Wednesday, December 30, 2015

Are Your Decorations Still Up?

Are your Christmas decorations still up? Ours are. Since we have crossed to the Dark Side and now use artificial trees, the maintenance is low and there is a reduced risk of fired-hazard crispiness. (I've always left them up until New Year's though; it's so festive!) Yes, I still make sure that the candles in the windows are on at dusk and that the tree(s) are lit in the morning and in the evening. I don't want to miss a moment of the cheer. I don't want to take this season for granted! The lights on the mantle are so warm and cozy and the family room tree gives off just enough light so that we don't really even need any lamps. I am going to miss the decorations so much when they're stuffed back in the attic for another eleven months. 

Although I get a HUGE amount of help from my husband, I am the main decorator in our house. And because of that, the decorations have really become an extension of who I am and what I appreciate. The simple Nativity, the primitive trees on the mantle, the sparkly living room ornaments. Santas around the fireplace and glowing candles everywhere. (And I just have to say that one of the BEST INVENTIONS EVER is the battery-powered candle. Period. Drop the mic on that one. Gets the job done and is safe. Applause hands.) The Christmas decorations all seem to reflect the way I live and love. I consider our decorations to be a testimony. I cannot wait to get the lights in the window so that anyone and everyone who drives by our house will know that, in this house, WE CELEBRATE CHRISTMAS. I want everyone who enters our home to see the Nativity in the foyer. I want to light the candles in the windows on cold, dark, rainy days to show them that Christ's love is there and real and available. I want there to be no mistake that the people who live here are only here for a while but our real home is waiting for us. 

But, the wreath on my door is fading. The clock is ticking. New Year's Day and its traditional pot of chili will be accompanied by boxes and bins and tissue paper. I will carefully wrap the ornaments and place them in the boxes so that they will be protected and preserved for another year. I'll dust off the mantle and redecorate for the coming season. The windows will be cleaned off and the wreath on the door will be recycled. And then I will ask myself: if someone drives by my house will they know I love Jesus more than anything? Will my home continue to be a testimony to the King of kings? Will my light shine? 

As I take these decorations down, I must, at the same time, resolve to live more boldly. To love more intentionally. To serve more selflessly. If I just put them away in a box in the attic, what good have they done? What good have I done? 

As I was writing this today, we had an air-conditioner repairman at our house. (Because it's acting like August in Coastal Virginia and it's a million degrees and 1000% humidity) Through a series of attempts, it became clear that he had made an error. It cost him a trip back to a warehouse and another trip out here in the pouring rain. I couldn't leave the house and I was somewhat inconvenienced. At the end of the visit, do you know that young man couldn't thank me enough for simply being...nice. Just being decent to him. He was so appreciative that I was civil. People, what have we become? Do we want to live so that fellow humans are afraid to make a mistake and be...human? What kind of witness would I have been if I had fussed or been angry? What would he have thought about Christians, about Jesus? How would he have known, you ask, that I am a Christian? The Nativity is right across from the thermostat. Boom. Right there. Trees are all up. Bibles all around the house really. No mistake that someone who at least knows about Jesus lives here. 

So how would it have looked to him if I had been mean? 

So this weekend, the wreath will come down. The lights will be packed away. But will our decorations stay up? It's our prayer that they will stay up all year.
Matthew 5:16

I wish all of you and your families a New Year filled with blessings and the joy of our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ. 

Monday, December 14, 2015

I have made an error in leadership. (Actually I've made many more than one, but I am only focusing on a recent one.) In an attempt to follow the Lord's leading and to be obedient to Him in all things, I tried to do everything He was leading me to do AT ONCE. By doing this I totally over committed myself and the women on the ministry leadership team. I messed up. How do I know it was a mistake? The Lord didn't give me deadlines when I was seeking His will. He never said, NOW. Not one time did I feel the sense that I needed to have it all completed before the end of 2015. But somehow I interpreted it as that and, since September, we, through the power of the Holy Spirit, have completed the following:

September: Beth Moore Mini-Retreat (two-day event)
October: Bunco Night for the CPC
November: Craft Workshop, Lifeway Women's Forum, Collection and Distribution of Thanksgiving Bags
December: Christmas Tea and Ornament Exchange
Tuesday Night Bible Study from late Sept-Nov

These things in addition to, I don't know...LIFE. 

I may have left out some things..it's a blur. But one thing is for sure: we are tired!  

I love the women on this team. Each has her own gifts and talents and each has her own story. Together we strive to honor and glorify God in everything we do. They continue to amaze me at their attitude and ideas and I have learned so much from them. They inspire me and challenge me and it is a joy to serve with them. 

But here is where I think I have gone wrong: no one disagreed with me. No one said, "I think it may be too much." Not a peep. (Except shock that I wanted to host a tea) So why is this a leadership fail? Because I do not want everyone at the table to always agree. Not every idea is a good one. I am human-- we all are (I hope). I make mistakes and I need people to tell me when they think I am making one. If I don't have that, if I can't count on someone asking me to develop a thought further or to pray about it together, then where is my accountability? There are two main questions I always ask myself before presenting them to the ministry for discussion:

1. How does this glorify God? Because it must if it is to happen. 

2. What can possibly go wrong with this? Could someone get hurt? What is the risk of it being misinterpreted? Are there any "down sides" to it? 

If I am satisfied with the answers to these questions, then we may proceed. If not, they don't even make it past me. I will not entertain anything that could possible disgrace God's ministry. 

I'm glad my mistake only led to exhaustion. Nothing suffered and no one's walk was damaged. We will rest and regroup and learn from this. We'll learn to balance events and studies. We'll learn to commit to less at a time and space our big things out further. And I will learn to ask my sisters if they have any misgivings and to please speak up!

Because Jesus. He is the whole reason for serving, and the whole reason for living, and He deserves our very best.

