Not Me, LORD!

adorable animal animal world cat
Photo by Pixabay

One day she just appeared; a scraggly kitten with fluffy black fur, yellow eyes that shone out of her head like spotlights, and a fear of man.  My heart went out to her.  I wanted to hold her, comfort her, but every time we opened the door she fled.  By and by she didn’t run as far as fast.  Eventually she tolerated a mini-petting but only while she was eating and shrunk a little when she realized it was a human hand stroking her back.  With time and meat broth, our little kitty became a smidge more amicable.

From Thanksgiving on, all of our pets received a little fat or skin or tantalizing scrap on a semi-regular basis.  It was then that I noticed that Whiskers (Rachel named her that on account of how her bleach-white whiskers stood out against the black of her furry face) was a lot more amicable.  She would forego the food and reach up my leg for a petting first.  She chose contact with me before the filling of her belly.  I smiled to myself as I realized I had won the heart of a rejected, lost animal.  A sense of small wonder welled up inside of me for the simple yet complex trust that had been cultivated between us.

One Saturday morning, she was here, like always, then that Saturday night, no sign of her.  Sunday morning and Sunday evening passed without sighting of her.  I lay in bed that night, fretting.  What if someone had taken her?  What if a bird of prey or a coyote had snatched this little one?

“I was in the garage yesterday,” Bob offered.  “Maybe she followed me in.”

I was about to jump out of bed and go open the garage to see if she were there.

“Then again, I was right back in it to put stuff away and I didn’t see her.”

My heart sank again.

“Should I go look?”  I asked.

“If she’s in the garage, she’s safe.  Check tomorrow.”

I admit, I fretted a little longer, but if God’s eye is on the sparrow, wouldn’t it be on this stray who tugged on my heart?

The next morning, I checked.  I was kind of afraid of what I would or wouldn’t find but the driving force to know drove out all other fears.  I unlocked the door, stepped inside, and queried, “Whiskers?”

And there she was, sleeping on foam we had trimmed from a mattress.  She gave a slight stretch and a yawn to match, and then happily came to greet me, wrapping herself around my ankles, purring.  I stooped to pet her, (she still resists being picked up), and couldn’t contain the joy in my voice that she was safe.  Her day and a half adventure proved her none the worse for wear.  Surprisingly, she didn’t vault for water and food as I anticipated but continued to circle my legs and purr and beg for my affection.  I was astounded.  But no more than I was a couple of days later when…

I lifted her onto a bale of hay so that I could pet our orange Tiggs and her at the same time.  Tail-end facing me, I rubbed and rubbed her head and neck.  Amazingly, she was so engrossed in my administrations that she lay parallel on my arm, only the pads of her feet of her sidelong body grazed the side of the bale of hay, I suppose giving her the sense that it was still beneath her.  My arm bore her full weight and was her only support.  Had I picked her up and tried to cradle her, she would have wriggled and fought to be free, but she had no realization so totally rested on me.  I couldn’t help myself, I stood there and wondered at it all because I sensed there was so much here than what met the eye.

Enter: Jags.  Our heavy weight gray cat.  I was on the way to tend our other animals so didn’t stop to love on him right at that moment.  I had fully intended to scoop him up, straddle him over my arm longways (just like he likes) where he’d hang like a limp 10 lb. jacket, head dangling over the tips of my fingers, and pet the purr right out of him.  When I returned, he was not along the path waiting for me.  That was odd.  I called for him, he did not come.  Do you know where I found him?  Sitting in the middle of the highway in front of our house.  I’m talkin’ on the yellow lines, with his back turned toward me, ignoring my calls, as the sound of oncoming traffic in the distance was getting closer and closer.  The insolence!  The impudence!  The audacity!  The picture of *gasp*…me?  Not me, LORD.  Oh, yes, Christi, you.  ouch, Ouch, and OUCH!

shallow focus photography of cat sitting on ground
Photo by Dzenina Lukac

The Jags part of me is impatient.  The Jags part of me wants answers now and in triplicate.  The Jags part of me knows that I am loved and wanted but sometimes I want loved and wanted when I want loved and wanted and I want to experience it in my own way.  And sometimes when that doesn’t happen, I go sit in the middle of the highway with my back to the LORD, while the enemy approaches, as if to say, “You didn’t answer me, I can’t hear You”.

Oh, that’s awful, Christi.  And stupid.  Yes, yes it is.  But there’s something very liberating about confession so today is my day of liberation.  Here’s another confession: I don’t wholly trust the LORD but I want to.  I’ve been doing some serious soul searching as to why I feel this way.  I think it basically boils down to the thing about the answers.  I know I have faith, I do, so then why do the answers not come in stride with my faith?  Hmm…

That’s when God Whispers are so cool.  That’s when He gently comes and wraps me in His arms, and we have a discussion, He and I.  This faith walk has been so hard because I have made it that way.  Think about it: God gave me life.  I did not create myself.  It’s His breath I breathe.  However, I get to choose how to live this life and since I chose Jesus, He’s a vital part of nearly every part of me.

Here’s the dawning: God also gave me faith.  I could not create it on my own.  It, too, is a gift from my Creator.   But I took responsibility for my faith as though it’s very existence depended on me, so when it failed to produce the results I anticipated, I felt condemnation and, more often than not, frustration at myself, God, or both.  That’s where I erred.  As absurd as it sounds, I wasn’t including Him in this facet of my Christian walk.  I took His gift of faith on as a one-man-show instead of the partnership that it was meant to be.  It’s His faith that works in me, but I was carrying the burden of working it alone.  And what a burden!

God began to explain to me in a way I could understand, in terms of a garden.  He makes the seed; I plant it.  I give it the best environment that I can by planting it in nourished, fertile soil, where it will receive the appropriate sunlight, weed it, and water it when it doesn’t rain.  But I cannot make the sun.  I cannot make it grow.  Like Adam in the Garden, I am responsible to tend my seed of faith and to guard it, but I can’t make it grow or produce answers by sheer will.  The explanation God sent in the form of a garden and visuals of my feline friends were priceless pictures of what I was doing.  What a loving, gentle, and patient Savior!  I was never meant to carry my faith alone.  Thank God!

