Julie Miller

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God’s angels are watching over us.

David Jeremiah

 

Aren’t all the angels ministering spirits who are sent to serve

those who are going to inherit salvation?

Hebrew 1:14

 

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Do you believe in angels? Oh, I’m not talking about those cute little chubby cherubs that you can buy in the stores. Or even the D’Amico angels, which I collect. No. I’m talking about ministering angels that appear on earth to guard and protect us.  

Forty years ago this past August, I had an encounter with an angel...at least that’s what I believe.

It happened when I least expected it, but, when I most needed it.

I was nineteen at the time and living in the city. It was Friday and I was eagerly awaiting my work day to end. I had made plans to head north for a fun-filled weekend celebrating my eight-year-old brother. After a quick stop at my apartment to change into more comfortable clothing, I hit the road.

About halfway to my destination, my life turned upside down. Literally.

Going 60 miles-an-hour in the left lane on a major highway, my car suddenly jerked left toward the median. The tires hit the gravel and spun my car around 180° to face the oncoming traffic. In a blink of any eye, my car was flipping in the median over and over. 

It was a surreal moment. The windows blew out. Glass shards flew, as did I. (There weren’t seatbelt laws back then.) The next thing I knew, I was being slammed upward onto the roof of the car, then into the passenger door, where I was left slumped in a pile when it came to rest.

I panicked. All I wanted to do was to get out of the car. Three young men were about to yank the door open and caught me as I lost consciousness.

The next thing I remember I was laying on my back in the grass with grasshoppers bounding over me.

My mind whirled, my heart raced, but, my lips were dumb.

Just then a gentle-faced man leaned in close to my own. He slipped his hand in mine and whispered, “Julie, my name is Jerry _____. You’ve been in a car accident. You’ve been placed on the ground to keep you stabilized until the ambulance comes for you. Do not be afraid. I am here. Try to rest quietly.”

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A beautiful letter from a daddy to his 1st child as he heads off to school...

 

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My hands paused for an extra moment this morning; hovering over the shoes that would carry you off to Kindergarten. For a fleeting moment I thought if I waited long enough I could turn back the clock. Perhaps time would settle into stillness long enough so I could revisit all the times I've rushed you out of childhood and forgotten you are still beautifully wrapped in innocence and wonder.

 

My throat tightened the way it always does before the tears start to fall. Your feet danced back and forth with excitement, this new beginning pulsing through your body. Your sister and brother helped you with your new backpack and asked you questions you were too excited to hear. As the oldest you not only forge this path for yourself, but you also make a way for them when their time comes.

 

I felt myself slipping towards shame, replaying all the moments I've gotten it wrong, all the moments you deserved more of me, all the moments I'd wished for a do over. I could have wallowed there in the shame and guilt, but instead I received a simple gift of grace. I looked down at my hands again and remembered. I remembered how they'd received you on the day you were born. They were gentle with you and held you close. They protected you and provided for you. They comforted your hurts and pains. They tickled you until your belly was full of laughter. They did whatever they could to reassure you that you belong.

 

So my son, as you begin this new adventure take a look at your hands. Think of all they will help you create, and all they will help you do. Some of your creations will earn you gold stars and the praises of your teachers, but there is something even more important that your hands can do. They can be a gift to your classmates. Think of they way your hands could receive the lost and lonely ones. Think of how gentle your hands could be towards the hurting and the broken ones. Think of how your hands could protect the most vulnerable ones.

 

As you gave us your final hugs before skipping into your new classroom you whispered in my ear the phrase you've learned to repeat whenever we part ways, "I am good, I am loved." I smiled through the emerging tears, hopeful that you were beginning to understand that there is nothing more true about you. And so from that place you are sent out. You get to go, and dream, and play, and learn, but you also have the chance to do whatever you can to reassure your classmates that they belong. And when you start to forget what's most true about you, or you start to live too deeply into shame and guilt my hands will be gentle with you and hold you close all over again and whisper in your ear what's most true about you; "you are good, you are loved."

 

Godspeed my little adventurer. I'll be waiting at the bus stop.

As we prepare our hearts for autumn...

I thought a reprise of this old devotional I wrote might be would be just the ticket we need to refocus our thoughts as the blustery winds blow in.

 

I am like a deaf man who cannot hear…

Be not silent. Do not be far from me, O Lord.

