We Can Fix That. Sorta.

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Such a howl! I was fairly certain the world had come to an end.

And for my three year old grandson, it had. His freshly-peeled banana had broken. He cried inconsolably. I realize a fractured banana is inedible to a toddler, but I wasn’t going to throw away a perfectly good (in the eyes of an adult) piece of fruit.

But what to do. Think fast, Mimi!

I’ve heard it said that “Duct tape and WD-40 can fix anything.” Knowing WD-40 offered no help in this case, I decided to try the miracle tape.

Bananas will not withstand too much handling, so I tore off a fairly large piece of tape to make sure I “fixed” it on the first attempt.

I laid the offending fruit on the kitchen table as if preparing it for surgery. I slid the damaged piece as far back into its peel as possible. Then I pulled the torn strips up around it and gently wrapped it in the silver tape.

Voila! The banana looked . . . odd. It would have looked better if  someone developed banana print duct tape. I’m sure there is a market waiting for it among parents fighting similar “toddler wars.” But, guess what? I was able to cajole my grandson into eating over half of the “repaired” fruit! (I got lucky on that one. I’m not sure I’d have eaten it! 😂)

I looked at the remains of that silly banana a while later. I honestly laughed out loud. It was a mess! It had accomplished its purpose, but it looked ridiculous.

I began to reminisce on other situations in life I’d recklessly attempted to fix. Admittedly, in spite of grandiose attempts and a few successes, I’ve made some grand messes. Not every trial in life involves bananas. Not every remedy involves Duct tape.

Despite the claims, tape cannot heal broken bones, hearts, and budgets. Neither magical WD-40 nor any other essential oil can truly soothe relationships, weariness, foolishness, or disappointment.

But there is a Cure.

My heart cannot help but find hope and solace in knowing God can “fix” any dilemma I face. I imagine He has looked down numerous times upon my home remedies in dismay, yearning for me to ask His help. Not only can He remedy my problems, but He can use them to prove Himself to me.

He has never promised to withhold trouble from my life. Problems exist for all of us in this broken-down world. But He uses situations which are out of my control to show me He is in control.  I need trials to understand His power. I need a broken heart to know of His ability to tenderly comfort me. I must have needs in order to experience His provision.

He may decide to eliminate my problem. But He may not. He knows in some situations I will learn more by continuing to endure the trial with His enabling mercy.  He may desire to use my hurt to show others His sustaining grace.

He will do what is best. I’m so grateful!

I will continue to keep Duct tape and WD-40 on my garage shelf for random emergencies such as I faced this morning. But I will always keep God’s Word closer – on my bed stand and in my heart to remind me of His limitless ability to mend my messes!

Making messes tends to be MY specialty!

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IT’S NOT WHAT YOU THINK!!

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Last week, I asked my talented son-in-law to perform a miracle. With my forty year high school reunion looming, I asked him to make me look twenty-eight years old once again. In spite of his ranking as a high-end hair stylist, however, he found the task beyond his capability. (Do you think I was asking too much?)

Honestly, he did a great job (per usual) and made me look a very respectable fifty-eight.  He had worked me into his already-full work schedule. Because he and our daughter are in the process of moving, he had to bring his tools and the children (and the diapers, and the bottles, and the blankets, and the toys!) to our house to do the color, clip, and style.

As things were moving splendidly along, I spotted something on my kitchen table that puzzled me: a yellow school bus.  With the addition of five grandchildren to our lives during the past three years, lots of surprising items have been showing up. In lots of surprising places.  But I just didn’t remember that bus.

I continued to squint and stare at it each time Tyler spun me around in the chair. I finally mentioned it to him. We both chuckled when he explained to me it was two yellow and black boxes of hair color stacked in the shape of what appeared to my unspectacled eyes to be a school bus. He graciously admitted he could “kind of see what I was talking about.”

Later I recalled how absolutely certain I was that I saw a toy bus. Things like that have happened before. You’ve probably experienced it.

