Reading recipes

I seem to have developed a taste for books that combine fiction with recipes. It wasn’t intentional, but I just noticed that I have several books of this sort on my shelves. Perhaps it is a latent, inherited trait since my mother has long read cookbooks for pleasure.

I used to think that was odd. I would pass through a room and see her losing herself in  words combined as a road map to bring a taste of deliciousness into the world. Why in the world would you want to just read a cookbook?! I couldn’t imagine.

Sometimes Mama would look up suddenly and say, “Listen to this!” and then rattle off a list of ingredients assembled by someone from long ago that she never even knew…and she would always seem surprised when I didn’t get the taste of it like she had just by reading them out loud.IMG_20190202_205905963

Tonight, however, I got it. I read a recipe for lavender scones and, though I’ve never eaten anything like it before, I had that taste and texture in my mouth as I wondered if I could substitute a little lavender oil, instead…or maybe just add a little for some extra oomph…

I smiled and wondered if it would have tasted the same to my  mother…just by reading the words.

I started this day off early by participating in an effort to read through the Bible as part of a missions conference at our church. For the past several days member after member has read for their assigned time and been relieved by another. Each of us giving up something to gain the treasure of unity; sharing and consuming the Life we find in the written Word. I teared up as I began to read my portion and was equally moved when the one who followed me had the same reaction to what he read, as well.

These ancient words fill me with hope and joy. They are not fiction, but facts…and so much more. They give direction when I need to make decisions. They instruct when I have questions and lead when I feel lost. To hear them read aloud and see their effect on others who know and love their Author reminded me that cookbooks weren’t the only words my mother reads for pleasure. She also reads her Bible, for in it she has found–and shared!—the recipes for life.

“Taste and see that the LORD is good. How happy is the person who takes refuge in him!” Psalm 34:8 (CSB)

Grace and peace…and happy memories.

 

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Lessons in love

IMG_20181205_071214882Even after years of practice and a whole month of November in intensive training, I still felt like I was failing yesterday. I am out of my element this week and I was out of sorts about it! Once again, while nothing escaped my lips, my mind was absolutely rife with complaint, all while battling situation and provocation…and Scripture. That last one is always a heavy hitter! (grin)

“If I have the gift of prophecy and can fathom all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have a faith that can move mountains, but do not have love, I am nothing.” 1 Corinthians 13:2 (NIV)

I read that verse pretty early in the day as I moved ahead with preparations for an upcoming Bible study. I sailed right past it at first. God knew that.

He brought it back around.

He had me focus on it, and then He proceeded to bring that theme up over and over and over throughout the day from the words I typed, the people I saw in the grocery store, and even in the book of fiction I picked up at the local library.

It shook me. It schooled me. It made me do some self-evaluation…and I wasn’t always pleased with what I found. Scripture does that. It is both a mirror and a standard of perfection side by side. Given my state of mind, I really wasn’t in the mood for either, yet God continued to push me. I know He does so out of love, and I truly felt that, but I was also frustrated by so many things I couldn’t change externally. That helplessness to “make things better” rages against my internal “fixer” motif and frustrates me no end.

By the end of the day, I felt beaten. That’s rare for me. I’m usually the most positive person in the room–and I still was!–but God knew I needed to feel, not just love, but empathy…and that is always harder after a day of battle of multiple fronts.

Today, I woke up to a new verse. Matthew 25:40 says,

“The King will reply, ‘Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me.'” Matthew 25:40 (NIV)

and THEN, there was THIS one…

“And whatever you do or say, do it as a representative of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks through him to God the Father.” Colossians 3:17 (NLT)

When you can’t change the situation or fix the people in it, you still need to move forward in love. That instruction never changes. That standard never changes–and neither does the fact that we are still representing Jesus wherever we go. AND (I usually hate when people start  sentences off with AND, but here is one to remember), if the battle makes us weary and our feelings are less than loving or empathetic, we can STILL love on Jesus by doing what we can right where we are. I am responsible for my actions and, yes, even my attitude. He is responsible for the outcome. Today, I needed to be reminded of that. Maybe you did, too.

Let’s go represent Him well today. Happy Wednesday!

Grace and Peace!

