Friday, October 19, 2018

Who I Am in Christ

I'm definitely late today but did not want to miss Five Minute Friday.  I always look forward to these posts....and am always amazed how one word can direct so many insightful, helpful and encouraging thoughts and posts!  Reading through the link-up is always a highlight.  This week's prompt is WHO.

Who am I because of Christ?  Who am I in Christ?  The Bible has many answers, but just to list a few.

Because of Jesus, I am:

   Redeemed and Bought with a price
       "In whom we have redemption through his blood, even the forgiveness of sins."  Colossians 1:14
   Completely forgiven 
       "If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness,."  I John 1:9

      "Herein is love, not that we loved God, but that he loved us, and sent his Son to be the propitiation for our sins."  I John 4:10

   A new creature 
      "Therefore if any man be in Christ, he is a new creature: old things are passed away; behold, all things are become new."  II Corinthians 5:17

   A temple of the Holy Spirit 
        "....your body is the temple of the Holy Ghost which is in you, which ye have of God, and ye are not your own"  I Corinthians 6:19
   Free from condemnation
       "There is therefore now no condemnation to them which are in Christ Jesus, who walk not after the flesh, but after the Spirit." Romans 8:1 

   Gifted, Set apart and Prepared for good works
         "...he shall be a vessel unto honour, sanctified, and meet for the master's use, and prepared unto every good work."  II TImorth 2:21b

   A joint heir with Christ
      "And if children, then heirs; heirs of God, and joint-heirs with Christ;"  Romas 8:17a

   More than a conqueror  
       "....we are more than conquerors through him that loved us."  Romans 8:37b

   Blessed with all spiritual blessings 
       "Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who hath blessed us with all spiritual blessings in heavenly places in Christ"  Ephesians1:3

   A saint - 
      " them that are sanctified in Christ Jesus, called to be saints, with all that in every place call upon the name of Jesus Christ our Lord...."  I Corinthians 1:2

Oh my...but I could go on.  These truths I know, in my head, to be true.  But, unless I remind myself often - while reminding my accuser - I tend to forget them in my heart.  I get discouraged and defeated.  And how quickly, I can begin to listen to Satan's lies.  I would do well to take one truth each morning - to remember and to rehearse each day.  And to defeat the enemy!

Perhaps you need to remind yourself, too, of a few of these precious truths!  Have a blessed and Heaven-focused weekend!!

Tuesday, October 16, 2018

Consider and Be Wise

Every day, the trees are slightly more painted in their fall colors.  The mornings have been brisk and we were even able to use the fireplace over the weekend.  Just to knock off the chill.  And to feel our spirits say "ahhh!"  First morning coffee in front of the fire is simply wonderful, in my opinion.

I'm continuing my thoughts from Friday's post.  Embracing the beauty of fall...even in this fall season of my life.  Not only is this a season to praise Him and to be grateful but fall is a season of preparation.

"Go to the ant....consider her ways, and be wise:  Which having no guide, overseer, or ruler, Provideth her meat in the summer, and gathereth her food in the harvest."  Proverbs 6:6-8

We know the squirrels, the birds, and the chipmunks are preparing for the winter ahead.  Food to be buried and stored away.  Geese flying to warm climates.  Even the bears prepare for hibernation.  (Of course, they do so by packing on pounds to sustain them but I will not draw conclusions there!)  The Bible says nature is wise in working while there is still time and preparing for the season when the harvest is past.  And that we would be wise to learn from their example.

It is easy to convince myself that this empty-nest season - with its extra aches and groans...and much less energy than in seasons past - is the time to quit.  And, if not quit completely, certainly a time to step aside.  Yes, I might not be able to do all that I once could, or with the same stamina, but there is much - much! - that I can still do.  And that I need to do.  I think this is true for all of us in the "fall" of our lives.

Investing our time, our talent and even our treasure today is wise.  Creating reserves that will supply us - and meet our needs - in the future.  When we get to those winter months of life.  Since we never know exactly when the winter will set in, now is the time to prepare.  Keep serving.  Stay surrendered and available.  Don't compare your preparation with anyone else.  (Just as the bird is not concerned with burying acorns.)  Don't even compare your work now with what you were able to do in years past.  Simply embrace this season for all the beauty it contains - all the extras "ahhhs" to enjoy! - and keep preparing for whatever lies ahead.

Friday, October 12, 2018

A Season to Offer Praise

Today has been 100 percent fall.  The leaves are just beginning their transition...but the temperatures are perfect autumn.  Sweater weather.  Clear skies and glorious sunshine that warms up the chilly morning.  The front porch mums are bursting out in color.  I helped put out a staff lunch today at my church and the school there.  And even the kitchen smelled like autumn with dessert tables full of pumpkin bars, apple pies and banana pudding.  There was cider simmering and a hearty sausage soup in several crock pots.  Yummy treats of the season.

Often I find my thoughts of fall and this wonderful season of the year reflecting my feelings on this stage of life I am enjoying.  There are so many parallels.  I want to share a couple but for the sake of Five Minute Friday, I will start with one - and then finish up on Tuesday.

GO - Praise.  As hard as it is to believe, autumn is not everyone's favorite seasons.  Some love summer (which I do really enjoy) and there are even some who totally enjoy winter.  This I do not understand.  But whatever your first choice, few cannot find much to appreciate about fall.  God's handiwork is so vividly on display.  The red, yellow and fiery orange trees never fail to amaze and to reflect so beautifully on their creator.  Without speaking, they praise the Lord.  They demonstrate His majesty as well as His imagination.

This is the season I am in.  Time to reflect on the former months - even as I prepare for the winter months ahead.  My words.  My choices.  My attitudes and days spent.  All of it needs to reflect on Christ and not only point others to Him but to cause them to be in awe of who He is and what He has done for me.  In so doing, I praise Him.  Praise is not reserved for certain times.  Praise is not done only through worship songs or beautiful music.  Our lives can praise Him.  Indeed, our lives should praise Him.

