Thursday, November 23, 2017

Thankful...

There is much to be thankful for on this first Thanksgiving without the man who always carved the turkey...

I'm thankful for the presence of God...
He was with us during our darkest hours this year and made His presence gently known.

I'm thankful for kindness...the kindness of people who quietly do astounding things without the need nor desire for acknowledgement.

I'm thankful for my mother, who has demonstrated strength and grace in her new, more solitary life.

I'm thankful for my siblings and the comfort of knowing that I'm not alone in losing my father...they understand.

I'm thankful for my husband who has dried more tears this year than ever before in our 32 years of marriage...add to the equation, hormone fluctuation and you have a hero right there.

I'm thankful for my kids, who have upped the ante this year for making mom proud...they are doing life well. I'll always think of them as my kids but I think this year it sunk in that they're all grown up...they're adulting hard and well. I am so proud of them.

I'm thankful for "the cousins". I don't think I could have asked for better nieces and nephews...in the darkest hours they were there...helping and loving and caring. I will never forget it.

I'm thankful for friends who pray, for friends who show up and for friends who read manuscripts and tell me the truth. A friend is a treasure and I am so thankful for each one.

I'm thankful for the nearly 52 years I had with my dad. Rather than be disappointed that he's gone today...I am going to try to be thankful. I'll remember the times he snuck me the first bite of turkey, the way he prayed and thanked God for his family and the food, and his laugh around the dinner table.

And finally (although I could go on and on and on)...
I'm thankful that the turkey will likely be butchered this year...or...perhaps the next turkey carver will rise up and be counted among the legends.

Thursday, November 16, 2017

Fertilizer...

            
            I love my hens. They’re fun, they produce the most delicious eggs, but they’re oh, so poopy. Yeah, I said it. Chickens poop a lot. It’s not an issue during the summer when the weather’s dry, eggs are plentiful and their contented clucks are my gardening soundtrack. But during the wet, rainy fall and winter—ugh.
            All winter long, it rains. The chicken run becomes a soupy mess of poop and mud and boy, does it stink. And they don’t lay eggs in the winter. For four months, I muck around in the poopy mud, cleaning their coop and tossing them treats with no reward. I grumble all the way to the grocery store to buy eggs. I grumble when I break a store-bought egg into the frying pan with it’s anemic yolk and bland taste.
            But spring comes—it always does. When we have a string of sunny days, we mow the lawn and weed the flowerbeds and that’s when my husband says, “It’s time to dig out the chicken run.”
            We put on our grubby clothes. He digs up the stepping stones leading to the coop and I wash them off. I break up the earth with a pitchfork and he digs out about four inches of muck. It’s mostly dry by now. He throws each shovelful into the wheelbarrow and hauls it to the garden. 
            When the coop’s been dug out it looks pretty much the same. The ground level has been lowered but it’s still poopy dirt—it’s a chicken run after all. The garden is full of piles of “fertilizer”. My husband rototills it into the earth. The soil turns a rich dark brown. It’s beautiful. A month later, we plant our garden. The vegetables and flowers grow large and lush.
            Mucking out my chicken run reminds me that muck soils my life as well. Sin, trials, failure, misunderstanding and loss—the stuff stinks to high heaven. A spiritual winter sets in and paralyzes me with fear and causes me to question…Why? Why me? What good can come from this? And I wait for answers. The rains come. The trials seem to go on and on and it stinks. The sorrow aches. The only thing to do is to trust the God who allows the muck and the pain.
            After a while, when the time is right, God has a way of turning things around. The Good Gardener has put into every trial, benefit. In every disappointment, purpose. And somehow, He adds to our loss, gain. He digs out the muck. He turns over the heaviness of our hearts and draws us near to Him. 
            He opens our eyes to others going through similar muck. We care. We pray. We love. We share joy.
            Love blossoms, joy bursts forth, the roots of peace deepen, patience grows, kindness spreads, goodness rises, faithfulness blooms and self-control is strengthened. The fruit of the spirit is borne of our reaction to muck…much like my garden.