 Now may the God who gives endurance and encouragement allow you to live in harmony with one another, according to the command of Christ Jesus,  so that you may glorify the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ with a united mind and voice.

Friday, December 11, 2015

My Christmas List

I am a list-er. I love to make lists. Been doing it since I was a child. Lists of my toys. Lists of my friends. Lists of my pets. Lists of ideas. 

If you are a list-er, like me, I know you are loving life right now. This is our time. We have lists of Things to Do, Things to Buy, people we need to contact on our Christmas Card List. Then there are the sub-lists: the lists of what we need for the "Things to Do" list. The list of the menu to go with the Grocery List. And the biggest list of the season: the Christmas List. 

This year, I am submitting my Christmas List to all of you who read this blog. I just want you to know what I am thinking about this Christmas. Know, too, that it is in no particular order. Nor is it exhaustive. And for that matter, it isn't addressed to anyone in particular. 
It's just a list, people. Just a list. Here we go: 

1. Snow. Yes, snow. I would love to see inches and inches of fluffy white snow all over the land. Cold as all get out. Trees laden with the kind of snow Bing Crosby and Rosemary Clooney were hoping for when they sang about it on the train. (If you have no idea what I am talking about I feel very sorry for you right now.)  Snow

2. All the people to be warm in the aforementioned snow. I always feel selfish when I want snow and then think of people who are cold, who may need medical attention, and so on. So this wish goes with #1. Safe driving, strong electrical wires, and plenty of firewood. And smart use of space heaters. 



By now you are beginning to see why I make lists.


3. I would like to see Christmas as I saw it as a child. It would involve shiny garland, spray snow on the windows, and the hard candies that come in a tin and smell spicy and sweet. It would also mean big, over-sized colored lights and the warmest, softest hugs I have ever had. There would be an Ideals magazine on the coffee table and the front door would be wrapped like a present. The stockings would be hung on the banister and Santa would somehow get in the house with the presents even though we had a furnace and a skinny pipe and no fireplace. That could happen then because Christmas was magical and amazing and good. 

4. Time. I would like more time at Christmas. It is so special and beautiful and we only get it for a month or so. Yes, I know, the stuff gets out in the stores early and all. Whatever. I am SO OK with getting sparkly ornaments and colored lights onto store shelves. It beats what's there for the rest of the year! But the festive part, the part of sharing good cheer and kindness and happiness - that part seems to get shorter and shorter. I'd like it to last just a little longer.  Like forever. 

5. I would like for the mean people to be nice. All of them. The ones who dart around us in the parking lot when we're waiting for the disabled person to cross safely. The ones who want to bomb our buildings because we love Jesus. The people who think that they are the only ones with problems or answers or wisdom. The selfish people. The haughty people. The hypocrites. 


The bullies. 

The ones who say they love Jesus but sure don't act very much like Him. Every single one of them just needs to be...nice. I wish for that. 

6. No more cancer. Or Alzheimer's. Or child abuse. The stuff that I have to pray about in the daytime because if I pray about it at night I guarantee I will not sleep. But maybe I'm not supposed to sleep. Because prayer changes things. Prayer works. God has heard my prayers offered from a tear-soaked pillow in the middle of the night and He has answered. Glory. 

7. World sanity. I guess that makes me sound as old as I am. But I just think that the world (and by the world I mean our leaders and those in the media and the governments) has collectively lost its mind- lost its ability to think clearly and act according to sound reasoning. Growing up in the 60s, I saw war, drugs, social injustice and then later justice. I saw assassinations. In the 70s I saw the effects of the war on the ones who came home. I saw people seeking selfish pleasure and then finding it in the 80s. The 90s tried to reestablish the "American Way,' but the 00s saw a new kind of war. One that caused what was left of our character to collapse along with the buildings. I'm waiting and wishing to see us become sane again. 

8. I would like to go to a Christmas Day movie. I hear that people do that. I am fascinated. Are these the people who have their lives so together, so well-managed, that they have time on Christmas Day to get dressed and drive to the movies? All the torn pieces of wrapping paper are picked up, the leftovers put away, the dishes are done and they are rested enough that they will be able to sit in a theater and NOT fall asleep? Or maybe that's their way of escaping to a $10 nap time. Either way, the thought of that is so inviting.
Unless these are the lonely people, in which case it's just sad. 

9. No one to be lonely.  :)

10. Normal light bulbs. I mean, we can buy cigarettes that will kill us, but the government won't allow us to have a decent, soft, light bulb? And for crying out loud will you please bring back the strands of lights with the plugs that allowed my Hallmark ornaments to light up and move and play music and be generally obnoxious. With all of this new LED stuff, Mickey's rocket no longer glows, the NASA space capsule is dark, and Superman is only Clark Kent standing in a phone booth. It just doesn't look the same and it sure doesn't sound the same when I turn on the tree on in the morning. My tree is scary quiet. I think it's plotting against me. 

It's my list and my struggle and it deserves a place. Don't judge. 

11. Better scouting for the Yankees. 

12. For people to "fess up." Stop lying. Stop deceiving. Stop pretending you're something you're not. Just stop it before you embarrass yourself. You're not fooling the only One Who matters. He knows who you are and what you are and what you are doing and He is not pleased with your dishonesty. 

13. To really write. I mean the kind of writing that I love to read. The kind of writing that moves and inspires and makes you want to throw it down and pick up your Bible and race to Jesus. To be a vessel emptied out onto a keyboard and poured straight into a heart. 

and finally


14. More Jesus. There. That's it. The best and biggest thing on my list. With "more Jesus' most of these other things would be taken care of and the rest wouldn't really matter anyway. If we fill ourselves with more of Him, there won't me any more room for the bad things. If we try to live closer to Him, He will stay closer to us. 

