Well, I Do Declare!

I quickly exited the car, ran into the wind and turned to holler back to my husband hoping my voice would cut through the howl of the wind, “I’m going inside to use the bathroom, babe! Wanna meet me back by the car? I’ll drive next if you’d like!” He nodded.

I bolted to the restroom and left Michael at the gas pump. When I came out our car was pulled up in the front and was locked. I waited patiently. The sunshine was glorious.

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I didn’t even see him when I first walked out. His car was parked beside ours. When I turned around and leaned against the car, I noticed him. He sat waiting in his gray truck, windows down, looking toward the door and at me too. If you really knew me you would know, I talk to everyone. I’m like my father that way. When I looked in his direction, he nodded and smiled.

I said, “Hi there. How are you?”

He replied, “I’m kind, gentle and a little tired, I guess.”

“Wow! That’s great!” I responded. “Kind and gentle are wonderful things to be and great character qualities to possess.  The tired part is easily remedied.”  I shrugged my shoulders a bit and suggested, “You could take a nap!” I chuckled.

He then went on to tell me a bit of background about that whole thing.

He said, “I decided about five years ago I’d answer anyone who asked me how I was doing… with, ‘I’m kind and gentle.'” He continued, “You know it’s the craziest thing!”  His eyes brightened, “I’ve noticed I’ve become kinder and gentler!” He grinned.

“Makes a ton of sense to me! It’s the spirit of prophecy,” I commented. “It’s not foretelling, but forth-telling.”

Michael came out and he did the friendly nod thing that men do to greet one another. He then got into the car’s passenger’s seat.

I said, “Well, good to talk to you have a great weekend.  Be blessed. Bye!”

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I literally blew back into the car, plopped down, buckled my seat belt and backed out of the parking spot. I turned toward Michael who is very used to me chatting with everyone and anyone.

I said,”Well, that was intresting, that guy was basically testifying to a self-fulfilling prophecy.  I’m not sure if he knows its Biblical or that King David did it all the time.”  (Scripture says David strengthened himself in the LORD. He talked to himself/his soul often, we have the record of it in the book of Psalms.) 

Let me turn a corner here. Not on the road or highway of our road trip, but of this blog post. Today is my birthday. It is a” mile marker” of sorts.  I want to share a few statements/verses that I have been declaring over myself for a while now.  In light of my birthday, I’ll pick just a few.

Here are some for you to declare – say them aloud now: *

  • I am a crown of glory and a royal diadem in the hand of the LORD (Isaiah 62:3).
  • The LORD has chosen me for himself as a special treasure (Psalm 135:4).
  • God instructs me and keeps me as the apple of his eye (Psalm 32:8, Zachariah 2:8).
  • I always rejoice in the Lord & my gentleness is known to all people (Philippians 4:4-5).
  • I speak God’s word and hearing the word increases my faith (Romans 10;17).
  • The joy of the LORD is my strength (Nehemiah 8:10).
  • God rejoices over me as a bridegroom rejoices over his bride (Isaiah 62:5).

Aren’t these truths powerful and amazing?  I challenge you to agree with God and what his word says about you. Declare these things aloud often. Who knows, you may find, like the man parked next to me at the gas station, it has a noticeable effect on you. Perhaps, you may even be blown away!

I do declare it was a windy day! Happy birthday to me and happy declaring day to us!

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* For more declarations, see Igniting Hope Ministries:  ignitinghope.com  Steve and Wendy Backlund.

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A friend loves at all times…Especially a four pawed one.

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I could see her in the distance all bundled up. I recognized her because her dog Gabe was with her.  She came down University Avenue to the place where we usually meet. She’d been out-of-town recently so we haven’t walked together in days. Excited to see her, I called,”Well, hello my friend!”

As soon as I uttered those words, Gabe wagged his tail, perked up and bolted toward me. This sudden movement took my friend by surprise, yanked her arm fully, pulled her from the torso, next her hips complied and finally her legs followed too. As she hung onto Gabe’s leash, I witnessed her do this goofy off-balance ballet move, but finally she let go of the leash.

“Okay, go say hi to Rachel. Oh, Gabe just wants to say hello to you!” She exclaimed.

I reached down to pet Gabe’s neck and rubbed behind his ears. “Hello! I haven’t seen you in a while!” As I  looked down at him, I thought… I want to love people the way Gabe loves. He loves first, excitedly, and full on. I thought about it. Gabe didn’t wait to see if I was worthy of his love and affection. He didn’t first ask me “Have you finished all your household chores? Were you a shining example of  kindness today?” Nope! He  just greeted me with love and excitement. He loves at all times.

Jeanne spoke through laughter, delighted in her four pawed friend’s exuberance. “Oh, my gosh, Rachel! He has been SO excited to walk now that I’m home. He ran around the yard and didn’t even want to come inside today, so I let him sit on the porch until we came to meet you.”

We untangled ourselves from the twisted leash and Gabe circled around again a few times and we gave each other a hug. We normally greet one another, laugh a bit, or a great deal, depending on the day, then we walk the neighborhood as we pray. We’ve known of each other for years but we weren’t good friends then like we are now.

A friend loves at all times and a brother is born for adversity. Proverbs 17:17      This proverb speaks of our friendship. I believe it is adversity and prayer which formed our hearts’ strong connection. Jeanne has been there for me. She has shared my joys, concerns, heartache and grief. She’s hung in there as I’ve rattled on and on about who knows what. (I’m a verbal processor.)

