Wednesday, August 29, 2012

First Day of School

If any of you lacks wisdom, you should ask God, who gives generously to all without finding fault, and it will be given to you.  But when you ask, you must believe and not doubt, because the one who doubts is like a wave of the sea, blown and tossed by the wind. That person should not expect to receive anything from the Lord. Such a person is double-minded and unstable in all they do. James 1: 5-8 

Well, another school year has begun. This past Monday Dan and I waved goodbye to our sons as they boarded bus #67 which carried them to the first day of fifth and first grades.

I stood at the end of the driveway and watched the bus disappear at the bend of the road. My heart sank. My sons are out of my hands.

Once again I was faced with reality. The illusion of control vanished. They don’t really belong to me. They are not really “in my hands.” I can’t really protect them all the time. I pondered these hard-to-swallow truths and I realized that even though I can’t keep them behind a protective glass, all wrapped in bubble wrap-even there they won’t be 100% safe as they’ll asphyxiate-there is something I can do to ensure they’ll be safe. I can release them to the Lord.

They belong to Him. He is the One who let me borrow them for a little while. He allowed me to have them for a season to love, care for and teach them about Him, so one day they would walk on their own and find their own faith. He is the One who loves them more than I ever could. And He knows their destiny because He tells us,

“I know the plans I have for you, declares the Lord, plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future. (Jeremiah 29:11)” 

Therefore, trusting that when God says “you” He means my sons, I release them. I release them into the loving hands of their Creator and trust in His perfect plan for them. I hesitate, for I have control issues and I struggle with letting go; but I’m resolved to release them, so I do. And as I take them back, I release them again, and again, and one more time. Every time I feel anxiety creep over me, I release them once again, casting my anxieties upon Him and praying for the Lord to increase my faith.

Being a Mother surely is not for the faint of heart. I thought I was tough, but I am weak. The good news is that we have a Strong Father, an Ever-Present Savior and the Spirit of Truth and Wisdom in us. We are victorious in our battles for He fights with us and often times for us. Therefore, I can say

Trust in the LORD with all your heart, And do not lean on your own understanding. In all your ways acknowledge Him, And He will make your paths straight. (Proverbs 3:5-6) 

My husband and I slowly walked back up the driveway trying to take our minds off of the boys by talking about the need to do some serious landscaping. We entered a really quiet house and silently acknowledged the inevitable passage of time. It’s time to trust.

“in God I trust; I will not be afraid. What can man do to me?“ Psalm 56:11

Tuesday, August 28, 2012

It's in His Hands

“Mama, what’s divorce?” My almost-to-be-seven-year-old son Dylan asked me a couple of days ago as we were driving somewhere around. Before I could formulate any coherent thought in my head, my ten-year-old Grant responded in his characteristic professorial tone: “divorce is when the parents split up.”

Even without looking at his face I could sense Dylan’s puzzlement in the air. So I promptly added, “you know? Sometimes, unfortunately, parents don’t stay together and they do have to live in separate houses.” Grant must’ve also sensed his brother’s growing concern as he cheerfully added, “Don’t worry, Dylan, we don’t have to worry about that happening to us…”

I took a deep breath and swallowed hard to untangle the tight knot that had formed in my throat. Then I said, “well, with God’s help, Grant is right and we won’t have to worry about Daddy and I splitting up for as long as we live.”

I looked out the window at the familiar country scenery that surrounded us and prayed with all my heart that the Lord would, indeed, keep our family together “until death do us part.”

As Dan and I celebrated our 18th wedding anniversary yesterday, I continued to beg God to be with us in our marriage. Certainly 18 years ago I could not have anticipated the roller coaster that marriage was going to be like. The emotional intensity I’ve experienced these past almost two decades is yet to be surpassed by anything else other than itself. But I wouldn’t have it any other way – well, other than me having a completely different personality, as I’m sure Dan would appreciate a kinder, nicer, gentler wife. There’s still hope, though, as the Holy Spirit is not yet done with me : )

But anyway, my point is that God doesn’t make any mistakes. I don’t presume to understand everything about God. I am VERY far from beginning to comprehend the unsearchable ways of God for,

“Oh, the depth of the riches of the wisdom and knowledge of God! How unsearchable his judgments, and his paths beyond tracing out!” Romans 11: 33

I believe that He is who the Bible says He is, though, and according to His Word, He is Faithful! “God, who has called you into fellowship with his Son Jesus Christ our Lord, is faithful.” 1 Corinthians 1:9 And as a Faithful and Loving God, He knows what He is doing, how He is doing it, why He is doing it, and when He is doing it.

Even if our marriage, for some unforeseen reason, ends up in divorce one day, that will not surprise Him. He knew the fate of our marriage even before we began to think about the possibility of anything being wrong with it. He knows the choices we are going to make before we’ve thought about any one of them. His eyes saw our unformed body, says Psalm 139, and

“All the days ordained for me were written in your book before one of them came to be.” Psalm 139: 16

Nothing surprises Him about our bad choices, and even if our marriage does not have a fairy tale ending (whose does, anyway?) we continue to trust Him and to place all our endeavors in His Faithful Hands for He will lead us to the riches of His reward if we surrender to His irresistible grace.

We are His since before we were born! “For you created my inmost being; you knit me together in my mother's womb. I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made; your works are wonderful, I know that full well.” Psalm 139: 13-14

“And those he predestined, he also called; those he called, he also justified; those he justified, he also glorified.” 1 Corinthians 2: 7

So as we place ourselves in His Hands, we trust.

I don’t know what the future holds for my marriage. I don’t know if my son’s words will remain true and they won’t indeed have to worry about his parents splitting up so they can grow up in a stable home, with one less thing to worry about in this dark world. But I have to trust Him. I have to believe that if we stay committed to Christ and to each other we will improve our chances.

Back in the car, I finally gathered my wits, stretched my neck, and stole a quick glance at my young son on the rear view mirror. He seemed satisfied with the answers and was back at playing with his toys. I turned to Grant and he was looking out the window deep in thought, as he often is. I wondered what he was thinking. It’s in God’s hands...I sighed silently, and kept on driving.

