Give me a word, Lord: REMINISCING

2 Corinthians 4:16-17 That is why we never give up. Though our bodies are dying, our spirits are being renewed every day. For our present troubles are small and won’t last very long. Yet they produce for us a glory that vastly outweighs them and will last forever!

Joshua 1:8 Study this Book of Instruction continually. Meditate on it day and night so you will be sure to obey everything written in it. Only then will you prosper and succeed in all you do.

Last night, my Aunt Carolyn called me and said that she has been going through my grandmother’s things, and she wanted for all of the grandchildren and great grandchildren to have an opportunity to choose some of the items if we wanted. I thanked her profusely, and I became very excited about looking through some of my grandmother’s things, reminiscing about precious memories shared with her throughout my childhood. I was blessed with two wonderful grandmothers. Both women were extremely hard workers, and neither one was ever rich by the standards of society. Oh, but they were rich in my eyes. The love that was shared by my grandparents to us grandchildren was more precious to me than all of the money in the banks. Those memories are even more precious now. I do not have any living grandparents or great grandparents. They have all been called home to the Lord, but now, God has blessed with with a grandchild. I never knew what a precious gift a grandchild was until I had one of my own. Grandchildren are definitely a true blessing from God.

That phone call from my aunt was very timely because it seems I have been spending a lot of time reminiscing over the past week. I’m not sure if it is because next week is the seventeenth anniversary of my mother’s death, or if it is just because I too am getting older and wiser, and I enjoy times of reflecting on the good old days. Poet Wendell Berry has observed that when we are young, our lives are all time and little memory. As we grow older, we discover that our lives are almost entirely memory and very little time. I couldn’t have said it better myself, Mr. Berry! As I’ve grown older it seems that there is very little time in each day and the days are getting shorter every year.

I love sitting down and talking with my daddy and my father-in-law. Those two men are two of the wisest men I know, and they have lived a very good, but perhaps hard life. They have some stories to tell, and I enjoy sitting down with a cup of coffee and just soaking it all in. I love to hear stories of the past. When I was in high school, I absolutely hated history class. It was probably my least favorite subject, but now, I love delving into history, looking back to a time that was much more simple, a time in which people stood firm on the foundational beliefs of God. Yes, my friends, when we sit down with our elders and reminisce about the good old days, we are not just pulling out old memories from storage. No, we are actually recalling years of God’s faithfulness. We hear and see testimony after testimony of God’s goodness and grace that has been poured upon us through the years.

When we read scripture, we also are reflecting on things of the past, and many might say that those things are of no significance to us. I must disagree. Through scripture, we see the faithfulness of our God in every book of the Bible. We see His power and His might, His goodness and His grace, and His abundant love. Those memories actually act to inspire within us hope for tomorrow. I don’t know about you, my friend, but the past year of my life has been a bit overwhelming. I don’t think we should cling to the past. I advocate for a future oriented mindset. We must keep our hearts and minds focused on the prize…eternity in heaven. However, when we are feeling overwhelmed or we feel like things have gotten out of control, it is then that we must cultivate a spiritual memory. We must continue our journey through faith. God brought us through every single situation we have faced in our past, and He will continue to bring us through any difficulty we face today. All we have to do is reminisce on those times He brought us through with such love and grace, and this will remind us that He will continue to carry us through.

Give me a word, Lord: BELIEVE AND RECEIVE

Luke 1:38 And Mary said, “Behold, I am the servant of the Lord; let it be to me according to your word.” And the angel departed from her. (ESV)

I heard a catchy saying on the radio, “Pray and believe, and you will receive. Pray in doubt, and you will do without.” That little phrase caught my attention because it reminded me of a recent Bible study shared in our ladies’ ministry. The reference scripture is from Luke 1:28-38, but the focus verse is verse 38. And Mary said, “Behold, I am the servant of the Lord; let it be to me according to your word.” And the angel departed from her.

Let’s reflect a little bit on this very well known story. The virgin Mary who was highly favored in the eyes of God was given the distinguished honor of birthing the Messiah. What a wonderful privilege this was, but it probably didn’t seem like such a wonderful thing at the time. If we put ourselves in Mary’s sandals, we would realize that a woman who became pregnant before marriage wasn’t just a no-no during these days. No, my friends, it was heresy. It was actually punishable by death. In today’s time, the occurrence is so frequent that no one even seems to bat an eye, but in Mary’s day, this was a crime. The young virgin is engaged to marry Joseph, and all of a sudden, the angel of Lord appears to her and tells her that she has been chosen to be the earthly mom of the Savior of the world! Whoa! That was a huge announcement. There was so much to consider. People would find out she was pregnant before marriage. Her betrothed could have her stoned to death. It could turn out to be a really big mess for Mary. But no…how did Mary respond? “Behold, I am the servant of the Lord; let it be to me according to your word.”

Let it be to me according to your word! I’ve read this scripture a hundred times, but for the first time last week, I read it in a whole new perspective. I love this verse, and I so want it to be my mantra. Let it be to me according to your word! Mary had a whole lot of faith. This was very apparent in her attitude of acceptance of the Lord’s will over her life. She fully believed in God, and she trusted His plan. She didn’t refuse the task that was expected of her. She didn’t argue. She said let it be to me according to your word. This is where our prayer life should start. We should ask God to let it be to us according to His word.