She has also been attentive when I’ve giggle about something silly. I really do crack myself up. When Jeanne laughs with me or at my silly antics it releases my goofiness.  I must say, she adds to it too! We can hardly stop its like a freight train at high-speed. After I spend time with Jeanne it’s as if I’ve been through a core workout because my stomach muscles ache from all our belly laughter.

I walked over to her house the other day. I stopped a few times along the way to take these photographs of the trees in full fall splendor. It was quite a bit warmer that day.  “Whoa! It’s pretty hot out here I gotta ditch my jacket.” She said. “Hey, hold onto Gabe. I’ll be right back!” Next, she handed me the leash that held her large canine and quickly dashed off.

Oh, my gosh! I’m holding a dog! “Ah, Ah, Oh, Okay?” I replied. “Absolutely! I’m flexible.”

She soon emerged, entered the code on the touch pad, lowered the garage door then turned to face me. “Oh, Rachel!” She said amused. “This is too good. I have to take your photo of you holding onto a dog! Lemme have your phone, I have to get a picture of you two. It is too cute.” She chuckled.

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If you really knew me you would know that this photo captures something that is very rare. I’m not a huge pet fan. I’m quite pet impaired actually. I do, However, have two dogs that have both loved me into liking them. My neighbor Mary’s dog *Charlie and Jeanne’s dog Gabe, both are golden retrievers.

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Don’t you think friendship one of God’s greatest gifts? He desires for us to be in community. He knows isolation is the evil one’s strategy.  It’s better to have a partner then go it alone. Share the work, share the wealth. If one falls down, the other helps, but if there is no one to help, tough! Two in a bed warm each other. Alone, you shiver all night. By yourself you’re unprotected. With the friend you can face the worst. Can you round-up a third? A three stranded rope isn’t easily snapped. Ecclesiastes 4: 9 –12 (The message) 

Jeanne told me this about our walk together, “Today after we parted our ways. As you were headed on toward your home, for a least a block Gabe kept looking back.” She said. “It was as if he were saying. ‘Where did Rachel go? Why isn’t she still walking with us? Hm? Where is she now? I’m going to turn around again and check.'”

I desire to be the friend that loves at all times. I want to love all my friends well. But not just my friends, I want to love all people well. I want to love with Gods’ love. As I recalled the greeting I experienced today from Gabe, I thought,  I want to love the way God does and kind of like Gabe does… He loves first, excitedly and full on!  

IMG_5668*I wrote about Mary and Charlie in my book Lily Pads. Chapter 10 “A Walk with Charlie”

“What have you got planned?”

Dressed in her pajamas, she sat in the center of the couch, feet tucked up underneath her, both hands cupped around a mug filled with hot water. “Are you sure you don’t want any tea or anything else Rach?”

“Nope! I’m really good, Sharon. Sitting right here with this hot water is perfect!” I replied.

We laughed because our grandmother, Inga used to do the same thing, drink hot water. It was pretty late, close to midnight, but as a way to wind down we sat visiting in her lamp-lit, beautiful living room.

She sipped from her mug, when I asked my sister, “So, what have you got planned? What are you looking forward to?”

She sat quietly for a moment, then replied, “Well, you know I just got back from that wedding and I have the shower tomorrow for the other wedding coming up in January.” She proceeded and rattled off things about work and other responsibilities that demand her time and fill her plate. I sipped my hot water from my mug as I listened intently.

Later, I got to thinking about my own question. What have I got planned?  I thought of these verses:  Come now, you say, “Today or tomorrow we will go into such and such a town and spend a year there and trade and make a profit”–– Yet you do not know what tomorrow will bring. What is your life? For you are a mist that appears for a little time and then vanishes. Instead you want to say, “If the Lord wills, we will live and do this or that.”  James 4:13-15

What Have I got planned? What am I looking forward to?  I try very hard to always say, “Lord willing, I plan to do X,Y & Z!”

I’ve noticed a great deal of what I plan happens and I am also equally aware of how often I am surprised at how my plans are not what happens at all. Yet it is the purposes of the Lord that remain. I’ve learned to be flexible. I am also learning about how the Holy Spirit likes to surprise me with the fun and unexpected. I love his sense for surprise.

People often become so overwhelmed by looking to the future that they adopt a spirit of dread. But any thought that doesn’t look to the future with hope attached can’t be a thought rooted in God. Because God is good and God is a “with us” god, Immanuel . So the future is not something to dread or be overwhelmed by.

This is what God’s word says about the future and life: Enjoy and feast on these promises:

Promise: The Lord will keep you from harm.  He holds victory in store for the upright, he is a shield to those whose walk is blameless, for he guards the course of the just and protects the way of his faithful ones. Proverbs 2:7 – 8

Promise: The Lord will guide you.  I will guide you in the way of wisdom and lead you along straight paths. Proverbs 4:11

Promise: If you persevere under trial, you will be rewarded.  For our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all. So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but what is unseen. For what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal.  2 Corinthians 4:17–18

Promise: God plans good for you.  Since ancient times no one has heard, no ear has perceived, no eye has seen any god besides you, who acts on behalf of those who wait for him. Isaiah 64:4

Promise: God plans good for you. “For I know the plans I have for you,”declares the LORD, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.” Jeremiah 29:11

Whatever we’ve got planned, God ‘s plans are better and they are for our good.  I remind myself He is for me not against me. Recalling this truth too: No weapon formed against me will prosper.

