Without a Hitch

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There were tears in my eyes as I stood at the window watching Bob and Dad drive away with our camper in tow. It was time to tuck it in for winter storage. I could hardly believe it, not only the end of another camping season, but nearly the end of another year. My, how time flies.

Bob called to let me know when he was on his way home as we had a family Christmas party so that I would be ready when he returned. He also told me what he discovered when he got to the garage where we’re storing our camper.

“I walked around to the back of the truck and noticed that our hitch was only hanging about 4 inches above the ground. The hitch is almost totally rusted out. The only thing holding the camper on to the truck was the bumper.”

Nearly 5,000 pounds, empty weight. I thought of the hills we descended and climbed this summer, especially the lengthy trip we took for Mum and Dad’s 50th wedding anniversary, when we were loaded. I shuddered to think of what might have happened had the hitch broke and the bumper gave way. Granted, we do use weight distribution bars, which is what Bob attributes to our saving grace this past camping season. However, he didn’t use them when he drove it to storage, but what if he had? What if he had continued using them into next summer, how long would it have been until he discovered that the hitch was rusted? What if he hadn’t discovered it until the hitch broke? Would the camper have slammed into Mum and Dad who usually follow us? Would it have drifted into oncoming traffic? Good LORD, the possibilities for tragedy are endless! But God preserved us and those traveling the roads with us.

It gets even better. Where Bob took our camper, the guy “just so happened” to have a like new hitch, the type we need, and asked only fifty dollars for it. That Bob “just so happened” to have fifty dollars in his wallet when the offer came was a rare occasion indeed. Too many coincidences to not see God’s fingerprints all over the situation.

Before I go on, I want to share a video testimony with you.

I cried when I watched this. I was not only overwhelmed by the goodness of God but I was convicted for not being transformed in my mind enough to trust the LORD to take care so that I don’t have to. I realized that I was hauling behind me thoughts of the long winter stretching out before us; the need for coal, for heating fuel, for cooking fuel, and Bob’s thinking that we may need a new furnace. I mentally counted the savings that we have and projected that into the future, wondering how much, if any, would be left for next year’s property taxes and insurances. I actually began dreading the thought of having to go into debt for a new furnace without even knowing for sure that we need one! I felt my chest tighten with anxiety. Then I found this testimony.

Do you believe it? You don’t have to if you don’t want to, but I do. Once, many years ago, Mum heard a testimony about God’s provision. A shopping trip was upcoming. She knew what was in her wallet, she counted it when she left. My brother and I were little and there were certain things she needed. She put the items in the cart, not counting the cost, but reminded the LORD that He’d provided for others, she needed Him to do it for her. When she was at the checkout, the total came to more than she had. She looked in her wallet. It was not enough. She asked Dad if he had any money. “You know I don’t,” he said. One more time she rummaged through her wallet and there it was, the five dollars more that she needed.

“I counted my money before I left,” she said. “I know what I had, and I know it wasn’t there. But then it appeared. An angel?” Maybe. God, definitely.

 Therefore I say unto you, Take no thought for your life, what ye shall eat, or what ye shall drink; nor yet for your body, what ye shall put on. Is not the life more than meat, and the body than raiment?

Behold the fowls of the air: for they sow not, neither do they reap, nor gather into barns; yet your heavenly Father feedeth them. Are ye not much better than they?

Which of you by taking thought can add one cubit unto his stature?

And why take ye thought for raiment? Consider the lilies of the field, how they grow; they toil not, neither do they spin:

And yet I say unto you, That even Solomon in all his glory was not arrayed like one of these.

Therefore take no thought, saying, What shall we eat? or, What shall we drink? or, Wherewithal shall we be clothed?

(For after all these things do the Gentiles seek:) for your heavenly Father knoweth that ye have need of all these things.

But seek ye first the kingdom of God, and his righteousness; and all these things shall be added unto you.

Take therefore no thought for the morrow: for the morrow shall take thought for the things of itself. Sufficient unto the day is the evil thereof.

Matthew 6:25-34 KJV

Take no thought.

Have you, like me, whether you are consciously aware of it or not, been hauling around a trailer full of worrisome thoughts? Are you taking care, when we are to cast our cares upon the LORD because He cares for us? (1 Peter 5:7)

Join me in cutting the hitch loose and be transformed by the renewing of our minds (Romans 12:2) by thinking these thoughts instead:

Finally, brethren, whatsoever things are true, whatsoever things are honest, whatsoever things are just, whatsoever things are pure, whatsoever things are lovely, whatsoever things are of good report; if there be any virtue, and if there be any praise, think on these things.

Philippians 4:8 KJV

I wish you all a very Happy Thanksgiving and want to thank you again for your positive feedback and encouragement. If you like, please share.

Now, let our lives begin and end with . . . GRATITUDE.

Let Go and Trust God

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It was couples night at a friend’s house. Lasagna, cabbage salad, green beans, garlic bread, and two choices of Edward’s pie for dessert graced the table for our menu. Besides food, we feasted on conversation and a challenging game. I laughed so hard and smiled so much that my cheeks hurt. I had a curiosity, though. Our friends that hosted our gathering have six kids. That’s a lot of kids by today’s standard.

I leaned over and asked the wife, “Before you were married, did you discuss how many kids you wanted?” Yeah, if you’re my friend you may get some pointed questions — not that you’re required to answer them, but they’ll come just the same. Besides that, I’ve been tutoring the girls on topics that need to be discussed before commitments are made.

“Actually, I didn’t want any kids, but Jason did. So I agreed to have two, mostly for his sake. But after one look at Rochelle, I was in love. It was love at first sight. I wanted more.”

