My Girl

Happy birthday, daughter.

Today is the day. You’re fretting about getting older. Looking for a fine line around the eyes. Thinking about a new skin product. Examining your waistline. Daring to try on a swimsuit.  You might even let a tear slip, but no one will ever see it. Not you.

But I just might.

Most everyone (at least here in the south) is quick to attribute their maturity, wisdom and spiritual growth to their parents. And truly, mine get lots and lots of credit. But it was you that had a major impact on who I am today and especially who I am spiritually. You came into this world on your own terms – reluctant. Even with lots of coaxing, you weren’t coming out. That was your first act of defiance. “If you want me, come get me.” And it certainly wasn’t your last.

As a newborn, you flatly refused to nurse. I nearly starved you for 2 weeks and the doctor kindly said, “Forget nursing. Give her a bottle.” And you gladly agreed. Meals were difficult to prepare when you were a toddler because you always wanted to be held. As a pre-schooler you still insisted on being rocked to sleep even though your infant brother would lie down and go to sleep on his own. (Good thing.)

During your preschool years and your teen years, the days seem endless and the challenges never-ending. Pushing the boundaries, testing the limits, seeing how close you could get to the edge of the cliff instead of how far away you should I stay. That’s my girl. But graciously there was a respite. Those elementary school days were, do I dare say, “easy.”

I wanted to do all the wonderful things with you and for you that my mother did for me. But I knew it was impossible. My mom is truly a ‘natural at motherhood.’ I’ve seen her calm another mother’s screaming colicky baby by simply holding her. I’ve seen her stop a raging tantrum with a mere look. I’ve heard her threaten a prowler that she’d shoot him when armed only with a broom. My mom actually had freshly baked cookies or doughnuts waiting on me when I arrived home from school each day.

I knew I couldn’t compete with that. So, I tried to do the things that were ‘natural’ for me. We walked and we talked. Each day, as often as possible, we’d walk down the road to the creek or to the barns and we would talk. You would talk, ask questions, ask more questions, then ask some more questions . . . And I would listen. Other days, I would talk. Trying to use my childhood experiences to teach some valuable life lessons. I told stories of working on the farm with my dad. How those experiences shaped my work ethic. I encouraged you to read. I talked about the excitement of going to college. And yes, the subject most parents dread – the opposite sex.

Those were the moments  I treasured. Those were the moments in which mothers thrill. All my hopes and dreams, my goals and desires for you were funneled into those talks. My dreams weren’t fame and fortune or lofty careers. My dream was for you to be you, and more importantly, for you to find happiness in you. Contentment. Peace. Fulfillment. Truly knowing that you are, ‘fearfully and wonderfully made.’ What more could a mother want for her child?

Those years flew quickly and before I knew it, you were a teen. That independent, demanding, single-minded toddler re-emerged only this time in the body of an adult. Scary. But I don’t know who was more scared: me or you. The high school and early college years were rough. Really rough. Some days (actually nights) I didn’t think I would survive. But, those were the years that I grew, and grew, and grew in my reliance upon God.

Your teen rebellion forced me to dig deeper in my faith than ever before. No longer did I pray shallow prayers, but I came to understand what it meant to be unable to put into words my needs but the Holy Spirit interceded for me. I came to understand that I WAS NOT, nor ever had been, IN CONTROL. Of you or anyone else. You challenged me to challenge my faith. Was it deep enough, strong enough, bold enough, audacious enough to walk me through the fire. We never know the depth of our faith until it is truly tested. And test you did.

My prayer journals increased exponentially. Night after night I prayed, searched scripture, cried, prayed, searched scripture. And night after night, God met me and provided me comfort, hope and assurance that we would survive.

But we didn’t survive.

We thrived.

Because even in the midst of your most obnoxious days, she was still there. That little girl. My girl. The one that made me smile, delighted me with her curiosity, amazed me with her creativity and thrilled me with her love. So, I survived clinging to those moments. But I thrived because of the relationship I was developing with Christ. And as cracks began to develop in your shell of independence and autonomy, that curious girl would seek answers. She would ask questions. She would search the Word. And she began to thrive.

Honestly, because of your tenacity and determination, I really expected that you would be a high-powered professional totally focused on her career and her salary. I couldn’t imagine you managing a household or raising children; it seemed too restrictive, too limiting for your independent spirit. I was wrong.

Can I say it again? You thrived.    14225385_10207208352309435_4245006266000043830_n

Today you hold two professional licenses. You are a loving and super-devoted wife of 13 years. (Thirteen years???) And most importantly, the rock-star mother to four, yes, FOUR children. The youngest two babies are less than one year difference in age.  The eldest child was born with a chronic disease that requires intensive daily treatment and therapies. But from all outward appearances (and the expectations of her mom) – she’s just like every other kid. And the other child, well, let’s just say, “the apple didn’t fall far from the tree.” She’s a lot like her mom, high-spirited, independent and fiercely loyal to friends and loved ones.

So, can I say it again. You have thrived.

Day by day I see you growing, changing and becoming an independent woman that is dependent on the Lord. A woman that is becoming even more beautiful on the inside than she is on the surface. (And that’s really purdy!) A woman that wants her children to treat others with kindness, respect, dignity, compassion and love. A woman that makes her mother very, very proud. You reached my goal for you; for you to find happiness in you. Contentment. Peace. Fulfillment. Truly knowing that you are, ‘fearfully and wonderfully made.’

Happy birthday. And thanks for making me grow.

Love, Mom

aka “Mimi” to my five grands!

Where’s the ‘Good’ in Good Friday?

Gazing out my window the gray clouds hang low as if shielding my view from what is happening in the heavenly realm. It is almost as if earth is cloaked in a garment of sorrow. No bright sun shines across the horizon and the air is still with an almost palpable expectation. Gray. That’s the color and the mood. A gray, weary, sad day. So where is the Good in Good Friday – a question asked by many, believer and non-believer alike.

