I Wasn’t Expecting You

It whispers, so softly we sometimes don’t hear it and we may not see it. Then it hums and we know it has arrived and we see its’ beauty.  It sings loudly to make its presence known and often brings a friend. Most often when it arrives, we welcome it, waiting weeks or perhaps months for the visit.

We may have felt its’ soft kisses on our hair and cheeks when we didn’t anticipate it, or at other times we tried to flee our friend before its’ arrival.  We may have willingly allowed it to fall upon us. Occasionally, we pray our friend will leave for it has lingered too long and its’ presence is bringing our world around us harm.

We may not have had our home ready or “baked the cake to greet it, but we are joyful to see our friend; rain.  Often rain holds hands with thunder, and it is more magnificent as together they proclaim God’s glory.  When the skies are dark, often our hearts are bright, for we have awaited rain’s arrival. Perhaps the summer has been hot and dry. What a magnificent day for its arrival, the first day of September, a reminder that a new season is ahead.

I chuckled when someone was sharing their child doesn’t  wash their car. They allow the rain to do the work. When it is going to rain, the car is driven to the “perfect spot” to have the job accomplished. I love rain for it reminds me of my own life.  When rain comes, it may wash away some of the dirt and debris from our lives, so we can be refreshed.

There are barren and scorching times of life when a cool rain rejuvenates us. No matter how often we water our plants and lawn, they are never as nourished as when God brings us steady, lingering rain. It is more encompassing. God’s rain includes all in its path.

Occasionally some may plead with God to end the rain. It has lingered too long and is causing destruction to the very life it is touching. Living among wheat farms for several years, I understood the devastation and destruction of too much rain. As with the flowers and plants we grow, with too much water,  they will rot and “fall away”, but God is controlling the flow.

Wouldn’t it be wonderful if we could set the rain as we do our timed sprinkling systems? We choose the day, time and duration. Yet this is not God’s plan for our lives. Before the cool months are here, there will be more days of heat and if the rain chooses to delay its’ visit again, it will be dry. We always know it will return, sometimes in a whisper, sometimes with a loud song, hand in hand with thunder, but always in God’s time and remaining as long as God desires. Joel 2:23 NIV, “Be glad, people of Zion, rejoice in the Lord your God, for He has given you the autumn rains because He is faithful…”

Silent Voices

I was  eager to return to church as it’s been over six months since I have attended a “live” service. I have been faithful to coffee/jammie church, but my church is now open for business “as usual” or is it? Where were the people? Where was the choir” Where was the orchestra? Where were the “how are you today’s?” I can talk to and worship God anywhere and anytime, but I was eager to return to church with my fellow members and worshipping together.

As I walked into the church, I realized the “good ole days” are gone for now. As I dashed into the ladies’ room to comb my wind-blown hair, there was a limit to the number of women allowed in the ladies’ room. I carefully opened the door to survey the space and see if it had reached its’ maximum of three. Oh yeah! There were only two, so I could enter.

As I walked into the sanctuary it was eerily quiet.  Routine conversation and greeting our fellow church members was muted. The choir consisted of ten to twelve people masked and scattered in the choir loft. The orchestra was void of most of the instruments. The organ was quiet.

This church is one of the largest of our denomination, in the state, yet today it appeared to be the size of a small, country church.  My family of four joined the church in the 1980s’ when our children were young.  When I became a “single, senior” over eight years ago, that changed my circle of friends at the church. Yet, this was a place where I always believed I could see familiar faces and be greeted with handshakes, hugs and warm smiles.

I realized the required masks and social distancing would eliminate the hugs, but was hopeful the “hidden smiles” would be revealed with the arched eyebrows which happens when one does smile. Yet, there were very few smiles. I saw two couples I knew and waved from a distance, but no hugs allowed. The congregation was void of fellow, single seniors, for we are in that “age group” and many are still attending “jammie church.” I felt as though I had entered a “couples only” church, as there were only three to four single persons in the entire congregation.

