Archive | August 2012

The Quilt – Part 2

If you were to ask 95 percent of the people in our lives through the years they would tell you that Todd and I had a healthy marriage with no conflicts.  That was our public life.  But there would also be 5 percent who could tell you of another side, a uglier, darker side of our marriage.  The side we kept silent about in small group Bible studies and worship services.  A side we didn’t tell anyone about.

I remember the first “slip” as clearly as if it were just yesterday.  Todd and I moved to his hometown so he could be closer to his mother when his dad died.  I’d never had a problem finding a job in radio before but I was sure that God wanted me to be in Christian radio and Bentonville didn’t have any opportunities.  Not within any reasonable driving distance.  So, since Todd was anxious to start our family we agreed we’d work on having our first baby and I’d be a stay-at-home mom.

We were blessed that I got pregnant right away and seemingly sailed through the months Ally was in my womb with remarkable ease.  I enjoyed getting the nursery ready, painting a beautiful butterfly mural on the walls, clouds on the ceiling and a white picket fence border.  I refinished furniture and sewed curtains, quilts and clothes for our daughter.  I didn’t have a clue that Todd was seeking companionship elsewhere until Ally was two weeks old.

One of the best pieces of advice my mother-in-law gave me was to sleep when Ally slept so I often would wrap up in Grandma’s crazy quilt and have time with God before falling asleep beside Ally’s bassinet.  Todd came home one afternoon for lunch and when he found both his “girls” asleep fixed himself a peanut-butter and jelly sandwich and left me a note.

“Came home for lunch and found you and Abby sleeping.  You both looked so beautiful!  I hate to bring a bit of rain into our lives my love but I have a confession…I kissed Lisa at the conference the weekend before Ally was born.”

Todd’s confession sent me back to huddle beneath Grandma’s quilt and to cry out to God…it was a provision only God can provide because I was to find out there was a whole part of my husband I didn’t know and never dreamed existed…

To be cont….

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The Quilt – Part 1

Growing up Grandma Mary and I spent every afternoon after school together and during the summer I lived as much at her house as I did my own.  Grandma Mary was my dad’s mother and when he passed away when I was just eleven months old she and my mother became a parenting team.  Grandpa Jack passed several years before I was born so she and Mom were two widows who took their difficult circumstances by the lapels and held on for dear life.

With Mom holding a full time job Grandma and I spent a lot of time together.  During the summer days and after school during the school year Grandma taught me to cook, bake, sew, quilt, garden, and keep house.  Mom was my tutor and taught me how to play the piano.  Both of them taught me how to play Hearts.

When I reached the dating years no one in particular kept my interest and Mom began to worry that the lack of steady dates was due to the lack of having a father in our home.  Grandma Mary would simply kiss my forehead and tell Mom and I both that when the right man came along God would let me know and until then, as long as I honored God with my dating life, she was sure He had His reasons for leaving me single.

College days came and went and by the time I turned 30 I figured God’s plan for my life were as Paul recommended, I was to remain single so I simply left it up to God and focused on my career in Christian radio.  I still had plenty of opportunities to date but I didn’t feel as “need to” in that area anymore.  Though I no longer lived at home with Mom and Grandma Mary when she passed away it was as if I were a little girl all over again.

Grandma Mary was diagnosed with cancer just after I finished college and the end came swiftly.  When Mom and I were cleaning out her house we found a box marked with my name on it in the sewing room.  Mom seemed to know about the box and the contents, I could tell by the way she handed it to me before she spoke, “Honey, Grandma wanted you to have this.  Do you want me to leave you alone to open it?”

It seemed foolish to not open a gift from Grandma with my Mom, so we opened it together.  Inside was a quilt.  Not just any quilt but one that Grandma had made incorporating the one she’d made me as a child.  It had material from my favorite clothes as well as from my Dad, Mom and Grandma & Grandpa’s.  The pattern had advised selecting contrasting or complimentary colors but Grandma often had her own ideas about colors.  Some of the squares were made with patterns and colors you’d expect to see together and some of weren’t.

Now Grandma had turned the single bed sized quilt from my girlhood into a double sized quilt by using material from my favorite clothes from high school and college, including blue jeans and tee-shirts.  It seemed like every hue and pattern that could be put together had found their way into my quilt.  Mom and I laughed through tears as we recognized the clothing the quilt had come from.  Each square full of memories, some funny, some sad, some memorable due to the lessons I’d learned when a particular piece was from a shirt or pair of jeans I had loved at that time.

