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??

Friday, July 13, 2018

To Hear Him Say "Well Done"

It took our God six days to create everything.  From nothing.  Each one of those six days included a specific task and at the end of each day, God stopped, looked at what had been done and "saw that it was good."  The Bible records this multiple times.

There is something very rewarding about looking back, at the end of the day, and resting confidently that the day "was good."  Not because of all I accomplished or even that which I did do was done amazingly - but simply because I was faithful with the tasks that God gave me for that day.  I used the hours wisely and invested my efforts in the ways that were pleasing to my Heavenly father.

This is not always easy - and there are far too many days that my time was either wasted or spent selfishly.  These days are "not good."  And, in this empty-nest phase of life, I often find it easier to coast through my days...forgetting to be purposeful with my time.  But I do want to be the best steward of the days I am given.

This takes prayer.  Prayer at the beginning of the day - asking the Lord for His direction and how He would have me busy myself.  It takes starting the day with time alone with Him rather than "hitting the floor running."  It also takes seeking His advice throughout the day and being sensitive to the Holy Spirit.

Psalm 90:12 "So teach us to number our days, that we may apply our hearts unto wisdom."

Then when each day is done, we can rest confidently that our Heavenly Father is pleased.  And one day, prayerfully, we can hear Him say, "My child, well done."

Matthew 25:21  "His lord said unto him, Well done, thou good and faithful servant: thou hast been faithful over a few things.....enter thou into the joy of thy lord."

These are my thoughts for the Five Minute Friday prompt today:  DONE.

Tuesday, July 10, 2018

Little Grandma

I have one more post about Thailand.  I hope it is not too much.  So many of the lessons learned while on a trip such as the one I had to Thailand are, often, God taught and just for yourself.  Other things can, hopefully, be used as an encouragement to others.  I shared a couple of those things earlier.  However, after the photos last week (which were just for fun), I thought I would wrap up my thoughts today.  The sights, and the sight-seeing, are fun.  The projects completed are rewarding and, certainly, the new friendships made are well-worth the trip.  But the real impact of any missions trip comes from the people.  The personal bonds with local people that you will, most likely, never meet again but with whom you connected after just a few hours of talking.  Talking is actually communicating - but not necessarily through the same language. In many ways, the language barrier forces a deeper type of communicating with body language and facial expressions.

I love seniors.  My heart sings when I have a chance to simply sit and chat with a senior.  To soak in their wisdom and especially, if they are a Christian, to learn from their testimony and the paths that God has led them on.  Its no surprise that meeting this new friend and the hours that we had to fellowship, go to church and then visit over lunch were some of the highlights of my trip.  Her name, in English, is Little Grandma.  She is, indeed, a wisp of a woman - small in stature but huge in heart!

Years ago, after college in Thailand, she was awarded a scholarship and came to the University of Michigan to earn her Masters.  She went on to teach advanced science at Chiang Mai University.  She speaks English but she is very soft spoken and her hearing is quite poor.  I hung on her words but her actions, and her life, spoke more than her words.  She has never been married and Thailand has no type of social security and, so, these days she makes simple banana treats and jello-type desserts that she sells at a stand in the local 7-11.  She also shares her treats (that she could be selling) during the fellowship between Sunday school and church service.  She does not complain and simply lets the love of Jesus shine through her as she loves others.

"By this shall all men know that ye are my disciples, if ye have love one to another."  John 13:35

We are all called upon to love others.  To show Jesus to others by loving them unconditionally.  It is so easy for our past hurts, disappointments or regrets to make us fearful, skeptical or even bitter.  Our busyness keeps us unaware or, often, indifferent to a lost and hurting world around us.  None of us have an excuse.  Wherever God has us right now is where we are to be serving - and to be sharing the love of Christ.

Friday, July 6, 2018

Thailand Photos

The dictionary says a vacation is: "an extended period of recreation, especially one spent away from home or in traveling."  I spent almost two weeks in Thailand this past month.  Definitely away from home - 8,789 miles from home!  It was a missions trip and there was work accomplished but, for sure, we definitely enjoyed time exploring, trying new things (think...riding an elephant) and eating lots and lots of good food!  Although not a typical Five Minute Friday post, with a prompt like "vacation," I thought this was the perfect time to share a few "just for fun" photos!