My friend’s experience was a deep contrast to that of a former classmate that I chanced to meet at the grocery store years ago. This classmate and I weren’t close, but I liked her and we shared some interesting conversations in school. In that brief meeting, we caught up on the highlights of each other’s lives. I was married with children, she married a divorcee and had no children of her own.

“He has two sons that we get every other weekend. That’s enough for me! We spoil them then send them home. I don’t want any kids. I’m selfish.”

I’m selfish. She saw her choice for what it was — selfish. I never forgot that brief exchange with her. It was her choice, but I felt sad for her.

Being a parent is a huge responsibility. It takes a lot of sacrifice. A baby changes everything. I’ll never forget this quotation from one of my sister in laws:

“My kids bring out the best in me and the worst in me.”

They do. I’ve gone to lengths I never thought I was capable of going. I found energy and strength from stores I never knew I had. And I have loved in ways I never imagined possible. The flip side to that is that I sometimes catch glimpses of the ugly parts of me reflecting in their veneer. But I would never, ever change having my children. My life is enriched beyond measure by them. Out of all of the things I could list to regret, their being part of my life will not be named among them.

Not everyone is blessed to feel wanted. Mum and I have a friend who was unwanted by her mother, to the extreme that she wouldn’t name her, a nurse did. Our friend did the proverbial somersaults to gain her mother’s acceptance but she never received it. Her whole miserable life long, our friend’s mother made sure she knew that she was not wanted. Why? I don’t know. But hear this: Her mother’s opinion did not diminish the value of our friend’s life. We loved her and our lives were enriched because of her. Unplanned, unwanted, those words aren’t part of God’s vocabulary. When He looks at life He sees potential and beauty.

If you have suffered abuse the way our friend did, it’s important that you know that your parents’ opinion hasn’t changed God’s opinion. He never has nor ever will look at you and say, “Oops!” It can be difficult at times, but I think it’s imperative that all of us move from the realm of basing our value on the opinions of others and ask God to let us see ourselves the way that He does.

Perhaps I am speaking today to someone who is pregnant and you are at the place of indecision. You are afraid, unprepared, and have no support; abortion seems to be the most logical option. Please carry to term the life that is growing inside of you. Science has proven it is a life and according to God’s Word (Jeremiah 1:5, Psalm 139-18, and Isaiah 44:24), God knew your child before you did. Children are especially handcrafted, they are a delight to Him, and they were created to be a delight to you.

Men, you have a voice and you have a responsibility in this. Women get pregnant with assistance. According to Psalm 127:4-5, children are arrows in your hand and there is a blessing pronounced upon the man whose quiver is full of them. Be faithful to the family that you helped create.

Perhaps you’ve experienced abortion and you can’t shake the agony of the nightmare following that choice. No one knows the guilt you’re carrying around with you. I can speak into that. Maybe you’re thinking, Christi, your life is so good and blessed. You don’t know what you’re talking about. You would be right in the fact that my life is good and blessed, but you would be wrong in thinking that it is perfect and without scars.

The delivery of my twins was a traumatic one. I’m not going to go into all the detail of that day or what followed, at least not in today’s post. Suffice it to say, I was still reeling a bit when I discovered that I was pregnant with Rachel. People would smile and ask, “Twins again?” And I’d smile and say, “God forbid.” Having twins was wonderful, but I wasn’t ready for that, at least not yet.

My pregnancy with Rachel was great, I only threw up the first trimester instead of all three. I had half a dose of pain relief so I was fully coherent and cooperative when her birthday came. It was something like three pushes and she arrived, healthy and raring to go. The pain for me came after the delivery. There was a surprise placenta in the afterbirth. Our doctor announced, “I’ll be, there was two of them!” I was devastated. “God forbid” played in my head like a broken recording. I blamed myself.

I still vividly recall the day the girls were riding their bikes in the driveway, the twins on their two wheelers and Rachel on her plastic three wheeler. She was frustrated because she couldn’t keep up. She came to me, tears trailing her dirt-stained face, and crawled up onto my lap. “Mummy, why don’t I have a twin?” Then I cried. God forbid.

I carried the guilt for years, literally. Then one afternoon, while we were camping, Mum says, “Chris, you have to quit blaming yourself. The doctor said sometimes the stronger absorbs the weaker. We don’t know but that if that twin had tried to develop, we may have lost Rachel, or you, or both of you. You’re just going to have to let go and trust God.”

She was right. We’re not meant to carry past regrets or sins.

What I’m dealing with now, now that my baby factory is beginning to shut down, is how I brow-beat Bob into ending reproduction in our family. I was afraid. While still in the hospital, recovering after Rachel’s delivery, the doctor sent a surgeon down to see me. He pointed out what looked like gravel under my skin in my mid-section. It was my intestines. The sheath covering them was thinned and torn by my pregnancies and I’d eventually need surgery. The fear of another pregnancy tipped the wagon of the grief and guilt I felt over losing Rachel’s twin. No, I didn’t have a baby in my womb ripped out, but I prevented another from coming when in my heart I wanted at least one more.

Selfishness is a terrible thing. I was so absorbed in fear of the future and guilt over the past that I put an end to Bob’s and my dream of having another child. *sigh*

I get it. The pregnancy may have come as a shock to you. It isn’t what you want, ending it will be the easiest thing to do . . . or will it? Will you, like me, cave to selfishness? Or will you take the time to pray and study all of your options before choosing which path to take?

Maybe you walked down that road called “choice” and found the end of it to be a brutal taskmaster. You can’t take it back, much like the choices I made, but you wish you could. Everyday you feel the darkness of the nightmare. You ended a life. Where do you go from here?