When I took my “crazy quilt” home and put it on my bed it felt as if Grandma Mary was standing right there beside me smoothing out the wrinkles along with me.  Many nights I would fall asleep the quilt having dried my tears.  It saw me through a couple “almost” relationships and when Todd came along my crazy quilt was a way to share my past with him.  We cuddled beneath it while watching movies from my sofa and took it with us on romantic picnics in the park and to the beach.

Todd asked me to marry him when I was sick with the flu on Valentine’s Day, wrapped in Grandma Mary’s crazy quilt with a fever of 102 degrees because he’d waited long enough and couldn’t wait until I was feeling well and able to look “presentable”.  With my Mom’s help and after I asked Todd’s mother if she had any clothing that Todd had worn earlier in his life and she’d given me a variety of “men” color and patterned clothing – including Superman pj’s, and football jerseys – we turned the double bed sized quilt into a queen sized bed quilt that we used from the beginning of our lives together as man and wife.

In those first few months of married life I never thought of Grandma’s quilt teaching me more lessons on love, forgiving and endurance but it did.

To be continued….

Hearts Strong Enough

“Sometimes a heart simply isn’t strong enough to hold the pain of another human beings suffering so the mind can’t fathom it.” – A Holocaust Survivor

It is hard to ignore headline news:

  • April 19, 2005 – Oklahoma City Bombing of the F.B.I. building
  • September 11, 2001 the day planes flew into the World Trade Towers in New York City, the Pentagon in Washington D.C. and crashed in a field outside a town in Pennsylvania
  • November 22, 1963 John F. Kennedy was assassinated in Dallas, TX
  • March 30, 1981 Ronald Reagan was shot
  • April 20, 1999 Columbine High School when two kids shot and killed so many other kids before killing themselves
  • July 20, 2012 a gunman shoots kills 14 people and wounds 50 others at the premiere of a Batman movie

What about the things that don’t make the news on an individual basis?

  • Each year there are 3.3 million reports of abuse or neglect involving 6 million  American children resulting in the loss of 5 children per day giving the U.S. the worst record of any industrialized nation
  • One in four women experience domestic/relationship violence equaling 960,000 incidents and involving 3 million women each year

Sometimes we hear and don’t act or believe like the time the world turned its eyes and ears away from the greatest evil mankind has inflicted upon mankind when between the years 1933 to 1945 Adolf Hitler led a nation to murder 11 million Jews, Jehovah Witnesses, gypsies and disabled people?

There is so much more evil in this world.

  • There are homes where men have neglected to be godly men and who aren’t the spiritual leaders of their households
  • Homes where women have weakened the role of men by trying to take their place in the name of equality.
  • Men and women who have walked out on their children or women who have had babies aborted, with or without the biological father’s agreement.
  • Children of any age, any physical condition that are among the homeless, the vulnerable and unprotected care of anyone but themselves.

Naming the horrors of evil in this world isn’t hard.  Sometimes I feel as if I will explode with one more evil report.

  • One more murder
  • One more theft
  • One more accidental drowning
  • One more child abused
  • One more “present” from evil

At the end of the day I am left asking God one more time, “WHY?”  Immediately I hear a voice in my head saying “men choose evil”.

Yet I know even as I type out this post there are those saying,”But that sort of bad stuff doesn’t happen here!”  Do you think anyone went to work in the federal building in Oklahoma or one of the Twin Towers in New York City thinking someone would bomb their workplace or fly a plane into it?  The people who went to see the premiere of Batman, do you think they thought a gunman would storm in and start shooting?  Or any parent sends their child off to school thinking they may not come home again alive?  Does any woman, or man, get married thinking the person they are marrying is going to abuse them?  And if any man or woman thinks growing up they want to be the type of person who neglects or abuses their children, perhaps leading to their death I never want to meet them!

It does happen here, wherever there are human beings IT happens.  Think of the words from one Holocaust survivor:

“Sometimes a heart simply isn’t strong enough to hold the pain of another human beings suffering so the mind can’t fathom it.”

Do we have a heart strong enough to hold even part of the pain of another human beings suffering?  Can our minds wrap itself around their pain?  Only if we…

“Humble yourselves, therefore, under God’s mighty hand, that he may lift you up in due time.  Cast all your anxiety on him because he cares for you.  Be self-controlled and alert.  Your enemy the devil prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour.  Resist him, standing firm in the faith, because you know that your brothers throughout the world are undergoing the same kind of suffering.  And the God of all grace, who called you to his eternal glory in Christ after you have suffered a little while, will himself restore you and make you strong, firm and steadfast.”  I Peter 5:6-10 N.I.V.

