Friday, June 30, 2006

Lost in the Music

Have you ever noticed how a piece of music can transport you to a place far inside yourself and you can get totally lost?

Earlier tonight at Worship Team practice, we sang a song that I haven't sung in probably five years or more - I Will Sing, by Don Moen.

As the notes began to play - I was immediately transported to a point in my past when I had just walked away from a 17-year lesbian relationship. I knew it was the right thing to do --but I was hurting --more than I think I've ever hurt in my life. During my time of healing and restoration - the Lord used my love for music to minister to me and this song was one that I found, time and again, to be in a prostrate position before Him worshipping -- pouring out myself to Him --not knowing what the future held for me --trusting Him to restore the years that the enemy had stolen.

God was faithful to restore to me what was taken. I am now happily married with a beautiful four-year-old daughter ---never imagining in that moment when I was feeling so lost and alone that the Lord would bless me beyond belief. Not knowing or understanding the plans He had for me --not knowing if I was even going to hold it together to get through to the next day.

As we sang the song in practice, I found myself weeping --as I remembered the place I was in and realized how far He's brought me. God is so full of mercy - so full of grace. When we run to His sheltering arms, He is there to be our heart's refuge. He rescues us and sets us apart. He hides us in His love. He is our hope and our serenity. I am so grateful for His unconditional love --the love that never ends --the love that forgives - and forgets.

Here are the words to I Will Sing:

Lord You seem so far away. A million miles or more it feels today.
And though I haven't lost my faith,
I must confess right now that it's hard for me to pray.
But I don't know what to say and I don't know where to start.
But as you give the grace with all that's in my heart.

I will sing.
I will praise even in my darkest hour
through the sorrow and the pain.
I will sing. I will praise.
Lift my hands to honor You
because Your word is true. I will sing.

Lord it's hard for me to see
All the thoughts and plans You have for me
But I will put my trust in You
Knowing that You died to set me free
But I don't know what to say
And I don't know where to start
But as You give grace
With all that's in my heart

I will sing.
I will praise even in my darkest hour
through the sorrow and the pain.
I will sing. I will praise.
Lift my hands to honor You
because Your word is true.
I will sing.

My prayer for you today is that you too, will be able to sing - to praise your Savior - in the midst of any sorrow and pain you may be experiencing. This life is but a vapor --and as my dear Mother frequently reminds me - "This too shall pass". One day, all our sorrow and pain will be a distant memory --for there will be no tears in heaven! With Jesus - you can face ANYTHING and be victorious! Trust me - been there - done that! in the moment...preparing for the future...longing to be home...

Thursday, June 29, 2006

Leave it all behind...

In Genesis --chapter 12, verse 1:

Now the LORD had said to Abram:

Get out of your country,
From your family
And from your father's house,
To a land that I will show you.

Abram was told by God to LEAVE everything --his country - what was familiar to him, his family - his support system, his home --his refuge and go to where?... to a land that the Lord would show him --eventually --after he made the move to leave. Talk about stepping out of your comfort zone! What an incredible thing the Lord was asking of Abram. He was asked to trust completely.

How did he respond? We read his response in the New Testament --Hebrews 11:8 :

By faith Abraham obeyed when he was called to go out to the place which he would receive as an inheritance. And he went out, not knowing where he was going.

Abraham obeyed --- in faith.

And as a result, his descendents outnumber the stars in the sky.

He trusted the Lord, not only with his past and present --but with his future as well. So often, we easily give the Lord our past sin --trust Him to cleanse and forgive us. We are even able to trust Him in the moment. But do we trust Him with our futures...not knowing what they hold --trying to plan, contrive and control our lives and then asking Him to bless what we've planned, contrived and controlled. All the while perhaps not walking in His will.

May we be able to trust Him completely with every aspect of our lives ---even if it means being obedient if He asks us to step out of our comfort zone.

But I am like an olive tree
flourishing in the house of God;
I trust in God's unfailing love
for ever and ever.

Psalm 52:8

Wednesday, June 28, 2006

In the Image of my God

tribe, originally uploaded by beyondhope.

