Sunday, December 18, 2011

Magical Candy Canes

Owen and my Christmas tree are old friends. Children usually love my Christmas tree because of the charming ornaments, but for Owen, the real draw has always been eating the candy canes.

"You have more candy canes on your tree than anybody else. And they taste better all these years of my whole life," Owen declared at his last piano lesson. "I have eaten lots of your candy canes. They're the best."

"Maybe it's because you eat more of them at my house than anywhere else," I laughed.

"They're magical. They make me not be able to stop eating them," he joked, with his six year old humor.
"Is that because you get them from Santa instead of Walmart?"

"Oh, they're magical all right. Once upon a time, years before even your Grandma was a little girl, some shepherds were out in a field one night.  They were taking care of their sheep," I began, walking over to a corner and lifting my dad's old shepherds crook.  I carried it over to Owen and let him hold it, then continued my story. "Angels came and filled the sky and the shepherds were very afraid, but the angels said:

"Fear not!" Owen interrupted, as familiar with the Christmas story as he is with my Christmas tree.

"Yes!" I agreed. "They said, 'Fear not! For I am bringing you good news of great joy which is for all the people. For unto you is born this day in the city of David, a Savior who is Christ the Lord. And they told the shepherds they would find the baby wrapped in a blanket and sleeping in a manger. And then what did the angels say, Owen," I prompted. "Glory..."

"Glory to God in the highest!"

"Yes. Glory to God in the highest! And since I was a little girl I have wondered how many shepherds there were. Every year I buy lots and lots of candy canes and pretend that they are shepherd crooks for the shepherds to herd all the sheep with them to see Baby Jesus."

"And so lots and lots of kids can eat them and maybe someday they can see Baby Jesus, too!" reasoned Owen.

"Yes. Because Jesus loves little children," I agreed.

"And you love little children, too. And I love candy canes!" finished Owen.

A Jewel for Katherynn

"Even the rocks shall cry forth praise."
Katherynn carried each rock carefully from the window ledge to the kitchen counter. Slowly she arranged them in an order with intense concentration and speculation.

"Okay. I'm ready to wash them," she stated, hands on hips, completely satisfied with her arrangement.

Handing her a cleaning rag, I asked, "What's your plan?"

She grinned. "I'm cleaning my favorite favorites first.  Then I will clean my favorite favorite favorites next."

"So what will you clean last?"

"My favorite favorite specialist favorite favorites," she logically replied, already hard at work.

One by one the ever so clean rocks were lovingly returned to the window ledge, until she came to me and held out the last one, announcing, "This is the famous Winner Favorite."

A pudgy, smudgy hand with tiny pink sparkly fingernails grasped a gnarly brown sparkly rock. "It's so beautiful," she said tenderly, gently caressing it. "God put jewels in this one where I could find them."

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

The Rescue

Brian watched the snow and glitter inside the pretty glass ball as it sparkled and danced, falling softly on the tiny baby in the manger. When the bubbles covered the top of the water he picked up the globe and shook it, mesmerized anew by the snowfall in a miniature world.

With a shatter of glass, the globe crashed to the wooden floor. Brian watched with surprise as the water washed across pieces of glass and the tiny baby in the manger lay broken at his feet. "MOOOMMMY!" he yelled.

Sarah was standing at the kitchen doorway wiping her hands with a towel, just in time to see her precious Christmas globe shatter. "Don't move, Brian. Stand still," she commanded in her 'Mother Means It' voice.  She was too scared for the little boy's safety to think about a broken world.  Her son's bare little feet were covered and surrounded by the glass.

When the child was safely rescued, Sarah snuggled him and his blanket into bed for a nap and returned to the shattered ornament. Her eyes filled with tears as she surveyed the damage.  By the time she had cleaned up the mess she was sobbing with heartbreak over the loss. She picked up the minature manger scene and set it on the counter, put away cleaning supplies and decided to take a nap herself.

"Mommy," Brian said softly, waking her gently. "I'm sorry I broke it, but it's fixed now."

Sarah smiled as she took the glass of water he handed her. Inside was the little baby Jesus in a manger from Brian's play set. He had colored snow falling on a torn piece of blue construction paper and filled the glass with water. "I made you a new world," Brian said lovingly. "Don't cry any more."

The memories in Sarah's heart flew back into the past, not to her childhood memory of receiving the snow globe, but to the original manger in Bethlehem where a precious little boy, like hers in so many ways, lay innocent in a manger. A lost world lay shattered and broken at His feet, too. Then flashed the thought of a Heavenly Father, making a rescue to protect His children, cleaning up the mess of a lost world, bringing hope to a new world.

"It's a better world," she said, setting the glass on the table, and pulling Brian into her arms. "It's a very much better world, Brian."

Monday, December 12, 2011

The Grandma Person

Love them to Jesus.

Look at your mom's face when she picks up that old ornament you made in kindergarten. Watch her eyes, her smile, as her mind relives memories of your life that you have long since forgotten. You remember the faded construction paper ornament because it's on the tree every year. She remembers the day you proudly presented it to her.

Encouraging young mothers during the season to be jolly is one of my favorite things. Somehow they seem to discover the energy to trim the tree, make ornaments with toddlers, plan parties, bake cookies with six year olds and enjoy Christmas movies anew. God is able to bless mothers with supernatural energy, joy and creativity.

Don't forget to encourage them as well as pray for them. Cut out some sugar cookies for them to decorate, pick up a Christmas CD to surprise them, read Christmas stories to their children, play a board game, put together a puzzle.  Share your own holiday memories. 

It may be old fashioned in an age of video games and rental movies, but the best babysitter for a child, is still a"Grandma Person", as my little Lydia once called me. And no child can have too many of those.

Tired Young Mothers

Bless all young mothers
at end of day,
kneeling wearily with each
small one
to hear them pray.
Too tired to rise when done...
and yet, they do,
longing just to sleep
one whole night through.
Too tired to sleep...
Too tired to pray...
bless all young mothers
at close of day.

~Ruth Bell Graham

Thursday, December 1, 2011

The Old Blue Quilt

"It feels like love."
My great-granny worked thousands of stitches into beautiful heirloom quilts.  Six generations later, children are still delighted. After decades in my Grandma's cedar chest, the blue quilt became the tablecloth that graced my mother's home with beauty and history.

A busy young family of six made the blue quilt worn, but it was quite serviceable for Sunday afternoon naps or covering sleeping grandchildren. One of my favorite memories of my mother, is seeing her snuggled in the old blue quilt, reading her Bible and sipping a cup of coffee.

Though I have several antique quilts from Granny, the old blue is my favorite. Seldom used, wrapped in paper in Grandma's cedar chest, it was a unique treasure that as a little girl I could only admire on rare occasions. I appreciate it even more now that it covers my life with such a history of sheltering love.

For a decade it has blessed the many spiritual children and grandchildren in my life. Newborn Seraiah was dazzled by the colors and patterns. Weary Ethan pulled it up over his head to hide his whole body, cowboy boots and all, from his school bus woes. Carson used it as a bumpy road for vehicles. Yesterday little Katherynn asked to read books under my "Worldwide Web Story Quilt". 

A couple of years back, Alesha, one of my spiritual daughters, was out of town. Her husband Steve dropped by our house with their children before going to a party. Joya, about five, snuggled into my lap while he explained that she wasn't feeling very well. Given the choice, Joya decided to stay with me instead of going to the party. "Are you sure?" asked her daddy, knowing it was more homesickness for mommy than a stomach virus.