Friday, September 22, 2017

A Cup of Love...

This is what I shared at my dad's memorial...

          In preparing to share today, I pondered all of the wonderful things I could say about my dad. He was so gifted in so many ways and so generous in sharing those gifts with others. My dad was humble, though, and this time of sharing would probably embarrass him. So today I thought I’d honor him by sharing a simple little story from my childhood.
            As you probably know, my dad was a master woodworker. But what you may not know is that my dad was also a sculptor. His medium of choice? Foil. He could turn a sheet foil into many things but most often he sculpted the form of a goblet. Usually the sculptures were admired for a moment and eventually smashed with glee and thrown in the trash but this one was saved.
            Like my dad, I’ve always been an early riser. In my middle and high school years, I had breakfast with him most mornings before we left for work and school. When I was maybe thirteen years old, my dad fashioned this goblet as his bread toasted one morning. When I came into the kitchen for breakfast, he held the goblet out to me and said, “This is my cup of love overflowing for you.” 
          At that time, I was perhaps the most shy, awkward, pimple-faced teenager on the planet. I didn’t feel nor look very loveable. I hugged him, told him I loved him too, and took the cup. The timing of that gift and the fact that it was filled with his love kept me from smashing it and throwing it away. It was a simple gesture—I knew he loved me—but to have this symbol, at that awkward time in my life meant the world to me. I put it on my dresser and saved it. When I got married and moved away, the foil goblet went with me. Over the years, I have carefully moved it from town to town, stuffed into a trunk or drawer—I could never part with it. I’m so thankful I still have it today.
            My dad accepted a gift of love as well—the gift of forgiveness. Because he accepted Christ as his Savior, that love spilled over to those who knew him.
            Maybe today, as you remember my dad, the grace offered by a loving God is resonating with you. You may not have been handed a sparkling foil cup, but we’ve all been offered an overflowing cup of love from God.
             Thank you for being with us today and honoring my dad. He was a man who loved people well. He loved our mom and accepted our spouses as his own children. Many of our childhood friends still call him dad. He loved his grandchildren fiercely and blessed their lives in countless ways. Many of their friends call him grandpa. I’m so thankful that God chose such a man to be my father.

Tuesday, August 29, 2017

I'm not doing this right...


That was my thought as I drove to the hospital, tears streaming down my face...
I'm not doing this right...
My dad is nearing the end of his 83 year long life...
I've never lost someone this close to me.
And I'm not handling it very well.

My dad will go on hospice this week (I only recently learned what that's really about).
He's got bone cancer...spawned from one of his other two cancers.
He's tired.
I've never seen such exhaustion.
Today the pain began in earnest.
I watched my strong dad--who knows the answer to everything and can fix anything--beg for help.
I couldn't help him.
I could pray though.
So I did.
I held his hand and prayed...so very hard...so very earnestly...
And then I began to cry and I couldn't get another word out so my mom prayed instead.
My dad prayed in one-word breaths...between our tears.

It has been a few days since I've prayed in sentences.
I've been unable to think of what to pray.
Why would I not be able to form a sentence on behalf of my dad to the One who can help him most?
I don't know why.
But I couldn't.
I tried.
I called out to God but no thoughts or words came.
"The Spirit helps us in our weakness. For we do not know what to pray as we ought, but the Spirit Himself intercedes for us with groanings too deep for words." Romans 8:26
What a comfort...I don't need to know what to pray every second of every day...or every nano-second of every minute as I sit next to my precious dad.

And I come back to this:  I don't know how to watch someone I love suffer and die.
I don't want to know how...
But I have to do it.
We all do.
It's inevitable.
So as I blubber and struggle with conflicting prayers such as:
Lord, please take him quickly so he won't suffer - and
Lord, please allow him to be with us for just a little longer...
I hope I'm doing this right...
I love him so...
But this I know...
"Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death,
I will fear no evil,
For you are with me.
Your rod and your staff,
they comfort me."

