Tuesday, September 30, 2008

A Day In My Life As Mama, from A to Z

This is a mini writing challenge I did for Faithwriters a little while back. I thought it would be fun to share here, since it is singing my lifesong (well, a somewhat dramatized and exaggerated form of it) in the form of the alphabet.

The A to Z Challenge

1) Use the entire alphabet - A to Z
2) 26 lines - it does NOT have to be a poem - and try to stay on one topic!
3) Alphabet letters can appear at the beginning, middle or end of the words--for example: Xerox Example Fox
4) No word limit

************

Austin, AnaLee and Allison, aka, the “A” Team, are part of the sanctification process for me. Before I say much else, please don’t hold the following information against me or report me to the authorities.

Caring for the “A” team is a blessing, but it isn’t always a picnic. Drama—our home is all about it, as I am probably considered the capital "D" Director of it. Except for an occasional calm day, there is almost always some sort of ordeal.

For one, my oldest child—my new GIANT son (now taller than me)—is beginning to seem a little like Jekyll and Hyde. Growing into a Gigantor overnight isn't easy, I'm sure, but it has to be easier on him than it is on me. He used to be my little compliant baby boy, but now I’m compelled to keep all eyes on him—even the ones in the back of my head. I know I can’t be there every second, but I regularly remind him that God sees, even when I’m otherwise occupied.

Just when I think I’m getting through to him, it’s time for my second child, AnaLee to work the drama. Keeping an eye on her is not a problem at all, as she makes sure she is in my constant view (and earshot). Lots of love can be lost between the two of us if I am not loving her God’s way. Maybe that’s because we are so much alike. Needing extra time in the spotlight, she regularly belts out her favorite song.

Open the eyes of my heart, Lord" will bellow from her throat voice loud enough to open my ears wide, too. “Pretty, sing pretty,” I remind her. Quick to earn my praise, she then sings the way God made her to sing, bringing this mama to tears.

Running around the house all the while—or should I say “RrrrUFF”ing around the house, is my youngest, as she is a dog freak. Speaking in Spot’s language, she will beg all of us, any of us, to pull her around on her leash as she dutifully plays her role of ‘Man’s Best Friend.’ To add to the chaos, our REAL dog, ABBY (yes, another “A”), decides to snip and snap at Ally-Spot, because she doesn’t like the competition. Unruliness can become an issue, so I often have to step in before someone ends up getting bit by ONE of the dogs in the family.

Visiting friends regularly comment on the less than ideal noise level in my home, but they are kind to stop before making me feel too terrible about my parenting skills, or the lack thereof. What’s this desperate, dramatic, David-like mama to do? X-rays of the head may be considered in my near future, but I'll have to keep you posted on that idea.

You may be thinking about calling ‘Super-Nanny’ on my behalf, but first let me request a favor: Zoom out, and you will see a mama who loves her kiddos, all the way from A to Z, and I’m so thankful that God never stops parenting ME.

How great is the love the Father has lavished on us, 
that we should be called children of God! 
And that is what we are!” 
1 John 3:1a

How bout ya'all? Any of you need a blog post to write? Give the challenge a try if you dare!

In the Key of HE,

Monday, September 29, 2008

At the Well/Flat Ceiling Prayers

At the well today, Heather at Emotional Purity is hosting a "dry" subject, and she has even given great wisdom on the topic at her blog. I suggest you read what she has to say about spiritual dryness...it is gooooood stuff.

As for me, something specific comes to my mind, and I feel led to share it. 

I remember that moment all too well. The dishes were piled up. The laundry pile was larger than the city landfill, the kids were acting out, and I was depressed. I had truly hit bottom spiritually speaking, and my life reflected it--in my words, in my actions, in everything.

Brian's granddad was living with us at the time, I was homeschooling (part-time) three kids, had an ongoing leadership position at church (which in retrospect I should've given up for a season), Brian's dad ALSO had terminal brain cancer, and I was taking granddad back and forth to see him, and going to see him myself (because he was the only father I ever really had), and etc. It's impossible for me to capture all of the circumstances that led to suffocate the life out of me spiritually, but there I was.

Now let me just say that in my case, I was still in the Word and on my knees, so I wasn't spiritually dry in the sense that I wasn't faithful to seek Him. But I was spiritually dry in the sense that none of it penetrated my heart. My prayers felt empty. The Bible fell flat. I whined and sobbed to the Lord with my whole heart; yet, I felt like I may as well have been talking to the ceiling. I even turned to other things to try to make me feel better--food, entertainment, etc. That just furthered the wedge between the Lord and me, sending me further out into the desert.

I began to withdraw from friends, because I was tired of answering the question: "How are you doing? Do you need anything?" I wanted the phone to stop ringing, I wanted the kids to leave me alone, I wanted to curl up in a ball and hide myself deep under the sheets at the foot of the bed.

But here's what God did to all my flat ceiling prayers: He scraped them off and answered them. Not by changing my circumstances, but by changing my heart, teeny tiny little by little. He began prodding me to be thankful. His challenge came from the words of other people. He caused me to become broken and humble enough to let others in to help. Friends brought us meals, sent cards, prayed for me without my even knowing it, sent emails of encouragement, and on and on.

Before long, I was out of the pit and walking with joy in the valley. Not every second, but most of them. I was still exhausted, weepy and at the end of myself, but I was God-strong. He held me up through the arms of others, and kept me there through the power of His Word. The Lord, my Saviour, my Redeemer pulled me out of the pit by my shirt collar and gave me these verses to hold onto:

Psalm 40:1-3
I waited patiently for the LORD;
he turned to me and heard my cry.
He lifted me out of the slimy pit,
out of the mud and mire;
he set my feet on a rock
and gave me a firm place to stand.
He put a new song in my mouth,
a hymn of praise to our God.
Many will see and fear
and put their trust in the LORD.


If you are there right now--no matter the circumstances--smack dab in the middle of spiritual dry, don't stop crying out to God. Don't stop reaching out to Him. Even if it feels like your cries are falling flat to the floor or sticking to the roof of the ceiling. Even if you're walking around in puddles of tears. Even if you can't walk at all. The enemy wants to get you alone to tempt you, He wants you to withdraw, He wants you to seek other "stuff" to fix you up right, but it will lead to further separation from the Lord, the Only One who can heal what needs fixing. This isn't a formula, it's straight from Truth. Did you read those verses closely?

And it's almost impossible to understand if you're in the pit right now, but those last verses are so, so, so true as well. When the new song comes, filled with praise, many will see it and put their trust in the Lord. I'm a living, breathing witness of this truth.

Let me know your thoughts, and remember to head on over to Heather's for insightful teaching on the subject.



In the Key of HE,

Saturday, September 27, 2008

Giveaway a Comin'

My hundredth post is right around the corner, and in honor of it, I want to do a giveaway. But before I tell you what it is...

I read this quote hanging on the wall of a church last year, and it moved me so much I wrote it down:

"Grant that what we sing with our lips,
we may believe in our hearts~
And what we believe in our hearts,
we practice in our lives."
Fred D. Gealy

Sounds simple, but it's really pretty deep. How many songs do we sing without even thinking about what we're declaring? It's not that we don't mean them deep down, it's just that we aren't paying attention to them. Then there are times we are in complete realization of what we're singing, but we feel like liars because we're not a livin' the way we're a singin'. You know?

Or maybe it's just me. But this IS my blog, so I'll keep blah, blah blogging about it. After all, there is a freebie involved. (wink)

Anyway, IF you are interested in winnin' what I'm givin', here's whatcha gotta do to earn the chance.

