A Tapestry of Life

Life is woven by a mysterious tapestry that we often don’t see until its end approaches for ourselves or a loved one.  

tapestry-threads.jpg

As we go through life many of us only see the ugly tangled threads running in seemingly disarrayed directions. Some are short stitches, others are knotted together with ends loosely dangling. God revealed to me over this past week just how He has been weaving a beautiful tapestry in my life.

My mom passed from this world into the next this past Thursday. I was not by her side when she took her last breath. It came much sooner than we had expected. When we arranged for Hospice care, we thought she had several weeks, perhaps months before the congestive heart failure and pulmonary fibrosis would take her from us. 

As this was the first week of Hospice care, I had yet to meet the whole Hospice team.

When I met with the Hospice nurse I discovered that she is married to one of my husband’s 2nd cousins. This had to be in God’s divine plan. I had never met her. Nurse Jessica is a very sweet and compassionate person. I think perhaps by she discovering that she would be ministering to a family member, her care became more compassionate. (Is that even a proper sentence? Forgive me if I seem to be rambling. I am still finding it difficult to put together coherent thoughts.)

I discovered the Hospice chaplain was a childhood friend of ours. His brothers and I and my brother rode bikes together when we visited my  grandparents. Even his parent’s and mine were friends in the neighborhood where my dad grew up. I had not seen Chaplain Jarrell since he was about nine years old. His middle brother, Elbert, would give me rides to school when we were in high school together. I did not see Elbert for many years afterwards, until he and I would carpool our own children. Our families lost touch with each other after we moved from that city over 15 years ago. We connected again through FaceBook in recent years.

Mom’s baby sister came by to visitor her the day before mom passed and offered to give me a break from sitting with mom the next day, after she discovered that I had had no relief for over a week, since my brother had been sitting with his 39 year old son who had just suffered two heart attacks and was going through a triple by-pass surgery. It was difficult for both my brother and myself to be torn between two loved ones in life crisis situations. (Oops. Another lengthy, perhaps incoherent sentence.) So it was Aunt Maggie and the Hospice chaplain that was by mom’s side and witnessed a peaceful passing as she succumbed to death. It gave my brother and me much comfort knowing that mom was not alone.

It brought such joy to my heart when I saw a row of bikes lined up in the parking lot and I walked into the chapel and saw the CMA colors ministering as mom’s pall bearers at her celebration of life ceremony yesterday.

One may think they served out of their CMA love for me and my husband and because CMA is “there when you need us”.  But as I look back over the years of my family’s life I can see how it was orchestrated by God in His divine plan for our lives, and it too was part of the beautiful tapestry.

When my brother and I were meeting with the funeral director this past Friday and trying to pull together the details of mom’s service, we came to an impasse. We could not think of a single family member or friend of mom’s who would be available or physically capable of being a pall bearer. After all, she would have been 88 years old this December and was the oldest of eleven siblings. After some thought, my husband and I suggested our CMA family. My brother was in total agreement. We placed a call to our chapter president and his reply was, “Absolutely.” 

Since mom had been in failing health for many years and unable to attend church, she had lost contact with any minister who now knew her personally. I did not want a stranger officiating her service and I wanted someone who also knew the family. We sat again mulling over possibilities, when a voice seemed to whisper to me “Milton.” So, I mentioned his name and how he fit into the equation of our lives and the CMA life. Again, my brother was in agreement. 

A phone call was made and even though Milton already had other time commitments for the afternoon of the service, he said absolutely he would be honored to minister, and rearranged his schedule. 

Needle

We knew nothing of the needle being threaded over 65 years ago that would fashion a CMA blanket of comfort for us.

Milton’s parents and my mom’s family became friends before he, my brother or I were even a glimmer in our parent’s eyes. 

Milton’s family and mine would become neighbors when I was only 6 years old. He & his siblings and my brother & I would spend many hours playing together and helping with each other’s farm chores. He would share many meals with us. He enjoyed my mom’s homemade buttermilk biscuits and southern cooking as much as we did. I have a picture of him and his sister gathered around the table at one of my birthday parties.

Later in life, Milton surrendered his life to Christ and served as pastor at one of the many fine C.O.G pastorates in the area where he ministered to many of my mom’s siblings.

Even though I had heard his name mentioned by my several of my aunts and uncles over the years, I had not personally seen Milton since my family moved from the neighborhood of our childhood farms while I was in elementary school. Then one night, at a Henderson, NC chapter CMA meeting, our paths crossed again. I learned that he was part of CMA and even road his bike quite frequently with my Uncle Hank, who was also once an active CMA member. Later, I had the pleasure of visiting the church he was the pastor of during a CMA event.

Three years ago, God moved on the heart of CMA leaders to begin a new chapter in Youngsville, NC. We moved our CMA membership there and they all became our loving brothers and sisters in Christ and are closer to us than our church family or our physical family.

Sitting with my family gathered in one of my uncles homes after the service yesterday, I had a sweet conversation with my mom’s oldest sister, who is now 86 years old. She made this comment to me, “D, several years ago Ellen and I were discussing the probably of death soon approaching for us. I asked her who she thought she would like to preach her funeral. She told me Milton Abbott. He brought such a beautiful service. You did good. 

Mom had prearranged most of her funeral details over 20 years ago after the death of my stepfather, but had left that information blank. Mom had never shared that bit of information with either of us. Aunt Martha’s statement confirmed that my brother and I had made the correct decision.

God weaves a beautiful tapestry of life we can hardly comprehend and orchestrates our  comings and goings in mysterious and wonderful ways. 

