Sew it Begins…Different Tools – Different Tasks

Hmmm… Let’s take a peek into my sewing box as I pull out the tools needed to make BJ’s DWR quilt.

 

Scissors. Will probably need them.

Rotary cutters? Yes, will definitely need them…and tin foil.

Rotary Cutters and tinfoil
Tinfoil helps sharpen the cutters until you can get a replacement blade.

Needles, needle threaders, thimbles, thread and snippers…yep. Got to have them. Oops, almost forgot the baking scrapper.

IMG_4010
The basics for my sewing corner.

The wooden tube needle holder piqued my interest. See it beside the yellow thimble? It was in the things inherited with my mom’s collection of sewing supplies. Printed on it is Boye Needle Company, Chicago, Illinois. “BUY NEW SHUTTLE if machine skips stitches or breaks thread.”  I wondered just how old it may be. So, I went down a few rabbit holes on the web searching for information. Well, come to find out it’s circa 1909-1929… aaannnddd…I just happen to have the treadle sewing machine that it belonged to sitting in my living room. There’s still thread on some of the shuttles in its tool drawer. Grandma's sewing machine.This discovery brought some sweet memories. The machine belonged to my great grandmother and was passed down to my grandmother. I remember “riding” the treadle as a little girl at grandma’s house. She never scolded me for playing on it. It was inherited by one of my mom’s 5 sisters when grandma died. Aunt M gave it to me when I got married. My children used to play on the treadle too. Remembering how I played on it and was never scolded, I couldn’t scold them when they broke the fly arm on it. They deserved the same grace I had received.

Back to my sewing box…

Will probably need a tailor’s cloth measuring tape and yard stick. Most definitely an acrylic ruler and several cutting mats.

Straight pins and quilter’s safety pins for sure. 

Seam ripper? Wish I could say I wouldn’t need it. But, you know that old saying don’t you?

Seam ripper
“As ye sew, so shall ye rip.”

 

Brushes for cleaning out the bobbin case, and teeny tiny screwdrivers for adjusting its tension. Let’s see now. What else? Oh yeah, a utility knife, cardboard sheet cake mats,

Utility Knife & sheet cake mat
I’m always seeking ways to repurpose items and save money. Instead of buying quilt templates, I make my own with inexpensive cardboard sheet cake mats.

a carpenter’s measuring tape, freezer paper, masking and painters tape, and bandaids.

Bandaid thimble
Again my repurposing. Instead of buying an expensive leather thimble, I wrap two bandaids around my thumb and ring fingers. I can still feel the needle to help guide it and my fingers don’t become sore from the constant pressure. See the worn spot? That would have been my finger. Ouch!

I didn’t think I had many sewing tools until I began listing them. Were you surprised when I pulled out the baking scraper, tin foil, sheet cake mats and bandaids?

God has many different tools in His toolbox (the Church). Each is special and has a special purpose. We expect to find scissors, needle and thread in a sewing basket. But not the baking scraper, sheet cake mat and tin foil. In the same way, many times we only expect God to use our pastors, priests, elders, or Sunday school teachers for sharing His grace and love. But really, God wants to use each of us, you and me. He has created us unique and different. Different tools for different tasks. He wants us to use our gifts for Him.

“Different tools for different tasks.”

Now think about how each of the items taken out of my sewing box could be used by God and who might use such a tool. For example: the basic sewing supplies, needle, thread, scissors… may be used by a missionary in teaching a sewing class or a seamstress making tops to be shipped to underprivileged children; the baking scraper may be used in preparing desserts for a homeless shelter; the carpenter’s measuring tape could be used by a construction worker to help build houses for Homes for Habitat; the freezer paper used to wrap meals for hurricane victims or teaching preschool children a fun craft. 

Now also think of other tools, gifts or abilities God has given them, or you and me, that can be used for His glory and to share His grace with others. Can you sing? Can you play a musical instrument? Do you have a gift for writing? Do you enjoy drawing or gardening? What about sports? Ever thought about volunteering in a soup kitchen or perhaps painting a little ladies’ fingernails in a nursing home? Perhaps you could take an elderly friend to shop, or just take them out for a scenic drive.

“There are different kinds of spiritual gifts, but they all come from the same Spirit. There are different ways to serve the same Lord, and we can each do different things. Yet the same God works in all of us and helps us in everything we do. The Spirit has given each of us a special way of serving others.” 1 Corinthians 12:4-7 (CEV)

All are great tools. However, God’s word is the most powerful tool that has been given to us. We must make sure we have it in our toolbox for everyday life. It provides guidance, promises of peace and assurance in times of troubles.

