Tuesday, September 17, 2019

Happy Anniversary-ish to Me

I don't remember the day I officially started (and stopped...) but I know it was last September.
And since we've just passed the mid-point of this September I'm declaring whatever the specific date was, we're close enough to it now that I can celebrate my anniversary. That is to say, approximately one year ago I started following the Keto diet, and I stopped taking my anti-depressant.
And I realize it is quite possible that the significance of my previous statement is likely to be lost on just about everybody but me, so I'll explain.
I began (somewhat reluctantly) taking an anti-depressant in April of 2011. I was reluctant - not because I didn't need it - but because I was ashamed that I did need it. Thus over the course of the next three or so years I attempted to wean myself off of it a few times, until I realized how stupid it was of me to deny myself a thing which was truly helping me. And, moreso, until God was finally able to convince me that I needed to not be ashamed of the way He had chosen to work in me.
So when last September came along and I learned that some people who followed the Keto diet were able to successfully stop using their anti-depressant, well I was very interested. Not because of shame this time, rather because if I don't need to take a drug I'd rather not take it!
For that reason, I started eating "Keto" and stopped taking my pill. (Fully aware that the diet might not work for me and I may need to start taking my pill again. And completely willing to do so if necessary. Because the one thing I for sure did not want to "go back" to again - was living depressed.)
But, but, it's been a year.
It has been a whole year that I have been drug-free (And ice cream-free, and popcorn-free, and candybar-free, and bread-free, and if I keep going with this list depression may kick in, so I'm going to stop. *wink*) and I feel great!
It would appear that my brain is getting exactly what it needs from what I am eating. (Also avoiding what it doesn't need from what I am not eating...) And since I've made it to my one-year anniversary, I'm making it official: I've found a new way to eat which is good for my body and my mental health, and I'm sticking with it.

I thank God and I give Him praise for leading me on this journey. HE has used the pain of those depressed days to bring me closer to His heart that I might recieve His love more freely. HE has used the battle with shame and uncertainty to lead me to trust Him even when I didn't understand. And HE continues to draw my eyes to Himself when I am tempted to go down the road of self-condemnation. God is my Healer, and I am forever thankful.

Karen

Monday, September 16, 2019

Friday, September 13, 2019

It's My Pleasure

One of the things I love about working at Chick-fil-A is the team environment and support-one-another mentality which is so prevalent.
For example, when I'm taking an order and my guest wants lemonade or tea, oftentimes one of my co-workers will get the drink for me. (The lemonade and tea are behind us, so it takes an extra little minute to prepare.) That way, I don't need to leave the counter - and the guest's experience is more streamlined. And if I am not busy, I do the same favor for my co-workers.
Other times - especially when we're in a rush - I may notice that my lids or sauces are getting low. Or, surprise! My cups are all gone. And it's hard to find the time to re-stock because the line is so long and I don't feel like I can step away. But then - surprise, again! - I look down and see that some angel has seen my need and re-filled whatever was low or missing. (Sometimes an employee is specificially assigned to that job - just to keep things stocked during the busy times.)
So, yesterday when I was the beneficiary of both of these kindnesses I started to wonder something.
What would it be like if all of us operated in this manner everywhere we went?
What if we were always on alert for ways we could help one another?
What if, when we saw a need with which we could assist, we went ahead and offered help?
Without being asked for it???
And then, when we gave the unanticipated help - and the surprised and delighted recipent smiled happily and gushed, "Wow. Thanks so much!" - what if we responded with all sincerety, "It's my pleasure!"?

Y'all, I'm thinking we could create a small piece (PEACE!) of heaven on earth if we operated in this way.
Who wants to join me in giving it a try???

Karen

Thursday, September 12, 2019

OVERCOMER

Have you seen OVERCOMER yet?
It's the new Kendrick Brothers' movie.
You know the Kendrick Brothers, right? The makers of WAR ROOM.
I loved WAR ROOM.
Honestly, though, I sorta felt like it ruined me for movies. Because every time I saw a movie after seeing WAR ROOM (Six times in the theater!) I'd say something like, "Well, yeah. It was good. But it wasn't WAR ROOM." I compared everything I saw to that movie, and nothing ever measured up.
Until OVERCOMER.
That is, WAR ROOM is still my favorite, but OVERCOMER measures up.
Seriously. It's THAT good.
So, if you haven't gone yet - get out there and see it!
(And if you're local, invite me. I've already seen it twice, but I'd be happy to go again!)

Karen

Wednesday, September 11, 2019

God and the SoS

Yesterday I had an appointment at the Secretary of State's office to renew my driver's license. Just before I left the house I jotted a few things on a piece of paper which I needed to pick up at the grocery store. And for "some reason" I glanced at the grocery list from Monday which had fallen out of my purse. In so doing, I noticed an item which I'd forgotten to get Monday and I quickly added it to my new mini-list. Then I looked heaven-ward and whispered, Thanks, Lord. You've always got my back, don't You!
And with an extra spring in my step because God's faithfulness delights me, I grabbed my Precept materials (Because I was going to work on the current study while at the SoS, then go straight to church for Precept class.) and headed out the door.
Upon arrival at the SoS I went inside and sat down - thankful I had an appointment because there was already a long line of people - and opened up my Precept folder. Which is also just about the moment I realized I didn't have the envelope with me which contained all my paperwork for the license renewal. The envelope I had intentionally put on the table Monday night with everything in it, so I could easily grab it and have everything with me which was necessary for an expeditious visit to the known-for-taking-hours-to-get-through-Secretary-of-State-office.
Yeah. That envelope.
I picked up my Precept stuff, but not the envelope.
With a heavy sigh I gathered up my things and left the building. Realizing there was NO WAY I could make it home and back again before the If-you-haven't-arrived-within-ten-minutes-of-your-scheduled-appointment,-your appointment-will-be-canceled-and-you-will-need-to-reschedule time was up.
And suddenly I found myself thinking, Wait a minute, God. I thought You had my back. How is it that You noticed my grocery oversight, but not the envelope? Huh, God? How???
If my heart and mind hadn't been racing trying to figure out how I was going to re-schedule a new appointment this week, I might have heard His Spirit whisper, Trust Me, dear one.
As it was, however, my heart and mind were racing.
Not doing much listening.
So when I got home and picked up the elusive envelope (Which was sitting right on top of my Bible!), I wasn't prepared to discover that I was going to need to turn right around and go back to the SoS.
When I got onto the SoS website to reschedule, I found the next available appointment isn't until the end of September - which is past my birthday - which means I would be driving on an expired license if I waited for an appointment. And I wasn't going to do that.
My only viable option was to go back with my paperwork, and wait in line.
Thus, I gathered up my things again (Including the envelope this time!) and plodded back through the door, resigned to the idea that I would most likely miss attending Precept.
And musing once more, Thought You had my back, God.
Yet as I made the second trip to the SoS His Spirit managed to convince mine that maybe - just maybe - HE was working something for good.
It wasn't the lady I sat next to when I arrived though. She was number 67, 61 was being served, and it was only a matter of minutes until her number was called and she was on her merry little way. However, the lady who filled that empty seat was with me for the next almost-two-hours until it was my turn. And it didn't take me long to understand that God had orchestrated our meeting.
She was a believer, so there was no eternity-altering conversation. But the time we spent together was mutually-encouraging and God-honoring. We prayed for each other just before my number was called, and I trust that some who overheard our discussion may have been built up, as well.

As it turned out, I made it to Precept for half of the video lesson - and was inspired by the message I heard. And through it all God convinced me He does, indeed, have my back.
Even when I have to wait to see the evidence.

Karen

Tuesday, September 10, 2019

Wanna Play?

My daughter knows me so well.
We spent this past weekend with Elizabeth and Phil, Phil's mom, and Brian's mom. And Saturday afternoon as we were all sitting together Elizabeth said to me, "Hey, do you want to play a word game?" Then she gave her beautiful smile which said, I know you're going to say, "yes," because you simply can't resist a word game.
True, that.
I responded enthusiastially, "I'm in!"
Everyone else followed suit.
And with that, Elizabeth began explaining the rules.
One person thinks of a secret word and tells everyone the letter with which it begins.
Everyone else tries to think of what the word might be, and when they have a guess they say another word which gives a clue as to the word they are presently considering.
For example, let's say we're playing the game. I think of a word and announce that it starts with "H". You suspect that I might be thinking "horse" so you say, "pony" or "equine" or some other word which you think will get sombody else to think "horse," too.
When another player thinks they know what word you are considering they call out, "Gotcha!" Then you both count down, "3-2-1" and simultaneously call out the word you're both thinking about.
If the two players say the same word, the person who has chosen the secret word must supply the next letter. (If the guess-ers don't say the same word no new letter is revealed.) And the game continues with players thinking of possible words, giving clues, saying "Gotcha!", and counting down to the pronouncement of the guess.
HOWEVER, if the keeper-of-the-secret-word also thinks they know the word which is about to be guessed, they can prevent being required to give up the next letter. That is, when the two players are counting down and as they call out the word they're guessing, the keeper-of-the-secret-word may simultaneously call out, "It isn't ****!"
For example, in the scene above let's say you just said, "equine" and another player said, "Gotcha!"
I'm pretty sure you're both about to call out "horse", so I wait for you to say "3-2-1" then while the two of you are saying "horse", I call out "It isn't 'horse'!" And now I don't have to give you the next letter in my secret word.

