Don't give in! If gift giving must be a part of it (and that's not all together wrong - just keep it in budget and in control ) then make it intentional, draw names if there's a group of people coming, or do a "white elephant" gift drawing - or something more community minded (please bring $20 - or canned food - or whatever - to donate to our local church/charity/foodbank  to celebrate the birth of our Savior).

Start something new, and BIG!! We get caught up in the lights, commercials, newer/bigger/better THINGS that are saved to reveal in this season. We're suckers. Recognize the fact that we are sucked into the lies of society that we deserve all this stuff, that we need it, that anyone else needs it, that it determines our worth and tells others what we think of them. IT'S WRONG that we are so emotionally tied to this whole gift thing. Most will go into debt to "prove" our love for someone else - why?? We'll dig ourselves out all year long to get our debt into line to do it again next year....so not worth it. For a fraction of the cost, we can provide clean drinking water for a village all year long...for several years! Check out The Advent Conspiracy , or join in with others to adopt a Compassion International child for the year, or commit to a local giving opportunity.

The whole idea is to DO SOMETHING DIFFERENT. Think out of the box. Start a NEW trend in Christmas gifting.

Some of our favorite things over the years have been: baking cookies/treats for friends, serving at a homeless shelter on Christmas Day, preparing food and serving/delivering for Meals on Wheels on Christmas Day, inviting International Students into our home for their first real Christmas, having a "Happy Birthday Jesus" party with cake and ice cream, giving unexpected gifts to people we didn't know well - just to bless them, sharing our home with people who didn't have family (or many friends) to share the day with....

I'm sure that it will look special and different in your home, but it has to start with you. Pray about it!! Rarely, if EVER, have I heard someone say "Oh, I prayed about it, and Jesus told me to spend lots of money, go into debt and buy my family/extended family/friends TONS of junk!!" Nah. It's not going to happen. Seek His heart and His will for this Christmas Season. It IS, after all, ALL ABOUT HIM.

OK. I'll get off my soapbox now.
Merry Christmas!!
Happy Birthday Jesus!!

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Cross Cultural Workers and holiday blues...

This is such a hard time of year for those who have family scattered around the globe. Whether they are in harms way doing battle, or serving our Lord in a foreign land, or working for a company or a NPO - just being apart from family and friends can be hard on both sides of this global scene.

Recently I got a letter from our friends and partners in ministry, B. and S. O. who serve with a missions group in the capacity that assists families whose children are serving abroad. They wrote about a recent seminar that they attended on Mental Health and Missionary Care for those serving abroad, but I believe that their lesson learned applies to all of us who have friends or family working abroad. They wrote:

"We were attending the Mental Health and Missions Conference in IN, which was excellent.  One of the workshops we attended was on "Attachments", the speaker is a psychologist and spent several years on the field working with missionaries.  From his experience, he told us that those missionaries who knew they (the missionary) was on the mind of someone at home on a daily basis were the missionaries that had the least amount of stress.  He went on the say that the missionary knew if they were on the mind of someone, that someone was probably also praying for them.  If you have not told your children and grandchildren that you are praying for them and you really are praying for them,  please let them know.  What an encouragement this can be to your missionary family plus it can decrease their stress!!  God is good."

So as friends, family members, church workers, prayer warriors, member care people, missions agencies, (ok, I'm finding it hard to NOT find a person who would not bless someone by doing this!), let's all please PRAY for our workers abroad, and be sure to tell them (in a safe way, if needed), that we ARE praying for them! 

For those of you that know someone who is grieving the holidays here in the U.S. while their "worker/loved one" is away, let us remember to also PRAY for THEM, and tell them that we are praying! It wasn't mentioned, but I believe that the benefits will work both ways.

I think that ultimately, WE will be blessed to be used by God in such an instrumental way...

Christmas Blessings,
Marina

Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Catching my breath...

This time of year we hear that a lot..."if I could only stop for a moment to catch my breath..." - and I wish mine was JUST that easy!

My Oct. sinus infection, November respiratory cold that threw my asthma so off, now has me welcoming December with something a bit more daunting...but I don't know what to call it - since the Dr. yesterday didn't give me a name to call it....well, not exactly.

(it's the ONE thing I don't like about our dr. office - no receipt at the end of a visit that's coded with the diagnosis...grrr...why does that bring me so much comfort??)

But I really like the doctor and staff, and feel thankful that God took my HUGE medical phobia and put me in one place that has done a great job in the 2 months I've known them...and the first medical help we've needed since we made our move... I had been so healthy!!

So this appt yesterday, the one with no diagnosis, has a list of doctor's orders, and i learned a lot...like my 3 day old headache was being caused by not getting enough oxygen...because I couldn't catch my breath. What I have might be pleurisy - since I'm wheezing on one side, it hurts to breathe on that side, and I'm relieved when I lay on that side; or it might just be pneumonia. My cough is nasty. I'm exhausted from it.

So bedrest, yes - permission to sleep 12+ hours a day all week long, 3 weeks on Prednisone (please pray for my husband as this makes me just a teensy tiny bit emotional...like PMS emotions...which we haven't had to deal with in a while...), 3 days of powerful antibiotics, and a lot of other meds that I take all the time now for my recently found asthma....singulair, inhaler, thyroid med, etc.

And in the midst of all this, I slept through Thanksgiving Day - allowing my daughter and husband to do all the cooking without passing a recipe or making a decision. It was easier than I expected to withdraw from that role, but it helped that I didn't care at all! (Thanks Mark and Jessica for doing such a great job!!)

I missed visiting with the kids, and getting to know Jason's new girlfriend, and walking the 5k Turkey Trot that we had spoken about since spring, but I'm so glad I didn't go and walk in the pouring rain, and am so proud of Mark, Becky, Jessica and Joshua for taking it on! Maybe next year I can join in...as long as it's not raining, or snowing....

Now my home is lacking any evidence of "Christmastime is Near"... except if I play the song from my playlist - it IS my favorite Christmas song ever. If it's not a familiar title to you, think Charley Brown Christmas...the song that plays in the background that's sort of slow and melancholy - even though the lyrics are special and sincere.

I WANT to have my house decorated, but just thinking of it wears me down....just like sitting on the couch as I type on my laptop - WHO KNEW it would wear me out just to type?? Just to breathe?? But it does....I can hardly keep my eyes open now...so I should go work on putting in my 12 hours for today...

No matter what your home looks like, may you feel His Spirit of Christmas there...and may your heart feel the nearness of Him as we celebrate Jesus' birth....

Sunday, November 21, 2010

Praying for our Adult Children...

The National Missionary Convention was, again, an amazing opportunity to hear some great teaching, be encouraged in my walk with God, and to be inspired to engage in missions in my own life. 


Before leaving for the convention, I had purchased a book for Mark and I to "do" together - "The Power of Praying for Your Adult Children" by Stormie Omartian. Often I'll pick up a book, and it will take us months, even years, to get started on it (or through it!). But the overwhelming, resounding cry of "PRAY!!" that I heard over and over again at the NMC compelled me to sit down with Mark tonight, and we began to read this book together. 


