What time is it where you live?

“To everything there is a season, a time for every purpose under heaven…”  Ecclesiastes 3:1

I’ve been looking at the clock a lot the past few days.  In this week of catching up and cleaning up and preparing for company, there are also appointments, volunteer opportunities and other regularly scheduled events.  I’m aware of the time in a different way this week.

It is a rare day or week when I don’t compile a list of things that need to be done. I’ve done it for years. It keeps me on track…and gives me a sense of satisfaction as I cross off those completed items!  My lists are often extremely ambitious.  My husband laughs at them because he knows that quite often the things I have listed to do before lunch may actually take the better part of two days to accomplish.  That doesn’t bother me.  The point of the list is so that I don’t forget what needs doing.

After several weeks of no list–no energy & no action for the most part!–there’s a lot to do.  It’s compounded a bit by the most fabulous company who will arrive on Friday and stay until sometime Sunday.  My #4 is coming to visit!  DAYS with a wonderful friend!  What a gift!  In addition to the overnight guest, there will be others–just as special (my #2 & #5!)–who will come for meals and catching up and just hanging out with us while our friend is here.  I want the house to be “just so” for their arrival.  That doesn’t mean “perfect”; it means clean and comfortable so we can just focus on each other and the joy of our time together.  I have a deadline to meet.  There are still lots of important things to be done.

All these things were running through my head as I was on my way back from the mailbox this morning and a neighbor pulled his truck into my driveway.  We always give a friendly wave when we see each other around town, when we’re out mowing the lawns or see each other elsewhere, but our schedules/ages/habits have always been so different that we’ve never reallly socialized in all the years we’ve lived nearby.  He’s dropped by to share a newspaper article or the occasional comment, but I was still surprised when he pulled into the drive this morning…to tell me that his wife had passed away earlier today.

He was calm and on his way to make the arrangements and my heart broke for him and the loss of his beloved someone who had lived so near and was still a virtual stranger to me.  Suddenly my list of things to do didn’t seem nearly so important.

I’ve had a few hours to think about things since then.  I’m still working on my list and I’m still looking forward to the weekend, but I’m also doing some mental re-shuffling as I do so.  There are a few more things that need to be added to the list now…and a few things that I know can be eliminated.  It’s time to focus on the important things…the people around me.  There are prayers to be prayed and food and calls to be made.

I’m sharing this today because I’m pretty sure I’m not the only one who gets caught up in to-do lists and schedules that leave little room for some of the people who live nearby.  Some of them may even be in the next room?  Whatever else you’ve got planned for this week, would you take another look at your schedule and make sure you’re doing the really important things first?

The writer of Ecclesiastes gives us a whole list of activities that make up our lives on this earth.  Each one is important and necessary if we intend to live healthy and balanced lives.  Take some time to read through the list today?  No matter where you find yourself in the list give yourself permission to be fully there for as long as you need to be.  The lessons you learn where you are will carry you to the next step.  What time is it where you live?

In sickness and in health…

“Lord, teach me the art of patience whilst I am well, and give me the use of it when I am sick.  In that day either lighten my burden or strengthen my back.  Make me, who so often in my health have discovered my weakness presuming on my own strength, to be strong in my sickness when I solely rely on thy assistance.”  ~Thomas Fuller (1608-1661)

I’m getting better!  Actually, I’d go so far as to say, I’m almost completely recovered.  It is a definite cause for joy since I’ve been battling since the week after Christmas.  I was vastly improved last week and am even more so this one.  Praise, Praise, Praise!

I’ve mentioned before that I am not a good patient.  That’s still true.

I’ve also made it plain to those who really know me that I plan never to pray for patience.  Strength?  Yes.  Endurance?  Absolutely.  Patience?  Nope, I think not…and yet, God has been working on this area of my life just the same during this time of extended frustration.  Isn’t that just like Him to take a situation you don’t want to be in the first place to teach you lessons in something you’ve always been determined to avoid asking Him to give you?  I must say that I find it highly amusing…now that I’m emerging from the yuck, of course.  I think that’s why the quote above really struck such a chord with me today.

It’s taken me over a month to get here.  A month of self-enforced quarantine and rest.  A month of ignoring all but the most pressing of chores and having “all that free time to read” and not feel like reading for pleasure at all.  A month of yuck…and for what?