Give me a testimony (I don't care how long) about a song that deeply changed the way you live. Where were you when you sang it? Did it sink in right at the time or later? What happened in your life as a result? How many times had you sung the song before?

If you dedicate a whole blog post to this subject on your own blog, I will put your name in the "hat" twice (just let me know when you've posted it). OR If you reply to this blog or email me through the button on my sidebar, I will put your name in the "hat" once. This needs to be done before my 100th post, which is, well, hmmmmm, probably by Wednesday of next week. My husband and I will randomly draw from the "names in the hat," and I will announce the winner AND the prizes (yes, I said prizes, plural) that day.

And a bonus: If the winner so chooses, I will post the testimony they submitted on my site as a "Lifesong in the Limelight." (This is something I'm considering for the future anyway as a regular deal.)

So whatcha think? I"m just a little, teeny tiny bit excited. I hope you are too. For those of you that are wondering if it is worth it to get involved, think great book and great music, then decide...I can't wait to hear your testimonies.

In the Key of HE,

Thursday, September 25, 2008

Hotel Doors


*Joanne Sher, over at An Open Book is hosting Patty Wysong's Fiction Fridays meme today. For more great fiction or to post your own fiction piece, click here.




Hotel Doors

My heart is thumping through my chest with nervous anticipation. I look in the bathroom mirror of my hotel room, fluffing the matted hair from my forehead. Deep breath in. Deep breath out. You can do this, Jaimee. I smile, but my cheeks hurt from smiling all day, so I try on a sensuous look instead. Okay, now you just look like a dork. Come on. Act natural. You’ve been waiting for this moment your whole life.

A gentle knock, followed by my love's tender voice distracts me from my one-woman counseling session. “Sweetie, you okay?"

I smile in the mirror as if I'm talking to him face-to face. "It's all good, Hon. I...might need some extra time, K?"

“Of course, punkin, just makin' sure you didn't change your mind. (nervous chuckle) Take your time...um...you know how much I love you, right?”

Aghast, his words trigger a horrible memory. Those words.
“Take your time...” and “you know how much I love you, right?”

The diagonal stripes on the wallpaper blur as I brave an answer: "Yup...you're stuck with me...and I love you too..." Grabbing both sides of the sink for balance, I look up in the mirror and see a younger me--same matted hair, different dress. Then, a knock on the door echoes from the past.


“Jaimee, unlock the door. We can talk about this. Let me in, okay?”

“No, Mark! Just go away. I need to think.” Stinging tears painted a trail of mascara down my splotched cheeks.

“Come on, Jaimee...You know how much I love you, right?”

“Love me?” The gunk in my throat thickened with each word. “You know I’m a Christian. You know how important my virginity is to me. I’ve told you this a hundred times.”

“Yes, I know, but I just thought with it being our senior prom and all, that maybe…”

“…that maybe you’d take me to a motel and take advantage of me?”

“No, I wanted our night to be special. I thought you knew after being together for five whole months, how much I love you. I thought you loved me too.”

I slapped my hand on the door. “I do love you, but I'm confused," I whined as my forehead hit the wall in desperation. “I don’t want us to make a mistake, Mark—one that could change our lives forever.”

He softened his voice. “Well, I’d never hurt you. Think about that. Remember how patient I’ve been. I’ve never pressured you before, and I’ve had to use a lot of willpower, so…remember that. Jus—just take your time, okay?”

Time was irrelevant in that moment. My senior prom was supposed to be like a fairy tale—a night to smile over in my diary. Instead of the memory of a Cinderella goodbye kiss at my front door, I was there, crouched on the floor of a dirty, cheap motel room.
How did I get here, God? Did I make him think I wanted this? Please, help me be strong. I want to keep my commitment to stay pure until marriage, Lord. I caught a scent of the beautiful pink and white corsage which had completely captivated me earlier. I knew Mark had spent hours getting it perfectly matched to the color of my dress, because he told me so.

My heart began to warm up with memories of all the considerate things he had done for me and the patience he had demonstrated regarding my faith. “Mark, you still there?”

His voice was leaning close to mine on the other side of the bathroom door. “Yeah. Told you I would be, didn’t I?”

He sounded like a wounded puppy.
Maybe he does love me. Maybe I should…

“I paid almost thirty bucks for this room, did’ya know that," he exploded, awakening all my good senses.

My resolve thickened, and God’s confidence spoke through me. “I don’t care about your thirty bucks. My virginity doesn’t have a price tag. When I unlock this door, I want you to take me home. You got that?”

His voice squeaked, “Yeah.”

“I mean it, Mark. If you love me the way you say you do, then you’ll drive me home.”

“Whatever. I’ll take you home, but you’re paying me back for the room.”

I unlocked the door, aimed my eyes straight to the hotel door and walked bravely to the car without looking back. Mark drove me home, and we never spoke to one another again. (I did, however, leave thirty dollars in his locker on the last day of school—in pennies.)


"You sure you're alright, Punkin?" The voice of my true love brought me back to my present reality.

"Yes, um, alllllmost ready..."
No, I'm definitely ready. It finally made sense--what used to be a traumatic memory had now become a triumphant one. God blessed the decision from my senior prom night by replacing it with a brand new beautiful memory to be made this night—my wedding night.

I flash a wink and a smile in the mirror, admiring the glow of purity that beams from my face. As I come out of the bathroom into our honeymoon suite, I find my husband—wait, let me say it in my sensuous voice—my
darling husband—extending his hand to me. “Care to dance, Mrs. Morris?”

A blushing bride, I waltz into his arms of love, closing the door of that old memory behind me.

********

“I remember the days of long ago; I meditate on all Your works and consider what Your hands have done.”
Psalm 143:5, NIV


In the Key of HE,

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

A Walk In The Park

“This is MY swing!” yelled the boy, pushing the little girl into the gravel. As she began to cry over her throbbing skinned knee, the boy took his seat on the swing, pumping higher and higher into the air. “Wheeeee! I’m the king of the wooooorrrrrrrrrrrlllllllllllD!!!” he declared.

The boy’s mom sat oblivious on the bench nearby chattering away on her cell phone. The girls’ daddy came quickly to scoop her up, holding her close to his chest. In between hysteric whimpers, she poured out her pain to him: “He (gasp) pushed (sniff) me (snort) Daddy (full out bawl).” He tenderly replied, “I know, sweetheart, I saw the whole thing. It’s okay now, you’re safe.”

All of a sudden, the dad did something that surprised all those watching. He lifted his daughter up onto his shoulders. At first, she whined, “No, daddy, I’m scared.” He assured her that she was secure, so she tried to sit up straight, leaning forward and holding on to his chin at first. The man turned into a boy that moment, changing from a walk in the park to a giddy-up, jig-jagged gallop around the park with her, to which the little one couldn’t help but giggle. As he grasped her legs firmly around his neck, she began to sit up completely straight, shoulders back and chest out. “I’m the luckiest girl in the WoooooooooorrrrrrrlllllllllllD,” she shrieked with delight, throwing her arms completely outstretched in the air. She was safe and free at last.

This is the picture of the Christian life, friends. Sometimes, we’re feeling blessed along the way, kind of like a trip to the park—from tire swing, to slide, to see saw, to sand. And it’s a lot of fun. Then an enemy comes along (sometimes it’s even a friend) and pushes us down, causing us not only a skinned knee, but a wounded heart in the process. But our Father is so loving and so compassionate that He scoops us up and lifts us high above the pain to experience His safety and the pleasure that stems from it.

Even Job understood this in the middle of his horrific pain (5:11): “The lowly He sets on high, and those who mourn are lifted to safety.” What a beautiful reminder for the times when we are hurt or persecuted, even if we’re not sure why we’re experiencing it.

