He uses it all and nothing is wasted!

I listened to the swish, swish, swish of my slippers shuffle on the kitchen floor as I opened the microwave to warm up a cup of coffee. I drank a few sips and headed to make the bed. Later, I searched for my coffee mug and spun around a few times looking for it. Oh, found it! By then it was cold again. Yikes! I should just get started. I appeared busy, but I was simply stalling. I didn’t want to face what I had on the docket for the day.

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I then received a text from my cousin Annie. I’d asked her to hold me accountable to blog and organize things so I can start the potentially painful and much-needed process of writing another book.

She’s excellent at reminders, better than any phone app could ever be. She regularly notifies me about each resolve I have declared. Today was no exception. Good morning Sunshine! It’s blogging day! And start making a pile of all the things you’ll need to dig into in a few weeks.

I delayed the inevitable task long enough. Just get moving! I rummaged through a few baskets and boxes for past calendars, my journals and the cards I’d received. I climbed up and down steps repeatedly during my search. I looked in coffee table drawers and on bookshelves as I gathered my journals from the last 4-5 years.

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I opened each one, looked at the handwriting and began to read a few of the sections. Some sentences instantly brought me back to the preserved moment. I noticed the writing was indicative of the condition of my heart. Sometimes I wrote over the pages in all different random directions. It was as if my thoughts couldn’t land in any order on the page. It was chaotic writing, but it was a chaotic time.

It was a difficult time for me and my family. This trial felt like it came out of nowhere and hit me like a MAC truck. Grief related to loss had thrown me off. These points of confusion were now preserved on paper and demonstrated through my own troubled handwriting. Sometimes large scribblings filled the pages. Each notebook contained a mixture of the following:

  • personal journal
  • sermon notes
  • song lyrics
  • my response to Bible passages
  • prayers to God
  • personal reflections
  • questions and confessions.

No, stop reading! Just look for the start and end dates! Then collect them and put them in chronological order. I reached in the kitchen drawer and drew out a black Sharpie marker and began to label each journal with a sticky note near the top.

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I marked them all. Phew! Progress. I read a few of the cards I’d received. Next, I glanced at the calendars where I had recorded something I’ve prayed about each day. I came to a circled date in mid September 2014. This calendar entry noted a phone conversation I had with my daughter Grace.

The conversation occurred while I was speaking at a retreat in northern Michigan. I immediately envisioned the step on which I sat in the sun. I  could feel the breeze on my face. I remember I was outside my cabin when this call came in. This memory was both precious and painful to recollect. I stopped.

I had to stop and cry out to God. The memory was so vivid. It was beautiful and absolutely precious. In the “time warp thing” it felt as if it had just happened yet it seemed extremely distant like it were decades ago.

The pleasure and pain I experienced caused fresh tears to flow. I miss her! I just miss my daughter Grace! God, I know you are good and you are in charge but it still hurts and I don’t know if I can write about it today or anytime soon. 

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I’m not certain how long I sat there crying but eventually I did get up. I was hungry and  needed to eat some lunch and possibly exercise too. I descended the stairs still in my pajamas and slippers. The familiar sound of my slippers shuffling rang in my ears. Okay, it’s no longer breakfast and coffee time. You, my dear, had better make yourself somethin’ to eat.

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As I assembled a salad of fresh greens, beets, olives and chopped celery, I reached for the few remaining salt and pepper cashews I had in a cabinet. Only a handful… Well, that’ll do. Perfect! I wouldn’t want to let these babies go to waste! 

I tugged on the refrigerator door and opened it with a grin. Yay! That yummy zesty dressing I made yesterday is in here. I had a jar of horseradish pickles, which no longer had any pickles in it, just juices, so I spooned out stone ground mustard and added it, whisked both together and poured the mixture through a funnel into a glass dressing bottle.

Fabulous! I chuckled as I exclaimed, “I’ve used whatever is available today to make my lunch and along with yesterday’s concoction, I haven’t wasted anything!” What’s true in the natural is true in the spiritual! I heard my spirit agree with the Spirit of God which said, You know Rachel God doesn’t waste anything either. I mused. Yeah, yesterday I thought, I can’t throw away this pickle juice…it could be used for something!