For example, years ago, I was trying to surprise a friend with a baby shower. We agreed the men would slip out after our church dinner, leaving only the ladies in the church basement. Several of the men evidently had forgotten to disappear. In trying to discreetly remind them, I mentioned it sounded as if there were still men in the room. They quickly deciphered my hint and left.

The ladies seemed to enjoy the festivities that followed, and I left feeling satisfied all had gone well.

Fast forward several years. During a normal conversation one afternoon, a friend admitted to me I had inadvertently insulted the “guest of honor” at the party that afternoon. Flabbergasted, I questioned her as to what I’d done. Her answer floored me: “She thought you said she sounded like a man.”

WHAT?!?

Evidently, while trying to dismiss the gentlemen, I hadn’t noticed I was standing next to the mother-to-be. Because she didn’t realize what I was doing, her hormonally-charged eardrums heard my statement as a derogatory remark. In trying to honor her, I had hurt her feelings. I felt horrible. Thankfully, we laugh about the misinterpretation now.

When my eyes “saw” a school bus last week, I remembered how her ears had “heard” a criticism. My conclusion? We cannot always trust our senses. They make mistakes.

I began considering how similar situations arise each day at home, at work, and at church. Do I make wrong assumptions?

All the time!

I allow my limited senses and understanding of a situation to draw me to a wrong conclusion. I then wind up with hurt feelings, a grudging spirit, or discouragement. And, silly me!  It’s pointless!

As my husband and I realize we are no longer twenty-eight, we’re learning to rigorously guard against assumptions in our relationship. After all, our ears don’t work as well as they did, um, forty years ago. Most of the time, we wind up laughing over what we thought the other said.

Other times, I deal with reacting to what I assume the words or actions mean. I wrongly react to inflections in tone, gestures, or facial expressions. If I’m not careful, I can even misinterpret a glance or laugh clear across the room! (Please tell me I’m not the only one with this ridiculous super-power.)

God alone is omniscient. Because He knows and perfectly understands all things, He needs no guard upon His “imagination.” I, however, need a zip-tie on mine! I’m slowly learning to seek clarification before I choose my reaction.

After all, things are not always as they appear. (Even school buses . . . or my hair color!!!)

“Go not forth hastily to strive, lest thou know not

what to do in the end.”        Proverbs 25:8

 

Lost . . . and Finally Found

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When I looked, it wasn’t there. Anywhere. My heart skipped a beat. It wasn’t my wallet, my social security card, my keys, one of my children, or an equivalently valuable item. I’d just lost a ring.

I’ve lost jewelry before. It’s easy. Bracelets slide into drawers; earrings come apart and drop to the floor; rings roll off the table. These items usually show up soon. Even if they don’t, it’s not normally earth-shattering since most of my accessories cost less than $15. But this ring . . . .

I value this ring second only to my wedding set. My father-in-law bequeathed it to me one year ago this week after God took my precious mother-in-law to live with Him. The timing of the loss devastated me.  I certainly didn’t want my husband to think I’d been careless with it. The sentimental value alone motivated special care.

The usual path I leave during an anxious search could qualify for disaster relief.  Similarly this time, I raked a path through drawers, purses, luggage (having just returned from a trip to see our kids), carpet, and car. I even called the kids in Ohio to make certain I’d not left it behind. Nothing.

My mind returned to another hunt.

Years earlier, I’d been sitting on the couch next to my young son, studying for a test. He innocently asked where my “rock” had gone. I looked at my wedding ring and instantly saw the empty bracket which had held my diamond. Studying ended.

I looked for that missing gem for over four hours. I retraced every footstep. I checked the laundry, the sink, the bathroom, my make-up case, and even the car. I swept the floors with a broom, hoping to see it pop up with one of my swipes. Panic intensifying, I began cramming my hand deep into the furniture, even ripping the fabric lining off the bottom of some chairs and the couch. I knew the budget wouldn’t allow for a replacement stone. I simply HAD to find it.