As I soak in all the beauty that continues to emerge in the next weeks of autumn, I pray that each tree - more beautiful than the last one I saw - will remind me to review my days.  Am I a reflection of praise on my savior?

"Let everything that hath breath praise the LORD. Praise ye the LORD."  Psalm 150:6

Tuesday, October 9, 2018

Chex Mix and Treat Bags

There are several reasons that I blog...but one, for sure, reason is simply that I enjoy others' blogs so much!  There are so many wise, encouraging and talented woman sharing their words, hearts and inspiration through blogs.  One such blog that I read regularly is RefreshHer by Denise Cunningham.  I am always uplifted after visiting her blog.  And she shares great recipes.:)  Recently, she began sharing something yummy and pumpkin-y every Monday.  For instance, Pumpkin Sugar Cookies.  Yum!!  I also found a super easy recipe for Pumpkin Chex Mix on her blog.  I thought it would be a great filler for a treat bag.  Here is the recipe from Denise's blog:

Pumpkin Chex Mix

1/4 cup brown sugar
1 tablespoon pumpkin pie spice
1/4 cup butter
2 teaspoons vanilla
2 cups Cinnamon Chex® cereal
2 cups Wheat Chex® cereal
2 cups Honey Nut Chex® cereal
8 ounces pecans (I used peanuts)

In a small bowl, mix brown sugar and pumpkin pie spice; set aside. In a small microwave-safe dish, microwave butter on High about 30 seconds or until melted. Stir in vanilla. In a large microwaveable bowl, mix all cereals and pecans. Pour butter mixture over cereal mixture, stirring until evenly distributed. Add sugar and spice mixture and stir until coated.  Microwave uncovered on High 5 minutes or until mixture begins to brown, stirring every minute. Spread on wax paper or a cookie sheet to cool. Store in airtight container.

I had some cellophane bags that I picked up on clearance after the season last year and some colored raffia from the dollar store.  Very inexpensive supplies, as you can tell.   I wanted to double to the recipe but did not have enough pumpkin pie spice - which seems a rather crucial ingredient  So, I made one and a half batches....and it gave me five treat bags.  I think four bags, a bit fuller, would have been better.  I also added a fall tea bag - to fill them out and just for fun.

The "Happy Fall" tags I made recently at a friend's house when she had a small group over to do some stamping and card making.  Mine were beyond easy - simply stamp with a pumpkin and color with pencils.  Bam:)  But I think they are cute and will make a few folks smile this week.  I plan to simply to have them on hand.  I have a few folks in mind but also hope to pass others out randomly.  (I also want to make another batch as soon as I run to the store.) 

These did not take a lot of money, any talent or much time....but I pray the Lord can use them to be a blessing.  Who could you give a treat bag to this week??

Happy Fall, friends.  Share some pumpkin fun with someone soon!!

Friday, October 5, 2018

Sharing is Caring - and Giving

Just two weeks ago, we were right in the middle of our annual missions conference at church.  Always a highlight for our church, as well as for me personally.  It is no secret -  I love missions - and missionaries.  Our speaker for the week was Bradley Edmonson, missionary with Medical Missions Outreach.  This group organizes almost a dozen trips each year to underdeveloped countries around the world - offering healthcare as well as the gospel and plan of salvation to literally thousands of patients.  All types of medical professionals, those with absolutely no medical training and anyone in between can be used to make these trips possible.  (The page on the link to their website includes a photo of a dentist and her husband assistant - from my church.  Just a fun fact.) 

Bradley shared many stories of top doctors, and others, giving their time, their expertise and their talent simply to aid others.  With no expectation of anything in return.  I think that is a very accurate picture of sharing.  With this on my heart, these are my five-minute thoughts on today's prompt: SHARE.

GO - Although most of us recognize sharing as good, even admirable, it is one character trait that does not come naturally.  Go into any preschool - even nursery - and the need to teach sharing is already quite obvious:)  Selfishness is easily seen in a toddler. However, even though we, as adults, can disguise it and even justify it, selfishness continues long past elementary school.  So we need to continually fight against it.  Looking for opportunities and ways to share.  To give unselfishly.  We need to share our time.  Our talents and our treasures.

Each of us has a different amount of money - or treasure.  We also have differing amounts of time, energy, abilities and talents.  But whatever we have been given is ours to share.  We are expected to be good stewards - and to use wisely - all of these things (time, talent and treasure).  Doing so, helps us die to self, gives us a right perspective of money and "sets our affection  on things above, not on things on the earth."  Learning to share - to be unselfish - gives us a heart that not only pleases God but honors Him.

"But lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust doth corrupt, and where thieves do not break through nor steal:  For where your treasure is, there will your heart be also."  Matthew 6:20-21

Tuesday, October 2, 2018

Hello October!

“I'm so glad I live in a world where there are Octobers.” 

Oh yes, so am I Miss Anne of Green Gables!!  I love this quote.  (I love the book.  And the movie.)  I love this month!!  

September is a full month at our house and one that is full of emotion.  It can be exciting and it can be draining.  Octobers tend to be much more unscheduled and I look forward to basking in the pause before the holiday months.  And, it doesn't hurt that Octobers in Virginia are glorious - the weather is perfection and, well, the scenery is pretty perfect, too!!  

As I continue to dream of pumpkin spice everything, I am also looking forward to:

1 - getting my porch properly decked out for fall.  I've started but I am ready to pull out all the stops.  Or all the pumpkins:)

2 - wearing cardigans.  Sweater weather clothes are my favorite.  A comfy cardigan and cozy tights just say ahh to me each morning.  I think I look my best...and I know I feel the best.