How many times in life do we respond this way to God? When God places something on our hearts, His desire for us, is our first thought, let it be Lord? Let your will be done in my life Lord. Mary is an excellent example of a humble servant of God. We could learn a lot from that young woman. Mary was willing to be the servant of the most High, and she was given the honor of birthing the Messiah, our Savior, Immanuel, God with us. What an amazing gift God gave Mary!

Mary knew scripture, and she had a strong belief in God. She had strong faith and trust well before the angel of the Lord visited her. I have to wonder how I would have responded in this situation. I know it would not have been handle with such grace. Although, I have learned from Mary’s example, and as I have matured in my faith I have learned to have a strong faith in God, and I trust Him completely with my life. Oh, I still try to manage things on my own every now and then, but it never takes me long to realize that I can not do anything in my own power. I have to keep my trust in God.

Now, back to the catchy phrase that I shared earlier. “Pray and believe, and you will receive. Pray in doubt, and you will do without.” I shared the story of Mary to help make my point. Mary trusted completely in God. She had a relationship with the heavenly Father. She was willing to do what He asked because she trusted Him. We too must have a relationship with the Father. We can’t keep God on a back burner. We can’t think of Him as our genie in a bottle. He doesn’t only want to hear from us when we are in a bind or when we have had a bad day. No, my friends, He wants a relationship. And when we develop a trusting, loving relationship with our Father, when we get to know Him, we gradually realize that we can trust Him with everything. We can trust Him with the good, the bad, and the ugly. And more importantly, we can go to Him in prayer and expect that He will answer. When is the last time that you went to the Lord in prayer and expected Him to answer?

And this is the confidence that we have toward him, that if we ask anything according to his will he hears us. And if we know that he hears us in whatever we ask, we know that we have the requests that we have asked of him. (I John 5:14-15) Scripture reveals that if we ask anything of God and it is according to His will, He will hear us, and if we know He hears us, we know that He will answer. We only have to believe to receive. We must ask according to the will of God, and then we only have to believe that He will answer. If we doubt God’s ability, if we doubt that He is listening, well then, we will likely do without. We must trust Him completely.

It is my heart’s desire to be more like Mary. I want to repeatedly say and mean with all that I am, “Let it be to me according to your word.” And I want my prayers and petitions to God to always be in His will, not mine. I want to mature into the woman that He desires for me to be. There is so much wisdom to be obtained from the holy Word of God. I still have so much to learn, and I am ever so grateful that I serve such a patient, loving God. I will continue to pray and believe that God will continue to grow me to be a woman that lives those words. Let it be to me according to your word, Lord. And let my prayers be in the will of God. Your will God, not mine…

Give me a word, Lord: HE NEVER LEAVES

John 14:16-17 And I will ask the Father, and he will give you another Advocate, who will never leave you. He is the Holy Spirit, who leads into all truth. The world cannot receive him, because it isn’t looking for him and doesn’t recognize him. But you know him, because he lives with you now and later will be in you.

Deuteronomy 31:8 Do not be afraid or discouraged, for the Lord will personally go ahead of you. He will be with you; he will neither fail you nor abandon you.

After my manic Monday this week, I woke up on Tuesday with a new attitude. I was prayed up and prepared for Tuesday. It didn’t matter to me if it was a terrific Tuesday or a terrible Tuesday because God reminded me once again that He was there. He never leaves me. I got in my car to leave for work and caught the tail end of a praise song singing the words “God loves you.” I took this as just one more reminder that God was telling me He was right there beside me and He would never leave me. I looked up and thanked Him once again. I can rest assured that I will never be facing any challenges alone. And then, the very next song that came on the radio was Matthew West’s song, A God Who Stays. I’m telling you that it was if God was saying, “I reminded you that I am with you, but just in case you didn’t get it yet, let me knock you over the head one more time. Do you get it now?” Oh, I got it, and the words to this song really drove His point home!

If I were You I would’ve given up on me by now. I would’ve labeled me a lost cause ’cause I feel just like a lost cause. If I were You I would’ve turned around and walked away. I would’ve labeled me beyond repair ’cause I feel like I’m beyond repair. Oh, but somehow You don’t see me like I do. Somehow You’re still here. You’re the God who stays. You’re the God who stays. You’re the one who runs in my direction when the whole world walks away. You’re the God who stands with wide open arms, and You tell me nothing I have ever done can separate my heart from the God who stays.

The words struck home. I had felt overwhelmed the day before, but God gently reminded me that I am never alone. And the words but somehow You don’t see me like I do reminded me of the words I studied just a few nights ago, and the question that was asked, “How does God see you?” Our identities are grounded in how God sees us, not how man sees us. Mary, the mother of Christ, was referred to as highly favored meaning that she had a divine purpose over her life. It was also said that Mary was given favor in the eyes of God meaning that she was given the privilege to birth the Messiah. Mary was favored by God, but in case you need a reminder today too, let me share some great news with you. You too are highly favored by that same mighty God. We each have a divine purpose over our lives. He intricately wove us together in our mother’s womb. He made us wonderfully complex, and His workmanship is marvelous! Psalm 139:13-14 reminds us of these things. Yes, my friends, we too are highly favored in the eyes of our loving Father. Your identity is grounded in the way our heavenly Father sees us, and He sees us as His children, His highly favored children. We are His, and He is ours!

