Who’s In Charge ?

Anna Jarvis of Philadelphia, whose mother had organized women’s groups to promote friendship and health, originated Mother’s Day. On May 12, 1907, she held a memorial service at her late mother’s church in Grafton, West Virginia. Within five years virtually every state was observing the day and in 1914, President Woodrow Wilson recognized Mother’s Day as a national day of honoring mothers-and so we honored our mothers yesterday.

Mother’s Day is celebrated in countless ways. For some mothers these are days of joy and festivity with their family. For others, they are melancholy and remorseful; reminders of the children they desired but were unable to conceive or children they conceived but are no longer a part of their lives through death or estrangement. Some mothers reared children alone without the fathers of those children. The stories of each mother and her child/children is as diverse as the individuals.

How poignant when our pastor’s sermon on Mother’s Day, was not directed to mothers, but to parents. We know God’s plan is there should not be a child without both a mother and a father. Today was not a tribute to mothers or fathers, but to families. I was grateful and appreciative our pastor recognized that sometimes addressing such a day while focusing on mothers and their children can be emotionally painful.

The Pastor reminded all parents of the responsibility each has in rearing the children and of making a Christ centered home joyful and peaceful. No, not a perfect home-there can not be such when each person in the household has an earthly and sinful nature.  A Godly home is one in which the father chooses to lead the family as Christ leads the church, while the members of the family love and care for one another

Pastor T. also borrowed Dr. Dobson’s additional requirements for a successful marriage and home; the fathers treat the mothers with tenderness and kindness, while the mothers grant the fathers respect and esteem. It is far more important for children to see love from one parent to the other than for parents to provide children with a luxurious and affluent life. Will a child honor a parent who provided them wealth, but never love or will they cherish the parent that didn’t have a lot of prosperity, but gave them boundless devotion and support?

I was reared in an abusive and poor home. Yet, the poverty would have never been a concern had there been love and encouragement from my parents. The deprivation of needs was exacerbated with the chronic, physical abuse. Children are resilient, but love is an essential component for that child’s success throughout life.

As I’ve observed my adult children with their families, I’ve been proud of the traits from their upbringing they brought to their children, but sorrowful for the situations they deemed unworthy of passing on to their own family. Some say it takes a village to rear a child. No, it takes the desire of parents allowing God to lead to rear the children. Who is in charge of your family? Proverbs 22:6 KJV, “train up a child in the way he should go and when he is old he will not depart from it.”

Walk or Sink?

After arranging my clothes in my suitcase, re-shuffling the few groceries I brought, I settled back on the sofa in the hotel, watching Sleepless In Seattle for the seventh or eighth time, perhaps more. When I spent hours in prayer asking God to remove me from His waiting room of trying to sell my house, little did I know He had another waiting room. This waiting room consists of being homeless.

I came from a deflated real estate market to a war, the war of bidding on already inflated prices. I see-I bid-I pray-I wait and now after several lost bids, I continue to pray and wait! But God! How often have I shared, “but God” knows and He remains in control. I’m always reminded as I read devotions and hear sermons on the times we feel God has forgotten us, He has not. He is always near and He truly does hear us.

As with the “now history” of showing my house more times than I can count, promised offers which never came or even those offers which were insultingly low, that part of my life is now history, as this “homeless” stage will be too when God brings me a house. This period alone has allowed me to spend time with my daughter and her family which was seldom and infrequent before moving to Texas. I’ve been able to hug those now young adult grandsons, as they came home from college, also to savor the joys and daily life of my grandchildren still living at home.

I’ve had time to participate in outings with car enthusiasts and frilly cowgirls, which I would not have been able to do, had I been busy settling into a new home. But most of all over these past years of trials, I have learned to “be still and know” that God is there, and He is always in charge of my life.

I chuckled silently during the recent sermon when the pastor spoke about keeping our eyes on the Lord when He directs us to do something. Just think about Peter-he took his eyes off the Lord and began sinking. Thus, I’m too tired, weary to “sink”, so I must keep my eyes on the Lord.

Do you ever find yourself in times like this when you say, “but God, why?” Why does Sally have a life filled with such joy? Why does Joe seem to be blessed and successful? Why do the Smiths have such a happy marriage? These “but God why’s” can cause us to sink. I do not understand the situations of my life, but I do know for certain that God is in charge.

