Wednesday, January 31, 2018

Looking Back

This showed up in my Facebook "memories" Monday.
Made me chuckle.

No Kidding. I'm having a "moment" with Joshua and as he stomps off, I open the journal in my hand and my eyes fall on these words: "God, I love Joshua so much. I do. Yet I am so frustrated by his attitude right now."
Yep. I've been here before.
And God has a sense of humor!
Yes, this was the scene on January 29, 2010.
Josh - freshly 12 years old, me - revisiting old times, wondering how I was going to make it through the teen years.
Now he's 20. Rarely stomps off anymore. I guess that's because we don't have very many "moments" these days. I don't remember when in the past 8 years our "moments" started to dwindle, but I do remember a time when I didn't believe they ever would begin to go away.
Yet, here we are.

Eight years ago I was looking back and noticing God's humor - which got me through a difficult moment. Today I am looking back and noticing His faithfulness - which has brought me through some really tough years.
Ahhhh, my friend, keep holding onto Him. The wait may be long, and you may feel like giving up. I get it! But keep holding on. Because HE is going to bring you through.


Tuesday, January 30, 2018

Revenge of the Luddites

Anything that can go wrong will go wrong.

Are you familiar with that annoying "law"?
I feel like it's the story of my life, I tell ya!
But the good news is, God is bigger than anything, and He's in all of it. Good thing, too, or I might not have made it to the retreat for which I was speaking this past weekend.
See, the thing is, usually whenever I travel anywhere I map out my trip ahead of time, and write the directions down on an information sheet I keep for each speaking event. But since a certain significant person in my life often accuses me of being a Luddite, I have begun to change my ways. That is, I have begun relying on the GPS on my phone.
Instead of the old fashioned practice of using ink and paper.

So, Friday I spent the night with my daughter, because Wheaton is a short distance from where the retreat was being held - and I really didn't want to drive 4+ hours on Saturday morning. Anyway, I was bunking with my girl Friday and after going out to dinner with Elizabeth, her beau and a couple of her roommates, I was ready for sleep. I got my jammies on, plugged in my phone (but didn't turn it off like I usually do, because it was serving as my alarm clock) and snuggled up on the couch.
Saturday morning I woke up before my alarm (Guess I could have turned my phone off over night after all.), got ready for the retreat, and was on my way. Of course, before I walked out the door I entered the address of the retreat location on my phone so I would know how to get where I was going. However, somewhere between walking out the door and pulling out of my parking spot I must have inadvertently touched the screen and changed the location on the GPS. At first I followed the directions even though they weren't what I was expecting because I figured, the phone knows. But when, "Continue for 112 miles," came out of the speaker, I knew something had gone terribly wrong. So I pulled over to the side of the highway and re-entered the address I needed.
Got turned around, was heading the right way, and felt especially thankful that I tend to plan too much extra time for trips such as these. Until...
I glanced at my phone to see how far it was until my next exit and - and, for some reason the screen was black. So I swiped it, but nothing happened. And I pressed the little button on the front, but still nothing happened. So I picked it up and tried the power button. And it came back to life.
Except, instead of going to the usual screen, it was all white and said something like, "Low Battery warning. Battery at 5%. Charge now, stupid!" And I'm all, Whaaa???? I plugged it in last night. What happened? Which was just about the moment I realized I never actually looked to see that it was charging. Didn't have the presence of mind to also realize how good it would have been to have the foresight to know I didn't need to leave it on all night, because I would wake up before the alarm, anyway.
Yeah, didn't think about the irony of that circumstance. Instead, I began praying, God, I need you to get me to this thing. And I threw in a plea for my phone battery.
Buuuuut, the phone died before God had a chance to answer that one, so I was left with my thoughts - and the deep regret that I'd opted for the non-Luddite plan for getting to the retreat.
Which is when I decided to go ultra-Luddite.
That is, I stopped to ask for directions.
I had no time to waste, so I stopped at the first place I could find. A retirement center. The irony was dripping all around me! Unfortunately, the first person I encountered couldn't help me. Fortunately, the second one could. In fact, she led me to a row of computers (Which are apparently for the use of the residents. More irony.) and let me check in with my faithful friend, Mapquest. I wrote down the directions, Luddite-style, and made my way back to the van. (Obstacles totaling approximately another 10-15 minutes surfaced, but I'll spare you the details. *eye roll*)

