Amazing (Mrs.) Grace

How content are you with your life? No, really?  Happy with where you are living? What you are wearing? Where your children go to school?  Are you that content? More than that are you at peace with your life? What if the heavens opened up today? What if  God’s voice came thundering down telling you that this was all there was for the rest of your life?  From this point on you would have no more extra’s. You would still have what is on your back and what you physically own. You would still have flourishing familial relationships and friendships. Nothing else.  Would you be fine with that? I mean really ok?

I had the privilege of meeting one of my dear friends mother yesterday. She is an absolute gem. It has been a very long time since I have been in the presence of someone so completely at peace with everything in their lives. Ironically her name is Mrs. Grace. The Lord could not have picked a better last name for her. She exudes grace, peace and happiness.

At 94 years old she is articulate and a delight! Mrs. Grace has had a stroke, been moved from her permanent home to a new town to be cared for, left her cat behind, her friends, buried a husband, buried a son and this was her 17th move. Her philosophy in life has been “bloom where you are planted”. My friend said that her mother made a conscious decision to be involved and happy in each community that her husbands job took them.

We can choose to be happy or we can choose to be miserable.  We can be like Mrs. Grace and be intentional. In our obedience God  grants us the grace to enjoy the things in life that He deems important. Do you make the choice to see His grace in everyday life? Or are you too busy trying to find happiness on your own accord?

This weekend make the decision to find happiness in what God has freely given all of us: the mountains, sunrises and sunsets, the ocean, our family, the landscape, the stars, foliage or snow. Make the decision to be content in His presence.  Bloom where you are planted.

“In everything give thanks; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus”-1 Thessalonians 5:18

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Jesus Our Ultimate Do-over

Who doesn’t love a do-over? Waiving hand vigorously over here! I cringe when I think about teachers, coaches and myself telling our kids through the years “there are no do-overs”. Guess what? We were all wrong. Dead wrong. Life is actually one gigantic do over for most of us. Here’s another fact: do-overs are biblical. Jesus is our ultimate do-over. He died to give us new life. The past is erased and everything is made new. “This means that anyone who belongs to Christ has become a new person. The old life is gone; a new life has begun!“-2 Corinthians 5:17. Isn’t that the most exciting news you’ve heard ?!

I definitely could use a bazillion do-overs. Words that have stung. Words that have threatened. Words that have belittled. Emotions that came from a place of fear, hurt, and ultimately deep unwavering love. I am so thankful. Let me say that again: I am so thankful. Thankful for God’s grace. I am in utter awe of His mercy. Moved beyond words by the cross.

Secondly I’d like to say prayer works. If you find yourself in a place unable to pray (1) call out to the Lord audibly (2) call, text or email a friend and have them intercede a team of prayer warriors on your behalf. I can not emphasize enough the importance of crying out to the Lord. He hears us. He sees us. He loves us. “And we know that God causes everything to work together for the good of those who love God and are called according to his purpose for them“-Romans 8:28

Recognize that prayers may not be answered immediately. Prayers may not be answered fully. Prayers may not be answered the way you had envisioned. Guess what? Pray anyway!! God sees the narrative. We may be able to envision how we want the story to end. That conclusion may coincide with God or it may not. Trust that all the hairpin turns and crazy mishaps throughout the journey are making for a story worth telling. A testimony that glorifies what only He can do to save a life.

If you have been in our home you have seen the gallery wall we have in the back of our house. We have every year of school (for each of our daughters) framed from transition to 12th grade. it’s one of my favorite things about our home. Each school year picture reminds me of the joys and challenges from each year of their lives. If it was not a great year? No worries~ just glance to your right and you will see the next school year framed. Each picture holds the joy and promise of a new year. A do-over from the previous mistakes of the year before and a continuation of the great things from years past.

Not all of our prayers have been answered…yet.  I’m 100% certain God will masterfully intervene  when His timing is perfectly suited. Many prayers have not been answered the way we would have expected. And many answered prayers have blown us away. God responds to our prayers, as my mother used to say, in three ways: (1) yes (2) not yet and
(3) I have something far greater planned. Keep praying.

God’s in the business of do-overs. He loves us deeply. There may be a multitude of plot twists along the journey. Probably more do-overs. Today? Today is a new day. Today I know who the Author is. I trust that He is in control. To God be the glory.

“Now faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen.”-Hebrews 11:1

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Bonnie & Clyde And The Gold Coins

I did something Tuesday that was better than cake. Better than a massage. Almost better than salt water. I took a nap. A deep sleep drool provoking childlike nap. In the middle of the day. And I felt absolutely no guilt about it whatsoever. It was glorious.