“A man’s heart deviseth his way: but Lord directeth his steps.” (Proverbs 16:9 KJV)

A dear CMA sister reminded me today of this today. I received a sweet email from her that said:

“It’s so like our God to have the provisions for our every need in place long before we ever could know how one day, they would take center stage when great need arises, and so it was with your mother’s “home going”. 

Though we should never be surprised at God’s forethought concerning our needs, we always seem to be so shocked to see that He’s been long at work putting into place all the details of our lives and those of our loved ones. Truly…He knows our needs long before we ever pray.

Even you readers are woven into this tapestry as you allow me to share bits of my life as God continues to whisper words of Grace and Mercy into it. I hope you are able to find bits of encouragement and inspiration through them as well.

fancycrave-224904-unsplash

Words cannot begin to express the love and appreciation I have for each person in this tapestry formed by the Masters had.

Prayer: Heavenly Father, your peace that passes all understanding is for each of us. I cannot begin to fathom the depths of your love for us. In times when we think we are forsaken, we have to but turn to your word to find comfort and hope and promise. When we allow others to minister to us in your name, there we find you in then midst. When in faith we surrender our hearts to you and your son, there we find life of abundant Grace.

You know I have yet to allow myself to grieve as I have many logistics to navigate in legalities of estate execution. When the time comes for the healing release I know that You will be there beside me, beginning to weave a new tapestry for my life. Praise God from whom all blessings flow! – In Christ name I pray, Amen.

Advertisements

A Homegoing

The phone rang at 1:05 p.m. this afternoon. It was the charge nurse at the assisted living complex.

“You need to be here on site immediately.”

I was temping at my old office an hour away. “Lord, redeem my time!,” I prayed. I pulled into the parking lot at the assisted living facility at 1:40 p.m.

I rushed through the doors and down the hallway to my mom’s room. I was too late.

Pulmonary fibrosis had ceased mom’s lungs from working. She had gone home to be with the  Lord.

Mom’s youngest sister, only 6 years older than me, was sitting in my place beside mom’s bed. The hospice chaplain was also there. They told me it was a peaceful passing.

The afternoon seems a blur now. Phone calls made to her seven other living siblings. She was the oldest of eleven. Calls to my children to let them know their Gma-E had passed. Gathering personal belongings that would not be donated. The thirty mile drive home seemed like a hundred. “God give me strength,” I prayed.

I shared with a CMA sister how mom and I had some precious times together this past week. It was as if she was making amends for all of her hurtful behavior over the past several years. Each time someone would visit or a care giver would enter her room, she introduced me and told them how much she loved me and how she appreciated what I had and was doing for her. Something that she rarely has done over the past 30 years. I had to swallow a huge lump in my throat several times.

My CMA sister texted back…

“Oh D. What an awesome gift! How like our God to give you such precious hours and moments to wash over you and fill you. And how gracious is His love to see your mother so sweetly ushered into His presence.

It is such a release when you know the pain, anguish and fear are gone, replaced by the glory of eternity, forever with Him.

Though we know the longing will persist and come at the most unexpected times, the knowledge of a reunion in which all the hard things are erased, is a treasure of great hope.”

When death occurs in my family I tend to go into cleaning overload. I do laundry, sweep and mop floors, wash dishes… I find it soothing to be busy. So, between phone calls and texting tonight, I cleaned. I did laundry, washed dishes and swept the front porch.

When I finally slowed, I took a few minutes to read my FaceBook messages. There was one from another friend from another CMA chapter that spoke volumes. She had reposted a post from “Spirit Food for Thought.” It said…

Jesus Whispers…

You may be facing something today that is greater than what you thought you could handle. This is the battle of life. Some days you will fill stronger than others. Today remember that when you are weak I am strong.

I will carry you through this dark hour and bring you to the other side that is full of light and hope.

You are stronger that you think you are.

I thought how appropriate. She had not yet heard of mom’s passing when she had posted the message.

I’ve received a deluge of texts and phone calls from my CMA family tonight. “Family” is not always a blood relative, it’s a “heart” relative.  I love my CMA family.

Each and every message, be it phone, text or FaceBook,  I consider to be a whispering of grace, reminding me that He’s got me during this time too.

Prayer: Heavenly Father, what a mighty God you are. You give strength to the weak & weary, peace to the battle torn & lonely, healing to the suffering and hope to the hopeless. You are my rock when others forsake me. Hallelujah! – Amen

 

1st Quarter Retirement Ends

“If we see our lives as a pilgrimage, then it becomes an integrated whole. It makes sense.”

The first quarter of my “retirement” has come to an end. I believe God has indeed been “repurposing” my life. “How do you know?” I’m glad you asked. It’s been a wonderful first quarter.

 I’ve learned to slow down and enjoy things I used to take for granted.

I really enjoyed the first few weeks of “me” time renovating the bathroom and repurposing items around my house. I especially enjoyed sitting on my deck in the early mornings and watching the moon in the evenings. 

Moonlit Meditation
Moonlit Meditations
Morning Mimosa
Morning Mimosa

I’ve developed a new joy for baking and developing new recipes along the way.  

Some bombed and some turned out scrumptious. 

Peach Preserves
Homemade Peach Butter
Peach Cobble Bubbling
Bubbling Peach Cobbler – a major fail. I’ll stick with my original recipe.
Lemonaid Pie
Lemonade Pie – The Key Lime pies didn’t last long enough for the photo shoot. A new favorite!

   

Chocolate Banana Nut Muffin
Sugar Free Chocolate Banana Nut Muffins

I prayed that it would be revealed to me how I could minister to others now that I am no longer enslaved to a corporate time clock. 

