Just One of The Family

Our plates were piled high with the traditional Thanksgiving fare; turkey, ham, two varieties of dressing, three salads, assorted vegetables and a table of beautiful, assorted desserts.  We were six people from different areas of the large metropolitan city- different ages,  backgrounds and certainly different paths in life, but one commonality-we were each alone for Thanksgiving.

 For me, it was a time of reflection, but also of gratefulness. For years, I had been the cook; the hostess for family holiday meals. As the family grew smaller, our table often hosted friends whom found themselves alone on the holiday.

Now I was one of those sitting in solitary and appreciating the love and thoughtfulness which went into the food preparation. The owner of this bakery cared enough about those at an empty table to open her heart to others like me.  I was saddened to learn she had prepared for twenty (whom had RSVP’ed), but only six of us fulfilled our commitment.  God is always in the details. Because the dining room was not filled with the pledged guests, the hostess/bakery owner, along with her family  joined the six of us in food and fellowship.

As we filled our plates, I recalled so vividly and humorously preparing my first Thanksgiving dinner for my then husband’s family. I set my alarm at 3 a.m. to place the turkey in the oven, not understanding turkeys don’t require a “work day” to roast. I had begun the baking, days prior with almost  enough assorted desserts to feed our entire small,  rural community.

I learned years prior that my God-given gift is the gift of hospitality, so I believed all the homemade rolls and bread must be accompanied with pats of “turkey” butter. Yes, I spent hours filling small turkey molds with softened butter, so that my Thanksgiving table would be not only laden with assorted traditional cuisine, but also the extra touches which say “I’m grateful you have joined us at our table this year.” As the years passed, the cooking and baking remained plentiful, but the butter was not always served in the shape of turkeys. I quickly learned the taste of the meal was not diminished with pats of butter.

 The chairs became fewer and reality was that life had changed. Finding myself alone over ten years ago, I looked for creative ways to spend Thanksgiving. I’ve volunteered for the homeless, spent the holiday in WI with my brother and his family and  offered to be the hostess for others like me. Having relocated to a new state last year, the opportunities to volunteer or help others in need is not as great as it was in Oklahoma.

Each of these factors now found me sitting at a table with a mom and her daughter, a grandfather and his grandson, another single lady and myself. With the bakery owner and her family, today we were a “family of thirteen.”  I could once again bow my head in gratitude, praising and thanking God for allowing me to be a part of this group on this Thanksgiving. I Thess. 5:18 NIV “give thanks in all circumstances; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.”

The Fixer

I walked away as confused as when I received the request to meet  for coffee. A lady I will call Denise had been in a bible study with me over five months prior. I had joined the non-denominational bible study over thirty years ago. Each year,  women are assigned a group. They meet together for 45-50 minutes each week for eight months, then the following year, they are assigned a new group.  This is a highly structured and formal bible study with very little personal interaction.

Occasionally, a query will arise in the study asking the participants to parallel the teachings of the bible to their personal lives. Not all class members share their input weekly.  By the end of the eight months, we may know a little about each person in the group, but know none of them well.  Normally it takes years to truly know and understand someone. Certainly a few minutes each week negates this opportunity.

I had some trepidation about Denise’s intent, but understanding God is always in the details, I accepted the invitation eager to see what God was telling me. I was reminded recently that God  doesn’t always speak in shouts, but often in a whisper as He did to Elijah. I also recognize God can’t speak, if our ears are closed to Him. I knew certainly this meeting had to be of God for I didn’t know Denise well enough to otherwise join her for coffee.

 I prayed for peace and an understanding on whatever God wanted me to hear. Yet Denise’s words were confounding. She met me solely for the purpose of informing me that I wasn’t healing quickly enough from a challenging life.  I now understood these were not God’s words or actions, but merely a reminder from Him that often people believe they are wiser than God; that they need to “fix us.”

During my time of healing and awareness, God has placed me in ministries I would not have otherwise been involved with. I’ve met people I would never have met. I’ve experienced adventures I would never have experienced. Sometimes when God speaks we don’t understand. I remained bewildered. Why did Denise feel it so imperative to meet me for the singular purpose of criticism and negativity?