Recently, I have been dealing with someone in my life who is rubbing me the wrong way. It seems like any communication I have with this person turns to conflict and turmoil and it's really been bothering me to the point that I'm thinking of breaking off contact altogether. But then today I listened to one of my CDs by Nichole Nordeman. On it was a song, entitled Wide Eyed.

When I met him on a sidewalk
He was preaching to a mailbox
Down on 16th Avenue
And he told me he was Jesus
Sent from Jupiter to free us
With a bottle of tequila and one shoe
He raged about repentance
He finished every sentence
With a promise that the end was close at hand
I didn't even try to understand
He left me wide eyed in disbelief and disillusion
I was tongue tied, drawn by my conclusions
So I turned and walked away
And laughed at what he had to say
Then casually dismissed him as a fraud
I forgot he was created in the image of my God

When I met her in a bookstore
She was browsing on the first floor
Through a yoga magazine
And she told me in her past life
She was some plantation slave's wife
She had to figure out what that might mean
She believes the healing powers of her crystals
Can bring balance and new purpose to her life
Sounds nice

She left me wide eyed in disbelief and disillusion
I was tongue tied, drawn by my conclusions
So I turned and walked away
And laughed at what she had to say
Then casually dismissed her as a fraud
I forgot she was created in the image of my God

Not so long ago, a man from Galilee
Fed thousands with His bread and His theology
And the truth He spoke
Quickly became the joke
Of educated, self-inflated Pharisees like me

And they were wide eyed in disbelief and disillusion
They were tongue tied, drawn by their conclusions
Would I have turned and walked away
And laughed at what He had to say
And casually dismissed Him as a fraud
Unaware that I was staring at the image of my God

Those lyrics speak volumes, don't they? After I listened to the song, the Lord very gently reminded me that this person with whom I'm in conflict was created in His image. ...busted.

As Christians, it is so important to remember that no matter what situation we are involved with in dealing with other human beings on this planet that God created us ALL in His image. He loves us all equally. The same. No favorites. Who am I to think that I may be better than someone else? I'm not. My prayer today is that God will change my heart --to make it more like His so that I may view everyone through His eyes with His heart and His compassion. May I ever be mindful of my attitude toward others and strive to be Christlike in all my dealings with others.

May everyone see Jesus in me and may I search to find the good in others --even if there is much to sort through to get there.

Tuesday, June 27, 2006

Olivia's 'Bike' Face

Olivia's 'Bike' Face, originally uploaded by beyondhope.

This is the priceless look on Olivia's face when we wheeled her new Dora bicycle into the living room on her fourth birthday.

'Happy Birthday to You,
A Happy Birthday to You.
May you feel Jesus near
Every day of the year.
A Happy Birthday to you
A Happy Birthday to you.
And the best year you've ever had!

Monday, June 26, 2006

Today is Olivia's Birthday

Today, my baby girl turned four. Where have the last four years gone? It seems like only yesterday that we discovered I was pregnant, and only moments ago that Olivia was born.

I know that all children are God's gift to their parents, but as a parent I can't help but think that Olivia is somehow special....that God has something awesome in store for her. She was born 2 1/2 months premature and weighed only 2lb 7oz, 15 inches long. I was in critical condition and wasn't even able to see her until she was three days hold --and didn't hold her until she was two weeks old. Throughout her two month hospitalization, there were times when the neonatologists told us that she may not pull through.

But God.

So many people were praying for her --all over the world. The physicians told us when she was released from the hospital that it would be age 6 before she 'caught up' to other children her age and they would follow her progress every three months until age six. At age 18 months, the developmental specialists told us that they never wanted to see us again, because not only had she 'caught up', but she had surpassed other 'normal' children her age. God is good. All the time.

The entire time she was in the hospital, I would sit for hours next to her incubator singing this song by Gloria Gaither (changing the lyrics from "I am" to "You are":

"You are a promise
You are a possibility
You are a promise
with a capital 'P'
You are a great big bundle of
And you are learnin'
To hear God's voice
and you are tryin'
to make the right choices,
You're a promise to be
Everything God wants you to be...."