If you keep My commands you will remain in My love, just as I have kept My Father’s commands and remain in His love.  John 15:10

So there you have it. My Christmas list. And, in case you are wondering, blogging about my list was ACTUALLY on my list of things to do. I can check that off now. I feel so much better. I'd love to read what's on your list, so comment below and share your heart. And if you want, I'll add you to my most important list of all: my prayer list.   


Friday, November 20, 2015

Beth's Coming to Norfolk!



Picture this: a lazy summer afternoon on my back porch. Iced tea, iPad, and the sound of birds and wind chimes. The sweet smell of fresh grass and the buzzing of bees pollinating their little hearts out. Summer at its finest. Suddenly the familiar chirp of a text message coming in cuts through the afternoon air and I reach for the phone. I would have ignored it but I had loved-ones traveling. A friend on the road with her husband and his family, as well as my own sister and her friends attending a women's event. 

"It's true, it's in the book AND she just announced it! Beth's coming to Norfolk!" (please insert many more exclamation marks than this)
Now I'd like to tell you what everyone else was doing on the back porch when I started freaking out, but honestly I went into my own little world- my personal mission field- my zone. There was no one there but me, my phone, and Beth's "Siestas."      
The texts started to fly-
"What? When? Are you sure? Are tickets on sale now?"
"ARE. YOU. SURE?"

And thus began the mad flurry of texts, calls, nervous laughter, and the joy that comes when you learn that that your city (when you live in an area that is a metropolis of seven cities, any and every one of them is yours) OUR CITY would be welcoming one of the most gifted Bible teachers of our time. A woman who knows pain, who knows doubt, who knows brokenness and who knows the Lord Who brought her out of all of that and delivered her to share her story and His message with so many others. She brings a word for this time and for this area and unless I get called home, I am not about to miss it!

Never underestimate a woman with a smart phone and a good signal. In a matter of minutes tickets were bought and rooms were reserved. (Hey- do not judge- I know we live here but it is still a Beth Weekend!) Since then we have gathered to plan and to pray. The word is getting out and the Word will be shared. In the mean time, I'll pray for Beth, the praise team, and each woman the Lord brings to this important event-- will you be one of them? 










Sunday, October 25, 2015

I'm that little girl. The little girl who wore braids and bangs. The girl who loved to climb trees. Didn't have a treehouse, just a comfy branch and a rope. Tie the books to the rope, scramble up the tree, pull up the books, and read for hours. I was the girl who was fearless. I had a healthy respect for animals and strangers- but I never had fear. I loved my Spyder Bike like a good friend. Knew it like I knew the layout of my back yard. Best bike ever. I'm the girl who kept her favorite stuffed toys and treated them as humans but never really understood Barbies, although I gave it a good try. I'm the little girl who hated dresses but who loved antebellum ball gowns. 
I am the girl who couldn't understand how everyone didn't like history and Jesus and chocolate and I am the girl who loved horses. Not the little pink plastic unicorn things with sparkly eyes, but the real deal. I knew every breed and what they were best suited for. I loved them from the moment I knew what they were. I loved the smell of them. The sound of them. I loved them in such a way that when I called, my pony would come to me when she would come to no one else. I trusted her, she trusted me. No fear. 

I went to the Washington DC International Horse Show yesterday. I was there most of the day. I had a chance to catch up with that little girl. It had been a while since we talked. 

I was glad she was the kind of little girl she was. I was glad that she was fearless. It served her well, although that fearlessness led her to an ability to build up walls that weren't always healthy. She was surprised to hear about my fears. I had chalked them up to becoming older and more sensitive to the bad things of this world; she thinks I've forgotten who I am. 

She was happy to think about my having had two sons; she had always wanted a brother, so raising boys was a dream come true. We both decided that they are our biggest earthly blessing. 

It was a surprise for her to learn that I don't have a horse. Too much travel, bad back, and extra expense. It's ok, though. We have our memories. 

We both thought in silence about Mama. Glad she's at Peace with Jesus. 

We thought about the Jesus picture that hung in the bedroom and how He seemed to move when falling asleep. I'm sure we saw one of the sheep move one night. 

The little girl in me was so happy to know that I am married. Even though she dressed up as a bride a time or two, she never really dreamed of the man she would marry, instead leaving that dream totally up to God. He blessed. 

She was surprised that I own anything pink. I am too. 

We both agree that our sisters are still amazing. Never the little girl to complain about her sisters but who celebrated the fact that they were beautiful, smart, funny, and sweet. We are proud of them and love them with a deep love that will never end. And praise God, it doesn't have to!

I was glad that the little girl I was had been involved in school leadership. I learned a lot at an early age and had she been timid it would never have happened. Her becoming a leader was a direct result of her salvation. Thank God that Billy Graham was on our parents' portable black and white tv that night. Thank God she was watching. Thank God she prayed that prayer when the man with the booming voice, George Beverly Shea, was singing. And thank God He sent His Son, Jesus, to die for her sins and to forgive her and welcome her into a life filled with joy and purpose. Thank God He taught her how to forgive. Romans 10:9 Because we thought for a brief second yesterday about all the things in our life we had to forgive. We have peace. Praise be to God. 

So it was a good day, yesterday. Horses, little girl dreams, and all. Glad I spent time with an old friend: the little girl I was, and the little girl I still am. 






Tuesday, August 18, 2015

Dealing with Disappointment

Let's be honest. We all get disappointed sometimes. I know, as Christians we are told and taught about joy and sufficiency and perspective and all of the words that describe our position in God's heart and His in ours. We are His and nothing can change that. But there is a little slice of our humanity that remains even after our salvation. The small percentage of our self that takes a look at a negative situation and causes us to hang our head and sigh. Because no matter how much we try, no matter how hard we try to perceive it and spin it and put it into a better perspective,  


 and even no matter how hard we pray, 

some outcomes are just not...good. 