I'm linking with Soli Deo GloriaMarital OnenessMarriage MomentBeauty in His GripOn Your Heart TuesdayTime Warp Wife

Friday, August 24, 2012

"Mama, Hug"

His left arm is under my head and his right arm embraces me. Song of Solomon 8: 3 

“Mama, hug,” I hear my now almost 7-year old son Dylan say to me as I walk away after having yelled at him for misbehaving. I turn and see him standing with arms stretched out wide and a sad face. Of course I go back to him and hug him tightly feeling rotten inside for having spoken harshly to him earlier. The healing power of hugs, however, makes us both feel better.

I don’t know what it is, but a hug can really make a difference. There are several studies out there that assure us that hugs can actually keep the doctor away. They release some chemicals in our bodies that are responsible not just for improved mood and reduced stress, but for actual physiological reactions like changes in blood pressure and improved heart health! Crazy, huh? A study at the University of North Carolina found that levels of cortisol, the hormone produced when we’re under stress, were significantly lowered (particularly in women) when subjects hugged their partners for at least twenty seconds. (Via That’s enough for me to want to give my husband more than one 20-second-long hug a day! Well, there are other reasons for me to want to do that too…but this is an added bonus! : )

At any rate, I wasn’t really aware of the power of hugs; but my son Dylan has proven to me that it is, indeed, a healing tool that the Lord provides to us in the midst of this world of hurt and pain. I don’t really need to read any studies, for now I have living proof that hugs do the trick. Throughout the day, I hear my little boy’s tender voice saying, “Mama, hug” regardless of whatever. Sometimes, he doesn’t even say anything, but spontaneously just comes to me with outstretched arms and gives me a blessed hug. And at that moment, I feel the weight of the world lift up from over my shoulders as my soul smiles and rejoice.

Praise the Lord for Dylan, who has understood the power of the embrace. As he grows up and walks through life craving that loving touch, he is touching my heart and teaching me about the love that I am supposed to feel and display in my own walk, perhaps to help lighten and brighten a little this valley of tears and sorrow.

I'm linking with Beholding GloryFriday Favorite Things

Thursday, August 23, 2012

If I Don't Have "Love"

The Lord does make everything work for good. (Romans 8: 28) He is able to bring usefulness out of idleness and that’s exactly what He is doing in my life right now. As I do a lot of sitting around all day He is redeeming my time by giving me a chance to do some thinking on His Word. Today I’ve been thinking about first things, first steps.

Living out our Christianity in this dark world is becoming increasingly challenging. As I see it, the first thing, the first step necessary for us to stay grounded is to truly recognize our need for a Savior. It might sound simplistic, but in a secularized and humanistic society many toy with the idea that we are OK and any thought of salvation is reduced to the need for a hefty savings account. The culture is so pervasive that even Bible believing Christians may fall for a worldview that denies the existence of the Spiritual realm and relies on works as a measure of goodness.

Romans 3: 23 becomes, therefore, a must read for anyone who finds himself/herself wondering whether or not they might need a Savior:

For everyone has sinned; we all fall short of God’s glorious standard.

If this is not clear enough and we rather believe that our good works ought to count toward saving ourselves or even as a mean of some sort of collective salvation, let’s take a look at Isaiah 64: 6,

We are all infected and impure with sin. When we display our righteous deeds, they are nothing but filthy rags. Like autumn leaves, we wither and fall, and our sins sweep us away like the wind.
In case we are still wondering if being “a good person” may have something to do with salvation, Romans 3: 10 confirms it again,: “As it is written: "There is no one righteous, not even one…” And where is “it” written, you may ask? Well, let’s take a look at Ecclesiastes 7: 20 “There is not a righteous man on earth who does what is right and never sins.”

Everyone saved or not, is capable of doing good once in a while or even a lot of the time; but not all of the time. Nobody is perfect, remember? So then what? We are supposed to be perfect and blameless in the presence of God - So then, dear friends, since you are looking forward to this, make every effort to be found spotless, blameless and at peace with him. 2 Peter 3: 14- I don’t know about you, but I can’t fit this description on my own. How do I become blameless? I cannot do it on my own. There is only one way, in Christ:

But now he has reconciled you by Christ's physical body through death to present you holy in his sight, without blemish and free from accusation. (Colossians 1: 22)

…for it is God who works in you to will and to act in order to fulfill his good purpose. (Phil 2: 13) 

The truth is that there are a lot of “good people” who won’t make it to heaven. Good works that please God (and are not just “filthy rags”) are the result of a saved soul. The good works that honor God come out of the love that we express for our neighbor and are a sign that we are saved, not a way to salvation. We love because He first loved us. (1 John 4: 19) We do the right thing because, as children of the Most High God we are moved to do the right thing.

Our faith becomes dormant without our actions of love, but the faith comes first. James is particularly strong when he points out the importance of actions of love and righteousness and a life dedicated to good works for those who have already been adopted into God’s royal family. He says in James 2: 26 “For as the body apart from the spirit is dead, so also faith apart from works is dead.” And later in 4:19 he says: “So whoever knows the right thing to do and fails to do it, for him it is sin.” This admonition is conditioned to “knowing” the right thing. Who knows the right thing to do but the one in whom the Holy Spirit dwells? Only those who have the Spirit, have the truth that brings freedom. (John 8: 32)

James is talking to those who are already saved. He is presenting what might be the earliest practical guide to Christian living. And of course striving to do good deeds is high ranking in that process. But you have to be part of the family already for it to have any impact in your reward. For, as Paul tells us in Eph.2:8,9, salvation is a gift, a gif of grace, “For by grace are ye saved through faith, not of yourselves...not of works.” (Also see: Rom.3:20, Rom.11:6 Gal .2:16, 2Tim.1:9, Tit.3:5)

I don’t know the heart of man, that is only God’s privilege, nor I pretend to begin to comprehend the immensity of the heart of God; but I believe Scripture and good deeds are not the way to salvation for anyone. There is only one way, Jesus! He Himself answered to Thomas’s inquiry regarding how to find the way with some of the most important and profound words in the entire Bible: Jesus answered, “I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.” (John 14: 6a) This is the only guaranteed way. Jesus promised that "Whoever acknowledges me before men, I will also acknowledge him before my Father in heaven. (Matthew 10: 32)

As a matter of fact, for those who enjoy the “easy steps” process, the Bible has a two- step program to eternity in Heaven:

That if you confess with your mouth, "Jesus is Lord," and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved. Romans 10: 9

“Do I really need a Savior?” Can only be answered, then, with a resounding, yes! We all do. It is impossible for man to save himself, but on the other hand, nothing is impossible for God. (Mark 10: 25-27)

Coming to terms with our need for a Savior, and accepting the fact that it is a gift that we don’t deserve: “But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us,” (Romans 5: 8) wrap up the first step to a Christ-focused walk guided by the light of Scripture shining brightly in this dark world. Let’s see where else the Lord steers my thoughts next time.

