I took a walk through the woods near my house today. Wildflowers were sprinkled over the forest floor, tiny harbingers of spring. I couldn't resist picking a handful to brighten my kitchen.
Years ago, my sister and I would make Mother's Day corsages to wear to church fashioned from wildflowers we'd picked in our timber. My sister's,my mom's, and my corsages were made of pale lavender sweet william, bright yellow buttercups, and deep purple violets, bright colors to honor our mothers. But my grandmother's corsage was made up only of white flowers, because her mother was not living. I always thought that was sad.
This year, I may decide to wear a wildflower coursage again. But I think I will pick bright colors. Although my mom has been in Heaven for almost ten years, I don't think of her as not living. She has simply gone on ahead and I look forward to a joyful reunion someday.
Jesus said, "I am the resurrection and the life; he who believes in Me shall live even if he dies." (John 11:25)
Who are you looking forward to being reunited with in Heaven?
While traveling through Mississippi and Louisiana this spring, we saw many of these little houses, tucked away in the woods, crumbling with decay and often overgrown with kudsu. We learned that, in years past, they were called a throwed-away place. The house had become too much work, cost more than they had, or took too much time to maintain, and the owners had just moved out and left it behind.
Sometimes we have people in our life who drain us. They take a lot of work to maintain. They cost us dearly, not always monetarily, but in energy, in time, or emotion. And sometimes we walk away from them. They become throwed-away people in our lives.
Thank God, He never counts the cost to maintain each of us. No matter how needy we are, no matter how decrepit our faith is, or how many times we fail, He will never walk away. He paid for our purchase on the cross, and we will never become throwed away by Him.
In turn, may He give us patience to deal with the people in our lives who are more difficult to maintain. May He give us the strength to love with His love, so that His children are never throwed away.
We recently had the privilege to travel to Mississippi. We spent almost a week exploring the Gulf coast, and enjoying the respite from an Iowa winter. A sobering sight was the damage from Hurricane Katrina still evident everywhere. Empty foundations, lots for sale, tree stumps and abandoned properties were the scars where a community had been wounded. This stalwart oak tree, shaped by the winds of many storms, stands rooted deep in the sandy soil at the very edge of the Gulf. Although houses all around it were destroyed, it continues to grow strong.
Have you been hit by a hurricane? Storms in our life are not avoidable, Jesus confirmed it. "In this world, you will have trouble." John 16:33 So it's not if, but when, the hurricane will hit. When it does, how will you respond? Will you stand firm, being shaped into a thing of beauty by the winds? Or will you allow them to uproot and destroy you?
Jesus not only promised us we would have trouble, he reminded us, "But take heart! I have overcome the world."
God gives us the ultimate victory, so when the storms come, sink your roots deep into Him, hang on, and let Him shape you.
The last week of January blessed us with a wonderful snowfall. The schools were closed, drifts blocked the road, and I loved it.
As soon as it had warmed up to be bearable, I strapped on my new Yukon Charlie snowshoes and Annie the yellow Lab and I set out through the snowy fields for the river. I am still getting the hang of snowshoeing, but about halfway there I knew something wasn't right. I stopped, then walked a few more steps, but my left side was just not moving right. I checked the straps and they were all snugly in place. I looked where I was walking. Nothing had changed there. Finally I lifted up my snowshoe to see underneath it. A tiny twig had become caught between the frame of the snowshoe and my boot. It didn't look like it mattered much, but it had slowed my progress a great deal.
And so it is when I slip into those little bad habits, or sins. The author of Hebrews calls it "the sin which so easily entangles us." We can't always see it, we aren't always aware, we just know our life is a little off balance.
I jerked the stick out of my snowshoe with one mittened hand and tromped merrily on my walk with Annie to the river. May I always be so quick to jerk the sins out of my way, too, so that my walk with God is not hindered.
The Christmas I was eight or nine, one of my Christmas wishes was to have a sock monkey. We lived in a rural area of Iowa and shopping was limited. My mom was a hard working farmer's wife and did not do much sewing. Years later she told me how she had searched everywhere in the small town where we shopped. There was no sock monkey to be found. She must have been sad to be unable to grant my Christmas wish because the Christmas I was nearly forty, she found this little ornament and gave it to me.
"I finally got your sock monkey," she told me.
A mother's love never stops hoping and dreaming for her children. This Christmas as I hung my sock monkey and the other ornaments, I thought back over the years and how my own children's dreams have changed. I would still do everything in my power to bring joy to my two sons, my daughter, and to their families.
But the fleeting happiness of a desired toy is nothing compared with the joy that comes when we know the Savior whose birth we celebrate. Jesus said, "These things I have spoken to you, that My joy may be in you, and that your joy may be complete."
So find the sock monkey, or the Ipad or the video game, but remember that only when we bow before the manger, is our joy complete.
Twenty-six years ago today we finalized the adoption of our baby girl, Teresa Joy. She had been ours since she was three days old, this signing of the papers just made everything legal. We were foster parents and when we had the opportunity to give this baby a permanent home, we felt it was God's will for our family. She was beautiful, she was cuddly, she was challenging.