Did you notice that we don’t know how the story above got its start? Was the little girl racing for the swing excitedly after finding it in her view? Perhaps she was just standing in the way of the swing. OR, did she push the boy first as she tried to get the swing for herself? We have no idea if she was innocent or just as selfish as the boy, do we? This matters to us, because in our minds, if it were her fault, then surely the same response from her dad would not be warranted. That’s the thing about God….His ways are SO not our ways, are they?

“The LORD is compassionate and gracious, slow to anger, abounding in love. He will not always accuse, nor will He harbor His anger forever; He does not treat us as our sins deserve or repay us according to our iniquities. For as high as the heavens are above the earth, so great is His love for those who fear Him; as far as the east is from the west, so far has He removed our transgressions from us. As a father has compassion on his children, so the LORD has compassion on those who fear Him; for He knows how we are formed, He remembers that we are dust.”
Psalm 103:8-14

God wants us to see that from His perspective is a whole other view of our circumstances. He remembers how we were formed by His hands….He knows we are not perfect as He is--that we are going to mess up in our human dustiness. Because of this flawless memory and this abounding love, His comfort and security are available to us no matter what we’ve done. It is the forgiveness and grace that comes from the trust we placed in Jesus Christ to make the sacrifice for our sins, as well as the sins of others. Praise the Lord!

Which person in the park are you right now? The pusher? The pushed down? The one on the cell phone? The one scooping up the hurting? The specatator? The one enjoying the slide on the other side? From that grid, let’s take a moment to picture the characteristics of God from the verses above and apply them to our hearts. We could be any of them from one day to the other, and God has something in it for us no matter—so let’s allow Him, our King of the wooorrrrrrrrld, to minister to us and others through our own walk in the park today. Amen.


In the Key of HE,

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

Five Ways Blogging Has Affected My Life

Well, Bill, I don't know whether to curse you or to kiss your cheek, so I'll do neither. ;) Thank you for tagging me, I think, and I'll follow your lead and say that this is a worthy post, because, let's face it: I am a blogger. If I can't express how it has affected my life, then what's the point?

For those of you who have not visited Bill's blog, The Spiritual Oasis, you're truly missing out on some spiritual refreshment and admonishment. He knows all kinds of things about theology and the deeper stuff of the Bible that I wouldn't even attempt to blog about, so I enjoy going over there to learn and grow.

So, he tagged me, and I'm supposed to write "Five Ways Blogging Has Affected My Life." Seems easy enough, right?
Rrrrrrrrrrriiiiiiiiiiight. It's the way it's worded. It's not "Five Things I Like About Blogging." It's, how has it affected my life? That is a tough one, because since my blog is based on my LIFEsong, I need to express my feelings just so...

In all honesty, four out of the five are positive. Number five, not as much so...so I'm going to start with number five, and work my way down to number one, just so I can end with the positive...lol. Sorry folks, it's the way my brain works.

5. Blogging has affected my life in one not-so-good way. It has eaten up a little more of my time than I care to admit. At times, I have chosen posting a blog or commenting on someone else's over getting in the floor with my children or spending time with my spouse. God has had to create some balance in my lifesong here, because it was beginning to fall a little flat on the main melody. Isn't it just like God, though, to use something we are passionate about to continue to transform us. This isn't the first time He's used something I love to shape me and conform me more to His heart and way of thinking. So even though #5 has been the not-so-good, it is ending up a positive as I go along. AS LONG AS I STAY FOCUSED ON HIM, KEEPING HIS BALANCE AND HIS PRIORITIES, #5 WILL NOT HAVE A NEGATIVE EFFECT ON ME. And just because I can't help myself, have any of you reading this thought about the same...let's all of us bloggers remember that the people, places and things the Lord puts around us take precedent over that which is virtual. As we keep our priorities lined up, it will only make this other a better thing.

Okay then, that said.
#4. Blogging has led me to some really interesting people. New friends. People I know that I would not have met otherwise, who enrich me and challenge me in ways that only they can. I love that.

#3. Blogging has brought about an awareness of how, as Christians, we really are all in this life together. The whole blog I did awhile back about The Body and its parts all working together called One Body, Many Blogs came about from the numerous blogs I visited as I began in the world of blogging. I am still amazed as I look around this virtual world, how many of us are trying to say the same thing, and yet we all have a different way of doing it. When my voice doesn't ring a tune with someone, another's does. And visa versa. So all together, we make each other strong. I don't know about you, but I think that is wayyyyyyy cool. Beyond cool.

#2. My life as a writer has been incredibly impacted by blogging. I've been forced to stay in tune with God's mission for my blog, which is to admonish and encourage the life of believers in Jesus Christ. I'm learning how to use my own voice, and my own personality to speak and teach what I know best, and how to do so more effectively with each post. This is priceless experience.

#1. Much to my surprise, blogging has affected me in a huge way spiritually. It forces me to think through my beliefs, pray through my convictions, and allow the Spirit to put it in a form that will minister to others. Just like David, as I express my heart to the King, He does a work in me (and hopefully in others at the same time). Each time I blog, it becomes less about me and more about Him. I am surprised and amazed by that. I consider this a ministry, an education and a hobby, and how blessed am I with this three-in-one.

So how about you? Any of you care to post about the five ways blogging has affected your life? If so, lemme know in the comment section, and I would love to hear your side of the story on the subject. Thanks for dropping by...


In the Key of HE,

Sunday, September 21, 2008

Conversation "In The Raw"

At the Well today, we're doin' lots of talkin about talking. I think this is one of my most favorite topics ever at the well, probably because I'm a big ole blabber mouth. I'm so anxious to learn from the other women on the subject. Laurie Ann at Magnolia Heartbeats is the hostess today. Thank you so much for this incredible topic, Laurie Ann.

It seems to me that words are pretty important to God. When He created the world, He spoke it into being. When Jesus was tempted by Satan, the importance of God's words shone through again: Matthew 4:4, "Jesus answered, 'It is written: 'Man does not live on bread alone, but on every word that comes from the mouth of God.' " Also, John 1 makes it clear that the Word came first and that the Word was God. Tremendous significance.

As it applies to me today, I know that "out of the overflow of the heart, the mouth speaks," and that I am to "let the Word of Christ dwell in me richly as I teach and admonish others with all wisdom." I am convicted by the fact that I am told that when or IF I speak, I should do it as one "speaking the very words of God." A tall order from a tall God.

For me personally, the struggle comes with the words I speak "in the moment." When I think and pray and am slow to speak, all is pretty well, but the spontaneous moments, the "conversation in the raw," yikes...that is where I need the help.

It's when my daughter loses her temper.
It's when my son is a know-it-all.
It's when my husband points out fault in me.
It's when I'm drowning in self-importance, and I think my opinion will make a difference.
It's when I read something that offends me, and I hit "reply" a moment too soon. (yes, the cyber-words we speak count too)
It's when...I could go on and on...it's when I don't think before I speak.

As much as that works in the seemingly negative way, the opposite can apply as well.

Sometimes I show no restraint in my tongue with the complimentary words. I become a flatterer, or someone who speaks words in order to get a response. I give false praise and empty encouragement. Yuck, that is just as despicable. Really, it is.