It is quite amazing actually when we attempt to put these things in perspective. How can God love me like He loves me? I don’t deserve His love, kindness, patience, grace, or mercy. I don’t deserve any of those things, yet He still loves me completely and promises to never leave me. I think back to the times in my life when I have felt completely alone…the loss of my mother, a major job change, a failed marriage. Those were some tough times. I remember back to the days when my sweet husband worked overseas. He was gone 32 days at a time. It was tough being home without him, but even when he was gone, I knew that he was there. He would message me all throughout the day, and we spoke on the phone every single night before bedtime. He was there for me, even when he wasn’t physically present, and I knew that no matter what happened on the farm while he was gone, Jeff was still there to help me handle it. Our God is ever present too, y’all. We may not see him physically, but He is right there beside us, watching over us, moving around all the chess pieces in life to place us right where He needs us to be and placing others right where they need to be so that His great plans for our lives are carried out for our good and His glory. He is there. He never leaves. His word is true.

If you are feeling alone, overwhelmed, or maybe feel like you have lost your way, call on our Savior. He is there. He is waiting and watching, and He is ready to guide your path. He NEVER leaves.

Give me a word, Lord: DON’T WORRY. BE HAPPY!

Matthew 6:26-27 Look at the birds. They don’t plant or harvest or store food in barns, for your heavenly Father feeds them. And aren’t you far more valuable to him than they are? 27 Can all your worries add a single moment to your life?

Yesterday was a manic Monday. It didn’t start off that way. I went outside at 5 am to hear the beautiful sounds of birds happily singing their spring welcoming songs. The turkeys were gobbling. The goats and sheep were sharing their baa-baaing while hopping and jumping around. The emus were making their gentle whistling noises. Everyone was enjoying the beginning of a new day. However, when I arrived at work, we became super busy from the very first moment. We were so busy that I felt like a dog in an never ending battle of chasing my tail all day…a tail that would never be caught. I always strive to deliver the highest quality care, and I will continue to do that even on the craziest of days. On those days, I must try a little harder, work a little harder, and never forget that our loving Father is right there beside me guiding my path. No matter how tough it gets, I know that my Savior has got me right in the palm of His hands.

I confess that I am a neurotic, type A personality, worry wort, not-enough-hours-in-the-day-to-accomplish-everything-I-want-to-accomplish woman. And days like yesterday sometimes overwhelm me, but my God always takes those opportunities to remind me that He has got me. I am His and He is mine. He sends little reminders throughout the day. My husband stopped by the house long enough to take a few pictures of my new flower blooms and send them to me in the middle of the day. I didn’t ask him to. He somehow knew that I needed a little bright color in my day. I arrived home to a nice hot cooked meal on the table and happy dogs who are always so excited to see me and welcome me with such great delight. God puts these people and critters in my path to delight my soul! I just know it!

Sometimes the big things in life overwhelm us, but we must take time to look for the little things. God places so many little reminders in our paths all day long to remind us that He has got us and He gets us. He knows when we are going through troubled waters, and we must remember that we are never in the boat alone. Our God is paddling the boat. He has got us in the palm of His hands.

I’ve spent many an hour wondering why our good Lord blessed me with so many wondrous things in life. He allows my husband and I to have many wonderful critters that entertain us for hours on end. No bad day can end as a bad day when you are able to pick up a newborn baby goat and cuddle it in your arms. A happy little puppy will take the blues away instantly. And the birds of the air and land never ever seem to have a care in the world. Our critters do not worry. There is not a worry in their little minds. Why? Look at the birds. They don’t plant or harvest or store food in barns, for your heavenly Father feeds them. And aren’t you far more valuable to him than they are? Can all your worries add a single moment to your life? Their heavenly Father feeds them! God takes care of the tiny little birds of the air. They don’t worry and fret. They don’t wonder how they will get through the day, the week, or the year. No, my friends, their Father feeds them. He takes care of them. Aren’t we far more valuable to Him than the birds or the air? After all, we are created in His image.

When we are feeling weak, He makes us strong. Our strength and our identity comes from our Savior. He has made us a new creation. This means that anyone who belongs to Christ has become a new person. The old life is gone; a new life has begun! (2 Corinthians 5:17) We are His children. See how very much our Father loves us, for he calls us his children, and that is what we are! But the people who belong to this world don’t recognize that we are God’s children because they don’t know him. (1 John 3:1) We are redeemed! But Christ has rescued us from the curse pronounced by the law. When he was hung on the cross, he took upon himself the curse for our wrongdoing. For it is written in the Scriptures, “Cursed is everyone who is hung on a tree.” (Galatians 3:13) We are capable! For I can do everything through Christ, who gives me strength. (Philippians 4:13). We are worthy! But you are not like that, for you are a chosen people. You are royal priests, a holy nation, God’s very own possession. As a result, you can show others the goodness of God, for he called you out of the darkness into his wonderful light. (1 Peter 2:9) And never forget that we are wanted! So you have not received a spirit that makes you fearful slaves. Instead, you received God’s Spirit when he adopted you as his own children. Now we call him, “Abba, Father.” For his Spirit joins with our spirit to affirm that we are God’s children. (Romans 8:15-16)

The next time you are having an overwhelming day or maybe even a no good, horrible, crazy, chaotic day, don’t worry. Be happy. God has got you! God has got me! We are sitting safely in the palm of those mighty hands! We are His, and He is ours, and that is really all that is important! Don’t worry! Be happy!

