Always Carry a Tissue!

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Tears. Aren’t they funny little things? We don’t feel them inside until they well up in our eyes, ready to roll single file down our cheeks. We don’t even realize they are in us until they come pouring out.

Tears never ask permission. They think independently. Some travel alone; some travel in buckets. A single tear may amble down the cheek or a hundred tears may seem to race for the prize awarded to the first one to reach the chin. Regardless the number or the speed, tears do their own roll call. Sometimes at the least expected moment.

Often, we can anticipate tears. Weddings and funerals obviously warrant carrying a tissue or two, just in case. I even keep a couple of kleenex neatly folded in the back of my Bible for moments of Spirit-induced conviction. If you happen to be sitting next to me, I’d be happy to share one with you, but tissue boxes don the pews throughout our church, just in case you’re not sitting next to someone like me who carries an emergency supply.

Tears can occasionally be hidden from public display. But another enigma they possess is the ability to affect other features of the human face. Even though no one may see me cry, the evidence shows on my face for quite a while afterwards. The sniffles, the breathy hiccups, the red puffy eyes, the runny nose, and, usually, the redness on my upper lip give me away instantly!

Tears also affect those around us. Have you ever noticed someone crying? What do you do? Well, the first thing I tend to do is pretend I don’t notice until I’ve adequately evaluated the situation. I’m guilty of those quick, hopefully inconspicuous, and repeated glances to decipher the circumstances before I get involved. My mind races through all possible reactions before settling on one. Should I talk to the friend with the telltale red eyes as though nothing is wrong? Should I throw my arms around my weepy acquaintance and become emotionally involved with her? And, if the crier is a man, should I just walk on by without acknowledging he has given in to any tender show of emotion? (While we are on that topic, may I express my appreciation to any man with a heart that can be touched to the point of tears. God gave tears to everyone.)

Perhaps the most quirky characteristic of tears is that they can show up for almost any occasion.

I cried today. Twice.

I rarely cry. So when I cried twice today, I knew it was blog-worthy!

Yesterday, I lost a bracelet, a bracelet given to me only two months ago at one of the most precious moments of my life. My son-in-law and daughter have graciously allowed me to witness the birth of both of their children. I won’t even bother trying to describe what that does to my heart because I simply can’t. This second time, my daughter was giving birth to her daughter. Ok. So I was already an emotional basket case. Then, just a few minutes after sweet Harper was born, my son-in-law opened a tiny box. From it, he drew three bracelets: a teeny one for baby girl, one for mommy, and one for me, Mimi! Oh, my!

Tears! Sweet sweet tears. “I’m so blessed” type of tears.

Yesterday, more tears. I lost the bracelet while I was at work. Sad, utterly heartbroken tears.

Today, tears! I received a call that the bracelet had been found! Thankful, thankful tears!

Then, later today, tears! (Time to take stock in tissues, folks!) In glancing through my Facebook, I found a note from a student who graduated several years ago, telling me she missed me. Since the waterworks had already been turned on today, there they came again. More tears! All mixed up tears! They came in gratitude for the opportunity I had to teach for so many many years. They came from nostalgia. They came from missing those days. They poured with joy that I’d touched a precious life.

Tears. Tissues. They go together. At least for me. For someone who doesn’t often cry, I’ve had a workout today.

As I ponder these mysterious little wet capsules that have shown up today, I’m reminded of a verse that’s been special to me. Psalm 56:8 “Thou tellest my wandering: put thou my tears into thy bottle: are they not in thy book?”

God made tears. God sees my tears. He keeps a record of each one I shed and even those I keep gated in my heart and eyes. And He cares. My tears are special to God!

He knows whether my tears result from laughing too much or hurting too much. Each one matters to Him.

Years ago, I decorated a beautiful perfume bottle and marked it in gold script, “Tears.” I had it for quite a while before I passed it on to a friend who’d recently shed many tears herself. I’ve recently wanted to decorate another one for myself as a visible reminder that Jesus cares. He cares deeply for every tear-evoking event in my life. He understands each one. He cares because He loves me.