I was also complicating my faith by “formulas” and was thereby bewildered as to why it didn’t “work”.  That’s when God showed me that the formula for faith is actually quite simple: BELIEVE.  And I show that I believe by providing the environment that faith needs to grow.  So faith comes by hearing and hearing by the Word of God.  I fill my surroundings with the Word, prayer, obedience, praise, and proclamations and release (and that is key) all of the growth to the Son.

I also need to be careful that I am seeking God’s heart, not only His hand, just like Whiskers did after her stay in the garage.  I get so desperate sometimes, especially when someone in my family or I am suffering physically, that I allow myself to be consumed with the gifts rather than the Giver.  I don’t believe God is disappointed with me when this happens, it at least shows that I know He provides.  But my attitude has got to be right.  I cannot be so consumed by my needs/wants that our fellowship goes by the wayside and my soul begins to shrink.

And then there was the picture of Whiskers resting on my arm although she was totally unaware of it.  Why?  Because she was consumed with love.  

cat lying on cloth
Photo by Jenna Hamra

That there is my ultimate goal: consumed with His love.  Not that I haven’t experienced it, but I want to live there on a continuous basis.  To bask in His presence in such a way would be Heaven on earth.  And isn’t that part of our LORD’s prayer?  Thy will be done on earth as it is in Heaven…

Ah, to know Him, to love Him, to rest in Him and let the growing up to Him–this is my heart’s desire.

Rest and be thankful.     ~William Wordsworth

Bask in God’s love with me through the song Just Be Held by Casting Crowns.

Mind Your Mind, Child

atmosphere clouds cloudy country
Photo by Kat Jayne

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

It was one of those days.  You know, the kind when you wake up feeling like you’re under a dark cloud for no apparent reason–one of those.  I don’t like those.  It’d been quite some time since I’d felt that way and that it didn’t shake easily bothered me.  Instead of post-Christmas cleaning like I should have been doing, I found myself searching my mind as to what had brought this on.  What was churning in my mind?  The truth is, I didn’t want to face it, but since I longed for the sun to return to my disposition I went into the shadows to see what lurked there.

Visiting with family during the holiday season was pleasant overall but there had been some difficult situations.  A particular memory was unknowingly stirred up by my husband’s sister that caused him a great deal of pain.  It kept us both awake that night.  It actually sat in me like a loaf of bread made from a brick.  Then on another day there was the inhospitable treatment at another relative’s home.  That was awful.

Then there was my ruminating over 2018 in general.  It felt like a loss due to dashed hopes and unmet expectations in our family as a whole–the kind that hurts deeply because I truly expected great things for us.   That led to me contemplating my own personal goals and what I’ve achieved.  It seemed like very little once written out on my mental tablet.  2018 felt like I was trying to catch vapors.  News flash: they can’t be caught.  I guess I just wanted…more.  Then I had a startling thought: I wished 2019 were over.  That jarred me.  Where did that come from?  I thought: You better get over that real fast because 2019 has only just begun.

Lone Follower, Encourage Me came back to me.  “Practice what you preach, Christi, encourage yourself.”  Oh, but picking oneself out of the doldrums is so hard!  “Do it anyway.  You know better.”  Okay.

Two to three years ago the LORD drove a scripture verse through my brain like a nail.  And let me tell you, I had to have it pounded into me.  But I was a willing recipient of that particular hammering.  I needed it.  I wanted it.  And I find that at certain times, such as these, I must revisit it.  This is the verse in two translations:

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

Don’t copy the behavior and customs of this world, but let God transform you into a new person by changing the way you think. Then you will learn to know God’s will for you, which is good and pleasing and perfect.  Romans 12:2 NLT

This was so important to me because I would find myself visiting a cesspool of thoughts, especially concerning my husband.  I hated going to that place.  That doesn’t mean hurts and misunderstandings between us weren’t real; they were, they are.  But I visited them–no, I dwelt with them way too often.  He and I, we’re in this for life, so I had to figure out how to shut this place down.  It had way too much power over me and contaminated my relationship with him.  Not to mention it corrupted me by virtue of not wanting to be the kind of wife I found myself being at times.  I had to change this.  But it had to be changed God’s way: with the Word.

I first asked Holy Spirit to make me aware when the thoughts would begin trickling in.  My sad admission is that I  had to have Him tip me off because reverting to these thoughts had become so habitual I was afraid I would not notice it right away.  (By the way, this works with all thoughts contrary to God’s way of thinking).

My first severing Word:

Love is patient and kind. Love is not jealous or boastful or proud or rude. It does not demand its own way. It is not irritable, and it keeps no record of being wronged.                                                                                                I Corinthians 13:4-5 NLT

I had to train myself that if my words weren’t kind, or they were rude, or I was irritable, then I  wasn’t acting in love.  I wasn’t acting in God.  Therefore, it had to go.  That was basic.  That was doable.

I had to retrain myself to be the wife I wanted to be.  (God bless my Robert who, more often than not, said he didn’t notice when I’d go off and sit by the edge of the cesspool and then apologize to him for words and actions incurred during my visit there.)  More retraining and severing came from these:

A worthy wife is a crown for her husband,
but a disgraceful woman is like cancer in his bones.  Proverbs 12:4  NLT

What sane wife would choose cancer over a crown?

  Who can find a virtuous and capable wife?
    She is more precious than rubies.
 Her husband can trust her,
    and she will greatly enrich his life.
 She brings him good, not harm,
    all the days of her life. 
 Proverbs 31:10-12  NLT

I like the NKJV which says “the heart of her husband safely trusts her” and “she does him good and not evil”.  I want so badly to be this kind of wife.

She opens her mouth with wisdom,
And on her tongue is the law of kindness.  Proverbs 31:26  NKJV

Kindness again.

I wanted to share this because this is a simple example of what retraining the mind looks like.  And it works for everything and anything.  Still, I was left with my current ruminations.  But thankfully, as I wrote earlier, God’s Word pertains to everything.