I sent the rest of the family to bed. Knowing my night-owl parents would be awake, I called and asked them to pray. I’d been praying already, but it seemed time to turn it into a “group project.”

As I continued to hunt for the elusive stone, I began to question God.

“Lord, you already know where that diamond is. You’re looking right at it. Why, oh why, are you making me waste so much time searching? Why won’t you simply lead me to it? I’m frustrated. I’m tired. I’m worried. Lord, why is this happening?”

I decided to turn out the lights. I was not headed to bed. I needed to hunt in a way that would be impossible in the daylight. I grabbed my flashlight, turned out the lights, got on my hands and knees, eyes inches above the ground, and began panning the beam slowly across the carpet. I observed carefully with each sweep, desperately hoping to catch a sparkle from my lost treasure.  Again, nothing.

I decided to try one last area. I went back to the car and began scanning the darkened interior. I did not see the reflection I desired.

I felt defeated. I’d looked everywhere imaginable. I trudged across the garage, lit flashlight in hand. Just before I took the one step back up into the kitchen, I caught a glimmer in a bunched-up area of the entryway rug.

My diamond!

I hollered. I woke my husband and children. I called my parents. I wanted them to rejoice with me at the answer to prayer.

The next day, I again questioned the Lord. As I opened my Bible, I was stunned to read the passage of the day.

A woman who’d lost a coin from her engagement necklace “sought diligently” for it. She’d swept the floors and looked with a light. When she found her coin, she called her friends to rejoice with her.

Wow! How familiar it sounded! Its purpose?  —  to illustrate the joy in Heaven over one lost soul finding Jesus.

My heart was smitten. When had I spent equal effort or exuded similar joy in a spiritual quest? Likely, to my shame, never. I realized at that moment I was spending more energy pursuing temporal treasures rather than eternal ones.

During this week’s search, I again began to reevaluate my priorities. I needed an adjustment.

The Lord allowed me to find the ring. It’d been in my jewelry case all along, but it had rolled out behind an apothecary jar.

How many more hunts will I have to endure? I don’t know. They may not all be to teach me to organize my priorities, but I hope I never forget this lesson.

Hide and seek isn’t quite as fun as it was in my childhood!

            “Likewise, . . . there is joy in the presence of the angels of God over one sinner that repenteth.”    Luke 15:10

 

 

No Turning Back

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Until I was in my mid-thirties, I’d seen hummingbirds only in pictures, never in my own backyard. But once I spied my first flash of long beak and tiny green chest, I quickly fell in love! I recall sitting on my front porch over fifteen years ago and having several of them flying around me on every side. The hum of those fascinating wings gave me goosebumps with their nearness to my ears.

Since then, I have always hung a nectar feeder outside my window. I cannot help but smile when I look out and see my little friends quenching their thirst. One summer, I named my visitors. I had learned to tell the difference between them well enough to call them by name. Granted, my little Charlie may have been a Charlotte, but that didn’t bother our relationship one bit. We were pals!

This year, however, I’ve encountered a problem. Early in the summer I hung a full feeder outside the picture window for my little buddies. At least one found it right away. But the feeder looked grubby – faded, old and well-used. It couldn’t be washed up well enough for our satisfaction. My husband decided we should hang a new one. So, we did.

And we waited.

And waited.

And . . . nothing. Not even a trial visit!

Our hummingbirds did not like the new digs! As I’ve researched this problem,  I’ve learned hummingbirds do not like change. It can take much wooing to persuade them to try a new feeder. Ornithologists recommend hanging the old feeder next to the new one when transitioning them.

We had moved the old one to the porch railing, but they hadn’t found it. So, after a couple months of vacancy, we took down the new one and rehung the old one outside the picture window once again.

Almost immediately, we had visitors! They come regularly now to that nasty old feeder.

I think that’s weird. But then, I’m not a hummingbird.

However, now that I think about it, perhaps I am more similar than I care to admit.

How many times have I clung to the past rather than embraced the future . . . or even the present? So often I find such security in the status quo that I resist change.