3 - festivals.  There is absolutely no shortage of fall festivals and fairs in our area during October.  There are numerous ones every weekend.  We take advantage of them all.  Well, some. Lots:)

4 - vacation!  For several years now, we have vacationed in the months right after school reopens.  It is definitely one of the perks of this season of life.  This year, our vacation is planned for the end of this month.  We are going to Bavaria....and are so looking forward to it!!  If you have ever been to that part of Germany - or even to Austria - I would love some suggestions for things to do, places to go, food to try!:)

My husband and I are definitely in the fall season of our lives.  Sometimes - but not as often - I find myself balking against it.  Something similar to wishing every day was a lazy, carefree day of summer.  But even that would get monotonous.

There is so much to embrace and to thoroughly enjoy in this phase of life.  I'm learning to appreciate - even savor - these days and the opportunities they bring.  I don't want to waste time or energy looking backward.

I am grateful for all the blessings and beauty of fall.  Outside my window - and in my life. 

Friday, September 28, 2018

Happy Birthday, Em

Happy Birthday sweetest daughter of mine!  Thirty years ago today I became a mother.  Be still my heart.  Yes, I gave birth twice afterward and, of course, I love all my children.  Equally.  And am blessed to be called mom by all of them.  My thoughts are not expressly about my beautiful daughter but more about becoming a mom!  There really are no words....if you are a mother, you know exactly what I mean.

My intention this morning was to simply write a "love note" to my firstborn - and rejoin Five Minute Friday next week.  However, today's prompt, Potential, goes so well with my thoughts, I decided to try and convey them here.  They come from a recent sermon I listened to online and that has been impacting my thoughts ever since.  (I will try to find the pastor's name and give him credit in my next post.  Fingers crossed.)

GO - If you have experienced becoming a mother, you know the feelings I am trying to express.  The months of dreaming, planning and, even the worrying.  Followed by the hours of labor.  But, then, the exhaustion, the pain, and the wondering erased at the very first glance.  Simply the awe of becoming a mom.

It is one of the most accurate descriptions of joy.  So much so, the Bible even uses the experience as a reference for joy.  And the joy comes from the potential a new birth brings.  All the potential I imagined for my daughter as I inhaled her newness.  The potential for all the ways my life - and my husband's life -  would be changed and impacted because of our daughter.  Everything that new life meant - and the potential it represented - gave us that feeling of sincere joy.  And filled us with hope.

Christians often struggle to understand Biblical joy.  Joy that should mark the life of a believer.  Joy that is possible even in the darkest days or hours.  Joy that is much more than simply happiness but is available to each of us because of the Holy Spirit within us.  This joy is so hard to define - or to understand.  Much like the difficulty of describing your emotions when you become a mother.  But it is a serene sense of hope that comes from knowing the potential of all that God can do and wants to do - in any situation - that is joy for a believer.

STOP - sweet Emily, Happy Birthday!!  I am blessed to be your mom.  I love you more than all the Oreos!!

Tuesday, September 18, 2018

Five Reflections for a Healthy Marriage

This past weekend was our anniversary.  We had a wonderful dinner at one of our favorite "special occasion" restaurants.  I even splurged for dessert:)  It was nice just to celebrate us!  Like all couples, we have had wonderful, mountain-top experiences.  As well, we have been through struggles, have disappointed each other and shared the greatest grief.  But, we have done it together - creating a life together.  A life that perhaps I did not envision as a young bride but one that I love and appreciate more each year.

As an empty-nester, I want to appreciate my marriage - and my husband - more as the years go by.  I think maturity helps me do that.  I don't want to become complacent or take my husband, and his love for me, for granted.  I did some reading and studying last week - about healthy marriages and how I can continue to make it a priority in my thoughts and actions.  I think it is good to rehearse these things mentally.

These are some of the ideas/suggestions that were helpful reminders for me.  Perhaps they will be for you as well.

*  My spiritual life has to be my top priority.  In order for any of the other relationships in my life - especially with my husband - to be all they can be, I must be daily in the Bible and in fellowship with Christ.  If this is lacking, it affects everything else.  I cannot possibly have the right attitude (humility, patience, kindness, etc., etc) and be all that my husband needs from me if I am not walking in the Spirit.

* Keeping myself physically and emotionally pleasing - for my husband - is important.  I will never be 25 again.  Or even 35.  Nor will my body.  But I want to continually strive to be my best for my husband.  Not for the attention or praise of anyone else - but for my husband because he is important to me.  This includes continual habits (like exercise -ugh!) and the daily little things (like what I wear or fixing my hair.) 

* Being conscious of outside influences - through media, music, entertainment, etc - not only guards my heart but also guards the spirit of our home.  It can become easy to let down our guard, especially once our children are grown, but this can be a slippery slope.  The enemy never gives up and we must continue to be vigilant - and on guard.

* Being a wise steward of our finances is a blessing.  We are not rich, by any means, but our budget is also not as tight as it was when we were raising a family.  But that is not an excuse to spend unwisely.  When I am considerate of our money and try to be a good manager of our household finances, it is not only a help to my husband but it also shows appreciation for his hard work.  It is also Biblical.

* I want to regularly examine how my attitude, as well as my actions, reflect my heart.  The honeymoon phase may be well past but I want my husband to know that I admire him, respect him and appreciate him.  I want him to know his heart is safe with me.  I may not gush and giggle to show it, as I might - or might not:) - have as a newlywed but these are still so important to me.  To him and to us.  And I want what I say and what I do to express that.

There certainly is no perfect marriage.  But I am thankful for these decades I have been given to continue striving to make our marriage all that it can be - and should be - as the gift from God that it is.

Friday, September 14, 2018

Don't Hide in the Tree

Zaccheus climbed the tree because of the crowd.  And right there among the crowd, Jesus noticed him and called to him.  Not to embarrass him.  Not even to ridicule him for being a greedy tax-collector, but because He wanted to be with Him.  He wanted a relationship with Zaccheus and He wanted the crowd to know it.