When somebody figures out the correct word, gives a clue which gets somebody else to also think of the correct word, and counts down to call out said correct word, there is a winner and the winner gets to choose the next secret word. (Of course, if the keeper-of-the-secret-word realizes the players are about to call out the correct word he/she cannot call out, "It isn't ****!" because that would be a lie. And lying isn't nice.)
So, that's the game. It's my new favorite!
And the next time we're together with two or three other people, I'd love to play it with you! :)

Karen

Friday, September 06, 2019

It's My Pleasure

You know those viral videos you've seen of some wonderful act performed by a person who was at the right place at the right time?
The ones which warm your heart and give you hope that there is some level of goodness in mankind?
Well, if only I was allowed to have my phone on my person when I'm working, I am certain I could have captured another one of those videos this week.
That is, on Monday I was working at the front counter when a young couple came to my register and handed me a phone. On its screen was a detailed list of the order they wanted to place. People often bring their order in written form when they're getting lunch for friends, or simply have a large order - so I didn't think anything of it. I just looked at the phone and started to enter the order into the register.
I had a question about one of the items, so I looked up and started to ask - but this couple immediately cut me off. Not saying anything, just shaking their heads and slightly waving their hands.
And I didn't understand what was the problem.
I really just had a simple question.
That's when my teammate who was at the register next to mine stepped in. She said, "Hey, I know ASL. I can help!" And then I realized the reason for the written order. This couple was deaf! They came prepared to place an order, not to answer my verbal questions. And with that, my teammate and I switched registers - I completing her guest's order, and she mine.
Though I did my best to give my full attention to my "new" guest, I could not help but also watch the scene transpiring next to me. This time the hands which were waving were communicating with one another. Questions were asked and answered, people were heard who couldn't hear, and value was given so much beyond a good meal.
When all was said and done, I hugged my teammate and said, "That was beautiful!"
And the next guest in line agreed.
"Yes," he said. "That was beautiful!"

Karen

Wednesday, September 04, 2019

One More Lesson

OK.
One more day of processing, and then I think I'll be ready to move on.
That is, God has been working in me off-screen and I am thankful. But part of how He has wired me is that I do a good amount of mind-heart reconciliation through writing, thus blogging often is a tool God uses to help me work through my "things".
And right now my mind and my heart need to have a talk.
What I mean to say is last Thursday when Josh and Matthew and I were sitting around Josh's bed petting Mindy and freely allowing our tears to flow, I realized something.
I didn't care one iota about the countless times Mindy had peed on the carpeting in my house.
The scratches on the window sill and the wall underneath it (Which are there from all the times Mindy ran to the window and got up on her back legs - using the wall and window sill to support her front legs - so she could look out to see who was coming up the driveway.) didn't bother me.
I wasn't even upset about all of my scrapbooks which are each missing a corner because Mindy chewed up the whole stack of them when she was a puppy.
Rather than rehearsing in my head the list of all her transgressions, Thursday afternoon I was focused on giving love to that dog. I was remembering so many of the precious moments I had with her, the ways God spoke Truth to me through her, and especially the blessing her companionship had been to Josh.
Yeah.
Especially that - as my heart broke for his breaking heart.
The thing is, every time Mindy peed on the carpet I was sincerely, truly, and absolutely annoyed.
I was put out because I was always the one who had to clean it up, and I was miffed because she knew better. Because she could do better. And I secretly suspected she was doing it just to aggravate me. Thus I would give her the stink-eye, and do my best to make sure she knew I was NOT happy with her for doing what she did.
But sitting with her as she lay dying, I truly did not care about any of those moments.
They didn't matter!
All that counted Thursday afternoon was that Mindy had been a blessing to my family, and I wanted to give her love.

And now that we're on the other side of Thursday and all it's pain, I'm wondering if God has one more lesson for me which He wants to speak through that dog's life.
That is, I realized as I sat by Mindy's side that my change of heart came from my change in perspective. I wasn't upset with her for her failings, because I was acutely aware how precious - how fleeting - was the time we had with her. Loving her being became more important than despising her doing.
Am I the only one who needs to read that statement again???
Loving her being became more important than despising her doing.
And therein, I believe, may be the final word God wants to speak through Mindy's life.
Oh, that by the power of His Spirit my heart may elevate the value of a person's being over the value of their doing. Yes, LORD, please work in me these changes of perspective which are pleasing to You. Please make me more like Jesus!

Karen

Monday, September 02, 2019

HE Knew. HE Knows.

"I'm going to rest, and wait for God to lead."

Wow.
I had no idea what was in store when I wrote that statement two weeks ago.
That is, I rested. I did rest.
And it was good.
I spent time in the Word.
I spent time doing fun and frivilous stuff. (Might have become addicted to a new word game... *ahem*)
I just spent time being. Not concerned about "doing". And it was good.
Very good.
And although my mind was completely unprepared for how this two-week rest would come to an end, I absolutely believe God used the time to ready my heart.

Last Wednesday evening Josh brought Mindy over to the house, very concerned about a sudden change in her behavior. She had vomited and was extremely lethargic. She didn't even wag her tail in expectancy of being petted when somebody entered the room, let alone get up to greet newcomers at the door. Something was definitely wrong, so Josh planned to contact the vet in the morning.
Thursday morning found the two of them at the MSU Vet Clinic (Our vet told him to go there right away.) and after probing, an ultrasound, and needles it was determined that Mindy had a growth in her abdomen which had begun to produce internal bleeding. Most likely cancer.
The surgery for thousands of dollars with a prognosis of "may extend life a few weeks to a few months" was not an option. So Josh brought Mindy back to his apartment to spend time with her - after an infusion of fluids, anti-nausea medication, and pain medication.
Matthew went over between classes to see her.
And I joined them when I got off work. Walked into Josh's bedroom to find Mindy on his mattress, and the two boys hoovering over her in tears as they anticipated what was to come.
My own tears quickly followed.
Brian left work early Thursday afternoon and came over, too. Then the three of us (Brian, Josh, and me.) sat beside Mindy petting her and loving her as her abdomen continued to fill with blood. Much too quickly, her breathing became labored (Because her lungs didn't have enough room to fully function anymore, due to the collection of blood in her abdomen.) and we knew it was time to go back to the clinic.
Oh, how hard that was to do!
Every move was a huge effort.
Picking her up off the mattress.
Leaving the apartment.
Getting into the van.
And ESPECIALLY getting out of the van once we arrived at the clinic.
Because every step brought us closer to the decision to which nobody wanted to give voice.
"Yes. It's time. We're going to do it."
We all knew it was the best thing. Allowing Mindy to keep going was only going to allow us to not make the hard choice. She wasn't going to get better or feel better, only worse. And so, after much grace and patience on the part of the MSU Vet Clinic staff, we sat outside - Mindy on Josh's lap - and said good-bye to our dear little dog.

I still know we made the right decision. To free Mindy from her suffering was the most humane thing we could do. But the same pain which caused the majority of my tears that day still gets them to flow even as I type these words and re-live the memory. That is, the suffering of my beloved son who lost his cherished pup too quickly. I can't even put into words the way it felt to watch his heart breaking and his world come crashing in - as the inevitable became reality.
My 21-year-old man-child became a toddler again in my eyes and I just wanted to gather him up in my arms and kiss him and promise him the owie would go away soon.
But I couldn't.
Because this kind of owie can't be healed by a mommy's kiss.
So I pretty much just stayed by his side, rubbed his back on occasion, and prayed. Prayed that the Spirit of God would comfort and heal him, and do all the things I only wished I was able to do.
And that's where I see God has been preparing me over the past two weeks as I have been resting.
HE has been leading me to rest in Him. To be.
To not be concerned about doing.
And I think that is what Josh needed more than anything else on Thursday. There was nothing I could do or say which would make the events of the day less painful. But as Brian and I were leaving his apartment Thursday night after we'd taken him home, he said to us, "Thanks for being with me today." (And I literally just remembered his statement as I was coming to this point of writing this post.)
Indeed. God knew what we were going to be facing this week, and HE prepared me for it perfectly.
How comforting it is to me to realize HE knows what's still to come - and to have confidence that I can trust Him every step of the way.

Karen

Monday, August 19, 2019

Resting

Brian grumbled at his computer Saturday night and I asked what was wrong.
"Oh, apparently I typed too fast for this thing to keep up and it can't respond to my request."
I shook my head and said, "I can relate. Sometimes stuff comes too quickly for me to respond well, too."
"Yeah," he said, "but you aren't a machine."
Oooooo! The truth in that statement.
I am not a machine.
Though Brian was really just expressing his frustration with his computer, I caught the message from my loving Father. You aren't a machine, dear. Take a break.
And so I shall.
I won't be blogging this week. Maybe longer. We'll see.
I'm going to rest, and wait for God to lead.