Joya nodded and reached for the old blue quilt. "Wrap me up. All the way. It feels like love."

All year long, the old blue quilt snuggles me into the early morning presence of God while I read my Bible, pray and sip my coffee. Sometimes, it seems as though I can feel the very arms of God holding me close in that old quilt, covering me with His love.

"But let all those who go to You for safety be glad.  Let them always sing with joy.  Spread Your cover over them and keep them safe.  Then those who love You will be glad because of You."       ~Psalm 5:11, NIRV

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

May God Bless You

May God bless you today and always.
May God bless you with discomfort at easy answers, half truths, and superficial relationships so that you may live deep within your heart.

May God bless you with anger at injustice, oppression, and the exploitation of people so that you may work for justice and freedom and peace.

May God bless you with tears to shed for those who suffer from pain and rejection and starvation and war so that you may reach out your hand to comfort them and to turn their pain into joy.

And may God bless you with enough foolishness to believe that you, yes you, can make a difference in this world so that you can do for Christ what others claim cannot be done.

May God bless you with a heart that breaks for the things that break his heart.

May God bless you with a divine tenderness.

May God give you an ear that hears his voice.

May God increase the anointing upon your life, for you have been filled with the same Spirit that raised Christ from the grave.

In Jesus’ name we pray. Amen.”

Franciscan Prayer (from the blog of Jon Weece)

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Unfinished Faith


It hurts to have a prodigal child. We dream such big dreams for our children.

How, I wonder, did Monica, the mother of Augustine, feel among her friends during those years when her brilliant young son, a leader in the heretical "Manichees", lived in open defiance of You?

You have to be brave to parent a prodigal child, Father. It's a hard thing to face the eyes of other parents, good parents, who had good children while you have a wandering one. Oh, they don't mean to be smug or to judge. It's just that they don't understand.

I know.

You do know, don't You? Sometimes You are disappointed in Your children, too.

Do not grow weary in doing good for you will reap a harvest if you do not give up.

You are the God who is able to do more than a parent asks or imagines that You can do in the life of a child.

I am the God of Abram, Isaac and Jacob. I am the Alpha and Omega, the Beginning and the End.

You are the Author and the Finisher of our faith.

Keep in step with the Spirit. Not ahead. Not behind. Walk in My ways.

Little Black Lamb

Fleeing from You
nothing he sees
of Your going before him
as he flees.

Choosing his own paths
how could he know
Your hand directs where he shall go?

Thinking himself free
-free at last-
unaware Your right hand
holds him fast.

Waiting for darkness
to hide in sight,
not knowing, with you
dark is light.

Poor prodigal!
seeking a "where" from "whence"...
how does one escape

~Ruth Bell Graham

Sunday, November 20, 2011

Afraid? Of What?

Afraid? Of What?
To feel the spirit's glad release?
To pass from pain to perfect peace,
The strife and strain of life to cease?
Afraid~Of that?

Afraid? Of What?
Afraid to see the Savior's face
To hear His welcome, and to trace
The glory gleam from wounds of grace?
Afraid~of that?

Afraid? Of What?
A flash, a crash, a pierced heart;
Darkness, light, O Heaven's art!
A wound of His a counterpart!
Afraid~of that?

Afraid? Of What?
To enter into Heaven's rest,
And yet to serve the Master blest,
From service good to service best?
Afraid~of that?

Afraid? Of What?
To do by death what life could not~
Baptize with blood a stony plot,
Till souls shall blossom from the spot?
Afraid~of that?

E.H. Hamilton

Friday, November 4, 2011

Take a Risk~Dream Big

How do I know what career I will love? Do I want a career? How will I know if I'm choosing the right mate? Will I enjoy life more if I'm single? Am I good at anything that matters? In the scope of things, do I even matter? Will God come through for me? Should I make the safe choices?

The thing I love most about college students is their unshakable belief that dreams can come true. Not necessarily for themselves, but in general. It's also the thing I love least because of obstacles like discouragement, self-doubt and fear.

After a couple of decades living a life imitating one's peers, learning to be oneself at 21 can be burdensome. New ideas, insights and choices intimidate as well as challenge young adults. Life decisions are not only overwhelming, but immediate.

Some of your choices and decisions may leave you disappointed. Accepting disappointments without losing focus on the dream is difficult. It's easier to give up, to become discouraged and even depressed when life doesn't look the way you planned.

Doesn't mean dreaming isn't worthwhile. Dreaming helps formulate goals. Be brave enough to take your dream out for a spin. God blesses from a heart of mercy and love. He is not only the Author of your faith, but the Finisher, able to do more than you ask or imagine in your life.

Your God is bigger than you think! Take a risk. What could you do with your life that would bring God to the edge of His seat? Dream big and dare to make it come true.

Thursday, November 3, 2011

Tucked into Sylvie's Jacket

Holly stretched weary muscles. Cold rain continued to stream down the window pane and she shivered with dread. Over a sigh born of exhaustion she picked up the laundry basket, walked through the cluttered living room and into the messy kitchen. Dishes were piled in the sink from breakfast. Counter tops were littered with various stacks of papers, toys and books. Spilled Cheerios crunched under her feet as she sat down the laundry and folded into a chair.

"I don't even know where to start," she whispered. "Every day begins this same way."

"Mama, can we have a tea party? I'm hungry," four year old Sylvie asked, crawling onto her mother's lap.

"Sure, honey," Holly softly answered.

"With real tea and cups and cookies and stuff?" begged Sylvie.

A tear slipped down Holly's cheeks as she snuggled the little girl closer to her. "With real tea and cups and cookies and stuff, Sylvie. I think we deserve a tea party. Shall we clean up the kitchen first and start the laundry?"

Sylvie nodded eagerly and hopped down, eager to help complete the morning chores. Little helping hands picked up one end of the laundry basket, efficiently dumping the clothes into the spilled Cheerios. "Oopsie!" she giggled.

Holly smiled and took a deep cleansing breath, knowing there is always a treasure to be found tucked into the corner of each extraordinary ordinary day. Some days you just have to search for it.

The work of a home is love made visible. Tuck a happy childhood into your little ones' jacket.

Thursday, October 27, 2011

You Make Me Brave

You Make Me Brave
 "You did it! I am very proud of you," I praised my piano student.

"I didn't be able to play 'London Bridge' ever before in my whole life and now I can do it," six year old Alex told me. "It wasn't even hard because you sat right here beside me the whole entire minutes!"

Alex beamed with pride, then added, "You're a really good music teacher."

"How do you know?" I asked him, always eager for six year old insight.

"Because you teached me how to do something I thought I couldn't do. Sometimes I just need someone beside me to make me be brave. Now I'm brave AND I can play 'London Bridge'. I bet not even Harry Potter can do that. But I can. You just sitted beside me and that's all. I did the whole rest of it by myself."

Who walks alongside you and makes you brave?

Who looks a little wobbly and nervous in your life? Go ahead! Walk alongside them and make them brave.

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Fountain of Youth

"Moisturizer keeps skin from feeling like a desert ready to bloom cacti. I get that. But sorting through potions to erase wrinkles is beyond me," I confessed.

The lady next to me smiled, tossing jars and bottles into her Walmart cart. "Being beautiful is expensive. It takes a lot of time, doesn't it?"

"I'm not sure how this all works. Do I need to make a schedule of when to use each product?"

She laughed. "And in the end, we have to get older and die anyway, don't we?"

She accepted my offer to buy her a cup of coffee and after the usual small talk about our lives, I shared with her that I'm not that crazy about wrinkles; but the truth is, I enjoy the growth of character, the understanding, the strength and wisdom that come with age. Regardless of the reality of problems, I love living life.

