Friday, December 16, 2011

Lessons From the Edge

Simple kindnesses mean so much.

Monday afternoon I got a call at work from a woman named Wanda. She said she had some craft items she's been making all year, which she wanted to bring over for our residents. Wondered if I could come up with a way to give the items away.

Well, yeah!

I didn't know exactly how or when I would do it, but I was happy to receive her donation. And when she brought it all over, I was even more excited! Seriously. This dear woman brought over lots and lots of items. Pillows, wall hangings, pin cushsions, cross-stitch pictures, even some MSU Christmas trees. She put a lot of time and love into these pieces, and I was happy to be able to give them to the residents at Edgewood.

I decided to bring everything down to the library - which is right by the dining room - and invite people to come in before and after lunch to "Pick their own Christmas present".
Most residents were surprised that someone had brought in Christmas presents for them. And when they came into the library and saw how beautiful the work was, their smiles got even bigger. I reminded them a woman in our community had been working on these items throughout the year and that she'd brought them in as gifts. There was no money to be paid, just gifts to be received.
The 'ooh's and 'aah's, the smiles and joyful laughter, and the comments like, "Really? I can just have this?" made me so grateful for Wanda's kindness. I wish I had taken her phone number so I could contact her to thank her for her generosity and the joy she brought to Edgewood. I want to let her know the impact of her simple kindness.

But I don't know how to contact her. And so I am hoping that by sharing the lesson here, each one of us will be inspired to carry on Wanda's caring ways. Not just in this season, but all year through.

Simple kindnesses mean so much.

Like most of the blogging world, I am going to be taking a break for the next two weeks. LORD willing, I will be back on January 2, 2012.
Have a very Merry CHRISTmas. May the joy of the LORD fill your heart and your home!


Thursday, December 15, 2011

HE is With Us

"The virgin will be with child and will give birth to a son, and they will call him Immanuel" - which means, "God with us."

Matthew 1:23

Could there be anything more remarkable???

One might reason that God could be kind to us and care for us - from afar. That safe in Heaven - where everything is holy and perfect, like HIM - God could sit on His throne and watch over us.
He could keep His distance, and still be kind.
Goodness! God could keep His distance and still use us. Still guide us. Still speak to us.

From afar.

But HE had a different plan. HE became Immanuel. God with us.
Jesus left the glory of Heaven and came to messy Earth.
HE put on our skin. Became a helpless baby!
One minute HE was putting the stars in place, and the next minute HE was having His diaper changed.

What kind of Love does that???

REAL LOVE, I tell ya. Love that cares about more than just being kind, trusted, and loved back. Love that can change the world.
And that's just what HE did. Because Jesus came to Earth, because HE became God with us,
HE changed the world.

As we come closer to December 25, and the celebration of Immanuel - God with us! - I pray you will take time to reflect on, and praise God for, the fact that HE is with us.

Late-breaking news! Amanda is giving away a couple copies of my book, Confessions of an Irritable Mother. Click here to visit her blog and enter to win!


Wednesday, December 14, 2011

HE Uses People with Stories

The second point Pastor Marvin made in the sermon Sunday was that God uses people with "stories". That is, people with shady pasts whom you might consider are better for over-looking. (Click here if you want to read about his first point.)

Seriously! Have you ever really researched the characters in that genealogy list?
Abraham was the father of Isaac,
Isaac the father of Jacob,
Jacob the father of Judah and his brothers,
Judah the father of Perez and Zerah, whose mother was Tamar,
Perez the father of Hezron,
Hezron the father of Ram,
Ram the father of Amminadab,
Amminadab the father of Nahshon,
Nahshon the father of Salmon,
Salmon the father of Boaz, whose mother was Rahab,
Boaz the father of Obed, whose mother was Ruth,
Obed the father of Jesse,
and Jesse the father of King David.
David was the father of Solomon, whose mother had been Uriah’s wife

Matthew 1: 2-6

In this list we have a drunk, a couple of deceivers, a womanizer, a prostitute, and let's not forget the adulterer/murderer who closes out the whole thing!
Yes, there are some "good guys" in the line-up, to be sure. But what of the rubble? God, why did You include them???

Yet that is what HE does. God takes the unlikely candidates and uses them for His glory. And that is such an encouragement to me.
Our past doesn't matter. We are forgiven through the Blood of Jesus, and He makes us new. We don't have to be perfect. Because HE is.

So, let me ask you this: Are you ashamed of your past? Have you made horrible, awful decisions which you now regret? Have you counted yourself out as an instrument of God, because you think your story is too ugly?
May I invite you to re-think these things? God isn't afraid of your mess. (Give Genesis 38 a look!) God uses people with stories. HE can still use you. And it will be beautiful.


Tuesday, December 13, 2011

HE is a Promise Keeper

A record of the genealogy of Jesus Christ the son of David, the son of Abraham:

Matthew 1:1

Sunday I was so encouraged by this verse. By the Truth in it.