I realize that no book, besides the Bible, holds all the answers, but for parents that have stopped praying for our adult children, this book is a great resource of scripture to set us on a path to begin to pray again. Not only does it direct us TO DO it, but gives a good foundation of how to tear down spiritual strongholds to free us to pray effectively for them, ridding ourselves of the guilt of parenting errors, the bondage of unforgiveness and allowing us to resume our Biblical right to speak truth and light into their lives. 


Our job as parents never ends, and I'm grateful that Mrs. Omartian has reminded me of this! Although we have prayed continually for our children's needs, for God's direction for their lives and ministries, and of course when trouble prevailed - this book is an effective guide to lead us to pray again as parents - not for our little kids - but for our adult children. 


I recognize that some parents are living in fear for their children's lives, for their ministries, and I recommend that they allow themselves to delve into the Word, to use this book as a prayer guide to pray for their kids, and to put it into practice. To read it, and PRAY it with your spouse, will bring you closer together, closer to God, and you will feel the peace of God settle your spirit.


Be blessed...

Thursday, November 18, 2010

This week...

After being sick in bed for a week plus, and on meds that were making me sicker - I'm actually feeling a bit better...although I don't sound better...

So, I'm in Lexington, KY at the National Missionary Convention. Love it here. I'll write more in a few days once I'm back home...

Thanks for the prayers...healing, God moving, for me to listen 2x more than I talk...He is faithful (even if He has to take my voice away to accomplish the last...  ; )

blessings,
marina

Saturday, November 13, 2010

Right Now DOES Matter!!

(This was written in response to Bonnie Gray's Faith Barrista Blog, entitled "Right Now Matters And So Do You; Surviving the In Between Times" which was posted at http://www.incourage.me this morning)


First off, LOVE your thoughts, stories, and spiritual truths. Thanks for sharing and inspiring us.

Second: recipes girl…you told us how to make the bad chicken…how about some “real” good Chinese recipes! (My daughter and son in law just returned from 3 years of school there, I’d love to surprise them with a real authentic meal!!)


Third: my first response was that I’m too busy to be “in between” right now…but that’s my bigger picture. My calendar this week says I have a conference tomorrow (which is now TODAY) from 9-4, church at 5:45 PM, and will be at a convention from Wednesday – Sunday for missions. In my spare time I’m preparing for the workshop I’m leading (“Help! My child wants to go into missions!”) and preparing the menu for cooking for 25 Missions Ministers while they meet off sight. I’m busy!!

But then this still, small voice reminded me that I’ve been sick and in bed all week, and that the new medication added to my regiment is not allowing me to sleep….not a wink. I’m sorta stuck in one of those spots now.

My attendance at the conference is canceled and I’ll likely skip church…though if I feel better Sunday I’ll go then. For now, being able to heal, rest, and sleep if/when it comes is paramount. In my sleepless time tonight I lay awake listening to God, praying about today’s activities and the week ahead. Twice He spoke clearly enough to force me to pull the laptop on the bed and write out new notes in my outline. He’s using my season of waiting to prepare for the season of harvest. That’s good enough for me!


Several years ago, while working at a Christian Camp, God changed my idea of “retreat participation.” I had only been exposed to spiritual retreats, great speakers, late nights, and worship with the angels. What God showed me was that He use these times to prepare us like a military unit readying for war on a spiritual battleground; He is stocking our supplies, readying our focus, and giving us rest and nourishment to go back into the spiritual frontlines. I think we mistake the quiet times of life, those waiting situations between the trials, as missed opportunities to retreat.


I pray that we will use our time wisely, the day of His return IS drawing near, and although we do not know the day or time we need to continue to be salt and light to a hurting world here, near, and far away.

Thursday, November 4, 2010

Faith Barrista Jam, Shaking off feelings of guilt...

(hello friends! for some reason, i'm writing from the "amen corner" of life this morning. it's a good place to be! i can only think that my heart is prepared to participate in a FULL weekend of learning and growing through Jennifer Rothschild and the Fresh Grown Faith Conference for our women, and a series at church called "Here, Near, and Far Away" where Dr. Mark Moore from Ozark Christian College is blessing us with 3 sermons - 3 DIFFERENT sermons - this weekend. You can find out more at http://crossroadschristian.com, and even listen to them, should God lead.)


Now back to our regular scheduled blogging...


When I came to Jesus, as a young adult with a VERY colorful past, I had to reckon with how to deal with all the forgiveness God was willing to give me. 


"REALLY? 
ALL my sins, just washed away??"


I'd find myself saying over and over, wondering what the catch was...surely this was one of those "too good to be true" deals...but I never found any fine print at the bottom of the page - and the footnotes in my Bible never proved it was a conditional deal.


Then the truth of the matter was the realization that I could accept HIS forgiveness...but could I forgive myself??


THAT TOOK TIME


and 30-some years later, I still have to pick myself off, dust off the pride, and ask for forgiveness again - 


BECAUSE I DON'T ALWAYS LET ME BE FORGIVEN.


He HAS separated me from my sins, and the shadow of His cross casts long between them. (amen!)


I know I'm still a sinner. I still hold that bread that is His body, cup that is His blood, and allow my heart to break over the things that I could have done differently. done better. or just shouldn't have done at all


And if I do it right, IF i do it right, then the forgiveness comes easy - from Him, me accepting it from Him, and walking away with that...moving forward on this journey with Him. I'm learning.


Yes, I'm learning - to not look back. Like the pillar of salt that He so graciously put in the Bible to remind me to not even glance at what I used to be (well, only for the edification of the Body - so He can be glorified in how far He's brought me - and still bringing me - amen?). But not to look, not to long, not to desire, not to wonder "what if...". 


Because, come down to it - heart and soul of it - straight up shoot from the hip - it could, LIFE could, 


NEVER BE BETTER THAN THIS.


And it's easy to remember that 
NOTHING I CAN DO WILL MAKE HIM LOVE ME MORE
and
NOTHING I CAN DO WILL MAKE HIM LOVE ME LESS
(amen)


So guilt, this guilt, THIS GUILT, that Satan tries to stir up in me - won't stick. It's useless.


BECAUSE I'M FORGIVEN
and that's THAT.

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

On parenting your adult children....or mine at least...

I'm surprised sometimes, how the "mom" doesn't leave me....it really IS a hard thing to NOT do!

My youngest, Jason, will be graduating from college in December...gosh, I can say "next month" and count the weeks on my hands (not quite yet ONE hand...). His degree, Construction Management, is pretty well rounded, and although the construction industry is still affected by the recession I have no doubt that God can (and will) open the door to a good job for him. (OK - disclaimer here - "good job" in God's way of blessing, not necessarily meant to measure what man judges from the pay check stub, benefits, or what kind of place he'll live in...but that he will be used by God and keep his bills paid and make a difference in the world for Jesus!)

A few times now, he's mentioned wanting to go to CA to visit his "best friend" who attends college there, and even has tried to line up work out there for the past summer (which fell through). Now he's again praying and seeking work there...and it puts me in this place of being grown.

On one hand, I know what life in CA is like - I was born in Southern California, and lived there until my husband was transferred to a new job in GA - as a matter of fact - I was 8 months pregnant with Jason then, and he was the only one of my kids to NOT be born in CA!

I actually am a little (unnecessarily) stressed about him moving there. Part of me thinks that it's too dangerous (yes, that's a part of it) and part of me thinks he'll love it so much that he won't ever want to leave. Part of me thinks that it will rock his spiritual foundation (duh, like college didn't already do that?) and part of me sees that it's such a mission field, and a bit of refiner's fire too.

