Monday, October 31, 2011

The Lord At Work In London

It’s 11:00 pm London time. I’ve lost track of what day it is and how any days we’ve been here. It was another packed day, I’m exhausted and I’m still trying to process the events of the day, so, really, there’s no telling what you’re going to get with this summary.

We started the morning with a leisurely breakfast and delightful fellowship and eventually made our way to Asha (which means “hope”, but don’t ask me in what language), a thrift store in the South Hall section of London. Asha is run by World Harvest Mission and they use it as an opportunity to witness to the Muslims, Hindus, and Sikhs. After being treated to samosas (a yummy Indian food) and tea, we met up with some missionaries from World Harvest to help them with a book table they sat up on a street near a bus stop. They give away free books, tracks and DVDs in seven different languages. Not my strong suit, to be sure, but I was happy to help and I learned a lot, especially from Marcus, one of World Harvest’s missionaries. This is his passion and it shows. Seeing him “in action” was an encouragement to me and gave me an example to grow and learn from.

Some people wanted nothing to do with the literature I offered. One young woman asked me what it was about and when I told her Jesus, she looked at me like I was loony, snarled her lip and said, “I’m Muslim.” Others, however, were very receptive, curious, and even grateful.

After the book table, we visited several gurdwaras (Sikh temples) and Hindu temples. I was expecting to go in and sense an oppressive spiritual battle, but that was not at all my experience in any of the sites we visited. I felt nothing. At first I thought I was just tired and winding down, and perhaps detached from the experience for some reason. But a bit into it two words came to mind…dead and futile. It was all a disconnect for me. Whether it was the Hindu temple with the brightly dressed gods surrounded by flashing green neon bubble lights, or the more subdued gurdwara with the attendant constantly dusting their holy book, I saw nothing that offered hope.

Someone commented that it was all human effort…offering fruit and milk to the Hindu gods, touching or kissing the railings or floor to receive power. I’m not sure why they do it...perhaps to appease the gods or coerce them, or perhaps tradition or obligation. It did make me think about Christians too and how sometimes we do the same thing with our faith…we have “devotions” so we can check off the Christian box for the day and go about our business, play “Let’s Make a Deal” with the Lord, or go through the motions because that’s how mom and dad did it. Without a personal relationship with our Savior and Lord, all of our doing is meaningless as well.

As we were winding down our visit to the last site I was struck with what I didn’t see: joy and life. Perhaps that is cultural, I don’t know. As I said, I’m still trying to take it all in and process it. There is no life in deadness, but the Lord can redeem that and I pray I can be a part of that in some way…not only for unbelieving people in faraway lands, but also for people who are believers, but not living as though they have hope in a real and personal, and very much alive Redeemer. I wonder, if we were all to ask the Lord to open our eyes to the pain, suffering, hurt, and hopeless around us…wherever we may be…and to give us His heart of love and compassion, what a difference His Church could make. How many lives would be changed and how many more would be fully alive… including our own?

Proverbs 3:5-6 Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding. In all your ways acknowledge Him and He shall direct your path.