Psalm 38:13a / 35:22b

 

The wind blew strong all through the night, rattling windows…and my nerves…and today it blusters still. Even as I sit here, it howls and hollers. Our neighbor’s screen door slams open and closed, being pushed and pulled with each stiff gust. Leaves scurry and scatter across our lawn in every direction. The typical sounds of a neighbor’s dog barking or of traffic hurrying along the nearby highway are muffled, if not silenced, by the wind’s boisterous behavior. 

But, it is not just the wind that has been blustering of late. My mind feels tumultuous as well. Unsettled thoughts have been clamoring noisily in my head; yet, the more I try to pull them together, the more strewn they become. The worst part of it is I cannot seem to make out God’s voice over all the confusion. I cry out to Him, but my words just echo off the walls. 

“What’s wrong with me, Lord?” I ask. “Is there some sin issue in my life that is separating us?  Is that why I am struggling so?” I lay my heart out before Him and confess my sad propensity to stumble; yet, the tumult continues. I wonder then if the enemy of my soul is behind this menacing disruption between my Savior and me; perhaps he is the one creating this disturbance in my mind. I whisper a prayer of protection and thank God that He is greater than anything the enemy can hurl at me…still the blustering continues.

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Have a blessed and rest-filled weekend dear readers!

 

LuAnn, Heidi, Jo and Julie

 

A silence fell over the group that went on…and on…and on. So, I started to talk. I chatted on like a radio.

Carole Mayhall

 

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I’ve been reading through the book of Job from the Bible this summer. It really is a painful little book. It’s painful, not only because of the horrific catastrophes that happen to Job. That is excruciating enough to imagine. But, to have to listen in as his closest friends carelessly prattle on and on as Job suffers…well, that just breaks my heart.

Poor Job even tried to stop his friends after their droning deluge of words and pleaded with them, “You think you are wise. But, my spirit is broken. If only you would listen carefully to my words and let this be the way you comfort me.” (12:1-2, 16:2-3, 17:1 and 21:1-2) Unfortunately, the droning continued. His friends just didn’t get it. 

Some folks never do.

Proverbs 18:2 tells us that a fool “only wants to tell others what they think.” 

That’s precisely what Job’s friends intended to do. In response to his pleas, they said things like, “I cannot keep from speaking.” Or “Listen to what I have to say.”

The minute I meet some people, I know how the conversation is going to go. No matter how hard I try with some, a whirlpool sucks us in and we swim in never-ending circles…”

Carole Mayhall 

Job’s friends desperately needed a class in Listening 101.

When we listen, really listen, we pay thoughtful attention to our friend; we hear what is being said and unsaid, in order to fully understand what’s on her heart.

But listening is hard work. Especially when our friend grows quiet. Some of us are uncomfortable, nervous even, with silence. We feel the need to fill the air with words.  

I love the quote by one of the Desert Fathers, Arsenius, who said, “I have often repented of having spoken, but never of having remained silent.”

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Give light and people will find the way.

—Ella Baker

 

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The sunroom in the condo where we’ve stayed in Big Sky, Montana the last couple of years overlooks a small lake hedged in by the small ski village. The village sits at the base of Lone Peak. And the view at sunrise is breathtaking.

 

But, the view at day’s end is equally spectacular. As the sun slowly slips out of sight, the lights of the village begin to flicker on, polka-dotting the mountains darkening silhouette with a warm glow. Dusk paints the sky in broad strokes of watercolor pinks, purples and oranges.

 

It’s a scene I rarely miss. I tuck myself into a comfy chair and breathe in the beauty of God’s unfolding majesty.

 

As nightfall descends, and with it the waning hours, one-by-one the lights of the village go out.

 

Save one.

 

A solitary light shines out against the deepening darkness from Lone Peaks starry summit.

 

From my bed, I can look out the window and gaze up at that light. It is strangely soothing to me. Like the words that Galadriel spoke to Frodo in the book, The Lord of Rings. “And for you, Frodo Baggins, I give you the light of Eärendil our most beloved star. May it be a light to you in dark places when all other lights go out.”

 

The light atop Lone Peak is a light in dark places when all other lights go out.

 

As my thoughts begin to tumble one-upon-another in my head, I quietly slip out of bed and back into the cozy chair that I love, and give freedom to my thoughts.