In light of the COVID-19 pandemic that’s causing fear to arise in many folks, I find comfort from God’s word in today’s meditative message. “Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God.” Phil.4:6 (ESV)

Sometimes it’s not easy to “not be anxious,” not to worry and be fearful. That’s our natural tendencies when something comes into our lives and disrupts it’s normal flow. But, trusting in my God who loves me with an everlasting love and allowing my faith in His sovereignty to uphold me, I’m not panicking. I’m carrying on in my daily fashion. I continue to purchase a two week supply of groceries, as I always have. I don’t rush out an hoard items that I already have on hand. There are others who may need it. I wash my hands often and practice good hygiene, as I always have.  I pray daily and thank God for my blessings and lift others up in need, as I always have. And since starting on BJ’s quilt, I work on it daily without fail. 

Do you have any tools that you use for different purposes? Are there sewing tips to help save your fingers? Do you have a favorite scripture verse that whispers to you? I’d love to hear about them.

The quilt is coming along nicely. Come back later to see how it’s progressed. It’s really starting to take shape.

Until then…praying you have a blessed week and stay well. 

(Remember to wash your hands often!)

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.

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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.

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

 

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

A New Day Dawning

Nightfall. For most folks, it’s generally a time of rest. Then there are those who long for rest in the evening, yet it escapes them. The mind just won’t shut down. Fears, worry, concerns, conversations, guilt, hopes and plans swirl around and around dancing with what-ifs. It becomes a long dark night until a breaking point is reached. It’s in that darkest part before the dawn when the body becomes so weary until it finally succumbs to rest . . and for a short while the mind quiets.

pre-dawn-harbour-glow

Then a new day dawns. In the faint glow of predawn, the chaotic jitterbug in the mind quietens. One begins a slow waltz of sifting through the what-ifs, of changing partners from worry and guilt to healing and acceptance. That’s how it is in the long dark night of the soul too.

“Joy Comes With the Morning” by William Kinnaird has helped me discover the predawn glow in the dark night of my soul. In the book’s second section titled Encouraging Others, chapters 12 – 28 cover a myriad of topics: Caring; An Invitation to Live; The Seeds of Love; Altruism; A Key to Mental Health; Make My Garden Grow; Affirming Gifts; Warts and All; Support; Acceptance; We Need Each Other; Hand in Hand; If I Were You; Special Glue; Friendship; Priesthood of All Believers; and Charity Begins at Home.

Some of the chapters reinforced what I already know and attempt to practice. To care for another I must be able to understand the person and their world as if I am inside it. (That’s why, as a Stephen Minister, it is so important to be a good listener.) Seeing with their eyes, having empathy, whether caring for a significant other, family, friend or co-worker. Doing so doesn’t mean I have to react the same. But it may be possible that I would if the same circumstance was mine. I agree with Mr. Kinnaird, “Caring is love in action. It is God at work in our lives.”

I think that of all the chapters in that section, the Altruism chapter struck a chord the most. I thought I was an altruistic person, that is until I read the chapter. Mr. Kinnaird tells the story of  the Apostle Peter in the New Testament book of John. Peter’s denial of Christ caused him to be so depressed that he felt no joy in Christ’s resurrection. His guilt deterred his mission works of altruism and compassion he had been commanded to do. But, when Christ reassured him of His continuing Love, Peter’s depression changed. He felt empowered to carry out the mission he was called to do. I had never read the story in the light of altruism before.

Kinnaird says love and kindness are the keys of altruism in the lives of our families and others, “We can use those keys to open up lives to altruism or imprison them in a dungeon of unforgiveness and lack of love. The choice is ours!” I felt like he was speaking directly to me. I had been withholding those keys from a very important person. That has since changed and it is making a difference in our relationship, so far.

Warts and All; Support; Acceptance; We Need Each Other; Hand in Hand; If I Were You; Special Glue; Friendship; Priesthood of All Believers . . . I have been the benefactor of each of these. I have some very, very special friends who accepted me warts-and-all and walked hand in hand with me this summer supporting me as I worked through a deep emotional pain. They have been the special glue that helped me “keep it together” between the hours of 8am-5pm. With our common bond in a belief of a “priesthood of all believers” the healing process is almost complete. It will take some time for the physical side-effects to heal, if ever. But I’m working on those too. (Ulcers seem to have a way of reasserting themselves. Ugh!)  I’m getting pretty good at pain management. What was that I quoted a while back? Oh yeah, “For as he thinketh in his heart, so is he.” Proverbs 23:7 (KJV)

Indeed a new day is breaking and joy will come with the morning!