Many years after her adoption, we learned that her impulsive and sometimes negative behaviors were due to fetal alcohol effect. Her birth mom had damaged Teresa's ability to think clearly and act in a responsible manner by drinking while pregnant.
We did the best that we could, getting professional help for Teresa and disciplining her and loving her into adulthood. Her life has not been easy. After leaving our home she has been homeless, involved in drugs, and incarcerated numerous times.
Would I do it again? In a heartbeat! She is my daughter, I love her dearly, and today, I celebrate our family's adoption day!
Love always hopes, and I will never give up the hope that someday my beautiful daughter will be healthy and living in a way that truly honors the God who gave our family a precious gift twenty-six years ago today.
We all love a good story of someone that God has called to a faraway place such as Africa or Siberia or even an inner city ministry. Even better is when we hear of the success of their ministry: hundreds coming to Christ, new churches built, lives changed.
An oft quoted verse is Isaiah 6:8 Then I heard the voice of the Lord saying, "Whom shall I send? And who will go for us? And I said, "Here am I. Send me!"
Isaiah's response to God's call is what we all want to be: obedient, willing, eager to go wherever God sends us.
Less often do we study what God told Isaiah next. In verses 9-10 He tells Isaiah to go to the people and tell them that they will never understand, and that their country, their Promised land will be utterly forsaken. The people's hearts will be calloused. Wait a minute! How is that a successful ministry? Doesn't God's call guarantee success?
My husband, Gary, and I are both retired. We are ready to go to whatever ministry God calls us in our "golden years." We would love to have a ministry where we see a great impact, where we feel we have made a difference. But will we be willing to go even if God says the people won't listen or understand?
One of my favorite old hymns is "I'll Go Where You Want Me To Go." I hope that is my response, always.
We had the priviledge of staying with our two youngest grandchildren while the older ones had a last fling with their parents before school started. Benson is fifteen months and one of the sunniest little guys you've ever seen. He also does something for me that no one else has ever done. He applauds when I sing. Now, you have to know, I am a bit musically challenged. My husband asks me please not to sing along with the radio. In church, I have actually seen people wince when I stood behind them and sang. But, ever since Benson was a baby and I composed words with his name to "Jesus Loves Me," he loves to hear me sing. On Friday, he was sitting in his chair and I was singing loud renditions of "Junior Birdman" and "Benson, Where Are You Going?" At the end of each song he clapped and made the sign for more.
Now, I am not deluded enough to think I should try out for America's Got Talent, but I do love to sing to that little boy. My question for you is, are you applauding for someone?
1 Thessalonians 5:11 tells us to "encourage one another, and build up one another." It is so easy to criticize, to tear down. But God calls us to build up his body, the church. So who do you need to applaud today, who needs a word of encouragement, or a phone call, letter or visit?
Are you bored?
Annie E, our yellow Lab, is bored. It’s summer time and she’s supposed to be on vacation. But, she loves to work. Annie is a registered therapy dog and visits two schools: the local elementary where I used to teach and a residential school for children with mental health or behavioral problems. Because school is not in session, Annie and I take the summers off.
Annie’s job is to bring love and joy to the children she visits, and she is very, very
good at it. When she enters the classroom her tail is going in huge circles and
she actually wears a smile on her face. She stops to greet each child and then
lies down so everyone can pet her. Now Annie is almost ten. Translate that to a
human – she’s seventy years old. Plenty old enough to retire and take it easy.
But I think Annie knows she was gifted by our Creator to do her job. And when
she isn’t working, she misses it and gets bored.
What has God gifted you with? Are you using your gifts for Him and for His glory? If
we are not using what He has given us for His glory, we are guaranteed to become
bored and unhappy.
Colossians 3:23 Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart, as working for the Lord, not for men.
Central Iowa, where I live, is suffering from one of the worst droughts in nearly a century. The grass is crisp and brown. Vegetable gardens are wilting. And even hardy native perennial flowers are drooping. Worst of all, the mainstay crop, the corn in the beautiful fields that stretch across Iowa, is considered 90% poor.
Today, Annie and I walked past the nearly empty North River into a field. And it was full of beautiful Queen Anne's Lace. Despite a week of temperatures over 100, despite weeks of no rain, despite the ground that is cracked and dry, they waved lacey, white heads above the meadow, gracing it with their beauty.
Sometimes I have a drought in my spiritual life. It may be my fault; I haven't been reading God's word or spending time in prayer with Him. It may not be. Sometimes we just go through times when God seems distant.
Those are times when we have a choice. We can shrivel and wilt and droop, or we can be Queen Anne's Lace, blooming in spite of our feelings.
God is unchanging. His love, His faithfullness, His mercies never fail. When our circumstances cause us to feel dry, let's continue to bloom for Him.
Revelation 22:17 Let the one who is thirsty come; let the one who wishes take the water of life without cost.