I KNOW that he has to make this decision on his own. I threw out my .02 worth this morning, and willed to pray "change my heart, Lord; change Jason's mind; or change the circumstances that would lead him there". So now all I do is pray, wait, and listen to every word that Jason says...what he's thinking...what's going on in the job search...and that he'll be wise enough to not believe everything he hears in the process, and that he'll figure out how much more it is to live in some places around the U.S. than in others...whether it's in CA, or KY, GA, or MO...or anywhere - cost of living affects wages and rent, gasoline and bread...and a paycheck is reflective of it all.

So...I was surprised today by how much a mom I can be sometimes. And I'm still expecting God to change me, and for my faith to grow, as I learn to REALLY let go...

Thursday, October 28, 2010

on "hearing from God" for Faith Barista Jam...

It's Thursday again!! I honestly wonder where the time goes in the course of a week...WOW!

When time is going crazy fast, it can be easy to lose sight of the important things in life. I remember how stopping to pray with little ones was the most important part of my day...teaching them to keep those lines of communication open with God....praying in the car as we passed by an accident, or for our meals, or those "can't keep my eyes open" bedtime prayers (where my son would go on...and on....and on....praying for every living thing that he saw that day...until I was sound asleep on his bed!).

It was a season of teaching them to talk to God...and that was good...but oh, how I wish I could have instilled more in their young hearts on how to LISTEN to God. Now they're all grown up, and I can't capture those moments again, but I can reflect and learn, and maybe, someday, they'll stumble upon this blog and hear how sorry I am that I didn't teach them that...

I shoulda, coulda, woulda - taken time to be still to hear HIM. Oh, there were moments in the madness of raising family that I'd make us stop and listen - but it was more about hearing the creation worship our Creator - hearing the birds sing their songs of praise, the wind rustling through the "trees of the fields" and the chiming of the brook bubbling down the creek. How I wish I could have taught them to listen deeper, to hear that "still, small, voice" of the Holy Spirit.

I shared yesterday in my "Focusing on the Family" class of DOK at church on things I wish I would have done differently - and I thought of how I wouldn't have taken quiet time ALONE so often. I would have moved it off of my bed, in the late night hours, and moved it to the middle of the house. I was reminded of when I was babysitting, and how quickly the little girl learned that "this is the chair I go to to read my Bible, to be still, to listen to what God is saying to me through His Word. " She learned so quickly, and in no time at all as she would see me head to that chair, she would grab my Bible and climb on my lap....and how I wish I had done that with my OWN kids!!

I pray that they learn the discipline of "time with God," and can't say how many times He speaks to me through His Word. Whether I am seeking an answer by using a keyword search, or just reading in day to day messages, He will often address something I'm struggling with - or something I need to be changing. How precious are His words!!

Probably one of the biggest blessings in my life right now is how He is speaking to me through my relationships. I have never, in my entire life, been blessed with so many SOLID Christian friendships. I am constantly reminded how He uses my friends to speak truth to my heart, often without prompting me, but speaking through them to encourage, discipline, and motivate me. It is also a good reminder for me that my words can build or tear down, and that's all the more reason for me to be immersed in scripture, that I might speak words of salt and light to a hurting world.  Yes, this is something I recently heard from God.

Sometimes I get so enthusiastic when God speaks something to my heart, and I want to instantly put it into motion. Recently I attended a conference on how to impact the Muslim people around us, and it opened my eyes to the hurting world of international people in my neighborhood. One of the ideas that He spoke to my heart, was that so many of them are international students, attending school in the colleges around me. I know that there are many ways to impact this community, but one thing I had not thought of before was being in school with them, not as a teacher, not trying to talk them into coming to a campus ministry event, but in the classroom, daily (or M/W/F...), getting into study groups and allowing myself to encourage friendships though study groups and projects. I was initially excited about this idea, and surprised that I hadn't thought of it before...and as I began to pray about it, I remembered (or was reminded) that these ideas that He speaks to my heart, are not always for ME to fulfill. Sometimes I'm to cast this net out, and allow someone else help pull it in.  It's definitely HIS idea, and HE can work it for good, but this may not be the time for me to do it...perhaps HE wants to do it "through me" by using others...I've seen that before in my life.

So hearing from God takes a few things, like maturity, discipline, stillness, wisdom and discernment, and to be using these gifts daily so they are in good practice.

At least, I think that's what He meant by that...
I'd better go search the Word, spend some time in prayer, and seek His face in the stillness of my soul as I listen for His voice...

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

fried brain

The weekend was SO full of information, I felt like I was on overload...

"This must be like syllabus shock..." I thought...remembering how my daughter coined a term that was the way she felt when she took her semester's worth of syllabus' from her college courses, and penned them all in on her calendar.

I had been given SO MUCH information, learned SO MUCH about this other religion, and have NO IDEA what to do with it all...but I heard that clock ticking.

Lord, I know that you desire for ALL people to know You...every tongue, every tribe, every nation. For this to happen with "them" we will have to step out of our comfort zones, our of our cars, out of our shopping cart comfort zones and embrace them, talk to them, smile at them to break the ice.

I heard one speaker say that we had NO BUSINESS sharing with them UNLESS we were willing to let them move in with us...for them to choose Jesus, they lose EVERYTHING they have.

Family.

Friends.

Community.

And if they were "there" they would surely lose their life...it happens all the time.

But here, where we celebrate our freedoms, they lose all of theirs. They are a guest in our land, yet held hostage by the religion they were born in to...and our freedoms protect them to worship "that way", yet it is the worst bondage of all.

One that has lied to them.

They believe what they believe because they always have. It's not only religion, but their heritage, their culture. THEIR WAY.

And we won't reach out....will we?
and my heart aches for them. because I don't know it all - but I know that there is life to be lived more abundantly...more than a life of bondage, of legalism, of confusion, of anger and violence by command.

So I'm praying for discernment - and for God to place my feet in places where I can be pushed out of my comfort zone and engage with them.

Not argue.

Not even discuss.

But just be a friend....
for a start.

To love with His love. perfect. complete.
not selfish and sterile.

To engage with these people that He LOVES...because HE LOVES.

No shock there.

Thursday, October 21, 2010

Faith Barrista Jam...More Faith=More Happiness??

Ohh...I LOVE what was written by Bonnie Gray over at Faith Barrista, and need to put the promises from God's love letters to work in my life daily... 
Her topic for the Jam this week is "How Does Your Faith Connect To Your Happiness?"

I can be full of faith, loving God, loving me...have my ducks all in a row and life in those perfectly lined little boxes (that SO many over-rate!!) and be miserable. 

It just happens.

I remember those food all over the floor, toys all over the house, mounds of laundry reproducing (clean, dirty, and sniff to find out...), dishes stacked to the ceiling, days of having 3 little ones under tow (and under TOE) and stair-stepped in age at that....and sit on the floor with them laughing, reading, climb in bed and snuggle with them...and wake up and the clean house fairies forgot to come by my house - and be happy. 

And MORE often, there may be the AWE of God in control in the midst of chaos, at work all around me, in me, and THROUGH me (which amazes me to no end) and the feeling I feel is not really happiness...but well...maybe CONTENTMENT?