My bottle may be large or small, plain or fancy, partially-full or brimming. I don’t care. It only matters to me that it matters to Him.

I’m so grateful. So very grateful!

I need another tissue!!

 

 

 

 

No Easter Eggs!

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I went on an Easter egg hunt. All by myself. In the fabric store. I found nothing!!

Here’s the story:

My daughter and I spent a wonderful afternoon together on Friday. With her being a working mommy to two little ones now, these times are rare and priceless to this momma’s heart. She needed to stop at the fabric store to buy some material to make an Easter bowtie for her two year old.

Being a helpful mother, I began looking for a coupon I could download for her. I found one, but I also found something else. The fabric store was sponsoring an Easter egg hunt! How clever is that? I saw three brightly colored eggs on my phone screen and started reading about the prizes: discounts, candy, and gift cards. Not a bad deal.

At just the same time, I heard an announcement being made through the store’s PA system. The announcement was in regard to the same egg hunt. I only caught part of the message, but I definitely heard the part that encouraged me to find the eggs before they were all gone.

So after telling my daughter that I was going to wander a bit while she continued shopping, off I traipsed to find myself a prize-containing egg. I looked on shelves, in baskets, through skeins of yarn and silk flowers, high and low, aisle after aisle. I failed to spy even one little egg. Someone sure had done a good job of hiding them! I honestly considered telling the management I was fairly sure all the eggs were already gone. I was kind of bummed, in an adult kind of way, of course. I didn’t get a poochy lip and throw a tantrum, but I became more determined as I hunted. I was going to locate one of those eggs!

The longer I searched, the faster my feet carried me. My eyes quickly scanned shelf after shelf because I knew my daughter would soon call with the news she was finished shopping. I just had to find one silly egg before she called!

And then she called.

I answered, but not on the first chime. I reluctantly affirmed I would meet her at the front of the store – that dumb store that either made the eggs too hard to find or hadn’t hidden enough of them. But I wouldn’t complain. I’d merely accept my defeat. After all, I had searched every aisle. I’d tried.

When my daughter asked what I had been doing, I explained I’d been on an egg hunt. After a brief pause, she asked me if I was sure I had the correct date for the hunt. I answered with certainty that the ad said it was on Saturday.

That’s when she reminded me it was Friday. Friday, April 14th. Not the 15th.

The eggs were probably lying ready in the back office somewhere, awaiting the hiding. For the people that came on Saturday. For people who didn’t get so excited they forgot to read and listen carefully.

My emotions were incredibly mixed up at that point. Obviously, I laughed. I think my daughter laughed harder though. I couldn’t blame her a bit. I also experienced feelings she didn’t feel: chagrin, disappointment, and a huge ah-ha moment.

I ‘d just completed an absolutely futile hunt. No matter how hard or long I searched, I was never going to find an egg that day.

I’d acted impetuously, caught up in the thrill of the hunt and with an overwhelming desire to obtain the prize.

I wish I could tell you it’s the only time I’ve done something like that. But it’s not. Those who know me understand how easily I can become excited. I’m thankful there was no remorse involved in my mistake. No one had been hurt. That was good.

I started thinking (and laughing once again) about my pointless race later in the evening. What had gone wrong?

Well, the answer was obvious. I’d done exactly what I had repeatedly told my students not to do. Do not assume the instructions. READ them.

The Lord gave instructions for life long ago in His Word. The guidance He’s given will lead me aright every single day. He also offers truth about the right way to live as I pray, talking to Him and allowing Him to speak to my heart. But I often find myself racing ahead, hurrying through my time with Him, not taking the time to truly absorb all He has for me each day. I sometimes allow that special time to become a routine.

And I fail.

Often miserably.

There is good news though. I can retrace my steps back to Him. He forgives, cleanses, and restores me to the race. All is not lost. I can still win the prize.

I walked away from the store disappointed and empty-handed yesterday. Oh, I had hunted. But I had not hunted the right thing. I should have searched through the instructions first. But I didn’t.