Dream Breaker, Dream Maker

“For 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 N.I.V.

My nearly eleven-year-old daughter has incredible dreams for herself when she “grows up”. They tend to change, but they are her dreams.  One day she wants to be a rock star/pop star/missionary and the next she wants to be a veterinarian, or a dolphin swimmer.  Recently her adoration of squirrels has reached a new level and she spends a great deal of time trying to “squirrel” up her life…she wants to catch a squirrel and keep him for a pet, she wants to re-do her hot pink and zebra striped bedroom to “squirrel”, and a few other “squirrelly” ideas.

I refuse to squash any of them, the ones I can’t help put pray do pass – like the squirrel ones – or the ones I know will pass like meeting and marrying her favorite “boy” in her favorite boy band.   Dreams squashed, especially cruelly or in laughter, kill a little bit of a kid’s heart and hurt for a long time.

Growing up I had a few “dreams” – you know those “when I am older” daydreams we nourish to see us through the not so great times, or long car rides, or to help us drift off the sleep at night?  The ones that help us determine our “adult goals” because we explored options in our younger years?  As kids we hold on tight to them until someone or something snatches them away.  Mine were pretty common ones:

  1. I wanted to be a country-western singer.
  2. I wanted to be beautiful.
  3. I wanted to be a writer.
  4. I wanted to have a testimony that would show God to people.

The closest I came to being a country-western singer was singing contemporary Christian music on numerous occasions at churches big and small when I was in college.  By then I had the dream of making music a career pretty well stamped out of me.  So although singing was still a HUGE thing for me, I never considered it a career choice.  Not because of a lack of encouragement from people at that point in my life but because of one incident as a kid.

Playing Barbie’s or from the back seat of the family car on trips to do errands or visit family I belted out Loretta Lynn, Lynn Anderson, Johnny Cash and the Carpenters as if I were already on stage.  Then one afternoon my parents pointed out with a good dose of laughter that I couldn’t carry a tune in a bucket!  I was crushed.  Me?  But I loved singing.  I couldn’t sing?  I didn’t dare argue.  I just sang a lot less, a lot, lot less.

Now being beautiful?  Well, some of that is gene related – but even making the best of what the genes gave me didn’t hit the world’s idea of beauty.  Nor did dozens of prayers I prayed asking God to “work me over” during the night so I’d wake up pretty.  When a dear friend in high school, who happened to be a boy, remarked to me I should think about being a plus-sized model because I was “cute enough” I nearly choked on my lunch.

First I told him not only was he crazy because models were never plus-sized but second, I informed him, no one ever uses cute in the same sentence as my looks.  That moment could have feed my dream of beauty but it didn’t.  That one had long ago met the chopping block.  Had I not heard enough by then the taunting of kids about my weight?  Or the well meant discussions with both parents about how I’d never “catch” a man if I didn’t slim down?  Or the still unforgettable “talks” from my aunt, who pointed out that she had just read about a man weighed so much he was buried in a piano case and my grandmother who when I wasn’t married at 14 was sure I was going to be an “old maid”?  I mean how many times does one kid hide in the girls room stall sobbing to know she is NEVER going to be “in”?

Dreams of being a writer were almost snuffed out as well.  Prior to a time in the tenth grade when a combination of teenage drama, low self-esteem, no boyfriend, a home life that looked one way outside the house but in reality was something else and a mixture of other things had me on the ropes I took 24 Dexatrim.  When I ended up in the hospital, not in the gravest of danger but still with a heart beat zigzagging all over the place, in marched my dad who informed me of the fate of all those treasured poems and short stories and novel attempts and journals, he had burned everyone of them.  No more “dream world” for me, he announced.  I took to writing in secret if I did it at all.

Funny how I can remember every moment that sliced and diced my dreams into pieces that never quite fit anymore.  All of that took place well over 25 years ago.

I refuse to do that to my daughter’s dreams!   Even when I foresee a not so great experience approaching (basketball was not her “thing”) I encourage her to try if it is what she believes she may be good at.  There is no shame in trying, no shame in not being a female Michael Jordan – if she is trying to do what she believes she may be good at doing.  When basketball proved to be an awful experience her dad and I wouldn’t let her quit, for she also has to know that dreams become reality, big or small, from commitment and hard work.