Our great desire is that you will keep on loving others as long as life lasts, in order to make certain that what you hope for will come true.  Hebrews 6:11
I like this particular verse because it applies to the inhospitable relative (keep on loving) AND hope (so that what you hope for comes true).
The sun (Son) broke through.
tree in the middle of the field golden hour photography
Photo by paul kangas
And this for my feelings of little achieved and 2019:
For I know the plans I have for you,” says the Lord. “They are plans for good and not for disaster, to give you a future and a hope. In those days when you pray, I will listen. If you look for me wholeheartedly, you will find me.  I will be found by you,” says the Lord.
“I will end your captivity and restore your fortunes. I will gather you out of the nations where I sent you and will bring you home again to your own land.”  Jeremiah 29:11-14   NLT
And this for all times:
…in everything give thanks; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you.  I Thessalonians 5:18 NKJV
silver colored heart lock bridge
Photo by Marcus Wu00f6ckel
That’s a tall order, thanking God in everything.  It may help to notice the wording: in everything not necessarily for everything.  It would be silly to thank God for disease, divorce, bankruptcy, etc., but to thank Him in it looses Him to work in the situation and empowers us to triumph.  I’ve heard it said that if you can’t think of one thing to be thankful for concerning a difficult person/situation, then be thankful for something simple.  Inhospitable relative: seems to be a supportive and involved parent.  So-so 2018: 2019 is a New year.  Yes, the year has changed, God has not.  HALLELUJAH!!  Whatever it is, find one positive thing and cling to that.

I like what our Pastor once said:

Thanks> leads to >Joy> leads to >Peace> leads to >Answers

 

A cooperate prayer for all of us based on Romans 15:13:
I pray that God, the source of hope, will fill us completely with joy and peace because we trust in Him. Then we will overflow with confident hope through the power of the Holy Spirit.
                                                  O      P      E
Whatever you’re facing today,  be it pain buried so deep from your past that you feel like the hurt will never end, contrary relatives, or the feeling of never being enough, our Father has an answer for that.  Join me in minding our minds and applying a fitting Word to all that ails us…and let’s give thanks.

Who’s Your Daddy?

sliced white and pink icing covered cake on white plate with silver colored fork
Photo by eric montanah on Pexels.com

My middle daughter baked a jello cake today.  They are so delicious and moist.  After supper, she took out the cake and began slicing it for us.

“Can I take a piece to Dora?” she asked.

Dora is the sweet, white-haired, 70 something who lives across the road from us.

“Sure.”  As if my kids need permission to do something nice for someone.

I watched her cross the road and then returned to my dish washing.  When she came in she said Dora looked so happy to get a surprise piece of cake and said she was going to “eat it right away”.

While she was gone, I was wondering if people attribute the kindness of my girls at least in part to me (or Bob) and how we’re raising them.  “That Christi, she is such a good mom.”

Made me think about the partial scripture I used in a prior post, The Gray-Haired.

This time I’m going to share it in its entirety.

“For as many as are led by the Spirit of God, these are the sons of God.

“For you did not receive the spirit of bondage again to fear, but you received the Spirit of adoption by whom we cry out, ‘Abba, Father’.

“The Spirit Himself bears witness with our spirit that we are children of God, and if children, then heirs–heirs of God and joint heirs with Christ, if indeed we suffer with Him, that we may also be glorified together.”  Romans 8:13-17

There are certain criteria for being  children of God.  They:

Live by the Spirit, are led by the Spirit, have witness by the Spirit that they are God’s children, and they suffer with Him.

That last one is no fun.  Most of my suffering has come in the form of rejection.  I remember a particularly trying time when the rejection of someone close was repetitive to the point of madness.  I kept wondering what was wrong with me.  That’s when this scripture was highlighted to me and I realized nothing is wrong with me, I am normal by God’s standards.

“If the world hates you, you know that it hated Me before it hated you.  If you were of the world, the world would love its own.  Yet because you are not of the world, but I chose you out of the world, therefore the world hates you.” John 15:18,19

Fun stuff (sarcasm), yet ironically uplifting (honestly).  Jesus knows.  He was treated the same way for no good reason, just because He was righteous and chosen–which is what we can all be if we so choose.

We live our lives below God’s standards if it’s all rejection, though.  We were made for so much more than that.  Jesus was our model.  He laid down His divinity to become one of us to show us how to live as children of God.

“Most assuredly, I say to you, the Son can do nothing of Himself, but what He sees the Father do; for whatever He does, the Son also does in like manner.”  John 5:19

“Most assuredly, I say to you, he who believes in Me, the works that I do he will do also; and greater works than these will he do because I go to My Father.”  John 14:12

What did Jesus do?  Preached the Good News, set people free from bondage, healed the sick, made the broken whole on every level, and raised the dead.

It’s true, I don’t always look like Him and I am not seeing the great manifestations in my life that Jesus had in His.  But I feel I’ve had an incredible growth spurt in the last 2 years.  And even though I am not yet seeing what I am believing for, I know that I will because I have seen what the Father is doing and I am willing to let Him do it through me, just like Jesus did.  How ’bout you?  Who’s your daddy?  If you answered God, do you look like Him?  To know what He looks like, remember the example Jesus set for us.  He was the very image of His Father which was hope, joy, peace and love personified.  Join me this New Year by giving our best effort to present the face and hands of our Father to a lost and dying world.

Click here to check out No Longer Slaves.  Let the words become alive in you.

I’m no longer a slave to fear

I am a child of God.

I’ve been born again, into a family

Your blood flows through my veins…

We’ve been liberated from bondage…

I AM A CHILD OF GOD….

I AM A CHILD OF GOD.  Are you?  Let’s unashamedly live like it in 2019.

The Perfect Gift

i love you lights
Photo by Xue guangjian on Pexels.com

Another year of gift giving and receiving going, going, gone down the drain.  Time sure does fly.  In a society hyped up on materialism, it’s hard not to consider the stuff–the gifts.  I can’t imagine one person out there who celebrates Christmas that hasn’t had the frustration of finding the perfect gift.  If I said it once I said it 10 times this year: “I don’t want to buy a gift just to buy something.”  I shrink from the feeling of “having to buy”.  That’s one of the frustrating sides of gift giving.

Another side are good-intentioned gifts–the ones of which we say, “It’s the thought that counts.”  I’ve given them and I’ve received them.  That’s all I’m going to say about that.

There are the very memorable, perfect-for-me gifts.  Years ago for Christmas, Bob had me search the tree for my gift.  It was a ring with a heart-shaped ruby and three diamond chips on the side that represented me and the girls.  My mother’s ring.  Then there are the hand-crafted gifts that I cherish from Mum.  When I think of all of the time and love she spent on each cut, stitch, etc., it brings tears to my eyes.  And it’s so fun to see what the girls will come up with.  They’ve caught on to my love of writing and provide me beautiful books for journaling, pens, stickers, etc.  They’ve also given me some of the most beautiful decor.  My biggest problem is trying to remember who gave me what 🙂 .

