“Every Day is a New Chance”

He’s an “old soul” at six years old. I’m often taken aback by conversations with my grandson. On the playground, he might be found playing ball with his friends,or asking his teacher how her day is going and if teaching makes her happy. That’s just the way he rolls.

So, I was not too surprised with our conversation last week as I was transporting him to his cousin’s house. As we were on the way he turned to my husband, who is suffering with health challenges and can no longer walk, and reminded him that he prays for him every day. We spoke of how God has not said “yes” to our desires for reasons still unknown to us–but we trust him. After a pause Micah continued, “You know Papa, every day is a new chance.” every-day-is-a-new-chance

I stored this nugget of child wisdom in my heart and ruminated on it throughout the week. Indeed, Micah, every day is a new chance. Every day brings a new possibility, a new chance.

In the morning, O LORD, you hear my voice; in the morning I lay my requests before you and wait in expectation. You are not a God who takes pleasure in evil; with you the wicked cannot dwell. (Psalm 5:3-4)

Every day is new chance to:

Count the many blessings I have been given.

Serve others.

Notice new ways that God is at work in my life.

Choose gratitude.

Hope.

Encourage someone.

Remember what Jesus did for me.

Accept God’s love and power even if I don’t understand my circumstances.

Overcome a harmful habit or sin and replace it with good.

Share this love which can make an eternal  difference in someone’s life.

Today we have this chance.

A couple of nights ago I woke up for a few hours and took the opportunity to pray. I thought about this “random chance” to pray and began to thank God for a vast variety of people, scenes, creatures, and emotions I enjoy and that he created. I was filled with wonder at how music “works” and how humorous and adorable are so many creatures. I stood (or rather lay) dumbfounded  at laughter, joy, excitement, sorrow, and the many varied emotions we are able to experience. I thought of the intense power of love and how it is something we can only know because of God. It was a fun prayer time as I remembered this “chance” to choose God. I read a familiar passage in a less familiar version and was uplifted so much I’m eager to share it with you…as we hold to the fact that every day is a new chance.What will you make of your chance today?

 
  This resurrection life you received from God is not a timid, grave-tending life. It’s adventurously expectant, greeting God with a childlike “What’s next, Papa?”
  God’s Spirit touches our spirits and confirms who we really are. We know who he is, and we know who we are: Father and children.
  And we know we are going to get what’s coming to us—an unbelievable inheritance! We go through exactly what Christ goes through. If we go through the hard times with him, then we’re certainly going to go through the good times with him!
  That’s why I don’t think there’s any comparison between the present hard times and the coming good times.
  The created world itself can hardly wait for what’s coming next.
  Everything in creation is being more or less held back. God reins it in
  until both creation and all the creatures are ready and can be released at the same moment into the glorious times ahead. Meanwhile, the joyful anticipation deepens.
  All around us we observe a pregnant creation. The difficult times of pain throughout the world are simply birth pangs. But it’s not only around us; it’s within us. The Spirit of God is arousing us within. We’re also feeling the birth pangs.
  These sterile and barren bodies of ours are yearning for full deliverance.
  That is why waiting does not diminish us, any more than waiting diminishes a pregnant mother. We are enlarged in the waiting. We, of course, don’t see what is enlarging us.
  But the longer we wait, the larger we become, and the more joyful our expectancy.
  Meanwhile, the moment we get tired in the waiting, God’s Spirit is right alongside helping us along. If we don’t know how or what to pray, it doesn’t matter. He does our praying in and for us, making prayer out of our wordless sighs, our aching groans.
  He knows us far better than we know ourselves, knows our pregnant condition, and keeps us present before God.
  That’s why we can be so sure that every detail in our lives of love for God is worked into something good.  Romans 8:15-28 (MSG)

 

 

Out of Eggs: A Spiritual Survival Guide for Menopause

As I opened the refrigerator it hit me. My epiphany came as the waft of cold air came spilling from the stainless steel rectangular box. I was out of eggs. This eggless dilemma was deceiving, as the cardboard egg container still looked the same from the outside.20160805_131350

However, upon opening the carton I saw it was true. The last egg had been used. I was not prepared for the drama that was now thrust upon me. You see, my pumpkin muffins were waiting. The oil and water had already been added to the mix (that’s right—they weren’t homemade). All that was needed to complete this delectable snack was one stinkin’ egg. I didn’t need a jumbo egg, a large egg, or a brown egg. I didn’t even care at that point if it was organic and cage free. Any egg would do. My muffins would not turn out well without an egg. The egg was needed to hold it all together and to bring moisture.  But I was in a hurry. No time to find a neighbor with an egg, or make a quick trip to the store. I’d have to do this thing eggless. The pumpkin muffins went into the oven. Thirty minutes later, voilà. I was left with muffins that were falling apart, dry and crumbly. Muffin tops rolled over the edge of the crinkled paper muffin holders.

And this, my friends, is what happens in menopause. When that last egg leaves, women often feel they are thrust into an oven, and then things start to fall apart. All moisture leaves the body. The whole body. And the muffin tops hang over the edge.

For me, during menopause I lived with my own personal summer—like a summer at the equator while wearing a fur coat. I often couldn’t sleep until it was time to wake up, and that greatly increased my fatigue level. Dryness of all kinds was a problem, as were heart palpitations (which turned out to be tachycardia resulting in a heart ablation, rather than menopausal palpitations—surprise). My doctor assured me that palpitations causing one to pass out were not normal menopausal symptoms. So, don’t attribute everything to menopause. Now, years later, the night sweats are gone, with the exception of one that arrives each and every morning at 6:00 a.m.