She has the right and the need to explore her dreams – without my pointing out that in my opinion she lacks talent in that area.  I don’t want her sitting on the sidelines of her own life WAITING to live it.  At 48 years of age when she looks back I want her to remember her mother cheering her on, not joining with the crowd and booing her.

As for me, well, I don’t sing anymore except from the church pew and the steady stream of solo pieces I keep practiced up in the commute to and from work for a reason I don’t know yet.  Somehow losing my leg has meant no choir loft, no special music.

Slowly I’m starting to understand that if other people, especially God, can look at the “inner me” and find “beauty” that maybe I can too.  This one is taking a little more time.  But it’s been a few months since I hid in the restroom to cry over a careless remark or look or my own disappointment in my outward appearance.  That’s progress!

Being a writer?  I found that dream has proven to be the hardest to die off!  I can’t re-write or recover those earliest writing attempts but I cherish the time I can spend writing now.  I don’t write as much in secret anymore.  I have this blog that I use as an outlet, a step towards the writing dream.  I’m no Duane Scott (http://scribingthejourney.com) or Dusty Rayburn (http://devotedconversations.com) but as I tell my daughter, we don’t have to be like someone else, we can be who we are and use what we have to fulfill our dreams, to know God’s plan for our lives.

Most of all, I tell her, pray about your dreams, for God always answers prayers one way or the other.  He may help shape your dream into another altogether but always for His glory.

“May he give you the desire of your heart and make all your plans succeed. We will shout for joy when you are victorious and will lift up our banners in the name of our God.”

 – Psalm 20:4-5 N.I.V.

Sowing Seeds in Silence

It never seems to fail that when this one particular person walks into our office there will be comment of protest over something.

“Do I have to put on this stupid thing?”

 “Why is it always cold (or hot) in this place?”

“I suppose you want me to go in there and wait with that room full of men now don’t you?”

“Are you sure I have to pay a $22 co-pay?  I thought it was $18 like Cathy’s.*”

“What difference does it make what color the ink is I sign this paperwork in?”

“You really should but chairs out here.”

Just seeing her name on the schedule is enough to start me praying for God to keep His hand clamped over my mouth so I don’t respond to her complaints with what I so want to say, “Get over it already!”

Ker plunk!

 “I told Cathy she had to let go of all that Southern Bible Belt subservient attitude and respect junk and just let it fly.”

The story that followed was full of examples when this client had learned to counter that Southern Bible Belt subservient attitude and respect.  In her “stand” against this she refuses to use a title to address anyone.  For example, she doesn’t refer to her doctor as Dr. Field* she refers to her as Brenda.  Yes ma’am or sir doesn’t cross her lips.  She doesn’t even acknowledge the “authority” a policeman may “think” they have over her.    She refuses, in her words, “to allow anyone to be above me.  If I speak to you using your name I am saying you are my equal.  If I don’t use your name I am saying you are my inferior.  I refuse to use titles or “manners” as Cathy calls it, because I will not be beneath anyone.”

To me it seemed her tirade would never end.  Of course she blamed it all on Christianity.

“Lord please let me say something!”  Yet He didn’t.  In my head I thought of several things to point out to her.  I wanted to grab my Bible and read to her:

“So in everything, do to others what you would have them do to you, for this sums up the Law and the Prophets.”  – Matthew 7:12 N.I.V.

There!  Doesn’t that tell you something about respect?  Not enough what about I Peter 2:13-14 when Peter tells us God wants us to show respect to everyone?

Don’t you know Jesus said, “You have heard that it was said, ‘Eye for eye, and tooth for tooth.’  But I tell you, do not resist an evil person. If someone strikes you on the right cheek, turn to him the other also.”  – Matthew 5:38-48 N.I.V.

Oh I want to hurl these scriptures at her but I don’t because God doesn’t release me to.  Why doesn’t He let me speak?

“A farmer went out to sow his seed.  As he was scattering the seed, some fell along the path, and the birds came and ate it up.  Some fell on rocky places, where it did not have much soil. It sprang up quickly, because the soil was shallow.  But when the sun came up, the plants were scorched, and they withered because they had no root.  Other seed fell among thorns, which grew up and choked the plants.Still other seed fell on good soil, where it produced a crop–a hundred, sixty or thirty times what was sown.  He who has ears, let him hear.”  -Matthew 13:3-9 N.I.V.

