Being Afraid…

I joke that I am old. It drives my middle child (who is 30) nuts. She says I want to look like I am fifty. I respond by saying I am 54, so what’s the big deal?

She hates that I don’t cover up my gray hair. I laugh and tell her it’s my glitter! My silver hairs were mostly earned because of her, and she knows it. And when I look at those streaks of silver, I am reminded of the lessons I have learned earning those stripes. Like military badges of honor, that is how I look at those graying hairs.

But the truth is that I am getting older and have arrived at that stage called middle age—and I wonder how did I get here? I can tell by some of my scars that it has been a rocky road at times. There are broken bones that didn’t heal well…stitches that left their marks…and there are eyes needing ever-increasing corrective lenses. My ears are not as good as they once were. All the aches and pains of life’s wear and tear…I feel them acutely. Predicting weather changes because of the pain in the joints or even headaches that come in advance of the storms are new skills that I would happily trade for a body that does not betray. And I think the reality of my visible evidence of aging is frightening for my daughter. She sees and understands the temporal lives we live. She knows that death is a very real part of life, and that makes her afraid.

Confronting our frailty is just one of the realities of life. We somehow float through decades of life, often unscathed. Then BAM. Age smacks you right between the eyes. But isn’t it funny that on the inside, I still feel like a kid. Young, running and swinging and jumping without a care. But that inward me is in conflict with the outward me. I think that is why I feel so betrayed by my body. To do all the silly things I did as a child without ever breaking ANYTHING…and now, walking down a hill slowly is a frightening exercise…will I fall? What’s going to break this time? I can tell you I do NOT like living in fear of breaking something. I don’t like living in fear of any kind at all. Fear robs me of strength and peace.

Yesterday, I had the special opportunity to visit with a dear friend I had not seen in over 10 years. In that time she became a mother to four little boys and I became a grandmother to 4, going on 5, grandchildren. As we caught up on our lives over the years since we last saw each other, it was interesting to realize what a place fear had held in each of our lives as we walked through some very dark periods.

The source of our fear was different, but how interesting that the solution to the fear was the same. During those times of overwhelming darkness, we found our solace in the word of God. She shared that with her second pregnancy (twins) and then with her fourth child, she struggled with pre-term contractions throughout the pregnancies. Her fear of premature labor was very real. And she did not like the effect fear was having in her life. To try to combat her fear, she looked up every passage she could find on fear. Many verses she committed to memory.

Then, when she was eight months pregnant, she and her husband were involved in a serious car accident. She suffered many broken bones and a punctured lung. She did not feel her baby move for hours. During those hours, she was comforted by the verses she had already studied on fear. She had a ready refuge of peace. She was in the hospital for a week then in a rehab facility for another week. When the time came to deliver her son, her leg was in a cast. (Can you imagine giving birth with a cast on your leg?) But she had all those verses treasured in her heart, bound to her memory and ready to draw on any time she needed their reassuring encouragement.

I told her about my own period of darkness. How my husband and I waited for a miracle. Or braced ourselves for devastating news. So many months of sleepless nights. I would awaken at 2 or 3 AM and all I could do was read my Bible…for hours…soaking in the peace and comfort written over and over. Seeing God’s faithfulness revealed time after time.  Those hours spent in the Word got me through each day, and then I  would repeat cycle again. Every day for many, many months.

My friend and I agreed that it was in those darkest hours, days, weeks and months that we experienced the greatest spiritual growth. Our problems were bigger than we were and we did not have the solution in our own strength. But God did, and true to His promises, He brought each of us a peace that passed our understanding. We didn’t pretend that we didn’t have fear. We acknowledged the fear and put it in its rightful place. Underneath the perfect love Christ freely gives us.

Today, she has four healthy boys. And she knows real peace.

Today I have the evidence of God’s hand at work in creating the miracle for which we prayed. And peace has replaced my fear.

Tell me, are you afraid? Can I offer you the Source of Peace?