The good news? I got back on the road and this time felt assured I was heading the right way. (Though I wished I could call the retreat coordinator and let her know I was coming - since I originally told her I would aim to arrive 90 minutes prior to the current time. But I couldn't because, um, dead battery.)
Regardless, I had my old-fashioned, hand-written, Luddite-style directions and - with them - I made it to the retreat.
With a little time to spare.

Guess who has now committed to ink-on-paper directions, from here to eternity and beyond?


Monday, January 29, 2018

Friday, January 26, 2018

Touched by an Angel

Sooooo, I had an incredibly delightful visit with Angel on Tuesday. And yesterday I intended to craft a nicely worded post to tell you all about it.

However, I received a phone call yesterday morning from a young lady who is dear to my heart. She wanted to come over to talk about how to trust God. And, friends, as much as I love writing - and as much as I love you - well, with that phone call, all thoughts of blogging went right out the window.

Two hours talking with a searching soul about God and life and trust and God?
That wins hands down. Every time!

P.S. I'll be speaking at a women's retreat Saturday and Sunday this weekend. Would so appreciate your prayers for my sensitivity to the Holy Spirit - and His voice to be heard by the women in attendance.


Wednesday, January 24, 2018

I've Gone to the Dark Side

Not sure how things are in your neck of the woods, but in my neighborhood we have spent the past MANY months dealing with an annoying little critter known as Halyomorpha halys.
Er, not true. That's their scientific name.
They're better known as stink bugs.
And they're everywhere!
Over the summer, these invaders made their way into the neighborhood, and they haven't left. I thought the cold months of winter would make them go away, but I was wrong. Though, I found some measure of satisfaction when we had REALLY cold days recently by catching the bugs in a cup and flinging them outside to freeze to death in the single-digit temperatures play in the snow.
However, the past couple of days have seen warmer temps, which means the stink bugs won't freeze to death have no snow in which to play. And as I talked about the situation with another non-stink-bug-loving-friend of mine I was moved to change my approach to these invaders.
That is, rather than sending them outside to not die play, I have learned a way to kill them immediately they like swimming in soapy water. See???

Ahhh, my friend told me to put a drop of dish washing liquid in some water and let the bugs play. Good *clean* fun, right??? Yeah. They seem to really enjoy floating on their backs.
I think I'm going to enjoy this new game.

What ever shall I do if the stink bugs stop coming over to play??? *wink*


Monday, January 22, 2018

Friday, January 19, 2018

To Every Mother of "Just One Child"

I had the wonderful opportunity to speak for a MOPS group yesterday morning. And after the meeting I had a conversation with one of the moms - which I want to share with you today. In the hopes that you are, or know someone, who needs to be in on it, too.