So when I think about the plans the LORD has for me and for my future it brings comfort and peace. I know it’s because he is the comforter and the Prince of Peace. It’s even better than being curled up in my PJ’s on a comfy couch in a beautiful room sipping’ hot water with my sister.

So what do you have planned? What are you looking forward to? Keep in mind God’s got you covered and it’s going to be good. As promised.

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I didn’t plan to see these turkeys in my yard today , but I did!

 

 

 

 

 

Get rid of it! Now is the time! Exchange it!

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It’s the time of year when temperatures drop a bit and the leaves on trees turn golden-yellow, burnt orange and deep red. The feeling of autumn is in the crisp air.  I welcome the change of seasons. I like to switch from my summer clothes to fall sweaters, scarves and boots.

Sometimes it’s a conundrum to figure out exactly what to wear. Is it like summer or fall today? The flip-flop in temperatures can be tricky. Yet, now is the time! So, I switch my closet over, move into fall clothes but I keep a few summer favorites accessible.

During this time of closet transformation, I hold on to my favorites from summer.  Then I attempt to only bring out the home runs from my fall/winter collection. Truthfully, I stink at letting go of things. I have gotten better. I’ve begun to give things away that aren’t truly “ME.”  I do move on more easily than I used to.

My closet is “busting at the seams” right now as are some of my clothes… YIKES! I need to bag up some things and shed a few pounds too, I guess. I got to thinking about the closet overhaul as I stood inside my closet.

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My sister Sharon is a pro at getting rid of things, she is my role model in this regard. I’m extremely grateful because so many of my clothes are hand-me-downs from her. Friends say,  “Rachel, I love that sweater.”

“Thanks!” I reply. “It was my sister Sharon’s.  I snagged it because she was parting with it.” I gleefully welcomed her items into my closet. However, I don’t yet have a good exit strategy for my own.” IMG_5699

As I thought about getting rid of things. I wondered, Does this relate to our thoughts too? Is it like owning a pilled up, worn out, old sweater, the one you need to part with, but you keep it because it’s comfortable and you are used to wearing it?. Well, negative thoughts can be like that. We become so used to them, they’re familiar, so we let them hang in the “closet of our minds.” But we need to choose to get rid of them and replace them with what we know is true from God’s word.

We must renew our minds and not stay in the old patterns of thinking. Especially when we’ve been transformed by the renewing of our minds, we must remain in the renewed place and get rid of the old ways of thinking. Our thoughts can spiral into negative places.  Do you know what I mean? Those thoughts that tell us lies or become accusations, condemnations, limited opportunities, dread for the future, seem to cycle in our heads. They are like old clothes that just don’t fit us anymore. We have to get rid of them.

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We are in Christ so we have the mind of Christ. The kingdom of God is the dominion of the King. It says in scripture that righteousness, peace, joy in the Holy Ghost is the kingdom of God. So if it’s not right, has no peace attached to it, or is not joyful then it is NOT part of kingdom thinking. So what do we do? We have to GET RID OF IT! Swap or exchange those thoughts for the things we are told to dwell on or think about.

Graham Cooke, is a hero of the faith for me, I like a line he says, “If all the thoughts you’re thinking have brought you to a place you don’t like, have another thought!”

Philippians 4:6-9 Rejoice in the Lord always; again I will say, rejoice. Let your reasonableness be known to everyone. The Lord is at hand; do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your request be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, Will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.

Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is honorable whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, Think about these things. What you have learned and received and heard and seen in me–practice these things, and the God of peace will be with you.

So it’s pretty easy to discern what to keep in the “closet of our thoughts.” Keep these things hanging in your mind… things that are:

  • true
  • honorable
  • just
  • pure
  • lovely
  • commendable
  • excellent
  • praiseworthy
  • one version says of “good report”

So how is your thinking? Let me challenge you to think about what you’re thinking about.

If you live in the part of the country with four seasons, now is the time to change wardrobes, alter closet spaces for season-appropriate clothing. I challenge all of us.Let’s change the closet of our minds to a kingdom way of thinking. God is love, he is good and his kingdom is righteousness, peace and joy. So if it doesn’t fit with that, let’s get rid of it! Now is the time! Exchange it!

Anticipation, devastation and unity!

Multiple November birthdays was the reason an “all ladies” trip to Marco Island, Florida was first planned.  As we shared a text thread riddled with ideas, emojis and goofy videos the anticipation grew exponentially which resulted in my sheer joy. The weeks flew by, but as the day drew closer for the long-awaited trip our excitement turned to concern.

Marco Island was in the predicted path of Hurricane Irma. For those on the island we wondered, watched and prayed. The Naples Daily News reported September 11, 2017 Hurricane Irma made landfall on Marco Island shortly after 3:30 p.m. Sunday with recorded winds of 130 mph storm surges that caused extensive damage.

We all held our breath. After the hurricane damage information dribbled in from one of the home owners, we now were faced with the unwelcome decision, keep our plans or abort them? After much deliberation we decided to go. I was overjoyed to be headed to Marco Island, but had little idea about what I’d encounter when I arrived. One thing was assured, no matter what, I knew we’d have a great time together.

