Thursday, March 26, 2015

Clothed in Blessings

Don't stay in the dark and count your woes. Step into the light and count your blessings. ~Sandra Kring

From a very young age we focus on fashion. One year we are wearing navy and a few years later even navy shoes are impossible to find. If you are following the 2015 spring trends you'll see that Gingham is the new black, comfortable flats and sneakers are in -- big, bold modern florals are, too. Suede, white, and even fringe seem to be picks for this spring.

My mother taught us to build our wardrobe with classics and add one or two trending accessories or garments for each season. But if you know me, you'll know I'm not writing a fashion piece. I just want to let you know what I'm wearing this spring.

I'm wearing blessings as my garment of choice for spring. The Psalmist told God, "Your blessing clothes your people!" Here's the list of garments I'm adding to my blessing wardrobe. 

The first frock is the yellow of the sun. Those of us who survived a teeth-chattering winter know what a blessing the sunshine will be.

I love color, and it didn't take me long to decide on the popular kimono trench-coat featured in rainbow stripes of God's promises.

It's often as hard to find modest apparel (What? Cropped tops are back in?), but I've chosen a black and white checked 1950s style shirt-waisted dress of affliction. It was good for me to be afflicted so that I might learn your decrees (Psalm 119:71) Sometimes it's hard to choose affliction, but admittedly we do learn more about our God in the hard times.

As I age, I reach for my flats much more often than heels. Just as we're most comfortable in flats, we can also be most comfortable with the fellowship of close family and friends. They don't care which shoes we are wearing -- what a blessing to be around them! I did choose coral shoes just to feed my love of color. (Yes, I know, last year's color -- S.A.L.E.)

I was surprised to find white -- all white -- on the fashion trends. But it is a color I find in my blessing closet. The blessing of salvation -- whiter than snow blessings!

My floral scarves remind me of the blessings of creation, and my happy yellow bag represents the blessing of joy.

Clothed with blessings -- that's the fashion I like to wear. I don't criticize your wardrobe (even those white shoes you wear before Easter...) and I hope you'll see that, while your blessing wardrobe may have different hues than mine, they were given to you by God. Wear them proudly!

Friday, March 20, 2015

What's In Your Cup?

I have especially learned gratitude for all those moments when the unexpected has transformed my life into an abundant cup of blessings. ~Joyce Rupp

My mother’s files and notebooks hold a wealth of spiritual lessons. The inspiration for this post was found among them.

We cup our hands around the thin china, heat seeping through to warm our hands. This daily rhythm around the world connects us in a way coffee never can. Over the amber hue of black tea, the mellow flavor of green tea, or the more expensive white tea of Asia, friendships are formed or grown. Around the world, 38 billion cups of tea are consumed every day.


Despite the comment above about coffee, 400 million cups of the dark liquid warm us and awaken us each day. Add to that hot cider and hot chocolate, we are a cuppa world.

We sip tea from fragile china or curl our hands around thick pottery brimming with coffee. There are Biblical cups in Scripture, too. Cups filled, not with coffee or tea, but with kindness, blessings, and even sorrow. 

1. Cup of Blessings

The Psalmist, once a lowly shepherd boy, likens the Lord to a shepherd. He writes how God supplies his needs, how He leads, restores, and anoints. By the time David compiled the blessings of the Shepherd, he was blessed beyond measure, writing, My cup runs over (Psalm 23). Someone said, “It’s not joy that makes us grateful, it’s gratitude that makes us joyful.” Write a list of your blessings and your cup will run over.

2. Cup of Kindness

Jesus taught, If you give a cup of cold water to the least of my followers, you will surely be rewarded (Matthew 10:42). Kindness doesn’t need to be a large act, just a simple kindness, a cup of water or a gift card for the coffee shop, a smile or quick hug, an hour of childcare or a plate of cookies. Jesus tells us, When you do it to these my brothers, you are doing it to me (Matthew 25:40).

