Wednesday, January 30, 2008

The Cares of the World

It is with a heavy heart that I begin this post. It seems as if, in the past 24 hours or so, I have learned of so many situations in which people are in desperate need of God's intervention. I am one of those people who wants to "make it all better" for everyone. I want to fix their problems and keep them happy. The reality is, though, that I just can't do that.

There are friends with employment concerns. There are friends in intense emotional situations. There are acquaintances who are struggling with incredible physical needs. I am aware of a person who is in dire need of financial provision. Friends are dealing with loss of loved ones. We are dealing with the recent death of my husband's grandmother. One of my kids is learning the realities of "not everyone wants to be your friend," and it's hurtful.

I saw an article in today's paper that there are people in Haiti literally eating cookies made of dirt, just because they cannot afford the price of rice. The economy is unstable. Job losses are growing. The housing market is a mess. The whole race for the presidency is perplexing and, to be honest, annoying.

All of it can really weigh me down...and it has.

How thankful I am, though, that our heavenly Father is one who cares for every burden we carry. When we kneel and offer it at His feet, we can leave it there.

I am reminded of the words to the old hymn, "What a Friend We Have in Jesus."

"What a friend we have in Jesus, all our sins and griefs to bear!
What a privilege to carry everything to God in prayer!
Oh, what peace we often forfeit, oh, what needless pain we bear,
All because we do not carry everything to God in prayer!

Have we trials and temptations? Is there trouble anywhere?
We should never be discouraged, take it to the Lord in prayer:
Can we find a friend so faithful who will all our sorrows share?
Jesus knows our every weakness, take it to the Lord in prayer.

Are we weak and heavy laden, cumbered with a load of care?
Precious Saviour, still our refuge; take it to the Lord in prayer:
Do thy friends despise, forsake thee? Take it to the Lord in prayer;
In His arms He'll take and shield thee; thou wilt find a solace there."

I'm so thankful that I don't have to let it all weigh me down.
I just need to take it to the Lord in prayer.

Tuesday, January 29, 2008

A Life Well-Lived

I'm finally taking time to sit down and catch my breath. Ever since we received the news of Grandma's passing, I feel like I've been in "fast forward" mode.

My first introduction to Keith's grandmother was almost twenty years ago. It was the summer of 1988. Keith and I were both getting ready to do our ministerial internships for Bible college. We had chosen to do them at a large church in the Detroit metro area. His family had kindly offered for me to stay at his grandmother's home for the summer. She had been living alone since his grandfather's passing in 1984.

She had quite a "punny" sense of humor, his grandma. And a funny little chuckle when she thought she'd said something funny. But I'm a bit that way myself, so I could appreciate it! She was on the go quite a bit, between church activities, shopping, and golf. We really didn't see each other too much, except for the occasional evening when we both happened to be at home. She was involved with the church choir, too. Since I was doing a music internship, there was another place of common ground for us. During that summer, the choir took a trip to Portugal. I stayed in Michigan while the music directors and choir were gone. After she returned, Grandma began spending more and more time with the father of some other choir members. Soon, a romance blossomed between Grandma and Lloyd. He was a man of prayer, and quite a sweet gentleman.

The following summer, Keith and I were married. Grandma joined several family members in making the long trip to Kansas for our wedding. It was so special to me that so many of them made such a journey for us! It truly showed their love of Keith and the closeness of their family ties.

Grandma and Lloyd were married a couple of years later. Unfortunately, we had just moved to Missouri, so were unable to attend their ceremony. We all knew she had found a gem, though!

Some time later, while we were attending a church in Highland Park, MI, Grandma and Lloyd began riding to midweek services with us on a weekly basis. Even though the congregation was mostly made up of young, twenty-somethings, the church was located in a bad area, and the music was quite "lively," the two of them truly enjoyed coming to the services.

Soon after our first son's birth, Grandma had her first stroke. It wasn't long before both she and Lloyd had to be admitted to a nursing home, due to their failing health and their inability to care for each other's basic needs. By that fall, Lloyd was gone from our lives, and into the presence of the Lord.

