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.”

 

 

 

 

 

 

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.”

 

 

 

 

Soapy Windows

As the summer drew to a close, there were other escapades with Clyde and Sharon, but none as harrowing as the broken window accident. With each passing year, our family’s level of poverty increased. There were no birthday or holiday celebrations. However, once a year our local fire department held a fall festival on Halloween night. The town’s children of all ages and income were welcomed for homemade chili, treats and a night of games and prizes.

My excitement had continued to increase from the moment I first heard about it until the day of the event. There was so little happiness in our family, but tonight would be a wonderful memory.  Little did I realize my excitement would turn to sadness within a matter of hours.

When Dad arrived home, he noticed soap on some of the windows. With Dad’s harsh interrogation, I readily admitted I was the guilty one. My classmates said they were going to soap windows as a traditional Halloween event. I wanted to be accepted as one of the “cool kids” in town.  I soaped only a few windows, enough that when queried the next day, I could exclaim I too had participated in such an adventuresome tradition.

Upon confessing to my crime, Dad hastened to deal with what he deemed a most dastardly deed.  As he immediately removed his large, leather belt, I knew the beating awaiting me. I thought the beating would be sufficient, but not to Dad.  Following my beating, I was forced to remain at home scrubbing all windows, including those not soaped. While my siblings and other children were attending the fireman’s party, I sobbed and pleaded for Dad’s mercy.

I carried the bucket of water from window to window; my hands numb and painful from the water and cold, northern OH night air. The few soaped windows could have easily been cleaned the following night, but Dad insisted I receive the maximum punishment that very night.

When my schoolmates passed by querying if I was attending the party, my moans and cries could be heard for several houses away. I continued to plead with Dad to go to the party. His word was law; “no.”  Only months earlier Dad tearfully stated I had assisted in saving my sister’s life. Now I was being unjustly punished for a childhood prank. No windows were damaged or broken. Nonetheless, my spirit and heart were shattered.

Such incidents reminded me my parents not only viewed me as someone that completed their household chores and tasks, but their refusal to accept me as their 8 year-old daughter that sought to be a child.  It was as though my siblings and I lived in different homes. They were free to play and relish their lives as children.

I can now reflect on those times realizing there would be more times of disappointment. However, I learned at a young age God was with me in all situations. He gave me the strength to endure iniquitous individuals and the disillusionments they bestowed and a reminder He would never forsake me.

Colossians 3:21 NKJ, “Fathers, do not provoke your children, lest they become discouraged.”

 

 

Stay Here

How I yearned to be a child; to enjoy my life as all the other children. Yet as a missionary friend of our family’s cited frequently, “Janie, you were born an adult. You were never permitted to be a child.” I now realize that God was preparing me for a life filled with challenges beyond comprehension. Had I not learned to be self-sufficient and a care-giver at my young age, when the tempests of life came, I would have been unprepared.

During those years in OH as our family moved from house to house and town to town, there were several memorable incidents. One of the most paramount was  during a summer in the 1950’s. As the eight-year-old care giver of my siblings, I was fulfilling my role as the family laundress on the first floor of our house when I heard an agonizing shriek coming from upstairs. I left the hot iron and ironing board, vaulting up the stairs to discover my brother awe struck while my three-year-old sister stood on the bed, a bloody hair brush in her hand, blood pouring down her arm, as the sun glisten off a jagged, broken window.

Certainly, at age eight, I had no training as a nurse or doctor, but God imparted me with the calmness and knowledge to do what was necessary in this dire emergency. As my brother and sister were jumping on the bed, the hair brush which Sharon held in her hands, was thrust into the window. Still grasping the brush, as she pulled her arm into the room, the window tore a large and deep gash in her upper arm. I clutched my younger sister grabbing a blanket from the bed as I raced down the stairs into the kitchen. I gently sat her on the blanket on the kitchen floor, while dashing to grab a towel and tightly wrapping it around her arm. At age four, my brother understood the urgency as I screeched, “you stay here with Sharon, while I run to get Mom and Dad.”