This is dangerous territory I'm in. If you don't read carefully what I write carefully, we both may come away from this misled and misunderstood. But I think it is important enough to share, since I have been disappointed lately. 

My hopes were set on something, my trust given, and I allowed myself to be vulnerable only to have the outcome not be what I would have hoped for. In a kind-of big way. I'm not going to go into any more detail for a couple of reasons. I don't want to bring hurt to anyone and I wouldn't want to limit this to a specific situation. When forgiveness happens, which it has, one doesn't bring blame. It simply isn't productive, nor is it what this is about. 

This is about why we become disappointed. 

I am not a counselor. I say that often in this blog, partly for legal reasons and partly because I know I don't have all the answers and I don't want you to think that I think that I do. Only One has all of them and He is your Counselor. I do know, however, a few things after living on the planet for 56 years. So I want to outline three main reasons I think we, especially we Christians, experience disappointment. 

1. We create unrealistic expectations. 

Face it, we want our spouse to be successful, intelligent, attractive, and attentive at all times and also not to leave anything where it doesn't belong. We expect our children to have straight As, letter in all sports, be accomplished musicians, and have no cavities. We want our jobs to be fulfilling and we want the copier to never be "down." And we want church to be uplifting at all times with minimal effort from us because we want to serve but we DO NOT want the stress! And we want everything else to look EXACTLY like it looks on Pinterest. Every. Single. Time. 
Not gonna happen. Why? Here's an answer my sons are tired of hearing:


This isn't heaven. 

Did you get that? How can we expect perfection when there is NO WAY that it can be achieved on earth? We may get things right sometimes, but I assure you it can not and will not happen every time. Heaven happens in heaven. 


In addition, and mostly, we need to realize that we aren't in control. God is. Now we have free will given to us by Him, and we can decide to forgive, to be less demanding, to exhale just a bit and to loosen our grip on the steering wheel. Or we can continue to try to own the entire situation and make it come out just like we want- but is that really the best for us? We have no clue because we're not God and this, again, my friends, isn't heaven. As sad as it is to admit, things are sometimes not going to be fair.

How can that be, you ask? Simple: sin exists. And as long as there is sin, there will be disappointment. And the very best thing that you and I can do about it is pray for ourselves and others not to fall victim to sin and, when it does occur, to recognize it for what it is and ask for forgiveness and turn away from it. 

When you create an expectation of a situation or even of someone, you never take sin into account, do you? Sin is that variable that we cannot predict. Satan is always waiting to pounce. He is on the prowl 
(1 Peter 5:8and wants to devour us. You. Me. Sin is present in our lives, my sisters, and no one is immune. Not the Sunday School teacher or the waiter or even we who fail to give everything to God for Him to handle in His time and in His way. That lack of faith leads to our own control and our own ultimate disappointment. 


Someone very close to me once advised me to "lower my expectations." It was during a very stressful time at a job and many of the people I worked with were...stressing me out! They were individually behaving in ways that collectively were more than my mind or blood pressure could handle. Each morning, as I would walk in the door, I began to remind myself that I was expecting too much from these coworkers. And I was expecting too much from myself. 


You see, 
there's 

God,

and then there's

us.  



All of us. Not some hierarchy that man has created. Yes, there are bosses and governments - there would be chaos without it. But we are all really the same in the eyes of our Lord and so we are wrong to expect anything better than human behavior from each other. Even if it disappoints us. Because in the end, He is and always will be, in control. Trust Him and only Him. 

Give it to God. Lay it down. Let it go. Daily, sometimes hourly. Put little reminders around the house. Have a friend remind you. 


Why? Keep reading. 



2. We doubt. 

Take your Bible and open it to what looks like the center. With most Bibles, this will land you smack in the middle of Psalms. Right there, in the center of the Word of God, is this huge roller coaster of emotions crying out to God in praise and anguish, in glory and fear, in jubilation and in doubt. 

A great deal of it written by none other than David. Aren't you thankful God used David in the way He did? An unassuming hero, an adulterer, a murderer, a king. If David, in all of his humanity, in his success and in his sin, could be loved so deeply by God that the Son of Man would come from David's line, don't you know that God has great things planned for us? 

Yet we doubt Him. We doubt each other. We doubt ourselves. 

So did Thomas. I mean, here was a guy who had traveled right alongside Jesus. He had eaten with Him, served with Him, and sat at His feet and actually listened to Him. But he needed proof. Jesus brought Himself to Thomas as that proof. Thomas saw the scars. Touched the hands. And he was forever changed. 
Read about Thomas here

Stop for a moment, next time you are doubting, and ask for Him to show Himself to you in a way that you can feel. I'm not saying that there will be an audible or visible sign, but I am saying that if you call on the Lord with honesty, He will draw near enough that you will know without any doubt He is right there in your pain, in your fear, and in your sadness. 

3. We refuse to try.

You've heard the saying, "Everyone complains about the weather, but no one does anything about it." The same can be said for us when we are disappointed: everyone is disappointed at some time in life- but are we doing anything about it? Stop complaining and get out there and make a difference. And, if your expectations simply aren't going to be met, then move on. Try something new. Reach that goal from a different path! Don't be afraid to change if it is what God is leading you to do! 

Do you think that God is any less of Himself when you change your mind? Is He going to love you any less or cut back on your blessings just because you decide to make a move in a different direction? Do you really think that's the kind of God we have? Of course you don't. 

The disappointment and offense that takes place when we are not welcomed or when we don't feel appreciated can sometimes lead to our turning away from church altogether. Hurt feelings and unkind words can linger for years and will build a wall that is very hard to break down. We cannot give up on God. We cannot give up on the Holy Spirit within us. And we cannot give up on our calling to serve and the commission to reach others. 

So whether you are disappointed with others or with yourself, try this: speak your disappointment to the Lord. Tell Him what is really hurting you. Seek His guidance in what to do-- then do it. But be sure to know that His answer may not come in your time but it will always come in His time. And it will always be perfect. 
And He will never disappoint you. Jeremiah 29:11








Tuesday, June 30, 2015

Be careful when you blame the devil. 