 Hymns were sung beneath the masks with praise to the Lord that is with us in the midst of all this “new normal.” The most important element of the church has not changed. Those of us that were in attendance were there to worship Him and to give Him the honor and glory for being with us. When the masks are removed and the virus is history, I trust none of us will ever forget what it was like to walk into a silent church. I trust we will greet one another with smiles and handshakes and thank our Lord for the times He quieted us, so all we heard was Him. Matthew 18:20 NKJ “For where two or three are gathered together in My name, I am there in the midst of them.”

My Basket Is Broken

Good Morning Readers! As I shared yesterday, we all have times in our lives when our “baskets” are so heavy from burdens the handles break. We are walking with God and He is holding our hand. We’ve also given Him our trials.  Yet we know, some of these circumstances we have to endure with His help, but above all,  for His glory.

God provides these tribulations to strengthen us and bring us closer to Him. Bible studies and sermons often share of such circumstances with our heroes of the bible; Joseph, David, Job, Paul and dozens of others. God was with them. He was there for them, but He also gave them their “baskets” to carry; imprisonment, persecution, destruction, death, false accusations and many more. In the midst of all this, God was right there with each of them and He  was right there with me when the last burden was tossed into my “basket.”

Even though I do not believe in idols or symbols, as a replacement to God,  I was reminded of God’s love and safety when I removed all the possessions from my automobile following the accident. It was a key chain which I had received and placed in my car console. The words reiterated what I knew, “God bless this driver with safety today.”  He did!

I have been so appreciative of the thoughts, prayers and kind words during these past several days. I received this poem as a result of my “broken basket.” You may not be at your wit’s end now, but as I shared yesterday, we all know that sometime during our life, our “baskets” will break.  Routinely, I close my blog with a scripture, but today, I will allow this poem to encourage you.

At their wit’s end, they cry unto the Lord in

their trouble, and He brings them out”

(Psalm 107:27, 28).

Are you standing at “Wit’s End Corner,”

Christian, with troubled brow?

Are you thinking of what is before you,

And all you are bearing now?

Does all the world seem against you,

And you in the battle alone?

Remember–at “Wit’s End Corner”

Is just where God’s power is shown.

 

Are you standing at “Wit’s End Corner,”

Blinded with wearying pain,

Feeling you cannot endure it,

You cannot bear the strain,

Bruised through the constant suffering,

Dizzy, and dazed, and numb?

Remember–at “Wit’s End Corner”

Is where Jesus loves to come.

 

Are you standing at “Wit’s End Corner”?

Your work before you spread,

All lying begun, unfinished,

And pressing on heart and head,

Longing for strength to do it,

Stretching out trembling hands?

Remember–at. “Wit’s End Corner”

The Burden-bearer stands.

 

Are you standing at “Wit’s End Corner”?

Then you’re just in the very spot

To learn the wondrous resources

Of Him who faileth not:

No doubt to a brighter pathway

Your footsteps will soon be moved,

But only at “Wit’s End Corner”

Is the “God who is able” proved.

–Antoinette Wilson

 

Do not get discouraged; it may be the last key in

the bunch that opens the door.  Stansifer

Please Hand Me The Rope

Most of us have heard, the quote that God does not give us more than we can bear.  At times, the baskets we are carrying break from the load of life’s burdens. That happened to me only a few days ago. As I laid in an ambulance, after having my car totaled, I telephoned my daughter, living in another state.  As my tears fell, I said, “I now have to find a heavy rope, for the events of today have broken my basket. I need a rope to drag it.”

A few weeks ago, I wrote a blog and within minutes of hitting the “publish” button, I received a sarcastic comment about the blog. I chose to delete the initial blog and wrote another, apologizing  for being “candid” about the challenges of life. I then received positive feedback for being transparent and for sharing how God intervenes.  The accolades encouraged me. Life at times is difficult, but we can give God the glory for carrying our baskets.

