Friday, June 22, 2018

I Wrote to my Reps

So, this splitting-up-immigrant-families issue has been heavy on my mind and heart this week.
I've been seeing lots of opinions and reading articles and viewing news clips and trying to sort out what the truth is, and praying. Lots of praying!
Then somebody said, "Praying isn't enough," and I'm all "Wha???" Because I am convinced praying is the most important and powerful thing I can ever do.
Because prayer is my connection to God, and there is no power like the power of GOD.
But then I began thinking more about what she said. Better yet, what she (hopefully) meant by what she said. (Not that God is unable to be powerful enough, but that He would choose to use us.) And Matthew West's song began going through my head. And I began wondering, Really, what CAN I do???
I mean, seriously? Who am I? What connections do I have? How can I make a difference???
So I did the only thing I could think of to do.
I wrote to my congressman and both of my senators, asking them to work in unity for immigration reform - that the problems causing this crisis for families might be solved. But I know I cannot leave my "action" there. I am committed to praying for these leaders (and their colleagues) as they seek resolution. I will pray for God to lead them and make the way for unity and peace.
As I pray for them, I am also listening for whatever way HE might lead me to Do Something.
And as HE leads, I will follow.

Are you feeling a tug on your spirit to do something?
For the record, I am going to be taking a break from blogging in order to spend some wonderful time with my family. If God says the same, I'll be back here on July 2.


Thursday, June 21, 2018

Let Me at 'em!

I used to take my children to a cheap hair-cut place each month.
Then there came a time when the prospect of saving roughly $30 a month by doing the hair cuts myself motivated me to buy some trimmers and open Karen's Kids' Salon.
And I've been cutting my boys' hair ever since.
Yes, even now at 18 and 20!
In fact, just yesterday Josh asked, "Can you cut my hair tonight?" When Matthew got home from work he asked for a hair cut, too. And for about 15 minutes each, I was living a dream...
One-on-one time with each son, full freedom to run my fingers through their hair to reminisce when they were toddlers and liked me to play with their hair brush out tiny clippings, conversation about whatever, no rush to go somewhere or do something else, time to lay hands on their heads and pray God would fill them with all things lovely, pure, good, and praiseworthy.
Ah, yes. What a delightful time it was. My mother's heart is full.

Honestly, there was a time when I didn't have such fond feelings toward giving my boys a hair-cut. Probably because they didn't like getting them, didn't like sitting still or stopping whatever thing they were doing from which I had interrupted them. Indeed, there was a time when I might have considered letting them grow their hair long. *ahem*
But now?
Now - when time with my boys is so much more limited, when my mother's heart has grown and matured, when I realize the value of having my boys' undivided attention, when they ask me for a hair-cut - rather than wish I could take them to the barber, my heart jumps at the opportunity. Let me at'em!
Unless, of course, they ask after 10:00 at night. Because, hey, my salon? My hours!


Wednesday, June 20, 2018

My Heart's Cry

Ahhhh, LORD, there's so much!
I know I am asking You for so much. But You are our only hope.

You are THE only hope!

So LORD, I'm asking - because I'm needy.
WE are needy.
We need You.
Your grace. Your intervention. Your mighty hand and outstretched arm.
Please remove that cyst. Remove it completely!
Please heal that infection and restore strength.
Would You bring back life? Would You make new connections in that young brain?
Father, would You be father to the fatherless? Would You capture Your son's heart and make him into the man You want him to be? The father his son needs him to be? Please do whatever he needs You to do in his life to break chains and bring Truth.
Thank You for turning baby around. Please bring her safely into this world when the time is right.
I'm asking You, God, to protect the children. Comfort them, LORD, in the midst of all they do not understand. And please heal their families.
Creator God, Maker of the universe, our nation - our entire world - needs You. Would You lead our leaders? Would You bring peace among powers and in policies?
Ahhhh, Father, would You unite the Church? Please teach Your children how to love one another - by the power of Your Spirit, in spite of our differences.

I know I'm asking for so much, LORD. But I also know nothing is too difficult for You.
You have put these people, these circumstances, these needs on my heart, and I am crying out to You. For mercy.
For grace.
For miracles.
For testimonies.
Please demonstrate Your wisdom and power, for Your glory and praise.