Following my Dad’s recovery from his injury, my parents opened a drapery installation business in the town where we now resided. It seemed as though I was running for miles to alert my parents of Sharon’s accident. Upon arriving to the security of realizing my parents could now come to take care of her, I screamed, “come quickly, Sharon was badly hurt.” Returning to that house and town, years later, as an adult, the home was at least two miles from my parents’ business. I then realized why it seemed like such a long distance for an eight- year- old in distress.

When my parents returned from the hospital emergency room with my sister, my father was crying. It was the only time in my entire life Dad was sincerely appreciative of my actions. As the tears washed his face, he said “Janie, if not for your actions, the doctor said your sister could have bled to death.” Before the summer ended, there were other mishaps, but I was grateful, not as serious as my sibling’s gymnastics on their bed.

I Timothy 5:8 ESV, “But if anyone does not provide for his relatives, and especially for members of his household, he has denied the faith and is worse than an unbeliever.”

Pack It Up

As I shared in my last blog, at age five, I understood roller skating to my neighbor; Auntie Alice was a respite from the chaos of my home. Due to my father’s injury, my mother had become the sole financial provider for our family of seven.

As a result of my grandmother’s extreme mental illness when she was not a patient in the state mental hospital, her care was shared between my mother and maternal uncle. As a child, my heart ached to see my grandmother’s mental and emotional condition, sobbing when visiting her at the hospital.  Although young, I understood these patients’ dignity and self-respect were striped away. They were treated only slightly better than a family pet.

Therefore, even though Grandma was a challenge, I was always happy she was with us. She didn’t always grasp her surroundings, but I did. With Grandma’s illness and my father’s injury, neither of them could care for us children. I was designated the day-time care giver for my brother, less than two years of age and my sister, an infant.

This was not discussed, but mandated. As my mother departed daily for her employment at the local green house,  she left bottles of milk for my sister and instructions to change her diapers often. I was also instructed to prepare lunch.

Mom’s arrival home was seldom pleasant. Her mood was agitated. Now as an adult, I realize the burden of caring for our family of five, plus the challenges of her mentally ill mother and the addition of my uncle, was solely on her tiny, frail shoulders. Mom never had the life she had desired. Thus, her unfulfilled dreams also altered my life as a child and later as an adult.

The charming house in northern OH which Dad built himself, would become a mere memory. For my parents, it was the last home they would own until almost twenty years later. Our residence there was short-term following Dad’s accident. In less than five years, our family of five moved six separate times.

Because I had been given the role of “care-giver”,  I was also assigned the task of maid and chef during my mother’s absence. As the boxes were moved into an aged, rented farmhouse, I was instructed to unpack all the kitchen items and place them in the cabinets. My memory is as vivid today as then. I had to walk on the counters to reach the tall cabinets, but my task was completed without breaking even one glass or dish.

What a tremendous disappointment when less than 72 hours later, my Dad announced we were moving from that house into another. All the work of unpacking was now left to me to repack. This would be the saga of moving in and out of homes in four different OH towns over the next four years.

Hebrews 6:10 NIV, “God is not unjust; He will not forget your work and the love you have shown Him as you have helped his people and continue to help them.”

The Key To Take Flight

As I hung the skate key around my neck and strapped on my roller skates, it was my way to “take flight” from the reality of life. The house at the end of our tree-lined street in northern Ohio was a “safe haven”; a place for me to find a hug and always a treat. Auntie Alice, as I fondly called, Alice Sharp was a neighbor, full time house wife and mother of a young adult son and a daughter whom had drown in Lake Huron when she was five years of age, several years earlier.

Auntie Alice became a surrogate “mother” for me and I,  a substitute daughter for her. Our friendship remained for many years, but the frequent moves of my family diminished the friendship as I could no longer “drop in” for those sweet times of fellowship. I now realize Alice comprehended  my life was more of a challenge than any five-year-old should endure.

Her 1940’s home with the large wrap around porch possessing a wicker swing, seemed like a fairy- tale castle to me, filled with treasures my young senses had never experienced.  Her parlor was laden with beautiful tapestry chairs and love seats, but the showpiece was the player piano. When hearing it, I longed to learn to play the piano, but it would be years before the dream became a reality.

