Tuesday, December 28, 2010

WORST CELEBRATIONS - Goalkeeper celebrates too early in penalty!!!!


My husband came home talking about the soccer goalie who celebrated his victory too early. I had to see it for myself.

The poor guy.

He successfully blocked the goal, got up, faced the audience hitting his chest for applause, not realizing the ball had bounced off of his body only to roll slowly, slowly into the goal. Impossible!

If he had only stayed alert. Eye on the ball, not the audience.

If only.

I am reminded of times, few thank goodness, when I didn't focus on my surroundings. I rmember I had studied for a test so diligently. I got the test and breezed through it in no time.

I wondered why no one else was turning in tests. Why were they still struggling so long after my completed masterpiece?

The next day, my heart sank as I realized I had not heard the note about the EXTRA 50-point question added on the board.

I know how the goalie felt.

God warns us as well in our spiritual lives to be diligent, not to take His Word for granted. He encourages us to hide His Words in our hearts to prepare for times of surprises in life, times of disappointments, times of waiting.

Today, I woke up early, unable to sleep. The sun was not up. My husband's sleep-apnea machine droned softly accompanied by my daughter's soft snoring in the other room.

I made a cup of coffee and sat down with God. After reading His Word, my heart was ready for the day.

How about you? Where's your focus today? Is your eye on the ball?

It is nice to think of others joining me as we start each day of what is left of 2010and begin each day in 2011 in the quiet of our homes, before anyone else awakes, sipping our coffee and reading His Word.

For His glory as we wait for a new year...

Sunday, December 26, 2010

The Day After...


Well, it came.
It went.

It is now the day AFTER Christmas.

How are you feeling about it?

Some of you are "pooped" as one of my friends put it.
Others may be relieved after juggling financial and time constraints.

Me? I get depressed.

I mean since Thanksgiving I have enjoyed putting up the lights and dragging out the decorations I have not seen for a year.

I treasure each ornament's significance as I place it on the tree. Most ornaments on my tree are from the Johnston City Methodist Church Women's Society. I remember standing in a long line in November with my mother. I was twenty-two; she was in her early 50's. (So old, I had thought back then.) I humored her by getting up early to compete for purchasing hand-stitched ornaments from a local church.

"Believe me, some day you'll thank me for this, Gretchen," my mother had reassured me several times as I shivered in line whining like a spoiled child.

Now as I prepare to take down the faded, red-felt ornaments, I know how right she was. What memories they provide for me now. Memories of my mother always watching out for my future. Preparing me in some way. Preparing me for the day I decorate Christmas without her in my life.

I also put away the Christmas CD's. Music I love to hear over and over now goes into storage for another 12 months. "Hark the Herald Angels Sing," "I'm Dreaming of White Christmas," (and yes, we had one this year!), "Chestnuts Roasting on an Open Fire..." Oh, and the DVD's of old Christmas movies must be put away as well: "It Happened on 5th Avenue," "White Christmas," "Christmas in Connecticut," "The Bishop's Wife..."

I clear away the clutter of Christmas on the mantel, on the piano, on the stairway rails, around the door, on the bushes. I make decisions like, "Do I pitch the miniature lights that always seem to go out when I plug them in and have to buy new ones each year? or hold out for hope once again that they haven't expired in their use?"

I also swear each year to be more organized in my storage of Christmas items. I love seeing those Christmas organizers for ornaments and wreaths.

Yet, I know I will simply wrap tissue paper around most things or worse, sheets and garbage bags and pile plastic bins back in the basement as I do each year. My only guarantee is that I will label each bin this year so I know where each fake greenery will go next year.

Yes, it is the day AFTER Christmas.

What looms ahead are the bleak months of January, February, March. Even spring holds not much hope for me as I begin a battle with pollen, something that hit me at the ripe old age of 35! (No amounts of zyrtec, claritin, singular or inhalers seem to abate that problem. I must wait until June to breath freely again.)

Did I mention I get depressed the day AFTER Christmas? Can you tell?
Sarcasm is not pretty either is it?

One small comment though on Christmas afternoon has given me hope. I am clinging to it even as I write.

The comment came from a women in her 80's. She called to wish me Merry Christmas and said the most remarkable thing.

She said this was her best Christmas ever!

She never missed a beat. She did not know how that statement impacted me, has continued to linger with me.

You see, she is a widow. She has experienced much sadness in her life. She lost her daughter just as her daughter graduated from college and was starting her life in her career. She lost her husband a few years ago as well. Then last month, on Thanksgiving, she had a heart attack.

"This was the best Christmas I think I have ever had." That is what she said. How could that be?

This Christmas I have been haunted by images of the past. Images of my own mother sitting on my couch Christmas Eve suffering from yet another TIA or stroke. Images of her grief after losing her husband of over 60 years. Images of my father as I held his hand over two years ago as the breath of life left him. I keep thinking, this is what the future holds for each of us: loneliness, disease, death.

Yes, I get depressed as I take down the Christmas decorations and wonder what life will hold for me the next time Christmas comes around in 2011. Will I be alone? Will I be healthy? Will I have lost yet another person close in my heart? Will we be alright financially? Will the sadness ever leave me?

Yes, it is the day AFTER Christmas. I warned you. I get depressed about it.

Yet, there are her words. "...the best Christmas I have ever had..." How could she be so happy? She is in pain from her health issues; she lives essentially in one room of her house to save on heating bills; she must struggle with the memories of her husband and daughter's death; she has lost life-long friends as she ages....

She answered the questions I have without me asking her. Before hanging up the phone to retire for the night, she said, "I just love Christmas because it is Jesus' birth. Without that we wouldn't have the hope of heaven and seeing our loved ones again."

The hope of heaven. Life eternal. Seeing loved ones.

Taking down the Christmas decorations isn't the end. It isn't the beginning either. It is simply a part of an eternal pattern. I will be celebrating Jesus' birthday forever somewhere.

I pray, like the woman on the phone, I can say each year, "THIS was the best Christmas ever!" no matter what comes my way because I am truly celebrating Jesus in my life.

So...
Happy day AFTER Christmas, Dear Readers.

Monday, December 20, 2010

Digital Christmas Story

Digital Christmas Story
The above clip cleverly shares the Christmas story from a modern social network view. I hope you enjoy this little addition for today's devotional.

Merry Christmas!

NAME THAT STAR!


You have seen the offers haven't you? For Christmas, you can send in money to name a star for someone you love.

I admit, as silly as it sounds, it has been tempting. I mean there is that desire in all of us to be immortalized, remembered beyond our temporary time on earth... or at least in me.

Yet, it is too late. Today, I heard a minister share how all the stars have already been named for Jesus. Scripture after scripture revealed how creation including the billions of stars was made for our Lord and how the billions and billions (forgive me, Carl) of stars were already named upon creation.

So, I am going to save my money and focus on the fact that I have an immortal soul. In fact I am as C.S. Lewis said a soul with a body. I was born as an eternal being.
Thanks to the creator of the universe, I can continue to live with Him.

As I approach Christmas, I am reminded by the shining star, the one God had place over His son's birth, the one that led wise men and shepherds to the place of worship. I wonder what God named that star, don't you?

Some day we will know. In the meantime, join me, won't you, as I look to the heavens tonight in amazement and gratitude that the Creator of that should care for us.

For His Glory...

Thursday, December 16, 2010

Snow Day!


Well, it happened.

To my 9-yr. old's delight, school was finally cancelled due to inclement weather. Really, instead of snow, it was ice.

Either way, she is happy.

Now you would think she would sleep in.

Nooooooo. At the time I usually am dragging her out of bed, she jumps up excitedly to watch television and play with her toys.

When I asked her why she didn't stay in bed and take advantage of the day off of school, she said, "Mom, I'm just so excited! I don't want to waste the day!"

She really reflects how most of us are about things out of the ordinary that take us by surprise.

A snow day. A holiday. A friend's visit or phone call. A kind word. A selfless gesture.

I wonder how often I have been someone's snow day this year? How often have I been the unexpected kindness someone needed that day?

How about you? Join me, in being someone's "snow day" surprise today, won't you?

For His glory....
Gretchen

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Good News!


It seems like it has been a long time.

I am sure God shakes His head at my terrible memory because I know He has acted on my behalf many times during the past three years.

Yet...

I still feel like I have received many "no's" during that time to my prayer request.

