How Deep?

Monday afternoon:
There are times when God steps in and transforms the ordinary physicality of a place into a cathedral of words and song and prayers of praise. That kind of grace (unmerited favor–fyi: auto correct wants to make that “inherited favor” and that works for those of us who are His, right?!) snuck up on me just now. I’m sitting in a hospital. There are no stained glass windows on this hall and no choir and no anything truly spiritual but God…and those of us who believe.

I’ve been waiting. For awhile now. It feels like we’ve been here forever and, maybe, we’ll be here just that long, as well. We won’t be, but after a long night, it kind of feels like it and so I sit on this couch and wait for healing to become evident in this one I love.

Earphones in. Book open with beautifully crafted words and I am deeply involved in the story…and then the music overtook me. David Nevue’s “How Deep the Father’s Love For Us” swept in and removed place and time and anything but that realization. The Father’s love is that deep…and it is mine.

Tuesday morning:
There are times (rare, of course) when even hospitals are quietened. I think that’s what woke me up. The unexpected quiet. The delightful quiet in this place of beehive-busy-ness. In the deepest dark of early morning I found myself sitting up on the side of my couch/bed and reaching anew for this modern hymn of old truth. Once again, the simple melody moved me beyond imagining…and with palms laid open before God I asked for His help to choose THIS. And then I laughed…and amended my prayer to, “Forget that ‘help me’-thing, Lord, and just DO this thing in me.”

Ahhh, the hubris that God would need my help…even to change me. And yet, I must choose. I must choose to do, to actively seek Him, to actively live Him. And so I DO choose, God. I SO DO choose…and I also wait on You to do this in me, as well. How deep the Father’s love for me…for you…for us…how vast beyond all measure. Worship. Praise. Peace.

And then someone kicked the hive. It happens.

And He is still good. He is always good.

Lyrics

How deep the Father’s love for us,
How vast beyond all measure,
That He should give His only Son
To make a wretch His treasure.
How great the pain of searing loss –
The Father turns His face away,
As wounds which mar the Chosen One
Bring many sons to glory.

Behold the man upon a cross,
My sin upon His shoulders;
Ashamed, I hear my mocking voice
Call out among the scoffers.
It was my sin that held Him there
Until it was accomplished;
His dying breath has brought me life –
I know that it is finished.

I will not boast in anything,
No gifts, no power, no wisdom;
But I will boast in Jesus Christ,
His death and resurrection.
Why should I gain from His reward?
I cannot give an answer;
But this I know with all my heart –
His wounds have paid my ransom.

Stuart TownendCopyright © 1995 Thankyou Music (Adm. by CapitolCMGPublishing.com excl. UK & Europe, adm. by Integrity Music, part of the David C Cook family, songs@integritymusic.com)

Taco Bed Becky

SONY DSCGod started teaching me very early in life about change. My parents were foster parents. From that day when I got off the bus from first grade to find that I suddenly had two older sisters, I began to realize that change was a part of life and people would be coming and going from then on in it. Actually, I got the part about their coming into my life that day…the part about them leaving it didn’t really sink in until later.

My extended family wasn’t Ward and June Cleaver stable. They were more Smokey Mountain stable–rock solid and comfortably immovable, beautiful and a little bit wild around the edges, full of the kind of surprises that make you glad to be there and happy to be a part of it. They were big in number and in stature, loud in laughter and with a work ethic that just wouldn’t quit–everything from hoeing corn to shelling peas, picking up sticks for a bonfire, playing softball or badminton,and seeing who could find the best hiding place was a contest that ended in a good-natured joke. In my innocence, I didn’t realize everyone didn’t have that kind of stability.

