It happened so quickly, so quietly, so subtly that I hardly noticed. Until I did.
I had a routine of prayer. I pray all the time through the course of the day, asking God to direct my path and tell me what order to do things and to be attentive to opportunities that come my way. But, I had a place and a time and an order for prayer.
First, I prayed scripture. Then, I prayed for my children: scripture over them; the armor of God, the work of the Holy Spirit. I prayed specifically for each of the needs of each one, as I knew it or as the Holy Spirit nudged me to pray for them.
Then, I had a list of friends for whom to pray. Friends from YWAM. Friends from other cities. Friends who needed Jesus. Friends who had gone their own way.
I had a list of people who were suffering from cancer or other illnesses.
I had a long litany of people on the mission field, from around the world. In fact, that was how I remembered in what order and how to pray for them. In my mind’s eye, I prayed around the globe. It was easy.
I prayed for our church and individuals in it.
There were family members that needed prayer.
But, life happened and fatigue set in. And, one day, I realized that I was ‘quitting’ my prayers before one of the groups had been covered in prayer. Over a series of weeks or even months, one by one, a group would be dropped from my prayers.
Isn’t it? That my own fatigue at the end of the day would be so over powering that the most important part of my day would be cut short.
And, at the same time, we were in greater need of prayer than we had been in a few seasons of our life. It seemed to go hand in hand. As I was less deliberate in prayer, I needed it more. The revelation was just that: revelational.
I don’t know if you made resolutions to be more faithful in some discipline of your life. If prayer is one of them, let me encourage you. It’s hard work. It’s easy to let it go. But praying for others has buoyed me up and improved my own situation time and again. It’s been the shoring up of my own faith; the daily sustenance I need in my own life. I focus on others and it helps me. It’s part of that Spiritual Economy which seems to be opposite what the world says.
And, I’m sure of one thing. If the enemy wants to get under your skin, he will convince you to skip prayer for one day or skip one part of your prayer routine one day. Then, another. Another. Soon, it will be completely forgotten and who knows what will happen.
It’s a lesson learned from experience. Prayer. Daily. Regularly. Without fail. It’s good for you and others, too.
We live in a house about to celebrate its centennial birthday. We have already warned the children. There will be a party. It will coincide with a wedding anniversary that ends in zero for us, so we are going to celebrate.
Our home was built as a one bedroom bungalow. The Nelson family lived here for nearly half its life. We have occupied much of the rest of it. The Nelsons had three sons. One stopped by to show his daughter where he grew up. He was warm and friendly and told us entertaining stories of the fish pond; the beef animal that collapsed the chimney in the garage, half of which served as an apartment during WWII when housing was short.
And, after his death, his widow sent us pictures of the house from various angles and stages of remodel. It created a timeline. Mrs. Nelson wrote detailed descriptions on the back of the photos of the direction of the shot and which tree limbs could be seen in each corner of the picture. It was a treasure trove of information. One flower garden looks like a collapsed root cellar and one picture shows the root cellar.
The house transformed and multiple additions and remodel jobs changed it from one bedroom to many. The original south wall of the house lost a window, created a door for what we call ‘the south addition’: a twelve foot, two bedroom addition, later remodeled to add a bathroom and an upstairs bedroom. And, the patio was eventually enclosed to create a long narrow bedroom: ours. It overlooks a park like back yard that offers us repose and stay-cation. It’s on the east side of the house, which means morning light streams through the picture window to waken us if the alarm didn’t eject us before the sun peaked the hillside behind us.
The ‘master’ bedroom may have great light but it lacks much heat. The furnace folks forgot to put a cold air return in it. There is heat but not much. It’s fine. I grew up in bedrooms with no heat and prefer to sleep in cooler temperatures. When we had to find substitute cold storage for the food from our failed extra refrigerator, we just put baskets of butter and cheese in the bedroom. It was just fine. Room temperature and refrigerator temperature were almost identical.
But, the ambient room temperature wasn’t so good when influenza knocked on our door. It seemed unkind and illogical to try to sleep in the refrigerator and breathe in air that was that cold. So, we moved to one of the bedrooms in the south addition. That room is now called ‘the sunroom.’ Maybe because our daughter painted it sunshine yellow or maybe because there is a nice big south window and another big west one. It lets in good daylight in the afternoon.
