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Mary, Did You Know?

Never having watched more than one episode in the past seasons, I lucked into watching “The Voice” this year when a young man from Kentucky blew the judges and audience (and me, too) af5530500-58c5-0133-0b0c-0e76e5725d9dway in his blind audition.  Following Jordan Smith’s first performance, I was hooked and continued to watch and cheer for my fellow Kentuckian.

If you are unfamiliar with the show, singers audition and are then selected (or the singers select depending on the audition responses) by celebrity “coaches” who coach them through vocals, style and stage presence in attempts to win a recording contract.  Viewers vote via texting and purchasing songs on iTunes to support their favorite contestant.

Jordan Smith’s performances were consistently on the top of the charts, sometimes bumping chart staples, Adele, and Justin Bieber, out of the way.  Though he had talented competitors, it was still no surprise to me that he won during last night’s finale.

Along with his beautiful singing voice, there is something about this young man that many seem to gravitate to; maybe his humility, maybe his sincerity, maybe his faith, maybe he represents “real” people; the average Joe … whatever it is, he is a special guy. Watching his mother support him from the first show to tonight’s finale, I guarantee one thing… she knew Jordan was special long before Jordan did, long before his coach, Adam Levine, did and long before America did.  And I would be willing to wager that she held on to that fact when times were tough for Jordan.

I don’t know Jordan’s story but from a very small amount shared during the show’s interviews, I would guess that he had some tough times growing up.  He once mentioned image issues and often more times than not, those personal image issues are heightened when others tease, bully or even try to give well-meaning advice.   As a parent, I know how difficult it is to watch your child hurt from the cruelness of others and watch their self-esteem suffer, particularly when you see the greatness of that child that he can’t seem to see himself.  Probably much like the first time she noticed his great talent, she will likely hold tightly to last night’s win.

Just ask a scrapbooking, photographing, videoing or journaling everything parent, whether it is a cute story, a long sought after accomplishment or just a sweet moment in time, I think we as parents have those moments with our children that we always want to remember.  However,  we also have those rough or challenging moments; temper tantrums in public, siblings screaming because one has hurt the other, experimenting with scissors and their beautiful long hair, the day the teacher calls to tell you that your child is failing a subject, or a multitude of little (or big) imperfections that we’d like to forget.

Reminding myself of those good times and not so stellar moments makes the whole story of Christ and his life growing up that much more relevant.  Jesus’ mother, Mary,  had those moments to hold on to too.

The Bible says (in my paraphrase) that Mary listened to the words of praise spoken about her baby, thought about them, held them close and then treasured them.  Later when we read about him being a preteen, we see his parents doing what I believe is a tad bit of discipline. ( I do believe he was perfect, but I also believe he was a child and still needed parental guidance) Mary and Joseph can’t find Jesus. They search for three days only to find him teaching adults. The Bible says they were astonished, but it also says they didn’t understand fully.

The astonishment of what others think about your child, the marveling at the thoughts of the greatness of your child, the treasured moments that you want to hold onto, that just makes Jesus’  family seem like your average family. Jesus’ family could have lived right down the street with their very average but loving family life.

Mary seems to have paid close attention to the words of others and her son’s actions.   From these actions, she was able to treasure these things about her son and then hold on to them when he had to save the world and not stand in his way.

Whether you are a parent, a grandparent, an aunt, a sister, a brother or even none of these, it pays to listen to what God’s people say.   When God is ready to do a great work in the ones we love or in ourselves, to look with depth into a situation annativityscened hold on to those words and thoughts of others gives us the insight to set aside our desires and we can trust to let God do his thing.

As Mary rocked her sweet newborn,  she held to the thought that her son was special…. more than just special but a Savior.

Luke 2

16So they hurried off and found Mary and Joseph, and the baby, who was lying in the manger. 17When they had seen him, they spread the word concerning what had been told them about this child, 18and all who heard it were amazed at what the shepherds said to them. 19But Mary treasured up all these things and pondered them in her heart. 20The shepherds returned, glorifying and praising God for all the things they had heard and seen, which were just as they had been told.

27Moved by the Spirit, he went into the temple courts. When the parents brought in the child Jesus to do for him what the custom of the Law required, 28Simeon took him in his arms and praised God, saying:
29″Sovereign Lord, as you have promised,
you now dismiss[a] your servant in peace.
30For my eyes have seen your salvation,

31which you have prepared in the sight of all people,
32a light for revelation to the Gentiles
and for glory to your people Israel.” 33The child’s father and mother marveled at what was said about him.

41Every year his parents went to Jerusalem for the Feast of the Passover. 42When he was twelve years old, they went up to the Feast, according to the custom. 43After the Feast was over, while his parents were returning home, the boy Jesus stayed behind in Jerusalem, but they were unaware of it. 44Thinking he was in their company, they traveled on for a day. Then they began looking for him among their relatives and friends. 45When they did not find him, they went back to Jerusalem to look for him. 46After three days they found him in the temple courts, sitting among the teachers, listening to them and asking them questions. 47Everyone who heard him was amazed at his understanding and his answers. 48When his parents saw him, they were astonished. His mother said to him, “Son, why have you treated us like this? Your father and I have been anxiously searching for you.”

49″Why were you searching for me?” he asked. “Didn’t you know I had to be in my Father’s house?” 50But they did not understand what he was saying to them.