I look forward to the day I can write in my blog, I have a new address. Until then, God said “come here Jane” and I’m following, not looking down or saying “Oh God, the storm is raging.” For if I did, I might sink. Psalm 46:10 NIV, “He says, Be still and know that I am God…”

You Have An Offer

“So here I am to worship; Here I am to bow down. Here I am to say that You’re my God.”  These were the words from this song touching my heart and lips today, as God was filling my “blessing basket.”  I have shared in my previous blogs, I have prayed and trusted God for almost five years, for a buyer for my home. I’ve had countless realtors and some way too-low offers, but I knew God would sell my home in His time.

I previously shared the words of my pastor, “we can’t change God’s plans and we certainly can’t stop Him when He begins His work.” A couple months ago, I felt God’s hand beginning to work when I sold my much-loved China cabinet.  I realized when God provided me a new home, it would be smaller than my current and the beautiful piece of furniture would be too large. As with my home, it had taken awhile to sell. The buyer was thrilled, as was I. I was sad to see it leave, as it was a part of many family holidays and special occasions.  Nonetheless, like other aspects of my life, that was then-and-this is now.

Another situation showed God’s hand in my life. The very day I was purchasing a car to replace my beloved VW beetle convertible which was totaled in an accident last summer I received a call- buyers desired to return with an offer. I chose not to purchase the car as it would have required costly expenses to relocate and taxed again when moving to another state. The potential buyer chose not to purchase my home, but God had been in the details of all events that day.

A couple days ago, I awakened with what I believed would be a routine day. “But God!” I received not one, but two requests for my house to be shown. Within minutes of the first arrival, the realtor telephoned with an offer, but it was too low. I knew God had the right buyer, with the right price. I never imagined the very next showing would result in an accepted contract.

Why should I be surprised? Aren’t God’s ways far too perplexing to us? Not only did God bring me His buyers, but they are the kindest people I could have imagined. Last night a lovely card of grateful sentiments and a beautiful floral arrangement arrived at my door; thanking me for accepting their contract without changes.  Both the buyers and I realized God was truly in the details on this transaction. I had no desire to change what God ordained.

I have reflected God’s rationale in not allowing my house to sell earlier. I have realized I met people I might never have met, but the greatest gift was the revelation of why my marriage dissolved; my then husband’s love for another. I would not have known this, had I sold my house in my time, rather than God’s. So, the words of the song are powerful to me, “You’re my God.” Jer. 29:11 NIV, “For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, plans to prosper you…”

A Borrowed Gift

From the time I was a young girl until days before I married in my twenties, I delighted in the moments I could baby sit.  I longed for the days I could be a mother. I had love for my children long before God chose them for me. My mother had shared numerous times during my childhood that she didn’t desire to be a mother, but it was “her duty.”  As a result, for the duration of my life I felt the pangs of knowing I was not loved, but merely tolerated. All those years of never having love from my own parents was “saved” for my then husband and any children God would “gift” us with.

I was beginning to believe God was not going to bless us with a family. I spent countless hours praying for children. My prayer was solely for healthy babies. The 1970s was a time where the majority of all babies were a “surprise.” Ultra sound for determining the gender and reveal parties to share with family and friends, would be in the future, but not when God opened His arms to present our children.

 God’s plans are perfect even when they seem so imperfect at times. When our daughter was a few months old, God brought us another “gift.” Our children would be a little over a year apart. However, God’s plans were to take that life to be with Him. I grieved the loss of that baby.

But God with His perfect ways, brought us a new blessing less than two years later.  When I heard, “It’s a boy”,   the joy I had was beyond words. My knees seemed raw at times, from kneeling in prayer for a son and a daughter. Even though healthy babies were far more important than the gender, I desired to experience the joy in rearing a boy and a girl or boys and girls. I would have loved to have more than two children, but like the entirety of my life, that was not God’s plans for me.

As I was conversing with someone recently, God didn’t give us parents or children to like or dislike. He gave us family to love and cherish; people that will be there for us no matter what comes. If only we could have mulligans for children rearing, perhaps things would be different when they become adults.

Yet, life and circumstances bring us trials and challenges we never expected and certainly could not foresee.  My love for each of my children is as great today, as the day the nurse placed, that beautiful, perfect, innocent newborn baby in my arms. And so today, I say Happy Birthday Dearest Son. I knew from the day I held you, that you were a borrowed gift. God allowed me to be your mother, but I dedicated you to Him. You are always in my heart and prayers, as you are truly one of the greatest gifts God gave me. James 1:17 NIV, Every good and perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of the heavenly lights…”

No-No-No!

“No”, I don’t want to-‘’No”, I don’t like-“No”, I won’t! How often have you reached out to a friend or family with an offer for a “gift”; doing something for them- a trip, dinner or even assisting them, but they returned your kindness with “no”?

