Miles and memories

The best part about doing a lot of interstate travel on familiar terrain is that at least a portion of your mind can focus on other things…like how great Fernando Ortega’s voice is and how blessed you are to have so many great Thanksgiving memories.

When I was growing up, we spent every Thanksgiving that I can remember at my maternal grandmother’s place.  Filled with family and great food and lots and lots of laughter, it is still very much alive in my memory despite the fact that it has been many years since we all gathered there.

Grandmother didn’t have a TV.  That meant no sports or politics or animated characters to keep us entertained.  It was up to us and we managed just fine.

applesThe women gathered in the kitchen bringing dish after dish of deliciousness to tables that literally groaned with the weight of it all…and left precious little space for those who later tried to sit around them.  It wasn’t an ostentatious display of abundance.  It was necessary.  My mother was one of 10 kids and there were usually at least 5 or 6 of them who showed up with their families for any given weekend.  Holidays meant even more and the number of aunts, uncles and cousins along with my own immediate family often numbered north of 70 when we factored in a few extras always brought in for the fun.

Then men used the time to shoot skeet, make sure there were no necessary repairs or trees that needed cutting, organizing the kids in games of hide-n-seek (the uncles usually hid up in the trees!), pitching silver dollars or making a game of having us pick up all the sticks in the expansive yard so we could have a bonfire later in the afternoon.

Once the sticks were piled (all in the proper direction according to my Uncle Lacy), we were free to acorn feastroam…and roam, we did!  Little bands of two, three or more were often visible through the trees as the girls made pine straw houses and the boys explored the pond.  Those who preferred the indoors played endless games of Monopoly, Scrabble and cards.  By the way, I’m absolutely certain that if there was an international Scrabble champ, it would be from my family…and there would be several contenders.  We took it really seriously.  There were no quitters and there was very little tolerance for bad losers.  It always made for a “spirited” exchange.

After the main meal was over, my Cousin Suzanne and I would walk up and down the road in front of Grandmother’s house.  Sometimes it would start out as just the two of us, but it gradually added and added until there was quite the little group.  Full of food and breathing in the scent of decaying autumn leaves and the scent of wood smoke, we shared our lives and our hearts and our dreams and we never—not even for a moment—believed they couldn’t all come true.We weren’t rich and we weren’t famous, but we were family and each one knew that was something really special.  We might have looked more like the Clampetts than the Kennedys on occasion, but our loyalties were firmly entrenched.  They still are.  We still gather together and though the numbers are fewer and the faces change based on the schedules, we’re still family and in my mind, at least, I will see each of them this Thanksgiving…as they were…as they are…and I will be grateful for each of them.

Golden canopy

 

Happy Thanksgiving to each of you!  Here’s hoping you have your own wonderful memories of the season…and the opportunity to make more of them this year!

Grace & Peace!

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For your weekend…

The past 24 hours have been another roller-coaster ride…and not just for me.  Yesterday, I was privileged to be asked to pray for another friend in another state whose home has been on the market for quite some time.  After all the waiting, they finally had an offer!

What a gift!  As friends from across the South–and perhaps even further–unified our prayers for a successful conclusion for our friend, we were united in spirit.  God was gracious–and perhaps, even a bit humorous–as He sent in a second contract for their review on the very same day.

Last night we were notified that our friend and her husband had accepted a contract and that the terms God had sent were very generous…just because He likes to do that sort of thing…and just because He can.  As we all celebrated our friend’s blessing, a comment was made that “Anyone who doesn’t believe in the power of prayer should read this message chain!”

Once again, I was reminded of our need for a faith family and additionally reminded that they will never all be located under one roof.  How fabulous that is!  We are spread across the globe on purpose!  We are sent to minister wherever we are!

What will you do to support your faith family this weekend?  How will you reach out and minister to those around you?  It doesn’t have to take up your whole weekend–it just has to come from the heart and bring glory to God.  What will you choose today?

Lesson #7–The value of a faith family

Lesson #7—The value of a strong faith and a family of believers

I spoke with one of my prayer partners the other day and poured out my heart…again.  God bless her, she’s been with me for longer than my husband, so she knows me pretty well by now.  That is my blessing.  I can always call on her to pray…no matter what, no matter where, no matter when.  She is my sister in Christ.  We are family way beyond blood or legal definitions even though it has been years since we’ve seen each other in person.