Guess what? I will next time! I will even read the small print.

And maybe I’ll find a prize next year.

(More good news: at least my phone was counting my steps!!!)

“This book of the law shall not depart out of thy mouth; but thou shalt meditate therein day and night, that thou mayest observe to do according to all that is written therein: for then shalt thou make thy way prosperous, and then thou shalt have good success.”  Joshua 1:8

 

 

 

WHAT A MESS!

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Man, did I ever make a mess this week!

It was my turn to prepare dinner for our ladies’ Bible study on Monday. Since I am also the teacher, I had planned something easy: grilled chicken and noodles. I could whip it up in no time, but sometimes I made it ahead in the crockpot. I opted for the second method this time so I wouldn’t be rushed on the way out the door.

When I’d planned my meal, I hadn’t realized I’d be babysitting one of our grandsons the same day. He’d spent the night Sunday so he wouldn’t have to get up early to be dropped off by his daddy on the way to work. Since two year olds shouldn’t be left alone for more than ten seconds at a time, I rose extra early to knock some of the “to do’s” off my list before he got up. Things were going perfectly, so perfectly I should have been leery!

I had the chicken grilled, the broth seasoned, and combined both with the noodles in the crockpot. The Jello was chilling, and the strawberries were ready for shortcake. I’d even kept up with the dishes in my meal prep! I’d taken my bath and gotten dressed. All this was done before my little visitor woke up. I admit to feeling rather accomplished in the progress I’d made for the day.

Shortly after getting him dressed and fed for the morning, we sat down to watch “Daniel Tiger” together. We were snuggled together on the couch. Halfway through the show, I decided to check on my entrée.

I was horrified when I lifted the lid off that crock! Not only were the noodles sunk down into the broth, but they had also turned to paste. White, gloppy, disgusting, starchy paste! Not one glob could be distinguished as a noodle. At that point, I remembered using a different type of noodle when I making my chicken and noodles in the crockpot. But remembering, at that point, was useless. I had absolutely ruined the meal.

My husband had the car that day, so going to the grocery was a non-option. I was stuck.

And so were the “noodles.” Stuck to the sides and bottom of the pot and stuck like elementary glue to each chunk of chicken. My mind was blank and racing at the same time. As quickly as options entered my mind, I dismissed them as useless. Somehow, I had to create a digestible dinner out of the gunk staring at me from the pot. I even considered calling it chicken ‘n dumplings, pretending no one would notice. Silly me. No way could I pull that off.

So I decided to attempt”fixing” dinner.

The first thing I did was go fishing for chicken with a serrated serving spoon. Some of the pieces were nice big chunks. I rescued those first. But many of them had broken apart into tiny pieces. At times it was difficult to distinguish chicken from blobs of paste. Tediously, I dragged the spoon through the broth to recover as much as I could.

Guess what I did next?

I washed every itty-bitty piece of chicken. Yes, I rinsed each piece and rubbed the paste off each one. Thankfully, I realized Daniel Tiger was doing an excellent job of babysitting for me. My sweet grandson was mesmerized (I’d rather not use any reference to glue at this point) by the show. So I continued to rub and rinse chicken.

I had no idea what I’d do next, but I knew I needed to save the broth since I didn’t have the ingredients to recreate it. But those disgusting blobs of paste needed to be removed. So I put the serrated spoon back to work. I pulled out as much as I could, but much of it remained in the broth.

Hmmmm. What to do.

Well, isn’t that what a colander is for? I positioned the strainer over a large mixing bowl and poured the broth through it. After a little more sorting, I thickened the remaining broth.

I poured the chicken and broth back into the crockpot to simmer. Later that afternoon, I cooked the noodles (I’m so thankful I’d only used half of them!) in a separate pan and added them to the chicken.

Voila! Chicken and noodles for dinner! Piece of cake! Right? Who would have thought I could make it so difficult?

What started as a good idea that day had quickly disintegrated into a horrible mess. I was so thankful I was able to rescue a usable meal out of it.