Written by Susan Ellis

Thursday, October 27, 2011

Finding My Voice

As a young woman, I enjoyed a certain level of acclaim for my musical gift. I had numerous opportunities to sing before very large groups of people in various settings. I won talent awards and received scholarships aimed at developing my ability. Music was, and still is, the deepest expression of my heart and my faith.
It seemed that the dream of recording my songs was going to be realized when the church I attended at the time approached me and the group I sang with about producing a music project, which was to include a couple of my originals. I was ecstatic, but the thrill was short-lived. Almost overnight, due to circumstances beyond our control, the project was cancelled and our dream was shattered. The resulting disappointment left me virtually unable to sing. Every time I tried, I would just weep.
For nearly the next ten years, I found it very difficult to sing. It was as if I had lost my voice; and yet, the music within me refused to be silenced. There eventually came a time when I was able to sing to the Lord again, but only in private. I nurtured no thought of ever singing before people again. The very idea made me tremble with indescribable fear! Besides, singing privately felt very safe...
Then, I received an invitation to sing in a church service. I'm not exactly sure why, but I accepted. I spent a great deal of time preparing to sing, and on that morning when I arrived at the church, my stomach was in knots and I felt as if my legs would not support me if I tried to stand. I requested a stool that I could perch on, and determined that I would sing the song I had prepared as a prayer to the Lord. When it came time in the service for my song, I walked to the stool, perched on it for support, used both hands to steady the microphone, closed my eyes and sang to the One and Only Who is worthy of my heart-songs. I was both humbled and awed that He gave me the strength and the voice to do it.
Some years have passed since that time. Even now, when I get up to sing in front of others, I still face fear. I no longer expect the feeling of fear to be removed from me; I just pray that the butterflies will fly in formation and determine that I will sing to the Lord in spite of my fears. Almost without exception, once I begin to sing I experience His peace. I am constantly reminded that His strength is made perfect in my weakness and His grace is sufficient for me, so I offer up a sacrifice of praise and ask Him to use it for His glory. He is the reason I sing!
I am still finding my voice and I experience great joy in helping others find their voices, as well. I have been privileged to do so in ministry among women and with church music for the past several years. It is my prayer that my story will inspire you to face your fear and to find your voice, no matter what form that might take. I have come to realize that the enemy of my soul wants me to keep quiet; I have also come to realize that God can take whatever I offer up and powerfully use it to the praise of His glory. He persistently and gently urges me to lift up my voice; I cannot stay silent!
Maybe you hear Him tenderly calling to you, urging you forward into something that makes you tremble. Just last night He reminded me of the words of Isaiah 12:2 -6, "Surely God is my salvation; I will trust and not be afraid. The Lord, the Lord, is my strength and my song; he has become my salvation. With joy you will draw water from the wells of salvation. In that day you will say: Give thanks to the Lord, call on his name; make known among the nations what he has done, and proclaim that his name is exalted. Sing to the Lord, for he has done glorious things; let this be known to all the world. Shout aloud and sing for joy, people of Zion, for great is the Holy One of Israel among you."
In unparalleled grace the everlasting God, our Father, has lavished His amazing love on us and uniquely gifted each of His children to make His name famous. There is no greater or sweeter name than that of our Lord Jesus. So, my lovely, gifted, and courageous sisters in Christ, let's find our voices and shine for Him!

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Hope Amid the Rubble

Yesterday I wrote of hope and today I saw a story that has given the people of Turkey much hope. After the massive earthquake of this past weekend, searchers had been digging frantically for survivors. Then they heard the cries of a child... a two week old baby girl. For two days, this child had been held in the arms of her mother, buried under their collapsed apartment building.

Wonder what the mother thought about? Wonder if she cried and called out in terror? I'm sure she did, but she never let go of the baby...not for two whole days while she was pinned down. Baby Azra was held close and protected as much as possible and when rescue workers finally heard the cries, they were able to break a small hole through the debris and the baby was offered up and lifted out into the waiting arms of medical people. She is alive now and her mother was rescued a bit after.

Azra...that's the baby's name and that name in Hebrew means "help". I don't know the faith of this young mother...I can guess....but I don't know. I DO know what God promises us in His word. He promises to be our help.

Psalm 30:2
LORD my God, I called to you for help, and you healed me.
Psalm 33:20
We wait in hope for the LORD; he is our help and our shield.
Psalm 54:4
Surely God is my help; the Lord is the one who sustains me.
Psalm 63:7
Because you are my help, I sing in the shadow of your wings.
Psalm 124:8
Our help is in the name of the LORD, the Maker of heaven and earth.
John 14:16
And I will ask the Father, and he will give you another advocate to help you and be with you forever—

Azra's life has been spared and she lives as a symbol of hope for the people of Turkey. Her rescue from the ruin can be a symbol for us, too, as we look to the Lord for help and for rescue. He promises that He will be there to lift us up and to set our feet on solid ground.

Have you been feeling buried under your circumstances? Have you been feeling hopeless and that God has forgotten you? Don't give up! Help is only a cry away.

Monday, October 24, 2011

Planting Bulbs...Planting Hope

My mother had a green thumb but it has skipped a generation and I have no ability to keep green things alive. I keep trying. I had pretty much decided not to plant any bulbs this fall, but I'm going to give it one more try and see what happens in the spring. The squirrels will do their level best to eat each and every one, but I'm still going to make the attempt. I hope that in the spring, when I've just about forgotten that I planted them, the bulbs will burst upward with color and vigor and surprise me with their loveliness!

Hope is a curious thing.
The dictionary describes it as expecting something with confidence or the search for a future good.

The Bible says Job placed his hope in the Lord, even if there was the chance he might be slain.(Job 13:15)

Charles Schultz once remarked, "A whole stack of memories never equal one little hope."