May you find your rest in HIM, too!

Karen

Friday, August 16, 2019

It's My Pleasure

So, it is always our goal at Chick-fil-A to get orders fulfilled and people through the drive-thru as quickly as possible.
But sometimes, for one reason or another, there is a delay. If there are other cars in line whose orders are ready, we typically ask the person "at the window" to pull ahead so we can serve the other guests while their order is being completed.
However, sometimes there are no other cars in line. And on those occassions I often enjoy conversations with our guest while we wait. Such was the case with a local school teacher last week. In fact, we were having such a nice exchange that even after I passed out her order - she stayed and we continued talking.
Somehow we got on to the subject of reading books aloud, which is when - for some reason - I told her about my love of reading to children. I told her about a Performance of Literature class I took in college, and how I love to "become" the characters in books when I read aloud. She said, "You should come read to my class in March. That's March-is-Reading month. My first-graders would love you!" And just as I was telling her I would be happy to do it, a car pulled up in the drive-thru and we bid one another farewell.
She drove away, the day progressed, and life continued.
But I kept thinking about reading to those kids.
Like, for days I kept thinking about it.
Until I finally decided to make an attempt to contact this teacher-from-the-drive-thru-who-might-not-know-I-was-serious-when-I-said-I-would-read-to-her-class. She had told me the name of her school and that she was a first-grade teacher, so - armed with that knowledge - I got online and found her school. Then I sent her an email via the school secretary, and expressed my sincere desire to read to her kids.
And I just got a response.
She really wants me to read to her first-graders.
So, yeah, someday the Chick-fil-A lady is going to go to school to read children's books.
And it will absolutely be my pleasure!

Karen

Thursday, August 15, 2019

For the Boys

Yesterday I washed the sheets and towels.
(Which I always do on Wednesdays.)
And I included the boys' sheets in the chore.
That is, I stripped their beds for them in order to wash their sheets, too.
(And I don't always do this.)
That is, my habit with Matthew is to remind him that it's Wednesday and I'm washing sheets - and if he wants his sheets washed, he should take them off his bed and bring them downstairs.
Except, yesterday Matthew was at work when I got home from work in the afternoon, so it was too late for me to remind him. At first I was tempted to reason, He knows it's Wednesday, and if he wanted his sheets washed he could have stripped his bed. But then I thought about the fact that I had left him a note in the morning asking him to order something for me with his Amazon Prime account. And when I got out of work, there was his text: the deed is done. And I reasoned further, Yeah. He knows it's Wednesday. He could have stripped his bed. But he did me a favor for me - which allowed me to not have to go shopping. I can do this favor for him.
So I laundered and folded his sheets and took them to his room.
But what about Josh?
Well, regarding Josh I simply reasoned, He's been living the bachelor life since January. Heaven only knows when the last time was these sheets got washed! And I immediately stripped his bed and loaded the washing machine. #OnceAMomAlwaysAMom

Karen

Wednesday, August 14, 2019

HIS Grace is Amazing

So, Josh and Mindy moved back in Monday night.
Just staying for a couple of weeks while they're "between apartments".
And yesterday morning when I went downstairs to do my work-out, I took one look at the floor and let go of a great big Really???-We're-back-at-it-again? sigh.
Yup. Right there in the middle of the floor was the evidence.

Mindy peed on the carpet.

In a huff I went back upstairs to gather the necessary cleaning supplies. 
And both times I passed the guilty subject (And she knew she was guilty. I could see it in her expression.) I gave her my best stink-eye. 
I was not happy with that animal, and I wanted her to know it. 
I even announced her transgression to Brian and Matthew, in the hopes that they would share in my indignation. (My level of maturity is staggering, isn't it?!)
When I came back up again to put the cleaning supplies away I let another stink-eye stare fly. 
And on the way back down, I did it one more time.
Except that time my angst was interrupted by a Voice speaking so loudly to my heart, I could almost hear it with my ears. The Voice said, Hmmmm. I bet you're thankful I don't treat you this way every time you fall short. 
And just like that, I knew God intended to use Mindy's mess for good. 
In the tender and gracious way HE always does, God reminded me that HE never holds my sin against me. HE forgives me for free, and HE refuses to bring it back up.
Even when I fail in the same way over and over, again.
So before I started my workout, I sat on the bench with my elbows on my knees and my head bowed low, and I thanked God for HIS grace - which is so amazing.

(And then I said, "OK. I think I've learned my lesson. Now, can You do something about this dog???") *wink*

Karen

Monday, August 12, 2019

Paying Attention to my Heart

I've been thinking about a video devotion to post for today.
Been praying that God would lead me to the thing HE wanted me to say.
But my spirit just isn't in it.
To be honest, I had a hard time this past weekend at work. And as I pondered this post I got a distinct sense that a better use of my time would be to spend it with the LORD - seeking His help in showing me how to forgive, and to let Him bring peace to my heart. So, that's what I'm going to do - instead of creating a video for this week.
One thing I've learned at this point in my life is this: It's always better to follow His plans than to try to force mine!

So, I'll see you back here in a day, or two.

Karen

Friday, August 09, 2019

It's My Pleasure

"I'm out of order at the window."
"Heard!"

"I need another bagel for this order."
"Heard!"

"We're out of biscuits. No more biscuits this morning."
"Heard!"

"The coffee is almost empty."
"Heard!"

If you were to spend time hanging around the expiditing area at Chick-fil-A, these are some of the brief conversations you would be likely to hear. When information is given, or a need is made known, there is always an audible and definitive response so that the speaker knows he or she has been Heard!
(Ahhh, if I could bottle this phenomenon and sell it, I'm sure every mother of a teenager would be lined up at my door to buy it. *wink*)
The thing is, clear and reliable communication is necessary to make a place like Chick-fil-A operate successfully. Without it, we'd be a mess. And our guests would not be well-served.
But as I was noticing these responses flying through the air this week, and when I thought about it a little more deeply, I realized deliberate communication is so much more than just a good business practice.
It's a life skill.
It's a relationship builder.
It's a way to honor people.
And I am not just saying that because I majored in Communication, and I feel the need to justify those years of study.
When we're working at Chick-fil-A to fulfill orders and bring our guests satisfaction, and when we express a need and then hear, "Heard!" we know a few things:
1) The message we wished to convey has been received.
That is key. And it's good. But it is only the beginning. Because in hearing, "Heard!" we also know this:
2) We are not alone.
3) We have support behind us.
4) What we've said matters to others.
5) Our needs are going to be met.
And it occured to me, if this practice helps make work a pleasure, how much more could thoughtful communication do for our relationships??!!

Karen

Thursday, August 08, 2019

LORD, Thank You

LORD, Thank You!!!

That's all I want to say today.
I don't want to craft clever words or do anything to in any way draw attention to myself.
God has been so kind and so faithful to me, and I just want to give HIM thanks.

Karen

Wednesday, August 07, 2019

He Got Me, Too. (And so did HE!)

I didn't plan for the titles of my posts between yesterday and today to work out as they did.
The fact of the matter is, most of the time things work out well in my life, it's because I didn't plan for it.
God is in the details, and HE works it out.

Anyway, yesterday I shared that Matthew "got me" by calling me out on something similar to which I have chided him all these years.
And today I'm sharing that Brian "got me" 26 years ago when we were just kids, saying "I do!" to a lifetime of love and adventure and crazy and challenges and we-had-no-idea-what-we-were-getting-into.
Whew! Twenty-six years, three children, a son-in-law, four homes, three major career changes (for Brian), brain surgery and depression (for me), and one faithful God - who has seen us through it all.
And HE has surely seen us.
Right from the start.
It's funny, now that I'm thinking about it I am not sure I have ever shared here the fact that Brian is the one the Lord used to lead me to saving faith. So, at the risk of being redundant I'll tell the story now.
(It's a great story. Well worth repeating!)
We were freshmen in college, and Brian was on my Hall Council committee. (He chose my committee because he thought I was cute!) And although I had a boyfriend, Brian caught my eye (Because he was cute, too!) and I began being interested in him.
Over time I became single and started spending more time with Brian.
One of the first things he asked me was if I went to church. And I told him I did. (Because I did. That is, when I was growing up I "did" go to church. Nevermind that I hadn't gone since arriving at college. That wasn't what he asked. *ahem*) Then he asked if I would like to go to church with him sometime, and I'm all, "Of course!" Thinking, I would go anywhere if it meant spending time with this very cute guy.
So we started going to church together.
In fact, we started going a lot of places together.
And with all that time side by side, we also started talking a lot about God and the Bible and what it meant to be a Christian. It was through those conversations that I began to understand, I was NOT a Christian.
That is, I grew up going to church. I knew the basic Bible stories. I knew the (surface) meaning of Christmas and Easter. I had gone to church camp almost every summer when I was a kid, I was in the youth choir and youth groups at church, and I did all the things typical church-kids do, so I assumed I was a Christian.
Somehow, though, I had missed the part about having a relationship with God through Jesus.
I mean, I knew Jesus died on the cross to forgive the sins of all mankind. I just didn't know I needed to respond to Him. In my mind, salvation was just a fact of history. Not a choice I needed to make.
But through Brian's testimony and witness God revealed the Truth to me. HE wooed my heart to His. And HE invited me into a relationship I could not refuse.
I often laugh at the irony of it.
This boy-crazy girl, chasing after another cute guy - who introduced her to the greatest love of her life.
So, yeah. He got me.
And so did HE!!!