Join me in taking Mum’s advice: We’re going to have to let go and trust God. There is forgiveness and redemption for the choices we have made. Beyond that, let our voices be heard. Let’s face the fear, refuse the guilt, and share our stories. Someone needs to hear that they are not alone, they are loved and wanted, and they are not beyond forgiveness.

And please, as a postscript, during times of election, speak for life by voting for representatives who will support and defend the waiting to be born. Dare we trust leaders who don’t value the lives of those most vulnerable among us to value our lives?

The Healing Dreams of Our Youth

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There I was, wondering where to go from here, and God sends help in two forms: a book from Andrew Wommack entitled How to Find, Follow, and Fulfill God’s Will and Dutch Sheets’ Give Him 15 daily devotions. For the past two weeks he’s been taking excerpts from his book Dream.

That dreams give us a reason for getting out of bed in the morning is a gimmie. That dreams inspire us to achieve goals and reach heights we never thought possible is a gimmie. If we are living our dream job then we will never work a day in our lives is a gimmie. But on October 25th, Dutch shared the story of Wilma Rudolph and a light was cast on dreams that I never saw before.

Wilma Rudolph was the premature twentieth child of twenty two. (And I thought my paternal grandparents’ brood of 13 was many). It was doubtful that she’d survive. Her young life was further complicated when at age 4 she contracted double pneumonia, scarlet fever, and polio which left her with a paralyzed left leg. At age 9 she removed her brace and began the hard work of learning to walk on her own. By age 12, she could walk unaided. She became a star basketball player and sprinter in high school. At age 16 she won a bronze medal at the 1956 Olympic Games. Before the Olympic Games at Rome in 1960, she set a world record for the 200 meter dash. In the Games themselves she won 3 gold medals. Not bad for a premature baby who doctors had little hope would survive let alone thrive.

Dutch Sheets concluded with yet another facet of dreams from Wilma’s story: Dreams heal. It does appear as though it was Wilma’s want to walk independently that motivated her to her great achievements. That really stirred my brain about the power of a dream. Can that longing raise a person from a sickbed, pull a person out of mental darkness, put water to the flame of emotional trauma? If the power of a dream could cause a young girl to discard a brace she depended on, and she would not only go on to walk but to run and win gold medals, what could it do for us? It’s something to think about, isn’t it?

Enter Denise

Denise had a dream. She wanted to have a prayer ministry. As a very young woman, her sister made fliers for her announcing her phone number, desire to help through prayer, and confidentiality. She posted them around town, anxiously awaiting the multitude of the needy to reach out to her. No one called. But that did not squash the desire to meet people’s innermost needs through prayer.

Fast forward. As a young mother, and as a homeschool project of sorts, Denise participated in Operation Christmas Child by having her son and daughter each fill a shoe box of items for needy children around the world. When they were grown, she volunteered for collection week for O.C.C. at the church she was attending. Beyond supplying cookies, she didn’t specify her exact role as a volunteer and “fell” on the prayer team. Sounds too coincidental, doesn’t it? Not long after that, she received an email from Samaritan’s Purse about her application. Thinking it was spam, she deleted it. Then came a follow up phone call. That’s when the dots were connected between the relationship of Samaritan’s Purse and Operation Christmas Child. To this day she does not remember filling in an application but here’s what came out of it: She is the official prayer team coordinator for O.C.C. for one of our local counties. She is responsible for praying for the ministry as a whole, praying at any (local) events they might participate in, in person monthly meetings, a zoom prayer meeting every 3 months, and going to collections at churches to assist in any way she can and pray over the boxes before they are shipped. I personally believe larger things are coming for Denise.

What I find more amazing is that Denise has the occupation of being a regular part-time waitress — and she’s a good one at that. She has a genuine smile that can not only be seen but can be heard in her voice. Many may snub their noses at such an unassuming employ but it has afforded her the luxury of raising her children (while bringing in extra income), flexible days and hours, and now funds the volunteer work/travel that she does for O.C.C. Even the employment that she has molds to the dream that God planted in her heart.

What were your childhood dreams? I ask because I’m going there today. That’s where Wilma went, that’s where Denise went.

When I was a child, I had several dreams. I loved to sing and belted out Jesus Loves Me at the tender age of 5 for all of our neighborhood to hear. I thrived in chorus in high school, bringing in awards, so I thought I’d make it as a nationally (at least 😉 ) acclaimed singer. That didn’t happen. I was, however, the worship leader at a small country church for a time, did some traveling and singing with Mum, who is also a songwriter and musician, and sang “specials” at church up until about 10-15 years ago.

I must have dreamed about being a teacher because I remember lining up my stuffed animals and dolls as a child while I laboriously wrote out lessons on a chalk board and taught them. I would “graduate” from inanimate objects and go on to teach a girls class at church, teach at our homeschool co-op, teach our small Sunday evening Bible study group, and my most pleasurable and rewarding teaching experience of all, raising and nurturing my children.

I dreamed of being a writer. I was encouraged by two of my high school teachers to continue along that vein. I won some awards and was published in a magazine. You are reading me here now. That part of my life always seems to carry over from one chapter to the next.

Out of the things I listed above, my passion for life lies here, at home, with my people. Our former Pastor Chris got the biggest kick out of that, me walking through the church asking, “Has anyone seen my people?”

I once asked Bob, “Why did you want to get married?” I honestly thought sex would be part of his answer, at least in jest. Let’s be honest though, if he wasn’t willing to wait for me, he could have had sex anyway with someone else. He surprised me when he answered me in all seriousness, “I got married because I wanted a family.”