I have an old friend whom I had not seen in several years. She was injured in a tragic motorcycle accident in May, totaling her bike and putting her in ICU for four weeks out in Tennessee before being transported back home to a CCU rehab for another two weeks. The accident broke all of her ribs, her left shoulder and her left leg in two places. If she had not been wearing complete safety gear she would have lost her life. (I have a new appreciation for modular helmets.) She was told she would be in a wheelchair for up to six months. I was blessed to have been able to sit with her weekly and help during her major recuperation. Praise God she is now able to walk with the aid of a walker. If I had been working, I would not have had the opportunity to spend the time with her as she healed and we reconnected and strengthened our friendship.

Sitting With CMA family
Sitting with CMA family

I also had the opportunity to sit with a friend in my CMA family whose husband had to have esophageal surgery. The day started out at 11:00 a.m. and ended at 10:00 p.m. Other CMA brother and sisters came also. We had the opportunity to also minister to other bikers who were waiting in ICU for word about one of their club members who had just gone down in an accident. 

C.M.A . . . .”THERE IF YOU NEED US.”  

Just this week, a missionary friend/prayer partner and I reconnected. She is fostering special needs infants and can use some support and encouragement as she and her husband juggle missionary commitments with low income families and caring for two babies with life threatening medical needs. I will be meeting with her weekly for prayer and coffee and running errands for them such as grocery shopping and helping tidy the house.

Having time to devote to my family.

My son-in-law just accepted a teaching position at Kill Devil Hills, NC. So my daughter’s little family relocated from the Blue Ridge Mountains to the Outer Banks last week. She called and wanted me to come help out with the children and drive my husband’s pickup truck with a load of lawn care supplies across state. 

My what a trip! We left the mountains at 4pm. Son-in-law driving a 26’ U-Haul towing a car; daughter driving their van loaded to the hilt with plants and what-not; me bringing up the rear with the pick-up truck loaded down with lawn gear… we were a caravan driving down the mountains in torrential rain. Each one of us with extra special cargo sitting beside us or in a back seat, the children. We finally made it to my house at 10pm. We rested the next day (sorta) and took the kids to the science museum. The following day we were up at the crack of dawn and on the road again to the Outer Banks. It was a special week for us. I got to spend some extra one-on-one time with each of the grandchildren. Something that I haven’t had the opportunity to do before. It was heart wrenching to pull my self away when it came time to leave. One was saying, “Gra’ma can’t you stay just another night?,” and another saying, “Gra’ma can’t you stay for a year?” Oh, be still my heart. I left with promises of being able to come and visit more often. A three hour drive is a lot closer than a four hour drive. 

My husband and I are looking forward to future motorcycle trips down Hwy 64 east. 

Hwy 12
Leaving the Outer Banks. Alone with my thoughts along Hwy 64.

Just yesterday, I had to make some tough decisions concerning my mom. I receive a phone call the day before from the assisted living complex that  mom lives at, telling me she was being transported to the hospital. Yesterday, during my visit to the hospital, the medical staff informed me that mom has a touch of pneumonia with congestive heart failure. This was not the news I was expecting to hear. Mom is 87 years old and not in the best of health to start with. 

The transition nurse came in mom’s room and asked what our plans were for mom’s future health care. I just sort of looked at her like a deer in headlights as thoughts swirled around  in my head. My brother and I had just recently discussed drawing up new POA papers and the possibility of Hospice care. This news seemed to force our hands. So, as of today, I will be having mom sign the new set of documents to include  Medical POA and Advanced Directives that the old POA documents did not include.

Listening to God

This is why I believe the above story tells how God has been answering my prayer for repurposing my life.

This summer I’ve been doing a group study of the book, “A Praying Life” by Paul E. Miller.

He talks about working your prayers. He said for him it is a three fold pattern and shared a story from his life of how it worked. He says he first wrote down the prayer. (Yep. I did that. Readers you are witness to it in “Repurposed”.) Then watched for God to work while he prays.  (Yep. I kept watching to see how/if things would unfold.) Finally, God provided an opportunity where he, Paul Miller, “worked” the prayer request. Meaning God involved him in his own prayers, often in a physical and humbling way. (Can you see how God was involving me?) Mr. Miller referenced the scripture about the farmer spreading the seed then watching and waiting for harvest time, then harvesting the crop. (Mark 4:26-29)

Mr. Miller talks about prayer journaling and how to hear God speaking through them; writing down your prayers and reflecting on them, meditating on scripture, God’s word and allowing the Holy Spirit to work in you and through you. For me, this blog is one form of my prayer journaling. It helps me to “hear” the Whisperings of Grace in my life as I reflect back on what has been happening, my responses and how I can see God at work in my life. I find hope and feel the peace that my faith in Christ gives.

Mr. Miller wrote at the end of the Prayer Journaling chapter:

“If we see our lives as a pilgrimage, then it becomes an integrated whole. It makes sense.”

Prayer:  Father God, Thank you for the pilgrimage you have guided me through this summer. I look forward to the journey to come. I pray that mine and each reader’s pilgrimage becomes integrated with you as we make sense of your will for our lives. I pray especially for the person who is seeking hope and peace and purpose. In His name, who is our hope and peace, I pray, Christ Jesus – Amen.

REPURPOSING

Life Hack, according to Wikipedia “refers to any trick, shortcut, or novelty method that increases productivity and  efficiency, in all walks of life.”

