Which Lane?

You had a doctor’s appointment, but the doctor was delayed with an emergency. You must wait approximately an hour to see the doctor. Do you remain or reschedule your appointment? You’ve spent the time in preparation and arrival, so that will be wasted if you return home now.

You’re in a hurry! You survey the line at your local store determining which lane will be the quickest. What do you know? Sally has a problem with her purchase and is “holding up” the entire lane.

You can leave your lane and try for another or wait for Sally to complete her purchase. You choose to wait. Yet all the while you are becoming more frustrated. Life is filled with these unexpected inconveniences and delays.

What happens when these delays or totally missed appointments are prayers which seem to have been overlooked? Do we push ahead with our own agenda and walk away from God, stomping our feet and whining about the outcome, or do we wait on His time?

As I have shared frequently, I’ve spent years praying about matters in which God ultimately told me “no.” My request was not going to happen.  I’ve mentioned the long period I’ve had in trying to sell my house, but for four years God has not allowed a sale. I’ve shared about praying for relationships that were annihilated or are so fractured they may never resume. I’ve cried out to God often. Does He hear me?

Recently, there were two separate examples that yes God does hear us, even when we are “in the wrong lane” or when He has been delayed with His appointment. I was reading a recommended book and the author; Mindy spoke of hearing devastating news. Mindy went to her closet and sobbed, pleading for God to send someone to pray with her during this time.

Even though she had a husband and children that supported and loved her, at that exact moment, they were not home, and she didn’t want to wait for the “doctor to arrive.”  The phone rang and it was someone whom Mindy had previously had a conflict with. When Mindy answered, the other party stated she had called the wrong number, but asked how Mindy was doing. Mindy explained she wasn’t doing well and asked for prayer. The caller prayed with her at that precise moment. It was what Mindy had requested. God heard!

While traveling to Wisconsin to visit my brother and his family, my sister-in-law, Dee planned on joining us for a mini-family reunion to Ohio. A couple of days before I departed for my trip, Dee received a call that her brother was terminal. She flew to another state to join her family. The very day my brother and I departed for Ohio, Dee’s brother died.

When Dee returned back to Wisconsin, she said, “God ordained this.” Had she been in Ohio, it would have been more difficult to join her family. God knew which lane Dee needed to be in. I’m often reminded of one of my favorite verses, Psalm 27:14 NKJ, “Wait on the Lord; Be of good courage, And He shall strengthen your heart; Wait, I say, on the Lord.”

 

 

Home Again!

There are some awards in life which no amount of money can purchase. Family is one of the greatest of these gifts. As a child, when my parents uprooted our family of five from the only family we had known, I was dismayed when I realized there would be no more holiday gatherings or visits with our aunts, uncles, and cousins. Even though I had occasional contact with some of the extended family, as an adult my yearning to reconnect intensified.

Years later I began one of several return trips to the city and state of my birth; Norwalk, Ohio.  While retracing my paths, my  delight was in rekindling a personal relationship with my favorite aunt, Joan. Over these past twenty-five years, we have chatted frequently via telephone, shared cards, and letters, but the greatest joy has been when I could see her face to face. Her sweet smile and joyful heart add sunshine to even the darkest of days. God has bestowed her with remarkable health in her almost ninety years of life. Now alone in her home and community she will be relocating across the country to be near her children and their families.

I could not have this precious lady move so far away without returning to Ohio to bid her farewell. I also realized the “gift to Joan” would be enhanced with not only my visit, but that of my brother whom she hadn’t seen since he was a young child. No amount of money could purchase the blessing we received. The journey to Ohio was several days with my brother and me. We had the endowment of time and conversation which will be added to our reminiscences.

The highlight of the trip reminded Clyde and me of the riches we have with our Christian family. As we conversed with Joan and our cousins, we all shared of the joys of the Lord. We conferred about the journey our lives have taken us on, but the utmost exultation was sharing with one another how God has been with us during times of happiness and sorrow.

I was saddened my sister-in-law could not join us on this voyage, but she had a death in her family which precluded her from making the trip. Dee so sweetly said, “God ordained all of this.” She was with her family, while Clyde and I were with ours. God doesn’t promise us “tomorrow”, so we always cherish the time we have with one another.

As a very young child, I desired the bond and love of family.  I didn’t have it as a child or adult. I’ve imparted to others frequently,  why the “gift” of love which was one of the most imperative desires I had was never granted me. Nonetheless, when God grants “gifts” of time with my family, I seize and treasure it for as long as God allows. John 13:34 NIV, “A new command I give you: Love one another, as I have loved you, so you must love one another.”