Then there is the thrill of finding the perfect gift.  Years ago I found tea cups and saucers that match my great-grandmother’s china set and purchased them for Mum.  She cried when I gave them to her.  My brother, eyes a little widened and jaw hanging a bit said, “How do you do that?”

I know Mum.  I listened to her heart.  Just like she listens to mine and spends hours of time and loads of materials making memories for me using her crafting skills.  Just like my girls put pen and paper in my hands and beautiful, adorable, sometimes comical decorations on my table, island, shelves–anywhere and everywhere.  Just like my husband hung his heart on the tree for me to find.  They know me.  I know them.  It is our delight to bless one another with the exchanging of gifts.

You know what?  None of this matters without Jesus, the One Who knows us better than we know ourselves.  In fact, there is no Christmas without Christ.  The unbelieving can slice this holiday any way they like, but there is no reason to celebrate without Jesus.  Gifts wear out, don’t fit, rust, corrode, stain, fade, break, go out of style–they don’t last forever.  In fact, I read a staggering statistic in a magazine that said the average gift loses its luster after 2 weeks.  Two weeks!

But Jesus never loses His shine.  He can’t, because He is the Light of the world.  He knows my name.  He knows where I live.  He knows my heart’s desire and surrounds me with people who love me.  Even without the packages and bows I am full to brim–no, I am spilling over in awe of the love He has for me.  What other god would leave Heaven’s splendor to meet me where I am?  What other god would be born for the sole purpose of dying to save an undeserving people?  What other god would nail the sins and sorrows of man to His Holy Son and hang Him on a cross in order to deliver man from them all, all for the asking?  What other god would live as a man in order to demonstrate to us how we can live like God and make a way for us to spend eternity in Heaven with Him?  None.

white heart book page
Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

The LORD your God is with you, He is mighty to save, He will take great delight in you, He will quiet you with His love, He will rejoice over you with singing.  Zephaniah 3:17

Join me in taking time to listen closely this season to the song of Heaven.  Your Creator Father is delighting in you and rejoicing over you with singing.  Do you hear Him?

Lost…Then Found

frozen wave against sunlight
Photo by Hernan Pauccara on Pexels.com

Thank God it was an exceptionally mild December day.  Temps reached into the 60s.  It was a good day for us to get our spring water for drinking.  Standing there filling jugs made me think of another day not too long ago.  It was in early September.

Most of the kids had started school in our area but we had not yet begun.  Miss Debbie (a teacher in the church) wanted to spend a day out with my older two girls so that left Rachel and me alone.  On the spur of the moment, we called Pappy and asked if he’d like to hang out with us.  We went to a beach at a lake and had the place to ourselves.  The day was hot and dry, so different from the rain-saturated summer we’d just had.  We waded and had a competition skipping rocks on the choppy waves. The two laughed at me every time I squealed about a wayward fish brushing up against my feet.  I think they were trying to eat my toes.

From there we went to a little local pizza place that serves up some of the best pie we’ve ever had.  It’s quite the treat.  Rachel took lots of pictures and relished being one of three children, if only for a few hours.  We filled water jugs at “our” spring and then took Pappy home.  It was there, chatting with Grandma about our day out, that I noticed Rachel was missing one of her rhinestone clip-on earrings.  Her face immediately fell.  The day had gone from sunny and joyful to dark and awful for her in one brief twist.

I was mulling over choices of action on the short journey home and while we unloaded the water.  My first course of action was to call the restaurant.  It was a very pleasant woman who answered and took the time to look around our booth.  She then called back to tell me that the earring was not there.  She’d tell the woman who sweeps at night to take extra care to look for it.

“That’s my favorite pair, Mom.  They’re so comfortable.  What am I gonna do?” she wailed.

My heart went out to her.  Her ears aren’t pierced because of the terrible reaction she has to metal.  Even some of the clip-on earrings cause her to rash and chaff.

She mentally retraced her steps.  She was almost certain that she had both of the earrings at the restaurant.  We then tore apart our vehicle looking for it.

“We’re going back to the spring.”

Rachel felt like that’d be putting me out.  It wasn’t far but neither is it just a couple of miles away.

“We can’t wait until we get water again, Rachel.  If it’s there it could be crushed from other people getting water.  We need to go today.”

I think her heart sank a little when we saw a vehicle parked where we had been not long before.  What if it was too late?  What if it had been crushed?  Or carried away in someone’s tire tread?  Or covered over with dirt so that we’d never find it?  Not wanting to freak the woman out who was getting water as we rushed the area, I gave a brief  explanation and began to scan the dirt myself.  Meanwhile, Rachel had immediately jumped out of the vehicle and seemed to go directly to where it lay.  It happened so fast that I didn’t comprehend she’d found it until she walked towards me, a smile illuminating her face.

“Got it!” she said triumphantly.

“Already?”

“Yep.”

“Nothing damaged?”

“Nope, it’s perfect.”

That was the shortest trip I’d ever had at the spring.  And one of the happiest, I might add.

Years ago, Rachel’s older sister, Beth, had lost an earring at a Christmas party.  It, too, was one of her favorites.  I told her that God knew where it was, ask Him and He’d show her.  The next morning she said she had a dream that the earring was in her jeans’ pocket.  When she awoke, she looked, and sure enough, there it was.

People may say not to bother God with such insignificant things.  I say, Why not?  And who’s to judge what is significant or insignificant?  I look in the natural to my children.  If it concerns them, it concerns me.  They’re my kids.  I love them.

You know who I am?  I’m God’s kid, a daughter of Creator of the universe; Creator of me.  He loves me immeasurably more than I can think or imagine.  In a world of conditions, I can not wrap my mind around that kind of unconditional love.  And yet He has it for me.  And for you, if you’ve received it.

Give all your worries to Him, because He cares for you.  No matter how “big”, no matter how “small”, no matter anything~to Him give them all.  To have a Savior like that, a Friend, a Love beyond comprehension; Someone I can talk to anytime, anywhere, about anything…wow.  Words fail.  All words but: Thank You, God.