While on Wikipedia’s “Life Hack” page I noticed a link to a book titled Getting Things Done by author David Allen. It’s a time management methodology of making lists. Humph! I’ve been practicing that for years without a book to tell me how to do it.

Now that I’m retired I like to call it repurposing my day. Granted, I will use some life hacks along the way.

I think I can get use to this retirement thing. Rapid responses don’t have to be quite so rapid anymore. I no longer have to get up while it’s o-dark o’clock out. I can leisurely drink my coffee and enjoy listening to the morning chorus performed by nature as it begins to prepare for the day (one of the pleasures of living in a country neighborhood out in the burbs). I no longer have to jockey for lane positions on a commute to the office. Dinners are now healthy home cooked meals instead of quick grabbed fast food fare. Exercise is tackling a “to do” list that has been on hold for goodness knows how long. 

7.12.18 drywipe
A Carry over from being in admin…yes, I have a project dry-wipe board full of wishes

The “to do’s” are mostly wishes. I started them in May, after I completed renovating the master bath, and imagine it will be a long time before I complete all of them. But hey, no rush. Right?

Renovating the bathroom! Now that was a task in and of itself. Painting the ceiling proved more challenging than I had anticipated. I had achy muscles that I forgot existed. It’s amazing how climbing up and down a ladder all day will give you a workout. I have a new appreciation for folks who paint for a living. I just might have to call on them for the other ceilings around the house. 

The walls went much quicker. (Still had to climb up and down that ladder though!)

Then there were the dreaded cabinet doors that needed to be removed and refinished. I’m not a big fan of the Thermofoil coating used for pre-finished cabinets. When it starts to peel there is no stopping it. I should have taken a before picture. Ugh! It was awful.

7.12.18 door prep
Thank goodness for YouTube DIY videos! After some sanding and painting…

 I don’t suggest setting up workshop in your kitchen. But, it rained all that week and I couldn’t get outside to do the work. So one does what one has to do to get the job done. Life hack #1.  

7.12.18 masterbathcomplete
… the cabinet looks better than when new. A big self-pat on the back.

After I finished the bathroom, I tackled the kitchen. The cabinets had brass

7.12.18 boiling knobs
Remove lacquer with vinegar and boiling water bath.

door/drawer knobs. I wanted white enameled pulls like the ones in the bathroom.

7.12.18 cracked lacquer
Allow to cool, wipe off cracked lacquer, rinse and dry

But those jokers costs anywhere from $4.50 or more each. I wasn’t about to spend over $100 for drawer pulls.

So what do I do? Life hack #2.

7.12.18 knobs ready to paint
Knobs placed on bottom of a cardboard box to paint ready for spray painting

I buy two cans of white Rustoleum spray enamel paint for less than $15. After two coats of white enamel and two coats of sealer, I was very pleased with the outcome.

 The last thing I’ve done thus far in the kitchen is to hang a “towel bar” in front of my sink.

I couldn’t find any towel bars that were the right size or color for the spot I wanted. So what did I do? You guessed it. Life hack #3.

7.12.18 towel bar
A simple little cafe curtain rod repurposed into a towel bar.

I repurposed a cafe curtain rod. It does the trick nicely.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Then there are things I want to do that I would like to become habits.

-Writing everyday to improve my WordPress skills (I’ve a long way to go on that one. I welcome feedback and comments from readers. Hoping to hear from some of you!)

-Sending greeting cards (Not many people do that anymore. I still enjoy receiving  handwritten heartfelt notes. Don’t you?)

-Studying biblical history (I’m participating in a group study on prayer this summer using Paul Millers book A Praying Life.)

-Visiting old friends (I’ve been sitting with a friend on Mondays this summer, who had a serious motorcycle accident and is wheelchair bound for several months.)

-Volunteering (places are still to be determined)

-Riding my bike with friends on the spur of a moment (More adventures to report on soon.)

-Being a full-time gra’ma, not just on holidays (It’s tough being a gra’ma when the babies live 5 hours away.)

-Develop a hobby. ( I used to sew. Wonder if I’m any good at it now. It’s been awhile. There are quilt scraps stored away. Hmmmm…there may be a new quilt in the future.)

“Many are the plans in a person’s heart, but it is the Lord’s purpose that prevails.” – Proverbs 19:21

I’ve yet to set a routine for my days. Right now I’m still trying not to feel guilty for enjoying a day that doesn’t include punching a time-clock. But I know God and His Grace has a new purpose for me in my “retirement.” June Hunt so eloquently reminded me of this today when I read one of her articles in Hope for the Heart.

She wrote, “No one who has ever lived or is living now or will ever live can accomplish your unique purpose. This is something only you can do . . . something only God can do through you.”

Yep. I think I can get use to retirement and HIS repurposing my days.

Prayer: Heavenly Father, thank you for giving me a life full of memories and experiences to draw upon as I begin a new chapter in my life. Reveal to me the new purposes and the repurposed walk with you in sharing your goodness with others. Reveal to all of us, the good and perfect purpose you have for our lives when we place our faith in you. In Christ name. – Amen

Not Just a BBQ Run

Little did I know that yesterday would not be just another BBQ run. Grace was going to whisper to me a thing or two about being in the moment.

“Being in the moment” is something I have difficulty with. I have to admit I’m a bit of a type A person. I like to know the schedule, know where, when and what to expect. Heck, most of the time, I’m the one planning the schedule, the where and the when. I’m finding it  difficult adjusting to an early retirement. 

My day began with a cup of coffee and a granola bar, same as always. It would be a bit different from most Friday’s though. Hubby decided to take a vacation day from work. We would bring in the summer with a day long motorcycle ride. He was already outside when I rolled out of bed.