For now, I will leave with this you read it, remember who "Love" is...

If I speak with the tongues of men and of angels, but do not have love, I have become a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal.

1 Corinthians 13:1

I'm linking with Denise in BloomThankful Thursday

Wednesday, August 22, 2012

Hiding from Ministry?

I am too weak, too tired, too busy, too stressed out, too antisocial, too self-conscious, too young, too old, too much of a sinner (you fill in the blank with your perceived circumstance) to be able to perform effective ministry at this time. Have you ever used any of these excuses to exempt yourself from being active within the body of Christ? Personally, I have used all of them and many others in order to get out of actively participating in the building of His Kingdom here in His church.

Particularly lately, I have found myself pulling excuses out of my deep bag of tricks. Many are recycled; but some are new. I have recently discovered myself hiding behind circumstances, which have resulted in my distancing from His Holy House. As I comfortably recline on current situations, I’ve fallen out of track and I’m finding it very difficult to get back on it. I feel adrift and I struggle to figure out my role in the church once again.

Even though I did need a break of sorts, the truth is, I am NOT comfortably reclining anywhere. The problem with taking a break from the church, however, is that sometimes you find it is hard to come back. But finally my inactivity is catching up with me and I am starting to realize that I need to take a deep look inside of me to figure out what’s going on, and find out a way to get back in the field.

How do I do that? I wonder. Well, I guess I better head out to the compass of my life to seek guidance so I can find my way again. I’ve always studied how God uses imperfect people all throughout the Bible in order to accomplish His plan. Ordinary people with ordinary lives of sin become instruments for good in the hands of God to perform extraordinary things. Their lives have been immortalized on the pages of the Great Book not for their benefit and fame, but for ours.

They are our examples of how to lead extraordinary lives within ordinary bodies. Of course Jesus is our prime role model and goal. He is, indeed the only true hero in the Bible, the only one worthy of praise and worship. He is our way, our truth and our life. The rest of the people in the Bible, however, illustrate what a simple, regular person can achieve and become, when surrendered to the will of God. And that’s what I am striving for right now.

So yes, I might be too old and tired; but look at Abraham and Moses. Even Elizabeth and Zachariah were in their old age when God called them to bring forth the one who would announce His Son.

Though I am at a weak spot in my life; I have but to look at David to realize that God’s strength is made perfect in my weakness.

Maybe I am not in the best of health at the moment; but what about the countless sick people in the Bible who sought after Jesus’ healing hand and wasted no time to get up and begin to walk again as soon as He touched them. I think of Peter’s Mother in Law who sprung out back into service the moment Jesus healed her.

Who is not stressed out today? I certainly am, very much! But then I think of Mary; so young and helpless, carrying the Savior in her womb and the weight of prejudice on her shoulders. All the stress of the world didn’t keep her, however, from glorifying the Lord. Even in the midst of her troubles she got over her own sense of significance and said, “be it unto me according to thy word.” (Luke 1: 38)

Everyone is busy; and so was Martha, but even this famous multi-tasker was able to pause long enough to hear her Lord and acknowledge that He is the Christ.

And yes, I am a big sinner, but so were all of the above.

As I see it now, I have no excuse for my inaction. I have no valid reason to just sit out this season of my life and hide away from service and ministry. Even John the Baptist, a noted antisocial who lived in the wilderness and fed on bugs had enough sense to obey Him and show up to the Divine appointments arranged by His Lord and got busy pointing people to the Son of God.

Therefore, rather than hiding behind my current circumstances, I should offer myself as a living sacrifice, open my heart to God’s will and let Him decide what the next steps in my service will be. Perhaps He will design a way for me to minister in a different capacity than before. But that is for Him to determine. My responsibility is to have a willing heart and to trust that He will enable me to perform His task and purpose for me with the riches of His grace.

I'm linking with Walk with Him WednesdayA Wise Woman Builds Her HomeHaven of RestWork in Progress WednesdayWednesday in the Word

Tuesday, August 21, 2012

Give thanks to the LORD, for he is good; his love endures forever. 1 Chronicles 16: 34

Well, yesterday, I got behind the wheel for the first time after more than two weeks. It was a bit surreal. I felt strange. I couldn’t believe how something so mundane like backing out of my garage felt so completely unfamiliar. As we rolled down the driveway, my older son asked me one last time, “Mama, are you sure you’re allowed to drive?” My younger admonished me, “remember you are not supposed to drive!” As we pulled out I reassured them that the doctor had said I could drive after 2 weeks and it’s been longer than that. As we got going on the road, and I turned the radio on to K-Love they settled down in the back seat and a sense of normalcy began to cover the three of us.

It sure has been a strange few weeks after my surgery and I believe we are all ready to breathe in some normalcy again. Though “normal” sometimes could be relative, it is good to reclaim a bit of our routine after it has been stripped off from our hands. It is funny how I always find something to complain about in my life on a daily basis, but then once my busy routine gets disrupted by unplanned occurrences, I miss my frantic days and wish I could go back to them, for they give me a sense of stability and control.

Mainly control, that’s what I’ve missed. As I slowed down to recover from my surgery, I didn’t really miss the hectic running around and the constant rushing of my “normal” days. I’ve missed the fact that while rushing and running around, I was in control, or so I thought. I’ve missed being in charge. I’ve missed being the one behind the wheel.

