Wednesday, April 28, 2010

The beauty of... wrinkles???

This woman keeps showing up in the ad bar on my email account.

Isn't she beautiful?

No, seriously, isn't she?

I get it. Obviously you DON'T want to end up looking like this so you'll rush to buy the wrinkle cream but, you know what, it's not working on me.

She sort of resembles my grandma, a woman who raised 14 children, nice, respectable, hard-working children. In a three bedroom house. From the 1920's through the 50's she had babies, with only one set of twins, while her husband worked hard for the railroad and not much around the house.

By the time I knew her she was always in a bright loose mu mu making some kind of soup. My mom tells me there was always soup of some kind of soup on the stove. She still lived in the house she'd raised all those children in. They slept 3 to a double bed. The older girls dropped out of high school at 16 to work and the boys all joined the service during WW II. When I knew Grandma Vilcek she looked liked this having worked hard for every wrinkle.

So, at least today, I'll not be clicking on that ad to buy wrinkle cream because I think a face that looks like this as the result of a long full life, is beautiful.

Anita Renfroe (famous for her Momsense to the William Tell Overture) has an opinion about wrinkles as well... (as she parodies Beyonce's video All the Single Ladies) Apparently she's not buying it either!

Rest in the Lord

You know this feeling - it's the one when you're all snuggled under your covers and conscious that you're just about to fall asleep. You are warm and weightless and so relaxed that even if the house exploded you feel it wouldn't disturb your peace. This is my favorite part about night - knowing that the day is done, there is space until the demands of tomorrow, and for now all I have to do is rest.

Can we find this place emotionally as well? Is it possible to take a particularly troublesome area and rest in the Lord, and wait patiently for Him; Do not fret...? Psalms 37:7

I'd like to think so. Scripture is filled with verses about peace as in Isaiah 26:3 "You keep him in perfect peace whose mind is stayed on You, because he trusts in You."

The word for peace here is the familiar word shalom meaning: completeness, soundness, wholeness, quiet, tranquility, contentment.

It's the perfect word isn't it? A soundness of mind with a contentment of heart. For me it's the definition of that feeling. And here it is, promised to me, that I can feel that sense of shalom, or peace and security, and non-anxiousness if I keep my mind on Christ.

So then throughout the day, when I'm not snuggled in my bed but instead dealing with life, I will keep my mind on Christ; on His love and attending care for me, and on the promises He's made and the faithfulness He's demonstrated to me.

So then when it is evening "I will both lay me down in peace (shalom), and sleep: for thou, LORD, only makest me dwell in safety" (Psalm 4:8) just as I have been, in my heart, dwelling all day.

Friday, April 23, 2010

The thing about shopping lists...

I, like millions of other households in America, have a shopping list on my fridge. I dutifully note when we run out of milk, sandwich bags, or notebook paper for school. Sometimes I even remember to grab the list off the fridge when I'm going to the store! Well, sometimes...

Inevitably though, no matter how many shopping bags have been carried into the house and in spite of how many stores I've left a substantial amount of money at; about five minutes will pass until there is an item that needs to be added to the list - yep, all of five minutes!!

So in essence I never have an empty shopping list because there is always something we are in need of (and you do realize that these are things like shoelaces and q-tips. There is no "cute pair of new summer shoes for mom" on that list!)

Always in need.

Psalms 23:1 says "The Lord is my shepherd, I have all that I need" (NLT).

(guess that rules out those new shoes...)

There is this confidence that because the Lord is my shepherd, the One who is responsible for my care and well-being, that what I have now is all that I need. This is most often rendered, I shall not want. In other words I am content, not in need of, or longing for anything.

Philip Keller in his book A Shepherd Looks at Psalm 23 (which I highly recommend, a short, easy read) says - "In the Christian's life there is no substitute for the keen awareness that my Shepherd is nearby."

"The keen awareness that my Shepherd is nearby" - what does that mean?
What difference does it make knowing God is a constant presence in my life? Exactly what impact does a nearby Shepherd have?

Remember these verses? "I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep" John 10:11
Ezekiel 3:4 "I myself will tend my sheep and cause them to lie down in peace...they will lie down in pleasant places and feed in lush mountain pastures."