I am presently in a huge season of change. Over the past four years, very little in my life has remained the same. Our children have married, moved out, and have families of their own. I retired from over thirty years of teaching. We left our large church nearby and have taken a small country church over forty miles away. My husband has taken on a part time job to supplement our income. Our parents’ lives have changed tremendously. One has entered the pearly gates. We’ve even replaced our little dog. Everything’s different.

It’s been tough. I liked things the way they were. But life goes on. Changes happen. I cannot relive the past anywhere except in my mind. It’s now time to relish the present. It holds fresh, new possibilities and joys. After all, I must admit I’m loving this Mimi gig. It’s a whole new “feeder” for this momma bird!

I hope I’m never like Lot’s wife who couldn’t resist one longing look backwards. She never experienced her future. She stands as a testament to the consequence of disobedience and yearning for days gone by.

Letting go of the past takes away my sense of security. Embracing change emphasizes my dependence upon the Lord, allowing me to find my sufficiency in Him alone. Though all else is fleeting, Jesus stays the same. Yesterday, today, and tomorrow remain alike to Him. Without the differences He allows in my life, I would fail to find comfort in both His stability and ability.

He longs for me to know Him better, so He changes things up for me. Just as He was in my yesterday, He will be in my tomorrow. Change is okay. As a matter of fact, it’s good.

If I don’t accept that, well, I’m a birdbrain!

“Because they have no changes, therefore they fear not God.”   Psalm 55:19

 

 

 

Mechanics 101? Maybe not!

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My oil light came on!

Because my husband faithfully keeps the oil changed, the light caught me totally off guard. But he had prepared me well. “Don’t drive the car home to tell me about it if that little light comes on. Just stop the car and don’t go anywhere.”

So I turned around and drove immediately back into the school parking lot. However, I had no idea what to do next. Engine oil and I have a history. Not necessarily a bad history, but a brief moment in time which is etched into my memory by my family quite often. My brothers, in particular, love to rehearse the details, much to my chagrin!  Here’s the story. Maybe it will give you a chuckle, too.

My first semester of graduate school was concluding, and I eagerly anticipated Christmas break. As I loaded my old, blue car, I realized I’d driven all semester without doing any basic maintenance on it. My father and brothers were fastidious about keeping their cars in tip-top shape, and I’d always been content to let them care for my car when I was home. I knew better than to show up with a neglected automobile. The tires looked fine, the turn signals worked, as did the headlights and taillights, and the car stopped when I pushed the brake pedal. Was there anything else to check? Yes, the oil.

I grabbed a couple of paper towels and raised the hood. The dipstick was right where I expected. How hard could it be?

It wasn’t that hard. I pulled the oil stick out, wiped it off, and reinserted it. I pulled it out the second time. (Doing pretty well so far, right?) Then I read the dipstick. I was horrified to see how low the oil was, but I was relieved I’d checked it before traveling home.

Since I had no idea how to put oil into the car, I called a mechanic friend in town. He asked how much oil the car needed. I wasn’t sure. He asked what the dipstick read. (I have to chuckle at this point, recognizing who the real dipstick was!) I told him it said I needed a lot. He questioned me again, and I assured him the indicator said, “Needs lot.”

After a brief moment of silence, he informed me that in the hundreds of cars he’d worked on, he’d never seen one that said “Needs lot.” After making me promise not to touch anything else on the car, he promised to come by that evening to check it out.

True to his word, he showed up after dinner. As I watched him check the oil, I assured him after each step. “I did that”; “I did that”; and “I did that.” Then we both peered at the stick.

I pointed “See! It says right there, ‘Needs lot.'”

At that point, Matt doubled over in laughter. I was fairly certain it was not a complimentary laugh. But being the patient friend, he pointed out the difference in what I thought it said and what it actually said.

“Linda, it doesn’t say “Needs lot.” It says “Needs 1Qt.”

Oops!

I experienced both embarrassment at misinterpreting the indicator and gratitude the car wasn’t as low in oil as I’d thought.