Friday, June 15, 2018

Right-on-time Inspiration

The best way to find yourself is to lose yourself in the service of others.

So says the back of the t-shirt my son got for his senior sevice project.
Which I read as I folded said t-shirt, while doing laundry for the family.
Which I do a couple times a week, in addition to sheets and towels.
And grocery shopping, and meal planning and preparation.
Plus yard work, and pet care, and mess-cleaning-up, and counter-wiping, and bed-making (Mine and Brian's, that is. The kids are on their own!) and event-scheduling and planning, and prescription-getting, and problem-solving, and did I mention laundry?
Sometimes in the midst of all that stuff I do for my family I get lost in feelings of being under appreciated or taken for granted, and my mood gets a bit foul.
Annnnnd sometimes, at just the right time - in the middle of a thankless task - something reminds me that I am right where God wants me to be, doing just what He wants me to do.

Something like a quote on the back of a t-shirt - which I see while I'm folding laundry.

What are some unique ways God speaks to your heart???


Thursday, June 14, 2018

Reason #7 that I love my son's job.

Josh: I got so annoyed at work yesterday!
Me: Oh, really? What happened.
Josh: Well, I was on boats (Meaning, he was working in the boat rental shed.) and I had to recite the rules to everyone who rented a boat. And, well, maybe I've done this to you before, but it was soooooo annoying!
Me: Go on.
Josh: OK. So, I have said the rules often enough that I don't have to read them. I can just look at the people and tell them the rules. So I can see them not paying attention to me, or even starting to walk away while I'm still talking - as if they're trying to get me to hurry.
Me: Wow. Sounds frustrating. (While I'm chukling inside.)
Josh: And then they say things as if I can't hear them, or as if I've never heard it before. Like, "Ha ha. We can just go to the other side of the island and get out of the boat there. They won't be able to see us!"
Me: They said that??? (While inside I'm thinking, Yeah, I remember you saying similar things when you thought I couldn't hear.)
Josh: Yes. Oh, and then sometimes when I looked out from the boat house I could see them standing up in the boat, jumping, and I wanted to ask, "What did you think I meant when I told you it was against Park rules to stand up in the boats? Or, maybe you didn't hear that part because you had already walked away from me???"
Me: (With a mixture of sympathy and vindication.) I completely understand how you felt. (While also thinking, That "What did you think I meant" phrase, you got that from me, didn't you!!!)

Yeah. I must admit, witnessing my son get annoyed by the same things which bothered me as his mother in years past has a certain level of What-goes-around-comes-around satisfaction. *wink*


Wednesday, June 13, 2018

What If?

2 Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of many kinds, 3 because you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance. 4 Let perseverance finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything.

James 1:2-4

3 Not only so, but we also rejoice in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance; 4 perseverance, character; and character, hope.

Romans 5:3-4

I've been thinking a lot about these verses and their implications this week - since Sunday's sermon and Sunday evening's small group discussion.

Care to join me in my thoughts?

The thing is, as Paul and James were writing those words, they were thinking about the wonderful good God works in the lives of His children as they endure suffering. Paul and James were considering how beautiful a child of God becomes when that child has gone through God's refining fire. These guys had their eyes on the end result of the trial, and because of how glorious that result is, they had confidence to call us to rejoice - to consider it pure joy - while we're on our way.
And all that talk about God's amazing work because of His goodness, which is fueled by His wisdom and grace, though it appears to us as hardship - it all has me wondering, What if?

What if we trusted God so much, and believed so fully in His wisdom and grace, if we were so confident in His mercy and goodness - that we truly did rejoice in our sufferings and consider all our trials as pure joy?

Brothers and sisters, is it possible that Paul and James were inspired to write those words - by a God who desires to conform His children to the image of His Son?
Is it possible that the trials we face really are allowed by God for the purpose of building perseverence in us - to the end that we are mature and complete in character, truly lacking nothing?
What if we sincerely believed it? Could we rejoice in suffering?

Father, please work in me that which is pleasing to You. Please help me trust and believe in You so faithfully that I am able to consider it pure joy whenever I face trials of many kinds.
Jesus, I just want to be like YOU!!!


Tuesday, June 12, 2018

In the Fridge

With my crew, I do whatever is necessary.