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Tears and Fuzzy Socks

Fuzzy socks, a quilt, pj’s and a cup of tea. What other components are needed to enjoy movies about a lost dog and another about true love? Tears and more tears. It seems I always have an abundance of those, for my emotions appear to live on the surface of my life.

The quilt is one I’ve been working on hours a day for the past several weeks; a gift. I was quilting while watching the movies, fearful I would saturate the quilt with my tears. The fuzzy socks earnestly caused a severe broken toe a few weeks ago.  I dashed across the room in those fluffy, little foot coverings and my toe caught the edge of the table. Ouch! I knew immediately it was broken, as I watched it protruding from the side of the same foot recovering from a recent surgery. During my post-op appointment, the x-ray confirmed. Yes, it is broken.  Now these several weeks later, it is quite swollen and “fusses” each time I constrain it in shoes.

The pj’s! Not always my casual attire, but because they are over-sized tees and “baggy” bottoms, they serve me well while completing household chores. The cup of tea, sometimes hot, but in the warmer months there is nothing better than a tall glass of iced, freshly brewed herb tea. The tears! Those are  required for any sappy movie that involves “furry babies” or “true love.”

As I cry, it is often for the pictures in my life which were unfulfilled. Just today I received a lovely e-mail reminding me that when people choose to leave us, we must bid them goodbye.  My life is fine, for God is in control. No, He didn’t choose my family to be broken and for my husband of 44 years to love another, but He allowed it.

As a seminary student many decades ago, we were often reminded  God always answers our prayers, but not always as we desire.  They will forever be yes, no or wait awhile. I have prayers which I have been praying for years. The greatest concern was answered with a no. Whereas with others, they are “to be determined at a later date.” Despite the sorrowful emotions of watching movies about true love and the dedication of loving one another, I have to accept not all love stories have “happy ever after” endings. It takes determination and commitment that one’s desire for another person is greater than their own desires.

With my tear drenched face, broken toe in fuzzy slippers, comfy pj’s and ginger peach tea, I say “thank you” dear friend for reminding me that life is not always a “Hallmark” movie. Many people we love choose not to love us. They choose to leave, but God is still with us. Thus, we can enjoy those “sentimental movies”, cry for awhile and get “back to living.” Deuteronomy 31:6 NIV,” The Lord Himself goes before you and will be with you; He will never leave you nor forsake you. Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged.”

 

For Sale By God

Those of you that know me personally, are aware my life took a much different path than I ever hoped or planned. Despite the arduous roadblock which took me down an unpaved road with huge ruts and potholes, I have continued to say, “God you are my GPS.”  Since April 2016, I have been trying to sell my house. God’s map has been different than mine, but I have not detoured. I had such hope my house would sell that I moved to Texas for 6 months, believing it would sell while I was away.

I loved my tenure in Texas, but it didn’t happen. I returned to Oklahoma disappointed, but realizing God’s plan is seldom mine.  God never fails to remind us He is always in control when we allow.  Several months ago,  I mentioned, it seems when we are seeking information, whether in making a purchase or a life decision, there are frequent prompts about our pursuit. Because my quest is a “heart” matter,  then God’s words which others share give me the encouragement to continue using my present GPS.

I understand my house won’t sell, if it isn’t listed, so I again resumed my prayers and God’s direction. There was one of those “flashing road signs” today when I read Chuck Swindoll’s words, “ If God’s ways are higher than mine, then I bow before Him in submission. The result of that attitude is true humility. Submission to the Father’s will is the mark of genuine humility. And all of us could use a huge dose of that. How unusual to find a humble spirit in our day, especially among the competent… Here’s the second: If God is in full control, then however He directs my steps, I follow in obedience. What relief that brings! Finally, I can relax, since I’m not in charge.”

Over the course of these past four years, I have become quite frustrated when folks say, “what is wrong with your house? Why hasn’t it sold?”   If only I could have placed a yard sign that read, “For sale by God.”  I’m eager to reply that God has chosen for it not to sell.  I have reflected on circumstances which transpired since 2016 that might not have occurred had I been living in Texas; serious situations which God was controlling.

It was noteworthy when my current realtor walked into my house and said, “why hasn’t this it sold? There is absolutely nothing wrong with it and it should have sold years ago.” I wanted to grab her and give her a big hug, but maintained my “social distance” and just chuckled. I told her of the numerous condemnations I had about my house not selling. What I know for certain is, I’m following in God’s obedience. As Chuck said, “what a relief, I can relax.” God has his! When my house does sell, I can proclaim, “sold by God.” Isaiah 55:8 NIV, “For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways.”