51Then he went down to Nazareth with them and was obedient to them. But his mother treasured all these things in her heart. 52And Jesus grew in wisdom and stature, and in favor with God and men.

 

 
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Posted by on December 16, 2015 in Devotions, Faith

 

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Conversations in the Car- It’s Now Available!

51GjaPxd0vL._AA160_After several years of recording some of our family’s conversations, I decided to compile them into a book.  If you want to smile or maybe laugh out loud, you will not want to pass up this opportunity to get yours today.  Conversations in the Car can be purchased through Amazon and the Amazon Kindle Store.  Let me know how you like it!  Thanks!- Nancy

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Posted by on July 2, 2014 in Uncategorized

 

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No Soliciting…. Again… and Again….

fd-no-soliciting-sign-classicWhen you enter our neighborhood there is a “No Soliciting” sign. It doesn’t work.  Beyond the neighborhood kids selling things for school fundraisers, which, by the way, don’t count, we have people come to our door who have tried to sell me magazines, books, security systems, religion, meat and candy.   It is not so bad if you are craving chocolate and someone steps on your doorstep selling M&M’s. That’s more like a miracle. However, it becomes annoying when you really don’t want the truck load of meat at a bargain price.

At our house, when we experience someone selling at our door, we point them to the neighbor across the street and say, “She usually buys things. You might want to check with her.”  Actually, she is the neighbor who gets so angry with them that she will call the police or at least threaten it. Okay, we don’t really send them her way, but when the seller interrupts something, the thought does occur.  It is not that I don’t want to help them, it is just I don’t like feeling like prey and so often that is the feeling.  However, soliciting doesn’t always involve a transaction of goods.  It can just be about asking for money.

It is not only at home and work that this “prey” feeling is often rendered, but I have been approached in public shopping areas by people with the same stories and asking for money.  I have been alone, with my husband, with my children, my co-workers and even with my mother when approached and again, the stories are all very similar.  I have had several just ask for $6 or $7 dollars and numerous ones have offered their cell phone as collateral of sorts.  There has not ever been an expensive cell phone offered but rather a pay as you go inexpensive one.  Regardless of the approach, stories and offers, so many are so close in nature that, again, they seem fabricated.

Also, in my line of work, people stop by or call our office often asking for financial help.  Each story is usually different, but oddly close enough in circumstance that it is easy to become desensitized.  It is not that I think each one is telling a false story, but when you hear the same story over and over, you begin to wonder how they all have experienced the same thing and what is real.  Naturally, we treat each story as if they are true, but also have a plan to help them get the help they need though valid resources and not so much us.

Now you know where my cynicism about these situations was born, but there is more; enter young lady.

Several years ago, after dark, a young lady approached me in a store parking lot.    She was appropriately dressed for the weather, but it was cold, rainy so I had her follow me to the store door. There was something about her that was a little different than the typical person who had asked me for help in the past.   She told me she was from a town in the region and was in town and ended up with a flat tire and didn’t have the money to get it fixed.  She gave great detail to her story which made me skeptical (yes, skeptical) but I decided to help her anyway.  I gave her $20. She thanked me and left.  I’m not sure if she asked others after me or not, but after I gave her the money, I just hoped it was legitimate.

I didn’t think anything about the situation again until one day while I was getting something inside a convenience store, my teenage daughter, who was waiting in the car,  was approached. When I returned to the car, as my daughter was telling me the story, a young lady approached my side of the car.  I quickly recognized her mannerisms and her look and I knew it was the same girl.  Her story was the same… in need of a new tire… mother-in-law and son are at the car… she had priced tires and was short 40 dollars… she had a cell phone she could give me….  I remember thinking that she probably had more money than me and that I should ask her for money… I don’t remember what I said exactly to her but I do remember that, though a bit out of character for me, I was miffed and didn’t help her.

I later shared my reunion story on Facebook with pride as I told of my refusal to help. Several comments made me begin to think about my treatment of this young lady.  Had I been too rude?  Had I shown love?  Had I helped her in any way?  I thought that what I had done was the right thing and maybe not giving her money was the right thing but I didn’t handle it with care.  Having been made highly aware of the ignorance of human trafficking, I began wondering….What if she was trapped in a lifestyle that she felt she deserved.  What if she was at one time a runaway.   What if she had been sold to someone and was working for them.  I really wish I done and said things differently.penywise_100_1480

Fast forward about 18 months to the other day.  I was in a parking lot looking for a place to park when someone flagged me down.  When I saw her face, I knew at that very moment it was the same young lady.  When she approached my car she began telling me the same story… she mentioned a flat tire, a child, offered me a cell phone…  It was then that I decided to really talk to her.  My first question to her was, “Are you okay?”   She looked at me and answered, “Yes, ma’am.”  Then I asked her, “Are you doing this for someone else?”  She said, “No ma’am”.  I asked her, “Are you safe?” She nodded.  I then said, “The reason that I ask you this is because this is not the first time we’ve met.”  She was speechless. I continued, ” You have approached me before and told me the same story.’  She apologized with an, “I am so sorry.”  I also told her that I didn’t have money to help her but I was concerned that she was not in a safe place.  With a confused look, she again apologized, said, “God bless you” and walked away.