Then there's the gray line: the words we speak that have potential toward value or not. Small talk. Sometimes these words are useful for making a deeper relationship, sometimes they're spoken to get us through moments that I'd rather not share at all, and sometimes they are just a waste of time, a substitute for something more important I should be doing. I've asked the Lord countless times to make me a good steward of my words, because I believe they are to be used wisely and sparingly.
"And whatever you do, whether in word or deed, do it all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through Him." Colossians 3:17

This is such a deep subject at the well, that I'll betcha we're here for hours discussing. My bottom lines are the following:
1. I want to be self-controlled in my speech, thinking before I speak.
2. I want my words to matter, to have Christ's power and effectiveness behind them.
3. I want my words to be genuine and sincere, not empty praise or flattery--true encouragement from Christ.
4. I want to use less words, being a good steward of them. They don't have to be all serious and somber, just useful.

One of my favorite quotes as a writer is "If you want to change the world, pick up your pen." (Martin Luther) Why? Because words are that powerful. I consider the words I type on a comment page or in a chat room or on Facebook or even the ones sent to my devotional list or the teacher about homework as conversation. So I must be as careful and apply the same way of thinking to my typed and written words as well.

Thanks, Chelsey, for the opportunity to meet, and for you, Laurie Ann to introduce such a great topic.

In the Key of HE,

Saturday, September 20, 2008

Flowers On The Ledge

I was looking out the balcony of our hotel room in Vail. Draped on top of the ornate metal railing was a beautiful rectangular planter of reddish orange flowers. I was easily distracted by them, especially since I have a black thumb and can’t seem to make my own flowers live when I’ve planted them in the past. In front of the balcony was a huge waterfall. It made looking directly out of the room a very pleasant experience. 


The thing that struck me as I sat out on the patio to enjoy the beauty my second to last day, however, was that the flowers were right at eye level. They were the only thing I could see. I thought to myself, What’s the point of just having a view of the flowers? While they were very beautiful, I couldn’t see the waterfall very well or even the glorious mountains in the background. The flowers were gorgeous, the waterfall was refreshing, but my view was obstructed from the grandest scenery of all!

This caused me to remember a phrase that my friend Dan has quoted several times in the recent past: “Good is the enemy of best.” I think that is the case in my life sometimes. How often do I miss the big picture of the faith by focusing in on the good but lesser things of the faith? Are my priorities in line with what Jesus would want for me as His follower? Luke 10:38-42 comes to mind:

“As Jesus and His disciples were on their way, He came to a village where a woman named Martha opened her home to Him. She had a sister called Mary, who sat at the Lord’s feet listening to what He said. But Martha was distracted by all the preparations that had to be made. She came to Him and asked, ‘Lord, don’t you care that my sister has left me to do the work by myself? Tell her to help me!’

“’Martha, Martha,’ the Lord answered, ‘you are worried and upset about many things, but only one thing is needed. Mary has chosen what is better, and it will not be taken away from her.’”

Martha was doing what was good, but Mary chose the better….can we say the same? Are we too busy doing good stuff to sit at His feet each day?

Volunteering at church is good. Doing Bible Studies is good. Doing your best at work is good. Keeping yourself in shape is good. Enriching friendships is good. Blogging about Jesus is good. It’s all good, unless it becomes the rival of choosing that which is better…

Let’s do the good stuff for God AFTER making the time to do the “one thing that is needed”: sitting at the feet of Jesus. Good doesn’t have to be the enemy of best in this case if we make our worship of the Lord our greatest priority.

What represents your flowers on the ledge? Go ahead and water them, but step on your tip-toes if needed to make sure your view of the better things is not obstructed. When you are looking from His high view, it may change the way you are looking at what’s right in front of you…
“As the heavens are higher than the earth, so are My ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts.” Isaiah 55:9

In the Key of HE,

Friday, September 19, 2008

Along The Sidewalk of Silence/Fiction Friday

Yea, it's time for Fiction Friday over at Patterings today. For more great fiction or to post some yourself, go knock at Patty's door.


Along The Sidewalk of Silence


It was a breezier day than usual at the park, but with the sun shining brightly above me, I felt nothing but joy. Even the dust blowing in my face would not weigh me down. I was about to belt out my favorite praise song, when I was interrupted by a young woman--maybe early twenties or so. She spread out a magazine on the bench beside me, protecting the linens of her fine ivory pants as she sat. Oddly enough, she planted herself securely in the middle of a featured title that read, “The Bottom Side of Love.”

After fumbling through her purse, she grabbed her cell phone, glanced down at the screen of it, and then shoved it into the pocket of her silky burgundy blazer. She held a steady gaze at the bubbling fountain across the sidewalk for a few minutes, let out a sigh and began to shake her head slightly and slowly, as if in total disbelief of her daydreams.

Her stare turned in my direction, but it felt like she was looking right through me. I wanted to say “hello,” but the timing wasn't right. Tears welled up in her tired hazel eyes, and she finally let her head give way to her hands, which forced her elbows to thrust into her dainty thighs.

I wondered, Should I speak to her? Comfort her somehow?

Many walked along the sidewalk, oblivious to the hurting one silently sobbing. A tall bald man stopped, looked at her and hesitated. As he stroked his chin, the cross ring he was wearing glistened in the sun. He took a step toward the woman, but then turned and shuffled away with seemed uncertainty.

Three college-aged gals bounced along directly in front of her feet. Their Bibles and bulky armloads of textbooks did not seem to affect the brisk skip that guided them along the path through the park. The one with sandy blonde hair glanced back at the crouched-over woman but quickly rejoined the topic at hand with her friends.

I waited--waited for just one person to speak up to her, comfort her, give her some hope. No one did.

That was my cue.

Without hesitation, I cried out that I couldn’t possibly know of her pain or despair, but that I did know of a Rock higher than I that could wipe her tears away. I spoke of a Love so deep and so complete that It would reach into the very depths of her heart and soul and fill any cracked or empty gap that existed.

“Jesus was battered, bruised and broken for you,” I tenderly uttered.

I cleared my tired voice and bellowed, “And when He rose from the dead three days later, why, He raised all who would believe with Him. That’s why I can’t help but praise His name to you now.”

She may have already known the Lord, I don’t know. But that day my Creator called me to speak His name no matter. If indeed she already knew of His salvation, then perhaps she needed to be reminded how it would apply to her even now in her distress.

Only He knew for sure.

Her head came up and over a bit, and she eyed me. Her pupils seemed bitter and lost, yet looking and longing.

What will her response be? I wondered.

To my surprise, she turned away, grabbed her purse and dug through the clutter. She took out a mirror, as well as a pocket-size tissue package, and began the clean-up process of the mascara damage that had been done. She sniffed, wiped her nose and took a deep breath before she stood. After one last glance at me, she went back the same way she came, leaving “The Bottom Side of Love” on the bench behind.

I prayed for her that instant and wished that I had a living, breathing soul to care for her, along with two legs to join her on her journey.

Some scurried, many meandered, and handfuls of humans engaged in conversation all around me that sunshiney afternoon. I couldn’t help but shout out to everyone about that which had been left unspoken:

“The LORD has made His salvation known...
Shout for joy to the LORD, all the earth!
Let the sea resound, and everything in it,
The world, and all who live in it!”


As the day faded, I continued to praise the Lord for His salvation to all people and hoped that someone else—anyone else—would do the same. My own voice could certainly use the break.

Until then, I thought, this rock will not be silent.
“But Jesus answered, ‘I tell you, if these (His disciples) become silent, the STONES will cry out!”
Luke 19:40 (NASB), emphasis mine


***(Verses coming from the rock inside the story above from Psalm 98:2, 4a & 7--NIV)

In the Key of HE,

Thursday, September 18, 2008

Dorito Brain Damage

Leaving ocean waves behind today to discuss brain waves. And yes, me wants to discuss Doritos.