Yes, that's it! My faith doesn't command my happiness, but my faith EQUIPS me for CONTENTMENT.

And yeah, that makes me happy. :)

(sorry that this is short friends...it's been one of those weeks that I'm in AWE of God  in control in the midst of chaos...and I've got to run, pack my bag - shower (and shave?) - and head in to town to run errands...because later on I get to go to a cool conference in Nashville to learn about Muslims! there was a last minute cancellation and I get to go fill that spot!! I am SO blessed!! I love it when I get to be a student, life long learner, get better equipped to help those that are called to go "here, near and far away" and hey have I told YOU (yeah, YOU!!) how much you are loved by the Creator of the Universe lately???)  
I'm sure I'll write about it all later...when life calms down a bit...


Wednesday, October 13, 2010

10/14 Topic for Faith Barista: Making Tough Decisions

i love organizational tools. i can spend a day shopping in any store, just looking for new ways to organize my "stuff". you wouldn't know it to come to my house, disorganization is king, but i love thinking that it's possible to get it in order. i'm one of those kind of people, creative and out of the box. "a clean desk is the sign of a sick mind" thinker. right brained in many ways, yet when it comes to making a choice in things, facing a decision of upmost importance or just staying on track, i turn to making lists. plain and simple.


it may go back to my old fashioned, paper and pen, journaling days. or even farther back than that - "SLAM books" - i can not even remember what that stood for, but i remember making them, putting our names, addresses, current crush, favorite food (color, song, teacher) on each page. somehow, life was easier to face when we had it organized in 10 blue-lined pages with all our our deepest secrets spelled out in front of us. there was a sense of normalcy in my southern california neighborhood, despite all the differences of race, creed, color, religion, knowing that we all had something in common...even if that something was a crush on david cassidy, or that we loved pizza.


now days my lists get a bit more complicated, not just a shopping list but dividing it into sections - what comes from the market, what from the big box store, and don't forget to go by the post office! i make a packing list if i'm taking a significant trip, including what needs to come along in my carry-on, what goes to the suitcase, and although i keep saying i'm just going to save that in my computer's memory so i can print it off trip after trip, i haven't. i should put that on a list somewhere of "things to do...".


when i talk to people that are considering dating, i suggest that they make a list, to open their bibles and see what God-qualities they want their future spouses to have - to be missions minded or worship focused, what things are personal choices - like being athletic or liking sea food, or even physical traits or disciplines - like if they keep their room clean. to have a list to work from makes it easier to set a goal, and although these specifics vary greatly in importance, it's helpful to have an outline. (it's also important to let God direct that, and to allow Him to change us as we mature in Him.)


when i face difficult decisions it's important to put my options down in black and white, weighing out pro's and con's, and counting the cost. somehow, seeing it all on paper can take a large problem and make it manageable. it keeps it in perspective.


right now i'm praying about things that will change in my life at the first of the year. although we often have to make decisions that are "here and now", sometimes we can sense things on the horizon and plan and prepare for them. of course, i could be totally wrong, and God may have put this on my heart a few weeks ago in preparation for a decision next week, but i'm thinking that it is for a few months down the road. :) making that list, sorting the good and bad effects each option will make on my life, home, marriage, ministry - all these things are categorized in my mind. i've trusted a few people to pray about these things, people that won't have anything to gain, or lose, by this decision. friends who can just seek the Lord and lay out a fleece on my behalf. a process that puts me in a place where i can let it rest and not pick it up and over-analyze the situation...i know that the answer will come, in time, and am actually already seeing it form. i may ask a few more to pray in that circle - people who will be affected by my decision - not only to give them a head's up that i'm considering this change, but to bring them into a place that God may give them wisdom, put us on the same page, and maybe He will give them a solution or suggestion that i have not seen.


i can't help but think of my 2 daughter's and how they each included us as in their process of deciding to take a mission trip. our youngest girl, jessica, gave us a head's up in the fall that she was praying about taking a summer long internship on the field, and asked if we could pray about that. she didn't have any details, no agenda, not even a plan - just a desire. we were able to pray with her, and for her, and as we saw that plan unfold around her we knew that this was God's will, we were able to be a part of the process. each step was an answer to prayer that we had the privilege to pray for, and she spent an amazing summer abroad in Mongolia. my oldest girl, melissa, is very typical first born. she can do it herself....and often she does! she is very talented and capable of doing many things well. her system was just a little bit different, although it turned out fine...praise God! she decided that she was going to take a school sponsored mission trip over her spring break - and did! we didn't know about it until her ducks were all in a row - and i think that if she wasn't so excited about going, she might not have mentioned it at all! it really was a "oh, by the way, i told you i'm going to italy this spring break...right??" moment. 


now i realize that these are pretty simple issues in comparison to what others are facing daily. parents are having to make choices regarding their young children's health. adult children are having to choose a level of life care for their own parents in failing health. things weigh heavy on our hearts, burden our souls, cut us to the core of our being. there is One that knows, One that cares. in prayer is the place that i can always find that peace of mind, where my soul is knit together with His, and He carries my heavy heart. no matter what we face, He is with us, and no matter what consequences occur from our decisions, He will be there. 


"Cast all your anxiety on Him, for He cares for you." 1 Peter 5:7 (NIV) is a life verse to lean on. although it is a quick and easy panacea for everyday, it is also a foundational bedrock scripture that we can build our faith on. HE CARES FOR ME (and YOU). why wouldn't i want to cast my anxiety on Him? why wouldn't i want to share my burdens with Him? why wouldn't i want Him to be involved in the process of making any tough decision? He will always want what's best for me...and in that i can rest.

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

This was only a test...

I grew up in Southern California, full of earthquakes drills and the ever present "Emergency Broadcast System" tests on tv. It was always a test - blaring siren heard from every room, no matter how quiet the tv REALLY was. We KNEW it was a test, as if it was a REAL emergency, chances were we wouldn't have electricity, or we would have felt the earth shaking from the tremor. If it had been worse, like a bombing (how could I imagine that a bombing would be worse??) we likely wouldn't be alive to worry about it.

Sometimes we'd have a real emergency that didn't warrant the Emergency Broadcast System being used. Smaller earthquakes, storms (I didn't have my FIRST really bad storm until my husband and I moved with our 3 kids to Georgia), even flooding when we lived in a coastal town just a block from the ocean (that spilled down our street and up to our front steps) - none of these qualified for the EBS to be used, yet they were ALL emergencies.

Well, today I thought I had an emergency, but I wasn't sure if it was EBS worthy or not.

My dear, sweet husband is a work-aholic in reform....(don't worry, I don't ever expect him to say, "Hello, my name is Mark (HELLO MARK) and I haven't worked in 228 days..."). That's his problem though, not mine (although it affects our home).

Well, he went to work yesterday morning (yes, on Columbus Day) to work on a special project with an outside team of contractors. He gave me a heads' up that it would likely be a long day. That's code for "I don't know when I'll be home".  He called around 9 pm and said that he was still working on something, but he was leaving his office and headed to the area where the problem was, to work with the contractors dealing with it, to insure that it got fixed in time for start up this morning. Then he said that I could keep dinner out for an hour, and if he wasn't back by then, to put it in the refrigerator.