Give me a word, Lord: OTHER-CENTERED

John 2:1-5 The next day there was a wedding celebration in the village of Cana in Galilee. Jesus’ mother was there, and Jesus and his disciples were also invited to the celebration. The wine supply ran out during the festivities, so Jesus’ mother told him, “They have no more wine.”  “Dear woman, that’s not our problem,” Jesus replied. “My time has not yet come.” But his mother told the servants, “Do whatever he tells you.”

I’m not sure who the original author of this story is, but I share it frequently. It is a little long, but definitely worth the read.

A mouse looked through the crack in the wall to see the farmer and his wife open a package. “What food might this contain?” the mouse wondered. He was devastated to discover it was a mousetrap. Retreating to the farmyard, the mouse proclaimed the warning: “There is a mousetrap in the house! There is a mousetrap in the house!” The chicken clucked and scratched, raised her head and said, “Mr. Mouse, I can tell this is a grave concern to you, but it is of no consequence to me. I cannot be bothered by it.” The mouse turned to the pig and told him, “There is a mousetrap in the house! There is a mousetrap in the house!” The pig sympathized, but said, “I am so very sorry, Mr. Mouse, but there is nothing I can do about it but pray. Be assured you are in my prayers.” The mouse turned to the cow and said, “There is a mousetrap in the house! There is a mousetrap in the house!” The cow said, “Wow, Mr. Mouse. I’m sorry for you, but it’s no skin off my nose.” So, the mouse returned to the house, head down and dejected, to face the farmers mousetrap alone. That very night a sound was heard throughout the house like the sound of a mousetrap catching its prey. The farmers wife rushed to see what was caught. In the darkness, she did not see it was a venomous snake whose tail the trap had caught. The snake bit the farmers wife. The farmer rushed her to the hospital and she returned home with a fever. Everyone knows you treat a fever with fresh chicken soup, so the farmer took his hatchet to the farmyard for the soups main ingredient. But his wife’s sickness continued, so friends and neighbors came to sit with her around the clock. To feed them, the farmer butchered the pig. The farmers wife did not get well; she died. So many people came for her funeral, the farmer had the cow slaughtered to provide enough meat for all of them. The mouse looked upon it all from his crack in the wall with great sadness. So, the next time you hear someone is facing a problem and think it doesn’t concern you, remember: when one of us is threatened, we are all at risk. We are all involved in this journey called life. We must keep an eye out for one another and make an extra effort to encourage one another. Each of us is a vital thread in another persons tapestry.

I share this story because it is so very relatable to life as we know it. We hear about problems, but we don’t act on them. We may even tell someone that we are praying for them, but perhaps we don’t really mean it, or we get busy and forget. When we hear of someone else’s troubles, we are quick to think, “that’s not my problem.” Last night in our ladies’ Bible study, we looked at the life of Mary, mother to Jesus. The scripture above was one of the focal scriptures. Mary and Jesus were at a wedding, and Mary noticed that the people hosting the wedding celebration ran out of wine. She didn’t cause a scene. She didn’t call attention to the problem. She realized that the friends who were celebrating would be embarrassed if everyone realized that they ran out of wine during the celebration so she went to Jesus. He had never performed a miracle publicly prior to this event, but Mary went to Him. Perhaps she didn’t have a clue of what He would do to fix the problem, but she knew Him. She knew Jesus, and she trusted that if she told him about the problem, He would take care of it. So much so that without Jesus even saying, “Okay, Mom, I got this,” she went straight to the servants and told them to do whatever Jesus said to do. She had faith that He would take care of the issue.

Mary had a relationship with Jesus. She knew Him as the Son of God, but also, she was privileged with the honor of birthing Him. There was a relationship there. She was able to make her request and trust that Jesus would handle the problem because there was a relationship before the request. But this isn’t the only factor we need to consider. A very important point that we must take not of is that Mary was not self-centered. She was “other-centered.” Mary noticed that there was a problem because her attention was not on herself. She wasn’t upset about the wine running out because she wanted more wine. No, she was worried that her friends would be disgraced or embarrassed because of this issue. She wanted to protect the image of her friends. She showed a love for others, and she wasn’t focused on herself. And she noticed the problem because she was focused on others and not herself.

We live in a “me” society in which it is “all about me.” We have become a self-centered culture. We take selfies for social media. We try to promote ourselves before others. That is not who God designed us to be. The first greatest is to love the Lord your God with all your heart, all your soul, and all your mind. And the second is equally important: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ (Matthew 22:37-40) Read that again. The second greatest commandment is to love our neighbor. Who is our neighbor? Everyone we come in contact with! That is a whole lot of people to love, and sometimes those people do not appear to be very lovable. So how do we do it? How do we become more “other-centered” instead of “self-centered?” We first fall in love with our Savior. We follow the first greatest commandment and we love the Lord with all of our heart, our soul, and our mind. And when we get this part right, well, the rest becomes rather easy. If will fill our hearts with love for the Lord, we can’t help but have love for our fellow man.

We are all in this journey together. What affects one of us can affect us all. Let us learn to be other-centered today. Love God and love others. It’s very simple actually.

Give me a word, Lord: STOP RUNNING

Jonah 1:1-3 The Lord gave this message to Jonah son of Amittai: “Get up and go to the great city of Nineveh. Announce my judgment against it because I have seen how wicked its people are.” But Jonah got up and went in the opposite direction to get away from the Lord. He went down to the port of Joppa, where he found a ship leaving for Tarshish. He bought a ticket and went on board, hoping to escape from the Lord by sailing to Tarshish.