 

“Listen then to what the parable of the sower means:  When anyone hears the message about the kingdom and does not understand it, the evil one comes and snatches away what was sown in his heart. This is the seed sown along the path.”  – Matthew 13:18-23 N.I.V.

She who has ears, let her hear.  That stood out to me.  Was God telling me that this client didn’t have ears to hear?  Or that her ears were open she just needed to hear?

“When anyone hears the message about the kingdom and does not understand it, the evil one comes and snatches away what was sown in his heart.”    This too stood out to me.  Was God telling me that this client had heard the word and didn’t understand it?  Had Satan robbed her already of her what difference The Word could have made in her life?

My job, if it is God’s intention, is to sow seeds in this client’s life.  Which I cannot do with smart comments back to her jibes or by judging her by how bitter she seemed or the lifestyle she had chosen.  Or throwing Bible verses at her like lightning bolts.  Furthermore, I can’t hold this client to the standards in the Bible if she isn’t a believer.  That’s not my responsibility.

Farmers who sow seeds aren’t talking a lot as they do so.  Even though today most such tasks are completed much differently “back in the day” sowing seeds took a lot of manual labor.  Preparing the soil, drilling the holes for the seeds, dropping the seeds into the holes, covering them up, making sure the “garden” was watered, weeded…a lot of work before harvest time.  Even today with all the modern advances it’s a lot of work.

So the first step in sowing the seeds in this situation seems to be keeping my mouth shut and letting my actions do the preparation…God will reap the harvest when the time is right.

So, how about you?  Has God ever had you remain silent in a situation where you wanted badly to speak up to defend Him?

*Names changed to protect privacy.

Driving Through a Rainbow

 “And God said, “This is the sign of the covenant I am making between me and you and every living creature with you, a covenant for all generations to come:  I have set my rainbow in the clouds, and it will be the sign of the covenant between me and the earth.  Whenever I bring clouds over the earth and the rainbow appears in the clouds, I will remember my covenant between me and you and all living creatures of every kind.  Never again will the waters become a flood to destroy all life.  Whenever the rainbow appears in the clouds, I will see it and remember the everlasting covenant between God and all living creatures of every kind on the earth.”  Genesis 9:12-16 (N.I.V.)

The drive home in the early hours of the smothering Alabama August evening along the winding route promised nothing out of the ordinary.  As our Honda’s tires swished along the hot asphalt it began to sprinkle while sunlight poured down behind us and on the passenger side of the car.  The rain alternated between just a sprinkle and a light downpour and as usual I remarked about it raining while the sun shined, quite ordinary during an Alabama summertime shower.  I don’t remember who spotted the rainbow first, my husband or our daughter, but initially it was just pieces of the arching colors flitting through the storm clouds.

Then it became clearer, the closer we drove to it and suddenly the end of the rainbow was right there on the road and off the side of the two lane road!  Then even more quickly we had driven through it!  For a few seconds our white Honda was bathed in every color of the rainbow and our view of the world was flavored just the same.

While my daughter looked back to “see the pot of gold” and my husband teased her I remembered another rainbow ending during the first year of our marriage while my husband was deployed.  I had been sitting in the living room of our rented ranch style home while it stormed outside.  I was exhausted, with my husband away I dealt with the loneliness by working extra hours.  One minute there was a storm raging overhead and the next this delicious golden and rosy hued light lit up the front window right through the blinds into the room.  I hurried to that window, curious as to what was causing such a glorious light and as I pulled the blinds back my mouth dropped open in wonder.  Our house and the two across the street were bathed in the end of a rainbow.  Furthermore, the windows of the houses and their doors reflected the rainbows hues back towards our house.  A double whammy of rainbow delight!

I stood staring at the sight that day until the sun slid across the sky enough to erase the rainbow.   Then I slowly made my way back to our sofa, blown away by what I had just witnessed.

This time though there wasn’t time to completely enjoy the sheer beauty of the rainbow’s hues as we drove through.  Nonetheless it reminded all three of us of the promise of God made to Noah thousands and thousands and thousands of years ago.  Our daughter brought it up first, “The rainbow is reminding us that God will never destroy any of the earth by flood again.”

“No, I replied,” at which she looked shocked.  “God’s promise was never to destroy the whole earth and all His creation by flood again.  He didn’t promise to never allow floods to destroy parts of the earth.”

“Oh,” she said, “are you sure?”

“Yes honey, I’m sure.  And I can show you in the Bible where it says so.”