While I was a university teacher,  receiving evaluations from the students each semester, I carefully read each comment. I always understood there would be negative feedback from students not receiving their desired grade. Negativity is to be expected in our lives for we can’t please everyone. My gauge of success as a college teacher was when the positive comments outweighed the negative.

For some of us, our lives have many more challenges than blessings. Yet, it is how we choose to endure which makes us failures or successes. I vividly recall being in a BSF (Bible Study Fellowship), lecture when the leader noted one of the participants had come up to her and said there must be something wrong with her life (the participant).  The lady shared with our leader, she was in her sixties and had never had even one negative life event.  She experienced a wonderful childhood and upbringing with loving parents and siblings, an incredible husband and marriage, caring and loving children, financially successful and never an illness. Her life had been what others would consider “perfect.”

It may seem unfair that many people go through life with very few difficulties. When they do encounter challenges, they are quickly resolved and quite minor. At times, I pour my heart out to God, as to why some people receive countless blessings while others struggle with daily life. Charles Stanley reminds us, “whatever the hardship, there is one overarching choice we have to make-to move toward God, or away from Him. There is no standing still. There is no neutral option. Adversity forces our path to split before us, and we will either walk with God or turn down a lonely road without Him.”

God knew before He allowed these problems the persons that would handle them with grace and dignity and use them for His glory and those that would become bitter and angry. James 1:12 NKJ “Blessed is the man who endures temptation; for when he has been approved, he will receive the crown of life which the Lord has promised to those who love Him.”

 

Squirrels in My Life

Months ago, I stood at the window startled, but amused that a squirrel had grabbed onto a corner of my patio rug and was literally unraveling the entire edge. I opened the door to scare it away, but the little critter soon returned to complete the task. I had never witnessed anything like that after having patio rugs for years, so I took a picture to capture the moment.

For weeks, the rug looked tattered and disheveled, but I believed the squirrel(s) had lost interest and moved on to other mischief around my house or in the neighborhood. It was time to purchase a new rug, as I knew It would bring new life to my patio. Also, anyone  visiting  my home wouldn’t look upon the rug and wonder why I didn’t take pride in the appearance of my surroundings.

A couple days ago my rug arrived. The wrinkles from being rolled tightly during shipping  were still apparent throughout the rug, as the “new smell” lingered. No more shabby patio! As I opened my blinds today, I was “awe struck.” Whether it was the same squirrel or a relative, it had not only frayed the entire edge of my rug, but had chewed and decimated  some of the rug.

I whispered, Oh dear God, can’t I have anything in my life which isn’t frayed and marred? Yes, it is merely a rug, but it was a reminder to me of the many times in our lives  when we try so earnestly to start over; to replace or repair what has been damaged. We grow weary of having people see us as though we don’t care; as though we have allowed the distressed edges to be what is the most visible.

Even though the center of the rug is new, whole and lovely, the unraveled edge with the missing pieces is what my eye was drawn toward. I sat on the ground, tape and scissors in hand slowing and methodically going around the entire edge of the rug, trusting the heavy tape would deter the squirrel guest from damaging the rug even further.

Satan finds a small way to pull and tug at us, realizing he can fray us so we are unattractive to those we meet. They don’t see the body of the rug; our life and the way God blesses us.  They see only the ugly, mutilated edges of our attitude or personality. Our hearts and lives may be as lovely as the center of my new rug, but the ruined edges, can’t be hidden.

They need to be wrapped in God’s love, so Satan won’t continue to pull and tug until our entire image is destroyed.  The edges Satan chewed and tore are there, but the beauty is “in the center” of our lives. We are bound in God’s love, so the frayed edges are not as visible. We know where the destruction is, but God’s light in our lives has diminished the damage. Psalm 147:3 NIV “He heals the brokenhearted and binds up their wounds.”

