Blogs

I’m There!

Last week one of my favorite writers, who doubles as my dentist, shared his experiences from El Salvador.  Not your typical tourist, Doug Harty or Doctor Doug as Haitians call him, travels the world to provide medical and dental expertise in the name of Jesus for some of the poorest, most neglected people walking this planet.

What I most enjoy about Doug’s writing is he puts me in the moment. When I read his emails, I’m there with him. When I visit his office, I see those experiences portrayed in photographs.  

A recent email paints the picture: “I write from under a beautiful, red-blossomed tree in the clinic area.  It is 87, the sun is bright, but it feels amazing and I have had just a wonderful day!  Birds are singing, there is talk from the patients who are leaving and the drone of the students helping us in the air. They laugh, and mess around after a hard day of helping us and patients, and I am enjoying sitting back and taking all of it in.”

I’ve never been to El Salvador but through Doug’s words, I’m there. That is what I’ve always loved about reading. It takes me places I’ve never been and shares experiences I may never have. Good writers do that for their readers.

The power of the written word is just that—powerful! Don’t underestimate the impact a note, a remembrance, or even an email can make.

Winter Weary?

My writing place, a roll top maple desk inherited from my father, sits by the window in our front room. There I sit on a bright blue 55cm performance ball whose goal is to strengthen my core. The reality is that it’s great for bouncing. Many days that’s all I do there, bounce, check email and stare out the window.

The past few days the sun’s been out, hinting that spring may actually happen. However, the outdoor thermometer reader on my desk indicates, “Not today.” Our temperature? 16.1

In Central Indiana we’re still waiting for spring, aren’t we?

Actually we spend much of our time waiting, whether it’s for a sunny day, a check in the mail, the next available customer service representative, or for a red light to change. 

Yesterday I stood at a local pharmacy waiting while four behind-the-counter folks ignored me. All I needed was to pick up a z-pack of antibiotics that their text had indicated was ready. Being the godly woman that I am, I said nothing snarky while there, but when I walked into our kitchen a few minutes later, my husband Al was privileged to hear my ranting.

Waiting wears us out, doesn’t it? Have you ever considered God understands this and maybe even feels this same way at times? He would have every right to tire of waiting for us to get our act together.  Or for us to repent, acknowledge, and trust Him to carry our burdens.

God is good at waiting. Let’s join Him.

He gives strength to the weary and strengthens the powerless.
Youths may faint and grow weary, and young men stumble and fall,
but those who trust in the Lord will renew their strength;
they will soar on wings like eagles; they will run and not grow weary;
they will walk and not faint.

Isaiah 40:29-31, HCSB

Best Yet

Last week my husband Al decided it was time to talk about my upcoming birthday. Thinking this meeting was going to be all about me, I was thrilled.

As we sat together at the kitchen table, a new reality trampled my expectations as he pulled out spreadsheets—never a good sign. Groaning, I immediately thought, “Oh no!  Budget adjustments for 2019.” Welcome to retirement world!

Instead my birthday tête-à-tête with my beloved delved into the amazing world of Medicare, where part and plan are not interchangeable. Supplements are not advantages and donut holes are not edible.

My first question: “Am I really going to be 65 this year?” Surely not!  I remember thinking my folks were old when they were in their mid-sixties. Father Time could not have thrown me into that future so quickly, could he?

In my mind, I’m mid-forties at the most. But I will admit that sometimes my body and mind don’t concur with that calculation—such as when I get out of bed in the morning and wonder how long it will take to straighten up and walk a straight line. Or when I walk into a room, look around, and wonder why I’m there. Or when I spend way too much time chasing down my phone. That little techie rascal plays hide-n-seek.

But wait a minute. I’m not complaining! I praise God that He has given me 65 years of a good life, a blessed life, in fact.  Born into a great family, being married to an amazing man, having healthy children and grandchildren. and a multitude of loving friends—I have no reason to complain. Ever!

The best part is that God sees my being 65 years old as just a blip in time. He made us to live forever.  All we need is to trust in Jesus Christ. After all, the Son of God conquered death on our behalf. Life everlasting is ours through Christ alone.

The best is yet to come.