While recently reading one of my devotions, the reflection of this was validated with Chuck Swindoll’s words, ‘’Are you striving to promote your perspective, demand that your way be accepted, or your voice be heard above others? Are you in the middle of a conflict with someone you love that, unless one of you stands down and defers to the other, is only going to intensify and cause lasting damage? Listen to Jesus. It’s time to turn from selfishness and strife as you embrace the way of the Cross. Lay down your rights…”

Have your ever chosen not to try new food, go on an adventure or perhaps take a trip because you were “afraid” to try? I’ve never forgotten the words of someone whom had chosen for years not to try pecan pie because he didn’t like “how it looked.” After much persuasion, he finally took a bite and realized he missed years of enjoyment due to “fear.”

We often withhold faith when we say, “no.” Max Lucado states, “I think this a time where we need to be feeding our faith,”… “If you feed your faith, your fears will starve. If you feed your fears, your faith will starve. Our tendency is to feed our fears. We have to do intentional things to feed our faith.”

I think of faith missionaries possess when they must partake of something which appears “fearful.”  Yet they realize they will diminish their ministry by not tasting a food or being involved in an activity which they deem undesirable.

I share in my upcoming book of countless times I did things I had no desire to do. Some were mandates when I could not say “no.” Other situations I chose to do because of my love for another.  I believe the positive may outweigh the negative when we release our fear and step out in faith.  For the duration of my marriage, I resided in homes I despised because I wanted to appease the husband I loved; homes he chose for us. Yet, if I had said “no” our son might never have had life-long friends which remain over four decades later. If I had said “no”, to the countless corporate moves my then husband mandated, yet I loathed, I might not have experienced some of the adventures in residing in other areas of the country.

“No”, even though a short and simple word, is powerful and controlling. It frequently tells the recipient they are of little or no value to the person offering the “gift.” Faith is a gift which God grants us when our fears overcome us. 2 Timothy 1:7, NIV, “for the spirit of God gave us does not make us timid, but gives us power, love and self-discipline.

We Have Now Boarded

I sat back in my seat prepared to enjoy the last leg of my journey after an extremely stressful arrival.  The first leg of my flight was scheduled with a forty-minute delay. I had passed the security check and had only to board the departing plane and return home. While waiting, the flight was delayed further. We finally departed a full 1.5 hours late, but then I had the task of the connecting flight at the next layover.

As we landed, the airline staff noted, I had less than fifteen minutes, to arrive for the next connection. Murphy’s Law, I was at the back of the plane and unable to knock down all the other passengers to scurry off the plane. Dragging the items I had removed from the carry-on luggage, my coat falling from my drooping shoulders, I heard the announcement on the intercom,  “will the passenger for Flight 6007 hurry to gate 24 as we have now boarded?” What? How?  These old, feeble legs were already walking as rapidly as possible, but now I picked up the pace to a slow “run.”

I was at least 25 gates away from the next connection with all kinds of shopping and dining between, so the destination seemed as though it were miles away. My heart began pounding with the discomfort which is “well known” when there is great exertion, but most of all the prayers were rising! I was praying aloud as I dashed with two bags, wearing heavy boots and a down coat causing more heat and perspiration than if I were in 110 degrees in the middle of summer.

I arrived at the empty gate, looking as though I was taking my last breath. The agent queried, “Jane Woods?” Yes, I sighed. I ran all this way. Then as I entered the quiet tunnel, the pilot walked toward me, reminding me to “catch my breath” as they knew I was coming. He also reminded me he knew I had walked a long way. Walk? No, I was in a slow run!

As I boarded the plane, the stewardess announced, “you must condense all those items into your two bags.” Any explanation of not being able to re-pack the items was not accepted. I couldn’t get on the plane with those “flapping, flying” additional objects.

 I would sit down, catch my breath, read my book and just relax. A few pages into the book by Grant Gaines, the words had to be in error, “Some realities in life logically rule each other out…if you have a sibling, you can’t be an only-child. And if you are a God-fearing, Spirit filled Christian, you can’t dislike dogs.” What?!  I know many Christians that don’t like any animals. I love animals. After all-I had just spent a full week with 3 dogs, 2 bunnies, a tortoise and more experiences with them than I have time to write about. Continuing to read the book, I realized the author had penned the dog comment in jest, but he also reminded us life is uncertain. With the kind of day I had endured, it caused me to reflect on how unpredictable life can be. We think we have things planned out, God says, “no, this isn’t what I have planned for you.” So, we can only, sit back, relax and “enjoy the flight.”  NIV Jeremiah 29:11, “For I know the plans I have for you, declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.”