I Peter 3:13-15

Who is there to harm you if you prove zealous for what is good? But even if you should suffer for the sake of righteousness, you are blessed. And do not fear their intimidation, and do not be troubledbut sanctify Christ as Lord in your hearts, always being ready to make a defense to everyone who asks you to give an account for the hope that is in you, yet with gentleness and reverence;

 

Ephesians 2:13-16

But now in Christ Jesus you who formerly were far off have been brought near by the blood of Christ. For He Himself is our peace, who made both groups into one and broke down the barrier of the dividing wall, by abolishing in His flesh the enmity… so that in Himself He might make the two into one new man, thus establishing peace,and might reconcile them both in one body to God through the cross…

 

Please Stand By…

Don’t you hate it when you experience technical difficulties? I do. Probably more because it reveals how easily annoyed I can be…by the most insignificant things.

Like…cleaning the bathroom thoroughly on a Saturday morning as a kid, only to have your dad come in and wash his hands after mowing the lawn and changing the oil in the car…Can you imagine? All the hard work, literally down the drain. You think I jest? Oh no, just ask my dad…

Or what about mopping your floors, getting a mirror-like shine and then have your dearly beloved children or grandchildren or most loved husband walk through with mucky shoes? No? Never happened? I believe you lie…

For me, the bigger annoyances are sitting down to write my post, that my readers are truly panting to read, only to be kicked off the internet. Over. And over. And over…

My need to save money is pretty deep. But my need for consistent internet access is deeper. So I fired my provider, and switched to a new provider. And you know what? I haven’t been kicked off all week. And I have been able to upload pictures SUPER FAST…So I am giving my blog a new try.

I had to make a sacrifice, though. Because I still had to save some money. So…I got rid of cable tv…No more extra channels. No more tv shopping…(yeah, never did those anyway)…no more DIY channels…Somehow, I think I will survive. Maybe.

Now I have a Roku device…Netflix, HuluPlus, Pandora…and a bunch of “channels” I have yet to explore. And you know what? I didn’t turn on the tv for viewing at all for a few days…I chose to just to listen to my purely customized radio stations on Pandora. I missed watching the FIFA World Cup, but…honestly I think we will manage JUST FINE without those channels. After all, I can catch up on Monarch of the Glen…or the English version of Sherlock…all those old movies…

But all those internet problems did get me thinking about technical difficulties, bad connections and other things that can frustrate us, and it made me think about what happens when I don’t have a clear connection in my relationships. If you have ever experienced technical problems, you probably checked the cables to assure that they were properly connected. You also probably checked the batteries, or the power button or a host of other possibilities. And then you checked the manual or called customer service to speak with an “expert” to “troubleshoot.” (I always like the “check to make sure the power is on” tip.)

So if my relationship with God is not what it should be, where do I turn? Interesting that there is an expert and a manual to address the problems I  experience. I can almost always connect my problems in my spiritual life to a common source…Me. I may ignore the relationship, perhaps I do not feed it a healthy diet, or maybe I have covered up sin rather than confess it…Basically, I disconnect myself from the Source.

It’s not that God abandons ME, but rather I abandon Him. I live my life unplugged (NOT like music) and do things on my own power rather than relying on His power. He offers me a static-free, always ON connection to an endless and abundant source. So why do I fail to use that Source? Why, after so many examples and assurances of His presence and faithfulness do I so easily forget? I do not have an answer to the question that is revolutionary. But, when I am withdrawn and cold, I know that it is worth checking on how secure my connection is to avoid more connectivity issues. And that means getting in an uncomfortable position…on my knees.

Tell me, are YOU plugged in securely to the true Source of life?

I Peter 1:3-9 (ESV)

Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! According to his great mercy, he has caused us to be born again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, to an inheritance that is imperishable, undefiled, and unfading, kept in heaven for you, who by God’s power are being guarded through faith for a salvation ready to be revealed in the last time.  

In this you rejoice, though now for a little while, if necessary, you have been grieved by various trials,  so that the tested genuineness of your faith—more precious than gold that perishes though it is tested by fire—may be found to result in praise and glory and honor at the revelation of Jesus Christ. Though you have not seen him, you love him. Though you do not now see him, you believe in him and rejoice with joy that is inexpressible and filled with glory, obtaining the outcome of your faith, the salvation of your souls.

 

Shhhhhhhh…they’re sleeping

We are in the throes of Winter. And I LOVE it! We live in the part of the Midwest that is usually just too far South for the real snows but too far North for the icy weather.