NCN 2018–Day 30…and beyond

IMG_20181130_071351806_HDRDay 30, and the end of this month is finally here. In this month of Thanksgiving and holiday prep, of increased activity and decreased time allotted for it, of focusing on the good and trying to eliminate the negative, THANK YOU for participating in NO COMPLAIN NOVEMBER with me again! Your stories and your encouragements have meant a great deal to me. Once again, I am reminded that I am the most blessed person I know…and that you can be, as well.

As we have chosen to direct our thinking and constrict our voicing of the negative this month, I have found that some days were a lot easier than others…and that THOSE were the days when practicing the discipline of not complaining was most critical for me and those around me. Encouragement is always most needed when it is in least evidence. That will be true going forward, as well. It is the CHOOSING to keep moving forward toward the goal that becomes the mainstay of any decision, and so it will be with this.

Tomorrow we will enter the season of Advent, a looking forward season. What are you looking forward to where you are? Will you continue this challenge? Will you set new goals? Will you heave a sigh of relief and work to find rest or will you keep hurtling along at breakneck speed? Every choice has both blessings and consequences, so I find myself praying that as we go through this last day of NO COMPLAIN NOVEMBER 2018, our choices will reflect a greater discipline because of what we’ve learned, a greater joy because of how we’ve learned to look for the goodness around us, and that the world will become a better place because we continue to acknowledge the areas that need work and get busy changing them without taking time out to complain about them first.

May all of your choices going forward be the best ones, so that your blessings will be many and your consequences can be love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control (Galatians 5:22-23). In short, I pray that your choices reflect a life filled with the goodness of God and a ready display of His Presence will absolutely permeate every nook and cranny of your life. He is good–despite all of the hard things in this world–and He loves you! May you learn to love Him more than you ever thought possible and may you–and those around you!–see Him at work in and through you as we celebrate His coming. I pray He finds a home in your heart and that you always find yourself most at home in Him.

“Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.” Romans 12:21 (NIV)

Grace and peace!

(and yes, those roses really are blooming out on my kitchen counter today!)

Heart notes

I keep note pads–usually sticky notes–almost everywhere I might sit down or rest my house, in bags of books, in my purse, the truck, or wherever else I can think of being. You never know when you might have an epiphany, right? Me? I’m actually planning ahead for mine, and as long as it will fit on a sticky note…or twelve!…I should be just fine. (grin)

Sometimes my note pads get filled up with reminders of grocery items I forgot to grab, chores that aren’t on my regular list, people I need to contact, prayers, and anything else that might help me clear my mental path and allow me to sleep without interruption when it’s time to do so. Many times, I will be doing a chore and need to stop and write something down before I move on or forget that thought. My favorite thing, however, is when I wake in the night and scribble madly in the dark–a tiny blurb to help me solve a problem, that missing link to make the point as I teach, or something that “neeeeeds” to be incorporated into a blog post…or a life.

Such was the case several weeks ago as I recovered among remade beds and laundry, reclaiming my house after a long and lusciously luxurious weekend of having friends with me in my home. Scheduled to speak just days after they left, I was ready for God to complete whatever it was that He was doing before He finished letting me in on what He intended me to say to these women who were kind enough to invite me to speak at their retreat. I had the second part, but not the first, and instead of giving it to me in one fell swoop, God seemed most content to send it along in drips and drabs…while I was doing laundry, sitting at stop lights, and finally (!) in the night, when I filled most of a newly unwrapped stack of heart sticky notes found on a nearby bedside table.

IMG_20180830_083408997_LL

Over the course of two consecutive nights, God and I filled up 13 sticky notes–IN THE DARK!–in no particular order and in remarkably straight lines, although the handwriting won’t win any prizes. A couple of them had nothing at ALL to do with the speech I was preparing to give, but I thought most of them would probably fit in there somewhere…and so it was…except for the one which simply said “chairs!” and this one…which says,

“Remind me to live in faith instead of frustration

I knew right away that THAT one was just for me.

I rarely worry and I have seen God be my Provider so many times that my most typical question is a “how” or “when” and not an “if” where it concerns something that must be supplied by God alone. That “how and when” part is what gets me, though.

