Monday, November 29, 2010

Second Annual -- Change 4 Change 4 Jesus

It’s official – we are calling Change 4 Change 4 Jesus a Christmas tradition at our home and the second episode in what we hope to be a long running series took place last night.

Just like last year (click here to read the story of how I came up with the idea), I announced “On your mark! Get set! Go!” and the children took off to all corners of the house. They did not leave a potential hiding place of change undisturbed – my purse, their banks, the car, between couch cushions, in coat pockets, the junk drawer, dad’s dresser, and more. 
The pile of metal gradually grew on the family room floor and then the counting began.  Quarters, nickels, dimes and pennies were sorted, grouped and added up, for a grand total of $59.32.

Although excitement abounded, a faint whisper of disappointment rustled through all of our hearts. Last year  we found an amount much greater than we imagined – the fact that we had all the change from our garage sale, helped a lot, not to mention, that we had never done this before.  It’s not that nearly $60 was not a lot, it’s just that …
And then we talked about how the dollar amount is not important to the Lord, our offering it up to Him – to help His loved ones – is what is important. He would take care of multiplying it, as we placed it in to His hands.  He often uses little things for great purposes. He’s known for doing amazing things!
In addition, unlike last year when we decided to share the money with a sweet local family in need and with Gospel for Asia buying chickens,  this year we did not come up with a firm decision on what the Lord was asking of us.  We all remained relatively silent on who should be the recipient.  All that we could agree on was that it should be someone local – an individual or a family – not an organization.  But, whom should we choose?
This is where we sit currently, a bag full of change and a desire to share it with someone in need.  We agreed to pray about it and listen intently to the needs around us, as we go about our daily activities.  One thing is for certain, the Lord knows who the right person is and He will show us as we continue to seek Him. Perhaps there will be a good lesson in this, too.
Our family would like to extend to your family the Change 4 Change 4 Jesus challenge – a Christmas tradition for a change.  And we’d love to hear from you as to what you did and how you shared your gift – the gift that God gave through you.
Enjoy, my dear readers. It is a precious memory, with a beautiful purpose – sharing the love of Jesus.

PS -- Feel free to share in the comment section below any ideas you may have on who you would like to see helped during this Christmas season.

Saturday, November 27, 2010

A Trip to the Dentist -- A Lesson on Love

I heard her cry from the other room. Like a mother lion knows her cub, I knew the pitch and the tone of her voice.  I dropped everything and ran to the front desk at the dentist’s office.
“Excuse me, but I hear my daughter crying in the back. I’d like to go back and see her.”
I quickly walked to the exam room where my daughter was having her mouth “numbed up” in order to have two baby teeth pulled. Reassuring her as I slid between the counter and the chair where she reclined, I whispered, “Honey, I am right here.  Try and take deep breaths.  I’ll hold your hands. I know that it hurts. I’m so sorry. It will be over soon.”
The dentist tried to sooth her with the fact that the shots were the worst part. I tried to reassure her that although painful, this was in her best interest to have her two little teeth removed. They were inhibiting the growth of her new teeth. They needed to be extracted so that her adult teeth could move in to the right position.
At the moment, it didn’t matter to her. The pain of the small needle pricks was difficult for her to handle.  Tears ran down her face as she squeezed my hand.  Slowly, the Novocain began to work and the pain subsided. The grip of her hands relaxed and her crying slowed.
It was so hard for me to sit there and watch her sweet little face endure pain that I knew was necessary but none the less, painful.  My heart thickened with sorrow as she squeezed my hands and I heard her moans of discomfort.  My mouth even began to hurt. I, too, had struggled with having dental work performed and acutely remembered the fear and the pain (click here for story).
And as I shed tears and felt sick to my stomach at the sight of her pain – pain that was difficult but necessary -- I remembered Jesus. OH, how He hurts for us, too, as He watches us endure through physical and emotional trials and suffering. He weeps for us. He knows the pain of our pains.  He is a man acquainted with our sorrows, and He loves us deeply.
Before I knew it (and before she did too, but not without a few more tears from fear) my daughter was out of the chair and we were on our way home.  The skip in her step is back, and she is healing quickly. 
Later, my dear daughter said, “Thanks, Mom, for holding my hand. It made me feel safe.”  I knew how she felt, as I have held the Hand of One who has comforted me in all of my pains.
Dear reader, are you hurting today?  Cry out to the Lord and He will answer you.  “For the Lord comforts his people and will have compassion on His afflicted ones” (Isaiah 29:13).  He is present in your pain, holding your hand, covering you with His love. He sees your tears. You can feel safe with Him, trusting that what we are asked to endure is for our good, for we can be confident that in all things (not some) God works for the good of those who love Him, who have been called according to His purpose (Romans 8:28).