Ahhhhhh, Doritos...I used to eat 'em by the handfuls after school as a kid. I would start with one, and before I knew it, half the bag was gone. It never seemed to be enough. I wasn't hungry for more, but my taste buds wanted more, ya know?

Even today, the crunch, the munch, the absolute glorious taste of a Dorito chip overwhelms me. I can't eat them often, because as a person with hypothyroid AND as a former binger set free, I can only allow myself these fattening, unhealthy pleasures sparingly.

Yesterday was that day. Oh myyyyyyy, were them goooooood. Cool Ranch too. Yummers. But ya know, with each chip, the thing I noticed was that I couldn't keep from eating one more. "Okay," I would tell myself, "just oooone more, and that's it." I started to get frustrated, because my tongue didn't feel satisfied, but my tummy did, so I kept tossin them in...even tried letting one melt in my mouth to absorb the flavor. Bleck! Not a good idea.

After I finally got sick of the goopy, powdery flavoring on the top, I stopped. I shoved the bag as far away from me as possible and walked away, as if I were putting down a gun or something: "(((EXCUSE ME, PUT-THE-WEAPON-DOWN)))" may as well of been blaring from a loud speaker in my kitchen with red lights and sirens going off.

That's when it dawned on me. I finally figured out why you can't ever eat just a few Doritos. First of all, I have brain damage from all of the Doritos I ate as a kid. More importantly, I figured out their lil secret. They taste good when they first hit your tongue, (I guess it's all the salty, goopy, powdery flavoring on the top), but there is an icky aftertaste, so it makes you want the next one to have the yummy taste again. Make sense? Pretty soon you're shoveling them in one right after the other so you don't have the aftertaste at all.

So no more. I'm reversing the brain damage caused from the Dorito maker's addiction scheme. I'm saying "no" to them.

Because I can't help but make an analogy out of almost everything, I have to say that Doritos are a lot like sin. Often it tastes good at first...but it always leaves a bad aftertaste. And if a Christian gets to the point where she is just sinning one right after the other in order to avoid the aftertaste, well, some real damage is occurring. She'll eventually have to hear, "Put the bag down and put your hands up," if you know what I mean. Each and every day, we need to examine our lives for sin. When we do so, we'll probably find some. Then we confess it, we toss it to Jesus and put our hands in the air, knowing He is the only One who can cleanse us from it. Ask Him to help you see it coming and avoid it, say "No" to it.

Unconfessed sin brings about heart damage. It puts a wedge between you and an abundant relationship with the Lord. And that's scarey, because first of all, He is the Lord, and He is holy. But second of all, He is the only One who can truly give us the kind of fruit we need to live a victorious Christian life.

The Lord is the real deal. Yes, He tastes so good, it makes us want more, but He completely satisfies our longings in the process. Don't try to substitute Him for that person, that place or that thing. Lift up your hands and praise the Lord.

Psalm 63:4-5 (NLT)
I will praise You as long as I live,
lifting up my hands to You in prayer.
You satisfy me more than the richest feast.
I will praise You with songs of joy.


In the Key of HE,

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

What's In A Wave, Part Two

“…because he who doubts is like a wave of the sea,
blown and tossed by the wind.”

James 1:6b

The first day at the beach on our spring break vacation, it was horribly windy. We were bound to make the most of our tropical experience, however, so we went out to bask in the sand and the sun anyway. I don’t remember ever seeing waves crash like that (in person) before! The sand was stinging my legs and getting in my eyes as it blew at great force. While it wasn’t anything close to the sideway-standing reporters I’ve watched on the news during hurricanes, it still painted a good picture for me of the James verse above.

As I shared in What's In A Wave, Part One, trials come and go in our lives, often knocking us off our feet. Or at the very least, they sometimes send us diving for some source of rescue other than the only One who can help us through it all. We can even begin to make light of our humanness in the midst of the struggle. I know I do at times. It is clear, however, that God intends for me—for us as Christians--to grow in our faith, trusting Him more and doubting Him less each and every day.

I love the way the Message translates James 1:5-8:

"If you don’t know what you’re doing, pray to the Father. He loves to help. You’ll get His help, and won’t be condescended to when you ask for it. Ask boldly, believingly, without a second thought. People who ‘worry their prayers’ are like wind-whipped waves. Don’t think you’re going to get anything from the Master that way, adrift at sea, keeping all your options open."


Ok, so first of all,

He LOVES to help, we’ll GET His help, and we WON’T BE looked down on WHEN WE ASK FOR IT.


Wow. I love it that He is so approachable. I don’t ever have to feel ridiculous or ashamed of needing help with Him. Again, wow. I know this, but I don’t always act like I do.

Secondly, I don’t have to beat around the bush. That phrase about worrying our prayers is really the problem, isn’t it? If we didn’t worry about what He was going to think of us or if He was listening in the first place, then we WOULD come before Him boldly and believingly, wouldn’t we?

Finally, if we think we can out-maneuver God, we’re out of luck. Can any other sources of comfort really fill our hurts, our indecisions or any needs? We can’t have it both ways. We either trust in Him to provide the help, or we keep our options open and continue to ride the waves of ups and the downs that come with the world’s solutions. I certainly don’t want to become a Christian castaway! (I heard an ‘Amen.’)

We must never forget that He-and He alone-has the ability to calm the storm, to stop the wind and the waves as He sees beneficial to us. I forget several times a day, with all kinds of stuff that comes up, and there He is, with His powerful Word and the Holy Spirit to bring me back to His reality instead of my own. That makes me breathe more deeply, more calmly, more confidently.

Today. This day. Right now is the time to believe and not doubt. To trust and obey in His perfect way. Together, let’s do so, I pray.

Lord Jesus, You have searched us and know us. You know that often times we say we believe You, and yet we still need help overcoming our unbelief. Forgive us. Help us and lead us in the way everlasting, Lord, Your way. Help us to trust You today. In Jesus’ name, Amen.

“O LORD God Almighty, who is like You? You are mighty, O LORD, and Your faithfulness surrounds You. You rule over the surging sea; when its waves mount up, You still them.” Psalm 89:8-9



In the Key of HE,

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

What's In A Wave, Part One

“Yet this I call to mind and therefore I have hope:
Because of the LORD’s great love we are not consumed,
for His compassions never fail.”

Lamentations 3:21-22
I spent some time on the beach in South Florida this summer. As I stood in the middle of the crashing waves on a windy day, I was all-consumed with a mixture of sensations. Force, power, stinging salt up my nose while pelting my skin and eyes. My two feet were swept off the bottom of the sandy floor in random sequence--first by the wave on top, then by the one in the under-current.

In the beginning of my venture out into the big time, I was strong—it seemed manageable. Ten minutes later, I could hardly breathe, open my eyes, and my whole body was weak, numb and shaking. I wished I had something to float on and pull me into the shore. (I also wished I were in better physical shape—how do those surfers do it?)

Now that I reflect back at this, I can’t help but relate it to the past three years of loss, pain and trials in my own life. When I entered the struggling season, I didn’t even know I was in the middle of an ocean that would push me around me with pounding force for a great while to come. I started out strong and full of hope, with positive prayers and promises to keep me on my feet. 

But another wave of tribulation came, followed by a strong undercurrent of doubt and negativity—then I held my breath as I allowed my own quick-fixes and self-helps to push me further under water. My spirit became weak and numb, and my emotions were shaking and rolling with each wave. 
I knew that if I just cried out to the Lord, His strong arm would hold me afloat and eventually land me on solid ground, but it took way too long for me to actually give it all over to Him.
I whole-heartedly long for steadfast faith no matter which breaker I’m on or beneath. It’s difficult to admit that sometimes I allow my circumstances to interrupt my faith. How many times have I read the passage about Peter walking on water until he took his eyes off of Jesus? I find myself wishing I were in better spiritual shape, but even His disciples struggled.