The days I’ve been sitting in my “recovery comfy chair station” I’ve enjoyed the care and attentions of my “boys” day in and day out. But, by the same token, I’ve felt helpless. At times I’ve felt consumed by uselessness and dependence. And I’ve many times wondered if there is a way to speed up recovery time so I could get back to being myself again.

I know, however, that we serve a God who is Good all the time and who has a perfect plan for each of His beloved children. As one of His adopted daughters, I share in this perfect plan and for that I am eternally thankful. He is Merciful, Compassionate and Faithful. He does not abandon us in the depth of the pit. He pulls us out. He rescues us. He brings us back into the light of His presence and into a new day of hope.

Because of the LORD's great love we are not consumed, for his compassions never fail. They are new every morning; great is your faithfulness. Lamentations 3:22-23 

He rescues us from ourselves and shows us that regardless of our circumstances, we are in His hands and He will never let go. He reminds us that He is in the business of changing souls and bringing people back to life!

Today I praise Him for who He is, and for His path for me. I know that as long as I walk beside Him, I will not get lost because He leads me…He is at the steering wheel. I know that as long as He holds my hand, I should not be afraid. I know He deserves my praise and worship and that all the glory belongs to Him, forever!

Not to us, O LORD, not to us but to your name be the glory, because of your love and faithfulness. Psalm 115:1

By the time we pulled back into our driveway after running a couple of short errands, Dylan was singing to the tune of a praise song and Grant was asking me if we could go to another store the next day. Sitting behind the wheel of my beat up Honda Civic didn’t feel surreal anymore. And even though I had to take a nap after my first drive, (I felt silly, I was so exhausted) it was a good run.

Psalm 92:1-3 

It is good to praise the LORD and make music to your name, O Most High, to proclaim your love in the morning and your faithfulness at night, to the music of the ten-stringed lyre and the melody of the harp.

Friday, August 17, 2012

My Boys' Laughter

When the Lord restored the fortunes of Zion,

we were like those who dreamed.

Our mouths were filled with laughter, 

our tongues with songs of joy. 
Then it was said among the nations,
“The Lord has done great things for them.”
The Lord has done great things for us,
and we are filled with joy. Psalm 126: 1-3 

In days like today, when the whole world seems dreary, gloomy and dark my spirit gets a boost from hearing my sons laugh. When clouds cover the sunshine and an eerie stillness ushers in the prelude to a storm, my sons’ laughter in the background rekindles my joy. I don’t know why they are giggling, I probably wouldn’t even understand; but it doesn’t matter, because one of my favorite things in life is the heavenly sound of my children’s laughter.

They call it "Trampoline-Ball"? I guess...I'm not sure exactly what it is, or how safe it is, but it sure is fun for them and it brings a smile to my face.  Certainly another of my favorite things!

Wednesday, August 15, 2012

Never Shaken

Truly my soul finds rest in God; 

my salvation comes from him. 

Truly he is my rock and my salvation; 
he is my fortress, I will never be shaken. 

Psalm 62: 1-2 

After feeling sorry for myself this morning, I began searching for Bible verses that spoke to me about how God is in control of all things and how I must rest in Him. I read at least a couple dozen inspirational verses, but a short phrase kept coming back, sticking to my brain and pulling my eyes to it-“I will never be shaken.” (Psalm 62:2b also found in Psalm 16:8)

“I will never be shaken.” The power of that statement made me tremble. In some versions, like the Amplified Bible, it reads something like, “I shall not be moved,” which is just as equally loud, mortifying and sobering as the NIV version. I just can’t get over how that statement makes me feel.

In a day like today, when life seems blah and feelings of inadequacy, frustration and even fear threaten to overcome me, reading the fierce and defiant words of King David, shouting to the world that The Most High and Almighty God is his Rock, his Salvation, his Fortress and for that he will never be moved or shaken make my heart skip a beat. More overwhelmingly yet, to realize that King David’s words can and should become my very own, completely baffle me.

“How in the world am I to adopt Psalm 62’s words as my own?” I wondered. I began to question myself. Being a person who lives in a constant state of fluctuation between worry and fear, only slightly sprinkled with small doses of peace; how am I ever going to pronounce that “I will never be shaken” with conviction? Needless to say, I was feeling terribly convicted.

I scrolled upwards again, to be able to read the eclectic collection of Bible verses that I compiled earlier and my eyes stopped on the first verses of Psalm 62 again. I also went to Psalm 16: 8 looking for some spark that may light my path to understanding how to undertake such daunting task…and I saw it. My soul will only find rest and peace in the Lord once I allow Him to be my Rock. That’s how I will never be shaken nor moved. If I stand on Him, who is The Rock, my ground will never shift, shake or move; hence I will be unmovable too. He is the One who is never shaken nor moved. Therefore, I need to stand on Him to be like Him. And the only way to do so is by never taking my eyes off of Him. It is, indeed, all about Him! My job in all these is to die to myself and my sorry/spiritually unhealthy habits, be obedient and do what He says.

“I keep my eyes always on the Lord. With him at my right hand, I will not be shaken.” Psalm 16: 8 

There is no other way. I need to be intentional about it. I need to remember to always keep my eyes on Him for if not I sink! I need to pray to for the empowerment of the Holy Spirit in order to be reminded day in and day out that my eyes must be turned upon Jesus or else I get lost in the maze/mess that is my life without Him.

I pray that, with the help of my Holy Guide, The Spirit of Truth, I will be able to catch myself climbing down from the Rock of my salvation and looking away from Him, so I can redirect my sight and climb back upon my Solid Rock, because it is only with Him at my right hand, that I will never be shaken.

On Christ, the solid Rock, I stand;
All other ground is sinking sand, 
All other ground is sinking sand.

Tuesday, August 14, 2012

The Things I Forgot...

And my God will meet all your needs according to the riches of his glory in Christ Jesus. Philippians 4: 19 

Lately, my routine has been a bit altered. Rather than jumping out of bed early in the morning and rushing around the house in a frantic effort to accomplish as much as possible in a day that always seems to slip away; now I am forced to begin my days at a much slower pace. Since my surgery, I’ve been waking up later than usual and by the time I get “going” with my “activities” the morning is almost over.

