A Was And Will Be

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Source: A Was And Will Be

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A Was And Will Be

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Why is it momentous that on this very day in 1977, I marched across the platform as a seventeen year old high school graduate? It means it’s time for my forty-year reunion!! How in the world did that happen? I remember laughing with my classmates as we looked ahead and joked about our twenty- and thirty-year reunions. Forty years wasn’t even on the radar at that point.

Though small, our class covered a broad spectrum of personalities. Thanks to Facebook, I’ve reconnected with some of them. Seeing one another’s profile pictures should somewhat ease the surprise of what time has delivered to each of us when we meet at the reunion. Amazingly, our differences are much fewer now than many years ago. Our experiences have rearranged our priorities and mellowed and matured us.

I cannot help but reminisce a bit about those days long past. Just this week, several of us chatted about our old choir dresses.  Those “uniforms” certainly ran the fashion gamut! I could not be cajoled into wearing any of them now, even if I could fit into them.

In high school, I was a first soprano, but since I could read music, my choir director often asked me to sing alto, and sometimes even tenor. I enjoyed the variety. My senior year, I accepted a dare and timidly tried out for a part in the operetta “The Mikado.”  My horror at being chosen almost warped me for life, but it was a fulfilling experience.

Gymnastics in junior high school, and cheerleading through high school and college highlighted my school years. My summer was spent playing neighborhood games of freeze tag, hide-and-seek, and kick the can each evening until the porch lights came on.

In sixth grade, I took baton lessons in hopes of achieving the same success my Aunt Karen did as a majorette. I felt pretty cool, and I loved the sparkling, red-sequined outfits. I still remember parts of some routines, but I’m no longer twirling. (Stop laughing, dear Reader! It was good while it lasted.)

In elementary school, I dominated the pogo stick. My small frame allowed me great endurance, allowing hundreds of jumps at a time. I remember having a big grin on my face with each “boing.” Traditional jump-roping, Chinese jump-rope, four square, and an occasional kickball game occupied my recesses.

I earned all possible badges in Pioneer Girls Club. I was a champion reader in my fourth grade “Reading-Bowling” contest. I won a few spelling bees. In third grade, Mrs  O’Brien encouraged me to be a writer when I grew up. (Obviously, I’m still working on that.)

My earliest memories are of being allowed to walk down the street by myself to the neighborhood mailbox and of winning the “Button, Button! Who’s got the button?” game in nursery school.

But in 1977, I put those achievements behind me and embraced young adulthood. Many of the “action verbs” that had previously comprised my life waned and some disappeared altogether. I soon became a college graduate, a novice teacher, a glowing bride, a grad school graduate, and young mother of three.

Now, (insert drumroll), I am a semi-retired school teacher, a middle-aged pastor’s wife, an ambitious author, and Mimi to five precious grandchildren.

Some day in the future, I hope to be an accomplished author and perhaps a great-grandma! I also yearn for a spectacular view of the Aurora Borealis (Great Northern Lights) some day.

That’s my life: what it was, what it is, and what it may be in the future.

Most of my musings require past tense verbs. It’s what I used to be. It’s past.

Only few sentences refer to my current opportunities and abilities, although I find plenty to keep me busy.

A mere two sentences are required to extrapolate my future.

The point of my musings? I am a finite being. My life consists of stages – the past, the present, and the future. I was; I am; I will be.  I must use my abilities and opportunities while they exist, knowing time changes them.

But God is different. He’s the great I AM! Everything is present tense for Him.

Oh, how I praise Him for His infinite capability! Everything God could do in the past, He can still do today, and He will be able to do equally well in the future. He never wearies or weakens. He will never change since He has no room for improvement. I can always depend upon Him to be able and accessible.

No one else can claim to be unchangeable. I’m so thankful I can count on my God!

“For I am the LORD, I change not.”                                            Malachi 3:6

“Jesus Christ the same yesterday, and today, and forever!”          Hebrews 13:8

Note: I never won a trophy. 😉 Most of these awards belong to my children. The ibuprofen and Bengay are mine! 😳

Say What?

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My husband, a genuine extrovert, loves people. I do, too, but as an introvert, I love them from a greater distance than he. Socially, we perfectly exemplify the “opposites attract” notion. Wherever we go, my husband extends our time out by stopping to chat with whomever he can engage in conversation. In the neighborhood, I’m known only as “oh, you’re that lady whose husband . . .  .” And that’s just fine with me.