Aromas filled the air which I desired for our own home; fresh flowers and home baked cookies, breads or cakes. These sweet treats were always enjoyed with lemonade or a cold glass of milk on Auntie Alice’s sunny screened in porch or her garden filled with the fragrant flowers which bedecked her home. I was also intrigued with the beautiful summer cottage in Auntie Alice’s garden. The cottage had a fireplace and furniture with gorgeous, floral cushions, which appeared to have been freshly picked from her garden.

The large garage was designed with an upstairs apartment, which I deemed would make a great hideaway where I could reside.  This young girl was convinced Auntie Alice truly lived in a castle. Our home at the end of the street, built by the hands of my skilled, carpenter father was new and lovely, but modest compared to Auntie Alice’s fine home.

With seven family members residing in our two-bedroom, one bath house, it seemed smaller than it actually was. It did however have a basement which had been my parents’ home before Dad built the primary residence. Our immediate family of five consisted also of my paternal, teen-aged uncle and my widowed maternal grandmother suffering from paranoid schizophrenia.

Tragically, my father sustained a broken back when falling from a second story scaffold while working in his profession as a carpenter. This fall left my father partially incapacitated for several months. This was a tremendous setback for the family, but also for me as a child. My life as a care free child ended the day of my father’s accident.

I learned at a young age that life would never be one of joy, but God would be with me.  Jeremiah 29:11 NIV, “For I know the plans I have for you, declares the Lord, plans to prosper and not to harm you…”

Do We Deserve This?

Did you experience grace today? I’m sure most of you did, even if you didn’t recognize it as grace. Christine Hoover cited “receiving an e-mail that said, thank you for giving me grace.” She noted hearing that phrase “a thousand times but, for some reason, this particular time stuck with me for several days.”

Christine continued by saying she hadn’t done anything significant to receive a thank you of grace. As I shared previously, what does it mean to give grace to another. Recalling Chuck Swindoll’s words “to show grace is to extend favor or kindness to one who doesn’t deserve and can never earn it”, so do any of us deserve grace? Have we been so special, so wonderful or outstanding that we deserve a kindness from others? Probably not!

Grace isn’t a free pass that allows us to throw off all restraint under the guise of Christ. Grace, the unmerited favor of God poured out on us by our faith in Christ, is a compelling change agent that, when received, teaches us how to live. Tim Keller says, “The gospel devours the very motivation you have for sin. It completely saps your very need and reason to live any way you want. Anyone who insists the gospel encourages us to sin has simply not understood it yet, nor begun to feel it’s power.”

When I went to the doctor yesterday for my post-op appointment, I mentioned to the nurse that I was so hopeful I could drive sooner than three weeks. She smiled and said, “did you think you were special?” That was a “gotcha” moment…no I know I’m not special, but I was hopeful.

I’ve done nothing special to have my friend from church transport me to the hospital and return me home which consumed her entire day. I’m not special that she again picked me up and took me to the doctor for my follow up appointment. Her grace for me was a gift.

Grace can be hard to give, if we don’t have a heart for giving and certainly don’t desire to forgive. Michele Mayer cites How People Grow by Dr. Cloud and Dr. Townsend. Our ability to offer grace to others, “comes to us through the grace of God as He loves and forgives us.”

Michele continues, “most of us, even operating in our own inner strength, seem to have the ability to extend grace to someone we love, but who occasionally does something to upset us. Nobody’s perfect, right?”  Yet, there are members of families whom even though state they love another, refuse to offer that person grace. Grace and forgiveness are gifts we offer ourselves as much as the other person. It allows us to be free of the bitterness and resentment we carry toward another.

What would happen if every person opted to give grace to just one person that day? Can you imagine the impact it would make on our lives?

I Cor. 15:10 NIV, “but by grace of God, I am what I am, and His grace to me was not without effect…”

Given or Received?

I prepared for the 2-3 week recuperation; off my feet totally. I built my “nest” of reading, writing and knitting, to fill the long days of being alone. Then “wham” as often happens with post-surgery recovery, there was a setback.  Now what? It’s time to watch the numerous recorded movies for a “rainy” day and in this case a “sick day.” When the recordings were depleted, there were the subscription channels.

“Feel good movies”! just what I needed when already a little melancholy about being in isolation for several weeks. There is always a lesson to be learned with every page of our lives. These past few days were no different. I experienced almost every emotion while viewing these quality movies; some based on true life stories, other movies reminding me of blessings of our lives.

