The Marriage Triangle

I didn’t get married in June.

The sky threatened snow and the lace I wore on my long-sleeved wedding dress failed to block out the cold of an early January day.  Looking back, there were a few things I would have done differently.  With limited resources it wasn’t possible, but had I been able to I would have purchased a beautiful white fur-lined cape to wear over my dress.  I would have had more fresh flowers and not artificial ones.  I might have changed colors or even picked different songs, but I would never have dreamed of choosing a different day, even though January 2 was not a very practical day for getting married.  We had been dating since high school, and so the long wait for college graduation was over.  Not wanting to delay it longer, and rather than being separated by even more miles, we chose to get married and begin a new life in Ft. Worth, Texas where my groom would start seminary classes just a few weeks later.  

Two separate lives becoming one took on a whole new meaning as we left the familiarity of our family and friends and began our life together as husband and wife. While my scholarly husband was going to classes and studying for ministry, I got a secretarial job working in a parole office.  At the time, it seemed as though our worlds were polar opposite, but looking back I can see God working in our lives to prepare us for the balancing act between the spiritual and the physical world.

“For we are His creation, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared ahead of time so that we should walk in them.”  Ephesians 2:10

If we’re not careful we can compartmentalize our married life and live in separate worlds that never collide.  If we never fill the gap in that divide our relationship will inevitably suffer.  The same is true of our spiritual life when we set boundaries (maybe not even intentionally) between what we say we believe and what our actions actually demonstrate to the world around us.

Finding Focus

Putting a pen to paper and writing down the things I am grateful for, thankfulness has been at the top of my “essential for survival” list.

These are difficult days for so many, and while I am blessed that my life has not been altered financially (yet!) and I have no serious health issues, I am–and I dare say most, will be forever changed on a spiritual level.

Focusing on the good–the positive things I can be thankful for–health, finances, family, faith, etc.–is a catalyst for helping fear and frustration take a back seat in my thinking. More importantly, the physical and emotional struggles I have are put in perspective when I look beyond the moment to a much bigger picture: I have seen God at work in ways that might not have happened if we had been spared of CoVid.

Could it be that God is teaching me to  be thankful even for the difficult times that teach us valuable lessons?

I think so.  While it is often easy to write down the things we are grateful for, it is often more difficult to have thankful hearts for the struggles we go through and the hardships we endure.  Could these have a greater purpose than we might know in this lifetime?  In this battle of the mind, I am constantly confronted with truth that reminds me that, 1) He is in control, and 2.) My number one priority should be to seek Him. 

In Philippians 3 the apostle Paul writes,

“…I also consider everything to be a loss in view of the surpassing value of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord.” Philippians 3:8

He goes on to say,

“My goal is to know Him and the power of His resurrection and the fellowship of His sufferings…”  Philippians 3:10

Those things that are negative and that frustrate me have actually led me to crave God’s Word even more.  He is constantly reminding me that I am here for a reason–in this place, in this time.  When He saved me, He had a purpose in doing so.  His desire for me is so much more than I can even comprehend on this side of heaven, and being faithful in the day-to-day matters.  It matters.

Smiling Behind The Mask

I will never get used to it.

I refuse to call it the “new normal.”

Because it’s not.

It’s not normal to avoid people

or to cover your smile.

While I have to accept it, I still struggle.

This is a battle that I wrestle with in my mind–the “what ifs” and the “how longs”. 

But God.

Do Dogs Get Headaches and Other Things To Think About

I woke up this morning with a headache.  My brain is on overload from all that is happening out there in the world and in my own family. My faithful pup beside me, I started my prayer time and thought about the gift that this little companion is…

“I wonder if dogs get headaches too?”

Asking myself the question, I begin the process of thinking through the science of it all, and eventually checked with Google. The consensus is “probably”, “although this is not able to be proven since you cannot just ask a canine if his head hurts.[mysweetpuppy.net]  There are medical reasons to believe that because dogs definitely experience pain, it is likely that they can get headaches.

While medicine can tell us so many things about our brains and how it works, including animals, it cannot determine the “why” of how we think.