I flew in a few days before the others which ended up to be a blessing. I had solitude and silence along with some needed naps too.  As is my normal routine, I decided to take a walk. These photos were my way of documenting the storm’s effects and are captioned. I’m sure they will be self-explanatory.

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branches line the roads

 

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street signs down in some places

 

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some metal and concrete mixed in with the trees

 

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This roof is an example of the hurricane’s power to strip off the shingles

 

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beach is still beautiful

 

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love the water tide marks

 

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can’t stop beauty from springing up

 

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I guess I’ll cross the street whenever I think it’s safe to cross?

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plenty of coconuts

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I find beauty even in the rubble. I think this is stunning.

 

While I walked I couldn’t help but think about God being a restorer, rebuilder, way-maker, repairer of the breach and healer. I viewed these things with great hope. I saw what will be not what was. God gave me that sense for my life plans too. He is the God of all hope. He deals well with devastation.  I had a sense Marco would not only bounce back but would thrive in the future. I was actually encouraged by all I saw because God allowed me a perspective shift.

My friends arrived safely and we had such a sweet reunion. Of course, we decided to hit the beach. I tried to read, God is Good, while sitting in the sun.

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squinting because I didn’t bring sunglasses and reading glasses.

We took time one day to do a personality test and it was very informative and insightful. Our personalities were exposed and our dispositions became glaringly apparent in the hours that followed. I couldn’t put my finger on it but later there was a spirit of somethin’ stinky that entered and was beginning to stir in our group.

We tried to decide on dinner plans.  It was amazing at first because we came to the unanimous decision…“Let’s go out tonight!”  We looked on-line and perused the restaurants in the area. We studied menus and the deliberation process began to cause frustration. Everyone seemed to prefer one another, which is a good thing, but no clear decision was made.

We had multiple factors to consider:  budget and price points to honor, different dietary needs, some women were participating in the Whole Thirty Diet challenge, we had different opinions on the level of “celebration” we wanted/needed for the birthday girls too. As we wavered and waffled back and forth this ambivalence allowed an opportunity, which the enemy quickly seized, to come in and try to steal our joy. I kept thinking something’s just not right here. We felt completely off to me!

This photo was taken after we almost had a meltdown with one another. (This was odd… we truly love each other to bits and pieces!) YES, we worked it out. We prayed before ordering, not before eating like usual, before ordering! We stopped abruptly and Jeanne prayed. Oh, how we needed an adjustment. “Pray, pray, pray, pray, blah, blah, blah…  In Jesus name AMEN” and seriously it ALL just turned around. To God be the glory!

This ended up to be one of the most enjoyable meals and evenings. We truly enjoyed one another, our meals and our waitress. We celebrated each other and the birthday girls too. We even had enough time to see God’s handiwork in the sunset complete with a photo session.

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Can you feel the love?

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Birthday girls… One 50, 55 & 60. I’ll let you guess which one is which age. CELEBRATE!

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“Let’s get a sunset photo…Is there any one on the beach still so we can ask them to take it? There’s a lady walking this way, Lisa you ask her!”

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The woman in the very back was our photographer! She barely spoke English and was with two of her girlfriends from France. This was their last night in Marco so they were enjoying the sunset. We had to get a selfie with ALL of the girlfriends together. SO MUCH FUN! oh, what a night. There is something so beautiful about unity!

 

One of the next days we went out on the boat and went to a small island. We saw little crabs scurrying all around, we collected shells and floated in the home of the sharks.

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SueAnn, Rachel, Stefanie, Lisa, Jeanne, Lisa

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Lisa, SueAnn, Stef, Rachel, Lisa, Jeanne

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FABULOUS way to float in the water!

 

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It’s a Magical Life…When you do life together!

I collected sweet memories from my time the same way I collected shells on this island. Each person and memory is so special. Everyone from a good God who desires to give good gifts. My time away was truly that… A good gift!

Every good and perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of the heavenly lights, who does not change like shifting shadows. – James 1:17

Behold, how good and pleasant it is when brothers/sisters dwell together in unity! – Psalm 133:1

The entire time together was beautifully orchestrated and ordained by Jesus. From the conversations we had, to the different groupings we found ourselves in, to the hours spent in the word of God and the precious prayer time we had for each individual. I am blessed beyond measure to have these friends and this trip was better than I could have ever imagined. The anticipation was palpable, the devastation was visible and sweet unity was experienced! God is so good.

 

 

Squirrel! Dealing with Distractions.

The last few blog posts have been long. I was talking with my cousin Annie she said, “It’s like  underwear, sometimes you need it long and sometimes you need briefs. I’ll try to be brief.

I had intended to blog yesterday, but no matter what I did I was distracted. My “blogging day” encountered a real switch-a-roo and I never wrote. I didn’t even begin. I never touched the laptop until ten at night. My whole day was flipped.

It made me think of my recent visit to my sister and brother-in-law’s new condo in Missouri at Osage Beach over Labor Day weekend.  I traveled with my sisters, brother-in-law and parents. It was a blast!

I loved their condo’s setting. Delighted for them, I stepped onto their deck and saw the view of the lake. It was breathtaking! I hadn’t been there more than twenty minutes when I looked down and saw a hammock. It called my name. Rachel come rest in me, stretch out and just relax! The car ride was long, so I welcomed the invitation and was much obliged.