At times each of us look at another and think, “ I wonder why they are saying/doing that?. I would do things differently.” It is not our responsibility as Christians to tell anyone they are wrong when they are taking their direction from the Lord. God doesn’t lead anyone to do things which are not acceptable to Him.

My life is a series of circumstances God allowed and/or brought about; not to harm me, but to strengthen me. Now He is restoring my life in His time and His glory. No outside intervention is required. Perhaps the sole purpose of the coffee meeting was so that I could be reminded that God has not forgotten me. He remains steadfast with me, no matter what happens or where He leads.  Hosea 6:1 NKJ, Come, and let us return to the Lord; For He was torn, but will heal us; He has stricken, but He will bind us up.”

Essential Glue

Yesterday, while at church, there was a message to all the grandparents and those persons that stand in as “grandparents”, thanking us and reminding us for being the people we are; imperfect, but filled with love. We are grandparents that have prayed for and loved our children and ultimately the grandchildren God had blessed us with.

So it was, as I thought of my own children and grandchildren. I too am  flawed and at times felt inadequate to be a parent, but I always prayed and believed my love for them would override my inadequacies.

As I have so often shared, God is always in the details of situations which transpire in our lives. As I read my devotions today, it was on parenting. The timing was impeccable, having just received recognition yesterday as a grandparent. Certainly, we can’t be grandparents if we aren’t parents.

It is most often our children that see our inadequate personalities and traits. Our grandchildren may receive only the “best.” The years of sacrificing and conflicts while parenting have been replaced with sweet words, hundreds of hugs and countless treats. Most often, as grandparents we no longer have the burden of rearing these children, but only showering them with our love and devotion.

 As the  father in the devotion wrote of kneeling beside his young son’s bed, sorrowful over the attitude he had toward his son’s actions. God reminded him that as a father he expected his son to act as an adult. How often, I too kneeled alongside my sleeping child or sat with them as I hugged them tenderly pleading for their forgiveness of my flaws and frailties.

As parents we see and understand  words and actions of our children can cause them to be remorseful later in their lives if they cling to those childish ways. Thus, it  may seem we are constantly “nagging” our precious children to be better, to say better, to do better.

How often  do parents have obstacles and difficulties in our lives which prevent us from seeing clearly as we “parent” our children? We’ve all heard countless times that our children don’t arrive with a “how to” manual. All the child rearing books in the world can not enable us as parents to be the parent our children may desire.

Like the father in my devotion, kneeling beside his young son and apologizing for his actions of that day or days past, we so often wish we could have , a “do-over” for that day or weeks past. We can only take each day and continue to do our best.

We pray and trust when our children become parents they may reflect on their times as children and have an understanding that the actions of their parents was not to harm or injure them, but from great love for them. As quoted in Focus On The Family 2017, “Parental love can be transforming for you and your child. But it is an endeavor that can always use improvement and refinement. A parent’s love is full of mistakes and mishaps, but it is the essential glue to our imperfect and messy family relationships.”

NIV 3 John 1:4, “I have no greater joy than to hear my children are walking in the truth.”

A Gift For Myself

Tiktok, Instagram, Facebook, texing, zoom, emails and the list goes on and on. Recently as I sat in a physician’s office awaiting my turn while the doctor was over an hour and a half behind on seeing his patients, a gentleman in the waiting room began a conversation.

He is a retired college professor and loved to converse , as do I. I feel I never meet strangers, but merely potential new friends. Some people converse, some don’t, but this gentleman had many tales to share. One of our commonalities in our conversation was the slower pace of life when we were younger-the neighbors that said hello and wanted to know you -the neighbors we could borrow sugar or flour from. Sometimes we returned the item borrowed or quite often, waited until they needed their own missed ingredient.

We both agreed we are not fans of some of the new technology, but we have adapted. We still prefer sitting and chatting rather than texting or sending emails.  I would love to run over to a neighbor’s, knock on their door to borrow an ingredient for something I could share with another.

