Friday, January 18, 2019

Melting and Molding the Pieces



Eternal One, my True God I cried out to You for help. You mended the shattered tpieces of my life, You lifted me from the grave with a mighty hand, gave me another chance, and saved me from joining those in that dreadfulpit. 
(Psalm 30: 2-3 The Voice)

Two hours in the dental chair with multiple needles to numb my mouth. Pulling and pulling to remove the cracked crown. Gooey impressions and then, a temporary crown. Even though my dentist and her assistant tried to make the visit as pain free as possible, the whole process was stressful.

            Before I left the office, a small plastic bag was put into my hand. I looked down to see pieces of my fragmented, gold crown. 

            For a few days, the remnants remained in my car. Then I decided to see how much the gold was worth. 

            I walked into a small but attractive jewelry store. Sparkling rings, watches, necklaces and bracelets filled the glass cases. 

            “Do you buy gold?” I asked a man behind the counter.

            “Yes,” he said. 

            Instead of pulling out a long chain or fancy ring, I handed him my broken crown. 

            “Does it have a tooth in it?” he asked as a latex glove went onto his hand.

            “No.” How disgusting that would have been.

            The jeweler determined the quality and weight. After checking the current price of gold, he determined what he would pay me. 

            Though not a large amount, I bought my lunch with enough left for a second meal. 

            The damaged pieces of my crown will be melted down to form something of more value. Perhaps it will be part of a ring, necklace or bracelet to give joy to someone.

            Those pieces reminded me of broken lives that appear damaged beyond repair and worthless. But God can take shattered lives and make them into ones that are beautiful and valuable.  

            The melting process can be painful and heartbreaking. Several times in my life while dealing with divorce, a rebellious child, and death, I felt like nothing worthwhile could come from the sorrow. However, during the refining process, God remained close to heal, form and lead me in a new direction. 

Creator, thank you for molding broken pieces into something worthwhile. Amen

Tuesday, January 1, 2019

Celebrate each day






Yesterday ‘s gorgeous web and only one strand left today. What happened? There was no storm or brisk wind but it is gone. As I read my devotions today, I read Psalm 90 which reminded me that we don’t know how many days we have. Like my spider web, life is fleeting and can change instantly. 
Psalm 90: 12 and 14. The Voice. Teach us to number our days so that we may truly live and achieve wisdom. With every sun’s rising, surprise us with Your love, satisfy us with Your kindness. Then we will sing with joy and celebrate every day we are alive.

Monday, December 17, 2018

A True Advent



I am filled with joy and my soul vibrates with exuberant hope, because of the Eternal my God. For He has dressed me with the garment of salvation, wrapped me with the robe of righteousness. It’s as though I’m dressed for my wedding day in the very best: a bridegroom’s garland and a bride’s jewels. (Isaiah 61: 10-11 The Voice)

Remembering five years ago. Grieving the loss of my dad months earlier. Grieving the final months with Alan after the doctor’s prognosis of six months to live. Grieving mother’s terminal condition. 

            Both Alan and mother were in hospice. Death hovered. Grief pricked me daily. 

            Christmas approached. Joyful songs played everywhere. Twinkling lights blinked happiness. Busy shoppers scurried from store to store. None of that really mattered to me. 

            I barely remember preparing at all. No tree. Few decorations in our home. But all around me, people prepared for the holiday. 

            During Advent, Christians anticipate the coming of Jesus. Candles are lit. Scriptures read. Days marked off on Advent calendars. 

            That year, Alan prepared to meet Jesus in a different way. Not in a Christmas play or candlelight service but face to face. 

            One day he said to me, “I wasn’t asleep but I saw Jesus. Like in a vision.”

            His surprising statement startled me. Never had he said anything like that. 

            “What was it like?”

            “He told me, ‘I am coming for you,’” Alan said. 

            I tried to absorb what he was telling me. It was too much.

            “Tell him not yet.” I said. I wasn’t ready for him to leave me. 

            Tears trickled from Alan’s eyes. “I see him every day.”

            As hard as it was to know Alan’s time was limited, his revelation comforted me in my sadness. He was at peace knowing he would be with Jesus. 

            Besides seeing Jesus, he kept seeing his aunt who had passed away. She spoke no words but smiled and motioned for him to cross the stream in front of her. 

            Each day, I pondered the visions he saw. My fact driven husband had never experienced anything like that before. His tears and joy when sharing the revelation confirmed the authenticity of it.
            When I met Alan, he wouldn’t even pray out loud with other people. Gradually, he began sharing his faith as we went on mission trips. His prayers at family gatherings went on and on as the food cooled. 

            However, most surprising to me was when he began sharing about Jesus during his last days. He talked to anyone who came to our home including friends, family and even the man who brought oxygen. Only God could have transformed a quiet, reserved man into a dying evangelist. 