This fall I shared with you how after losing my dad and then my mother within the past 2 years, I heard the terrible news of my sweet sister-in-law's liver cancer.

Many of us were devastated.

And we have been praying.

Praying, praying, praying.

Praying for healing. Praying for understanding. Praying for her strength. Praying for doctors to have wisdom.

Praying.

Yesterday afternoon, God gave us a glimpse of His power and mercy. Her CT Scan came back indicating the numerous tumors in her stomach cavity were gone! The one remaining tumor on her liver had shrunk 50%!

Amazing!

She is half way through treatments. She has a long way to go, but God gave her encouragement yesterday.

He gave each of us hope.

Throughout it all, He has given us His love.

Join with me, won't you, in a prayer of thanksgiving as well as a continued prayer for healing for Tabby Jack?

And for those of you waiting for healing, let me know. I will pray for you, too.

God's love is with you as you wait.

I pray for your good news to come soon.

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Betty White


How did this happen? I mean really! Suddenly she is everywhere!
The last time I saw Betty White was on THE MARY TYLER MOORE SHOW which of course really dates me.

And no, I did not watch THE GOLDEN GIRLS, but I know she was on there, too.

For years, I did not think about her or see her. Now, if I watch an award show, I know Betty White will be there cracking jokes that are meant to shock people, and they usually do. Her dry wit and her self deprecating sense of humor endears her to her audience. Whether it is a guest appearance on a sitcom, award show, or even a candy-bar commercial, Betty White is suddently the "hot" star.

But how did this happen?

My theory is that she just waited it out.

She had a pretty long dry spell of no popularity, no work.
So she waited and kept going.

Even with all of this popularity and attention though, "this, too, shall pass."

It is just a part of life.

I am writing this to reassure myself and others who are in a dry season of life, a waiting period for answers.

I look at the Bible and am reminded of many people, flawed people, like Betty White who waited a long time for things to change. People wanting children. People wanting healing. People needing daily bread. People needing a Savior.

God came through every single time.

But it doesn't mean they didn't wait.

So be encouraged.

If Betty White can do it...

well, then so can YOU and I.

Blessings on you as you wait.

Sunday, December 12, 2010

A Non Traditional Christmas!


This time of year I enjoy browsing at various decorator shops to see their ideas for Christmas decorations. It amazes me how designers create different takes on the traditional Christmas tree each year.

The Christmas tree. When someone asks you, "What is your idea of Chrstmas?", I assume somewhere in your mind's eye, is a picture of a Christmas tree. What else do you envision?

At our annual Christmas church play, my minister challenged my traditional concept of Christmas. He reminded the audience how traditional songs like "Silent Night" or "Chestnuts Roasting on an Open Fire" tend ot soften what the first Christmas was really like for Jesus and His family.

The stable was not probably a European one like we see in Nativity scenes. It was more likely a cave, damp, and smokey if they built a fire to stay warm. Before Jesus' birth, Mary had to travel 100 miles to get to Bethlehem! 100 miles!

Have you ever walked 10 miles in one day over rough terrain? This past summer for exercise, I walked to Chesterfield Valley from my home. I admit, I was sore and exhausted afterwards, and it was barely 10 miles on nicely paved sidewalks!
Mary walked, rode a donkey,travelled over 100 miles when she was close to giving birth to Jesus!

That certainly changes my traditional cute manger scene of Christmas.

Many of us are having a difficult Christmas this year. Our traditions are changing or have changed with the loss of loved ones, or with financial challenges, or with battling sickness. We may think no one understands.

Until we remember Jesus. The cause of Christmas.

He understands hardship, sadness, challenges, loss.

He also understands joy, happiness, and love. That is why He came in such a non traditional way to save the world. His great love for us demanded that He share His happiness as well.

This morning it snowed. I could hardly wait to wake my 9-year old up to see the blowing snow that transformed our backyard into a magical snow globe. I wanted to share my happiness with her.

So much more Jesus wanted to share His happiness with us that He came to earth as a baby, God in human, frail form.

Not traditional.

So I am rethinking, like many of you, what Christmas looks like this year. As I sing the carols and watch the television shows and hear the stories, I tend to long for the old traditions and ways of Christmases past.

I know Jesus understands and will help me transform my current Christmas as He helps me answer, "What should Christmas look like this year?"

How about you? What should this year's Christmas look like for you and your family? Trust Jesus to help you shape that answer, won't you?

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

The Christmas Wrapping Paper



I spent the morning wrapping gifts for Christmas. I saw my mistake during the first Barbie-doll gift wrap.

Cheap wrapping paper.

After measuring and cutting, I placed the box on top of the paper, started to fold it, only to hear the rrrrrrrip of the paper.

Last year, I took time and money to purchase more expensive paper, thick, bright red paper that cut easily and folded over the packages like a dream, with crisp edges.

I don't know what I was thinking. I guess I wasn't.

-But I was committed, so I crunched paper, retaped frequent tears. The packages reminded me of the way I wrapped when I was 10. Nostaligic, but not in a pleasant way.

Later, when I experienced some tough situations during the day, God brought the frustration of the cheap wrapping paper back to my mind. How well I responded to problems in the day depended on how well I was fortified with God's Word. In short, of what stuff I am made or have prepared myself determined my reaction to difficulties.

Like the paper, I can be weak and tear easily, in fact dissolve completely if not fortified. I can't bend or fold or move as God directs. I fight the bending around God's present or plan.

Or...like the better paper, I can fortify myself with God's Word, with meditation on His love, and be better able to bend, fold, and move the direction HE wants me to go.

One Christian woman shared this morning the testimony of a friend who became blind as a teen unexpectedly. She wrote two words: RESIST REST

She said as she found herself giving up the "I" in her battle, God gave her His REST and Peace.

The inexpensive, weak paper, resisted being folded around the present I had prepared. The fortified paper folded easily, creating a more beautiful gift as a result.

I pray today,as I wait for God's direction, I am able to give up the "I" and rest as well as bend to God's will. Join me in fortifying yourself with God's Word today. The present He has for you as a result will be more beautiful with your participation.

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

The Bottom Line: How Embarrassing!


What has been your most embarrassing moment so far? Yes, I indicated "so far" because we all know more are bound to come. We are only human, and as a result, embarrassing moments are par for the course of life.

It is hard to forget them though, isn't it?

I recall one especially. It was my first year as principal at a high school. I was the first woman principal and was determined to do well. I was all business in my attitude and dress.

One morning before walking out into the large commons area to meet and greet teens as they congregated before school, I was stopped by a young male science teacher.

"Dr. Fleming! Wait! Don't go there!"

I started to turn around when he guided me quickly so my back was against the wall.

"You really don't want to go out there this morning," he said awkwardly with cheeks burning. "Check your rear."

I put my hand behind my back to discover my skirt had caught in my girdle (yes, girdle--didn't I tell you I was all business, after all?). -And I must add it was an UGLY girdle.

This young man had stopped me just before I had walked out among over one thousand teens who would have had quite a show and fun that morning.

I backed my rear to the wall and slided quickly to the restroom to make the necessary adjustment. Later, I thanked the teacher for the courage to "save my rear."

I also admit it was difficult evaluating that same teacher every year as I knew he must have had quite a time erasing that terrible visual.

Isn't it nice though to have people courageous enough to "watch your back" so to speak? Don't you get frustrated when you've spent an entire day or luncheon only to realize afterward you had food on your mouth, or inbetween your teeth, or a nose that needed blowing, and no one told you? No one had your back during that entire time as you laughed, joked, or regaled others with your own stories.

God promises to watch our rear for us. It says in Psalms, 34, "The angel of the Lord encamps around those who fear him, and he delivers them. Taste and see that the Lord is good; blessed is the man who takes refuge in him....The righteous cry out and the Lord hears them; he delivers them from all their troubles. The Lord is close to the brokenhearted and saves those who are crushedin spirit" (NIV). In Psalm 145, ""The Lord is near to all who call on him, to all who call on him in truth. ...he hears their cry and saves them" (NIV).

As we wait on the Lord, will we have troubles? Do we have embarrassing times? Yes. Yes. For example, this morning was difficult. I was already battling depression when my husband returned from work declaring he had TWO flat tires. Helping him take the tires to Dobbs as well as get my daughter to school on time was not easy. My heart did not lighten as I worked through the logistics.

So after everything calmed down, I read the Bible and cried my heart out to God.
I am glad to tell you, He has my back. His peace and comfort are mine.

