Our Curb Appeal

Have you ever driven down a street and been captivated by the exterior or lawn of a home? Realtors say most buyers will never give a home a second look if the curb appeal is negative.  I understood from the time I was a young teen that first impressions may also be the last impression. Our personal appearance, as well as our homes are reflections of the persons we are.

What about personalized vehicle tags and holders?  Do they also portray the people we are? There are tags which promote professions or hobbies, as well as those touting love for families or pets. The variety of quotes on tags is as limitless as the people owning them. My own tag, although not too original, denotes the car is owned by someone with the letter “J”; J-Bug, as I drive a 2013 VW Beetle. My tag holder also alerts others to one of my hobbies. It states “happiness is quilting”. That may be in question as I often must rip and re-sew or rip and re-arrange, but it was a gift from a quilt shop and I’m proud to share with others that I do enjoy the “gift” of quilting.

Recently I was behind a car with a tag holder I had never seen. It left me smiling all the way home; “another beautiful day, compliments of God.” Oh yes, indeed! Every day is a gift from God.  What kind of image do we represent when others see us?

Are our lives filled with weeds; the things which choke out the goodness from God?  Are our homes dirty and cluttered with junk which don’t allow others to come in, sit down and hear about the love of God?  How about dirty and ragged clothes, which cover up the beauty God instilled in us? Our impression to others does matter. Our image, words and actions are our “curb appeal.” People may walk by and never get to know us, for they don’t like what they see.  Matthew 5:16 NKJ, “Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works and glorify your Father in heaven.”

A Day Of Reflection

As I reflected on the day to honor fathers and read these words from Charles Stanley, I was reminded of what God instructs fathers to be and to do, “According to Scripture, the father’s responsibility is to lead his family physically, emotionally, and spiritually. Most dads work hard to provide for material needs, and many give the family adequate time and love. But how many are diligent to lead spiritually?”

I was saddened as I thought of my own father and perhaps thousands of others like him as he chose to withhold time and love, while also choosing not to fulfill the physical, emotional or spiritual needs of our lives. He lived for only himself. Over the years I have shared countless times that I honored my father because God imparts that to us, but I didn’t love or respect my father, due to the extreme physical and emotional abuse.

Dr. Rabbi HaLevi cites, “to begin with, it’s important to remember that the Hebrew Bible says, “honor your father. It doesn’t say obey your father. It doesn’t say respect your father. It doesn’t say like your father. It doesn’t even say love your father. Of course, it would be wonderful to feel love for one’s father, however, love is a feeling and feelings can’t be commanded. Some fathers are lovable. However, some fathers are not. For a myriad of reasons, they are outside the realm of our love: abuse, neglect, absence, abandonment, betrayal-many fathers have simply made it impossible for their children to feel the emotion of love or demonstrate it back.”

No matter how diligently I tried to be loved and accepted by my father, I received only rejection. Yet, I honored him. I would have cherished a “hallmark” father, but that was not a gift I was given. However, on this day as we reflect upon the men in our lives whom we call “Dad”, may we always esteem the love our heavenly father gives as no other can. Exodus 20:12 NKJ, “Honor your father and your mother, that your days may be long upon the land…”

Taking Cover In The Storm

As I left departed for church there were a few clouds in the sky, but it was dry. Minutes later as I was driving down the highway the winds blew, the rains fell, and hail dropped from the darkened sky. I quickly found a medical center and pulled in under cover, awaiting an escape from the storm, so that I could proceed to church. Believing it was safe enough to continue my drive, the rain remained relentless. After sitting in the church parking lot for over 30 minutes with rain so strong and unforgiving, it seemed it would crash through the car at any moment.

At long last, a reprieve. Although it was still raining, my umbrella would protect me from the cool, wet drops. A surprise awaited me as I stepped into a darkened church. Due to ferocity of the rain, our church had lost power. The early service was canceled.

Along my commute back home, I thought about our lives. How often are we in dark storms and take short-term, emergency cover in the arms and love of our Lord? Then we feel the storms have passed, so we proceed on, only to learn they had not ended; they had merely been lessened “for the moment.” We once again seek His shelter. Then suddenly, we lose all control, all power. We are totally at the compassion of God. Just as our church was at the mercy of God calming the storm so we could once again have power for our electricity, so too must we rely on God for control of our lives; in storms and tranquility.

If we walk with God during all the times of our lives, we won’t have a worry or fear when the storms come. We will have a peace that He will be with us. Isaiah 4:6 NIV…”it will be a shelter and shade from the heat of the day and a refuge and hiding place from the storm and rain.”

Hymn of Praise

Do we often times attend church or bible study with an open heart and mind, but not expecting anything unusual? Then “wham” God brings you a joy beyond measure.  As I attended what I believed would be a routine choir rehearsal I received a “God hug”. When we were singing our next to the last song, “Hymn of Praise”, the words leapt from the page and brought pangs to my heart.