This particular young woman has a daughter and, unless God decides to perform a miracle, it looks like she won't be having any more children. So she wanted to ask me, since she only has one child - is it wrong for her to feel overwh... That is, she wondered, because she has just one child - and not two or three or four like other moms, shouldn't she be more rela... Er, see, she wanted to know if I thought since she doesn't have a bunch of kids if, if she should...
"never get frustrated, or feel overwhelmed, or want to cry?" I said, finishing the question for her.
Yeah. That was what she was trying to ask.
This dear young woman was feeling guilty for feeling overwhelmed - because she only has one child.
As if somehow it isn't OK to struggle until you have several kids. As if somewhere there is a rule saying all mothers of single children must have it all together all the time. As if it is unacceptable for someone to think they have a hard time when their time isn't as hard as someone else's.
As if, my big toe!!!
I sort of got onto a soapbox and shared with her rather passionately my belief that wherever we are in motherhood, with whatever number of children we have, we're going to face struggles. That a mother of one isn't "less than" because she doesn't have two and yet feels overwhelmed. And a mother of two isn't a "failure" because she has trouble managing the day, while another mother who has three children seems to be getting along quite nicely. And so on.
The thing is, I think mothers are way to prone to being driven by comparison and feelings of guilt. And I think this dear young woman was stuck right there in the middle of it. So we talked about letting go of the guilt, and not believing the lies our enemy tries to feed us. And we prayed, and we hugged. And that was all good.
But I can't get her out of my mind now.
So I wanted to write this post for her - and every other mother like her.

Dear Mother of "Just One Child",
When I was a mother of just one child, some days I felt like a rock star if I was showered and dressed by 2 in the afternoon. When I only had one child I sometimes cried myself to sleep because I didn't know what I was doing and I couldn't get her to stop crying, either. Before I had my second child, I was tired and unsure of myself and some days I didn't think I was going to make it to the next day. When it was just me, hubby, and baby there were times when I longed for it to be just me and hubby again. Because, darn it! One kid was difficult!!!
AND, I was amazed by and so thankful for the precious little human God had chosen to give me.
(For the record, I had the very same feelings when I had my second child. And my third.)
See, motherhood is a challenge - because it is a challenge. Regardless of how many children call you, "Mommy." Please don't beat yourself up because someone else - who has more children than you do - looks like she has it down. Please don't listen to the lie which says you should be able to handle this gig perfectly, since you only have one child. Or the one which says you have no right to be tired and overwhelmed, because there's only one little person depending on you. They're lies! Nothing more.
Instead, please join me at the foot of the cross with every other mother who is willing to admit she cannot do this mothering thing alone. Here, where we are free to be real, where there is no judgment or condemnation, where the King will lift us up and make us new.


Wednesday, January 17, 2018

God Loves...Larry Nassar???

I find myself completely convinced of a Truth, yet simultaneously struggling to believe it.

That is, I am absolutely, one-hundred percent, without a doubt convinced that God loves everyone. So much so that He gave His Son to die for us all, so that if anyone believes in Him - that person will not perish, but will have eternal life. Even the most vile of sinners. Yes, even that one.

But yesterday I watched a couple of testimonies given by women during the sentencing of a sexual predator. You've probably heard about him in the news. His name is Larry Nassar. And I was absolutely sickened by hearing what he did to these women when they were girls. It was wicked and vile and terrible and it destroyed part of their young lives. And I found myself nodding in agreement as I read comments people were posting with regard to their hopes for his future.
Then the camera moved to focus on Larry, and I saw the profile of a man with his head in his hands as he listened to what these women had to say to him. I wondered what must be going through his head. I felt disgusted at the sight of him. And then I thought, God loves that man.
But, wait! How could HE???
After all that man has done to those precious girls... How could God love him???

I cannot wrap my little brain around that kind of love. I cannot explain or understand it. I cannot imagine how it could apply even to a man like Nassar. Yet I am completely convinced of it. My Precepts class has just started a study of Jeremiah and yesterday God used our study to speak to my heart about His love for Larry Nassar.
Are you familiar with the book of Jeremiah? We've only made it through chapter four, but already I have seen the amazing love of God. His people have acted wickedly. God accuses them of forsaking Him, of acting as the harlot by worshiping other gods. He calls them faithless and treacherous, and tells them judgment is coming. And, certainly, judgment is deserved!
Yet, in nearly the same breath, God calls His people to repent. Because judgment is not what He wants to give. What He really wants is for His people to return to Himself so they can be in relationship with Him. Over and over again, God calls His faithless people to return - to acknowledge their iniquity, to confess their sin and disobedience - and to just return. Because HE LOVES THEM, in spite of their wickedness and treachery - which bring judgment when there is no repentance.
***I pray the United States of America would also heed this call!!!***
And so, God's dealing with - and desire for - His wicked, adulterous, unfaithful people makes me believe that HE also loves Larry Nassar. If Larry came to God with a broken and repentant heart, if he confessed his sin and sought forgiveness through the cleansing blood of Jesus, he could be made new by the power of the Holy Spirit.