I believe God doesn’t waste one day of my life, one hard thing in my life, or one tear shed during my life. He uses it all and nothing is wasted.

Those who sow in tears will reap with songs of joy. He who goes out weeping, carrying seed to sow, will return with songs of joy, carrying sheaves with him. Psalm 126:5 –6

You keep track of all my sorrows. You have collected all my tears in your bottle. You have recorded each one in your book. Psalm 56:8(NLT)

 

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I finished eating my delicious salad. These thoughts came to me. I’m glad I started organizing my journals and looking through things. You know Rachel you aren’t the same person your were when you wrote on the pages of those journals all those years ago. You have been beautifully changed and shaped by God through the hardest of times. THIS IS NOT WASTED IN YOUR LIFE.

As I rose, so did my hope.  You see, I know God:

  • is for me not against me.
  • causes all things to work together for my good. (So, as Kris Vallotton always says,” If it’s not good- it’s not over!”)
  • is with me in hard times.
  • is close to the broken-hearted.
  • saves those who a crushed in spirit.
  • is near.
  • is good.
  • loves me.
  • is a restorer and reconciler.
  • keeps my tears in a bottle.
  • is a way maker.
  • is a rock on which I can stand.
  • has already won the battle. I fight from victory not for victory

I had to remind myself today and now I’ll remind you. No matter what you’re facing, no matter how long your trial or season of difficultly may be, no matter what wilderness you are walking through, remember He uses it all and nothing is wasted!  Not even your tears.

 

 

 

 

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Dread & Discouragement Lifted-Perfect Peace Prevailed.

You keep him in perfect peace whose mind is stayed on you because he trusts in you. Isaiah 26:3 ESV.  I spoke the lasts few days about “Parenting with Perfect Peace.” Not about perfect parenting, that is impossible and I would have been disqualified.

Because I shared about God’s peace and the authority believers have to release peace today the enemy tried to rob my peace. I should have known he’d be up to some devilish tricks. I’ve been warned, have your prayer team pray for you after you speak. (NOTE TO SELF…implement this plan.)

This attack wasn’t… BOOM! right off the bat.  Nope, the enemy waited, sutdied me first as I went about my day. Nevertheless a gloomy FEELING of discouragement crept in like an unplesant odor as he tried to play a “movie trailer” of my future.

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You know what I’m talking about, right? Can you relate? He plays a “movie trailer” of your future for you… These things aren’t real. He manipulates your imagination so you believe these things are CERTAIN to happen. This creates dread.

That was his tactic of choice today, to spread dread and discouragement about the future of my family. He tried to get the best of me. But I resolved discouragement would NOT win. This will not take over! You keep him in perfect peace whose mind is stayed on you because he trusts in you. 

I texted a friend. “We need to pray I’m  feeling weary and discouraged.” Sometimes just getting it out is helpful and I know I must take authority of the thoughts and not allow them to ping-pong around inside my head. Thanks God for my friend’s prayer.  I reminded myself… I can’t lose my peace when my mind is stayed on Jesus. I decided to do what I told the audience members to do. “I release peace in Jesus name!” I said aloud.

 

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Later, I texted a friend.  It was quite warm outside and I wanted to invite her on a walk. You may wonder why I decided to walk when I was feeling attacked and a bit discouraged? Because it is a PERFECT time to take a walk! I know exercise is a big way to lift my spirits, so I do it. Thanks God for my healthy body and the ability to walk and exercise.

While out I reviewed the verse. You will keep in perfect peace… I passed the school yard with active children playing during noon recess. Those wonderful sights and sounds caught my attention. These elementary aged kids yelled and giggled. Their chasing around was a wonderful sign of life. Thank you God for small children, laughter and life!

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It lifted. My emotions were no longer in control and the atmosphere was shifted. I don’t know what you are facing today. Whatever it is, remember…don’t let your emotions and feelings run the show! I heard a pastor, Kris Vallotton say, “Emotions are my slave not my master!” Feelings are not what run my life, remember that!  