The hammock was freestanding on a metal base. IMG_5187

The moment I began to position my body on it, I did a complete inversion. I suddenly flipped like a pancake. I was on the top for a split second and on the ground the next. Wack! What in the heck just happened?  I remember the sound of my head as it hit the metal base. I brushed the dirt off my leggings, stood up and righted the hammock. Am I woozy? Am I bleeding?

It all happened so fast I don’t really remember much else about that spin.  I do know my sister Barb heard the sound and said, “Rache? Are you okay?”

While I rubbed my head I whined, “Nooooo! Man, I just walloped my head.” She came to my aid with some ice.

I did lie down in the hammock for a while. I was not as relaxed as I had first envisioned. Instead, I lay wincing with the ice pack Barb had provided pressed against my noggin.  Boy, oh boy! I had quite a humdinger of a lump for the weekend. The point is— in one second everything had flipped.

That’s exactly what happened with my Thursday. It did a complete rapid flip and I was distracted from blogging all day. I kept saying, “I need to write today!” I’m just not sure what I want to write about. Rather than write, I did multiple tasks.

All the distractions were good things and most needed to be done. My “blogging day” suddenly became,”run errands, hike with a pal, hang out with my husband, fold laundry, chat with a friend, chase down details for speaking engagements, attend a meeting, respond to emails and go to bed day.”

The day was a conglomerate of distractions. Does this happen to you? I think God is better at planning my days than I am. I had a really great day yesterday. Today I have something to write about.

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I find it’s hilarious, even now as I write this blog post about distractions, there are so many squirrels chasing each other through the canopy of trees in my backyard distracting me!

I feel compelled to look up as branches sway due to their frolicking. The squirrels are eating nuts up so high in the trees. The discarded pieces are flying out and strike the ground. It makes a sound like rain. There’s a lot of chirping and I’m completely distracted as I write about being distracted. Ironically, I titled this post,  “Squirrel! Dealing with Distractions” before I began to write. ( Is that prophetic?)

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I see in the gospels, Jesus was never hurried and always dealt with distractions. The distractions and interruptions were his ministry moments. He continued to interact with the people along the way.  Zacchaeus up in a tree, the women who, in faith,  touched the hem of his garment to be healed, the two guys on the road to Emmaus and the little children who gathered around him. To name a few. I’m so relational. I’ll take people over tasks hands down. I want to be available aong the way even when it means I don’t complete posts on the day I first intended.

A few moments ago a squirrel jumped right up onto a bench, scampered away startled when I said,”Well, hello there!”

 

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This photo was taken the day after the switch-a-roo FLIP! * Thanks Joyce Hansen

Mortified or Hilarious?

I’ve got a story for you. Okay, the truth is I’ve always got a story. Usually, there’s a bit of background too. So let me provide the background now. Over a year ago I went to a speaking engagement and brought a friend, Jeanne with me as my assistant.

I was so excited! Once she arrived, we loaded all my weekend speaking paraphernalia, guitar and suitcase in her car. It was spring and I wore a linen tan/butter colored trenchcoat. My friend commented, “Hello dearie, you look so cute! ” I cocked my head slightly as I tightened my linen belt and replied, “Aw, thank you!”

We had a ball as we traveled we chatted the entire way. During a brief pause in our conversation, we noticed an odd sound coming from outside her car.

Jeanne questioned, “You don’t have anything outside the car do you?”

I thought it a bit odd, (what’s she talking about…me?) “No, not me!”

It was a bit rainy and we couldn’t figure out what in the world the noise could be. We traveled a little farther then decided we’d better try to figure it out. “Why don’t you pull over onto the shoulder and I’ll see what’s up,” I suggested.

As I exited the vehicle I expected to see her wheel’s hub cap dangling, a piece of side trim loose or something wrong with a tire.

The minute I open my passenger’s door, it was obvious to detect. The belt from my trenchcoat had been flapping outside. My linen belt had acted like a shammy skin as it flapped against the back door and cleaned the section within its reach. My once light yellow belt was now quiet gray.

I hopped back in the car and we merged back onto the highway. We were both grateful that there was no major car problem.

Oh how we guffawed about of my cluelessness.

So that’s the prior background… Now to the continuation of the story. Both of my friend Jeanne and I planned to attend the same conference a few weeks ago. Excitedly, I got all dolled up and quickly thought through an appropriate summer outfit. I had on black linen pants, a black sleeveless collared shirt and a black floor length vest. I really loved my outfit. It was monochromatic, simple yet classy.

I went to pick up my friend Jeannie, the same friend who I was with the day of the belt’s demise. It was a rainy August morning I honked when I was in her driveway relieved to not have to go ring her doorbell in the rain.

We drove the fifteen minutes and reached our destination without any issues. I parked my car and got out of my vehicle. Immediately, I felt a slap against both of my lower calf muscles. I looked down and my crocheted floor length vest was attached to my black pants.

I bent down and realized it was soaking wet. Three quarters of my vest had been stuck outside the car door trailing along on the highway the entire route.

It was soggy and had some grass in it. It was gross! So I gathered it up and decided to wring it out.

Jeanne and I cracked up because once again a piece of my wardrobe had ridden outside the vehicle. I turned and saw her leaned against my car laughing so hard.  Just then I saw a beautiful women exiting her car and she walked across the parking lot in front of us. She was dressed very well with a knit long vest too. I turned to Jeanne and said, “She looks so beautiful! Does she know you’re supposed to dip your vest in traffic before you go to the conference?