So is my prayer for him.


Tuesday, January 16, 2018

Dear Frustrated Mother in the Parking Lot

Oh, precious young momma, I saw you today. Trudging through the slushy mess with those two little guys and your cart full of groceries. Ahhh, those fellas couldn't have been older than three. And I wondered when I saw you, are they twins? Or are you babysitting one of them? Or are they brothers, nine-or-so months apart?
Whatever the case, I could tell they were having fun.
I mean, that is, because I heard you before I saw you.
The noisy boys laughing and carrying on, like little boys do.
Little boys who are enjoying a slushy, messy parking lot.

Truth be told? I didn't only hear the boys before I saw all of you.
I heard you, too.
Trying to reign them in.
Then I found you in my eyesight, just about the time one of your charges face-planted in the slush. Just about the time you reached down and grabbed his coat to hoist him back up onto his feet. And I heard the tone of your voice change. Caught the frustration level increase, and chastisement enter in. I heard you saying very loudly, "Bobby, Michael, Joey... whoever you are, stop this nonsesnse!"
I sighed and I thought, Oh, precious young momma, this is a hard day, isn't it? I mean, no day is fun when you have to take two toddlers to the grocery store, and I bet you're exhausted right now. From the looks of that cart, the three of you have been all over the store!
Yeah, I remember grocery shopping with my kids. Honestly one of the most draining activities of my young-mother-life. So I understand the volume with which you are speaking, and I get that you just want those boys to act like little gentlemen - not little boys. But, dear one, they're boys and that's OK. The dirt will come out in the wash. The boots will dry. It's going to be alright.
I'm not going to say these days are going to go by so fast, or that you're going to miss them. Not going to tell you it's going to get easier, either. But I will say this: You're going to make it, friend. I know, because I have been where you are, and I am making it, too. God has been ruthlessly faithful to my kids and me, and I am convinced HE is the One who is bringing us through these days. And so, along with these words from my heart to yours, I am praying the God of the universe will draw your heart to His and fill it with peace and joy.


Friday, January 12, 2018

Touched by an Angel

Ahhh, this week I was touched by several angels!

It started Sunday when I led the church service at the facility where I spent 4+ years as the activity director. (I do this the first Sunday of each month.) I am always, always delighted to see those folks and talk to them about my Jesus. However, Sunday I noticed someone was missing and when I asked his wife where he was, she told me he'd gone to the hospital. So I got the details from her and made plans to pay him a visit. From there, we all entered into the presence of our God to worship Him and hear His Word. We loved on God, and then we loved on each other. Hugs for everyone!!!
And that was my first encounter with an angel this week. Or, more accurately, a host of angels, I suppose.

Tuesday afternoon I went over to visit Angel at her home. She was asleep when I arrived, so I just started reading to her from the Psalms. I don't know how many chapters I read, but I spent an hour paging through them - reading and thanking God for His goodness. When it was time for me to leave I prayed over Angel, then she awoke and asked, "Do you have to leave?" Oh, Angel, I would sit here all day and read to you if I could! I leaned in and gave her a smooch, and told her I'd be back next Tuesday.
Angel touch number 2.

That night I made my trip to the hospital to visit B, the one who was missing Sunday, and - oh - what a joy that was! Because of a stroke, B is unable to speak his thoughts - so we can't really carry on a conversation. Thus after I filled him in on some of the news of the day, I read a few Psalms and then we sang a few hymns. (He can't speak, but he can still sing!) And although B cannot voice his thoughts, his tender heart and the sweet Spirit of Jesus in him make every moment in his presence a delight. What a joy. What a joy!
Angel number 3.