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Trying to be Thankful for the Thorns

In addition to thanking the Lord for the blessings this Thanksgiving I am convicted to try and be thankful for the thorns.


I was reading about Paul’s thorn last night, and I was struck by this --Paul said, “…to keep me from exalting myself, there was given to me a thorn in the flesh” 2 Corinthians 12:7.
God gave Paul a thorn. We don’t know what it is. Speculations range from an illness to a temptation to persecutions and an abundance of other ideas.  No one really knows, but Paul knew, and he asked the Lord to remove it 3 times.  However, God said, “No.”
But He just didn’t say “No,” (and He doesn’t just say "No" in our lives as well), He went on to say, “My grace is sufficient for you, for power is perfected in weakness.”  God’s answer to Paul’s request was His grace.
I don’t know for sure but I bet you have at least one if not a few thorns in your side. I do. Uninvited trials that inflict, infest and infect our lives with pain and discomfort.  Chronic issues that do not resolve – sorrows, physical pains, relationships with intractable people, disappointments, inner battles, temptations, insecurities and more.
These things that never seem to totally go away, prick and swell and get inflamed, but they are left there for a purpose, and often it is hard to understand. The answers to our hopes and prayers are not always what we hope and pray for.  God has other ideas – but they are good ideas.  Very good, for they are for our good and for His glory.
This Thanksgiving I’m thankful for all the blessings that God has given me, but I am also trying to be thankful for the thorns. I’ve stuffed the reality of my thorns for far too long, and over time, they just end up poking through and causing more problems.  I am going to choose to embrace the reality of my thorns, as a gift from God.
They keep me from exalting myself. They keep my humble.  They keep me on my knees. They keep me aware of my need of Him. They keep me sensitive to the needs of others, for as I embrace the reality of my own brokenness and the presence of God’s grace, the more I am willing to extend His grace.  They are one of the instruments that God uses to make us more like Jesus.
Is it hard for you to be thankful for the thorns? It is for me, but I am trying.  May I pray for us?
Dear Lord, Thank You for loving us enough to protect us from ourselves.  Our tendencies are to exalt ourselves and our abilities when we are to only exalt You. We want only happiness when You want so much more for us. Thank You for all that You give us, even the thorns.  Help us to realize the work that they do in our lives, through Your plan, and help us to extend grace to others, not always knowing what thorns they are dealing with.  Thank You for all You do and are.  Amen.

Blessed Thanksgiving, dear reader.