I found him readying our bikes for a ride down east to visit one of the many fabulous restaurants on the NC Historic BBQ Trail. One of the musts on his “bucket list” of things to do, is to visit all of those restaurants, on the bikes. I like short rides myself, on 2 lane country roads around our neck of the woods, but today I agreed to go on a longer ride, and on several 4 lane highways. Definitely not in my comfort zone.  He has been talking about this particular restaurant for over a year. Perhaps  now, he would put it to rest.

The morning had no particular schedule. While hubby finished preparing the bikes, I went into town to get some cash to take with us, because the restaurant accepts cash only. When I got back, we washed the bikes, geared up… (I’m a ATGATT gal, all the gear all the time…full helmet, armored jacket, gloves, jeans and boots. It’s hot yes, but I’d rather be safe. I’m kinda partial to having all my skin in tact.) …then we set out to find this “must have” bbq.

The first 15 miles or so was a comfortable ride on 2 lane highway 96. Then wouldn’t you know it…road construction. There’s never road construction on this stretch of highway. 

 What do you do when you come upon road construction? Slow down or stop and stay alert to your surroundings. Then you wait for the flagman to wave you pass or you wait for the pilot vehicle to guide you through the work zone. (All while complaining under your breath. Be real. You know you do.)

So, I throttled back, put the bike in 1st gear as I applied the brakes and sat there about 10 minutes watching the traffic and workmen while waiting for the pilot truck to guide the line of traffic around the new hot asphalt and heavy equipment blocking our lane. (Grace lesson #1 –  Just like this stretch of highway, sometimes our spirit needs repairing to smooth over the rough edges and potholes that we’ve allowed to creep in due to overuse or neglect.)

We finally merge off the 2 lanes onto 4 lanes on US-264 Eastbound. We are cruising along at about 70-75 mph when a pick up truck pulls up beside me and a young man gives me a thumbs up and a smile, which makes me smile. (Grace lesson #2 – Sometimes, just being in the moment, not our words or actions brings joy to another.)

Then, after about 50 miles, where US-264 runs into I-795,…oh no,…we run into more road construction. Luckily, one lane is open and we only have to slow down this time.

Little did I know that we would run into road construction three more times! By the fourth time I’m thinking, “Really, God? I know I haven’t been on the bike in a while, but really?”  I have many conversations with Him when I’m riding. (Lesson #3 – Reminder…He will make a way, when there seems to be no way. Be patient.)

Grady's BBQ
We finally arrived!

We finally make it to our destination! “Grady’s BBQ”  is in a little building in the middle of no where, literally. It sits in a fork in the road out in the country. But oh is the food good! And the host are the sweetest couple. Click here to read the article by the NC BBQ Society

Mr and Mrs Grady (Grady's BBQ)
Mr. and Mrs. Grady are some great pit masters!

You know what? Sometimes, Grace abounds when we are out of our comfort zone and allow ourselves to just be in the moment. Yesterday, I chose to extend extra grace to my husband and drive nearly half way across state on my motorcycle for lunch. If I am honest, I have to admit I wasn’t really looking forward to the jaunt. But as the day progressed and I allowed myself to “just be in the moment” it turned out to be one of the best. Grace continues to whisper, even in a BBQ run.

And God is able to make all grace abound to you, that you, always having all sufficiency in everything, may abound to every good work. (2 Corinthians 9:8 World English Bible)

Prayer: Heavenly Father, your grace is sufficient. Thank you for safety in our travels and for lessons learned along the way. May we always be alert to how we can share that grace with others along our life highways. In Christ name, amen.

 

 

A Special Friend

Who is that special person in your life? You know, the person who knew you before you became the person you are today. The someone who still calls you friend; your forever friend.

I met my forever friend in high school. She sat behind me in second period history class. She was a sophomore and I a senior. Both of us were skinny, down to the waist long-haired brunettes and our birthday happened to fall on the same day of the month. That’s about as much as we had in common. Yet somehow God drew us to each other. 

I was blessed to spend the day with mine yesterday, celebrating our birthdays a day early. E is one special lady.

Adrian Rogers once wrote an article titled, “The Marks of a True Friend.” I couldn’t help but think of my special friend as I read the article. In his article he states:

A true friend sharpens. He will make you a sharper person, a better person. Proverbs 27:17 says, “Iron sharpeneth iron; so a man sharpeneth the countenance of his friend.” A true friendship will put an edge on your life. False friends dull your life, blunt your influence, and drag you down. Anybody who makes it easier for you to do wrong is not a true friend. One of the true tests of any friendship is asking yourself, “Am I a better person for having known this person?”

I’m definitely a better person because of E. I didn’t know what it meant to know God until I met her. No one ever told me. No one ever lived it in front of me day in and day out.

A true friend sticks. A true friend is steadfast. We read in Proverbs 17:17: “A friend loveth at all times, and a brother is born for adversity.” If you want to see who your real friends are, just make a mistake and see whether or not they leave you.

Life is like a ship. Some people get on and off board very easily. Some will stay on board as long as everything is sailing smoothly; but let the rough weather come, and they will abandon the ship. A true friend is the one who will stick with you.

E didn’t abandon ship. No matter what I was going through, she was there for me, treading the water with me, helping me stay afloat.

A true friend stabs. You say, “I don’t want to be stabbed.” Well, listen to Proverbs 27:6: “Faithful are the wounds of a friend, but the kisses of an enemy are deceitful.” A friend who really loves you will wound you if it’s necessary. That is, he will tell you the truth and won’t give you hypocritical kisses when he needs to do a little spiritual surgery on you. Flattery is not true friendship. A true friend cares enough to confront.