Like most people I know, I want it how I want it and I really want it right now. (Anyone else relating to this?) The problem with that, however, is that God is rarely on my timetable and, since He knows everything, He has ways to do things that won’t ever even cross my mind. I THOUGHT I was being patient, so I knew this was a prayerful request for His assistance during this waiting time. It also served as my reminder to exercise my faith and not allow the frustration of His delayed response to overcome my assurance that He is my Provider, my Protector, and my Portion. After all, if He intended me to speak to those ladies, He would surely tell me what to say!

Knowing these kinds of things is the bedrock of my faith. Everything else is just window-dressing. On the side of my fridge is my bumper sticker which reads, “Jesus is life…the rest is just details.” It’s still true even though it IS written on a bumper sticker and attached to my fridge with magnets.

When I draw closer to God and make a point to be in close communion with Him, everything else WILL show up as and when HE decides it is time. MY part is to carefully choose my attitude no matter what I face…and now I have both a bright red and yellow bumper sticker AND a heart-shaped sticky note to remind me to raise my faith above the levels of my frustration when I’m called to practice my waiting skills.

Maybe they will remind you, as well.

Grace and Peace!

Greedy

I woke up singing this morning. I love it when that happens. Today it was EVEN IF (by Mercy Me) and I woke singing it as a prayer about a lot of things going in right now.

My prayer lust is full right now. Yes, that third word was supposed to be “list” but I guess even autoINcorrect gets a score every now and then. (eye roll!) The list isn’t a physical thing so much as a running conversation with God about all kinds of things: the health issues of friends and family, the state of our world, upcoming speaking and teaching opportunities, the women who will attend these events, questions about the future, and SO many other requests that are full of details that are “too personal to share” but have been anyway because the hurt was too deep for someone to carry any further.

The trust of these requests always gets to me. That someone would open up that way and be so vulnerable to one who can’t fix anything, but knows the One who can fix everything…it can be a weighty honor at times. And then I remember: I can’t fix it, but my job is to simply take it to Jesus with them. It is the ultimate privilege to walk out Galatians 6:2 and help shoulder a burden that has become too heavy to bear alone.

Today, this weight was both reinforced and lifted as I read Jesus’ words in Matthew 5:3-10, and found myself and my prayer list all over again in each of these verses.

Blessed? Blessed when we’re down, when we mourn, when we hunger and thirst for righteousness, when there’s a need for the merciful and the peacemakers in the midst of such a lack of the same? Yes. Blessed. Blessed because when we bring these needs and these hurts to Jesus we don’t have to leave as we came.

We are changed even if our circumstances aren’t immediately altered. We leave strengthened for the work, armed for the battle, and confident in the knowledge that we are neither alone, nor following a directionless leader, but One whose plan is for our ultimate good and whose love for us is without end.

I am greedy for that knowledge today! I am greedy for you to know it, too. I am greedy for the answers to be swift and easy even as I know that it will not always be that way. I am greedy for the things we learn IN and BECAUSE of the trials that will make us more like Jesus and help us pray for others when they are hurting, as well. I am greedy for the celebrations over answered prayers and I am greedy for the witness that will come as a result.

In short (even though this has been long!–grin), I am greedy for God to show up and show out in us today no matter where we find ourselves and I am greedy for it to truly be well with our souls.

Grace and peace—and many, many prayers!

 

EVEN IF (sung by Mercy Me)
They say sometimes you win some
Sometimes you lose some
And right now, right now I’m losing bad
I’ve stood on this stage night after night
Reminding the broken it’ll be alright
But right now, oh right now I just can’t
It’s easy to sing
When there’s nothing to bring me down
But what will I say
When I’m held to the flame
Like I am right now
I know You’re able and I know You can
Save through the fire with Your mighty hand
But even if You don’t
My hope is You alone
They say it only takes a little faith
To move a mountain
Well good thing
A little faith is all I have, right now
But God, when You choose
To leave mountains unmovable
Oh give me the strength to be able to sing
It is well with my soul
I know You’re able and I know You can
Save through the fire with Your mighty hand
But even if You don’t
My hope is You alone
I know the sorrow, and I know the hurt
Would all go away if You’d just say the word
But even if You don’t
My hope is You alone
You’ve been faithful, You’ve been good
All of my days
Jesus, I will cling to You
Come what may
‘Cause I know You’re able
I know You can
I know You’re able and I know You can
Save through the fire with Your mighty hand
But even if You don’t
My hope is You alone
I know the sorrow, I know the hurt
Would all go away if You’d just say the word
But even if You don’t
My hope is You alone
It is well with my soul
It is well, it is well with my soul
Songwriters: Bart Marshall Millard / Benjamin Glover / Crystal Lewis / David Arthur Garcia / Tim Timmons
Even If lyrics © Sony/ATV Music Publishing LLC, Essential Music Publishing, Capitol Christian Music Group

Being well

I recently got an email from Pinterest with “18 Mental Health Pins” for me to investigate.