Monday, November 22, 2010

Celebrating a Legacy of Love

It was a lovely, tender moment in a most unusual way.
I sat cross legged on the floor facing my friend Mary, who sat on the couch across from me. We were planning her funeral.  Dressed in a cream colored sweater and a beige skirt, her gray hear framed her round, bright face.  Both hands  -- the hands of an artist -- with fingers fine and graceful, rested in her lap, occasionally lifted to add personality and detail to the stories that she shared. Antique furniture, framed photos and paintings she painted over the years surrounded us. Her worn bible rested next to her.
A brown cardboard box filled with memories – old photographs, baby books, newspaper articles --  sat next to me on the floor.   Over the next two hours, we wandered down memory lane. I pulled out pictures along the way, and Mary remembered and shared the stories.
There were stories of when she was a baby snuggling next to her mother, kissing her father goodbye on his way to work, and playing with a friend.  Stories of when she was a young woman, with dances and dreams and going to college. Stories of her husband, when they met, their wedding  day and memories of their 50 years together before he went home to be with the Lord two years ago.  She relived memories of Christmas dolls, times at the University of Iowa, a trip to Scotland as part of the Scottish Highlanders, the birth of her children and the tragic death of both of them – her son in an auto accident at the age of four months when she was also seriously injured, and the death of her daughter near the age of 30 from cancer. 
She shared memories of the life the Lord gave her full of love, hopes, joys and tragedies. And despite the great amount of pain that she has endured, she continues to point to the One whose grace has sustained her and whose love has changed her.
Widowed and without any living children, Mary’s desired is to have things organized and ready for the day when the Lord calls her home.  I collected the photos and the descriptions  to put on a CD, we looked at her handwritten obituary for me to type, we talked about the songs that she wanted sung and the scripture verses she loved and we laughed and cried. 
When we set out to sort through the box our goal was to plan her funeral, but it was so much more than that, and we soon realized that we were planning a celebration. 
A life well lived and one she is still living.  It was sweet to share in her life today.  I left thinking about life and love and the Lord – it’s late at night now, and I still am.  I was blessed today, celebrating Mary and celebrating the Lord.  
Thank you, Mary. Your legacy of love and faith in the Lord Jesus lives on in the people’s lives you touch.  It is a lovely legacy.  I love you, and because of you, I love the Lord more, too.

Friday, November 19, 2010

Entangled by Comparison

Recently, a friend shared with me something about what the Lord is teaching her. It really made me think.   I asked her to write her story to me. I wanted to place her name on it, but she refused, saying "Please leave my name out. I would love the credit way too much and I would rather have the Lord get the credit."  She is sweet, humble and wise, and this is what she said …
 _______________
Why as a Christian do I seem to be convicted to do or not do things that others don’t seem to be convicted about? It really bothers me, and sometimes I get really mad.  I find myself asking the Lord, “Lord, why am I convicted so fast, but she’s not? Why do I have to tithe and she doesn’t?” Over and over again, I wonder "why this" and "how come that" about what I should be doing and what others are not. 
I shared this with a friend and she suggested that I ask the Lord to show me.  I did.  And He did.
Hebrews 12: 1b – 2a says, “…let us also lay aside every encumbrance and the sin which so easily entangles us and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, fixing our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of faith ….”
There it was – plain and simple – sin.  It’s my sin of comparison that so easily entangles me.  Before I know it, I’m tripping on the tangled mess, preventing me from running the race that is set before me.  I look around at what everyone else is doing (or not doing) and I get all messed up.  It’s not about their race. It’s about my race. It’s about my keeping my eyes focused on Jesus, and not about me comparing myself to others.
If I can remember this in this race called life, I hope and pray that I will be able to finish well and eventually hear “well done” from the One who will be waiting at my finish line.
_______________
Thank you, dear friend, for reminding me of the dangers of comparison. It is so easy for us to look over our shoulders and feel too good about ourselves as we run ahead or look forward at who is in front of us and get discouraged.  The Lord has us where He knows it is best for us -- right now -- at this mile marker of the race. Keep on running well.  He has great plans for you!

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

In Memory of My Aunt

I loved her from the very first time I met her. I was nine years old; she was only ten years older than me. It was Thanksgiving. She came with my uncle to my grandma’s house. I thought she was beautiful. She was one of the kindest people that I ever met. Her smile was deep and broad. Her heart was even more so. 
My memories of her are scattered, but the ones I have are all very special to me. We never lived near each other. When I was little we would spend some holidays together. I loved being in her home. It was warm and safe. As I got older we would talk on the phone from time to time, and she would come to visit me when I would have a new baby or just “because.”  Over the past years, we did not see each other as much. I was washed over with the details and busyness of being a mom of five young children.  She battled cancer.
Yesterday, my sweet Aunt completed her time on earth and went to be with the Lord.  Today, I am grieving. I miss her. I miss the way she loved me. I miss just knowing that she loved me, even when we did not see each other for years.  I miss the way she said my name. I miss the way that I was able to watch her mother her own children, and I miss the opportunity of learning from her about parenting and about life.
I tried to tell her how much she meant to me, but I feel as if I fell short.  How could she know how many time I watched her love her children?  How I saw her selflessly meet their needs and joyfully fulfill many of their wants?  How I saw her rejoice in whom they were – not expecting from them anything other than who they were? How I watched her love my uncle?  I miss the way that she laughed and the way that she laughed at herself. She was a bringer of joy wherever she went. She was more than a ton of fun. 
She added fullness to my life. I can’t explain exactly how, but she did.  I am thankful that she is at peace and that she is whole. Cancer no longer ravages through her body, however, I feel a deep emptiness of missing her.  She was wonderful.
As I think about her today, I think I know what she would say to me, “Love your family, Andrea. Laugh.  Times will be tough, but enjoy the people and life that God gave you.   It’s all a gift.”
I always loved her. I still do. I know that she loved me, too.