Just The Facts Ma’m

As I sat in the choir with my few, but dedicated fellow “masked singers”, I suddenly felt a pang of jealousy. As I observed a situation, my heart continued to increase with sadness as to why God had never answered my prayer.

As we departed the choir loft to take our seat in our chosen pew, I prayed for God’s forgiveness of being jealous. Even though my mind wandered about the “assumption”, I heeded the pastor’s words that no matter how often we believe God has forgotten us, His timing and plans are perfect. Even when the pastor said we need to let go of the past for God’s future for us is far better, I was internally crying.  His plans may not be “perfect” to us, for if I truly accepted His plans as “perfect”, would I have been feeling “self-pity” during my choir observation?

Yet, for the duration of the sermon, I continued to ponder as to why God had refused to answer my prayer for something which He speaks so clearly of in His word. What I desire is not selfish, but good and righteous, yet then why is God withholding it? Genesis 2:18 NIV states, “the Lord God said, it is not good for the man to be alone. I will make a helper suitable for him.” I knew this scripture was referring to Adam, but what about me? I’ve heard more than one bible study leader recommend that we make scripture personal to us. Thus, I could say, It is not good for Jane to be alone…I will make a helper suitable for her.” I’ve been waiting for decades for that suitable helper.

As I observe individuals that have not one, but two, three or even four helpmates, then I was perplexed, why I couldn’t have even one? Now at the end of my life, I had prayed for years for God to send me a helpmate, but it wasn’t meant to be. So here I sat, in church having a pity party.   I love being in church; hearing God’s words and being reminded of His love for each of us. Now I was querying why I was still alone?

At the conclusion of the service as each of us left the sanctuary, I suddenly realized my assumptions had been in error. I reflected on what a bible study leader noted a couple years ago- our imaginations are sometimes our greatest enemy. We assume things to be the truth-yet often we don’t have all the facts.  It doesn’t mean God has not given “my desire” to the other member, but what I observed is not what I assumed. The “helpmate” I believed God had sent her, was actually the helpmate of another. When she had taken his hand in a gesture of love, my “human-ness” took over. I’m still praying and waiting! NKJ Psalm 27:14, Wait on the Lord, Be of good courage and He shall strengthen your heart. Wait I say on the Lord.”

WWJD?

“I just wanted to let you know you gave me too much change”, smiling and handing the sales clerk the $22.00 which he had given me several minutes prior. When I realized the error, I drove back around the store, waiting in line to get up to the window. “Well, uh, oh, I em”. That was all he said. I was not upset with him; I was merely trying to be honest. When I handed him the money, he just stared. I reminded him of the cost of my purchase and what was owed in change.

When I received the second “profit” on a purchase in less than two weeks, I could have said “oh God, thank you for giving me this blessing”, pocketed the money and left. However, with each of these situations, I wanted to do what was right, but departed feeling I was the one in error.

Neither of the sales persons thanked me for my honesty and with each transaction, they truly seemed offended that I chose to be honest. As Christians, is it our responsibility to be honest? Is it our responsibility to be fair? I believe the answer is “yes” to each of these questions.  I’ve heard Christians say believing and having faith He is God and there is an eternal home with Him, even if this were not valid, is far better than to be wrong for walking away from Him and not having faith that He is God. I agree without hesitation.

As Christians we may often ponder the reality of God and His ways, yet we believe in Him. It is much easier to see someone gives us too much money or didn’t charge us for an item we purchased. One takes faith and with the other we reflect our faith; doing unto others as we know God would do or choose for us to do.  I receive the “gift” of knowing I did what was right.

Just recently there was a situation in which someone did something which was perhaps not morally or ethically wrong, but certainly was disrespectful and discourteous. I was invited to attend an event, being informed I would be a guest of the invitee, only to be told days later than I owed them $400 for a ticket to the event. What? Why? I gulped and paid the $400, but remained perplexed as to why someone would do that and not inform their guest of the cost. I would have declined, had I known the cost.

While sharing this with some fellow Christians, they noted they would not have paid and queried as to why I did. Because I made a commitment that I would be the person’s guest. I didn’t have to feel guilty that I had not kept my commitment. Yes, the “human me” said, “no way. You invited me and now are asking me to pay $400 for my ticket?”, but just as with returning change which was not owed or taking items back to a store which I was not charged for, I know I can softly say, “WWJD”, what would Jesus do?” Luke 6:31 NIV, “do to others as you would have them do to you.”

Such A Beautiful Creation!