How's that for an opener? Is Dolly going soft toward Lucifer? Is she joining the "dark side?" 

Heavens, no. But I am bothered by statements that put all the blame on Satan and none on ourselves. As fallible humans, we have the ability to make bad choices, to make mistakes, to use poor judgment, and to just be wrong. And when our mistakes are discovered it's so easy to say "Satan is really working hard today" or "I'm not going to let evil win!" After all, it is much easier to hand the blame off to the devil instead of owning up to our own blunder. 


All week long we know Sunday is coming. Gracious, we even look forward to it as part of our "weekend." We relax on Friday night, do some chores on Saturday; maybe we throw something on the grill and head inside after the marshmallows are browned and the lightning bugs are sleeping. We set the alarm and fall into bed. Zzzzzz. Thank goodness for the snooze button. 


WHAAT????

Morning already? What am I going to wear? Where's my Bible? What time does service start? I.Need.Coffee.  

You get into church while the greeting time is going on and what do you say?? 
"Satan sure wanted me to stay home today!" 

In a way you are correct. Yes, the devil would have been thrilled if you had stayed home; after all, you hung out with him all week! But you have to own up to your poor judgment all along and the fact that, for 6 days prior, church was an afterthought. Now that you are up against the wire, it's suddenly vitally important. Wasn't it important enough to plan for? 

What about when we make mistakes in our home, at school, or at work? It's so easy to say that Satan is attacking us when, in reality, we may have spoken too quickly, been ill-prepared, or have neglected to put the time in that we need to in order to perform well. Again, the devil gets satisfaction from the outcome, but we have not lived up to the standard set for us. 

Colossians 3:23  Work willingly at whatever you do, as though you were working for the Lord rather than for people. 


We must, as Christ-followers, be ready and willing to admit our own flaws without casting blame on someone else -- and in many cases that "someone else" is Satan. After all, by placing the blame on him, I'm suddenly freed from any type of reparation. 

Oops...didn't get to that appointment today. Satan's really working overtime on me, ha ha! 

Yeah. No. 


In light of the recent SCOTUS decision, I have been convicted that I, too, have laid the blame at the feet of evil without first placing my knees at the foot of the cross. We all knew this was coming. We saw the warning signs but we - I - remained silent. Now we are reaping and reeling from the consequences. It's easy to say that "it's the way of the world" and "we live in a godless society." People, there is "the church" and there is "the world" and that is simply how it is going to be. Yes, the line has been blurred by some whose interpretation of Scripture differs greatly; but the truth is still the truth and God alone will have the final say.


And Satan cannot make me do anything that I don't allow. 


Until my day of judgment I plan to live my life according to God's plan, on His terms, and in His will to the very best of my ability. Will I slip every now and then, and fall short? Yes, I'm human. But I must, and I will, take the responsibility for my own mistakes and bad choices. And I will be careful where I lay the blame.  





Wednesday, June 24, 2015

There was a little turtle in the yard the other day. I spotted him first thing, when my husband and I were headed out to the back porch to do our devotion and say our prayers. 


THAT'S HIM ⤴   


To say I was excited is an understatement. I love turtles. I mean, what's not to love about a turtle? Determined, purposeful, peaceful, and efficient. And cute. Don't forget the cuteness. Take another look at the picture if you need to. He's really a handsome turtle. 


So there he was, making his way through the grass. It was like a thick jungle to him. And the distance must have seemed endless. What if that had been me? Would my journey be as steady and purposeful? Would I have continued to struggle and push, only to stop and rest for a bit and then begin again? But on he went, heading only to the place God was telling him to go to.  Once or twice he'd hunker down and I would almost not be able to see him. (Yes, ok, I'm busted: I was praying with one eye open sometimes) But it was a turtle-- in our yard-- and I wanted to enjoy every moment of it! 

It really didn't take him long to move from the middle of the yard where he was when we first saw him to the side yard. Of course, now we were all on High Alert since we needed to check all around and under the cars before we left. It was just like when I had the wreath on the door too late after Christmas so I called it a Valentine wreath (hey, the red worked, don't judge) and the finches came. I could not handle the pressure of the birds on the door. Now to have a turtle somewhere under a car or a tire...too much. 

But this turtle, just like us, was not alone. He had Someone watching over him that was WAY better than me. He had his Creator watching him, guiding him, and protecting him. Although the turtle was entrusted to us to care for him and to have dominion over him, we need not try to interfere with the plan God had for him. Sure, the grass was high for that turtle; but it wasn't high for God. 

As I struggle with the high grass of life I hope to be reminded of the turtle and his journey. The God who gave him purpose gives me mine. Did the turtle hear his Maker tell him where to go? I don't know; I don't speak Turtle. 

But God does. 

And He speaks to all of us through the Holy Spirit living within us. So press on, little turtle, and so will I. Because the one Who made us has a plan, and I can't wait to see where it takes us. 

Monday, June 1, 2015

Behave yourself. 

How many times were you told that as a child? Some of us were told over and over. Some of us only needed to be told once or twice. 

Apparently some of us weren't told enough. 

I was recently reminded of something that I taught my sons at a very early age: "Everything you say and do affects someone else." Think before you act. Or react. 

It's very simple, really. Just ask yourself: how will my action, or reaction, affect someone? How will my words be received? Will they uplift someone? Will they inspire someone, causing encouragement and kindness? Or will they change someone's countenance from that of joy to that of pain and embarrassment? 

It can happen in the blink of an eye. And the pain can have lasting effects. 

Recently I heard someone make a blanket statement in front of a large group of people. The speaker was speaking in generalities and he talked about some character flaws that he had observed. Rather than give encouragement and offer a plan for change, he simply left the audience feeling confused and insulted. And discouraged. 