Last year, a young couple with three little children moved in next door. Normally, my gregarious husband would know their names by now, but all we generally do is wave at them.  Other than adding a smile, that’s about it. They moved to the United States from Myanmar and speak, I think, Burmese. Although I taught English for many years and know a bit of French, and my husband knows an ounce of German, we are both ill-equipped to speak Burmese.

Obviously, language has created a barrier for us. These folks seem sweet and their children appear well-behaved, but we know little else about them.  We have introduced ourselves as best we could, but it is impossible to effectively carry on a conversation with them. They came to our garage sale last spring. I could not answer their questions about the items they were interested in, but they made several purchases after we jotted down some prices for them. Numbers do translate.

Last summer, we took them a Ziploc bag of freshly-picked red raspberries from our backyard. Judging by the amount of smiling and vigorous nodding, they appeared to be delighted with our small gift.

We did not see them much over the winter months, but once in a while we heard their oldest child (probably about six years old) outside blowing the whistle we had given him at the garage sale. (We know they are smart when they send the child outside to play with a whistle!!)  We get a kick out of hearing him blow a few times before walking back indoors.

This week, I shared another token of friendship with the sweet momma. I had made Mother’s Day gifts for our church ladies – a teacup glued to a saucer and filled with a lovely, live plant. I had a couple extra after the others were delivered, so I decided to share one with her.

I do not know her name, but I couldn’t miss her excitement when I held out my gift to her. She was bubbling and grinning and trying to show her two tiny girls. As her husband came in from working in the backyard, he, too, had a big smile when he saw the plant. I received much handshaking and multiple bows. Then he followed me back across the driveway to help me with the gate as I tried to maneuver two grandchildren, one in my arms and one walking at my side,  into the yard and keep our two dogs contained at the same time. His assistance was greatly appreciated.

And I understood all of it! So did they.

We understood because kindness and thoughtfulness know no barrier. Their language is universal.

Regardless of the lack of words, I enjoyed a delightful exchange with my neighbors. Kindness did the communicating for each of us.

I wish I could assure my readers I always remember to show kindness. I don’t. The purpose of this post is not to brag, but rather to remind myself of my need to excel in kindness. I think the memory of the sweet exchange with my foreign friends will serve as a reminder for many days ahead. I hope so. Some day I hope to walk across a bridge built by kindness in order to share the love of Jesus with them.

Although kindness often costs little to nothing, its value remains priceless. Being kind might require a few moments, a quick word or action, or the exercise of a smile directed toward a stranger. It could cost us a spot in a grocery line or traffic lane. It might entail the bending of a back or a knee. Perhaps it will mean someone else gets the credit. But the result brings joy. It could change someone’s entire outlook on life, causing them to realize there are still nice people who care or, perhaps, ease a burden they’ve been carrying. Yet, even when kindness seems unappreciated, the doer still finds satisfaction.

And our deeds are noticed. By-standers see it. Our families see it. And, most importantly, God sees it. God is, by nature, kind. Surely His heart rejoices when His children follow His example.

Never before have I been so impressed with the value of kindness, a universally understood language. I hope my actions will do a lot more “talking” from now on!

“And be ye kind one to another.”

Ephesians 4:32

 

Disaster Area!

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As soon as I bumped that old, thick-glass jar, I knew trouble was coming. But that didn’t deter my hands from grasping the air in hopes of catching it before it made contact with the porcelain tiled kitchen floor.

In vain.

CRASSSSHHH!

I’ve dropped numerous dishes over the years. That was not unusual. The odd element was the distance the shards covered. The fairly large jar had flown into more pieces than I had ever seen. Instantaneously, the jar became . . . well, not a jar, and never again to be a jar.  The remaining fragments covered my entire kitchen floor. Obviously, the greatest congregating happened at my feet. I felt their sharpness hit my shins, ankles, and feet. It stung, but I was unharmed. That was the good news.

The bad news? I had on no shoes or socks. As I peered around for a place to step that would not result in pain, no clear area appeared. I considered a little hop further out to avoid disaster. NO. There was glass literally everywhere. No space appeared large enough for a foot. I was a bit panicked, especially as I heard my two year old grandson coming to inspect the disaster. I shouted for him to stay away, explaining Mimi had broken a jar and the glass could hurt his little feet. He obeyed.

But my little feet remained in peril!

Glass had scattered to the wall by the kitchen table, to the carpet’s edge and beyond into the living room, under the appliances, into the dogs’ dishes, into the great room, and clear out into the laundry room. It was everywhere! It was almost comical that a movement of perhaps two inches could cause a disaster area at least twenty-five feet wide! Almost comical.