I’ve had other “good” ideas that have turned into disasters. Many times I’ve charged into my plans without careful thought and soon regretted my impetuousness. Many times, I have needed rescuing due to not seeking wise counsel or taking time to carefully plan.

As I considered these thoughts, I realized anew how gracious my Lord is. How many times He has rescued me from sticky, messy situations! He first rescued my soul from the mire of sin. Then, time and again, He has gently rinsed the sticky effects of wrong thinking off of me. He is eternally patient with me. I will no doubt never make the “chicken mistake” again. I’ve learned my lesson. Yet many times I find myself failing in other ways over and over. And each time, He forgives me and cleans me up to make me useful once again.

Thank you, precious Savior, for working so patiently with me. Please help me to learn a lasting lesson from my kitchen disaster.

Because I sure can make a mess of things!

“He brought me up also out of an horrible pit, out of the miry clay, and set my feet upon a rock, and established my goings.”

Psalm 40:2

 

 

 

 

 

You’re in the Way!

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My tiny, five week old granddaughter has already taught me a lesson. (She has no idea what a fine little educator she is. Maybe someday she’ll want to be a teacher like her Mimi.) Here’s what happened.

Miles, Harrison, Arianne, “Trey,” and now Harper have brought more delight to our lives than we imagined possible. With them all being age two and under, we have jumped into this “grand”-generation with a boom. Just recently, I asked my husband how in the world that young couple on the mission trip “just a few years ago” could possibly have become grandparents so soon. He didn’t have a good answer either. Certainly we’re not that old! Are we? But we’ve decided this grandparent gig does live up to its hype. And we love it!

I look forward to the babysitting opportunities I have with these little people. We spend the time reading, building block towers, playing cars, throwing balls, splashing in bubble baths, coloring, counting, and watching “Daniel Tiger.” (And changing diapers, lots and lots of diapers!) I love whispering into their cute little ears, “Mimi loves you so much, but Jesus loves you most!” I hope when they grow up, they will remember some of the things I have tried to teach them, especially about Jesus.

But it was the youngest one who taught me a valuable lesson last week. It happened while I was giving her a bottle.  At just five weeks, she spends most of her time sleeping and eating. (Her big brother is still befuddled that she has no teeth, though I’ve assured him some day she will.) For now, all she needs and all she wants is milk. No teeth required. She is already on a fairly good schedule. She doesn’t need to be reminded of her feeding times. She reminds me. At first, she becomes only slightly fidgety. However, as mealtime draws closer, she becomes more restless and frantic. Eventually, the pacifier no longer pacifies. Her distress carries loudly across the room. She begins to cram her little hands and fingers into her mouth, desperate in her attempt to satisfy her longing.

Once I have her bottle warmed, I admit to adding a bit to her anxiety by taking time to tuck a little bib under her chin and offer a quick prayer of “Thank you, Jesus, for my food. Amen.” But then I am faced with another problem. I cannot get the bottle into her mouth. Her mouth is already full of tiny fists. Holding the bottle allows me only one hand to draw her two hands out of the way. Usually when I pull one away, the other quickly replaces it. I often laugh when I realize she is fighting against what she desires. Once I can finally get her to take the bottle, she relaxes and gulps hungrily, ending with a happy burp when all is finished.

In time, this little one will learn. She will see me coming with her food. She will hear my calming reassurances. She will know by experience that I will not let her down, that I will feed her.  Eventually she will anticipate her meals by smelling them cooking. She will offer her own prayers of gratitude in childlike confidence that she will have her needs met. She will understand the value of patiently waiting.

Suddenly, I realized how often I respond exactly like this precious newborn. In recognizing my needs, I fret. I fiddle with unsatisfactory substitutes. I noisily voice my concerns to anyone who will listen. I complain. I often plunge into downright panic!

The Lord must see me as I see my granddaughter, wondering at the way I push aside His goodness. While He longs to meet my needs and knows exactly what I need, He watches as I seek satisfaction in ways which will never fill my appetite as He can.  He sees my anxiety and hears my complaints. Surely He must sigh as He reminds me gently, “Linda, you’re in the way of what I want to give you. Please step aside and trust me. I have what you need.”