Well, I still don’t have all the answers to that question, but I have learned a few things:

  • I was right all along!  (smile)  I’m an incredibly blessed person!  This month is the aberation, not the norm for me.
  • God is faithful no matter what my physical or mental state. (Just like He promised.)
  • Although I was unable to speak to people on the phone for more than a moment or two and I refused to mail them my germs through the mail, I could still pray for them.  Prayers to the only One who can change their circumstances and mine are not dependent on being able to voice them out loud.
  •  As pitiful as I often felt, I was always aware that there were people in far more desperate states than mine–trust me, that’s a blessing.  Being aware of the multitude of grace and mercy that regularly flows your way can keep you from sinking into a depression.  I’m not saying that I rejoiced in the difficulties of others, but rather that I was continually made aware of my many blessings even in my own time of trial.
  • I was also reminded–many times, actually–of just how blessed I am to be married to the man God chose just for me.  Grace and blessing, indeed.

In this week of reclaiming my household from dust-dinosaurs (the bunnies morphed mightily weeks ago!) and preparing for guests this coming weekend, I am reminded of these recent lessons.  I’ve learned from this time, so it wasn’t wasted.  I’m stronger internally as a result and I’m filled with thankfulness for a husband’s care and a gracious God’s help.  I’m further grateful that both are, have been and will remain patient, loving and faithful…in sickness and in health.

Unlimited

“Behold, I am the LORD, the God of all flesh. Is there anything too hard for Me?” Jeremiah 32:27

One of the things I like best about God is that He’s not limited.  By anything.  By anyone.

He’s not waiting around on any one of us to totally understand Him before He decides to reveal  more of Himself to the world.  He’s got a plan and He’s working it.

He’s not hanging back waiting on us to get up the courage to tell others about Him.  He loves it when we “help” with this task, but He’s quite capable of revealing Himself to us and those around us all by Himself.

He’s not waiting to heal you or your loved one until He can figure out how to do it.  Healing comes in many different forms and through different avenues or methods.  It is entirely possible that the healing HE knows is needed is different from the one you’re asking Him to give.

He’s not above using circumstances or people we don’t really like to draw us closer…to Him, to those around us and, indeed, to those people we don’t even really like or to those who will need to see that happen right before their very eyes.

He’s not above using fiction that has misspelled words and grammatical errors (or blog writers!) to touch hearts and guide those whose hearts are ready to get to a deeper level with Him.

No matter what you’re facing today, know this:  God is not limited.  Someone out there needs to know that.  Maybe it’s you.  Perhaps it’s someone you love or someone you work with every day.

You are limited.  So am I.  He is not.

One more thing:  The God of Unlimited Everything loves you enough to keep on trying to get this message through to you…no matter what limits you may have or try to impose.  Why?  Because He loves YOU and He wants you to know how unlimited that is, too.

For your weekend…

Anticipation. I think it might just one of the greatest words in my whole vocabulary.

Think about that word for just a moment.  Anticipation.  Just the word makes you anticipate something!  The question is:  what?!  (grin)

I’ve learned that you can get through a whole lot if you just have something to look forward to in life.

It doesn’t have to be something big.  It can be any number of things:  a phone call or face-to-face visit with a friend, a vacation, a baby, a new job, a new bloom on the rosebush, or returning home after a trip…anything that makes you smile.

The problem comes when you’re not sure you’ve got anything to look forward to in the future.  That’s a big problem.  I know quite a few people who think they’re in that category right now.  It’s a miserable place to be.  I’ve been there, so I know.  Please know that I’ll be praying for you.

In the meantime, if you’re one of those people, let me give you just a bit of advice.  Actually, whether you are one of those people or NOT, the advice is just as good!  In fact, it’s something that can benefit every single person I know.

Are you ready for it?

Here it is:  plan something.

Wow.  Wasn’t that just brilliant?!

Aren’t you glad you tuned in for that?!  You should be.  Sometimes the difficult things aren’t really that difficult after all.  The main thing is to do something.  Anything is better than just sitting there feeling sorry for yourself!

Here’s your challenge for the weekend:  Plan something that will make you smile.  It doesn’t have to cost a lot of money or take a week to accomplish.  Plant a bulb or two for spring!  Pick a date and invite a friend over for supper!  Make a sandwich and go see what the sunset looks like at a lake, a river, a mountain, a state park or a back country road near you.  Check out your yard and see how many indicators for Spring you find…and keep checking back every week or so to see how they’re progressing.  Seriously!  JUST DO SOMETHING that you don’t normally do…and enjoy it.

