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.”

Which Memories?

I knew I must have my box of facial tissues close at hand, for this was going to be “one of those times.” The series with this family was concluding. From the very first episode, I was hooked. This was one of the most genuine and profound television drama series, I’ve ever viewed.  I’m quite certain the writer (s)  has/have undergone many of the scenarios they wrote about because most people in life experience many of these situations. This was “real” life; the good, bad, ugly and beauty of life- this series possessed it.

At what age do we realize life is not a “fairy tale?”  Are we teens or adults; middle age or elderly? As a  young child I learned that my life was nothing like that of my classmates or other children I met. So too did one of the characters on this television series.

In this television family of different personalities, even different ethnicities, the writers “got it.” Yes, there were some aspects of the story which didn’t align with my morals, but isn’t that parallel to reality? Aren’t there situations, family dynamics and personalities which are different from ours? What should always be constant and what remained constant in this series, was the love, support and devotion of this family to one another, no matter what happened. That was one of my primary reasons for being drawn into the series. The family was always there for one another, no matter what had occurred the hours or days prior.

It spanned more than fifty years. What does our life look like if we have endured fifty years? What will it look like fifty years from now, if you are blessed to survive another fifty years?  Perhaps the reason I became so intertwined with these characters is that with some of the episodes it was as though the script should have been entitled, “This is Your Life.”

For many people when they come to the end of their life, they wish they could “hang on” just a little longer. They desire just a few more hours or days, but when God calls us, “it is time to go.” Whether your life has been good or bad, complete or incomplete it is “your time.”

 Just as when we are alive and fulfilling what we believe are our goals and desires, if we are relying on the Lord to lead us, He has His plans in His time. That seems to be even more valid when it is His time to end our lives on this earth.  

One of our lead characters in this television series had lives like many of us. She was a teen, young adult, wife, mother and grandmother. She had the joys and sorrows of life, but her earthly life was now ending. Her family wanted to hold her closer a little longer, but they had what each of us have; their beautiful memories of the person they loved.

When we are at the end of our lives, we don’t dwell on the negative. We are thinking of the glorious memories which kept us going. Perhaps the best time to make those memories so that we have them as we take our final breath is to view each day as it truly is; God’s gift to us.  Ecclesiastes 3:2 NLT, A time to be born and a time to die. A time to plant and a time to harvest.

Dirty Feet

In preparation for Easter Sunday, our pastor presented a series of messages on Jesus’ life prior to His greatest act of love.  All of Jesus’ achievements remained only those of great humility. Perhaps one of the greatest was when He washed the feet of His disciples following the last supper.  Imagine how dirty, calloused and perhaps blistered, feet would be that had walked for hours in sandals. I think of my own feet after gardening. Even with shoes and socks, they become dirty.  As I come in the house to shower, my feet are unsightly to behold and would not desire for anyone to see them; certainly not to wash them. Yet Jesus washed the feet of those He loved; those He had spent His adult life with. What humility!

If I could be granted one trait in life, I believe I would choose humility. People might be humble occasionally, but it is impossible to be humble and prideful at the same time. Mick Ukleja speaks of the six attributes of healthy humility: 1) They acknowledge they don’t have it all together. 2) They know the difference between self-confidence and pride 3). They seek to add value to others 4). They take responsibility for their actions 5). They understand the shadow side of success 6). They are filled with gratitude for what they have.

Perhaps each of us possess some of these traits sometimes, but never do we possess all of these traits all of the time. There are still others that never possess any of the traits of humility for their pride overpowers all areas of their lives. Mick continues his commentary, “pride is an exaggerated sense of self-importance. And typically accompanied by placing ourselves above others.”

As I thought of Jesus’ humility and devotion to his disciples, I reflected on Mick’s words of “we-ness.”  He stated, “humility becomes the social oil that prevents wear-and-tear in the engine of our relationships. The closer the relationship the greater the potential for overheating and abrasion.”

When my children lived at home, I reminded them often of steps five and six, but from the godly perspective. For I knew, all of my life was a direct result of God allowing me to have- to be and to do.  On those days, I become discouraged and downtrodden with the path of my life, I have to remind myself, “But God.” All that happens passes through His hands.