Finally, using some awkward ballerina-type moves, I reached a safe place to put my feet on the floor, receiving only a small knick in return. Once I was properly shod, I began the tedious clean up. I worked hard to remove all traces of glass, finally feeling satisfied it was safe for a shoed toddler.

That was last week.

A few days ago, my husband reported finding a fair chunk of glass.

The next day, he found more.

Today, I found another piece.

We cannot figure out where they are coming from. The rugs were shaken and washed. The floor was thoroughly swept. All initial traces had been removed. We thought. Now I’m beginning to believe we will never see the last of that jar. It just keeps showing up, often in areas far from the point of impact.

Life can be like that old glass jar. In one careless moment,  situations can shatter at our feet, and the repercussions reach areas we could never have anticipated. The rippling effect can carry the damage hastily and irretrievably outside our control. Once in a while, the effect is devastating.

In this case, damage was minimal. I had a broom and dustpan, a vacuum, and a washing machine, everything I needed to eliminate all noticeable evidence of my carelessness. But when new pieces show up, I am again reminded of my mistake.

I wish I’d been more careful. I wish I hadn’t been in such haste to finish those dishes. I wish the noise hadn’t scared my grandson. I wish.

But wishing doesn’t matter. I cannot change the past.

But I can remember the lessson. I can try to be more careful, knowing the effect of my thoughtlessness could be more widespread than I ever imagined.

I can be more careful with my actions, with my choices, and with my words. I can work to avoid the messes impetuousness can make. I may not be able to “unbreak” the jars I’ve shattered, but I can strive to break fewer in the future.

And, when I fail, I can again be thankful for God’s cleansing forgiveness.

“Set a watch, O LORD, before my mouth;

keep the door of my lips.”

Psalm 141:3

No Grace Yet

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I have a technicolor imagination. It can be a blessing . . . and a curse! In my case, it’s often the latter. An idea doesn’t cross my mind as merely a black and white, two-dimensional thought. Oh, no! It parades across my imagination, waving multi-colored banners, every detail glowing and growing in the few seconds it takes to strut its proud self across my cerebellum.

Do you play scenes in your mind as I do? I’m not talking about dreams. I’m talking about scenarios that well up with no voluntary effort. These vivid ten-second dramas result from a husband or child being late coming home, an undiagnosed physical symptom, an overwhelming obligation, a curious look, an unexpected comment, or a myriad of life’s day to day unknowns and insecurities.

Last week, I was looking into the future rather dubiously, measuring my perceived capability against an upcoming obligation. After my measurements were complete, I was fairly certain the commitment was going to kill me outright! Not a good feeling. Furthermore, I was sure death was the only possible escape. I was trapped – I was going to die an untimely death, one way or the other.

The day came. And it went. And I survived!

Amazing! None of my fears were realized!

My imagination had painted only the worst case scenario. Vividly. The yellows had indicated my fears, the greens were envy of those more capable, the reds were blood from the wounds of my defeat, and the blues . . . well, the blues explain themselves.

Generally, I’m not a pessimist. I consider myself a realist.  I’ve tried to follow the advice my father repeated to me many times as I was growing up: hope for the best, but prepare for the worst.

He also told me numerous times that about 95% of the things I worried about would never happen. I always answered him the same way – “So the more I worry about, the less bad will happen. Right?” He had a way of looking at the ceiling when I made remarks like that. Poor guy! He’s still so patient with me!

I remember worrying for almost three years about my firstborn leaving the nest and flying away to college. Up until about two months before he left, he was not going to actually fly anywhere. He was going to drive. But the Lord changed his plans at the last minute, and he DID FLY to college. In California! To a place I’d never been. With people I’d never met. To the middle of the desert!! (Okay, it was only the southern tip of the desert, but it was close enough to the middle for this momma!) I was fairly sure I would be the first mother to actually die from letting one of her beloved children leave home.

But I didn’t die. I cried some, but I didn’t die. Neither did he. Not even when he spent time on a college mission team in Uganda, Africa. As a matter of fact, at one point on that trip, he found himself alone, surrounded by a group of angry Al Qaeda (something I’d amazingly never even imagined!!), pushing him around because he (as an American) had killed Hussein. He escaped, very shaken, but unharmed. Now had I been there with him, I would have . . . well, . . .  I would not have been able to help him. I’d have fainted! Big help, huh? But in my vivid imagination, I would have protected him.

False! Wrong again.

