Which Heart Do You Want?

According to my husband, we have smoke detectors in our house so we’ll know when our food is done. Don’t believe me?

Ask my teenage son who burned bacon in the frying pan. The good news is that he learned our smoke detectors work properly, and they’re loud.

I wasn’t home at the time. Hoping to get rid of the burnt smell, my son turned on the ceiling fans and lit scented candles. I’ve done the same thing.  

Besides, who am I to point a spatula at my son?  

I’ve scraped my share of burnt egg whites and stiff yokes off the ceiling because the water boiled away and the eggs exploded. Talk about a nasty stench.

Last week, I put two cups of water and a half a cup of sugar in a pan and turned on the stove. Normally, the sugar dissolves in the hot water and becomes hummingbird food.

Then again, if “the cook” leaves the kitchen to put a load of laundry into the dryer and forgets about the sugar water boiling on the stove….She’ll find a lump of rock candy bubbling on the bottom of the pan.

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The good news is that it cooled and hardened into a heart, sweet enough to lick.

So I whipped together another batch of sugar water. Only this time, I waited near the stove and stirred the liquid while I pondered my rock-hard, heart-shaped candy.

Fact: I’m a happy person when Life is sweet. But when the Lord turns up the heat and allows trials to permeate my life … How do I respond, especially towards the Lord?

ØDraw near the Lord with a sincere heart in full assurance of faith, knowing God uses trials to achieve His eternal purposes?

“These trials are only to test your faith, to show that it is strong and pure. It is being tested as fire tests and purifies gold—and your faith is far more precious to God than mere gold.” (1 Peter 1:7)

ØTurn Away from the Lord, allowing pride and/or unbelief to harden my heart and test God’s patience?   

“Be careful then, dear brothers and sisters. Make sure that your own hearts are not evil and unbelieving, turning you away from the living God. You must warn each other every day, as long as it is called ‘today’, so that none of you will be deceived by sin and hardened against God.” (Hebrews 3: 12, 13)

As I poured the homemade nectar into my hummingbird feeder, I prayed for a heart that would never grow cold or hard towards the God of my salvation.

“Search me O God, and know my heart; … point out anything in me that offends you, and lead me along the path of everlasting life.” (Psalm 139:23–24).

 

 

How do you respond when hard times come? 

When It’s Enough

The woman passed away yesterday.

While I vacuumed pine needles off the floor, debated whether to take down the Christmas tree because it’s hard to let go of things we love.

The frail woman, though surrounded by loved ones had to let go.

One last breath, and her eternal soul flew into the arms of Jesus.

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While I, not knowing she was gone, stripped sheets off my guest bed,

And breathed in the lingering scent of my grown son who had returned to his own home.

I LOATHE goodbyes though my heart says, “We’ll be together again.”

When I heard the woman was “walking streets of gold,”

My heart was heavy.

Like it was on New Year’s Eve when I watched my grown son walk away into the airport.

I longed to run after him for one more hug.

Another chance to say I love you.

Even though we know how much we love each other.

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Driving home from the airport, I thought about the day before, when we put together a puzzle.

Holiday movies were background noise.

Bowls of half-eaten Chex Mix, and empty candy wrappers sat on the table.

My pants snug.

I placed the last piece into the jigsaw puzzle and declared, “It is finished!”

And a voice within me groaned, “ENOUGH!”

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As much as I love the holiday season … family, food, fun … I was ready for routine.

Perhaps the woman was ready.

As much as she loved her family and friends, wanted to celebrate life on Earth one more day,

Perhaps, she’d had “Enough!”

Enough of the endless

Physical pain, medical appointments, hospital visits.

Enough disappointment

As she hung to a thread of hope she’d be restored to good health.

Enough sorrow

To let go and leave behind….

Her favorite things and the precious people she loved.

And be with her Beloved Jesus,

Who “will wipe every tear from their eyes….no more death, mourning, crying or pain.” (Revelation 21:4)

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Today, my Christmas tree comes down.

It’s been up long enough.

I’ll wrap:

A newly-wed couple’s first hand-blown ornaments, faded with age.

Baby’s first Christmas,

A toddler’s photo glued to a felt star

Ceramic candy canes painted by children now grown and gone.

I’ll say goodbye and put them away until …

I was going to say, “Next Christmas.”

But who knows what a year from now brings.

I ONLY KNOW THAT I KNOW THERE’S A HEAVEN.

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One day, I’ll be there with the woman,

I never met,

Whom I grew to love,

Because I prayed for her last year.

Together, we’ll be in HEAVEN

Where Saints meet and re-unite.

AND WE CAN NEVER, EVER, GET ENOUGH OF JESUS.