When our lives are fraught with challenges of life, do we thank God for these times? I have to believe most often we don’t. Instead, we are saying, but God, why? Shouldn’t the answer be, why not? That is when importance of ourselves is greater than our humility.

Recently I watched a movie based on the difficulties of Job. Although the screenwriter’s parallel to Job was superficial, the motive was to cause the viewer to be humble; to be always grateful. God may never bless us more abundantly following a loss as He did with Job. Nonetheless, God will allow us to overcome these dilemmas when we are humble before Him. James 4:10 NIV, “humble yourselves before the Lord, and He will lift you up.”

Price Versus Value

Unlike an advertisement from a jewelry store “to pray for rain so that the diamond you purchased at their store would be free”, my prayers were for sunshine. God answered! It was a beautiful spring day, with perfect temperatures and sunshine. Our tiny church was filled to capacity with wedding guests on this day fifty -three years ago.

From a “pretend” bride as a young child to an actual bride walking down the aisle to become Mrs.,  I couldn’t have been happier. I  prayed for this day for as long as I could recall. I longed to be a wife and a mother; to love, honor and cherish my husband until death and to love, esteem and encourage my children so they could fulfill their goals and dreams.

Although our wedding was small and modest compared to weddings of today, it was extravagant for my then husband, Charles and me, paying for the entire wedding ourselves.  I chuckle when I recall our pastor’s wife stating she had never been to such a large and formal wedding. My gown and those of the wedding party had all been hand created by me and my mother. The bridesmaids flowers were a single rose to minimize the expenses. Our reception consisted of punch and cake; typical for a wedding of the 1960’s.

At ages twenty-one and twenty-two, we would be “growing up”  as we also “grew together.” For me, love was not only “in the air”,  but I felt my heart would literally burst with the love I had for my husband. Because our love and abiding as “one” was saved for the time we would become husband and wife, I was innocent and naïve to the life ahead of me.  My pastor’s recent sermon on extravagant love caused me to pause and reflect on the love that embraced our marriage and home.  Was our love for one another extravagant?

The definition of extravagant is exceeding what is reasonable or appropriate. Can we possibly give too much to someone we love? Life is never like a fairytale or Hallmark movie; perfect days-perfect endings and always receiving what we desire. Yet what do those wedding vows represent?

As my pastor shared about price versus value, what is that? The passage for his sermon had been when the woman poured the expensive oil over Jesus’ head. Those around her were upset for this oil was costly; worth up to one year’s wages. They touted to her that she could have sold it and given to the poor. Jesus reminded the gathering that the poor would always be with them, but He would not.

What if, we viewed our commitments to others in the same manner? What if we valued our relationships as though they were purchased with wages far beyond our financial means or what if we valued them as though they would not always be there? Our love was not extravagant for it is no longer. Perhaps it was “price versus value” when Charles chose another. For me, the value of our love is not only the memories of that union, but it is displayed with each moment I share with our children and grandchildren.  Proverbs 21:21 NIV “whoever pursues righteousness and love finds life, prosperity and honor.”

Happy Birthday!

Oh God please, I cried out time and again. Please- send me a baby, as my then husband, Charles and I struggled to conceive. God’s timing is always perfect although the journey to become a mother was a challenge. Because Charles mandated, I work full-time, the illness from pregnancy compounded the difficulties with my employment. Nonetheless, the joy of my pregnancy was far greater than the obstacles of a problematical employer.

It was time! I was in labor. When I stepped on the scale, in the hospital, the admitting nurse and I were both astonished to discover that I weighed one pound less than the day my pregnancy was confirmed. My lengthy illness during the pregnancy had been an unexpected weight loss program. Now my prayer was for a healthy baby, but not yet knowing if it would be a son or a daughter. Sonograms were not routine in the early 1970’s, so only God knew the gender of this little life.