I pray that Christ may dwell in our hearts through faith; that we, being rooted and grounded in love, may be able to comprehend with all the saints what is the width and length and depth and height–to know the love of Christ which passes knowledge; that we may be filled with all the fullness of God.  He is able to do exceedingly abundantly above all that we ask or think, according to the power that works in us.  GLORY!!!  Amen.  (Ephesians 3:17-20)

The Gray-Haired

red celebrate print baubles hang on green christmas tree
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Stand up in the presence of the elderly, and show respect for the aged...Leviticus 19:32

This past weekend we had a Christmas party on my mother’s side.  For the first time in many, many years, it was cancelled last year due to no one volunteering to host it.  For as long as I can remember we’ve had parties but, although my Mum’s generation has the want for a party, most no longer have the stamina to coordinate them.  It fell to my generation and there were no volunteers.  My heart went out to the family but we had sickness in my own household; there was no guarantee we’d make it to a party if they had one let alone host it.  Earlier this year, at my request,  I was entrusted with the family finances that remained and offered help and cooperation to make this year’s party happen– which it did.

Planning the party was an incredible amount of stress, but I needn’t have worried, it went off without a hitch.  Throughout the evening I observed the “gray heads” laughing and sharing memories with each other and catching up on the new homes, new babies, and new jobs of nieces and nephews.  Then there were the cousins and cousin-in-laws entrenched in light-hearted chitchat.  Love bubbles floated all around me as I saw what joy getting together brought, especially to the elders.  Their joy made all of the time, effort, and resources invested worth it.

Family: love them, leave them, don’t judge me by them–I laugh every time I read that last one on a t-shirt.  Bob dared me to buy it and wear it to family gatherings.  Getting together with family creates stress in some people with just the very thought of it–I  know, I confess that I’ve experienced it.  There always seems to be that one relative that rubs me raw.  Hosting the Christmas party this year caused me to see family through a different lense, and though that evening was joy-filled, part of me is very grieved by what I’m seeing and hearing.

I fear what will happen when the gray heads, those ones not submersed in technology, who believed in hard work and not entitlement, and knew the value of family, are gone.  What will society be like?  How many times have I witnessed parents in public with their young children but they’re paying no attention to them; their eyes are glued to their gadgets.  I want to say, “Hello.  There’s a real, living being, your child, in your presence, engage them.  Look them in the eye and invite them to talk.  They’ll be grown before you know it.”  Then I’ve seen it in reverse: the kid out with the grandparent who absent-mindedly stuffs food in their face while staring at their gadget and the grandparent looks on in silence, a wistful expression on their face.  I want to grab that kid and say, “Hey!  Look them in the eye and ask them about their life.  They have so much to share and they’ll be gone before you know it.”  Another chance for meaningful conversation and memories shared, lost.

As frustrating as family can be at times, I’d suffer a huge void without them.  Earthly family got me to thinking about heavenly family.

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The Word became flesh and dwelt among us…  John 1:14

God created man.  He came and talked with Adam in the cool of the evening.  Then man sinned.  And the only way to redeem him, the only way God could bring man around to right relationship with Him again, to have him for the family He longed for, Jesus had to come.  He had to leave Heaven, His throne, and every thing familiar to Him.  He humbled Himself and became one of us.  As a child, He submitted Himself to His parents (Luke 2:51).  He learned the dynamic of the human family on first-hand terms.  He witnessed the ugliness and the beauty of humanity in an up-close-and-personal way.  And despite it all, He loved us to the cross.

Mind boggling, this love that God has for man.

Join me in passing on this love to the gray-haired by means of an unexpected phone call, surprise lunch out, or card via snail mail.  Having done visitation at a nursing home years ago, I remember how forgotten and lonely some of the residents felt.  Let’s show them love and give them the honor that’s due.

Let us also show love and gratitude to the Father of fathers and the Son Who has made us joint heirs with Him.

“The Spirit Himself bears witness with our spirit that we are the children of God, and if children, then heirs–heirs of God and joint heirs with Christ…”  Romans 8:16,17

 

*For a comic treat, click here and check out some senior experiences and parodies done by “gray-haired” Barb 🙂  To make it even more meaningful, view it with an elder in your own life.

If You Dare

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Thanksgiving was a bust–for fitting in my jeans, that is.  Not many meals bring me as much pleasure or tempt me with gluttony as much as a turkey dinner with all the trimmings.  Mmm.

Black Friday we did a little shopping and took the kids to an all you can eat Asian buffet.  I’m sitting there stuffing my mouth with Hong Kong chicken and cheese won tons thinking to myself: What are you doing? 

I asked my family how it is we can gorge ourselves one day, thinking we could go a week without eating, to the next day eating it all all over again.  No one had an answer for me.  To make matters worse, we had family Christmas parties Saturday and Sunday.  Today was not a good day to try on clothes.

It was at one of the parties that I talked with a cousin that I rarely get to see.  I guess that’s one of the reasons for those sorts of things.  I enjoyed our conversation thoroughly.  There was a bit of it, though, that I haven’t been able to shake.

I said I wanted rid of one of our politicians like I want rid of a migraine.

She smiled and said, “Well, at least you know what ya have.”

Ever heard that?  Ever said that?  Ever thought that?

“At least you know what ya have.”

What if:

*Christopher Columbus feared uncharted waters?

*Martin Luther agreed that the church, not God, had the final Word?  

*Our forefathers thought taxation without representation was cool?

*All the nations believed Hitler was doing the world a favor?

*Jesus didn’t think we were worth His precious life?   

That one might give you pause to think.  It caused me to pause and I’m the one writing it. 

“At least you know what ya have.”

That statement makes me think of another.

There are three types of people: those who make things happen, those who watch things happen, and those who wonder what happened.

At different times in my life, I’ve been given to all three.  But as I age, the last two are becoming less acceptable to me.  I imagine I’ll find all three a part of me for as long as I live, but the latter are much less desirable.  It’s as if I have a holy dissatisfaction rising up inside of me.  I know what I have and it simply isn’t enough.  There’s so much more to life than this.  I cost Jesus too much to live a life that’s beneath the price He paid.  He offered me His life.  Should I offer Him any less?  Should you?  

I was wondering if you might be willing to take a challenge with me this Christmas and ask Jesus what He would like for His birthday.  Believe it or not, if He has something specific in mind, He’ll tell us.  It might be to give something away that matters little to us but will mean the world to someone else.  Then again, His request might cost us dear.  And maybe not so much by way of material goods (although that may be the case) but a sharing of ourselves that takes us out of our comfort zones or requires time we don’t think we have.  We have a few weeks to ask.  He has a few weeks to answer.  The only thing we have to lose is ourselves.  Are you brave enough to join me?  