 

I scribble down the first three words that spring to mind as I gaze up at Lone Peak: Protection. Direction. Comfort.

 

I stand to look out the window and scan the horizon from east to west. It may seem crazy, but, the mountains seem to all but disappear in the blackest darkness.

 

Protection.

 

I imagine a light brightly shining from the tallest peak in the region would surely be a blessed gift of protection, especially for pilots. Think of the tragedies that would occur if the light atop Lone Peak went out. Like the light on top of transmission towers and skyscrapers, the light atop Lone Peak warns pilots of impending danger and thereby safeguards against loss of life and cargo.

 

When I ponder further, an old saying whispers to my heart, “I’ll leave the light on for you.”

 

What do you think of when you hear that statement? (Besides Motel 6.) Close your eyes and think about it for a moment. When someone leaves the light on for you, what do you expect to find when you arrive?

 

We happened to arrive quite late to a friend’s house last spring, but, they didn’t just leave the light on for us, they waited up to welcome us. When someone leaves the light on for you, you expect at the very least a safe place to lay your head.

 

I pray that the light I bear will also be a beacon of protection, a safe place for people in this ever-darkening world.

 

You are the world’s light—a city on a hill, glowing in the night for all to see. Don’t hide your light! Let it shine for all.

Matthew 5:14-16

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Tagged in: Be a light

b2ap3_thumbnail_IMG_0503.JPGWe Heart Matters gals are really excited to share our latest devotional with you! So, please mark your calendars! We'd love to see you!! 

 Our fourth guest is a writer of poetry. Her name is Denise Smith Collier and her beautiful words can be found on her Facebook page, Heart of Worship. May these words from both of her poems bless and encourage you today...

 

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Love Letter from Jesus

 

My beautiful bride,
I long so for you,
With sharing our love,
Communion of two.

Days feel like thousands,
Not having you close,
Thoughts that consume,
My heart yearning most.

Your scent like a rose,
A smell like no other,
That reaches to Me,
Excitement uncovers.

Soon I will come,
My arms to then hold,
And take you with Me,
The place we'll call home.

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Tagged in: You are loved

It's our third week and we are really excited to share another lovely lady's blog with you. Her name is Heidi Zwart. She has a wonderful blog about health and wholeness that you will be so encouraged by. Follow her at www.heidizwart.com.

We pray that these words that Heidi wrote will resonate with you today as you move toward a healthier life, day by day.

 

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Have you ever blamed yourself for not eating well, exercising consistently, or having a body you just can’t seem to love? Me too. And, there’s a reason we share this struggle.
Getting healthy is hard. 
But it’s not because we lack willpower or haven’t found the right diet plan. It’s not because we haven’t mastered good habits or broken bad ones. The truth is, we were born into this fight. Our struggle began long before we were born...  
Our story started with Earth’s first inhabitants, Adam & Eve, a beautiful garden, a serpent, and a piece of fruit. One small not-so-great decision has impacted everything since. Everything.
Including our health.
Even if you’ve never been a regular church-goer, you’re probably familiar with the story that unfolded in the Garden of Eden. Whether or not you believe the Genesis account to be an accurate reflection of history, I encourage you to lean in and give this story a chance. Keep the door open to the possibility that this story matters.
More importantly, consider that this story just may hold the key to healing not only your health but your life.
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 This week we Heart Matters gals are highlighting Amber Krueger's beautiful blog. She uses her gifts of creativity and artistry to bless and encourage others to do the same.

 

Check out her blog: https://byambershands.com/. It's a wonderful collection of yummy recipes, creative crafts and ideas to inspire you to tap into your own God-given gifts and abilities.

 

 

 

The last few days have been incredibly difficult ones for me.

 

On days like today, when my heart is heavily burdened, when my thoughts are clouded and my spirit is grieved, I find myself drawn to performing simple tasks with my hands.

 

Today I turned off the television, turned away from social media, did my best to shut out all the distractions and baked bread.

 

 

 

There is something about the process of baking bread– the taking of simple ingredients like flour, water, and yeast; the working of dough in one’s hands and making something wonderful out of it– that helps to order one’s thoughts and soothe a troubled soul.

 

 

Our lives require more silence than we’re typically given. When I was younger I avoided silence at all costs. Now I find myself seeking out the few moments I can get.

 

The resting of the dough reminds me to take time for silence, for reflection, for prayer.