I can never understand a dog’s thoughts because I am not a dog, just as

I cannot understand what it is like to be in another’s person’s skin.

 My sweet mama had a stroke almost three years ago, and in recent days she has struggled with some past memories that haunt her.  While I can be compassionate, loving and hopefully a little comforting to her, I will never truly understand her feelings.  I know the facts surrounding her circumstance and I know the reality of her pain, but because it is something that I have only experienced second-hand,

I cannot pretend to understand.

And it grieves me.  It moves me. And I realize that because that her 80-year-old life is vastly different from mine, I have to accept these differences and move forward in a way that shows not only that I care, but that I will be proactive in walking beside her in her journey. 

The Gravity of it All

A fascinating part of humanity’s very existence is the presence of gravity.

Gravity is defined as the fundamental force that pulls us toward the center of the earth; technically, it is what keeps us grounded.   

In conversation, the use of the word denotes a seriousness or even heaviness of a situation.

While gravity is the thing that pulls us and grounds us physically, I personally look to God’s Word as the key to keeping me grounded spiritually.  So today I am looking at Ecclesiastes for wisdom.

In reality, the world wants to tell us how we should think, while God says it this way: 

“Just as you don’t know the path of the wind, or how bones develop in the womb of a pregnant woman, so you don’t know the work of God who makes everything.” Ecclesiastes 11:5

For the first time in my lifetime, the vast majority of the things that occupy my time have been put on hold.  Many are out of work, schools have been closed, there are no sporting events, and church gatherings have gone on-line.  

What we would call a “normal” life has suddenly become a season of waiting to see what time will dictate for us.   

And now, it seems that even relationships are in a holding pattern.  We were already in a social distancing mandate, and with the recent events surrounding a tragic death of a black man, we find our that our country is in disarray and people are not sure what to do next.

The question I am asking myself is,

“What are you gravitating to now?”

Beauty In The Mundane

Up before dawn, I can hear that it’s raining… again.

Still feeling frustrated with life being in such a holding pattern, I face a new day with dread instead of anticipation.

It feels as though the days are mundane. Repetitive and lackluster.

In the quiet, I confess my lack of gratitude and ask God to reveal Himself to me today.

I am still, and my listening becomes a prayer…

I hear the clock ticking and I am grateful for another day.

I hear the birds singing outside my window and I join them in praise.

Where Is The Instruction Manual for This?

Until just recently, the only books written on a pandemic were history books and science fiction novels–neither of which seemed to include “HOW TO SURVIVE” instructions for future generations to follow.

It seems to me that there are often two choices involved when we are faced with a situation that we know little to nothing about:

Faith or Fear; Fight or Flight; Persist or Quit; Look for Answers or Ignore the Truth

For me, not knowing is the worst.  

Tell me what’s wrong, and I’ll face it head on.  Show me the way and I’ll push forward.  Give me the honest truth, and I will give an honest response.

The problem with a pandemic is that we live in a social media world that puts out so much information that you can’t be sure who you can trust.  News channels do more than just report news or the facts.  In our current day, the information that is chosen to be broadcast to the world is often sold as truth when in reality it is nothing more than an “experts” opinion or a political party’s view.

So what do we do?  What do we do with so much information?  When you can easily scan the internet to get anyone and everyone’s opinion on a particular matter, where do you turn to find the truth?

A Mother’s Simple Prayer

“Lord,

this is hard.

Some days I feel like

I have it all under control;

life goes along swimmingly

until the next thing comes along

and I feel like I’m drowning.

Just when I think it’s all

under control,

I realize that I have taken 

the reigns

and

am

losing

my

grip.

Arms open wide, I cry out,

“I can’t do this!”  

“It’s too hard!”

In surrender, I realize

that’s what You wanted all along.

They are Yours, not mine.

I am but a steward,

a caretaker.

You have trusted me with them,

and only You can give me the wisdom

I so desperately need

to be the mother

You created me to be.

Lord, give me the wisdom

to know

and

the courage

to obey.”