Youth is elusive so why try to hold on to it? Splashing today in an eternal wellspring of life that overflows with joy and every good thing? Schedule me in for THAT beauty treatment.

"Above all else, guard your heart, for it is the wellspring of life."

Monday, October 17, 2011

The One and Only

He is Jesus
The One and Only,
Trancendent over all else.
To know Him is to love Him.
To love Him is to long for Him.
To long for Him is to finally
Reach soul hands into the
One true thing we need
Never get enough of

Take all you want.
Take all you need.
Till soul is fed
And spirit is freed.
Till dust is dust
And Face you see

Jesus Christ,
He's all you need.

~Beth Moore

Friday, October 7, 2011

People to People

How do you share the love of Jesus with a lonely man?

How do you tell a hungry man about the Bread of Life?

How do you tell a thirsty man about the Living Water of the Lord?

How do you tell him of His Word?

How do you tell a dying man about eternal life?
How do you tell an orphan child about the Father's love?
How do you tell a man who's poor about the wondrous riches of the Lord?
How do you tell Him of His Word?

How do you tell a loveless world that God himself is love?
How do you help a man who's down to lift his eyes above?
How do you tell a bleeding man about the healing power of the Lord?
How do you tell him of His Word?

People who love go to people alone without Jesus.
People who see go to those who are blind without Jesus.

~William J. Reynolds

Thursday, October 6, 2011

Emily's Answer

"What do you wish you had known when you were my age that you didn't know?" Emily asked me. "Tell us something that you wish you had figured out so that we don't have to learn the hard way. I don't want life to be hard."

Emily discovered happiness at a young age because she has grown up with a lovely childhood alongside a picturesque country setting. She enjoys a healthy, loving family and an encouraging circle of Christian friends. It would be easy to misjudge Emily as shallow with her cheerleader blond good looks and bubbly personality. But life simply has not yet tossed Emily many hardships.

As I looked into Emily's eager blue eyes, so young and bright, I considered my answer. "Life is going to be hard, my darling," I began. "Life isn't long, but it is hard. There's no escape from that truth. Sometimes life gets so filled with burdens that you can scarcely breathe. You're not even sure you can take another step. You're not even sure it's worth the effort."

I smiled at her and continued, "Know that a well lived life is always worth the effort. When you want to give up, dream bigger. Fight harder. Dig deeper. Imagine the goal that you might pursue if you didn't have to wait until you're "good at it" to begin. Enjoy the pursuit, the being alive.

Hard knocks aren't going to come because you are weak or not good enough or sinful or lack faith. Hard knocks are going to come because that's the price of being alive. It's the price for being in the battlefield of life and not on the sidelines. Start where you are and move to where you want to be."

Emily took a big breath and slowly let it out as she soaked up my words. "And you figured that out because of the hard times, right? You know stuff because life is hard. So it's not really such a scary bad thing that sometimes life is hard, is it?"

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

Through It All

"I sure hope today is better than yesterday," shared my friend, Pam. "I'm so tired of climbing this mountain and getting almost to the top, then falling right back down. A friend said to get right back up and start over again. That's what I try to do, but sometimes it's very hard. Sometimes it's easier said than done."

"This crazy shower was supposed to be repaired two weeks ago. It's turning into an exhausting project," said my friend, Lynn. "But having nearly died this past summer, it really doesn't seem like such a big deal to me."

"I woke up this morning ready to have the best future ever!" confided Lindsey. "I have some exciting thoughts we should chat about because you know things."

Emotions. Some days we jump up ready to tackle the world. Some days we are overwhelmed before we even get out of bed. I don't know about you, but I'm never sure until my eyes open each day what emotion will greet me.

When I get up early, filled with energy, bubbling over with zest for my life, I have discovered that nobody understands but Jesus, Wellspring of Life, my fascinating Joyride. When pat answers sound empty and platitudes annoy, I have discovered that nobody understands my disappointments like Jesus, Man of Sorrows, so acquainted with grief.

When I am wandering lost in the foothills and the mountain is too steep to climb, His arms carry me. When I am soaring on wings like eagles enjoying life and my blessings, He is the wind that carries me. Life is hard, but it's also good. It is worth everything to share it with the God who sees me.

Thursday, September 29, 2011

The God of Goodness

Time to rest. I made this day.

I know, Father. You are so good to me! Our morning walk was refreshing, encouraging. It's a skipping-in-a-field-of-sunflowers sort of a day, isn't it?

A sanctified day for My sanctified daughter.

A sanctified day....A day set apart for blessing and honor and devotion.
A sanctified daughter....A woman set aside for blessing and honor and devotion.

Early this morning when You called me from my bed, I had no idea that was Your plan. I was sipping my coffee and opening my Bible to I Thessalonians. Suddenly You drew me into Your Words. It exploded into my life as never before! It was awesome!

You couldn't stop reading and writing and soaking it up. It lit you up from the inside out.

I inhaled the whole letter! It's all about being a spiritual mother to me. It's so great!

My sheep hear My voice, and I know them, and they follow Me.

And You give them eternal life, and they never perish.

Neither shall anyone snatch them out of My hand.

John 10:27-29. Oh! You want me to study John next.

Come. Let us away.

Where You lead me I will follow.

Monday, September 26, 2011

Lauren's Lesson

Jesus is the same yesterday, today and __________.

"Monday!" answered Lauren, a friend's little granddaughter.

It's a good answer, isn't it?

Jesus is real and His acts are recorded in the history logs of yesterday. The Bible has been proven to be truth based on overwhelming evidence. The yesterday is easy.

Today may be a broken road or a skip through the green pastures, but I know Jesus is alive and walking alongside. His creation, power and involvement in my life prove Him over and over again each day. His Words are active and constantly amazing me.

But, forever? That stretches beyond my ability to understand. God is everlasting, eternal. He always was and always is and always will be. I believe it with all of my heart, but it is a thought above my thoughts. It is too marvelous for me.

But, Monday? I understand Monday. In becoming like a little child, I can wrap my mind around "forever". Jesus is the same yesterday, today and Monday at a time.

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

The Princess and the Dragon


The evil one, the ancient dragon, set his sights on me early yesterday morning. Like a roaring lion, he stalked me, seeking to devour me. He was determined that I would not teach on spiritual warfare at the prison last night, wasn't he?

He was strategic in his attack. He weakened me physically, shook me emotionally, confused me mentally and challenged me spiritually far beyond what I could endure.

Oh, but You had prepared Your princess for battle! You had trained my prayer warriors to be alert and to battle with me. Hard blows had me down for the count. He had a plan for my destruction and more than ever before, I was aware of it. I trembled at his power and wanted to run from him.

Over and over, I whispered to you, "Do not be afraid. Trust me."

You have trained me to know Your voice even in the dust and noise and fray of battle. You had a plan for victory and more than ever before, I was aware of it. I delighted in Your power and wanted to run to You.

I brought victory, beauty and protection to a treacherous battlefield. I am the God who is able to do more than you ask or imagine.

Oh, Father, how I love being Your daughter, the child of the King of Kings, Ruler over all. You are sovereign, the Lord Most High. You alone are worthy of praise, the Conquering King!

Rest today, my soldier princess. I am the God who heals and gives rest. You are sweetly broken.

I know whom I have believed and I am convinced that You are able to protect that which I have committed to You.

Come. Let us away.