How did they know?!

Seriously. I’ve been struggling a little bit because I’ve just “lost” almost a whole month…yes, a month. Gone. Just. Like. That (snaps fingers).

It all started the day I was transplanting the magic beans and managed to hurt my back. Yes, magic beans. At least that’s what my Uncle called them when he shared them with me a few months ago. Actually, I think they’re called hyacinth beans, but I like that magic beans thing better. (Insert silly kid Grin here.)

Anyway! The beans got transplanted, the back muscles suddenly went into DEEEEEP spasms with (thank you, God!!!) no disc involvement and I began what has been quite a long recovery process. It really wasn’t how I saw my July happening, you know?

I’ve said it for years: I’m the most blessed person I know. Still true. Absolutely positive about that…and yet…I will admit without any wiggle room whatsoever that I am a horrid patient. Because I’m not. Patient, that is.

Sitting still, moving slowly, reconsidering even simple chores, letting things go, ASKING FOR HELP!–All of these things make me cringe. They might actually be my top five things to avoid…well…in the top 10, anyway…right after reptiles, rodents, the plague, reptiles (on here twice because I REALLY despise those things!), and cancer.

And yet, this was my month…complete with an adoring husband, kind friends who called and prayed, and a disgruntled cat who was being denied his favorite perch (my lap), and me…being whiny and negative and frustrated because for the first time ever I couldn’t depend on my body to do what I told it to do. That takes some getting used to physically…and mentally, as well.

Interesting things I discovered this month:

  • the world ran just fine without me.
  • many, many things happened without my input or my presence.
  • you can’t even breathe without it affecting your back muscles.
  • I am not a fan of whiny people…even or ESPECIALLY when it is me.
  • my husband likes being the caretaker more than being taken care of…for the most part.
  • it is never a good idea to do a spiritual assessment of yourself when you’re grumpy and in pain.
  • I am not as far along on that “being ok about giving up control” thing as I would like.
  • if you have been praying for patience for me, you can stop now. Really. I mean it. Stop it. Now. Feel free to pray for strength and endurance, but let’s just let that patience thing slide on out of the picture, ok? I am serious about this one.
  • pain can actually make you a more dedicated prayer warrior for others.
  • God can and will show up and give you stuff to do even when you’re confined to a chair.
  • sometimes, having Margin is good for situations that you wouldn’t really expect…or want.
  • chiropractors can actually help with some issues (pardon me if you are one or love one, please. I had never been to one before this month. They were kind and helpful and caring–and Bama fans, which made me smile even though it hurt.)
  • people in pain are much more sympathetic to others in pain than people who are rarely ill and have abnormally high pain tolerances (me…I’m talking about me although I would REALLY have preferred to find this out a different way, God! BIG eye roll–at ME, again!)
  • Pinterest, who sent me an earlier email with suggestions for my “RED” board that were 98% YELLOW (?!), might not be the best place to look for mental health tips.

That last one is important. I am much better off talking to God about what ails me–body, mind, or spirit–and counting on the truth of His Word to keep my mind headed in the direction that’s best for me–and you are, too!

“You will keep the mind that is dependent on you in perfect peace, for it is trusting in you.” Isaiah 26:3 (CSB) 

As I am recovering, I am feeling the truth of that verse more and more. It’s not over…but neither am I. Returning strength gives me yet another reason for praise, another reminder to pray for those who still need it, and another call to gratitude for all my blessings: physical, spiritual, and mental.

May you be blessed and may you be well…in every respect.