Well, he didn't make it within the hour, or before midnight, or before 2 am - when I called and left a message on his office AND his cell phone (and texted too!). He didn't show up at 3am, or 4:30am and I never got a reply from my texts or calls. When he wasn't home by 5 am I called again, but stayed in bed. Surely they'd be getting ready to start the plant, and he was just busy with the final inspections to insure a smooth start up...but he still didn't call or text or return any messages.

I tried to be "reasonable" that he was busy, but it was really unlike him to not call. Usually I'd complain that he calls home TOO much, letting me know his every move. So this had me baffled. I prayed, felt peace that I was going to be ok with whatever it was going on - but I panicked at the thought of where he might be.

I remembered that he had, within the past few months, had several near misses with deer on his way home from work, a few "too close for comfort" encounters on the highway with other errant drivers, and even had to stop one night when the driver of a semi truck passed out and ran off the road!

A brief thought crossed my mind to text his boss, he'd know where Mark was, certainly if he was still at work (I knew that the boss would know if there were any lingering issues to affect production start up). I was not comforted when his reply was "when I spoke to him last at 9, he sounded like he was on his way home". I panicked a little more inside, and thought tragedy was striking. The EBS warning went off in my head and heart.

So, did he leave work last night and end up on the side of the road? Was he laying in a ditch? Did he leave and go somewhere else, and fall asleep after a long, hard day? Was he asleep in his office? And why was he not returning my calls or my texts?

His boss, via text, promised he would check into it.

I got dressed and headed down the road in tears, thinking that I would be able to find his vehicle, in the early morning dawn, laying in a ditch on the side of that country road so near his work. I was sobbing and heartbroken.

Then he called! Full of apologies of being so busy, the phone battery dead, and not near his office phone, he just didn't want to wake me (LOL - if he only knew how much better I'd have slept!). A few hours later (ok - over 6 hours later) he rolled home, ate, and crashed in bed...where he's sleeping as I type.

So what happened? How come I panicked so badly, throwing the Emergency System switch, and not realizing that "this is only a test"? When I prayed, I felt God's peace for MY life, that no matter what was going on with Mark, that I would be ok. Somehow in my prayers, I had not given Mark the benefit of the doubt and jumped to the worst conclusions....which wasn't fair of me at all...and wasn't fair TO me! And it certainly wasn't fair to God, who had already "told me" (via the Holy Spirit) that I was going to be ok!!

SO, so easily, I fell into that trap of worry. I had given it up for Lent last Spring - and lived happily without it all this time. Kyle Idleman even touched a bit on what was motivating my fear last Sunday (go to http://crossroadschristian.com and listen to the series "gods at war" - SO GOOD!!). Why did I remove God from the throne of my heart, and put selfishness and worry up there with Him on a loveseat?? Why did I overlook His prompting that "this is ONLY a test" (like he gave Abraham in Genesis 22)? That's NOT what I want at all!! GRrr.....I'm kicking myself in retrospect.

So now, humbly, I have apologized to my super-tired hubby. I have repented, and am praying that God will equip me with better tools to handle this sort of stuff. I know that the winter will be full of many "long drives home", something I have to get used to after 15 years of living within a mile of Mark's job. The 20 minute drive might get longer, but I know, no matter what, He is not leaving me alone, and I will likely be tested again.

Thankful...a Pastor Appreciation twist...

When I lost my mom to lung cancer at almost 13, I never thought about living the rest of my life without her. I wasn't a person of faith, so I never even thought of not seeing her again, or needing her - or anyone else - at any time in my future. As I grew into young adulthood, then as a new Christian - it started to impact me as what it meant to not have a mom around.

My dad remarried - 3 more times - and each of his choices were for him as a wife - not for my sister and I as a "mom," so my need for a mom was never fulfilled. He is not a God-follower, so his life did little to equip me for a life of faith. Little did I know that God had another plan.

Early in my walk with God, I met Kim at the bus stop, and as we got to know each other, her family soon accepted me into theirs. Her parents were great, her brothers obnoxious, her home filled with life. It didn't look anything like my family - but it was a place where I felt welcomed.  Kim and I grew in our faith, in our friendship, and lived a crazy roller coaster of life - marriages, difficult seasons, children.  As she and I were living it - it was her mom, Vermille, that was our prayer warrior.

When I got married, inexperienced as a bride and as a hostess, it was Vermille that stepped in and took care of our scatter-brained details at the reception. She was there to encourage me in my walk as a young wife, and as a young mom, and as a woman of God. She didn't always have a meek and gentle spirit, but she led by example in many ways; in her faith - through losing her husband and life partner, in service - through serving in her church and in short-term missions, in community - by supporting my kids in life - not only attending weddings but jumping in and helping with the receptions there too, and then signing up to pray for them and supporting them financially as they went to work on the mission's field.

All this has taken place from 1/2 a continent away, as early in our marriage we started moving for my husband's job. She stayed in our coastal Southern California town, downsized her own home, and traveled the world - including our own home in several different states. She shared her travel experiences with me, and when I made it out there she drove me to the beach to sit in the ocean's spray and wiggle my toes in sand. She's prayed for my needs, too many times to count, and just as importantly - she's asked me to pray for her. Her wisdom is something I strive for, or more so, her life long passion for learning; to never know enough, and to always know that we have never "arrived" in our walk with God, to desire to know Him more and constantly be changed to be more like Him.

She's a student of the Bible, an encourager for other women, a prayer partner. She's the mom that I've never known, and has loved me (and others!) as her own. She's set the example of Jesus in loving unconditionally, but also living a "tough love" life when needed. She's lived a life of faith. It's from her life examples that I hope to model my "next phase of life." She's a pastor in the sense that she's a shepherd - caring for the flock. She doesn't have a church under her authority, but she faithfully attends and serves in her church, and mentors the younger women so we can know how to behave.

Thanks God, for bringing Vermille into my life. Thanks for the fulness of life you have given her, and for instilling such good disciplines in her. Thank you for her faithfulness, her strength when facing diversity, and her commitment to You. I praise You for providing her for me, even before I ever knew to ask for her, as a mom, a mentor, a friend. Thanks for showing Your great love for me, by putting her in my life!

Help her Lord, to continue to serve You in many ways, to open doors of opportunity, to guide her steps and keep her healthy. Allow her to see You at work in her life, in her and through her, and increase her faith. Thank you for the passion You have given her, and multiply it as she serves You. Thank You, Lord...

today

wow. what a day.
after a great birthday weekend, today - although a legal holiday - was back to work for mark, and back to normal life for me. no company. no plan. no schedule.
i managed to get up at a reasonable time...an oddity after being so sick last week. GOD was so gracious in healing me "just enough" to participate in life with my kids this weekend...i never could have done it i felt like i did on thursday.
so forward motions. little things around the house - we have a broken dishwasher again, so i spent some time looking for the home warranty number i need to call, but didn't find it yet. i hand washed dishes, and did a little laundry too. i stripped the spare room bed. played with abbey. read a lot, including the manual for the new camera we bought. then i took the camera out for it's first use...a shoot of fall colors with the short lens out at the local state park, and then out to the waterfront park, and then a last shot as i let abbey run around the neighborhood as i ran over to the golf course to catch the sunset.

i met another neighbor, "c". she's widowed, and lives next to the empty lot where i like to shoot the sunsets...lovely view. she was working outside with her two adorable grandgirls, and we all visited for a good amount of time...girls playing with abbey the whole time. she said for me to stop by again sometime....any time...and although i can tell that there's little bits of loneliness in her life, i wonder if she really meant for me to stop by....or if she was just being polite.
i'm trying to make excuses for my own fear. i need to get over this. i've prayed for a long time that HE would open doors for me to minister in my neighborhood, and this would seemingly be a great opportunity. i need to be brave.
so tomorrow, i'll pull the coffee out, grab a few of my favorite tea bags, and go for a walk. if she's not home i think i'll leave it on her porch - maybe prepare a note to put with it with my contact information. i hope not only to make a friend, but to share my friend JESUS with her, to let HIM fill her emptiness in her life, to show her how HE wants to carry our burdens daily.
for now i'll rotate the laundry, say my prayers, and turn in for the night; trusting HIM to change my fear into triumph with the morning's light.
yes, LORD - change me today.