So we do not lose heart. Though our outer self] is wasting away, our inner self is being renewed day by day.  For this light momentary affliction is preparing for us an eternal weight of glory beyond all comparison, as we look not to the things that are seen but to the things that are unseen. For the things that are seen are transient, but the things that are unseen are eternal.  2 Corinthians 4:16-18, ESV

Hang Ten!

Twelve days ago our son, along with our daughter, son-in-law, and their two daughters, enjoyed an iconic SoCal beach. Sunshine and brisk, wake-up wind greeted us as we stair-stepped toward the waves. The tide pushed unusually inland, making it possible to study the surfers.

With the high tide, experienced surfers charged and rode the “bomb”. Most didn’t make the “fade,” the most powerful part of the wave. But as they rode the top of the wave, even for a second, we could tell they were thrilled, ready to paddle back and try again.

Facing another new year, I sense life is reflected in those waves—seasons where we ride the bombs and hang ten to maneuver, accomplishing the fade. Yet other times the waves hold us in place, a gentle escort to shore.

To survive life’s waves, may we grip tightly, “hang ten” as surfers do, and stand firm in our faith in Jesus Christ, no matter how high the crest.

In like a lamb, out like a lion! Even if reversed, the March weather proverb describes our year, one that began with my partial knee replacement. That transcribes as lots of rehab and taking it easy. My end goal was to hike Utah’s amazing national parks with no pain in September. That prayer came true!

But what you might not know is that I sent a book manuscript, one that had been in the works for almost a decade, to CrossLink Publishing the day before my surgery. My thought process? I figured if they rejected it, I’d still be on painkillers and wouldn’t care. Strangely enough, the same day I quit taking the meds, the publisher emailed he wanted the book.

During this time, our daughter announced she was pregnant. A few weeks later, our son and daughter-in-law shared their same surprising news. So the lion part of our year began when our second granddaughter was born September 1, the night before we hiked the Delicate Arch in Moab with only four hours sleep. Our son and his wife gave birth to our third granddaughter October 23. Fifty-three days and 1,470 miles apart, the two girls entered this world, raising our grandchild total to 3.

Three is definitely a good number! Trinity: Walk in Love, Forgiveness and Peace was locally released two weeks later, November 9. In a way, it, too, was a birth, a labor of love chronicling how God had revealed Himself to me over the past decade. Through nature, travel, deaths, weddings and births, God, in His magnificent fullness, revealed Himself by ministering to my family and me.

As another year closes, let’s take the time to reflect upon the One who loves us enough to be our Father, our Savior, and our Counselor.

Great Joy!

October 7, 2018:

As I write this, all is quiet on the home front. Our two-year-old granddaughter Elianna and her newborn sister Tirzah are both taking a nap after church. A first since the baby was born a month ago! In fact, I’m fairly certain our daughter is asleep upstairs, too.

Since Tuesday when Al and I arrived for our two-week visit, time has blurred. Thirty plus years have sped by since we had to juggle the first month of a household of two children twenty-eight months apart. Believe me, the déjà-vu fatigue is reflected in our daughter’s face while our son-in-law is trying his best to hold everything and everyone together.

Al and I remember too well that some days inevitably will be literally filled with leaking diapers, feeding, and sobbing (the last one primarily the two-year-old and the mommy). Been there, done that!

Yet this time’s it’s different! Days that seemed like an eternity in retrospect now seem to fly by. When I was a young mom alone with a baby and a toddler, it seemed like forever until Al walked through the door at 4pm. If I had time for a shower before he came home, it was a good day.

Reliving those days with my daughter and her husband, Al and I could care less when we shower (in humid Houston, it only makes sense before bedtime). Why? Because we’re eager to share “oats-honey-raisin” breakfasts and walks to the park with our gregarious and incredibly intelligent two-year-old and cuddles, coos, and silly songs with our bright-eyed, sweet grandbaby.

October 23, 2018:

Actually it was 1:45am, Wednesday, October 24, when the texting interrupted our sleep. Our daughter-in-law’s 24+ hour labor included over 3 hours of pushing. But Nysa came into this world on her terms and on Pacific Standard Time and on the exact date and day her Aunt Valerie was due 34 years ago. Calendars do repeat themselvesJ Great joy also repeats when new parents meet their first child! We have never seen Chris and Shwetha so radiant. Tired but thrilled!