Oh, how I need to grow up. I must value the waiting. I need childlike faith. I must learn to expect Him to give me only what is best. I have seen Him do it over and over. Isn’t it time to learn?

Yes, baby girl will soon learn. She will grow up.

But will I? Have I?

I’m working on it.

“Truly my soul waiteth upon God: from him cometh my salvation.

My soul, wait though only upon God; for my expectation is from him.”

Psalm 62:1, 5

 

 

I Know You’re There!

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You are a number. Seriously, except for one reader, I don’t know who you are. On my screen, you pop up merely as a number. However, I know a few things about you because as your tally appears on my blog stat screen, several other things occur at the same time.

Let me give a bit of background before revealing exactly what I know. (How’s that for a teaser?) 😉

My writing mentor suggested I begin making myself known as a writer. Those who know me personally realize how uncomfortable that suggestion makes me. I don’t believe I am unlike most other writers, though. Most writers have a message to deliver and would be perfectly content to remain anonymous as long as our message could receive attention.

But when an editor makes a suggestion, it’s best to pounce on it. I have been laboriously submitting small articles to various periodicals with varying degrees of success. I have received the customary “your submission does not meet our needs at this time” rejections. I expect them. All authors receive them. But a couple submissions remain in the hands of publishers, awaiting printing or being held for future consideration. This process, exciting as it is, requires a great deal of time.

Then, there’s blogging. When it was suggested, I did not completely understand it. I was fearful of even clicking on a blog site, thinking it might entail a cost, enroll me in a club, or enable the whole world to see my personal information. (I’m a techno-coward!) I began investigating the mysterious world of blogging.

I soon discovered WordPress. This site assists a novice in setting up a blog. So I borrowed the title of a book I intended to write and plunged into the process. Much I still do not understand, but I’ve learned enough to present my message. I’m a blogger. A real live blogger! Whoopee!

WordPress offers the ability to track my progress, so each time I log on, I study my stats. That’s how I know you’re there. WordPress automatically gives me some specific information about you. Do you want to know what I know?

Well, when you click onto “Ironing the Preacher’s Shirts,” the number of visitors to my blog goes up by one. Seeing those numbers slowly climb encourages me. Not only does your visit add to my visitor count, but each post you read also adds a tally to my view count. I love watching this number. You count as only one visitor, but your number of views could be higher.

WordPress also indicates which posts you read. Although the most recent post usually receives the most views, I usually see increased viewing on several posts. The older the post, the less views it tends to receive. However, I have times when one visitor views five or more posts. I love that! I feel as if I’ve hooked that reader, at least for the moment.

I know what country you are in when you log on. Obviously, the majority of visits originate in the United States. But I’ve had readers in the Philippines, Italy, Australia, Ireland, and others. I have a friend who regularly follows me from Bulgaria. I must admit, I know she has visited when her country lights up. Each log-on, whether purposeful or by accident, offers an opportunity to present the news of God’s love.

Statistics also indicate what routed you to my site. Most readers launch from Facebook, but some come from Twitter, Google, and various search engines. With that information, I’ve learned how best to share each post. And seeing you share my posts pretty much puts me over the top!

So, you’re a number, but to me you’re much more. You are someone who encourages me. I might not know your name, but what you do for me is priceless. I feel your support. You validate my role in delivering the message. Some of you leave notes indicating what you’ve learned or how you’ve been moved. I love hearing that the timing of a post has been particularly appropriate.

I’ve seen firsthand the value of encouragement. You have taught me. Even though I don’t see your face, I know you’re there. And I am so grateful.

Your invisible support reminds me of God’s constant presence. I cannot see His face, but I see His hand at work both in me and around me, sometimes in the most subtle ways. He reassures me my life has purpose. The message of His Word heartens my efforts. Above all else, I need Him. I value His everlasting companionship. Knowing He is ever-present cheers me beyond all else.

I cannot see His face, but I know He’s there. I’m learning to watch for indications of His presence. I need Him. Thank you for reminding me!