There were other things I will share with her about the Noahic Covenant.  Including that it’s called that when referred to as one of the Major Covenants of the Old Testament, or how it is an unconditional divine promise.  The N.I.V. Study Bible note on Genesis 9:9 stated that God was promising not to use a catastrophic event to destroy all of mankind “until his purposes for his creation are fully realized”.   I will tell her that I learned something new in looking into the Scripture regarding Noah and the promise in every rainbow because prior to I had always believed, as taught growing up, that it had never rained on earth before the flood and henceforth there was also never a rainbow.  But, how according to the N.I.V. Study Bible note on Genesis 9:13, I learned that rain and the rainbow had existed before the flood but that after the flood God used them in a new way to establish the Noahic Covenant.

However, for the time being, I am content to let her marvel in the beauty of seeing her first end of the rainbow and her ten-year old eyes to drift off to sleep with the vision still new in her eyes.  One day, when we see a rainbow again (whether that’s in the sky or elsewhere) I’ll bring up the new fact I learned and a couple of the other facts as well.  I’ll show her the Bible references and we’ll read all the footnotes together.  I’ll encourage her to explore the study herself.

Eventually with each rainbow we see together we’re cover all Mama knows about the Noahic Covenant.  I’ll use each opportunity to remind her of this one time we drove through the end of one of God’s rainbow reminders on an ordinary summer showery day in rural Alabama and how, doing so, colored our view of the world throughout eternity – as everlasting as the Covenant between God and Noah and all mankind.

What ordinary moment in daily life has colored your view of the world with a reminder of God’s promises?

Weird Things I’ve Decided to be Grateful For

Once during another ICU/ hospital stay (this time for blood clots in my lungs)I decided to adjust my attitude a bit.  I was determined to be productive and thankful for being where I was and alive.  There was a difference  in not only my recovery but those people around me.  (My doctor was amazed to find me sitting up in ICU cross-stitching, a sight he’d never seen before.)  Today, before I headed down the “oh me, oh my” street I decided to make a list of weird things I’ve decided I need to be grateful for instead of miserable over.

“Give thanks to the Lord, for he is good; his love endures forever.”  Psalm 107:1 N.I.V.

 Really lousy customer service:  God is good but the rest of us usually need a while to confess all the times in a day we aren’t good!  Or thankful.  Or humble.  Or even mindful that the world doesn’t revolve around us.  So even though I’m not receiving even the semblance of good customer service from a managed mental health service I am GRATEFUL for the bad service.  Why?

  1. It helps me have more sympathy for those who struggle without adequate health insurance that covers mental health diagnosis if it covers them at all.
  2. It makes me more aware that mental health issues continue to carry a stigma that allow even large insurance companies to “loophole” their way out of fulfilling their obligations unless someone steps up and speaks up.

“You turned my wailing into dancing; you removed my sackcloth and clothed me with joy, that my heart may sing to you and not be silent.  O Lord my God, I will give you thanks forever.”  Psalm 30:11-12 N.I.V.

Bedpans, cheap toilet paper and all things lousy with personal hygieneYes, you read that right, I said bedpans!  I said cheap toilet paper!  I said all things lousy with personal hygiene.  Whoever invented the bedpan needed more creativity, personal experience or something!!!  Enough said!  WHY am I grateful?  For without them I wouldn’t be grateful…

  1. …for the invention of indoor plumbing and all its accessories!
  2. …for learning what wood shingles should NOT be used for.
  3. …for understanding why they call it paper!
  4. …for people who smell good, bathe regularly, brush their teeth, comb their hair and cover those parts of the body that should be treated with respect!

 

“Thanks be to God for his indescribable gift!”  2 Corinthians 9:15 N.I.V.

Algebra and all “higher” maths: When it comes to “every day” math, accounting, financial spreadsheets, cost analysis I’m your woman!  Just leave the alphabet out of it!  My brother is the “math guru” of our family.  Today I’m going to be grateful for these higher planes of mathematical wonder (even the new new math) because…

  1. They keep me humble!
  2. It gives my brother a reason to be on speed dial when school is in session.
  3. I love words and although numbers and letters together don’t normally make words the new digital/technological world is marrying the two in new ways.  It’s just 2much!
  4. It gives me an appreciation for absolutes.

“I thank my God every time I remember you.”  Philippians 1:3 N.I.V.