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As I reflected on my Lenten passage this morning, the ‘good’ spoke loudly to me.

4 Yet it was our weaknesses he carried;

it was our sorrows that weighed him down.

And we thought his troubles were a punishment from God,

a punishment for his own sins!

5 But he was pierced for our rebellion,

crushed for our sins.

He was beaten so we could be whole.

He was whipped so we could be healed.

6 All of us, like sheep, have strayed away.

We have left God’s path to follow our own,

Yet the LORD laid on him

the sins of us all.  Isaiah 53: 4 – 6 NLT

Allow me to share my thoughts on the truly good of this Friday.

When my strength is insufficient to have the faith of a mustard seed, to take another step or breathe another breath; His strength carries me.

When my sorrow, grief and anguish overwhelm me to the point of despair and hopelessness; He takes the weight of those sorrows upon himself. Every tear, every wail, every failure and distraction from my faith falls upon him with crushing oppression.

Even in the midst of my deliverance, I still question ‘why.’ Why is there such evil among us, why such suffering? Where is God in the ugliness, inhumanity, injustice and tragedy?

HE is there. HE is right smack in the middle of it – suffering, carrying, bearing, grieving, loving and offering hope, light and redemption in each circumstance.

And when my ‘independent’ spirit becomes rebellious and my thoughts are of me alone; He took the crushing blows of scourging in order to spare me from receiving them.

His body was abused and tortured because of MY sin – not his. He willingly submitted to MY due punishment. His body beaten so that I could become WHOLE. His body broken that I could receive spiritual HEALING that I might be RESTORED to fellowship with God.

I am the sheep that follows blindlessly, overlooking the spiritual dangers surrounding me, ignoring the traps and snares placed to lure me away. I stray from the security of His path and wander away from the guidance and protection of my shepherd because of my desire for greener pastures.  I place myself in harm’s way, alone and vulnerable to attack.

And because of MY weakness, MY rebellion, MY sin, brokenness, infirmity and disobedience – Jesus took MY place and paid the penalty for each and every one of MY failures. My debt was paid on that Friday. I am FREE because He made restitution upon a crude wooden cross. That Friday became ‘good’ because it allowed my life to become something beautiful. Something I could never do on my own. 

Today is a day for reflection. Where am I in my faith walk? Am I closer to Christ today because of his miraculous act of mercy? How can I grow closer to Him? Today is a very GOOD day to begin anew.

In His gracious and loving mercy,

Mimi

“I came that they may have life and have it abundantly.” John 10:10

Choosing Your Measuring Stick

If you’ve ever attempted a home improvement project, sewn a garment, built a birdhouse or designed anything, you know the importance a measuring stick! Whether it’s an actual measuring stick, tape or digital gadget, you can’t successfully  build anything without accurate measuring devices. And it’s just as important that you continue using the same measuring stick during your project.

We have an old, old wooden measuring stick that’s been passed down through the family that’s more heirloom than accurate. After years of use and misuse (I seem to recall it being ridden like a stick horse because it has a convenient leather strap at the end) it actually has some pretty significant chips in it. Not good when needing an accurate measure. Rulers and measuring sticks tend to get the ends chipped or worn away over time, there will be nicks and even cracks in them. So to make sure we build or evaluate our projects accurately, we need an accurate measuring tool.  One that remains consistent without blemishes or flaws, one that won’t vary in results regardless of what or how often we measure.

The problem is, we sometimes choose the wrong measuring tool. There are yardsticks, 12 inch rules, metal rules, measuring tapes and even digital gadgets that calculate whatever square footage or surface area you need. Selecting the appropriate tool is critical to the final outcome of our project.DSC_1011

Choosing the wrong measuring tool or standard guarantees future problems!

We often make the mistake of choosing the wrong measuring stick. How easy it is to look at someone and without even acknowledging it to ourselves, automatically “measure” ourselves using THEM as the measuring stick.

“Well, at least she could have removed their clothes out of the dryer before they wrinkled! Looks like they slept in them.” And the unspoken measurement – “My kid’s clothes are clean AND unwrinkled! I win.”

Or how about, “She’s always late! For once couldn’t she be on time, just set your clock earlier for crying out loud.” And the unspoken measurement – “I’m never late. I get here at least 15 minutes early every day. I win!”

And them there’s the reverse effect of choosing the wrong measuring stick.

“She always looks like she stepped out of a magazine. I’ve never seen her without full make-up, hair and nails done, and a cute outfit. Complete with matching shoes!” And the unspoken measurement – “On my best days I have on two matching shoes. I look like a two year picked my clothes out in the dark. I lose.”

Or, “How do they afford that beautiful house? It’s always spotless and the furnishing are unbelievable.” Then the unspoken measurement – “My house is a dump. No one in the family tries to help out and it’s all on me. I’ll never have a nice house. I lose.”

What’s the problem here? Simple, we’re using the wrong measuring stick. It’s so much easier to measure our success or failure, our sin and righteousness compared to others. The problem with that is, humans as measuring sticks are inconsistent, inaccurate and flawed. There is only one true standard by which we should hold ourselves accountable. And that is, God’s standard of righteousness. Much like the Pharisee found himself superior to the tax collector, he still fell far short of the glory of God – only he didn’t realize it. He was too busy choosing the wrong measuring stick.

God’s righteousness is always consistent, true, accurate, unchanging and unattainable on our own. Only through the blood of Christ do we have access to his righteousness. And it is HIS righteousness that frees us from the slavery of constant inaccurate measurement and comparison to others. Humans can not be our standard of measurement or judgment. For I can always find someone to whom I can ‘measure’ myself and feel superior. And I can always find someone to whom I feel inferior. Neither are pleasing to God, nor do they glorify Him.

Our standard can only be the righteousness of Christ. We all fall short on His measuring stick.

For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, and are justified freely by his grace through the redemption that came by Christ Jesus. Romans 3:23 – 24

And in that grace and redemption we obtain through Christ, there is freedom from choosing the wrong measuring stick. Christ becomes our standard and releases us from the slavery of constant worldly comparisons.