Because we lived out in the country with no street lights (easier to make sure you weren’t being followed), my parents took in children from emergency rescue situations as well as some who stayed with us for years. I lost count of the number of times I rolled over in the morning to find a face I didn’t know looking back at me. As the foster children began to come in and out of our home, I learned the value of stability in life and how it was our responsibility to give that gift to each one for as long as they were with us. There were no favorites in the house–the rules were the same for all of us. For some, it was the first time they had ever experienced that kind of love. For us, it was just normal. Stability in fragments. It’s quite a concept.

Somewhere along the way, I managed to get a bit mixed up about the concept of stability, however. I truly didn’t mind the additional people in the house–I was used to large numbers of children because I had a WORLD of cousins and all the neighborhood kids were regularly in our yard, anyway. I was ok with change…as long as it didn’t involve ME or my stuff. Everything had a place and was in it. Woe to the one who moved it.

I began to set such store on keeping “things” as they had always been that I actually pitched one of the biggest fits you’ve ever seen when my parents were finally able to purchase a new mattress for me and my sister. Our old one was pitiful. We would roll to the middle and the edges would creep up a bit like a taco every night. My parents were doing a good thing in trying to change it, but you’d have thought they were trying to kill me from the ruckus I made. They prevailed. We got the new mattress…and the world did not end. We actually slept better. Change. It happens…and sometimes, it’s for the good, I thought then…as long as there isn’t too much of it. (grin/grimace)

I thought about that this morning as I stood over my sink looking out into the rain-soaked yard. My life has been chock-full of change now for as long as I can remember. Over and over, I’ve had to re-learn the taco-bed lesson as God has moved people and places and things all over my world. We’re facing a lot of it right now. You probably are, too. People we love are ill or hurting and the number of situations about which we have no control in our lives mounts daily. It makes the stability of relationship with God even more important. He has no favorites and the rules are the same for all of us…whether we follow them or not.

All of this “disruption” makes me glad He already knows what’s going on and what is to come. I trust Him to do the right thing for me…even if it makes me uncomfortable for awhile. As I mentally ran through a list of changes we and our loved ones are facing right now, I suddenly asked God to please not let me be Taco Bed Becky–hanging on to those things that need to change in order for His best to be evident in our lives. I’m so grateful that He is my stability among the fragments. I need that today.

And I’ll be praying that for you, too.

“Jesus Christ is the same yesterday, today, and forever.” Hebrews 13:8 (HCSB)

Ahhhh, stability…without stagnation. Now, there’s a concept.

Grace & Peace!

 

 

NO COMPLAIN NOVEMBER: Day 25

grandmother hodum thanksgiving poem

I shared this poem back when I started the blog in 2012. My maternal grandmother would recite it during our family’s Thanksgiving celebration every year when I was a child. At some point, my Cousin Suzanne had the foresight to ask Grandmother to write it down, so now we have a copy of her recitation in her handwriting. That’s a precious thing to me. I can still hear her voice as I read it…and that is even more precious to me.

I’m sharing it again this year in hope that it will make you smile and encourage you to enjoy some of your own family traditions this holiday season and, maybe, you’ll want to get something handwritten for posterity in your family, as well!

We can’t bring back those we’ve loved and lost, but we can share our fun memories and make brand new ones with those God has gifted us with today. I’ll be doing just that for the rest of the week, so I’m leaving you with a smile. I’ll be back to blogging here in a few days with lots of great memories of family, friends, amazing food…and no complaints.

You are loved and prayed for today! Have a marvelous Thanksgiving celebration wherever you are!

“Thanksgiving Dinner”

I don’t believe in eating much

of turkey, pumpkin pie and such.

It make me dream bad dreams at night

and then, besides, it’s not polite.

So I’m not going to stuff and stuff

and act like I can’t get enough.

For me a turkey leg will do

with just a slice of breast or two,

then some liver, gizzard, and a wing,

Lots of dressing, that’s the thing!

Mashed potatoes to make me grow

Squash and cabbages, they’re fine, you know,

And I must have some cranberries, too,

And layer cake–two pieces will do.

Then of pumpkin pie so yellow–

One piece, because I’m a little fellow.