Karen

Tuesday, August 06, 2019

He Got Me

I remember when my children were babies and we had frequent back-and-forth moments when they cried to be picked up, then - after what felt like mere seconds in my arms - they wiggled and cried because they wanted to be put back down.
Up and down.
Up and down.
Finally, with a sense of exasperation, I would say, "Child! Do you want to be up or down???"

Then they turned into toddlers who would grunt and point at objects which I would pick up and put into their pudgy little hands. In the blink of an eye that toddler would throw the desired object onto the floor, and grunt and point. So I'd retrieve it again and give it back, only to watch it be thrown down again.
And, surely, the grunts would follow.
Eventually I got tired of the game and I would ask, "Alright. Do you want it, or not?"

When they became small children with more autonomy I was cut out of the game, but the yo-yo nature of things continued. However, this time the offense was the slamming door (If it got closed at all.) and the stream of snow or leaves or cut grass or mud - depending on the season.
You know what I'm talking about, right?
The contsant running in and out of the house by children who can't decide which location is more fun, who keep remembering new things they "NEED" to have with them, or who simply can't sit still in one spot for more than five minutes.
And I (After the hundredth time the door got slammed and the floor got more dirty.) moaned loudly, "Either you're in, or you're out. Make a decision!"

Then those children became teenagers and a different door was constantly opening and closing.
The refrigerator door. (And this was particularly true with the boys.)
I cannot count the times I would witness them opening the refrigerator door, looking inside for several moments, then closing the door with a sigh and walking away. But it almost never failed that they would return to the kitchen less than 15 minutes later, and repeat the process.
Open refrigerator. Look inside. For a while. Sigh. Close refrigerator. Walk away.
Repeat, ad nauseam.
Until I finally put my foot down and declared, "New options are not going to magically appear in the refrigerator. Are you going to eat what's in there, or not???"

So, why am I thinking about these moments?
Well, because yesterday I was doing my workout downstairs while Matthew was in the kitchen.
For one of my exercises I ran up the stairs, skipping every other step.
Ten times.
Which means while Matthew was eating breakfast he heard clomp, clomp, clomp, clomp, clomp, clomp. Then he saw me appear in the doorway, turn around, and go back down.
And on rep number seven he met me at the top of the steps and asked, "Are you staying up or down?"
On my way back down the stairs I said, "I'll be up three more times!"
And I thought, Well played, son. You got me!

Karen

Monday, August 05, 2019

Friday, August 02, 2019

It's My Pleasure

So Wednesday morning I was working in the drive-thru when I looked on the screen for the next order and saw the name, "Mark". Then Mark pulled up to the window and I noticed an "A&W" logo on his shirt. And I paused.
And I looked more intently at his face.
And I searched the recesses of my memory.
And I blurted out, "Mark Mulder???!!!"
At which point he looked at me in shock (Or was it panic? I'm not sure.) and said, "Yes. Who are you?"
I replied, "Karen Hoss, er, I used to be Karen Sheaffer. And you were my very first boss, 31 years ago at A&W in Grand Ledge!"
"Whoa! What have you been doing since then?" he asked. And I gave the brief synopsis: went to college, got married, raised three kids, and now here I am - back in the drive-thru. He told me briefly about his family, we exchanged pleasantries, I gave Mark his order, and that was that.
As the day progressed I reflected back on that fun trip down memory lane several times. And more than once I pondered, How odd is it that 31 years after my first-ever job I am back doing the same thing? Forty-seven years old, working in the drive-thru. Hmmmm. What am I doing here???
But just about each time that what-am-I-doing-here thought entered my mind either someone ordered a meal for $11.11, or some cute kid caught my eye and we started playing peek-a-boo, or a distraught adult let me know they were having a rough day and I tried to offer encouragement, or God in some other way reminded me that He called me to work at Chick-fil-A for such a time as this.
Truly, I love my job.
I love the interactions I have with all the different people.
I am delighted by opportunities to speak life, and share smiles.
While taking orders, serving drinks, fetching dipping sauces, and passing out food may not be glamorous or exciting or prestigious or anything most adults would aspire to do, I love what doing those things allows me to do:
To love people.
To offer encouragement to a needy soul.
Whatever it is the Lord calls me to do and say.

My name is Karen Hossink. I am 47-years old. I work at Chick-fil-A - in the drive-thru, at the front counter, in the dining room - doing work a teenager can do.
My goal is not to become a manager and take over the place.
I simply want to be the best employee I can be, providing the best service I can give, all for God's glory.
It's my pleasure!!!

Karen

Tuesday, July 30, 2019

Like Father, Like Son

Sunday night I was getting ready for bed when my phone rang.
My first thought was, Gee. It's late. Who would be calling me at this hour? What if it's an emergency?? Oh, dear!!!
So I quickly dropped what I was doing and went to answer my phone.
As I picked it up, I saw that it was my son. And I thought again, Oh, no. What's happened?
So, as cheerfully as I could I said, "Hello!" and waited in anticipation.
Then I heard his voice. "Uh, yeah. I'm at Meijer and I'm looking for refried beans like you use when you make burritos..."
Relieved that there was no emergency, my mind immediately searched for that recipe - assuming Josh was going to make them for himself and was calling to ask about the rest of the ingredients.
But my mind was wrong.
Because the rest of his sentence went like this, "...but all I see are baked beans and black beans. Where are the refried beans?" I chuckled inside as I instructed him to move a couple aisles closer to the front of the store where the tomatoes and tomato sauces are.
"You'll find them in that aisle," I said.
"OK. Thanks. Bye," were his parting words.
Then I hung up the phone, shaking my head as I recalled the many times his father has done the exact same thing. Because, apparently it's easier to call me than it is to find a store employee when one needs help locating an elusive item.
Guess I should be honored that they think I know so much. *wink*

Karen

Monday, July 29, 2019

Friday, July 26, 2019

It's My Pleasure

So, I haven't even set foot in Chick-fil-A this week.

Because I've been at church for VBS!

Lemme tell you about my week at Vacation Bible School.
Initially I was going to be in a room with 3rd and 4th grade girls.
In my imagination we were going to have fun girl-time for several minutes each day as we wandered between activities. We were going to have significant conversations about God, and grow in our relationships with Him through Jesus. The time we spent together was going to be engaging, yet calm. Intriguing, yet orderly.
That's what I do each Sunday morning.
It's what I requested and was granted.
It's my comfort zone.
It's what I wanted.
But it isn't what God planned.
Because it isn't what I needed.

Rather...
Due to the abundance of 3rd and 4th grade boys who registered for VBS, my room was turned into a girls AND boys class. (Now, I raised two boys. I'm not afraid of them, and I don't think they have cooties. But put me in a room with 12 or so of them between the ages of 8 and 10, and I get a little nervous!)
So I probably don't need to mention there were times when our little room of nearly 30 kids got kinda loud - and at times it felt like pandemonium was going to rule the day.
But, I will.
Because it did.
I mean, somehow (That would be, by the grace of God alone - through the faithful prayers of His servants.) we managed to make it from one activity to another (Even when I took us to the wrong one once!) and we covered all the lessons, and we had good discussions, and all that. But it wasn't what I had anticipated or expected or planned. And part of me felt like I was failing.
Then - on top of my fear of failure, God began addressing the needs HE saw in me.
That is, in the tender, gracious, undeniable way HE always does God alerted me to the pride which was lurking in my heart. Time and time again - even in the middle of moments when I was delighting in His love and sharing it with the kids - God's Spirit would call my attention to my sin and HE would beckon me to put on humility, instead.
Sometimes I wondered if anyone could hear it echoing in my heart.
Daughter, please put your self away. I Am the focal point. The glory is all Mine. You needn't be concerned about what they think of you, or how anyone may be evaluating your performance. None of that really matters. Just keep your eyes on Me. Keep pointing these precious children to ME.
And when I did that?
When I surrendered my will to HIS...
When I trusted HIM to reach the children in spite of the noise...
When I believed HE is able to work in ways I do not understand and did not plan...
 When I listened to my Father and did what HE said? Oh, the joy!

So, in spite of not going the way I originally believed it would, my week at VBS resulted in joyful fellowship with my Father, more hugs from my new young friends than I can count, and delightful memories which I'll cherish for a very long time to come.
Dare I say? This week was even better than a peach shake with a side of waffle fries!