Not in the morning. I noticed after we had slept in the much warmer room for several nights that I didn’t like that room. There wasn’t MORNING sun to waken me. Yes, the temperature was moderate and pleasant but it seemed too warm for decent sleep.
The influenza had done something else to me. It knocked me off my regular schedule. There was more sleep than I’ve ever experienced in a day and more fatigue with it. There was less reading and a lot less praying. And, I realized I didn’t like the new schedule one bit.
So, I moved back to the cooler bedroom. I opened my Bible and started to read mornings and evenings. I listened to podcasts and delayed messages from the Sunday morning service. I still needed more rest than I normally get, but the light into my soul helped my inner self heal from the lack of light.
It’s what makes us tick. Daylight with sunshine isn’t just a Seasonal Affective Disorder. It’s a spiritual condition as well. Without the Light of Christ, we wither and die. We can withstand many otherwise difficult environmental factors as long as we have His light in our hearts and minds.
Life is slowly returning to normal for us. It is taking much longer than my impatience demands. I’m not afraid of the rest because now I know where to turn for the Light my soul needs.
Martha and Mary
I am a Martha. Even though my name has ‘Mary’ in it. My tendency is to serve and especially if I can be behind the scenes and just do my thing. The story of Mary and Martha always troubles me a little. I know Jesus said Mary did the right thing by sitting at his feet. I would have been the Martha, all alone in the kitchen.
Once, I attended a ‘mom’s’ group where one lady confessed that her house was chaos but she didn’t mind because instead of cleaning, she would rather sit at the feet of Jesus. I admired her conviction but it didn’t register in my head. How could I focus on Jesus with chaos in my house?
Till recently. It was harder than I can tell you, but the light bulb not only came on, it stayed on long enough for me to experience the light.
My children were home for Christmas. The independent ones all live out of state. It’s rare that they come home and especially rare that 3 of them are here at the same time. With work schedules and travel, sometimes, there is just 24 hours when they can all arrive before someone must leave.
I wanted to bask in the glow of having all of them home. They have a lot of fun together. We have fun together. We are a strange lot, so I won’t bother you with the details of how we enjoyed one another’s company. I tried to simplify meal preparation and diminish my idea of perfection.
This year, I decided they could forage for food rather than have a set menu every meal. I bought things they could find and make a sandwich or salad and find satisfaction. Then, we planned one large meal a day. From those meals, there were always nibbles and bits they could use for snacks and lunches, too.
More importantly, after some of them left to return to jobs and schedules, one stayed behind. Lots happened while he was here. A new refrigerator had to be delivered while he was here. That required a large move. We have some storage cupboards that narrow the clearance on a doorway into the larder: where the dead fridge lived. It needed to leave. The new one needed to arrive.
Two storage cupboards and a 3 tier storage shelf had to move. My basement looked like Sam’s club delivery vehicle made a deposit without rhyme or reason. Then, the stairway bannister had to be removed. The basement door had to leave and a piece of furniture in the back porch needed to find a new location to accommodate the turning radius from the back door into the kitchen. You get the picture: bedlam.
All this happened the day before the last child was to go home. Three hours of workers walking in and out of the kitchen, the basement stairs, two rooms below added sand, tracks, and mud to the chaos. It wasn’t pretty.
Upstairs wasn’t much better. Remember that this happened after Christmas, so on this very day, I decided decorations needed to land on the dining room table. I would pack and sort and clean. Now, two levels of my house are chaotic.
My child, the night owl of the crowd decided this would be the evening for a nice long chat about family and catching up. And, I repressed the Martha in me and put blinders on my eyes so I tried not to notice the grit on the floor or the pine needles on the mantle or the pile of Christmas décor on the dining room table.
I sat in the presence of this child and enjoyed it all. The warmth and comfort and familiarity of giggles and humor. I saw the metamorphosis from the innocence of this one as a little tyke; a struggling adolescent; a dream filled college student; a mature and warm adult. It. Was. Heaven.
My child is not Jesus. Don’t mistake my point. My focus was directed on what mattered, not distracted by my personality. This took effort and conscious decision making. It made sense to me. It was so worth it.