Mignon McGlaughlin said, "Hope is the feeling we have that the feeling we have is not permanent!"

One of the great pleasures of my life is that I get to talk to lots of women. I just love talking to women and the more I meet, the happier I am. We have a lot in common, these girls and I. There are some things in our lives that are big and scary and sometimes there doesn't seem to be a really good answer. Sometimes there seems to be a big brick wall that is keeping us from having what we hope for...a happy marriage, a healthy spouse or child, a better job, a restored relationship with a family member, a dream realized....the list goes on. Sometimes it seems that we're never going to see brighter days and we feel like giving up, throwing up our hands and calling it a day.

We must remember hope. Like those bulbs that are placed in the dark cold earth, hidden from the light and tucked away, we need time. The Lord is at work in our lives and in our hearts and will do His good work in His good time (Ecclesiastes 3:11). We might feel buried under layers of darkness, thinking nothing good will come from our situation, but just wait. The sun is going to shine again and when it does we're going to stretch up our arms to a loving God and be grateful for what He's done.

So, I'm going to plant my fall bulbs like I've done so many times and I'm going to wait. The squirrels will do their best, but spring is going to come and the flowers are going to bloom and I'm going to be glad I planted those little nuggets of hope.

Thursday, October 20, 2011

A Rather Blustery Night

This breezy day is reminding me of a funny little incident that happened when I was a girl. As many of you know, I grew up in an old house, beautifully restored now, but back in the day, it was not airtight and by no means warm when the cold winds blew. On these breezy days (and nights) the old windows would rattle in their frames and they could be heard all over the house. We were used to them. Our visitor one night was not.

A family member came to stay for a few days and was given the best room we had. It sat at the bottom of the attic stairs and had a big bay window that overlooked town. We settled our guest into her room and everyone had dinner and the evening advanced and it was time for bed. That's when the fun began.

The big old house was dark and everyone was asleep but one. That poor soul was up wandering around in her room, trying to figure out where the NOISE was coming from. The NOISE had woken her up and there was no way on this earth she was going back to sleep. She got back in bed for a bit, still listening, still frightened to death, and then she couldn't take it any longer. She, a grown woman, crossed the hall to my mother's room and woke her up and demanded she come back to her room. See...she thought there were spirits trying to communicate to her in that room under the attic stairs and she was mortally afraid.

I'm sure my mother rolled her eyes (too dark to see) but she politely went with our guest back to her room. Mom walked over to the window that HAD BEEN RATTLING IN THE BREEZE and laid her hand on it and the noise stopped! All that time of terror and tension due to a rattling windowpane. Back to bed my mother went...and we got to hear of the fun after the departure of the visitor.

I can laugh about this story and say how ridiculous, but I'm not really that different. Nighttime is hard for me. I wake up sometimes and a little thought comes into my head...just a little one and it rattles around and makes some noise and before long it becomes a NOISE THAT WILL NOT STOP. I become afraid and the worry starts and it grows and grows and keeps me from my rest and then I remember I can go to the Father. I don't have to cross the cold scary hall under the attic stairs...all I have to do is call out and He's there. He puts His hand of mercy on that NOISY thought and it stills and I can rest.

Having any nighttime noises that scare you? Do you do your best worrying and wandering while the rest of the house is asleep? Go to the Father of all comfort and He will give you rest.

Mark 4:39 (The Message)
Awake now, Jesus told the wind to pipe down and said to the sea, "Quiet! Settle down!" The wind ran out of breath; the sea became smooth as glass.

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Get Connected...

Have you been wanting to meet other ladies at GLCC but haven't quite figured out how? We're a big church, that is true, but it's not impossible to meet and make friends. Here are a couple of ways coming up soon.

The Family Festival takes place at GLCC on October 29th from 1-4pm. Our ladies will be hosting the concessions tent, serving hot dogs and baked goodies and it would be lots of fun to serve alongside other friendly faces. If you're available that day, stop by and we'll put you to work. Or, if you're shy and don't want to serve, you could always bake something and bring it in. Women carrying food become very popular right away!!

The second opportunity to join in is at our Walking With the Women of Grace Life the very next day on October 30. Pack a lunch, bring your comfy shoes and a camera, and meet us in the gym after the 2nd service. We're going to carpool to a picnic site and then hike a bit through the battlefield. Don't be's just us girls!

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

I Can Do Anything Good...Yeah, Yeah, Yeah!