Instead of placing ourselves on the sacrificial altar of worldly standards, it’s time we get up up, walk away and submit ourselves to the one standard worthy of comparison, the righteousness of Christ.

DSC_1012“Therefore, I urge you brothers, in view of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as living sacrifices, holy and pleasing to God – this is your spiritual act of worship. Do not conform any longer to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing go your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is – his good, pleasing perfect will.

For by the grace given me I say to everyone of you: Do not think of yourself more highly than you ought, but rather think of yourself with sober judgment, in accordance with the measure of faith God has given you.”  Romans 12: 1 – 3

It is time to free ourselves and others. Choose the correct measuring stick.

Freedom,

Mimi

“The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy; I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full.”

The Whistle Blower: Tough Accountability

13 Now, who will want to harm you if you are eager to do good? 14 But even if you suffer for doing what is right, God will reward you for it. So don’t worry or be afraid of their threats. 15 Instead, you must worship Christ as Lord of your life. And if someone asks about your Christian hope, always be ready to explain it. 16 But do this in a gentle and respectful way. Keep your conscience clear. Then if people speak against you, they will be ashamed when they see what a good life you live because you belong to Christ. 17 Remember, it is better to suffer for doing good, if that is what God wants, than to suffer for doing wrong.    I Peter 3:13 -17 NLT

Even in biblical times, there were whistle-blowers! Folks willing to boldly speak the truth in love in spite of potential consequences. That takes courage, not just over the fear of being ‘harmed’; but the fear of being ostracized, rebuked, rejected, mocked. Because the kicker comes in the later part of verse 15: “Instead, you must worship Christ as Lord of your life. (OK, so far so good) And if someone asks about your Christian hope, always be ready to explain it.” (Emphasis mine)

That is tougher. We often become unsure of our ability to ALWAYS be ready or able to explain our faith. I certainly know that I am far from perfect; even on my best days I fall miserably short of Jesus’ righteousness. So, who am I, to hold other people accountable in their faith walk? Who am I to personally “blow the whistle” for them when I see them making bad choices:

  • the friend that always has an excuse for sporadic or nonexistent church attendance
  • the one that attends service yet never participates in service – they serve ‘seat time’
  • the parent that provides every physical need for their child(ren) but neglects their spiritual needs out of their busyness, inconvenience or dare I say – selfishness of time
  • the individual that desires to serve but has no family support or encouragement. Perhaps they even place obstacles in their pathway.
  • the “one who puts a hand to the plow and looks back” Luke 9:62
  •  the believer whose daily life is far outside the desires God has for us to live in relationship with him.

We are called to hold one another accountable.

Brothers, if anyone is caught in any transgression, you who are spiritual should restore him in a spirit of genimagestleness. Keep watch on yourself, lest you too be tempted. Bear one another’s burdens, and so fulfill the law of Christ. For if anyone thinks he is something, when he is nothing, he deceives himself. But let each one test his own work, and then his reason to boast will be in himself alone and not in his neighbor. For each will have to bear his own load.  Galatians 6:1-5

How do we respond to these dilemmas and NOT be afraid? Our scripture verses give us clear insight.

  • If we are doing good / the right thing – why would anyone want to ‘harm’ us. Physical harm rarely is a possibility when holding a fellow believer accountable, but other consequences are real.
  • But, EVEN IF we do personally suffer for our right actions; (and there is the key – our motives must be pure and our hearts must be right before God) – God will honor us!
  • So, don’t worry OR be afraid. INSTEAD;
  • Worship the LORD. Let your life be representative of His love. Worship isn’t just a Sunday morning event; it is a manner in which we live our lives. Every decision and action is filtered through, ‘Does this bring honor and glory to God?’ Instead of ‘Does this benefit me or make me look good?’
  • Then when we are challenged by others, we have a foundation on which to stand, the righteousness of Christ, not my own righteousness but HIS which covered me at the cross. That righteousness give us the confidence to go forward with the next critical steps.
  • Be ready to explain our hope: the righteousness we attained through Christ and our certain future in His kingdom.
  • But – do it in a gentle and respectful way.
  • And finally; our conscience must be clear before God. We must be living in accordance with His will, following his path in obedience.

We all need a ‘whistle blower,’ someone unafraid to speak the truth in love when we become side tracked. If you’re like me you can look back and recall times when we wish there had been a whistle blower and on other occasions we are grateful there WAS a whistle blower. Even though our society is more connected through technology than ever before, it is also less connected on a personal level. Accountability requires a personal relationship and that means time, commitment, a personal investment and a willingness to shine the light of truth.

It’s time to step up and be willing to blow the whistle, don’t allow the thief to steal again.

In his merciful grace,

Mimi

“The thief’s purpose is to steal and kill and destroy. My purpose is to give them a rich and satisfying life.”   John 10:10  NLT

 

The Fixer Upper

I am a fixer-upper.

Once I spot a project I love sorting through a multitude of possibilities for revival, acknowledging the obvious problems, and offering solutions: even searching for those more hidden issues that require specific resources and creativity to remedy. I love the thrill of seeing something neglected now cherished, the transformation of what others see as hopeless becoming extraordinary; seeing what seemed worthless become invaluable.

Front porch and second floor addition completely changes the exterior of this home

I am NOT Joanna Gaines, although I do enjoy watching her creativity at work. While  I do love a good physical fixer up, I’m a spiritual fixer up. Yep, I confess. My desire is to “FIX” everyone’s problems. And that’s not necessarily a good thing. I was squarely reminded of that during my morning devotional. Hear the WORD.

5 Trust in the LORD with all your heart;

do not depend on your own understanding.

6 Seek his will in all you do

and He will show you which path to take.

7 Don’t be impressed with you own wisdom.

Instead, fear the LORD and turn away from evil.