 

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During the month of July, we gals at Heart Matters want to lift the voices of other women who write beautiful blogs.

I'm delighted to re-post a beautifully written blog by Hannah Sorvik Fordice.

 

“I don’t know who I am! I’m like cat here, a couple of no-name slobs. We belong to nobody and nobody belongs to us. We don’t even belong to each other.”
— Breakfast at Tiffany's
 
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"Did you hear a cat too? Or am I crazy?"

 

My husband and I paused on the sidewalk, our dog Valkyrie, anxiously pulling us backwards toward the river. There in the middle of the sidewalk behind us was the tiniest orange kitten mewing forlornly. My hubby crouched down and low-and-behold that wee kitty ran right up to him and started purring. 

 

The little dude was probably only 5 weeks old and covered in dirt. We waited for awhile to make sure that momma cat wasn't hiding in the bushes or out on a quick hunt but no one ever showed. So we took a few steps forward and our new furry friend followed right on our heels. We casually walked home, with neighbors gaping at that strange couple walking their giant German Shepherd and small orange kitten. You know, totally normal. 

 

When we got home we washed the kitten off in the sink, wrapped him in a towel, and gave him some cat food, which he consumed so fast that I had to wonder when his last meal was. My hubby held him, all bundled up, and stroked his ears and he purred his way right into the type of sleep one only experiences when completely safe. 

 

I can't help but think that me and that kitten have a lot in common. I may not be feline, covered in hair, or orange (except that one time I used tanning lotion wrong), but I am in so many ways seeking safety, sustenance, love and ultimately a forever Home (capital "H"). 

 

If there is one thing that I have learned over the last five months it is that none of us are invincible and none of us get to escape from this life unscathed by suffering. The more loss I experience the more my size in relation to the world seems to shrink. I have gone from the belief that I am a lion, king of the jungle, to the belief that I am a kitten, vulnerable and lost.

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The story of life is quicker than the blink of an eye, it is hello, goodbye…until we meet again.

—Jimi Hendrix

 

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One of the advantages of advancing years are all the memories that are stowed away in the heart. Like treasures that have been carefully tucked away up in the attic, we brush the cobwebs aside, lift the trunk lid and memories come spilling out.

We recently returned from a trip out East. Since many of my favorite memories from childhood have their roots firmly planted in my hometown in Pennsylvania, the few days we spent there were a pure gift.

Staying with my uncle and aunt, I dragged them down to the banks of the Allegheny River where my grandparents had lived. Past the home where my little family had lived. Up to Jakes Rocks to hike. Downtown to eat Greek at The Plaza. And we even made a pitstop at Bon Ton to stock up on Pittsburgh Steeler gear.

Each memory tied to my past. Yet, they were brand new memories-in-the-making, as well.

As we pulled away to head back home, tears streamed down my cheeks. Standing in their driveways, my uncle, aunt and their neighbour, who just happens to be my second mom, Mary Blick, whom I had just spent a lovely morning with, waved goodbye… I was undone.

Soon after, it was time to say goodbye to our son in Cleveland. Wasn’t it only moments early that we had hugged hello?

We made a stop to see friends in Michigan. There were warm embraces with every family member upon arrival. Our time together—a blessing—as if no time had passed between visits. Then before we knew it, we were hugging once again. Goodbye.

Hello, goodbye.

Isn’t that life in a nutshell? A series of hello’s and goodbyes?

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I’ve reached the age where my train of thought often leaves the station without me.

—Maxine

 

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I’m aging. And it’s getting more and more apparent: from the crow’s feet around my eyes to my ever-growing wattle neck. Yep. Inherited that lovely item from my grandma o. There were so many wonderful traits I would have loved to have inherited from grams, but, this is the one I got. 

 

Then there’s the problem of those little gray cells in my noggin. It seems this old brain of mine just doesn’t function like it used to. In fact, these days it seems to malfunction more often than it functions. 

 

Pretty sure roughly a third of my life has been spent standing in the middle of the room

wondering what I came in here for.

—Unknown

 

It’s like the Hallmark card I found years back. On the front cover was a cartoon figure of a large headed guy with little brain cells jumping out of his ears. When you opened it, it read, “Eugene didn’t mind that he was losing brain cells every day. He just wished they would be less dramatic about it.”