Sunday, September 18, 2011

Step by Step

You're walking along, thinking everything is as normal as possible, then, "POW!" Out of the blue comes a blow that knocks you down and leaves you shaking in your shoes. Maybe it's a death or illness, maybe it's a betrayal or a job loss. Maybe the money just won't stretch to the end of the month or your child is having a rough time in a new school.

Over a cup of tea, Andrea choked back tears and confided softly, "I'm bitter and I hate it! Where is God when my heart is breaking?I know God is real. I know He keeps His promises. He sees and knows everything. Why does He make life hurt so much? Does He love me? Did he forget about me?"

A lifetime of walking with Jesus has taught me that we don't have all the answers any more than Job did when his life got hard. Being a Jesus follower does not entitle us to a life free from disappointments. We are not entitled to health, wealth, good marriages or successful careers. In spite of our pain and loss, our disappointments, it is still worth everything to follow Jesus.

Andrea is learning that God's heart breaks with her when bad things happen. He loves her perfectly, personally, protectively with the heart of a father. She doesn't have to know all the answers to know He is a trustworthy provider and a strong fortress. Though she is shaken and afraid, angry and discouraged, God is an ever present help in her time of trouble. He is a steadfast Rock for her to stand on. His work is perfect and all His ways are just.

Step by step, He leads, refining us and changing us from the inside out. Down the road we are not as surprised by the unexpected blow that comes at us out of the blue. Later on we are more surprised by the joy and peace that are available even when we are down for the count.

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

Inside Her Prison Walls

She was silently sobbing in a dark place in her innermost heart. Tears poured as if they had been locked away for years. Her young arms wrapped around her middle as if to hold herself together.

In the small prison chapel, the door to her heart squeaked hesitantly open and she peeked out from a lifetime of anguish. My husband and I ached for her as we answered her questions, shared the Words of God with her.

The voice of a rejected, damaged little girl dared to speak, "I think God is so mad at me."

"Oh, Father," I prayed, "Help me to meet her where she is."

"I love you," I promised her. "There is nothing you could say or nothing you could do that would cause me to love you any less. And if I can love you this much after only meeting you two times, know that God loves you so much more because He made you. He is real. He is the God who loves you and wants to forgive you."

Sad brown eyes looked up at me as the bare hint of a slow sweet smile appeared then quickly faded. Ashes from a lifetime of shame, torment and guilt, no longer buried, no longer smoldering, were stirred by hope.

Vulnerable, shaking with emotion, full of fear yet daring to hope, she pushed her heart's door open wider and stepped out.

"I, even I, am the One who wipes out your transgressions for My own sake; and I will not remember your sins." ~Isaiah 43:25

Wednesday, August 31, 2011

A Memory for Katherynn

Katherynn is almost four and loves pre-school at my house.

Fascinated with the delight of learning to read, letters and sounds are "smooshed" into words. Slowly and methodically she writes each letter and sounds out words learning to spell. Every new story we read is added to our list of ones to enjoy repeatedly. Each new day is the "best day ever".

Today after a busy morning of doing her chores, writing, spelling, reading and playing with numbers, I suggested that it was time to go outside for a nature walk. After checking on the busy spider, visiting caterpillars and finding shoes we headed into the neighborhood to see what we could see.

Our nature discoveries were simple, but numerous. A blue jay feather, various flowers, a pine cone, a heart shaped leaf, two peaches picked from a tree and a dragonfly sighting by the lake.

As we sat enjoying the rippling water, Katherynn reached over to hold my hand. "This is the best minute ever in the whole world," she said softly. "Isn't it?" Her eyes, sparkling with the joy of walking in God's world, were wide-eyed with wonder.

"It's a wonderful minute, Katie Kat. God loves us very much to give us such a wonderful and interesting world."

"Indeed," she agreed. "Let's draw stuff in the nature journal so we never forget."

God of Wonders

Father, Glorious and Majestic,

You are the God of blessings, the Giver of every good and perfect gift, the Lord of Joy. You are the Alpha and the Omega who is and who was and who is to come, the Almighty. You are alive forevermore, the Master of the universe.

You alone hold the keys to death and to hell. You alone are Jehovah, the One and Only living God. What a wonder You are!

With a voice like Niagra thunder and with lightning in Your fists, You reign over all. With tender love You feed Your flock like a shepherd. With compassion and kindness You woo us to You, longing for relationship with us.

Your grace is sufficient for me, oh, Lord. You are all I want and all I need. From the rising of the sun to the going down of the same, may Your name be praised. In every nation and in every people group Your grace and love are available to all. Wash me and I shall be whiter than snow.

My Mother's Daughter

My mom saw weaknesses, strengths, talents and interests in her daughters as a gift from God.

Intrigued by our differences, she was quick to say that something was a strength or weakness and to share how she was strong or weak in that way, too. She would point out excellence in one, but encourage change in another. In areas of weakness or desire to be like the world, she was very firm, very plain, in what was right or wrong. She wanted us to know the areas where Satan can catch us up, to be wise and alert.

There is a different flow of life at each stage of a daughter's life. Mom used the time she had with us to love us and listen to us. I got much more time with her alone during my younger years, but by age 12 I seldom was alone with her. My youngest sister was seldom alone with her during her younger years, but after the rest of us left home, she had some "only child" years.

You train a child as you walk along. Scheduled times are a blessing. I would have loved more regularity of those individual times, but looking from adult eyes, I'm not sure where it would have fit into daily life in an ongoing way. More frequently it was long talks here and there, little talks along the way and questions answered as they came up.

Hear, O Israel! The LORD is our God, the LORD is one! You shall love the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your might. These words, which I am commanding you today, shall be on your heart. You shall teach them diligently to your sons and daughters. You shall talk of them when you sit in your house and when you walk by the way and when you lie down and when you rise up. You shall write them on the doorposts of your house and on your gates. (from Deuteronomy 6)

Thursday, August 18, 2011

A Breakfast to Remember

God is bigger today.

We had breakfast together, the Lord and I. Vanilla coffee and farm fresh eggs. Hot biscuits with melting butter and honey. Antique tablecloth and cloth napkins. I love a God who is always faithful. Always shows up before I do. It teaches me to notice Him, keeps me fully awake to His goodness, makes me overflow with joy and gratitude.

After you've been with Jesus awhile, begun to train yourself to be thankful, to thrill in His being sovereign, every year you grow, you find Him bigger. And, sometimes, like for me this morning, you have a sudden realization that His care is not only personal,faithful and good, but big. Huge. Gigantic.

"Wow,"I said aloud to Him. You absolutely blow my mind!" The trees must have clapped their hands. Three squirrels, a garden of flowers, one Monarch butterfly and a hummingbird all heard me say it, saw me raise hands and burst forth into song.

My life song, my masterpiece, the art God is sculpting out of the junk of my life is not that I am fulfilling my calling to become a spiritual mother, that I have spent a lifetime discovering what that means. It is not the 33 years and still counting I have spent on the college campus loving students to Jesus. The opus of my life is the lives whom I have influenced while being available in such a place as this wonderful world.

Even my life song, the masterpiece of my life, is not about what God can do for me or in me, but through me. Even my life song is all about Him.

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

The God of Peace

A rainbow greeted me on my walk early this morning, Father, and I thank you for it. The soft rains falling on my yard will cause greener grass. Vegetable and flower gardens will be revived and renewed. The hot humid air that was so staggering in the Midwest this summer has given way to a cool breeze that promises a refreshing of minds and bodies. Joy bubbles out of me and peace reigns in my heart.

But in other yards there is no green grass and in other gardens there is no fruit on the vines. Somewhere on this planet live children who have never seen a rainbow streak across their sky, never danced in the rain.