Thankfully, as I look even deeper into the analogy, I can see God-waves throughout my life as a believer. Waves of hope and protection. Waves of grace and mercy. His love pours over me, flows through me, preserves me. If I am willing to “taste and see that the Lord is good,” His saltiness will rub off on me and then on to others.

Can you relate this experience to your own life? While the troubling surges of life can overwhelm us, only His love will consume us. If we take our eyes off of Him and doubt Him for a time, it’s not long before the Holy Spirit convicts and reminds us where our true hope is found.

So what’s in a wave anyway? The better question is “WHO’s in your wave?” HE IS! When our eyes are on Him, we will have everything we need to surf the waves that would otherwise break us down. From little ripples to huge surges, He longs for us to stay focused on Him, believing and not doubting, trusting that soon we will see it all from Heaven’s shore.



Lord Jesus, help us to be steadfast when the wind and the waves come to knock us off our feet. Help us, show us how to keep our eyes on You no matter what. Our hope is in You, Jesus. We are so small, and YOU are so big. Keep us ever mindful of your largeness in every sense of the word. Thank you for Your all-consuming love, compassion and faithfulness. 
In Jesus’ name, Amen.


In the Key of HE,

Monday, September 15, 2008

Purity Tested/At the Well

Tracy at Thirsty for Him is the hostess of Joyfully Living's "At the Well" meme this week, and her topic is Purity--being set apart from the world.



I feel led to share a story with the young ladies at the well today...
"Don't let anyone look down on you because you are young,
but set an example for the believers
in speech, in life, in love, in faith and in purity."
1 Timothy 4:12


Tamela hoped she was doing just that: setting an example of her Christian faith through her speech, her life, her faith and her purity. While other seniors were running around drinking alcohol, fooling around with their boyfriends or fighting and gossiping with their friends, she was on the up and up. It had taken her several years, but she finally had a grasp on how to be "in the world" but not "of it" at school.

"
Blessed are the pure in heart," she thought several times a day, "for they will see God." She'd been taught that the way to living a holy life was to keep her heart pure. Her mother had taught her. Her youth leader had taught her. People had come to know this about her.

The evening of the senior prom had arrived, and Tamela knew that it was going to be the night of her life. Eric and she had been dating for six months, and she was crazy about him. He was a perfect gentlemen when he arrived to pick her up, corsage in hand. As he opened the car door for her, he told her how beautiful she looked.

"Thank you, Eric, you're so sweet," she said, cheeks flushed.

After the most romantic and incredible evening she had ever had, and it was much more so than she even could've dreamed, she thanked God in her mind for blessing her with it. "Eric, I'm so thankful God gave you to me. The evening was perfect. Thank you."

"Only the perfect evening for the perfect girl." His eyes melted her heart.

She scooted a little closer to him in the car, grabbed his arm over hers and nestled her head in his shoulder. She dreamed of the fairy tale end at the front door of her house and shut her eyes, completely secure and relaxed. She felt the car turn and then come to a stop.

"What?" Tamela was horrified. "What are you doing here?" She noticed the words "Super 8 Motel" as she looked up in front of her.

"You'll see..." he said and shut the car door.

Her heart was beating out of her chest, and her eyes were burning with fear. "How can a young woman keep her way pure? By living according to Your Word," she recited, gasping for air. "I seek You with all my heart; do not let me stray from Your commands. I have hidden Your Word in my heart, that I might not sin against You."

Peace overcame her. And strength too. Courage turned to action. Tamela opened the car door, walked inside the small, grungy door to the check-in window and said, "May I use your phone please?"

"Wait, Tamela, no, what are you doing?" Eric punched.

"I'm calling my dad to come and get me, that's what."

"Wait, why?" He sighed, handing the key back to the cashier. "Forget it, Tamela, I'll take you home."

"No, I don't trust you now. I told you that I would never be with a guy before I got married. And I've never done anything to lead you to believe otherwise."

The cashier handed her the phone, and then, "Dad? Hi, I'm okay, but um, I need you to come and get me..."

Later that evening, she wrote in her journal through foggy eyes.
"So I guess what it all boils down to in this life is that if you keep your heart pure, then you'll know what to do when that sinful moment comes along. I didn't ask for it, I didn't even hope for it, but the moment came. The secret for being holy starts in my heart, so I always want to keep a clean heart. God help me keep a pure heart."

Then she wrote,
"Flee the evil desires of youth, and pursue righteousness, faith, love and peace, along with those who call on the Lord out of a pure heart. 2 Timothy 2:22" and "Create in me a pure heart, O God, and renew a steadfast spirit within me. Psalm 51:10"

She ended the shoulda-coulda-been perfect night as perfectly as she knew how--on her knees by her bed.


For incredible advice, insight and wisdom on this necessary topic, please visit Tracy's blog. She'll have so much there and more...

In the Key of HE,

Thursday, September 11, 2008

Remember Glory

Her name was Gloria, and she was like no other. As a youth, she was a red-haired, freckled firecracker, those who knew her would say—gorgeous, a total knockout and full of life. Not long after marriage and having her first baby, her whole life was turned tragically upside down because of a missed stoplight. As she drove to pick up some milk from the store, a semi-truck flattened her car, and it is said, that since she wasn’t wearing her seatbelt, she flew into the backseat as a result of the impact. She sustained terrible head and upper body injuries, and her legs were pinned under the driver’s seat. She was pronounced dead at the scene. Unbelievably so, she was revived and rushed to a nearby emergency room in the St. Louis area. After seeing the damage to her brain and internal organs, many predictions were made of her situation---she would not make it through the trauma, and if she did, she would be in a vegetative state, or at the very least severely handicapped with very little use of her legs or arms. So much for predictions.

After being in a coma for three months and in the ICU for months after that--with excruciating determination, intense physical therapy and tremendous prayer and support from family and friends—she re-learned how to crawl and talk, cope and walk. After a few years, she even had a second child—“A Miracle Baby,” the newspaper would call her.

If the story ended there for Gloria, one could read it with a cheerful and inspirational feeling in the heart, but it did not---not by far. Every day was a struggle for her. She fought to the very core of her being to do the things that most of us take for granted. Her voice box had extensive damage, which gave her a low, loud raspy voice that sometimes scared little children and made strangers stare her way. One of her arms was permanently bent, as well as her spine. This crippled her as she walked, and the damage to her legs would make her unsteady on her feet for the rest of her life. She had brain damage, which affected her mental state and her emotional maturity.

Her husband struggled to know and love her in this new way, and alcohol became the crutch that he used for his own handicaps. Drinking exaggerated the demons that already existed inside of him, and he began to abuse Gloria physically and emotionally, as if she wasn’t damaged enough already. After years of living in this oppression, along with some new realizations of the same abuses toward her daughters, she filed for divorce. Now the financial support was gone, too, and she would have to learn to function as a single mother.

As Gloria tried to raise two young children on disability and public aid, her mom, her sisters and her local church helped her to do what was physically needed to get her daughters through school and life in as normal fashion as possible. Even with the extra support, she was plagued with severe headaches, physical pain and emotional insecurity each and every day. She coped as best she could, though, and the same tenaciousness and ornery spirit from her youth remained alive in her to keep her going in spite of it all. Hating to ask for help or charity motivated her to be as independent and “normal” as possible. She would drive her kids to school and extra curricular activities most days (yes, she passed her driving test) and made pot roasts and sheet cakes for her kids and others when they came for a visit. Many times, she would exercise on a stationery bike just to keep in shape and to keep her muscles as strong as possible.