And that, dear readers, is where my heart resides: with family. At my core, since I was a child, I wanted to be married and have children. It is my desire to see married couples strengthened and parents once again treating children like the gifts from God that they are and encouraging them in the biblical training of their offspring.

I guess why this transition from young children to adult children is so hard, is because I was looking at this particular time in my life as being over. I’ve been looking through the wrong lens. I haven’t been seeing it as the experience necessary to pass on to other young families. And how about this? I can couple child rearing to marriage — 20+ years of it. Marriage is difficult at times. Some day I may share how we walked through a marriage riddled with landmines from an abusive past and capitalized on by a job that taxes the mental and emotional parts of a person to the point of destructive habits and divorce for many, and sometimes breakdown for others. The commitments we make may seem impossible to keep at times, but with God all things are possible.

You know, Bob’s reason for getting married is God’s reason for creating you and me. God wanted a family, someone He could talk to and dream with and work with and bless beyond all wildest imaginings. Yes, that’s you and that’s me. We’re God’s dream come true. Let’s start acting like it by joining together as we talk with God and explore the purpose, His dream, for our being here. And just maybe, during our journey of discovery, which might include the dreams of our youth, we may be healed.

In Transition: The Next Chapter

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One of my all-time favorite quotations is, “Change is fun . . . you go first.”

My readers are smart, so I know that you picked up a vibe from my last post, “Growing Up”, (and most likely, posts prior), and saw this one coming from a mile away.

A fellow parishioner, a young mother of three, approached me one Sunday morning and apologized for not calling me yet about the curriculum I’m selling. That’s how our exchange began. I surprised myself by telling her, “You know, it’s the middle of October. School should be well underway by now but we’re done. I don’t know what to do with myself. Being a mother/teacher has been my life for over the last 20 years. If you think of me, pray for me. This is like a major career change.”

That’s when it hit me. God did call me to educate my children. I hope to continue to inject wisdom and knowledge into them for the rest of my life, but our formal education, our pattern and habit of learning, is done. Totally over? No. While I am at this moment writing, the three of them are sitting at the table singing Christian songs and assembling Lego block kits. Not long ago, I was talking on the phone with a friend and needed to break for a moment to answer a question.

“I don’t care what you do,” I answered the girls, “so long as I don’t have to clean up the mess.”

When I returned to the conversation with my friend, I said, “They’re making chalk.”

“They’re making chalk?” I could hear the amazement in her voice.

“Yeah, school’s out but we continue to experiment and learn.”

“They’re making chalk,” she repeated in awe.

Yep, stuff like that is still going on. But it’s not the same.

I feel their wings stretching. I feel them reaching beyond these four walls. It’s frightening and exciting all at the same time.

And me? I don’t know.

It feels like too much, this transition with my children coupled with a mile-marker birthday. Why do the decade markers feel so ominous to me? My husband says, “I don’t understand what your problem is. It’s just another day.”

But it isn’t.

I keep on wondering. Where do I go from here? Is anyone else out there feeling it too? Maybe you’re a parent for the first time, maybe you’ve lost someone that you never imagined you could live without, maybe a health issue has blind sided you, maybe you’re beginning new employment or find yourself going back to school, maybe you have been slammed with the sudden realization that you are parenting your parent. Whatever it is, you find that you are with me in transition, change is knocking at your door, but you’re hesitant to open it and discover what’s on the other side.

Maybe, like me, it isn’t the mere wondering about the future that’s getting you but the pondering of the past. Like me, maybe you’re asking yourself, What have I done to amount to anything? I think it all boils down to this: I want my life to matter. Don’t you?

Perhaps because I’m a book person, I like these two quotes:

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“You can’t change the past. You can’t even change the future, in the sense that you can only change the present one moment at a time, stubbornly, until the future unwinds itself into the stories of our lives.” ― Larry Wall

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“You can’t go back and change the beginning, but you can start where you are and change the ending.” – C.S. Lewis

Sometimes it’s difficult to quiet the fear that comes with the voice of change, but it must be done to keep one’s sanity. I find it best to cast my cares upon the LORD, ask for direction, pray in the Spirit, and return to praise . . . often. That’s the only way I’m going to conquer this season of change in my life. That’s the only way I’m going to conquer anything at all.

The quotation from Larry Wall especially speaks to me. I hear “habit” written all over it. I came across this cute yet profound thought: Habits — you are what you repeat. And then this word of wisdom: It’s not what you begin that matters, it’s what you finish. That reminds me of the scripture verse from 2 Timothy 4:7:

“I have fought a good fight, I have finished my course, I have kept the faith:”. . .

Writing this has been my therapy. I believe this new chapter in my life is to introduce productive habits into my daily routine so that I will finish what I have begun and, sad to admit, I have many unfinished writing projects. Yes, I hear you, Bob and Denise. Even more so, I hear You, LORD. Habits aren’t formed overnight but I am willing to be shaped by You. I thank You in advance for Your long suffering and patience and guiding me every step of the way.

Dear Reader, if you have found yourself in a place of transition, then perhaps you will look at this verse from 2 Timothy 1:7 with me:

“For God hath not given us the spirit of fear; but of power, and of love, and of a sound mind.”

What I especially wanted to focus on is “sound mind”. It translates to discipline, self-control. Fits like a puzzle piece into our quotations about habits, doesn’t it?

It makes me think of what I consider to be the mother of all scriptures when it comes to shaping our lives:

“And be not conformed to this world: but be ye transformed by the renewing of your mind, that ye may prove what is that good, and acceptable, and perfect, will of God.” Romans 12:2 KJV

Renewing of the mind doesn’t happen overnight but little by little. If we are consistent and persistent we will think like Father God and do as He would more and more. We’d have an abundance of the fruits of the Spirit if we’d condition ourselves God’s way. Difficult? Yes, especially at first. Impossible? No. Worth the effort? Definitely!