8 Then you will have healing for your body and strength for your bones.

Proverbs 3: 5-8  NLT

How easy it is to think that I can handle it all; even that God wants me to figure out not just my problems, but everyone else’s problems! He gave me this mind and the ability to reason – so SURELY He wants me to use it doesn’t He?

First of all, in these four short verses, he is clearly talking to me, instructing ME what to do with MY life – MY problems. It’s even written in the first person, “(YOU) trust, (YOU) seek, he will show YOU . . .” In this case, when I read the word YOU, He’s clearly speaking to me about me. And that one understanding changes a lot of things. Because my first responsibility to God is My walk, MY faith, MY understanding, MY problems, MY relationship with Him. I cannot have a positive Christian influence on the lives of others until my relationship with God is in the right place.

That means in all cases, situations, dilemmas, in every moment; I must TRUST that regardless of what it looks like now, I can trust that God IS in control and can use any situation to glorify, honor and expand his kingdom – not mine.

There’s the second rub. So whose “kingdom” am I really vested in – HIS or MINE? Those words hurt. It is easy to read, study, pray, intercede, and share our ministry(ies) for God. But that’s it – are they MY ministries OR God’s? Yes, He calls us each to various opportunities to serve based upon our gifts and talents. Sometimes even in spite of them! I must never lose sight that they are HIS ministries NOT mine. When they become MINE, I begin to trust my understanding.  I depend on My own logic and ability and then I do things I THINK – through my own reasoning, not through seeking his will, that He wants me to do.

I may not be doing anything wrong , I just may not be doing what HE is calling me to do. Perhaps I miss his opportunity because I am too focused on my own plans. Maybe he has someone else in line for an assignment, a GOD moment or a ministry but because (do I dare say this) I don’t “TRUST him completely,” I jump in to try and FIX the situation. Even if it is someone else’s situation! Yes, it may  impact me, especially if it’s family or close friends. But I cannot change anyone’s heart. That is the work of the Holy Spirit.

So what is my role in these tough situations? Our scripture makes it rather clear.

  1. WHOLE-heartedly TRUST in God that in all things his wisdom, judgment, discernment, plans and outcomes are infinitely better than anything I could achieve.He is the Creator, I am merely the created.
  2. Submit my limited knowledge and understanding to Him and acknowledge to myself that I DON’T have all the answers (OUCH!) It’s not for me to rule the world, right every wrong, or fight every battle. WE are the body of Christ; an arm that is dismembered from the body accomplishes nothing. In fact it will wither and die.
  3. Seek God’s will in EVERYTHING; and be prepared that on occasion His will might just be for me to stay out of it. Then, lay my petitions at his feet and stand until He says move.
  4. Because, “He will show me which path to take.” And sometimes it’s very different than the one I want to take. Sometimes I want to see more action, so I try to create it on my own. But He will show me the right path, if I wait for him and don’t run ahead.
  5. In the words of my granddaughter around age two, ” You worry ’bout youself!” Instead of trying to be the fixer upper for everyone else’s life, instead of worrying about what I cannot change nor control – TRUST GOD and in turn I “will have healing for (my) body and strength for (my) bones.” Ever worried over a problem, person, or conflict until you were sick? How about sleepless? Maybe anxious? How about being so preoccupied with it that you could see nothing else? Maybe not even an opportunity that God made available to YOU.

Tough stuff. These four verses are brief, but power packed with wisdom – Godly wisdom. And isn’t that where we are to begin; “Trust in the LORD with ALL your heart.”

Be encouraged. While these words may seem harsh; they sure did as they penetrated my heart. They are words of hope, love, encouragement and PROMISE. We are not in this alone, these burdens are not for us to shoulder alone. “His load is easy, his burden is light.” Too often the reason we are burdened is because we choose NOT to lay it down.

Thank you, LORD, for this powerful reminder that you are God and I am not.  Help me be aware of those things that you desire that I fix-up and to leave the spiritual restoration to you. Remind me that you are the God of reconciliation, restoration, purpose and hope. Your plans are for good, not evil. I am your willing servant.

Blessings,

Mimi

“The thief comes only to steal, kill and destroy. I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full.”  Johns 10:10 NIV

 

The Hap-Happiest Season of All?

Little could Edward Pola and George Wyle have known when they wrote these lyrics from It’s the Most Wonderful Time of the Year for singer Andy Williams in 1963 that they would become not only a holiday standard, but perhaps THE idealized standard bearer for the Christmas season.  The song presents a litany of traditional Christmas and holiday activities focusing on family and friend get-togethers.  Hosting parties, marshmallows toasting, caroling in the snow, bells jingling, happy greetings, friends coming to call and all the wonderful images of a Hallmark Christmas ad neatly captured in one song.

But is Christmas really the happiest season of all or the most wonderful time of the year? Today, just nine days before Christmas I know for certain it’s not the happiest season of all – at least not for many people. At this very moment among my dear friends an adult mother holds vigil at the hospital bed of her aging and frail mother watching her progress ebb and flow. As she and her siblings struggle to make the best decisions, I doubt she would consider this the happiest season of all.

A young mother battles yet another round of cancer that has recurred in her well-lived life. Having walked this road before, she and her family are all too familiar with the devastation that lies ahead and the uncertainty of this path. No happy season for them.

Another family struggles with finding balance and peace in their relationship. One step toward resolution and perhaps two steps backward.

A lovely woman recently and unexpectedly widowed is now left alone as primary care taker for her chronically ill adult son.

A young family grieves the overwhelming loss of a small child. And for another family they face the anniversary of the loss of a beloved husband and father, while still another prepares for their first Christmas without the patriarch of the their family.

All these are local families, friends that I love dearly. At the regional level families have been devastated with personal loss, injury and death as the result of the very recent Smoky Mountain fires. Fourteen lives gone entirely too soon. No happy season here. Only cold stark reality of pain and loss.

At least outwardly that is what it would appear.