Have you seen this video of the little girl looking at herself in the mirror and giving herself the pep talk to end all pep talks? I know this video was supposed to make me smile and it did, but it was a melancholy sort of smile. I'm happy for her and she's a sunny little girl, but I'm sad for us big girls. Where and when did we lose this confidence? When did we go from saying, "I can do anything good!" to "I can't do that....don't even ask me to try!" When we were small we might have started our day out thinking, "I love my everything!" but have progressed to, "My life stinks and nothing is going right for me."

My next question is this. How do we get it back? I think it begins with the truth. We MUST tell ourselves the truth of what God thinks of us.

Psalm 139:14 (New Living Translation) says Thank you for making ME so wonderfully complex! Your workmanship is well I know it!

Zephaniah 3:17 Says the Lord takes great delight in YOU....He rejoices over YOU with singing!

Jeremiah 31:3 declares the everlasting love of the Lord for YOU!

Philippians 2:13 speaks of God working in YOU for YOUR good purpose!

Let's talk truth here. We have good days and we have bad days...sometimes more bad than good. But truth is that God loves you....the little girl you used to be, full of hope and confidence....and He loves the big girl you've become. Next time you look in the mirror, remind yourself that the God of the UNIVERSE created you and loves you with an everlasting love. Do a little dance in your jammies and believe it because it's true!

Monday, October 17, 2011

Growing Pains

My younger son has been growing recently and at times will say his calves and ankles hurt. I asure him that it is only growing pains and will soon be over. Sure enough, at the end of 6 weeks he grew an inch!

At the time of the "growing," he thought the pain would never go away. A constant ache and reminder that he was being stretched. That is how I feel these days. Not growing physically, but spiritually and emotionally.

I revealed to God the desire of my heart, and am doing my best to follow His path. Along that path are trials that touch me emotionally first, then spiritually. Make no mistake, it hurts! My heart aches the most, followed by my mind. Trying to figure out how to handle different situations with people who are not like me "personally" at all. Sometimes I don't sleep for days. I pray constantly for myself, the other person, the situation, and ask God what He may be teaching me for the future.

Since my ministry training began in mid-September I have had "issues" with two different people. The leader warned me that the attacks will begin almost immediately because once you come out of the safe hole (like a rabbit) and proclaim the work of Christ, the target is set and secure. Even though I know this, it doesn't make it any easier. I can only sit and imagine the pain in Jesus' heart as He gave His life on the cross. When his side was pierced by the sword, the Bible tells us that His heart also contained water as if the pain in His heart was in so much agony that all it could do was surrended to God and cry.

There are days when I want to run away and hide to avoid those that are causing me pain, but running isn't the answer. Prayer, and lots of it, faithfullness and a committed heart is what I know I need. Growing is necessary to mature in my Christian faith and walk, and it hurts! But I know God has a plan and He will not give me more than I can handle: even though I am overwhelmed right now I am not walking this journey alone. The best part is that Jesus walked His own journey on Earth, and no matter what I struggle with He has already "been there and done that." He understands my growing pains, and in that I find a glimpse of hope and comfort to keep me on the path.

I wrote this new poem just now at the end of my story as my prayer to God and His answer to me. A reminder that He understands me, cares for me, and wants the very best for my life!

Lay Down Your Heart

The Lord God knows my struggles
He has felt them in the flesh.
He understands the heartache
He asks me to come and rest.

"Lay down the burderns of your heart,
Lay down your troubled mind,
Lay down the need to control,
The end result is mine.

Seek me when you rise,
Seek me in the day,
Seek me when you lay to bed,
And I will guide the way.

My burden is made easy,
My yoke is made light,
My hand is always with you,
To raise you to new heights.

The path may not be easy,
The journey filled with sorrow,
The hope for each new day,
Is that I will also be here for each tomorrow.

Lay down the burdens of your heart,
Lay down your troubled mind,
Lay down the need to control,
The end result is mine."

I hope you are blessed today as I have bared my soul because to help one another on life's journey is my ultimate goal. God is calling you to action and to get involved with life. He has promised to be with you along the way: to hold your hand, and give you a shoulder to cry on, and to lift you up as a light unto the world. Go humbly and bolding into each new day knowing the end result is His IF we lay down our hearts to Him. - Sharon

Thursday, October 13, 2011

I Want to Want to Be Like Jesus

Jesus replied: “‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’ This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’[b] 40 All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments.” Matthew 22:36-40

Many moons ago, shortly after I accepted Christ, I prayed day after day that the Lord would make me like Jesus. And yet it seemed that nothing ever changed. I was still impatient, angry, prideful, demanding, and arrogant. My language was far less than edifying. My holier-than-thou attitude resembled that of the Pharisees. Why, Lord? Why, when I beg you endlessly to change me, do you not do so?