Then came yesterday. And a visit with a precious woman I've been seeing for the past year. She is someone I know from my years at Edgewood. "Merry" is presently in a rehab facility and I haven't seen her for a couple of weeks because I did not know where she was. Until yesterday. And I popped in for a visit just as she was being taken down for PT - so I went along to be her cheerleader. After therapy, Merry and I sat in her room for a while and just talked. She told me about her struggles to get better, and I did my best to encourage her. And when it was time for me to leave, when she reached out her arms for a hug, when I said, "I love you, Merry," and she said, "I love you, too, Karen," the joy of the Lord filled my heart.
Angel encounter number 4.

Ahhhh, and there was one more. She's a new friend. Actually, yesterday was only the second time I have visited her. And our visit was short, because she had plans to go listen to the musical entertainment who had come to her facility. (The activity director in me LOVES that my new friend goes to all the activities!!!) But in our limited time together we managed to reflect on the goodness of God and His ability to watch over all things. We talked about heart-aches and happy times. She showed me pictures of her family, and she allowed me to pray for her before we left her apartment so she could go to the concert. And as we said good-bye, my new friend hugged me and said, "Thank you for the prayer." Twice.
The fifth angel.

I don't know why God has chosen to bless me with so many angels-on-earth, but I am ever grateful for each touch and encounter.


Wednesday, January 10, 2018

When God Ordains a Rip-off

So, Monday morning I was getting into the van to go grocery shopping when I noticed the bags of returnable cans and bottles hanging on the wall. And I thought, Oh good! I should take those in. (Because I usually only "see" them or think about returning them when I am not on my way to the store. So they just hang there, looking trashy. And I make a mental note about returning them. But I never do. So the timing was perfect on this occasion, and I tossed those bags in the van.)
The first thing I did when I got to the store was go to the recycling center and take care of my returns. Then I placed my receipts in my purse - to redeem when I paid for my groceries.

Fast forward through my shopping trip and I'm in the check-out lane.
Just like I always do, I put my bags on the belt and set my coupons on top of them - including my bottle-return slips. And just like he always does, the cashier took my coupons - including my bottle-return slips - and put them on top of the little stand by the belt, to scan after all my groceries.
I continued emptying my cart, placing things on the belt when I noticed a woman picking up a couple of slips from the floor - by the little stand where my coupons were placed. But I didn't think more of it than, Something fell, and she's picking it up.
Until the cashier said, "Oh, no! That lady just took your bottle-return slips!" And it made sense to me that the pieces of paper she was picking up were my slips which had, uh, slipped.
Their worth was all of maybe $4.50, and I wasn't about to make a fuss about it. So I shrugged it off and said it was no big deal. "She probably needs it more than I do," I replied. "Yeah," he said, "it kind of looked like she might." And that was that.
Until I was leaving the store and started thinking about the situation again. When I began wondering about the woman who took those bottle-return slips. What is her circumstance? How desperate is she feeling? Does she have a place to live? Food to eat? Then I started wondering, and hoping, Did she find herself at the end of hope this morning? Did she ask God to provide? Might God have blown those bottle-return slips onto the floor so she would see them and pick them up? Could it be that He is using this little circumstance to give her hope?
I mean, I know $4.50 isn't much and I don't want to over-spiritualize things. But everything was orchestrated so perfectly - that I would remember to take the bottles and cans back today, that I would be in the check-out lane and the bottle slips would fall to the floor at the same time she was walking by, that she would have the courage to pick them up and I would be distracted enough to not really care. And that Monday morning I asked God again to take me to the places He wanted me to go, and do through me the things He wanted to do. The more I thought about it, the more I couldn't deny God's fingerprints.