I hope you will continue to join me on the ultimate transition from planet earth to Heaven. If this has encouraged you, please let me know and share. Let us strengthen one another.

Growing Up

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Today’s post may pull at your heart strings and tickle your funny bone. I begin with a poem that I wrote in 2013 . . . before I had the actual experience of knowing what life would be like when my children began to fly. I close with a video honoring the delightful sense of humor that I share with my creative, Barbie loving girls.

Growing Up

Precious little bundle,

listen to her coo.

First a grunt, then a squint,

now a diaper full of poo. YUCK!

Diapers, bottles,

oh no, the binky’s lost!

Never enough day,

never enough sleep,

I never understood the cost.

Earaches, bellyaches, throwin’ up dinner.

How can I run and run yet I’m never any thinner?

Dirty dishes in the sink,

on the counter, in the tub?!

Dirty clothes and debris everywhere,

now that’s the rub!

Growin’ up on Sonshine,

rooted in the Word.

She’s testing her wings,

he’ll fly like a bird.

Beautiful woman-like creature,

handsome strapping young man.

Couldn’t play that game now,

Catch me if you can . . . if you can.

Now my days are all my own.

No more, “I’m hungry! What’s to eat?”

I finally have my silent nights

with no more bed chat meets.

I had the world and didn’t know it,

precious toddler, growin’ tween.

I had the world and didn’t know it,

time gone’s the fastest thing I’ve seen.

Oh for a sink full of dirty dishes,

clothes to wash piled high like a car.

It’s funny now what my heart wishes.

Funny how a child leaves such a deep mark.

~ Written by Christi Marie

For my daughters, who are all amazing in their own, unique way. I love you.

Thank you for viewing. If you like, please share.

Matters of the Heart

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After reading from a devotional book today, I have a challenge for you.

The author’s main scripture was from Proverbs 4:23. “Keep thy heart with all diligence; for out of it are the issues of life.” Many versions use the phrase “guard your heart”. Why? Because what is happening in the inside of us determines what will happen on the outside.

The author then used the Israelites’ wandering in the desert for 40 years as an example for his main scripture. Many Bible scholars say this “trip” should have taken a couple of weeks at most. How did they manage to make a relatively short trip like that last for 40 years?

The author then enters in the scripture from Hebrews 3:10,11. “Wherefore I was grieved with that generation, and said, They do alway err in their heart; and they have not known my ways.  So I sware in my wrath, They shall not enter into my rest.”

Other translations say their hearts were looking for something else other than Me, or their hearts always turn away from Me, or their hearts go astray from Me. Go astray means to wander. And what did they do? They wandered away from the LORD in their hearts; the consequence was they wandered in the desert for 40 years and did not enter into His rest.

What is going on in our relationships? Work? Health? Ministry? Even just our outlook on life? Are we in hope or dread? Our lives are following where our hearts are leading. Do we like where we are going? Are we at rest in Jesus? Join me in taking the next few days and pray this scripture from Psalm 139:23-24 KJV:

“Search me, O God, and know my heart: try me, and know my thoughts: And see if there be any wicked way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting.”

I don’t know about you, but I don’t want to wander. Anytime is a long time to miss out on what God has promised to us.

Love Lesson in a Box

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She had long, brunette hair, blue-green eyes looking off to the side, as if someone had called her name, and a sweet, inviting smile. She wore a cool purple outfit with silver accents and was decorated with jewelry and a purple flower in her hair. She was Rachel’s heart’s desire. She was also expensive.

It had been a big year for Rachel. She worked hard, combining two school years into one so that she could graduate early. I wanted to commemorate it in a special way. I knew, though, from prior conversations that I’ve had with Bob, that he would never go for spending so much on one single doll, collectible or not. I tucked away my own want to make that memory for her and concentrated on the party we were planning and the two gifts that I was personalizing for her.

Enter Miss Debbie: A slip of an energetic woman with the youthfulness and vitality of a 16 year old girl in a 60 year old body. What a woman! The girls and I commented numerous times on how Barbie-like her clothes, shoes, and jewelry are. She is one sharp dresser and sweet besides. The girls had her for a teacher at church and lasting friendships were born.

Miss Debbie has been a big blessing to us. I am tickled that she has accepted the girls as her own. Quite frankly, she has done things with them and given things to them that I cannot. She waves it all aside, saying there was a time when she was raising a family of her own, that she couldn’t do the things that she does now that she is retired. She is a giver, relishing in blessing people. She never brags on what she does for others but, boy do they brag on her!

It was inevitable, that text from Miss Debbie. “What does Rachel want for graduation?”

The collectible doll immediately came to mind . . . with a price to match. Torn, I secretly approached Rachel’s sisters. “What should I do? It is what Rachel wants but it seems exorbitant.”

“She asked, Mum, so tell her. Besides, the doll is around the same amount of cash that she gave us for our graduation. If Miss Debbie gives her cash she’ll probably save it, she won’t spend it on herself. If she gives her the doll then Rachel will have a memory and a lifelong gift from her. Let Miss Debbie decide.”

I took a deep breath and texted Miss Debbie. It felt presumptuous but the girls were right, Miss Debbie did ask so it was up to her. It wasn’t long before I got a reply back that she had ordered the doll.