"I Am a Promise" is one of Olivia's favorite songs and she will gladly sing it for you at the top of her lungs if you make a request!

I know that she is indeed a great big bundle of potentiality and I can't wait to see what exciting things the Lord has in store for her. So far she has proven to be a great intercessor --she prays for everyone --with such childlike faith and oftentimes puts me to shame! And, she is the first to point out if you're not "saying the right words"....recently, she asked me to pray for her bellyache. I was in a hurry, and just took her hand, bowed my head and prayed, "Dear Jesus, please help Olivia's belly to feel all better. In Jesus' Name, Amen." She very quickly and loudly declared, "NO, NO, NO!!! Those aren't the right words! You forgot to thank Him for the beautiful day and you forgot to thank Him for being our God! Now please pray again and use the right words!"

Busted, By a four-year old!

Sunday, June 25, 2006

It's a 'God Thing'

My husband is a mortgage broker --which translates into, 'there ain't no paycheck unless he closes a loan'. Talk about relying on God! Many times, as I've looked at our checkbook balance, wondering where the money is going to come from to pay our mortgage....I find myself saying (Again), "okay Lord. You know our need. You clothe the sparrows and the lilies of the field....I'm trusting You." Then I close the checkbook and trust.

Two days later, I open the checkbook and find myself wondering (Again) where the money is going to come from to pay the mortgage. Once again...that still small voice..."I thought You were going to trust Me." Oh, yeah, that's right. He takes care of the sparrows. I can trust Him. So I trust...again.

Two days later, I open the know the rest.

Why is it that I have absolutely NO problem encouraging friends and reminding them that the Lord will take care of their every need but when it comes to TOTALLY trusting Him with our finances, I balk every time?

God has NEVER failed us. He is always on time. The money always comes from somewhere. Yet I continue to stare at that checkbook balance and fret about from where the money is going to come.

The other day Randy came home from the office and told me about something which had happened that day. I had been praying for the Lord to bring in more business --from unexpected sources. He and his business partner had both picked up the phone at the same time to call someone. Upon hearing that the other was dialing, they both hung up the phone. Several minutes later, the phone rang. A person on the other end said that Randy's office number had appeared on her caller ID moments before and she wondered why he was calling her. It turned out that her number had been random --a combination of the two numbers that Randy and Angie had dialed together when they both were using the phone at the same time.

Randy asked her if by chance she needed a mortgage. Turns out she does. He now has a new client from a totally unexpected source!

It's a 'God Thing'!

Wednesday, June 21, 2006

Too Busy Building

Olivia commented that she had asked Jesus to make her sore toe feel all better, but it was still sore. She said, "Mommy, I don't think Jesus is listening to me." I reminded her that He always listens to us but perhaps sometimes He answers us in a slightly different way than we expect. Her reply, "Well, I think He's too busy building my house in heaven and He just doesn't have time to pay attention to me." The next words out of her mouth... "Dear Jesus, Thank You for the beautiful day and all the sunshine and the birds and the rain for the trees. I think when you take a break from building my house, then you can make my toe feel all better. In Jesus' Name, Amen!"

....out of the mouths of babes....

Tuesday, June 20, 2006

The Secret Place

Today has been tough.

All I can say is that I run to My Rock.

He that dwelleth in the secret place of the most High shall abide under the shadow of the Almighty.

I will say of the LORD, He is my refuge and my fortress: my God; in him will I trust.

-Psalm 91:1,2

Friday, June 16, 2006

Illustration Friday - Theme: Jungle

Well --it's after midnight in my time zone which means there will be a new theme for illustration friday moments from now.

I thought I better hurry and post my "jungle" illustration before the opportunity slips away.

Here's my gorilla --although I don't think anyone's apt to run into a character quite like him in the real jungle --but then again, you never know!

Wednesday, June 14, 2006

Thus Far....

It's 12:30pm and so far today I've managed to find a lot of ways to put off cleaning my house....