If joy and happiness are based upon the Christmas image portrayed in this song , then the reason this is the most wonderful time of year rests in the parties, social activities, friends and family events, snow accumulation, hot chocolate and festive decorations. And if your life circumstances don’t align with those expectations, well – you’re out of luck. No happy season for you. Perhaps that’s exactly WHY this isn’t a happy season for so many folks. Their lives may not be facing the enormity of some of my friends but everyone, everywhere is facing some sort of daily battle. And at times that battle seems to be defeating us.

But notice I said, “IF joy and happiness are based upon that Christmas image . . .” Granted the world has done a terrific job of promoting this image. And most of us buy into it to a bit. After all, we DO decorate to some extent (some a lot more than others), we do participate in parties and social events – even if we complain about having to go. We do love the “idea” of a white Christmas with just enough snow for beauty and maybe some sledding but certainly nothing that would delay traffic! And we do carefully plan our calendars to coordinate all the events, activities and gift buying so that no one is left out.

Is this the source of Christmas joy? The events, the activities. Even the Hallmark Christmas movies that I must confess I love, center each drama around an extraordinarily predictable plot that always involves a “Christmas miracle.” Lots of people are waiting on a Christmas miracle, but it’s not one that Hallmark can provide.The Christmas miracle they need was manifested more than 2000 years ago and it came in the form of a tiny baby, born to an unlikely young couple, in the most unlikely place – a stable, a barn – a shelter for livestock.images-jesus

God came to earth in the flesh. Not necessarily to bring us ‘happiness’ but he is the source of our joy. And our joy is based on one simple but beautiful truth. This tiny baby, this bundle of divinity wrapped in human flesh brought us the most important Christmas miracle of all – HOPE. Christ entered the world in a dark time; political tensions were high, the masses felt disenfranchised, oppressed and the long promised Messiah almost seemed a distant memory for  God has been silent with his chosen people for more than 400 years. Where was the hope? The hope of a conquering King, a Redeemer, the one who was to “proclaim freedom to the captives?”

And then the REAL Christmas miracle happened. God showed up in the most unlikely of places and forms in order to show HIS love for us and to give us HOPE. Because it is hope that sustains us even in the darkest of hours. Hope for a cure, hope for restoration of families, hope for peace and reconciliation in conflict, hope that when our loved one is gone – that in the future we shall be reunited. That is the basis for our joy. Happiness is temporary and based upon circumstances, but joy is a state of heart. Christ fills us with joy because in Him we have this everlasting hope.

Perhaps this Christmas isn’t your hap-happiest season of all. But take comfort, you have hope. Wherever you are, whatever your situation, Christ is there to give you HOPE through his everlasting life. Remember, “The thief comes to steal, kill and destroy, Christ comes to give us life and give it abundantly.” (And eternally.) John 10:10

So, enjoy your decorations, participate in events of your choosing, celebrate with family and friends but do not look to these for your happiness. Our joy, our hope is in the tiny baby born in the most humble conditions imaginable. The WORD became Flesh to bring us life and light. May your Christmas season be filled with Light, Life, and HOPE.

Merry Christmas,

Mimi

 

 

Shielded In His Presence

Listen to my voice in the morning, LORD.
Each morning I bring my requests to you and wait expectantly.

. . . let all who take refuge in you rejoice;
let them sing joyful praises forever.
Spread your protection over them,
that all who love your name may be filled
with joy.
For you bless the godly, O LORD;
you surround them with your shield of love. Psalm 5: 3; 11-12

This morning while sipping on my coffee and enjoying my devotional time,  instead of being greeting by the subtle breaking of dawn I watched as my world emerged encased in a cocoon of fog. Thick, fuzzy, visually tactile, furry fog. While I am loathe to drive in fog,20161028_073945 I find its beauty immense and in some strange way – comforting. Perhaps it’s the magical quality of being so dense and as the sunlight appears it begins to vanish before our eyes.

This fog was far more resilient because long after the sun had risen, it persisted. Not only over the valley with the ponds and along the creek bed but across the hill and in the higher areas filled with sunlight. I paid it little more attention as I prepared to go and help care for two congested babies so their mommy could attend a Young Mothers’ Bible Study.

Not until I walked outside in full sunlight did I actually notice just how much fog remained – and it was beautiful. As the sun back-lite the fog through the trees it was breathtaking. Grabbing my cell phone, I quickly snapped a few pictures just to be able and recall a semblance of its beauty. For me these moments are AWE inspiring. Reminding me of our great Creator, His power, His glory, His presence. I didn’t even stop to check the photos because as beautiful as the fog was, it also meant I would be driving through it for the 15 mile trek to her home. Did I mention I am loathe to drive in fog?

But the beauty of those first moments as the sunlight revealed the presence of the fog stayed with me. I’ve never been fearful of fog. Some say it makes them claustrophobic, others find it creepy, and most just see it as an annoyance. I see holiness. It speaks to me of God’s Shekinah glory, his presence manifested on earth. Rather than a shroud of fog, I see the embrace of His arms, a shield of protection. My mind wandered to the verses from Psalm 5 as David cries out to His God for protection from his enemies and closes with, “For you bless the godly, O LORD: you surround them with the shield of your love.”  Psalm 5:12

That is what I see in the fog, his shield of protection. His physical reminder that He is with me, always – whether I stop to look for Him, even if I try to escape His presence; He is there – my strength, my shield, my protection, my comfort.

Later in the evening I looked at the few pics I had snapped in haste. They were nice. Not great. You could see traces of the remaining fog. Nothing there that was AWE inspiring, but enough to remind me of the AWE some one Himself.  Where will you see God’s presence today? Look for Him, he will be found.