The day of the party arrived. Miss Debbie was aglow, elated about the surprise gift she was about to give. When the time came, she presented a rather large box to Rachel. She was funny, oohing and aahing over the wrapping alone; it was pretty. She unwrapped the box, which opened to another box, and another and another. Excitement was mounting, just as our dear friend had hoped. At last, the great reveal, Rachel’s heart’s desire was in her hands. She stared, briefly seeming a little dazed, not quite comprehending that her beloved teacher/friend had given her so great a gift. Finally, as if coming to herself, there were smiles, thank yous, and hugs. It was a beautiful moment . . . and it came with a priceless lesson for my girl.

The truth is, although Rachel was thrilled with Opal, as she came to name her, she caused her grief. A week later, I found myself alone with my youngest, big crocodile tears swimming in her blue eyes. I couldn’t imagine what had caused her so much pain. I was shocked to discover that it was her newfound possession which had triggered these sorrowful emotions.

“I don’t deserve it,” she whimpered.

Like most parents, I’m biased, I prefer my children, so I wasn’t quite following her. I couldn’t imagine what she thought she had done that made her so undeserving.

“What do you mean?” I asked.

“She doesn’t know how I am. She doesn’t know how I don’t do things that need to be done until you ask me to do them even when I see that they need done. She doesn’t know that I have a bad attitude sometimes and I don’t help like I should. I don’t notice when others are hurting. I’m selfish,” she cried.

Oh. Then I understood. And everything she said was true about herself. Let’s be honest, it’s also been true of me. And it’s been true of you. If we don’t consciously resist, we are all prone to fall into the abyss of preferring ourselves above all others. To salt the wound, the lavish gift was given, not by a close family member as one might expect, but by someone with no family ties.

I gathered my girl in my arms, tears filling my own eyes. I did not capitalize on her failures for that would have been cruel. Nor did I disagree with her for that would have been a disservice to her. She was on the precipice of a new level of maturity and I needed to let her experience the pain that came with it. She also needed to fully experience the joy that comes of realizing that we are deeply loved even when we don’t deserve it.

Rachel learned a lesson and lives differently. She has been more helpful, doing tasks and chores more often without having to be asked and, I might add, she has traded the complaint of a slave for the heart of a servant. Her attitude has softened. She is more aware of the feelings of those around her. She is maturing and walking the challenging road of selflessness. Of course I love her no matter, but I admit that this unfolding has been beautiful to watch and the change in her has been welcome.

I think we don’t fully grasp unconditional love because we haven’t fully achieved it ourselves, but God does love us, and He loves us immeasurably more than what Miss Debbie demonstrated to Rachel on that beautiful day. His love isn’t contingent upon what we do but upon what Jesus has done. I hope you will join me in searching out how deep, how wide, how high, is the Father’s love toward us. He is a good, good Father.

Before closing with a video, I want to remind you that the greatest compliment you can pay to those whose work is web-based is to please share if you like. Someone you know might need to know how much they are loved today. Thank you.

In the Giving and Receiving

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In Zechariah 4:10 we are told not to despise the day of small things or small beginnings, depending on which translation you’re reading. Many a church leader or person in ministry has found the strength to continue to give in their work based on this Word. It was Mum’s and my own experience when we jointly led our Sunday evening group. Be it two people, twelve, or twenty, Holy Spirit showed up and it was enough. We were in the right place at the right time and what a blessing it was. What about the flip side of that?

Congregations often liberally take from church leaders. In the small, rural churches I’ve attended, it has been my experience that other than lead pastors and perhaps financial secretaries, there are no paid positions. I taught a girls’ class years ago and was not paid. As a matter of fact, I dug into my own pockets at various times because going to the board for restitution was a pain in the butt. For one, there was no guarantee of payback; for two, until they had their meeting and the need was met the time for it was past. Please understand, I am not complaining, I enjoyed that season of life. I am simply stating a fact that may go unnoticed by many church attendees.

It’s been a couple of years ago now that Laura was burdened to bless our then children’s church director. The lady weighed heavy on her. Laura’s heart was not to give her money, but a gift. We had a family shopping day coming up and added Miss Holly to our hunt list. We gleefully kept our eyes open for anything that looked Holly like and added it to our growing gift bag. Pleased at last with our purchases, Laura made a beautiful gift card and discretely gave it to her. Miss Holly did not keep it a secret because the gift encouraged her at just the time when she needed it most. She boasted to the pastor and others in his office of the gift she received and emphasized the fact that it came from someone who didn’t even have a child attending children’s church! She was so glad that her tireless efforts were recognized.

I recently had this happen to me. I was given money from two different people and when I inquired as to why, they said it was because of my ministry to them. Huh? I was baffled. They meant in part, God’s Word Girl. Ah.

In Matthew 14:17-21, Jesus feeds a crowd of over 5,000 people with a ridiculously small offering of five loaves of bread and two fish. Since it was a boy who had these with him, I’m inclined to believe that the “loaves” weren’t like we know them today but something more like buns. But little is much when God is in it.

So it goes both ways: no ministry is too small to receive from and there is no ministry too small to give to. I sometimes think that when people read about bringing all of the tithes into the storehouse (Malachi 3:10), they assume it is their church. Period. I, however, have brought my children up to give to those who give (spiritually, etc.) and as God leads. Let me tell you how that’s working for them — their obligations are paid and they have cash enough left to tithe, save, and spend. I just told you in a recent post how they were blessed with an unexpected amount of cash to buy Christmas gifts several years ago.

Truth be told, since we are camping, I do not regularly tithe to our church. Some of you have just gasped with hand to mouth in shock. Let me tell you how that’s working for me. On Monday I spent the last $20 in my purse on a food item. It emptied my wallet. On Tuesday morning, by 9 (?) a.m., I was surprised when someone who saw furniture sitting out for sale in front of our house days prior popped in to purchase it for $45. That is on top of the gifts that I received for ministry. I thanked and thanked God for His goodness.