The bottom line (pun intended) is no matter what the circumstances, I can count on my Father surrounding me with His love and grace.

Blessings on you today. I hope today does not contain an embarrassing moment for you, but if it does, remember who has your rear. It will be o.k.

Monday, December 6, 2010

Waiting for Cancer Report




The waiting room. Not an easy place to be. That is where many of us are this holiday season though. Some are waiting for direction, a job, an answer, healing. The young beautiful Christian mother I have written about before today (see previous blogs) shared last night what it is like to wait for news about cancer after months of chemo and finally surgery. Her story about waiting is inspirational.

Please, join me in praying for her as you read her view on waiting for an answer.
Blessings on you today. If you have a prayer request, let me know. I will pray for you, too.
FROM JODI:
Greetings family and friends! Let me begin by thanking you for your love, support and most importantly your prayers this past week during my surgery. The surgery was successful and I am now sporting a few new breast cancer battle scars and a lovely whole in my side with a drain. In regards to yours (and more importantly my own) pressing question…NO I haven’t received the pathology report yet. As you can imagine the waiting is very challenging. I have learned so much since Tuesday and I thought I would share a few lessons.

First, I learned that a hospital is no place to get rest! Tuesday night was a very rough night. I was quite sick from the anestesia and I was sent a roommate who had no trouble sleeping (or snoring loudly!) I kept looking at the clock praying for how many hours until daylight when I would be checked out by the doctor and I could beg to go home. I must say the one thing that kept me going at 3am was checking out the I-pad and reading your awesome messages of love and random acts of kindness. I am so touched by the soda delivered to the tired bell ringer, the teacher who spent her free period writing notes of thanks and encouragement to her student’s parents, the family that delivered a meal to a needy neighbor and the friend who bought flowers for his wife “just because”. Thank you to all of you who honored me with your acts of kindness to others. (Not to mention I am just so impressed you are still listening to my requests!)

Secondly, I have learned that not having use of one of your arms is more of a challenge than I realized. It is hard to ask for help when I am so used to being independent and yet I have such a new awareness for those permanently restricted in their mobility (ah, yet another lesson for all of us to count our blessings!)

I am once again challenged to learn the lesson of patience and waiting. I am so eager to get the test results back and yet day after day this past week they didn’t arrive. Every time the phone rang my heart raced with anxiety and anticipation until finally Friday afternoon I just broke down and sobbed. Then I was so graciously reminded about the beautiful season of advent that we are in…and advent is known as a season of waiting (waiting for baby Jesus to be born). Waiting is not something most of us like to do and I think we often feel like if we are smart or clever maybe we won’t have to wait. We play the grocery store game to find the shortest check-out lane, we spot the open gas pump and peel around so we don’t have to wait, we go for fast food, and we hope for quick car pool lines with no waiting. In our busy world none of us really like to wait. And yet, at times in our life we are called to do just that – surrender control and be patient for God’s timing. So I am living that lesson right now as I pray for help to wait patiently. I am also praying that great news will come from the wait – just as we wait for spring flowers or a new baby to be born! I also pray that each of you may embrace the season of advent and take a moment away from the hustle and bustle and prepare for the God who waits for all of us to spend time with Him.

......
Are you waiting for an answer this holiday season? Join me, join Jodi, join us in trusting God. He is there in the waiting room with you.

Sunday, December 5, 2010

The Mystery of...


Did anyone else fall in love with Nancy Drew mystery books when you were a child? I remember my Aunt Olive, the town librarian, introducing me to the series when I was visiting the library searching for a good book. Little did I know she not only introduced me to the Nancy Drew series but also to the world of "reading for fun."

I remember staying up late at night with a flashlight under my blanket so I could finish the SECRET OF THE HIDDEN STAIRCASE. After fininshing Carolyn Keen's series, I moved on to the Hardy Boys.

To this day, I still love a good mystery book. M.C. Beaton, Charlain Harris,Nancy Atherton, almost any author with a good series will entice me into reading late into the night.

Recently, I have come to think of God as one of the best mystery writers though. When I people watch at the malls, (so easy to to this time of year), I am amazed by all the different shapes, sizes, facial features, languages, and cultures surrounding me. What amazes me even more is the mystery of how God desires a relationship with each person and that HE knows and has a plan for EACH PERSON as well.

Isn't that amazing to you? It certainly is to me. I recall how hard I worked at memorizing each of my 120-150 students' names by the second week of school each fall. As a high school teacher, I knew how crucial it was to teens to be known and remembered by their teachers.

Yet, here we are with the Creator of the Universe who is not just satisfied in creating us, but also KNOWS us as individuals, has a plan for us, and loves us so deeply He wants a relationship with us.

That is certainly a mystery.

What's your favorite genre? As you sit by the fireplace this winter with good reading material in hand, I hope you include the Bible.

Join me in reading about the greatest mystery of all, God's love for us.

Friday, December 3, 2010

The Beautician


My mother went to the beauty parlor once a week. That's what it was called back then. It was a real treat for her, I could tell. Not only did having her hair done make her feel better, but she had time to chat with her friends. In fact her hairstylist became one of her best friends in life. Even after moving far away from my mother, her stylist stayed in touch and visited often.

Going to the beauty shop fed my mother's need to socialize and look good. It was a temporary solution though because she had to return each week.

Recently in a workbook by Beth Moore called BREAKING FREE, I read how Beth was struggling with this season of life. Being in her 50's she lost her best cheerleader, her mother; her two best friends moved away; her daughters were either in college or married; it is new territory for her, much like a desert.

In writing about what it is like in this "foreign land," for that it what it feels like, she writes, "Time is the best healer, but the worst beautician."

Isn't that the truth? Like Beth, I feel like I am in a new season of life without my parents to care for or to cheer me on, without my job, without "things" to fill my day. I know time will help me work through the feelings of grief, but it is not kind to the face I see in the mirror.

Thank God, literally, He does not see me that way. As Beth points out, Christ sees me as His new bride, beautiful in His eyes. The Song of Songs sometimes makes me laugh at the descriptions, I admit (teeth like shorn sheep?).

-Yet I am also humbled by the deep love the groom has for His bride, symbolizing Christ's love for me.

No beauty parlor can provide the kind of beauty Christ sees in me once I accept Him as my Lord and Savior. He is preparing me for being with Him some day.
All He asks is that I walk with Him, read His Word, and submit to His direction.

So I look in the mirror. I think of the beauty parlor. I need to go there. Like my mom, I do feel better after being there. At least for a couple of days until I have to do my hair myself.

Nothing though lasts except for the love of Christ and what He has prepared for us.

What is time doing for you today as you wait? Healing? Taking away? Please, join me today in giving your time to God for the ultimate beauty makeover.

Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Oprah's Favorite Things!

.

Who doesn't know about the famous OPRAH's FAVORITE THINGS SHOW? I watched BOTH of her shows this season (she actually had two surprise give-away shows for her last season). As I watched, I reflected on how disappointed I was in my own Oprah-Show-experience.

Talk about your bad timing.

You see as I watched gift after AMAZING gift distributed to the audience, I recalled the time I got to be in the Oprah audience.

It was about five years ago.

My neighbor and I drove to Chicago excited about being on the Oprah show. I had received a call from the show telling me they had two spots open and would I be interested? The topic was how to get your child to eat healthy food.

I was so sure they could not do an entire show on such a boring topic. I was certain this was the FAVORITE THINGS SHOW!

It didn't matter because I was also excited to be one of her screaming audience members.

"Be sure to wear black. The camera doesn't like busy colors as we pan the audience."

No problem. The problem was not in the clothes, but in finding a hotel in Chicago. Never in my wildest dreams would I think such a large city would not have a single hotel room available.

When I called to find a hotel room I was shocked. Every single hotel in the city was booked! The closest I could get was a hotel one hour away from the show which meant two hours with traffic.

After hours of calls, I finally found a small, unknown hotel one block off Michigan Avenue. Yes, there were numerous conventions in town, but they had one room open.

Excitedly, we took off for Oprah. Visions of Favorite Things danced in my head.

After encountering highway shut downs, road construction, two tired, yet determined Missouri girls reached the hotel.

We now knew why the room as well as several others were available.