            Before Christmas that year, Alan experienced a true Advent. He saw and heard from Jesus. A few weeks later, months short of his six months, he met Jesus face to face. 

            Though I still grieve, his anticipation and joy in going to heaven continues to give me peace and comfort. I see Advent differently now. What an incredible gift I received to see the love of God in Alan’s final steps to heaven. 

            Not everyone receives visions like Alan did, but we can all anticipate the coming of Jesus into our lives so we can let others know about him. Eventually, as Christians, we will one day meet him face to face. 

Lord, during this Advent season, help us anticipate the coming of Jesus and truly know him. Amen


            
            

Saturday, December 15, 2018

The Special Angel Tree



Three granddaughters joined me in making my home festive. While Emily and Molly took care of the nativity sets, Ashlyn easily transferred bins of Christmas items from the garage into my house. 

            Within minutes, she carried the long tree box to the living room, took out the sections and assembled it. I couldn’t believe how quickly she got it together. Then she pulled branches up and down to get the tree into the correct shape. 

            After that, she strategically placed sparkly, silver balls all around the tree. As she picked up various ornaments, I shared memories of them with her. 

            The year my dad passed away mother and Alan were both ill so we didn’t put up a tree. The next Christmas after Alan and mother passed away, it was too painful to even think about decorating a tree. 

            However, the following year, I decided to buy a tree and decorate it with angels  in memory of those who had passed away. I looked for all kinds of silver or white angels along with balls, snowflakes and ribbons. Each year, I looked for more angels to add to my collection. The angel tree brings memories but often tears too.

            This time was different because I didn’t have to decorate alone. Ashlyn carefully added each silver and white decoration. She even placed the vintage angel on top. 

            “How did you get her to stay upright?” I asked. 

            Ashlyn smiled. “I just bent the branches.”

            Even though I tried and tried, the angel would never stand straight so every year I would give up and replace her with a ribbon. But Ashlyn easily finished the tree with the lovely angel gazing out from the top. 

            Every time I look at my beautiful tree, I think of Ashlyn and her quiet, meticulous manner. This year my angel tree is even more special because of her love in helping me remember.  

Father, thank you for those I love who have passed and for those who continue to love me. Amen

            

Monday, December 10, 2018

Unfamiliar Nativities



Before my granddaughters arrived, I cleared shelves in my family room and imagined the nativity sets that would soon fill them. Every year, I carefully place each one in a specific spot with every figure in a certain position around the manger.

            This year when Ashlyn, Emily and Molly came to spend the night, we decided to decorate my house. I looked forward to not carrying the bins of decorations into the house and not being alone as I went through memorable keepsakes. Their infectious enthusiasm put me into a holiday mood instead of feeling sad that I was alone. 

            As Molly and Emily unwrapped boxes of olive wood figures, I told them about purchasing the sets in Israel. When they took paper off ceramic figurines, I explained the set had been my parents’. Memories flowed from me to the girls as I remembered other Christmases. 

            While I dug through bins of decorations, the two younger girls took care of the numerous nativities from the United States and around the world. A tall church with a manger scene from Peru, a stone one from Kenya, homemade ones and a painted picture from Ashlyn. Some had moveable pieces and others were carved or formed into stationary scenes. Every one had a story and meant a lot to me. 

            When they finished, I looked at various scenes before me. The characters were the same but in different positions. Instead of my symmetrical arrangements, shepherds were grouped together at one side with animals among them. Wise men stood way back.  One nativity set had all of the figures far apart on the entire shelf. 

            At first, I thought we should change them. But on closer inspection, I realized I liked the new way. The girls carefully put every piece where it needed to be. Their interpretation gave me a new perspective.  

            Of course the sheep should be close to the shepherds instead of in front. The shepherds were probably talking about what they were seeing. Maybe deciding if they should get close and what to say to the young girl and man next to the baby. 

          Even though the Wise Men actually appeared a couple of years after Jesus’s birth, modern nativity sets include them. Perhaps they did stand far off in awe when they first saw Him. 

            Why did I think the shepherds and Wise Men should be exactly the same distance from Jesus? Why did it always have to be a certain way?  

            Not only did the girls get me into the holiday spirit but they gave me a fresh perspective of those who came to see the baby Jesus. Every time I look at my extensive display, I remember their excitement and am thankful I can continue to learn from them. 

Heavenly Father, thank you for grandchildren and for all they can teach. Amen
             

Monday, November 26, 2018

The Altered Journey



May we never tire of doing what is good and right before our Lord because in His season we shall bring in a great harvest if we can just persist. So seize any opportunity the Lord gives you to do good things and be a blessing to everyone, especially those within our faithful family. (Galatians 6: 9-10 The Voice)

The trunk lid closed with a suitcase, cooler and shoes inside. The beginning of my solo trip began as I pulled out of the garage. So did my tears. 