I’m blessed to have more than one of these amazing prayer partners in life.  Some of them have been with me through years.  Others are much newer, but no less valued.

As we talked, I told her about how much I was missing my home church family.  I told her how grateful I was for the years of study and knowledge that I have within me already so that I can draw strength from that in this time of waiting without.  I can’t imagine how hard it would be to do life without what I already know about God and His goodness to me.  It is difficult living in limbo between places and not having a proper church home.  I’ve grown accustomed to that luxury…so much so, that I’ve often taken it for granted.  I’ve had days when I chose not to attend in order to do other things or to simply rest.  (You, too? Imagine that!)

These past few weeks, however, have shown me the value of gathering together with fellow believers, being united in our worship and choosing to learn more about our God corporately so that we can incorporate that knowledge individually.  In this time of waiting, God is giving me the gift of a renewed love for His church and His people.

I miss my Sunday School class members and I still tear up when they include us in the weekly prayer list.  I miss the faces of the people I usually sit near on Sundays and the hugs and smiles we share during our welcome time together.  I miss hearing their voices as we sing praises to God.  Most of all, however, I miss hearing the Word of God preached by a pastor who has chosen to spend his life bringing God’s word to life personally and in ways that allow others to know and understand God better in their own lives.

Radio teaching is fantastic and that has been my church over the past few weeks of traveling back and forth, but it is no substitute for the real thing.  I have raised my voice and my hands in praise along with the Brooklyn Tabernacle Choir and I’ve listened to valuable insights by the like of Chuck Swindoll and John MacArthur.  Amazing worship.  Amazing teaching on the Word of God.  NOT the same as being there in person. Not by a long shot.

I can’t wait to get settled, find my new church family and begin that part of the Georgia journey.

What about you?  Have you joined in where you are?  Are you in need of a church home today, too?  Make a renewed commitment to join in where you are.  There are others out there who need you, too!

 “Let us hold fast the confession of our hope without wavering, for he who promised is faithful. And let us consider how to stir up one another to love and good works,  not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another, and all the more as you see the Day drawing near.”  Hebrews 10:23-25 (ESV)

Lesson #6: “MUST SEE INSIDE!”

(continued from the list of lessons I’m learning in this move.  For the first part, see here:  https://quietambitions.wordpress.com/2013/11/18/lessons-im-learning-in-the-move/)

There’s a sign in the front yard of my Mississippi home right now.  It is attached to a big yellow post and has several pieces of information on it.  It also has a metal plaque at the very bottom which reads, “MUST SEE INSIDE!”

I’ve learned that the sign could apply to all kinds of things…and people.  You never really know what a town, a house, or people are like until you’ve spent some serious time with them.  You need time to see inside a person.  Even then, we can only see what they allow us to see.

God, on the other hand, already knows exactly what each of us is like.  It is the mark of the Creator, this knowing.  Genesis 1:1 says, “In the beginning, God…” Oh, how I love that!  God—at OUR beginning, not HIS!—created us in His own image.  What a plan!  What a gift!

Far from being a control freak about it all, however, He chose to allow us our own free will.  That means that we’ve been free to make our own choices…and our own consequences.  It also means that while we were made in His image…we’ve often managed to stray far from His original intent for us.  We’ve chosen the lesser way time and time again over the centuries until we’ve managed to completely confuse what things are good and what things are bad.  The only way to get those two straightened out is to, once again, line up with the image of the Creator God.

He’s made that as simple as He possibly can:  He sent His own Son for us; He left us His Word in Scripture; He has sent us the Holy Spirit for guidance and comfort and intercession—even when we aren’t sure what to ask for anymore.

John 2:25 (ESV) says that Jesus “needed no one to bear witness about man, for he himself knew what was in man.”  He knew man—and woman!—because He had created us.  He knew then and He knows now exactly what we all need today…and tomorrow…and each and every day until we stand before Him one day in the future.