Last night, my husband and I were watching a movie in the living room. Our 14 week old mini Schnauzer, Holly, was barking incessantly at her reflection in the glass of the French doors in the dining room. All of a sudden, Holly let out a shrill, loud yelp, and began barking and running like lightening through the dining room and living room, and she ran into the wall of the living room which was on the opposite side of the house from where she started. My husband and I looked at each other and laughed before we jumped up to see who or what scared her so badly. I knew before I even got up that it was likely Jace, my daughter’s Schnoodle. He is jet black, and when it is dark outside, you can not see anything but the white of his eyes. Jace was perched with his paws on the glass of the French door peering in, and apparently when Holly caught sight of him unexpectedly, it scared her fiercely. She was afraid and she ran.

I think Holly responded as many of us do when God reveals a plan for our lives. Many times when God gives us instruction to follow a certain path or nudges us to do something that is in His will, but perhaps it isn’t in our plans, we run. Jonah is a great example of a runner. Yes, God commanded Jonah to go to the people of Nineveh and announce His judgement on the people because of their wicked ways. What did Jonah do? He jumped on a ship and got the heck out of Dodge. He boarded a ship to Tarshish which was going the exact opposite direction of Nineveh. He ran. Why did he run? We get a sense from this scripture that Jonah despised the people of Nineveh. He didn’t want anything to do with these people. He didn’t like the job that God gave Him to do so he ran. Perhaps there was more to it than that. Maybe he was afraid. Maybe he thought that the task was too big for him. Maybe he was scared. I don’t know for sure, only Jonah and God know. However, I do know one thing for sure. God put a wall in Jonah’s path. He hit a wall just like my Holly did last night.

Jonah didn’t hit a literal wall. No, he unfortunately was met with a severe storm which caused him to be thrown overboard, and then swallowed up by a giant fish. Personally, I think I would have rather hit a wall. My head is pretty hard, and as clumsy as I am, I’m pretty good at running into things. But God…God sent a whale to swallow Jonah up. He gave him a nice, quiet place to sit and think and pray for three days before that whale finally spit him out on a beach. When God commanded Jonah to get up and go to Nineveh again, Jonah went.

The example of Jonah is a very blatant example of running from God, but it isn’t always quite so obvious. Sometimes we run by not attending church services regularly. We may feel that we are right with God, and we may feel that it isn’t necessary to sit through services week after week. When we do this, we miss out on so much teaching, community, and fellowship. Our faith walk becomes weaker, and sooner or later, we are going to hit a wall. Maybe we run out of disobedience. Perhaps the task at hand seems much bigger than we are. We tend to forget just how big our God is. Some people run by disobeying. Jonah disobeyed in an obvious way, but many times we disobey in the little things. We fail to tithe. We let little sins creep in and continue because those sins are little and seemingly of no consequence. Sadly, those little sins will eventually put up a big wall between us and our Father. Sometimes, we simply stray away because we are too busy with the busyness of life and we fail to make time for God. No matter how we choose to run, no matter how fast and how far we run, I can guarantee you that just like Holly did last night, we will eventually hit a wall!

We serve a wonderful loving God, and thank goodness He is also full of grace and mercy. Will he take us back when we have run away? Yes! Every single time! But what if we have run too far? We are never too far from God. He knows where you are right this very minute. You can’t hide on a ship to Tarshish. Your Father is watching over you whether it is your desire for Him to or not. Today, let us stop running away and begin running to our Savior. He doesn’t care what you have done or haven’t done, if you come to Him with a repentant heart, He will wrap those arms around you and welcome you home. Are you struggling with a calling that scares you? If God put that calling on your heart, don’t forget that He is bigger than your fears, and He will work it all out for your good and His glory every time. Are you struggling with getting back to church after a long hiatus? Get up and get dressed and go! Your faith family has missed you so much, and so has your heavenly Father. Are you struggling with little sins that are building walls between you and the Father? Get rid of those sins. Hey, you can even ask God to help you walk away from them…and HE WILL!

Stop running from God, and start running to Him! His arms are open. He is waiting to welcome you home!

Give me a word, Lord: FINDING OUR HOME

Psalm 84:3-4 Even the sparrow finds a home, and the swallow builds her nest and raises her young at a place near your altar, O Lord of Heaven’s Armies, my King and my God! What joy for those who can live in your house, always singing your praises. 

A little over a week ago, my friend was cleaning out her shed, and she gave me two purses: a Coach and a Michael Kors purse. They had been in storage for some time and smelled a little bit musty. I decided to hang them out on the back porch for a few days in the fresh air and “air them out a bit.” Well, I totally forgot about those purses until yesterday when I decided that I would bring them in and wipe them down. I took the Coach purse down from it’s perch, and I reached up to remove the MK purse from the hook that it was hanging on when I saw something in the bottom of the bag. It startled me at first until my eyes focused clearly on the object that was there. It was a bird nest! A perfectly shaped, perfectly formed bird nest. A busy little mama bird had poured her energy into the creation of this perfect little nest in my second hand Michael Kors purse. She has made the purse her home! There were no eggs there just yet, but trust me when I say that she has prepared her home and it is ready for the arrival of her kids.