As the friendly greeters welcomed us, a kind man, Tim extended his hand and I shook it with bits of sand and grit residue on mine.

I could have just never mentioned it again. But that’s not me!

Once I entered the conference I told the people that I met all about the debacle of my black vest hanging out during my car ride.

Wardrobe malfunctions can be mortifying or hilarious depending on your viewpoint, I decided I would find mine entertaining.

I decided I’d share this with you today. I’m not really sure there’s a point to the story. Maybe pride goes before a fall. Or a joyful heart is good medicine. I mean I laughed so hard it was as if I were medicated.

The truth is the vest finally dried by about 10 o’clock that morning. Overall I had a great day filled with laughter.

“A cheerful heart is good medicine, but a crushed spirit dries up the bones.”  – Proverbs 17:22 NIV

 

When progress feels painful…Hold on!

I get a kick out of riding on the back of my husband Michael’s Gold Wing motorcycle. I excitedly climb on, swing my leg over and secure myself for the ride. It’s like a two-wheeled recliner so I usually find the activity sheer bliss. For the past few years, however, our own street has been too bumpy to be comfortable.

I usually lean in and yell a bit through my helmet into Michael’s, “Oh, my goodness this street is so bumpy! Seriously, it hurts my head to wear this helmet.” The force of the jarring ride made my neck sore as I’ve endured quite a workout from the blows of the rough road.

We’ve recently had work done on the curbs, at the intersections of the cross streets and our street. That’s great! We are getting new curbs and handicapped accessible intersections, but I wonder when the street itself will be repaired?

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During my normal walk, I saw two gentlemen in the middle of the street. They were talking. One’s pick-up truck was parked along the street with the driver’s door still ajar, while the other stopped his yard work to meet him the middle.

I was still at a distance, but I gathered what they were saying as they motioned to each other and pointed at the road and curbs. They complained about the condition of the street. One said, “And it’s not slated to be repaved.”  I thought, that’s odd… why would they do all this work on the intersections and curb and not finish the road?” 

Little did I know, a few days later a plan to repave the entire street was set in motion. I sent out a group text to my parents and sisters: “I wanted to update you since you were all here recently. “Guess what? Exciting news! We are getting a whole new paved road. Not just the curbs and intersections…the whole road and it’s happening now!”

Multiple teams of men covered the street. Each wore an orange vest with reflective white tape and a hard hat.  They gathered on each corner and worked in the heat. They worked in clusters the way ants surround a crumb of bread as they carry it away. It was like having a deafening block party with layered percussion for each of my daily walks. The sound of the jack hammers and the beep, beep, beep of trucks backing up became familiar welcomed sounds of progress.

So many workers and so much time and attention had gone into the work of preparing the street for repaving. I was amazed!  It wasn’t just a resurfacing job. No, no, no!  There have been huge concrete forms that have been placed beneath the surface for new water or drainage systems.

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It’s been a real mess in the “all torn up stage” and driving home has been like an obstacle course with all the orange cones and signs. It seems as though they are always working.

I got to thinking about how God is always working in our lives and reworking things that just don’t work for us anymore. He does a great deal of preparation as well to make needed, welcomed and sometimes unwelcomed changes in our lives.  Yes, He even works on us and seems to make a mess of things for a while as he strips away the old.

I’m wondering… Is there an area where He is working in your life right now? Does it feel like he is drilling down to the water main? Does it feel real messy? Does navigating your life today feel like an obstacle course? Does the work seem to be taking a while? Do you ever wonder if you’ll live to see the end product come to fruition? Do you ever feel a bit undone or upside down?

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Is he using the “crew of your kids” to repave you? Maybe it’s your spouse or your coworkers that seem like his dumptruck backing up to unload rubble. Is something being jack hammered away from you?  I get it! I have no mascara left today because I’ve bawled my eyes out in honest lament before God about the pain, grief and disappintment. He was so precious to let me cry and be real with him. He was near as I let it out.

Perhaps it’s a painful time because something needs to be replaced and He is drilling down deep in us? No matter what, He is able to assemble a great crew and get the job done well. We must remember…God is for us not against us. He has good plans for our lives and goodness and mercy will follow us all the days of our life. He is a good, good father.

Let me exhort you and I’ll include myself in the mix. Let’s be patient and let’s stay hopeful. God is doing his best work in our lives. He can send in whatever crew he wants to get the job done. Remember He does this because He loves us. He is good. He is the best personal life engineer and hard hat worker around!

Hang on dear reader! The end result is worth the wait. God is the one who has the grand design and vision
for your life and is faithful to accomplish what He desires in you. Yes, sometimes it seems as if we are stripped bare as He reconstructs His better plan. Yes, the work takes awhile, usually longer than we think necessary, but who are we to question God. After awhile, in due season, the clean up occurs and the path is established and includes an improvement from before the process began.

Here are a few promises for you:

The LORD is good to all; he has compassion on all he has made. Psalm 145:9

 

God is our refuge and strength, and ever present help in trouble. Therefore we will not fear, though the earth giveaway and the mountains fall into the heart of the sea, though it’s waters roar and phone and the mountains quake with their surging. Psalm 46:1–3

…Blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed. John 20:29b

He who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of christ Jesus. Philippians 1:6

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What cha gonna wear? The art of dressing for lasting impact.

Magazines, pinterest and the fashion bloggers inform us about the latest trends. They’ll advise on appropriate attire for any occasion. They talk about pairings from a handbag selection to which sunglasses to wear and then a suggested nail polish color to complete “the look.”