3. Cup of Sorrow and Suffering

This cup is harder to swallow. Jeremiah said, He has…given me a cup of deepest sorrow to drink (Lamentations 3:15). Jesus, too, talks about His cup of suffering: If it be possible, let this cup pass from me; nevertheless, not as I will, but as thou wilt (Matthew 26:39).

4. The Dirty Cup

But the Lord said to him, “Now you Pharisees clean the outside of the cup and of the platter; but inside of you, you are full of robbery and wickedness” (Luke 11:39). What would our cups look like if we just cleaned the outside but left the ring of tea on the inside? Are we guilty of dressing up in our religious garb, yet leaving anger, unforgiveness, immorality, etc., in our hearts?

What’s in your cup today?

Thursday, March 12, 2015

Preparing for Her Bridegroom

Waiting...patiently vigilant. Calmly expectant. Eyes open. Arms extended...hoping the face appears today. Max Lucado 

She wanted to get married there, but the campus prayer chapel held only thirty-five. It wouldn't work for the wedding, but was perfect for her bridegroom's first-look. Emily's morning was spent in preparation -- hair and make-up, donning her tailored dress which proclaimed purity, and making her way to the chapel to wait for her bridegroom.

Husband and Wife Photos

It reminds me of another bridegroom, another group of virgins -- five prepared, five foolish -- who were unprepared. I sit here wondering, Have I made the proper preparation? Here are five ways to know if you are ready for Jesus, our bridegroom, to come for us.

Husband and Wife Photos

1. Invite Jesus into your life. If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness (I John 1:9).

Just as Jonathon declared he'd wait forever if needed for Emily to agree to date him, Jesus is always wooing us. Jonathon waited five years for that first date. Jesus constantly waits for us to make Him our bridegroom.

Husband and Wife Photos

2. Spend time with Jesus.

During their 3 1/2 year romance, Jonathon and Emily stole every chance to be together. They thought about each other when they were apart, and kept their phones hot in between times. So we must read about Jesus in God's Word, talk with Him in prayer, and meditate on Him throughout our day.

Husband and Wife Photos

3. Keep love burning bright.

Emily wrote Jonathon notes and made his favorite peanut butter cookies. He brought her Starbucks and patiently posed for pictures. We keep our love for Jesus alive by putting Him first, serving Him in little ways -- visiting an elderly saint, taking a casserole to a new mother, sending a card to the hurting, or taking a small gift to a friend "just because."

4. Love who He loves.

Emily embraced not only Jonathon's parents, but also his brothers, friends and extended family. We must love those who Jesus loved, regardless of their place in life -- children, broken people, even those prickly humans who might be hard to love.

Husband and Wife Photos

5. Grow in Grace.

RB's example of love towards me helped Jonathon see the importance of respect in marriage. He acknowledged how much he grew just by observing. So we, studying the examples of Jesus, should become more and more like Him. Our attitudes, the words we speak, and the meditations of our heart should continue to change through the fruit of the Spirit (kindness, meekness, love, self-control, etc, Galatians 5:22-23).

I want my eagerness for the Bridegroom’s arrival to rise to the same level as that of my baby Emily’s as she awaited the occasion to join her beloved. Are you preparing?

Saturday, March 7, 2015

Shards for Grace

God answers the mess of life with one word–grace. ~Max Lucado

Glass shards all over the cabinet, in my drink, and on the floor. I was putting dishes away when a bowl slipped, hitting another bowl and plate, breaking all three. A huge mess. What did I do? I left it. Yep, all those hundreds of pieces stayed right on my counter and floor, glistening with glee, until RB came home from teaching. I did warn him by phone that a mess awaited his return.