I have never purchased a Coach or Michael Kors purse in my life. The names don’t really mean anything to me, and I’d rather put my money in my bag instead of spending it buying a bag and not having any money left over to put in it, but that’s just me. It really made me laugh that this little bird has such high standards. I mean, I have beautifully painted gourds hanging in the trees for her to build her nest in. There are trees all over this eighty acres, but, no, not my little bird. She chose a Michael Kors purse for the home of her little ones. She set her standards high. She wanted her home to be perfect and a bit classy too. She apparently has a little more style than this girl.

I can not get over how fast that little bird built that nest and how meticulously formed it is. It is simply amazing to see the shear genius of the nest construction that was formed by such a tiny creature. She poured her heart into building the perfect home for her little babies that will be arriving soon. She is just a bird though…a simple creature of the air, but she built with such precision because she is expecting the arrival of her kids.

A spectacular, eternal home is being prepared for you and I right now. Can you even imagine how spectacular heaven is going to be? If a bird can find such high class lodging and construct a beautiful nest in a matter of days to prepare for the arrival of her children, can you even fathom what heaven may be like? Our heavenly Father has been preparing our home for a while now. He is getting it all ready. He wants everything to be absolutely perfect for the arrival of His kids. The gates are pearly, and the streets are gold. When He calls us home we will sit at the throne of our heavenly Father singing praises to Him all day long. The songs will be sweeter than those of the birds that I now hear singing the songs of spring on this beautiful day. The praises will be glorious. Oh what a joy it will be to reside in the house of our Lord and sing HIs praises forever. There is absolutely nothing on earth that can compare to the home He is preparing for us.

Are you ready, my friend? Are you ready to see that eternal home and sit at the feet of the throne? You don’t have to build a nest to get there. He is taking care of all of the construction, but you do have to make a decision to follow our Lord and Savior. You have to make a choice. Do you want heaven, or do you want hell? We are all bound for hell if we do not choose Christ. Why would a loving God send us to hell? It is not His desire for any of us to go to hell, and He sent His only Son to take on our sins to save us from that wretched place. He gave us all a way out. We only have to make the choice to follow Him. We can try to make it difficult. We can come up with all kinds of excuses, but really all we have to do is ask Him into our hearts and allow Him to lead us. The rest will come naturally.

That little bird didn’t spend a penny on her new home that she has found. Someone else paid the price to purchase that purse. We don’t have to spend a penny to purchase our eternal home. Someone else has already paid that price in full. However, no one built that nest for her. She did that herself. She is preparing for a glorious day in her life. We too must prepare for the most glorious day. Jesus paid the price for my sins, and because He did, I will choose to work for Him, live for Him, and prepare my home for His arrival. I can hardly wait! And just like that little bird, I’ll continue working until Jesus comes and gathers us home!

Give me a word, Lord: LOVING WELL

Ephesians 5:22-31 Wives, submit yourselves to your own husbands as you do to the Lord. For the husband is the head of the wife as Christ is the head of the church, his body, of which he is the Savior. Now as the church submits to Christ, so also wives should submit to their husbands in everything. Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her to make her holy, cleansing her by the washing with water through the word, and to present her to himself as a radiant church, without stain or wrinkle or any other blemish, but holy and blameless. In this same way, husbands ought to love their wives as their own bodies. He who loves his wife loves himself. After all, no one ever hated their own body, but they feed and care for their body, just as Christ does the church—for we are members of his body. “For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, and the two will become one flesh.”

Yesterday, I had to go in to work for a few morning hours. My husband, Jeff, was painting at the rent house that we have on the market, and he sent me a text that read, “When you get off, go to Home Depot.” I answered, “Send me a list.” He responded, “Flowers.” He knows how much I love to plant spring flowers, and I still had a few empty pots around the house. He simply wanted to make me happy. He knew that would brighten my day after a busy week at work. I arrived home with the back of the 4 Runner once again full of brilliantly colored flowers, and he met me at my vehicle. He opened the rear hatch and grinned ear to ear, and said, “This is going to make my wife very happy!” I can not describe in words how much I love this man, but suffice it to say that he is my human, and I thank God every day for him.

I’ve been asked on more than one occasion what makes our marriage work. I could respond with the long story of both of our grieving pasts, but the short and most truthful answer is “God!” Jeff and I are not perfect by a long shot. We have made major mistakes walking through this thing called life, but there is truly no one else I would rather have by my side. Today, I want to take a moment to encourage all married couples. No marriage in perfect. There will be hills and valleys, but no matter what, keep God at the center of your marriage and I guarantee you that you and your spouse will grow closer to one another every day.

Grow closer every day? I know that sounds crazy, but it is true. I fear that the problem with most marriage failures is the lack of growing closer in a daily walk with God and with each other. When we first fall in love, we have butterflies in our bellies. Our hearts pitter patter at the mere thought of the one we love. We can’t wait to see that person again. A text message makes our heart leap. We love that feeling. It is a special kind of high that is only felt at the beginning of a love story. But what happens after the first year, the first five years, or even ten years down the road? Are the feelings still there? Yes, they are but unfortunately, we bury those feelings deep beneath a stack of day to day busyness, bills, child care, work, and chores. We forget to place the same value on that person that we did in the beginning. We have to remind ourselves that this person we married is our human. This person is the one we can count on when the going gets tough, and the one who will be there with us through thick and thin. We must be their human too!