So many wonderful things done not only for a crowd but also right in the middle of a crowd.  Jesus seemed to delight in crowds.  Among the largest crowds, He performed the miracle of loaves and fishes - on multiple occasions.  Thousands were fed and benefited from His goodness.  But it was also from among a crowd that He miraculously healed one.  The woman with an issue of blood.  After He healed her, He called her out as well - much like Zaccheus.  Again, not to shame her or to rebuke her, but in order that her shame would be removed.  He wanted the crowd to know she was healed - no longer unclean nor an outcast.

Without question, there are wonderful moments between the savior and His children during quiet times alone.  Finding times to "come apart" and "to be still and know" are needed - daily - and are precious.  But we cannot keep to ourselves all that Christ has done - and is doing - for us and through us.  Often we need to share with a crowd.  Our crowd might not be 5000....or even 50.  But when we are given the opportunity, we need to be willing to be called out.  To speak up and testify.  Sometimes that is easier than at other times.  Sometimes, there is fear and trembling.  But, no doubt our heavenly father is pleased when we will step out of the crowd.  And the crowd can be instructed, rebuked, encouraged and changed as well.

"And Jesus said, Who touched me?........ And when the woman saw that she was not hid, she came trembling, and falling down before him, she declared unto him before all the people for what cause she had touched him, and how she was healed immediately."   Luke 8:45 and 47  (emphasis mine)

Today's FMF prompt:  Crowd.  Go here to see what the others have to say about a crowd.  I had thought I would continue some thoughts from Tuesday's post - today is my anniversary and I must have marriage thoughts on my mind:) - but I decided to finish those thoughts next week.  I really enjoy Five Minute Friday and the community of writers who join each week.  So - these are my five minute thoughts!

Tuesday, September 11, 2018

Three Ways to Help Build A House

Without a doubt, one of the greatest material blessings the Lord has given to my husband and me is our home.  It is more than we ever imagined and, yet, is exactly the type of home we would dream about.  The circumstances that brought us to this home only confirm that God "handed" it specifically to us.  We feel blessed every day.  We work, daily, to keep things - inside and in the yard - clean, manicured and organized.  I enjoy making our home feel cozy, comfortable and, hopefully, inviting as well.  But even more than the decor on the mantel, the pumpkins on the porch or the smell of dinner in the oven, I want to be busy "building my house." 

Every wise woman buildeth her house: but the foolish plucketh it down with her hands.   Proverbs 14:4 

I don't think any Christian woman purposefully wants to ruin the spirit of her home.  Or wants to undermine the Holy Spirit's working and leading in her home.  But, without thinking, selfish attitudes, wrong priorities and poor habits do exactly that - they pluck down the house we desperately desire to have.  Continuing in my "making choices" for this year.....I choose to build up - not tear down - my house.  There are many areas where this applies but here are three purposeful ways to refocus building your house.

1 - Work diligently.  As an empty-nester, I have much more flexibility with my time.  This is nice - but it can also lead to procrastination.  It is not hard for me to get lazy.  But I want my days to be productive.  This includes not oversleeping, not mindlessly wasting hours (or other chunks of time) and asking the Lord to direct my steps and choices.

"Whatsoever thy hand findeth to do, do it with thy might...."  Ecclesiastes 9:10 

2 - Set the right tone.  I have always believed the mother sets the tone in a home.  This was true when my children were young but, I find, it is still true with just the two of us.  I am as emotional as the next woman (I suppose) but, thankfully, I am learning to better control my emotions.  I have learned the hard way that my moods can impact a dinner, an evening, or even a whole week - and not always for the best!  What a sad statement - and a waste of precious time together.

"Live joyfully with the wife whom thou lovest...." Ecclesiastes 9:9

3 - Serve others - and be hospitable.  This is one area where both my husband and I are trying to improve.  This seemed to be easier - or seemed to come more naturally - when we were younger but I am not sure why.  Perhaps it is simply settling too easily into our routine - a routine of two.  But we are making improvements.  Whether inviting others into our home or serving others in their home or even in our community, there is much joy in hospitality.

"For a bishop must be blameless, as the steward of God; not selfwilled...but a lover of hospitality....."                                                                      Titus 1:8

I pray these will encourage or inspire you as build your house.  A house that not only glorifies God but, as well, is a haven and a blessing to everyone who lives under your roof.  And, no, none of those homes above are mine.  They are just some of the gorgeous ones I found on Unsplash.  I would have stepped outside to photograph my house but skies are grey and drippy as Hurricane Florence pushes in on us.  Pray for all those who may be affected in the next few days ahead.

Friday, September 7, 2018

Ready for the Rain

The best word to describe our weather is unpredictable.  The summer was, for the most part, pleasant - with lots of lovely evenings.  Low humidity and pleasant temperatures.  The calendar flipped to September and, with it, came the extreme heat and highest humidity in months.  The heat has been relentless.  And not a drop of rain.  Grass that, remarkably, stayed green all summer is now drying out and turning brown.  The potted porch flowers beg for water - twice a day.  We need a good rain.

That is my husband's phrase.  "A good rain."  By that, he means a soft, steady rain.  Not a downpour that will simply run off and form huge puddles.  But a rain that will soften the dried out earth and continue until it has seeped down into the roots.  A rain that quenches, refreshes and encourages fresh life.  It is the kind of rain that makes you feel good!

My heart - my soul - loves a good rain.  An outpouring from Heaven that refreshes - and soaks deep to my roots.  But those do not come every day.  If I am not careful, and purposeful, my soul can begin to dry.  To become caked like parched soil.  Growth is slow, even stopped, and brown patches can begin to show.  When God does want to shower me with grace, mercy, goodness or wisdom, my hardness can make the rain ineffective. 

My husband and I try to keep the yard and the plants watered.  We try to keep the soil soft.  And ready.  The rain will come.  When it does, the ground will be able to soak it all in.  I try to keep my heart ready.  Daily in the word.  Keeping sins confessed.  Routinely checking my attitude.  When the rain comes, I can throw my umbrella aside - and soak it all in!!