While RB willingly cleans up my messes, sometimes our messes are far beyond any human clean-up projects. Broken relationships, financial chaos, addictions, dream deaths – and the list goes on. Often these messes are not even of our making. We sit there in the slicing shards of our life, feeling each drop of blood hit our soul. We’re sad, angry, and sometimes bitter. How could life get so mixed up – so messy? We try to pick up the pieces, but each one cuts our fingers, the blood turns to darkness and slowly shrouds us completely.

There’s only one who can enter the shards, lift us out, and clean up our mess. Only one who will brush the glass dust from our soul. Only one can, and He offers grace. We cannot see with our eyes this Glass-Cleaner, but our soul can feel the exchange -- shards for grace. The wounds may not go away, but our mess-cleaner, our grace-giver, our Heavenly Father, gives grace, restores our spirit, and gently makes something beautiful with the seemingly useless shattered pieces. Oh, we may see the fissures, but God can use all things to work together for good to those who love God (Romans 8:28). He uses broken lives!

Here are three ways to rest in God after He heals our messes.

1. Don’t Look Back

We may never forget the mess, but we don’t have to dwell on it, regret it, or go back and wallow in the shards. Like Paul, we can forget the past and look forward to what lies ahead (Philippians 3:13).

2. Visit the Mess-Cleaner Daily

To keep strong, we must remain in the Word and talk to God daily, always offering praise to God as our sacrifice through Jesus, which is the offering presented by lips that confess him as Lord (Hebrews 13:15).

3. Use your Mess

Many around us are bandaged messes, wrapped over and over to keep the hurt from seeping through. Sharing how God healed your mess will help them see your humanness. It’s not always easy, but go, and (God) will be with your mouth and teach you what you shall speak (Exodus 4:12).

Give me Grace

Sandra Heska King - Still Saturday

Wednesday, March 4, 2015

The "In Valid" Woman

You are valuable just because you exist. Not because of what you do, or what you have done, but simply because you are. Max Lucado.

It's a close companion. I take it everywhere. On those times I forget it at home, I am invariably sorry. When it's in the hands of Landon, he'll ask, "What's your password, Mamaw?" When little Camron has it, I find new games -- free or purchased -- on it. I, myself, have purchased books upon books to feed it. I love touching a word and finding its definition. I love carrying hundreds of books in my purse. But hearing the resident Kindle female reader -- sometimes not so much.

The book I'm reading now is centered around an invalid. And hearing chapter after chapter with the dear woman proclaimed as "in valid" almost makes me feel like she isn't important.  It was last night as I listened I realized why it frustrated me so much -- too many woman hear in valid through the earphones of life. Women who turn their house into a home, women who raise their children to love God, women who re-enter the work field to provide for their children, or women who work behind the scene in ministry. 

We all experience different circumstances. Some of us are single mothers, some are empty nesters, and still others are defined by our careers. When a divorce requires us to leave our children at a daycare, we hear the in-valid words from those who believe a stay-at-home mother is best. When we are a stay-at-home mother we hear the domestic engineer career sneered upon. When our faith career of mentor, choir member, mail encourager, right-to-life center volunteer, or the beautiful gift of hospitality, is disparaged upon, we see the in-valid word stamped on our forehead again.

But we are not in-valid! We are not unworthy! Wherever we are in life, God gives us validity. It takes courage to sample these words, to internalize their truths.  To truly believe that in this time, in this life you have, you are doing your best. To truly believe that in the ministry God has placed you, you are giving it your all.

We many never speak to hundreds. We may never write a best-selling book. We may never be awarded  mother-of-the-year. But if we are doing our best, in accordance with God’s will, where we are, we are valid! We are worthy! Claim those words. Write them on your heart and on the mirrors of your home. Think of them on those days when life is hard and you wonder if your life has purpose. My Kindle may declare you as in-valid, your critics may sneer and count you as unworthy. But God, your Heavenly Father, knows you are valid -- and He calls you His!   