 

 

 

Detour Again

“I caution you…you will receive swift, legal, action.” What? Why? There was no greeting or closing salutation, merely a threat. I then whispered, okay, God another slammed door, but you are in charge. No words had been written or spoken which were disparaging as I was accused of doing. Thus, no need to threaten. To me, it is one more example of God’s hand slamming the door shut.

The sender of the brusque text presented a business transaction which I chose not to accept. She had entered my home angry and departed in the same manner. What I learned years ago is we cannot control what others say or do, but we can control how we accept and deal with situations which arise. For me personally, it is of no benefit to react to negativity in a toxic manner.  If I react destructively, it only causes me physical stress and anxiety. I prayed about the business transaction before it was presented and following. This has caused another detour, but I know God’s time is perfect.

Then as I read one of my devotions today, I thought of my own situation. Xochitl Dixon wrote, “my anger percolated when a woman mistreated me, blamed me and gossiped about me. I wanted everyone to know what she’d done-wanted her to suffer as I’d suffered because of her behavior. I steamed with resentment until a headache pierced my temples. But as I began praying for my pain to go away, the Holy Spirit convicted me. How could I plot revenge while begging God for relief?”

As I read each word of Xochitl’s devotion, I thought again about what anger does to us. I recall when I learned the truth of a situation a little over two years ago. I was angry, but more wounded than angry. The hurt was so deep and devastating, I became physically ill. How could someone I had loved so deeply and genuinely do something so vindictive and dishonorable? He did and I had to decide how to endure. I cried out to God to remove the emotional sorrow, but it lingered. Even now, if I reflect on the reality of what occurred, the anguish is great, “but God.”

I’ve learned over these past couple years, that no matter how excruciating a situation may be, with God’s help I can survive and thrive. Perhaps that is another reason when situations arise now which I have no control over, I can say “God, this is your problem. Please take it from me.” The actions of the sender of today’s text are unethical, but God remains at the center of the situation.

As Xochitl continued her devotion, she reminded us of the unfair treatment of David. We all know David pulled some “stunts”, but he was also mistreated unjustly when King Saul wanted to kill him. “David suffered while God worked things out.” Sometimes we too suffer, while God’s plan for our life is being implemented.  Psalm27:14 NKJ: “Wait on the Lord, be of good courage, and He shall strengthen your heart.”

 

 

 

What Do We Choose?

I recently read a devotion by Max Lucado on “choosing.” Most of us have daily choices. We choose what we will wear and what we will eat. We often choose what we will do with our day. If employed, the day may be planned for us, but we have choices for our schedule before and after work.

When we are given circumstances in life which we did not choose, we choose how to handle these situations. We can be angry and filled with rage, or accept it with grace and wait upon the Lord.  Yesterday, was one of the arduous days which I did not choose. I chose to list my house to sell, but I did not choose the events which transpired.   For those of you that have been following my journey to sell my home, you know it has been long; four years. I have prayed and I have waited. I believed God brought me a buyer. I was asked to vacate my house, as it appeared an offer would be presented.

For over two hours, I waited to return to my house. The offer never came. I now had a choice. I could be upset, frustrated and discouraged or I could recall that God is in control. I was never upset, but I was discouraged. I was frustrated that I had been asked to leave my house and “kill time” for two hours only to realize it was for naught.

But God! My choice was to rely on Him and continue to pray that in His time He will bring a buyer for my house. I fell asleep praying, but awakened a few hours later with thoughts of my “choices.” I have no control over the actions of the people I believed were going to purchase my home. I do have a choice in knowing God does have the right buyer at the right time. We also always know God’s timing is seldom our timing.

I reflected on Max’s words, “I choose joy. I will invite my God to be the God of circumstance. I will refuse the temptation to be cynical. I will refuse to see any problem as anything less than an opportunity to see God. Sometimes choosing joy amidst times of heartache and challenges is difficult, but we can choose.