Then, in the middle of one my rote, dull, senseless prayers, it hit me and it hit hard. I really didn’t want to be like Jesus. The truth of it washed over me like a downpour. Jesus was hated. His friends abandoned Him. He was unpopular. He sacrificed. He had no home to call His own. He was selfless. He loved the unlovable. He touched the untouchables. He forgave seventy times seven.

Why would the little girl whose father chose not to know her want to be abandoned? Why would the girl who wasn’t popular in school want to be unpopular and hated in the adult world? Why would the woman who was angry and harbored unforgiveness want to be forgiving? Why would the woman who felt she was unappreciated want to sacrifice? Why would I want to be homeless after working so hard to own a home? Why would I want to love the annoying, clueless, stupid people in my world?

It was a turning point. The realization of my condition flooded me with despair and repentance. I sat on my bed and sobbed. Oh, Lord. I don’t want to be like Jesus. You ask too much. But I do want to want to be like Jesus. It was probably my first honest, heartfelt prayer since coming to know the Lord. It was a prayer He was delighted to answer. Not that I’m always like Jesus…just ask my family…but most days I’d genuinely like to be more like Him.

Slowly, bit by bit, the Lord has chipped away at the years of wounds and sins and has revealed glimpses of the woman He intended me to be. Slowly I’ve come to realize that being like Jesus is about loving God and loving people (yes, I know that’s in the Bible; I don’t always catch on so quickly). And when I love God and others, I am changed from the inside out and my life is richer than I ever imagined possible. My conclusion to the matter? An honest prayer, no matter what it may be, is a powerful one, and pleasing to God.

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Deaf Pig Roast (DPR)

First of all, let me answer the question on your mind. No, the pig was not deaf! It was an event held in Williambsburg last weekend for the Deaf in our Virginia communities. Deaf families from all over come together with one common link: someone in their family is Deaf. This could be a mom, dad, son, daughter, sister, brother. It didn't matter. What mattered most was that everyone understood the challenges one faces being deaf or having a loved one who is deaf.

I have been married for almost 20 years now, and although my husband, Ken, is deaf he was mainstreamed in the public school. This being said, he never really considered himself Deaf. He does wear a hearing aid to help him catch some of what is going on around him, but without it he is completely deaf.

In the past year at GLCC the deaf ministry has opened up a new world to him; one that he was not seeking. He has since connected with old friends from his childhood; many of which were at the DPR. They are on Facebook chat and text regularly. Technology has opened up their world of communication. TV shows like "Switched at Birth" let hearing people understand the challenges of the Deaf better.

A poem was posted on FB recently that I would like to share. Perhaps you will gain a better understanding from Dianne Kinnee (Switras) the Deaf person's perspective...

What is it like to be deaf?

"What is it like to be deaf?"
People have asked me.
Deaf? Oh, do I explain that?
Simple: I can't hear.

No, is much more than that.
It is similar to a goldfish in a bowl,
Always observing things going on.
People talking at all times.
It is like a man on his own island
Among foreigners.

Isolation is no stranger to me.
Relatives say hi and bye
But I sit for 5 hours among them
Taking great pleasure at amusing babies
Or being amused by TV.
Reading books, resting, helping out with food.

Natural curiosity perks up
Upon seeing a great laughter, crying, anger.
Inquiring only to meet with a "never mind" or
"Oh, it's not important."
Getting a summarized statement
Of the whole day.

I'm supposed to smile to show my happiness.
Little do they know how truly miserable I am.
People are in control of language usage,
I am at loss and really uncomfortable!

Always feeling like an outsider
Among the hearing people,
Even though it was not their intention.

Always assuming that I am part of them
By my physical presence, not understanding
The importance of communication.

Facing the choice between Deaf Event weekend
or a family reunion.
Facing the choice between family commitment
And Deaf friends.
I must make the choices constantly,
Any wonder why I choose Deaf friends???

I get such great pleasure at the Deaf clubs,
Before I realize it, it is already 2:00 am,
Whereas I anxiously look at the clock
Every few minutes at the Family reunion.