As day and night wore on, my delivery was not going as expected. My obstetrician explained the baby was not in the normal face-down position, but face-up, resulting in a longer, more painful delivery. But finally, after twenty-seven hours of labor, the doctor announced, “It’s a girl!” My excitement could not be contained. Not only was the baby healthy as I’d prayed, but the daughter I’d hoped for. I cried tears of joy.

On that chilly spring day driving to our first home as a family of three, I held our tiny daughter, Andrea, on my lap for the duration of the one-hundred-mile trip. When I learned of my pregnancy we resided in Oklahoma City. However, two weeks prior to giving birth, Charles accepted a job in the city we would call home for the next several years.

Upon our arrival, I quickly made our two-bedroom apartment a home. The apartment didn’t have space or a hook-up for a dryer, so when it was too cold to hang the laundry outside, I hung cloth diapers and baby clothing throughout the apartment, doorknobs and doorways becoming makeshift clotheslines for the metal hangers. I would have to quickly remove hangers from the front door when Charles arrived home from the office. I was so ecstatic to be a mother, such inconveniences were trivial.

From the time I was a young girl, my only desire was to be a wife and mother. Even though life altered my status as a wife, I will always be a mother; a role which has brought more exultation than words can describe. It is impossible to reflect on these past five decades of Andrea’s life without tears.

The many emotions I’ve had with Andrea from infancy, childhood, teen years and now herself a mother of four has filled not only tangible albums, but also the memories of my heart. As mothers we have the beautiful reminiscences of our children which bring us joy for the duration of our lives. Happy Birthday beautiful daughter. You are a gift I cherish daily.  Nehemiah 8:10 KJV “For the joy of the Lord is your strength.”

Unfocused

Several days ago, I blogged about a memorial service I attended for a man that had changed hundreds of men’s lives. Thus, also the lives of their wives and families when they chose to put God first. The service had been especially poignant for me after a recent bible study on marriage.

Having experienced marital betrayal after four plus decades of marriage, my sorrowful reminders of unfaithfulness following the memorial service and bible study are what we understand as emotional triggers. Whether it be a traumatic accident or experience, death or divorce as a result of infidelity, the “flash backs” from these occurrences can cause a significant sense of rejection or depression if we don’t maintain our focus on God.

When I learned of my then husband’s love for another, I wanted desperately for God to remove my incredible anguish. By the time I learned of my then husband’s affair, the divorce was long past, and he had been with his lover for years. Like many harrowing situations in our lives, I found myself maniacal.  The “how” and “why” were not answered.

Sometimes we understand immediately the rationale behind the action or experience; natural disasters, extreme accidents, often deaths have an explanation. Seldom does marital infidelity have a motivation for the one who has been betrayed. Only the unfaithful spouse can justify his or her actions.

A recent article I read by Clint and Peggy Bragg brought both smiles and tears. Even though their article discussed the “aftermath” of marital betrayal, their encouragements can be applied to countless other situations in our lives. During trauma, it is difficult to understand why we must endure the happening.  The Braggs noted, “you must choose to believe that you’ve been entrusted with a high calling that few hear or even fewer obey: Pursue God and wait for Him, not for your circumstances.”

In many such situations we desire to do what we can to “make the pain go away.”  I was akin to the example they gave of “leaving something for our spouse or sending a loving text”, but as they noted, “more often than not, these actions only backfire.” I recall so vividly when I initially learned of my husband’s affair, I thought if only I reminded him of my love for him, the heartache of losing a child, the financial struggles we had endured, etc. that he would want to save our marriage and our family. When a spouse has decided to leave you for another, your tears and pleas are of no value to them.  If anything, your agony offers satisfaction to the offending spouse. They had never loved you or they would not have betrayed you.

The Braggs words can be applied to any anguish. “Instead of viewing this present situation in the landscape of your entire faith journey, you focus…on the pain this crisis has created. Like your view when sitting in the front row of a movie theater, the drama seems so massive you can’t see the entire picture. As a result, your faith becomes distorted and ineffective. Healing is a process that requires both time and faith. God’s time. Your faith.”  Hebrews 11:1 NKJV “Now faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen.”