Matt added the needed oil, and I was ready for the trip home.

Needless to say, the story beat me home. Matt was my brother’s buddy. One telephone call was all it took for my family to know of my mechanical ineptness. Thirty-five years later, they still laugh about it. I do, too.

So when my oil light came on today, I responded rather timidly. Grammar, cooking, teaching, writing, needlework — these are my strengths. Obviously, auto mechanics is not on that list. I was thankful for Matt’s help long ago because he understood engines. I needed his expertise.

We each have strengths and weaknesses. Our strengths are to be used to assist others; our weaknesses are opportunities for others to help us. Working together works best!

The same principle applies in the church. God has allotted certain abilities to each believer and instructs us to cooperate with one another in the use of those gifts. Showcasing capabilities will accomplish little; employing capabilities to help others will accomplish much. What a marvelous plan! Once again, we see God’s infinite wisdom.

I’m grateful people with the know-how came to my assistance today. My story has a happy ending because of their kindness.

Perhaps tomorrow someone will need my help with cooking. You never know!

“As every man hath received the gift, even so minister the same one to another.”    I Peter 4:10

 

 

 

 

 

“Stop Staring at Me!”

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That’s me, lying out there in the driveway! It’s also my husband and children, in full view of anyone driving by our house. As a matter of fact, we even posted numerous signs announcing we were putting ourselves out for public display! Are we crazy? Well, yes, but there’s a reason this time.

We are having a garage sale. Have you ever hosted or even considered hosting a sale? Think long before committing to doing so. Most people I know do not choose to have a sale because it’s fun. Much work goes into gathering, sorting, cleaning, pricing, and displaying items to be sold.

The hours are long. The continual lifting, arranging, and folding prove tedious, especially since some people consider tossing clothing back onto the pile acceptable. The customers vary widely, as do the languages, at times. Decision-making unnerves me, so the negotiating challenges my confidence. I mean, what should I say when they tell me my favorite sweater isn’t worth a dollar?! Come on now!

The fact “my life” is spread out on tables makes me feel completely vulnerable. Each item I place out tells part of my story, and most hold a memory only for me. Now my clothes, my family’s clothing, household items, knick-knacks, furniture, and home decor bear the scrutiny of strangers!

Knowing this, I spend time cleaning every item until it shines. I use laundry detergent, glass cleaner, and elbow grease. I want to make a good impression, even though my visitors will likely remain only strangers. After all, who wants to buy something they hesitate to even touch?

The worst reaction comes from those who wander my spread out belongings with only a brief glance from the end of the driveway, and then turn to leave with a smirk or scrunched up nose. I choose to think they were looking for something specific and knew with a scan it wasn’t available in my driveway market.

But, in the back of my mind, I wonder: did they not like my life choices? Are my belongings THAT antiquated or undesirable? Is the stuff I’m offering below their high standard? Well, okay then. “Have a nice day! Thanks for stopping by.”

I try to to make eye contact with each potential customer and offer a kind comment. However, underneath my cheery facade, as I watch them toss through my items, I feel they are pawing right through my life. Some “look” by acting as a periscope in the middle of the driveway, while others spend twenty-five minutes scoping out each item. To those, I often want to shout, “Stop staring at me!”

I’ve met some delightful people. I especially love watching them become giddy over finding a treasure among my goods.

Regardless of the responses, I’ve accomplished my two main purposes – uncluttered my home and made a little extra money for special times.

I’ve done many garage sales over the years. This year, however, I came to a new realization: I will leave a positive or negative impression by what I display. The only evidence they have to judge remains on those tables.

How much more true is this in my spiritual life? God desires to use my life as a display of His love for the world, as a testimony to His goodness. Every morning I awaken, I will be a walking, talking example. Will my life leave a good impression or a bad impression of Him?

My life acts as evidence by which the world will judge the character of God. People will desire Him only if I represent Him rightly. The responsibility is profound.