From that time on, Grandma remained in the nursing home. During the time we lived in that area, we made every possible effort to visit Grandma on Sunday afternoons. I am so thankful for those times, as our sons got to know her a little better each week. After we moved out of state, we tried to make at least one visit to see her whenever we were back in Michigan, or else she joined the family for whatever holiday we were celebrating. We have fond memories of talking, laughing, and singing hymns together as my husband accompanied us on his guitar. However, the passage of time only caused Grandma to become more confused. It wasn't unusual for us to visit, and wonder if she would remember that we had even been there.

The last time I saw Grandma, she had failed so much. She was weak and frail. She slept a lot. In her final months, she had to be admitted to the hospital for various health issues. Finally, on January 22nd, the Lord took her into His presence.

My husband has several letters his grandmother sent him while he was in college. Those letters are a priceless treasure, full of her words of encouragement, notes about the happenings in her life, and reminders that she was always praying for him.

At her funeral Saturday, it was a time of rejoicing in a life well-lived. There were humorous memories shared, as well as many accounts of the faith she lived out. It was difficult, as any funeral is, but it was also beautiful. It was so wonderful, too, at the dinner afterward, to see the faces of so many people whose lives she touched. An incredible testimony to her almost-90 years of life.

Upon our return home, we discovered that Saturday was also the memorial for Saints Timothy and Titus. One of the Mass readings was from 2 Timothy 1:2, 5:

"Timothy, dear child...I recall your sincere faith that first lived in your grandmother Lois..."

We have a little devotional book that goes along with the daily readings. This is a short quote from Saturday's devotion:

"I am fascinated by Paul's reference to Timothy's grandmother, according to my concordance, the only place in the Bible the term grandmother appears. Paul says the faith first lived in her. Why is it that a grandmother's faith can be so deeply alive? Perhaps it is because she has received and given life through three generations of the journey. She has taken part in so many stories where love was stronger than pain and God brought life from what had seemed like death." ~Patricia Livingston, Living Faith

Isn't that amazing? That was the devotional for the day of Grandma's funeral!

I am so thankful for my husband's grandparents. By the time we had been married for less than a year, all of my grandparents had already passed on. His father's parents and his grandma all took me in as if I was their natural-born granddaughter. They showered me with all the love they gave their own grandchildren. I am truly blessed to have been a part of the affection they gave so freely.

We will miss Grandma in so many ways. But we all are better for having known her, and for having been loved by her. Above all, I am thankful for the faith she passed along to her children, grandchildren, great-grandchildren, and great- great-grandchildren. As the songs says, "Thank you, for giving to the Lord. I am a life that was changed."

Tuesday, January 22, 2008

The Circle of Life

I had this really heartfelt post all ready to go, regarding today being the anniversary of Roe v. Wade. But sometimes, life has a way of invading our plans.

We found out this afternoon that my husband's grandmother passed away. She has been ill for quite some time. Still, this is a loss we all feel. She left behind a legacy of service to the Lord. For that I am truly thankful.

When I am able, I will post a tribute. It's too fresh right now. All I ask is that you keep her family in your prayers.

"Precious in the sight of the Lord is the death of His saints." Psalm 116:15

Monday, January 21, 2008

Just a Short Monday Post...

Feeling a bit under the weather today (and our weather is COLD!). But I had to let you all know our family's news. I am going to be an aunt again! Our sister-in-law is expecting her third child in late August!

Friday, January 18, 2008

Friday Quote

Do not abandon yourselves to despair. We are the Easter people and hallelujah is our song.

~Pope John Paul II

Sunday, January 13, 2008

Spiritual Prostitution

I heard a teaching on the radio last week that has really stuck with me. I don't remember the name of the woman who did the teaching, or the name of the program. I know it was a series she is teaching on Hannah, the mother of the prophet Samuel. The teacher was stressing how we all have longings and unfulfilled desires in our lives. And we question why God hasn't given those things to us, when they are good things that we are sure He would want for us (i.e., as in the biblical story: children).

But she brought out something that I had never thought of. If we are measuring how much (or even if) God loves us by what He gives us, then that is really the wrong perspective. And even more warped is the idea that we will love God more if He gives us what we want! The teacher called that the mindset of a "paid lover." Isn't it true?