Everywhere we looked, the landscapes and scenery were beautiful!  We flew into Bangkok but spent most of our time further the mountain area!  The view was breathtaking - and the winding, curve-filled roads were cause for much Dramamine!

The elephant was definitely everywhere!  I know there is a significance in the Buddhist religion but I think it was just a cultural favorite, as well!

Of course, we went to see the elephants.  Every good tourist does!  Bathtime for the elephants was a highlight....for us and for the elephants!!

And, yes, we rode the elephants:)  All about stretching myself - and trying new things!!:)

During the elephant elephant actually painted this picture.  I kid you not!  It was impressive - and I would not have believed it if I had not watched it with my own eyes!

There was also plenty of restaurants to try...good food to tempt us - and even some "old favorites!"

It was lychee fruit season - and lychee was everywhere!!

 This guy was super excited about the World Cup - and wanted us to try his restaurant!!

We were more interested in the shopping!  This was a night market.  You have to have a couple of souvenirs!

 Just a few photos to whet your appetite for Thailand.  If the door ever opens for you to visit, I would say "go!!"  Thank thankful for God allowing me this experience!  Be sure to visit the other FMF writers and see where their vacations have taken them!!

Tuesday, July 3, 2018

Too Many Steps for an Old Lady

June is in the books - and that means my (long-awaited for and much anticipated) trip to Thailand has now come and gone.  I typically like to look back over a month and notice both the blessings it included, as well as whatever lessons God may have been teaching me.  However, I don't want to take too quick of a glance back at my trip.  I hope the experiences, the people met and the quiet moments with God while away will continue to impact me - mold me, strengthen me and settle me - for many weeks and months to come.  There were, indeed, many lessons to be learned and, in many ways, it took being so far removed from my routine, and even my comfort zone, in order to hear God's speaking.  And His still small voice was not necessarily one of rebuke (although there are always areas to correct) but more one of encouragement.

In several ways, I think of Thailand as a "Jacob at Penuel" time.  Where Jacob wrestled with an angel until his thigh was out of joint.  Genesis 32:31 says, "And as he (Jacob) passed over Penuel the sun rose upon him, and he halted upon his thigh."  He limped.  No doubt, for the rest of his life.  He was changed and he could point back to the exact time and place when it happened.  I know I did not return the same from Thailand and I am grateful that God is still interested in shaping me into a vessel that can be used for His purposes and by His design.

As silly as it sounds, it took this trip to remind me that I am not 25 anymore.  I do not have the energy or the stamina that I did at 25.  Nor do I even have the same interests.  I knew that I would be the oldest one on the trip (although I do not even qualify for senior discounts yet) but I did not want to be the "weakest link" on the trip.  Knowing that God wanted me to go on this trip, I prayed that He would enable me - especially physically.  And He did - but He did not make me 25 again.  My "mounting up with wings as eagles" did not mean the energy of my younger years suddenly reappeared.  In fact, when the group wanted to jaunt up the 340 steps to visit the temple pictured here...I knew I had reached my limit.  I waited at the bottom.  I sat and rested my weary feet. And, it was okay. More than okay.

God is looking for willing hearts.  God wants to use surrendered lives - no matter the age and no matter the physical abilities or limitations.  We do not reach an age where we are finished or simply retire from usefulness for God. 

"....this one thing I do, forgetting those things which are behind, and reaching forth unto those things which are before, I press toward the mark for the prize of the high calling of God in Christ Jesus."  Philippians 3:13-14

There is no need for me to keep looking to my past - or my younger years - to validate my effectiveness for Christ.  Nor do I need to wait for some "magical" moment in the future.  God has specific plans for me - right now and in this phase of life - and I am so thankful that He desires to use me.  And the same is true for each child of God.  I encourage you to embrace exactly where you are and delight in however He will use you!