One More Step

Dear Readers, today is “true confession”; time to say, “I think I had the post quarantine giggles.” I had a thought to share with you on taking the last step, but then I had much on my mind about being out and about that my mind wandered and my blog deflated.

As I awakened at 3:00 a.m. today, I realized it was disconnected and the blessing I wanted all of you to receive was missing. I also realized I had even failed to title my blog. So, let’s try this again and see if I can “stay focused.”

As I shared yesterday, during our pastor’s message last Sunday, he spoke of the fact that God will walk with each of us to be with Him, but we must take that one last step to Him. I immediately thought of persons in my life whom I’ve walked with and held their hand, but they refused the final step. As the pastor reminded us, if we don’t take that single last step, then God’s efforts will be unproductive. I feel certain there is a great sadness in God’s heart when He realizes someone, He has given so many opportunities during their lives, repudiates just one step.

Over the years, I’ve had many persons I gave  much of myself to, but they refused to take even one step with me. I’ve even held their hand and said, I’m right here with you. Just come this way. I’ve prayed for them; I’ve been there for them. I cried with them and loved them, but  they “walked away.” My sorrow was always immense for some I spent years walking with. I felt defeated for I had bestowed much, if not all to that person or persons.

Did you ever consider why people may walk with you for months or years and then reject that last step with you? Have you ever tried to go back and encourage them to “come on with you?” I’ve done that several times with people I had valued as friends. Then without an explanation, they turned and left. I would reach out again trusting our friendship could rekindle, but they had taken another path.

One of the gifts of aging, is we learn to accept other people’s actions more so than when we were younger. I still grapple with rejection, but I’m not as easily offended by some that choose not to take the last step with me. There are certainly those in my life I have grieved over, but as I continue to stay focused on God and not the ones on the path with me, He reminds me, He has a plan in all of this.

Like the many God has walked with and asked them to take the one final step, reality is that we can’t make persons do anything. We can’t make them love us, care about us or even walk with us.  Ephesians 2:10 NKJ “For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand that we should walk in them.”

 

 

 

 

 

 

Jammies If I Choose

As you have been quarantined with family or perhaps “sheltering in place” alone, was this a time of productivity? Perhaps you caught up on stacks of “must do’s” or even many of those “wanna do’s.”

I’m sure there was much “jammie and lazy bones” time. I recently told someone I needed to resume a routine because even though I was constructive throughout the day, I found my hours and days blending together. It was delightful not awakening to an alarm, but I also realized how mundane my life would be if I didn’t have a regimen. Now as our lives resume to normalcy what did we learn?

Did we lay aside those times with friends and family of trivial disagreements? For persons totally alone, as am I, I don’t have incongruities.  Nonetheless, I came to appreciate each and every time I’m able to walk to my garage, sit in the seat of my car and pull from my drive to go wherever I choose. Since I spent my life in health care, I was always cognizant of my freedoms, opportunities and abilities, as I cared for many persons whom were much younger than I, living their lives in total immobility, illness or severe handicaps.

I know each has been blessed by stories we’ve read or heard of strangers reaching out to others. As we listened to the interviews of healthcare workers on the front line, working long and fatiguing hours in order to serve those in need, we may have felt incredible appreciation toward them. However, we also realized we could not overlook those not being interviewed; isolated while caring for terminally or critically ill loved ones, caregivers of handicapped children or loved ones with Alzheimer’s. They could not call for someone to come by and relieve them, for all were in quarantine.

As we resume our lives, will we recall those days we traipsed from store to store seeking toilet paper, yearned for a time to sit in our favorite coffee shop chatting with friends, or longed to have a family celebration in our favorite restaurant? During this time, I also prayed for those families losing loved ones, unable to provide an avenue to honor them. Memorial and funeral services were postponed to enable “greater than ten” to gather and remember.

I trust that as I return to my “normal” that I don’t fail to speak to another when passing by, or that I fail to offer assistance to anyone I’m aware of  that has a need or that I fail to offer gratitude daily for those things I take for granted.

I will enjoy jammies and “being lazy days”, if I choose. Yet how grateful I will be that it is a choice rather than because I’m prevented from leaving my house. I trust each of us have memories which imprint us for the remainder of our lives. Psalm 9:1 NKJ, “ I will praise You, O Lord, with my whole heart…”

 

 

 

 

 

Next Year or Now?

Are we going to be the “next year” people of the dust bowl or the “here now” people? We are in a situation now; one which will imprint each of us. There are many loses, but through a time of tragedy and sorrow there are also rays of “sonshine.”