Prayer: Heavenly Father, I praise you. You have blessed me with special friends who echo the Apostle Paul, Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies and God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our affliction so that we will be able to comfort those who are in any affliction with the comfort with which we ourselves are comforted by God. For just as the sufferings of Christ are ours in abundance, so also our comfort is abundant through Christ. But if we are afflicted, it is for your comfort and salvation; or if we are comforted, it is for your comfort, which is effective in the patient enduring of the same sufferings which we also suffer; and our hope for you is firmly grounded, knowing that as you are sharers of our sufferings, so also you are sharers of our comfort.”   2 Corinthians 1:3-7 (NASB) – AMEN!

Dark Night of the Soul

beauty-night

Weeping may come in the night, but joy comes with the morning.” – Psalm 30:5 (ESV)

Love doesn’t teach us about itself; it communicates itself to us.

I predicted it was going to be a year of change. Little did I realize what sort of change, nor how subtle it would be, nor how I would be affected. Little by little I notice something wasn’t quite the same. I wasn’t sleeping. I became irritable easily. By balance was off. My digestive system was all out of whack. I had poor concentration. I sensed a foreboding enveloping me.

A trip to doctors with testings and a C.A.T. scan revealed several possibilities for this feeling of being “out of kilter.” However, further testing revealed no major physical concerns to be alarmed about. At least, not for the moment. After the final procedure the specialist laid his hand on my knee and gently said to me in a quiet voice, “You know stress will play havoc on our bodies.” I was given a list of foods with low caloric and metric nutritional values to follow, along with the suggestion to get rid of some stress.

My wonderful friend and prayer partner drove me home from the clinic. Knowing I was still weak from the anesthesia and it would be several hours before my husband would be home from work, she made sure I was going to be okay staying by myself before she returned to her family. I promised her I would go to bed until hubby got home. (God gives us some wonderful angels, doesn’t He?)

I picked up “Joy Comes With the Morning”

Left alone with “woe is me” thoughts, I needed something to take my mind off of myself. So, I thumbed through unread books that have been sitting on the shelf for several months that I had purchased with intentions for use in Stephen Ministry. (Stephen Ministry is a care-giving ministry that supplements pastoral care. The program teaches laypersons, called Stephen Ministers, to provide high-quality, confidential, Christ-centered one-on-one care to people (called care-receivers) who are going through tough times. The one-on-one care continues until the care-receiver feels he/she no longer needs a Stephen Minister, or until professional medical counsel is deemed necessary. A Stephen Minister is not a cure giver…we are care givers.) I picked up “Joy Comes With the Morning,” a little 155 page book chock full of inspirational collections, experiences and wise counsel written by William Kinnaird.

I opened the book and began to read. In the first paragraph of the prologue, Mr. Kinnaird writes:

You’ve probably heard the expression “dark night of the soul,” meaning a time of deep travail when all seems hopeless and useless, when the spirit is broken and to go on seems pointless, too excruciating. We just want to give up and die, even by our on hand if it can’t be accomplished any other way. God’s so-called presence and promises are of no help. We’re too numbed and devastated to be encouraged by them.

He then asks in the following paragraph, “Have you ever had a dark night of the soul?” A few paragraphs down he comments, “I’m sure many of you have gone through your own particular dark night of the soul, whether it be a loss of a child, a serious illness, unemployment, or whatever cruel circumstance of life that brought you despair.”

That’s when I had an “ah-ha” moment.

That’s when I had an “ah-ha” moment. I could finally put a label on what I have been experiencing for the past eight months…a dark night of the soul. However, unlike the author’s comments about God’s so-called presence and promises being of no help, as I look back I can affirm it was God’s presence and promises that sustained me. It was His whispering grace that kept me from accomplishing the end by my own hand.

I didn’t agree with all thoughts and comments made by the author. I responded to what was relevant to my life for the present and let the other comments fall by the wayside for another time. But, the writer of the forward to the book made a comment that I thought especially spoke volumes. Dr. Paul Tourneir said, “Love doesn’t teach us about itself; it communicates itself to us.”

There it was…love…Grace…communicating itself to me, whispering, “Write again. Tell your story. I have someone who needs to hear it.”

I began to feel the rays of sunlight filter through the darkness.

So, just as Mr. Kinnaird shared his story, I will share mine in the days and weeks to come. My prayer is that as you read about my journey through darkness, that you too may find joy with the morning.