Bad bosses/supervisors and illogical company decisions:  Yes, today instead of wondering if someone has taken over management’s brains I’m going to be thankful for the bad bosses I’ve had, supervisors who lacked understanding and management and boards who appear to be from different worlds than the rest of us.  How come?

  1. The best lessons I’ve learned about being a good supervisor/boss have come from learning what NOT to do in this role!
  2. Sometimes I have to admit I don’t see the “full picture” and that hey, as wrong as I may think they are, maybe management really does have a good reason for a  decision I think is nutty.
  3. It helps me remember God allows U turns.

“Therefore, since we are receiving a kingdom that cannot be shaken, let us be thankful, and so worship God acceptably with reverence and awe, for our God is a consuming fire.”  Hebrews 12:28-29 N.I.V.

Crowds:  I am not a “crowd” person.  A gathering of more than ten people makes me edgy, especially people I don’t know.  I’ve been known to have a panic attack trying to get through Wal-Mart and once I had to leave nearly a shopping cart full of groceries in the aisle and just walk out before I began to scream insanely.  Yet, today I’m grateful because…

  1. My family and I attend a church fellowship that is large and I feel at home among them.  So much so that on the first day I walked in the doors I felt as if it were a homecoming.  I’ve never had a panic attack worshipping God in any size gathering!
  2. Larger gatherings mean more opportunities to strike up a conversation with someone about Jesus and hear amazing testimonies to the way God works in lives today.
  3. They make me far more appreciative of my “alone” time and being able to “hide away” in my snug little house.

“Be joyful always; pray continually; give thanks in all circumstances, for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.”  I Thessalonians 5:16-18 (N.I.V.)

Oppressive heat with high humidity:  So it makes my thin hair even limper and wimpier looking!  Guess what?  I’m super thankful –

  1. …because I am appreciative of whoever invented air conditioning…
  2. …being able to pay the electric bill to keep the power on and the air conditioner humming…
  3. …because I get a facial every time I am outside and it saves me time and money…
  4. …at least outside I’m not saying, “I’m cold!” whereas the medicine I am on thins my blood so I stay cold most of the time indoors year round!

This is certainly not an all-inclusive list but it got my wheels turning toward being a bit more grateful.  So what’s a weird, strange, “bad” thing you’re grateful for today and why?

 “Let the peace if Christ rule in your hearts, since as members of one body you were called to peace.  And be thankful.”  Colossians 3:15 N.I.V.

 “I will give thanks to the Lord because of his righteousness and will sing praise to the name of the Lord Most High.”  Psalm 7:17 N.I.V.

 “I will give you thanks in the great assembly; among throngs of people I will praise you.”  Psalm 35:18 N.I.V.

“Enter his gates with thanksgiving and his courts with praise; give thanks to him and praise his name.”  Psalm 100:4 N.I.V.

Angels Among Us

“Do not let anyone who delights in false humility in the worship of angels disqualify you for the prize.  Such a person goes into great detail about what he has seen, and his unspiritual mind puffs him up with idle notions.  He has lost connection with the Head* from whom the whole body is supported and held together by its ligaments and sinews, grows as God causes it to grow.”

Colossians 2:18-19 (N.I.V.) *Head refers to Christ.

Several years ago now “angels” became a “hot commodity” both in the Christian world and the secular.  Everyone, it seemed, was collecting and making gifts of angels.  You could then and can now, buy just about every product from band-aids to lampshades to Bibles with angels on them, or shaped like angels.  My problem with the “angel phenomenon” was that to me people stopped seeing the reason and source of the angels that the Bible spoke of as being about and of God.  The angels were being idolized.  Not their proper place in the lives of believers in the One True God.  Plus many of the items being marketed as angels bore a striking resemblance to fairies which are completely mythical creatures.

The Bible  speaks often to us about angels and their role in our lives.  The angel Gabriel told Mary she would give birth to Jesus.  (Luke 1:26-38)  Jacob dreamed of angels ascending and descending a stairway from earth to heaven. (Genesis 28:10-18) The Children of Israel were promised an angel to guard them along their way to Canaan. (Exodus 23:20-21)  And the list goes on.  Even Satan masquerades as an angel of light. (2 Corinthians 11:14).

“Do not forget to entertain strangers, for by so doing some people have entertained angels without knowing it.”

Hebrews 13:2 (N.I.V.)

I’ve encountered three angels that I am aware of in my life.

