Automatic timer

IMG_20180822_173452044_LLMy cat has a feeder with an automatic timer on it. I bought it for one of those times when I had to travel away from home for several days and I just never unplugged it. It keeps right on serving up the exact amount of food it is supposed to at exactly the time that I’ve determined my cat needs to eat based on what our vet knows about our cat’s health and welfare. It’s a system that works for me.

Smokey’s still not too impressed with it.

He’s more into me feeding him every single time he yells for food and seems fully convinced that I’ve somehow forgotten about his needs in this process of failing to follow his desires. He makes sure I’m aware of his opinion as he begins to voice his concerns over me allowing him to “starve” approximately 2 full hours before every regularly scheduled feeding time.

I’m like that with God sometimes.

You are too, I bet.

We get so focused on what we want and when we want it that we forget there’s a reason we’re not in charge. (Psst! It’s because we’re not GOD!)

I’ve noticed this a lot more lately–both the desire to have my prayers answered before I actually pray them and the part about me not being God.

Today, though, I saw God absolutely show out. He showed up in the middle of a mess with our loved one and He absolutely “made the rough way smooth.” Isaiah 45:2 (NASB) says, “I will go before you and make the rough places smooth; I will shatter the doors of bronze and cut through their iron bars.” 

I know He wasn’t talking to me in Isaiah, but the God who never changes showed up for our family today just like he told Isaiah that He would do for His people back then. We had a need that was time-sensitive, unexpected, and totally out of our ability to fix. If we had an automatic-timer-God, there’s absolutely no way we could have believed that our need would have made a difference in His answer or in the time of delivering the answers.

We don’t serve that kind of God, however.

We serve the unchanging God of the unexpected. He’s the One in charge of every single thing and He has the answer to every single problem you or I will ever face. While His timing may not always suit us, He is always and forever on our side, providing what we need right when we need it…and often, not a moment sooner.

So it was again today. He knew beforehand that we would have this need. He knew the answers it would require and the timing to make it all work…and He still allowed us to FEEL the need and MAKE our requests to Him! It is not the first time this has happened (not by a LONG shot!) and it will not be the last time it happens, either. This is not because He is unkind, but because He saw beyond the need at hand and knew that we ALSO needed to have our faith increased, our community of prayer partners encouraged, and so that all of us could be reminded–once again!–that while His timing isn’t automatic, He is always an on-time God.

Grace and Peace!

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Dementia Chronicles (part 2)

It isn’t something that gets talked about at parties or even mentioned in prayer requests, but the battle against dementia is being fought by far more people in our circles than we may know. I’m finding that out slowly, but surely as more and more people contact me seemingly out of the blue…but not really. It’s been happening for months now. As always, God has a plan. It seems as though He is determined to increase my faith the hard way, to build my prayer life deeper, and (oddly enough for this introvert!) to increase my community by using a disease that separates its victims from their own.

It’s not that I have all the wisdom about dementia (that is FAR from the truth and simply impossible), but I do have a platform in this blog and since everything else about me belongs to God, this does, too. Just publishing the part 1 of this string on dementia created multiple conversations with people I’ve known for years without being aware that they, too, were parting with loved ones long before their actual demise.

Here’s what I do know: the words that we use to describe dementia aren’t adequate. Insidious. Cruel. Angry. Heartbreaking. Vicious. Painful. Sad. Heart-wrenching. Horrendous. These are some of the descriptors used by friends who know the power or this disease. Every single word applies, but none of them–or even the grouping of them together!–is enough to cover the bases of dementia as it steals the minds and removes the last vestiges of what makes us individuals, the personality God gave us from the beginning and the bits we’ve added along the way.

My only comfort right now comes in knowing that as awful as this disease is, my God is greater…even when it feels like He is being silent. Earlier this week, I stood ready to enter a store. My phone rang with another update. On the other end, another–Strong!–and devoted loved one cried out as she stood in the thick of the battle. Once again, my hands were tied and I was far away, so I did the only thing I could do–the very thing that on the surface doesn’t seem like it will be enough, but which, in reality, is the most powerful tool at my disposal. I walked around the corner and I began to pray out loud as I paced back and forth between the building and the road in this town where no one knows me. I would have done the same thing if I had been anywhere else.

I began to pray the litany that has rung in my own brain for the weeks and months since we started this latest and most drastic decline. I have become dependent on it. I have become persistent in it. I am convinced of the truth and the power of it…though I have yet to see it completely fulfilled in this situation.