We had long conversations about life, as we knew it during those teen years and on into our adult lives; Probably saving each other a lot of heartache and bad decisions along the way.

True friends are built. You don’t make them overnight. Friendships are not toadstools; they are oak trees. Jesus said, “…Love one another, as I have loved you” (John 15:12). Now, that’s the principle, but let me give you five secrets that come from it. If you will practice these, you will make you a great friend.

Accept. The Bible says in Ephesians 1:6 that God has “made us accepted in the beloved.” We all want people to accept us. Jesus accepted the disciples. He said, “Ye have not chosen Me, but I have chosen you, and ordained you….” (John 15:16) Jesus did not accept the disciples because they were perfect but because they needed Him.

Even though E and I had little in common, we accepted each other as we were and are. We drew from each other’s strengths and weaknesses.

Acknowledge. Recognize people. Give them your full heart and attention. When you talk to people, listen to them also. Look them in the eye. Understand that people are important. They’re a soul for whom Christ died. When we acknowledge others, we’re saying, “You’re important to me. I acknowledge your presence and your importance.”

When E and I talked, we might not have always looked at things from the same angle, but we took the time to listen to each other’s ideas and never belittled a comment or action.

Appreciate. I got an e-mail from my son recently. It brought tears to my eyes because he said, “Dad, I’m just so grateful for the heritage that I have. Thank you.” I could live six months on that. It didn’t take him but a few minutes to write that little message, but it meant so much to me. Folks, you’re lying if you say you don’t want to be appreciated. Tell your husband, your wife, your children, or your friends that they are appreciated.

Affirm. Appreciation is for what people do; affirmation is for who people are. The Lord Jesus affirmed His disciples over and over again. It doesn’t mean you approve of everything a person does when you affirm them. The Bible is full of affirmations, and yet it acknowledges the fact that we’re sinners and that we fail. But affirmation is important.

I know E loves to garden. So, today I gave her a little marker for her birthday that says, “Life begins in a garden.” I tucked a card inside the gift bag. The card said, “To a Special Friend,” and went on to say how much she is appreciated and affirmed all the attributes  that make her such a special friend.

Assure. Assure them that you understand. We all want empathy. The apostle Paul said in Romans 12:15: “Rejoice with them that do rejoice, and weep with them that weep.” Find a way to let people know that you’re sensitive to what they’re up against, what they feel, what they’re going through. Assure them that you’re there, and that, to your limited ability, you understand or you’re trying to understand what they’re going through.

As E and I talked yesterday, we caught up on each other’s lives. The burdens and struggles that each have had over the years and our hopes for the future. There were times when I could only weep and say how sorry I was for her and she did the same as I shared.

True friendship is costly. It’s not easy to maintain a friendship. Remember John 15:13: “Greater love hath no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends.” And Proverbs 17:17 says, “A friend loveth at all times, and a brother is born for adversity.” You must be willing to pay the price. But finding a true friend and being one in return is one of the best investments you can ever make.

It’s not easy to maintain a friendship. E and I had to make time for each other in a busy weekend. She coaches Special Olympics volleyball. This weekend is the time for all the matches and ceremonies. I have a CMA ministry event to serve at tomorrow. I chose to spend today with her at their matches, so I could take her out to an early dinner before their evening activities. I had a 45 minute drive to meet them at the game site, then after the games, follow them another 30 minutes back to the dorms where they are staying for the weekend, so I could take her to dinner and return her in time for the evening ceremonies.

You’re probably thinking, “No big deal.”  Well, yes and no. You see, we live on opposite sides of the state. We haven’t seen each other in five years. And before that it was nearly 20 years. I wasn’t feeling up to par….but, it was a special day for two BFF’s to reconnect.

We picked up right where we left off…

 I thank my God every time I remember you.

BFFs
E and D June 2018 – BFFs 

Dearest E …”I thank my God every time I remember you. 4 In all my prayers for all of you, I always pray with joy 5 because of your partnership in the gospel from the first day until now, 6 being confident of this, that he who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus. 7 It is right for me to feel this way about all of you, since I have you in my heart and, whether I am in chains or defending and confirming the gospel, all of you share in God’s grace with me. 8 God can testify how I long for all of you with the affection of Christ Jesus. 9 And this is my prayer: that your love may abound more and more in knowledge and depth of insight, 10 so that you may be able to discern what is best and may be pure and blameless for the day of Christ, 11 filled with the fruit of righteousness that comes through Jesus Christ—to the glory and praise of God. (Philippians 1:3-11 NIV)”

Heavenly Father, I praise you for bringing special friends, especially E, into my life who have helped encourage me, affirm me, sharpen me and remain through all the storms of life. I pray that the one seeking that same type of friend will meet him or her today. In Christ’s name, AMEN.

Making a Difference

Changing the World One Heart at a Time

We left home at 9:15a.m. Our hopes were to meet up with other members, from the CMA (Christian Motorcyclists Association) Warriors of Truth Chapter 1360, as they approached the intersection of US 1 and Hwy 96. They had planned for KSU (kick stands up…meaning they would leave) around 9:00a.m. from breakfast at the restaurant just 10 miles south of us. We approached the traffic light hoping to see our fellow riders and merge in with the group. None were in sight. I eased my Suzuki Boulevard out onto US 1 N and settled into a good cruising speed. My husband followed on his Honda Shadow. This was my first road trip in over six months. Hubby wanted to follow to keep an eye on me.