One of my favorite movies was Grace Card. What is grace? We all hear about it and know the greatest gift of grace was from our Lord as He sent His son to give us eternal life. Yet our fellow mankind speaks often of grace to others. Bible scholar, Donald Barnhouse cited grace as, “love that goes upward is worship; love that goes outward is affection; love that stoops down is grace.”

Chuck Swindoll describes grace this way, “Jesus never used the word grace. He just taught it and, equally important He lived it. Understanding what grace means requires…going back to an old Hebrew term…to include the idea of “condescending favor.”

Chuck continues by saying, “to show grace is to extend favor or kindness to one who doesn’t deserve it and can never earn it. Every time the thought of grace appears, there is the idea of its being undeserved. In no way is the recipient getting what he or she deserves. Favor is being extended simply out of the goodness of the heart of the giver.”

Have you received grace? Do you offer grace? Have you spoken an unkind word against another and yet refused to apologize or seek their forgiveness? Yet, when you saw them, they chose to greet you with a smile and perhaps a hug. That was grace.

Perhaps on the contrary you have reached out to someone that harmed you physically or emotionally.  Less than two years ago, I became aware of someone who brought me tremendous, emotional pain eight years ago, by taking someone from my life whom I loved deeply.

I realized the relationship she chose to begin was not solely her choice, yet I desired to offer grace. I attempted to talk to her, to let her know I didn’t blame her alone for the unfathomable agony I was experiencing. After attempting to speak with her in person and on the phone, she refused all opportunity for me to extend grace. Is this still grace if the recipient doesn’t accept it? TO BE CONTINUED

I Cor 15:10 NIV, “but by the grace of God, I am what I am, and His grace to me was not without effect…”

Even an Ingrate…

“Appreciation is the joy felt in seeing the good in something or someone. It is a mental state that imparts happiness and motivates you to act. Gratitude means, “the quality of being thankful; readiness to show appreciation for and to return kindness.” -Gustavo Razzetti

When queried, “is it rude to not say thank you,”, John Strecker a VP with his company noted, “in a word yes. For someone to do something for you is a gift and any gift should be both appreciated and acknowledged with a heartfelt thank you. To avoid expressing your appreciation, and or not being appreciative of a gift in the first place, reveals you as either a troglodyte or a Narcissist. Neither of which is generally considered a positive trait. On the other hand, to be kind and considerate enough to do something for another human being is exemplary human behavior and deserving of recognition. If someone is fortunate enough to be on the receiving end of a kind effort, they should consider themselves blessed.”

As previously stated, research on appreciation, gratitude and the ability to readily offer “thank you”, could fill hundreds of pages. These are not only traits of appreciative and caring people, but a philosophy embraced by many as a component of a gratified life. Repeatedly, studies validate that cheerful individuals possessing self-confidence are most readily those willing to extend gratitude to others.

Dr. Susan Whitbourne, PhD cited “research on gratitude training shows even an ingrate can change.” Dr. Whitbourne, shares research from Ruppin Academic Center; Israel. “People who don’t express gratitude are missing out on an important potential source of fulfillment. As they note, gratitude correlates with positive feelings, prosocial behavior and physical health.” The study consisting of 150 participants was comprised of different types of situations which would cause varying degrees of appreciation or lack thereof.

The research validated what I have found to be factual with some of the individuals in my own life, “they’re high on entitlement, and they expect others to go out of their way to offer assistance.” However, realizing that people don’t owe us, and that each kindness is not required, is a gift which  certainly instills more peace and happiness.

I will continue to do for others and there will be those ungrateful and unappreciative individuals, who will offend me with their rudeness. However, this won’t negate me from doing what God instills in my heart. My acts of giving can be as simple as allowing a person to “cut ahead of me” in a shopping or traffic lane; to going out of my way to assist them emotionally and/or financially. I’m not seeking a “thank you”, but offering a gift. E. Hubbard quotes, “I would rather be able to appreciate things I cannot have than to have things I am not able to appreciate.”

I Thess. 5:18 NKJ “In everything give thanks for this is the will of God…”