With nuts and apples I shall quit

and not ask for another bit.

For it isn’t good the doctors say

To eat too much on Thanksgiving Day!

Banging the drum you’ve been given…

I am determined to be more “present” (no pun intended!) during this year’s Christmas season. For some reason, it just seems more personal and important this year.  To do that, we’re making deliberate decisions to celebrate the season. As part of that, we’ve been to a wonderful Christmas program by the Griffin Choral Arts group here in our area, I’ve driven by the city’s Christmas light display (multiple times), we’ve celebrated each nearby small town’s lights as they’ve gone up on the poles, smiled as the neighbors have begun to light up their homes and yards, discussed the pros and cons of a real “live tree” to our mix this year (we’re a “yes!” on that), and cleared the regular house music selections to play only Christmas carols.

This morning, I woke up early and watched the last part of a sweetly sappy Hallmark Christmas movie, got the laundry going and then turned on the carols as my fabulous husband worked noisily away in the kitchen to prepare us breakfast…and I was grateful. That word actually sounds so very small for all that flooded my heart and rolled liquid down my face.  Grateful.  It’s a lot bigger deal than it sounds.  You have to choose it sometimes and I think that makes it even more of a big deal.

As I savored my hot breakfast in a bowl and listened to the carols (Kenny G, this morning), I was once again struck by the song entitled, “The Little Drummer Boy”, composed by Katherine K. Davis, Henry Onorati and Harry Simeone. I have to admit that it’s never made my top 10 (or even, perhaps, my top 20!) favorite carols list, but this year has been different. God just keeps putting this one in my ear and every time He does that, I find myself worshiping in a brand new wave of appreciation.

I think the part that’s sticking with me the most this year is the idea that, while we may not feel that have a lot to contribute at times, we can make the decision to give the best that we do have to those we love…and to God. It reminds me a lot of my friend Judy, who is lovingly gifting me with some of her handmade kitchen washcloths this year.

I didn’t actually intend for her to do that. I’ve had two of her washcloths for some time now and there’s something wonderfully substantial about the feel of them in my hand that just makes me like the process of cleaning the kitchen a little bit more…and seriously, if you can do that, you’re golden, right?! Anyway, I’ve absolutely loved them and so I decided that I would get rid of the “cheapies” in the drawer and give myself the gift of a whole stack of these wonderful little things. I called her the other day to see if I could place an order…and she wouldn’t let me. She insisted that she wanted to make them a gift—and wouldn’t even hear of me paying the postage! (Yes, I know! I DO have really cool friends!!)

Judy’s reasoning was that she wanted to “contribute something to people I love so much and no one ever lets me do that.” I didn’t want to argue with her, but the truth of the matter is that Judy gives to every single person who knows her. She’s been an incredible example of loving mother, devoted wife and caretaker, cheerful friend and contributor to the Kingdom of God her whole life. She has donated countless hours of time, effort, talent, energy and cheerfulness to every church she’s ever been a part of and she’s shared the bounty of her blueberry bushes, tomatoes and the happiness of her home with me on multiple occasions. She prays for people and she lives a life that is the very essence of the grace of Christ and His faithfulness. She inspires me more than she has any idea about—and I’m not alone in thinking that. (Right now, when she’s reading this, she’s probably bawling and saying something about how I shouldn’t have done this and how she hasn’t really done very much at all.) I know her, so I know this will probably make her cringe just a bit, but she is actually pretty amazing– she doesn’t always give herself credit for that.