Most of the time. But this year, we are enjoying what I like to call Real Winter.

You know, cold temps, frozen precip, MEASURABLE snowfall???

And I really do love it. Being a girl from the North (Wisconsin and North Dakota) married to a guy from Alaska, somehow our variable weather here in Missouri does not generate much of a Winter.

Generally speaking.

But this year is looking a whole lot better for those of us who are partial to the white, fluffy stuff.

A few weeks ago on a Sunday, we enjoyed a single snowfall of over 12 inches. It was beautiful. Absolutely beautiful.

My sweet husband, who has a modified version of shoveling (let’s just say I am a bit more thorough and particular), agreed that since we were expecting so much snowfall, it might actually be worth shoveling the ENTIRE driveway and front porch midway through the storm, as opposed to merely removing a walking path to the street…

I know. Seriously. Why would anyone need more than a single, narrow path to the street when your driveway slopes 45º toward the house…

Maybe to GET THE CAR  OUT OF THE GARAGE and UP THE HILL???

But I digress…he had to fully shovel twice, and still the snow came down. The weight of the snow would not have been safe to shovel for people like him who are blessed with a tiny, metal screen-like straw inserted to hold the major coronary artery open…you know, shoveling and heart attacks and all that.

Midway through the snowfall,  after shoveling the first 6-7 inches

Midway through the snowfall,
after shoveling the first 6-7 inches

A greater portion of the day was spent cooking and watching the snow fall and hearing absolutely nothing.

Our massive Newfoundland/Lab/Chow mix dog, Joe Bear, did not want to come inside. Or STAY inside. Between the snow and the smells from the kitchen, he made numerous trips in and out to check on the progress.

Joe Bear: Why'd you make me come inside???

Joe Bear: Why’d you make me come inside???

But the next morning, the beauty of the fallen snow was an amazing sight. And the winds that followed the snowfall made the landscape look as though a sculptor had been at work. A divine Sculptor, indeed.

Wind carved drifting

Wind carved drifting

Ripples in the snow

Ripples in the snow

Our entire world was covered in a very thick blanket of white. St. Louis was totally shut down. Most schools did not reopen until Friday, using many snow days with that single snowfall. Buses could not make it through the streets and most side streets in many municipalities went without benefit of a snowplow for days.

But I was very nearly entranced by the beauty of the snow.

And the ice crystals on the windows.

Crystals formed on the inside of the door

Crystals formed on the inside of the door

More crystal formations on the glass

More crystal formations on the glass

It had been so long since I had seen that kind of beauty. I just stood at my door and looked out the window. Little Froglegs came and stood with me. Just looking silently.

Then he said softly, “Nana, I am so sorry all your flowers died.”

I was surprised. Here I was, reveling in the beauty of my covered yard, under that fluffy blanket of snow, and my little tender hearted guy was sad about my dead flowers.

“Oh, it’s all right, buddy. It’s like a picture. You know how Jesus died for us on the cross, but then He came back to life and now He lives in heaven? My garden will come back to life in the Spring,” I explained.

Froglegs was quiet for several minutes, just looking out the door with me. Then he said, “I understand, Nana. I really do! I get it!”

In spite of the frigid temperature outside, my heart was warm standing there with my Froglegs. It was a beautiful moment to share. And the reminder of the Spring yet to come. My garden will enjoy the benefit of that blanket of snow, and Froglegs will have a memory of that important lesson learned from that big snowstorm of 2014.

My Winter Paradise

My Winter Paradise

Conversations with Froglegs, Dancing Eyes and Curly Top

Superman has the habit of helping calm down the midgets at bedtime. He waits til the storms are over and then goes down to their “home” and spends time with each child, talking and praying for their needs.

Papa is a very special man, and I am blessed to be able to say HE IS MINE. Today we celebrate 33 years of belonging officially to each other. I think I got the better side of the blessing, and believe me when I say HE has been the one who has loved me through it all…and that ALL has been a lot over the years.

Back to the present…

Curly Top OWNS Papa. Not that we all don’t, but she has a very special position in the family…and we ALL know it.

