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.