My personal rule of thumb, give to those who are giving to me, be it a church, an established ministry, or someone like our dear Miss Holly who God simply laid on the heart. Pray and follow His leading. You will not be disappointed.

If you are, per se, a church leader, I encourage you today to keep on keeping on. Maybe you are not being noticed by those you are ministering to but know that God sees and rewards. Frankly, when we are born again, know that we are all ministers of sorts, it’s just that some receive a paycheck for being so.

If you are a receiver of sorts, which I hope we all are, then I hope that you will join me in the challenge of asking the LORD where we should give. Is there a Sunday school teacher, worship leader, technician, custodian, or someone giving tirelessly to a small group that may need encouraged? I dare you to think outside of the box. Would the LORD lead you to give a large tip to that extra-attentive waitress? You may not view that as a ministry, but consider the times when you’ve had an inattentive waitress. There’s a difference. Perhaps we may consider giving to the harried day care worker, the person who is available to pray or counsel with us at a moment’s notice, the law enforcement officer who keeps us safe, or the welcoming neighbor.

Also, join me in the challenge of thinking outside of the box for the actual gift. Cash is almost always appreciated, but it may not be what that person’s heart needs at that time. Maybe they’d appreciate an act of service. The girls organized and cleaned a church storage room for one of our pastor’s wives while she was away on vacation. She did a happy dance when she discovered that the eye sore had been transformed into a serviceable area and asked the church secretary who did it. Maybe your recipient would appreciate someone trustworthy watching their children so that they can decompress. Maybe they’d love an invitation to dinner. Maybe they may require something they can hold in their hand and look at and be reminded that someone took the time to love on them and bless them.

Remember, no gift is too small, whether we be the one giving or the one receiving.

Wrong Number Betty

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Years ago, we got a “wrong number” phone call. I answered it. The elderly lady and I had a rather lengthy and interesting conversation. Actually, we had several. It turns out our number was very similar to one of her children’s (?) numbers so she would dial me by accident. It got to be that we would talk for 20 minutes or so at a pop. I rather enjoyed our conversations. The first time she called, my family was blown away when, in answer to their inquiry as to who called, I said, “A wrong number.” It wouldn’t be long until she became endeared to us as Wrong Number Betty.

I remember one phone call that caused me to be alarmed for her. The way she talked she was at one of her children’s work places and she wanted to go home. They weren’t returning and she didn’t know how to contact them. I spoke calmly to her, sensing something drastically wrong, but felt kind of powerless to do anything but pray. I can’t remember the time frame, but I did call back and got a quizzical, “Hello?” from her son. When I explained our strange phone relationship and my concern for her he explained to me her condition. Dementia, Alzheimer’s, something like that. He said she’d be home but insisted that she was at one of their work places and they could not convince her otherwise until she came out of it. Heart breaking. Betty has since passed.

In this day and age of solicitors and scam, we usually screen our phone calls. Rarely ever do I answer a number that I don’t recognize and because of the phone plan that we have, I can’t return long distance phone calls. Uh-uh, ain’t happening. Gone are the days of the pleasantries of Wrong Number Bettys. Well, maybe not totally gone. Something happened recently that had Bob, especially, answering numbers he didn’t recognize. What happened is, when we returned from one of our camping trips we had over 20 messages on our answering machine saying they were returning our phone call. Did you catch the part where we returned? We weren’t home to call from our home phone and yet somebody was using our number like a hard hit slot machine.

When Bob called the phone company to report what was happening, (it is fraud), one of the — pardon me, I was about to type something unkind there — employees suggested that we needed to contact Panasonic, the maker of our phones. Yeah, right, ’cause Panasonic knows the numbers of every person who has ever bought a phone from them and is fraudulently using their numbers. When Bob told him we had gotten return calls from people in different states, of which we can’t call, he said, “Oh, I see you can’t call outside of your region with the phone plan that you have.” Du-u-u-h! I know, I know, you’re all shocked to discover that our phone provider did not rectify the situation and we’re still receiving “call backs” — of which we never called in the first place.

Today was the first day I answered an unknown caller. Actually, the answering machine kicked on and he was talking. My curiosity was piqued as to what kind of messages we were supposedly leaving that people felt compelled to return our call so I picked up the phone. The man was elderly and from the state of Washington. He did not receive a message from us but returned our call because he was concerned that someone in his community may have fallen and needed his assistance. Maybe it’s an elderly thing. That’s the second time I received a phone call from an elderly person that said they always return phone calls that look personal in nature. Like Wrong Number Betty, ours was an interesting conversation until he mentioned the state of the world and I said, “We need Jesus.”

“What?” he asked.

“The world needs Jesus.”

Suddenly we’re entrenched in conversation about how his mother was a devout catholic and he had to pray all day long and this displeased him. It’d displease me, too, if I felt as though I were being forced.

“That’s religion,” I said. “That’s not what Jesus is about.”

“That’s what all of you Christians say. I dumped everything and I have more peace now than I’ve ever had my entire life. I pray to whoever, and thank them for whatever, but I don’t know who I’m praying to. I just prayed that if God or Jesus is real then He’ll tell me before I die.”

Excuse me. A Christian, by his admission, not mine, answered his wrong phone call. He named me. And yet he didn’t see the irony in what he was telling me?

Somehow the conversation morphed into abortion. According to him he’s 100% pro-life and he’s 100% pro-choice. Uh, no. It doesn’t work like that. I didn’t follow him at first but I eventually realized he was trying to make it philosophical by bringing in when a soul is actually present according to different religions. Depending on when the soul enters, it’s a viable human being. This guy obviously did a lot of research and was obviously equally confused.