If you FEEL like things aren’t going to turn around for you even in 2018, don’t trust your feelings. Trust God! I believe 2018 will turn around and be the exact opposite. It’s called faith:

  • Being sure of what you hope for and certain of what you cannot see.
  • God is able to turn things around.
  • What is impossible with man is possible with God.
  • He is always doing something new. (Isaiah 43:19)

Remember we can’t lose our peace when our minds are stayed on him. The outcomes that we experience and the future we possess are based on the word of God not the words floating around in our heads. So we can’t let any nasty thoughts rob our peace or steal our joy. Instead, let’s say, “I release peace. In Jesus name.”

Let’s keep these things looping in our minds:

  • You keep him in perfect peace whose mind is stayed on you because he trusts in you.
  • Joy is rooted in Jesus and found in His presence.
  • Joy has a companion – thankfulness.
  • God is good. He is for me not against me. He’s a good father.
  • Joy is filled in trusting God and is a promise even in hard times.

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The enemy wants us to suffer in silence, but let’s release peace and soak in the truth of God’s word…

Promise: God will not reject His people. “Though the mountains be shaken and the hills be removed, yet my unfailing love for you will not be shaken nor my covenant of peace be removed,” says the LORD, who has compassion on you. Isaiah 54:10

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 on what is unseen. For what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal. 2 Corinthians 4: 17-18

Promise: God will deliver you from all your troubles.  If calamity comes upon us, whether the sword of judgment, or plague or famine, we will stand in your presence before this temple that bears your Name and will cry out to you in our distress, and you will hear us and save us. 2 Chronicles 20:9

 

Pregnant With Expectancy

As I drove home from a birthday party, I had a message on my phone. It was from a Marco Island friend. It read:  Just driving by Meadowbrook Road, Aunt Rachel! Sad I couldn’t see you.  
She’s talking about my exit! I wonder how long ago her message came in? What? This means she passed my exit? Now? I’m confused. Is she here in Wisconsin? I was bummed that I had missed my opportunity to connect. RATS! I would love to have seen Autumn. 
I came inside and immediately put on my “stay at ‘home in the cold’ clothes.” You know what I mean. They’re the warm and cozy and loose kind. I pulled on a sweater and grabbed my laptop and began to write a blog post about the party. A few minutes later I heard, DING DONG! Who could that be? Christmas is over so it can’t be a delivery man with a package… 
I descended the stairs and opened the door to find an unexpected surprise!  Autumn stood before me, her bright eyes twinkled and she joyfully beaming.  “I just wanted to say a quick ‘Hi’ and get a hug from you.” She said. “I have my sister and friend in the car so I can’t stay.”
“Can’t stay? Bring them in here!” I protested.” I have to say hello. I promise not to hold you long, but you must at least come in!”
Autumn quickly checked with them. Then, with a scarf over her nose and mouth for protection from the elements, she made a beeline for my front step and flew through my front door followed by her sister Anna and friend Adriane.
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Anna, Autumn and Adrianne!

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I knew they shouldn’t stay too long. They needed to get back on the road as it would soon be dark and the cruddy weather of spitting rain could turn to ice.
“Can you come up for a cup of tea?” I asked.
 I set out tea cups when Anna said, “Mama Inouye, you’ve taken out six cups and there are only four of us! Can’t you count?”
I giggled. Yes, I can, but I wanted you to have a bit of a choice as to which cup you select.”
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“See, I knew as I removed cups from the cabinet that Autumn would choose the silver one!” I stated proudly.
“Yep, this says a lot about the two of us as sisters.” Anna agreed.
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Tea time in my loft area is one of my most treasured times. We talked about:
  • the weather
  • the LORD – His ways, His teaching, His goodness
  •  family

Next, out of my mouth pops this question, “So, what are you each expectant about?”

They looked at me for a moment, thought for a while, pondered then answered. “Well, that’s a good question!” Anna said.

I replied. “Well, we know it’s going to be something good… Cuz He’s good.  We took time to pray together. I prayed we would be “pregnant with expectancy.” 

THE QUESTION STUCK WITH ME.  IT WAS MY OWN QUESTION.  But asking it and praying about it had caused me to resolve more fully to live pregnant with expectancy.

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 I am very aware of how I frame my thoughts. I must ask:

  • Have I let random thoughts of negativity creep in?
  • Who told me that?
  • Where is this thought coming from?
  • Do I grab a hold of my thoughts?
  • Am I living pregnant with expectancy?
  • Am I expecting God to do good things?