With Deaf people, I feel so normal,
Our communication flows back and forth.
Catch up with little trivials, our daily life,
Our frustration in the bigger world,
Seeking the mutual understanding,
Contented smiles and laughter are musical.
So magical to me,
So attuned to each other's feelings.

True happiness is important.
I feel more at home with Deaf people.
Of various color, religion, short or tall
Than I do among my own hearing relatives.
And you wonder why?
Our language is common.
We understand each other.

Being at loss of control
Of the environment that is communication,
People panic and retreat to avoid
Deaf people like the plague.

But Deaf people are still human beings
With dreams, desires, the needs
To belong, just like everyone else.

I am encouraged by the ASL sign language classes being offerred at GLCC and those in the community for the children attending Coles Elementary School.

When you visit our home you will most likely see sign language. Our children are learning it and my husband is no longer ashamed to have to use it to communicate better. After all, communication is the key to any relationship. I am the "ears" for one who cannot hear. I have to remember that it is important to Ken that I relay as best as possible the things happening around him so that he doesn't feel left out.

We are planning to attend the DPR again next year. It was truly wonderful to be able to communicate with my Deaf friends and to be accepted in their "world."

Sunday, October 9, 2011

Boulders In Our Path

Several years ago, my dear husband suggested we climb Old Rag. I like the outdoors as much as the next person and I like a good hike, but I was intimidated at the thought of this particular hike. My teaching assistant, years before, had come back with a sprained ankle, scrapes all down her side, and an arm in a sling. But, like the good wife I try to be, I said sure let's go and so we went.

The initial part of the hike was fine, a steep little walk up a leafy hillside, making me wonder what all the fuss was about. I must be some kind of superwoman since this was a piece of cake! How silly of me and how premature the celebration. We soon came to the most challenging bits and I found myself many times wanting to stop, to go back the way we'd come, maybe even call in mountain rescue to airlift me down. For me, it was that bad.

Boulders were everywhere. I mean honking big old boulders that towered over everyone and everything, jumbled up on top of each other like building blocks. They were fun to go around and a little challenging to climb over the smaller ones, but soon we came to a mammoth mountain of several together and the trail went straight up between them. Adding to the challenge was the slippery sides made even more slippery by hundreds of wet sneakers traveling up and over.

I didn't want to do it. I couldn't do it. I wasn't strong enough and I wasn't limber enough and I was scared out of my mind. I stood in the snaky little line waiting for my turn to make the attempt, dreading the humiliation when all of the spectators realized the thing I already knew. I was a miserable failure and a total schlub at hiking with the big boys.

A handful of Boy Scouts went up in front of me and another handful were directly behind me. Even worse, I thought....humiliated in front of 10 year olds. I approached the ginormous rock and looked up at the impossible height and then I noticed something new. The scouts in front of me were on top and they and their leader were holding out their hands to me. I clasped the offered hands then realized that the ones behind me were shoving with all their might from the back and between all of the helpers and my own strength, I was up....up and over!!! I wasn't even embarrassed that little Boy Scout hands had been shoving the rump of a strange lady hiker! With their help, I had done it and it felt GOOD!

Sometimes we feel like our life is strewn with giant boulders and there is no way, absolutely no way we will EVER get over or around. We may have been standing at the base for a long time, despondent and discouraged, and utterly without hope. That boulder is not moving and we're stuck. The thing is, I didn't see help until I looked up. I looked up and saw the outstretched hand willing to help me in my climb and right then, it became possible.

Are you in front of a boulder? Have you just about given up hope? Have you looked up? Take the hand that Jesus offers and let Him help you move past it. I can promise will feel GOOD!

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

Finding the Positives in a Negative Situation

A few weeks ago, my mom came into my room and informed me of some issues that were going on with my family in Florida. After she left, I sat there and thought deeply about what was going on. I wondered to myself whether I should ask my family if they wanted me to go down there to be with them and help out or if I should just keep my distance unless one of them contacted me first. Well, sure enough, a few days later my mom told me my aunt had called and asked for us to go down and help out with things.

My cousin is a mother of 2 year old twins and was unable to pay for child care. Everyone else in the family down there worked during the day, so my mom and I took care of the kids while everyone was at work.

As many may know, 2 year olds are sometimes referred to as "Terrible Twos" for a reason. And while these kids are usually sweet and loving, there are those few times that I just wanted to rip my hair out! But instead of losing my cool, I learned to be patient with them and I reminded myself that they were only 2 years old and they are still figuring things out.