And now, before I embarrass her so much she never gets over it, I’ll move on to the point of this blog post:  God isn’t asking for monumental sacrifices every day. He just wants all of you…and all of me. He wants us to go about our regular schedules and live lives that resonate Him into the hearts of those around us by the way we live. He wants us to bang the drums He’s given to us and let Him orchestrate the rhythms that come out of it. For some of us, that means serving as missionaries in foreign countries, loving on babies in a preschool or creating beautiful art to inspire those who wish they could draw/paint/sing/dance/sculpt/garden/decorate/cook like that. Some will feed and clothe the hungry in the neighborhood or around the world and others will make a grocery run for a shut-in or cut the grass for a neighbor whose schedule is too tightly packed these days.  (Thank you for that blessing, dear neighbor!) For others of us, it means helping the vertically-challenged  people at the grocery store reach the items on the top shelves, doing our work cheerfully and being respectful of the lives God has placed around us. Some of us will administrate large financial legacies and others will show up to do the too-often-thankless and under-paid tasks of educating children and protecting the public. Some will do surgery or change soiled bedding and some will crochet amazing dishcloths and send them to friends. Some will pay for the coffee or the meal of the person behind them in line and others will take center stage and sing beautifully for all the community to hear as we celebrate this season dedicated to the birth of our Savior…

and the truth of the matter is that no matter what drum we’re banging today, we need to make sure we take time out to do it deliberately for HIM.

 

“The Little Drummer Boy”

Come they told me, pa rum pum pum pum
A new born King to see, pa rum pum pum pum
Our finest gifts we bring, pa rum pum pum pum
To lay before the King, pa rum pum pum pum,
rum pum pum pum, rum pum pum pum,

So to honour Him, pa rum pum pum pum,
When we come.

Little Baby, pa rum pum pum pum
I am a poor boy too, pa rum pum pum pum
I have no gift to bring, pa rum pum pum pum
That’s fit to give a king, pa rum pum pum
rum pum pum pum, rum pum pum pum,

Shall I play for you, pa rum pum pum pum,
On my drum?

Mary nodded, pa rum pum pum pum
The ox and lamb kept time, pa rum pum pum pum
I played my drum for Him, pa rum pum pum pum
I played my best for Him, pa rum pum pum pum,
rum pum pum pum, rum pum pum pum,

Then He smiled at me, pa rum pum pum pum
Me and my drum.

What will you do to make Him smile today?

The Mississippi Road Trip Brain Dump

MS Road trip Brain dump (in no particular order)