No joke! One of my "crew members" opened the refrigerator last night and said, "Are these rubber bands meant to keep us out of this container, or are they here for another reason?"
Elizabeth replied, "Read the note!"


Monday, June 11, 2018

Friday, June 08, 2018

Mary, Mary, Quite Contrary

So, I've had a request for a garden update.
And truthfully, as I think about what to say, I'm feeling a little jealous of Ms. Contrary - because when asked, she seemed to know exactly how her garden was growing.

With silver bells and cockleshells, and pretty maids all in a row.

I, on the other hand, can only say I am going to have pretty Zinnias all in a row.
The Alyssum seems to be sparse, and I don't know what has happened to the Everlasting.
Ironic, isn't it, that the Everlastings seem to have disappeared?
Actually, I had more seeds for the Everlastings so I re-planted them last week - in the hopes that they will show themselves in due time. (It's the optimist in me!) The other part of the equation is, there are some green-things making an appearance along the back of the flower bed, and I *might* have dropped some seeds there. Or, they might be weeds trying to invade my flowers. And since I am not entirely sure how my garden grows, well, I am letting those green-things grow - in case they're flowers.

***At this point in writing, I pause to pray because my daughter is outside talking to my husband, and she's in tears, and I have a feeling I know the topic of discussion, so I am asking God to lead and speak. Then Phil walks through the kitchen and goes outside, too. And Brian invites him to join the conversation. So I step outside, as well, because it seems like it's time for a family talk.
Throughout the conversation I glance in the back of the yard at my little garden, and as we're drawing our chat to a close I am in amazement at the picture God had me drawing as I wrote this post.

See, the thing is, what we were talking about was Phil and Elizabeth's future. About finding jobs, and real adulting. About needing to have it all in place before they get married in October. About the pressure each feels to perform, to know the unknowable, to do that which is out of their control, and to have wisdom to operate within the areas where they do have influence.
And, man! It's so hard.
It's so unknown to them.
At this point all they see are some green-things, and Elizabeth and Phil don't know what is going to come of them. They know the future is on its way, but they don't know what it holds. They know that for which they are hoping, but they don't know if those are the seeds which are going to grow.
And I sat there with them - heart aching, as I wished I could just give them a blue-print to live by and follow for the next four months. But then I thought about my little garden, and this post, and the fact that I was going to write something about God knowing what those green-things are in the back row. About the truth that I don't need to be concerned about it, because HE already knows.
And, bam! Just like that God impressed my heart with the Truth that even as He knows about my flowers, HE also already knows the future for my daughter and her husband-to-be.
HE knows.
HE sees.
HE makes a way.
HE is faithful.
HE is good.
And we can trust Him. Even when we don't know.

Ahhhh, Mary, Mary, quite contrary - I may not know how my garden grows, but I know the Gardener.
So I am not worried!


Wednesday, June 06, 2018

What Are You Worth?

I walked into the kitchen to find Phil and Elizabeth sitting at the table - both on their computers - diligently seeking jobs and filling out applications.
And as I listened to them talking, I began praying.
Not, however, the usual, LORD, please lead them to the jobs You have for them. Please guide their steps and provide what they need...
Rather, this time my prayer was for their hearts. For their sense of worth. For their identities to be solidly founded in Jesus Christ and His love for them.
Why, you ask?
Well, because I heard discouragement and doubt in their conversation.
I heard questions like, "Am I qualified?" "Would they want me?" "Can I do this?" "Do I have enough experience?" "Am I right for this job?"
To me, those questions sounded an awful lot like, "Am I good enough???"
And it didn't take me long to relate those thoughts and feelings to similar ones I have had in the past. Yeah, every year right around tax time I am tempted to doubt my self worth, to question my contribution to society. Because I have to add up the dollars I've earned over the previous 12 months - according to how many times I have spoken and how many books I've sold - and report a number which is all too easy to tie to how much I matter. The bigger the number, the greater my importance - and the smaller it is, the less difference I am making in the world.
Am I good enough?
It is such an arbitrary measurement - the world's standard of our worth, and reading over those words makes the situation sound ridiculous to me. But at the time the feelings are very real.
And as I listened to my two job-seekers questioning their worth in the eyes of a possible-future-employer, I realized how apt they might be to tie their qualifications for the job to their overall worth as human beings. Like I sometimes do at tax time, I imagined they might be tempted to sit in feelings of self-deprication. And for a moment, I wished for those days teens of years ago when I could simply say, "You're wonderful, sweetheart, and I love you!" - with confidence that Elizabeth would believe me and skip away, smiling.
Ahhhh, but adult doubts are not so easily convinced. So I drop to my knees and I ask Jesus to lift these kids up. I ask Him to convince my job-seekers that their worth is in HIM. I pray that their resumes, their cover letters, their applications and their lists of qualifications would not hold weight in their hearts, only JESUS and His love for them.
And, I add, could You remind me about these truths again at tax time next year?