In the small town that she lived, many people enjoyed her sense of humor and her dramatic perspective on life. What made her so interesting was that she lived in the middle of being an adult and being a kid. She could communicate like a grown-up (learned behavior), but she thought and looked at situations more like a nine- or ten-year old would. While this made her fascinating to some, it made her life that much more of a challenge personally. After her car wreck, she lost the ability to cry. She could sob emotionally, but she could not produce actual tears. Imagine being a ten-year-old female, or any aged female for that matter, and not being able to cry. Her mental stability didn’t have a chance!

She spent the rest of her adult years being in and out of the hospital with various illnesses, surviving a series of car accidents, weaving in and out of delusional and paranoid behavior and coping with an empty house when her daughters went off to college. Numerous medications were part of her daily swallowing regimen, each one fixing a different symptom or problem diagnosed by one of her several doctors. Her choice was to live alone and “take care of herself,” and the consequences were incredible loneliness and fear wrapped up with the satisfaction of making it on her own. Her sister Carolyn, her Pastor Steve, and her other sisters and church friends helped make her strong preferences a reality by sacrificially taking care of her needs, while allowing her to maintain her dignity as much as possible. Though her daughters tried to persuade her to live with either of them, she felt comfortable with her life the way it was—no one ever totally understood this about her, but most suspected it was that same strong will and determination that got her through her hardships combined with the security from living life in the routine she had always known.

On September 11th, 2006, Gloria finally lost her fight to keep living after a month of struggling to recover from a colostomy in the ICU. The list of lessons one could learn from her life is long. It is for me.

She was my mother, and I was her miracle baby.


I know the story between the lines of circumstances, and that is what I hold on to in the pockets of my memory. As a child, I saw her as abnormal and somewhat embarrassing. As a young adult, I saw her as an obligation and a nuisance sometimes. Now as her daughter looking back on her life after it is gone----well, I have a whole other perspective.

Somehow the memories of her crinkled up forehead while whining about her pain and discomfort are replaced with the memory of seeing her on her knees praying by her bed at night. The distasteful impression in my senses of her smoking cigarette after cigarette is butted out by the incredible admiration I have for her deciding to quit one day and never smoking again. The recollection of all the embarrassing comments she made along with the neediness that would drain me dry at times are secondary to the example of her sitting at the table reading the wrinkled, coffee-stained pages of her Bible. When I’m tempted to focus on the picture of her fits of paranoia, the Lord is faithful to remind me of the verses of Scripture she quoted during the last days of her life in the ICU. These are just some of the contrasts that have helped me to alter my thoughts and behaviors when my own life story is not so picturesque, and I am changed for the better because of it.

I’ve often wished I could ask God face to face why He allowed my mom to suffer so long, so hard and so deeply, but I know that my futile mind wouldn’t understand even if He told me. I’m thankful for this nugget from 1st Corinthians 1: 27-29 to remind me of what made her life valuable to all who knew her:

“But God chose the foolish things of the world to shame the wise. He chose the weak things of the world to shame the strong. God chose the things of this world that are common and looked down on. He chose what is not considered to be important to do away with what is considered to be important. So no one can brag to God.”

Here are some of the important lessons I learned from reflecting from 36 years of life with her:

I learned that each day is a gift, and I should not take it for granted.
I learned that a childlike sense of humor is useful as a grown-up.
I learned that laughter truly is good medicine.
I learned that I really shouldn’t EVER judge a book by its cover.
I learned that opening & reading my Bible is as necessary as breathing in and out.
I learned that true strength comes from God, and it is magnified when I’m weak.
I learned that having a close friendship with my sister is a priceless treasure.
I learned that I am blessed to have a Godly husband who leads and provides for his family.
I learned that the church and the people in it are the hands and feet of Jesus.
I learned that the “wrecks” in life are inevitable, & I should not give up when they come.
I learned that my aches and pains are never as bad as they could be.
I learned that good discussions can happen over a good cup of coffee.
I learned that the best way to tell others about Jesus is just to do it.
I learned that I can overcome my strongholds if I fight them with Christ’s strength.

Some people say that everything they ever needed to know in life they learned in Kindergarten; however, I know a good number of people who would say that everything important they ever needed to know in life, they learned from the life of Gloria,

my mom—God-strong

now dancing before the Lord in Glory with her new legs on…

Amen.


Mom (far right) had lots of support from her family after her wreck. Her mom (not pictured) and five sisters (two pictured here, Carolyn & Kathy) who spent a great deal of their time helping Mom in various ways. My big sister and I are the two toeheads front row left.


Despite how rough things could be, mom, sis and I would have fun now and then and put on a good show for the rest of the family. Mom had a VERY hilarious side to her and could make even the most stiff person laugh.


My mother never looked more beautiful than she did on my wedding day, and my sister and I chose to bury her in this dress in remembrance.


Mom was so happy when I came home to IL for my 5-year class reunion. Her greatest deterioration in health began after my sister and I left home.


I can't remember what year this was taken, but she had begun to fall a lot more consistently, and the fall here had led her to a wheelchair for a time. And boy, did she HATE it! We had her in Texas and took her to a rodeo and state fair with us, and it was a VERY bumpy ride for her. (She liked the fresh-squeezed lemonade and the funnel cakes, I remember well, however.)


This picture was taken in May of 2002. It is obvious how much she enjoyed my kids...at least when she felt well.



I'll never forget my mom's first visit to see me AFTER she had quit smoking cold turkey. I used to only have visions of her on my patio smoking. After that, she liked to sit out on the patio and watch the kids play in the backyard. I'm so glad I have a picture to remind me of her victory in quitting smoking.


And once again, I'm so very thankful for this picture my sister and I took with mom. It was our last trip together to see her in Illinois before our next visit there to her in the hospital. I can attest to the fact that sis and I are so glad we have that memory with her, and in our childhood home as well.


In the Key of HE,

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

zzzzzzZombie

Have you ever seen a zombie? Well, if not, all you have to do is ride on a long car trip with me. You’ll see one then. One minute I’ll be talking to the driver, the next I’m almost completely unresponsive. It usually doesn’t take too long for Mrs. Zombie to become Mrs. Zzzzzzzzz-ombie. (remember this when I’m the passenger, NOT the driver. Lol)

It makes me sad to think about how many stimulating conversations and interesting landmarks I have missed while in this lifeless state. Being the analyzer that I am, I’ve given some thought to what makes me so sleepy on the highway. I believe it is this: the view of continuous motion and road noise combined with me physically sitting still.

The odd fact, though, is that if the car makes a sudden jolt of any kind—slowing down, jerking to the right or left—it’s as if someone poured a bucket of ice over my head. My heart will pound, and I’m attentive once again to my surroundings.

I’ve noticed the same tendency in my spiritual life. When life is ‘normal,’ and the journey is at a steady pace, I often ‘glaze over’ in my interest to the Lord. I don’t notice the signs and signals He sends my way, I miss the scenery He puts along my path, and I miss out on valuable conversation time with Him.

It only takes a jolt, however—that trial, that problem to solve, that crisis, that word of strife to wake me up and send me to my knees with my heart throbbing out of my chest. All of my spiritual senses are recessitated, and I begin thriving with Him once again.

Doesn’t this happen to all of us sometimes on our faith journeys? Why do we become spiritual zombies—responding only to the pangs of life when they come? Let me suggest to you that, along with other reasons, a good majority of it has to do with the view of continuous motion and noise combined with our spiritually sitting still.