A part of me was pretty excited that I had the opportunity to meet her again.  I could hardly wait to tell my family.  However, in the reeling of my pride, that still small voice spoke and said, “You didn’t tell her that I love her.”  He’s right.  She may have walked away thinking that someone “caught” her.  She may have walked away thinking that was a close call.  Still yet, she may have walked away thinking that someone actually did care about her, but she didn’t walk away knowing what prompted me to ask her.  She didn’t walk away knowing that God loves her right where she is.  She didn’t walk away knowing that her Creator made her and loves his creation.

Maybe I’ll get another chance.  In the meantime, if you see her, don’t forget to tell her.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 
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Posted by on May 20, 2014 in Life Stories

 

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Mirror, Mirror on my Desk…

Some days, like today, I really wish I were a morning person…. I would love to wake up and be on top of my game…. cooking a nice healthy breakfast for the family rather than warming a breakfast cookie (yes, that is a real breakfast product) in the microwave and rushing to get in the car…. or getting up prior to the rest of the family and having some quiet time with God rather than dropping my daughter off at school then going to the office early and taking that time then. No wait,  that one works out really well… Okay, how about this one… I would love to be able to get up and clean my house spotless before everyone woke up.  (Ha!  That one will never happen!) or even just get up without having to rush to get ready in the morning.

Regardless of what I would like to be, I am a perpetual night owl and think sunrises may be beautiful but I’d rather wait and see the movie of one than see it first hand. So, after many different strategies, I came up with a great plan… Because I’m sluggish in the morning and have trouble getting ready quickly, I would have a dual getting ready system.  At my office, I would have a duplicate of my hair styling things and an extra makeup bag in case I couldn’t get ready in time at home.  It was a great plan but was lacking in one thing, a mirror.  I decided to get a mirror that I could prop on my desk and after a great search, purchased one from the Dollar Tree.

I was thankful for that mirror because after some time, I began to get frustrated with my hair straightener when I noticed, by looking in that mirror, that it wasn’t straightening like it should.  Two straighteners later, I began to question my solution.  That’s when I looked closely at my helpful little mirror…. On the right side of it I noticed a slight wave in the glass… it just so happened to be in that same spot that I could never straighten… It wasn’t the straightener nor my hair… It was a tiny little carnival mirror that showed my hair as something it wasn’t… The good news: It wasn’t bumpy hair… it was straight hair all along.  The bad news: I wasted a lot of time trying to correct it when everyone else could see that it was straight already.

I was thinking this morning about grace…. God extending a hand to me to help me when I really don’t deserve it…. not just extending a hand but stooping down like a father to a child and picking me up and loving me when I don’t deserve it…For me it has always been a hard to thing to not only comprehend but to accept.

Sometimes or maybe even most of the time, it is difficult to allow and accept the gift of God’s grace for yourself.  When you look in the mirror you see the old self… the one with the bumpy hair… the exact one that evil wants you to focus on… the one that the enemy seeks to remind you to look at… the one that you deem so imperfect that it is not worthy of such a gift. But God’s grace sees the mirror and knows it is warped/bumpy/wavy and is causing the illusion and He knows it is not who you really are… He sees you as the perfection he created you to be… He sees what is real and not tainted.

I don’t know what is going on in your life today or how you see yourself when you look in the mirror… maybe you see the past crime, the addiction you are still battling with, the string of terrible decisions, the lack of trust, the lack of faith, the broken heart, the anger…. all things that you’ve given to God but you still see them when you look at yourself… But God wants us to see the person in the mirror that He sees.. the one who has no bumpy hair!  God wants us to be on the the top of our game…to recognize the bump in the mirror,  to be focused on Him and not our funky mirror illusions, to show His grace to not only others but experience it for ourselves…. all because he want us to be alert and cautious and not fall into the enemy’s trap. 

Satan, like a lion, preys on the weak, sick or young… He will prey on those that are focusing on the warped mirror and trying to get the “hair straightened” instead of walking away from it.  The enemy wants us to be defeated and will use the mirror as a weapon to frustrate, discourage and distract so he can attack.

I know this…. I’ve looked in the bumpy mirror all too often myself.  Time to get a new one.  🙂

1 Peter 5:8

Stay alert! Watch out for your great enemy, the devil. He prowls around like a roaring lion, looking for someone to devour.

 
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Posted by on November 28, 2012 in Devotions, Faith, Life Stories

 

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Days 4-30 of November Thankfulness: All at Once I Realized….

Okay, I realized that if I don’t do the rest at one time then I probably won’t finish it so I’m just jumping ahead…. Here are the rest of the 30 things I’m thankful for in no particular order….

Just a part of my job

4. My job– On any given weekend I come home with great stories from the kids that I work with… whether it is a funny story (like the kid who asked if he could say bad words and when I said no, he said to his friend, “@#$%, we can’t say bad words.” or the sweet little girl who insists we call her “Dog”) or a sweet one (the kid who requires a hug from the other party of the dispute after the apology), I always have something great to share.  Plus, because of what I do… I pretty much much get to be a kid…  I love it.

5. My co-workers– I realize that not too many people can say that they love everyone that they work with … and if they say they love them, they may not like them so much…. But I love and like my co-workers.  They are a great group of people who put up with me and love and like me back… at least, I’m pretty sure they do… I also know, not too many have co-workers that feel like family…. I do and am thankful.. (If you see my boss make sure you tell him I said these nice things)

6. My husband– Another one who puts up with me… So few get to see the funny side of him but the man cracks me up… plus he is a great dad and husband. ( You can also tell him I said these nice things. )

7. My freedom– I will be voting tomorrow and realize that for whatever reason, I have been fortunate enough to be born and live in a country that is free.