When my answers to the last few questions are yes, I find his faithfulness and can record his goodness. I watch as he repeatedly surprises me because I’m expectant. Because of the Lord’s great love we are not consumed, for his compassions never fail. They are new every morning; great is your faithfulness. Lamentations 3:22-23

Instead of writing my goals this year, I’ve just reviewed my dreams. I want to live with expectancy that he will blow me away. How did I come to this conclusion?

I see what he says in his word: Now to him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to his power that is at work within us, to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, forever and ever! Amen. Ephesians 3:20, 21.  
 I believe God wants us to live in expectancy because he has plans for us. His plans are good. He doesn’t change and he cannot lie so these verses he has given can guide our thoughts about the future. Forget the former things; do not dwell on the past. See, I am doing a new thing! Now it springs up; do you not perceive it? I am making a way in the wilderness and streams in the wasteland. Isaiah 43:18,19 (I feel like God’s saying, “Go ahead and be excited ahead of time. Be expectant!”)
Surely your goodness and love will follow me all the days of my life, and I will dwell in the house of the LORD forever. Psalm 23:6  
Yet the LORD longs to be gracious to you; therefore he will rise up to show you compassion. For the Lord is a God of Justice. Blessed are all who wait for him!
Isaiah 30:18 ( I want to wait…Pregnant with expectancy!)
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Do you live pregnant with expectancy? Although unexpected things may throw off a PLAN for the day, the surprise itself can MAKE the day! That was my experience anyway.  Our tea cups were set on my kitchen counter. I left them there for a bit because they were a precious reminder of how God had answered a prayer to surprise me. I looked at the cups, then took these photographs. Hmm? I wonder who will drink from these tea cups next? Who will God send my way? Even then, with that query, I was pregnant with expectancy!

Love through a new lense

This blog post is from Silver Strands -by Roselyn Staples- We both blogged yesterday about Molly’s party. I thought it would be fun to see the same event through two different sets of eyes.  Thank you Roselyn.

 

“Could we have a birthday party for Molly?”

I answered, “Sure”, without really thinking much about what my adopted granddaughter was really wanting to do. It didn’t occur to me, at the time, that I had never even heard of a birthday party for a dog let alone hosted one.

Molly is a Maltese dog that I inherited almost a year ago when my friend died. This dog is a ball of white fluff that is usually under my feet or pushed against me in such a way that my hand is on her back. Molly has navigated a lot of loss for an eight pound six-year-old.  I think that’s why I try to make space for her Velcro attachment.

But, her story isn’t all about loss and trauma as in this transition process she has gained the extraordinary love of my granddaughter.

Come, imagine yourself a guest at this party and even be present during the preparation for it.  Watch for evidences of love through the new lens of Molly’s Birthday Party.

In the mind of this granddaughter, the preparation has been the focus of attention for weeks. Yesterday, with the party just a day away, was spent packaging up all she would need to make the day fun. She had found a recipe for a doggie birthday cake so a couple of bags of baking ingredients and supplies were mixed in with pillows, blankets, crepe paper streamers and a tooth brush as an overnight at Besta’s (Norwegian for Grandmother) would be necessary in order to get everything done.

Our first stop, after loading the car for the overnight was to stop at the Pet Store.

This child had $10 and she wanted to spend it on a gift for Molly.  Once she spotted the pink blinked princess dress the decision was made. It was sacrificial and expensive but did not appear to cost the giver anything.

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Then came shopping for the food. It went quickly because this child had come prepared with a list of what would be needed. Invitations had been sent and responses received so it was possible to buy exactly what we would need for the guests and what would be needed for Molly’s cake. I watched in amazement as the ground beef cake was assembled, baked and then frosted with peanut butter and banana. There was joy in this labor as all was done for the purpose of doing something special for the one she loved.

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Soon my house began to feel like a place to celebrate. Streamers hung from the balcony, the stair rail was wrapped in crepe paper, balloons were secured after being scripted with “Molly is 6”. Love flows from the heart but creates an environment that causes one to pause and ask, “What special thing is happening here today?”