Maybe you guessed....the FMF prompt is rain!  The forecast is for rain this weekend.  Let it rain - physically and spiritually!

Friday, August 31, 2018

A Sound From Heaven

I'm sure you have been in one of those situations where a large crowd is gathered.  Everyone is
enjoying separate conversations - waiting for whatever event to begin.  Someone steps to the front of the room but goes unnoticed.

After several unsuccessful attempts of "May I have your attention please," there is some gifted whistler at the back of the room who decides to pierce the air with the loudest, ear numbing whistle.  Personally, I hate those whistles (for instance..inside a gym) but.....they do get everyone's attention!  And while I may not like the piercing noise, I can appreciate how frustrating it is to be unable to get the attention of anyone.  To be unheard and unnoticed.

I think what I don't like about those whistle calls is the fact that I am unprepared.  I'm not ready.  Not anticipating it.  Because of that, the noise is alarming, or even frightening.  But that was not the case with the disciples at Pentecost.

"And when the day of Pentecost was fully come, they were all with one accord in one place.  And suddenly there came a sound from heaven as of a rushing mighty wind, and it filled all the house where they were sitting."  Acts. 2:1-2
The disciples knew that God had promised to send the Holy Spirit, but they didn't know exactly when or what to expect.  But...they were expectant. And they were not disappointed.  God sent the Spirit with a loud "sound from Heaven"!  No one missed it.  The sound, like a rushing mighty wind, was powerful and filled the entire house.  But this sound did not irritate, annoy or even frighten.  It not only brought great hope but it transformed every single person in that house.
So often I concentrate on the still small voice of God.  And that is good. And wonderful.  I want God to speak to me.  But, I also know how easy it is to be accustomed to the incessant noise of life, and my own agenda, that surrounds me.  I want to hear God's presence.  I need the rushing mighty wind to stop me.  To clear my agenda and, then, to quiet me.  I long to hear a sound from the Holy Spirit.
STOP - these are my quick thoughts on today's prompt - RUSH.  They feel a bit unfinished but I wanted to get them into written words.  These are thoughts from my Bible reading and study this week that, I thought, went perfectly with the prompt.  (Hopefully, "rushing" is not too far of a stretch from "rush.")  To read the other FMF posts, go here.  I encourage you to listen for - even anticipate - a sound from Heaven this week.

Tuesday, August 28, 2018

Remembering August (2018): Little Letters

Another month is coming to an end and it occurred to me that I have not a "recap" in quite a while, and so this month seemed like a great time to look back through my calendar.  When I looked for my last "little letters" was August.  Of last year.  I honestly have no idea.  I actually did not even realize I have been blogging for that long.  I would make all sorts of comments wondering where time goes - but that would make me sound old.  So, I will move on.  Some little letters to this August. 2018:)

Dear friend of my sweet Tyler.  Each August begins remembering another year without my buddy.  I try to get to the cemetery early in the morning.  Not only is it peaceful, and not yet blistering, but mornings are my happy time and my soul is calmed during the early hours.  Especially at the cemetery.  But for the second year, someone has actually beat me to Tyler's place.  This year they left orange lilies, but nothing else to identify themselves.  But just knowing someone is remembering Tyler, missing him and has even made the trip to the cemetery does more for a mother's heart than I can express.  Dearest friend of Tyler's - you are dear to me.

Dear Crochet Circle.  How I have enjoyed our mid-week get-togethers.  Thanks for your patience as I try to learn crochet. (It is not easy for an old dog to learn new tricks.  Really.)  Each of you are so talented! Your beautiful work inspires me and your friendship encourages me.

Dear Barb.  Thanks for all your help - and encouragement - with the Music College.  It is definitely a project but we had fun this year!  I hope it was not only a help but also a blessing to the Majesty Music staff as well as the attendees.  I will work behind the scenes on any project with you!

Dear waistline.  There were a lot of birthday celebrations this month.  I love birthday celebrations and I love birthday treats.  Chocolate cake, cheesecake, and crazy delicious french toast.  Please overlook all said extra calories.  They were for good - no, great - reasons!!

Dear Prime Timers.  You are a great Sunday School class.  I love our times together - on Sunday mornings and our times for fellowship.  Like the picnic.  Thanks, George, for your sharing your barbeque skills and for all the fun around the cornhole game!

Dear Kimberly.  I'm so glad you invited me to go with you and your mom to the airport.  Pre-dawn.  I am excited for you and all that God undoubtedly has planned for you in the months ahead.  China is super far away.  Don't forget to text and email.  Especially your mom:)

Dear Harris Pavilion.  You have become a favorite spot for summer evenings.  Great weather.  Great friends.  Good music and the necessary soft-serve ice cream.  (Again, waistline - ignore those!)  So many reasons that we keep coming back!

Dear Escape Quest.  Thanks for the challenges.  Thanks for the fun and for the laughs.  Sure, we barely made it out (what?  a minute to spare) but we are all hooked on the fun.  You may have actually created a new birthday tradition for us!

Dear Hobby Lobby.  Was it really, truly necessary to have Christmas take over the entire front of the store?  The first week of August?  Ugh.

Dear Sandbar (you know who you are).  Do not quit your day job!!

Dear Jenn.  Thanks for listening to heart and starting the Bible study.  I enjoyed last week and I am looking forward to digging into Matthew together in the weeks ahead.

Dear summer weather.  Apparently, you are not leaving too easily.  It was so pretty last week but you and your high heat (close to 100) and drippy humidity are coming back this week.  Enjoy yourself because fall weather is right on your heels!!  In just a few days, September will be here.  One of my favorite months, for sure.  Looking back at August was nice but, please, September.....come right in!