The first week after my surgery, my dear husband was home taking care of our sons and of everything, really, while I just enjoyed freedom to do as I pleased (mostly spend time at my computer with my feet up). Yesterday was the first day he went back to work and I found myself alone in the house with my boys. I have to say the night before I was dreading morning. I was very nervous thinking that I would not be able to do what I had to do by myself. “My sons are so clueless. They won’t be able to help me!” was my recurrent thought. “We’re not going to survive!” “What if something happens? I can’t drive!” “How are we going to make it?” Today, I feel ashamed.

I allowed my soul to become anxious and distraught. I let my heart wander away from faith. I took my eyes off of Christ. I forgot the formula to peace:

Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. Philippians 4: 6 

I forgot to pray. As I contemplated my days without my husband home to take care of things I fretted instead of consulting with my Lord. I didn’t ask Him, the sustainer and strength of my life, to guide me and make His presence known in me as I walk on the scary waters of getting back on my feet again.

I forgot to be thankful. My mind wandered to the myriad of things I am not able to do and I forgot to thank God for all the things I AM able to do. I concentrated on the “unfortunate event” of my husband having to return to work rather than appreciating the very rare fact that he was able to be home for a whole week! (let alone thanking God for the fact that he has a job to go back to!)

I forgot to breathe in the peace of His provision. I forgot that He is the God who can do the impossible. I forgot to present my requests. I forgot to trust Him.

As the day progressed, I moved around the house slowly and relied on my 10-year old son to do some laundry, water plants and lift heavy things for me. My 6-year old read a couple of stories on his own, got his own snacks while lovingly reminding me throughout the day, “Mama, remember what the doctor said, you can’t lift heavy things and can’t bend on your belly.” All these sprinkled with some TV watching, naps, and gentle hugs from my sweet boys.

At the end of the day I looked back and saw that it wasn’t as perfect as the days when Daddy was here taking care of things. We stayed in our PJs all day and ate bacon, tomatoes and cupcakes for lunch. But the Lord did provide everything we needed, including an extra portion of patience for me, and we survived. 

I’m sure the boys are glad Daddy is back, though; perhaps now they can have a decent meal for dinner. : )

Linking with Time-Warp WifeTeaching what is GoodLessons from IvyOn Your Heart TuesdaysHaven of Rest

Monday, August 13, 2012

An Attitude of Gratitude

“Serve one another humbly in love.” 
Galatians 5:13b 

After a whole week at home taking care of our sons, me and the insurmountable details of housekeeping, my husband had to go back to work today. He toiled really hard every day last week and served his family well, humbly and in love. I, on the other hand, was not always as appreciative and easy going as I should’ve been. In my self-centeredness, I sat in my comfy chair and let the days go by without fully expressing my great appreciation.

It is never too late, however, to take the necessary steps to say thank you. So here it is, thank you, Dan! I really appreciate all you did this past week. And as we approach our wedding anniversary, I want to say thank you for these past 18 years of marriage too! Thank you for all of it! Thank you for the ups and downs. Thank you for the abundance of laughter. Thank you for the wiped away tears. Thank you for your support and cheer. Thank you for the lessons learned. Thank you for always standing on truth. Thank you for loving the Lord and for being the spiritual leader in our home. Now that I think about it, I can't list all the things I’m thankful for in this post. Perhaps, I should instead resolve to live every day from now on intentionally keeping an overall attitude of gratitude that spills all around me, pouring down into the vessels of those who walk alongside me on the path of life.

We are commanded to maintain this attitude of gratitude first and foremost to the Lord our God. We are to…

“Give thanks to the Lord, for he is good; his love endures forever.” 1 Chronicles 16:34

Therefore, “I will praise the name of God with a song, and will magnify Him with thanksgiving ...” Psalm 69:30.

Likewise this attitude of humble gratitude toward our Great God needs to be extended, like His grace, unto those He places on our road. Our spouses, whom we tend to take for granted more often than we should; crave honest words of appreciation. So do our children, friends and family in general. For me, however, it is very easy to forget to say thank you to those who walk with me every day. Here’s where living intentionally comes into place. Rather than letting the days just simply slip by doing what we always do, going to bed to wake up and do it all over again the next day; perhaps we need to wake up to a new thought. Perhaps we need to wake up to a new attitude. A new attitude that begins with humbly accepting that God, in His infinite provision and mercy, gives us exactly what we need and for that we must be thankful. Even if what we need might not be exactly what we want.

I didn’t want to be in a situation of restricted activity that causes me to depend on those around me; but this is probably what I needed at this moment in order for me to humble myself and realize the great works of those who love me. Only by pausing long enough I am able to see what my husband does for me, not just now that I am limited in my activities, but every day. Therefore, I thank the Lord for him; and I thank God because, even in my less than ideal condition, He opens my eyes so I can see, and He changes my attitude and teaches me to be grateful.

... saying: “ We give You thanks, O Lord God Almighty, The One who is and who was and who is to come, Because You have taken Your great power and reigned ... Rev 11:17.

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Friday, August 10, 2012

Where Sunflowers Grow

For since the creation of the world God's invisible qualities--his eternal power and divine nature--have been clearly seen, being understood from what has been made, so that men are without excuse. 
 Romans 1: 20

The other day my husband had to go to our Public Library to return some books and I asked him to please take some pictures of the sunflowers growing in the small garden outside the Library.  My sons and I had seen them growing all summer as we visited weekly for the reading program, so I knew by now the flowers must be in bloom.

I LOVE sunflowers.  Growing up in Panama, my only experience with sunflowers was through movies, TV and magazines.  I remember always admiring them and wondering if they were really that big, that bright and that cheerful in real life.  So through the years I've called this blessed land my home, I have been most grateful to live in a place where sunflowers grow.

There is something magical about them; perhaps something resembling a time long gone by.  The sheer size of its leaves and bloom are nothing less than spectacular.  I cannot help but to feel small standing in front of one of those giant stalks.  It is almost as if I'm transported to a time before history began.  By the same token, however, the bright colors and sun-like face make the mighty plant the most cheerful of sights.  Since I can't bring myself out there to see them in person, I figured that immortalizing them into an electronic image would suffice.  So today I am gratefully admiring such a gift from our Maker which certainly makes me smile.