But we have this treasure in jars of clay to show that this all-surpassing power is from God and not from us. (2 Corinthians 4:7)

Fortunately, I didn’t feel much change emotionally, except a bit of sadness about the end of an era. Adding to the fun symptoms, menopause often hits when children are leaving home and parents are aging and passing from this life. I experienced all of that and felt it keenly. During that time, emotions could run high. And aging is part of God’s grace?

Against all hope, Abraham in hope believed and so became the father of many nations, just as it had been said to him, “So shall your offspring be.” Without weakening in his faith, he faced the fact that his body was as good as dead— since he was about a hundred years old—and that Sarah’s womb was also dead.   Yet he did not waver through unbelief regarding the promise of God, but was strengthened in his faith and gave glory to God, being fully persuaded that God had power to do what he had promised. This is why “it was credited to him as righteousness.” (Romans 4:18–22)

I share this verse for encouragement, even though we are probably not looking to have a child at this stage of life (though this was the situation with Abraham and Sarah). This scripture tells me that even when our wombs are dead God can still work powerfully through us. God’s power in our life can become more evident than ever if we hold to his promises and are strengthened in our faith. Menopause, like everything else, is more than just a physical issue. It brings with it an opportunity to grow in our faith.

Some women go through menopause without much effect. However, as that last egg prepares to leave, a woman’s hormones go through great transitions as the estrogen leaves the premises. Like my pumpkin muffins, we can tend to feel like things are “falling apart.” We may feel like we live in a hot oven. We wonder why our skin changes and why sexual intimacy can be painful. We may ask, “Where did my libido go?”  We may find it more difficult to stay svelte…or get svelte. That’s a kind way to say we feel fat and have difficulty losing weight. The subtitle “Opportunities to Grow” is not about our changing metabolism.  As you read this you may be viewing menopause as an event that will happen years from now, or perhaps it is current. Maybe you went through it years ago and you barely remember how it affected you. Or if you are a guy, you may be wondering what is happening to your wife during this time. Whatever your stage, use this information to prepare you, confirm that you are not crazy, or encourage someone else who is in this stage of life.

Most women go through menopause in their early fifties. Again—do you see God’s grace at work? Imagine enrolling your child in kindergarten as you enroll yourself in Medicare. God understands that when we are in the menopausal stage of life it would be difficult to manage a toddler.  Menopause is simply when a woman stops ovulating. This results in the cessation of menstruation (another little gift from God). Hormonal changes can result in a lovely variety of symptoms:

  • Hot flashes (A hot feeling—the kind where you want to bury yourself naked in the snow.)
  • Night sweats (Did I go swimming in my sleep without realizing it?)
  • Insomnia (The inability to sleep…Where was this when my kids were little?)
  • Decreased libido (Decreased sex drive, or as the phrase goes, “My get up and go, got up and went.”)
  • Mood swings (Feelings that shift, causing you to weep at commercials or become angry at houseflies.)
  • Forgetfulness (Why did I walk into this room? Why is my mail in the refrigerator? What is my youngest child’s name?)
  • Dry skin (Yes, this especially includes vaginal dryness.)
  • Recurrent yeast or bladder infections
  • Recurrent colds or flus
  • Loss of hair (But don’t worry…it will likely reappear on your chin.)
  • Weight gain (Oh, the joy.)
  • Fatigue (I’m tired just reading all of this.)

Some women have minimal symptoms of menopause, while others hit the jackpot and get all of them. Some women may experience heart palpitations, panic attacks, or headaches. For others who have had headaches previously, they may lessen. We all experience this special time in our own special way. Be sure to consult your physician about your specific medical conditions, especially if you are having irregular bleeding or pelvic pain.   Many women have perimenopausal symptoms for years before they reach menopause. During this time they may skip cycles or have shorter or longer periods. Do remember, until the last egg is gone you can still get pregnant.

What can you do about these symptoms? First and foremost, pray a lot. Seriously. Menopausal symptoms can take our focus away from Jesus and weaken our ability to fight sin. Menopause does not give us a ‘’free pass” to become angry or indulge in self-pity. With God’s grace, allow these things to cause you to depend more on God. When you struggle, let it draw you closer to God’s power and love.

Keep helpful scriptures close at hand and read them often. Talk to trusted friends about your struggles, and ask for prayers. Catch the temptations before they give way to sin. Many symptoms can be treated, or at least their severity decreased. For example, insomnia can be helped through regular exercise, natural remedies, relaxation techniques, or even medications. Try to avoid technology before you sleep. It can prevent your mind from relaxing. Vitamin E suppositories or very small doses of natural estrogen suppositories, along with good lubrication, can help vaginal dryness. Healthy eating (with minimal carbs and sugars), along with vitamin and mineral supplements, can help reduce fatigue. Vitamins B-12 and D-3 are often low in women. When low in vitamin D, women can tend toward brittle bones and osteoporosis.Drinking plenty of water helps prevent bladder infections and also helps the skin stay moister.