Friday, August 24, 2018

Celebrate a Loyal Companion

LOYAL - this week's FMF prompt.  My very first thought's best friend - dogs!
To many, the definition of loyal lived out.  Day in and day out.  Then I thought my posts needed to be much more "dignified" than simply discussing dogs...which led me to a word study on the difference between loyal and faithful.  While I do love words and a good word study, it is a free write.  For five minutes.  That is what Five Minute Friday is actually about:)  And, with this Sunday being National Dog Day (who knew!?) I decided to stick with my first thoughts.

GO.  Why are dogs so loyal?  We know that dogs are pack animals.  They are committed to the pack and, so, have a desire for devoted relationships.  They have keen social skills - and have become expert in reading body language, facial expressions, and even our daily habits.  In many ways, they are able to empathize with us...even when others may not.  Of course, there is a dependence on us for food and shelter but, in many ways, our dogs are simply looking for affection and companionship - making the bond with our pets very much mutually beneficial.  We love them and, in return, they are loyal.

I would not describe myself as a dog person.  But I do appreciate (am sappy for...) the love and loyalty of our family dog.  Our grand-dog, if you will.  Whether you have a dog or not.  Like pets or don't....the bond between dogs and their owners is a wonderful picture of what it means to be loyal.

STOP.  Just some extra food for thought.  Ways to celebrate National Dog Day...because, certainly, you want to celebrate!!  I might not actually celebrate, but donating used blankets and pillows to a shelter is a great idea.  Most donation centers will not take pillows, but animal shelters will.  Also, helping a senior friend or neighbor by offering to walk his dog is just a sweet idea!  Sharing your pet with a lonely senior is also sweet.  The affect dogs can have is amazing.  I have seen this repeatedly at the assisted living.  Even if I don't officially celebrate Dog Day this weekend, I know a dog I can spoil.  But, I do that every day!  I guess every day is dog day:)

Tuesday, August 21, 2018

Lesson Learned at the UNO Table

One of my weekly highlights is playing UNO with my senior friends at the assisted living home near me.  We have a core group of regulars and a few, including new faces, that come and go each week.  I usually lead the game as it travels around the table - announcing the color needed, asking each player if they might have the number needed instead, or helping them choose a color if they play a wild card.  Each player needs a different amount of help but I try my best to "keep the playing field level." I ask questions and offer help to everyone - and only peek at someone else's cards when absolutely necessary:)

It seems to work well.  However, I am always amazed - and rather amused - how quickly some of the residents run out of patience/get annoyed with the slower players at the table.  Eyes roll.  Impatient prods:  "C'mon, do you have a blue card, or not!!?"  And even snarky jabs.  ("Ugh, Edith doesn't have a clue!!")  Really??  I so often want to remind some that they are all in assisted living....for one reason or another.  But, I don't.  It's human nature and, truth be told, I'm not immune.

It is so much easier to have patience when we recognize similar faults.  When I "get where you're coming from," I am able to make allowance - show mercy and be patient.  With others...not as much.  This affects how I understand and respond to family members, friends, neighbors, strangers and those I interact, or minister, with routinely.  When I sense my patience draining.  When I'm mentally criticizing or being judgemental.  It is time to step back and look for a different perspective.  Even if I don't always agree, I can try to understand.  And, even if I don't understand, I want a heart that is longsuffering and willing to offer grace.

One day, it might be me at that UNO table - unsure if I can play my green 8 on that blue 7.  I hope the volunteer - and my friends - will be patient.  And kind.

Galatians 6:7b  "...for whatsoever a man soweth, that shall he also reap."

Friday, August 17, 2018

The Impact of Being Loved

Without a doubt, my grandparents loved me.  I never doubted it.  Actually, neither did anyone else (but that might be another post)!  What a gift - to be so unconditionally loved.  Because I was so confident in their love, it affected me.  Affected and impacted my life.  These are just a few of my thoughts regarding LOVED....this week's Five Minute Friday prompt.

My grandparents had a pool.  A big pool - with a deep end.  Summer trips to my grandparents' house included hours spent by the pool.  Swimming in the morning.  Eating PBandJs at the concrete picnic tables around the pool and then having to wait the obligatory 30 minutes before we could jump in again.  I have never been daring but when I was at my grandparents' house, I felt confident.  Simply being around them, I believed in me and in my ability to try new things, to dream big and even to be brave.  Brave enough to jump off the board.  As the years went by, I was diving, cartwheeling and even back-flipping off that board into the deep end of the pool.

Their love not only helped me in the pool.  It impacted me in school, with friends, in life choices way past those early years.  Being so freely loved gave me the courage to believe in myself.  Being loved gave me the confidence to continue to stretch myself even when the ugly self-doubt of junior high was overwhelming.  Those early victories shaped me to have more confidence even after my grandparents were both gone.

One other memory is not quite as pleasant.  One weekend after graduation, a friend and I went to stay with my grandparents.  A celebration of sorts. Sadly, for me, I seized the privilege as a chance to act like a fool.  Not in a horrible way but so insensitive.  We stayed out half the night - way past when my grandparents thought we would be home.  There were no cell phones or ways to contact us.  As I crept back into the house, my grandfather was waiting, in the dark, in the front room.  His eyes were misty with tears.  He was not angry - more relieved we were home.  And so disappointed and hurt that we would behave that way.  I am still crushed by how I hurt him.

Knowing we are loved should impact our decisions and choices.  I never intentionally wanted to hurt my grandparents.  I was immature and foolish.  And I never again did anything I thought would cause them sorrow or disappointment.   Their love made me want to honor them.  To bring them delight and to please them.


But isn't the lavish and unconditional love of our Heavenly father much the same?  It is offered freely - not because of anything we have done but simply because of who He is.  And because of His love, we can live confidently.....following His will wherever He may lead.  As well, my choices and my decisions should all be so as to please - never grieve - Him and to bring Him glory.  What a blessing it is to be loved by such a wonderful God.