...what is mankind that you are mindful of them,
human beings that you care for them? Psalm 8: 4

He actually captured a bee in mid flight toward the Sunflower!

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Thursday, August 9, 2012

How About Some of "Grandma's Potato Salad"?

My 10-year-old son, Grant, is a very picky eater. I’m not sure if “picky” is the right word. Fastidious has a better ring, perhaps? The thing is that he particularly doesn’t like anything I make (well, I’m exaggerating here a bit since he does like the occasional baked goods I make, of course). But seriously, I can offer that child two versions of the same dish, one made by me and the other one made by someone else, and without hesitation, and without tasting either of them first, he’ll choose the one made by someone else.

He is my son, c’mon?! He is supposed to like his mama’s cooking, isn’t he? I guess he never got that memo…at any rate, I’ve been known to trick him every once in a while. I am not proud of it, but desperation has driven me to tell him things like, “here’s Grandma’s potato salad and baked beans,” when in reality they’re not. I am very ashamed of it and I have resolved not to resort to such tactics ever again. And who knew? The Lord has arranged it so that my current situation would actually help me in accomplishing this goal.

As I am currently recovering from surgery and pretty much incapacitated from physical activities, the Lord is using this condition to send me on a path of wonderful discoveries. The last few days I have discovered the blessing of family and church friends. In my hour of need, our relatives and church family have thrown themselves at the opportunity to lend us a hand, mainly by showering us with delightful gifts of food. Every day we have been tasting something new made by loving hands who are up to the challenge of serving those in need, - namely, my poor husband who otherwise would be responsible for cooking for us for the days to come.

We have been getting phone calls, e-mails and knocks on the door announcing the delivery of a wonderful variety of delectable treats and meals. Dinner last night resembled the spread at an all-you-can-eat buffet line. Needless to say my two sons, my husband and I were praising God for the hands that prepared and delivered such bountiful provision; but the most excited member of my family was…yes…you guessed it, my son Grant. He stared wide-eyed at the counter packed full of the most diverse display of dishes. The best part, he didn’t even have to wonder. He knew I had not made any of them.

Being the choosy eater that he is, armed with plate and serving spoon in hand, Grant carefully surveyed the field before making any rash decisions. As he admired the spread, I presented the feast with proper introductions in order to help him make informed choices. “Hey Grant, look at Mrs. June’s wonderful cheesy potatoes!” “Here’s some more of Judy’s chicken. It’s very yummy!” “Oh, and look at Angela’s incredible spinach dish!” “Here’s some of Aunt Laura’s carrots. Sorry, her cookies are all gone.” “How about some of Grandma’s potato salad?”

Grant was in food heaven, and so was I. It was a peaceful dinner seasoned with gratitude and the comfort of loving friends and relatives who showed their care and concern for my family by spending their precious time making us a meal. We enjoyed seconds of everything with plentiful deserts, but the best part, I didn’t have to trick my boy even once : )

Again, and again, I praise God for my relatives and church family. They sure have showed us how to “bear each other’s burdens” and how to be our “brother’s keeper.” (In addition to inadvertently helping me not to have to trick my son anymore…or at least not for a while : )

May the Lord bless them all as He promised,

“Give, and it will be given to you. Good measure, pressed down, shaken together, running over, will be put into your lap. For with the measure you use it will be measured back to you.” Luke 6: 38

Have you felt the love of God poured out to you by the actions of those around you lately?

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Wednesday, August 8, 2012

His Unfailing Love

As the day draws to a close in the midst of a thunderstorm, my heart tunes into the unfailing love of our Great God.  My heart is filled with gratitude for the wonderful provision the Lord has given to me and my family during this time in which we are facing one of life’s famous detours.  The favor of His Mighty Hand has been great and my soul wants to sing.  My soul and my heart want to sing praises to the God of infinite grace and unfailing love as Moses and the Israelites did in Exodus, chapter 15, verse 13

In your unfailing love you will lead
the people you have redeemed.
In your strength you will guide them
to your holy dwelling. Exodus 15: 13 (NIV)

That is who we are today.  We, as the spiritual heirs of the chosen people of God, are the “redeemed” whom The Most High loves unconditionally.  And as He loves us as His adopted children, he guides us to where He dwells in all His glory.  What a marvelous image.   And it is a personal story too, for just as He loves all He loves you and me individually. 

He’s always known us, you and me as He tells us,

Before I formed you in the womb I knew you,
before you were born I set you apart;
Jeremiah 1:5 (NIV)

He is more than our Father, He is our Creator,

For you created my inmost being;
you knit me together in my mother’s womb.
I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made; Psalm 139: 13-14 (NIV)

What a wonderful reminder for the weary soul.  What miraculous hope for those who feel at the end of their rope.  What a glimmer of hope for those who feel alone.  Regardless of all our faults, His love never ends and never fails…

For he chose us in him before the creation of the world to be holy and blameless in his sight. In love. Ephesians 1: 4 (NIV)

Let’s take courage in his love and rejoice in His salvation.  May your face shine in me, your servant even as I drag through the dark valley, for it is You who hold my hand and lead me to the safety of your dwelling, to the safety of your arms.

Linking with Walk with Him Wednesdays

Refrigerator Conundrums

Train a child in the way he should go, and when he is old he will not turn from it. Proverbs 22: 6 

Due to a recent surgery, I have found myself very limited in my activities. In other words, I am helpless and dependent on others to do pretty much everything for me and I can’t do anything for anybody else around here. That is totally contrary to what my life has always been so far. Therefore, I am convinced that the Lord sent this situation unto me to teach me several things. I feel like He has tailored a workshop that I can attend from the comfort of my favorite chair and in my pajamas. This workshop is a daily process of discovery and He involves everyone and everything around me to teach me.

Today’s lesson has to do with my two young sons,-as it often does.

I am a teacher by profession, so of course I love to tell people what to do… er… I mean, I love to teach valuable lessons to those around me : ) I am discovering, however, that when it comes to teaching my two sons how to be independent and do things for themselves, I am not doing an A+ job.