The first was over 15 years ago when I served on the church staff at a church in Norfolk, Virginia.  I was alone at the church when a man knocked on the office door.  This was not uncommon, the church had its share of salesmen and we operated a food pantry also that attracted people to our door during the week.   I opened the door and as the man came in he asked for a bag of food.  I left him standing in the hallway as I went to get the food for him and upon my return he had been reading a bulletin board in the hallway announcing our new church year kick-off later in the month.  One I had just finished earlier in the day.  Taking my cue I invited him to attend but he politely declined.  I handed him his bag and he turned to go.  He paused, with his hand on the doorknob and looked back at me with a steady gaze and said, “It’s too late you know.”

“Too late for what?” I replied.  “It’s never too late as long as we have hope in God.”

“What you’re trying to do.  It’s too late.  Their decision was made years ago when they left downtown.” With those words he left.

I called to him and went immediately to the door to look out and see if I could get him to continue the conversation but to my amazement he was nowhere to be found.  I hurried diagonally across the church yard so I could see both the parking lot and both driveways so when he drove away I could flag him down.  No one was there.  I walked to the driveways, no cars, and no people.  I watched the driveways and parking lot for half-an-hour.  No one was there.

Who was he?  I didn’t have a name.  I did know what he was and who sent him.

“The angel of the Lord encamps around those who fear him, and he delivers them.”  Psalm 34:7 (N.I.V.)

The first major surgery of my life occurred in January of 2004.  Things did not go as well as planned and I woke up on a ventilator.  If you’ve never had that experience, trust me, it isn’t a comfortable one or one I would suggest you seek.  To my horror I was unable to communicate except by attempting to write on paper I couldn’t see with a hand unable to be flexible due to the IV’s and pulseox.   Furthermore, I constantly felt as if I were gagging or drowning as fluid collected in my mouth and around the ventilator tube.

Early one morning, just before shift change, I began coughing and suddenly breathing was no longer an option!  The nurse rushed into the room, obviously exhausted and quite tired of having to vacuum the water out of my mouth, and in no mood to deal with a “hysterical patient”.  In her irritation she refused to allow me to write or to notice that I was truly struggling to get air.  My vision was blacking out on the edges and I could no longer see the nurses face as she stood over me.

Just then into my still blackening vision a woman in a lab coat walked in, picked up my chart off the foot of my bed and calmly told the nurse, “She’s coughed the tube out, she can’t breathe.” And she walked back out.

After the nurse realized the woman had been right and the issue had been dealt with (thankfully they removed the tube and I was able to breathe well enough on my own it was not necessary to reinsert it) the nurse looked at me sheepishly and asked who my new doctor was, referring to the woman who had entered the room and saved my life.  Hoarsely I whispered, “I don’t know.”

I never saw that doctor again.  And the nurse remarked to me on the next shift she worked and I was still  there that she’d hadn’t seen her again either nor did any of the other nurses know who she was or where she came from.  I did.

“See that you do not look down on one of these little ones.  For I tell you that their angels in heaven always see the face of my Father in heaven.”

Matthew 18:10 (N.I.V.)

My last encounter with an angel occurred recently following a severe thunderstorm.  My daughter and I arrived at home and I hit the garage door opener and nothing happened.  It took me a few button pushes to realize the power was out.  No power and no automatic door opener.  Not that much of an issue for someone who is able bodied enough to get out of the car and manually open the door or if you’re not less than four foot tall.  With my one leg and at my daughter’s height we had a problem.

My husband was still a few hours away from home.  My closest relative was away on vacation and my second closest was working an ambulance call.  I called a friend from church who promised to be over as soon as he could but meanwhile Mother Nature was making a personal call for me and I realized we were in trouble.  I couldn’t get into our house without going through the garage.

It was at that time a young man in a blue windbreaker, work boots and a red cap knocked on my car window.  He asked me if I needed help and I admitted I did but that I had already called a friend.  He said, “No let me help.   Give me your keys.”

I did and he opened the garage side door, manually opened the garage door and came back to the car to hand me the keys.  Once I was parked he closed the door from inside and disappeared out the side before I could thank him.  I sent my daughter to the door to catch him.  No one was there.

All the time I had presumed he was our neighbor whom I had not met but who my daughter and husband had.  Once inside I told our daughter to remind me to tell Daddy that “Mr. Scott helped us out.”  It was then I discovered the man was not our neighbor.

Some may say that neither of these situations were angelic encounters.  I can understand one’s doubt.  But, I stand firm.  God had sent me angels, right when I needed them the most.

Have you had an angelic encounter?  Tell me about it, I’d love to hear!