Married Men: Oh Please Pause…May I offer you suggestions from a woman who has been there, done that? Thankfully, my husband was very encouraging and supportive through this time, though we navigated through a few storms.Your wife is not possessed. She is going through a difficult transition emotionally and physically. She would rather not feel the symptoms she does. She will do better with your love and support than with your solutions for “dealing with menopause.” Gifts of gym memberships, tweezers, wrinkle cream or strait jackets will likely not be well-received. Hugs, expressions of love, and assurances that you believe she is beautiful will be most helpful. She needs to know she is still valued and the object of your affection—not your “old lady.” Together, make a plan ahead of time for how you will handle new difficulties that arise. When the difficulties come, you will better know how to help each other. When the covers fly off at night and she throws off her nightgown, this is not an invitation. She does not want a hug. She does not even want to be touched. An ice pack would be the most romantic gift you could offer at this time. Ask her what would help her as she navigates this stage of life, what she most needs from you. Thank you for your understanding.

Women: We’re in This Together Friends, remember that every woman who lives long enough goes through this change and comes out on the other side, and so can you. With God, you can do this gracefully. It’s really an okay experience. I’m fully enjoying this stage of life, as are most of my friends. Make sure you stay close to God and laugh at the days to come. A sense of humor goes a long way. The wisdom of Proverbs tells us:

A cheerful look brings joy to the heart, and good news gives health to the bones. (Proverbs 15:30)

A cheerful heart is good medicine, but a crushed spirit dries up the bones. (Proverbs 17:22)

Remember that this time in your life involves your husband as well, so wives, be sensitive to your spouse. It’s really not all about you or him. It’s about us as a couple, with God at the center. God still calls us all, male and female, to consider each other’s needs above our own. That’s a constant upward call for me. I hope I’m getting better with years of practice and learning from God, empowered by his Spirit—but I always need the reminder.

Now the Lord is the Spirit, and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom. And we, who with unveiled faces all reflect the Lord’s glory, are being transformed into his likeness with ever-increasing glory, which comes from the Lord, who is the Spirit. (2 Corinthians 3:17–18)

This post is an excerpt from my new book, “An Aging Grace: Collected Wisdom on Aging Gracefully,” available at ipibooks.net

 

Digging Out from Disappointment

We’ve all felt it. It comes in various shapes and sizes without respect for age or background. It can kick you in the gut—when you don’t get a desired job, or make the team, or garner attention from someone you were sure you would marry. Maybe it stabbed you when a trip to the bathroom dashed your hopes of a longed-for pregnancy. I still remember several years of that longing-turned-disappointment.

As we live more years and know more people, disappointments seem to loom at every corner. We feel the disappointments of poor choices made by friends or family (or ourselves)—and relationships that didn’t turn out the ways we had envisioned. Often they come in the form of health challenges. We don’t ask for them, plan for them or desire them in any way. ~1524161

As I have mentioned before, my husband has a (still) undiagnosed central nervous system disorder. In a year’s time this villain has stolen his ability to walk, caused great fatigue and various other difficulties. However, recent MRI findings brought us new hope for a treatment that could “fix it.” The doctors thought they saw a vein formation putting pressure on the spinal cord. To confirm this MRI “finding” my husband would need to go through a procedure (an angiogram) to locate and treat the problem.

We counted the days until August 10th—the day of the procedure. Though we knew it was not a sure cure, the doctors were hopeful and so were we. Full of faith, we dreamed of how we’d celebrate our new miracle.

Instead, the procedure showed the MRI findings to be false. To add insult to injury, he had a very difficult time waking up from anesthesia causing enough concern to land him an extra hospital stay.VZM.IMG_20160810_224055 The night he came home he developed a high fever from infection. That day was also the hottest day of the year, and for some unknown reason the power in our house went out. It felt like cruel irony—power gone. It seemed that all we had hoped for resulted in “disappointment on steroids.” A hard kick in the gut.

With significant sleep deprivation, the next morning I sat in a 100 degree parking lot outside of a lab while holding a little sterile jar of pee in a bag—and sobbed. And prayed. And wrestled with God. I asked him if he had heard me, and if he cared. I “reasoned” with him that we could accomplish so much more with renewed mobility and energy. I reminded God of his promises and how faith- building it would have been for all the grandchildren who fervently pray for their Papa.

I felt like I was sinking in mud and getting nowhere—like a time I got my car stuck in mud. The car wouldn’t move forward, and sank lower and lower. I then reasoned that if perhaps I stepped on the accelerator a little harder I get could get out. Instead, mud flew and I sank even deeper.

Several things were needed in order to dig out. (A good cry was one of them.) I didn’t want to sink in the mud then, and I don’t want to sink in my disappointment now. With my car, I needed some solid ground, some trial and error, a push and a tow in order to move forward. I needed the same in that hot parking lot, holding the sad, now infected jar of pee.

When my car was stuck, I grabbed handfuls of nearby gravel—solid ground to put beneath the wheels. Likewise, when sinking in disappointment I must find solid ground—“one piece of gravel” at a time. The solid ground is truth. I must hold on to truth. We live in spiritual battleground and Satan wants me to believe the lies—that God doesn’t care or have our best interest. Two of the many “truth rocks” I rely on are:

And so we know and rely on the love God has for us. God is love. Whoever lives in love lives in God, and God in him.
In this way, love is made complete among us so that we will have confidence on the day of judgment, because in this world we are like him.
There is no fear in love. But perfect love drives out fear, because fear has to do with punishment. The one who fears is not made perfect in love.
(1 John 4:16-18a)

 Find rest, O my soul, in God alone; my hope comes from him.
He alone is my rock and my salvation; he is my fortress, I will not be shaken.
My salvation and my honor depend on God; he is my mighty rock, my refuge…

One thing God has spoken, two things have I heard: that you, O God, are strong,
and that you, O Lord, are loving. Surely you will reward each person according to what he has done.
(Psalm 62:5-7, 11-12)

The solid ground also includes the majesty of creation. As I observe nature and smell the summer gardens, view the sunset and hear the oceans roar I am reminded that God is the potter. I am the clay. As I see around me the love of a mother for her child and witness lives who have radically changed— I know love is from God. God loves me. He hears me. I rely on this. I know this in my mind and place it in my heart. I don’t have the big picture. He does.