IMG_20180720_194723477(and BTW, the magic beans are doing just fine…and so is Grace! In fact, she ought to be ready to transplant just in time for the Fall–although someone else may be digging THAT hole! grin)

Grace and peace!IMG_20180720_194741388

Response Time

I hate to admit it, but I might just be a little lazier than I used to be. I came to this momentous insight earlier today when my riding lawn mower suddenly decided to stop working as it should. I’m pretty sure it’s the fault of all of those nasty sweet gum balls that did it, but no matter what (or who, since I was driving!) is to blame, I have to say that my first thought was something along the lines of, “Well, maybe this just isn’t the day to do this!”

It was, though.  In fact, I was trying to get the back part where all of those sweet gum balls were mowed because I didn’t mow it the last time…and I had someone coming over later today and I wanted it all done so they could do what THEY needed to do without being obstructed by all of that higher grass back there, so I grabbed the push mower and went back to work. Once the guy was through with his job, I had to wait a little bit before I could be outside, so I took the time for an early lunch…and began to contemplate whether or not, the rest of the yard REALLY needed to be done today…and it did…so I filled up the push mower and started again.

I generally love mowing the yard. It’s pretty good prayer time as a rule, but today…wellllll…to be honest, I wasn’t really using that time to it’s fullest advantage. Oh, I was talking to God, alright, but it wasn’t all that constructive.

I was complaining…and at a pretty good pace, too.

It was hot. I was tired of things breaking down around here. I know it all belongs to You, God, but really?! It was incredibly dusty and the mask I wore made it even hotter. It was taking forever to do it this way. Why did this have to happen today? On and on it (I!) went. The only thing productive about the whole thing was that the grass was getting mowed…albeit at a much slower rate than I preferred.

About the second time my mower needed more gas, I finally remembered something: Yes, all those things I was complaining about were (are) true, but so is this: When one mower quit, I had another one to use. I had gas in the can and strong legs to push the mower around the yard. It would take longer than normal, but it would also mean I didn’t need to hit the treadmill later. The time I’ve been putting in on the treadmill lately has made me stronger for what I need to do today. That strength has also made it easier for me to handle the heat and God occasionally still allowed me some shade. Using the pushmower also meant I could get into some tighter places and wouldn’t need to do as much weed-eating later. That’s something to be grateful for, so I decided to change my behavior…and do what I ask others to do: I started telling God how grateful I was for all of the blessings I had listed and then I added to the list for several more rounds until my mower needed more gas and it was time for another break.

I also thanked Him for the opportunity to take a break when I need more gas (something I might have blown right past before He started teaching me about margin!), for the fact that Outshine makes an amazing mango popsicle that hits the spot perfectly when you’re hot and taking that break, that HE is God and I am not, for all those teachers I’ve had over the years that pointed me to Him and told me some of the very same things I tell others now. As I thought about that last one, I remembered some other things I know to be true:

  • God will take you seriously when you ask Him for something, and He also takes it seriously when He tells you to share Him with others and tell them that He can be trusted.
  • When you tell them He is your Healer, you may find yourself or someone you love in need of healing.
  • When you tell them He is your Provider, you may find yourself in need of provision.
  • When you tell them He is your Comforter, you may find yourself in need of comforting.
  • When you tell them He is the Source of all wisdom, you may find yourself in a place where nothing makes sense.

I think you get the point. When we share God with others, He will often put us in places so they can see US have the opportunity to have great need of Him. It will make the most powerful witness when we respond appropriately…and the worst kind of witness when we don’t. Though He may not answer our prayers in quite the way we think He ought to answer, He still has a plan and if we’ll get with it, He will be glorified, we will be blessed and others will get a front row seat to see it all. Just think, wherever you are and whatever you’re facing, you have the opportunity to become a person of influence…by just doing what you already know to do, and the best part of ALL of that is this: He will never leave you alone in the middle of any of that for a single solitary second. He has promised.

Today, He gave me the opportunity to live out what I teach. I’d imagine that He’s doing that wherever you are today, as well.

How will you respond?

As for me, my break is over and there’s still more grass to be mowed, more gas in the can, and more time to be spent in prayer. Funny how that mower quitting might just turn out to be one of my biggest blessings of the day…

Grace and Peace!

IMG_20180509_145744778_HDRP.S. If I’d been on the riding mower, I also might have missed the fact that one of my new iris blooms had fallen over and I’d have probably run right over it. Instead, I get to have THIS in my kitchen window for the next little bit. Now, tell me that’s not a blessing!