There's an old hymn with the line "Jesus, Jesus how I trust Him. How I've proved Him o'er and o'er." There's a key in that - the God you've relied on all these years is the same God who is beside you now. The God who has carried you through the worse storms in your life still stands ready to help. "I am the Lord, I change not" ( Mal. 3:6 )
"Jesus Christ, the same yesterday, today and forever". ( Heb. 13:8)

The God who has proven his faithful love in your life "o'er and o'er" is your Shepherd.
There may always be something on my shopping list; but not so in my heart for the Lord is my shepherd and I have everything that I need.

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Eavesdropper!

Did you know the word "eavesdrop" probably originated from "eavesdropper" literally one standing under the drip from the eaves?

Of course along the way this word has picked up a bad connotation - but if you can suspend judgement for just a minute I have a new idea I'd love to slip into your mind.

An eavesdropper is someone who is out of sight but well within earshot.

Couple that definition with this old saying:
Christ is the head of this house,
The unseen guest at every meal,
The silent listener to every conversation.

And this verse - "The eyes of the Lord are on the righteous and his ears are attentive to their cry" Psalm 34:5

Get the picture?

God "eavesdrops" on our lives.
He is out of sight but never out of earshot.
The things we say are heard by Him (oh, that's back to that feeling like a negative thing - or would that be conviction?) but the flip side of this coin is that what things are said to us He also hears.

If the eyes of the Lord are on the righteous, most certainly also are His ears. He knows where we struggle, He hears the cries of our heart, He is witness to all the events of our lives.

Out of sight but NEVER out of earshot...

When there are heights to scale...

My husband and son were hiking with the Scouts in Wisconsin over the weekend and came back with some beautiful pictures.
Apparently this was an actual "hike" and not merely a stroll through the woods as there was some elevation and rock climbing involved (now that could just be Robbie as well, never met a rock he didn't want to climb).
I spend the weekend with some girlfriends at a women's event and in looking at the pictures realized that we'd all spent the weekend doing the same thing - scaling heights.

The boys had it easy - their rocks were physical, as for the women, well it was various discussions about our metaphorical heights- trusting God for healing and provision, future good, clarity in confusion, and emotional strength in the chaos.

In this picture you can see that Robbie has found a foothold that gave him a place to leverage his weight so that he could scale this smooth rock. It was just what he needed.

What footholds does God provide for us?
What truth from Scripture does He provide for us in which we can figuratively wedge our foot and leverage our strength against so that we can keep on climbing?

You have to look for footholds when you're climbing but they're usually there. We know we won't be tempted above that which we are able - and let's broaden our typical understanding of "tempted" - not only temptation as in to do wrong but also tempted to not do what we should...in other words - we are tempted to not trust God in a situation, tempted to despair or give up.

"No temptation has overtaken you except such as is common to man; but God is faithful, who will not allow you to be tempted beyond what you are able, but with the temptation will also make the way of escape, that you may be able to bear it" I Corinthians 10:13 I think that means He will provide a foothold - God's way of making a way when there seems to be no other way.

Are we willing to put our faith securely in that truth and push off from there -grasping for what seems so high above our own abilities?

Sunday, April 18, 2010

battered

When we came to Christ as children we gave Him our hearts - these pure, whole, love and faith-filled hearts that were fresh and new.

Our hearts today are not the same. They are battered; filled with holes and bruises, carrying burdens so heavy they are depressed by the weight.

The hearts of children are resilient and strong. They are full of hope and idealism. They can be anything, accomplish anything, and nothing can stop them. Invincibility is assumed; with a towel pinned around their shoulders they can fly!

But then we grow up and discover a towel is not a magic flying cape, that no matter how hard I work I can't do it all, and this is not who I thought I'd be when I grew up.

Life is hard.
It picks us up, swings us around until we're dizzy and then lets go, and we slam into the wall.
We pick ourselves up, dust ourselves off, square off our shoulders, and head back into it; only to have it happened again, repeatedly. Soon we're not so hope filled, idealistic and resilient. Our hearts have been battered; there are pieces that have been broken off and cracks running throughout the entirety of it like having been tumbled in the school of hard knocks...These are the hearts we have now to bring - fragile, experienced, hope dim and perceptions dulled by trouble.

It's simple to come to Christ with child-like faith when you are a child. But to come to him with a child-like trust when you no longer posses the wide eyed innocent heart of a child - that's a much harder thing. To trust when you've experienced disappointment, to hope when you've seen pain,to believe what God says is true when you've been the victim of deception; this is no longer simple.