Join me next time as I share, “Dusk – The Dark Night Begins.”

Prayer: Heavenly Father, the prayer of Psalm 30:2-4 is my prayer also, O LORD my God, I cried unto thee, and thou hast healed me. O LORD, thou hast brought up my soul from the grave: thou hast kept me alive, that I should not go down to the pit. Sing unto the LORD, O ye saints of his, and give thanks at the remembrance of his holiness.”

Father God, your promises are true. Your love is never-ending. Thank you for those who are willing to share their stories of trials and witness of how their faith in you helped them out of their darkness. Thank you that we may be encouraged through their testimonies. In Christ name, Amen.

Surrender

 

You’re having lunch with coworkers and notice the chocoholic passed over the decadent chocolate lava cake. What gives? Oh yeah. It’s the middle of Lent!

Lent, the period of 40 days that precedes the celebration of Easter. The time Christians recall and renew their commitment to God. A time to acknowledge the ways we have turned away from God in our lives and focus on turning our hearts and minds back toward Him.

Some denominations practice fasting, giving up something pleasurable for 40 days as a sacrifice to God. To others the Lenten season is a time of prayer and surrendering bad habits as a way of turning back towards a life that God wants for us.

The church I attend does not practice the season of Lent. However, it does teach and encourages surrender, prayer and alms-giving as part of our daily walk with Christ, 365 days a year.

The church I work at does practice the season of Lent and has been posting daily reminders of things to reflect on as one surrenders bad habits and attitudes to God.

I have discovered that I have been holding on to way too many attitudes that are not pleasing. Slowly, I’m releasing them. I have a long way to go yet. Healing from hurts and learning to forgive is a hard one. The season of Lent has 26 days remaining. I wonder what other habits and attitudes will be revealed.

However temporary, these changes can help us to appreciate the true abundance in our lives. And perhaps, just perhaps these small positive changes can have a big impact that lasts beyond the 40 days of Lent.

Year 2016 is going to be a year of change; I just know it!

Surrender Your Heart to God

13 Surrender your heart to God, turn to him in prayer,
14 and give up your sins— even those you do in secret.
15 Then you won’t be ashamed; you will be confident and fearless. – Job 11:13-15 (CEV)

Heavenly Father, we can never out give the sacrifice you gave for us. Help us to reflect on not only the fasting during this Lenten season, but the changes we can incorporate into our walk with you every day of our lives. In Christ name, amen.

 

 

 

 

Just Another Day

Sometimes we get so bogged down in the rituals of our daily lives that we forget to give thanks for what we think is just another day. We worry about completing tasks. We grumble or complain when interruptions get in the way of our plans. For instance, . . .

I hear water running in the shower. Slowly, I force my eyes open. The clock reads 5:30 a.m. “Ugh,” I groan inwardly, “not already.” I lay in bed a little longer while waiting for my husband to finish dressing and start the coffee. This is our ritual most mornings. Just another day starting out the same old way.

I finally crawl out of bed and shuffle into the kitchen for my first cup of coffee. Still trying to get my eyes to focus, I overflow the cup. I chuckle at myself as it reminds me of a commercial I’ve seen with a lady doing the same thing. She wipes the coffee from the counter into her cup. I try to remember the product, but it escapes me. “Humph,” I think, “This is going to be just another day like the others.”

Hubby kisses me goodbye as he leaves for work at 6:30 a.m. That’s my que to go dress for work. As I shower, my mind flits from one subject to another, thoughts of what needs to be done when I get to the office; prayers for people who are on my heart; grocery lists; lines from a song; it’s been a while since I did any writing. I need to get on the blog tonight…Yep today is going to be just another day.

I make it to work at 8:00 a.m. As I walk to the building, my cell phone buzzes. It is a text from a friend sharing news that her daughter was just accepted by one of the major colleges. I smile to myself. She had been in my prayers. I shoot back a quick congratulatory text. I unlock the office door, turn on the lights, boot up my computer and go make a cup of coffee. Just another day.

Other folks begin arriving and the campus becomes alive. Just as I begin to start on my morning tasks, a teacher stops by my office with a question about her financial statement. I stop what I’m doing to look at her statement and listen to her concerns. I answer her question and advise her on what to do in the future. She thanks me and hurries down the hallway to her classroom. I turn back to my task at hand and mumble under my breath, “just another day.