How to Face the Unknown

New Year’s Day

House guests are gone, house is a mess, and … much too quiet.

I flip through the familiar dog-eared pages of 2013. Each week is marked with hand-written appointments and events that defined and filled twelve months of my life.

As I hang up the 2014 calendar, the days are numbered, but unspoken for…filled with possibility.  

Not knowing what tomorrow brings is like traveling uncharted waters. I can be excited, make plans, hope for the best, but who knows?

 

So many prayer requests come to mind; people waiting, hoping the New Year includes a …

·        Baby

·        Job

·        Promotion

·        Home

·        Restored health

·        Marriage

·        Grandchildren’s welfare

 

For some, not knowing … if these things will come to pass … invokes anxiety.

Others know change is on the horizon, and that stirs fear.  

So how can I face a calendar of unknowns, or the thought of current difficulties never ending?  

By remembering the people in the Christmas story who experienced fear, and how God responded.

 

 

Do not be afraid, Mary; for you have found favor with God.”  (Luke 1:30)

“Joseph, son of David, do not be afraid to take Mary as your wife; for that which has been conceived in her is of the Holy Spirit.” (Matthew 1:20)

“And the angel said to them (shepherds), Do not be afraid; for behold, I bring you good news of a great joy which shall be for all the people.” (Luke 2:10)

       

What seemed like scary circumstances was the means for something good to happen.

 “And she will bear a Son; and you shall call His name Jesus, for it is He who will save His people from their sins.” (Matthew 1:21)

 

This same Jesus, knowing He’d die on a cross to save people from their sins, and that His disciples would undergo horrid circumstances, assured them, 

“Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid.” (John 14:27)

 

Peace depends on my relationship with Christ, not my circumstances.

Can I wrap my mind around this FACT instead of getting tangled in my FEELINGS?

I can face the unknown because I know Christ. 

And He says, “Do Not be afraid.”     

Even in this…..

A Dose of Cabin Fever

“It’s snowing!” my teenage son exclaimed as he helped my husband carry the seven-foot Douglas Fir to our truck. Snowflakes and the scent of pine needles bolstered our “Christmas spirit.”

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Next morning, our rural property was a winter wonderland. I watched my husband drive away on business, leaving tire tracks down the steep driveway.  

Son and I huddled indoors and enjoyed a leisure weekend. But with frigid temperatures, and no road salt or sun rays to melt our icy driveway, my “Christmas spirit” morphed into “Cabin Fever.”

Monday afternoon, I stood at the window as though I was a prisoner in solitary confinement.

With the exception of my son, who is a young man of few words, I hadn’t spoken to a soul for three days. Even Facebook friends were quiet as a mouse.

I wasn’t bored. I’d been productive. But even as an introvert, I needed me some people.

God created us for relationship. He pursues us.

Even so, God looked at Adam and said, “It is not good for man to be alone.” So He made a helpmate, a woman.

Family and Tribe are vital in the Old Testament. In the New Testament, the emphasis shifts to the adoption of believers into the Body of Christ, but there remains the need for corporate worship.

“And let us consider how to stir up one another to love and good works, not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another….”(Hebrews 10:24,25)

  

However, I don’t think the Lord intends for me to commune on Sabbath morning while “we’re assembled” and then go my separate way for six days.

I can be isolated and still read my Bible, pray, and worship the Lord.

But it’s difficult to give and receive love, comfort, encouragement, accountability, and prayer when I’m alone.    

A dose of Cabin Fever reminded me of two Facebook acquaintances in desperate need of the above.

One has been in the hospital since September, and the other is confined at home. God sustains, but without community, their spirits wither like grapes on a vine.

Weary, heartsick Caregivers beg for people to reach out with cards, phone calls, or visits to show their loved one is not alone.

Perhaps it takes being alone to understand, and moved to action.

Tuesday brought warmer temperatures, and the arrival of my stalwart husband, to rescue me. Free at last, I drove to the grocery store, thankful to rub elbows with the human race.

People are flawed creatures, but I’m convinced we need one another for better or worse, in sickness and health….

What better time than the Christmas season to find a lonely person and SHOW them the love of Christ? 

 

   

 

          

How To Respond To Pain

“Your grandmother has a beautiful smile.”

The young man nodded. “You’d never know she lives with migraine headaches.”

His comment triggered the same question, the one in my previous blog.

How do people live with pain?  

Some people say, “It is what it is.”

Others credit “God’s grace and people’s kindness.”

When I look at my own life, I realize how I respond to pain and suffering has a great impact on my well-being.

That’s because my response determines my mood which affects my ability to cope.

I’m a slow learner, but over the years, three Biblical principles have shown me how to respond during trials.