Friday, August 10, 2018

A Sense of Community

Father Knows Best.  Leave It to Beaver.  I Love Lucy.  Maybe you liked these tv shows.  Maybe not.  Some of you don't even know what shows I talking about:)  But these shows, in many ways, characterize my life growing up.  The women that surrounded me were, well, very similar.  I only knew one mom who worked outside the home - and that was in the school cafeteria.  I wasn't aware of single moms, teenage mothers or any number of other home situations different from my own.  I feel very blessed for the influence of my mom, as well as the other moms who created our community.  All of the women were, indeed, a community.  Whether at the mailbox, while pushing the stroller for a walk, or over coffee at the kitchen table these women encouraged and supported one another.

I know homes and communities are vastly different today.  In fact, it is the uniqueness of each family that creates a sense of home today - much as similarity did for me.  Roles for women have certainly grown and evolved.  But, I believe, women still look for and even need a sense of community.

Here are my five-minute thoughts on this week's FMF prompt:  women

All women seek community.  Other women that form a sense of fellowship.  Somewhere to share interests, goals, and ideas.  To teach and to learn from.  This type of community benefits body, soul and spirit.  I see evidence of this everywhere - even at the assisted living.  Those who engage in the activities and interact with the other residents do so much better - emotionally, mentally and even physically - than those who remain more isolated.  This is also a Bible principle.  Titus 2 is directed at women, of all ages, learning from and teaching other women.  We are to be connected and part of a community.

Being engaged with other women is more and more of a challenge.  Demands are many and time for "simply" connecting seems elusive.  But it needs to be a priority.  Three thoughts on creating community with other women:

1 - Don't accept substitutes.  At least, not on a regular basis.  A text, Facebook message or other social media drop-in have their place, but they cannot replace genuine conversation and fellowship with others.  It might seem like you are connected, or in touch, but it is not the same.

2 - Be purposeful.  Don't just hope the time will come - make it happen.  Invite others - whether to your house or somewhere else.  Whether for a full evening at dinner or for 20 minutes over coffee.  It is surprising....if you invite them, women will (find time and) come:)

3 - Look outside your circle.  All women want to be included.  And, as women, we tend to flock together.  There is nothing wrong with having a "bestie" or a close group, but be careful not to be exclusive.  And certainly, don't judge a book by its cover - or assume someone would not want to be included.  Reach out to someone older, younger, or just "different"!  Wonderful friendships have been made this way!

There are several other thoughts - encouragements for fellowship - running through my thoughts.  But, five minutes fly by!  How do you stay purposefully connected?

Tuesday, August 7, 2018

A Full Life

I had the privilege, yesterday, of helping celebrate a sweet senior friend's birthday.  Several of us took her to a cute restaurant, enjoyed too much pasta - a little cake, too! - and then had the treat of watching her open some gifts.  Between every piece of tissue paper, she would get lost in a memory or a special thought and she would start to share.  She would laugh and then she would cry sweet tears, and then laugh again.  We laughed and cried right along with her.  It was a special time.  We continued to reminisce as I drove her home.  After a deep breath, she told me, "I've had a very full life."  Yes, indeed, you have, my friend.

At 89, she has outlived all of her siblings.  She has lived through the depression and other financial hardships.  Before her husband passed away, together they fought his cancer and other serious health challenges.  Not only is she widowed, but she has experienced the death of a grandchild (in a car accident) as well as her only child - her adult daughter.  Life has not been without tears, challenges, heartaches and, no doubt, regrets.  Yet, her life has been - and continues to be - full.

Through all of the valleys, God has proven Himself faithful and good.  He has walked with her.  Strengthened and encouraged her.  So now, looking back, my friend can see the blessings, the joys, the many, many good days and years and is able to give thanks for a very full life.  I pray when I get to my last few years - whether it is 79, 89 or 99 - I can look back, too, and see how God led me, walked with me and carried me when I needed it....creating a life of joy that overflows to those who celebrate with me.

Friday, August 3, 2018

A Reason for Anniversaries

Earlier this summer, our church celebrated its 36th anniversary.  It was a time to reflect on the history of the church and to rehearse all God has done through the years - bringing us from a  small group of charter members meeting in a high school choir room to the church family and home we have now.

In a similar way, my husband and I will celebrate our 33rd anniversary next month.  Although there have been lean years as well as abundant ones and dark, grief-filled days along with the joyful ones, each anniversary is a time to remember God's faithfulness and goodness through all the days.  When we do so (whether as a church or as a couple), we are encouraged, and even excited for the future - whatever might lay ahead!

In the old testament, memorials were often made as reminders of what God had said, done or promised.  After the Lord sought out and met with Gideon while he was threshing wheat, "Gideon built an altar and called it Jehovahshalom...." (Judges 6:24).  The God of Peace.  There was a battle before Gideon.  Hard days and challenges - but Gideon did not need to be fearful or anxious.  He could have courage, and even a peace-filled heart, because he knew God's word.  Had heard His promises.  And had personally met with the God of Peace.

We need anniversaries.  We need memorials.  We need to often remember and recount past victories and God's word for the future.  And then we can anticipate the days, weeks and years ahead with confidence, hope, and even joy!!

Check here to see what other writers are saying about "anniversary" this week at FMF.

Wednesday, August 1, 2018

Faithful and True

Another August First.  God has been so faithful to not only uphold me and strengthen me - every August 1st and the random days in between when my faith begins to wobble -  but to also send me a personal encouragement - something seemingly insignificant to others but, for me, as if straight from Heaven to my heart.  I've begun to look for these special things...anticipate them.  Eager for a reminder.  A smile from Heaven - from my sweet boy.   I'm not superstitious or wanting to sound silly but I do know God is a personal Heavenly father who knows our hearts, and our hurts, and who wants us to know Him and how much He cares.

Sunday, a song was sung at church that I have never heard before.  It has probably been around for ages but it was new to me.  And I have been listening to it - and singing it - ever since.  Whatever heartache, hurt or challenge you might face today, or in the days ahead, I pray these lyrics will encourage you too.