Are you wondering how? How on earth that statement could lead to anything but a boring list of names and "begat"s?

Then, allow me to share with you what my pastor shared with us at church.
He explained that the Jewish listeners - for whom this text was originally written - would have heard it differently than we do today. Pastor Marvin did a lot of explaining about how important genealogy was to the people of that day, but the kicker for me was the point he made about the Promise. Matthew specifically stated that Jesus was the son of David, and - on hearing that - the Jewish listeners of that day would have immediately recalled the promise God had made some 1,000 years earlier.
God had promised His people that He would send a Savior, who would be from the family line of David. And His people had waited. And waited.
Finally, after 1,000 years, Jesus arrived. And He was the son of David. Hearing about it would remind the Jewish people: God is a Promise Keeper.

After explaining the significance of Matthew's statement, Pastor Marvin reminded us that today, God is still a Promise Keeper. Though we may have to wait, we can trust God to keep His promises.
And that was the moment when I became so encouraged.

Allow me to back up about an hour: In the process of getting out the door to church Sunday morning, Joshua and I were frustrating each other. Big time. And I found myself at the place I often do, where I am rolling my eyes heaven-ward and asking, Really, God? Really??? And I am supposed to survive life with a teenage boy HOW???
Now, fast-forward an hour: I was encouraged because as Pastor Marvin was reminding us that God is a Promise Keeper, God was reminding me of the promise He made to me several years ago. Probably seven or eight, actually.

I was with my mentor and she was reading Luke 1 to me. As she read what the angel spoke to Zechariah about John, I could have sworn God was speaking to me about Joshua.
He will be a joy and delight to you, and many will rejoice because of his birth.

Luke 1:14
Ever since that day, I have been holding on to that promise. Trusting that God will use my son for His kingdom. Trusting that - even though I can't see it now - God is working in Joshua's heart and life, and preparing him to serve God and His kingdom.
And although Sunday morning - in the midst of my frustration - I had lost sight of God's promise, HE was faithful to remind me. He will be a joy and delight to you, and many will rejoice because of his birth.

I believe You, God. Because You are a Promise Keeper.

Are you holding on to God's promises today?


Monday, December 12, 2011

Friday, December 09, 2011

Lessons From the Edge

Singing is good for the spirit.

OK. OK. This is not a new lesson for me. For years, singing has been a form of therapy for me. It calms me down. Lifts my heart. Preserves the lives of those in my path. *wink*
I actually learned about a real physical thing that happens in us when we sing. Apparently singing releases endorphins, which make us feel better. I am not a scientist and cannot explain how any of that really works, but I can say this: Singing definitely makes me feel better.

So, on to the Lesson for this week.
On Wednesday we had a musical guest come in to entertain the residents at Edgewood. He's been with us once before and I invited him back because he has such a warm and engaging personality. The residents absolutely LOVE him. And since Christmas is just around the corner (Eeek! I really need to think about writing our Christmas letter!) Dennis played and sang lots of Christmas songs.
As Dennis sang, I was delighted to look around the atrium - and up into the balcony - and see so many residents singing right along with him. We usually have several residents who join in with the singing, but on Wednesday I'd say most of them were singing along. And the smiles on their faces, along with the sparkles in their eyes, gave me a pretty good indication of the condition of their spirits.
It was a beautiful sight to behold and confirmed my belief that singing is good for the spirit.
All this talk about singing, coupled with the fact that today's post is number 1111 on this blog, (Click on the 1111 link in the lables if you don't know the reason for my affinity to that number. *grin*) made me decide to do something special. That is, I decided to pick TWO winners for the Kathy Troccoli worship CD give-away. No, you don't need to share - I'll have a CD sent to BOTH of you!
And the winners are... Johanna and Ginny. Please email me your mailing addresses and I'll order the CDs for you!


Thursday, December 08, 2011

From Boiling to Melting

Have you entered my Christmas give-away?
If not, go here to enter. Then come back and read some more.

If boiling means a substance is changing from a liquid to a gas, and melting means it is changing from a solid to a liquid, I'm not quite sure it's possible for something to go from boiling to melting.

Except, that is, for this mother's heart within me.

On Tuesday I referred to the fact that I had a "moment" with my boys last week. To be perfectly honest, Joshua was the greater of the two offenders. I was quite angry with him.
Some might have described me as boiling mad.

But later that same evening (The one on which his behavior made me so angry!) Joshua knocked on my bedroom door, came in, and apologized for yelling at me.
It was a sincere apology.
And the boiling stopped.