He sees inside!  He knows everything.  NOTHING is hidden from Him—regardless of what we have tried to hide even from ourselves.  He sees inside.

For some of us, reading that is a comfort.  For others, well…not so much.  If you’re in that last group, there is still hope for you to find comfort in it.  God loves you.  No matter who, where, or how messed up you may think you are.  He loves YOU.  He loves you enough to wade into all the yuck and make a way for you to be clean again.  All you have to do is ask Him to do it.  Believe that He is who He says He is in Scripture and tell Him that you want Him to live inside you so you can live with Him forever.

It’s that simple.  It’s that complicated.  You have to choose.

Oh, yes! One more thing before you move on with your day: God isn’t really that interested in you picking a “religion” to live out in your life.   This isn’t about that at all.  He’s FAR more interested in having a personal relationship with you!  Regardless of your choice, the people around you will make their own.  They will choose their own path and they will know only what you show them.  God, however, will always love you and He will always see inside.

Lessons I’m learning in the move

I’ve been too busy to write anything for weeks now.  That’s been tough on me.  Writing helps me process and if there was ever a time when I’ve needed to process things, it has been the past month or so.  For some reason, this move has me more emotional than I had ever expected.  I’ve been excited about returning to GA and I’m looking forward to all that God has there for us, but the process of actually getting there has been far more arduous than I had anticipated.  I’ve written volumes in my head as I’ve hauled belongings and paperwork through the traffic patterns of various southern towns and, while some of it was absolutely brilliant—even if I say so myself! (grin)—there are other portions of my mental volume that are best left unwritten…and even un-thought.

I’m learning a lot these days.  Some of it is really simple and some of it seems simple, but really isn’t.  There have been so many lessons that I’ve started a list:

1—It is possible to become annoyed with your blessings.

Before you chuckle too loudly over that one, think about the last time your dog wanted to play while you had your arms full of groceries or the last time a family member kept asking you where you wanted them to put things while you were trying to accomplish 13 other things all at once because you had a deadline…and you suddenly had a very clear picture of where you’d like them to put things.

The thing to remember, however, is that you are blessed.  You have people around you who add joy and comfort and love and a whole host of other things…just not all the time.  The other thing you need to remember is that you’re in the very same category.  You’re a blessing, too—just not all the time.  Remember to cut everyone some slack during times of extreme stress.  That includes you, too.

2—It is possible to forget your home training.

Yes, manners are important.  That will never change.  They can make you or break you and you must remember that just because there are people out there who apparently never got any home training does not mean that you’re allowed to behave as though you are one of those people.  Make your mama proud.

3—It is very important to think carefully about what you agree to do before you agree to do it.

Leaving people in the lurch is never a good idea.  Although it may be unavoidable—if communications have been less than clear or expectations aren’t clearly defined by both parties—simply deciding  that what you’ve agreed to do is inconvenient isn’t a good enough reason to shirk your duties.  There’s a reason that Scripture says for us to let our yes be yes and our no be no.  This is important whether or not you’re in the middle of a move.

4—You can’t make someone buy your house when it is for sale.

Honestly, you can’t even make them look at it!  What you can do is get is market-ready and show-ready and leave it all up to God.  When you’ve done all you can do…rest.  There will always be something else to be done, but you can’t tie yourself in a knot over all the things you can’t do–like keeping the leaves out of the yard during an autumn wind storm while you’re out of town. (ask me how I know this…)

5—You can’t make the perfect house appear in the location you want and at the price you want to pay.

That might seem like a no-brainer, but it really isn’t.  Expectations are high and what should be a good thing can feel like anything but that when you’re on the hunt for the perfect place.  (So far, my favorite places have been…in a flood plain, right in front of a railroad, next to a commercial/manufacturing area and in foreclosure with a recalcitrant tenant, so I’m really learning this one the hard way!) Be realistic about what you’re asking for…and don’t forget that God is still in the miracle business.

(And keep #2 and #3 in mind when you’re dealing with realtors and bankers…and store clerks and waitresses and people on the interstate and…)

An empty microwave

I removed the collection of brightly colored sticky notes from my microwave today.  The realtor needed to take photos for the listing and the jumble of notes placed in all kinds of directions on the microwave door would have been a bit distracting.