If I am to depict Him truthfully, I must keep my life clean. I must spend time reading His Holy Word, speaking with Him, and asking Him for the strength to be a good ambassador of His love. I must guard my actions and my words.

My garage sale lasted two days. My testimony lasts a lifetime. Who knows how long He will use me? I don’t know.

But I know I have this moment.  I want to make Him shine right now, while I have the opportunity to bring Him praise.

I want the world to want Him!

“Ye are our epistle written in our hearts,                        known and read of all men.”    II Corinthians 3:2

“We are ambassadors for Christ.”   II Corinthians 5:20

What a Web!

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I have watched a spider weave its web and decided I’d make a lousy spider. (And that’s fine with me!)  My lack of patience and weaving skills would lead to a quick demise if I were.

Although I vehemently dislike them, I’m always fascinated to find a spider resting in the center of its amazingly intricate handiwork. I’m glad to see it positioned there so I know exactly where that eight-legged creepy crawler is, thus lessening the chances of feeling it crawl up my leg. I’m also relieved to see it before I walk into it, eliminating the jumping and swatting involved in removing the sticky strands from my face and hands. Ewwww!

But the web itself is mind-boggling. Once in a while, I’ve felt guilty for ruining the little creature’s masterpiece when I’ve run into it. Admittedly it’s not my first thought, but I do eventually feel a bit sorry. The effort put into so beautifully connecting each strand is stunning. The tiny weavers work with a definite plan in mind. Even a casual observer can immediately see an obvious pattern. There is nothing haphazard about it. Webs are beautiful, especially when caught in the sunlight or covered in frost.

That’s pretty much all I like about spiders.

But someone asked me a simple question this morning that made me think about those webs. It’s a question I’ve often been asked, but today it triggered deeper contemplation.

The question? How did you and your husband meet?

My normal answer is this: It all began in 1977 at a lock-making factory in Indianapolis.

But not today.

Today I pondered the question and came up with a more accurate answer. Our story began long before my husband’s parents welcomed a bouncing baby boy and my parents welcomed a bouncing baby girl. Our story began an eternity ago.

Our marriage came about from a spectacular plan woven by a Master Designer. The webs of our lives are enormous. Not too long ago, I sat down and tried to draw a web depicting our family heritage. I simply could not complete it beyond a few generations. I kept getting lost in the twists and turns of my diagram.

You see, two generations ago, my paternal grandparents immigrated to New York City from Sweden. They moved with many Swedes to Chicago, where my father was born. My mother is an Indiana farm girl. These two met in Indianapolis at a major downtown corporation. My dad was infatuated with the dark haired girl who sang in the company choir, and he’s hung on to her ever since. That’s just a small piece from what was to become my marriage. My husband came from Michigan. But we met when his family moved to Indianapolis.

All over the world, through hundreds of years, couples met and married from various circumstances just so God could bring that crazy skinny boy who worked in the parts crib to the attention of the young girl working in the 77K lock department. God knew the guy who didn’t merely push the cart down the aisle, but rather shoved it and jumped on for the ride, would continue to make me laugh for almost thirty-three years of marriage now. The Weaver of our lives wove the sweet web that brought us together, not by chance, but according to His perfect plan.

I could never have fathomed such intricacy. But, praise God, He’s known it and established it from before time began. In His great and loving wisdom, He prepared the strands which would bring us together.

He has a Master Plan at work. The plan affects not only my marriage, but also my day-to-day life. He continues to put me in touch with people who need me and those whom I need as well. The circumstances of each meeting fulfill His desire for my life and theirs.

So why do I fret? The happenings in my life originate with a wonderful Designer Who makes no mistakes. God knows the plan He has for me is good. He assures me of this in Jeremiah 29:11.

“For I know the thoughts that I think toward you, saith the LORD, thoughts of peace, and not of evil,                                          to give you an expected end.”

I find myself thinking about my special place in God’s eternal web, and I renew my desire to fulfill His purpose. I’m eternally grateful the weaving is not up to me!

Remember? I wouldn’t even be a good spider!