No Time Wasted

Expecting my first baby, I was suddenly put on bed rest to prevent premature labor.  I was only 28 weeks along and was not even allowed to sit up, rising only to go to the restroom (because I refused to use a bedpan!).  The goal was to get me to at least 32 weeks– and so life was put on hold.

Sound familiar? 

No longer able to work or to perform even basic functions around the house, I found myself with way too much time on my hands.  Even the most mundane task suddenly became appealing–and haunted my waking hours.

I like order.  I like routine, and to me, this was no minor setback.  It moved me beyond what my normal life looked like–to weeks of anticipating more than just a new baby coming; I looked forward to the day that I could go back to the life I once knew.

Only nothing would be the same. 

A statement that no mother needs reminding of, bringing a new baby home changes everything.  I had plenty of time to dream about what that would look like, but my condition kept me from physically preparing my home for his arrival.  

It felt like I was just wasting time in the waiting.

Fighting off boredom, I read until my arms were sore from holding up a book while laying flat on my back.  Cross-stitch was a time-filler that gave me a purpose–to make something new for baby’s room.  I persisted even though my arms could only last for so long before the ache brought them down again.  This was in the time before audio books and technology consisted of a radio or television with rabbit ears.  

Stripped away from work, church, and all things social, I was separated from my family by several states.  To my surprise, another family stepped in.  Something that I had not personally experienced before, there was not just one family, but our whole church family rallied around us and brought meals, stopped by to visit, called to check on me when Doug couldn’t be there, and even came to his rescue to do dishes. (We didn’t have a dishwasher!)

As frustrating as it was for me to let other people help (I much prefer to be the giver, and have a hard time receiving), I learned a valuable lesson in that time of waiting:

Changing the Normal Narrative

Waiting is often seen as a unwelcome necessity. 

Time spent in line, in traffic, or in a doctor’s office is viewed as empty moments that are wasted. The allotted time acceptable for a wait is often preconceived and determined only by our own expectations.  Though the clock ticks at the same pace 24 hours a day, waiting seems to consume our thoughts with just how long those minutes or hours feel.  The normal daily rush is put on hold, and our focus is suddenly on the waiting.

While our patience is being challenged, we often lose those moments to frustration–not just over the time lost, but our lack of control over the situation.

Being forced to wait is different from choosing to wait.

When I decide to wait for something, I more easily can accept that waiting is a benefit: Waiting before spending money instead of impulse buying. Waiting for the right moment to say something important.  Delaying a difficult decision until praying for wisdom from God.  

When I decide to wait, I tend to be more patient.  I see it as a time of learning and growth.  I look for a perspective change; and I look for the type of wisdom that can only come by spending time in God’s Word and in prayer.

Choosing to wait seems normal; being forced to wait is somewhat, well, unnerving.

Recipe for a Rebound and Redbud Jelly

I’m a list maker.  At any give time, I might have a to-do list, a “when I have more time” list or in the back of my mind, a “someday I want to…” bucket list.

While most of my blog posts are based on what God is teaching me through His Word, some are just personal experiences that often lead me to spiritual truths. Today I want to share a recipe that taught me a lesson on JOY.

This has been a difficult time for many as we have been ordered to isolate and social distance–even from those we love.  

One of the ways I have dealt with the isolation is to set some goals for things I want to accomplish rather than spend the time just waiting to be rescued from this invisible enemy.  Intentionally setting my mind to rebound from negative thoughts about the current situation, I have a list that involves several household projects that were just waiting for the right time.  Some I had procrastinated on because they weren’t as enjoyable, while others were just too big to tackle in a day, so the “When I Have More Time” list just became the priority!  My biggest project so far has been very satisfying, so look for me to post about it later.  [I painted my old brown leather sofa set. Painted? Yes I did!]

What I am sharing from my bucket list today has been brewing in me for quite some time, so it fits nicely into both of the “Bucket List” and “When I Have More Time” categories. 

In my early years I was privileged to have grandparents who raised a garden of vegetables to be shared.  We would enjoy a bountiful harvest in the summer, and our pantry was filled with the beautiful colors of those canning jars that would last us long into the winter. 