Focus on what matters. Understanding personality and what drives you are essential to finding what matters. But when you find it, make certain you know how to appropriate each.
Now that my child is gone, my list has come out. Step by step, the house will be put back together, cleaned, stored, organized. Then, I’ll sit down with a big sigh and enjoy looking at it. A clean house gives me satisfaction. My children give me joy. There is a huge difference.
Love one Another
It’s been a season of trial at our house. Between broken appliances and illness and managed health care issues, we have wondered what on earth is going on. We recently recounted a similar season when we first moved back to Iowa from graduate school.
One thing after another happened. Illness. Family death. More illness. All of us so ill we could barely lift our heads from the pillow. I coughed so hard I broke a rib. When I went to the doctor, he told me I had pneumonia and nearly failed to repair the rib. I remember being so dedicated to attending church that I foolishly went even with my diagnosis of pneumonia I thought I was courageous to go out despite my own illness. Only later did I realize my foolishness: I was exposing vulnerable elderly and littles to the very disease which plagued me.
Fast forward decades and the question of human contact arises again. A few years ago, the doctor told us to quarantine our household: go out only when necessary and don’t let anyone come into your house. WE didn’t have the plague though it was anticipated to be widespread.
We talked to Pastor Brian and assured him we weren’t angry or mad or upset by some innocent comment but we were under doctor’s orders to avoid others. We face it again this year, so you won’t see me for a few weeks or maybe months. When the plague seems to work its way out of our culture, I might reappear. Oh, if only we could hibernate for the winter like the great bears! That would be a great resolution.
Yet, somewhere, somehow, we got caught. The airborne plague found its way into our house around Christmas. It might have come from the grocery cart; the coughing of others in the store; the littles who don’t know to cover the mouth when coughing; the letters in the mail. We aren’t confident of the source. It was just suddenly upon us. We were hit fast and hard. That’s a problem at our house because we have 24 hour duty, 7 days a week. There are no days off or sick leave or PTO. There is no back up. Except this year. We had adult children at home, experienced in the same field of work who could lend a hand.
Fortunately, we knew the minute Matt’s heart rate doubled its normal rate that he was succumbing to influenza and it could kill him. We called the doctor and got a prescription that would interfere with the reproduction of the virus so the duration and intensity of it would be less for him than for rest of the household.
Though we aren’t out of the woods yet, we are seeing some improvement daily. We aren’t asking for sympathy or crying for pity. What I want to do is remind you how contagious this season of the year is for all of us, especially the elderly, the very young, and the disabled. What can one do?
Boost immune system by eating fresh (citrus) fruits and vegetables. Avoid sugar because it damages the immune system (Yes, we eat some sugar during the holidays. I’m sure it didn’t help.) Take a vitamin. It’s not as good as vitamins from real food but it’s better than nothing.
Hand washing. Wash your hands. Keep them away from your face. Wash after blowing your nose. Wash after using the restroom. Wash before food preparation. Wash before and after eating. Invest in a good hand lotion, because with all that hand washing, you are likely to need a good lotion.
Teach your children to sneeze into their elbow or under their shirt rather than into their hands. Cover nose and mouth during sneezes and coughs. Wash your hands after sneezing or coughing.
Stay home. If you think there is illness coming. Stay home. The elderly and very young are very vulnerable to illness. Immune systems may be not fully developed or compromised. It’s better to not expose people than to go to an event because you don’t want to miss something. Don’t be the martyr I was when I went to church with pneumonia! Stay home. You will recuperate faster and keep others safe.
While I will miss seeing all of you, I’ll still be around, sharing a piece of my mind and trying to keep it healthy. I’ll be back in person as soon as good health returns and the weather warms a little. And, thank you to those of you who have stayed home to keep the rest of us safe from the bad bugs of the season.
It was an ominous task. My brother had been charged with emptying a house built a century ago, inhabited by the same family for as long. A generation gone by, a lone bachelor living in the house decades after his parents who built it were gone. The nieces and nephews came and took a few things. Mostly, they were not interested because they never knew the folks who built the house, cared for it or the farm on which it sat.