Linked to: 

Sunday, March 1, 2015

My Goodly Heritage

It was on the news last night. Breaking news without many facts. Breaking news that made my heart drop like a cake baking in the oven when someone jumps in the kitchen. I caught the scattered words -- rescuing them from a burning fire – baby, fire, died. I tried to let go as they scorched my heart. The twenty-seven years sifted away like ashes, and once again I was transported back to another baby, another fire, another death.

In present tense, I look to the chair beside me to see if my husband heard, but he’s sleeping gently, tired from the weekend’s illness and day’s meetings. Later, lying in bed, his body curved into mine like the commas he adds to everything I write, I try to say the words, but they hide in the darkness, crouched in the shadows hard and unyielding. I fall asleep with images of that day in 1987 dancing around in my memory, poking my heart with hot coals.

It is morning, with the light beginning to filter through the draperies, that I share the words. Not in loud, clanging words, but in whispered grief, barely pushing them out, yet needing the comfort that can only come from a sharing of sorrow.

Later, when the bed was made, the suitcase half filled with overnight necessities, and my tea iced beside me, this man I love shared the morning news with more words -- five-month-old, smoke-inhalation, fire fighters. I spoke words that only the man who loves me deeply, who has held me in grief, who has counted every birthday from 1-28, could interpret. I-don’t-want-to-hear-it words. Words not whipping through the air like childhood kites in the wind, but words just loud enough to cross the room and land like daggers in my heart.

Later, it was my oh-so-handsome daddy grieving the loss of his two-months-shy-of-sixty-years wife who helped me stop the tapes in my head. “I can think about it for a while, then I just have to stop,” he told me. My daddy, my hero, once again my teacher. Me, with 57 years of living and learning, realizing again just how much I still lean on  his 79 years of life education. I remember the movie films of my chubby, red-cheeked self, apron  tied around my three-year-middle, dimpled hands patting my taffy, while Daddy showed me how to pull and pull until it was just right. I remember standing on the street corner of downtown Indiana, Pennsylvania, Daddy with his white bag filled with licorice babies or chocolate covered peanuts saying, “Come on, Pammy, if you stick your nose out, they’ll stop for you.” And they did, as I skipped across the street to keep up with my father’s long strides. We’d wait for my follow-the-rules, always-a-lady mother until the buzzer sounded and the walk sign blinked. He taught me to give without a “now what can you do for me?” attitude, to honor parents and respect elders.

When the sting of the daggers subsided, I stood by the sink and thought about my daddy. I found myself taking the remaining ashes of sadness and offering them to God as an offering of thanksgiving that in those ten-years-ago days, interrupted with yellow-tinged and liver-cancer verdicts and 5% chances of life, that my daddy is still here. I followed his example and “stopped thinking about it.” I focused on thanking my Heavenly Father for my earthly daddy. I have a good heritage. And I’m thankful.

Tuesday, February 24, 2015

Ramblings and March's Free Printable

Ah, March! We know thou art kind-hearted, in spite of ugly looks and threats, and out of sight, art nursing April's violets!  ~Helen Hunt Jackson

March is just around the corner. Does it seem unbelievable that two months of 2015 have almost disappeared?  I admit, with negative 20-degree wind chills, March 20th can't come too soon for me.

It's usually the bright and cheerful daffodils that herald Spring. I find my spirits lifting when I spy the first one trumpet its way through the soil. 

Sue's Valentine's Day Dinner Carrots

How are you doing on your One Word? The worksheet is helping me stay focused.  I hope it's worked for you, too. The March worksheet is linked so you can start planning.

March Worksheet

One goal a friend and I are working towards is to read the Gospels in forty days. It's not difficult (only 2-3 chapters a day), and I've enjoyed our discussions and translation comparisons. Sue found the plan on Margaret Feinberg's website.

Imagine spending the next 40 days drinking in the teachings of Jesus, watching his jaw-dropping miracles unfold, and falling more in love with God with each turning page. ~Margaret Feinberg

Thank you all for patience as I dig out from winter's chill and spring my way back to blogging.