You see, he didn't, I'm convinced, think before he spoke. He neglected to look at  the Big Picture before he lashed out. He just said what was on his mind. And left a wake of hurt, discouragement, and resentment. The very thing that breeds- you guessed it- more bad behavior. 


Because everything you say and do affects someone else. 

So when your behavior and words are delivered in such a way as to tear down someone, the other person has to really struggle to avoid reacting in a like manner. It's easy to become defensive when we feel we are being attacked. 

Why would you want to do that? Why set that example?

As a ministry leader I try very hard to be...cautious. I have the kind of face that can easily be misinterpreted. When I concentrate, I look sad. There is a picture of me in my high school yearbook that was taken when I was taking a test. In it I am concentrating. When the yearbooks were distributed I got so tired of people asking me why I was so sad in that picture-- I was actually happy because I was taking a test in a class I did very well in. You'd never know it from the photo, though. Even I thought I looked sad. 




Does this look like the face of someone making an A on an exam?
(actually it's the face of someone totally annoyed that her picture is being taken while she's concentrating)

So I try to be very careful about how my looks can be perceived. In addition, I tend to speak in an abrupt tone. I was told not long ago that I "don't sound like I'm from southern Virginia." Too many trips to Manhattan? (no such thing!) So, knowing that I can be a little..."cutting" in my tone, I try very hard to soften my delivery. Those who know me well can read my tone and they understand that my remarks are not meant to be hurtful, but others may get the wrong idea and come away hurt or angered. 

Have I always gotten it right? No, I haven't. Sometimes I've been misunderstood. Sometimes I have shown my true feelings and opinions. I'm human. But I do realize that we are not, as Christians, meant to cause hurt to anyone. Ever. 

"Do everything in love." 1 Corinthians 16:14

"Therefore encourage one another and build each other up" 
1 Thessalonians 5:11a

Even as I am writing this blog I know that some will read it and think that I am talking about them or someone they know. So should I not express myself? Should I remain silent? I think not. This is, after all, America. I am free to express myself and, in fact, I am justified biblically. It is the job of the older women to speak wisdom and truth, and I am doing it in love, my dear sisters. It is my prayer that it is received well and that it will be meditated upon and will not be hurtful but it will be inspiring. 

Because everything I say and do affects someone else. 




Thursday, May 7, 2015

I am writing this morning from my back porch. Been out here all morning. Will most probably be out here all day, Lord willing. You see, I was sort-of robbed of back porch time last summer, so I plan to practically live out here as much as possible. It's not a fancy porch, by any means. But it's comfy and calm and it's one of the main places that I can connect, I mean really connect, with God. How could I not? I am surrounded by layer after layer of birdsong- from the cackle of the neighbor's chickens to the finches on the feeder to the cooing of the doves near the porch rail. And so many others who are unseen but heard just as much. The breeze that nudges the wind chimes into pipe organ-like praise. I can just feel my blood pressure numbers sink lower and lower as I relax and wait on Him to speak. 

But there is a silent attack about to take place. I truly have no time to be still, for I should be up preparing and waging war. For a small but terrifying and irritating enemy approaches and, in fact, has already arrived. Want to strike anxiety in even the calmest and coolest and cleanest homeowner? Say one word:

Ants. 

It's that time of year. Or is it always that time of year? These tiny little creatures are on a mission at my house. And the saying is true for them as well as for mice: where you see one, you will most likely see more. They are relentless. And isn't it amazing how they can seek out a crumb or a smell or a spill IMMEDIATELY!? Molecule for molecule, they are powerhouses! A sense of smell and strength that is colossal, given their size. Aren't you glad they're not bigger? I mean, if they were the size of a VW, we wouldn't stand a chance! We barely do now! 


The ants in our house are weird, too. When I was a kid, the ants got into sugar. We didn't have zip-lock bags, so my mom either kept a lot of sweet things in the fridge or she used tight-sealing jars for things that ants would get into. And that was mostly sugar, cookies, or fruit. Here- these weird Chesapeake ants will travel over the Oreos and march right by the Hershey kisses to get to the Doritos. What? I have actually stood in the pantry and shouted at them. "What are you doing?" I say to these ants. "You crave salt? Crunch? Want me to take the bag into the family room and turn on the game for you? How about some nachos, Mr Ant?" I have shouted that. And other things. Because ants are annoying and insidious and destructive and distracting and they never come at any convenient time and when they do, we have to rearrange everything we are doing in order to get rid of them. 

Just like sin. 

Now I am not saying that ants are sin. God created ants. He knows why and, just like mosquitos and Kimodo dragons (my personal scariest thing on the planet) there has to be a reason. But there are a lot of lessons we can learn from the tiny ant. 

1. Ants, like sin, will find a way into your life. In Genesis the Lord told Cain that sin was "crouching at your door." (Gen 4:7b) Ants send scouts to look for weak points of entry and for food. The enemy is real and he wants into your life! The stronger you are, the harder he wants in! Do not give him entry and do not create an atmosphere that is welcoming to him. 

2. Ants are tiny, but destructive. Sin can seem "tiny," but it isn't. Sin is sin. 
(1 John 5:17) Don't be deceived into thinking that the sin you are in, no matter how small, is not harmful. You have no control over who will be affected. None. You cannot force ants to go where you want them to go; you cannot predict or control the effect of sin. 

3. Be on guard! Life is messy and sometimes we lose sight of the fact that we are targets for "ants." We drop the crumbs of foul language, evil thoughts, and unkind actions. It doesn't take long for the enemy to take hold of that and use it for his purpose: to kill and destroy. As we clean up our mess we need to spray a perimeter around us to safeguard our home and ourselves. Pray for God to protect us from evil and those who want to cause us harm. Ask God to show us the way we have sinned and to give us courage to turn away from it. 