“The thief’s purpose is to steal and kill and destroy. My purpose is to give them a rich and satisfying life.”  John 10:10 NLT

In His shelter,

Mimi

 

 

 

 

Whispers from Heaven

I had a profound experience a few days ago. In July we welcomed another baby boy into the “grand” fold. He has three siblings so their house is always filled with activity and n o i s e. His older brother, Hub, is a mere 362 days older. Thankfully, he’s pretty content to wander around and entertain himself on most days, but once his sisters returned to school – he was a little lost. Accustomed to all the energy and entertainment they provided, the quiet was a little difficult for him to understand. Plus, there was this new person in the crowd, one that seemed to take up much of his mother’s time. Hmmm.

When I would visit I would intentionally spend the majority of my time with Hub. That freed up Mom to attend to the baby Clark and give Hub some relief from missing his sisters. Hub is a delightful little fellow that is constantly on the move and already has decided preferences about play – the rougher and rowdier the better. I would typically wait until Hub napped to get some snuggle time with the baby. And on this particular day, it was just the three of us. Me, the (finally) napping Hub, and newborn Clark.

After feeding the baby his bottle, he rested in my arms. Wide awake. Clark looks at me with penetrating eyes, almost as if trying to communicate a message to me. Now I know all the developmental stuff. Babies can’t really see or focus at that age. But it reminded me of a precious moment that occurred when our first granddaughter was born. Flashback with me nine years earlier. . .

Our first grand spent almost three months in the neonatal intensive care unit. And at 3 months old, still a tiny little thing she and her parents stayed with us while their new home was being  completed. A beloved friend that had moved out of state returned to our community for a visit shortly after the 3 month old “newborn” came home. Our friend Belle was a delightful, carefree spirit that loved life, people (all people) and God. Her transparency rivaled that of an innocent four year old. She simply saw the good and redeeming qualities in everyone.

Belle could not wait to hold and talk to this newborn child. The conversation went something like this.

Belle: “Oh you beautiful blessed child! What a gift you are. Just look at you, full of possibilities and wonder. Tell me, please, I’m so eager to know . . . What did God share with you before you left? . . . ” (pauses, listening)

Newborn: stares intently at Belle.

Belle: “Isn’t it exciting?! God has such wonderful plans for you! What was it like there? It’s been so long, I’m afraid that I’ve forgotten. But you just left so you remember! Please, little one, you must never forget. Don’t let us distract you from his message to you. Don’t let us make you forget your purpose. Did he have a message for me?!”  (pauses, listening)

Newborn: stares intently, never leaving Belle’s gaze.

Belle: “Thank you, beautiful one. Thank you. God bless you, oh – He already did! That’s right! Well, thank you for sharing and helping me to remember.”

Was I shocked? No. This was Belle, our free-spirited-open to all possibilities -the glass isn’t half full, it’s running over: Belle. Maybe she sounds eccentric to someone else, perhaps. But this is our Belle. Did I even question what Belle “heard” from our newborn granddaughter? No. And that was my mistake. I found that out just a few weeks ago. Now back to present day, me feeding the newborn Clark.

As he snuggled comfortably in my arms it appeared that he looked right through me. I mean, right through me to the essence of who I am. It actually startled me for a moment. Then, without plan or forethought, I began to talk to him, very much as Belle had spoken to our granddaughter nine years earlier. It didn’t even occur to me at that moment. I was so transfixed by his penetrating stare that it drew me in to a conversation. And there I was asking this newborn about God; what message and purpose God shared with him before he left and reminding him to never forget. To never let the world distract him to forget. I sat there looking into his eyes for what seemed a long time but neither of us could look away.  newborn-659685_960_720

That was a sacred moment.  I knew that in my arms was the physical manifestation of one that had very recently been in the very presence of God. I had no doubt that indeed God shared with him the plan, purpose and message that he was to share with the world. And perhaps for the first time I really understood what Belle meant nine years ago. She was reminding not only that tiny baby but her mother and grandmother to never let the child forget to whom she really belonged.

If you’re a parent, you know all the possibilities, the expectations, the plans and dreams you had for your child even before they were born. And if we’re not very careful, those plan and dreams become our focus instead of God’s plans and dreams for them. Be honest, did it occur to you that God had whispered a special message to your child just before he left Him in order to become a part of your world? Thirty-four years ago I never even considered it. Yes, I wanted my child to be a Christian, to give her heart to God, to live for and serve Him. But did I make THAT my focus? Did I remind her daily of His plan for her? Did I ask her to remember?

Romans 12:2 is a powerful reminder of those distractions we face,

Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is–his good, pleasing and perfect will.

I will not forget. I will seek to help my grandchildren always remember. The world is SO full of distractions that pull at us from every angle. Even our very youngest cannot escape them unless we are intentional about it. So, let’s make that a vital part of our parenting and grand-parenting. Look into a newborn’s eyes and listen for the whisper from heaven they share with you.

In His Grace,

Mimi

 

 

 

 

My Heart is Full

This has been a challenging summer.

Actually, its been a challenging year. Adversity: personal health issues, the death of beloved friends, cancer striking a precious little one, emergencies, and more have been consistent reminders that I can’t do this on my own. I love Lauren Daigle’s simple confession, “My hands are weary, I need Your rest.” (I Will Trust in You)  Not only are my hands weary but my entire body and my mind. Yet today my heart is full, so full of love and gratitude that I scarcely know where to end.

full-heart

Yes, you read correctly. It’s easy to begin in gratitude but where does it end? This morning as I completed my scripture writing and reflected upon it, as typically happens I find myself in the midst of a conversation with God. I began to thank him for so many wonderful things that had occurred yesterday. Let me preface by saying, yesterday was exhausting. Truly, completely, physically exhausting. I chauffeured my ‘delivering-Monday-morning-pregnant daughter’ to her OB appointment and then our 11-2/3 month old grandson to his follow-up appointment with his pediatrician. Follow-up for what, you say? A week-end ER visit and 36 hour hospital stay. Enough said. And just for good measure, yes, this is the son of the very pregnant daughter. It was 98 degrees outside with a heat index of about 103. Pregnant mother and her son were not happy.