IMG_3170

When Papa went downstairs, Curly Top was contorted upside down, feet up the wall…wiggling around and Papa sat down. Now this child is named Curly Top for a reason, and she loves to suck her thumb and twirl a curl into a knot. To her mama’s great frustration! So as Papa sat down, she took her thumb out and said to Papa:

Here Papa, my hair is tangled.”

“Do you want me to untangle it?”(as she pulled it around for Papa to reach. It took all of his skill from untangling fish nets to have success, and by that point she was almost asleep.

As soon as he finished the tangle, she sleepily pulled out another knot and said, “Here Papa, another one…”

So Papa untangled the second knot, and by the time he finished, that precious little girl was asleep.

Papa kissed her good night and moved on to the next bed…

Meeting the Ocean

Meeting the Ocean

It was Papa’s turn to talk with Froglegs…whose heart’s desire is to have a real dad. {I just cannot believe a man (questionable that he qualifies as a man based on his behavior) would abandon these bundles of love and joy.}

Papa, I really wish I had a dad. But I don’t have one. But you’re kind of like my dad. And Nana is kinda like…my UNCLE!

Okay…is being an uncle a GOOD thing if you are a Nana??? My head is cocked to the side and I am wearing a very puzzled expression, even now as I think about it.

But the conversations continued as Papa moved on to the next bed…occupied by Dancing Eyes…

Those eyes...

Those eyes…

“Papa, I watched this movie all about Noah today! There was this big, big, big, big, BIG whale! God made the whale eat Jonah (ok…probably the movie was about Jonah and not Noah). Then Jesus told the whale to spit out Noah. (yep…definitely mixing the names up a bit).

Oh, you mean Jonah?

Man, I always get those two mixed up.

But the conversation with Dancing Eyes continued onto several other topics…the boy was full of the need to share his many thoughts…at bedtime. Before Papa prayed with this delightful boy, he asked what things made him thankful?

What’s that song? Oh yeah…(and he started singing … perfectly in tune)

Jesus loves me this I know, for the Bible tells me so.
Little ones to Him belong, they are weak but He is STRONG.

Yes, Jesus loves ME! Yes, Jesus loves ME! Yes, Jesus loves ME! The Bible tells me so!!!

At which point, he jumped up and pointed to the map of the world hanging on the wall…

I know where WE live (pointing to the exact spot on the map, in the near darkness).

Papa, where do Jessica and Eric live (our neighbors who live two doors away)?

I would imagine that he will learn about maps as he gets older, but Papa got a sweet chuckle out of that conversation.

Little Dancing Eyes has a habit of needing to have total seclusion in the bathroom. Door locked, stripped to the skin head to toe…not quite sure why, but what we hear through the door is amazing…he composes original music with lyrics.

It is like listening to what is in his heart put to music…how much he loves his mommy, his friends and family, but more importantly, how much JESUS loves all of them. He sings his little heart out…all behind the locked bathroom door. (I really need to capture some of these songs before he quits…). His mommy used to “compose” songs exactly like this…that was how she put us all to sleep at night…night owl that she was and still is!

We have learned a lot about parenting as we have grand-parented our four grandchildren. Little Mini Mohawk lives so far away that we don’t get as many opportunities to physically share in his life like we do with the ones who live downstairs…but all of them are the beneficiaries of what we have learned and how we have grown through the years.

We are so blessed!

Dancing Eyes, Froglegs with Mini Mohawk, Curly Top

Dancing Eyes, Froglegs with Mini Mohawk, Curly Top

OK…I Have Just One Question…Well, Maybe

Aren’t vaccines supposed to prevent the illness or disease?

I mean, seriously…if they don’t work, why bother? (Oops, I am up to two questions. Sorry!)

Children are routinely vaccinated against a host of awful diseases. Please don’t bombard me with the opposition to vaccines…I understand that there are different perspectives on the concept of vaccinations and their safety etc. What I am questioning is the purpose of a vaccine that routinely DOES NOT WORK.

And yes, if I sound crabby, it is because I AM CRABBY…Froglegs, Dancing Eyes and Curly Top ALL HAVE ROTAVIRUS…does that scare you? It should. So does Bubba Bam Bam…and he has a newborn 8 day old baby at his house. That scares me even more.