It was like a Lucille Ball sitcom episode. The "El" trains rain right by our window. I could have touched the train from my window! The lights blinded us and the vibrations and noise kept me awake most of the night. The room was so shabby I dare not lie on the bed covers. I put my coats and clothes under me hoping bed bugs would not attack with so much train noise and lights going on.

Yet, there it was ahead of me. In a few short hours I would be sitting close to the lady herself, the giver of gifts, The Queen of Generosity, Oprah!

Donning our all-black pant suits, we lined up for Oprah the next morning. I looked around in wonder at all the women in BRIGHTLY COLORED OUTFITS. Had they not received the directions as I had? I heard one woman exclaim, "Oh, my friend told me if you wear bright colors, they put you in the FRONT row!" Surely, just a rumor, I told myself.

Three ladies pulled up in a limo after flying in from Houston to be in the audience. They kept staring at us. Finally, one came over and said in her sweet Southern accent, "We have a bet. We believe you two must be ARTISTS because of the way you are dressed. Are we correct?" I looked for the honey dripping from her smile as she drawled out the word, "artist."

Embarrased, I told her what the director had suggested. We were just Missouri gals hoping to enjoy an amazing show.

As we entered the studio, my friend and I were directed to the "balcony" area, the seats farthest from the stage. We could still see clearly, but my heart sank as the lady in the BRIGHT RED shirt next to me was called to come forward and sit next to Jerry Sienfeld's wife in the front row.

Before Oprah came out, the audience practiced oooing and ahhhhing. We were told the camera could focus on any person in the room at any time and reactions were important. We even practiced how to ask questions.

Then she came. There was Oprah.

In a bad mood.

Later I found out, she had been diagnosed with thyroid problems, much like my own. She had put on weight as well. She was not smiling. She was not laughing. We were told she would be very funny and interact with us prior to the show.

Nope. Nada. Nothing.

Jerry Sienfeld's wife hosted the show about her first cookbook. It was interesting, but I kept thinking, where is the real show? Oprah looked bored, distracted. At commercials, she did not even interact with the guest or her audience.

Well, at least I will get a copy of this cookbook, I hoped as I felt under my chair.

No package there.

Then samples of the food were brought out. We had waited a couple of hours in line and in the studio. It was past lunch time.

I thought, "A sample of food cooked by the Oprah staff from Mrs. Seinfeld's book will be great!"

Nope.

Only the FIRST ROW Center section received a couple of samples. I watched the lady in the BRIGHT RED blouse smile and woof down the small samples.

Then the show ended.

As women filed out, one asked, "Why no give aways of the cookbook?"

A staffer replied that Oprah's visit to Africa had convinced her to stop giving "things" to audience members and focus on her school and charities.

Oh.

That was it.

Since that year, I have watched the FAVORITE THINGS show as well as several others. It seems as though she had a change of heart. Audience members receive CD's, books, trips, cars, etc.

Bad timing on my part.

What does this have to do with my spiritual walk?

While attending the show provides a funny memory and something my neighbor and I can laugh about as we think on our road trip to Chicago, I am reminded that this is the GIVING SEASON. Christmas is really about GIVING.

What other holiday is about gifts as much as this one? Yes, Halloween gives candy; Easter gives eggs and chocolate; Valentine gives flowers and heart boxes.

--But it is not the same as Christmas. Christmas gifts mean more to Christians than just something we buy; our gifts symbolize God's love and our love for each other.

We celebrate the ULTIMATE GIFT GIVER, Jesus Christ, who was born into this world for us(John 3:16).

Today, I received an e-mail from a friend with cancer. She was going into surgery after 6 months of chemo. She asked for a gift.

She asked that during this time in honor of God's grace, each friend do a random act of kindness. Say something nice to the grocery clerk, buy a cup of coffee for the grouchy person waiting in line behind you, give something unexpected.

That is what Jesus did. He gave something unexpected by mankind. Himself. His life. We can not earn God's grace. We can not earn heaven. We can not earn salvation.

Join me today in thanking God, the KING OF THE BEST GIFT POSSIBLE, ETERNAL LIFE WITH THE CREATOR, for His gift of sacrifice and love. --And in honor of my friend and God's grace during this season, join me in random acts of kindness for others.

Unlike me with the Oprah show, you won't be disappointed.

Monday, November 29, 2010

Ask Me Later...


I bet I am not alone.
I know you've done this, too.

The message comes up every time I open my window on my computer.
"Software update. Do you wish to download now?"

I always punch, "Ask me later."

As a result, my internet Explorer has not been updated for several months.

I just hate having to shut my computer down or that it does so automatically.
I mean my time is soooooo valuable, right?

I don't have time to install new software.

On the other hand, I don't know what I am missing either.

Perhaps in the long run the update will save me time.

--But I won't know unless I stop what I am doing and take time to find out.

This is so true of my spiritual life as well.

How will I know what joy and peace can come from a relationship with God unless I take time to open my Bible and find out what He wants from me today?

-Even during the in-between-time of waiting for His direction....or perhaps especially during the in-between-time of waiting for God's answers.

Randy Alcorn wrote in his book, HEAVEN, that it takes time to plan where we are going after this earthly life. Christians spend more time planning for Disney World than they do for their trip to heaven.

Ouch! That hurt! I don't want to download that truth right now.

How am I preparing for my journey? Alcorn shared a saying on a tombstone in Indiana:
Please, stranger, when you pass me by;
As you are now, so once was I.
As I am now, so you will be.
So prepare for death and follow me.

Some unknown person scratched these additional words:
To follow you, I'm not content,
Until I know which way you went (Alcorn, 33).

Which way are you preparing for today? Sounds funny, I know, yet, I am serious.

I hope you won't say, "Ask Me Later."

Join me in reading God's Word and talking to Him about it today, won't you?

Saturday, November 27, 2010

Gingerbread Houses and Snow!





St. Louis had its first snow on Thanksgiving Day!

O.K. It was .02 inches.

-But it was so pretty falling like delicate strips of paper from the sky and melting as it hit the all-too-warm ground.

I especially enjoyed this because it provided two much-needed things for me and my daughter: a good memory and a new memory.

Six years ago, I celebrated my first Thanksgiving as a mother. After having Scout with me from China for only eight weeks, I prepared for her first Thanksgiving meal. As she and I ran to the grocery store, large snow flakes drifted down from the sky.
It was her FIRST snow and her FIRST Thanksgiving!
I remember both of us laughing as she discovered the feel of the wet drops on her skin.

A good memory.

This Thanksgiving, my family and I put on brave faces and tried not to think of the empty chair at our table where Mom always sat.

We each said our list of thanks and lit a candle after doing so.

Just when sadness started to take over my heart, I looked up and saw the snow. With squeals of delight we rushed outside to catch flakes on our tongues.

Giggles and smiles replaced sadness for that moment.

God knows a good ice breaker (no pun intended) when it is needed. My daughter, who did not remember her first snow at age 3, will now remember this one. A new memory.

The next day we tried our hand at making a traditional Gingerbread House.

Can you guess which one is the picture on the box?

HaHa.

Why is it ours turns out like Nightmare on 34th Street instead of the neat one on the box cover? Our icing oozes; our roof sags; the Gingerbread people look a bit crazed with their Gobstopper-candy eyes.

--But it is a new memory, another one filled with laughter.

As I reflect on the holiday, the Gingerbread box cover reminds me of the world.
The world offers us so much this holiday season. If we only could have that new IPAD or Kinect Game or Nano Pod or XBOX game or cell phone or....
Then joy would be ours.

Like the box cover it looks so perfect. The people with those "toys" look so happy.

-Yet we know the only real lasting peace and joy when facing loss or hardship that inevitably comes is going to be from Jesus.

He is the source of living water.
He is the source of good.
He is my Savior.

May your holiday season be filled with new and good memories of walking and talking with Jesus.

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

The First Thanksgving Without...


Today's blog will be short.
"About time!," you are thinking, right?

I just received a call. My only guest for Thanksgiving, my Dad's nephew, is not coming because of bad weather.

I understand driving in bad weather, and I do not fault him at all for being cautious.

-But it hit me. This is my FIRST THANKSGIVING without my Mom and Dad and my extended family. (My mother is pictured above with my daughter at a previous Thanksgiving celebration.)
After many Thanksgivings preparing for my parents and brother and his family, no one other than my husband, daughter and I will be feasting.

I feel a bit sick to my stomach about it to be honest.

Not that I don't appreciate my husband and daughter.

It will be just so quiet.