You are the God who sees. You are the God who is able to cause joy, to provide abiding peace in a dry and weary land. Such power and mercy is too marvelous for me. Your ways so far beyond my understanding! Grace like rain falls down on Your people whatever our circumstances and wherever we are on earth. Send a renewal of joy and peace to Your people, Father, a newness of life and an abundance of rich healthy spiritual fruit. You alone are the God who is able.

"Do not call to mind the former things, or ponder things of the past. Behold, I will do something new, now it will spring forth; Will you not be aware of it? I will even make a roadway in the wilderness, rivers in the desert. The beasts of the field will glorify Me, the jackals and the ostriches, because I have given waters in the wilderness and rivers in the desert to give drink to My chosen people. The people whom I formed for Myself will declare My praise." ~Isaiah 43:18-21

Monday, August 15, 2011

Soaking up the Sunbeams

I took a break from blogging to seek peace, to pursue God's specific goals for my life. Time spent in shady green pastures soaking up the sunbeams and drinking in the Words of the Good Shepherd have refreshed me indeed.

Sometimes, when we least expect it, the Father of every good and perfect gift surprises us with an overflowing of joy, a deepening of peace and an increase of faith and love that steals our very breath away in its glory and power. While I have rested, He has been working in me, for me and through me. He takes the small offer of myself and creates amazing and beautiful things for me to behold.

I called to Him and He answered me and told me wondrous things that I did not know. (Jeremiah 33:3, God's cell phone number)

God is able to do abundantly more than all we ask or imagine that He can do. He wants our questions, our ponderings, our doubts and concerns. It is from our faith the size of a mustard seed, smidgens of love and handfuls of hope that He does His best work. Jesus, Jesus, how I trust Him! How I've proved Him o'er and o'er.

"Thou wilt keep him in perfect peace whose mind is stayed on Thee, because he trusts in Thee." ~Isaiah 26:3

Friday, May 27, 2011

The Lady and the Cowboy

He was leaning against his mailbox waiting for me. Six foot, four inches of cowboy, solid as a rock. He was holding a giant mug of coffee in one hand and a Stetson in the other. I'd seen him in his truck, but he looked more intimidating up close.

"Good morning," he said with a slow grin. "You have worms."

I laughed. "Smart man. Wanta go fishing?" We introduced ourselves, becoming neighbors rather than strangers, as I explained that the worms were to show the children in my life.

"I told my wife about you waving to me every morning," he said softly. "Told her about the lady in our neighborhood that kept waving to me even though I scowled at her every day."

I smiled, remembering all the mornings I had seen him driving off to work, worn down and discouraged. "Well, it was a nice scowl. Not so scary really. I suppose I thought one day you'd wave back and smile."

"Cheered me up, it did. Been thinking on it. Most people just look on by other folks."

I nodded. And just that easily, there it was: the opportunity to give a reason for the hope that is within me. God is real. The Bible is true. Jesus is alive. I have never been more filled with peace and hope and love than I am today.

"He has shown you, oh, man, what is good; and what the Lord requires of you: to do justly, and to love mercy, and to walk humbly with your God." ~Micah 6:8

A generation of people, crushed with discouragement and lost in distractions, are in a great crowd of witnesses surrounding us. We, the people of His possession, are called to walk humbly with our God in the midst of them.

Who are the people in your neighborhood? C'mon. You bring the one next to you and I'll bring the one next to me.

Sunday, May 15, 2011

Goldfinches Come to Tea

Six goldfinch couples landed quietly in my redbud tree. I had become frustrated in my morning prayer, impatient and weary, grateful for a restful distraction. I refilled my tea cup and settled in to watch their antics.

Zipping to and fro, apparently stretching their achy flight muscles, the female goldfinches settled on a branch, looking ready for someone to pour tea and pass out scones. They seemed to be chatting with one another and I laughed. What encouraging words does a Lady Goldfinch have to share with her friends? Were they wanting the menfolk to stop and ask for directions? Were they, like me, nervous about the future and longing to see God's plan?

As I returned my thoughts to prayer, the wrestling with God didn't seem quite as desperate. I had been wanting a "burning bush" like Moses was given, some evidence of God's plan for the rest of my life, His vision for my heart, for my next adventure. Do you ever feel that way? "I'll do whatever You want, Lord. Just please show me the plan so I can get started."

I had asked for a burning bush and God set a redbud tree afire with goldfinches. I finished my tea, smiling at them, refreshed from their visit. The Goldfinches had stopped their animated chatting and had begun to sing. I sang along with them: "I sing because I'm happy. I sing because I'm free. For His eye is on the sparrow and I know He watches me!"

"He holds the future in the palm of His hands and He has never failed us yet. I know He's reigning and He still has control. So why should I worry or fret?"

Thursday, April 28, 2011

The God Who is Faithful


You are the God who is faithful. Every move I make I make in You. Every good and perfect gift comes from You. You are the God who is faithful even when my faith is shaken and lifeless. There is none like You.

I love all that I have made. I wanted a people of My possession.

Evidence of Your loving faithfulness is all around me. The lilacs and dogwoods in lush bloom, the aromatic herbs on my patio, the bluebirds in my Redbud tree all draw my eyes to You.

Oh, that I would please You with my faithfulness, Father! Refine me until I am what You had in mind when You created me. I am Yours, Lord.

Draw near to Me and I will draw near to you. Delight in Me and I will give you the desires of Your heart.

My desire is to be known as Yours, Father. There is no greater thing than knowing You. Give me one pure and holy passion, one magnificent obsession: to know and follow hard after You. Teach me to love and be faithful, to be kind and patient. Refine me from the inside out.

If you love me, keep my commandments. I am the Author and the Finisher of your faith. Keep in step with My Spirit. The fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control.

You are the God who is faithful. You will do what You say You will do. From the rising of the sun to the going down of the same, Your Name is to be praised. You love like a hurricane and I am a tree, bending beneath the weight of Your grace and mercy!

I am jealous for you, My child. You are the apple of My eye. Follow Me.

You are the God who is faithful. Anywhere. I will follow You.

Come. Let us away.

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Something Told the Wild Geese

Something told the wild geese
It was time to go.
Though the fields lay golden
Something whispered, "Snow."
Leaves were green and stirring,
Berries, luster-glossed,
But beneath warm feathers
Something cautioned, "Frost."

All the sagging orchards
Steamed with amber spice,
But each wild breast stiffened
At remembered ice.

Something told the wild geese
It was time to fly -
Summer sun was on their wings,
Winter in their cry.
~Rachel Field

Geese in the Corners

Yesterday, as though Robert McCloskey's picture book, "Make Way for Ducklings", had come to life, traffic stalled. Two adult geese and five little goslings toddled across the road and went merrily on their way toward home.

I like living in a world where we still pause life long enough to be delighted by the surprises God tucks into the corners of every day. This morning I took a walk, hoping for sunshine to meet me on my way. I usually see geese on the pond or in the yards and they often make me laugh. I didn't get far before the heavy rain returned and I splashed through puddles all the way back home.

Standing at my window, sipping coffee, I watched geese standing still as the rain showers pelted down on them like blessings from Heaven. Reminded once again of the beauty God has placed in nature to draw our eyes toward Him, I pulled the warm quilt around me and sat down before the crackling fire to enjoy a book of poetry. I found this treasure tucked into the corner of my day:

Spring Rain
The storm came up so very quick.
It couldn't have been quicker.
I should have brought my hat along.
I should have brought my slicker.
My hair is wet, my feet are wet,I couldn't be much wetter.
fell into a river once
But this is even better!