            When I prepared for my Thanksgiving journey to my niece’s home, I looked forward to seeing my family. But grief, once again, ambushed me. Memories swirled of happier times when everyone sat around the table and celebrated. 

            Reality made me remember the tough times around Thanksgiving too. When I was a child, a phone call interrupted our meal with my mom’s family to let us know my other grandpa passed away. When I was in college, grandma went to the hospital before Thanksgiving and passed away the day after. A few years ago, another phone call came with unwelcome news as we began to eat. My nephew was in ICU. Painful situations altered other Thanksgivings over the years. 

            In my mind, I wanted a perfect holiday but many of mine had hardly been ideal. Often family members were missing so this year would not be that different. Of course, driving alone on unfamiliar roads made the whole trip more difficult. 

            For about five minutes, tears flowed. Then I decided my journey would be an adventure and not a sorrowful drive. 

            Sunshine and blue sky joined me while I drove in light traffic on the interstate. Praise music and sermons on thankfulness boosted my spirit. I did have much to be thankful for despite the empty chairs. 

            After leaving the highway an hour later, I pulled into a McDonald’s for a drink and break. However, flashing lights on three police cars in the parking lot and officers entering the restaurant, changed my mind. 

            A stream of customers entered the Wawa across the street as I pulled into their parking lot. I felt more secure and safe there.

            Inside the store, I took a cup of tea to the counter. The clerk looked at me and said, “Are you just getting a drink?”

            “Yes.”

            “You are good,” she said.

            “I don’t have to pay for it?” I asked. 

            “No,” she said with a smile. “Happy Thanksgiving.”

            “Happy Thanksgiving to you too,” I said.  

            Her act of kindness soothed the ache in my heart. She had no idea how she helped 

a lonely traveler and encouraged me to reach out to someone else.

            Later at a stoplight, a ragged looking man stood beside the road with a cardboard

sign. However, his was different than most.

            It read  Palm roses. Donations accepted. 

            In his hand, he held flowers made of palm fronds. To people in the long line of 

cars, he seemed invisible.

            I rolled down my window and motioned to him. He walked across the road, and 

we exchanged blooms for money. He didn’t ask for a handout but something for what he 

made. I hoped that I encouraged him like the lady at Wawa did for me.  

            From the well-traveled highways, I continued on rural roads and experienced a bit 

of nostalgia. Fields of crops. Cattle and horses grazing. Goats munching. I passed through 

small towns and by country churches. Moss covered trees swayed in breezes. With each 

mile, I thanked God for many wonderful things in my life. 

            What began as a lonely journey, turned into a trip of blessings. I looked forward 

to celebrating with family and new friends instead of lamenting those who were missing. 

Loving Father, thank you for putting people in my life who lift me up. Help me do the 

same for others. Amen

             

Friday, October 19, 2018

Wilted Hairstyle


 Since you are all set apart by God, made holy and dearly loved, clothe yourselves with a holy way of life: compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness, and patience.  Put up with one another. Forgive. Pardon any offenses against one another, as the Lord has pardoned you, because you should act in kind. But above all these, put on love! Love is the perfect tie to bind these together. Let your hearts fall under the rule of the Anointed’s peace (the peace you were called to as one body), and be thankful.  Let the word of the Anointed One richly inhabit your lives. With all wisdom teach, counsel, and instruct one another. Sing the psalms, compose hymns and songs inspired by the Spirit, and keep on singing—sing to God from hearts full and spilling over with thankfulness.  Surely, no matter what you are doing (speaking, writing, or working), do it all in the name of Jesus our Master, sending thanks through Him to God our Father. (Colossians 3: 12-17 The Voice)
            Gel went onto my freshly shampooed hair and rollers formed curls. After a brush styled it, hairspray held my hair in place. A glance at the mirror showed it looked good.  
            Then I stepped outside into Florida’s humidity. Moisture dampened and flattened the time consuming hairdo. Within minutes, the look of my hair changed dramatically because of the environment. 
            On my recent retreat in North Carolina, I was immersed in godly teaching and meaningful Christian music. Everyone attending the conference and the staff of the center showed Christian love. The entire experience gave me peace and contentment. Love enfolded me. 
            Being secluded at the retreat, can help prepare and encourage me to go into a broken world. It is easy to be kind and loving when surrounded by loving people. The real test comes when I return to the real world. 
            Would I be able to be kind to annoying people? Would I continue to have peace when caught in traffic? Would I remain strong when hit with difficult circumstances? 
            Like my hair drooping in the humidity, it is easy to bend and fall with the trials of the world. But with the help of Jesus, I can remain strong.
Father, give me the strength and peace to endure whatever life brings. Amen