Karen

Thursday, July 25, 2019

HE is Good. So Good!

Praise be to God,
who has not rejected my prayer
or withheld his love from me!

~Psalm 66:20

OK, here it is.
The reason I am so enamored with this verse, and the psalm, and ultimately the GOD behind it all.

Because He could have!

God could have rejected the prayer of the psalmist, and He could have withheld His love.
God was in no way obligated to turn toward the psalmist in mercy. Nor is He indebted to us.
God did not have to forgive the sin spoken of in v.18. He wasn't forced to give ear to the psalmist's cries, or to pay attention to his praise. God could have turned aside His holy head and completely ignored him.
He could have.
But HE didn't.
The perfect love of God compels HIM to show kindness to everyone who surrenders to Him.
And it is that lovingkindness upon which I want to focus in our study today.

The word love in Psalm 66:20 comes from the Hebrew word checed and, as used in this verse, it refers specifically to "lovingkindness in redemption from enemies and troubles".
Our psalmist friend has certainly accounted for plenty of troubles in this psalm, hasn't he!
Are you familiar with Joseph's story?
(I am referring to Joseph the son of Jacob, not Jesus' daddy.)
The Joseph whose story is told in Genesis certainly had his share of troubles. It'll take some time but - if you have never read about Joseph - I would encourage you to get your Bible, start in Genesis 37 and don't stop until the end of the book. It's some amazing stuff!
The very quick version is this: Joseph was Jacob's favorite, and his brothers were terribly jealous of him. So much so that they sold him into slavery but made up a story of his death to pass on to Jacob. Joseph was puchased by a rich man whose wife tried to seduce him, such that he ended up in prison. And here's where we get to that lovingkindness.
But while Joseph was there in the prison, 21 the Lord was with him; he showed him kindness and granted him favor in the eyes of the prison warden.

~Genesis 39:20b-21
That kindness God showed Joseph? The same love spoken of by the psalmist in 66:20.
And it was that lovingkindness which led to Joseph being released from prison, and put in charge of the land of Egypt, and organizing food for seven years of famine, and providing food and home and hope for his family (Yes, the same brothers who once sold him off eventually came to him for help.). And it was that lovingkindness which ultimately led to Joseph recognizing the grace and mercy and power of a perfectly loving God.
3 Joseph said to his brothers, “I am Joseph! Is my father still living?” But his brothers were not able to answer him, because they were terrified at his presence.
4 Then Joseph said to his brothers, “Come close to me.” When they had done so, he said, “I am your brother Joseph, the one you sold into Egypt! 5 And now, do not be distressed and do not be angry with yourselves for selling me here, because it was to save lives that God sent me ahead of you. 6 For two years now there has been famine in the land, and for the next five years there will be no plowing and reaping. 7 But God sent me ahead of you to preserve for you a remnant on earth and to save your lives by a great deliverance.
8 “So then, it was not you who sent me here, but God.

~Genesis 45:3-8a
Who did Joseph believe was responsible for his life in Egypt?
Much more happens in the story over the next five chapters - including the death of Jacob - and Joseph's brothers ended up terrified again that he was going to seek revenge on them.
19 But Joseph said to them, “Don’t be afraid. Am I in the place of God? 20 You intended to harm me, but God intended it for good to accomplish what is now being done, the saving of many lives. 21 So then, don’t be afraid. I will provide for you and your children.” And he reassured them and spoke kindly to them.

~Genesis 50:19-21
Again, to Whom did Joseph give cedit for his position in Egypt?
All through his trials, Joseph had experienced the lovingkindness of God. How did that relationship impact both his outlook, and his understanding of his circumstance?

Both Joseph and the psalmist experienced the checed of God. They each faced troubles and they each were delivered from them through God's lovingkindness. And as a result, they each trusted that God is good. Even when their circumstances were not.
How about you, friend? Do you have the same confidence?
Perhaps an appropriate response would be for you to spend some moments in prayer - thanking HIM for the hope you have, or asking HIM to fill in the hole.
May God - who is always good - supply you with the fullest joy as you trust in HIM today.

Karen

Wednesday, July 24, 2019

The Victor

Do you remember my tale of woe regarding the savage herbivore who ravished my would-be lilies?
Do you remember that the short one escaped?


Well, just take a look at it now!

Ahhhh, yes! And I am so happy with my precious, beautiful, shorter-than-the-others, brave little flower. Even more, I am delighted that one other flower had not yet shown itself when the angel of death loomed near. If you look closely you can see its bud just above the bloom.
Mmmhmmm. I'm going to have TWO flowers blooming in that little lily patch for the rest of the summer.
In spite of the voracity of our neighborhood deer.

Take that, Bambi!

Karen

Tuesday, July 23, 2019

It's the Little Things

So, the other day I made a quick stop at the store on my way home from work.
(Just had to pick up a few things.)
When I got home I guess I made some noise as I set the bag and my purse on the counter - because Matthew came jogging into the kitchen where I was standing, taking the few items out of said bag.
I looked up, a bit startled by his sudden appearance, and saw an equally confused look on his face. He must have made a quick assessment of the scene and determined that I didn't need any help because he said, "Oh, you don't have more bags to bring in?"
At which point the light went on for me, and I understood Matthew's actions.
For many years I have tried to instill in my kids a mind-set for service. Such as, when I get home from grocery shopping it is thoughtful, kind, appropriate, and courteous for them to help unload the van. But sometimes when I come home from the store Matthew is in his room and doesn't hear me enter, thus I unload all the groceries by myself. He may then come into the kitchen when I'm bringing in the last bag, or when I'm putting things away and he always says, "Oh! I'm sorry. I didn't hear you." And I know he regrets not helping me with the task.
So this time the keys I dropped, or the cans that clanged (or whatever noise I made) alerted Matthew to my arrival - and he jumped to action to lend a hand.
Only this time I didn't need any help.
"Nah, I'm good," I said. "But thanks for checking!"
And Matthew returned to his room with a small grin on his face.

In that moment I was so proud of my son, as I reflected back on the years. As I remembered frustrating days and bitter moments when I wondered if he would ever listen to me or learn to do the right thing.
As I considered the joy I've had in recent months watching him mature and make solid "adult" decisions.
I mean, I recognized that being at the ready to help bring groceries into the house really is a little thing - rather insignificant in the grand scheme of life. But the man behind the action used to be a boy who nearly had me at my wits' end, and I just wanted him to know I see and admire how much he's grown.
Even when it shows up in the little things.

Karen

Monday, July 22, 2019

Psalm 66:20


Praise be to God
who has not rejected my prayer
or withheld his love from me.

~Psalm 66:20


Karen

Friday, July 19, 2019

It's My Pleasure

I fell in love.
I fell in love with a boy at Chick-fil-A this past week.
That is, I was working in the dining room and I noticed someone looking at me.
It happened first when I was at the condiment stand re-filling straws or napkins or ketchups or something. (These really go fast during the lunch rush!) I turned around and there he was. A bit startled, I apologized for nearly bumping into him and then asked if he needed anything. He said, "No. I'm just watching you." So I smiled at him, said, "OK!" and continued with my work.
Moments later as I was emptying the trash I saw him again. Standing a few feet away, watching my every move. I invited him to come a little closer so he could see what I was doing.
"Have you ever seen something like this?" I asked, as I lifted the bin into its compartment.
He just smiled, and said, "My name is Connor. What's your name?"
"I'm Karen," I replied.
Then we talked about the similar sounds and letters in our names as we walked back to his table where his mother and brothers were sitting. Connor was quick to point out to me that his name had a "C" in it, not a "K". I made note of the difference but said it was neat that we both have "r" and "n" in our names.
Then I had to excuse myself to go on to other duties.
But each time I passed that table, Connor's eyes were on me and I fell more and more in love with him.
At one point I leaned in and said to him, "You know what I'm going to do? I'm going to go somewhere and see if I can hide from you. But you can't watch where I'm going, OK?" His mom made him avert his eyes and I walked to the other side of the dining room - but stood directly in what would be his line of sight if he was looking straight ahead. When he looked up, there I was! And the smile on his young face was the best thing I've seen in a long time.
So kind. Full of grace and esteem. Absolutely free of judgment. This little boy didn't care that I was getting kind of perspire-y, that I had forgotten to wear earrings, or that I did un-glamorous things like emptying trash and wiping messes off the floor. He just offered a sweet smile which said, I like you!
So when I passed by him again I got down on his level. I looked into his eyes, and I said, "Connor, I really, really like you."

And somehow this consitutes WORK for which I get paid??? Not sure how I got to be so blessed, but I am definitely looking forward to the next time Connor and his family come for lunch!

Karen

Thursday, July 18, 2019

With Certainty and Confidence

But God has surely listened
and heard my voice in prayer.