You get the picture. It was a long, strenuous, emotional, contraction-filled, hot as the blazes day. But SO many things went right. And that is why my heart is so full. I began to thank God for those things and even the things that weren’t so great, but as I recalled them there were so many wonderful praises. Let me share just a few.

  • The grandson is healing very nicely and will be just fine.
  • My daughter could possibly go into labor before Monday, but it just means we get to enjoy grandbaby #five a couple of days early. He is doing great.
  • A dear friend drops everything to provide childcare for the day so I can chauffeur and help out my daughter.
  • My son began his senior year of college AND a part-time job in his chosen area of study!
  • Hubby’s long awaited “part” for his combine arrived. (For farmers that’s a BIG deal.)
  • Our weekly Bible study was filled with discussion, insight and praise. And, a dear friend was able to attend because of a schedule change at work!
  • A fresh tomato sandwich for supper.
  • A tough as nails gentleman from church celebrated his 91st birthday.
  • A new friend’s surgery was successful.
  • Our bottle fed calf, Harry, is growing and thriving – despite being rejected by his mom at birth. He’s a twin and it happens.
  • My nephew is marrying the most wonderful young lady this month!
  • I received an email with a treasured picture of me with my lifelong mentor.
  • And I slept, really slept a deep, restful, contented sleep.

All of these are such simple things. But I am grateful for each one and there were more, many more. That is why my heart is full. My list could go on and on and on without end. Our lives are so full of graces that we sometimes fail to acknowledge them. This morning I realized my list of thank you’s was far longer than my list of “would you’s?”. So, I simply stopped after the thank yous. HE knows my needs. Like parents that become weary of hearing their children say, “I want . .  I need . . .” I think God must smile when we simply say, “Thank you, thank you, thank you.”  af5ed73ec7e35627d0cd2f7076e1fa00

My heart is full, not just today, but if I stop to think for only a moment – it is full of gratitude everyday.

Because of the Lord’s great love we are not consumed,

for his compassions never fail.

They are new every morning;

great is your faithfulness.

I say to myself, “The Lord is my portion;

therefore I will wait for him.”  Lamentations 3:22-24

Let your heart be full of praise and gratitude today. Look around you, regardless of your circumstances, no matter how dire the situation there is much for which we can be grateful. Commit one day to only praise and gratitude. HE deserves it and it is transformative for the heart.

Your ARE blessed,

Mimi

“The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy; I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full.”  John 10:10

The Power of Unity

Our community has faced much adversity and while in many cases adversity may cause division; here it seems to unite us. Perhaps that is unique to smaller communities, or perhaps it is unique to these wonderful people. But regardless, I know that in times of need – we bind together as one. We truly become “the body of Christ,” his hands, feet, arms reaching out in action and love.

There have been life altering accidents, families stricken with devastating illnesses, and children, too many children have fallen victim to cancer. In each and every case, the rally cry is sounded; Pray for —– ! And the prayers rise up in unity. I am reminded of Chapter 4 of Nehemiah as he leads the remnant in the reconstruction of the city walls while battling the naysayers and the outsiders seeking to destroy not only their confidence but their faith.

We too face a daily battle of naysayers, the lies of the Enemy who seeks to destroy our faith by using adversity to taunt and tease us. He must be unaware that our strength comes from the Lord, who empowers us to rise above these temptations – especially when we are bound together in unity. God gave Nehemiah a practical strategy to protect his workers and families from fear and distraction all while leading to the completion of the wall. It is a pattern that also allows us to complete God’s work in the same manner. Look briefly at these verses from Chapter 4 of Nehemiah;

8 They all plotted together to come and fight against Jerusalem and stir up trouble again it.9 But we prayed to God and posted a guard day and night to meet this threat. . . . 13 Therefore, I stationed some of the people behind the lowest points of the wall at the exposed places, posting them by families with their swords, spears, and bows. 14 After I looked things over, I stood up and said to the nobles, the officials and the rest of the people, “Don’t be afraid of them. remember the Lord, who is great and awesome, and fight for you brothers, your sons and your daughters, your wives and your homes.” . . .  16 From that day on, half of my men did the work, while the other half were equipped with spears, shields, bows and armor.  18 . .  and each of the builders wore his sword at his side as he worked.

Nehemiah recognized God as their protection, yet he also realized God had equipped them with what they needed to accomplish the work and overcome the enemy. The key was in unity; supporting on another always armed for battle. Today we are armed for battle with the sword of the spirit, the shield of faith and the full armor of God. Just as the Greek armies became almost indefensible when they assembled together, linking their shields together and forming a protective barrier around with weak or wounded; we too have that power as we unit in faith through prayer.

I think that is what makes this community so special. We pray in unity. 

Two weeks ago, my home church hosted a prayer service for very special little girl that will shortly be turning five years old. Only a few weeks ago her life was happy, carefree and totally fun. Within the span of a week she was diagnosed with a somewhat rare and aggressive form of cancer, underwent surgery to remove a kidney and was preparing for chemo treatments. It has been a whirlwind of emotion for her family. A Facebook page, Pray for Elli, was established and the outpourings of love, hope and generosity have been nothing short of amazing.

The prayer service was open to all and MANY responded. Those that were ill or had any contact with someone ill were requested to remain at home and join in prayer from there. Many prayers were offered but one special prayer was lifted on behalf of Elli based upon specific matters that her mother requested we address. Below I share that prayer in hopes that 1) you too will join us in praying for Elli; 2) that it will bring you comfort in a time of need; 3) that is will guide you as you pray for others facing similar issues; 4) because God nudged me along to share this with you. 

A Prayer for Elli based upon Psalm 23

Father, we praise you O God, for you are Holy. You are mighty. You are our Creator, Sustainer, Redeemer, Provider, the One Who Sees, the One Who Goes Before and Our Mighty Fortress. We love you LORD, and thank you that you hear our prayers.