“I will never leave thee nor forsake thee.”

Hebrews 13:5

Please Take a Number!

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I’m surrounded! I think I’m running low on oxygen! Just one at a time! Please step back from the desk! I must admit, these are all comments I’ve been tempted to make as a substitute teacher. Actually, to be completely forthright, I’ve sometimes wanted to shout them in a desperate attempt to keep my sanity.

These responses have little to do with the students. The problem is with me. Too much interaction at once completely overwhelms me. Too much of anything easily confuses most people. I handle issues better one at a time.

As a substitute teacher, I find students overwhelmingly helpful. Generally, the younger they are, the more “helpful” they tend to be. From the moment I enter a classroom, I begin to receive tips on classroom protocol. The miniature “instructors” cover the gamut from lunch schedule, to paper collecting procedure, reading groups, classroom rules, and  seatwork policies. And recess!  A substitute teacher has very little likelihood of forgetting when recess begins. (Perhaps when it ends, but NEVER when it begins!)

High school students make certain the  substitute knows when a class ends and which part of the assignment their teacher doesn’t usually require. Other than that, they generally “go with the flow.” (The only hint that I’ve committed a faux pas comes in the form of chuckles and glances back and forth. I expect those moments.)

Regardless, these eager founts of information crowd and spout out information at a frantic pace. It seems about one third of the class is updating information for me at any one time. However, each piece of advice is usually shared about ten times, with each pupil wanting to keep me in the know.

I appreciate the students’ helpfulness. I know they find a comfortable niche with their teacher, especially by spring semester.  Young ones, in particular, like their routines undisturbed. Several considerations they don’t take into account, though, are the teacher usually leaves rather detailed plans for me to follow, there can be more than one correct way of accomplishing a task, and I have over thirty years in the classroom and am quite familiar with lesson plans and procedures. I’ve made most mistakes already and have learned to quickly recover and take back charge. So for the most part, I can handle most classroom situations.

I usually begin the day reassuring the students their teacher trusts what I will do, even if it varies slightly from their normal routine. Sometimes the reassurance works. Sometimes, it’s pointless, and they still inundate me with an over-abundance of advice and questions.

Yesterday, I taught third grade. The class behaved well, but they were fairly certain I would flounder without their assistance. Despite my telling them to stay seated, they were intent on making my job easier by noisily surrounding my desk. I could not assimilate all those little voices and questions at once. It almost overwhelmed me. I was tempted to ask them to “Just take a number, please, and I’ll get to you as soon as I can.” Bless their hearts. This teacher could only listen to one child at a time.

As I considered this personal limitation, I  glimpsed again the greatness of God.  I came to several realizations. First, not only is He available for me to talk to at any time of day or night, but He is also available to everyone else. At any time. From anywhere. In any language. For any reason whatsoever.

I cannot imagine the myriad conversations in which He is simultaneously involved. And He listens. He understands. He cares. He can handle all of it with no frustration, confusion, or misunderstanding. Nothing overwhelms Him. This particular attribute boggles my mind. He possesses an unbounded attention span! I need not wait in line or try to catch His attention. As a matter of fact, He listens for my voice. He wants to hear it. My words will not get lost amidst the throngs of voices surrounding His throne.

Second, trying to give Him advice would be ridiculous, even less necessary than the advice I receive as a substitute teacher. Yet how often I find myself offering Him my “helpful”suggestions on how He should handle a situation. Silly me! His wisdom is infinite and  his experience is eternal. He will make no mistakes. He has the Plan, the Plan of the ages.

After pondering these truths, I came to several personal insights. I don’t want to disappoint the Lord, knowing He’s longing to hear my prayer, yet how often does He listen with no response from me? I also recognize the foolishness of offering my requests with a blueprint for His approval. I should rather approach Him with arms wide open to receive  His answer.

I realize how much I need to be a student of prayer. I have much to learn!

               “Evening, and morning, and at noon, will I pray, and cry aloud: and he shall hear my voice.”      Psalm 55:17