Lord, I believe! Help my unbelief!
God, You are our Provider. Send us Your Provision!
Your Word says that You cannot lie, so help us to see and remember Your Truth in this time of confusion. Order the chaos in her mind, Father God, and bring order to our emotions.
Father, You are full of mercy. Be merciful to us and to our loved one and help us to see that mercy in action!
You alone are the Source of Wisdom, Father. Grant wisdom to those who care for her and direction for us as we make decisions on her behalf.
You are our Peace! Surround us with Your Presence and comfort us in Your Love.
You are our Strength. Steel us for this battle!

God, You are our Healer. Help us to remain healthy so we can tend to the needs of our loved one. Give healing to her, as well, in whatever way You choose.
Father, You are our defender. Shelter us in this time of trouble!
God, You are our Hope and our Joy! Help us to actively search for You in this hard thing and share You with those around us. 

Glorify Yourself in this situation and in us!

Lord, I believe! Help my unbelief!

 

On and on it goes; attribute after attribute about my God circles through my head. Sometimes, in this order. Other times, it is changed, but it always begins and ends with “Lord, I believe! Help my unbelief!”

I am aware, you see, that my faith is flawed even though my God is not. This battle is just the latest in a series for us and, while that used to make me angry, I now see it as having been prepped for this battle. Mostly (but unfortunately not always–because of that flawed faith, again!) it makes me calmer when I am faced with all of the details that I cannot control, contain, or fully comprehend–NOT because I’m smarter or stronger, but because my faith in God is deeper than it used to be. Those same limitations can be applied to what is possible to know and understand about God, so this TOTALLY uncomfortable uncertainty for this Fixer-personality is not new to me. I have a long history of trusting in my Creator when facing challenges. I am completely cognizant that I cannot win this or any other battle alone. None of us can, but I know the One Who can make that a reality…and you can, too. We just have to start out by finding, acknowledging, and speaking the truth about who our God is. That’s simpler than it sounds. He wants to be known. He’s had a whole Book written just so we could know Him better.

He is a personal God and He loves us, individually and corporately. No matter what battle you’re facing and fighting–or running from!!–today, He is available just by calling His Name. Get to know Him and begin to call on Him today! (and call me, too, if I can help you get to know Him better. It would be an honor to share Him with you.)

Quilted

I’m cleaning out again. This time, I started with my linen closet…errr, closets (Plural. Eye rolls..Plural…again.) I love linens. There’s something about thread counts and coziness, colors and cleanliness that makes me smile.

As I’ve sorted through my collection of goodies, I unearthed a stack of older quilts. Several of them were purchased from various antique dealers across the South, a couple were gifts, and a few more were created by my maternal grandmother and one of her sisters. Those are the best!

I have a stack of more modern quilts that are larger and made to fit up to a king-sized mattress. While I find them to be useful and comfortable, my favorites are those smaller ones that are pieced together from colorful bits of cloth that served a different purpose and used to cover up people I know and love. Seeing a family quilt where the makers can tell a history of who wore what and when…well now, that is special.

There is the one with the big multi-colored corduroy squares made by my grandmother that wrapped me up and kept me warm on more high school football/band trips than I can count. It went with me on through college and was one of the first things I spread over that mattress on the floor in my first–and mostly empty!–apartment after grad school. Though it is ragged along the edges and in need of repair now, it is far more valuable to me than any of the others.

IMG_20190514_120636948Another one, made by one of my grandmother’s sisters, shows off the double wedding ring pattern and is full of bright, colorful rings on a cream background with scalloped edges. Aunt Pearl did this as one of her last quilts and I consider it a prized possession even though she missed a stitch or two due to failing eyesight. I love this quilt because she refused to quit doing what she loved just because it became more difficult. It now adorns the foot of a guest room bed so I can see and enjoy it regularly.

There’s something about resting under a handmade-with-love or out-of-necessity quilt that the store-bought and machine-made ones just can’t provide. There’s the love that came from the making along with the love that came from my daddy as he purchased another Aunt Pearl quilt with little Holly Hobby-like silhouettes because it reminded him of me and a Girl Scout project I did in elementary school. I also have a couple made by a beloved cousin and a treasured friend.

There’s the one my grandmother made out of scraps from clothing worn by all my aunts and uncles when they were growing up. I can’t tell you who wore what patch, but she could have… probably because she made those clothes for them, as well.