We are on hold to meet Nysa and her welcoming older pet sibling LuLu as we would like her maternal grandparents to soak up the glory of their first grandchild. They’ve traveled all the way from India to enjoy her and support their only daughter and son-in-law. But we enjoyed the family text circle that kept us up until almost sunrise. Al and I felt like we were there with them. Thank God for technology because our children and theirs live so far away.

Soon we’ll all be together, and it will be a glorious celebration of three babies: Tirzah, Nysa, and Jesus, along with a two-year-old whose favorite songs are “Jesus Loves Me,” and “Who You Say I Am.” She sings the first and dances to the second.

Great JOY!

I can hardly wait until we’re all together. That is my happy place! This fall has been an explosion of baby blessings. Al and I cannot thank God enough!

 

To Listen and Love

Guilty as charged, I am a word junkie. I enjoy looking up words and checking out their nuances and meanings. Today’s word is conviction. Maybe it’s because my husband and I have been binge watching the law series Suits on Amazon Prime. Or perhaps I’m curious about how people are convicted of their beliefs about God. Mesmerized I listened this past weekend when Mount Pleasant Christian Church’s senior pastor Chris Philbeck interviewed a panel of nonbelievers as to why they don’t believe in the God of the Bible.

Merriam Webster gives three meanings for conviction. The first one listed—“the act or process of finding a person guilty of a crime especially in a court of law”—appeals to my strong sense of justice and my love for law and order TV shows.

The second one is more generic: “a strong persuasion or belief; the state of being convinced.” People’s convictions drive their actions. This afternoon I finished reading Bill O’Reilly/Martin Dugard’s book Killing Kennedy. Even though I lived through November 22, 1963, my nine-year-old, fourth-grade self didn’t quite understand what was happening.

When Mrs. Noel came back from lunch, our class couldn’t grasp the gravity of why our President had been shot and why she cried all afternoon. Then I had no idea why someone would do that. After reading this book, I begin to understand Lee Harvey Oswald’s convictions and his assassin Jack Ruby’s contrary beliefs.

My takeaway? Erroneous convictions can cause a great deal of pain, suffering and needless tragedy.

Finally comes the 3a definition of conviction: “the act of convincing a person of error or of compelling the admission of a truth.” Here is where we Christians sometimes dangerously park. Too often we forget that conviction cannot be forced upon someone, even if it’s based on truth.

After hearing the panel explain how Christians come across in their beliefs, I was convicted of not listening and loving enough. God gave us the freedom to either choose or reject him. Our God relationship is not an arranged marriage. It’s a union of choosing to love, with listening and loving being the best pathway in sharing our convictions about God.

“A servant of the Lord must not quarrel but must be kind to everyone, be able to teach, and be patient with difficult people. Gently instruct those who oppose the truth. . .”

2 Timothy 2:24-25, NLT

In the Air Again

I enjoy traveling. Packing–not so much! Not that I’m complaining, because this is the only way I can see my precious kids and their families. Since Al and I retired five years ago, we have been blessed with opportunities to travel overseas to Israel, Austria, and Cyprus, with two of those three to visit our daughter and her family.

Stateside, we have put several of the 100,000+ miles on our 2008 Chevy Malibu to drive to Maryland, Florida, Texas, California, Colorado, and Michigan. Four of those destinations involved visiting family.

Today I’ve finished packing for the fourth trip this year, second one to Houston, and believe me, I’m grateful not to being going overseas to visit our daughter Valerie, her husband Charley, and our most precious granddaughter, Elianna, who will soon become a big sister to a newborn baby sister.

I love my life!

But I loved my life, too, when both in kids were in college and our big outing for the week was a Friday night trip to Chick-fil-A with coupons. Afterward, Al and I would go to Home Depot and buy a gallon of Behr’s satin finish paint, because our weekend entertainment involved painting a room in our now 32-year-old house.