If I measured my husband's love by how many flowers he has bought me, or how many other gifts he has given me over the years, that would be unfair and so misconstrued. True, we show others our love by doing things for them. But even if one of us were paralyzed and never able to do anything to show the other our love, we would know that love was still there. Because love is a decision, not a collection of gifts or even acts.

Even more, then, I should know that God loves me, simply by the fact that He says He does! Obviously, He has shown that love in many ways...the ultimate one being the sacrifice of His Son. But even if that were all He ever did for me--and He never did another thing again--I could still rest assured that He indeed loves me. Why? Because He doesn't have to buy my affections. He doesn't have to prove it over and over again by giving me what I want: even if the things I want are great things!

I know God gives me daily blessings (life, shelter, food, provision) which are proofs of His love. Don't get me wrong. But I think it's easy to get into the rut of expectation, where we expect God to prove His love to us by giving us our desires.

Hannah's example is quite real to me, because I experienced something quite similar. When we had been married for over 5 years, and were still childless, I went through quite a spiritual battle. Why would God not answer my prayers to give us this incredible blessing? I was aware of at least three young, unwed women who were expecting babies. One of them chose abortion. And yet, here was little ol' me, married and living a life of faithful devotion to God...and no baby. I did a lot of soul searching, for sure. Had I in some way sinned? Was there something I was keeping back from God that I needed to surrender in order for Him to answer this request? (And when we finally had a child, did that mean that God loved me more? Or that friends who were never able to have natural children were loved less by God? The answer to both questions is a resounding "NO!")

I'm sure Hannah asked all the same questions I did. Especially when her husband's other wife was definitely quite fertile. And not only that, she flaunted it. Threw it in Hannah's face whenever she got the chance.

Hannah found out, though, that both her husband and her God loved her immensely, whether she ever had a child or not. And in God's timing, He did give her a son. A mighty prophet of God that would be the moral voice to the nation Israel, including their first two kings. He anointed both Saul and David as king. Samuel is the same one, who, as a young child, heard the voice of God whispering to him in the night. Yes, Hannah saw her longing fulfilled. But it had to be in God's timing. Later, she had other sons and daughters as well. However, this was not proof that God now loved her more than He did previously, when she was barren.

All of this rambling to get back to the point: God does not have to buy our love. If that is the view we have of Him, then we are literally spiritual prostitutes: give me what I want, and I'll give myself to You.

If we look back to the cross, we will know He has given us more than enough. We have to choose to love Him, whether He ever gives us another thing or not.

The cross was enough. I will return His love daily. Not because I must, or because I expect anything more...just because I want to.

Friday, January 11, 2008

Just Because I Can...

Today is the big 4-1 birthday. Kind of anti-climactic, after hitting the 4-0 last year, I guess. But all the same, it has been a nice day.

My hubby and kiddos gave me some really nice gifts and cards this morning. I enjoyed some time to just watch a Walton's episode on DVD. (I have often been compared to Elizabeth...) Had some yummy caramel truffle coffee, using my new coffeemaker. Received some sweet cards and e-cards, and many well-wishes. Had phone calls from two of my favorite people in the world: my mom and my hubby's mom. Overall, it has been a great day so far!

Okay. Now I realize I usually post stuff like the following cartoon on my other blog. But since my sons often read that blog, I felt this was a better place for it. I know it's a bit on the "naughty" side of things. But, hey! It's my birthday! I'm entitled, right? :o)

Monday, January 07, 2008

Life in General

Any of you who visit my blog on a regular, or even semi-regular, basis know that over the past couple of months, this blog has been pretty quiet. I have my occasional devotional-type post, and that's about it. I read others' blogs and am often amazed at how personal and transparent they are. I feel like I really get to "know" them. I pray for their requests. I laugh at their funny real-life anecdotes. I sympathize with their tough times. I rejoice in the good things they experience. But this blog...well, I've just kind of drawn back into myself for awhile. I feel like one of those hermit crabs, moving from shell to shell--never staying out long enough for anyone to get a good look at the "real" me. (Comparing myself to a crab could be a bit scary, too!) :o)

There is quite a bit I want to post here today, but I'm not sure how far I'll get. It just depends on how far I feel I can creep out of the latest shell, without feeling too vulnerable.