I’m not a professional marriage counselor by any means, but I want to share a few tips for making a marriage great. First and most importantly, put God at the center of your marriage. Invite Him in. Ask Him to be the Lord of your marriage and your home. I promise if you get this first step right, all of the rest will be a cake walk, and you will win the cake every time. Pray together and pray for each other. Do this often! The second step is almost as important as the first one. It took a few years for my husband and I to get comfortable praying out loud together (other than meal time), but every time I hear that man pray for me, my heart skips a beat. The pitter patter is still there!

We must make time with our spouse a priority. Do not ever stop dating your spouse. Spend time alone together. I know with kids in the house, jobs, and all of our other priorities, this can be hard, but it is imperative. Don’t wait until the kids are grown to spend time alone. By the time they are out of the house, you will be married to a stranger. Get to know your spouse on a regular basis. We usually take two vacations a year when possible: one with the family and one with the spouse only. Time together is a valuable asset in a marriage.

Laugh together. My husband makes me laugh out loud on a daily basis. He has a natural whit and can make me crack up laughing even when I’m mad. Make laughter the soundtrack of your marriage.

There will probably be arguments, but remember that you do not need to “win”. Work together to find a solution. It’s all about being a team, Peeps! Never keep secrets and never lie. This will break trust. Jeff is fortunate in the fact that I can never keep a secret from him. I tell him everything, probably too much, but hey, I don’t lie! If trust is broken, however, we must forgive and forgive quickly for that is the only way to re-establish trust in a relationship.

Get connected in a local church. Make faith family connections. Surround yourselves with people who are lifting up your relationship and not tearing it down. This will make a world of difference. The people that we spend time with can truly build us up or rip us apart. Choose your friends wisely. And never forget step one. Keep God at the the center.

God has many plans for you, and He wants to use you in so many aspects of life. Have you ever considered that God also wants to use you in your marriage? He does! If you’ve lost that loving feeling, it is time to go looking for it. But wait…don’t go looking outside of your marriage. Look right beside you at the person that you fell in love with all those years ago. Ask God to give you a loving attitude toward your spouse and to pour out His love through you. It is a prayer God will answer. I know that He will! He loves you so much.

Give me a word, Lord: PRESSURE WASHED CLEAN

Isaiah 1:18 “Come now, let’s settle this,” says the Lord. “Though your sins are like scarlet, I will make them as white as snow. Though they are red like crimson, I will make them as white as wool.

Psalm 51:7 Purify me from my sins, and I will be clean; wash me, and I will be whiter than snow.

About eight years ago, this Queen of Klutz wore the crown of Klutz mightily. I think I may have actually elevated myself to a higher title if there is one! I had decided to put the words Hodge Critter Lodge on the front of the barn, and I wanted to paint the letter in a deep barn red color. I was sitting at the kitchen table preparing my barn letters for painting the following day, and I sat the paint (still in the bag from Home Depot) on the edge of the dining room table. As the evening progressed, I somehow knocked that bag onto the floor, and just my klutzy luck, the lid popped off of the pint of barn red paint and it fell into a huge puddle on my sage green oriental rug beneath the table. Before I could reach it, 2/3 of a pint was just laying there looking at me! I grabbed paper towels and scooped up as much as I could. Then I used Dawn dishwashing liquid and bowl after bowl of clean water, and cloth after cloth trying to wash it out of the rug. After 45 minutes, I saw nothing but red water in the bowl and red suds on the rug. It looked like I was cleaning up a murder scene. Yes, I have watched too many episodes of CSI, but if a cop had shown up they would have been spraying luminol all over the place and pulling out their UV lights to check it out! For real y’all, barn red paint is pretty close to the color of blood, and the splatter effect…oh my!

My sister, Chandra, called and offered her support. She googled murder scene clean up, and she told me to try rubbing alcohol. Two bottles of rubbing alcohol and two rolls of paper towels later, I was still patting the paper towels and continued to see red wet hand prints with each pat. Yep, it still looked like a murder scene! My husband was offshore all the while encouraging me, and he reassured me that it is just a rug and not to worry. (He is always ever so sweet and patient with his Queen of Klutz, thank goodness!) But I would not be defeated by that evil can of red paint. After a lifetime of klutziness, I have learned some cleanup skills!! Jeff suggested, “maybe you should pull the rug outside and pressure wash it.” The kids and I had already considered that, but I hadn’t reached that point yet. (But now I had his permission!) I moved the dining room table and chairs, opened the French doors, and drug that sucker out onto the back porch. I say drug because it weighed as much as me if it weighed an ounce, and I am NOT kidding. I pulled it until I got the barn red portion to hang completely over the balcony railing. I lifted the rest of the rug up onto some patio furniture to keep it dry, and I began pressure washing. I angled the flashlight on the railing to light up the scene of the crime. About two hours after the barn red paint murder scene incident, I was able to get the rug completely cleaned up. I don’t think CSI could even detect the splatter marks now! I decided that while it was out there, I might as well pressure wash the whole thing. That pressure washer really did the trick, and that old rug probably needed a good cleaning anyways.