I am discovering that after telling my boys about the Lord, one of my most important roles as a Mother is to tell them and “allow” them to do things for themselves so they grow up to be productive men, able to carry on their God-ordained roles, rather than becoming burdens to those they encounter along their path.

“Mama, can I have some juice?” My six-year old Dylan asked me. From my seat upstairs I yelled, “go get one from the fridge.” My “recovery station” at our house has a vantage point that allows me to see what’s going on in the kitchen. So I saw Dylan standing helplessly in front of the wide open fridge not even attempting to look for the juice pouches gathered on the bottom shelf of the door. Next thing I hear is, “I can’t find the juice.” What followed was such a ridiculous exchange between my younger son and I that I can’t even begin to reproduce it here because it would take too long and I’m already losing track of my point. May it suffice for me to say that I actually had to ask Dylan if he knew what the refrigerator door was…sigh…

The day continued most in the same way, for later, I had to ask my 10 year old if he knew the difference between a shelf and a drawer as he attempted to find cheese in the fridge.

Reflecting on the events of the day, I felt defeated and frustrated, but also hopeful. Obviously, my husband and I have to do a better job teaching our sons about the intricacies of the refrigerator, the complexities of color matching, the marvels of cleaning after themselves and other perplexing and mind boggling activities, but the Lord is giving us an opportunity to re-evaluate our parenting style, and that is a cause for rejoicing. He is teaching me, in particular, not to be such a hovering mother and to allow my boys to learn how to fend for themselves. By doing so, they will in turn learn the satisfaction of a job well done. On the contrary, the repercussions of not doing so could be catastrophic.

It is so true that the Lord uses all things for the good of those who love Him and put their trust in Him (Romans 8: 28), for He is certainly using my current condition to teach me valuable lessons which I might have not learned so quickly otherwise.

May the Holy Spirit grant me/us the awareness to capture such lessons and apply them to my/our lives starting today!

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Tuesday, August 7, 2012

He Knows Our Name

“Mama, Mama, I’m Peter Parker!” My little boy said to me as he “flew” downstairs wearing his favorite super hero costume under a long-sleeve shirt.   I watched him from my desk as he opened up his shirt to let Spidy’s logo show.  Then, he climbed on the couch and attempted to walk on the wall.  I saw him try a few times before he quit and dragged himself back upstairs looking somber.  “I am not Peter Parker…I’m just Dylan…” He said with the saddest look I’ve ever seen on his little face. 

I hugged him tightly and whispered in his ear:  “Yes, you are Dylan.  You are my Dylan, and I praise God for that.”

He let go of me and went to his bedroom.  A few minutes later, he walked out wearing shorts and a T-shirt.  He went downstairs again and began to play with his toys as I watched him from my desk with a smile in my soul and a tickle in my heart.  

 Because he hath set his love upon me, therefore will I deliver him: I will set him on high, because he hath known my name. Psalm 91: 14

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Are You Willing to Wait Upon The Lord?

I had, what some would consider, major surgery very recently; therefore the limitations on what I can and cannot do are pretty tight.  For a control…hmm, how can I put it politely? I don’t know…maybe I can just define my condition as found in the online dictionary.  I am “one who has an obsessive need to exert control over people and situations.”  Yep, that’s me, alright!  Needless to say, being restricted on what I can do is very frustrating to someone like me because it reduces my ability to control things/people.

I depend on my husband and two young sons for pretty much anything and I’m not liking it much.  I am used to doing things myself and in the rare instance that I ask any of the other inhabitants of this house to do something for me, if they don’t do it right away, I do it myself.  “I was going to do that!” Is my husband’s recurrent statement as he helplessly watches me doing what I asked him to do a minute ago.  “I just needed to finish this thing…” He would try to explain only to hear me say,  “It’s OK.  I was here, no problem,” as my rather curt response. 

Right now, however, I can’t just do it myself.  I have to actually wait for them to do what I require in their own timing and that is driving me crazy.

I like my own timing.  What’s wrong with it, I wonder? I see a need.  Something has to be done right away, why not just do it then?  That way we can just forget about it, not have it hanging over our heads and move on!  The garbage needs taken out, well, take it out now!  Toys need picked up, well, pick them up now!  The sink is full of dirty dishes, let’s not wait until we have no clean glasses and wash them now!  I can go on and on and on, but what’s the point?

The point is that my impatience and relentless need for control get in the way of me allowing the Holy Spirit to grow His fruits in me.  The point is that perhaps, my current situation is a God-sent so I can begin to learn to sit back, relax and wait upon the Lord and let Him be God in me.  The point is that this is the time the Lord has given me to not only receive His grace but to extend it to those around me in the same abundant manner He extends it to me. 

It is time for me to “Be still before the Lord and wait patiently for him,” as He reminds us in Psalm 37: 7a.  There is, indeed “a time for everything, and a season for every activity under the heavens.” (Ecclesiastes 3: 1)  Right now it is the time for me to wait for God and others to do what they are supposed to do without me pushing them or driving them crazy!  It is the time for me to heal and to grow.  It is the time for me to let others wait on me and exercise their own call to servant hood in me.  It is the time for me to be still and see how “He has made everything beautiful in its time. He has also set eternity in the human heart.” (Ecclesiastes 3: 11)

I will eventually recover my strength and will be able to reassume my normal activities.  I do pray, however, that the “normal” is a new one.  I pray that in this “new normal” I meet my beloved at a point of grace where we can wait for God’s revelation together.
In the meantime, I am going to enjoy this time as much as I can.  This is the time that He has appointed for me to marvel at His glorious favor and bask in His inexhaustible grace.

“For the revelation awaits an appointed time;
    it speaks of the end
    and will not prove false.
Though it linger, wait for it;
    it will certainly come
    and will not delay.” Habakkuk 2: 3

How about you?

Are you a person who needs to be in control of situations?

Has the Lord put you in a situation that you can’t control?

How did you deal with that?

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Thursday, August 2, 2012

Our Perfect GPS

It was dark and very late.  Rain was threatening.  We had 4 very tired children in the back of the car.  We were stopped in a painfully slow-moving line of traffic after circling around the confusing streets of the outskirts of Pittsburgh.  “I’m such a doubter!” My sister in law repeated several times as she rested her hands on the wheel.  I listened not knowing what to say, much less what to do.  Since my sense of direction functions only at a very, how shall I say it? “Primitive” level, I am the worst person to be stuck with when lost in a strange city.