Then there were the tough-but-precious-memory years when we took care of my parents who moved from their 50+ year old home in southern Indiana into the nearby Hearth at Stones Crossing. Then most of our travel involved going to Bloomfield to check on our childhood homes. During those years time trumped travel in importance.

On the horizon we have a Utah hiking trip with friends planned, another trip to Houston, and two to San Diego where we will welcome to the family our son Chris and Shwetha’s firstborn due mid-October. Weeks later we will all gather in their new home to celebrate the holidays.

I love this phase of our life and am thankful for the God-given resources to be able to visit those we love. But occasionally I wish they were just minutes away instead of hours. Our two homebound gray babies, the infamous Bevo and Bewley kitties, agree.

“But godliness with contentment is great gain.”

1 Timothy 6:6

 

In His Arms

Last night Al and I were watching Anderson Cooper on CNN’s 360 interview with Tia Coleman, the wife and mother of the family who drowned in the Duck Boat accident near Branson, Missouri. Her tears and agony filled the screen. She described that when the boat was pulled from the bottom of the lake, her husband Glenn was found embracing their three children.

Listening to her tearfully talk of her love for her husband, Cooper, with tears, could hardly respond. She had nine family members die in the accident. Compassionately he concluded the interview by telling Tia that all of America will be thinking of and praying for her.

In times of tragedy, prayer is our lifeline to God and to healing, isn’t it? Remember 9/11? The entire nation came together to pray. In tragedy, we cling to God. In easy times, not so much.

We need to pray for this family and all who were involved. Yes, the Colemans are grieving now and rightfully so because death is ugly, not at all what God intended when He created mankind. And God Almighty is grieving along with them. Through Jesus Christ, He has provided a glorious Plan B, one that rests on the fact Jesus Christ, as both God and man, overcame death, was resurrected, and lives forever in Heaven, now inviting us to follow him.

Even in her grief, Tia Coleman testifies hope. The pastor of the church she grew up in marveled at her strength during Saturday’s press conference: “She came forth as a witness. Every third or fourth word out of her mouth was giving glory to God, and that is where the rubber meets the road. In situations like that, you’ve got to have it down in your heart.” (Bishop Thomas E. Griffith as quoted by Justin L. Mack, Indianapolis Star, 7.23.18, p.6A)

The father of the Coleman family huddled his children—Reece (9), Evan (7), and Arya (1)—near his heart as they left this world to enter eternal life. Missed by those who loved them deeply, they live on in the arms of Jesus and will be reunited, together again someday.

 

Oh No! Not Another Evil Oxalis!

I would call it a love-hate relationship, but mostly love. I’m talking about a spring and summer, time-consuming passion in my life—gardening. With the recent intense heat, my bicep building involves carrying plastic reusable cat litter cartons full of water and fertilizer to bolster my droopy tomato plants. Providing our entire plant world a drink takes over an hour.

But I water out of love. Weeding, on the other hand, not so much. Weeds, many disguised as yellow flowers, make me angry, especially when they overrun my parched flowers after a storm.

Especially despised is a sneaky dude. It looks innocent enough with its petite cloverleaf petals sporting cute, yellow star-like blooms, but it’s evil. Its delicate roots go deep and spread worse than chiggers after a picnic.

Oxalis is a leach, crowding all bonafide beauty. Even lawn care companies rate it, also called creeping woodsorrel, the worst weed to control. As one blogger said, “It doesn’t roll over and die like dandelions or clover. This weed is just plain tough.” (https://tomlinsonbomberger.com/blog/kill-oxalis-lawn-weed-control/)

When I’m digging deep and gently pulling its thin roots out of my mulched flower patches, I can’t help but think how much this weed reminds me of Satan. He surrounds purity with creepy deception. What he offers may look good, sound good, feel good, but it’s only temporary pleasure with life-destroying consequences.

For such people are false apostles, deceitful workers, disguising themselves as apostles of Christ. And no wonder! For Satan disguises himself as an angel of light.  So it is no great thing if his servants also disguise themselves as servants of righteousness. Their destiny will be according to their works.” 2 Corinthians 11:13-15, HCSB

Fight the good fight! Don’t let oxalis take over your garden. And more importantly, beware of sin taking over your life!