I went to bible study, grabbed a quick bite of lunch with friends. Ran home to grab my to do list and let the dogs out. When I walked in the back door I was greeted with havoc. At first I thought we had been robbed. A table was overturned, books on the floor. An 1800’s antique bowl, which was filled with wrapped chocolates, was on the floor. Chocolate wrappers scattered all over the floor.

Quickly I realized the “robbers” were Bonnie & Clyde. Our 80 pound black lab and her 40 pound corgi accomplice. They had some how managed to overturn priceless antiques all in the name of chocolate gold coins. Not only did they eat the left over Christmas candy they left the empty gold aluminum “coin” wrappers all over the house.

I called the vet first. Needed to find out if I would in fact be the one to kill them. Or would the chocolate be their demise. Next a walk to let them get the gold coins out of their pockets so to speak. Then the cleanup began. I was so mad! They are 8 years old not puppies for gosh sakes! By this time two hours had passed and my afternoon out of town to-do list was not going to happen.

So with the mindset of Scarlett Ohara “I can’t think about that right now. If I do, I’ll go crazy. I’ll think about that tomorrow” I laid my head right down on the sofa. I propped my feet up and slept. For two hours. The only reason I woke up? 80 pound black lab was licking the bottom of my shoe….which, naturally, had an empty gold coin wrapper stuck to the bottom of it.

I actually was mad at my four legged children because they had disrupted my ridiculously over zealous schedule. I was already stressed thinking I wouldn’t get everything done. In the heat of the moment I didn’t think anything except (1) dumb @&?! (I may be saved but when provoked my tongue can’t help itself) dogs! you’ve messed up my whole afternoon (2) I’ll never get all of the “to-do’s” checked off of this list (3) great, just more work

The reality is it just didn’t matter. The list could wait for another day. The world was not going to stop if I was unable to make the thirty minute drive to Fresh Market or SAMs club. In that moment though? I was furious. Mad that my plans, my schedule were interrupted by Bonnie and Clyde (not their real names).

The truth of the matter is that little voice in my head (Holy Spirit) had whispered to me loud and clear that morning. I felt nudged by the Spirit to stay home. I didn’t feel great. I also needed to clean up, work, make phone calls, get laundry started and rest.

Yes, I have to make myself rest. If I do not pace myself throughout the week my type A personality will dictate what it thinks my diseased body should (operative word) be doing. If I pace myself? I’m fine. If I do marathon sprints of activity I usually end up in a flare for weeks. Honestly, if I don’t pace my days I end up in the bed or in the doctors office or in the hospital. When I choose to ignore my body it’s actually a very selfish act. It affects our bank account, my husband and those depending on me. I chose to go out to lunch and jaunt out of town despite knowing that the Lord was tapping me on the shoulder. Yeah, that worked out real well.

Do you struggle with the flesh and the Spirit too? Or is it just me? We receive nudges from the Lord but we ignore them. Our wants and needs before His. I can usually justify just about anything to Him. Usually there is silence which I pretend to interpret as “Yes sir-e my plans are a go!” If my children had done that to me I would be livid. So why do we do it to God?

He calls us to obedience. John 14 clearly tells us we are to demonstrate our love for Christ through our obedience to him: “If you love Me, keep My commandments”. For the Christian, obedience means complying with everything God has commanded. The good news? God’s grace. He showers us with it despite ourselves. Case in point~drool provoked afternoon nap.

I’m thinking that if I had listened to His nudge on Tuesday morning I wouldn’t still be picking up “loose change” and gold coins all over our backyard Thursday morning.

“Therefore do not be anxious about tomorrow, for tomorrow will be anxious for itself. Let the day’s own trouble be sufficient for the day.”- Matthew 6:34

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Potlucks And Jesus

One of my favorite childhood memories is church potlucks. A time when we were allowed to show up to church in “play clothes”. This may be a new phenomenon to you. Back in the day? We dressed. We wore skirts, Peter Pan collared white blouses, and knee socks with loafers or saddle shoes to school and smocked dresses to church. When we arrived home in the afternoons we had designated “play clothes”. Getting to go anywhere outside of our backyard in play clothes was awesome.

Our church potlucks involved chugging gallons of Hawaiian Punch or Tang and gorging on homemade desserts while our parents attention was on conversation and fellowship. Usually after the blessing, desserts, and way too much Hawaiian Punch a youth leader would take us outside for games. Red rover, kick the can or flag football. I clearly remember the smell of early spring. The damp cool grass at dusk. The total sense of freedom, community, and love. Not a care in the world. Grass stains from running and rolling around in those play clothes. The hope and promise of warmer days. Potlucks rocked.