It felt strange.  For the first time in over 14 years I have a microwave without prayer requests on it.

The needs are still real and they are still important.  They are still in my heart and on my mind, just not on the microwave…for now.   I forget how long I’ve been doing this, but I remember hearing something over 14 years ago about how our society is so focused on getting our wants met that we’ve become too impatient to wait even for the microwave.  And, just in case you haven’t noticed:  God doesn’t work on “microwave timing”—He has His own schedule and no amount or show of impatience will alter it one bit.  I think that’s because the changes that He’s after are deeper than the “surfacy” desires we so often pass off as prayer requests.

As I listened to whoever it was that was speaking all those years ago in Georgia, I began to think about how many times a day I used my microwave.  What if I spent even that short amount of time lifting up prayer requests?  What if God could use those tiny moments to make enormous differences in the lives of the people I love?  And so it began.

It started off with a few notes I wrote just for myself—reminders of things I’d already been praying for those loved ones.  A few years and lots of visitors later, some really puzzled looks led to questions and then phone calls with voices on the other end started saying, “Hey!  I need you to put me on the microwave!”  This was always followed by the details of the request or just a simple voice of thanks and I didn’t really pay a lot of attention to how this was making an impact in any way except that it was my visual reminder of who needed prayer.  Later on, I noticed that it also meant I was keeping in touch with some of these people a bit more than we had in the past.  I’ve learned that prayer strengthens my relationship with God AND with others, as well.

My biggest surprise came one day when I was standing here in Mississippi and praying while something heated up…and I noticed a note that wasn’t in my handwriting.  We’d just come through a weekend with a house full of guests—lots of laughter and fun, sharing of thoughts and good food.  Without saying a word to me about it, a dear friend (my precious #12) had listed the names of her immediate family members and simply added her note to my “list” of requests.  I loved it!  It actually made my heart sing.

I thought of that weekend, that friend and her precious family that I’ve prayed for over the years as I took her note off and placed it in the pile today.  Once again I prayed for her family and while I know that God is aware of what they need and that He doesn’t need me to remind Him to bless them,  I am grateful that He lets me in on it anyway.

Someday soon, there will be another microwave in a new location.  When you come to visit, don’t be surprised to see those sticky notes have made another appearance.  I know that God doesn’t work on the microwave timetable, but I’m in this for the long haul…and so is He.

For your weekend…

“Make new friends, but keep the old;

One is silver and the other gold!”

Does anyone besides me remember singing this round when you were younger?  Girl Scouts or some other group activity may have taught it to you?

I can’t remember where I learned it now, but it is running through my mind this morning.  Actually, it seems to be on a loop…earworm!  Still, the sentiment is appropriate for where I am today and I’m always entertained by the things God brings to me to emphasize the lessons and the stages He’s bringing me to/through in His quest to make me more like His Son.

Friendships are important.  These are the people with whom you pick and choose to share your life.  They may or may not be related to you.  I say that because I’m blessed to have it both ways.  I have wonderful friends who are blood/marriage relatives and I have some friends who are just heart relatives.  (grin)

In all of the recent melee of changes here, I haven’t had a lot of time to catch up with the people I love.  I’m so blessed that they understand–after all, they’re not just sitting still on their end, either!  I have missed them, however, and I’ve been trying to reach out to different ones as I can.  (note to God:  Thank you for having someone create the speaker phone option so I can multi-task! And btw, I’m also especially grateful for texting and Facebook messages right now!)

That brings me to our challenge for the weekend:  reach out to people and strengthen those heart connections!  Take advantage of the modern technologies that allow us to close the gaps and send a text, a card, leave a message, make a date for a really good catch-up call at sometime in the near future or set a date to meet in person, if you live close enough to do that.  No, we won’t be able to touch base with all of the people who make our lives worth sharing, but we’ve got to start somewhere, so let’s give ourselves the gift of a new friend or pick an old one and get a move on this weekend!

“Make new friends, but keep the old,

One is silver and the other gold!”

By the way, the earworm is now yours, as well!  It is my gift to you…as my friend.  You’re welcome!  (grin!)

Grace & Peace!