Saturday, January 1, 2011

It's TIME to Shelter

Ordinary people think merely of spending time. Great people think of using it.

When someone mentions time, everyone within hearing distance usually reaches for their watch or glances at a clock.  For me, when time is mentioned, I think of my Papa; in my mind's photo album, I can still see him standing tall, stately, and handsome...

Papa, my mother's father, had TB and was in a sanatorium five times.  Papa was able to get a 24-hour release to walk my mother down the aisle.  And then, the miracle drug, Streptomycin, was released.  Expected to die, my Papa's TB became inactive, and a sense of normalcy resumed. 

After that, Papa went to watchmakers
school.  He worked in a jewelery store and I loved stopping in to see him when we went to town on Friday nights.  He also kept a drawer full of old clocks and clock parts in his work desk at home that we could play with.  Papa lived to the age of 80, thanks to Waksman and his laboratory discovery of Streptomycin.  So while working on instruments measuring time, God gave Papa more time with us.

For me, time is hard to give to others.  For years I did just fine, loving all the occasions I could share time with others: funeral dinners, hospital visiting, child-sitting, children church teaching -- so many activities I gladly involved myself in. 

However, as I age, I find myself being selfish with my time.  I want to use all my "feel-good" moments for things I want to do.  These usually involve my family and my writing.  I hate to admit this, but I determined from the beginning of this blog that I would be authentic in my writing, showing the ugly with the beautiful.  So I am confessing my selfishness.

Perhaps in my younger days I stayed busy because I was more concerned about "what others think of us" instead of doing what would be more lasting in God's kingdom.  I wanted to please everyone, so instead of seeking God's will for my time, I would say "yes" to anything asked of me.  My responsiveness was well-intended, but one thing I have learned is to ask God's permission first before uttering that yes.  I find out that more and more often God gives permission through my talents.  He created me with talents, and He wishes to love and care for others through them.

God has also been speaking to me more about "time unnoticed."  I am determined in 2011 to take more time for God's Word and prayer, to take more time attentively listening to family and friends, and closing my computer to send cards, encourage and bless the lonely of the church.  I'm not sure all God has planned for my time, but I am willing to follow obediently as He speaks.   Paul tells us,  Be very careful how you live—not as unwise but as wise, taking advantage of every opportunity, because the days are evil.  For this reason do not be foolish, but be wise by understanding what the Lord’s will is (Ephesians 5:15-17). 

So then, whenever we have an opportunity, let us do good to all people, and especially to those who belong to the family of faith (Galatians 5:10).  That's looking at time with a Biblical worldview.  I plan to read these two books:  Hurt Healer: Reaching Out to a Broken World by Tony Nolan and The Dangerous Art of Loving Your Neighbor: Seeing Others through the Eyes of Jesus by Mark Labberton.  I believe when we see clearly the pain of others we will be compelled to give our time to their healing.  There didn't seem to be many books on giving our time to God.  I found many time management books, but it isn't management I need, it's a willingness to manage my moments for God. I would love to hear of books you feel would be a help on this journey of gifted time.
So when "the chimes of time ring out the news another day is through" I want to know I have given God the minutes of my day to be used for His glory.

Friday, December 31, 2010

Sheltering the Sorrowful

When we honestly ask ourselves which person in our lives means the most to us, we often find that it is those who, instead of giving advice, solutions, or cures, have chosen rather to share our pain and touch our wounds with a warm and tender hand.  ~Henri Nouwen

Grief is individual.  No one can go through your grief for you.  However, they can go through the pain with you. 

In the last part of 2010, we lost two people we loved.  In November, Linda Rich, who had battled leukemia for eleven years went to Heaven. Linda was so loved by our church family.  She was an inspiration; each time her leukemia recurred she surrendered sweetly to the will of God. 

We miss Linda, but we grieve with Melinda, her daughter.  They were so close, and Linda's grandchildren were her life.

On the Monday before Christmas we lost our friend and family member, John Cherry.  John was RB's childhood friend.  They played with Matchbox cars under a tree during our church conferences and camps in the summer.  They roomed together at Bible College, were in each other's weddings (John married my cousin), and graduated together. 

At 55, John seemed too young to die.  He had a ministry with internationals and was a great family man.  We ask, "Why?" --  the same question we asked when my brother-in-law went to Heaven two years ago.  Young, a pastor of a thriving church, team teaching with my sister in Marriage Matters Seminars.  Why?  We don't know, but we do know God is good.  He's good when life is cheated.  And God is good when death comes.

I proved that when we lost our daughter, Sarah, in a house fire.  And His people, like the Nouwen quote, "shared our pain and touched our wounds with warm and tender hands."  It was our physical family, our church family, and the family of believers who shared our pain.  Cards and checks filled our mailbox, our phone rang often, and people showed they cared in so many ways:

Daddy and Sarah Janene

Beth wrote, including this song,
  1. Day by day, and with each passing moment,
    Strength I find, to meet my trials here;
    Trusting in my Father’s wise bestowment,
    I’ve no cause for worry or for fear.
    He Whose heart is kind beyond all measure
    Gives unto each day what He deems best—
    Lovingly, its part of pain and pleasure,
    Mingling toil with peace and rest.
  2. Every day, the Lord Himself is near me
    With a special mercy for each hour;
    All my cares He fain would bear, and cheer me,
    He Whose Name is Counselor and Pow’r.
    The protection of His child and treasure
    Is a charge that on Himself He laid;
    “As thy days, thy strength shall be in measure,”
    This the pledge to me He made.
  3. Help me then in every tribulation
    So to trust Thy promises, O Lord,
    That I lose not faith’s sweet consolation
    Offered me within Thy holy Word.
    Help me, Lord, when toil and trouble meeting,
    E’er to take, as from a father’s hand,
    One by one, the days, the moments fleeting,
    Till I reach the promised land.
This song is still special to me.  Others brought clothes and toys for our Melanie, platter after platter of food was delivered, and many cried with us. Vonnie kept track of all the calls, food deliveries and little details so we would know who offered love and concern.  Our best friends took us in until our home could be rebuilt.  It was the little things that "touched our wounds with warm and tender hands."