  • I plucked a bunch of grey hairs from my head
  • I clipped my toenails
  • I've sent three emails
  • I talked to one friend on the phone (but to my credit - she called me!)
  • I packaged an ebay sale and got it ready to mail
  • I've played several games with Olivia
  • I'm typing in my blog

    Can you tell I HATE housecleaning?! As I mentioned in a previous post --we're hosting a Home Group for our church on Friday and I HAVE to have at least a path through the living room...I really need to get busy and clean!

    Oh look, right outside my window are the birdfeeders. Presently there is a Red Wing Blackbird, a Rose-Breasted Grosbeak, Two Yellow Goldfinches, a Chickadee and a Sparrow eyeing me because the feeders are empty....hhmmmm....vaccuum the carpet? feed the birds? --It's a no brainer! I'm outta here to feed the birds!!

  • Tuesday, June 13, 2006

    It's all about the Tractor....

    Today my husband was told by his orthopedic doctor that he needs to have his hip replaced. Even though I expected it, (even with my untrained eye, I could see that his hip x-ray shows bone on bone) it was still a bit shocking. I don't want to see Randy go through the surgery --and the pain --and the recovery. But, I know that it's necessary in order for him to have relief from the excruciating pain he has been experiencing for months now.

    When I began talking with him about the recovery procedure --the fact that he won't be able to sit in his favorite chair because it will be too low for him to get out of --the fact that it may be a few weeks before he will be able to drive --the fact that he won't be able to put on his own shoes and socks --the fact that he won't be able to (Wait! Hold your breath!) DRIVE HIS TRACTOR!!! ARRGGGHHH! It was then that he began to reconsider. What will he ever do without his John Deere?

    As for me, I got a sick feeling in the pit of my stomach when told that Randy was going to have to have surgery. I hate to have to see someone I love so much go through that ordeal. But I know that God is faithful and will be taking care of Randy through every step of the process.

    So...I give it all to Jesus....
    the surgery....and the tractor!

    Monday, June 12, 2006

    Procrastination and Meatballs

    Meatballs, originally uploaded by beyondhope.

    Today I'm procrastinating. What else is new? We just returned from vacation and already my house is a mess. How did one small child ever accumulate so many toys? Toys strewn all over the place --every surface covered. But it's not just the art supplies have spilled out into the living room...and into the dining room...and into the kitchen. And I see a pair of Randy's socks next to the chair in the living room.

    We're hosting a small group meeting or cell group or home group or whatever you want to call it on Friday evening. Which means, I can no longer put it off any longer --I have to clean my house. Thus far today, I've managed to telephone three people from my past --for very good reasons. One was to find the name of a book which a friend needs to use as a reference. The other was to find out if the number stored in my telephone was indeed their correct number and the third and most important was to call a friend from my former church home group to ask her for one of my favorite recipes.

    Darlene used to serve these meatballs frequently at home group meetings. They are simple and easy. I thought I'd share the recipe with you all because that will require me to spend more time typing and less time cleaning my house!!

    Darlene's Meatballs:

    1 12 oz. jar of chili sauce (any favorite brand)
    1 10 oz. jar of grape jelly (again, any favorite brand)
    2 lbs ground chuck.

    Mix the jelly and chili sauce together - bring to a boil.
    Make walnut size meatballs --place in the jelly/chili mixture and simmer until the meatballs are done.

    Then you can put the whole shabang in a crock pot to keep them hot for serving on your buffet. Provide toothpicks so your guests can 'pierce' the meatballs and place them on their plates --and NEVER, EVER serve these on PAPER PLATES! Darlene always used her best dishes, china and crystal for us. I remember we would tease her weekly --telling her she needed to serve us on paper plates so that there were less dishes to do and less work for Steve! ;) But each week, we'd show up and she'd have a lavish table spread with all kinds of wonderful food. She spent alot of time and put a lot of love into her preparations. She always insisted that it was no trouble but we all knew that she worked hard all afternoon to prepare for the evening group.