  • I think I may need one of those Star Trek devices like the Captains always had for their logs. I’d really love it if I could simply speak the words, “Becky’s log” and then begin my brain dump of brilliancy (ha!) without a break or having to stop driving, pull out my computer or anything. (And no, I am not a Trekkie, but that device always intrigued me because I wondered if everyone on the ship had them or if they were simply the province of the Captain…) (Also! I love that when I misspelled Trekkie, the auto-correct gave me an alert to suggest the “true” spelling! How funny! LOL!)
  • I tried to create my own version by choosing the microphone option for dictating things on my phone as I drove home. I’m apparently not as fluent—or as intelligent-sounding!–in my native language as I had previously thought. I sounded pitiful. Pi-ti-ful.
  • Thanks to God and the DOT divisions of Mississippi , Alabama and Georgia, I had reasonably decent roads to travel and some amazing color on the trees that lined the way to and from on this trip. The weather was fantastic and the autumn colors on the trees blending in with the evergreens made me wish to stop and take pictures…but I drive with too much determination to get where I’m going on trips like these, so I just took “mind photos” and it will probably be awhile before they’re ready for publication…especially since I’d really rather work on that Star Trek captain’s log thing before I start on the mind photo printer.
  • I may have the coolest nephews on the planet. No. Actually, I do. (I’m sorry if that was news to any of you.)
  • They (the nephews) may or may not have the cutest dog in the universe. Uh…no, actually, they do. (I know some of you thought that you did. Again, sorry about that.)
  • I have a really entertaining family.
  • My parents have been married for over 50 years now and they are absolutely hysterical to watch—and listen to!–especially when they’re just being themselves.
  • I finally got to have really good Chinese food again! Many thanks to my sweet friend who joined me and let me get all up in her business. (I have really cool people in my life.)
  • The number of Mississippi State signs, tags, clothing and memorabilia in Starkville and Columbus combined has passed the ability to be numerically counted. These people are so excited about this year’s team performance that it might be possible for team members to retire on the public giddiness alone! It is fabulous to see and I wish them well…right up until they play Bama. (grin…but y’all know I’m still serious about that. I will say, however, that if Bama can’t win it all, I certainly hope Mississippi State can.) RTR!
  • My Christmas shopping is pretty much done. Don’t hate me. That’s mainly because I won’t be back in MS for the holiday, so I had to get that portion completed before/during the trip so they would know that we love them when it comes time to open presents. HA!
  • My mother still makes excellent fried chicken. May that talent be ever with her…and her with us.
  • I love that my mother’s brothers and sister still get together regularly and talk on the phone regularly even though they are a bit spread out geographically. I’m sorry I couldn’t have stayed for the fun…and happy that my sister was going to get to go for a little bit.
  • I loved the way it felt to stand in my mother’s kitchen and hug each other while my father prayed over our breakfast yesterday and how he prayed for our safety as we went our separate ways.
  • I love the way my father saves the scraps as he processes deer to feed the just-this-side-of-feral kittens that live out in the yard and how they run up when they hear his voice as he calls his “babies” and how they love to sit on anything that has his scent on it, but still won’t let him pet them.
  • I love that he won’t give up trying to pet them.
  • I love that he prays for people while he processes their deer…and I’m glad that he passed that on to me. (the praying while you work part–definitely not the processing thing.)
  • I have friends whose children are newly married and some who are currently planning weddings. That is really strange to me since these kids live in my mind forever frozen at about age 4.
  • I love having friends who will join up for coffee and hot chocolate and bare their souls for 3 hours so I can stay current and we can pray together when I drop into town for short visits.
  • I think that praying for someone may be one of the most amazing privileges ever.
  • I love that my husband beat me home yesterday and made supper, that we sat to chat over more hot chocolate and watched a sappy Thanksgiving movie afterward. He is the best.
  • I love that my cats ran to greet me upon my return and that Lewis (the youngest one) finally got over his pouting and let me pet him before he had to go to bed.
  • Yes, my cats go to bed when I tell them to do so. (And it makes my friends laugh when they see it.)
  • It’s good to be home.

Spending the day

What are you doing today?

Is it work or play?  Is it easy or difficult?  Dull or exciting?  Laughter or tears…or both?  Or like most of us, “All of the above?”

I’ve been thinking about this idea a lot lately.  My “theme” for the year has been Jim Elliot’s quote:  “Wherever you are, be all there.” and that’s a lot harder sometimes than you’d think.

I’m a multi-tasker of the very first order and making a conscious choice to focus fully on whatever is right in front of me this year still feels foreign…even after more than 7 months of trying.

I’m getting better at it.  Little by little.  Day by day of practice…and yet sometimes I have to remind myself right moment by moment.

I’ve had a  house full of company around here lately and even in the midst of it all, I had to remind myself to “be all there” (and not run to the computer and blog about it right then!) so I wouldn’t waste a single second of it:  croquet on the side yard, card games on the back porch, amazing amounts of really great food, phone calls from those who couldn’t make it, the laughter ringing in the rafters and escaping to the yard, the quiet conversations late into the night or while waiting on others to wake up, the tears of shared heartbreak and the prayers of and for loved ones.  All that preciousness that we store up until we can all be together again–I didn’t want to miss even a moment of it.  God uses all of that to sustain us during the times it is more difficult to obtain and I wanted to revel in it and soak it all up like a sponge–wasting nothing, no matter how small.  Friendship.  Family.  Family of the heart.  Days of spirit-filling sustenance from God.  All from Him.