Make anticipation a normal part of your life…it could make all the difference in the world.

“…I wait expectantly…”  Psalm 5:3 (TNIV) 

  Potential

*photos by Becky Childs

The gift of great literature and more!

I think I was about 9 years old when I received a most important Christmas present: my own copy of Louisa May Alcott’s classic literary work, Little Women. I’m not overstating it when I tell you that it was a gift that would literally change my life.

Oh, I’ll admit, I probably didn’t look terribly excited when I opened the package to find…a book. I was 9. It was a book. It was also a gift from my Aunt Carol and Uncle Bobby. I’m certain that I said, “thank you” to them. To do otherwise in our household would have been unthinkable—and would have resulted in some rather uncomfortable consequences later. (grin) Although I don’t have specific memories about the thank you, so I’ll go out on a limb and say that it probably wasn’t my most enthusiastic outpouring of gratitude.

I do remember thinking, “What were they thinking?! ” and putting the book in a stack of others beside my bed before running off to play with the other kids. It would be months before I would pick it up for the intended purpose.

My parents were foster parents from the time I was in first grade until I entered the sixth grade. (yes, I know it seems like a pretty broad leap from my last paragraph, but hang with me for just a bit and then you’ll understand.) In addition to my natural-born siblings, a younger brother and sister, we had 4 brothers who were placed with us for long-term care. Our house was also considered an “emergency placement” home. That meant we might wake up on any given morning to a few more siblings who might be with us for a couple of days to a couple of weeks. With the exception of the first two foster sisters who stayed about a year, I was always the oldest child in a household of a relatively fluid occupancy.

The occupancy rate didn’t do anything to change the fact that our home had three bedrooms. It also meant that along with learning to share and show others how to get dressed by themselves and do the assigned chores, there wasn’t a lot of room for personal space. Privacy wasn’t really an option for any of us. It was up to me to find it elsewhere.

I found it in a book.

Reading was always stressed in our home. Academics were important and my parents and various extended family members had read to us from the time we were in the womb. That may not sound like much today—many new parents do that now—but it was probably a lot more unusual back in the 1960’s. I had taken to words early. I had a pretty advanced vocabulary and could be quite precocious, as a result. The loving extended family on both sides laughingly encouraged that trait. As my reading skills improved I read more and more. I read encyclopedias, children’s reference books—anything I could get my eyes on, in fact. I was a sponge and information was drug of choice…and then it happened…

One day I found I had run out of “new information” to read in our house. It was that then that I turned to my stack beside the bed and dug out my Christmas present. Within moments my world completely shifted. I left everything in the world I knew behind. I had found fictional literature and I became Jo March.

I knew what it was to have a house full of children, to be responsible, to have chores, to warm by the fire until I scorched my nightgowns, to understand that there were people who needed us to share what we had and I loved words just like she did. I devoured that book! I couldn’t get to the library when it was over, so I read it again…and again…. In a world of wonderful words I had found kindred spirits, adventures and privacy all at the same time! That’s when I became truly grateful for the gift given and received those many months before!

It’s been years in the making and I’m certain that it won’t really matter to them now, but “THANK YOU, Uncle Bobby and Aunt Carol! You helped to shape my world and gave me a gift FAR more precious than I could have ever understood at age 9.”

How about you? What books and people shaped your world? Would you share some of those gifts with me now? I can’t wait to hear from you!

*Photo by Becky Childs (and yes, that IS the book I received all those years ago!  I’ve kept it despite the failing binding and consider it to be one of my favorite things despite the age and condition!  Great literature…the gift that keeps on giving!)

What’s your style?

What’s your style?  The next time you get a few minutes, take a look around your house.  What do you see?

  • Is everything in place?  Are there piles of things strategically placed on the flat surfaces?
  • Do you have lots of color on your walls or are they more neutral?
  • Is your furniture more casual or formal?
  • Are there lots of collectibles or family photos or just a few select pieces of art?
  • Would you say that your décor is modern, traditional or eclectic?
  • Were you the one in charge of making look like it does today? (minus all the items that other people left out, of course! lol)
  • What do people say when they see your house?
  • Do you like what you see?

The reason I’m asking is because I’ve been thinking about redoing parts of my house.  I’ve looked at all kinds of magazines, photos, online options, paint chips, etc.  After reviewing all these choices, I can see at LEAST 4 different options for how I could make over the spaces I have in mind.  I’m taking my time on these decisions because I’m going to have to live with them for awhile after I’m done and the results I end up with are going to say something about the one that created them.  In other words, the people who see the results are going to make some judgments and assumptions about me and I’d really like those impressions to be favorable.