For those of us born in the last century, it was a treasure trove. Original (now antique) furniture, mid-century updated items, china, photo albums, and so on. Like everything my mother taught us, this became a family affair. Each of the siblings and our subsequent offspring pitched in to help carry, sort, divide, pitch, load, and destroy what remained. It took more than one trip. Each trip unearthed more things unseen the previous visit.
My children went with me. They were just beginning to establish their own households and items like cookie sheets and blue canning jars seemed to fill in the nooks and crannies of their houses.
I was delighted to bring home a kitchen table and chairs just like the one my aunt and uncle had in their cracker box kitchen. I’d been looking for years for something like it. It was blemished but I knew what had made the mark and it added to the charm of it for me. The ripped chair covers would be a challenge to reupholster but I welcome challenges like that one.
One of the later trips I discovered a floor lamp. It was covered in dust and be-dazzeled with beads, not quite my style for decorating. But, the base was marble. I noticed the crack in the brass top. It didn’t bother me. I sport some scars and cracks, too. It would fit right in. My wonderful spouse took one look at it and declared it a ‘piece of junk’. Undeterred, I decided to send it to my local electrician and have it rewired just to be sure.
Once it came home and the marble and brass were cleaned and polished, I ignored the beads, and put the lamp shade on, turned the multiple lights on. My husband’s tune changed. ‘I like the way it lights that side of the room,’ he declared. I replied, ‘I like it, too.’
I have to move that lamp every day. It gets in the way when we move Matthew into the therapy area of the house. His stander rolls past it and it is often bumped if it isn’t moved. Every day I grab the pole to swing it around the corner, I see the crack. Every day, I consider the beauty we nearly missed because of a blemish.
How often do we fail to see the light in someone’s inner being because of the dust and grime masking it? Do we look deep within the soul to find the gold nugget buried in a heart covered with a scab from a deep wound? Do we quickly pass judgment and think, ‘a piece of junk’ rather than accept the challenge of cleaning off the scum and revealing the glimmer of hope within the essence of the individual?
My lamp is nothing special. But, I do think of Nellie, the owner, and Don, her son who were my grandparent’s friends when I was a little girl; who joined our family as an ‘adopted’ uncle when my own children were tiny babes. And, I am reminded to look beyond the exterior to the beauty hidden beneath a crusty exterior in each person I meet. I don’t know what corners of my life they might illuminate once they are allowed to shine.
Our children loved to sing the Sunday School song, complete with hand motions of ‘The wise man built his house on the rock’. It was great fun, complete with animation and action.
The true to life examples have come to our attention during hurricanes, floods, and more recently in a city on the west coast.
It seems a sky scraper was build, sporting expensive condominiums for the wealthy in the community. One family paid over two million dollars for a two-bedroom condo on the 45th floor. I’m sure the view was great from their windows: perhaps they could see the famous land marks of the city or the ocean from their perspective.
But, it seems the builders made some mistakes, currently noticeable by home owners. They put the foundation eighty feet below the earth’s surface. The foundation is sand. Firm sand. In fact, it is built on the rubble left from an earthquake over 100 years ago.
The interviewer asked some geologist what could be done. He made an interesting comment: they should have built on bedrock. That would have required going 200+ feet to hit solid ground. The expense of the additional 120 feet would have been too great.
Furthermore, the builder decided to use cement for the building rather than steel. So, it seems cost was a contributing factor in creating a building that is sinking about two inches a year and tilting as it sinks. One family sold their apartment and took a seven-figure loss.
Isn’t it interesting that the truth of God is apparent in every avenue of life? The wise man builds his house upon the rock; the foolish man builds his house upon the sand. The reality in California shows us the wisdom of this verse.
My challenge to you this week is this: As you create new year’s resolutions, focus on the foundation rather than what’s above ground; look at the internal rather than the external.
After the Christmas goodies have collected on my waist and hips, it’s easy for me to resolve to eat better and exercise more. When, the reality is exercising more self-discipline would be the better resolution. Because self-discipline would prevent the waist and hip dilemma. Let’s look at our resolution through God’s lens and consider what is important to Him in the equation.
As you look back at 2017, think about the important spiritual lessons you have learned. As you look forward, ask Him what areas need to be improved. Regardless of your resolutions, be sure you build on the Rock and not on sand. God bless this new year!