He was so tiny and fragile.  I wanted to stroke him, but concerned it would cause him much fear.  Thus, I held him gently, enamored with his beauty and speaking softly as though he understood every word I uttered. This would probably be the first, last and only time I would hold such a creature, feeling the warmth of his body against my hand. I couldn’t stop crying for I didn’t want this magnificent gift from God to die in my hands. He blinked softly as I stared into his exquisite little face.

I stood in my kitchen only minutes earlier when I heard him hit my window hard. I looked out to see his lifeless, splayed body on the walk beneath the window. I couldn’t stop the tears. “Oh no, God, no, please don’t let him die,” I screeched.  I ran to grab a towel and dash outdoors to pick up this helpless, little life.

Pictures, calendars and countless quotes have paid tribute to these creatures. Now, he was in my hands, not uttering a sound, not trying to leave. I imagined he was thinking, “what was this “being” going to do, after quickly picking me up after I fell?”  Bringing him indoors, I made numerous telephone calls to do whatever to save this precious little boy’s life. My initial telephone call was to the Oklahoma Wildlife Department, but with it being a Saturday afternoon, the office was closed. I frantically began telephoning local veterinarians, sobbing as I told them what happened; but also, fearful his legs were broken or worse.

One of the veterinarians instructed me where I could receive help.  I told the Edmond animal shelter of the beautiful cardinal I held wrapped in a towel, praying he was alright. What a relief that this cherished cardinal was most probably stunned. I had to chuckle when the voice on the telephone noted, “sometimes they hit the windows so hard, they are knocked silly and it may take him 15-20 minutes to regain his strength and fly away.”

Yes, his little eyes continued to blink, so I gently took him outdoors and bending down on the lawn, carefully unwrapped the towel. What a joy! Little boy cardinal flew away. After releasing him, I researched the life of cardinals, especially since he was so small.  My research made him even more beloved to me. The males receive their full coat of red feathers at age one, so I felt certain he was a young male. Cardinals mate for life and remain in the area. Could this be the son of the parents whom I so lovingly watched build a nest and give life to their little fledglings by my office window?

Just as I carefully picked this creature up to be certain he would survive, I thought of the many times we fall and God picks us up, wrapping us in His blanket of love. He makes certain we are okay and that we will “fly away” to fulfill His plans for our lives. Matthew 6:26 NIV, “look at the birds of the air; they do not reap or store away in bars, and yet your heavenly father feeds them. Are you not much more valuable than they?”

It’s Time To Leave

“So here I am to worship; Here I am to bow down; Here I am to say that You’re my God.”  These were the words from this song that touched my heart and lips today, as God was filling my “blessing basket.”

Most, if not all of us have experienced living in God’s waiting room.  Faith, trust and patience are the elements to success when in the “waiting room.” For most of us, the majority of our lives are spent there. As I have shared in previous blogs some of the situations I was encountering while waiting, were difficult.

  Over these past several years, while in God’s waiting room, there have been many patients; disappointment, heartache, confusion and necessity. Yet, I knew God was taking care of each, so I had no desire to cling to them, but only to allow God to dismiss them when He knew each was ready to leave.

 Yesterday as I walked out of church, I received a telephone call which literally caused me to sit in my car in the church parking lot, thanking God that it appears one component of a long wait will be lifted. God has not yet released this patient, but I’m at peace while awaiting.

Then today, a patient was removed from the waiting room.  Ms. “Need To” was something that I didn’t want to give up, but “needed to”; a tangible item which I needed to clear away for whatever God has for me in my life. Ms. “Need To” had been around for a couple of years, as I continued to pray for her departure. Yet, God said, not yet, just leave Ms. “Need To” here with me. Today she left.

 While Ms. “Need To” was leaving, I received a telephone call which brought many of the patients in the waiting room to a new room. God began writing my life’s story decades ago. Then several years ago, with God’s blessings, I began scribing my story to share with others-the story of His grace, love and strength for me. I was in God’s waiting room, as I wrote, prayed and sought an editor. The book was completed and I prayed while awaiting a publisher. Today while standing with Ms. “Need To” to depart, a joy filled my heart to realize my book has been accepted to be published.

 When I learned that approximately two-thirds of all submitted books are rejected, I thanked God for allowing mine to be chosen as a testimony to Him.  I remain in the waiting room regarding the telephone call yesterday and now as I watch God’s story of my life brought forth in print. Some of the patients will be leaving the waiting room, but I will remain for as long as God desires. There will always be new patients joining me, but the “joy of the Lord” will remain. Philippians 4:4 NIV, “Rejoice in the Lord always. I will say it again: Rejoice!”