 

Recently, over the course of one day, I set out with our dog for a morning walk, but upon arriving home, realized I’d forgotten to grab the keys and had locked myself out of the house. When I finally did get back in, I decided to run to the local grocer. Filling my cart with all the necessary items, I reached the cashier only to discover I had forgotten my purse. Then to top it all off, at supper time, I turned on the wrong burner to boil some eggs, when I returned at the beeping of my timer, I was horrified to see my Le Creuset Dutch oven burnt to a crisp. A costly mistake that left me in tears.

 

My son keeps telling me, “Mom, you’ve got to focus.” He follows that by launching into the sermon I used to give him when he was young, ‘Before you walk out the door… before you start supper… ask yourself, “Where am I going? What am I doing? Stop and concentrate on the task at hand.”

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“There is nothing more beautiful than someone who goes out of their way to make life beautiful for others.”

Mandy Hale

 

“I tell you the truth, anything you do for the least of my people here, you also do for me.”

Matthew 25:40

 

I have taken hundreds of photos of flowers over the years, perhaps thousands. But, there’s a photo I took last summer, on a hike in Montana, of tiny pink bell-shaped flowers cascading down from somewhere high overhead, that still comes to mind every now and then.  

 

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I think the reason they cross my mind so often is their humble appearance.

 

Even if no one else stopped to notice them that day, those Twinflowers willingly bent low to bless anyone on the lookout for little love gifts such as these. They certainly blessed me.

 

But, for all their sweetness, few people would have noticed them, because looming large nearby, tall stalks of bright fuchsia-colored Fireweed and fiery red Indian Paintbrush eclipsed them. Tiny pale flowers clinging to rock’s edge are easily overlooked.  

As is often the case, it’s the bright showy blossoms that catch folk’s eyes.

 

That seems true of people too. We are often enamored by the bright, the beautiful, and the talented.

 

Perhaps that’s why the upstaged Twinflowers touched me so. And touch me still. Their humble presence reminds me so much of my Grandpa Simey…and of the Savior.

 

My gramps walked gently upon this earth of ours. He was unassuming. A man of few words. Whose love of God was lived out in humility. Caring. Generosity.  

 

His father died when he was six. At the age of ten he was sent to live in a boarding house where he worked for his keep. Skilled, but, not schooled, he became a machinist by trade. With carpentry skills to boot, he also built a few houses in his day. But, it wasn't these abilities that made him memorable.

 

It was what my grandpa did behind the scenes that is his true legacy. Growing up in poverty, he never forgot what it felt like to have nothing. Once, after reading a story about a family living in their car in his small-town newspaper, he went in search of them. When he discovered their whereabouts, he brought groceries, clothing and money to help tide them over.

 

When my grandpa died, over 700 people came to pay their respects. Story-after-story was shared by those who attended, telling of his generosity and gentle, unpretentious life of self-giving. Each one touched by God in some way by my Twinflower grandpa who, too, bent low to bless.

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We gals grew up hearing and reading love stories and fairy tales from the time we were little. One of my very favorites was, and still is, Cinderella. 

 

Perhaps I am drawn to her story because, like myself, she was just an ordinary gal. 

 

And, she, like many of us, found herself stuck in what felt like the inescapable drudgery of daily life.  

 

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With the death of her mother and father, she felt very much alone and unloved. And sometimes we can feel lost and alone in this great big world of ours too. 

 

She also experienced the painful feeling of rejection and ridicule by those who should have loved her. Instead, her stepmother and stepsisters were wickedly cruel. And who of us hasn’t experienced hurt-filled words?

 

But then, one day, she encountered “divine intervention” and the experience was transformational, to say the least. From dirty cinder soot clothes to a sparkling new ballgown, she soon found herself the Belle of the Ball dancing with the Prince Himself. 

 

But, as is the case in all our lives, in a blink of an eye, real life rushed back in and she once again found herself in the same old routine of life, back in the cinder soot. The memory of her encounter with the Prince began to fade. 

 

Fortunately, her prince had not forgotten her. He had been searching high and low throughout the land to find her. 

 

When he finally did find her, she was not dressed in that beautiful ballgown like the night he’d first danced with her; no, she now stood before him in all her cinder soot shabbiness.

 

He, however, could’ve cared less about her outward appearance. Because his only motivation for knocking on her door that day…was love. He loved her…just as she was. 

 

Victor Hugo once said…

The greatest happiness of life is the conviction that we are loved…loved for ourselves.