~Marchette Chute

Sunday, April 10, 2011

Castles in the Sky

I am building a castle.

Before spring break I had never heard of Whimzy Pets. Now I have ten of the 3-inch high colorful, cuddly stuffed animals. They are tagging along with me as I imagine their blossoming personalities and listen to their secrets while building their home. I left behind spring painting projects and garden preparation to create a cardboard Wonderland.

The little women in my life are about to discover something new to do, something new to think about, and hopefully, something new to love. I can hardly wait to hear the stories that await me once we're together!

My large desk, heaped with old calendars, brightly colored paper, scraps of stickers and vintage valentines filled me with eagerness and creative thought. Blankets have been made from lace handkerchiefs. Rugs have been formed from old countercross stitchings and a boat has been formed from an egg carton. It's quite a lovely and charming place to my way of thinking!

Building a castle from scraps has reminded me of the value of a home. A home takes a lifetime to build from a little bit of this and a little bit of that, precious scraps of our lives. Those crayon drawings, the encouraging quotes, that silly squirrel you watch every morning, lullabies sung slightly off key are the scraps that make up the castle of your life.

I live in a modest dwelling by some standards, a castle by others. It's quite a lovely and charming place to my way of thinking. It's my home and it's filled with memories that comfort and cheer me. Oh, others may not see the beauty in the fingerprints on my stairway or the torn quilt on the sofa, my worn out Bible or the Raggedy Ann doll atop the shelf, but they are precious to me beyond words because they tell the story of my life.

Heaven is a real place, a land with golden streets and grand jewels, mansions of glory. There is a castle prepared for me by God's own hands, the one made just for me from the bits and pieces of my lifesong. The closer I get to the end of my journey, the more precious my heavenly home becomes to me. Oh, the people I shall meet and the stories we shall share!

"In My Father's house are many mansions. If it were not so, I would have told you. I go to prepare a place for you and, if I go, I will come back again." ~Jesus

Friday, April 1, 2011

Of Redbuds and Bluebirds

They moved silently into the neighborhood, setting up temporary camp in my garden. Then, to herald their arrival, the two bluebirds sang with glee all morning in my redbud tree. I stood at my window marveling at their beauty. Though I found it a challenge to sing along with a bluebird's song, I welcomed kindred spirits to share my joy. Lo, the winter is over and spring has arrived on the earth!

Day by day I have watched them flitting about, taking a restful break, viewing the neighborhood or singing a song. They played tag in the tree branches. They navigated sprouting bushes and flowers, searching for hidden dangers and secret passages. Such busyness! What delight in life!

This morning as they were discussing nest locations, I was amazed to discover that the redbud tree was covered with beautiful, stately buds. When had this happened? Only the week before I had thanked God for the gorgeous snow covered branches. I had been watching the bluebirds in that tree multiple times daily. Yet, charmed by the busy, fascinating bluebirds, I had forgotten the steadfast strength and beauty of my comforting favorite tree, missing the loveliness simply because I was distracted.

"For lack of attention, a thousand forms of loveliness elude us every day." ~Evelyn Underhill

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

The God Who is Kind

Father, Would You teach me of Your kindness?

Blinded by battle fatigue, my steps falter. I wander around in the foothills of life carrying burdens too heavy to bear up the mountain. I am beaten down. My hopes are dashed.

I am the God who is kind. My compassion endures forever. I am patient and loving toward all I have made.

Your kindness keeps my heart tender toward You. You are my portion and my hope. You are my song in the night. You are Lord over all the earth.

Come to Me. My yoke is easy and My burden is light. You are the apple of my eye. Rest in My shady green pasture where the still waters lie. I am the God who sees You. I am the God who rescues.

I love You because You are holy and kind. Early in the morning my songs will rise to You. Your grace is enough for me.

And I love you. I made you a present, beloved child. Open the eyes of your heart. It is springing up before you. Will you not see it? Welcome to Sabbath. Welcome to rest.

Shalom. Yes, Father. I do see it.

Come. Let us away.

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Cup of Joy

If any line that I ever penned,
Or any word I have spoken,
Has comforted heart, of foe or friend -
In any way, why my life, I'll say
Has reaped the reward of labor.
If aught I have said, or written, has made
Gladder the heart o' my neighbor.

If any deed that I ever did
Lightened a sad heart's sorrow,
If I have lifted a dropping lid
Up to the bright to-morrow,
Though the world knows not nor gives me a thought,
Nor ever can know, nor praise me.
Yet still I shall say, to my heart alway,
That my life, and labor repays me.

If in any way I have helped a soul,
Or given a spirit pleasure,
Then my cup of joy, I shall think is full
With an overflowing measure.

Though never an eye, but the one on high
Looks on my kindly action,
Yet, oh my heart, we shall think of our part
In the drama, with satisfaction.

From "Poems of Reflection" by Ella Wheeler Wilcox M.A. Donohue & Co, Copyright 1905

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Daffodils in the Snow

A single charming daffodil said hello to me this morning. The long harsh winter is melting into spring and my heart rejoices to see it. I don't know when I have needed a season of renewal and refreshing more than I do this spring. My tired soul is ready to be awakened to possibilities, opportunities and challenges that have been dormant all winter.

Whether the trial we endure has been physical, emotional, mental or spiritual, when life beats us down we bend our knees and beg for a change of season. Plenty of hardships, however, last for a much longer season than we ever expect. Indeed many last a lifetime. Pain is the universal language, the one thing we all have in common. It might be the death of a partner, a miscarriage, divorce, physical or mental disability, a prodigal child, learning problems, disease or abuse, any number of burdens, but we all have pain.

Does it seem to you that suffering is coming after you with a personal vendetta? I mean, why bother to fight this hard? It's easy to get caught in a downward spiral of lost hope, but denial, rebellion, worry and fear do nothing to empower us in our journey.

I beg you to wait. No matter how big the dragon that you face, please wait. Joy will come. There is a peace that passes understanding available for you in Jesus Christ, the Messiah, the Man of Sorrows and the Lord of Joy. In your weakness and pain, He can make you able to conquer the dragons you face. Open the book of Psalms and express your thoughts. Meet Jesus in the New Testament. Let someone know how badly you're hurting. There is a God who sees you, a God who loves you, a God who has a plan for your welfare and not your calamity.

This has been a difficult season for me, too, and I am casting my burdens on Him because I know He cares for me. In my weakness, He is strong. God is able to do more than we ask or imagine that He can do in our lives. Keep walking by faith and not by sight. Please, don't grow weary and give up.

As sure as the sweetness of daffodils after a harsh winter, the sweetness of His strength in our weakness will appear. He gives beauty for ashes, the oil of joy for mourning and a heart full of praise for the spirit of heaviness that we might be oaks of righteousness, a planting of the Lord, that He might be glorified. (~Isaiah 61:3)

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Though Critics Deride

In a pile of musty forgotten books left to me by my grandmother, I discovered this gem:

I'd rather have my verses win
A place in common peoples' hearts,
Who, toiling through the strife and din
Of life's great thoroughfares and marts,

May read some line my hand has penned;
Some simple verse, not fine or grand,
But what their hearts can understand
And hold me henceforth as a friend.

I'd rather win such quiet fame
Than by some fine thought, polished so
But those of learned minds would know,
Just what the meaning of my song...
To have the critics sound my name
In high-flown praises, loud and long.
I sing not for the critic's ear,
But for the masses. If they hear,
Despite the turmoil, noise and strife
Some least low note that gladdens life,
I shall be wholly satisfied,
Though critics to the end deride.