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This child included her whole family in this event. Her daddy grilled hamburgers outside in below zero weather, her mother took time off work bringing a dog sweater as a gift and her sister was by her side planning, decorating and exploding with creative ideas. What is it about love that make it contagious?

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As we filled our plates and found a place at the table we noticed there was an empty chair—but not for long. Molly jumped up on the chair and rested her little head on the table. As I watched her, I wondered how much she understood about being the recipient of unconditional extravagant iconoclastic love.

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I wonder how much I understand about unconditional extravagant iconoclastic love? Is it possible that SOMEONE is loving me in this way today?

Do I need to see love through a new lens?

 

 

Well, that’s a first!

It seemed like a normal invitation. “Would you like to attend Molly’s birthday party and lunch afterward?” What made this invitation interesting and a FIRST for me is that Molly is, wait for it…a DOG! The party planner happens to be eleven years old and possesses quite a few administrative gifts.

Once she knew I was interested, she approached me with her mini tablet in her  hand, “Could I have your email address? She asked.” I’d like to send you some details and a reminder that you agreed to bring chips.”

A few follow-up emails and reminders came. Today, in below zero temperatures,  Molly’s party was held. Pink balloons marked the house’s outside entrance. Yep! this is it!  These two sisters had both taken the time to decorate with party pink.

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Molly was barking with excitement and was delighted when I arrived. I noticed all of the home-made party details as they pointed them out to me. “Could I take some pictures because this is my first party for a pet?” I asked. (I had no idea it would be this blog post.)

“Sure!” they said.

I loved the drawing of Molly posted on the back of this box. The girls even decorated the stair railing with pink touches of crepe paper and balloons marked ‘Molly’s 6th’. The eldest was in charge of making contact, the menu and the party agenda. They were both so proud and took ownership over their involvement and I was proud of them.

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My young friend purchased, with her own money, the pink party dress bedazzled with pearls and rhinestones. Molly was sporting it quite well. It was so cute on and made me feel a bit under dressed. (Just kidding) We took time for a bit of “show and tell” as they brought out other outfits in the dog’s wardrobe which included two beautiful red Christmas outfits. This was a first for me in pet fashion.

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I said at one point, “I’ve never been to a birthday party for a dog before! You’ve set the standard for any pet party for me.”  I seem to remember my first of anything.

I recall my first:

  • solo
  • kiss
  • time flying
  • time out of the country
  • passport stamp
  •  pregnancy
  • birth
  • sip of coffee
  • time eating different ethnic foods

Okay! So you get my point. I remember my “firsts” quite well. This was definitely a first for me. We gathered in the kitchen before lunch and circled around the island, held hands and prayed. My friend blessed each of us in the circle and the food.

As soon as AMEN was spoken. The young coordinator made a suggestion. “Let’s sing Happy Birthday to Molly now!” Without any deliberation we began. “Happy Birthday to you… Happy Birthday to you…” As we joined in chorus, Molly enjoy the festivities and spun around a few times as we finished. “Happy Birthday, dear Molly, Happy Birthday to you!”

Nest we moved to the round wooden dining table. During lunch, we talked about our recent Christmas gatherings and family activities. Molly was invited to join us as we visited and was quite content to sit with us. At one point she laid her head up on the table with it cocked slightly listening attentively to our conversation.

“Oh, my!  Someone has to get a photo of Molly.” I said. “It’s like she knows this is all for her.” I didn’t know if I should get up from the table during the meal and I was concerned we might lose the magic moment. Molly responded to the commotion and disruption and got down from the table only to jump back up again.

They all began talking at once asking, “Molly put your head own the table again. Just like you had it before. Can you put your head back up there Molly?” It wasn’t tilted exactly the same way, but Molly did pose once again on cue.

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Finally, we indulged in chocolate and vanilla cupcakes with pink frosting. While Molly ate her own version of a birthday treat,  a ground beef, egg and cheese “cup-cake” with peanut butter and banana frosting.

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If you really knew me you would know I’m a bit pet-impaired. But at one point while sitting on the couch, Molly snuggled right up to me, laid her body up against my thigh and laid her head on it. I buried my fingers into her furry head for quite a while. She was just so cute as she lay there in bliss. Well, that’s a first! I thought.