Another time, I was told my daddy might have cancer. I told my friend that he didn’t. I knew he didn’t because if they told me he did, my head would blow up. I wouldn’t be able to handle it.

But my daddy did, indeed, have cancer. It was really bad.

And my head did not blow up. At the moment I was told, God gave me grace. I didn’t like it, but I could accept it and deal with it. The day before his diagnosis, I hadn’t had the grace. I only had technicolor imaginations. But when I needed it, God provided peace.

God healed my father. God protected my children. He helped me through my looming obligation this past week. He has delivered grace to me time and again as I have needed it. Not a moment sooner.

If God dispersed grace on a weekly basis, I would use it all by Monday evening.  I’m thankful He doesn’t dole it out that way. He gives me grace for each day. His mercies are new every morning. (Lamentations 3:23) I needn’t dream up any fearsome situations. “Sufficient unto the day is the evil thereof.” (Romans 6:34) I only need mercy for this moment.

I still battle vivid imaginations, but I am working on turning the station from the Cartoon Network of my mind to the Spiritual Reality Station of God’s Word. He’s helping me. Day by day.

That’s Filthy!

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I’m not ironing the preacher’s shirts today.  I’m washing windows. Spring warmth and gentle breezes proved enough inspiration to grab the glass cleaner and some rags. I wanted a clearer view of the world.

Most of our windows are the tilt-in type. I like those. Being an “indoorsy” girl, I love the idea of accomplishing an “outdoorsy” task right from my bedroom, bathroom, or living room! I don’t need a ladder, good knees to climb said ladder, or the coordination it takes to juggle all my cleaning equipment while on the ladder. I can even wash a few windows in inclement weather.

Being sure the problem was not a dirty world but rather a dirty view, I plunged into action. I quickly developed a satisfactory system. Push the bottom window up enough to tilt it out, pull down the top window and tip it out. Clean the outside of the top window first, working through the build-up until the final towel wipes clean and the window shines. Then clean and polish the inside pane. Pop it back into place and heave it back up. Clean the outside, then the inside of the bottom window using the same technique. Push it all the way up and tackle the sill.

Yuck! I hate cleaning the sill. So much dirt gathers there. It’s not a dusty dirt, easily cleared with a couple of puffs. No such luck. Cleaning the sill requires using the fingernails to scratch the compacted grime out of myriad corners and crevices. It gets a bit discouraging when wiping the crud out of one section flips dirt back onto the section that was just wiped clean.  And the bugs! They lie on their backs, awaiting the final shove out to their final resting place. (I gladly indulge them with quick swipes and a scrunched up nose.)

Looking through crystal clear panes as the sun goes down makes the effort quite satisfying.

The project yesterday was going well. However, I didn’t get too far into it before the lesson hit me like a two by four.

The bathroom window is a bit higher, but with tilt-in windows, I can still reach both panes. I had gotten as far into the process as the sill. Suddenly I realized I’d been straddling a small stool our grandsons use. Well, huh! Why didn’t I make it just a tiny bit easier by using the stool?

So I stepped up and resumed my work. I honestly thought I’d just about finished, but when I stepped up that one extra step, I was horrified to see all the crud I’d missed! With a new perspective, from above, I found I had a great deal more to do before I could consider it clean.

Boom! That’s when it hit me.

My life is a filthy sill, coated with the world’s grime. I’m certain I have dead bugs meriting a mighty kick, once and for all, out of my heart. Bugs of pride, bitterness, and discontentment. Though I try to keep up with confessing and forsaking my sin, I have plenty of room for improvement. Sin stifles blessings. It clouds my fellowship with Him. When it builds into cynicism and pride, sin can make me unfit for use.

With so much at stake, why do I often find it so easy to glibly spout off an apology and add a promise to try harder to do right?

When I see sin through God’s eyes, I understand how much deep-cleaning my life actually needs. My sin becomes disgusting to me, just as it is to Him. I recognize my filthiness.

Psalm 119:9 shows me how to be wiped thoroughly clean.

Wherewithal shall a young man [or anyone] cleanse his way? by taking heed thereto according to Thy Word.”

Examining life from my limited, horizontal perspective skews my vision. The truth is gained only through God’s Word. Thoughts of “small” sins vanish as I realize any sin makes me unclean. My desire for a thorough washing grows under the scrutiny of the Lord’s perspective.

He desires to clean me up.

I am ready to be thoroughly washed. Spotless from every angle!

And I know it will be worth it at the end of the day!

 

 

 

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!!