8. My kids– My girls are such a perfect addition to my life.  They are all funny, compassionate, sweet (most of the time… well, okay… sweet to others), they love each other now and someday may become friends with each other (actually, I see it happening already) They aren’t perfect by any means but then again, they have an imperfect mom so what do I expect.

9. Our alphabet– abcdefghijklmnopqrstuvwxyz…. there may be a lot of them but thankful there are no ~ or ` or other symbols over the tops of them….plus, I like to write and am glad I don’t have to write in pictures..

10. Flip-Flops– I love the idea of slipping on a pair of flip-flops and letting my feet feel the sun… yeah, leather, canvas and other shoes are great too, but flip-flops are the next best thing to bare feet...

11. Hummingbirds– Our summer is made better by these little guys… They zoom past our heads, flutter around our back porch and though we may sound easy to entertain, they are more fun to watch than most shows on TV.

12. Friends– some to laugh with, some to cry with, some to do both with, some male, some female, some who brighten my day unexpectedly, some who mentor me, some who we learn together…. some who have passed in and out of my life……….all have a special place in my heart

13. My health–  thankful that I can walk, talk, and do most anything I want to do because I have good health

14. Ale8– The Central Kentucky soft drink that has made it’s way to a few other places in the country…. I’m pretty sure it is an acquired taste, but for those of us who love it … we really love it.  And I’m thankful that they now have Diet and caffeine free, too.

15. Baby Animals– They are just so cute…  puppies, kittens, baby rabbits, baby bears, etc… well, except baby narwhals

16. Creativity-I’m a person who loves to create…. whether it be a story, a painting or a sculpted caricature of someone….It is what I love to do… I’m thankful for a creative Creator and amazed at what He createdLightening outside our house

17. Nature– Waterfalls, the change of seasons, stars, storms, lightening, weird animals (narwhals, angler fish, tarsiers,etc)… whatever it may be it all goes back to the creativity….

18. Technology – I’m thankful to live in a day and age where people thousands and thousands of miles away can communicate as if they were next door neighbors.  I also love that we can get to them by plane, train or car rather than only a horse or on foot.

19. Chocolate – ‘Nuff said…

20. Modern Medicine –  I can imagine that without what we have today, I probably would have been one on the side of the road in need of healing when Christ walked by…. AND – can you imagine surgery without antibacterial items??   that’s what I’m talking about

21. The Bible – I used to never understand it nor care much about the stories from it, but once I began to dig into it with the help of Christ, it changed my world….

22. Music – It can perk up your day, help you worship God, mellow out a crying baby, make memories, sooth a tortured soul, help motivate, help memorize… It is a pretty powerful thing.

23. Grace– I know I’ve already written about it but I’m just doubly thankful that I don’t get what I deserve…. because I can never do enough to get the good portion of deserving all by myself….

24. Fruit-something good for you and tastes good too…. bananas, apples (fuji are my favorite), grapes, kiwi, raisins, watermelon, actually all melons, strawberries, cherries, clementines ….. add a little chocolate to some and then it’s even better…. shall I go on?

25. Humor -sense of humor- glad I have one, even if I am the only one who thinks I’m funny… and laughter,  not at the expense of others but wholesome laughter could possibly bring the world together

26. Bug sprayCitronella, flea and tick repellent, after bite….. whichever it is, it was a genius invention

27. Gloves– They keep my hands warm. (particularly on days when my office is Freezing) I can even text in them now and best of all,  I don’t have to touch things that are yucky if I don’t want….

28. My family-my parents, by example taught me how to work through arguments, dance, laugh, love each other, give to others and love God and church….I have no siblings but do have cousins, aunts and uncles… brothers and sisters-in-law, father and mother-in-law (deceased- but wonderfully remembered), a wonderful step mother-in-law…. so many great memories

29. My home– Yes, there are times when I wish I had a bigger yard or one more bedroom or a live in maid, but I am blessed to have what I have and know it

30. A Loving God– anyone who makes a way for you to get to them must love you a lot…. thankful that the Creator of all did that for me…. and for you…. so when I am thankful, that is who gets my thanks… without the Creator and his grace, all of the other things are pointless.

If only November had more days…….. Maybe I should just be thankful all of the time….

Ephesians 5:20

Always giving thanks to God the Father for everything, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ.

 
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Posted by on November 5, 2012 in Devotions, Faith, Fun, Life Stories

 

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Day 3 of November Thankfulness: Grace….In A Textfully Speaking Kind of Way

Several years ago right around Christmas time,  I had a very interesting cell phone bill.  Texting had just caught on in our household and we had allowed our daughter the privilege of going from a pay as you go phone to being on a fixed monthly plan along with the adults in the house.   Believe it or not, I’m a texter more than a talker now, but this incident was during the early stages of texting in our household.   My daughter was becoming quite fast with her texting and her communication with friends now became conversations with no purpose….

Messages such as this:

Daughter:  Wut r u doing

Friend: texting

Daughter:  Oh Haha

Daughter: me too

Friend: Have you seen that movie that they were talking about at lunch?

Daughter:  No, but want to this weekend?

Friend: Yes!

Daughter: Me too!