~Psalm 66:19
I mentioned in my video Monday that while I was interested in studying the meaning of the words "listened" and "heard" in Psalm 66:19, the part of the verse which really beckoned my spirit was the confidence expressed in the phrase "But God...surely". And since one of my greatest desires is to listen and respond obediently to the Holy Spirit, I am choosing for our study this week to focus on that phrase. It comes from the Hebrew word aken and is the same word used in verse 16 of this passage from Genesis. So, let's take a look.
10 Then Jacob departed from Beersheba and went toward Haran. 11 He came to a certain place and spent the night there, because the sun had set; and he took one of the stones of the place and put it under his head, and lay down in that place. 12 He had a dream, and behold, a ladder was set on the earth with its top reaching to heaven; and behold, the angels of God were ascending and descending on it. 13 And behold, the Lord stood above it and said, “I am the Lord, the God of your father Abraham and the God of Isaac; the land on which you lie, I will give it to you and to your descendants. 14 Your descendants will also be like the dust of the earth, and you will spread out to the west and to the east and to the north and to the south; and in you and in your descendants shall all the families of the earth be blessed. 15 Behold, I am with you and will keep you wherever you go, and will bring you back to this land; for I will not leave you until I have done what I have promised you.”
16 Then Jacob awoke from his sleep and said, “Surely the Lord is in this place, and I did not know it.” 17 He was afraid and said, “How awesome is this place! This is none other than the house of God, and this is the gate of heaven.”
18 So Jacob rose early in the morning, and took the stone that he had put under his head and set it up as a pillar and poured oil on its top. 19 He called the name of that place Bethel; however, previously the name of the city had been Luz. 20 Then Jacob made a vow, saying, “If God will be with me and will keep me on this journey that I take, and will give me food to eat and garments to wear, 21 and I return to my father’s house in safety, then the Lord will be my God. 22 This stone, which I have set up as a pillar, will be God’s house, and of all that You give me I will surely give a tenth to You.”

~Genesis 28:10-22
I suppose a bit of background to help set the context of this passage would be helpful.
Just before Jacob has this dream/encounter with God, he had followed his mother's advice and scheme to steal his brother's birthright, and their father's blessing. Needless to say, big brother was ticked. (And was making plans to kill Jacob.) Thus, mom's additional advice for Jacob to get out of town - which led to the journey when the above dream took place.
So we have Jacob - conned by his mother into being deceitful, angering his brother to the point of homicide, running for his life. Not exactly the precursers I would anticipate which would lead to the blessing of God. But then - God didn't ask for my opinion, did He!? Anyway, the dream happens and everything changes for Jacob.
What does God promise Jacob in verses 13 and 14?
Do His words sound at all familiar to you?
They should. Look at Genesis 12, 15, 17, and 26. God had been saying essentially the same thing to Abraham and Isaac for years!
With what additional promises does God follow up in verse 15?
What is Jacob's response in verse 16?
The word "surely" here is the same word used in Psalm 66:19 and is an adverb used with strong assertive force. In other words, the speaker who uses this word is confident of the thing about which they are speaking. So, of what does Jacob express certainty?
What vow does he make in verses 20-21?
OK, now based upon what you know about biblical history and God's covenent with Abraham, Isaac and Jacob - did God keep the promises He made to Jacob in his dream?
Was Jacob right to express confidence in God, and to trust Him to keep His promises?
Thinking of Psalm 66:19, do you think the psalmist was reasonable in the confidence he expressed?
And what about you, my friend?
Do you have certainty that you can trust God?
Do  you believe He is who He says He is? And that He will do what He says He will do?
If you are struggling to find that kind of confidence today, may I encourage you to re-read the Genesis passages above? And this one from Hebrews?
Then spend time asking God to strengthen your faith as you seek to believe Him.
He is trustworthy, friend. And I am sure He will do it!

Karen

Monday, July 15, 2019

Psalm 66:19

But God has surely listened
and heard my voice in prayer.

~Psalm 66:19


Karen

Friday, July 12, 2019

It's My Pleasure

What do you do in the drive-thru when your guest enjoys puns and silly math games as much as you do?
Why, you have more fun than usual, of course!

Wednesday I was confirming an order when I discovered a woman whose sense of humor closely matches mine. That is, I said to her, "Looks like I have for you a Chick-fil-A biscuit meal with a small coffee - two sugars and a 'whole'. I mean, two half & halfs. Get it? Two half & halfs make a 'whole'?"
Usually when I say something like this the guest at the window chuckles politely with me, but this time was better. The woman who had ordered that coffee with two sugars and a whole sincerely laughed.
Then we got into a conversation about playing with numbers and figuring out percentages, and a whole host of other math-related things. And as I was handing out her food my guest confided that Algebra was her favorite and most successful class during her schooling days. She said, "I could do Algebra 2 when I was in Algebra 1. But not Geometry. No, I just didn't 'get' Geometry."
And I? Couldn't resist.
I said, "OK. I have one more joke. What did the acorn say when it grew up?"
She shrugged, and I said with as straight a face as I could, "Gee! I'm a tree!"
And we shared another laugh - as she plotted out in a positive direction.
Oh, I crack myself up!

Karen

Thursday, July 11, 2019

When We Confess

If I had cherished sin in my heart,
the LORD would not have listened;

~Psalm 66:18

If you watched my video Monday, you know the word translated "cherished" in Psalm 66:18 actually means "to see". It is the same word used in the Creation story when God looked at what He made and saw that it was good. (Genesis 1:4,10,12,18,21,25,31) It is also the same word used in Genesis 6:5 when God saw that the wickedness of man was great upon the earth.
Thus, I believe the idea being expressed in Psalm 66:18 goes beyond what we typically think of when we use the word cherished. More than the notion of clinging to sin - of embracing it - I think this verse is suggesting mere awareness of sin in our hearts. That is, I think the psalmist was proposing that if he had simply known sin was in his heart (If he had seen it there - and not done anything about it.) then God would not have listened to his prayer.
Seems a bit drastic, I know, but I think it shows us just how seriously God takes sin. In fact, as I was getting ready to write this post I heard a song about the holiness of God (No one will ever convince me HE is not in control of every little detail.) and my spirit cried out in sorrow for the sin in me, and all around me in this world.
Indeed. Sin is a very big deal to God.
For that reason, as we consider Psalm 66:18, I want to also take time to examine a passage from 1 John.
Go ahead and read through these verses slowly and prayerfully.
5 This is the message we have heard from him and declare to you: God is light; in him there is no darkness at all. 6 If we claim to have fellowship with him and yet walk in the darkness, we lie and do not live out the truth. 7 But if we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus, his Son, purifies us from all sin.
8 If we claim to be without sin, we deceive ourselves and the truth is not in us. 9 If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness.

~1 John 1:5-9
What message does John declare in verse 5?
In saying that God is light, John is declaring God's holiness. His purity.
And he contrasts that light with darkness - that is, a "brand of moral, spiritual obscurity" which is associated with wickedness and results in misery. (a.k.a. sin)
How about verse 6? What conflict does John point out here?
The word "fellowship" implies something shared in common, an intimacy. Specifically in this verse, John is suggesting a person having the same mind as God and Christ. Not some sort of casual acquaintance, but real and truthful sharing.
So, based upon what you know about these words (light, darkness, and fellowship) does John's warning in verse 6 ring true to you?
It's a big deal! Sin breaks our fellowship with God.
Conversely, what does John assert in verse 7?
But is it really possible?
Can we truly walk in the light as He is in the light? Can we be holy like He is holy?
What about sin? Verse 8 pretty much convicts us about its presence in our lives.
So how is it possible for us to walk in the light? How can we be free from our sin?
(Verse 7 reminds us that neither of these - walking in the light, nor being free from sin - are possible without the blood of Jesus!)
How does verse 9 show us what to do?
To "confess" means to not deny, rather to admit our guilt to God in agreement with Him regarding the wrong we have done. In so doing, we step out of the darkness and are freed from the guilt of that sin.
Thus, we walk in the light as He is in the light, and we have fellowship with HIM.

Finally, how does John's teaching relate to Psalm 66:18?
And how are you going to respond???

Karen

Wednesday, July 10, 2019

Yes, Dear. That's What It Means.

I was sitting in Panera yesterday between appointments when my phone rang.
It was Matthew.
He said, "Uh, you know the fruit in the refrigerator in the plastic bag?"
I was well aware of the item to which he was referring. And I added, "You mean the bag with two knots tied on the top?"
"Yeah," he said. "Is that something you're saving that you don't want us to eat?"
"Yes, Matthew. You are correct. The two knots tied on the bag were meant to communicate that the fruit is being saved for something and you are not to eat it at will. You understood my message."
At my confirmation Matthew let out a disappointed sigh, and I let out a chuckle. Even as I promised he would be enjoying the fruit with dinner in the near future.
"OK. Good-bye," he said.
"Good-bye. Thanks for checking!"

Sometimes I write a note, but this time I decided to invite my hungry men to use their intuition and common sense. Glad it worked!