“For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways,” declares the LORD.
“As the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts.
(Isaiah 55:8-9)

The solid ground includes the immeasurable blessings and answered prayers I have already received from my father: My salvation, his spirit within me, and the hope of eternal life top the list.

My husband, who is a godly man of integrity is also a blessing I don’t deserve. Though not so physically strong now, to me he has never seemed stronger. The relationship I share with my children and grandchildren cause my cup to overflow with joy. My friends are a beautiful result of this solid foundation. I am blessed to be part of a loving, vibrant church who lives for God.

I dig out by finding solid ground and placing it in my heart and mind. Sometimes it takes trial and error. I don’t always get it right but God is gracious.

Sometimes I can’t seem to find the solid ground, or the gravel seems to slip from my hand. That’s how I felt in that parking lot. So, in that hot parking lot I texted my daughters and friends to tell them I was hurting and needed help. I needed encouragement. And they sent it. In scriptures, in prayers, and in encouraging words. I needed the push, and the tow to help me dig out.

And I have hope. No disease or disappointment can take that away.

Grab your solid ground, keep trying, ask for a push, and don’t be afraid to be towed. Remember you don’t have to drive alone. God has this. He always has. Our heavy foot on the accelerator doesn’t help. With God, I can do this. You can do this. Let’s dig out together.

I waited patiently for the Lord; he turned to me and heard my cry. He lifted me out of  the slimy pit, out of the mud and mire; he set my feet on a rock and gave me a new place to stand. He put a new song in my mouth, a hymn of praise to our God. (Psalm 40:1-3a)

Not only so, but we also rejoice in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance; perseverance, character; and character, hope.And hope does not disappoint us, because God has poured out his love into our hearts by the Holy Spirit, whom he has given us. (Romans 5:3-5)

 

 

 

 

 

 

Thank You for Those Broken Chains

In honor of Memorial Day, I’m re-posting a blog from last year. Our visit to Normandy resulted in my gaining a much greater appreciation for the men and women who sacrificed their lives…but even more appreciation for God’s sacrifice for me. 

Oh, the inspiration and the irony. The past few days have been full of both. Normandy, France, was to me…a piece of history. That is…until yesterday when I experienced this place of beauty and blood-stained sand–where a decade before I was born something happened that continues to affect my life today.

20150428_111032

I reflected on the lives of the young men and boys who landed on those pristine beaches over 70 years ago at the “beginning of the end” of World War II. I watched  videos of survivors describe that fateful day when many of their “band of brothers” fell. Preserved in a museum, their belongings tell their stories. I heard those stories, told and untold. My heart felt sad, full, grateful, and inspired as I walked among the 10,000 white crosses commemorating men whose bodies never made it home. I saw name after name of men who once lived and walked as I imagined the futures they never lived. In my mind’s eye I saw the tears their families cried. They fought for my liberation and I left inspired. 20150428_122259

As irony would have it, today I am in Berlin, Germany–once home to “the enemy.”  I greeted two of my friends and colleagues, one who is German and one who is French. My French friend shared that his father-in-law, who lives in Sainte-Mere-Eglise, where the bloody D-Day battle was fought, was sixteen years old when the invasion came. Tears welled in his eyes as he spoke of stories his father-in-law had shared with him. I needed to hear those stories…to learn of the past that changed my present and future. 20150427_161849

My mind goes back to a sculpture in Sainte-Mere-Eglise that stirred my soul. It’s entitled, “The Day They Came.”  20150427_110537 (1)Once-chained hands reach upward..but the chains depicted were broken chains.

As a women’s minister I am often with fellow Christians. I spend time teaching and listening…and learning. I marvel at ways I see God at work. This past Sunday was a glorious and historic day in Paris, as four elders were appointed in the growing, loving, and lively church there. That same week four Parisians (college, high school, single, and adult) experienced “broken chains” as they were baptized into Christ. Tomorrow I will be with numerous Europeans while we learn from the Bible during the Spring gathering of the European Bible School. The fellowship will be sweet and the bonds tight. Cooperation and unity will continue to be forged–as they are essential for showing Jesus to the continent. French, German, British, Canadian, American, and more…all will be there–united in purpose and filled with deep and meaningful love for each other. This is all because many years ago someone came and paid the price required to break the chains of our own (my own) pride, selfishness, and everything else opposing God’s loving plan.

I’m reminded of the words of President Reagan at the 40th anniversary celebration of D-Day.”If we forget what we did, we forget who we are.”  In the spiritual realm (which is the part of us that can’t be buried under a tombstone) I’d change one word.  “If we ever forget what HE did, we forget who we are.”

And that’s the truth. The sculpture of the broken chains would read…”The Day He Came.”

That day changed everything…and he is still the only who can break the personal chains that embitter and enslave us…and the social chains of hate, prejudice,and entitlement that separate us. We are all level at the foot of the cross of Jesus.  If we ever forget what he did, we forget who we are.