Monday, November 15, 2010

In the Grip of the Potter

Pressed in upon. Squeezed.  Overwhelmed. So much to do – so much to be.  I went over my mental checklist of things that I needed to do, from e-mails to lessons and housework to phone calls. My mind was spinning. Oh! So much, and then I felt the nudge of God.
“Look upward, dear child. It is Me. You are not squeezed in by your circumstances, by the needs of the day or your concerns for tomorrow, what you are feeling is Me. I am holding you tightly. I am molding you and shaping you.”
Was it His grip I was feeling?  Or the grip of the world squeezing the life out of me?  Could it be Him?  Dare I believe?
I have a choice. I could choose to feel imprisoned by my long list of things to do and my fears and my worries or I could choose to believe that He is the one who is holding me tight.  The Potter is holding my heart and my life like clay, in His tender, gentle, loving grip. He takes me, and knowing what is best, embraces me, molds me, and shapes me. He knows where to push to make me in to the vessel for His use for this day, and for all the days to come.
He knows what is necessary for me today. He knows what I need for tomorrow. He knows the plans He has for me. He is the perfect Potter.
“Will it hurt?” I wonder.  “Please don’t push too hard. Please don’t stretch me too thin. But please don’t let me go,” I call out to Him. I am guarded. I am scared.
I brace myself, and stiffen up, fearful that it is going to hurt.  I just want to be comforted.  I fear pain in the process, but I know that if I am to be for the display of His splendor, that I must also be willing to trust His hand, for there is  where growth and beauty will be found.
Oh, Lord. I don’t know what today holds, or tomorrow, but You do.  You hold me, You mold me. You shape me, You make me. I am clay in Your hands that You have chosen for Your purposes  I am choosing to trust my life in this day to Your firm, gentle, loving touch, and although it feels as if I am spinning round and round, I know that I am in Your grip, turning on the wheel that is powered by Your love, in order to make me who You desire for me to be. And I am loved.

Friday, November 12, 2010

The Roundabouts of Life

We are experiencing an outbreak of roundabouts in our area.  They are popping up at intersections here and there, like chicken pox on a child – and they can be perplexing.
My friend Susie and I were talking about these crazy circles this week, and she shared a story with me.
The father of her friend was driving along with her friend in the car.  They approached a roundabout and he, not aware of the crazy (but beneficial) concept of the roundabout, made an immediate left turn, heading the wrong way.
“Dad!  Watch out! You are supposed to go right and then turn off on the street that you need, once you come around to it.”
“What do you mean?” the older gentleman said, a bit confused and fed up, “Why in the world would I have to go right if I want to go left?”
I can relate to that at roundabouts (they are tricky!)  and I can relate on the roundabouts of life.
“Why in the world would I have to go right if I want to go left?”  Would you agree? 
Sometimes, it’s hard to understand why we have to go one way in order to get to the opposite direction. The path most obvious to me usually makes sense. I can see where I want to go, why not just go there? 
The problem is – I’m not the only one on the road. If I choose to go my way – instead of the Right way – I am likely to put myself in danger, my passengers in danger, and the other people around me in danger.  When we turn one way – opposite of the way God is calling – well, an accident is inevitable.  Going God’s way is the only way.
He has His reasons. Sometimes, we catch a glimpse.  Most times, we scratch our heads and wonder what in the world He’s up to. I think He’s OK with that.  It pushes us to ask questions about Him – to Him – and He’s all about having a relationship with us.
So, next time I am thinking I should be there and God turns me in the other direction, I’m going to go with God. He knows the right way for me. He knows what I need to see or hear or learn along the circular route that He takes me.  He knows what is best for those on board with me and those on the road with me. His timing is perfect, and His path is perfect, too.  One thing I know for sure -- He’ll keep me going in the right direction.
In retrospect, there are lots of times, indeed, when I thought I knew what was best, but God DID know what was best, and I'm so thankful for that.  What about you?
Can you remember a time when you wanted to go left, but God took you right first? Can you see His hand in it?