Macaroni Woes

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Our refrigerator has been making an odd noise off and on for quite some time.  The noise is something like a moany whine.  I hadn’t voiced what I noticed when one of the girls confirmed my thoughts by bringing up the subject.  There was nothing we could do about the noise but listen and shrug.  Shortly after our conversation, we went on a cooking binge and our frig was full of leftovers.  In fact, it was much fuller than it had been in quite some time.  Leave it to my middle child, the comedian, to point out that the frig had been making all of that noise because it was hungry; now that it was full of food it was quiet once again.  Oddly, it was.

Food is quite a serious matter in our house.  Pastor learned that the hard way.  A while ago, when he had taken on some extra chores at home so his wife could pursue her studies, I felt moved to take him meals.  They were random lunches, here or there, dropped at the church office.  I don’t know, I just think food is a balm of sorts and it seemed to me that a man keeping his full-time job and also taking on more responsibilities at home could use some balm every now and again.  One day I took him a meal that included my homemade macaroni and cheese.

“Do not tell the girls that I gave this to you.  It’s one of their favorite dishes and they hate to share it.”

Being true to male form, he did not listen and came to thank me for the lunch after Sunday service. He specifically mentioned the macaroni and cheese.  My youngest’s jaw dropped.  She laser beamed us with her baby blue eyes and burned through me.

“You mean you gave him our macaroni and cheese?!”

I wasn’t angry.  I consider it a badge of sorts that my family thinks my cooking is so good that they don’t want to share it with anybody.  Frustrating sometimes, yes, but nevertheless, complimentary.  Neither was I embarrassed.  I warned the pastor; he didn’t heed me.  Truth be told, I was slightly amused by the emotions parading across his face at her sudden outburst.

After some seconds of gathering his thoughts, Pastor said, “Wow.  You weren’t kidding.  I thought you were kidding.”

“When it comes to food, there’s no kidding in our house,” I said.

In Pastor’s defense, I have a sarcastic sense of humor at times so it isn’t surprising that he thought I was kidding.  And there’s nothing wrong with offering a polite compliment to the cook, just don’t offer it in front of the girls–especially when homemade macaroni and cheese is involved.

This attachment to food made me think of something Jesus said in rebuke to satan.

 “Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that proceeds from the mouth of God.”

That scripture coupled with our humorous little “incident” got me to thinking about heeding certain warnings.  Verses in Deuteronomy chapter 6 came to mind.

“So it shall be, when the LORD your God brings you into the land…to give you large and beautiful cities…houses full of all good things…wells…vineyards…trees which you did not plant–when you have eaten and are full–

“then beware, lest you forget the LORD who brought you out…from the house of bondage.  You shall fear the LORD your God and serve Him…You shall not go after other gods…You shall diligently keep the commandments of the LORD your God…And you shall do what is right and good in the sight of the LORD, that it may be well with you, and that you may go in and possess the good land…

“You shall love the LORD your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your strength. 

“And these words which I command you today shall be in your heart.

“You shall teach them diligently to your children….” 

I don’t find it coincidental that these verses are what’s tripping through my mind during one of the biggest food fests known to those of us here in the United States of America.  Most of us are going to be popping buttons in the near future as we roll from the Thanksgiving table to the New Year’s celebration.  I do find it sad, though, that we have gone against the Word.  We are blessed to be in one of the richest, most beautiful, self-sustaining lands known to the world.  And what have we done?  We have become fat, ungrateful, and complacent.  We not only have forgotten Who created us, we kicked Him out.  And then we stand around and scratch our heads wondering why the division, the contention, and the outright hatred among a people who are supposed to be “one nation under God”.  When Love is scorned, hatred abounds.  When Life is squashed, death runs rampant.  When Truth is banned, lies eat away like a cancer.  Darkness spreads like a disease.  What, then, is the answer?  From where do we get our hope?

“if My people who are called by My name will humble themselves,  and pray and seek My face, and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven, and will forgive their sin and heal their land.”  2 Chronicles 7:14  

America is not suffering from a political problem.  We suffer due to our selfish sin problem.  And the problem lay at the Church’s door:  “if My people…”  Not the Republicans, not the Democrats, but My people.  We do not love the LORD our God with all our heart, soul, mind, and strength or we would not treat one another the way we do.  True love sacrifices its own selfish desires.  If someone says they love Jesus but vote for candidates who are pro-abortion they have voted contrary to God’s Word.  

“Before I formed you in the womb, I knew you; Before you were born, I sanctified you.” Jeremiah 1:5

It’s not enough for my children to know my word, they must heed it.  Should Father God expect any less from us?  Disobedience sows fields of woes and what we’re seeing is a bitter harvest of our own making. We have not injected ourselves into our nation.  We kept silent while God got the boot, students were taught apes are their uncles instead of Adam, and babies are killed in the womb.  Eventually our nation became enlightened to the “fact” that there are no absolutes so here we are in an absolute free-fall.  What did we do to stop it?  For the most part, nothing.  I don’t think we believed America would ever partake of such utter darkness.  But she has, and now we’re drunk on it.

red love heart christmas

Oddly, the thing that gives me the most hope is the extent of the darkness.  I don’t know of anyone who hasn’t had a power outage.  Grab a flashlight, light a candle and look how such a little light lights up the room.  I have a personal belief that the darkness is so thick and gross because our enemy sees the Light just beyond the hill and he is doing everything he can before our Redeemer says, “Enough!”  It’s a soft glow now but Jesus comes closer daily.  I tell you, that for those of us who keep the faith and follow the Word, God is going to cut loose in our lives in wonderful ways that we never could have imagined.  But we must hold on.  We must do as God has said: humble ourselves, pray and seek His face, and turn from our wicked ways.  Further, don’t curse the darkness, light a candle.  Let’s do what God has called us to do.  All of us have a purpose.  He formed us, He knows us, He will equip and strengthen us.  We must at least try.

I know you’re weary and maybe even afraid for yourself and for our nation; I have felt that way myself.  But please, let’s not give up.  God cannot lie: if we will then He will Stay in the Light.  Let’s hold on and sing our praises all the louder.  And please, please join me in offering up thanksgiving and prayers for the United States of America.  Despite our current condition, I love America still and I will fight for her on my knees and whatever way I can.  Will you?    