Under the unfortunate circumstances that drew my mom and I down to Florida, there were some positive things that came out of the whole ordeal. I was able to spend some one-on-one time with my cousin and create some fun memories with her and just talk about life with her. After going to lunch, walking 4 miles on the beach (accidentally!), and getting mani/pedis together we found out a lot about each other and how alike we are.

One of the events that really stood out for me while I was down there was when my aunt and I took the kids to the doctor. In order for them to be able to go to daycare, they needed to get a few shots. I was holding one of them while my aunt held the other. I was expecting a full out battle while the shots were being administered to them, but surprisingly it wasn't until the last couple shots that they cried and even then, they only cried for maybe a minute. I have never been that proud of anybody before. They both very much deserved those stickers they got as we left the doctor's office.

I usually only get to see these kids a couple times a year so being able to spend 2 weeks with them was really nice and lots of fun. From watching Spongebob to building towers out of blocks, I enjoyed spending so much time with them. They each have very different personalities and they both made me laugh a lot during my visit there. I love them both very much.

I feel truly blessed that I was able to go down and be there for my family. After dealing with all the ups and downs of high school and gains and losses of friends, I have found that my family is the most important thing in the world. I'm glad I was able to help out and support my family the past couple of weeks. I know if the situation was reversed they would do the same thing for me as well.

98 Cents and a Lesson in Attitude

I was starving, absolutely starving. 8 months pregnant and finishing up my day of teaching and I was ravenously looking for food. None to be had in my classroom, none to be had in my car, so I decided to stop on the 30 minute ride home and get myself something. The only problem was that I didn't have any money. This was in the days before debit cards or ATMs (yes, I'm showing my age), so when a girl had 97 cents, she had 97 cents. The end.

So, I took my 97 cents and drove to the nearby Roy Rogers and thought, "Surely I can buy a biscuit, or a small fry. Something HAS to be under a dollar." I went inside and looked at the brightly lit menu, but everything on it was more than I had. Waahhh....I was so hungry I could have eaten the cash register! The lady behind it stepped up and asked if she could help me and I said, "What can I get here for 97 cents?" Pregnant, tired, drooping after a long day spent with 6th graders, I must have looked pitiful and wretched and that caused her to do something that surprised me.

Looking around her furtively, she grabbed a small bag, put two pieces of chicken and a biscuit in it and very quietly gave it to me with a wave of her hand. She wanted no money, not even my paltry 97 cents! I couldn't believe it and I also didn't know what to do. I immediately thought she'd be in trouble that I would be the cause of it, but she shooed my out of the door and I took my gifted chicken and hit the road. I believe to this day, that was the best chicken I've even eaten and I have never forgotten the risk that lady took to help someone who was hungry. More about this in a minute.....

Fast forward a few years and I am at a different Roy Rogers in a different town and I have my two oldest boys in the car. They were just little tykes at the time and after picking them up from daycare, I promised them I'd buy each a milkshake. Yay.....Mommy is the best!!! Wonderful times until we pulled up to the window to pay and I found out we were a penny short. The lady in the window was practicing for her role as prison matron, or something equally mean, because there was no mercy. Again, this was before debit cards so what you had was what you had. And I didn't have a penny.

"I'm sorry, but I can't let you have the shakes until I have that penny," she said. So, I let the boys get out of their car seats and they went all over that car looking for any sticky penny that might have fallen or been wedged into a crack. By this time, I was humiliated and the boys were hopeless and those milkshakes were going to have to be left on the counter as we drove away. But, last minute she says, "All right, just take the milkshakes and go!" I left, feeling so guilty over one penny...guilty and embarrassed to the extreme.

I've wondered over the years whether the first lady did right in giving me something that I had not paid for. I was, after all, an accessory to a crime, and chicken stealer was not how I wanted to be known. What I do remember and always will, was the compassion with which that lady helped me. She saw a need, a very obvious one, and did what she thought was right. I'll remember her and her kind face always.

On the other hand, the lady who demanded the penny will be with me always, too, as a reminder of how I can get hung up on the little things. Is my need to control keeping me from seeing others with eyes of compassion or tenderness? I don't want to be the lady who sends others away humiliated.

98 cents is not much money, but in the long run, it has provided me with a priceless education in compassion.

Tuesday, October 4, 2011

Shake Off That Dirt!