The next day when I got home from work, I went to my room to change my clothes and saw two unusual things on my bed. A pot of flowers, and an essay. The title of the essay was "My Michigan Hero" and I recognized it as a standard eighth grade Language Arts assignment. Elizabeth had to do the same thing two years ago.
But I was shocked surprised when I read the essay.
Joshua had written all about his mom and dad (That would be Brian and I!) being his heroes. He wrote that while he sometimes thinks we're wrong, he realizes we know what's best for him and that we're trying to be of help to him as he grows. He also talked about the extent to which he appreciates the support we offer him. Said he realizes much of his direction is dependent on himself - he has to do the work and make the right choices - but he knows he can't do it without dear ol' mom and dad. We are his heroes!

And as I sat the paper down, I realized my heart had started melting. It had gone from boiling mad to melting in less than 24 hours.
Oh! The power of words!


Wednesday, December 07, 2011

A Christmas Gift for (One of) You

I've told you before how much I have been enjoying Kathy Troccoli's worship CD.

And I recall saying a time, or two, something like, You really need to get this CD.

Truly. Listening to that music is a wonderful worship experience. You are ushered into the presence of God, and led to adore Him. To give Him praise. To delight in His greatness. (No. I am not being paid to say this. It comes from my heart.)

So, as I was thinking about you - my dear blog friends - and considering the joy of giving gifts at Christmas, I decided I would give away one of these CDs.
If you would like to be in the drawing for this gift, simply leave me a comment saying so. I'll draw the winner Thursday night at 9:00 (EST) and tell you who it is in Friday's post.


Tuesday, December 06, 2011

Ever Felt Like Giving Up?

Last week I was having a rough time with my boys.
As I often do, I vented on Facebook. So much better for my spirit than screaming at the kids! *wink*
And as they often do, my Facebook friends supported me with prayer and encouraging words.

Love them!!!

I must share one of the quotes with you, which was shared with me. Wise words, these are!

The moment you think of giving up, think of the reason you have held on so long.


BTW, I am having a giveaway tomorrow. Be sure to stop by!

Monday, December 05, 2011

Friday, December 02, 2011

Lessons From the Edge

All you need is love.

OK, how many of you have a Beatles tune running through your head right now? Here's a youtube link: Go ahead and listen to it, but promise you'll come back to read about this week's lesson!

If you've read enough Lessons From the Edge posts, you are probably aware that several residents at Edgewood are my 'favorite'. And you may recall stories about one of those favorites who I call C, and how God has used her to teach me various lessons.
Well, C was the instrument for my lesson this week, too.

C is a very warm and caring woman. Our usual way of greeting is to hug one another and say, "Good morning, Sunshine!" She really is like a spot of sunshine in my day.
One day this week, however, when I hugged C, she held on just a little longer and tighter than usual. After our embrace she said, "Oh, I really need that love today." So I hugged her again and said, "Well, have another one!" And I squeezed her tight.
I wish you could have seen the smile on her face at that moment. Beautiful! And with that, she went on to do her other things - bustling about, smiling, and tending to whatever needs she might encounter.

And I stood for a moment thinking, Wow. That was easy. I didn't do much, just gave C a hug so she would be reminded I love her.
But that was enough. Because, really, all you need is love.


Thursday, December 01, 2011

Thank You, God, for Hope

As I walked to the kitchen in the morning, I nearly tripped over a book on the floor in the hallway. Left there by Matthew.
As I entered the kitchen, I admired the clean counter I'd worked to clear the previous night. The only 'extra' thing on it was a bottle of pills. Left there by Joshua.
And as I sat down to eat my breakfast - looking at the bottle of pills on the otherwise empty countertop - I thanked God. Not just for my breakfast, but also for the signs of hope my boys had left around.

You see, I have a goal. As my boys are growing up, I really want to see them taking more responsibility for themselves. I want to do a lot less nagging reminding. Want to see them thinking for themselves and doing what they need to do, because they know they need to do it. Not because I nagged told them to.
And although picking up after themselves (a.k.a. don't leave things laying around the house) is one of the topics about which I have been known to nag ramble, in this case I was OK with their unattended items.

Matthew's book reminded me of how well he's been working on his book report. We sat down together and charted a plan in his school planner - writing down the progress he should make every day. And he's been sticking pretty closely to it. Without me cajoling.
The bottle on the counter was strategically placed there by Joshua to remind himself to take his pill in the morning. He got it out of the cupboard and put it on the counter before he went to bed. He's been doing that for a few weeks now. And I knew he would put it away after he took his pill. He's been doing that, too.

So even though my boys both left things "out of place," God used those things to remind me He's working in them. Though they aren't perfect, God allowed me to notice some of the progress they're making. And that gave me hope. Beautiful hope!

And in the process of writing this post (started in the morning, finished at night...) these charming boys have given me cause to cling to that hope. *read that: They have been crazy, and NOT showing progress.*
So I cling to Hope.
Because I know God is faithful.
I trust this behavior is a passing phase.
And I'm convinced God isn't finished with them yet.

To what signs of Hope have you been clinging lately?