I’ve been asking God to surprise me. He has been doing that a great deal lately. I’ve been asking him to do a new thing. This certainly was a FIRST and new thing! “Forget the former things; do not dwell on the past, See, I am doing a new thing! Now it springs up; do you not perceive it? I am making a way in the wilderness and streams in the wasteland. Isaiah 43:18,19

I will remember this DOG party. It was simple and sweet. I will also remember it because of the delightful young party planner. I was touched because this precious eleven year old wanted to invite me, a woman in my mid fifties, as her and the dog’s guest. I was the only guest other than family. That is the way my young friend wanted it.  I was truly honored to be present for my first ever birthday party for a dog.

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Pause and reflect back on some of the” firsts” you’ve experienced recently. Think about the ways God is doing a new thing and thank Him.

 

 

 

Don’t sweat it…The Lord will provide

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“I’m really sorry. I don’t think I will be able to come to that Christmas event or help at your product table because I have a family funeral out-of-state. I’m bummed out! I wish I could be two places at once. I could try to get back in time or just meet you there.” She explained.

“No, don’t worry about it. I get it.” I said. “You had no way of knowing. You need to be there. Don’t try to make it ALL work. That’s silly and too much travel. I release you in Jesus name.  I’ll try to find someone else. I love you we’ll have coffee in January. Okay, dear? Bye!”

I hung up the phone. As I sat in my chair beside the Christmas tree, I wondered who God had for me and how I was going to get the assistant position covered so quickly. God, you know who is supposed to help and I trust you to provide.  This was my simple prayer.

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This cancellation call set in motion a series of text strings to multiple friends. I have never had difficulty finding an assistant.  BUT one by one I sent out texts asking for help. These return texts came in:

  • Hello, I’m still at work and not enough time to request time off from work. Maybe, next time. Hugs!

 

  • I would so love to go but I’m with my grand children tomorrow! It WOULD be so much fun. PLEASE keep asking… it will work some day!!!

 

  • I’m going to need to say no. I’m so sorry. The earlier time departure just won’t work for me. Plus, we have made commitments to serve.. I’m really bummed! Please keep me in mind for the next time. Praying for you!

 

  • Oh man! Seriously??!! I can’t do it today but normally I would do it in a heartbeat. My daughter has team photos for gymnastics after school and a Christmas concert tonight at school.

 

  • I know I told you to call me if you didn’t get it covered… Rats, I just left home now and started shopping, don’t think I’d get home and ready in time.

 

 

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Moments before I left my home the day of the event. I texted my cousin: Please pray- I hope someone from the church, whoever God has selected,  will be willing to staff the product table. I know God has this. But I did think of you. I was thinking “Man, I wish my cousin Annie lived closer.”

My phone chimed and lit up with this text from her: I wish I were there! I’d love to help! But he will provide someone better than you could have chosen. They will need to do this for you! This is a word from HIM… He’s gonna do something good.

I planned to travel with my  friend  Kathleen. She was returning to her former church and was slated to do the leading of the music so I didn’t want to burden her or keep her from visiting with old friends. We had a wonderful drive, the roads were clear and newly fallen snow lined the highways. we had a delicious lunch, we drove around Manitowoc for a little bit.

When we arrived at the church we quickly unloaded and she helped me a ton. I was greeted graciously by the women in charge. The candlelit sanctuary was lovely and the tables were set and vacant for a few more minutes until all the guest streamed in. As I was beginning to unpack my things for my table, I was approached immediately by a friendly women whose first words out of her mouth were, “Hello, May I help you with anything?”

A slow grin took over my face. “You’re willing to help set up?’ I asked.

“Yes, sure whatever you need.” she replied.

She was willing to assist and “man the table” before and after the event. I signed a book for her and prayed for her then released her to go home and attend to her young son.  A few seconds after she left a man from the church, one of the evening’s ”butlers” asked. “Do you need help with anything?”

“Sure!” I responded. “Find anything in a frame and hand it to me so I can pack it away.”

“I can do that! No problem.” He said.

 

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  • luggage loaded- wheeled to car
  • books stowed away
  • trunk packed

My hanging bag too , like a cherry on top of a sundae was placed in the trunk. So many people helped and provided assistance. I plopped down in the car seat,  hungry and exhausted in a good way. I glanced over at my friend Kathleen and chuckled through my wide smile. I was so tickled because I was not only assisted, I was provided for ALL evening long.