One thing I want to do is take a look back at last year. There were some great things that happened, as well as some tough challenges. Whenever I send out our family Christmas letter, I try to reflect on that year's happenings. I'll share some of them here.

January--we visited Kansas for my big 4-0 birthday. It was a wonderful time with my family. It was also the last time we saw Greensburg, KS.

Feb.--our oldest, "Harry", hit his 11th. He is certainly growing up too quickly! He's almost as tall as his mom now!

March--just a busy month.

April--our family was received into the Catholic Church. It was an incredibly special time for all of us. Our youngest, "Clyde", summed it up for all of us: "This is the best day of my life!"

May--my hometown of Greensburg, KS, was destroyed by a tornado. I cannot even begin to describe the emotions of that event. Thankfully, there is a constant effort to rebuild there. But it will never be the same again.

June--my hubby and I celebrated our 18th anniversary! Wow! We had a nice vacation time in Michigan that month. And my first great-nephew was born!

July--my "baby" turned 8 years old, and we had another quick trip to Michigan.

August--hubby began a new job, and my kids began attending our parish school (after 5 years of home schooling). Big changes, for sure.

September--I attended our niece's wedding in Colorado. That was a great experience, though too quick. September began our time of school projects, too.

October and November--school projects and activities. Trip to Michigan for Thanksgiving.

December--Advent activities, school programs and projects, Christmas preparations...whew. A nice visit from hubby's parents and his brother's family.

As I look back over the year, I see more good than bad. Many blessings. I am thankful for them all. To be honest, though, it's so much easier to focus on all the tough times we went through. Most of them were just daily "life" things, I guess (other than the tornado and family tragedies).
Still, they affected our lives in so many ways.

Right now, it seems as if I have a short list of things that are really weighing on my spirit. I'm not really ready to go into detail. But I think that has contributed to my reluctance to give a lot of personal details in my posts. I'm still trying to work through it all, both mentally and emotionally. Probably spiritually, too. When the time is right, there will be a post. But not just yet.

Well, that's enough rambling for today.

God bless you all, and thanks for your comments and patience!

Thursday, January 03, 2008

A Quick Advertisement

Awhile back, while going through "blogs of note," I found this great blog called, "Being Five." It is a comic strip drawn by the blogger. Very cute, and very kid-friendly. Just thought I'd pass along the info. so you can check it out.

You can find the blog here.

Tuesday, January 01, 2008

Challenges for the New Year

I heard an excellent sermon this morning, and I was so challenged by it. I want to share those challenges with you, my readers. Maybe throughout the year, we can all share ways we are living up to these challenges...keep each other accountable, maybe. Both are found in Scripture:

"On the third day there was a marriage at Cana in Galilee, and the mother of Jesus was there; Jesus also was invited to the marriage, with his disciples. When the wine gave out, the mother of Jesus said to him, 'They have no wine.' And Jesus said to her, 'O woman, what have you to do with me? My hour has not yet come.' His mother said to the servants, 'Do whatever he tells you.' Now six stone jars were standing there, for the Jewish rites of purification, each holding twenty or thirty gallons. Jesus said to them, 'Fill the jars with water.' And they filled them up to the brim. He said to them, 'Now draw some out, and take it to the steward of the feast.' So they took it. When the steward of the feast tasted the water now become wine, and did not know where it came from (though the servants who had drawn the water knew), the steward of the feast called the bridegroom and said to him, 'Every man serves the good wine first; and when men have drunk freely, then the poor wine; but you have kept the good wine until now.' This, the first of his signs, Jesus did at Cana in Galilee, and manifested his glory; and his disciples believed in him."
John 2:1-11

When we walk in obedience to Christ, and "do whatever He tells us to do," we may be astonished at how He uses us to be a part of something amazing--even a miracle!

* * * * * * * * * *

" [Jesus said,] 'Judge not, and you will not be judged; condemn not, and you will not be condemned; forgive, and you will be forgiven; give, and it will be given to you; good measure, pressed down, shaken together, running over, will be put into your lap. For the measure you give will be the measure you get back.' "
Luke 6:37-38

Judge not, condemn not, forgive, and give...what a challenge!

May we all take up the challenge, and make them our personal resolutions!

God bless, and Happy New Year!