And yes, I invited friends, but they have their own families and extended family members coming.

So I have all of this turkey and food that I always bought or prepared in the past.
I am looking at it and thinking, "What in the world?! Why did I do this?"

I know why.
My dad loved good food. Thanksgiving was his favorite time of year.
I loved providing for him and for Mom.
That is why my fridge is full.

I realize now I have to let it go.
This is new territory for me today.

I am crying as I write, yet rejoicing knowing God understands and will walk me through this.

Thank you for taking time to read this little blog. Perhaps God has something you can share with me on grief during the holidays.
Or perhaps you just know you are not alone in feeling a bit blue during this time.

Either way, God is with us. God is good.
I am thankful for good memories, my little family, and a storehouse of blessings in heaven.

Happy Thanksgiving!

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Guess Who's Coming for Coffee?


Today's blog could have been about several things. No, not because it was a terribly exciting day.
It was just a day, I seem to see everything as related to God's design and purpose.

Have you had a day like that? When the little things you do seem to speak about God's plan?

It seems to be happening to me more and more lately.
It is certainly not because I am some kind of saint, either.

I think it is because I am reading His Word daily and talking to Him more.

Like today, for instance.
This morning I opened my door to strangers.

Yep, strangers. I put a sign in the yard, "PRAYER AND SHARE TUESDAY 9:30."
I opened the door seeing who might come.

God put this bizarre act on my heart back in June. I really did not want to do this.

If you haven't figured it out yet, I am a PLAN-AHEAD-PREPARE-IN-ADVANCE kind of gal. I like to know who is coming into my home and for how long so I can prepare the right amount of food and coffee.

I like to pretend I'm in control.

When God put this image of a sign in my yard and an open invitation to my neighborhood, people who live more than five blocks away, I was terrified.

I thought, "What if no one comes?"
Then I thought, "Well, that would be better than a bunch of strangers coming!"

So I put the yard sign out and waited.

Just as I was about to give up and close the front door, one woman came walking up the sidewalk and to my driveway.
Then another.
And another...

Each Tuesday morning during the summer my kitchen table was surrounded by five to seven beautiful sisters in Christ.

I have heard amazing testimonies.
I have listened to courageous prayers.
I have been touched.

At first, I pictured God was having me do this for the neighborhood.
Now I realize, it has been more for me.

When August came, I stopped the study as ladies and I went to fall Bible studies and other obligations.

During November and December, though, the sign went back out in the yard during the study breaks.

This morning, as I prepared the kitchen table, I wondered if anyone would show up. After all, it is only two days before Thanksgiving. I told God to bring whoever He wanted, and if no one, I still submit to His will.

It was a blessing to meet two new neighbors this morning. One had read my devotional book as she cared for her aging mother. Her mother passed away just a few short weeks ago. We talked about caregiving, loving our mothers, and concluded that her mother, who loved to sing, was doing so as my own mother played the piano for her in heaven.

The six of us had a good prayer, read Scripture, and shared stories as we faced the holiday season.

Once again, God blessed me by letting me meet His daughters and hear their miraculous journies with Him.

How about you? What risks are you taking for Jesus this day?
Like me, you might be intimidated, fearful, or just too stressed.
Yet, like me, I assure you, God will bless you as you submit to His will in whatever He places on your heart and mind.

Blessings today on you as you take risks for Jesus.

Monday, November 22, 2010

The Parade!


Don't you just love a good parade? I do! As Thanksgiving Day approaches, I know one thing will be on television as we wait for our feast, The Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade!

In high school, in my small town, I always enjoyed marching and twirling my baton in our Homecoming Parade. In the days when the local high school provided the town's entertainment because malls and movie theatres were not in our area, my one-high-school town enjoyed gathering for football games and parades.

I guess I never grew out of it because each year, my family travels to what my daughter calls, "The BIG City!" of Chicago for the holiday light parade.
We "ooo" and "aaaah" as giant balloons (like the one in the picture above of Rudolph) float dangerously near the light displays along Michigan Avenue.

We wave at strangers in cars and floats as though they were our neighbors or family members. The best part of the parade though is at the end.

Yes, the end.

You see Michigan Avenue is closed to traffic and throngs (yes, I used the word, "throngs,") of people stroll down the Avenue after the last float of Santa and his reindeer passes.

Topping the evening off with a traditional, deep-dish Chicago pizza provides us with a wave of deep satisfaction as we return to our hotel room.

Today, I went back to reality. Monday morning. Time to take my daughter to school, clean the house, go grocery shopping...

Yet, that little "get away" to Chicago carried me through the day.

As I reflected on the trip and the warm feeling I still had from it, I realized it wasn't the trip itself, it was the bonding we did as a family. The laughter, the conversations on the five-hour road trip, just being together....

As I wait for Jesus to provide me direction for this stage of my life, I realize He, too, must just enjoy our bonding time with Him. When did I last laugh with Jesus? When did I just talk to Him without giving Him a list of things I needed or wanted or desired?

When did I last make Jesus my parade?

I think this is the perfect time to do so, don't you? After all, Thanksgiving and Christmas call for conversations about Him, why not also with Him?

I know some day I will get to walk THE Avenue with Him and marvel at the sights He has created and prepared for me as well. I need to prepare for that amazing conversation time with Him.

Blessings for you and yours as you feast for Thankgiving.

When you watch the Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade, won't you join me in also making Jesus your parade?

Thursday, November 18, 2010

My How You've Changed!


This morning I noticed my daughter's pants now fit. I had bought them one month ago and in dismay found they were too long.
Instead of trying to hem the pants, I suggested she wear thick-soled shoes. (I know; I'm a terrible mom.)
Today, as she walked by me in the kitchen I saw she had on flats and her pant legs were perfect.
I didn't notice the growth spurt she had experienced over the past few days because I see her daily.

Today I read that the human body replaces every cell in seven years. Bone cells take about ten years.
When someone says, "You've changed," most likely she is correct! To what degree is the primary question.

I am glad to say I am also experiencing a spiritual change.
Thank goodness it doesn't take seven years for Christ to transform us, yet paradoxically, our transformation never finishes until we join Him in heaven.
He does it daily as we renew our minds and focus on His Word.

To what degree have we changed spiritually? I believe that depends upon how much time we choose to spend with Him.

So, have you changed? How much?

And yes, that is MY baby picture in the photo.
I pray I do not remain a baby in Christ as I feed on His Word and Love today.
May He continue to change me spiritually.
I pray the same for you.

Blessings!

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Bah, Humbug! or God Heal Me!


I know. It is early to have a Christmas picture on the blog.
I don't have any Thanksgiving pictures, though. This picture from last year is my home the week BEFORE Thanksgiving.

For those of you who think Christmas is rushed, please, realize you will not find me in your supportive corner.

I love this holiday so much that I will stretch it out as long as possible. After Halloween, I was delighted to turn on my cable radio programing to find Sounds of the Seasons had started playing Christmas music!

The music is so beautiful!
It is the only time of year when a person can go to the mall, to a restaurant, anywhere and hear music that celebrates our season of Hope. Think about it.

No other holiday has music all people must listen to no matter where they are. I have actually heard people complain about having to hear Christmas music. Puzzled, I can not relate since it only happens once a year.

For me, Christmas joy has been passed on through my family. My MaMaw (grandmother) enjoyed having the family over Christmas Eve for dinner, gifts, and the best part, opening the stockings. My mother decorated her home and trees with tasteful themes after Thanksgiving. Our small, two-bedroom home turned into a magical place with twinkling lights and the smell of evergreen.

Later in life, after I married and after my grandparents died, I often hosted Thanksgiving for my parents. My brother who lived in Colorado brought his family to the MidWest to celebrate Thanksgiving. Knowing we would not see each other at Christmas, I decorated my home ahead of time. Tree, lights, garlands were all out as children and siblings gathered together once a year.

While stressful trying to cook for fifteen people and also have them stay overnight, I loved the NOISE. My home was filled with laughter and music and conversation for three days.

Now as I prepare my first Thanksgiving without my parents, I face a small Thanksgiving meal. It will just be my husband, daughter, cousin, and I.

I admit I am sad.

My traditional scurry of putting up the tree and decorating the house crosses my mind now as a bittersweet memory. I can not even imagine trying to get the Christmas decorations out now.

I miss my parents and the ability they had to draw the rest of us together.