Lone Follower, Encourage Me, encourage me

 

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My site has a few followers now, beside me AND my husband 😉which is really cool, but God’s Word Girl means more to me than that.  Through WordPress I have been given an outlet for my God-gifted creative talents and I consider this a great privilege and responsibility to bring to you encouragement through stories and exhortation through God’s Word.  It’s as if a floodgate has been opened and my mind is drowning with ideas.  I have to pick through the debris and say, “Okay, LORD, where do we go from here?”

This is the beginning of my dream.  I am filled to the brim with words and stories and ideas.  Like Prego spaghetti sauce, “It’s in there.”  Therein lies the problem: it’s inside.  Sometimes I feel like a party waiting to come out.  It’s so difficult to wait for party day.    

I want to share a biblical story with you that keeps running through my mind about how David handled one particular difficulty in his life.  In I Samuel chapter 30, David is not yet king.  He and his mighty warriors have returned to Ziklag where they have been living.   They return to find that their enemy has burned down their town and taken their wives and their children captive. They have nothing. They cried and wept until they had no more power to do it.  Things got even worse, if you can believe it, and real ugly when the grieving men spoke of stoning David.  I can only imagine what his initial thoughts were, but this is what David did:

  1. He asked the priest to bring him the ephod.  I don’t want to go into detail here but ephodthey’re pretty interesting.  An ephod was part of a priest’s garb.  Numerous  writings attribute it to representing various things but I lean towards it representing God’s presence and covering.  David wanted to speak with God.                                  
  2. David strengthened himself in the LORD.  He entered the presence of the LORD with praise and thanksgiving.  He encouraged himself.
  3. David asked the LORD what he should do.
  4.  David obeyed the LORD.
  5.  David recovered all.    It doesn’t get much better than that.

I think one of the hardest things to do as a follower of Christ is to maintain joy, hope, and peace while waiting for a dream to come to fruition.  And you know what?  I  have not “arrived”, as they say.  There are times when I still cave to fear, anger, unbelief, and the likes.  My bad reaction fills in the space between the desire conceived and the desire born.  Then there’s the painstaking business of watching it grow and mature.  The story of David encouraging himself  while waiting to be king has inspired me to learn to do the same; it ain’t fun.  Or easy.

Dreams can be tricky, like holding onto a greased turkey.  Yep, I dropped one once.  I slathered that thing down with butter, sprinkled on my seasonings, then in my rush to prepare to go to a funeral, I dropped it.  Literally dropped it.  My husband was holding out one of those neat Reynolds oven bags that keep the bird moist and tender and make clean up so much easier when I plopped it in.  What was I thinking?  It wasn’t a Hefty trash bag, it was a lightweight oven bag.  The bird burst through the bottom of the bag and that 20 lb. piece of poultry hit the floor with a thud.  My husband and I locked wide eyes for a split second or two over our main course laying on the floor at our feet.  We did what all shrewd people do: we picked it up from the floor, rinsed it off, gently placed it in a new bag and put in the oven to bake.  Makes ya think twice about eating at my house, doesn’t it?  🙂  I wonder if our guests will read this before coming to supper tonight…?

So many dreams.  Sometimes I know what I’m waiting for; sometimes I’m not quite sure.  It’s like trying to look at a picture through a pool of water.  Do you feel the same way?  Maybe you don’t know what you’re waiting for.  Maybe it’s an unspoken desire buried so deep that you don’t even recognize it.  I have a friend who has dreamed of having a place that’s sort of like where a coffee-house-type atmosphere and Christian bookstore collide.  Another friend has mentioned writing children’s books on various occasions.  Another friend wants God to “sign her paycheck”; she wants the freedom to minister rather than be tied down to an employer. These dreams have so much potential to make an incredible impact on those who would partake and yet they’re not realized.  Do we recognize them when they come?  And when they do come, what do we do?  We act as if everything depends on us, we pray as if everything depends on God and then we enter the world of 4 letter words and: WAIT.

Sometimes dreams are in disguise.  Pastor tells the story of a girl in youth group who went on a missions’ trip and was exposed  to teaching children.  She discovered that she loved it, but until that time she never knew it.  She is now the supervisor of a huge children’s ministry outreach in her church.  I have a couple of friends who are currently students, one in her 40s, and I couldn’t be prouder of her.  She has dabbled with herbs and natural remedies for years and is finally taking official classes.  I can’t tell you how excited I am for her.  Think of it, for years the googling and dabbling and now the dive in.  I’m especially excited at the prospect of her marrying the wisdom of the LORD with the knowledge of the natural. It’s marvelous.  Maybe there could be tea, Christian books, and herbal seminars. ?

The whole thing is a process.  There’s a vast amount of books and extensive study pertaining to dreams and seeing them come true; here are just a few simple tips:

1.Be/Get quiet.  Listen to the beat of your heart.  What’s it telling you?  Is your mind consumed with business?  Creativity?  Mechanics?  Healthcare?  Technology?  Farming?  Organization?  Ministry?  Education?  What is it that you can’t wait to google?  Where does your heart go to recharge when it is weary?  What evokes your emotion?

2.Go deaf to naysayers–including yourself.  Consider saying “Yes” to a proposal or request.  If someone has a need and has asked you to fill it, or is willing to open a door, think about it before caving to a standard “No” due to fear of the unknown or failure.  Life is one big unknown.  I could die in my sleep tonight and leave a bunch of yeses left undone.  As far as failure, been there, done that.  It hasn’t killed me yet so why not keep on trying?

3.Never, ever entertain the thought that you are too old or the dream is too big.  Dreams never expire.  And they’re often meant to expand.

Maybe your dream isn’t necessarily for doing it is for being: being free, being joyful, being forgiving, being at peace, being healthy–fill in the blank.  We all have them.  Whether “doing” or “being” dreams, here’s a final tip:

4.Hold on tight.  Dream-suckers come in all sorts of shapes and sizes.  That is where our story comes to play.  When it feels like the whole world and all of the time in it are against you, get alone with God and do like David did and be strengthened in the LORD; encourage yourself.  Keep on going!  Pick that turkey up from the floor, clean it off, and put it in the oven to bake.  Is it messy business?  You betcha!  Time consuming?  Absolutely!  Worth it?  Oh, so worth it!