How do you measure your worth???


Tuesday, June 05, 2018

I'm Listening

So, you know those times when it seems like God is repeating Himself, and you find yourself thinking, Gee, I guess I better pay attention?
Yeah. That's been happening to me.
The other day I noticed I was exceptionally touchy. Getting easily irritated by things which really weren't a big deal. Little things someone said or did would set me off on an internal huff (Thank You, Jesus, for helping me contain it all inside!) and my mood and spirit were getting sour.
In spite of my bad attitude God's Spirit was able to nudge me enough to realize what was going on, and I asked Him to change my heart.
The next day my devotional reading was titled, "His Spirit Will Change the Heart". (I love it when God wastes no time getting my attention!) It talked about how God - through Jesus and the Holy Spirit - fulfilled the promise He made to Moses (Deut. 30:6) and which He repeated in Jeremiah 31:33 and Ezekiel 36:27. I read with eagerness, and echoed the prayer at the end which begged of the Spirit to change my heart to be pleasing to my Father.
And that afternoon I saw a post on Facebook which called followers of Jesus to seek to be conformed to His likeness. I read and I prayed, Yes, Lord, please make me more like YOU!

At the beginning of this year God impressed the phrase, More of YOU, on my heart.
Then He made a way for me to take part in a class all about becoming Christlike.
His Spirit keeps speaking, and I am determined to listen.
Yes, Lord! I want to see less of me and more, so much more, of You!!!


Monday, June 04, 2018

Friday, June 01, 2018

Does Prayer Even Matter?

So said the text message I received yesterday from a friend for whom I have been praying.
And my heart and prayer echoed the sentiment. Thank You, JESUS! Thank You for hearing us and answering our cries for mercy!

We praise God for the ways He is [providing].
So reads the post on a Facebook page regrading a young boy for whom I am praying. And I am encouraged as I read the things HE has done for this family. Encouraged that God will continue to carry them, and do miraculous things as they continue this journey.

"I'm calling for my prayer! I feel great and I know God is taking care of me."
So says my friend who is calling me from the hospital, for whom I pray every time we speak on the phone. (I pray for her when we aren't on the phone, too!) And I just love her eagerness to pray together. I love that she is growing in dependence on HIM.

But then there are texts that say this:
All I can do now is cry!
Even though I've been praying.

And posts like this:
My dear husband lost his battle last night. He is with the LORD now.
Even though I was among thousands and thousands in Facebook-world who were praying.

And phone calls that don't come because there are no words to say.
Even though my prayers have continued.

It's so easy to have faith and be prayerful when we see God moving in the ways we had hoped He would move. Yet it can be so difficult to remain faithful and continue in prayer when we feel like our prayers aren't impacting change.
Sometimes I think - when I receive a "good report", Oh, I guess God had that all handled. Maybe I didn't need to pray after all. And other times I think - when things aren't going the way I had been praying they would, What's the point? If God isn't willing, what difference do my prayers make?
And in both scenarios I can be tempted to get off my knees and let the chips fall where they may.
I can be inclined toward spiritualized apathy - you know, God's will will prevail, so I'm just going to let Him be sovereign.
And that's the holy paradox, the beautiful mystery of prayer. God's will is going to prevail. He is sovereign. And at the same time, He calls us to pray. God invites us to petition His heart on behalf of our world, and He listens. Yes, He listens and He moves. In fact, He moves perfectly - even when I can't see or understand it.
It is for these reasons I will keep on praying.
For healing. For provision. For transfomation. For salvation. For protection. For wisdom. For guidance. For grace. For peace. For God's glory to be seen all over the earth!
Yes. Our prayers do matter.
Because God is good and He is listening.