Friend: K

Daughter: K

Daughter: 🙂

Daughter: See ya tomorrow and we’ll make plans

Friend:  ttyl

At that time we had a limited texting plan and overage was a quarter a text.   Now, she thought that a whole conversation such as that would cost a quarter, when in reality it cost $3.25. So now multiply that by some 2500 texts over our limit and you have a phone bill that is not only unbelievably outrageous, but also as thick as a book!  And that was what we had.. our bill…$600+ with another one on the way for over $300 AND it was nearing Christmas… Needless to say, our phone carrier received a nicer gift than our family did that year.

Anyway, several asked me if we punished our daughter only to be shocked that we didn’t.  We disciplined but not punished….  We paid the phone bill and she had to work to earn the money for her upcoming mission trip of the same cost.  She earned her money,  learned her lesson, became aware of how money really works and grew in wisdom throughout it all.  This is the part of the story when we get the most blank stares and then we get the “what I would have done” scenarios which almost always include taking the phone away.

Maybe we should have taken the phone away but instead chose not to “punish” because it wasn’t a defiant act, it was accidental.  I guess to some degree, we showed her grace.

I was talking with a friend the other day and the topic of grace came up in our conversation… God’s grace is an amazing thing.  My friend reminded me that the Greek meaning of grace is a translation of “a superior stooping, bending or reaching down in kindness to an inferior.”  In a word picture of that, you can imagine that God bends down, looks you in the eye and hugs and holds you just like a child…grace.  Wow, God’s grace is a choice and it is more than just grace in certain circumstances… but rather, grace in all things.

I’ve messed up so many times, even when I knew better…. even when I knew completely what I was doing was against what God would desire from me…. Even if He had reminded me over and over again of what I should NOT do… His grace doesn’t give me what I deserve.  Whew!  What a gift.

When my husband and I chose grace for our daughter, we not only did it because we love her and we knew she didn’t do it intentionally, but we also did it because we have experienced grace ourselves…. we passed it on in hopes she would and will too.

Today, I am thankful for grace-  the Grace of God and the grace that I see exemplified by others.

John 1:15-17 (John bore witness about him, and cried out, “This was he of whom I said, ‘He who comes after me ranks before me, because he was before me.’”) And from his fullness we have all received, grace upon grace. For the law was given through Moses; grace and truth came through Jesus Christ.

 
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Posted by on November 4, 2012 in Devotions, Faith, Life Stories

 

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Day 1 of November Thankfulness-Don’t Box Me In

There used to be a skit on Saturday Night Live about a couple named Doug and Wendy Whiner.  The skit was based around this couple who spoke in a whiny voice all of the time.  I can remember traveling in Panama as a teenager and while doing a little sightseeing, my friend and I began saying things in our Doug and Wendy Whiner voices.  Looking back, we cracked ourselves up but were probably annoying everyone else.

So, now it is time for me to divulge a truth……I’m often like Doug and Wendy.  I whine. I suppose the reality of it is that I’m a pretty thankful person.  I realize that I have been blessed with a great husband, great kids (even if they do roll their eyes at me at times) and a great family.  I love my job and my co-workers. I have some precious friends. My kids never have to go without needs. (I am stressing needs… wants are a totally different thing.) I’m thankful to God  for all of these things and so much more.  BUT…. I’m also still a whiner.  Not so much of one out loud and to people (okay, maybe a few get to hear me) but in the quietness of my life, wherever that may be, I whine to God about what I don’t have or what I don’t want.

Last spring, I took a day long personal retreat.  It wasn’t much of anything other than a hike all by myself to a rock that overlooks a river.  I took my walking stick, a backpack, some music on my phone and my Bible.  The intention of the retreat was to spend my time with God….. whining.  I had been dealing with a perpetual thorn in my side… as much as I have done and as hard as I have tried, I couldn’t (still can’t) get that thing out of my side.  So, my retreat time was going to be me and God…. I totally had planned on him showing up at that rock with me.  I sat down, prayed some, opened my Bible, read some….. nothing.  No God.  I did those things again.  Still, no God.  For whatever reason, though I know I am always in his presence, he chose to be quiet.  And my reaction… I was disappointed…. I wanted to complain about this thorn in my side… I wanted answers….. It was a great day for it to be removed! Still nothing but silence.

I basked on the rock for several hours, reading, waiting….. I was at the point of putting God in a box and of believing that He was also annoyed with my whining, so I finally gave up and decided to leave.  Now being a girl that grew up on a farm, with a tad of hippie inside and lack of desire to be like others, I decided a hike without shoes would be great….  I put my shoes in my backpack and began hiking through mud, rocks and grass… It was wonderful.  The smells of fresh mud and grass, the feel of walking on gravel and squishing through mud, the sounds of a running creek and singing birds… I was instantly taken back to my childhood.

I made it through the rough terrain and back to a concrete sidewalk and was watching a group of kids in the distance when I looked down and caught myself in mid-step.  I almost stepped on the biggest thorn I’d ever seen in my life.  It was huge… at least to me it was.  It was probably three inches long and the thorns on the side were sticking a good two inches outward.  It looked much like a cross.  I thought in my mind that thorn would be great to show the kids at church because it was probably the size of the thorns placed on Jesus’ head.  I looked around to find more but there were none.  The only ones I saw were about 40 feet in the air, wrapped around a large tree.  So, I picked it up and decided since God wasn’t meeting me that I would listen to some music.
I put in my ear buds and without looking, clicked on my music.  A song began to play and as I sat down in my car, I heard the words in a whole new way….

The song was, Don’t Give Up by Shawn McDonald…. These are the words that I heard….