I like to share a few of my comedic, Klutzy acts now and then to remind us that we are all human. We all mess us from time to time, and I have a habit of doing so more than some. The great thing about my many goof ups is that I usually learn a very valuable lesson from each tragic, comedic event. This story reminds me of how our wonderful Lord and Savior is like a pressure washer. Don’t run off yet. Let me explain. That rug was as red as scarlet. One corner was completely covered. It was soiled. I should have just thrown it out, but I wanted to save it. The pressure washer washed the stain right out of it. Though it was scarlet red, after a good pressure washing, it was the beautiful sage green that it was designed to be. We are all sinful beings. We were born into a sinful world after the great fall of mankind that occurred back in Genesis. We are like scarlet with sin, and we all need a really good cleaning. Sometimes, we even need to have the pressure washer taken to us!

Jesus is ready, willing, and able to clean and purify our hearts and minds just like that pressure washer cleaned up that rug. Although He could just throw us away, He refuses to do so. He wants to save us. He wants to clean us up. “Come now, let’s settle this,” says the Lord. “Though your sins are like scarlet, I will make them as white as snow. Though they are red like crimson, I will make them as white as wool. Though our sins are like scarlet, He will make them as white as snow. Isn’t that amazing? All we have to do is go to our Savior and confess our sins. He will do the cleansing. He will make us new again. This means that anyone who belongs to Christ has become a new person. The old life is gone; a new life has begun! (2 Corinthians 5:17). What a powerful thing it is for us to realize that our Savior wants to restore us to the person that He always intended for us to be, and what a relief it is to know that the guilt of our sins has been forgiven. Through the crimson blood of our Savior that ran red on that cross, we have been made right with our God. I’m so thankful that Jesus keeps the pressure washer handy. This girl needs a good cleansing from time to time!

Give me a word, Lord: KEEP YOUR EYES ON THE DONUT AND NOT ON THE HOLE

2 Corinthians 9:8 And God will generously provide all you need. Then you will always have everything you need and plenty left over to share with others.

Psalm 34:8 Taste and see that the Lord is good. Oh, the joys of those who take refuge in him!

I’m not sure who coined the phrase, “Keep your eyes on the donut and not the hole,” but I think whoever said that must have been a pretty wise person. Life is all about perspective. When we purchase a a sweet, freshly prepared donut, we do not generally take notice of the hole. No, we don’t look at that donut and salivate over the hole in the middle of the donut. The hole is nothing. It is emptiness. There is nothing really very exciting about a donut hole with the exception of it being calorie and carbohydrate free. It is the sweet, hot, glaze covered donut and all of its goodness that causes our mouths to water. That is where it is at, especially if it is chocolate covered!

However, in life, we waste a whole lot of time focusing on the hole and not looking at the donut. We waste time and energy focusing on all of the little, tiny aggravations of the day. We focus on the worries and fears. We focus on every single detail that annoyed us throughout the day from the time we rolled out of bed and stumped our toe until the time we climbed back into bed that night with shear exhaustion from our busy day. We focus on the hole. That stuff is really nothing. It is emptiness. There is nothing exciting about aggravations, worries, fear, annoyances or fatigue. We do not need to focus on the hole. It will not do us a bit of good.

Instead, we need to focus our eyes on the donut…the good stuff. Focus our eyes on the blessings of the day. Sometimes we have to look a little harder for those blessings, but I assure you that they are there. There are a million blessings in every single day, and each and every one is better than a whole dozen of donuts. The blessings begin with a beautiful early morning sunrise, the sound of birds singing, a touch of a loved one, a smile, a friendly hello, and the list goes on. We may be blessed with wonderful jobs, a cozy home, a reliable vehicle, a great spouse, children, and let us not forget the blessing of good health. We are blessed with food in our bellies and our pantries. And may we never forget the most wonderful blessing of all: the gift of salvation. Wow, what an amazing donut we have been given each and every day!

How do we learn to stop focusing on the hole and start focusing on and actually enjoying the donuts of life? We must develop an attitude of gratitude. We have learn to move from aggravation to appreciation. We must train ourselves to seek out the good in every situation rather than dwell on the bad. First and foremost, we must put our faith totally in Christ. When we learn to lean on Him for everything, and we realize that He is our strength and our might each and every day, we begin to develop that attitude of gratitude. When we place our complete trust in the Lord, we begin to see Him in every aspect of our lives, and then we can’t help but notice the little blessings that appear. We will then begin taking delight in the Lord, and with delight we feel joy, and with joy we start to see more blessings and have less stressing. Just like anything else in life, we have to develop a habit of looking at the donut instead of the hole. Sometimes we even have to retrain our brains.

I’ve been around people before who I refer to as “Negative Nelly’s.” You know the type. They are the people who never have anything good to say about anything. You could dump a load of cash in their laps, and they are only going to see the taxes that are due. They can’t see the silver linings. They see rain and think “mud,” when instead they should see rain and think, “the grass will grow and the flowers will bloom.” Yes, friends, we have to retrain our brains. We can’t run around with a negative attitude. We need to rethink about the way we are thinking. We need to look for the blessings in everything realizing that even in our trials there is good to be found. Rather than cursing the trial, we should ask, “what is God trying to teach me through this circumstance?”

The next time you look at a donut, make sure you pay attention to the donut and do not dwell on the hole. And the next time you get a little aggravated or annoyed, don’t dwell on that aggravation. Dwell on the Lord and the blessings of the day. The Lord and His Word are sweeter than honey from the comb, and He is so good to His children. Find the joy in the blessings of the day. Taste and see that the Lord is good. Oh, the joys of those who take refuge in him!