I’m going to explain something to you here: a soul is mind, will, and emotions. Cats have souls. Stroke one the wrong way and you’ll arouse some emotion. Dogs have a will. Give one their favorite treat and then try to take it away. They will have their treat. Many a variety of animals have been taught many a variety of tricks; they have minds.

But like I told this man, we have spirits. We are the only part of creation that is God-breathed and made in His image. And if you want to get technical, my research tells me that a baby’s heart begins to beat in approximately 22 days. Whether a woman chooses to deliver her baby or not does not change the fact that it is a baby. It was as if I wasn’t talking. He went on to tell me how so-n-so sent him a tract that looked like a million dollars and when you open it there’s a picture of a baby inside. Our phone connection was crackling worse and he seemed like he was shooting shotgun in the attempt something would hit.

“I’m not following you,” I said.

“They’re trying to say that a baby is worth a million dollars.”

“But it is. And more.”

I think that was actually the point when he brought up the soul thing.

“Have you ever seen a video of an abortion?” I asked him.

“Oh yes,” he sounded almost jovial.

“They feel pain,” I said. “They try to get away from the (doctor’s) instruments.”

He snickered.

My anger was aroused. “That’s not funny. That’s murder.”

He plead “lots of calls coming in” that he needed to return and hung up.

That strange conversation clung to me like a spider’s web.

The propensity for density in some people is mind blowing to me.

Believe it or not, as a stay at home mom, I used to look forward to these types of phone calls. Since I was not in the work place, I thought maybe I could somehow make a difference in those who entered my home via phone.

At one point in our conversation the man from Washington asked me if I knew what all of the various types of religions have in common. I did not. “You’re all right,” he said. “None of you are wrong about anything.”

That was an interesting concept. I’d like to interject that people can be wrong but God is always right.

I’m shaken because I feel like I was ineffectual. I’m shaken at wondering how many people think like him. But my faith is intact. I just talked with God this morning and received wonderful revelation that I am hoping to share with you soon in the form of a testimony. He walked with me throughout today and will be with me as I drift off to sleep tonight. Jesus, God, Holy Spirit — they’re all real, very real. I hope that man’s prayer is answered, that God does make Himself real to him. I also hope he realizes Him when He comes. Do you ever wonder how much of God we miss because we simply aren’t paying attention? I do.

I feel like closing with a prayer today.

Dear LORD,

There’s a lost and dying world out there. You alone are the answer they seek and You are in me. Make me aware of where You’re going so that I may go, too. Make me aware of what You’re saying so that I may speak it, too. Make me aware of what You’re doing so that I may do it, too. Oh God, help me to love like You love and not be so wrapped up in my own small and selfish world that I miss the opportunity to be Jesus to somebody who’s in need of You. Thank You. I love You. Amen.

I hope you joined me in this prayer. Let us consider that the “calls” that we initially interpret as “wrong numbers” may turn out to be opportunities to minister God’s grace. Dear God, help us to not miss a single call.

In the Little Things

school supplies office pens
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While contemplating what to post, I came across a draft that I had written nearly 3 years ago but it is relevant today.  I hope it encourages you . . . and that you don’t hyper-ventilate thinking about the holidays looming ahead 😉 .  

We were a very small prayer group that Sunday night, only 4 of us.  We began with testimonies.  I love hearing and sharing testimonies, they produce overcoming power (Revelation 12:11).  I was brimming with thanksgiving.

An aunt of mine gave the girls $20 at a Christmas party to take chances on the baskets (they do raffles to support the next year’s party).  Beth asked if it’d be all right if she also took a chance on the 50/50.

“Sure, but you better hurry.  They just announced the last call.”

The girls won the 50/50.  They had over $140 to divide among the 3 of them for Christmas shopping.  Laura told me later, “I just prayed this week and asked what we were going to do for money for Christmas.”

We had also volunteered at an annual church giveaway, one we’ve been helping with for years.  Laura came skipping over to me, “Mum, Mum, Mum!  You’re never going to believe what I found!  Shampoo!  We really need shampoo.”  Yes they did.  And Bob, too.  His bottle was upside down trying to catch what it could in the lid on a shelf in the shower.

And me, I was blessed silly with dresses, some of them brand new.  And a cute note pad.  And little post-its to mark pages in a book.  I’m a sucker for stationery type items.  And in the bottom of the bag a chain link bracelet with a C dangling from it–I didn’t put it in the bag.  I don’t know where it came from.

I told our little group, “This year (2019) has been very difficult for us in a lot of different ways, not just financially, but I’m so thankful.  God is so good.”  My voice broke with a sob.

In my quiet time Monday morning I had continued praising God for His blessings when along came that still small voice.  “I know you, Christi.  That’s why I sent you stationery items at the giveaway.  You were so happy.  And Laura was so happy with the shampoo.  I know you’re looking for the ‘big’ things, and they’re coming, but I’m also in the ‘little’ things.  That’s where it’s at.  Thanks for noticing.”

We are once again fast approaching Thanksgiving and Christmas. And although we may find much to worry or sorrow over (as I shared in my last post, “In a Funk”), gratitude and reflection on the gift that Jesus brings is timeless. More and more I am discovering that one of our greatest weapons in spiritual warfare is worship. God is present in powerful ways when we praise Him.

Join me today in putting aside what could so easily beset us and instead focus on how mighty, magnificent, and lovely is the LORD.

p.s. Thanks again for the feedback! I am discovering that one of the highest compliments that can be paid in the cyber world of work is sharing. So if you like, please share! Thank you!