Friday, October 8, 2010

exhausted

It's the middle of the night, but that doesn't seem to matter - this has been going on for years now...tonight's just a good reminder of how bad it has been in the past. I seriously had hoped that THIS wouldn't happen again. Not like THIS. Not THIS bad...but it is. Right NOW.

I itch. The inside of my ears itch so bad right now, so far in my ears that my tiny pinkie finger, even with no nail left to bite off of it so I wont scratch my skin; that small, smooth tip of my kid-sized baby finger won't reach down to where it itches. I wont allow myself to use a q-tip, but I think in the anguish of this itching that even an ice pick would not bring comfort.

I have scratched my head, every centimeter of my scalp, and the tops of my feet are especially itchy tonight, although earlier it was my arms, my back, the back of my neck. If I could burn my skin to a crisp, to char it to keep it from itching more, I would.

I haven't itched like THIS in months...maybe in a year.

My eyes itch...the bridge of my nose...and still my ears- GOD why my ears? I can't relieve that, can't touch it, can't even pray it into comfort.

Although earliest episodes, years ago, were random, then the issue was relieved a bit with treatment for hypothyroidism, tonight's episode was seemingly brought on by an antibiotic. It is not the burning rash and tingling areas around my mouth, or a swollen airway that screams "I'M ALLERGIC!" but my a-typical thyroid type rash...almost like hives that itch just under the surface of my skin before it's redness appears. The rash that for 3 years now has kept me biting my nails down, then filing them as smooth as possible so I don't dare scratch my skin into welts that look as though I've run through poison ivy, or have some bizarre parasite tracking under my skin.

But sometimes it appears - like tonight on the back of my neck - in welts like bug bites that make all my lymph nodes back there swell and become tender, even as I desperately itch them to bring some sort of relief...but it brings none...and I'm exhausted. Exhausted of feeling this anguish. Exhausted of trying to satisfy an itch that can't be reached.

"Take a zyrtec" was my plan, but after talking with my pharmacist BIL across the country, as he mentioned that perhaps it (the azithromycin) has messed with my liver function, perhaps that is why this feels like the itch of thyroid malfunction and not of allergic reaction. So the last thing my untrained but common sense brain tells me is "do not throw another chemical into your already screwed up liver!" - JUST in case that is the issue.

So I force feed myself yogurt, in case it's another theory that it is imbalance of yeasty beasties taking over my body, since dose 2 of my z-pack has killed every yeast eating microbe in my system. Yogurt, and 2 pro-biotic filled capsules that bring hope of removing this itching and restore healthy flora to my queasy stomach....and yes, after a capsule that refuses to go down my throat (and feels like it's lodged in my lung after the coughing fit that ensued) the itching seems to calm down...momentarily...so I take my "normal" bedtime meds - hormones to keep me from having hot flashes and an anti-anxiety dose that my counselor friend swears is not even enough to count as a therapeutic - and the lights are no sooner than turned off - and the itching starts in again. The tops of my feet, burning with itch. The top of my head. The back of my neck. The outside of my thighs.

And because I don't want to over use my already exhausted liver (if this is the case) I don't take anything for my cold symptoms, which started this whole mess anyways. So the medicine that has brought me relief for the "sniffly - sneezing - coughing so you can rest" is NOT helping me rest tonight, and the coughing ensues. Hacking really. Which is a pain, since I have a full middle aged bladder that doesn't hold well under that kind of pressure - literally and figuratively.

OH, I still itch, but I manage to keep my hands busy playing with my phone (so Mark can at least rest) and I lose to backgammon against the smart-aleck in the phone, and read the news on several sources, and even check the hourly forecast on a weather site - both for home and for Saturday's game a few hours away - in case I'm healthy enough to really go there. After an hour I can't keep my eyes open, and I think I'm going to FINALLY get some rest...exhausted...and I turn off the phone and lay down my head and cough...but I don't care...I'm going to sleep...finally... until that itching on the top of my feet starts in again...which wakes me up enough to feel it in my ears again. ENOUGH!

Enough is enough. I figure I can get up now, it's been ALMOST 12 hours - that's GOT to be near the half life of that antibiotic - so I'll trust my liver to a 1/2 dose of zyrtec to relieve this itching, and thankfully it's in the bathroom, so I'll pee while I'm up - and THEN get a good night of sleep - at least 1/2 of a good night.

Sadly, my throat isn't going to cooperate at all, and it's dry and scratchy inside (but not an allergic reaction kind of scratchy, but a "it's so dry I need to be hydrated" kind of hacking). So I give up, and my quick run to the bathroom is now over an hour later, and I've given up on my phone and just come into the living room with the Zyrtec bottle and a flat Mt. Dew. So much for the yeasty things - this sugar and caffeine will feed the yeast fine - and all I really want is for relief, and sleep, to come.

One and a half Zyrtec later, I'm still here on the couch. I'm feeling a bit "woozy" from the Zyrtec, and starting to not CARE that I'm itching so badly, and wondering what will happen next in this journey, trusting that God is in control of all this. Even if it's a spiritual attack, I want to learn what I am to learn from it, and will praise God for the 4 other women He has brought into my life that are all suffering with "idiopathic hives", just like me, some with diagnosed thyroid issues, some that I suspect are going to be diagnosed soon. And I praise Him that this is "only" a rash, as miserable as it is, that I'm not trying to put together a plan for cancer treatment, or breast reconstruction, or sitting by my child's bed following a pace maker surgery - trying to speak words of comfort to a child whose pain meds are not working, as a few of my other friends are tonight.

So, as miserable as I am, this is my journey. And whether it's modern medicine that brings me relief, or acupressure, or drug induced coma (JUST KIDDING), I know that He's there, and He won't allow me to suffer more than I can handle...and I know that, in my heart of hearts. I don't understand what this is all about, but I'm sure HE does, and I trust Him with that - even when I don't LIKE it.

So, goodnight sweet world, except for those momma's that are rocking their hungry babies, and daddy's up early to beat the clock to work, and someone making coffee at Mc Donald's this morning. Look up at the sky, and see the bright, BRIGHT stars that are out there in the darkness of this fall sky...I had not even seen them so bright since we moved here...and is that why He had to force me out of bed this morning - to see His handiwork in the night sky? I will praise Him for the sky so bright with stars, and the intricacies of my broken body - so fearfully and wonderfully made - and at that thought - of being created for a purpose - intentionally and exceptionally - realize...this is the week of the 37th anniversary of my mother's passing...

