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

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! 😳

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.

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