  

And isn’t that what we all long for in the end? 

 

Love stories. Fairy tales. Call them what you will, there’s a reason why we gals are drawn to them. 

 

I think it’s because, like Cinderella, we too hope that despite our ordinariness, our unexceptionalness, yes, even our cinder soot shabbiness, we too might be chosen. And not just chosen. Loved. Loved for who we are. Loved NEW. Loved from ordinary into extraordinary. 

 

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Because if love is anything…it is transforming.

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No book is a chapter

No chapter tells the whole story

No mistake defines who we are…

Bob Goff

 

One day a gentleman came to my mother-in-law’s door saying that he could resurface her driveway for several hundred dollars. He told her, “I’ve been doing some resurfacing in the neighborhood and have enough supplies to do your small driveway.”

 

She and my sister-in-law had been discussing that very thing recently, so she said, “Sure, why not?”

 

After working a short time, the gentleman came back to the door to say that he had finished the job. Happy that he had done such quick work, she readily wrote him a check and continued about her day.

 

When my sister-in-law got home, she gingerly walked across the newly resurfaced driveway. But, something seemed amiss. It wasn’t until she spotted her own footprints on the floor, that she realized that the guy who had “resurfaced” their driveway had conned mom by pouring motor oil over the driveway not by laying tar.

 

She and mom immediately jumped in the car and headed to the bank to stop payment on the check. But, that con man had gone directly to her bank and cashed her check straightaway after leaving her place. 

 

Mom was heartsick. Devastated. We all were. Not only had he conned her out of a significant amount of money. He had left her with a big mess to clean up.

 

We may think that kind of thing could never happen to us. But, catch any one of us off guard and we can be duped just like my mother-in-law…

 

Sometimes with much graver consequences. Like Jehoshaphat.

 

Yep. That’s right. I said, Jehoshaphat.

 

You may not be familiar with this king of Judah. But, he was one of the good ones. And that’s saying something, because there weren’t too many of them back in the Old Testament days. In either Judah or Israel.  

 

The Bible describes him in 1st Kings 22:43 and in 2nd Chronicles 20:32 as a king ‘who did right in the eyes of the Lord.’ That’s because Jehoshaphat’s heart was devoted to the ways of God (2nd Chronicles 17:6). He sought God’s direction (2nd Chronicles 18:4). He implemented reforms. He removed idol worship from the land (2nd Chronicles 17:6). He raised up judges to act according to God’s standards (2nd Chronicles 19:5). He set in place spiritual standards, as well, teaching his people God’s Law (2nd Chronicles 17:9) and elevating godly men to the priesthood (2nd Chronicles 19:11).

 

Yet, like all of us, in unguarded moments, he, too, was fooled. One of those decisions cost him a fleet of ships (2nd Chronicles 20:33-37). But, the other nearly cost him his life.

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I heard an old man speak once… He said that he’d finally figured out a few years ago that his profound sense of control, in the world and over his life, is an addiction and a total illusion. He said that when he sees little kids sitting in the back seat of cars, in those car seats that have steering wheels, with grim expressions of concentration on their faces, clearly convinced that their efforts are causing the car to do whatever it is doing, he thinks of himself and his relationship with God: God who drives along silently, gently amused, in the real driver’s seat.

Anne Lamott 

 

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I don’t know if it’s because I’m a firstborn. A child of divorce. A burden-bearer by nature that desperately wants everything to be alright. Or a combination of all three. 

 

But, I do know this… I definitely struggle with control issues. 

 

I can’t tell you how many conversations I have had over the years with my Spiritual Director that have centered around this stumbling stone in my life. 

 

I’ve wrestled down the need to please others. Perhaps when you are pushing sixty you finally realize that the only one worth pleasing is God. I’ve made this my goal now…

 

Walk worthy of the Lord, please him in everything…

Colossians 1:10 

 

I’ve also learned to let go of perfectionism. 

 

Unfortunately for my boys, I didn’t learn that lesson until later in their childhood. Poor guys would stand befuddled in the middle of a room wondering where their toys went when they turned their backs on them. In an effort to keep the house neat and tidy, toys got swept away into the toybox as quickly as the boys would set them down.  