We all love our modern conveniences of high tech equipment, appliances that can do everything except put our clothes away or set the food on our tables. Yet what about those days when the family gathered in the kitchen following a meal to “do the dishes?” Some would bring dirty dishes to the sink while others washed-one or two would grab a towel to “dry.” Still others might be there to put the dishes away.

Oh that’s right!  This was only  in Father Knows Best or Leave it To Beaver or some of the other family television shows where life was perfect.  There might be two people cleaning the kitchen, if that many. Even though there was often bickering in my family of origin over every household chore including all those kitchen tasks, I still miss some of the simplicity of that time.

As I read one of my devotions today, I was reminded again of the uncomplicatedness of life in previous years. It was set in the 1960’s, so it was akin to the discussion in the Dr’s office.  This author was one of over a thousand passengers whose airline flights had been rerouted, delayed and/or canceled on December 24th. There were crying children and yelling parents. There was stress and worry because there were no cell phones to inform anyone of the situation. What could they do?

Then came along a gentleman to soothe the worry and bring a ray of sunshine to the beleaguered passengers. With his homemade coffee cart, he was offering a smile, kind words of encouragement that everything would be alright and a cup of coffee. He even carried blankets for those that might have need of one.

As the author boarded the bus due to his flight cancelation, he queried the jovial man about his acts of kindness. Mr. “Jovial” took two weeks of vacation every year to be there at the airport during the holidays knowing the stress the passengers endured.  He called helping people his “gifts to himself.”  Have you gifted yourself recently, by helping another?

Luke 6:38 NIV, Give and it will be given to you. A good measure, pressed down, shaken together and running over, will be poured into your lap…”

I Could and I Did

Don’t you have those warm “all over goose bumps” when you hear or read about love and forgiveness? Whether from another or in our lives, we can’t help but have joy when we read about or experience these great gifts from God. Perhaps they will bring a smile to your heart, as they did to mine.

I want to share a small sampling of some of those godsends. “Now he was in front of me…and I…fumbled in my pocketbook rather than take that hand. He would not remember me, of course-how could he remember one prisoner among those thousands of women?

 And I stood there-and could not forgive. It could not have been many seconds that he stood there-hand held out-but to me it seemed hours as I wrestled with the most difficult thing I ever had to do.

And still I stood there with the coldness clutching my heart. But forgiveness is not an emotion-I knew that too. Forgiveness is an act of the will…I thrust my hand into the one stretched out to me. I forgive you…I cried.”  Corrie Ten Boom-prisoner of Ravensbruck and the man who desired forgiveness was one of the her most cruel guards.

“ Even now I can’t talk about what I did…even to you. Thirty-two years, two months and 11 days ago…It happened during a bad winter storm with a lot of rain…winds and almost no visibility. It was two nights before Christmas….I volunteered to go out in the rain and wind and push the switch for the northbound 8:30 freight…

I guess I was more drunk than I thought I was because I pushed that switch in the wrong direction. At 45 miles an hour that freight train slammed into a passenger car at the next crossing and killed a young man, his wife and their two daughters…Father O’Malley gently put his hand on Tom’s (the man) shoulder and said very quietly, If I can forgive you, God can forgive you, because in that car were my mother, my father and my two older sisters.”  Warren Miller as shared with Chicken Soup for the Christian Soul.

Forgiveness is one of the greatest gifts God gives us as humans, but so too is love for forgiveness and love so often are “one.” This last story I share as it touched my heart greatly as I read it and trust it will also touch yours. It reminded me of one my favorite movies, The Notebook.

 “I watched him look into the window and check his reflection. He carefully combed his hair and straightened his tie.  He had to be seventy years old, yet he acted as eager as a schoolboy…He was meeting his wife, a victim of Alzheimer’s. His wife never spoke much. But it didn’t seem to matter to him…He made cheery conversation, read letters from family, sang to her…or just held her hand.

Love, a rare commitment to care for another regardless of the response…Mr. Lacy is pitied but a privileged man, who loves his wife in such a way that the world may look on with a deep sense of longing…” authors, Teresa & David Ferguson, Holly & Chris Thurman.

