Tuesday, December 28, 2010
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.
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
Well, it came.
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.
Happy day AFTER Christmas, Dear Readers.
Monday, December 20, 2010
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
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....
Wednesday, December 15, 2010
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.
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.
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%!
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
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
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.
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
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
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
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.
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
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
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.