Shortly after the teacher leaves, an elderly church member stops by with a question about her financial statement. I stop what I’m working on to answer her question. Then the conversation turns to the recent snow storm. I asked if she had any troubles during it and learned she was without power for several days. Warmed only by the fireplace, she and her husband sat huddled together, reminiscing about their childhood in Scotland and how it reminded them of the fireplace “back home.” I smiled at her and commented, “I bet they were some good memories.” She paused for a moment with a faraway look in her eyes and with a smile quietly answered, “Why yes. Yes, they were. Thanks for asking.” As she leaves, I turn back to my task at hand, preparing for just another day in the office.

At 9:00 a.m. the phone rings. I recognize the gentleman’s voice on the other end. He had two college basketball tickets he was giving away and wanted the phone number of someone he had in mind for them. I gave him the information and then asked how he and his family was doing. I learned their well went dry recently, and they finally have water again. His wife was extremely happy about it. He chuckled and said that was why he was giving the tickets away and that he “best keep” his wife happy for right now. I wished him well and turned back to my work again, preparing for just another day in the office.

For the next two hours I worked with very few interruptions, except email. Between answering emails and completing some database updates I nearly finished a project. Just another day in the office.

Finally, lunch time rolled around. I had been looking forward to today’s lunch for several weeks. I had a lunch date with a young married couple. It had been quite some time since we had had a lengthy conversation. We ate delicious barbecue sandwiches in my office while we discussed matters on their hearts. I always enjoy time with them. It’s a blessing to me see how they are growing in their faith.

Lunch finished, they returned to their day, and I turned back to my other tasks at hand. I glanced at the clock and thought, “Good. I have 30 minutes before my 2:00 appointment arrives.”  In 15 minutes the front door buzzer rang. Since the front desk person had left for the day, I looked at the door video to see who was there. (I should have known better than to get 30 minutes more on the task.) The person always arrives early for our appointments. Why should today be any different. So, I put away the papers I was working on and invited the person into my office. We talked for the next 90 minutes. I gave the person an assignment to write down one positive thing that happens each day for the next seven days.

Now…back to the task I had planned for the day. I finally completed the project. Or so I thought. Another email pinged in. Another question about the project. I would have to research it and get back to the person. Perhaps I will have time over the weekend to help them with their part of the task. Perhaps not.

Finally, it’s 5:00pm, time to go home. I get home and hubby is wanting to go out to dinner. We enjoy a dinner of seafood and talk about our day. Just another day.

As I sat here tonight reflecting on this day, seeing the undertones of complaint, seeing the interruptions, Grace gently led me to this verse . . .

Isaiah 41:10  ‘Do not fear, for I am with you; Do not anxiously look about you, for I am your God I will strengthen you, surely I will help you, Surely I will uphold you with My righteous right hand.’

So, I took the assignment I gave to my 2:00 appointment and applied it to my day. I took my anxieties out. And you know what? Today wasn’t just another day. It was a blessed day.

I am blessed to have a home and warm bed. I am blessed to have employment. I am blessed to have friends who want to share the big and small things in their lives with me. I am blessed to witness the love and share in the memories of an elderly couple. I am blessed to share in laughter when someone shares a chuckle about their home life. I am blessed to be a sounding board for someone seeking an unbiased listening ear. I am blessed to have a husband who makes me coffee each morning and wants to take me out to dinner. I am blessed when writing this blog.

For these things I am thankful for just another day.

How about you? I bet if you look hard enough, you can find a blessing in your day too, even though it may have been just another day.

Prayer: Heavenly Father, thank you for strengthening us when we don’t realize you are there. Often we miss the blessings because we don’t look for them. Thank you for helping us see an ordinary day through your eyes, and realize each day is extraordinary when we allow you in it. It’s not Just Another Day.  In Christ name – Amen.

Calling all prayer warriors…

The prayer of faith.
James 5:13-16 NIV – “Is any one of you in trouble? He should pray. Is anyone happy? Let him sing songs of praise. Is any one of you sick? He should call on the elders of the church to pray over him and anoint him with oil in the name of the Lord. And the prayer offered in faith will make the sick person well; the Lord will raise him up. If he has sinned, he will be forgiven. Therefore confess your sins to each other and pray for each other so that you may be healed. The prayer of a righteous man is powerful and effective.”

There are times in our lives when we think we can do everything on our own. We plug along, push on, and grin and bear. We never let others see the pain, frustrations and hurt we are going through. Then there are times when we finally realize that it is not good for us to continue in that situation. Sometimes it’s with friends and sometimes it’s with family. We have to learn to practice “tough love” for the other person’s well-being, as well as our own.