“If I’d just trusted the GPS we could’ve been home a long time ago,” was her anguished realization once we finally found the correct highway after making several turns that were not indicated by the GPS. 

Personally, I don’t have a GPS of any kind.  I survive on directions scribbled on scrap paper and on my husband’s keen sense of location.  But I’ve heard GPS tales from both sides.  I’ve heard them from those who live by it and would not go anywhere without their trusted gadget, as well as from those who intensely dislike it or don’t even know what it is, let alone possess one. 

Even though I don’t own one, I believe it is a useful device, which someday I might actually purchase,-particularly after our ordeal trying to navigate the highly un-maneuverable streets of Pittsburgh by disobeying the recommendations that the computerized voice of the GPS gently but firmly insisted upon-. 

“I think our GPS fiasco is the perfect story for a sermon,” my sister in law said to me the next time I saw her.  “It’s like when we just decide we know better than God and chose to go our own way, get lost, delayed and run around in circles until we decide to tune in back again and finally find our way,” she concluded.  “Amen!” I thought to myself. 

I think she is completely right.  The only difference is that God never fails.  For those who don’t trust the GPS I can tell you God is infinitively better!  There is no comparison, really.  There is no one so lost that Our Lord can not find, “recalculate” and put back on their way.  The problem is, however, that not unlike our little adventure that night trying to get out of Pittsburgh; more often than not we don’t trust our perfect, built-in GPS.  We think we know better.  We take one look at the roads that the Lord lays out for us to follow, we find them too difficult, too scary or too challenging, and we decide we can find our way around them by following other roads that look simpler and nicer. 

Sometimes the roads that He indicates for us are too lonely and we don’t want to walk alone, so we detour to the one “most travelled” because company makes us feel safer.  Some other times the road is just too steep so we take the one that looks leveled because it seems easier.  Yet, other times we take a different road than the one clearly set by our Lord just because we listened to the person next to us in our quest for a quick answer.  All of the time, however, we discover that each an every instance we discard the triptik laid out by our Maker, we end up lost, delayed, frustrated and exhausted.

Lack of trust can really take us through some serious detours in life, we all know that.  The important thing to remember is, however, that regardless of the many times we disregard our Lord’s directives, He is a Faithful Guide and unlike the automated GPS in our cars or phones, He loves us!  His love is real and by His love He drives us back to Him.  Even if sometimes we don’t even know enough to see His way; He sees us as we struggle to find our way in our life’s maze.  He grabs hold of us and He puts us back on track if we recognize that He is, indeed Lord and Controller of our destiny.

We made it home safely that night. My two exhausted sons went straight to bed, for which I praised the Lord!  I also praised God for my sister in law’s caring attitude for our well-being and her perseverance to find the right way in the midst of confusion.  Above all, I praised God for who He is in our lives, the Leading Hand that always brings us back home unharmed,-our Perfect GPS!

Wednesday, August 1, 2012

Remember to Always Rejoice!

Yesterday was a tough day for me.  As I dealt with difficult circumstances revolving around health issues (the toughest issues to deal with, if you ask me!) I felt inadvertently sinking into the quick sand of worry.  I have always struggled with worry.  People who know me well say that they don’t worry because they know I’ll do it for them.  I’m not proud of it, but that’s what I do…I worry. 

The flip side of my “condition” is that I have seen and experienced first hand the Holy Spirit working in me through the years in amazing ways.  He has walked with me through many fires and showed me that as long as I stick by Him, He will rescue me and deliver me unharmed.  The Lord in His majesty has been patiently teaching me that worry is just a sovereign waste of time and energy which could be otherwise employed in a more efficient manner (let alone a huge sign of my lack of faith!). 

Through several trials that range from infertility and family disunity to chronic illness of loved ones, Our Heavenly Healer and Redeemer has carried me to the other side of anguish to the calm shore of peace, time after time.  With love, He constantly reminds me that He is in control and that no matter what; He will take care of me and my beloved today as He has done in the past and will do in the future.

Though I have never heard the audible voice of God, He speaks to me in His Word.  Just like yesterday and again today, He directs me to passages that contain exactly what I need to hear.  That’s how I landed on Philippians 4: 4 where Paul commands us to rejoice always, not just sometimes or when things are going well and we feel happy.  He says, under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit to “Rejoice in the Lord always.”  And in case we missed it or didn’t understand it, he repeats it again in the same verse:  “I will say it again, Rejoice!” 

In days like these, when things don’t seem to go my way, I go back to this verse and let the energy of the Holy Spirit inject me with His sustaining breath of life and remind me that, "Though the fig tree does not bud and there are no grapes on the vines, though the olive crop fails and the fields produce no food, though there are no sheep in the pen and no cattle in the stalls, yet I will rejoice in the LORD, I will be joyful in God my Savior." (Habakkuk 3: 17-18) For He is Faithful and I know that He is who He says He is and that He will do all He promised and that I am His child and He loves me, therefore He will not forsake me. He is my Redeemer and He lives! He is the same today as He was yesterday and He will be tomorrow.

I will not let my circumstances cast a dark shadow over me. I will call on the power of He who lives in me to chase the darkness away and wipe the tears off my face. It is a difficult thing to do, particularly when immersed in the depths of a drowning sea of problems, worries, difficulties, negativity, despair, and fear; but it is not impossible if I relay on the Lord. If I depend on my own strength, yes, I am done, but I do not! I rest on the strength of He whose power is made perfect in my weakness. He grace IS, indeed sufficient for me. (2 Corinthians 12: 9)

I will have other days when I see the gathering of the dark clouds in the horizon heading toward me. It is inevitable. I will probably feel the sting of worry pock me like a needle, but I will not allow it to make me turn my face away from my Lord! Empowered by the Holy Spirit, I will let His loving hand guide me to a place of rest and quiet. He will take me to a place where I can pause and tune in to His Word and pray for a keen awareness of His presence. His presence will then carry me through all my trials and fires to the other side where Mercy waits for me with open arms.