Today, this day that some of us will take for granted, will be someone’s wedding day, someone’s best day, someone’s worst day…and someone’s last day.  Wherever you find yourself, make the choice to be all there today.  There’s a reason you’re having the day you are–and (surprise, surprise!) it may not be all about you.  Someone else may need to see how you handle it.  They may need to see God at work in you today in the easy stuff and, more likely, in the hard stuff, too.

“Teach us to number our days that we may get a heart of wisdom.”  Psalm 90:12

This is what I need today:  the ability to be aware of how precious each day really is and a heart of wisdom to “spend” it well…and I’m pretty sure that I’m not the only one.

Prayer:  Father God, please be with those who have lost today and feel that loss so keenly, with those who are uncertain of their next move and those who charge blindly–or deliberately!–into danger, with those who will choose to laugh in spite of their difficulties today and those who need to learn how to do so.  Be with those who celebrate the wondrous thing and those who will deal with the ponderous ones.  Show us YOU in each situation and help those around us to see You at work in us.  In short, give us You today and help us share You with the world.

Are you a God-kept wonder?

When each earthly prop gives under,

And life seems a restless sea,

Are you then a God-kept wonder,

Satisfied and calm and free?       ~from Streams in the Desert

 

I’ve been taking my own determination to make this a year—or a life!—of returning to the basics very seriously. I’ve been making conscious decisions to stay in the moment and savor the small things. Jim Elliot’s quote, “Wherever you are, be all there!” resonates with me constantly and has become my own daily personal goal as I settle into this new life here in Georgia.

I’ve been more intentional about pursuing the heart of God and being cognizant of His Presence in all the moments that make up the life-time. Returning to the consistent reading of Psalms and Proverbs has sharpened my appetite for praise and my desire to be wiser in using the time God chooses to give to me. Additionally, I’ve also been re-reading Streams in the Desert by Mrs. Charles E. Cowman—the very first devotional book I used when I first moved to Georgia after grad school over 24 years ago.

I love this little book with its collection of thoughts and daily challenges written in words that sound more than a bit archaic in tone and structure and attitude when compared to our more modern way of talking and our cultural mandates of situational ethics and personal advancement whatever the cost. The small poetry snippet above is the antithesis of such “modern” thinking and reminds me that regardless of what I face throughout the day—or year—or life!—I AM a God-kept wonder when I resist the urges to ‘have it all my way’ or just have it all now and focus on resting in Him regardless of situation, instead.

Practically, I’ve been keeping busy with tax-prep made more challenging this year by having to locate items in new places and search through paperwork “organized” in bags that make me wonder where my brain was when I put them there. We’ve been blessed with an abundance of guests who have honored our home and brought joy to our spirits with their familiar faces in this new place. There has been much to do and I’ve been pleased as punch to do it because I am so aware that this is where God has placed us…on purpose…for HIS purpose.

While I wait for some of that purpose to become more evident, I’m enjoying the conversations of the hoot owls as I sit on my back porch in the early (really early!) mornings and I’ve been savoring the fresh tomatoes that the produce man at the local farmer’s market located somewhere that already have the flavor of late summer here in the early spring.  I’m growing accustomed to living on Eastern Time instead of Central Standard and I’ve been waging a battle to keep my porch bird-nest free. (That is one determined little bird!)  I’ve been raking pine straw and picking up sticks and being amazed all over again at the amount of pollen in a Southern spring—all the while reveling in the bloom of forsythia, daffodils, tulip trees and dogwood right here in my own little yard.  I’ve been changing sheets and readying guest rooms for the family that was here last week and those who will arrive this weekend—including the cousin who (just one year ago!) fell 3 stories on a job site and wasn’t supposed to survive, but has become one of those God-kept wonders and is planning a trip to Disney shortly!

I haven’t written much lately because I’ve been too busy learning…and you have to learn before you can share. I hope and pray that you are busy learning, too; that your lessons are easy ones and, if not, that you will find yourself being a God-kept wonder where you are.  In the meantime, I hope you’re loving God with all your heart and savoring the glories of the day.

Grace & Peace!