Sometimes it is hard to go on
It’s hard to see the reasons
For breathing, living, letting love guide the way
But you must hold on

 
Don’t give up
Don’t give up
Hold on for one more day

 

Sometimes we fall down
We get ourselves in trouble
But it’s OK
Cause we still have another chance to get it right
To get it right

 

I’ve come too far
I’ve seen so much
I’ve heard the call and felt the touch
I’ve tasted love that I cannot deny

 
Don’t give up
Don’t give up
Hold on for one more day

 
I remembered the words that had been spoken to me just days before, ” Maybe the thorn in your side is to keep you relying on God.  If you didn’t have it would you depend on God as much as you have to with it? Maybe not” … I looked at the thorn… it was a souvenir…God waited until I was like a child and spoke to me in a way that was creative and miraculous….. I wept…

I’ve kept that thorn. It sits on my desk as a reminder of that day.   I still don’t like the thorn in my side and it still bothers me a lot, but at least I have an understanding and that understanding came in such a loving and beautiful way.

 

 

Day 1: I’m thankful for a God that cannot be put in a box, desires a personal relationship with me (and you) and speaks in beautiful ways.

2 Corinthians 12:7-10 (NLT)

even though I have received such wonderful revelations from God. So to keep me from becoming proud, I was given a thorn in my flesh, a messenger from Satan to torment me and keep me from becoming proud.

Three different times I begged the Lord to take it away. Each time he said, “My grace is all you need. My power works best in weakness.” So now I am glad to boast about my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ can work through me. 10 That’s why I take pleasure in my weaknesses, and in the insults, hardships, persecutions, and troubles that I suffer for Christ. For when I am weak, then I am strong.

From Jesus Calling by Sarah Young-

Grow strong in the Light of My Presence. Your weakness does not repel Me. On the contrary, it attracts My Power, which is always available to flow into a yielded heart. Do not condemn yourself for your constant need of help. Instead, come to Me with your gaping neediness; let the Light of My Love fill you.

A yielded heart does not whine or rebel when the going gets rough. It musters the courage to thank Me even during hard times. Yielding yourself to My will is ultimately an act of trust. In quietness and trust is your strength.

 

Don’t Give Up- Shawn McDonald

 
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Posted by on November 2, 2012 in Devotions, Faith, Life Stories

 

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A Masterpiece

“Aslan”

I read this morning about being God’s masterpiece…. That is a huge thing to consider.  I’ll admit that probably more days than not, I don’t feel or look much like a masterpiece.   When I think of a masterpiece I think of something great like the Sistine Chapel or “The Cotton Exchange in New Orleans” by Degas. (Okay, I totally looked that one up), but maybe you understand where I’m coming from.  I have in my mind that masterpiece is defined as something great but completed… done…. no additions, no subtractions…. just perfecto.  No more touch ups by Michelangelo on the Sistine Chapel ceiling because it was perfect. Then others see it and ooh and aah about it’s greatness and it becomes something distinguished, something of value, something that others love or at least pretend to love because it is a “masterpiece”.    Now, that’s how I picture a masterpiece.

When I read that, not feeling much like a masterpiece, I began thinking about what that meant. If I’m God’s masterpiece, what does that say about me really?  Am I complete? I hope not.  Am I distinguished? Not really.  Do I need additions or subtractions in my life? Yep! (and my family and co-workers say a big “Amen”) Well then, if I am going by my definition then there is no way I am a masterpiece.  So, feeling a little uneasy, I looked up the definition and I was surprised to find out that masterpiece is not defined by what others think nor about it being complete or perfect… Though many of the sources varied in a small way, most defined the word masterpiece as an outstanding work of art.  So that raised another question…. outstanding to whom? Who decides if it is a masterpiece or a piece of junk?  Hmmm, more to ponder…..

“In Memory Of Andy”

I have toyed with art for years and recently found that my Ipad is a great canvas. I have an app that is helpful for the mental block that storms in when I ask myself, “Okay, what should I draw?” It gives daily challenges and competitions that spark that idea machine to turn it’s wheels….   So, because of those little idea boosters, I have created some artwork that I would have probably never drawn otherwise…. like a caricature of a celebrity, someone “caught” or a 4th of July firework….. Though there is one thing that I’ve noticed in all of the challenges and competitions.  I won’t or don’t enter my art into a either one if I am not satisfied with it.  I have to feel that it is good enough…. my best….. my own personal masterpiece of sorts.

However, as are most, I am my worst critic.  Once I’ve submitted my art, I find a dozen or hundreds or even more changes that I could have made to improve it…. It is my masterpiece but yet, I’m not truly finished with it and because of my eyes, as the creator of it, I probably never will be finished with it.  There will always be something to change.  And though I don’t know the story of Michelangelo’s painting, I wonder if he stood back while others “oohed” and “aahed” about his work and thought, “I should have added a bit more color to the clouds.”   Possibly, however, would he have said, “Okay, I’m done”, if he wasn’t pleased or satisfied or even proud of his work… his creation? I’m thinking a strong no possibility…

Tiger Lily

So, I drew a lion that was featured by the app creator and I also created a baby dragon that I really liked but didn’t receive the accolades that the lion did.  Both, to me, the artist, are each ones that I really like yet they are totally different. I can’t compare them because they are just not the same.  Though one took hours and hours to complete and the other took less than an hour, they both can use some touch ups here and there….  but I was satisfied with them both and still am.