As I’ve thought about it, however, I’ve been increasingly aware of how blessed I am NOT to have to start from scratch.  I don’t have to put up my own walls, make my own furniture, create my own colors and paints or learn how to make all the different appliances I need in the rooms I’m interested in redoing.  Someone else…actually, SEVERAL “someone elses” have already done those things for me.

MY job is to simply see what options are out there that I like, assemble them, pick the paint colors/finishes and get busy.  That still seems like an awful lot of work doesn’t it?  At least it does until you consider the following:

“In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth.  The earth was without form, and void; and darkness was on the face of the deep. And the Spirit of God was hovering over the face of the waters.   Then God said…”  Genesis 1:1-3a (NKJV)

Think about that for a minute.  Out of nothing, God created everything…from scratch…and He ended up with what we live in every single day.  Wow.  Isn’t that amazing?  Go ahead and read the whole first chapter of Genesis and then look out a window and think about that for a second.

Again, I realize there are people who think this is the fairy tale for the feeble-minded, but my brain and my faith BOTH tell me otherwise.  And really?  Doesn’t it make more sense to believe in a Divine Creator than to think that it all just suddenly happened?  I mean, seriously, when was the last time the chaos in your home suddenly resolved itself all by itself?

My point is this:  when I look at all the details of the natural world that I live in I learn something about the One who created it:  I learn that He’s creative and lively with a sense of humor and a great love for color and detail.  He’s bold and He’s quiet and He’s in love with the people He made…so much so that He created this beautiful place for them to live.  And, really, who wouldn’t want to have Someone in their lives who loved them that much?

Now, go look in the mirror.  You’re just His style!

Legacy

Legacy…it is a word with meaning.  Actually, it has several meanings.  According to the Merriam-Webster Dictionary, the word legacy means

1– a gift by will especially of money or other personal propertybequest

2– something transmitted by or received from an ancestor or predecessor or from the past

Here in the South, legacy also means “History, heritage, stability, family and a certain way of doing things, people to watch your back and to be counted on when you need them.”

Scripture doesn’t use this word specifically, but there are literally dozens of incidences of the meaning there.  There are the numerous lists of genealogy, the various instructions to parents and how they are to teach, treat and provide for their children along with instructions on how we’re to treat each other and pass along our most precious heritage of the knowledge of Christ and how to know Him.

I found myself thinking about this yesterday in church.  We had a wonderful Sunday School lesson and a worship service with beautiful music and a fantastic sermon.  As I sat there I began to think about how we’re supposed to share what we know about God with the people around us.  This knowledge isn’t just our personal experiences…we’ve all had some of those that had nothing to do with God at all.  Our knowledge and experiences should ALWAYS be measured against the word of God.  IF our experiences do not match up with Scripture, they are wrong.  There’s no politically correct way to phrase that.  It just is.  The people who will be most offended by that statement are those who are more interested in portraying God  as someone or something He is not—and it doesn’t matter whether that portrayal is more legalistic or more lenient.  Trying to make God out to be something He is not, doesn’t change who He is.

It is important to have a standard.  Without it, God would be horribly misrepresented by those who haven’t taken time to get to know Him and His word.  Oh.  Wait.  That’s already happened.  It’s happened a lot…in the past…and in the present…and, most likely, it will happen again in the future.  That’s why having and BEING part of a Biblical spiritual legacy is so very important.  Even if the spiritual legacy that came to US is flawed, we’re not off the hook.  We’re required to search out what God has to say about Himself and follow the example of His Son, Jesus, the Christ.  In the end, God will not judge us on how we followed what others taught us about Him.  We will be judged on how well we followed HIM. 

Some of us have large circles of family, friends, coworkers and acquaintances.  Some of us do not.  That doesn’t change the mission about sharing Christ.  For example, I am not a parent.  I’ve never been one and it doesn’t look like that will change any time soon.  I’m still called to share my faith…to be a spiritual parent, where necessary…to leave a legacy.

You’re called to do that, too.  What legacy are you living out before others?  What legacy will you be leaving to those who come behind you?  It’s something we’d all better take note of now while there’s still time to make sure it’s the one we’re meant to leave behind.  It can make all the difference in the world to someone you love.  Legacy…what’s yours?