Continuous motion:
Driving to and fro, Shopping here and there, Attending this and that, Volunteering anywhere or everywhere, Serving him or her…all of it has to be done, right?

Continuous noise:
Background music loud and soft, Internet clips funny and moving, Energetic kiddos sassing and singing, TV programs flipping and landing…it’s our present reality.

Of course there’s a time to be still and be silent, but that is a whole other subject. Depending on what season of life you’re in, the degree of motion and noise will vary, but it will be there, none the same.

The problem is when we have all of this around us, then leave Jesus on the shelf of our hearts at the same time.

Even for those of us who read our Bibles, pray, attend church or do ministry--even for us, we can grow robotic about it.

Jesus wants us to take Him everywhere we go. Into each relationship we have. Into our cars. The mall. Our workplace and our churches. He wants us to hear His voice over the sound of music. The entertainment. His still small voice can whisper, and His powerful Word can shout if we don’t make Him the background noise.

So what’s the bottom line? Galatians 5:25—“Since we live by the Spirit, let us keep in step with the Spirit.”
In other words, don’t become spiritual zombies.

I like the way The Message translation puts it as well: “Since this is the kind of life we have chosen, the life of the Spirit, let us make sure that we do not just hold it as an idea in our heads or a sentiment in our hearts, but work out its implications in every detail of our lives."

Yes, Jesus Christ can be Number One in all the slices of our lives, if we choose to submit, serve and savor Him with each and every step. And instead of people getting to see a zombie for the first time, maybe—hopefully—they will see Jesus instead.



In the Key of HE,

Tuesday, September 9, 2008

Purse-uaded

Remember a few weeks ago I told you about how I bribed won a giveaway on another blog. Well, it's here, and I am thrilled. Kim at Homesteader's Heart made me a gorgeous purse. Lemme just tell you, I am IMpressed. And a bonus, her daughter made me some earrings. Aren't they beautiful?







Thank you, Kim, so much! I had already grown to love you as a sister in Christ through reading your blog, but now...now I am completely purse-uaded that you are absolutely the real deal! What a blessing you are, dear one. And I will remember and pray for you and your daughter each and every time I wear them.


To Kim:
Philemon 1:4-7 (The Message)
"Every time your name comes up in my prayers, I say, "Oh, thank you, God!" I keep hearing of the love and faith you have for the Master Jesus, which brims over to other believers. 
And I keep praying that this faith we hold in common keeps showing up in the good things we do, and that people recognize Christ in all of it. 
Friend, you have no idea how good your love makes me feel, doubly so when I see your hospitality to fellow believers."


In the Key of HE,

Monday, September 8, 2008

Sploshy Steps

Kristen over at Exemplify posted her monthly Monday Manna meme today. I couldn't resist this one, because it is part of the melody of my lifesong.

“The grace of our Lord was poured out on me abundantly,
along with the faith and love that are in Christ Jesus.”
1 Timothy 1:14, NIV

I love the way the Message puts it too...
"Grace mixed with faith and love poured over me and into me. And all because of Jesus."

The word that stands out to me is 'poured.' Picture being out on a walk, and all of a sudden, it starts to sprinkle. Random wet dots appear on your head and your clothing. But if it begins to pour, you're drenched all the way through your shoes...every sploshy step leaves the marks of your saturated state.

When I picture the grace of the Lord that way, it humbles me. I'm drenched with it. It has completely poured down and covered my stink. And because of who He is, each step I take leaves marks of His grace. Just as if I were to soak someone else with a big hug after coming out of the rainstorm, so I will drench others with Him as I touch their lives with love. With each trial and struggle I walk through stemming from the faith He's given me, so the faith of others can be strengthened.

He desires us to live this saturated life, and we can do so as we fill up on Him.
John 10:10b
"I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full."


Lord, I can't thank You enough for pouring out your grace, faith and love. Please keep me soaked in it as I walk through this life. Help me not to trust in anything or anyone other than You to provide rich, abundant life. Be my everything, Lord, and may everyone I touch experience more of You as a result. In Jesus' name, Amen.


In the Key of HE,

Sunday, September 7, 2008

A Mother's Testimony At the Well

"Each day of our lives we make deposits
in the memory banks of our children.
~Charles R. Swindoll, The Strong Family

A little girl, asked where her home was,
replied, "where mother is."
~Keith L. Brooks
 
Great quotes. I thought they would be particularly helpful to start the topic brought up by Penny who is hosting us At the Well today. Thanks to Chelsey for continuing to sponsor the At the Well meme each week.

As I thought through Penny's topic of encouraging our daughters, I couldn't help but think back to my own childhood. Especially since my mom passed away two years ago this week (Sept. 11th, 2006).

I regularly feel the void of a mother/daughter relationship from the "daughter" side of things. My mother was physically and mentally disabled, so I wasn't taught many of the domestic lessons that many moms teach their kids. But, praise the Lord, in His infinite grace and goodness, He gave me a mother who depended on Him for her every breath. Her chronic pain and depression could have turned her to many other ways of coping, but instead she chose the way of the cross. And guess what? I now carry that legacy. So does my sister.


This is the last picture my sister and I had with our mom before she passed away.


So my focus of Penny's three questions (which I will list at the end of this post) is her #1 question: "How do you encourage your daughters in relationship with the Lord?

I teach them what I learned from my mama--to depend on the Lord for everything, to love His Word and to love the church. That is the best encouragement I can give them, because all the other stuff I'm sorta wingin' and learning from others as I go along.

I wasn't taught to follow a recipe for a meal, but I was taught to follow THE recipe for living.
I wasn't taught to clean house, but I was taught to live a clean life.
I wasn't taught to iron, but I was taught to take my wrinkled life before the Lord for perfecting.

And I'm overwhelmingly thankful I learned from her that it is in being weak and broken that I can truly be strong, God-strong.

I'm not saying that the teaching of domestic duties should not be emphasized with our daughters...nothing is farther from the truth. The Bible talks about these important qualities in Titus 2 and Proverbs 31. I'm only saying that I'm probably not the source of expertise on them... ;) I'm hoping as I meet other mothers at the well today I will glean wisdom and insight into improving these areas in motherhood. And maybe someone else can glean from mine.

I truly, truly, truly pray that each woman at the well sees my heart on this subject and that my testimony can encourage another mother who thinks that she can't do the parenting thing for whatever reason. Think about it: if you cannot do one other thing, you can show your daughters how much you love and depend on the Lord, how to open their Bibles and live by it, and give them the love and affection that Christ has given you.


Deuteronomy 6:5-9 (NIV)
"Love the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength. These commandments that I give you today are to be upon your hearts. Impress them on your children. Talk about them when you sit at home and when you walk along the road, when you lie down and when you get up. Tie them as symbols on your hands and bind them on your foreheads. Write them on the doorframes of your houses and on your gates."

Would love for you to meet us at the well for discussion today. Here are Penny's questions for discussion. Which one can you tackle?
Discussion Questions:
As mothers we have the ability to shape furture generations through our children. Our daughters are not only ours but first and foremost daughters of HIM. The relationship they have with Jesus will affect all they do, now in our homes and later in their own. Having a married daughter expecting her first child, I have been blessed to see this all come full circle, Well almost, the circle seems to grow bigger all the time. I am really excited about sharing this week :)
#1 How do you encourage your daughters in their relationship with the Lord?
#2 How do you encourage them in areas of domestic service in your home?
#3 How do you encourage them in their future of loving their husbands and their own children, and also being content if marriage isn't in God's plan for them?

What's on your mind when you read these? Pleeeeeeeease take the time to share, and to go and learn from other Godly wise women at Penny Raine's blog. I can't wait!

In the Key of HE,