The weather was perfect, slightly overcast with sunshine peeking through the clouds once in a while.  Temps were a little cool with promises of heating up later in the day. The mesh motorcycle jacket added enough windbreak without being too heavy. Traffic was light…just the way I like it. I had a fresh piece of gum in my mouth. I was ready for the 45 mile drive north to Brewer Cycles where our chapter would meet up with two other chapters for the annual CMA “Run for the Son” fundraising event.

RFS 2018
Hubby insisted that he get a picture of me in front of a  Brewer’s sign and I conceded. I don’t usually. Helmet hair is not becoming.  I’d rather be behind the camera, not in front of it.

I kept watching my review mirror, but never saw our group. We arrived about 15 minutes ahead of them. Seems they were late leaving and stopped to pick up two other bikers before heading on to the meet up. It was all good though. They were glad to see that I drove my bike.  

RFS bikes begin to arrive
The bikers begin to arrive! The sun was starting to get hot and it’s not quite 11 o’clock!

It would begin with a beautiful 100 mile circle countryside ride up into Virginia across the John H. Kerr Dam and back down into North Carolina, ending at the Shiloh Family Campground on Kerr Lake near Middleburg, N. C., with a catered meal of eastern style chopped pork bbq and crispy fried chicken with all the sides, and of course sweet tea.

Going over the road rules
Gathered around for the road rules before the big ride.

What is CMA and Run For The Son, and what does it  have to do with making a difference? I’m glad you asked.

We always pray before mounting the bikes
We always pray before mounting the bikes.

CMA started back in the 70’s as one man’s effort to reconcile his relationship with his son. But God had a much bigger plan. A plan to reach out and minister to the hurting in the  motorcycle community. Today CMA is over 1,000 chapters in 38 countries guiding many thousands of people to a reconciled relationship with our Heavenly Father.

Praying with other bikers at a stop along the route
Praying with bikers we met at a cooling break along the way.

This is achieved by attending motorcycle rallies, tours, races, etc., helping serve where needed, be it directing traffic, picking up trash or handing out cups of coffee, and conducting worship services at these events whenever possible.

Campground arrival
The Run for The Sun group riders arrive at Shiloh ready for some shade!

“Run for the Sun” is the one and only fundraiser that CMA does. That takes place the first Saturday in May. It started as an effort to provide one motorcycle to a pastor in Guatemala. From that simple beginning, it has now provided transportation in the form of motorcycles, bicycles, horses, boats, camels (yes, camels), horse & buggies, snowmobiles and wheelchairs to more than 13,000 pastors, evangelists, and Christian workers in 105 countries.

The CMA vision statement is “Changing the world, one heart at a time.”

You can learn more about CMA on its website at http://www.cmausa.org/ministry/.

I hope you will give it a visit.

If you had told me 5 years ago that I would be driving a motorcycle, and that I would be serving as an officer in a local chapter, I would have said you were crazy.  But now, now I am blessed to be a part of this motorcycle community. I have developed friendships and relationships that are closer than family. When a CMA member tells you, “We are here if you need us.,” they truly mean it.

RFS celebration with food and fellowship
Run for the Sun celebration with food and fellowship. A great way to end a great day!

If you or a loved one is a motorcyclist ever need assistance with something, contact a local CMA chapter and they will be happy to help. We are God’s servants…changing the world, one heart at a time.

Heavenly Father, watch over all the motorcyclists on the roads today. Give them clear vision, attention to their surroundings and quick actions in an emergency. Protect them from distracted drivers, debris in the roadway, and darting animals. May their journey lead to you and perhaps they to can Be the Change  in someone’s life. In Christ name I pray. Amen.

Road to Retirement…Me?

The road of good intentions that I mentioned last year had some potholes along the way. Goodness! A year has passed already. The time raced by at lightening speed.

2017 morphed into 2018 in a blink of an eye. The trip was a bumpy ride. But Grace guided me over or around each pothole.

My brother continues to take the lead with caring for our mother. We had to place her in Assisted Living this past. He’s doing a good job of  keeping me informed  and seeking my guidance when any major decisions need attention. He’s realized just how difficult caregiving for our mom was for me and admits he didn’t realize the amount of stress it is.

It was a difficult decision for me to make when I transitioned from a ministry of being the office and financial manager at a church with 1200+ members, back into a corporate business environment.

I’ve always considered myself as being a good team player with all of my previous employers, the CPA firm was no exception. The firm afforded me the opportunity to experience and learn different aspects of the corporate financial arena. Some experiences were good, some not so good, and some very challenging.

A health scare, (Two mild stress related heart attacks in one week. Yikes!) Caused me to eliminate as many risk factors as possible from my life that throws my body into unhealthy reactions. The firm was gracious to allow me to transition from a full-time finance position to a part-time position as support personnel for all of the departments.  Then recently, after dealing with irate clients & situations out my control, my body decided to go into another unhealthy stressed state. I didn’t have to take a ride with screaming sirens this time though.

So, after many conversations, my husband and I have come to an agreement that I will go into full-time retirement; What ever that means. I will embark on a new journey. One that will allow for a slower pace and opportunities to develop new interests and areas of ministry, and hopefully, one with fewer stressors.

I will look back on my employment history with fond memories of the relationships God has given me opportunities to develop, and satisfaction knowing that I was able to touch someone’s life for Him in a positive way.

This scripture comes to mind as I meditate on this new beginning…

Acts 20:24 But I do not account my life of any value nor as precious to myself, if only I may finish my course and the ministry that I received from the Lord Jesus, to testify to the gospel of the grace of God.