God is my comfort...
There's one way to do this right (with or without a never-ending flow of tears), and that is to Trust in the One who knows the number of our days...
Trust Him to to be present with my dad, quiet him with His love and rejoice over him with singing as He ushers my dad home.

Wednesday, May 3, 2017

Tis So Sweet...

  1. There is a song that I cannot sing without tearing up.
  2. I hear the refrain and I think, oh no, here we go...
  3. Sure enough, my eyes fill with tears and I struggle to sing.
  4. I want to sing, I want to fill my lungs with the melody of this beautiful anthem to my Savior's faithfulness.
  5. But it takes a minute to pull myself together...

  6. ’Tis so sweet to trust in Jesus,
    Just to take Him at His Word;
    Just to rest upon His promise,
    And to know, “Thus saith the Lord!”
    • Refrain:
      Jesus, Jesus, how I trust Him!
      How I’ve proved Him o’er and o’er;
      Jesus, Jesus, precious Jesus!
      Oh, for grace to trust Him more!
  7. Oh, how sweet to trust in Jesus,
    Just to trust His cleansing blood;
    And in simple faith to plunge me
    ’Neath the healing, cleansing flood!
  8. Yes, ’tis sweet to trust in Jesus,
    Just from sin and self to cease;
    Just from Jesus simply taking
    Life and rest, and joy and peace.
  9. I’m so glad I learned to trust Thee,
    Precious Jesus, Savior, Friend;
    And I know that Thou art with me,
    Wilt be with me to the end.

Why does this song affect me so?
Because it has been played out in my life over and over.
It is so sweet to trust in Jesus.
I can take Him at His word.
I can rest upon His promise.
do know "Thus saith the Lord!"
And I know that He is with me.
He will be with me to the end.

As a mom, this song is even more precious as I apply it to my children.
All three of my kids are embarking on big, awesome, life-altering endeavors.
My son has started Physician's Assistant school...
My daughter and her husband have started thru hiking the Pacific Crest Trail...
My youngest daughter is finishing college next week with the desire to make ministry her life.
All four of them belong to Jesus...and I can trust Him.
And now I'm tearing up because it is so sweet to trust in Jesus.
Oh for grace to trust Him more!

Tuesday, May 2, 2017

Foul Weather Devotion

         
           I was dressed in my team jersey, a plate of essential Super bowl food on my lap and a heart filled with faith that my team would win.  With each touchdown, interception and blocked pass, I jumped up and cheered for the athletes who would bring home the trophy!  That day, I looked like any devoted fan.  I had all of the necessary accouterments and passion to spare.  The truth is, I had only watched three games that season…the games leading up to the Superbowl.  The truth is, I had purchased a shirt the day before the game.  The truth is, I am a fair-weather fan.  Only those closest to me knew my secret.  To everyone else, I appeared to be die-hard.  It was only when the stakes were high that my interest was piqued.
            I've done the same thing in my relationship with God.  Life is busy.  Sometimes I coast along, only occasionally opening my bible.  I read His Word, distracted by sounds and activity around me.  After a busy day, I crawl into bed and begin to pray--falling asleep before I’ve said “amen”.  
            Then a crisis occurs.  It doesn’t have to be a big crisis…anything that is surprising or inconvenient.  I fall on my knees in prayer.  I search my bible for answers.  The crisis passes.  God is good.   The cycle begins again and I’m back to being a fair or, more accurately, foul weather pursuer of God.  
            The difference between faith and football is that I’m not fooling God.  He knows my heart.  He knows that my devotion is sometimes dependent on circumstances.  His Word says that when we draw near to Him we will receive grace and mercy in our time of need.  Drawing near is a daily commitment of acknowledging His presence in my life…talking to Him moment by moment and reading His Word.  It’s not for Him that I do those things, it’s His gift to me. It’s a gift that I receive over and over, day after day.  I have free and total access to the Almighty.  In a world where important people are protected and shielded from the “commoners”, it is amazing that the God of the universe will meet with me personally, whenever I choose…He waits for me…interested…loving me even when I’m distracted from Him.
            I'm thankful that He is patient as I grow day by day in my walk with Him.  