...and perhaps He did all this, just to bring me to a place of devotion, for that very thought.

I love you Lord. I miss my mom. Thank you.

Thursday, October 7, 2010

dr jekyl and mrs hyde....

There have always been several factors that affect my personality, and where I am in my faith is one of them....but I don't think that it's the ONLY factor that influences it.

I can look back to health issues, major or insignificant, and see how it's affected the way I've acted - but even then, in the midst of a major health trial - if my faith was strong - I could muster up a smile. I'm not facing a life or death situation now, but because of past issues I now have a clear cut "faith based strategy" that I live by daily. Those tough circumstances made me put together a plan, and although many people think it's macabre to think that way - it brings me peace to know I have it figured out - for me. Faith brought me to that place of peace.

I can laugh at the comments that people tell me (fairly often recently) about how busy I am, yet I know that it's my faith that motivates my lazy bones to stay occupied and work towards kingdom goals (yes, even in writing!) and asking Him to give me boundaries and put things in my life to hold me accountable. It's my faith that makes me seek Him and live a life that's motivated to accomplish things - KNOWING that it's not my works that save me...it's His love, grace and mercy....His blood that saves me.

There have been seasons of darkness, crying out in the wilderness, questioning why He would let me hurt so bad...emotional darkness, physical pain, broken heart...yet in my heart of hearts I knew that He was there with me, walking beside me, carrying me. I know now that He had to bring me through those seasons in life to make me more like Him, to give me compassion today for those that are hurting; yes, even more than compassion - empathy. Many times I will meet someone hurting and remember "there but for the grace of God, go I." All of this is a spiritually grown mental attitude that affects my personality, and although I may travel a road of depression, deep sadness, or even solitude - I can rest in the knowledge that He is teaching me something there - there is a reason for this life lesson - and in that, there is peace.

I can see times of jealousy and selfishness, wanting to make the "ME Monster" the god on the throne of my heart (or as visiting pastor Kyle Idleman said last Sunday - "the love seat on my heart" wanting that space to occupy more than just God alone!) and I know that affects my personality. Being called out of that season recently I can see how He had to change me to put my heart and head back in line with His heart and head, and again His peace flows again in my life, and joy abounds. It took a little spiritual maturity to put it into perspective, and to be willing to pray that prayer of "change him, change the circumstances, or change me," but that last phrase works EVERY time!!

Where His peace is, depression turns from life threatening to resting in His arms until the clouds clear; pain that keeps me unfocused and unable to pray is replaced with faith- KNOWING that He is leading others to pray for me by the power of His Holy Spirit; uncertainty in what tomorrow holds is replaced with a sense of adventure, knowing that we are on a life path together; and if fear creeps in, trying to dislodge my peace I know that I have great spiritual armor to do battle with, if I just muster up enough strength to pick up my sword - His word. (Ephesians 6:17 "Take the helmet of salvation and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God." Hebrews 4:12 "For the word of God is living and active. Sharper than any double-edged sword, it penetrates even to dividing soul and spirit, joints and marrow; it judges the thoughts and attitudes of the heart." 

All this being said, when we talk about faith and personality, does this mean that a Christian can not have a personality disorder, or suffer from mental illness? I think that we can, as Christians, be made to walk that road too. I have seen many believing people called to that road of suffering, and have been on it myself. It grew me, in faith, as a person of God, as a servant. Were there other ways that He could have used life circumstances to change me, to rid me of the gods on that love seat in that season of life - perhaps - but I won't question His methods. And just as one who is in recovery for any addiction, or a survivor of a life-threatening disease, it's a journey that I'll stay on the rest of my life, a part of my own HIStory. I don't ever want to forget that He brought me though it - from the depths of despair to a place of joy - and it's in that joy that I want to reside.




Monday, October 4, 2010

Lifelong friendships to fill spots in our hearts...

There's a woman that God brought into my life several years ago, and I just got an envelope from her - and in writing back to her I realized that perhaps our story needed to be shared. 


I lost my own mom when I was almost 13, wow...37 years ago this week. I didn't know then how big a hole she would leave in my heart. I miss her more now than I did then....but God always has a plan to help heal those hurts...how to fill those places. 


Charlotte is a mom-like person to me. God brought her, and her husband Bill, into our lives through the church we went to in Cassville, MO. We were homeschooling at the time, and she is a natural teacher, they both were. Bill passed away in our journey of life with them, and we cried at the loss together. I have tears in my eyes now thinking of how he poured his life into our family; whether it was setting up the telescope in the yard of their farm to watch the latest astronomical phenomenon late at night with us, or playing frisbee with my kids, or bickering at my husband for working too much - he was a dear. He loved God, and loved people the way he knew God loved them. He gave of himself over and over again. He left such a legacy, and he is still missed by many.


Charlotte was just as much a part of my life. She is the one that REALLY got me into baking breads, playing with recipes in new ways, taught me (and my girls) to quilt. She organized her fabrics by color and type, as well as her quilt books in her extensive library, and often shared both with us. She is generous still, willing to give fabrics, quilts, and patterns to needy causes...even when they are strangers. She new what small town life was about, and wasn't afraid to stand up to it. She was who she was, and she got mail that was addressed to "The Goat Lady" or "The Quilt Lady" both titles that the post office (even in their new fangled requirements) knew her as. She canned, and made jams, and baked goodies for no real reason, and snuck dark chocolate against doctor's orders. She kept a cookie jar on her counter for my kids, especially for my son Jason. She bought Christmas presents and snuck them under the tree to Bill and herself from their dogs and cats...and gave her pets a good life, a good home.


As a couple, before coming to Barry County, they lived a full life - raising their own family of girls in New York, Colorado, Arizona, and while she baked bread, raised goats, taught school, he had a great career with IBM - which they jokingly referred to as "I'm Being Moved". They had computers before most people knew what one was, and our first family computer was a hand-me-down that they generously gave to us. They were retired and online, before most, and even still she is active online. She is published, which gained my respect as a writer, another area we shared in common. They loved Jesus, and His teachings. They loved to read, and used the library. He loved being outside, working on the farm, building things (even adding a room on their house, and helping others build their homes, and assisting to build a church). They recalled stories often of camping, and canoeing for weeks out on rivers, lakes, hiking, living a full life. 


So, now we miss them both - Charlotte sold the farm and moved to the other side of town within the year of Bill's death, and it was not as easy to see her. We went to different churches, got into different circles of friends, and God eased us out of that small town life, and eventually moved us to Kentucky, where Mark and I now live. But our friendship is still in tact, and I miss her - her antics and her silly pets and all the memories of times we've shared. 


Every month she sends me a magazine - a local publication from southwest Missouri. She often tucks in a note, a church bulletin, the latest newsletter from her church. This time she sent me a little birthday card :) She is great about sending cards, and I'm sorry to say that I've never picked up on her gift there, but realize because of her example that it's a needed ministry. I need to pray that God will change me to do that more, for her and for others.


As I was writing her a little email to tell her "thanks", it occurred to me that others may need to say "thank you" to someone from their past. As we are all getting older, well - we aren't getting YOUNGER!! - I hope that we can take time to say how much someone has impacted our life. For better or worse, we learn from others, and we somehow know what we want to be like - or what we hope to be like - as we age gracefully.