I know. It is now time for new traditions in my life, yet it is hard to say good-bye to the old.

For my daughter's sake, I must think of new ways to celebrate the up-coming Thanksgiving and Christmas. (If you have traditions you wish to share, please, do.)

What memories will my daughter have as she thinks back on her holiday times when she is an adult? That is what I am going to focus upon this holiday season.

I can choose my attitude, "Bah, Humbug!" or "God Heal my Broken Heart and help me celebrate YOU this season!"

I am praying for healing.

So, as I turn on my pre-Thanksgiving-holiday music, I hope you will join me in praying for a season of healing from loss and for a time of celebration of Christ's great love.

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Despising a Day of Small Things


This blog is really about waiting. -Waiting during the in-between times of life when nothing huge or exciting is happening or waiting for bad stuff to stop happening or just waiting for direction.
Lots of little things in life continue as I wait. They can seem so menial. The day is filled with laundry, house work, grocery shopping, exercise, running kids to and from events...
Where is the glamor I envisioned in my youth?

So I got the blues. You ever had the blues? I looked at my little life today and just felt a bit sad.

Here I keep asking God to use me for His plan in the world.
And staring at me is the laundry basket.
The hamster needing the cage cleaned.
The dust on the ceiling fan needing to be wiped.
The dishes to be emptied.

Sigh.

So I trudged over to my Bible. As I flipped through to find Beth Moore's reference, my eye fell on a book I never read, Zechariah. More specifially, Zechariah 4.
Ah, I thought, there is the source of the verse I heard so often, "Not by might, nor by power, but by my Spirit," says the Lord Almighty.
Not a verse I often think about, but just as I started to flip the page, my eye fell on another verse, one with which I was NOT familiar.

"Who despises the day of small things?"

Hmmmm. That hit me. What was this about? As I looked in the concordance or reference, I found the older people were disheartened when they realized the building of the new temple would not match the size of the temple from King Solomon's reign.

God told them that HE was NOT concerned with the greatness of the temple. His focus was upon relationships and restoration with His people.

You would think that would be enough to tell me to stop thinking my little life was useless for God. It appears I needed more.

I went to Bible study where I and one hundred other women listened to a young woman tell how her small life was changed with the diagnosis of breast cancer. How she struggled in trusting God with her four and two-year old daughters as the doctor gave her the prognosis and statistics for how long she might live.

As she sat in front of us with her bald head and radiant smile, she shared so many little things God used to point her and others to His glory. It was amazing.

Tears flowed freely in the room. Her honesty and her love of Jesus made me ashamed.
I am ashamed of my blues, my whining.

Yes, I still pray, "GOD USE ME!"
But I no longer mind if He chooses to use me as I fold the laundry or vacuum the carpet. I will do so praising Him for His mercy endureth forever!

"Who despises the day of small things?"

How about you? Do you have the blues because your day is filled with small things that seem not to make a difference?

I understand. So does He.
Give Him your small things in life as you wait.
I think you and I will be surprised by the difference in our relationship with Him as we discipline our hearts to celebrate the small things while waiting.

Monday, November 15, 2010

A Deer and a Horse




In spite of the cool November weather and gray skies, I went for a bike ride at 8:30 this morning on a deserted trail.
What surprises I encountered on this trail today!
The past few months when I rode this trail my view was restricted because of the shelter of trees loaded with colorful leaves.
Today, the trees, as you can see are bare.
Yet, I still found it beautiful.
Beautiful because I could now see the Meremac river flowing next to me as I rode.
Beautiful because I could now see the rock formations towering like mansions on the hillsides.
Beautiful because I could see the source of the rustle of leaves on the ground as squirrels tried to scurry out of my way.

It occurred to me how much like life this is.
I do not see God's plan in all things.
"Now we see as through a glass darkly...but we shall see him face to face...."

How often had I driven this trail not realizing the view to my left or right. The amazing view of the river, the rocks, and deer.
Even as I rode, another surprise hit me, well, not literally fortunately.
I was looking down at the gravel road when a buck and doe JUMPED out right in front of me!
I was so startled I about fell over. I had to stop the bike and watch in awe as they bounded down the ravine.
Because the leaves were gone, I could stand and watch them traverse through the trees.
The bare trees opened my view.

How much better is the view my Father has of this life I live.
When I don't understand why my mother suffered for almost 30 years with Parkinson disease,
When I don't understand why a friend's husband leaves her and the children when her father is dying from brain cancer,
When I don't understand why my sweet sister-in-law must battle cancer again,
When things don't make sense,
I choose to believe God's view is better than mine.

Of course, this does not come easily. Like Job, I am tempted to question, to blame. The opening of the movie Secretariat is one of my favorite parts of the show. The slow-motion of the horse running in a race, the close up of the eye of the horse as it prepares for the gate are beautiful but even more so as the words from Job are recited over the music, "Do you give the horse his strength or clothe his neck with a flowing mane? Do you make him leap like a locust striking terror with his proud snorting? He paws fiercely, rejoicing in his strength, and charges into the fray....he eats up the ground; he cannot stand still when the trumpet sounds...."

When questioning or really judging God, God's response to Job reminds us of His power, His authority, and yes, His amazing love and mercy.

He who created the amazing deer I saw today, the craggy rock faces towering over the trail, the powerful current of the Meremac river sees me and my little life. He doesn't have to do one thing for me, but He did anyway.

He gave me hope. He gave me life. He gave me His view.

Forgive me, Father, for judging you, for not seeing who you truly are.

What about you?

Have you relegated God to your view, your experiences? Are you angry with Him?
Do you truly know and believe He loves you?

I hope you are filled with the knowledge today of God's deep love for you. If you let your eyes focus on Him, I assure you, the view will surprise you.

Friday, November 12, 2010

Mom, can I get a Hamster? Pleeeease?


Many of you have gone through the "various-pets-stage" with your children or as a child yourself.
As a child, I was used to having one or two cats who lived outdoors.
I would never have considered asking my parents for a rodent.
This is the price I pay though for encouraging my daughter to read.

I gladly pay the price for such a treasure though.

You see, she chooses to read all about hamsters.
Yes, she has used my passion for reading and for her to be an avid reader against me. This nine-year old turned the tables on me.

Every time I ask her to summarize her reading material, I get to hear all about HAMSTERS. When we go to my favorite place of recreation, the BOOK store, I end up buying books for her about HAMSTERS.

I finally capitulated. Time for her to learn responsibility and take on this challenge.

So, now, sitting near me as I type is a furry little creature with beady eyes. I pray she survives the day of traumatic transition. I pray I do as well.

God understands this gift-giving process. He even wrote in His Word, the Bible, that if we who are humans know how to give good gifts to those who ask, how much more does our Heavenly Father give the Holy Spirit to those who love and obey Him?

Of course, His view is larger than some of the requests I give him. I certainly wish I had won that HGTV apartment in NYC for example. After all, I signed up daily for the chance to win.

I know in my heart, my requests need to be aligned with His will. The only way I get to know His will is to read His Word. Being given The Holy Spirit as a gift from God is, I admit, a gift I often do not tap into during the day. I rarely think about His precious gift of His Spirit.

I need to stop and read His Word today. In fact, I am going to do so right now.

After I check on the hamster.

Blessings on you and may God's gifts be evident in your life today.

Thursday, November 11, 2010

BUNCO!


Have you played Bunco yet? Last night was my first experience moving through the pyramid of winning and losing.
What a test of God's direction for me to break free from being independent and telling me to reach out to more people!
Whew!
I spent three hours will wonderful women in a neighborhood eight blocks from my home. I only knew one person there, AND I did not know anything about the game.

Right before I left home to join the group, the old waves of dread started sweeping over me. I looked longingly at my books, my television set, my comfortable couch as the evening skies grew dark.

Yet, God reminded me to reach outside my comfort bubble.

He was right. I had a chance to witness while playing. I enjoyed listening to other women's stories as well.

As I played, I found out that these women had been meeting for nine years. The reason they started playing Bunco was their realization that while they all lived in the same neighborhood, they did not know each other.

Playing the random game of dice gave impetus to opportunities to become acquainted. They talked about the latest news in the neighborhood: gas line trouble on certain streets, the new park being built, the loss of family members by a neighbor, the new dog on the street....

It was a bonding time because of conversations and time together.

I appreciated being included.

I enjoyed it and not just because I won two prizes.