"Poems of Reflection" by Ella Wheeler Wilcox
Copyright 1905 M. A. Donohue & Co.

Tuesday, March 1, 2011

The Color of Patience

David has to use extreme focus to cause muscle movement in his fingers. In frustration he hits his head trying to escape the sounds and dark places in his mind. Overloaded senses make each new discovery a battle that no nine year old should have to fight. But, somewhere inside this young muddled brain, David hears music in bright colors, a musical strain that flows in and out through winding tunnels and confused darkness.

No matter how difficult it is, he is determined to play the piano. The amount of patience it takes for me to teach him and for David to learn is staggering. When his patience grows weary, he lays his left hand on top of my hand while he plays. To other young students this has been an endearing way to connect with me and gain confidence. For David, there is the added belief that touching me allows the "river of colorful songs" in me "to flow into him."

With complete focus he grits his teeth and focuses on moving the fingers of his right hand to search for a melody. "I can do it," he will say softly when he is finished for the day. "I will do it. I will do it, Teacher. I will do it." He always lovingly strokes my piano to say good-bye. My piano is the "Holder of Color" and "rules the darkness."

David knows that the arthritis in my hands is getting worse. He also knows I am struggling this winter with difficulties in music, writing, art and prayer because of the pain. If I just try hard enough, there should be success, right? Patience is not always my best thing.

Last week he held both of my hands and squeezed them. I winced and he laughed. "Teacher, it's the pain that makes the colors brighter. Your hands dropped your colors because of the cold dark. The pain can give it back. Do you see them yet? Do you, Teacher?"

Monday, February 28, 2011

Channel of Thy Peace

Lord, make me a channel of Thy peace,
That where there is hatred I may bring love;
That where there is wrong I may bring the spirit of forgiveness;
That where there is discord I may bring harmony;
That where there is error I may bring truth;
That where there is doubt I may bring faith;
That where there is despair I may bring hope;
And where there are shadows I may bring Thy light;
That where there is sadness I may bring joy;

Lord, grant that I may seek rather to comfort than be comforted,
To understand than be understood,
To love than be loved;

For it is by giving that one receives,
It is by self-forgetting that one finds,
It is by forgiving that one is forgiven,
It is by dying that one awakens to eternal life.

~St. Francis of Assisi

Friday, February 25, 2011

Voice of One Who Wept

Missions is taking the whole gospel to the whole world by the whole church. Many of us will never reach the mission field on our feet, but we can reach them on our knees.
Today I heard the voice of one
Who wept in far-off lands
Because of sin and misery,
and begged with outstretched hands
For one small lamp to light his dark.

Now fain I would have slept,
So stopped my ears, but in my heart
That sobbing voice still wept.

And then I heard the voice of One who counted not the cost,
But left His ivory palaces to seek and save the lost.
He said, "The sound of one who weeps is coming up to Me.
Dost thou forget that last command which I gave unto thee,
"To preach My Word to all the world?"
...O bitter be our shame!
Still hopeless millions walk the earth
who never heard His name,
And still the world spends lavishly in every crowded mart,
And still the voice of Him who wept is sobbing in my heart!

~Martha Snell Nicholson

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Love in the Darkness

"Corrie," Father ten Boom began, "Do you know what hurts so very much? It's love. Love is the strongest force in the world, and when it is blocked that means pain.

"There are two things we can do when this happens. We can kill the love so that it stops hurting. But then of course part of us dies, too. Or, Corrie, we can ask God to open up another route for that love to travel.

"God loves Karel--even more than you do--and if you ask Him, He will give you His love for this man, a love nothing can prevent, nothing destroy. Whenever we cannot love in the old, human way, Corrie, God can give us His perfect way."

I did not know, as I listened to Father's footsteps winding back down the stairs, that he had given me more than the key to this hard moment. I did not know that he had put into my hands the secret that would open far darker rooms than this--places where there was not, on a human level, anything to love at all."

Corrie ten Boom (The Hiding Place)

Monday, February 21, 2011

The Color of Gentleness

A soft rosy glow has begun to seep into the sky. The blending of pastel color mesmerizes me. As the hues deepen and merge, a sudden splash of sunlight brightens the painting with rays of perfectly placed light.

The splendor of the Creator is reflected in every brush stroke. The heavens are telling of the glory of God. The sunrise is declaring the work of His hands. This is the Lord's doing and it is too marvelous for my eyes.

A masterpiece has been tenderly created while the world is still sleeping. It is humbling to watch a Creator at work. I stand in awe as I see the wonder of another morning floating in quietly on cat paws. Who is man that He is mindful of him? What sort of gentle love patiently creates such a wonder for a people too busy to notice?

You noticed, My child. The people of My possession will look to the sky and hear My voice saying, "Come to Me."

Good morning, Father. It's beautiful. You are the God who loves colors. Thank you.

My promises are new every morning. Every good and perfect gift comes down from the Father of Lights in whom there are no variations, no shifting shadows. I am the Bright and Morning Star and My love endures forever.

You are faithful, so gentle and loving toward all You have made. From the rising of the sun to the going down of the same, Your Name is to be praised.

Friday, February 18, 2011

His Broken Things

Margaret Snell Nicholson was a woman who suffered from four incurable diseases. She struggled with pain more than thirty-five years, an invalid, bound to her bed. Her spirit was so transcendently triumphant through those many weary years, that she wrote some of the finest Christian poetry which has ever been written. Sadly most of her books are now out of print.

In her book Heart Held High, Martha wrote of broken people when she said,

"We are now His broken things. But remember how He has used broken things: the broken pitchers of Gideon's little army, the broken roof through which the paralyzed man was lowered to be healed, the broken alabaster box which shed its fragrance abroad and the broken body of our Savior. Let us ask Him to take our broken hearts and to press upon them further suffering to give us a poignant realization of the suffering of the world. Let us ask Him to show us the endless, hopeless river of lost souls. This will break our hearts anew; but when it happens, God can use us at last."

Of pain, she wrote: "Peter said that it is to our credit if, being aware of God, we endure pain. For it to have meaning, our suffering must bring us to God. Unless the pain leads us to that secret inner place where God is waiting to receive us, there is no good in it."

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

A Story for Lindsey

Lindsey and Renee stopped by this morning for tea. Snuggled in antique quilts by the fire place, we warmed our hands around big mugs decorated with snowmen. We warmed our hearts talking about praying to the God who answers us.

"Will you tell us prayer stories?" Lindsey asked as she snuggled deeper into her quilt with a contented sigh. "I love that our God is an action God and prayer stories motivate me to pray more."

She's right, isn't she? Hearing that God is answering prayers hones our faith, stirs our emotions and prods us to pray more fervently. Our shared prayer stories remind us that God protects, provides and plans for His people.

After we shared stories, I encouraged them to collect stories of answered prayers from their own prayer adventures. It's easy to get sidetracked and even disheartened by someone else's life. It's so tempting to wonder if anything spectacular could ever happen to plain old us.

Jesus lived the ultimate true life adventure. What a lot of stories we know about His answered prayers! But, have you ever pondered those hours Jesus spent alone in prayer with Father? Those would have been the most amazing answered prayer stories of all! I hope Jesus shares those stories some day, but He may not. Some stories belong only to the Father and the child.

The God who answered prayers in the true life adventures of Moses, Abraham, Isaac and Jacob is still answering prayers. The God who captivates our attention with the answered prayer adventures of Hannah, Phoebe, Anna and Tabitha is still writing stories.