One of the special acts of love was given to us by our friend Jim.  He took pictures of each memorial floral arrangment.  Quite frankly, I didn't remember many of the flowers.  I remember the local library sent one, and I recall seeing one by Carol and her girls.  With Jim's sweet gift, I was able to see each arrangment.  He ordered double prints (way before digital days) so I could keep one and include the other in my thank-you cards. 

The plants and silk arrangements we were able to take home with us were special and I still use one of them today -- 23 years later.  In light of those, I try to make my gifts of sympathy something that can be cherished -- A silk arrangement in a teapot for a friend who lost her mother, a Bible verse or saying on a wooden plaque or flowers in a special chest that can be used later to store memories.  Be creative.  I've found if you call a Bible Book Store in the town where the funeral home is located, they will deliver something even if it's not a normal service they offer. 

It's sheltering, giving a bit more time, a bit more of our resources, a bit more of our heart.  We can be the one God uses -- to help others feel "Every day the Lord Himself  is near me, with a special mercy for each hour..."

Wednesday, December 29, 2010

2010: Learning Contentment

God is most glorified in us, when we are most satisfied in Him.  ~John Piper

Each year I choose a character trait I'd like to focus on throughout the year.  In January 2010 I chose contentment

discontent [dɪs kənˈtɛnt] n
a. Absence of contentment; dissatisfaction.
b. A restless longing for better circumstances.

I don't think I suffered from paramania -- an abnormal pleasure in complaints...  But it was so easy to let a spirit of discontentment creep in and rob me of the joy of life. 

Dissatisfaction with himself had settled over him …
as congruently as a second skin.
~François Camoin

David wrote in Psalm 132:2, "I've kept my feet on the ground, I've cultivated a quiet heart. Like a baby content in its mother's arms, my soul is a baby
content."  David had "smoothed down the roughness of his self-will" (The Treasury of David).  That was my desire, to smooth some rough edges of my self-will.  One of the byproducts of a discontented life is selfishness.  We want to be better, to have more, to shine brighter than everyone else.  So we are selfish with our compliments, our "things," and even ourselves. 

Unselfishness is hard.  Really hard!  I started whispering to myself, "It's not about me."  I was careful not to use this as an excuse to always say "yes" to the requests of others.  But I learned there were times I could say yes, when selfishly I wanted to say no.

Oh my, was I ever surprised with the results of living a contented life.  Progress came in baby steps -- it took me most of the year to change habits -- but looking back I see the changes         more clearly. 
  • I shopped less and wrote more.
  • When I shopped it was more often for others.
  • I was content staying home.
  • I found ways to create with what I already had.
  • I learned to share more freely.
But it really wasn't just material things in which I found contentment.  I found contentment in myself.  I think there comes a time when we need to be content with ourselves.  That doesn't mean we don't continue to learn and stretch our visions.  For me, it meant accepting my quest for truth and knowledge.  I've always felt like I was a strange breed -- I'm not satisfied to ponder and discuss surface topics.   For so many years I squashed that part of me and tried to be content with those friends who indulged or encouraged me to speak my mind.  I needed to be content with how God made me.  It was funny.  When I surrendered the discontent, God put so many people in my path who loved to ponder, discuss, and delight in more serious subjects. 

I found contentment in my hopes and dreams.  There are goals I have set for myself: inward goals, writing dreams.  I work on being content where I am right now.  Patience doesn't show up on my list of character traits.  I want to see accomplishments NOW.  I try to celebrate small victories, changes of habit, and advances in discipline.

This blog is about sheltering.  In  trying to be the best woman I can be in Christ, I am not only sheltering myself, but I am able to shelter others in a greater way.  Matthew, tax-collector-turned-apostle shared,

"You're blessed when you're content with just who you are -- no more, no less.
That's the moment you find yourselves proud owners of everything that can't be bought."

That's me, a little more contented...with who I am in Christ.  A proud owner of everything that can't be bought.

Jesus, You're the center of my joy,
all that's good and perfect comes from You.
You're the heart of my contentment, hope for all I do;
Jesus, You're the center of my joy.
~Richard Smallwood~

Sunday, December 26, 2010

Snippets from our Christmas

We had such a merry Christmas.  We were blessed to have my parents here for the festivities.  Here's a few snippets from the last few days.

Auntie and the Grands x 3

Ethan, 6

Landon, 4

Morgan, 2

Shawn, Melanie and #4

The Tradition of Books for Gifts
Grandma Cessna and Emily

And now I leave you with another Cessna tradition:  Granddad reading to the littles. 
This year it was Morgan's turn.

And through it all the blessing of the birth of our Saviour rang clear in our conversation, our thoughts and our joy.