Karen

Tuesday, July 09, 2019

The *Not Happy* Report

So, the barbarian animal that recently munched on my hostas?
Has been at it again. But this time it attacked ate my lilies.
(Thus, I believe the culprit is a deer. The lilies are too tall for a bunny to reach.)
I made the sad discovery as I was watering my zinnias last week, and while I was disappointed I knew it wasn't the end of the world. After all, these lilies are in the back yard and no one but me will really miss them. But I did take a picture and colored a white spot on the tips of the stems - just so you can see how many buds the vandal deer consumed.

Moments later, however, I came upon a scene which really got me angry.
That is to say, a couple of years ago I planted lilies by our driveway - where lots of people can see them - and I have been tending to them lovingly ever since. And early this summer I got so happy when I saw a marked increase in the number of stems coming from one particular set of lilies. Every time I passed them my heart did a little leap for joy in anticiaption of how beautiful they were going to be all summer long.
But last week after I decided not to be upset about the lilies in the back yard which had been eaten, I came upon this sight: *cue Psycho music*
Ahhhhhh! Are you kidding me? I'm counting 32 stems which have been violated by some savage beast, who didn't even care about or stop to consider the joy it was stealing from me - all for a moment of juicy pleasure, as it wiped out any possibility for these lilies to produce flowers this year.
Thirty-two stems!!!
Each one which would likely have produced anywhere from 4 to 8 flowers throughout the summer. That's hundreds of blooms wiped out by one thoughtless, brutal herbivore.

The nerve.

In my angst, I *might* have considered putting venison on the menu for dinner that night.
But then I got closer to my would-be flowers and had this pleasant encounter:
I located one stem which didn't reach as high as the others and had, therefore, escaped the decimation expereinced by its taller comrades. (Lesson learned: Being short sometimes has advantages.)
Thus, in a moment of sudden reprieve I decided to pardon the leviathon of its grevious offense, and choose instead to look forward to the blooms which this little shoot will produce. (Secretly, this lone survivor gives me a sense of victory over that deer. As in, the ability to say, "You missed me! You missed me! Na-na-na-na-na!!!" Re-visiting my childhood with that statement.)

Oh, and I did go immediately to The Home Depot garden department and purchased a spray (which won't harm the killers animals) guaranteed to repel four-legged plant eaters. I sure hope it works!

Karen

Monday, July 08, 2019

Psalm 66:18


If I had cherished sin in my heart,
the LORD would not have listened;

~Psalm 66:18


Karen

Friday, July 05, 2019

It's My Pleasure

I seriously have so many joys working at Chick-fil-A.
But some of them stand out more than others, and today I want to tell you about one of the stand-outs.

See, there's this "wheel" in the kitchen for us to spin when we're working at the front counter. On it are several options for fun things we can do - like giving a child some Chick-fil-A cow swag, or passing along a DOC card (for free food on a future visit). And the other day when I spun the wheel it landed on "give away a meal". So my charge for the day was to choose one guest and surprise them by giving them their order for free. And as I went to my register I whispered a prayer, asking God to help me choose the "right" one. Then, I all but forgot about it as I went about my duties.
Until a couple of women came in for lunch and the first one to order was having a hard time deciding. She furrowed her brow a couple times and semi-apologized for taking so long, explaining that she was trying to figure out the least expensive way to place her order. Should she order a meal, or this and that seperately, or... she wasn't sure.
And then I remembered.
I had a free meal to give away!
So I said to her, "Hey! It doesn't matter. I just remembered that I get to give away a free meal today, and I choose you. So order whatever you like. You won't have to pay for it!"
I am not exaggerating when I tell you that this dear woman nearly started crying. She looked at me, and she looked at her friend, and she smiled bigger than I've seen anyone smile in a really long time.
I have no idea what the story is behind her reaction, or how one free meal could possibly have such a significant affect on a person but I'm telling you - I knew without question in that moment, God answered my prayer about choosing the "right" guest with whom to bless a free meal.
And when she gushed words of thanks to me, you can know without question that my very sincere response was, "It's my pleasure!"
Because it was.

Karen

Thursday, July 04, 2019

Teach Me How to Pray

I cried out to him with my mouth;
his praise was on my tongue.

~Psalm 66:17
As I mentioned in my video Monday, Psalm 66:17 has been an inspiration and a good reminder to me to give God praise each time I am also crying out to Him for help.
God knows we are needy and He loves to meet our needs. But He is also ALWAYS worthy of our praise. And I believe we can delight Him doubly when we come to Him with praise - while we're simultaeously confessing our need for His hand in our lives.
I think Paul was convinced of the importance of this kind of prayer, too. And today I want to spend time examining what the Spirit said through him on this subject.
6 Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. 7 And the peace of God, which surpasses all comprehension, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.

~Philippians 4:6-7
Ahhhhh, this is such an encouraging Word about prayer. And we're going to look at it closely. But to get the full effect - the total scope of what Paul is saying - I think it is vital that we study the words leading up to what he says about prayer.
Let's start with "anxious".
Most of us are pretty aware of what it means to be anxious. Even so, I think it is beneficial to look at the word as Paul knew it in his day. To be anxious meant to be "a part" rather than to be "whole". It was to be drawn in opposite directions. To be divided into parts. Pulled to pieces. And I think it is interesting to note that the word is most commonly used in a negative sense in the New Testament. Which I guess would be the reason Paul tells his readers to NOT be anxious.
OK. Are we good with that word?
Then let's move on to "nothing".
And let's really look at it.
Because in a world where we answer questions like, "Honey, what's wrong?" by saying, "Oh, nothing," when clearly something is the matter - well, I think it would be good for us to know what Paul meant.
Uh, he meant nothing.
As in, the word Paul used comes from two Greek words, one meaning "not a possiblity" and the other meaning "one". Making his word's literal meaning, "not even one." That is, when Paul said, "Be anxious for nothing," he meant absolutely "nothing".
Not even one thing!
A high standard, to be sure. But we'll get to how that's possible in a moment.
First, though, let's see what he meant by "everything". Actually, it isn't too mind-stretching. He meant every single thing. Every part which makes up a whole. All of it.
In other words, the very opposite of "nothing".
So he says, Don't be pulled to pieces by even one thing. Instead, in every single thing...
In every single thing, PRAY.
And this is where we're getting into the parallels between this verse and Pslam 66:17.
The word Paul uses here which is translated as "prayer" does, in fact, mean prayer. But more than simply asking for something, it speaks of worship - of relating to and fellowshiping with God. It's recognizing who He is and honoring Him for it. Ahem, it's having His praise on our tongue!
Then we get to "supplication" which also means prayer. But more specifically, it is a "heart-felt petition, arising out of deep personal need". That is, it's crying out to him with our mouth.
All this we are to do, says Paul, while giving thanks for God's grace.
In fact, if we were to translate Paul's words into Psalm 66 format I think we would come up with something like this:
I cried out to him with my mouth;
his praise was on my tongue.
I gave thanks to God while I told him what I need.
And what, according to Paul (by inspiration of the Holy Spirit!), is the result of this kind of prayer?
Ahhh, this is my favorite part!
The peace of God - that is, "wholeness" - when all essential parts are joined together. (Can you say, the complete opposite of "anxious"??!! Like, seriously. Look at it. Anxious is pulled to pieces, and peace is everything joined together. I love how God paints this picture of what it means for us to trust in Him!) That wholeness will guard our hearts and minds in Christ Jesus.
Ahhhh, but we aren't finished. There's one more picture for us to see.
It comes from the word "guard".
And I bet you want to know what that means, right?
It is "to guard (keep watch) like a military sentinel", or (figuratively) "to actively display whatever defensive and offensive means are necessary to guard."
Friends, I'm picturing a line of armed military guards standing between me and anxiety, as I'm on my knees praising God and trusting Him with my needs. And every time anxiety tries to encroach upon me, this line of guards - called the Peace of God - raises their guns and yells out,
Back off, dude. She's mine, and you can't touch her!
And that - the Peace of God standing guard over us - is how we can be anxious for not even one thing.
I cried out to him with my mouth;
his praise was on my tongue.

~Psalm 66:17
How do these words and this prescription for trusting God impact your heart today?

Karen

Wednesday, July 03, 2019

On This Day in 2005

Beautiful things happen when you clean the basement.
I mean, besides getting rid of cobwebs and dried up bugs and a plethora of stuff you don't need (Am I making my house sound attractive yet???) sometimes you come across a treasure.
Which is exactly what happened recently when our basement got a bit soggy from all the rain, and I actually started looking around and realized I needed to spend time down there in clean-up mode. That is to say, I got rid of the cobwebs and bugs and lots of "stuff".
And I came across a treasure.
Six old, spiral-bound notebooks which served as my journals, note-taking spaces, and general idea-capsules. Dating all the way back to 2003.
I have not had the time to read through all of them yet.
But the glances I've had have been a delight.
Like this one, from fourteen years ago, today.
It wasn't delightful, necessarily, to remember how awful I felt when I was writing this - to recall painful emotions and the self-deprecation I was carrying around in my head and heart. However, to be on the other side of it and to know God has been faithful in answering the cries of His desperate daughter?
Ahhhhh, such deep, deep joy!
That is, I know I am not yet who He has created me to be.
I know this is a process and God is still refining me.
But as I read this entry and look back on where I was, HE reminds me: I am not who I used to be.
So, I'm opening up my journal and sharing this moment with you - in the hopes that you might be encouraged in some way for your own journey.