But, the best prayer story you will ever hear is the one you and God write together as you live your own true life adventure filled with answered prayers. What's happening in your story today?

Monday, February 14, 2011

Grace for Today

Oh God, give me grace for this day.

Not for a lifetime, not for next week, not for tomorrow, just for this day.

Direct my thoughts and bless them.
Direct my work and bless it. Direct the things I say and give them blessing, too. Direct and bless everything that I think and speak and do.

So that for this day, just this one day,
I have the gift of grace that comes from your presence.

by Marjorie Holmes

Friday, February 11, 2011

The God of Mercy


My heart is not proud this morning. My eyes are not haughty. I do not concern myself today with great matters or things too wonderful for me. I have stilled and quieted my soul; like a weaned child with its mother, like a weaned child is my soul within me. Teach me Your ways. Teach me Your vision for my heart. My sins are many, Father. I am not worthy, but my hope is in You.

A bruised reed I will not crush. A smoldering wick I will not put out. A broken and contrite heart I will not despise. In mercy I will lead you.

My heart trusts in You and I am helped. You make my heart leap for joy and rest in peace. All that I am is Yours to transform. Fit me to the image of Your own.

Learn from Me. Listen carefully to Me. For a brief moment I turned from you, but with great compassion I will gather you in My arms as a hen gathers her chicks. In an outburst of anger toward your sins I hid My face from you for a moment; but with everlasting lovingkindness I will have compassion on you.

You are the God who sees me. You are the God who is merciful. Your promises are true. You are mighty to save and loving toward all You have made.

The mountains may be removed and the hills may shake, but My lovingkindness will not be removed from you. My convenant of peace will not be shaken. All your sons and daughters will be taught of Me and the well-being of your sons and daughters will be great. In righteousness you are established. You will be far from oppression for you will not fear.

I will go out with joy and be led forth with peace.

And when I come again I will receive you unto Myself.

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

Shopping List

One of these days I must go shopping. I am completely out of SELF-RESPECT. I want to exchange the SELF-RIGHTEOUSNESS I picked up the other day for some HUMILITY which they say is less expensive and wears better.

I want to look at some TOLERANCE which is being used for wraps this season; and someone showed me some pretty samples of PEACE; we are so low on that and we can never have too much of it.

By the way, I must try to match some PATIENCE that my neighbor wears. It is very becoming to her and I think would look equally good on me. I might try that garment of LONG-SUFFERING that they are displaying. I never thought I would want to wear it.

And I must not forget to have my SENSE OF HUMOR mended, and look for some inexpensive EVERYDAY GOODNESS. It is surprising how quickly one's stock of goods is depleted. Yes, I must go shopping soon.

~Patricia Mueller

Monday, February 7, 2011

Granny's Mirror

My great-granny still mopped her own kitchen during her 96th year. Having finished the job one morning, she sat down on the sofa and sighed in weary contentment. I smiled at her, wondering if I would ever consider a freshly mopped kitchen worthy of such joy. "Granny," I asked, "When did you know you were old?"

"I don't know it yet!" she chuckled. "Sometimes when I'm in the bathroom I see an old woman in the mirror, out of the corner of my eye, don't you know? And I holler because I think some old woman is in my bathroom with me!" We laughed, then she added, "I'm still that young girl on the inside. I guess you never lose her. She just stays around inside of you to see what happens."

Living among college students for over 30 years causes a woman to either grieve the aging process or embrace it. I was once an energetic sister-girl, maneuvering through my own early womanhood. Later I became a spiritual mother, learning the joys of being an older woman (30 is older on a college campus). The 18 year old freshmen appear younger and younger to me every year. It's quite simply the result of one's aging perspective, of course, but it's actually a little unnerving from time to time.

I have begun the second half of my first 100 years. Even women entering their third decade look younger and younger every year to me now. It's the continuing result of my aging perspective, of course, but, I confess, it's still a little unnerving from time to time.

But, it's true what my Granny said.

That young girl has stayed inside of me even though I now see a grandmother in my mirror. So full of hope and dreams, she was, so energetic and eager, delighted to watch the future unfolding. I'm glad she came along on my journey. I'm learning to not only like her, but appreciate her. In so many ways, I want to be just like her when I grow up.

(Painting by Mary Cassatt, "Mother and Child")

Sunday, February 6, 2011

The God of Strength

Father, I love You.

You are my Strength and my Song. My hope is in You. You are the Rock that I stand on and the Stronghold around me. You are my Deliverer and in You will I trust.

Though the storms of life overwhelm me and the cords of death entangle me I will trust You. Though the darkness surround me and the waves of doubt toss me, I will fight for You. In sorrow and in suffering, I will seek You for counsel and comfort for You are my glory and the lifter of my head.

You have given me clean hands and a new life. You renew me day by day. Your love is my portion and my blessing. I am not worthy of Your attention and yet You have sacrificed for my salvation.

Your ways are perfect and Your Word is flawless. You have given everything I need for life and godliness. You shield me because I take refuge in Your love and mercy.

When I sleep You sing over me with love and goodness. When I awake You give life to my spirit and strength to my body. There is no one like You and You are worthy of my praise. Teach me Your ways, Oh, God, that I might please You in life and in death. Use my days to enrich the lives of others and show them the way to You.

Holy is Your Name and Your Word endures forever! Let Your Name be held high in every nation; Your kingdom come and Your will be done on earth as it is in heaven.

Friday, February 4, 2011

When Hope Hides in the Laundry

"I just wanted to be a good mom today. That was my whole goal," she told me as she collapsed onto my sofa. "The house is a wreck. I haven't got the energy to go grocery shopping. My husband is mad at me. I didn't know what else to do so here we are. I'm so sorry. I haven't even had a shower and I smell like baby puke."

I settled the children with toys in the bedroom, promising blueberry pancakes for lunch and a movie later if they would play quietly for awhile. I sat down in my rocker with the cranky baby settled in my lap and waited while the young mother shook with sobs.

"I'm a bad mom. I yell at my kids. And I'm so tired that I can't even think straight." Tears continued to spill down her cheeks, but she took a deep breath and with shaking fingers she took a sip of the tea I had given her. "Please tell me you know what to do."

Sound familiar? Every young mother has dark days. Hope gets lost in the dirty laundry pile. Joy bleeds out during sleepless nights. Even love gets a little shaky and hard to hold steadfast.

Failing the little ones whom God has placed in your tender care is a heavy burden. The utter helplessness of children, their vulnerability and their needs overwhelm a woman. Bad tempers, impatience and discouragement are not welcome companions, but they can be difficult to get rid of when they move in and take over your home.

It's never too late to be the mom you want to become. God's infinite patience and goodness can fill you up and give you enough grace to try again. Children are quick to forgive and offer second chances. Help is available for whatever problems there are in your life. Anne Lamott said, "Hope begins in the dark, the stubborn hope that if you just show up and try to do the right thing, the dawn will come. You wait and watch and work. You don't give up." I agree with her, but I would add that we don't have to wait and watch and work alone. God is able to provide encouragement when we ask for it. An older woman can help you become the mom you're trying to be. She's had those same dark days and will know what to do.

Sometimes it's as easy as a cup of tea, blueberry pancakes and rocking a baby to sleep. Other times housekeeping lessons or packing up all your laundry and taking it home with her to do is necessary. Maybe she could help by bringing you a meal or babysitting for awhile. Certainly she can pray with you and establish some hope. Tell her you need her. Tell her. She'll understand.