    At the end of the evening you could usually find Steve, sporting his favorite pair of Foghorn Leghorn slippers, busy loading the dishwasher. And often, at the end of the evening - Darlene would send us home with the leftovers -- perhaps a piece of her famous chocolate crazy dump cake --so moist and delicious --or a plate of my favorite cookies - Snicker Doodles.

    We had some great times in that home group and those times are some of my fondest memories. The people in my group were like my second family. It's been probably five years since I've seen them --the last time being my wedding day. We are living in another town now and haven't had the opportunity to travel back. One of these days I will have to make the trip and visit.

    But today - I have to clean my house to prepare for hosting my new group. I'm praying that the Lord will knit our hearts and lives together - much in the same way he did my previous group. I trust He will. He is faithful. All the time. Of that, I'm sure!

    Thanks Darlene - for the recipe - and the memories - and your love! I miss you my friend!

    Okay --no more procrastinating...."Olivia, let's have some fun and clean the house!"

    Sunday, June 11, 2006

    Back from Vacation

    We returned yesterday from a wonderfully, relaxing week spent in Dubois, PA at at resort on Treasure Lake. During the week, there were two events that particularly touched my heart. The first was while we were on a Geocaching Adventure. Our "mission" on this particular cache wasn't to find a physical cache container, but to view the inscription on the grave marker at the given coordinates and email the message back to the originator of the cache. This particular virtual cache was "placed" by the son of a cacher who has gone on to his eternal home. The inscription on the tombstone read, "Jesus Saves. Believe in Him and we will see you later." Wow. As I read that, I stood and wept as I realized that this man was continuing to tell people about the Lord --even after his life on this earth has ended. What a testimony! And what an encouragement to me to keep on sharing God's Good News! --I'm going to be happy to meet this person one day in heaven and tell him how encouraged I was to read the inscription on his grave. And it will be fun to compare cache stories as well!

    The second event which was such a blessing to me was the opportunity to meet a wonderful couple, Van and Jacilyn. Van is a pastor and while vacationing, received a call from his superiors informing him that he would be relocating to a church in a town several hours from where he currently pastors. Having been established in this church for some time, obviously they've formed relationships and were quite saddened to learn that they would be moving on to another task to which the Lord has called them. We were able to spend a brief time with Van and Jacilyn, encouraging them and praying with them. As Jacilyn said, the Lord didn't allow our paths to cross by accident. And she's right. God's Word says that the steps of the righteous are ordered of the Lord. Each day, I pray that the Lord will use me in some way to minister to someone else and I was so blessed and honored that he brought this couple into my life --even for the brief encounter that we had. I know that we'll be able to keep in touch via email and phone conversations and am looking forward to getting to know Jacilyn, especially, in the months to come. God is so faithful --with blessings on every turn. May we always be open and willing to be used of Him. We receive so much more in return when we give of ourselves to someone else.

    So Jacilyn and Van --this post is for you --here's to our blossoming friendship --may the Lord bless our relationship together --may we always encourage and admonish and exhort one another --and may we always strive to live to further His Kingdom! I'm praying for you!

    Thursday, June 01, 2006

    Variable Weather Conditions

    Tonight, after suffering through several days of hot, humid weather, my husband walked in the door with a new air conditioner. It's one of those new units that sits on the floor which you can move from room to room. I was excited, as my physical wellness depends largely on whether or not I'm cool. In the heat - my disease process doesn't allow me to function normally. We've had a window unit turned on for several days but the house just didn't seem to be cooling down the way we had hoped or remembered from our experience in this house last season. While installing the window 'connection' for this new unit, Randy said to me, "Why is there heat coming from the baseboard?" it turned out --our FURNACE had been running for TWO days --at the same time the A/C was running. ...uh...duh...turn off the 'heat' setting on the thermostat....what is up with that? Temperatures above 90 degrees and we're running our furnace. Yep. We're right on top of things. So....who wants in the pool ---how much propane did we use to fuel the furnace to help cool the house?! ugh. Sometimes --our brains --fried.