As I look back on the road I've travelled, 
I see so many times He carried me through; 
And if there's one thing that I've learned in my life, 
My Redeemer is faithful and true. 
My Redeemer is faithful and true.
My Redeemer is faithful and true. 
Everything He has said He will do, 
And every morning His mercies are new. 
My Redeemer is faithful and true.
My heart rejoices when I read the promise 
'There is a place I am preparing for you.' 
I know someday I'll see my Lord face to face, 
'Cause my Redeemer is faithful and true. 
My Redeemer is faithful and true.
And in every situation He has proved His love to me; 
When I lack the understanding, He gives more grace to me.

My Redeemer is faithful and true. 
Everything He has said He will do, 
And every morning His mercies are new. 
My Jesus is faithful and true.

Friday, July 27, 2018

Thirteen Birthdays

This snapshot is of a framed photo in our family room.  It is years old and the quality is not excellent but it is a treasure.  The bottom photo captures our Tyler's fun, silly personality.  The top one is Tyler and his friends celebrating his 13th birthday.  It was a fun night of pizza, laser tag, bowling and tons of laughs!  Little did we know, it would be the last birthday we celebrated with Tyler.  Thirteen birthdays was all we had with Tyler.

Next week we will mark twelve years it has been since Tyler went to Heaven.  Before I even realize, he will have been in Heaven longer than he shared life with us here.  At times, it is more than my thoughts - and my heart - can imagine.  However, this post is not necessarily about grief.  For your deepest valley might not include grief.  It might be something health-related, a dependency that enslaves you, a betrayal, heartache, disappointment or unfulfilled dream that crushes you beyond measure.  It might be finances, a wayward child or other hurting relationship.  Or it might one of a hundred other valleys that I know nothing about. 

Our trials will be different and our valleys might be different but God is always the same.  He promised we would never walk alone - no matter how dark the way.  He promised to uphold us, strengthen us, to hold our hand and to show us the way.  He bears our burdens, hears our cries and tenderly cares.  And He has faithfully kept all those promises these last twelve years - and more.  I know that He will do the same for you.

I have a few Bible reading prompts and study helps that I check each morning.  As if on cue, with this post on my heart, this "verse of the day" was on my tablet.

"But the Lord is faithful, who shall stablish you, and keep you from evil."  II Thessalonians 3:3

He is faithful.  He continues to establish my feet and my goings.  And, by His help, the enemy is defeated and I am not consumed in my missing Tyler.  This FMF post is my chance to thank Him.

Tuesday, July 24, 2018

Lattes and Porch Rocking

Back in January, I (along with plenty of other bloggers) choose one word to begin the new year.  One word for a personal goal, a new year's resolution or simply as a focus for the months ahead.  I have done this before but, not surprisingly, the word was more or less forgotten before spring flowers had even budded.  This year I have been much more determined to keep my word front and center...wanting it to have an impact throughout the entire year.  My word this year:  CHOOSE.

Every season.  Every month.  Every day.  There are choices to be made.  I want to choose wisely.  I want to make choices carefully and deliberately.  Some choices are simple and many choices have little consequence - for instance, which skirt should I wear today or do the red earrings or green ones look better with this outfit?  No doubt, these are important, but you get my idea:)  But I asked the Lord to help me make some more impactful choices this year.  Ones that would not only stretch me but would draw me closer to Him.  It seems a good time to look at some of those choices and how I am choosing so far.  There are I am combining a few here and there.

I CHOOSE to be content and to be joyful.

"But let all those that put their trust in thee rejoice: let them ever shout for joy, because thou defendest them: let them also that love thy name be joyful in thee."  Psalm 5:11

Christians should be happy people.  Those that love Him should be joyful.  This post is not about learning how to rejoice even during our trials or being able to grieve with hope and without despair - all of which are right and good - but I'm talking every day.  The ordinary days. The busyness and the routine - the ordinary - has a way of taking over, draining our joy and making us anything but happy people.  I can be so guilty of this.  Not grumpy or even angry - just joyless.

I've asked the Lord to nudge me when I'm simply going through the motions.  Singing to myself is on the of the quickest ways to lift my spirit and my countenance.  I sing.  I hum and I make my own my melodies.  How fun it would be to be a songwriter!!  But, I am not...but I still have fun with it!

One of the fastest ways to lose my joy in comparison.  I hesitate to mention this because it is a bit of a "buzzword" lately but it is the truth.  And it has been for ages - not just since the advent of social media (although that just gives us more for comparison).  Admiring the greener grass yonder and becoming discontent with our own yard always leaves us less than rejoicing.  I have determined to find contentment in the little things.

My empty-nest phase of life has given me extra time for little things and I want to enjoy - actually, savor - these things rather than simply reminisce about the times and things of days past.  A couple of the little things I am enjoying:

Lattes - or coffee, in general.  I am not a coffee addict, coffee obsessed, or "a girl running on coffee."  I only sorta/kinda like coffee.  But I love mornings with my husband - and they begin with a cup of coffee.  We don't have to get little ones ready or head out early to beat the commute, but are now able to enjoy the time when we first get up.  Often on the patio but not always.  But wherever, mornings are slow.  We enjoy chatting...or just being...and a hot cup of coffee.

I also enjoy lattes with my friends.  Times like this past weekend are not only a gift but are so refreshing.  I went away with some girlfriends.  Just to get away and relax.  Oh, and to shop.  These days I am able to go away with little planning and interruption to routines, etc.  It was not always that easy - and I appreciate it now.

Front porch rocking.  Maybe we are turning into two old people...but having most evenings unscheduled is becoming more and more of a blessing.  There is time to simply rock.  To enjoy our home, our little yard and so many of the other blessings that can be overlooked or even neglected when life is much more hectic.  There are certainly joys in abundance during the days of younger children, busy teenagers, and jam-packed calendars.  I love my memories of those days but I am learning - day by day - to be content with these days.  To embrace the blessings of this season and to be rejoicing in each new day.

What little blessing are you enjoying this week??