So, if through Christ, I am God’s masterpiece, as the artist, he doesn’t have to keep me the way I am.  He can always make changes (or create in me desire to change) to help perfect me and still be totally pleased with who he has created….

I definitely needed that reminder today….. maybe you need it too….  You are his masterpiece…. his handiwork…. each of us different, each of us valued to the Artist…. and the Artist doesn’t care nor place our value by what others think….

What a great thing to soak in….

Ephesians 2:10

New Living Translation (NLT)

10 For we are God’s masterpiece. He has created us anew in Christ Jesus, so we can do the good things he planned for us long ago.

The artwork in this post is all original and created on my Ipad.  🙂

“Baby Dragon”

Feather Challenge

“Caught!”

 
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Posted by on August 13, 2012 in Devotions, Faith

 

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Celebrate the Season- Advent Daily Chocolate Day 1: Love is Blind

When I was a kid I used to look so forward to December 1st.  That was when I could open the very first window in my Advent Calendar, look and see what the chocolate design was… you know, an angel, a Wiseman, a shepherd, etc…. and then eat it up.  The main problem though was that by December 2nd, the only thing left behind in those little windows was a hollowed out shell and  the smell of the chocolate …. Yep, I had no self control and I counted down to Christmas in one day.  What do you expect?  The pieces of chocolate were wafer thin and the windows weren’t locked… it was like a chocolate free for all.

Well, now I’m all grown up and have self control ……. And I also have a job so I can buy an extra calendar or two just in case ….. but, this isn’t about chocolate calendars….it’s not about self-control…..  It is about the Advent Season and the excitement that the countdown brings.

I’ve found myself many times when I’m reading during my quiet time, wanting to read more and then a bit more and even more …. pretty much like the chocolate of my childhood, I don’t want to stop until I’m satisfied.  So to add to my regular Bible reading plan,  I’m opening an Advent reading window a day (while eating a piece of chocolate, of course).  I’m doing this so I can share the “chocolate” that is satisfying to me and hopefully to others to.

So grab your chocolate …. the real stuff.. or not….. and hold me accountable to sharing with you a devotion, insight or story a day until Christmas.  Hopefully,  you’ll enjoy it as much as I will.

So, we’ll begin here in Isaiah…. Isaiah 11:1-5 to be exact

Isaiah is prophesying- He’s telling about a person (Jesus), a descendant of David, who is going to have some pretty obvious qualities about himself…. Godly wisdom, Godly Counsel, Godly Understanding…Just these three alone are enough to make you think He would be the one to follow, but as you move on down into the scripture there is something that I read that makes the whole appreciating Jesus thing even more precious.

It talks about his quality of blindness in Christ… not literal blindness, but instead, it is the ability to look at someone and not see them as others do and not judge them because of the way that they appear.  He judges the heart (That is why the Pharisees stayed so angry at him all of the time) .  In other words, he doesn’t love us just because we are attractive, or physically fit, or big givers of our money, are financially sound, teach Sunday School or sing in the choir or any other deed.   He loves us because we are his creation… made in his image..    That’s an incredible hope for a society who lives in a shadow of Hollywood images and lifestyles … It is also incredible hope for those haunted by their past.

We also find out He also judges by what he knows and sees … not rumor…He waits to know our hearts and doesn’t allow the opinion of another to persuade his thoughts about us.   More hope for those plagued with a history of poor choices or a past (or even present) that has brought about conversations from others.

When Isaiah was prophesying about this Messiah, he painted a picture of a fair and loving Christ that we fortunately now have an opportunity to know…. personally.

Have you pushed Christ aside because of a sin, a past, a hate, a bitterness or just an esteem that feels undeserving?  Look at how he see us… it’s different than what we are used to …. allow him to show you that love.

What about those who have experienced his love… How is your love? Is your love blind toward others?  Is it based on what you feel is attractive or not so attractive (appearances, financial status, hygiene, rumors, lifestyle, political positions)?  Today is a great day to practice blind love… to try to see the heart of a person rather than what the world sees.

So, I’m off to buy more chocolate…. I love this time of year!

Isaiah 11:1-5

New Living Translation (NLT)

1 Out of the stump of David’s family[a] will grow a shoot—
      yes, a new Branch bearing fruit from the old root.
 2 And the Spirit of the Lord will rest on him—
      the Spirit of wisdom and understanding,
   the Spirit of counsel and might,
      the Spirit of knowledge and the fear of the Lord.
 3 He will delight in obeying the Lord.
      He will not judge by appearance
      nor make a decision based on hearsay.
 4 He will give justice to the poor
      and make fair decisions for the exploited.
   The earth will shake at the force of his word,
      and one breath from his mouth will destroy the wicked.
 5 He will wear righteousness like a belt
      and truth like an undergarment.

 
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Posted by on December 1, 2011 in Devotions, Faith

 

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Conversations… The Epiphany Factor

I’m not sure if it is my age, my stress level or just the way I’m wired, but I’ve taken notice of something lately that shoots my conversations to a whole new level.  One might call it the lack of common sense, but I just call it the “epiphany factor” which is triggered by the “oh” gene.  You know what I’m talking about; a time during a conversation, when you begin to see things differently or when someone explains something to you and you finally “get it” ….even if it is a conversation of useless knowledge or trivial chat… that moment is the “epiphany factor”.   You tend to see them on sitcoms quite a bit, but at our house in 2011, I have been keeping notes of them for a time such as this.