Honestly, when they announced at church Sunday morning there would be a potluck that evening I didn’t give it another thought. We had made plans to go out of town to a furniture warehouse sale. Leaving church my husband said “Wanna call Anne and David and see if they want to go?”

We were, I think, the four oldest people there. Good food and great fellowship. Little boys running to and fro. Babies squealing. Dads cheering during the football game being broadcast before the meal. Moms chatting happy to just be able to sit down and breathe. Pre-teens playing ball outside. I had forgotten that happy feeling from forty some years ago.

So what does a church supper have to do with Jesus? Well, everything actually. A great big sanctuary filled with a variety of foods and an array of personalities. When all thrown together it’s a potluck. Ordinarily it wouldn’t work. But it does. There is something for everyone. There is no agenda. No schedule. Just a common sense of community. A group of believers from all different educational and economic backgrounds gathered for a meal. A core belief in Jesus Christ as the centerpiece.

How incredible would it be if we faced the world like it was a potluck supper?! We just assume that everyone will bring something different to the table and we make it work!

Actually, I’m pretty sure that is what Jesus did in his assembly of the disciples. A mixed bag that resulted in a perfectly orchestrated buffet.

“Do we not all have one father? Has not one God created us? Why do we deal treacherously each against his brother so as to profane the covenant of our fathers?”-Malachi 2:10

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God Is Good, Y’all!

I am a member of two closed groups on Facebook. One is the scleroderma group. The other group is for lupus patients. They are wonderful resources for updated medical research as well as patient trial availability. Like any good thing too much can be bad.

I try not to spend too much time on the boards. However recently I got on to look up a drug trial that I was interested in. My 15 minutes of perusing turned into an hour of reading people’s stories. Many are heartbreaking. The common theme? “Why me?! My life is ruined and I want it back”. It was incredibly depressing reading story after story of total despair.

Auto-immune diseases, like most diseases, change your life forever. You live with chronic pain the rest of your life. There is no cure. You can expect to die from the disease or complications from it. It is inevitable. The cruel joke is that your death is usually a long and arduous one further complicated by illusive symptoms and side effects. Your body literally attacks itself. Ultimately you run out of drug therapies. Organs shut down. Sounds dreadfully depressing doesn’t it?

Here is the good news: God is good. That is the message I so desperately wanted to share with patients in the closed group. God is good, y’all! Even in the bleakest of situations He is good. And He is there. Here. With us.

All of us can say “why me?” Why did the marriage fall apart after 20 years? Why aren’t my kids getting it? Why am I unhappy? Why does my best friend have a more financially prosperous life than I do? Why do I have to work? Why do I look 60 and my neighbor looks 40? Why is she so gorgeous and I’m not? Why doesn’t my husband look at me like her husband looks at her? Why can’t I loose weight? Why is my child left out? Why weren’t we invited? Isn’t the question really “why not?”

I stopped asking “why me?” ten years ago. And Lord knows I have a lot, do you hear me, a lot to whine to God about. You know what changed my perspective? The book of Job. God referred to Job as “blameless and upright.” God allowed satan to afflict Job, but God was not punishing Job for sin. Job suffers because he is among the best, not because he is the worst.

Job looses his fortune, his wife, his kids, his friends, his health and he just about looses his mind. Through it all? He never stops crying out to God. He never stops believing in His Abba father. He doesn’t understand what is happening to him. Job certainly doesn’t like what has happened to him. He never stops believing that God is there.

At one point Job starts questioning why God is causing all of his trials. God speaks to Job in a tornado. God physically and literally shows up in a storm. I love that! Even in the midst of the storms of our lives He is there.

Instead of asking “why me?” I started to ask “What is God up to?” I mean certainly He has a plan for me. And you. And if every single life is worth saving then what exactly is God up too? What is He trying to produce in me? You? In us? Could it be that God uses our suffering to produce righteous character? Does He want those who suffer to be more dependent upon Him? Could it be He is trying to get our attention?

“Elizabeth, that is sick and cruel. You mean to tell me a ‘loving’ God is going to cause my cancer or my illness or my divorce?” Honestly, I have no idea. I do know that God knows each of us by name. I do know that He wishes none of us to not have eternal life. I do know that He is a gentleman. He sent His only Son to die for our sins. I do know He gives us a choice. He is not going to force us to choose Him.

If our lives are turned upside down? We have the option to call on Him to turn us right side up. I don’t know about you but right side up, to me, sounds really hopeful in a world of upside down.

Who do you choose today?

“He gives strength to the weary and increases the power of the weak.”-Isaiah 40:29

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