One of God’s names is JEHOVAH-JIREH the Lord will provide.

Before they call I will answer; while they are still speaking I will hear. Isaiah 65:24 

“But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well.” Matthew 6:33

I encourage you to trust Him. He doesn’t change and he cannot lie. So, like me don’t sweat it… and watch the Lord provide.

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God With Us – Immanuel

I’m not sure what I would have done without her.  As I pulled into her driveway, I saw her watching for me. She lowered her blinds, exited her home and hopped into my car.

“I’m so glad you are with me!” I told her.

WE WERE OFF AND RUNNING!

Jodi held my cell phone, navigated the busy roads, warned me, even before Siri did, about upcoming exits and turns. As it got darker and the roads narrowed, she pointed out the street signs and said, “Yeah, yeah, this is right. I’ve been over here before. You’re doing great!” I was so glad she was with me.

I thought earlier about Christmas. Specifically about God being with us! It still blows me away that the God of the universe  left the splendor of heaven and came to Earth to dwell with us. His nearness is amazing! It was being taught and shown to me in so many tangible ways as my friend Jodi was with me all evening.

She was with me:

  • in the car
  • on the road
  • as we unloaded my full trunk

She helped in so many ways. She was with me and anticipated my needs:

  • set up the product table with me
  • contacted the coordinators when we had a need.
  • prayed for me
  • hung up my coat
  • kept me on track (that’s a TALL order)
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“Hey, before the end of the night let’s get a selfie!”

I was handed an itinerary for the evening.  I glanced at it briefly. We stood to sing a few Christmas carols and sat back down during a hilarious video. All of a sudden I couldn’t  find my paper. Where is it? I sat looking left and right and under my seat.

No need to fret, no worries, Jodi simply grabbed one from the event planner’s chair and handed it to me. She was with me. She was aware of my every need.  I about burst out laughing when we stood again because I realized I had been sitting on my paper.  It was  permanently creased in the shape of my bottom. No kidding!

When I showed her my paper, Jodi’s eyes sparkled, she bit her lips and shook her head. Then the corners of her mouth turned upward as a smile took over her face. Without words she communicated clearly, Too funny! That’s your paper? You are a bit flighty just before you speak. No shame- no biggie!

A precious song touched my heart deeply.  One of the lyrics was, “let my heart be your Bethlehem.” I sniffled a bit and was about to begin to bawl because the soloist was a young anointed gal with young ballet dancers on the stage too. These things reminded me of and made me miss my daughter Grace.

Jodi instinctively knew and had a Kleenex ready for me. She was truly with me. Just before I took the stage I felt her hand on my shoulder as she prayed again for and over me. She was with me and so was God.

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Wow! It was a privilege to chat with these lovely sisters and hear a bit of their story. Of course Jodi was with me and snapped the photo.

I believe whatever is true in the natural is true in the Spiritual as well.  The way Jodi was with me and took care of my every need is a picture of God. God is a with us God. He is – Immanuel.

I was aware of the care my friend gave me during this event. Jodi was more than an integral part to the evening, she was a Godsend. I am challenged to perceive more clearly all the ways God is with me.

Do you know he is with you? Do you experience his nearness? Let’s begin to look for Immanuel in new and deeper ways, not just this Christmas season but also into the new year. Here are a few scriptures. Let these soak in because He is with you even MORE than the way Jodi was with me.

  • “The Lord your God is with you, the Mighty Warrior who saves. He will take great delight in you; In his love he will no longer rebuke you, but will rejoice over you with singing.” Zephaniah 3:17
  •  So do not fear, for I’m with you; do not be dismayed, for I am your God. I will strengthen you and help you; I will uphold you with my righteous right hand. Isaiah 41:10 
  • Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous. Do not be terrified; do not be discouraged, for the Lord your God will be with you wherever you go. Joshua 1:9
  • And surely I’m with you always, to the very end of the age. Matthew 28:20b

 

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I got to serve with these beautiful ones. Such a picture of the body of Christ working together in our own areas of gifting. And He is with us all!

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.

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!