So now I am praying for this woman I do not know, for a circumstance I do not know, to a God I do know. I am asking Him to provide for her - not only materially, but also with hope. Because I fully believe God ordained that rip-off exchange at the store. She got $4.50, and I got the call to pray.
And if God is at work, I want to be part of it!


Tuesday, January 09, 2018

When Interruptions Don't Annoy Me

I tend to be a person who likes to operate on a plan.

I like having - and sticking to - a schedule.

Because, you know, conducting life on a schedule makes me feel comfortable, and in control.

But over the course of time, God has been showing me that my time is HIS, not mine. That my control is a silly figment of my imagination. That HE, in fact, is much better than I am at making plans.
Indeed, it has gotten to the point that I try to remember to begin each day with a prayer committing my time to God and asking Him to order my steps. To take me to the places HE wants me to go.
And I admit, oftentimes this prayer comes with the underlying need of His mercy - to be able to get through a long list of tasks and things to do.

Except, there was this one day...
A day when I had only one thing on my calendar in the morning, and an afternoon to just chill. And I was so looking forward to it. I mean, I hadn't decided what I was going to do - maybe Bible study, or prepare for an upcoming retreat, or read a book, or - take a nap! So in the morning I sat and prayed, asking God to order my steps. To lead me through the day according to His plans.
And then I was off to do that one thing which was on my schedule.

As I was walking into that one thing, a friend with whom I was serving asked if I was doing anything afterwards. And when I replied that I was not, she asked if I could give her a ride home when the one thing was finished. Annnnd, since I wasn't doing anything, I told her I could do that. She doesn't live too far out of the way, and I figured one little interruption wouldn't spoil whatever God had in store for the afternoon.
As soon as we got to where we were serving, I got a text message.
I have a huge favor to ask...
Which turned into a phone call so we could work out the details.
See, this friend of mine had a job interview and had a last-minute need for child care, and a ride to the interview. She wanted to know if I could help her out. And, since I wasn't doing anything, I told her I could. The timing of her interview would allow for me to do the one thing I was doing, give Friend #1 a ride home, and then stop by my house for lunch before going to help Friend #2. Though this interruption was going to take longer, and I was beginning to wonder when there would be time for God to do whatever it was He wanted to do with me that afternoon.

So, I did that one thing which was on my calendar to do. And as I was taking care of my first interruption driving Friend #1 home, we shared delightful conversation and a couple of prayer requests. It was really sweet to have that time alone together, and my Friend seemed pleased by it. Then I zipped home, grabbed something to eat, and flew out the door to manage my second interruption pick up Friend #2 and her little guy.
And that trip?
Took longer than I thought it would.
(Although, as I sat in the van during Friend #2's interview and little guy was snoozing in his car seat, I did manage to get a few minutes of the nap about which I'd been thinking.)
As we were driving back to her home, Friend #2 gushed about how much she appreciated my help. And I was kind of thinking, Wow. Didn't realize it was such a big deal. I mean, I wasn't doing anything, anyway. Although, now that I look at the time I realize these interruptions have eaten away at the free time I thought I was going to have for God to use me in some way today. But, whatever. Maybe next time. Then we hugged, said Good-bye, and I was on my way back home to start dinner.
And as I drove, something strange occurred to me.
I was not annoyed by the interruptions which had filled my afternoon and kept me from whatever plans God had for me. And, trust me, for someone as prone to schedules and plans as I am - it is unusual for interruptions to not annoy me!
I mean, I had specifically prayed - asking God to order my steps and lead me through the day according to His plans. And then I got presented with these interruptions.
Yet somehow I wasn't annoyed by them.

I suppose most of you saw it coming way before I did, but at that moment it occurred to me that God had - indeed - answered my prayers. What I saw as interruption was really God's hand showing me the way to go. And that, my friends, is when interruptions don't annoy me!


Monday, January 08, 2018