We aren’t meant to be chained. We are loved, valued…and because of his amazing grace…worth his unthinkable sacrifice. Thank God for broken chains.

Tomorrow, as I stand arm-in-arm with dear friends, fellow workers, spiritual brothers and sisters–my allies.,.the ground will be level, as it is always is at the foot of the cross. I will stand grateful for what Jesus did. Because of that, I know who I am.

“Amazing Grace (My Chains Are Gone)” as arranged by Chris Tomlin

     Amazing grace
How sweet the sound
That saved a wretch like me
I once was lost, but now I’m found
Was blind, but now I see
     ‘Twas grace that taught my heart to fear
And grace my fears relieved
How precious did that grace appear
The hour I first believed
     My chains are gone
I’ve been set free
My God, my Savior has ransomed me
And like a flood His mercy reigns
Unending love, amazing grace
     The Lord has promised good to me
His word my hope secures
He will my shield and portion be
As long as life endures
     My chains are gone
I’ve been set free
My God, my Savior has ransomed me
And like a flood His mercy reigns
Unending love, amazing grace

Another Opening Day

Some days it’s just nice to be grateful for the simple things in life.  I love this scripture, and believe that wherever we live we can see God’s amazing work and learn to love our surroundings. Psalm 16:5-6
Lord, you have assigned me my portion and my cup;
        you have made my lot secure.
    [6] The boundary lines have fallen for me in pleasant places;
        surely I have a delightful inheritance.

This post was written several years ago but still reflects my sentiments.(One disclaimer – while I’m still a loyal fan, I get increasingly disappointed when the game becomes only about business.)  While there is not much spiritual depth in these words, sometimes I just like to be thankful for simple joys. And…of course we know that the first verse of the Bible includes baseball.  Genesis 1:1  In the “big inning” God created the heavens and the earth.  (Forgive me … I  learned that in elementary school.)

Opening Day – (Why I love New England)

Today is opening day at Fenway Park. It is cold and rainy outside.

You know why I love New England? Because no matter the weather, people will be at the park early to purchase their sausages piled high with onions and peppers. The stands will be full, as they always are. The fans will sing along to Tessie and Sweet Caroline. I just love living here. 

I grew up in the South.  I graduated from the University of Florida and have lived in New England for the last 22 (update: now 29) years of my life, after a few other southern stops.  As soon as I arrived, I knew I had finally come “home”.  I found a place that matched my driving and my dreams.

When I was a child, my mother read me a book with the most amazing pictures of children building snowmen..of white steeple churches, pumpkin patches and  beautiful, colorful leaves. I wondered where such a wondrous place might be!  Was it real?

Then I found it. It is real. I saw my very first snowflake in the Carolinas while on my honeymoon and I’ve loved snow ever since. I still love it!  There is nothing more peaceful and beautiful than a snowfall. There is also nowhere else in the world I know of where I can look outside at the park across the street from my house and watch the girls’ high school tennis team shovel snow off the courts. I played tennis in high school and never was there such fun. We just sweat a lot – all the time.

Here in New England my mind can’t easily get lazy. I returned early this morning after dropping my husband off at Logan. I went through the “fast lane” into the Sumner Tunnel. Approximately ten lanes converged into one.  (update: Thanks America – for the Big Dig which helped alleviate this situation.) It was “cut throat” and you had to stay sharp to live.  Compare that to the challenge of my last trip down south.  I slowly meandered through back roads, searching to find any roadside stand that sold boiled peanuts.  I turned back onto the highway (of course blocking a lane to make my left turn…how else do you do it?) and realized from others’ looks I would likely be locked up if I did that again.

In New England what you see is what you get.  There is no fluff – except fluffr’nutter sandwiches (peanut butter and marshmallow fluff) – which were new to me upon my arrival. Here, if someone doesn’t like something you say or do they won’t politely smile and say “why thank you darlin'” and then talk about you to someone else. Just yesterday I was in line at a fast food place on the Mass Pike and the guy in front of me was given the wrong order.  When he (the customer) mentioned it the person “waiting” on him said, “Buddy, that’s not my problem.” See, here you just get what is really on one’s mind, unfiltered.

In my hometown I grew up attending almost every home University of Florida football game.  (Steve Spurrier was the quarterback then.)  It was a great experience and I was a devoted fan. Often, I came home sunburned.   Several years ago my husband and son sat through a blizzard watching the Pats beat Oakland. They came home with no feeling in their arms or legs, but it was a “wicked awesome” experience. No comparison.

So today, as I drove home from a morning appointment in the cold and rain I was grateful for all the many blessings I have living here, but still wishing I could be sitting at Fenway Park about now.  I think we play the Orioles.  Doesn’t matter…I know the main chant will be about the Yankees. But I can’t go.  I’ll need to help pump the water from the snow melt out of the basement. Somewhere along the way, I have become a New Englander… and I really do love it.
 

Hesitate…or Jump In?