Gracious and merciful Father, we come to you with repentant hearts asking that you search our hearts and cleanse us of all impurity within us. We confess that we have sinned, sometimes not even recognizing it and at other times, pretending that it is trivial and does not matter. But LORD, we desire to be righteous in your sight and it is the sacrifice of your Son, Jesus, that brings us into righteous fellowship with you. It is His blood that cleansed us, makes us acceptable in your sight and allows us the privilege of approaching your throne. So on behalf of your precious child, Elli, LORD we come to you; united, believing, faithful, full of hope and expectation. Hear our petitions on her behalf, O LORD!

The LORD is my shepherd, I shall not be in want.

LORD, you are Elli’s Shepherd; her guide, her protection, her provider. Just as a faithful shepherd guards, protects, feeds, waters and tends to every need of his flock in order that they may thrive; we know that you are Elli’s constant companion. You guide not only her, but her mother as she makes decisions for her, as she advocates for Elli’s welfare and treatment options. You guide her physicians and treatment team as they work together to determine the best course of action to defeat the enemy, cancer. Elli, shall not be in want nor in a need that YOU, the Great I AM, her very Creator cannot provide. There is nothing impossible for you. We ask that you provide physical protection for Elli’s heart. That her heart will remain strong regardless of the possible side effects of her treatments and therapies. In fact, we ask that her heart not only retains its current functioning but actually improves over the course of her treatment. Strengthen her physical heart, just as you strengthen her spiritual heart. Allow her to truly feel your presence. You are Elli’s shepherd, she shall not want.

He makes me lie down in green pastures, he leads me beside quiet waters, he restores my soul.

LORD, as Elli proceeds with her treatments, surround her with a sense of refuge, a quieting of her spirit, anxiety and fear. We know, Father, that this is a scary time and hospitals can be a frightening place especially for one so young. But we praise you LORD, that you have already provided Elli with such a wonderful hospital and loving, devoted caretakers. As Elli faces these next days and weeks of treatments, lead her calmly and securely through it by minimizing any discomfort. We boldly ask LORD, that the previous issues with constipation will be gone! That it will no longer be a problem. She has experienced many unanticipated side effects and complications from earlier treatments, so LORD, we ask that you bring to her mind and body the peace that she discovers as she walks through your beautiful creation; the stillness that calms her as she sees the miracle and wonder of nature; revive her just as she is refreshed in the waters of a stream. Restore her spirit, mind, and body with the living water you offered to the woman at the well.

He guides me in paths of righteousness for his name’s sake.

Father, we confess that we do not understand why things happen, especially as they negatively impact those we love. But we trust you, LORD. We know that your plans are always for good, that your love for us is beyond our comprehension. And we believe that in this, yes – even in Elli’s cancer, that this will glorify your name. Tonight as we gather together as the church, the body and the bride of Christ, your beloved children; we come in faith believing that this very moment glorifies your name. LORD, use Elli and Carla as instruments of faith. As Elli and Carla walk this path, grant them the grace to keep their eyes on you, trusting in you, acknowledging that all things are possible through you and because of you. May their every word and deed be a living testimony to the glory and power of God Almighty.

Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil for you are with me; your rod and staff, they comfort me.

LORD, it is not the valley that frightens us. It is the shadows that lurk within it, shadows that seem to taunt us, question us; shadows that appear larger and more overwhelming than their true substance is in reality. But you have spoken, Father. A shadow cannot harm us! It is a deception, one that the evil one sends to distract us from our very source of our protection and comfort. Even when that shadow IS the shadow of death, Christ reminds us that HE has conquered death! “O death, where is your sting?” We approach your throne, O merciful and mighty God, confident that you walk before Elli, beside Elli and even behind Elli; hemming her in with protection, assurance of your love, and comfort. Father, just as the the rod and staff were tools the shepherd used to protect and care for his flock, may your Spirit guide and protect Elli as she journeys through these dark times. And in name of the One that conquered death, the sacred and Holy name of Jesus Christ, we declare a long, healthy, Spirit-filled life for Elli. May her life be a living testimonial of your power, strength and love.

Father, Elli faces a difficult treatment, one whose very name hints of the Evil One. When this shadow falls upon this family, may your Holy Spirit rise up in glory, light their path and cast these shadows away. We ask your protection from any further ill effects of her treatments. We ask that doctors be amazed at her progress. We pray for such limited side effects that there is no need for blood transfusions and if the transfusions are essential; protect her from any blood borne pathogens. As Carla and Elli walk through this valley filled with shadows, protect them and comfort them.

You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies. You anoint my head with oil; my cup overflows.

Father we thank you for the assurance you give us that we can be secure in your love, protection and redemption, even in the midst of the darkest circumstances – you are with us. Your presence is so deep and abiding that we may rest, truly rest in the knowledge that you alone are our provision, our security, our healing, and our blessing. And it is in this confidence that we ask that Elli truly feast at your table of provision. We ask you to stimulate her appetite, stir up within her a desire to eat, allow her body to crave those foods that will provide her the nutrition her body needs to fight this battle successfully. Anoint Elli with your healing oil, whether through modern medicine or your divine hand’s direct touch. We ask you to anoint her with healing ridding her body of every trace of cancer or any infectious disease. Restore her to a whole condition one that overflows with energy and zest for life; a wholeness that exceeds any that we could ask our imagine. Pour out your healing to overflowing.

Surely goodness and love will follow me all the days of my life, and I will dwell in the house of the LORD forever.

LORD, it is in the confidence of your faithfulness to us in the past that we have hope for the future. Your love for Elli is as sure and steadfast today as it was on the day you began to knit and form her together. Your love for her is unchanging. Father, we ask that you grant our petitions for Elli, not out of our righteousness, but out of your righteousness and great mercy. We pray that her life will be long, healthy, happy and wholly devoted to serving YOU, the one true God. Hear our prayers, LORD. Hear our prayers.

In Jesus Name we Pray.

 

Blessing to you all, Mimi

“The thief only comes to steal and kill and destroy; I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full.”  John 10:10