How much more does my Heavenly Father enjoy time we give him?
How much more does God long for our conversations?
What prizes do we take with us as a result of spending time with God?
Just talking to him about the daily things of life as well as the huge events helps us bond with Him.

The prize is a relationship with the Creator.

BUNCO!

I hope you win today.

Blessings!

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Tell Me a Story


"Mom, when are you going to tell me a story?"
"Dad, you owe me a story!"
These are common sentences heard from my 9-yr. old daughter daily.
My daughter loves for us to make up stories with her.
My husband is a master at creating stories with dragons and magic and of course with my daughter as one of the main heroines. His stories can take weeks to complete. Each night he will share one more episode with her as they tap their imaginations together.
After doing this for four years since we brought her home from China, I have to admit, my creativity has run dry. My stories lacked the imagination of my husband and grew repetitive.

I enjoy eavesdropping on my husband's stories each night though. After prayers and good-night kises, I leave the room while the two of them weave magical stories together.

I do love a good story. Don't you?

This morning, I listened to Pastor Adrian Rogers share how we are part of a greater story for God. It really hit me. What is my story going to be for God?

The pastor shared a clip from one of my favorite cartoon strips growing up, Peanuts, or Charlie Brown. In that clip Linus is begging Lucy, much like my daughter, for a story. Frustrated, Lucy finally says, "O.K. A man was born, lived, and died. The End."

Is that my story? Oh, I hope not! I want to make a difference for Jesus! I pray He uses me for His glory today!

My mother's story could be deemed as tragic to many who do not know her or God. As she neared the age of 60, after her children were all grown and married, she was diagnosed with Parkinson's. Instead of relaxing and enjoying retirement, she fought the most horrific battle of her life. For almost thirty years, my mother fought to walk, talk, eat, and communicate.

Yet, her story did not stop there. She made a decision that this story would be for the glory of God. She pointed to Jesus and praised Him throughout her struggle. As a result, others were drawn to know Christ. Others were encouraged not to give up their own faith.

Hers was an amazing story of victory through vulnerability!

What is your story today? Does it point to an ultimate happy ending with Jesus?

I pray it does. I pray mine own does as well.

Once upon a time.... It is up to you to fill in the rest of the story, and I hope it is with the Supreme Author of all creation, Jesus.

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Trick Football Play by Driscoll Middle School

O.K. By now you know about the amazing video clip of the Driscoll middle school football team, don't you?
Even my husband who doesn't youtube often came home talking about it. (Did I just use youtube as a verb?) Seeing the player surprise the opposing team by just walking through the line instead of hiking as usual was quite a shock. It was a completely unexpected trick play. Too late, the players realized the trick and started chasing him. He was too far. The goal was his.

Besides fun to watch the video is a great reminder that life brings us unexpected events. Satan does as well.

The old cliche, "Expect the Unexpected," is a hard one to do daily. I get comfortable in my daily routines, where I sit at church, the road I use driving my daughter to school....

How then can we prepare for Satan's "trick plays?"

Keep our eyes on Jesus, our hearts open to the Spirit, and our minds on the Word.

In the meantime, enjoy life, while realizing the unexpected is part of our fallen world. Trust in Jesus to see you through it.

The Easiest Way Out


Quick survey:
Does the woman in the picture look happy or unhappy?
I believe your answer depends upon your experience with cooking.
For me, she looks miserable.
You see, I am not a great cook
There I said it.
I admit it.
I never learned from my mother.
I never self-taught.
When I do try, I am a bundle of nerves.
So today as the holiday approaches, I search the magazine stands and google reicipes with the words, "Simple, Easy, No Fuss." Thank goodness I discovered the Semi-Homemade Lady!
Yet, I do feel guilty if I take any short cuts to my meals. Don't you? Not baking the bread from scratch and buying crescent rolls frozen from the store just seems like cheating.

But I do it anyway.

I also tend to do this in my spiritual life. Instead of stopping my daily work and searching the Scriptures for what God wants me to do and be, I will listen to the radio in the car on the way to an errand. I will listen to what others have to say.

Again, the easy way out.
No, I am not saying radio ministries are bad. No, I am not saying going to church or t.v. evangelism is bad either.

Just depending upon listening to others' interpretations instead of digging into the Word myself is not sufficient.

Microwave meals are easy and quick, but not nearly as nutritious or fulfilling as the meals made from scratch.

So, this holiday, I might try to make something from scratch and surprise my family, and myself.

In the meantime, I will also personally take time to know God. I think I might be in for surprises there as well, more lasting ones.

What are the shortcuts you take in your walk with God? with others? God bless you as you work with Him this holiday season.

Monday, November 8, 2010

The Maniac in the Stands


I heard her voice. It was a loud, screeching sound coming from the stands. "Go! Run! Kick the ball harder! Get a goal!"
To my horror, I realized that obnoxious sound was coming from MY mouth! I was out of control screaming for my daughter to win her first soccer game. She had prayed so fervently after having two years of tieing or losing. --"Just one win? Please, God?"
Granted we realize we are third graders playing against fourth-grade teams, yet still just one win...
You see, I don't like to lose. I especially don't like seeing my daughter lose.
Much to my surprise, at this game I turned into a maniac in the stands. I was horrified. It was an out-of-body experience seeing and hearing myself get so passionate about a third-grade game.
God convicted me so much I had to leave the stands and wonder what in the world was wrong with me? What kind of example was I setting for my daughter?
Yes, other parents were yelling, too.
That didn't make it better.
God knows I was disappointed in my behavior and sorry. He also knows I am not perfect. I am so grateful for His patience and mercy.
I will work on being the person He desires.
As the Psalmist David asked, "Let the words of my mouth and the meditaion of my heart be pleasing to you, O Lord!"

Here I go. One last soccer game of the season--and hopefully, one less maniac parent in the stands.

On what is God working in your daily life?

Sunday, November 7, 2010

Insecurity in Making Friends


Friendship.
Last night my home was filled with noise. Lots of noise.
While not unusual for you, it is for me. I made a decision in high school not to depend on anyone. Friendships were too hard.

Remember the days of high school girlfriends? The gossip, the boyfriend dramas, the "you're-in--or-you're out" episodes of cliques? I experienced it all too well my junior and senior year in high school.

So I decided, I could be Miss Independent.

Now as I study Beth Moore's Breaking Free, I realize what a generational sin that is. My father asked me one time, "I really enjoy being alone. I think I could even go as far as to be a hermit. Do you think that is wrong?"

At the time, I thought, "No, being a hermit is just fine." Now, I know better.

In the Bible Study, we discussed the legacy we pass on to our children and their children. We studied the problem of breaking patterns for 3-4 generations. I realized, I needed to change the legacy I was passing on to my daughter.

You see, whenever I am around people, I second guess what I should say, do, how to respond. I worry about every little thing and am extremely self-conscience. This makes me miserable. I rethink what I said and analyze my interactions for days. I even used the "gifts" excuse not to go to or host parties often. You know the gift excuse, don't you? It is where people take inventories of their personalities and discover what their talents or gifts are to help others. I never took the inventory, but I just claimed that the gift of hospitality just wasn't mine, so why try?

Well, that is just not healthy, is it? Time to cast off those chains, break that generational sin. So here I go. I decided to give those insecurities to Jesus and invite people and their children to my home for dinner at least once a month if not more.

The more the merrier. Don't get me wrong. I have had people over before last night. I have prepared many a meal. I just had trouble enjoying the process or preparation and worried over every detail.

Last night I prayed as I prepared. As guests arrived the atmosphere of my quiet house transformed into joyous noise! Children giggled as they ran up and down stairs. Adults shared stories about themselves and cheered as we played in teams for Pictionary.

God blessed our time together. Having Christian fellowship and friendship renews the soul, encourages us that we are not alone.

God did not design us only to talk to Him. He wants us to minister to His children.

I know. Extremes are bad, too. Friends can not replace a relationship with Jesus, but Jesus asks us to be the center of our relationships.

So....pray for me to break these chains....I WAIT to see how He will use me as I break the chains of insecurity and reach out to develop stronger friendships. May your home be filled with joyful noise today.

Friday, November 5, 2010

onetimeblind - The Stool



O.K. I admit it; I am hooked on this group's skits. The Red Balloon yesterday and today The Stool.

This is so appropriate for me as I SIT waiting for God's direction. I want to jump in and take control, volunteer, tell others, "Hey, here I am, ready to work! Pick me! Pick me!"