Acknowledge

Accept

Adore

Remember Job? His children died, he lost his fortune, he suffered from bodily sores and the insults of foolish friends. He was miserable.

“What is my strength that I should wait? And what is my end that I should endure?”  

Job questioned why these trials happened, but he never questioned God’s sovereignty in his life.   

“Shall we indeed accept good from God and not accept adversity?” (Job 2:10)

“I know that Thou canst do all things, And that no purpose of Thine can be thwarted.” (Job 42:2)

Jesus Christ, in the Garden of Gethsemane, pleaded for God, the Father to spare him from the agony of the cross. Even so, Jesus was obedient, and willing to accept God’s eternal purposes.

Father, if Thou art willing, remove this cup from Me; yet not My will, but Thine be done.” (Luke 22:42)

Hebrews 12: 2 says, “Jesus.…for the joy set before Him, endured the cross…”

Habbakuk, the prophet, trembled while he waited for calamity. He knew the people of Israel would be attacked and taken captive.

Even so, Habbakuk adored God regardless of his circumstances because he trusted God’s character.

“Though the fig tree does not bud and there are no grapes on the vines, though the olive crop fails and the fields produce no food …  

yet I will rejoice in the Lord, I will be joyful in God my Savior. The Sovereign Lord is my strength; … He enables me to tread on the heights. (Hab. 3:17-19)

Learning a lesson isn’t the same as application. 

My first reaction is not humble submission or praise. But whenever I am willing to …..

Acknowledge God’s sovereignty in my life….

Accept unpleasant circumstances because  “God causes all things to work together for good to those who love God,”(Romans 8:28)

Adore God because He is faithful and “His mercies are new every morning”

Then I receive the Lord’s joy and strength which enables me to carry on even in this….pain and heartache of life.

Illustrations/photos courtesy of Microsoft Office

Who said Life is Easy?

“What do you want for dinner?” I asked.

Tired of that question, my husband purchased me a cookbook that resembled an encyclopedia.I scanned its 800 pages and chose an easy recipe. Put softened butter under the skin of two whole chicken breasts, spread vegetable oil on top of the skin, and bake at 450 for 40 minutes.

In addition, I sliced sweet potatoes and roasted them on a cookie sheet in the lower oven while I steamed broccoli. Since I left nothing to chance and double-checked the instructions, I was aghast when I opened the oven door and a trail of smoke ascended into the air. Blackened chicken, still pink on the inside, sizzled in a pool of hot grease that dripped into the oven like lava.

My husband followed his nose to the kitchen and rescued the sweet potatoes stuck to aluminum foil as I dodged splattering grease to retrieve my chicken breasts. Dinner was a fiasco, not a feast.

Improvising, I bathed the chicken with instant, brown gravy. After one bite, I pushed aside my plate and  watched my husband and son chew the tough, dry chicken as though it were roadkill. To their credit, they didn’t complain, but then again, there was a carving knife in my hand.

My appetite, along with my good mood, disappeared. I pledged allegiance to Betty Crocker’s faithful culinary advice, and went to the sink. While I scrubbed greasy pans, I thought of a young woman’s recent comment.

“If we’re called by God to do something, and we’re in His will, why is it such a struggle?”

I didn’t answer her then. It was a valid question and I wanted to search scripture for a Biblical response rather than lean on my own understanding. But after two hours of my life, spent cooking and cleaning dishes for naught, I reached one conclusion.

Who said life is easy?

I’m called to be is a wife and mom, and in our household that job description includes cooking all the meals. I don’t love to cook. And some days I’d rather retire my apron and make reservations. But I’m not going to quit or second guess my role because there are days of tribulation. I might just as well shave my head when I have a bad hair day.

Fact is, even when we’re in the center of God’s will, we have the human responsibility to walk out our lives. We take the good with the bad and “walk in faith, not by sight.”

Visit the heroes of faith in Hebrews 11 who were called by God. Familiar names like Abraham, Moses, Gideon, Samson, and David who struggled with hardships, temptations, and doubt, but they were commended for their faith. “Others suffered mocking and flogging, and even chains and imprisonment. There were stoned, they were sawn in two, they were killed with the sword.” (Hebrews 11:36,37)

Did they question why life isn’t easy?

Deciphering God’s will, and staying afloat when stormy waters threaten to capsize me, is part of the human dilemma. Scripture tells me to persevere and press on instead of shouting “uncle.”

“Let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, looking to Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy that was set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame….so that you may not grow weary or fainthearted.” (Hebrews 12:2,3)

Today’s dinner fiasco was another notch in my apron strings of comical cuisines not meant for human consumption. But after 33 years of marriage, the good meals outweigh the bad. We haven’t starved. In fact, as I write this, I hear my son pouring cereal into a bowl.