This is a great old story that I changed into a Christian viewpoint. It is indeed true that God helps us rise in adversity. I hope you enjoy the new version.

One day a farmer's donkey fell down into a well. The donkey cried for hours as the farmer tried to figure out what to do. He came to the decision that the animal was old and the well needed to be covered up anyway; it just wasn't worth the effort to retrieve the donkey.

All the neighbors came to help shovel the dirt into the well. At first the donkey cried out in fear as the dirt began to hit his back. Then suddenly the donkey become quiet.

After a few more shovels of dirt had been tossed into the well, the farmer stopped to look into the well. To his surprise, he noticed that with each load of dirt the donkey would shake it off, pat it on the ground, and take a step up.

As the farmer and neighbors continued to shovel the dirt, the donkey continued the process: Shake off the dirt, pat it down, take a step up. Pretty soon to everyone's amazement the donkey stepped up and over the rim of the well and happily trotted off.

MORAL: Life is going to shovel all kinds of dirt on you. The trick to getting out of the well is to shake it off, pat it down, and take a step up. Each of our troubles is a stepping stone. We can get out of the deepest wells by looking up, trusting God for an answer, and never giving up.


Free your heart from hatred - forgive.

Free your mind from worries - God recommends it.

Live simply and appreciate what you have - be content.

Give more - use whatever talents you have.

Expect less from people - and more from God.

Proverbs 3: 5-6 "Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways acknowledge him and he will make your paths straight." NIV

Monday, October 3, 2011

The Plan

“The best laid plans of mice and men..." – how many times have you heard that phrase? (Ever notice how we often don’t finish that phrase? We just leave it with the dot, dot, dot hanging out there. Did you know the rest of phrase is “gang aft agley”? And now you know why we don’t finish the phrase. In normal English, we usually translate it as “often go astray” because Robert Burns was writing in some weird, crazy English. Actually, the line was “the best-laid schemes o’ mice an’ men,” but I’m getting way off track here.)

So, the best laid plans often go astray. There are many times in my life when I feel like that’s one of the most absolute truths in the world. Take for instance a little adventure my mother, friend, and I had last weekend – as many of you know, we were walking in the Komen 3-Day for the Cure, a 3-day-long walk to help raise money and awareness for breast cancer research. Well, let me tell ya, it did not go as planned. Aside from rain, nasty port-a-potties, and a swampy campsite, we also had multiple injuries, sickness and lost luggage. We weren’t even able to walk all 3 days. Not even close to our plan! We had planned on having a fun and enjoyable weekend. We knew the walk might be hard and a little wet, but we really thought we were going to have a great time; instead we ended the weekend feeling a bit like failures, disappointed and discouraged.

Another phrase I hear a lot is,“If you want to make God laugh, tell Him your plans.” Is that really how it works? Is God up there waiting to see what we’re hoping for just so He can squash our dreams and do it His way? Because, really, what was so wrong with our plan? Is health and safety really so against God’s will?

What about other plans? What about planning to get the laundry done over the weekend, or getting to work on time, or a home-cooked meal? What about the woman who planned on being a mother, but has lost multiple children in miscarriages? What about the man who planned on providing for his family, but lost his job to a bad economy? No one plans for cancer to enter their life. No one plans to have a car accident leave them paralyzed. No one plans on taking care of a loved-one after Alzheimer’s has robbed their mind. Most people plan on good things but often get detoured by the bad things.

I really don’t think we serve a God who delights in ruining our plans, but it can be so hard to understand when His plan doesn’t match up with ours. Sometimes, if we’re lucky enough, we figure out what God’s intention was and why His plan was better than ours, but other times we never really know. I have to be honest – I really hate that.

It seems like everything I struggle with keeps coming back to trust. Do I trust that God has the best plan for my life? Personally, I planned on big things – I wanted to be the first bestselling novelist to win an Olympic gold medal, a Grammy and an Oscar. That has not happened and, sadly, it’s looking more and more like it never will. ;-) I said earlier that the “best laid plans” quote sometimes seemed like an absolute truth, but the real truth is this: God knows the plans He has for us – plans to prosper us and not to harm us, plans to give us a hope and a future (paraphrase of Jeremiah 29:11). Seems like a pretty good plan to me.

Saturday, October 1, 2011

I'm Trading My Sorrows

Imagine yourself, hands thrown high, trading your sorrows for joy. God would like to do that for you. Listen to this beautiful song and lift your hands and let go.
Download this mp3 from