Yet, God keeps telling me to wait and test to see just WHO is in control as I wait. It is hard to give Jesus control. Sometimes I feel so uncertain. Sometimes it doesn't look like He is in control so I push Him off the throne of my life, or stool as this video shows.

Join me today in praying forgiveness in taking charge. Join me in giving control over to God.

Blessings on you as you allow Him to control your waiting time.

Thursday, November 4, 2010

Red Balloon



I love this clip from youtube. It illustrates why taking off our binoculars and relying on God's Word for the TRUTH is so important. Thanks to the JOY Bible study for sharing this!

A Great View!



Binoculars, what a wonderful, simple invention! No matter where your seats are, let's say the Salena Gomez concert, you can still see the performance up close. This is what my daughter discovered in August as we sat in the LAST row of a huge stadium.

I have to admit though that in spite of binoculars we did inch our way down the stands as seats closer to Selena became available. (So many teens standing at the stage, giving up the comfort of their seats, I guess.)

Why did we do that? We had binoculars to see her. Thanks to a great sound system, we could hear her, too.

There was something about being closer that made the concert more PERSONAL to my daughter. Being closer to the performer's presence made a difference in her degree of enjoyment.

You know where I am headed, don't you? Forgive the obvious metaphor, but isn't it true about our relationship with God?

We can keep our distance and believe in Him just fine. -Yet there is something more significant about drawing closer to Him, more personal.

God wants us to enjoy Him, to find satisfaction in Him, to know and understand Him. It is harder to do that from a distance, isn't it?

The more I read His word, the more I am convinced God is good. The more I listen to Him, the more I understand He truly loves me. Even when life is not treating my family well, I am learning to trust in God's purpose.

I also learn my binoculars of life have a limited view. There is my perspective based upon experiences and heredity, and as someone shared recently, there is GOD'S VIEW. When using the binoculars, I don't see the entire stage, just one spot. Keeping God at a distance, limits my view of His love and purpose.

Reading His Word, the Bible, daily helps me get close and personal to my Creator.

Won't you put down your binoculars today with me and edge closer to God? I assure you, you will enjoy the view.

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

THE Vote


Yes, I voted.
Yes, I fell asleep waiting for the ten o'clock news results.
Waiting for the voting results was too hard for me after a tough day and a night of helping my daughter with homework.

As I waited though, I was reminded of two points made by our pastor last Sunday:
1) Don't become disconnected from your government (vote)
2) Don't expect the government to solve your problems

As a public school teacher for many years, I truly believed education was the answer to the world's problems. If we could only get all children educated, the environment would be different. Then, I saw teens tossing litter out of their cars as they drove off campus after school. These very teens had studied environmental issues that day.

Many also believe if we can change the environment, the world will be better. Better housing is certainly a goal and important. Yet, I found my toughest school in which to teach was the most affluent school. One parent told me never to ask her teen to pick up his lunch tray at noon because they hire servants to do that at home. She would rather send the servant, yet after all, I was the public servant and she paid my salary. Hence I should pick up his food and trash after he left the table.

Government elections, education, the environment are all important issues. We should not disconnect from them. However, trusting that the world will be healed as a result will lead to disappointment.

The only healing for our country comes from turning back to God.

He is waiting for our vote today.

I hope you voted with me for Him this morning.

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

Resting In Jesus


I took this picture of my daughter after she swore she wasn't tired or sleepy. After a full day of summer fun, running, chasing fireflies, playing tag, she fell deeply asleep as soon as her head hit that pillow. Such peace! Such deep rest!

I need that peace today. Perhaps you do, too? Or perhaps you have been in a rough place before today and can share God's grace.

Today is a tough day to "blog."
My sweet sister-in-law, Tabby, received bad news about agressive cancer.
She is also my dear friend.

How do I try to write something clever or witty or cute today?

I can't.

I don't.

So I ask Dear Readers for your help. Tabby is a follower of Jesus. She has had two surgeries for cancer to be removed from her body in the past two years. The cancer is back and growing.

Today she starts chemo.

My mind wants to panic and go to the worst-case scenarios. I can not bear to lose this dear sister in Christ.

So I turn to my Father. What does He say about my fears, about her disease? My God reminds me to rest in Him. His grace is sufficient. He is in control. He tells me NOT to have anxiety but by prayer and supplication make my requests known to Him and peace will guard my heart and mind in Christ Jesus.

Will you pray with me then? Pray for Tabby's healing and God's peace upon her and her entire family over the next crucial six weeks?

Anyone else in God's Waiting Room for cancer or healing of a disease? Share so I can pray for you, too.

Let's rest in Christ like my sweet daughter in the above picture. Such peace on her face...

God's Peace awaits you and me as well...

Monday, November 1, 2010

As Time Goes By


The picture above in today's blog comes from the Homecoming parade and class reunion for my husband in the small town of Chester, Illinois.

My 9-yr. old daughter did not understand the concept of a class reunion, but she did delight in being able to toss candy out from a float to people on the street.
As I stood on the sidewalk waiting and waving at each float passing me by, I flashed back to the days of growing up in my own small town two hours away. The days before malls and discount shopping centers resulted in thriving businesses in our small town of 10,000 people.

When we shopped, we knew the merchants, the sales people, and they knew us. We depended upon one another. It was a true community.

When someone was ill in that town, casseroles and cards and offers to help flooded that person's home. People didn't just say, "Hello," on the street as you walked by them, they said, "Hello, Gretchen. How's your Dad? or How's your Mom?"

People were known by their names.

I miss that. While a teen, I craved to get away from my small town, to travel the world, to go where NOBODY knew my name and discover not just other cultures but myself.

Now, I wish more people knew my name. I long for the days when people did know everything about me and about my family. I long for that feeling of community as I live in the suburbs and know only a handful of my neighbors by name.

As I grow nostalgic, I am reminded today of someone who does know everything about me, knows my family, and still longs for a relationship with me: Jesus.

Because He loves me, He has prepared an amazing community for me, a community where His love is the center.

Time is flying by as we approach Thanksgiving and then the end of 2010. I put away the plastic Jack-o-Laterns and pitched the rotting carved ones. The candy from Trick-or-Treating is piled in a bowl on top of the fridge (out of daily temptation). We now wait for a new holiday time, a new winter season.

Praise God as I also wait for His direction; praise Him that the community He has prepared for me has no sadness, no loss of loved ones, no sickness...

and...

no time.

Bless you today as you rest in His love and wait on His direction.

Saturday, October 30, 2010

A Night with Avatar



The Trick-or-Treating has begun! Last night, I watched and waited as hundreds of children collected candy, compared costumes, and screamed as they shared scary stories of the near-by cemetary. It was the annual "Trunk-or-Treat" at my daughter's school when the parking lot transforms into decorated cars packed side-by-side and car trunks open to reveal treasures of Halloween candy.

My daughter chose Avatar as her costume. I tried to talk her into the easy Ninja costume. A face painter, I'm not. I envisioned children asking her which Smurf character she was.

I capitulated and did my best. The important thing was that she was happy.

She collapsed in bed around 10:00 with a somewhat blue smile on her little face. (I really did try to get the make-up off.)

While the children had fun, I have to admit, it was a long night for parents. We stood, watched, monitored, collected pieces of costumes falling apart, held trick-or-treat bags and wondered how three hours could seem so long?

I would do it again and again, though. Why? The same reason many of you do. The same reason many of our parents did.

The joy on our children's faces and the warm memories in their hearts are the motivations fueling the ability to stand in a cold parking lot for three hours, or sit on metal bleachers freezing during a football game, or watch the upteenth gymnastics practice, or drive an hour to and from schools, or....

You get it. One mother told me before the treating begain, "I have not one moment to myself all day. I am a taxi running errands and children from one event or chore to the next."

Waiting is not easy, but we do it for those we love, and continue to do so because of love.

How much more does our Father wait on us? He possess love beyond our understanding. Love that gives and gives and gives...and yes, disciplines. His Word reminds us that if we who are imperfect are able to give good things to those we love, how much more will our Father who is perfect give good things to those who love Him.

God's love has only this condition: Love/Accept Jesus as our Lord and Savior, surrender to Him.

He is waiting on us.
Because of love...
Amazing love...

Happy Halloween! Enjoy your time waiting on your own children or answering the door patiently as my children ring your doorbell.
Look for the Avatar child.