Aren't those round wheels cute?

Aren’t those round wheels cute?

Would you like to speak with Bam Bam’s mom? Let me tell you, we have “conversed” many times. We would like to arrange a meeting with the developer of the vaccine…just the three of us. We don’t even need our husbands…we are prepared, willing and able…I think our point would be effectively communicated in a way he would clearly understand.

All four of these kiddos were vaccinated against this awful GI virus. And they all succumbed to the exposure…boy, would I like to find the person that didn’t wash their hands!

So we have spent the last 6 days watching the little guys tumble like Dominoes…all over everything. There is only one adequate word for this…EXPLOSIVE. Oh, and UNCONTROLLABLE.

You ask me if there is a silver lining in all of this???

Well, I have to get new furniture and a new rug…Can I send the bill to the manufacturer of the vaccine? I think that’s fair, don’t you?

The boys and their mama need new mattresses…And she is just LOADED with money, right? Single mother of three with no child support?

There is an ironic side to all of this, on a spiritual note. I had been reading in Leviticus…actually reading the parts I think I must have skimmed in the past. God was very clear about handling mold and mildew and infestations and stuff like that. I think we could save a lot of money in the long run by just burning the offending items rather than investing in products that aren’t going to truly clean things…and please don’t turn me in to the EPA or the DNR…

But as my husband and I were discussing the impossibility of cleaning out every stain and being assured that there were no traces of the germs anywhere in the house or the furniture, we both were struck by the similarity to sin…it is EVERYWHERE.

We might recognize that we are guilty of something…then we try on our own to clean up our mess. Fail.

Then it creeps in someplace else. We “wash” it out, but that stain just keeps coming back. No matter how hard we try to uproot the sin, we fail every time.

Why can’t we get that stain out? It is because WE are not ABLE to remove the stain. There is only one remedy to the stain of sin and it is to be “washed in the blood of the Lamb”–Jesus shed His own blood to cleanse us fully and completely of every stain. HIS remedy WORKS 100% of the time. NO FAILURES. NO NOT ONE!!!

We might still be dealing with a lot of ick here…but I am so thankful that the stain of sin has been removed once and for all. Thank You, Lord Jesus!

Hebrews 9:22-28

Holman Christian Standard Bible (HCSB)

22 According to the law almost everything is purified with blood, and without the shedding of blood there is no forgiveness.

23 Therefore it was necessary for the copies of the things in the heavens to be purified with these sacrifices, but the heavenly things themselves to be purified with better sacrifices than these.

24 For the Messiah did not enter a sanctuary made with hands (only a model of the true one) but into heaven itself, so that He might now appear in the presence of God for us.

25 He did not do this to offer Himself many times, as the high priest enters the sanctuary yearly with the blood of another.

26 Otherwise, He would have had to suffer many times since the foundation of the world. But now He has appeared one time, at the end of the ages, for the removal of sin by the sacrifice of Himself.

27 And just as it is appointed for people to die once—and after this, judgment—

28 so also the Messiah, having been offered once to bear the sins of many, will appear a second time, not to bear sin, but to bring salvation to those who are waiting for Him.

Adjusting your focus

nathan and meI am married to a wonderful man. He has stuck by my side for almost 33 years, and that is a long time by any standards. Especially since he knows all about me and STILL sticks by my side.

BUT…he is a good source of blog material…and since he has such a great sense of humor, this is going to be ALL ABOUT HIM…

Superman is about 6′ 4″ tall…he seems to have an aversion to that height and tries to knock off a half inch but, I happen to know how tall he really is…;)

He is also only about 185 pounds…pretty thin. See what I mean?

He got a bit concerned about his weight a few months ago because he had inched up on the scale. I think, if we are being honest, his WEIGHT really wasn’t the issue. (He is going to LOVE all the word plays in this blog!!!)

The issue was that he has had angioplasty and a stint, so maintaining a HEALTHY HEART is really far more important than his added pounds, which I think only made him look a little healthier. I just don’t think I should be able to count his ribs through his shirts, do you?