Dear heart, whatever the dream, whatever the battle, whatever it is you are facing today, know this: God Is Able.  Beyond that: God Is Willing.  Go to your quiet spot.  He’s waiting there for you today to enable you in all of  your doing and to encourage you in all of your being.  He’s waiting to give you all that you need wrapped in all of His love.  Join me by making a conscious effort to sit in His presence today.    

 Click here to check out the talents of a couple of friends of mine.

 

 

The unIdentified Lone Follower

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Shortly after signing on with WordPress my email blew up with messages from them like:

Congratulations.  Thanks!

Thank you for using WordPress.com!   You’re welcome!

…check out our tutorials…  Currently my holy grail.

You have special access to a bunch of new features.  Great!  More headaches to choose from.

Have fun!   If only.

And my favorite:  Just play around, you won’t break us.  That one actually made me laugh out loud.

I can’t tell you how many times Bob was greeted with computer woes when he came through the door after a hard day’s work.  Or how many times he would mournfully ask: “What did you do?”  To the which I was mystified and would honestly reply: “I don’t know.”  If there’s a way to break WordPress I will be the one to find it.  Let me take this moment to apologize in advance to any of you who use this service if your site suddenly crashes without reason.  Don’t worry, it’ll fix.  Bob has always fixed it here in our house so I’m sure a professional team can manage my faux pas.

For days now I have logged onto my site, roamed around, and wondered what to do, how to do it and what to write.  I have writer’s block so bad that I could build a two-car garage with all the block I’ve collected.  I wrote 2 drafts and decided I didn’t particularly care for either one of them.  So I returned to my emails and revisited all of the things WordPress sent me in hopes that their knowledge will somehow miraculously  be absorbed by my brain until the writer’s block passes.  Then I think to myself:

LORD, really?  A technological idiot cut loose on the web.  What were You thinking?  Yes, I love to write–with a pen and notebook paper.  But, this?  Couldn’t this have waited a few more years when everything will be voice activated and I can just tell WordPress what I want and they’ll make it so instead of Click here, Copy and paste here, Go here, go there, go everywhere?  Oh, and did You forget that I’m also directionally challenged?

God’s not amused or impressed with my doubt.  Kind of made me think of Moses getting his edict to go to Pharaoh and command him to “Let My people go!”   Moses: But, LORD, I stutter.  Then there was Gideon, “Thou mighty man of valor.”  Gideon: Who, me?  And how about when Jesse paraded all of his sons before the prophet Samuel to see who would be anointed as the next king.  Every one of them was rejected by the LORD when a baffled Samuel asked, “Are there anymore sons?”  Jesse: “Well, yes, David, but he’s just a shepherd boy.”

Are you getting that I’m a bit overwhelmed?  It’s reminiscent of the day I was released from the hospital with our twins.  I didn’t know what to do with one baby let alone two.  It’s true; they don’t come with an instruction manual.  Naked you came into the world, naked you go out….

I can’t do this.  But God can.  Moses, Gideon, David, they all triumphed because they put their trust in God.  That’s all He’s asking of me.  That’s all He’s asking of you.  Trust Me.

Okay.  Take a deep breath.  That settled, I went back to my site and stared at it again.  All of my family has been watching me come undone for days now although my husband doesn’t know why.

“What do I write?” I wailed.

“Just be you,” my daughters encouraged.  “You’re trying too hard.”

I continued to stare at my site.  “Hey!  I have a follower!”

Bob and I were watching Home Improvement the other night.  I felt bad for Tim as  his family treats his show like it’s nothing of consequence instead of their bread and butter.  It spawned a curiosity in me.

“If I had a cooking show,” I asked Bob, “would you watch it?”

“No,” was his immediate reply.  Seemed to me he could have at least considered it.  I mean, I am the love of his life, aren’t I?

“If I had a hunting show, would you watch it?” he volleyed back.

“Probably not.”  At least I hesitated.  If I knew he’d talk about something interesting like our girls or me, probably.  But I don’t want to hear about something gross like how old timer’s used to skin a pheasant by standing on its wings and tugging on its legs.  Then again, he is my man.  So, yeah, I’d probably watch him–at least occasionally.

I said all of that to say this: I know my husband is not my follower.  As of this draft he isn’t even aware that God’s Word Girl exists.  I figure if my visually stimulated husband wouldn’t watch me then he definitely won’t read me–especially since he’s a self-proclaiming hater of reading.  There is no need for intervention, I will tell him…eventually.

I clicked on my follower fully anticipating that it was my mom since she inquired as to how to do that.  (Yeah, she asked me as if I’d know).  In my defense, I anticipated one lone follower because outside of Pastor, daughters, and me, Mum is the only one who currently knows about the birth of God’s Word Girl.  Since moms are usually extraordinary supporters by nature which is what I currently need, I figured it was her.  Boy was I surprised to discover the identity of my follower: me.  Yep, with my picture and my email address.  Unless I misunderstood, I am my one lone follower.  I burst out laughing.  I don’t even know how I did it.  I am my administrator and my follower.  Is that not scary?  Seriously, stay with  me, I’m going somewhere with this.

How many times have I tried to do things my way?  How many times have I tried to “fix” things without first seeking the counsel of God?  How many times have I wished I would have thought through my words twice before speaking once?  How many times have I traveled  down a road only to realize He never pointed me in that direction?  Do you relate?  How many times, how many failures, how many regrets, and yet…

God is good.  And incredibly patient.  Like Moses, Gideon and David, if I follow where He leads I will succeed in fulfilling His purpose.  There’s no promise that it’s going to be easy.  On the contrary.  Jesus made a striking promise in John 16:33 when He said:

“These things have I spoken to you, that in Me you may have peace.  In the world you will have tribulation.”

Oftentimes I think we spend too much time focusing on the tribulation part instead of the next part:

but be of good cheer, I have overcome the world.”  And the computer, and technology, and blogging, etc., etc.

Yippee!  Thank You, Jesus!

Now, if I will let Him overcome me we’ll really have something going.

Please be patient with me as my site is under construction.  For that matter, so is my life.  Is yours?  If  you’re living and breathing and striving to follow God, I’d say “Yes”.  On that note, grant yourself a little added grace today.  God isn’t asking for perfect performances, but He is asking for willing hearts.  Join me and be one.