I think the fear began the day before our wedding in December of 1974. I was taking my very last university final. For my elective that quarter (we were on a quarter system at the University of Florida) I had taken a life guarding class. Since the month was December, and the only school pool at the time was outdoors, the water was heated. I still remember many cold days when I would quickly throw off my warm up suit and race into the pool…desiring as little time as possible to be exposed to the elements while wearing a swimsuit. (In that part of Florida during that time of year the temperature often reached the 30’s and 40’s.) A few days before this final test the pool heater broke and the water was cold. Very cold. My instructor postponed the lifesaving test for a future date when the heater was working, but I couldn’t wait. I was getting married and moving to a new state the very next day so I requested to take it as originally scheduled. The water and air temperature were ridiculous as I dove in for my test. (I got such severe leg cramps my “victim” had to help me out of the pool.) Needless to say, I’m sure you never saw me sitting on a lifeguard’s chair.

My family fully understands (through years of observation) that it takes me a really, really loooong time to place myself in cold water. In fact, it usually doesn’t happen. I’ll start in with my toes, then after 15 minutes or so work up the courage to get my feet in. After about a half hour of inching myself in, I will either slowly submerge myself with a scream…or give up and get out. Usually I get out. Yes I know it would be simpler (in your mind) to just jump in. I really don’t enjoy this dilemma, because I like to swim.

Imagine my joy when I found out early this year that a gym near my house contains a pool where the water temperature stays in the mid to high 80’s. Aaahhh. I signed up and have been swimming all year. I eagerly and willingly jump in with no hesitation whatsoever! I don’t even bother to gingerly put a toe in before getting all wet…I’m quickly “all in” swimming laps. The water is invitingly delightful. I stay in as long as possible.20160311_151948 (1)

As I returned home from swimming today, I thought of how I (and I’m likely not alone so will use “we”) can too often hesitate toward wholeheartedly “jumping in” with God…opting to put a toe or two in the water. We can hesitate in simply obeying the Scriptures when they seem hard. We can hesitate by way of indecision and procrastination. We can hesitate in reaching out and sharing our faith. We can even hesitate in prayer. At times I hesitate to pray because of the hard work involved in prayer. It takes a decision to jump in wholeheartedly in order to overcome our hesitation. And it takes a recognition and acceptance of the love and mercy of God.

When I hesitate,  I fail to embrace the truth that I am jumping into the arms of my infinitely loving and powerful Father. I can forget that his ears are eager to hear my thoughts, my praise, my fears, my failures, my requests, my longings. I can let fear rule, though God’s perfect love casts out fear (1 John 4:18). When I embrace the love of my Father, I can then “jump in” with no hesitation and arms wide open. His love is warmer and more refreshing than my 86 degree pool. It’s not cold or painful. And it’s oh so refreshing and strengthening.

1 Kings 18:21 (NASB)
21  And Elijah came near to all the people and said, ” How long will you hesitate between two opinions? If the LORD is God, follow Him; but if Baal, follow him.” But the people did not answer him a word.

Proverbs 24:11-12 (MSG)
11  Rescue the perishing; don’t hesitate to step in and help.
12  If you say, “Hey, that’s none of my business,” will that get you off the hook? Someone is watching you closely, you know— Someone not impressed with weak excuses.

Hebrews 10:19 (MSG)
19  So, friends, we can now—without hesitation—walk right up to God, into “the Holy Place.” Jesus has cleared the way by the blood of his sacrifice, acting as our priest before God. The “curtain” into God’s presence is his body.

Thankfully, God did not hesitate to help me!

Romans 8:31-33 (MSG)
31  So, what do you think? With God on our side like this, how can we lose?
32  If God didn’t hesitate to put everything on the line for us, embracing our condition and exposing himself to the worst by sending his own Son, is there anything else he wouldn’t gladly and freely do for us?
33  And who would dare tangle with God by messing with one of God’s chosen?

Jump on in. The water’s just right. It’s delightful. It’s perfect.

 

Some exciting news!

It’s been a while since I’ve “refilled” a morning cup, but for good reason. I’ve been working on a big project and can’t seem to “walk and chew gum” at the same time.  Thus, no blogs.

I’m excited to tell you of this new project, which should be released from Illuminations Publications in late spring. It’s entitled—An Aging Grace: Helping Each Other Age Faithfully.

Personally, I have felt an increased need to embrace aging—and to see it as a beautiful part of God’s grace rather than a “gift” I’d rather not receive. As I travel this “road of aging” I assume I’m not alone in my needs. Personal Bible study, outside reading, personal reflections, and incredible contributions from some amazing authors (who have contributed to this anthology) have greatly encouraged and inspired me on this journey. I’m eager to share these things with you.

Covering many topics that deal with spiritual, emotional, and physical issues, the book is honest, humorous, and quite practical. My prayer is that the book will highlight God’s views on aging, thus encouraging and strengthening our souls. The beautiful artwork on the cover is from Jeff Tabor. I’ll be sharing more from the contents and contributors in future posts. Stay tuned! AnAgingGrace

Teaching Our Children to Pray

Nothing shouts sincerity louder than the sound of little children speaking to their creator.   However, as one of Jesus’ disciples states in Luke 11:1, “Lord, teach us to pray…” we all need help in learning to pray.

The children we once taught to pray now have praying children of their own. I now love the occasions when I have the opportunity to pray with my grandchildren.  I love “hearing their hearts” and am often inspired by the honesty and detail with which they pray. IMG_3626

I think back to numerous times when my faith was challenged by my children’s prayers. I confess that at times I wished to myself that they had not prayed a particular prayer which I faithlessly believed could not happen.

Like the time they prayed fervently for a puppy…day after day.

Several months later an Irish Setter puppy showed up at our door.  Seriously. I opened the front door and it was right there staring at me. Eyeball to eyeball as if to say…”Oh you of little faith.”   The dog stayed with us for days until its owner was finally found. By then we were persuaded to get a dog…and have had one ever since. My children were not surprised.