I went to the grocery store tonight. I rarely go in the evening but there is a lot on my ‘to do’ list for the remainder of the week. The children are coming home which means we need a gallon of egg nog rather than a quart; we need poundS of things instead of one pound for the three of us. It was time to up the pantry anty.
Besides that, I’ve been baking. Normally, I enjoy this kind of thing and work a little at a time but the fall weather was nice and I spent as many nice afternoons outside as possible. So, I didn’t do much baking and storing in the fall. Additionally, truthfully, baking gluten free is a bit of a guessing game. One recipe turns out great and then next is less than marginal.
There’s been a lot of sugar around and just the idea of it nauseates me. So, on my grocery list: pounds of cuties, organic apples, and lots of colorful vegetables.
If you are like most of my family, the eating goals of the season are: restraint-- till the buffet line deceives the eyes and soon the plate is overflowing with the bounty and goodness of great cooks and family favorites. It’s the season. I get that. And, yet, let moderation be our goal as we fill our tummies this year.
You’ve heard me say it before and I’ll say it again: eat the rainbow. Eat generously from the vegetables on the relish tray. And, when the eyes were bigger than the stomach capacity, move. Take a walk. Yes, the temperature is going to drop. I read last week that at minutes in the cold air is the same as an hour of aerobic exercise. I don’t remember the source or the credibility of it. A brisk fifteen minute walk will not only soothe the digestion, it will prepare you for the next meal. Great payoff.
Eating well affects everything: your outlook, attitude, your sleep, and your relationships. So do yourself a favor and work hard to enjoy the people around you and just dabble with the food.
And, have yourself a Merry little Christmas. May the love of Christ pervade every morsel of your holiday. God bless you and your family.
Normally, my driving is done during the daytime. I have very few places that I need to go in the evening and I’m content to stay cuddled up in my warm blanket in the evening in winter.
But, recently, I ventured out into the dark of night to attend a play friends of mine invited me to see with them. And, afterwards, they suggested I drive by their home to see the lights on the outside of their house. The wife confided she had purchased the lights after Christmas one year but they had never been used. So, with warm fall weather, this year, her husband agreed to crawl on the roof and attach them to the house.
They were lovely. I was glad I traveled the few extra blocks out of my way to see them. But it wasn’t just their house that surprised me. It was the entire block. And, almost every block in that corner of their suburb till the main thorough fare.
It took me back more years than I want to confess when my dad would dutifully drive us up and down the streets of the small town where we attended school and went to church. I have no clue why the farmers were in town after dark but I do remember the ‘ooh’s’ and ‘aah’s’ from the back seat of the Pontiac. We were enamored with the lights of each home, declaring each one to be prettier than the last.
In Bible study a few weeks ago, we were talking about light and I thought about the afternoon I put a few lights on the two bushes in front of our house. I couldn’t even tell if they were evenly spaced the afternoon I laid them out. It was daylight after all. But when night fell, I walked to the street and looked back and the contrast of the blue lights shining in the midst of darkness was stunning.
That’s what we want. Contrast accentuates. Quilters choose contrast. Decorators look for colors that contrast for ‘pop’. Contrast.
As Christians, we want contrast, as well. We want to stand out. Not just to be noticed but to be lights shining in the darkness. Lights that illuminate the way to go, like luminaries lining a driveway or sidewalk, outlining the way to go. We want the warm glow we radiate to invite folks to join us in God’s ways. We want to stand out be noticed as ambassadors of Christ.
Whether we are wrapping gifts for the community as a service project or packing boxes of food for the needy, we are a contrast to the world in which we live. And, isn’t it nice, at this time of the year to serve others in any way we can?
I will probably take a drive next year at Christmas to the neighborhood where my friends live. I liked the lights. I liked the message the Spirit spoke to my heart about lighting up the darkness with beauty and splendor and uniqueness.
Go, be the light of the world. Let your life shine.
On our little ‘ranch’, there are certain chores each person does in the fall to prepare for winter. The garden and flower beds are my responsibility. The leaves and yard are my husband’s. We each have a system for accomplishing our individual chores.
One task that we each work on is compost. By ‘each work on’, I mean each of us does something with it. His job is to crunch up the leaves and put them in the compost bin. My job involves moving the finished compost to the garden or flower beds. There is more in between but it doesn’t matter for today’s illustration.