The way a person adorns themselves reflects their personality and makes a statement. I like dressing and adornments. It is such an art form. I enjoy selecting outfits because garments have a setting, a reason and a purpose to fulfill. Hmm? What cha gonna wear?  Decorating myself, reflecting my mood and representing my personality is enjoyable. It does, however make packing for a trip difficult.

As I begin the packing process, an inner dialogue begins. Will I need this? Should I bring that? Oh, here’s my favorite jacket! Should I stick it in the bag too? Ugh! There’s not enough room for it. Go put that away. No! Rachel, you’ll only need a sweatshirt. True! Then I debate with myself…But what if that one smells like a bon-fire?

Weather conditions must also be considered. Well, what if it rains? Will it be cold? It might be. Oh, Boy! So I’ll include the long-sleeved shirt.  I better pack more suits, I don’t want to wear the same one everyday! After this mental gymnastics, half of my clothes lie on the bedroom floor in neat little hopeful stacks.

I hear them cry out, “Take me, take me!” 

“Over here! Hey, I want to go along!” they seem to beg me to pack them.

I gaze at the piles and touch each stack one more time to help determine the final cut. I feel badly, as I put viable options back in the closet. I wonder, Hmm? Is this the way a great coach feels as he decides, out of all these great players, which members get picked for the team.

We have a trip to a lake coming up soon. I’ve already packed. Otherwise, I’ll continue to add to the selection. As it is, my suitcase is FULL.

As I stuffed my bag I heard, remember to include clothes for:

  • sleeping.
  • lounging
  • walking
  • going into town
  • candy store outings
  • boating
  • riding the go cart
  • riding the jet ski
  • dining out
  • thrifting
  • biking
  • pontoon rides
  • toasting marshmallows by the campfire
  • bowling

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This shindig held in Minnesota’s northern woods, is such an intensely relational and rich week.  It’s a wonderful highlight of the summer! For over twenty years I have attended this gathering. So needless to say, I’ve selected clothing and packed a time or two. However, whenever I’ve spent time with these life-long friends, I cannot remember what anyone has worn. It’s like I have apparel and fashion amnesia, a complete memory wipe! (until I found these photos)

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What sticks in my mind… What I do remember, however, is the way they acted and treated each other. I do have a pretty clear recollection and an overall sense of how I feel while being around each person. I have vivid memories of compassion shown, support given, laughter shared and community tears flowing.

I’ve witnessed sweet kindnesses and been a grateful recipient of tender compassion and true empathy. We’ve played and prayed together. We’ve worshipped God and sung to Him with thankful hearts. These memories have made a lasting impact on how I remember these weeks. It’s probably why it’s a highlight of my summer.

Back to what to wear…Yes, there is a reason to wear semi-nice, lounging and athletic clothes. These things do make it into my suitcase. I am praying that I won’t be concerned about my clothes-what I bring or forget to bring. Instead, as I head to the cabin I’ll ask myself, will I be able to wear the “outfits” that Paul, an apostle of Christ Jesus by the will of God has instructed me to wear?

Why should I wear these things? I wear them because I am raised with Christ, seated with him in the heavens. I put them on because I’m hidden with Christ and one of God’s chosen people. I’m dearly loved and no longer an earthly creature.

Therefore, as God’s chosen people, holy and dearly loved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience. Bear with each other and forgive one another if any of you has a grievance against someone. Forgive as the Lord forgave you. And over all these virtues put on love, which binds them all together in perfect unity.
Let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, since as members of one body you were called to peace. And be thankful. Let the message of Christ dwell among you richly as you teach and admonish one another with all wisdom through psalms, hymns, and songs from the Spirit, singing to God with gratitude in your hearts. And whatever you do, whether in word or deed, do it all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him.
Colossians 3:12-17
So let me ask you…“What cha gonna wear?” What was the person wearing who lately made an impact on you? Oh, no, just let me guess… They were probably clothed with:
  • compassion
  • kindness
  • humility
  • gentleness
  • patience
  • forgiveness
  • love
  • thankfulness
  • good instruction
  • calling others up
  • wisdom
  • gladness

When clothed in these things there is lasting impact. So let me ask you- “What cha gonna wear?”

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“Bye Bye ‘Milk Dud!'”

It was Friday and I was ready! The long-awaited day had come. I thought, Finally, I’ll get my “Milk Dud” removed.  I wasn’t concerned. My team of prayer warriors were on it and I had no anxiety.   (My last blog post gives some background if you need it.)

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The day before my surgery, I went to a friend’s house.  She prayed for me. “God would you cut those hard places away? Would you remove them from Rachel? May they no longer cause her pain.” She said, “Please remove anything that has been plaguing her, take it out along with this ‘Milk Dud.'”

During the day of surgery, I saw so many “winks” from God:

  • Michael was able to come with me and drove both ways.IMG_3979
  • From the moment we walked into the hospital we were treated well by everyone.
  • We saw this on the wall while checking in. God was letting me know He was on it. He was with me, He would even refresh me.img_1271.jpg
  • The nurses who prepped me for surgery were delightful. They were both kind and attentive. “Let’s have you hop up on this bed here. Let me lift your head. Now I’ll take your blood pressure. I wish mine were that low. Wow! Have you got big plans for the weekend?” she asked. I told her my 4th of July holiday plans.