My mother and grandmother canned vegetables and fruit, including jellies and jams that were served as a condiment for many a meal.  I have enjoyed countless homemade biscuits piled with the sugary goodness, not always savoring it long enough to fully appreciate the work that went into its production.

Honestly, I can’t remember the first time dreamed of canning something for myself one day.  I live in the country where we have been blessed with several fruit trees that were planted by previous owners.  Last year I even purchased a canner for myself–a confirmation that I was going to learn how to make my own jelly from the fruit that was growing right here on our property…

…only the squirrels beat me to it!  Those rascals stole every.single.piece of fruit!  Not because I procrastinated and didn’t pick them soon enough–we literally woke up to trees that were stripped bare overnight, before the fruit was even fully ripe.  Ugh!

Sadly, my intended effort was stored away in the pantry.

Until now!

I am privileged to enjoy the beauty of several flowering trees in the spring, and my daughter sent me a link to a recipe for jelly made from redbud blossoms!  I was inspired, and suddenly the desire to learn something new was revived.

Three Things to Do While You’re Waiting

I’m not very good at waiting.

Especially when I am in not in control of the wait.

One of life’s necessities, waiting will sometimes take us down a hard road that affects us emotionally.

Fear, frustration, anger, or anxiety can become our new normal, and despite our best efforts we struggle to see the good.

But God.

Peace I leave with you.

My peace I give to you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Your heart must not be troubled or fearful.

John 14:27

Think of what those disciples must have felt on the day after the crucifixion.  The picture they had of Jesus was shattered.  In fear, they hid in their homes not knowing what to do next.  Even though Jesus had tried to prepare them, this was something they could never have imagined…

“What now?”  “What do we do?” “What will become of us!” “Where do we go from here?”

They had left everything to follow Jesus, and now He was gone.  When they counted the cost of following Him, they hadn’t counted on Him leaving them, even though He had tried to prepare them:

But I have told you these things so that when the time comes you may remember I told them to you. I didn’t tell you these things from the beginning, because I was with you.

But now I am going away to Him who sent Me…

John 16:4-5

Regardless of your stage in life, there will always be seasons of waiting.  Some things are within our control, but often they are not; could it be that God wants to remind us that He is in control? 

Right now the world seems to be on hold as we wait for a virus to loosen its grip.  Tomorrow you might be waiting for a diagnosis, or a job offer, or for love to come find you.

So what do we do?  What can we learn? What is God saying in our wait?

Drowning in Fear

Standing on the precipice,

I am paralyzed by the sound.

~~~

Unable to move

or

even

think,

the waves of fear and grief crash over me 

like a tsunami.

~~~

Overpowering.

Taking over and completely

subduing,

submerging.

~~~

Drowning,

I can see through the crystal clear water

that wants to fill my lungs with death:

There is Light.

There is Hope.

~~~

Questioning Our Condition

“What next?”

I don’t often start my mornings with such questions on my mind.  I often am startled awake before dawn and make a beeline for a programmed coffee pot stirring my senses with steaming hot goodness.  

My day starts with coffee and prayer.  I have a typical spot to settle as I seek the Lord by praising Him for who He is, what He has done, and what He has purposed for the day and coming days.  I often turn to praying for my family and for those He brings to my mind.  Praying for wisdom and confessing any known sin, often He will bring to my mind scripture that is filled with hope and promise.

Today was different.

It felt different.  Assuming it was because this isolation had been extended another 30 days, I found myself questioning what it was that I was supposed to do with the sobering knowledge that life was being put on hold, again.

Recognizing that while my situation was far from dire, it felt ominous.

The question was not, “Why, Lord, is this happening?”, but a question of “Why, Lord, does it feel so ominous?”  I fully believe that it’s okay to ask God those hard questions.  Looking inward, I ask,  “Am I trusting You to take away my fear?”  “Am I ignoring the truths that are planted in my heart?” and “Is my heart heavy for the right reasons?”  (Am I grieving for those facing eternity, the suffering, and the pain of separation–or am I just feeling sorry for myself?)