Colossians 3:13 NIV Bear with each other and forgive one another if any of you has a grievance against someone. Forgive as the Lord forgave you.

Only $1.03

What? A check for $1.03. I immediately chuckled. It cost more in time, labor and postage to send than the value of the check. I had to assume policies are polices and so it was. The small check must be sent to all customers as a rebate for “sports interruptions.” It seemed so trivial. But then-it came to me. What about situations and incidents we might do toward the Lord which may seem like a “waste of time?”

 We might wonder how we are wasting God’s time. What do you do with your day? For most individuals that are employed, a minimum of eight to ten hours per day is given to your employment. Then if you have a commute to your place of work, there is additional time allocation.

If you are a parent with children at home, there are the family obligations and commitments. Add school and/or social activities,  meal preparation, household chores and errands and our days are rapidly depleted. You might be perplexed how you could be wasting time when you seem to have so little of it.

While commuting or spending time “are you fretting and worrying about life? What if?  The list goes on and on for hours, weeks and often years of our lives. Worry! This is a huge waste of God’s time- time He has given us to be productive.   Worry doesn’t just last for those few minutes we might be alone. It carries on throughout our days. I’ve heard Christians say often, “I’m so worried that thus and so will happen.” Why? You can’t change it, even if it were to happen.

I’ve heard more than one pastor speak about God’s timing and that we can’t make it happen any sooner than He plans.  However, when He does implement a plan, “get out of the way” for nothing will stop it. So why worry?

Guilt is also a time waster. If we have sought forgiveness from God and the person(s) we have offended, then we must “let it go.” Fretting over it, doesn’t alter what happened. Guilt often brings about anger, which compounds the waste of God’s time; our time.

Joyce Meyer said, “Whatever is making you so angry, it’s time for you to give it to God and get over it. Life isn’t fair, but God is. He will bring justice into your life, but you must drop that offense, leave it, let it go, and trust God to bring resolution in His perfect timing.

We can add dread to our list of time wasters. We dread doing this or that. If you can avoid it, do so. If you must do it, then ask God for the strength and wisdom to accomplish the task.  I imagine some of the above time wasters were also incorporated into each of the others. You worry when you dread and are sometimes angry about what you must do.

No more need to waste God’s time, money and energy on things which He already has “paid in advance.”  The check is not only in the mail, but in our account of life. Matthew 6:25 NIV “ Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or drink; or about your body, what you will wear. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothes?”

Only 29 Days!

The falling leaves lie gently on the ground. As I walk, there is a soft crunch beneath my feet. The cool breeze on my face brings a smile to my heart. Fall must be in the air.

 No, it’s the hottest summer I’ve ever experienced. The trees are shedding their leaves due to the extreme heat. It seems no amount of water will prevent the sloughing of their shade. As I stroll across the lawn and feel the crunch of dry lawn and fallen leaves, I’m saddened to know all of nature is struggling.  With weeks of daily 100 plus temperatures and no rain predicted, every day is laborious for all of God’s creations.

As I dash from my car into my home, church or shop, if I can feel a cool breeze from the air conditioner working diligently, I’m grateful. God has blessed anyone that has a comfortable home or work place. For not everyone has such luxuries. Today, as I stood in line at the post office, a homeless lady walked in with a grocery cart filled with her earthly possessions. I wanted to cry out in pity as I viewed her dirty and disheveled clothing and person. I prayed quietly, “God, the temperatures are brutal. I imagine this lady has no cool shelter.”

Perhaps God allows such extreme situations and/or conditions in our lives, so we will be grateful when the temperatures fall and the rain comes. We all know that temperatures and rain are temporal. No matter the season in our lives, God speaks to us. He reminds us that there are better days ahead. Yet, we need to accept today and glean the blessings.

The sign in the coffee shop reminded me that “yes, better days are coming.” PSL arriving in 29 days. I chuckled! Oh my goodness. Pumpkin spice. It seems this seasonal delight is either esteemed or loathed. Nonetheless whatever one’s preference, fall has arrived when pumpkin spice “reins.” I always wondered if it’s the connotation of a “homey and comfortable” time of the year or do people truly love pumpkin spice, a combination of spice and  a vegetable (or to scientists a fruit).