Then in walked the surgeon who sweetly greeted me. He brushed my feet and patted one on his way around my bed. “I’m going to make an incision along the hair-line. You won’t be able to tell where this thing even was. First let me numb you up here. Just a tiny prick now. Rachel, how is your pain tolerance?” He inquired.

“Well, I had my son Andrew in the front seat of our car, so I think I can handle this!” I replied.

“REALLY?” he said. “Boy, that’s a story, I’m sure! Okay, can you feel me pinching you at all now?”

“Nope!” I answered.

We talked during most of the procedure. I was so glad I was awake. He asked again, “Do you remember ever being hit in the head or experiencing some trauma to this area?” I told him I may vaguely remember a time when I hit my head on a car door. I hollered, “OUCH!” and had to ice it, but it was so long ago I wasn’t even sure it was my head I had injured.

He continued to cut and we talked. Even now as I write, I remember the sound of the scraping and cutting of his skillful hands. I think the sound may be the freaky part, ugh! I asked.”Does this ‘Milk Dud’ have any branches or a root system coming out of it or is it self-contained? Will you be able to get it all?” I inquired.

“It’s really very deep and the muscle tissues have wrapped themselves around it. I have to get it freed from them and…”

Then i felt the push as he tried to leverage the thing loose.  It was as if he were a gardener, unearthing a bulb from the ground. That is the only time when I considered asking, “Perhaps you should just sew me up and we”ll call it good.”

He whispered,”We are almost there. Boy it is deep!” His volume increased. “I’ve just about got it! Here it comes!”

My eyes may have been closed when he asked, “Would you like to see it?”

“Absolutely!” I exclaimed.

“Well I didn’t see your brains, but it was really deep inside,” the surgeon commented.  Then he presented it to me inside a clear, plastic lab cup. I sat up on the bed a bit straighter and peered inside.

“Wow!” I said. “Now I think I’m going to have to refer to it as my red peanut M&M instead.” (It was red and looked just like a peanut M&M.)

  • The procedure took approximately 30 minutes. When I returned, Michael sat in the waiting area. Gladly occupied, he was reading about two of his favorite things, flying and motorcycles.

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  • This too was a way of God showing me, I really have you both covered. I took this photo with my phone and chuckled as we walked out.IMG_3979
  • I was instructed to ice it. So during the afternoon, I was able to just sit! Without anything urgent to do. (you know that rarely happens.
  • I received a text from a sweet friend. We’ve experienced a relational shift, somewhat painful on both ends. Here’s the neat thing. We texted back and forth a bit and then we had a FACETIME conversation
  • We had the most beautiful conversation and talked through some of the pain points  we had felt. This happened on my surgery and recovery day! It was so healing for my heart.  It was confirmation that God had actually cut away very difficult and hard things. Not just the lump.  I smiled and thought, Rachel do you remember your friend’s prayer yesterday? Think about it…remember she asked God to remove any hard thing along with your milk dud. Some pain I had experienced was gone. Our conversation proved to me that we got rid of it!

Get rid of all bitterness, rage and anger, brawling and slander, along with every form of malice. Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you. Ephesians 4:31,32

SO… How’d it go? What did you find out?  Within the next week, I found myself back at the surgeon’s office. He reported my pathology results by saying this, “You had just a hunk a bone inside your head.” He smiled as he shared the good report with me. Yes! . Phew! I’m grateful it was nothing alarming, especially since it was growing.

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I had him locate and feel for a tiny lump that still remains near the site. It’s the size of a BB, but I’m not concerned about it either. Yet I’m praying it does not grow to the size of my peanut M&M. For those of you who pray, please pray it dissolves. The doctor removed the stitches, instructed me to massage the area over the next three months. “This will help it heal completely flat,” he said.

Apparently, when an injury occurs a cyst may form afterward and become calcified. Reflecting now I realize each doctor I have seen regarding my “milk dud” asked me. “Do you remember getting hit in the head? Did you experience any injury or do you remember some sort of trauma?

Those are insightful questions. I’ve racked my brain trying to figure out whether I was hit by a car’s door or something else. Both Michael and I vaguely remember me putting ice on my head once. But it was so long ago. Because the “Milk Dud” was with me for years we aren’t certain.

Let me ask you along the emotional and spiritual lines these same questions. Is there some trauma or injury that you’ve experienced? Has it caused a hard thing to form in you?  Was it a long time ago? Has something “hard” formed in you over time?

Let me encourage you, don’t let it get larger. Even right now, consider getting it removed by Jesus, the great physician. He can surgically remove the hard thing with His skillful hands. He is able to make it so the trauma has no distinct scar. He is amazing at healing and restoring us.

Heal me, O LORD, and I shall be healed; save me, and I shall be saved, for you are my praise. Jeremiah 17:14

For I will restore health to you, and your wounds I will heal, declares the LORD,  Hebrews 11:6a

God, it is my prayer that you do a healing work in every life that needs your touch. I pray in Jesus name for you to heal the broken-hearted and bind up the wounded. Please touch our physical bodies as well. I speak a blessing over our bodies in Jesus name. Cut out anything that displeases you and help us understand that you’ve already removed sin’s stain and curse. Help us to release to you anything we are holding onto now. You’ve paid for it Jesus, so we give it back. You’ve died for it, it is removed from us. We say thank you! Thank you! Thank you!  In Jesus name, Amen