 

My sister once challenged me about my need to have everything in its place and it hurt me terribly. But, I got the message loud and clear one evening when after scurrying around like a mad woman after the boys, my hubby asked me, “Is the President of the United States coming for dinner?” I responded with a quizzical “no.” “Then let the boys play!” he responded.

 

Young mommies take a tip from me… 

Parents, don’t exasperate your children…

Ephesians 6:4

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“I’m feeling very thin and vulnerable, in a good way.”

Amy Layne Litzelman

 

It hit out of nowhere. The flu.

 

It started as a simple little sore throat the Sunday after Thanksgiving.

 

Soon the “dripping facet” phase kicked in, and I couldn’t get Kleenex’s to my nose fast enough.

 

The bug hit my vocal cords next leaving me speechless for almost a week. Which some may not have thought such a bad outcome. But, then, gravity pulled it all down into my lungs and the coughing fits began, leaving me exhausted.

 

I won’t bore you with any more details. But, let’s just say there is a reason why I’m sharing my woes with you.

 

You see, it’s the holidays. And with the holidays come certain expectations.

 

Gifts, for one. As I’ve been incapacitated these days, shopping is out. Fortunately, we live in the days of Cyber deals. So at least I’ve got that one covered.

 

But, there are other expectations.

 

Like cookie baking. By this time in December I would’ve had several varieties of Christmas cookies made and in the deep freeze. But, this year I just baked my first batch. And it may be the only batch.

 

Like decorating. Most of my decorations are still in plastic bins out in our garage.

 

Like hosting parties. Due to my nasty bug, there will be no parties for hosting, marshmallows for toasting or caroling out in the snow...

 

I find it all a bit depressing not being able to pull it altogether and create the kind of Christmas we’ve had in the past.

 

But, I know that I’m not the only one struggling to keep up this Christmas.

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They ate till they were gorged— he had given them what they craved.

Psalm 78:29

 

There is a difference between eating and drinking for strength and from mere gluttony.
Henry David Thoreau (1817-1862)

 

The sparrows that moved into the neighborhood in recent weeks number in the dozens. Since their arrival, my favorite songbird, the little house wren living in our veggie patch, has flown the coop. In fact, they’ve driven out several of my sweet bird friends.

 

From sunup to sundown, they gorge themselves at my feeder. Every spot filled with little brown birds. And they’re not much into sharing, either. At least not with birds of other varieties. My cardinals and chickadees must make do with the leftovers they scatter on the ground below.

 

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I’ve gone to some lengths to scare them off. I’ve even trained our dog to chase them off. But, they just toy with her now…they’re not in the least bit frightened by the sight of her.

 

I’ve taken the feeder down for a several days, only to discover them back in droves once it goes back up again.

 

The feeding frenzy happening in my backyard reminds me a lot of the frenzy to come. You know the one. It occurs every year around the holidays.

 

The time when folks camp outside of stores all night long hoping to be the first to grab all those door-buster deals. The time when tempers are short and lines are long. The time when we conveniently forget about calories so we can gobble down goodies without guilt.

 

That time of year when we human beings begin to look, and act, a lot like my sparrows.

 

To most Americans the holidays mean overindulgence.

 

A time when we loosen our belts. Eat too much. Drink too much. Buy too much.

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…the Father…does not change like shifting shadows.

James 1:17

 

This morning, as I sit in an Adirondack chair on the edge of a shrub-covered cliff overlooking the deep, blue waters of Lake Superior, little yellow finches sing around me and loons dive for breakfast. Gulls soar in the crystal clear skies or perch themselves one-legged along the pebble-lined beach below. There is a sweet fragrance of wildflowers in the air.

 “Will heaven smell like this?” I wonder. I take a deep breath and exhale a whispered “thank you” to God. 

When I first approached the cliffs today, I fully expected to find Lake Superior surging and tumbling over itself in white-caps. This gigantic, ocean-like body of water is often in motion. Instead, I discovered that there was hardly a ripple on its surface. It was as smooth as glass and a picture of serenity itself.  But, I know the legends of this big lake the Chippewa tribe once called Gitche Gumee. As calm as it may be this morning, hidden beneath the tides’ gentle lapping lies a shifting shadow, an unsettled stirring. This scene of beauty and tranquility, which elicits such peace in my heart today, can turn abruptly into powerful, life-threatening gales, depending on what weather the wind blows in. 

And much like these changeable waters, our lives, too, alter with unpredictable rhythm.

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