As far as the reasoning for why these conversations are happening and since I seem to be claiming this “oh” gene (which, by the way, lies dormant in my parents), I’m beginning to believe that I’m wired that way.  I’m not just thinking this because my husband has been trying to tell me this for years, but because I am seeing it in my children more and more and that helps establish the theory that it may just be a wiring issue with me… yep, born that way.

Here are a few of many examples of what I mean…. these conversations include my 16-year-old (Allison), my 18-year-old (Catie) sometimes my 9-year-old, my husband (Chris) and me….

Allison:  So are Vera Bradley and Vera Wang related?
Me:  How does that even make sense? They just have the same first name.
Allison:  I know… Are they related?
Me:  ?? (silence)
Catie:  So, are they related?
Chris:  Yes girls, they are sisters!
Allison and Catie:  Oh…

OR

Conversation in the car in the dark:
Allison: Mom, are my contacts in?
Me: Allison, how on earth am I supposed to know?
Allison: What?? I thought you said the eye place called you and said they were in.
Me: (short pause) Ohhh, I thought you meant in your eyes.
Chris: Oh, brother

OR

Conversation in the car-
Allison:(who was sitting behind me) Mom, I just sent you a picture.
Me: Okay, text or email?
Allison: Text. Did you get it?
Me: No
Allison: Now?
Me: No
Allison: I sent it. Now did you get it?
Me: No, Allison.
A few minutes later…

Allison: Did you get it, mom?
Me: No

After a few more minutes of the same dialogue….
Chris: Wouldn’t it have been easier for you to just hand your phone to mom and let her see the picture?
Me and Allison: Oh…

OR

Conversation after taking photos of my daughter who was climbing out of a tree….
Allison: Mom, help me
Me:  You’ve got it… Come on down
Allison:  I’m scared. I’m afraid I’m going to break something.
Me:  You’re not going to break anything. This tree is strong and sturdy …. You couldn’t break it even if you wanted to
Allison:  I’m talking about me, Mom! I’m afraid I’ll break my arm or leg!
Me: oh…

AND

Regarding a glitch in our van’s brake lights, to stop concern about the battery dying, Chris and I decided to trade cars for the day. Our phone call:
Chris: Hey, I’m not going to trade cars now. I put a band aid on it so it is temporarily fixed… at least until I can get home tonight.
Me: Wow, that is hilarious
Chris: What is?
Me: That is so funny, kind of ironic, that you used a band-aid to fix it.
Chris:(with laughter) I didn’t use a real band-aid. It was a figure of speech
Me: Oh….

This genetic flaw seems to have been passed down to my poor children and unfortunately, the “voice of reason” gene that their father so perfectly owns, lies dormant or at least will be a late blooming gene.    I hope they are late bloomers because I will have to say that the wisdom of the “Oh” gene is about a 1 on a scale 1-10 while the “voice of reason” ranks way up there with a 9.9-10…. It just comes in so handy… and it has saved our family embarrassment over and over.  (Well, not counting that I’ve just now posted our conversations for the world to read.)

But you know, so often my conversations with God are also laced with the Epiphany Factor.  Common sense can’t always play a role in conversations with God because he is so much bigger than that, but I do tend to forget so much when I talk to him.  I forget to be quiet.  I forget to get rid of barriers between us.  I forget that when he makes a promise he keeps it.  I forget that he loves me., etc.  Many times God has to jump in and, either through his word or his people, stop me and be a voice of reason.

In the Book of Job, Elihu, to a certain degree, was like that; the voice of reason.  After listening to Job and his friends, Elihu spoke some things that he felt needed to be said.  Job was wondering why God wasn’t filling him in on the reasoning of why he had to endure his suffering and wondered why God was being to quiet.  Elihu piped in and stated that God was indeed speaking ….. he was pretty much always speaking but Job wasn’t prepared to listen.

Now, we know that Job had been listening and that God doesn’t always answer our prayers in a way we can understand.  He is not always going to tell us why we have to deal with things certain things or go through certain experiences, so Elihu wasn’t completely correct there.  He did say, however, that God does speak to us in many ways, we just have to not try to put words in his mouth. He uses things to get our attention and sometimes we don’t understand what he’s trying to get from us because of our pride…. we can’t make out what God wants because we are caught up in our suffering.

I find myself in that same situation so many more times than I like to admit… even though what I experience may not be as great of a suffering as what Job went through, I will often find myself so caught up in my own suffering or uncomfortableness that I can’t hear why God is allowing me to go through it.  When I finally let go of myself and allow God to be there, he may not show me exactly why I have to experience what I do, but he at least is there to be a compassionate, protecting, listening and mighty friend who comforts me and provides a peace that I can only get through him.  Job’s epiphany factor came a few chapters later when he realized that God’s ways are best…. when I remind myself of that I so often will be given the “voice of reason” and a brand new outlook.

I’m not sure what you may be dealing with today but should you be in a place where God seems quiet or distant, a great start may be not asking why but by asking for his help in taking the focus off of your suffering and allowing him to consume it.  I may provide a peace like you’ve never known.

Job 33

13 So why are you bringing a charge against him?
Why say he does not respond to people’s complaints?
14 For God speaks again and again,
though people do not recognize it.

 
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Posted by on November 12, 2011 in Devotions, Faith, Life Stories

 

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