So, my sweet man started working out on the treadmill. Faithfully. And he arranged to listen to the Bible online while he worked out…exercising his faith, his heart and his multi-tasking skills all at the same time. (Multi-tasking is not one of his strengths, unfortunately.)

He was so proud of his progress when he reached that 185 pound mark. And he clearly was feeling a lot more energetic, so that was a good reason to continue his commitment to the contraption in the basement.

But as is so often the case, things happen. And one night, Superman got on the treadmill…wearing the same shirt in the photo above…He started walking, and realized he was getting too warm…So he decided to take off the shirt.

Fine. No problem. As long as you STOP THE TREADMILL AND GET OFF THE THING FIRST! He didn’t want to break his stride…right. Mr. I Can’t Multitask

The next minute we here a loud noise and a bang. I should mention that when a TALL person is on a treadmill, it makes them CLOSER TO THE CEILING. And my husband has unbelievably LONG ARMS. I thought he had reached up through the ceiling and created a shortcut to the basement.

Nope. His shirt had gotten stuck on his head, and he got a little mixed up and kicked a hole in the wall as he stumbled around on the still running treadmill. Aren’t there safety rules about this sort of thing???

Lest I leave you wondering, he was fine. No injuries. That, in itself, is a miracle. You see, he also has a foot full of hardware from a serious fall involving a ladder, a tree and a chainsaw…just imagine the worst and you will be pretty close.

But he was fine. And it got him thinking (maybe he should have done that before attempting his failed attempt). And he realized that there was a really great application that could be applied to the spiritual race we are running.

Runners who get ready for a race have to prepare for it. They train their bodies, increasing their stamina. They wear appropriate clothing that will not interfere with their run. Can you imagine running a race wearing a ball gown and high heels? Or showing up to a marathon wearing a tux? That would be crazy.

How fast do you think you would run if you were carrying all your garbage along with you? At my house, that would be a full can of recycling and a full can of regular trash. I can’t pull both of them up the driveway together, so the idea of RUNNING with that strapped onto my back is just impossible.

But that is exactly what we do in our spiritual walk if we do not prepare for the race. We must shed those things that tangle us and distract us. We must deal with the traps that defeat us. Any sin that is taking hold in our lives must be confessed for what it is.

And our focus needs to be on the right thing.

If a runner looks down while racing instead of ahead, he will fall and he will fail. If a runner looks ahead to the goal, that is where he should finish!

Although none of my football teams won over the weekend, I must say that each team had the same goal–getting that football in the end zone as often as possible. They wanted to WIN. They fought to WIN.

The prize for our race is being with the Lord Jesus in glory, hearing the words, “Well done” and receiving the reward for faithfulness in the race. And because of how gracious our God is, it is never too late to refocus and make the necessary corrections so that we can finish our race well!

Do you need to adjust your focus? Are you tangled up in the tentacles of sin? It isn’t too late. Refocus…run!

Hebrews 12:1-2

Therefore, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us also lay aside every weight, and sin which clings so closely, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, looking to Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is seated at the right hand of the throne of God.

Today would be a great day if…

Remember this? Just give it a listen…

Do you have an ear worm now?

Well…that is how this day has been. It just has gone on and on and on…

Even now, it’s still dragging on. This will be one of those nights when I will ask if it’s late enough for me to go to bed. (And there will be a unanimous “Yes” from my family…)

Some days are like that…

Kids that just won’t cooperate…

A calendar that is just too full of “stuff”…

And a whole lot of “holiday cheer”… that really isn’t so cheery…

It is one of those days that a career change comes to mind…RETIREMENT in a seniors only community! Or living off the grid in an RV…

But then I think about it…do I really want to understand shuffleboard? Am I ready for my husband to wear white leather walking shoes? Do I want blue hair? (Actually, my son-in-law has a blue mohawk, so maybe blue hair isn’t so bad???)

But in all honesty, some days are just a huge reminder of the glorious future awaiting me in the presence of my King and Redeemer…far away from the trivial and irritating things that sneak into my day and try to steal my hope for the future and joy for THIS day.

I am hoping that I can correct my course now and try to end the day well…kind of the way I would like to see my life’s course at its end…ending well. Achieving that “well done, good and faithful servant”…

How do YOU handle those not-so-great days?