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

A Bad Case of the "I am nots ..." (or is that Good?)

I gotta tell you, I started out the day with a long list of the “I am nots …”
I am not going to get everything done. I am not going to get to the store. I am not equipped for this job.  I am not going to get through this pile of paperwork. I am not going to get a chance to write a post. I am not going to make it … I am not. I am not. I am not.
And then I remembered a book that I recently read (and I am highly recommending it to you) – “I am not but I know I AM” by Louie Giglio.  Listen to that again. “I am not but I know I AM.” 
This is a great read.   Great points to ponder. Great truths to bask in.  In brief, the book is about embracing (and I don’t want to ruin it for you – you really should read it) God – the great I AM – who He is and who we are (and are not) in light of Who He is.
To give you a glimpse, the back cover reads, “I am not but God knows my name. I am not but He has pursued me in His love. I am not but I know the Creator of the universe. I am not but I have been invited into His story. I am not but I know I AM.”
As I page through the book this morning, reflecting on the truth and sweet relief that I do not have to worry about all that I am not, because I know I AM – and He is all I need – I am drawn to a couple of things I underscored when I read this book before.
·         “Everything does not hinge on me.  If I stop doing my part, the whole world will not fall apart.  I am not in control.  God made the made the world in six days without any input from me, or my assistance. God doesn’t need me to accomplish His work. I am little. God is huge. I trust Him.”
·         “The story already has a star, and the star is not you or me.  We’ll spend our days trying to hijack the Story of God, turning it into the story of us. We can choose to cling to starring roles in the little-bitty stories of us, or we can exchange our fleeting moment in the spotlight for a supporting role in the eternally beautiful epic that is the Story of God.”
Whew! I can already feel my heart beat slowing and my breathing normalize. The muscles in my neck are relaxing and the knots in my stomach are untwisting.  I can relax. I may not understand everything, maybe not even a little, but one thing I know for sure – I know I AM.  I may not know all of Him, but I know that He loves me, that He has a plan for me and that I am part of His story.
What about you, sweet friend? Are you finding yourself caught up in the ways that you are not this day?  Take heart, you are not because you can’t be, but God IS – and He loves you.
At the end of the book Mr. Giglio says this (and I’m going to give you only a snippet, because it is so good and I want you to read the book):
“When you cry out all the things that you are not, you’ll know His answer is, “I AM.  For every cry, there is one answer:
I need help.  I AM.
I need hope. I AM.
Who could possibly be smart enough to figure this out?  I AM.
What’s the latest thing? I AM.
Nothing’s real anymore. I AM.
Nobody’s listening to me. I AM.
... and on and on the list goes.  “I am not but I know I AM.” I love that. I love the Lord.  And that’s enough for me today.

Monday, November 8, 2010

Addicted to Accomplishment -- Who Me?