 

I look forward to attempts at writing again. I hear Grace saying, “I know you hear me. But you are you listening?” Yes, Lord. Yes.

I  came across this prayer and thought it appropriate for this season of life, and any journey we embark on. I hope you will make it your prayer too.

Heavenly Father, as we reach cross-roads of our lives, there are many unknown opportunities awaiting. Guide us along the path that You would have us to go. 

Thank You that Your word is a lamp to our feet and a light to our path and as we step out into the unknown. I pray that You continue to guard and guide the way that I take – and thank You that You have scheduled every day of my life, including the unknowns in this retirement. 

Lord, this is a wonderful new beginning for me. Help me to seize every opportunity that arises and to explore the skills and gifts that You have given me, so that they may be used to glorify Your name. 

I trust You to be with me in sickness and in health, in poverty and in wealth and pray that I will submit day by day to the leading of Your Spirit and simply rest in Your love, knowing that You are my light and my life, my way and my end in Jesus name I pray.

Taxes, Taxes

Give to everyone what you owe them: If you owe taxes, pay taxes; if revenue, then revenue; if respect, then respect; if honor, then honor. Romans 13:7 NIV

It is said there is nothing sure in life except death and taxes. Taxes. Ugh! I’ve always complained and fretted over preparing my own tax returns. I did hire H&R Block once. All they did was fill in the blanks. I had to do all the calculations and present the sums to them. I thought they were suppose to do all that stuff.  And still they prepared them incorrectly.  After receiving an notice from the IRS that year that a correction was needed,  I decided, “No thank you. If I’m going to do the work for you, then I’ll just keep the fees and go back to preparing them myself.”  Haven’t had any problems since then, except, it seems no matter how many deduction, expenses, and allowances I hunt for, I always end up owing more taxes on top of the extra withholdings. Can’t take what’s not there. Oh, well, it is, what it is.

I’ve been on both sides of the tax payer coin this month. My new job landed me in the world of tax preparation. Sounds like fun, huh? Not!! Talk about stress… I’ve developed a new respect for  CPAs  and tax analysts this past week. The CPA and analysts in my office prepared close to 800 returns or more. A 40hr work week became  64 for me and 72 or more hours for some analysts. Whew! Now the fun of filing extensions begins for those who couldn’t meet the deadline.

I’ll not complain though. God has blessed me with employment. I have a house that keeps  me warm in the winter and cool in the summer. I can take hot showers. I have modern appliances. My vehicles are dependable. I have food when I’m hungry. I have clothing to spare.

I can remember less fortunate times when my family lived in a house with only a single cold water faucet in the whole house. We had running water and a path. There was no inside bathroom, only an outside toilet. Baths were taken in a washtub. I was provided one pair of shoes, one coat, and one school dress each year. If I out grew them before the end of the year, well, too bad. They had to be worn anyway.

No, I’ll not complain. There are many in every country who still live in those conditions, or worse. I’m thankful God has provided me with the means to share His love in helping others, and His grace to do so.

I hope if you have been blessed, that you will also consider sharing with others who are less fortunate.

Prayer: Heavenly Father, you have blessed me and others beyond measure. Your mercy and grace is boundless. Help us to have your eyes to see, your hands to serve and your heart to love. In Christ name – amen.

 

 

The Lone Rider

I sat on the back porch enjoying the warmth of the spring sunshine. Finally, I could don a pair of shorts and soak in some vitamin-D. Finally, I had some time where I had no place to be and no one to be accountable to other than myself.

Equipped with pen, pad and a copy of Max Lucado’s book “Grace for the Moment” I was ready for some “me” time. I read through the preface and thumbed through a couple of pages through out the book. None of his words seemed to connect with me.

I prayed inwardly, “Lord, speak to me. What would you have me learn.” Just as I finished my short little prayer, my beagle, Corporal, began to bark. I looked up to see what had gotten his attention. I saw a lone bicyclist pedaling down the road past my house. Head down, eyes focused straight ahead, he never even acknowledged the dog nor me. As I watched him speed on by, another lone rider approached.  Someone on horseback. He was riding at a leisurely gait, seemingly to be taking in the sights, sounds and smells of his surroundings. We made eye contact, smiled and called hello to each other. He was riding with soft music playing. I could barely hear it. But, I recognized the lyrics that were playing as he passed. They were the chorus from “Glorious Day,” a song by one of my favorite contemporary gospel groups, Casting Crowns.

The lone riders passed on by leaving me with my thoughts. I wondered which rider others sometime see in me. Am I more like the bicyclist speeding by, not acknowledging others around me; or the horseman admiring God’s beauty and creation, caring enough to smile and say hello to a stranger?

The little book “Grace for the Moment” now unopened on my lap, didn’t speak to me. But God spoke volumes through a lone rider’s smile, hello and soft music.

Grace whispered a reminder…

Living, He loved me
Dying, He saved me
Buried, He carried my sins far away
Rising, He justified freely forever
One day He’s coming
Oh glorious day, oh glorious day

An elderly gentleman friend of the family, who once was a school principal, used to say he would tell his students who were misbehaving, “I can’t hear you. Your actions are speaking louder than you.”

Which type of rider were you today? What are your actions saying.

Prayer: Heavenly Father, your Grace speaks  through even the smallest actions of others and ourselves. To some the lone rider has no meaning. To others his action magnifies you and brings a peace.  Thank you for the lone rider today. He reminded me that we are never alone when we allow you into our lives. Help me to be an encouragement to others, even if it’s just through a smile and a hello. In Christ – Amen