As I watched Ken Burns’ documentary on the dust bowl, I was astounded that so many could be optimistic in the throes of such devastation; loss of income, homes and lives. Their food was gone. Their children and family were dying from dust pneumonia; dust filled their nostrils and lungs causing mud and suffocation; some dying within minutes or hours.  If their homes were not destroyed or foreclosed, the home values depreciated by 90%. They had no financial means to move. They remained with the determination and confidence of better days ahead.

As the calamity progressed, Black Sunday in April 1935 affected persons throughout the continental US. 12 million pounds of dust from the great plains blew across the country, even some descending upon the President’s desk in the white house. Opinions and ideas were sent from across the country on methods of stopping this catastrophe.  Suggestions of covering the 100 million acres of the great plains with concrete or asphalt were only a couple of dozens of such irrational suggestions.

How did the survivors of the dust bowl maintain their positive outlook when their livestock was buried alive or when only the roofs of their homes were visible under colossal mounds of dirt?  If the cattle didn’t die from asphyxiation of the dust, the starving cattle were herded into massive trenches and killed as a mandate by federal and state governments. Interviewed survivors from this trauma touted of pleading to retain the younger and healthier cattle, but it was refused. All were killed. Even if farmers had a single cow for milk for their families, they would kill newborn calves to conserve the mother’s milk for their own families.

Yet, in the midst of calamity, rabbits survived. I found that to be somewhat humorous, but it wasn’t. For the thousands of rabbits were obliterating everything in their path, including fence posts. I pondered the reality of such adversities. The tenacious farmers and their families endured destruction of their livestock, homes and family members, only to be further assailed by rabbits.

Do we ever have times in our lives when we feel we have been defeated by rabbits? We feel we have lost everything and as we are trying to recover, the rabbits arrive.  For the “next year” generation, hope kept them going. Hope was also their disappointment. Year after year they hoped and year upon year nothing changed.

“But then”….it did change. For those that survived and hoped, the winds blew, but without the dust. The skies were blue and not black from dust. The land beneath their feet once again produced food for their families and livestock. Homes were rebuilt and families restored.

Deuteronomy 31:8 NIV, “the Lord Himself goes before you and will be with you; He will never leave you nor forsake you. Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged.”

He Is Not Here

Dear Readers, I had planned on concluding the chronicle of the Dust Bowl. However, because this is Easter Sunday, reflections of this special day are more appropriate. Each of us has special memories of the day; purchasing or making those special Easter outfits, planning and preparing Easter dinner and of course the piece de resistance; the colorful, surprise filled eggs and chocolate goodies cascading from the exquisite baskets.

My warmest memories are when my then husband and I had the least amount of income. For it was during those early Easter celebrations hours of time, preparation and love were spent in decorating, sewing and baking.  How I loved making dresses with ruffles, bows and lace for our little Easter Princess. Hats and Easter coats were also a “must” for the ensemble. As with Prince George, our little prince was attired in the latest trend; tailored short pants and handsome shirts.

Some of those Easter fashions were complimented with fragrant corsages from “Daddy Easter Bunny.”  Before dashing out the door, I donned my “Easter Bonnet” to complete my outfit.  The attire of the 1970’s is satire today, but we were the “picture perfect” family for those early Easters.

Not only did homemade cakes adorn our table, but friends and neighbors engaged me to make their floral and bunny embellished cakes. The children’s baskets were never complete without handmade chocolates and assorted goodies. Love was sewn into each stitch of fabric and added to every ingredient of the cakes and basket goodies.

Nonetheless, with all the groundwork to make the day perfect, it was not about the frocks, meal, colored eggs or baskets, but the celebration of the day; the resurrection of our Lord and Savior.  As we currently view our church services in the comfort of our homes, the Easters of today and yesteryear have the same message.  Max Lucado noted, “Easter cannot be canceled. The church doors might be closed, but the promise is alive and well. It was Sunday morning after the Friday execution. Jesus’ final breath had sucked the air out of the universe.”

Today our Lord has risen. Pastors throughout the world are proclaiming the Easter message with their own personal reflections. Our pastor shared that our lives are now free; free to enjoy happiness and joy which comes only from the “empty tomb.” He also shared we should never “forget in the dark what Jesus showed you in the light.”

This includes the freedom from the brokenness of our lives. Many of us have endured broken promises, broken vows, broken marriages and broken families. Yet with the “empty tomb” we have a hope and promise that the sorrows of this brokenness will give us the freedom for a restoration of our lives.

Matthew 28:6 NKJ “He is not here, for He is risen, as He said. Come, see the place where the Lord lay.”

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Plentiful Soil or Dust?