While I’m not saying a puppy will show up at your door, I am saying that we must not underestimate the power of prayer.

As I think back to prayer times with our young children I remember times when their prayers scared me. Often they would express their love to God and tell him how much they wanted to be with him. While I loved this and longed for this simplicity of child-like trust, I would follow up with God afterward and let him know that I understood that they wanted to be with him…but this scared me and I longed for them to stay here with us.

I also remember times when they were preschoolers when I initiated prayer time before bed and they refused to pray (at least the one of them did this). This sometimes messed with my mind. Would it be wrong to “demand” that they pray? Would this warp their genuine heartfelt desire for God because they felt they “had” to pray?  Remember….I’m talking little ones here…little ones who can be stubborn and try to take control.  I realized that these times were simply about “who was going to win” and that my “win” as a parent was crucial. By the way, it did not hurt their future prayer life or heartfelt love for God

So what are helpful ways we can teach our children to pray?

  1. Set the example.  It seems most obvious, but there is nothing more important than our example. Do our children see and hear us pray? I mean “really” pray? Not just the quick prayer before a meal, but talking with God when we don’t know how to handle a situation…or when we are worried…or when we are thankful…or when someone we know has a need… Do they see us pray often and spontaneously? Do they hear true thankfulness in our hearts when we thank God for the food on our plates, or for the gifts we receive, or unexpected blessings…or even challenges? When they are in a spat with a sibling or unsure of what to do…do we lead them to prayer?
  2. Give them some practical ideas.  It helped our children to have some structure in their prayers. When they were very young my husband or I started the prayer and let them follow with words from their heart. I started by talking about why I loved God and loved talking to him. Then I began the prayer with: Thank you for _________ and let them fill in things for which they were thankful. Gratitude is always a good place to start. From there I would continue:  Please help ________ and encouraged them to ask God to help others who were in need–those who were sick, or poor, or orphaned, or sad. They also prayed for people we knew and hoped would learn the Bible and become Christians. Next, I would add the sentence…Help me __________ and encourage them to pray about areas of their character where they needed God to help them grow stronger. Then we’d end by expressing our heart toward God starting with…I love you because_______________. and then share with God reasons why we loved him.   We didn’t follow this every time, but we did this often while they were young.
  3. Pray with them. Often. Nothing brings us closer to another than going to God with them.  I still love to pray with my adult children. Nothing helps me get in touch with my heart more than when I pray together with someone. Nothing helps me know the heart of another more than praying with them.  And….In Matthew 18:20 God tells me that “whenever two or three come together in my name, there am I with them.”

So, set the example, give practical ideas and pray with your children.  It can make an eternal difference.

Be joyful always; pray continually; give thanks in all circumstances, for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.  1 Thess. 5:16-18

I have to layover WHERE?

I won’t mention the company’s name, but suffice it to say it was not named “Competent”.

My request was simple. At least I thought so. Due to recent health challenges (I thank God I’m getting well), my husband and I needed to revise our travel plans. We had been scheduled to go on to Madrid after spending several days in Munich, Germany. This travel was needed for business, but we felt that both legs of the trip (Munich and Madrid) were more than “our legs” could handle. So, the night before we were to leave I called the travel company to cancel the “Munich to Madrid and then back to Munich” portion of the trip. We simply desired to move the date of our Munich to Boston return trip so that we would arrive home a few days earlier than previously planned.

That’s not so hard to understand is it?  Apparently it was. I was on the phone for an hour and a half trying to make this change. Several times, as I was put on hold the call was dropped. And…when I was finally able to request the change, the agent “helping” me was absolutely determined that this change of date required a necessary layover. And…this layover was to be in HONG KONG! Untitled design

I explained to this agent again and again that the route she was demanding made no sense, given the way the world was put together. I even told her (looking at the company’s web site) that there was nothing on this route remotely resembling her stated necessity. The route did not exist.

She was not moved. She repeatedly stated that an earlier flight back to Boston from Munich was not possible without a layover in Hong Kong…and an additional $11,000.

I wondered if she was also going to suggest that I reserve an oceanfront hotel in Iowa. I would not have been surprised. I told you the company’s name was not “Competent”.

Sigh.

Realizing that this conversation with the agent was going to go nowhere (except Hong Kong) I decided it would be better to initiate this change once we got to Germany. Honestly, I was afraid that if I kept speaking with her our entire flight would be in jeopardy.

Fortunately, upon arrival in Munich the change process was seamless. Our flight was moved up three days and was direct—without a stop in China!

As I recounted this little exchange with the travel agent I had to laugh as I realized this situation was all too analogous to my life. (To be honest, I’ve cried more than laughed so it was nice to laugh.) Lately, I have felt that numerous situations in life have been rerouted against my wishes—and I’ve often felt that the rerouting has not made sense. In my mind there is a simple and direct route to my life’s “destinations”…and then someone says I must layover in China? Really?

The layover is not efficient, sensible or even fathomable to my imagination.

While I did have the choice to decline the proposed airline route with the layover in Hong Kong, I can’t always refuse to go places life takes me. Sometimes the routes of our lives travel in directions we don’t want to go and which don’t make sense to us. They may involve layovers we neither want nor expect and cost more than we desire to pay. With each “change in reservations” life hands me, I must trust that God knows what he is doing and that I am safe in his care. I really am.  And he really does care.