Last year’s leaves and grass, household compost from the compost tumbler near the house combine to make the ‘finished’ product for this year’s garden amendment. I move the material by wheel barrow loads to the garden. One wheel barrow covers each of my 4’ square garden spaces about 6 inches deep.
The compost insulates the dirt so it doesn’t blow away in the winter winds. It offers nutrients to the soil, soaked down through layers with rain and snow during the months of rest. The humous it adds makes the soil soft and pliable and receptive to the baby plants and seeds that will reside there next spring. There are a dozen lessons we could learn from this, but I’m going somewhere else with today’s article.
This fall, as I was using my pitchfork to move compost into the wheel barrow, every now and then I would find things neither of us put in the compost piles. Walnuts. More walnuts. Buried in the dirt by the diligent squirrels in my yard. They were whole. The hull was still in place, green as a tennis ball. At first, I wondered if the neighbors had thrown a tennis ball that landed in my compost pile.
Alas, the hull of this walnut was still intact. It had not rotted. It was in fine shape. I wondered how long it would live in the moist and dark environment before the hull would rot and the nut would sprout into a tree. The walnuts laid in the overdrive didn’t fare so well. Most of the hulls turned brown and mushy within a week or ten days. The nut would be able to sprout given the right conditions.
Buried deep in the warm leaves, unscathed. Insulated until the time was right for the nut to sprout. It reminded me of a situation I was facing. My environment seemed dark and there didn’t appear a single ray of light. Yet, I chose to trust the Lord. I chose to sing praises to Him. And, I even confessed that I wanted to believe in the assurance of things hoped for yet not yet seen.
The answer to my dilemma hasn’t arrived. I still don’t know when the light of day will beam into my situation. But, I know I’m insulated by the Hand of God till it is time for the answer to sprout and grow into something lovely in my life. If His answer isn’t what I had envisioned, there will be growth to get me to the next step. Either way, I’m glad to be buried by Him.
‘Twas the day after Thanksgiving as I was preparing roasted turkey and chicken bones. I found the giblets reserved from the Thanksgiving turkey to add to the mix. I submerged all of it in my combination of vegetables and liquid to simmer for some time.
Preparation time for the winter soups and stews. It would be such a welcome addition to the cold nights and cold season. I contemplated my home years ago when we would argue and barter to see who got to eat the organ meats. Before you turn your nose up at that, you should know the organ meats are rich in vitamins and minerals, highly favored in many cultures.
Ancient cultures used organ meats an essential dietary component for a woman who wanted to start her family. The belief was (and we now know why) organ meats enriched her body for the necessity of growing a new individual. It provided her and her growing babe with the nutrients required for such a demanding task.
My mind raced to a couple of guests we had over the weekend. Two families, new to the ‘start a family’ period of their life. Each starting families. Each needing some medical help with that effort. And, I wondered if diet had not given each of these couples what they needed to prepare for parenthood.
I knew the diet of one family rather well. It was primarily eat out, fast food. It was the result of no culinary experience or training and very busy jobs. I understood the ‘why’ of it. Yet, I wondered if a little time on the weekends cooking food from scratch might have helped them as much to prepare for parenthood.
It isn’t a judgment as much as it is a question on what our diets do to and for our bodies. I’ve been told many times that eating healthy is expensive. My thought is always that hospital bills and pharmaceuticals are more expensive than eating well.
So, while we are beyond the years of creating new life, we are still interested in eating well to preserve and extend our health. Using homemade stock as a base for soups, stir fry, and casseroles seems like a pretty simple and inexpensive effort.
After the bones and pieces of meat were separated from the broth, there were 8 containers of rich poultry broth dished into freezer containers. Subzero temperatures and the hearty dish of chicken (gluten free) noodles danced through my head. In fact, I might even serve some to my adult children when they come home. We don’t have grandchildren yet, but I can always hope and do my best to prepare them for parenthood.
Don’t tell them my ulterior motive. SHHH. They might join me for a service Christmas weekend if the weather cooperates. In the meantime, use the bones to make some healthy broth. Preserve it for the soup season and delight yourself in the flavor of delicious soups and the confidence you are building your health.