He still asks us though to come in child-like faith. He asks us to reach out for His hand and trust His heart although we can feel worry and despair like twin devils breathing down our necks, stalking our every step.

My heart is worn out. I no longer leap with abandon when you call O Lord, but by your grace let me give you my battered spirit, one step at a time, faltering and hesitant, slow and stumbling but still believing that you are in control and my Father, the one who cares for me, loves me and who will provide for my needs. Let me O Lord, with my grown-up heart still be able to crawl up trustingly onto your lap as do the children and rest there in your care.

Psalms 102:17 He will regard the prayer of the destitute, and not despise their prayer.

Matthew 5:3,4 Blessed are the poor in spirit for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. Blessed are they that mourn for they shall be comforted.

Psalms 86:1,2 Hear, O Lord, and answer me, for I am poor and needy. Guard my life, for I am devoted to you. You are my God; save your servant who trusts in you

Psalms 40:17 As for me, I am poor and needy, but the Lord takes thought for me. You are my help and my deliverer; do not delay, O my God!

Wednesday, April 7, 2010

Underneath it all

The trees are in the process of covering their exposed parts as they are donning a new coat of green for the spring.

The stark intricate patterns of limbs and branches will soon sport a new shape; a rounded green leafy silhouette hiding the skeleton beneath.

Every year when the leaves fall I am again struck by the complexity of the wooden network that's been hidden for three seasons. How limbs branch out and divide and split until they are but small twigs. There's a beauty in that underlying composition.

What lies underneath in us?
We cover ourselves with the leaves of positions, responsibilities, and general busyness but if all that were to fall away who are we under it all? Is all the greenery support by a strong heart? A solid spirit? A network of beliefs and convictions that make up who we are?

Most seasons we are covered in our leaves but occasionally they are blown away – by some type of storm in our lives; then we see who are and the condition of what lies beneath.

In all your busyness and producing, don’t forget to nourish your heart.

“I pray that from His glorious, unlimited resources He will give you mighty inner strength through his Holy Spirit. And I pray that Christ will be more and more at home in your hearts as you trust in him. May your roots go down deep into the soil of God’s marvelous love. And may you have the power to understand, as all God’s people should, how wide, how long, how high and how deep his love really is. May you experience the love of Christ, though it is so great you will never fully understand it. Then you will be filled with the fullness of life and power that comes from God.” (Ephesians 3:16-19)

Monday, April 5, 2010

allergies...

My eyes are telling me it is spring.
Not because I see the green grass, unfurling baby tree leaves, or the blooming flowers but precisely because I cannot see these things because my eyes are swollen, itchy, and watering. Yep, it’s spring alright.
I always forget I have spring allergies until I’m rubbing my eyes wondering why they’re so itchy. This is not a psychosomatic condition; it’s because the planet is “going green”.

I wonder what other allergies I have – reactions to situations that are instinctual and not under my control. Is there such a thing as emotional and mental allergies? When we get into a particular situation and respond without conscious thought? Can we have allergies to a person, a group dynamic, or an environment?

And if so, is there an antihistamine that can be taken?
I love being able to take an antihistamine and then being able to focus my eyes but I find that the medication makes me less able to focus my mind and attention as it makes me really groggy. So during this time of year I’m usually trying to figure out which is the lesser of the two evils!
It’s an interesting thought isn’t it? Do we have emotional allergies?

I think I’m allergic to older women in the Dollar Store looking at cards. I see them and they make me tear up because my mom loved to send out cards and once she discovered she could get 2 for $1…! Mom had broken her hip and after she’d had enough rehab to come home she still couldn’t drive so I’d go over and we’d run errands and it seemed that every week we went to Jewel for groceries and the Dollar Store for cards. There was always someone she wanted to get a card for; for a grandkid who gotten a good score on a test, the pastor at church to encourage him, or for her friend who wasn’t feeling well. And not any card would do, oh no! We read them all looking for the perfect one and then she’d be sure to underline and double underline all the important words when she sent it.

I have allergies to some people. When I’m near them I can almost feel the hives breaking out! A learned response no doubt … but troublesome nonetheless, is there “medication” for that?

What do you think? Is there such a thing as “allergies”; people or situations that just draw out a response from you? There’s more I think to this concept; like this is just the tip of the iceberg but I’m not sure what those answers are now beyond an interesting line of thinking – what do you think? I’d love to hear your thoughts!