And, I must remember that I always have a choice in how I respond to the rerouting. God is a really good travel agent. In fact, he is a perfect travel agent. He sees things I can’t see, and often “allows” me to go places I don’t wish to go. He also keeps me from places I intended to go when they aren’t best for me.

I am sure of these two things, though I must at times remind myself:

God is better at directing my life than I am.

God always acts in love, because that is who he is.

Many are the plans in a man’s heart, but it is the LORD‘s purpose that prevails.
Proverbs 19:21  

In his heart a man plans his course, but the LORD determines his steps.
Proverbs 16:9

“For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways,” declares the LORD. “As the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts.  Isaiah 55:8-9 

And so we know and rely on the love God has for us. God is love. Whoever lives in love lives in God, and God in him. In this way, love is made complete among us so that we will have confidence on the day of judgment, because in this world we are like him.There is no fear in love. But perfect love drives out fear, because fear has to do with punishment. The one who fears is not made perfect in love. 1 John 4:16-18 

And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose. For those God foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the likeness of his Son, that he might be the firstborn among many brothers. And those he predestined, he also called; those he called, he also justified; those he justified, he also glorified. What, then, shall we say in response to this? If God is for us, who can be against us? Romans 8:28-31 

In Due Time

Three little words.  Hard words.  In. Due. Time.

I have been holding on to this scripture:

Humble yourselves, therefore, under God’s mighty hand, that he may lift you up in due time. Cast all your anxiety on him because he cares for you.   (1 Peter 5:6-7 emphasis added)

Due time can feel so elusive. Isn’t it due time yet, God? dreamstime_xl_4965945 (1)

Yet I wait, and trust, and over and over give my anxieties to him…holding to the truth that he cares for me…even when I am tempted to doubt that truth. I’ve had plenty of anxious thoughts—especially because the nerve tingling physical pain I’ve experienced also brought on shivering and anxious feelings—and thoughts that would at times go to worst-case scenarios. Note to self:  Don’t google your symptoms.

I’ve struggled to find the words to pray, so I’ve prayed through the Psalms—which have become more and more meaningful to me through these weeks of pain. I cherish the love and scriptures that friends have sent, texted, and written in cards. They really help.

Over the past six weeks God has put me back in the “school of trust”. I know that one day I will be able to share about all the things I learned about God, myself, and others through this time but right now I just feel humbled, under God’s mighty hand…and eager to be lifted up.

I’m humbled by the complete lack of control I have over my situation and my utter weakness. I’m humbled knowing that others are fervently praying for me. I’m humbled to be on the receiving end of meals and help from family and friends—instead of the giving end. I’m humbled by love.

I know many of you have been through more difficult times than I–though I’ve had my share. Many of you have lived with chronic illness or shared a loved one’s pain. Some of you have gotten back tests or x-rays that were not normal. I’ve been in extreme pain for six weeks and have had seemingly every test and picture imaginable which have all come back normal, giving no answers except—“this must be some strange viral infection.”  Fortunately, most of the intensity of the pain has now morphed into muscle soreness, weakness and extreme fatigue.  So, there’s progress. I am getting better. Meanwhile, my husband’s legs are getting worse and I feel more helpless in being able to help him right now. God, when is due time?

All too often, when I’m preparing to write or teach I receive more life lessons and illustrations than I want. At the time I prefer to “pass” on these lessons. Right now I’m working on a new book entitled, “An Aging Grace”. I guess I should have known better than to pick this subject! I don’t really feel like I want to learn hard lessons about God’s grace in aging. Perhaps I should write a cook book instead.

However, I know that it in these “in between” times…before the lifting up part…God’s mighty hand is still there. Though at times I may feel squished under that hand,  I remember it is a protective hand…one that cares for me.

Lessons of love are often learned in times of pain…during the time before “due time”.

In many of my books I’ve shared lessons I’ve learned from God and his word through some crazy, some funny, and some difficult life situations. In “My Morning Cup” there is a little coffee cup icon printed in each chapter that separates the crazy situation I experienced from the lessons I learned.  What the little cup does not tell is the many things that went through my mind and heart before those lessons learned “in due time.”

For example: I share lessons learned about God’s faithfulness after waking to discover someone with a knife in my back. However,  I did not share about the nightmares that followed, or about the fear that came into my heart every time I heard a motorcycle (since the guy rode off on one.)

I share a chapter about a junior high teacher who lost her mind, threw my books and shook me against the lockers while spouting off about a scheme I had to “get her”.  And I was one of her favorite students! The coffee cup icon separates the situation from the lessons I learned, but doesn’t tell of the fear I had of going back to school and wondering when the proverbial shoe would drop again. It doesn’t tell of times I transferred the feelings from that moment to unrelated situations where authority incited fear. Life lessons are learned “in due time”.

So…I’ll keep reading in 1 Peter 5 as the passage describes our inward battles before  “due time” comes.

Be self-controlled and alert. Your enemy the devil prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour. Resist him, standing firm in the faith, because you know that your brothers throughout the world are undergoing the same kind of sufferings. And the God of all grace, who called you to his eternal glory in Christ, after you have suffered a little while, will himself restore you and make you strong, firm and steadfast. To him be the power for ever and ever. Amen.
(1 Peter 5:8-11)  

Never forget that God’s hand is with you, as he cares for you. He will himself make you strong, firm, and steadfast.  In. Due. Time.