4. Don't ignore ants. They will take over. They'll phone their friends and they will have a party on your counters and in your cabinet and on your food. They will invade the areas that you want to keep clean and free from them. 
Sound familiar? Sin will grow and grow until it permeates every aspect of your life- the very areas you need to be sin-free- which is every area- will become overtaken. (Ps 40:12)
Cry out to the Father. Ask for forgiveness. Turn from the sin. He will take your hand and your heart and walk with you on a path that He has established. A path where the ants do not win!

This porch. This place. My heart. May the ants never invade and may God Himself continue to speak here.  

Sunday, April 5, 2015

Who Are You Today?

Who are you today? 

Are you the mom who raced around the house before everyone was up, did a quick load of laundry, and tried, sleepy-eyed, to stuff Something Healthy into a lunch box? Are you the one who looked for the matching shoe that wouldn't turn on you by 2pm and who just dropped yet another earring back down the sink? Did you remember to sign the homework folder from last night and help to squeeze the science project on the bus? The bus the kids almost missed? Again?

Are you the daughter who is struggling to try to live up to her parents' expectations while your friends are distancing themselves from you because you don't/can't/won't have the kind of fun that they have? So many rules to follow that you didn't make and why should you be the one left out? 

Are you the wife who agonizes and wonders when 5:30 rolls around and he should be home by now, and who no longer recognizes the woman she sees in the mirror nor the couple in the wedding portrait hanging in the bedroom? You tell yourself to look thinner, younger, to be more interesting. But all you know how to be is...you. 

Are you the church member who has all the perfect covered-dish recipes, mails the get-well card out at just the right time, and is the first to arrive at the door when there is a need? The one who is silently screaming on Sunday morning because your own doorbell never rings? You feel empty and you know you shouldn't because you're saved and you love Jesus and He loves you and you love the worship music except now it seems like the words are hollow and they don't make you feel like dancing and spinning with joy anymore. You want to drop to your knees and cry out -- 
but what would everyone think? 

Who are you today?

You may not be one of these women, but I can guarantee you either know one or you were one. Or someone very much like her. Because we are women. We try harder and harder to "meet the need," to be the "caregiver." It's in our nature and we do it well and we make it look very, very easy and it's anything but easy. It's hard and it's tiring and it's lonely. Have you read Proverbs 31? I mean, have you really read it? And actually thought about the effort that it takes just to accomplish some of what is outlined in that passage - that, my sisters, is one hard-working woman. 



Mary and Martha. They were quite a team, weren't they? Two sisters whose hospitality was known all around the area. Going to their home for a meal was a delight- good food prepared by women who loved doing it. But we see, as we read Luke 10:38-42, that they were very different when it came to things that really mattered. Martha was focused on the meal and she wanted to make sure it came off flawlessly. 
By the way, none other than Jesus was going to be eating her food. So before we get a little "judgy" because Martha was focused on the food, we need to cut her just a little slack. 


She was cooking for the Son of God. 

True, Martha was caught up in the moment in the kitchen, but I can relate to her and I'm sure you can, too. Most women I know have known that feeling. If you have ever led or cooked or decorated or diapered or nursed or taught- you know. It is scary and stressful and so important. But there are, contrary to how you feel, more Important Things. Because our Lord demands and deserves more of us than to simply "fix Him a meal." 


He wants our heart

Even when the rice isn't done and everything else is, and when the buffet is ready and there's no silverware, and when it's time to leave for church on Easter and the baby has a *gasp* awful diaper and it leaks all over the outfit that Grandma gave. And when, in the effort to save time, you left his little satin booties on him while changing him and he flails his little leg down and right into the HazMat situation. This too shall pass. And you will, one day, blog about it. Be calm. Call on the Lord. And follow Mary's lead. 

Mary...sat down. Not just anywhere, but at the feet of Jesus. She stopped everything to listen to the Master. Not from another room, or from nearby, but close to Him. She took time to be with the One Who mattered. In front of everyone, Mary drew near to Jesus and settled in. And she didn't come empty-handed. She brought her most expensive bottle of perfume. And in what I am sure was one of the most beautiful scenes of love and adoration, she washed her Savior's feet with that perfume. Slowly, methodically, purposefully. 
Mary's action wasn't only to show Jesus how much she loved Him; He already knew that, He's Jesus! Mary's actions showed the people around her-- showed her own sister-- just Who mattered most. And it showed Mary as well. The lesson she learned from the time she spent with Jesus was priceless- much more valuable than any perfume. 

Who are you today? 

Did you begin your day by seeking God first? (Matthew 6:33) Did you run straight to the Father before you tried to accomplish anything? You need to. Because a few minutes spent at the feet of Jesus will not prevent the coffee from being made, the cereal from being poured or your eyeliner from being straight. He will bless your time and will establish your day so that you will be astoundingly equipped to handle life this side of heaven. Will it be hard? YES. Will it be fair? Rarely. Granted, sometimes you will have to get out of bed before you've had a chance to speak privately with the Counselor. I mean, the child standing at your bedside covered in puke does demand your immediate attention. But you can allow your heart to join His even then as you fulfill Scripture by caring for the family He has blessed you with. It's okay to cry out. It's just fine to ask Him for help. It is what He wants! He will join you right there in the struggle and He will not leave you even for a moment! Because it's not about you being enough for Him, it's about Him being more than enough for you. Will you still have: curfew, bills, losses, pains, betrayal, injustice, bad hair days, mean bosses, accidents, illnesses and puky kids? Absolutely. But you will also have Jesus. 

Who are you today? 

Are you His?


Friday, March 13, 2015

Thankful From A to Z

I've been inspired by the one and only Max Lucado to list some things that I am thankful for-- alphabetically. My hope is that, by passing this along, you will be inspired to do the same thing. Please know that this list is not exhaustive nor is it in any kind of order of priority- just some things that come to mind and start with that letter. Let's have fun this Friday thanking the Lord for just some of the blessings in our lives!