Saturday, April 3, 2010

Small thing = Big Impact

There are perks to being a parent...
In the Fall it's the new school supplies - all those fresh notebooks and boxes of crayons.
In the Winter it's the ability to fall on your back in the snow and make snow angels
And in the Summer it's blowing bubbles and chasing fireflies.

These are things I can still do without raising any eyebrows!  (Can you imagine seeing an adult doing these things without the accompanying offspring?!)

In the Spring it's coloring Easter eggs. I love coloring Easter eggs.
Even though I've been doing this for years I'm still mesmerized watching the dye swirl and disperse. Just one drop in a cup of water and soon the whole cup is blue and then so is the egg! All because of a 1/4 ounce of coloring was added to a lot more water!

The tremendous impact of one small thing.
Swirling, distilling, changing the entire environment.

We are like that dye.
We have the ability by our words or actions to drop something into a situation that will change it completely.

Either for good or bad.

A lost temper or a loving word?

A helpful hand or a sarcastic comment?

Praise or criticism?

Love or scorn?

Approval or rejection?

Hurt or Help?

Intentionally or not our words and our actions effect every situation we're in; whether we're aware of it or not we are having an impact.

So therefore let us continually pray

"Let the words of my mouth and the meditations of my heart be acceptable in thy sight O Lord my strength and my redeemer." Psalms 19:14

because like the dye swirling in my cup, words, once distilled into a situation, cannot be taken back. They change everything.

So let your words today be ones in shades of praise, and affirmation, and joy coloring the environment around you with love.


Friday, April 2, 2010

On purpose - For a purpose

The wind is blowing and the air is filled with music; all because I pulled a set of wind chimes out of the garage and hung it up by the door.

I bought a bundle of dry pack daffodils and after a day in water you can see how they have blossomed into a beautiful bouquet.

Daffodils in a box, wind chimes in a building, a blind man…

In John 9 there is the story of a blind man who Jesus and his disciples come upon on their way to the temple. The disciples inquired “Lord who has sinned, this man or his parents that he was born blind?” It was a common assumption of the day. The answer was surprising “Neither this man nor his parents sinned,” said Jesus, “but this happened so that the work of God might be displayed in his life." He’d been born blind for the purpose of God’s glory.

Each of these three had a purpose that wasn’t realized until they were put in the right situation.

The wind chimes had to be out in the breeze, the daffodils needed to be in water, and the blind man had to be met on the road by the Son of God; and then each fulfilled the purpose for which they were intended.

The wind chimes and daffodils are easy to understand but the blind man in a little more troublesome for me. This man lived until he was an adult unable to see, all because God knew that one day his story would be recorded in scripture as a testimony to millions. I wonder if this man knew this before he had his sight if that would have been of any consolation to him?

I also wonder what situation we find ourselves in that has a purpose for which we as of yet have no idea. For thirty years this man lived in darkness, thinking it was because of someone’s sin that he’d been born this way. For hundreds of weeks he erroneously thought he knew the cause of his blindness.

We know that God’s ways are beyond our own ways – we know this but somehow we don’t always connect the dots that the reason something might be happening in our lives might be for a purpose greater than we realize and of which we have no idea.

Perhaps we are not yet where we must be to get the answers.
The wind chimes were quiet until they were put outside. They had everything else they needed to make for their melodious composition except the right place.

I hold on to this hope for myself feeling like a dry pack bunch of daffodils. I see within me is the potential to flourish; however I'm currently not in a vase of water for which there's this purpose. I’m working on a degree for which I have no clear idea as to what I’ll “do” with it when I’m done: adding tools to my toolbox but not yet knowing what I’ll be building.

Can we trust God that He knows what He’s doing? I read a quote by Peter Marshall that, once translated from its old English syntax, struck me right between the eyes – careful, it may do the same to you –

“Forgive us, O God, for our little conception of the heart of the Eternal, for the doubting suspicion with which we regard the heart of God. Give to us more faith. We have so little...we say. Yet we have faith in each other - in checks and banks, in trains and airplanes, in cooks, and in strangers who drive us in cabs. Forgive us for our stupidity, that we have faith in people whom we do not know and are so reluctant to have faith in Thee who knowest us altogether."

A breeze, a vase, the touch of the Savior’s hand; only God knows what He has yet to bring into our lives for us to fulfill the purpose for which we were created.

Can we believe that He will? Can we have faith in Him who knowest us altogether?