I choose self-control. I am a spiritual being. After this body is dead, my spirit will soar. I refuse to let what will rot, rule the eternal. I choose self-control. I will be drunk only by joy. I will be impassioned only by my faith. I will be influenced only by God. I will be taught only by Christ. I choose self-control.”

Today is a new day; a day of new situations and choices. Yes, my mind, heart and body are growing weary, not only from waiting to sell my home, but waiting for so many complex situations in my life. I agree with Max, I will invite God to be the God of all my circumstances. Romans 12:12 NIV, “ Be joyful in hope, patient in affliction, faithful in prayer.”

Beauty From the Loom

In addition to playing with the precious babies and toddlers and assisting Martha with chores and errands, during my summer visit, there were several special adventures.  John and Martha loaded all of us in the van with lunches, snacks, water and drinks and off we went. Like the explorers of yesteryear, we explored the native land of our first Americans. We traveled to special events in Window Rock, AZ, serving as the seat of government and capital of the Navajo Nation.

Closer to the Barre’s home, I caught a glimpse of the culture of the wonderful Navajo people. John and Martha visited the residents in their homes; hogans. Hogans were built of wooden poles, tree bark and mud. The doorway opened to the east to receive the morning sun as well as good blessings. The hogans of the 1960’s and earlier possessed no running water and seldom was there electricity.

Their homes weren’t decorated with the latest décor, floor coverings or artwork. These homes were basic protection from the elements. Parents and children all slept in one room. There was no option to “slam the door and stomp off” to their room when someone was angry. Conflicts were resolved in one room, among the family members. No one grabbed meals and sat in front of the television. These were homes with only the basic needs and necessities. These were families of meager means, dwelling in nature and by the work of their own hands.

The skills and artistry of many of these residents was reflected with the beautiful handwoven Navajo rugs or the silver and turquoise jewelry. Even as a young teen, I was smitten with the inconceivable exquisiteness of the rugs woven on roughly built looms, occupying some of the living space of their humble homes.

I realized it was those weeks of residing among people of another culture that caused me to desire to learn more about those living in a world far different than mine. I was keenly aware, my world with my own poor family , living in a small, modest rental home was not the “norm.” Yet, we did have running water and electricity. Our floors were cold, bare tile or linoleum. Yet, the Americans residing in the hogans stepped onto dirt floors when they awakened each morning.

There were no lush lawns with abundant landscaping. An occasional wild pinyon pine or juniper tree might provide a small amount of shade in the summer heat. Sagebrush and tumbleweeds were the “in vogue” shrubs of Thoreau. There were advantages to this topography in that no one in the family was “yelling at the other” to mow the lawn.

I saw John and Martha several other times after I returned home that summer. Yet the memories from those few weeks have remained decades later. I learned there is no requirement for family vacations, luxuries of life or “having what the Joneses” have in order to be happy. The Barre home was filled with love which money truly could not buy. That summer of the early 1960’s imprinted my heart and life for an eternity. John 15:12, NKJ, “this is my commandment, that you love one another as I have loved you.”

 

Plenty of Toilet Water

When the hungry, children awakened, their patience was disguised. They also needed to be dressed and readied for their day ahead. Martha and I recognized to begin the chores uninterrupted, it was compulsory to begin our day before the children’s.

The chores and tasks I assisted with, were enjoyable as they were not the routine I had with my family of origin.  I also knew I was supporting Martha in her work for the Lord. She had labored assiduously for the past several years without complaints and meager assistance. Her work ethics as a German World War II bride were astonishing. She worked tirelessly all day without “breaks” or “me” time.

After the daily laundry was done, the breakfast served and the children attired for the day, there were a  few hours of playing and interacting with the children, before the afternoon naps and preparation for dinner began. Monday and Friday were our days of adventure. John was residing at the Navajo Language School in Gallup five days a week.  He was  learning the Diné language to preach the Sunday sermons to the reservation residents that attended their small chapel close to the Barre’s home.