An Introspective Traveler

Stopping to consider the lessons I’ve learned from my opportunities to travel, my perspective on being an American has changed.  I came to realize that I thought was gratitude, was actually a form of pride.

Gratitude or pride?

I don’t think it was intentional, and at best it was subtle, but this sense of pride in my heritage was misplaced, and being in another country definitely changed how I saw myself and the world around me.
 
Our journey to Madagascar was long–this destination was the farthest we had ever traveled from home.  What was scheduled to be a 61+ hour trek turned into a 85+ hour journey.  It wasn’t my first trip outside the U.S., but I knew going into it that I would gain an even greater insight about this great big wonderful world that we live in.
 
The moment you enter an airport filled with travelers from all over the world, you get a glimpse of the diversity of these people from all parts of the globe.  Some that would never give you the time of day and others that don’t seem to know a stranger.  Some kind, some unhappy or even angry–others, apathetic.
 
I’ve always been a people watcher (to the point that my kids have called me on it!), and the more I see of the human spirit, the more I have come to believe that the outlook we have on life characteristically shaped by what what we believe.  More than physical, our spiritual and emotional connection to our Creator can place us on common ground with others no matter our physical location or position in life.
 
Madagascar was no different.  I have seen complete joy on the impoverished face of African children and worshiped wholeheartedly with faithful believers in a thatched roof church. Worshiping the same God on foreign soil, the heart connection of those who share the same love for the God of the Bible is strong.
 
People are PEOPLE.  It doesn’t matter where you come from or where you’ve been, how much you have or what you’ve accomplished. We are all a part of Gods beautiful creation, uniquely designed for His purpose–and what connects us more strongly than any physical similarity is a common thread:  belief in the Son of God who came to save us.
 
 
While I am thankful for my heritage, and understand how blessed I am to live in a country where I have democracy and freedoms that others only dream about, I recognize the danger of my heart becoming prideful.  Not a criticism intended solely for Americans, I have also seen the scowls of bitter old men, wealthy by the world’s standards, who refuse to be grateful for what they have.  Age is not a determining factor, to be sure, but the longevity of life does tend to bring either more of the bitterness or quite the opposite–a comfortable sweetness that stems from a life well-lived.

“Man, am I glad I was born in America!”

Traveling to a third-world country does remind me to be thankful that God allowed me the privilege of living in a free nation.  It is a gift. Nothing I have ever done earned me this right.  Nothing in me deserves it more than another, and so with such a privilege, I see great responsibility.  Speaking the truth in love is at the top of the list.

 

 
Instead of pride welling up inside of me, it should be humility bringing me to my knees.
 
Often the world sees Americans very differently than the picture we think we portray. Sometimes seen as wealthy and sometimes as selfish–and often only a distant benefactor.  In our compassion we can be quick to provide physical needs, but our actions might be misconstrued, and our motive only a bandaid for our conscience.  If we’re not careful, we will forget that the greatest need of our world is to know Jehovah Jireh–the One who provides so much more than temporary hope.
 
On our very first international mission trip to Poland, we were seen as celebrities.  More than once we were asked, “Why would you come to Poland?”  While the rest of the world might see a humanitarian effort, God wanted us to see it less from a human perspective and more from a eternal one.  This “trip” to teach conversational English was really a perfect opportunity to share the gospel. What a privilege to tell them that Jesus came for everyone, and that we were on mission to make sure that our students heard this truth from God’s Word.
 
Though I am a native-born American, I am first a representative of Christ. As a young adult I worked in the travel business, but could never really let myself dream of being a world-traveler myself.  I took great joy in sending others on great adventures and looked forward to hearing their stories.  When God opened the door for me to experience this great big world in a way that I could never have imagined, He gave me a perspective that will forever be changed.  My citizenship is in heaven–and as the old hymn says, “I am only passing through”.
 

Even though you and I are only temporary travelers on this earth, what we do for Christ and how we represent Him will last for eternity.

I truly want my life, my attitude, and even my countenance to reflect the thankfulness I have in my heart for a God who loves me and has been “faithful and true.”
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