“List-maker, box-checker, line-thrower” -- that’s me. It’s true.  Certainly,  part of it is out of necessity. Logistically running a large household gets hectic and organizational lists are helpful. However, probably the more predominate truth is that I just feel better about myself when I can take my list, check a box or make a big fat line through something that “must be done.”  Ahhh -- the sweet sense of accomplishment.
Did I just say, “ … just because it makes me feel better about myself when I … ?" Yes, indeed I did and that what is bothering me today.  I can be addicted to accomplishment – even as small as cleaning the window outside my kitchen sink.
Somehow, I get productive busyness and my value confused.  I find myself listing off to any willing listener (usually my husband) all that I need to do or have done in the day. I strive to take time to be still, but I find myself more satisfied with being busy.  Ugh. I hate the way that sounds. Can you relate?
Without warning, believing that we are busy, striving to be busy, and proving that we are busy morphs in to our proving ourselves, our value and our importance. We scramble and skitter all over the place, making sure we are serving here, cleaning there, learning this and doing that. Some of it is necessary, but let’s face it -- some of it is fluff, and although it appears harmlessly soft and squishy, it muffles out the voice of God calling us to do what He calls us to do – or more importantly, what He calls us to be.
The thing is, slowing down and being still are a struggle for me.  As soon as I try or take a chance and tell someone,  I hear this faint voice say, “Must be nice to have some time to yourself – wish I did.  Isn’t there something you should be doing?”
Now, I’m not talking about being lazy or sitting on our back-sides, I’m talking about taking time with the Lord and resting in His presence. Maybe it’s for hours – maybe it’s for days – maybe even weeks.  Imagine that.
Time spent in quietness and solitude is essential. Jesus did it. He wants us to do it, too.  We don’t need to defend it, and in fact, by sharing it (without shame – yes, pick up that chin and do not mumble under your breath, “I took some time for myself and the Lord today”) we may be encouraging others to do the same.
I just want you to know that I want to hear about your empty list.  Go ahead -- share it with me! I won’t say to you, with cynical sarcasm “It must be nice.”  Rather, I’ll say to you, “Cool! This IS great!”
Tell me that you sat still today and listened to the Lord, that you sat in His presence and allowed His love to permeate every cell of your being.  Tell me that you said “no” to a request to do something in order to the most important thing – be with Him. Share with me how you set your pen and pad down, and picked up His peace. I’ll rejoice with you, and you’ll encourage me. 
I’m going to try and “practice what I preach.”  Please pray for me.  May I pray for you?
Dear Lord,
There are so many things pulling at us. You know each and every one of them. You know which things are important and which things can wait. You even know which things we can delegate!  Help us to practice quietness – in body, mind and spirit. Help us to not be so busy that we miss You.  When we choose You, help us not to feel guilty about not getting things done.  Help us to order our days, not filling it with things so that we look important to others or feel important to ourselves but help us to know that our only importance comes from You because of You.  Amen.

Friday, November 5, 2010

Working on NOT Digging and Hiding

I found myself in the garage of my mind today, rummaging around through bins and bushels for a pick and a shovel, plotting out where I was going to dig and bury something. Doubt and frustration stood nearby, breathing down my neck, ready to aid me in the earth moving expedition. Maybe you find yourself with tools in hand, scoping out a space, too -- a space to bury your God given abilities and gifts. 

That’s what the man who received one talent in Matthew 25 decided to do. He hid his talent in the ground – the talent that the Master gave him. When asked why, he responded with, “Master, I knew that you are a hard man, harvesting where you have not sown and gathering where you have not scattered seed, so I was afraid ....”
The talent in this story was a unit of weight (about 75 pounds) but it also can indicate an ability or gift that God gives us.  Gifts (not like presents that we unwrap or hold in our hand) but gifts like service, teaching, mercy, and administration – the talents that He gives us to do His work for Him.
The man didn’t care for His talent. He didn’t use it. He didn’t even know Who the Master was.  He was afraid, and so he hid it.
The problem is similar for me sometimes and I reach for the hole digging tools.  I find myself doubting whether God really gave me a gift and  I start to fear. I fear failure. I fear pride. I fear success. I fear criticism. I fear looking silly or dumb. I fear the unknown. I fear not knowing the details of how I’m going to do it, and sadly, I forget Who my Master is.
The evil one tries to whisper in my ear (or whap me over the head) with words like, “You really don’t have anything to offer. You should just stop doing what you are doing.  Really – it’s just a waste of time.” 
But here’s the truth – when God gives us the ability or the gift,  He is in it with us.  He does not give us the gift and then move along, abandoning us to do the work without His power and love. All things are possible with Him.  He equips us with everything good for doing His will.
I’ve exited the garage now, and left the tools behind. No more digging and hiding for me. I’m going to trust the Father with what He chooses to give me to help me do the work He calls me to do. I’m not going to give up. I’m not going to give in to the lies of the evil one.  I’m going to make sure that I spend time with the Lord, so that I know Him, and therefore, can boldly and wisely use my gift – not burry it!
How about you?  Like my littlest daughter, when she learned how to ride her bike yelling at the top of her lungs, “I was born to do this!” (click here for the story) I am finding confidence in God with the gifts that He gives me to love Him and encourage and strengthen others to love Him, as well.