A: Appalachia. Those mountains, Lord. Thank you for making them and for letting me come from them and allowing me to see them from time to time. 

B: Birds. Ok, maybe I mention them too much. So I'll choose one more: Bacon. Perfect salty, smoky, kinda sweet. Bacon like JW fixed the other night. Yeah. Thank You for bacon. And for JW. 

C: Chocolate. Oh, chocolate, you make so many lists in my life. You and your smooth, creamy, comforting goodness. A day without you is like...not sure that I've had one so I really don't know...

D: Dogs. I love dogs. Bouncy, goofy, rambunctious, playful, loyal dogs. They need you and they love you. They want to play with you and protect you. Not many things on earth can boast all of that. Thanks for making dogs, Lord. That was really nice of You.

E: Erasers. Whether it's the backspace key or the rubber tip of a pencil or the prayer of repentance, I am thankful that there is a way that my mistakes can be erased from the screen, the paper, and the Heart that I wounded. He loves me so much he made a way for me to be

F: Forgiven. Praise 

G: God! Being thankful for forgiveness has to be linked directly to God for they go hand-in-nail-scarred-Hand. He is a God of love and forgiveness and He will forgive you if you ask. Trust Him to help you turn away from sin and toward Him. Oh, there it is! The Biggest Blessing!

H: Horses. The perfect animal-world combination of strength and beauty and grace. Want your heart rate to calm down? Watch a horse graze in a pasture. Listen to him breathe. See the breeze flow through his mane. Feel the power of the Creator. Thank you, Lord.

I: Ice. I really love a cold drink. With ice. But I am picky. I really like that pebbly ice like they have at Sonic. They sell it, you know. I haven't bought any but I've considered it for a special time. Waiting for the special time. 

J: Jesus. Of course I'm thankful for Jesus and you all know I am. So I am going add another- jewelry. I like jewelry. I like to see how artists take stones that only could be made by the Hand of God and metals that He made and put them together. I like things created by people who are working to free themselves in oppressive countries and who use whatever they have on hand in order to achieve that goal- and then give all the glory to the One Who inspired them. Jesus. 

K: Kool pops. They made them in the '60s- not sure if they're still around. My favorite was the blue one. It tasted...blue! Frozen sugar water in a flat tube. Snip the end off and run outside. Make sure you shut the door behind you. Be sure to be back by the time the street lights come on. All that. 

L: Laughter. The sound of hearts lightened even if only for a moment. The sound of children so tickled they can barely breathe. The sound of a soul so weathered and wise that the perspective of Truth allows for mirth. The gift of a giggle. 

M: Music. And every sort. Different times call for different types and aren't we glad there are so many combinations of notes to suit every mood? To create an atmosphere? To bring us right back to where we were when we used to sing along with a song on a warm summer night? Roll the windows down, turn the music up, and sing. And give thanks. 

N: Nice people. The kind of people who offer the kind word, the understanding smile. The gentle-voiced people who don't demand, don't take over, and who only want to be pleasant. I'm thinking of so many people right now and thanking God for them. They'd never think they made this list, though. That's just how nice they are. 

O: Owls. Again with the nature, I know, but how can you not be thankful for owls? I've been waking up at night a lot lately and my friend the owl is just outside my window calling out into the night. A voice as soft as his feathers carries across the fields and woods and soothes me right back to sleep. Thank you, fluffy friend, and thanks to your Maker. 

P: Plays. I love going to plays. Loved them from an early age. From the staging to the lighting to the acting and the music-- everything coming together at once to create a moment that needs to be unforgettable (because it cannot be rewound). In this era of the tiniest chip saving the largest memory, it's nice to have a mental image that is unique to my brain's interpretation of actions on a stage. Curtain. 

Q: Quetzalcoatlus. Because once my son chose this animal for a report and we both became fascinated. He marveled at the animal while I marveled at him. Still do. 

R: Red wagons. How much fun can a kid have with a little red wagon? There is no limit. Be honest. If we could we would still pull one around and beg someone to give us a ride. 

S: Sales. Don't you just love to get something for less than you were originally asked to pay? C'mon, saving money is a good thing!

T: Time. I have learned that, aside from the power of healing that God provides, the blessing of time is so very crucial to healing and moving away from hurt. If we rely on God to soften our hearts, He will use time to soften the blow of any pain we have had to endure. Amen. 

U: Uggs. The boots. Yes. Sound shallow? Not when you have a foot that hurts and suddenly it is surrounded by soft, warm fleece that comforts and soothes. Then it only sounds awesome. 

V: Virginia. The birthplace of this nation. The mother of presidents. My home. We have made our mistakes along the way, but no one can deny the role this Commonwealth played in creating and inspiring democracy throughout history. We were and are vital to the success and the very definition of America. 

W: Washers. I am so thankful for that machine. If you've ever been without one for a while, you know. Don't take it for granted just because it is an inanimate object. The Giver isn't. 

X: X-rays. Gracious, I've had so many lately it's a miracle I'm not glowing. How good it is that I am able to lie on a table and allow a doctor to see that my bones are healing properly. Or not. I'm also very thankful that, for the most part, they don't hurt. 

Y: Youth. Whether it is in real time or imagined, youth brings about a sense of bravery, of boldness, and energy. I firmly believe that we can still be youthful even when gaining years and wisdom. 

Z: Zip-up hoodies. The coziest jacket ever. On a chilly fall day- are you kidding? Wiggle yourself in for a cotton hug. And be thankful. 


So there you have it: my list for now. If I were to go through again and again, I could come up with so much more. Because there is infinitely more to be thankful for. Thank you, Jesus. 

I'm in one of those seasons where I just want to retreat. Having the genetic makeup of generations of warriors, those seasons do not com...