Martha used those days for errands in Gallop, including grocery shopping and visits to the post office. There were no stops at the local convenience store for soft drinks or candy treats. There were no special outings for ice cream or hamburgers. These were luxuries, not provided to missionaries on a minimal budget with twelve mouths to feed.

With Martha’s homemade hamburger and hot dog buns, there was not a burger or hot dog in New Mexico as tasty as hers. I know if we had patronized the local sandwich shops, our paletes would have been disappointed.  Also, Martha’s homemade ice cream and fry bread outranked even the finest chef.

I learned more during those weeks as a missionary helper than I acquired over several years in my own family.  I understood poverty as a result of my biological family subsiding on government commodities. Yet, living on a meager income was never recognized in the Barre home.  I never experienced family love, devotion and dedication, for one another as I did during those few weeks with them.

From Friday night to Monday morning, John was home to participate with and enjoy his family. How I loved John as a father, for he delighted in bantering with me which my own father never did. Years later when John and Martha came to visit me as a young wife and mother, John reminded me of my “toilet water” from years earlier. When we all resided in Ohio as friends, I received a bottle of the Eau de toilette fragrance (toilet water on the label) as a gift.

As a young, naïve schoolgirl, John told me he could “refill” my bottle anytime I desired. With big eyes and belief of John’s words, I said, “you can?”  John smiled, “sure Janie, just bring it over. I have plenty.” It was Martha that brought me back to reality.  Those were heartwarming times. To be continued: Psalm 144:15 NKJ, “Happy are the people who are in such a state; Happy are the people whose God is the Lord.”

Watch Out For The Snakes

Even at age fourteen, I understood I didn’t need to pause to consider such an incredible opportunity. This experience might never be offered again. “Janie, would you like to spend the summer with us, helping me with the children?’, Martha queried.

Our family friends, John and Martha Barre, the age of my parents left their comfortable lifestyle and beautiful new home in Ohio to become missionaries to the Navajo Indians in Thoreau, New Mexico. John had been an executive with a large corporation, but they felt the calling of God in their hearts and on their lives. They left behind their family, friends, and the stability of a middle-class background, taking their two young sons to an unknown land with an unfamiliar culture to serve others.

The Barres were now rearing seven orphaned Native American children on the Navajo reservation. Martha knew how much I loved babies and babysitting.  With seven infants and toddlers, under the age of three, she welcomed my willingness to assist.

Martha’s love for children was perhaps as great as mine. However, Martha had lost several babies before their birth or shortly thereafter. The only daughter she would have had, God called home before the baby was born. Thus, Martha and I bonded that summer in the 1960’s, not only in household chores, cooking, baking and childcare, but as a “mother and daughter.”

This was perhaps one of the richest times of my life with new and stimulating occurrences, but  there were no “lazy days” of relaxing. The Barre’s austere 2 story frame house stood among the cliffs where the wild horses roamed, and the cacti flourished. There were no porch swings, lush green grass, or welcoming swimming pools. There was not a single flower or blade of grass. Hardened gypseous soil and barren terrain surrounded their house on every side.

This was a missionary home. It was basic and the needs plentiful. Martha arose each morning by 4:00 a.m. to begin her day of baking and laundry. There was no local gourmet coffee shop, florist, or bakery. The closest town was thirty-one miles away.  Grocery trips were planned. There was also not a desire to put seven children in the car to “run to town.” This calling on the lives of John and Martha looked nothing like “living the American dream” they had practiced in Ohio.

When I awakened around 6:00-6:30 a.m. daily, it appeared Martha had already fulfilled a full day’s work. There were several loads of laundry ready to hang on the clothesline behind their house. “Be careful to watch for the rattle snakes”, Martha instructed, as I seized the heavy basket.

After hanging the dozens of diapers and baby clothes outside,  Martha’s large breakfast of homemade cinnamon rolls or biscuits, homemade jams, eggs, bacon, or ham would sustain us for hours of work. TO BE Continued: Matthew 25:40 NIV “The king will reply, “Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me.”