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

The Little Girl Within -- An (Open) End to the Series

It’s been over a month now since I started posting the rich and tender stories of women who chose to share  about the Little Girl Within – not holding on to the pain, but openly and honestly seeing the truths that that the Lord is revealing to them about themselves and Him.  I am touched by the stories of heartache and comforted and strengthened by His love.  I hope you are, too. 
My desire is for women to embrace the Lord in whatever story He is writing in their lives.  Carol, a reader and contributor to this series, sent me a precious note expressing how the series helped her. Thank you, Carol. I am humbled by your words and challenged to think about the “closed doors” that may be present in my own life.  
She writes --
     It has been awesome to see how God used your blog to inspire, encourage, and remind us that He IS there through the good and difficult situations we may face.  The testimonies women shared - what a blessing they were.  There is such comfort in knowing that you are not alone.  Everyone has a story - and if we allow God in, He can work wonders!!  I think we all need to be reminded of that sometimes.  Life can get so busy and it's so easy to think we can do things on our own.  What a relief that we don't have to. God is there to help carry our burdens.  Praise God!! 
     Thank you for allowing me to be a part of it.  I don't quite know how to describe it, but I'll just say it changed my heart and opened up a door of healing that I didn't know was closed.  It opened the door and allowed God in.  Does that make any sense?  I just feel like God has touched a part of my heart that was hurting.  I think I was holding on to the hurt because I always feel like I "deserve" it.  I feel like I am finally letting God in so that He can start healing that part.  I don't want the hurt anymore.  The funny thing is, I didn't even realize I had this "closed door".  Thank you for giving me a safe place to start this phase of my healing process. 
For now, I am returning to my usual postings, but will remain open to posting your stories. If you would like to share, you may e-mail here. 
A final note to those who contributed -- your courage and willingness to be real and to seek the Lord amidst difficulty is a gift that God is using to help draw others to Him.  Thank you for sharing your heart and your Hope.

Monday, November 1, 2010

What Would You Pick from that Tree?

Sitting at the kitchen counter this morning, my youngest son and I chatted back and forth about his upcoming day and about his concerns.  He did not want to go to school. Not because he does not like school. He does.  It was because he has a test.

“I wish I had that tree right now, Mom.”
“What tree?” I wondered.
“The tree you talked to us about the other day.  Remember? The one that you said, ‘What-if you could pick …?’”
Last week, my friend Bobbie spoke at our women’s bible study. After she was done speaking, we discussed questions that she wrote, at our table.  I brought home one of the questions for my children to consider.  The question was this -
Money doesn't grow on trees -- or so the expression goes.  Imagine something unusual besides money) could be grown on trees and you could pick it whenever you wanted. What would you want your tree to produce?
We came up with all sorts of ideas from the silly to the series.  Video games. Candy. Answers to tough questions. Energy. Sleep. Even one of the children wished that I grew on trees so that they could have me whenever they wanted me. J
But on this Monday morning, my son with anxieties high over a history test said, “If I had that tree, I’d pick the answers to the test – all I’d have to do is reach up and they all would be there --  or I’d pick a tree that grew ‘pretend sick’ things so that I don’t have to go to school.”  Apparently, he’d been thinking about this tree …
I guess I do, too, just in a different way.  On good days and not so good days, I find myself seeking answers and reaching for a multitude of things.  I am convinced that I am a slow learner,  but the more time goes on and experience proves, I am realizing that although none of these things grow on trees, the Lord gives willingly when we reach out and seek Him.  He may not choose to give us all we want, but He does give us all we need.
Today, I need courage and I need wisdom – to both sit down and stand up, to speak and to hold my tongue.  That’s what I would pick – it’s what I am picking to seek God about.
What about you? 
What would you want your tree to produce today – what are you in need of? Ask God. He is more than willing and able to give.
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