I will eat pumpkin pie, but it isn’t my preference. Yet, I truly savor pumpkin spice coffees. Am I one that is “carried” into a Hallmark movie with a log cabin, burning logs, flannel shirt, soft, cuddly blanket and a pet curled up at my side while I bask in the delight of a chilly night and my cup of pumpkin spice coffee? I must admit- I do often daydream of such delights as I relish my warm cup of this spicy coffee.

Now, I stand in awe-reminded by the sign that I can “dream” of those cooler days ahead in just 29 days! Here in Texas, our calendar doesn’t even consider becoming cooler until November or December. NIV Isaiah 58:11 The Lord will guide you always; He will satisfy your needs in a sun scorched land…you will be like a well-watered garden, like a spring whose waters never fail.”

History or Legacy?

As I sat reading all the historical events which occurred during the  “Baby Boomer” generation, I thought of my own parents. They were known as the “greatest generation”, enduring WWII and the great depression.  Most of our parents also experienced the historical events which have shaped us, the Baby Boomers. And so it goes! Decade after decade bring about new events and much which will be written in our history books.

Unless it is an astronomical  event such as September 11, 2001, which will imprint us and generations for decades, we seldom acknowledge the changes these occurrences make on our lives; some permanently. None of us can now travel to or from airports without strict regulations which impede our lives.

I recall as a young child riding to Chicago with my parents, solely to watch the large jets “take off” from the tarmac. As a poor family, this was free entertainment for us. We would also enter the gate area and sit  among soon-to-be passengers as we observed the incoming and departing jets. Such actions are now prohibited.

When we recollect historical events, we are often queried, “where were you when this happened?” Most of us readily recall those answers.  Following President Kennedy’s assassination presidential cars are no longer open convertibles, but heavily armored vehicles.

In 1969, the astronomical event of landing and walking on the moon was viewed by thousands of people worldwide. The fall of the Berlin Wall changed not only the lives of German citizens, but opened a pathway for families, friends and tourists around the world. Theirs was now a freedom to visit openly.

It’s unfortunate that mass shootings have become what many term “common place.” For the survivors, families and friends of such heinous  acts of anger and rage, they are changed for a lifetime. Every generation has their “historical events”.  Wars and rumors of wars, nation arising against nation, famines and earthquakes are merely a few of the events noted in the bible.   As bible scholars and Christians, we know these words are scripted of things to come during the “end times.”

But what about our history and/or our end times?  What events from our lives will imprint our friends and family? We have different aspirations. As I’ve often shared, from the time I was a young child, my only goal in life was to be a wife and mother; to cherish a family and be able to do things for them. My aspirations were not ones which would become historical, but they held value for me.  Most of us desire to be remembered in love by friends and family.

I never desired prestige, clout or wealth. I desired only to be as a virtuous woman of the bible; for the imprint of my life to be, that when I was sad, I rejoiced in the Lord. When I encountered difficult times, I turned to God for my strength- no matter what life held for me, I knew God was in the details. Proverbs 31:8 NIV, “Her children arise and call her blessed; her husband also, and he praises her.”

Thanks For The Memories

There were tears, laughter and reminiscing. Isn’t that what family gatherings are all about?  When a child, our parents moved us from our homeland- away from our aunts, uncles, cousins and dozens of other relatives. As a result, my family of origin had very little interaction with extended  family for the duration of our lives.

When I married,  my then husband’s family became my family. We had beautiful reminiscences with them. Yet, I yearned for times with my own family. For the past twenty years, I’ve made countless trips to make memories with my brother and his family. God has blessed them with a gift of love and dedication which not all families have.

Thus, when I was invited to participate in the exultation and celebration of my great nephew’s wedding, I eagerly accepted.   The distance didn’t deter me from the recollections I knew I would cherish. As my plane landed, my brother was awaiting my arrival and a whirlwind of excitement and remembrances began.