As I’ve sorted through these beauties I’ve begun to sharpen my focus. I’ll be keeping the love and passing along some of those I just purchased because something about them caught my eye…even the handmade ones from someone else’s family that ended up in the antique stores.

IMG_20190514_120846943Of those that are departing, there is one that reminds me a little of what my life looks like right now. While one side is a smooth and somewhat faded floral, the other side shows a definite pattern. Unfortunately, it looks like it might have been someone’s (or even several someones!) first shot at quilting. The pattern edges aren’t clean and clear. The points don’t always join where they’re supposed to join. It’s what I’d call a life lesson quilt–more than a little messy, but still capable of getting the job done. I still like it, but I think it’s time for the lesson to be passed along…now that I’ve been reminded to keep doing what I can for the people I love even when it gets hard and looks messy on the surface. Despite my perfectionistic tendencies and desires to be in charge of the results, God will have the job of sorting the outcome. I just need to keep covering up my people with love…and lots and lots of prayer.

Wishing all of us a day pieced together with love…even if it looks a little wonky or in need of some repairs!

Grace and peace!

 

Have you done your part?

“Because he bends down to listen, I will pray as long as I have breath!” Psalm 116:2 (NLT)

In this week of national tragedy, worldwide mayhem, and personally, a growing list of prayer needs, this verse gives me comfort. despite the noise and the questions about “WHY? HOW?–and WHY?!” (yes, we all ask that last one more than once, don’t we?), God is still with us. He is listening. He is grieving. He is comforting. He is answering. He is still WITH US…and yes, THAT needed to be stated more than once, as well.

How do I know these things? He’s already said so in His love letter to us. Hebrews 13:5b tells us this:

“…for He has said, “I will never [under any circumstances] desert you [nor give you up nor leave you without support, nor will I in any degree leave you helpless], nor will I forsake or let you down or relax My hold on you [assuredly not]!”

I chose the Amplified Bible’s version of that verse on purpose for all of the emphatic statement that it contains. I believe it is necessary for some of you to see all of that today.

I think we may actually need to see it every day…until we start believing it and living like it and being bolder for Him because of it! Jesus was very clear while He was here on earth. He’s already told us that this life will not be easy. He was specific about that: “In this world you will have trouble…”

But look at the whole picture:

Look: An hour is coming, and has come, when each of you will be scattered to his own home, and you will leave Me alone. Yet I am not alone, because the Father is with Me. I have told you these things so that in Me you may have peace. You will have suffering in this world. Be courageous! I have conquered the world.” John 16:32-33 (HCSB)

Looks like we might have done our part in this verse, alright…we’ve left Him alone. We’ve decided that our ways are best. We’ve chosen to be on our own. WE, as individuals and as a human race, have decided that we would rather do this without all of the “constraints” of being in relationship with God, under His authority, …and under His care.

So, maybe that’s the WHY.

But there is still hope for us. There is still time to make that personal decision to be in a close relationship with God, to CHOOSE to be His and walk out this life in the protection and comfort–and yes, the obedience!–required by that decision.

All it takes is for us to choose Him. He’s already chosen us!

He’s ready and willing…and bending down to listen…

Are you praying?

 

This day…

Father God,

Thank you for THIS day:

  • the one with the problems I don’t have solutions for,
  • the one with the questions with no answers,
  • the one with the wearied spirit I don’t always talk about,
  • the one with the people-shaped problems,
  • the one with the needs I can’t meet and the issues that are WAY over my head,
  • the one with the hurts that haven’t healed and the frustrations that didn’t even make this list.

Thank You for THIS day–

  • the one with all the beauty I might have seen, but not commented on because I was in a rush,
  • the one with all the people I love, but haven’t told today,
  • the one with all of the blessings I overlooked because I was too focused on the blessings I’m still asking for, and
  • the one with the difficulties I might have allowed to loom larger than even You.

Help me to reset and refocus my vision on You, the Giver of all life and the Source of all strength. Help me to seek You first and walk in the way You have prepared for me and choose You and Your way even when it might seem strange or at odds with conventional wisdom and, perhaps, even against the advice of my most trusted ones. Give me the eyes  to see You even when I might feel overwhelmed by the doubt and darkness in the world around me. Help me to bless and not curse my own life by choosing to be less than You have called me to be. Give me courage to choose the God-thing over the good thing and give me the opportunity to speak Your name in praise as I do so. Soften my heart and sharpen my desire for Your Word. Grant me deeper understanding so I can share more of You as I move through Your world and help me to use the resources You’ve provided just as You have intended. Grant me peace, Father, and help me to rest in You and give You praise for all my questions because You are all my answers.