O, my Lord, You give me hope in such wonderful ways.
Over the last couple of days I have become discouraged in myself. I have been impatient with my children and in general have been lacking joy. I have the desire to be a holy, godly woman, but I'm not seeing her!
Then there is the body thing, weight gain, menstruation...blah.
So I was just feeling yucky today - fat, and not godly; ready to cry at anything.
Then what shoud I read but an excerpt from Kathy Troccoli in Forever in Love with Jesus, where she says she used to feel shame and self-contempt; where she says that she prayed (in faith because she didn't really think it could happen) that she would one day be comfortable in her skin, and that she would have her character transformed by the Spirit of God.
And I thought, What?! I see such a godly woman in her, and yet she once felt shame and self-contempt?! Does that mean there is hope for me? Yes, it sure does!
Dee Brestin writes, "This is how redemption works: as we press in close to the Redeemer, He will 're-create' us. How He longs to answer those prayers that plead for a redemption of our character."
Lord, Jesus, hear my prayer! I want to be transformed. I want to be beautiful for You. I want to attract others to You! Please work in me that which is pleasing to You!
And that remains my prayer today.
I want to be transformed. I want to be a beautiful reflection of Jesus to the world around me.
I want to attract others to HIM. Lord, please work in me that which is pleasing to YOU!

Karen

Tuesday, July 02, 2019

OK. I'm Saying It.

There are a number of things mothers-of-grown-kids said to me when my children were young, which I swore I would never say to other young moms when mine grew up.
Because - although the words had the best intentions behind them - they did little to encourage me.
And sometimes actually did the opposite.
I mean, now I totally see the wisdom behind their words because I've made it to the other side.
In fact, there have been times when I have been tempted to say the very same things.
You know, like, "This, too, shall pass."
When? Because I keep waiting, and it's still happening.
And, "We've all been there."
Oh? So I shouldn't feel this way, because I'm not the only one? Is that supposed to make me feel better? Because it doesn't. Now I just feel guilty for feeling overwhelmed, irritable, tired, fill-in-the-blank.
Or, how about, "There will be a time when you'll miss these days!"
So not true. I still don't miss those days.
Oh, lots of the moments - to be sure. But not the entire day!!!

Indeed, those are among the statements I pray I will never say to a mother of young children.
But this past weekend I found myself thinking a thought I had when my kiddos were little, and recognizing that it may be helpful for me to verbalize it for a few moms of young 'uns out there today.
So, here goes!

I was outside cleaning the porch and washing windows. Partly delighted with myself for getting it done, and partly ashamed that it has taken so long. (Can it still be considered "Spring Cleaning" if July hasn't arrived yet?) Anyway, I was doing it. And I was astonished at how dirty the porch was.
See, the thing is, years ago Josh turned our porch and its immediate area into a bird sanctuary.
Several bird feeders fill the space and - up until he moved out several months ago - Black Oil Sunflower seeds consistently filled the feeders.
And something I've learned about birds?
They're messy and they don't clean up after themselves.
What that means specifically for our situation is that we have more sunflower seed shells filling the landscape than I could ever count. And in case you were wondering, mertyle doesn't grow well when buried by sunflower seed shells. Some of the weeds managed to push through, but the mertyle is being choked out. What once looked like semi-decent landscaping just looks like piles of shells now. With some languishing mertyl and weeds mixed in.
So as I was sweeping sunflower seed shells off the porch (Because they got all over the porch, too.) into the mertyl (Because, why not? It's dying, anyway.) and recalling all the times I had wished our porch entrance looked nicer, I remembered how much joy came to my son when he could claim that all the birds in the neighborhood liked our house best. Because no one else took care of feeding them with as much love and attention as he did.
Seriously.
This kid used his own money to buy the best bird seed - because he researched and found out what the birds really liked. He would fill the feeders every night, and only at night, because he didn't want to do it when the birds were around - so as not to frighten them. Josh would even adjust the curtains by the porch to give the birds more privacy in their feeders.
Is it any wonder they all flocked to our house day after day, season after season?
They had the best possible advocate and care-taker in my son.
And we?
Had a messy porch with terrible looking landscaping.
But cleaning up the mess and making plans for a nice front porch (Because Josh has moved out, the birds have moved on, and Brian and I want to create a beautiful space.) caused me to remember the thing I've heard (and thought!) so many times. "You can't have nice things when you have kids!"
And, you know? In many ways that's a true statement.
But as I reflected on my son's joy in caring for his birds - while cleaning the mess they left behind, even as I anticipated a lot of work in making the space beautiful again - I can honestly say, it's OK.
It has been totally worth it.
And if I had it to do all over again, I would still opt for a messy front porch - if it meant my son finding joy in caring for God's creation. If it meant my son could be delighted in learning about what birds like to eat, how they migrate and nest and survive, and caring for their little birdy needs.
Yeah. All that wins out over my desire to have a presentable front porch.
So, for what it's worth, mother of young children (especially boys!), don't worry about having "nice things" right now. For today, let your kids be kids and seek to find joy in seeing them finding joy.
Even if it means a messy front porch.


There. I said it!

Karen

Monday, July 01, 2019

Psalm 66:17


I cried out to him with my mouth;
his praise was on my tongue.

~Psalm 66:17


Karen

Friday, June 28, 2019

It's My Pleasure

Do you have any idea how much of a difference you can make, just by being nice?
Seems we don't give much thought to our words and actions. Most of the time we are focused our personal agenda, and we just do what we need to do to get it done.
Am I right?
But every now and then somebody gives us a glimpse into their heart, and we realize that there's a whole lot more to the situation than meets the eye.

That's what happened to me at the counter this week.

I was going about business as usual, chatting with guests as I took their orders and payment and got their drinks. But one particular woman was a little different, in that she seemed a bit more eager to talk about what was going on in her day. So I paused a few seconds longer to listen. (Honestly, I didn't consider my actions to be anything remarkable. I was being polite, and giving her the attention she wanted and deserved.) Not a big deal, right?
That's what I thought.
Until our interaction was ending and she looked at me and said, "Thanks. You've made my day better."
I what? How?
Just by listening???

And I realized the answer was, Yes. Just by listening.
That woman was hungry for more than good food. She needed somebody to pay attention to her, and God gave me the opportunity to be that person. And when she acknowledged how my act of noticing her made a difference in her day, I suddenly became aware that a little thing isn't necessarily a little thing.
What a pleasure it is to be an instrument of love!

May you find yourself with an opportunity to make a difference for someone who's hungry today.

Karen

Thursday, June 27, 2019

Let Me Tell You

Come and listen, all you who fear God;
let me tell you what he has done for me.

~Psalm 66:16

What happens when we tell other believers what God has done for us?
Today, let's take a look at a few verses from Second Corinthians to read about a time when Paul testified regarding God's hand in his life.
3 Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of compassion and the God of all comfort, 4 who comforts us in all our troubles, so that we can comfort those in any trouble with the comfort we ourselves receive from God. 5 For just as we share abundantly in the sufferings of Christ, so also our comfort abounds through Christ. 6 If we are distressed, it is for your comfort and salvation; if we are comforted, it is for your comfort, which produces in you patient endurance of the same sufferings we suffer. 7 And our hope for you is firm, because we know that just as you share in our sufferings, so also you share in our comfort.
8 We do not want you to be uninformed, brothers and sisters, about the troubles we experienced in the province of Asia. We were under great pressure, far beyond our ability to endure, so that we despaired of life itself. 9 Indeed, we felt we had received the sentence of death. But this happened that we might not rely on ourselves but on God, who raises the dead. 10 He has delivered us from such a deadly peril, and he will deliver us again. On him we have set our hope that he will continue to deliver us, 11 as you help us by your prayers. Then many will give thanks on our behalf for the gracious favor granted us in answer to the prayers of many.

~2 Corinthians 1:3-11

How is God described in verse 3?
According to verse 4, what does God do? Why?
How does verse 6 describe the relationship between Paul's (and his companions') experiences and those of his readers?
According to verses 8 and 9, how bad were Paul's troubles?
Based on verse 6, how do you think the testimony in verses 8 and 9 would have impacted the Corinthians?
How do these verses personally impact you, in whatever circumstances you find yourself today?
Why does verse 9 say this circumstance happened?
What is Paul's confidence in verse 10?
According to verse 11, what role were the Corinthians to play in helping Paul?
How do you think Paul's words in verse 11 would have encouraged the Corinthian church?
If God "comforts us in all our troubles, so that we can comfort those in any trouble with the comfort we ourselves receive from God," how can you offer yourself and your story for the benefit of others?
I would love to encourge you to spend some time praying, asking the Holy Spirit to make you sensitive to His nudge in each time He wants to use you as a comforter.

Karen