I arrived at the home of my niece where her immediate and extended family had been working for days in preparation for this special event. As I watched them scurrying and bustling about making certain each detail was completed to perfection, I thought of how God plans and implements every detail of our lives.

 We often spend weeks and perhaps months in preparation for special events but most often  they are over too quickly and merely a memory. But oh the joy, of such commemorations. From birth until the last days of our lives, it seems they are akin to bright and glaring rays of sun until they slowly dim into shadows and memories.

Just as the wedding guests arrive to be seated and observe the celebration, we too often take a seat and enjoy the ceremony? God plans for occurrences in our lives. We take a seat to enjoy the blessings, but how often do we realize how detailed He was with the happenings of our lives?

 As the groom’s mother and grandmother endured the loss of their son and grandson to the arms and love of another, it is a reminder of God’s plan for each of us. Although, painful to see our children leave home to begin new lives, it is God’s plan. Genesis 2:24 reminds us that a man will leave his mother and father to be united with his wife to become one.

What a delight and excitement to be a part of celebrating this chapter of a young couple’s life. Not only do wedding guests enjoy being a party to such a monumental event, there is also a moment of anticipation  as we view the bride walking the aisle to become the wife of her beloved. As they exchange their wedding vows almost always it takes the guests back to the day they too “became one.” Love, laughter and warm memories are truly “in the air” during these special events.

For me, it was not only the celebration of the precious couple, but what happiness to visit with family I seldom see. I thanked God, for He was in the details of each aspect, including my participation. James 1:17, “every good and perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of the heavenly lights, who does not change like shifting shadows.”

Mounds of Dirt

How exciting! Less than a year ago, I  purchased an older home which needed “much love.” It was in ill repair and outdated, but one of the greatest “eye sores” was the lack of a yard. There were less than a half dozen shrubs on the entire half acre lot. There were no flowers, but the greatest obstacle was the barren earth. When the rains poured, the mud slides began; onto the driveway, sidewalks and patio.

Spring was arriving and my love of flowers brought a necessity to locate a landscaper to assist me in making the “dirt” a beauty. After research and prayers, God brought me a landscaper that turned the outdoors into a haven.  As I recently awakened  to the blooming flowers, exquisite shrubs and the deep green, lush lawn, “gifts” awaited me. Mounds of dirt dotted my pristine lawn.

As my neighbor and I briefly chatted about our lawn destruction,  I noted that I had left beautiful wildlife of deer and wild turkey at my home in another state. Jokingly, I shared with him,  I still had wildlife, but they were not ones I desired to photograph.

Frustrated, but not angry, I knew the “crazy critters”, moles, gophers and/or voles were doing their jobs. They were turning and aerating the soil. My new oasis of lawn was also a sanctuary for them. Now the battle was “on.” Which one would win?

 I thought of us, God’s children. He gives us lush green lawns; magnificent lives. To those that know us  we appear lovely. Yet, what is going on inside? What are our thoughts, feelings, emotions? Which one will win? Will it be the power of God to overcome negativity in our lives or Satan’s enticing temptations which allow us to leave “mounds of dirt” on other’s green lawns?

Are we doing the job God has planned for us or are we “tunneling beneath”, causing messes along the way? The more manicured the lawn the more prevalent the “mounds.” I decided I would be the victor in the battle of the “mounds.” God can and will also be our victor when we allow Him to help us with the messes we make of our lives.

Each of us makes messes for we are imperfect. We are all sinful creations. If you research well known pastors and bible scholars you will realize they too have had some difficult times in their lives, but God lifted them up and cleaned up the “mounds.”

Rick Warren notes of the messes in our lives, “ you may have really made a mess of your life. Your “pot” is scarred from poor decisions that you made and things that were done to you. As a result your life has not turned out as you intended…God is the potter, and He doesn’t discard clay that’s been misshapen by circumstances…He doesn’t throw out the personality and the essence of who He created you to be…applying pressure at just the right places to mold you and remake you into a beautiful, priceless piece of art.”

 The lush green lawn will be free of “mounds” once again.  Isaiah 64:8 ESV “But now, O Lord, you are our Father, we are the clay, and you are our potter; we are all the work of your hand.”