Thank you for this day, Father God. Thank you for Your grace in THIS day.

On those days when nothing goes right…

On the days when nothing goes right…

You still get to choose your response, be it physical, verbal or silent.
You still get to choose your words.
You still get to decide which voices to listen to.
You still get to choose how your voice will be used.
You still get to decide IF your voice should be used.
You still get to vent to trusted friends and loved ones–and you can choose to accept their comfort.
You still get to choose, to act responsibly, to take time out to be healthy and make good choices for yourself, SONY DSCand most importantly, to praise God ANYWAY!

See! You have more control than you thought. You just have to choose. I was reminded of that today, so I thought I ought to share.

Though the Lord gave you adversity for food and suffering for drink,
he will still be with you to teach you.
You will see your teacher with your own eyes. Your own ears will hear him.
Right behind you a voice will say,
“This is the way you should go,”
whether to the right or to the left.”
Isaiah 30: 20-21

God and His “new things”

cropped-heart“Behold, I am doing a new thing; now it springs forth, do you not perceive it? I will make a way in the wilderness and rivers in the desert.”  Isaiah 43:19 (ESV)

I did something different this morning. I made a big breakfast and sent my husband off to work. Y’all, that is cause for serious celebration around here! (grin) It may not sound like a reason to party for most of you, but I haven’t done that in 192 days. For those of you who are counting, that’s over 6 months–over half a year!! For those of you who are really counting, that says that on Day 2 of our NO COMPLAIN NOVEMBER, my husband lost his job…and that God can have a really odd sense of humor when He decides to see if you’re serious about such a thing.

It was a shock to us. Nothing could have prepared us for the sudden and drastic change in circumstances. A business decision–nothing personal, but with no warning–suddenly severed a situation that we had come to count on for over 16 years. I guess God had decided to remind us that all we can really depend on in this world is HIM…and He’s taken His time and done that in spades.

As we’ve walked through the past few months we’ve discovered (or maybe RE-discovered!) some things about our God and about ourselves. I’ve been quiet here about them as they were happening because some things are just holy in the moment and I didn’t feel like they were really mine to share yet. Some of those things are still so intensely personal that I’m not sure if I’ll ever be able to tell them (and certainly not without tears!), but here are just a few of the highlights:

  • God loves us far more than we can ever imagine. Sometimes He loves us enough to send us through things we’d rather not go through in order to show us that His love is constant, without reservation, and that He has no limits to the lengths He will go to prove that–as if the cross hadn’t already proven it!
  • God is indeed Jehovah Jireh—my Provider–and YOURS! He is MORE than ENOUGH no matter what circumstances He chooses for us because He orchestrates every single day so that we can see Him in action if we will but open our eyes.
  • He is charge and He knows EXACTLY what we need…even (especially?!) when it seems like a hard thing and doesn’t make a lot of sense to us on the surface. He is more than able to meet every single need we will ever face and we can never predict how our answers will come because our God is without limits and unfathomable in His ability to surprise and delight us with when we seek HIS answers, HIS timing, and HIS glory.
  • God’s people are AMAZING!! In our initial shock and throughout our “I don’t even know what to call it because it was hard and such a blessing all at the same time–thing!!” people we didn’t even know very well went to their knees on our behalf and showered us with encouragement, while those who know us best were unbelievable in their support for us.
  • We are still a great team. We’ve always known it (HA!), but it’s still nice to see our marriage work the way it is supposed to and we are grateful for the opportunity to spend over half a year together—even as unexpected as that opportunity was for us! We made the most of it and actually had a lot of fun in the process.
  • After over 23 years of marriage, we still LIKE each other and we know how to laugh together!
  • We were, are, and will always be “the most blessed people we know” because we CHOOSE to be. Circumstances cannot affect that. We belong to God and He is the Source of all blessing, so there’s that.

There will be more to share, but for today, did you read that verse at the top? Everybody likes “a new thing.” It’s really great to be in on the new thing, but sometimes we forget that one of the most exciting things can be to actually see God make a way in wilderness and rivers in the desert…and to see those things happen, you have BE in the wilderness and in the desert. If that’s where you are today, please don’t give in to discouragement. PLEASE be open to the new thing God has planned for you and know that I can and WILL pray with you for eyes to see the new things getting ready to spring up in the midst of your hard thing.

And now, there’s just one more thing to say: “GO, GOD!!!”