I’m doing something I have never done before; reaching out to the blogosphere and asking you to join me in prayer as I work through some tough love decisions to bring closure in one of those difficult situations.

Please pray for peace of mind and healing of hearts.

Prayer: Heavenly Father, I stand on the promise of your words …

1 John 5:14 that states,”…to you who believe in the name of the Son of God so that you may know that you have eternal life. This is the confidence we have in approaching God: that if we ask anything according to His will, he hears us. And if we know that he hears us -whatever we ask – we know that we have what we asked of him.”

Father, may our prayers be according to your will.  In Christ – Amen.

A Dark Valley

1The Lord is my shepherd; I shall not want.He maketh me to lie down in green pastures: he leadeth me beside the still waters. He restoreth my soul: he leadeth me in the paths of righteousness for his name’s sake. Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil: for thou art with me; thy rod and thy staff they comfort me. Thou preparest a table before me in the presence of mine enemies: thou anointest my head with oil; my cup runneth over. Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life: and I will dwell in the house of the Lord for ever. – Psalm 23 (KJV)

Other bible versions for verse 4 use the translations … “the darkest valley”, “valley of deep darkness”, or “valley of deepest darkness.”

More times than not, the 23rd Psalm is quoted at funerals. Because of this, most people associate the Psalm as the “go to” scripture for finding comfort at the death of a love one. I find it a good “go to” scripture when battling demons of daily stresses and life that send me to an emotional “dark” place.

It has been quite a few weeks since I sat down to write. I’ve been in a funk that I just couldn’t quite shake. Words of encouragement seemed to have left me. Years of weariness and abuse, from being in a situation of overwhelming commitment and obligation as primary caregiver to my aging mother, finally sent me spiraling down into a dark emotional valley. A place I did not like. A place that I knew I did not belong. A place that not only made me emotionally ill, but physically ill. Caring for an aging parent is not always an easy or pleasant task.

I sent an email out to my only sibling, “Stick a fork in me…I’m done.” Line by line I proceeded to pen the things I was done with. It became a four page message. I pleaded with him to help with the care of our mom. If I didn’t get help soon, either my body was going to shut itself down…or I was going to shut it down. My body decided it would slow me down for much needed rest. I had always heard that stress would trigger Shingles. I found out firsthand that it is true.

Even though I was in a dark place, I could feel God’s comforting Spirit, and still do, healing my brokenness…

… My brother responded to my plea for help and supported me in my decision to step away from the situation for a while. My sister-in-law replied with appreciation for all of the years that I carried the load of care giving, and assured me that she would see to it that my brother stepped up to give me relief for a season.

… My husband’s extra compassion has been a balm to my weariness when I come home after work each day.

… My boss, a pastor, encouraged me to take time off from work if needed.

… Giving me inner strength and grace to help the Christian Motorcyclist Association minister to travelers during the Thanksgiving Holiday, even though I felt downtrodden and empty on the inside.

… Friend’s invitations to go motorcycling even when it’s cold out. A trip through the country is always calming, whether on four or two wheels.

… Continuing to help me offer counseling through the Stephen Ministry.

… Providing an army of prayer warriors who lift me in prayer every day.

I could continue listing ways the healing has been taking place. I’m happy the sadness is turning to joy again.

Yes. It’s been a valley of deep shadows. But only shadows. For where there is light, there can be no darkness. I see the light of Christ as I walk through this valley. His light guides me and leads to healing.

I’m reminded of a song from my youth that we used to sing in my home church during the season of advent leading up to Christmas. It was written by Phillip P. Bliss in 1875. Here are a couple of its verses:

  1. The whole world was lost in the darkness of sin,
    The Light of the world is Jesus!
    Like sunshine at noonday, His glory shone in;
    The Light of the world is Jesus!

    • Refrain:
      Come to the light, ’tis shining for thee;
      Sweetly the light has dawned upon me;
      Once I was blind, but now I can see:
      The Light of the world is Jesus!
  2. No darkness have we who in Jesus abide;
    The Light of the world is Jesus!
    We walk in the light when we follow our Guide!
    The Light of the world is Jesus!

Prayer: Heavenly Father, thank you for reminding me that you are walking with me when I enter a valley of darkness. Thank you for providing the Light to guide my steps. Thank you for providing rest and comfort needed at this time. Thank you for those who are lifting me in prayer. Father I pray for that one who is reading this and is in an emotional or spiritual “dark” place today. May they also find comfort in the Psalm. In Christ name I pray. – Amen