1 John 2:28 – And now, little children, abide in him so that when he appears we may have confidence and not shrink from him in shame at his coming.

Monday, April 24, 2017

The Tooth Fairy - How God Turned Failure Into Fame

        

            My twins were five years old and starting to lose their baby teeth.  I looked forward to being the tooth fairy for them like my mom had done for me.  My mother wrapped a coin in pink, stretchy crepe paper and, while I slept, exchanged the pretty package for my tooth.  I never caught her and she never forgot. 
            My daughter lost the first tooth and I performed right on cue.  Success!  Two lost teeth later I fell asleep on the job, waking up the next morning—neglecting to perform my tooth fairy duties.  I jumped up in a panic and ran to my son’s room.  Luckily, I managed to make the exchange just as he stirred awake. 
            “Mom, what are you doing?” he asked 
            “Oh, I was just checking to see if the tooth fairy came.” I said.
            His eyes popped open as he stuck his arms under his pillow “Yes she did!  Look!”  
            It was a close call but my cover wasn’t blown.
            The next time the tooth fairy was called to duty, I snuck into my daughter’s room a little too soon and her eyes opened as I searched under her pillow for the tooth box. 
            A few more teeth and a few close calls later, I resigned myself to being a sub-par tooth fairy. How could I be so bad at something so simple?  I hoped the kids weren’t on to my secret, but my hopes were dashed one spring day.
            My kids ran in the door from kindergarten, both speaking over each other to tell me a story.  On the playground, a kid was bragging about his mother’s important job and all the other kids had joined in.
            “Mom, Sara’s mom is a nurse,” my daughter said.
            “Mark’s mom is a hair cutter,” my son added.
            “Jessica’s mom is a teacher.”
            “John’s mom works at a bank.”
            I could see where this playground conversation had gone and as a stay-at-home mom, I wondered what they had said my job was.
            “What did you say I do?” I asked.
            In unison, they exclaimed, “You’re the tooth fairy!”
            They were elated to have unloaded the secret they’d been keeping for quite some time.  Upon further questioning, I realized that they didn’t think I was just their tooth fairy, but they had assumed that I was the tooth fairy for every child in the world.  The other kids were very impressed.  After I stopped laughing, I told them the truth, that yes, I was the tooth fairy.  They’d caught me. 
            Truth be told, over the course of the previous months of tooth fairy failure, I had grown to dread the words “Mom, I lost a tooth.”  I associated it with another opportunity to drop the ball.  Try as I might, I simply couldn’t get my act together at the end of a long day.  It was one in a string of ways I thought I didn’t quite measure up to other moms.
            When my children told me their story, I was blessed.  God had not used my lackluster tooth fairy skills to point to my inadequacy, He’d used it to build me up. He showed me that my children naturally thought the best of me.  Instead of disappointment that I was a bad tooth fairy, they had thought me an even more excellent tooth fairy. 
            As I mothered my kids to adulthood, the opportunities for guilt and comparison were never lacking.  When frustration with my shortcomings would rear it’s ugly head, the Lord graciously reminded me that I was the tooth fairy.  I remembered that even though I fail in some areas, I am God’s pick for my kids.  He did not make a mistake in assigning me to my children, quite the contrary.  He put us together on purpose—with purpose—that He would be glorified.  God’s grace is not a one-time gift, limited to salvation, it is a daily gift, one that we can choose to receive over and over as we muddle through motherhood.  God lavishes his grace on us, not wanting us to beat ourselves up when we fall short, but sweetly reminding us that His grace is enough.

2 Corinthians 12:9  (ESV) But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may rest upon me.