Written by Bill and Gloria Gaither, their lyrics echoed so much of what most of us desire in our lives, but may not receive and also some of the painful experiences we must walk.  “Oh, loving father, by your grace, we gather here to seek your face and thank you for this family and hearth and home and loyalty .Our hearts are full of gratitude for work and rest and daily food, for neighbours (neighbors) kind and faithful friends, the gifts on which our lives depend. We even thank you for the pain -It’s through the loses that we gain clear perspective, a better view of our dependency of you…Through good and bad we’ve learned to trust, that you are loving, wise and just. So now with childlike hearts we raise our hymn of deepest, highest praise!”

The tears were so abundant, I was unable to sing. Yes, these were my desires as a young wife and mother, but God had a different plan for my life.   How well I understand the words of gaining a clear perspective from pain. My choir mate hugged me and said she would be praying for me, as I briefly shared my own life’s journey and why I cried so intensely during the song.

I departed choir realizing I had received a gift I had not anticipated; God’s reminder He knows each of our hearts and needs. Psalms 139:1 NIV “you have searched me oh Lord and you know me.”

The Old Porch Swing

Have you ever owned a porch swing and have great memories of your time there? The first one I experienced was as a young pre-school child. My grandmother was not blessed to have her own home after she became a widow at age 36.  She spent the next 25-30 years of her life being a care giver for others, in their homes.

For as long as I can recall the only home my grandmother ever had was with that of a widower; Mr. Kennedy. My grandmother reared her two children in that old country home as the cook and housekeeper for him. I recall the house with fond memories, but perhaps the greatest was that of the old porch swing. Memories of childhood are often distorted from reality, but a “swing” never changes. It can’t be larger or smaller or more picturesque as in a child’s mind. It merely holds the memories of swinging alone or with another; perhaps reading a book or sipping lemonade.

At a young age, I was a romantic at heart. How I longed for the day, I would have my own home and family and yes, it had to include a porch swing. Long before I had my own swing, my ex husband, Charles’s parents had a glider. It wasn’t as romantic as a porch swing, but it too would offer its’ passengers quiet and solitude as they dreamed of places near and far.

Years later after Charles and I had our own family, my persistence for a swing remained strong. I had moved from house to house, city to city and state to state with him and felt after 15 years of marriage a porch swing would be a great asset for our long porch which backed up to a woods and a creek.  Charles finally succumbed to my pleas and tears. Although it was not the porch swing as the one of my childhood, Charles insisted it should be one of a more contemporary design. Nonetheless, many frequented that swing; children and their friends, family close by and far away, guests from several continents. I can still hear the cries of our little cat. We knew, he too had visited the swing, only to have a paw which had fallen among the slats. In a panic, rather than lift his leg, his wails alarmed us to rescue him.  Isn’t it wonderful that God gives us the gift of memory, which allows us to relive those parts of our lives which bring us great “sonshine.”  Proverbs 17:22 ESV, “ A joyful heart is good medicine…”

Great Customer Service

How often do we experience poor customer service? Then we frequently hear, “customer service is not what it used to be?” There are also times when staff of companies or corporations excel at their jobs. Today was one of those examples where multiple individuals exceeded my expectations in assisting me. I’m gladly sending kudos to CarMax of Plano, McKinney and Irving, TX. They assisted me with lost documents whereas another company’s customer service was almost nonexistent.

Our daily life’s routine can at times seem frustrating or even overwhelming. When individuals are a blessing to me, I term them, “God hugs.” It’s a reminder that God is walking with me no matter what life holds. Also, as we meet others on our path, we never know what they might be  experiencing. Our appreciation for their assistance and service can be as much a blessing to them, as they were to us.

I carry business card sized “thank you cards” in my purse. When someone goes out of their way to offer assistance or kindness, I hand them a card with my verbal thanks and a reminder that gratitude is something which none of us can give too much. Ruth 1:8 NLT, “May the Lord reward you for your kindness…”

Pomp and Circumstance

Pomp and Circumstance fill the air throughout the country as college and high graduates embark on the next step of their life’s journey. My family has been privileged to celebrate such accomplishments with three of my six grandchildren. My daughter’s eldest son graduated summa cum laude from a university as the top graduate in chemistry. At age 21, he will soon begin another chapter of his educational aspirations as he enters a PhD program in chemistry. Her second eldest son also graduated with honors as the top student and valedictorian from his local high school.

Whereas, each of these graduations were joyful and tearful, so too was the graduation of my son’s eldest daughter from her local high school. However, the exultation was also filled with tears of sorrow. As her maternal grandparents reflected upon memories of her as a child, teen and now a young woman entering a new world, I was never fortunate enough to share in those memories. Because I have been estranged from or had an extremely strained relationship with my son for over 25 years, I was not involved in his two daughter’s lives.  I’ve spent all these years apologizing for and seeking forgiveness on offenses I never knew I committed. My son was a blessing I prayed for and was thrilled to receive. Not having him and his family in my life has been a great sadness.

Now, as my granddaughter leaves home, I continue to pray I will be permitted to know the beautiful child whom became a lovely young woman. God knows the very depths of my heart. I trust He will restore that which has been withheld from me. Matt. 7:7 NIV, “Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find…”