For those that have resided in Oklahoma, you understand the lyrics of the song are accurate, “where the wind comes sweepin’ down the plain, And the wavin’ wheat can sure smell sweet, When the wind comes right behind the rain. OOOOk-lahoma, Ev’ry night my honey lamb and I, Sit alone and talk and watch a hawk makin’ lazy circles in the sky.”

During my years of early marriage, we spent approximately five years in Enid, OK, surrounded by ranches and wheat farms. How greatly I enjoyed watching the wheat flourish as the beautiful, golden, stalks waved and glistened before the harvest. The wheat harvest was not beneficial for our asthmatic son whom endured the symptoms during his infancy and pre-school years. Nonetheless, I recall it as a vivid and picturesque memory.

Oklahoma doesn’t possess the same beauty as the states with mountains, rivers, streams and tall majestic trees, but how I cherish the splendor and magnificence of the wide-open spaces as the brilliant sun sets upon those plains. Recently, I viewed Ken Burns, documentary on the Dust Bowl of the 1930’s. As Ken noted, “this was one of the worst environmental disasters in the history of our country.”

Have you heard of the “next year” people? They are the optimistic people from the dark and incomprehensible days of the Dust Bowl which developed in the lower portion of the great plains.  When the “next year people” realized their current year was a “miss” with their crops and finances they said “there is always next year.”

The dirt below each of us is land, soil, dirt or dust depending upon its’ form. For them, their land; the soil which had provided their food and financial security became something to be despised; the soil became dirt and dust which decimated everything in its’ path.

As I viewed this poignant documentary, I thought of our current situation causing life altering changes. While many of us are now wearing masks as we go outside our homes, the people of the dust bowl wore masks or wet towels over their heads and faces day and night inside their homes, as well as outdoors.

It is beyond comprehension, that in addition to the hardship of the dust bowl, the country was experiencing the great depression. Tearfully, these survivors shared of the nightmares they all experienced during one of the gloomiest eras of our US history. People were contracting dust pneumonia as rapidly as the virus which is now spreading throughout our country and the world.

As the dust filled the nostrils and lungs of animals and mankind, it became mud, suffocating those it affected, causing countless fatalities.  Crops and livestock were annihilated as cattle died where they stood, unable to breathe. Crops were suffocated, buried under tons of dirt mounds.

Can we realize that even during these times of tremendous adversities, God is with us?  NIV, Job 1:21, “…The Lord gave and the Lord has taken away; may the name of the Lord be praised.”

Life Is What Happens

Does it seem as though when you are considering a life decision such as a major purchase or a change in your situation, there are constant reminders and reinforcements? I have often heard people say, “I’m planning on purchasing a new car and now I see those cars everywhere.”  I’m confident there are no more of those cars currently than several months ago. However, awareness of them is now more evident.

Over these past eight years as I’ve had to accept a “new normal” for my life,  God has placed many people on my journey as prompts or an awareness that I’m not alone. Most have been butterflies; merely flitting by for a few days or weeks, but then flew off to pursue their life.  As my daughter reminded me years ago, God brings us the people or things we need “for that season.”

One of those persons that very briefly crossed my path gave me a gift; a book by Jeff Manion on “finding God in difficult transitions”. I’ve read numerous books during these past eight years which were referred to me or given as gifts, during my own “difficult transition.” Do you ever read or hear something that makes you feel as though someone was present in your life? The words they speak are what you have been living. As I read a passage from Jeff’s book, I realize there are common threads for all going through evolutions.

As Jeff shared of a friend going through a divorce and the frustration over the division of the property, Jeff cited years from now, none of that would matter. However, it was as though he had known my heart and mind when he stated, “but the decisions of the heart made in this troubled space could affect Tony’s life fifteen years later…he would need to walk through the stages of grief, as he worked to process the betrayal, heartache and loss…Tony was in the process of deciding who he was becoming…it is critical to recognize that not simply the hardship, but also the reaction to the hardship is forming us.”

Leslie Koh reminds us that even when Paul was doing the work, he believed God asked him to do, Jesus stopped him.  Paul’s work was needed more elsewhere. Leslie notes, “It’s sensible to make plans. A well-known adage goes, “Fail to plan, and you plan to fail.” But God may disrupt our plans with His own. Our challenge is to listen and obey…As we continue to make plans, we can add a new twist: Plan to listen. Listen to God’s plan.”

I’ve offered many thanks during these past eight years; thanks for allowing me to see and understand situations I might not, if my life had been as I planned.  I’m grateful for the reminder there is still time for God to use me; to form me for what He desires of me.

Proverbs 19:21 NIV, “Many are the plans in a person’s heart, but it is the Lord’s purpose that prevails.”