So, here's to you Charlotte!! I love you, and am so glad that God brought you into my life so many years ago!! It's been quite a journey - and I pray that I will someday be the mom to another, like you have been to me...


Following is my letter to her...be blessed...


"Just got the magazine today...guess it was sitting out in the mailbox all day - I am not feeling well and didn't even manage to get out the front door to the mailbox. Mark brought it in for me.

THANK YOU for the card, and for mailing me the magazines each month. It means a lot - the birthday wishes, your little notes that you send to keep me up on all the news, and the mailings. I know that it "makes" you get out and go to town, that it's not a convenient thing for you to do - but if you didn't do it I wouldn't see it at all...so it means a LOT to have you do it. Thanks.....

....So this is 50!! Content in my life, it finally fits!! I am getting to do things and help people in ways I'd never imagined. Life feels FULL. It really is comfortable. 

I look back at the last 20 years and see things that were good; wonderful people who made my life worth living - to bring me to this place. God was so good to put you and Bill, the Latta's, the Reed's, and a few others in my life to bring beauty and fruit to my life during that time. Lovely examples of what marriage looks like in older age....wonderful examples of mature life with Christ. Such a blessing.

I remember too, days that were lonely, even gloomy, TOO many health issues that were so odd, strange things that happened that were scary and unpredictable. He always provided ways to work through it, a few people to pray me through it, a few people to stand by me. 

Now I have those memories, and I am walking in those shoes. It feels good. They fit. I thought that I was perpetually 33 - but I feel like 50 is a good age to stick at for a few years. Perhaps I'll be perpetually 50 now, or I'll continue to grow from here and age gracefully year by year. One could hope....

I TREASURE the thoughts of you teaching me to quilt, the way you stepped in to my life, my heart, and became a mom I needed so badly. We lost a few years, but you have always been willing to hear my gripes, feed me chocolate, bribe me with fabric, nurture me with a good book and sewing notions. You gave me strength to forage through in a difficult town, in a difficult church(es), through difficult years. You related to my work-aholic hubby, and loved him like a son (or son in law). You grandparented my children like they were your own. You've been very lovely. Thank you. You encouraged me to grow, as a mom, a woman of God, a woman, an artist and writer. You saw things in me that I often didn't see, and encouraged me to reach beyond myself. Thank you. 

You are one treasure that came with me from that time in the desert....my "40 years in the wilderness".
I love you Charlotte, and look forward to knowing you the rest of our lives. 
Thank you Char, Mom.
I love you,
marina"

Thursday, September 30, 2010

Embracing Joy...being changed...

One of the blogs I get sent to my inbox is from Holley Gerth, a writer for DaySpring. Today she had a "guest blogger" BonnieFaithBarista, who posted the question, "Do you feel God is doing a new work in you? How is embracing joy part of that journey?". (read her blog here: http://blog.dayspring.com/2010/09/bonniefaithbarista.html
I responded with my post below:

"OH Yes!!

When God moved us (19 years ago) to a small town in SW MO, I KNEW that we needed to make that move...His hand was there...but our time there was miserable for me personally. There were good things that came from it, lessons learned, a safe place to raise our family, and we became more dependent on God - but I jokingly called it "my 40 years in the wilderness" and wondered what lesson I had to learn before He would release us from that area. Well, it only took 19 years, LOL, but God released us from that area last spring, and moved us to NW KY, and we are BLOOMING where we are planted!!

It would have been very easy to have stayed indoors, pulled drapes, and shied away from life in general, but He THREW OPEN WINDOWS in my soul that I never knew were there! He not only moved us to a job full of blessings for my husband (still hard work, but a new attitude in the workplace), but preceded us in prayer at his job and at our church - and there's tons of work for me to do (volunteering) there.

The local writing job I had at the "old" place, was willing to move with me to the "new" place; and that's opened doors for writing here too. I'm blogging with new enthusiasm, up to my eyeballs in missions stuff that I love, and to top it off, one of our kids that was living 1/2 way around the world ended up moving 2 hours from us, AND we're half way closer to another child and our grandkids!

Had I not had His JOY planted in me from the start, I never would have found courage to be changed. I was so good at hanging on to the burdens from the "old" place, no one would have wanted to put me to work here! Only because of His assurances of love, protection, joy, new mercies every morning, and a "new song", could I come up with the courage it took to allow Him to change me.

In fact, a prayer that I find myself praying often, in all sorts of difficult times is this: "Change this circumstance, change this other person, or change me..." and guess what?! HE CHANGES ME MOST OFTEN!!"

I hope that you find courage to face the changes in life today, and a willingness to ask God to "change me" in the circumstances that scare you most. Life tomorrow may not look anything like today's life, but if you trust Him, and muster up a little joy for the journey, that's not really a problem, is it??

Sunday, September 26, 2010

This week, at Crossroads...

It's not too often that something just really hits me square in the eyes - but Ken's series of "Just One" has done just that. Today's lesson was especially motivating - and I suggest that anyone interested in growing deeper with God - which should be all of us I guess - should listen to it.

You can go to the web site here:
http://www.crossroadschristian.com/resources/media.asp

There are three lessons in the series, but today's is especially good. I can't say enough to do it justice - so I won't try. You'll just have to go and listen!!

I'm feeling so blessed right now- God has changed my heart in some things here at home, and this "new perspective" is making life so much more bearable for me (LOL). It shouldn't surprise me when He leads me to pray that way ("change the circumstance, change the other person, or change me!") and of course, when I submit to asking Him to change me, that's what He'll do. I need to pray that every day, to be changed daily into being more like Him.

Fall arrived this morning, and the coolness is astonishing to me. I wasn't prepared at all, but was pleasantly surprised. Praise You God for the seasons.

Have a great week!!
Happy Fall, Y'all!!

Thursday, September 23, 2010

more on planting grass seed...

I got the front yard re-seeded this morning in the cool of the day...since we're having record breaking heat every afternoon. So much for the first day of fall!!


As I was putting this seed down I was wondering, "should I have dug up this existing grass, broken up this HARD ground??" and it reminded me of a scripture I have had framed in my home for years (thanks for the gift long ago from CB):


   "Sow for yourselves righteousness, reap the fruit of unfailing love, and break up your unplowed ground; for it is time to seek the LORD, until he comes and showers righteousness on you." Hosea 10:12


Oh goodness...I could hear the birds laughing at me...waiting for their breakfast of fine Kentucky Bluegrass seed that was sitting on the top of the soil, scattered among the creepy clover stuff that wouldn't die at Mark's hand using the weed killer. I hope that the scattering of straw that I put over the lawn will help protect it some from the birds, the heat, and the wind. 


As I spread out that straw, I realized how much seed was falling out of my bale....so if the grass seed doesn't survive, I feel certain that I'll have a GREAT crop of straw growing. : (  At least it will start off green!!


I'll meditate on the scripture from Hosea as I do my chores this morning in the house...or "house blessing" as a friend calls it. All along I'll pray for the "showers" to come raining down -righteousness in our lives - and my poor yard can use some cooler temps and lots of rain... and I'll keep seeking Him through the season...


grace and peace...
marina