God Provides

November 2005 was an awful time for my family. In an instant I lost my husband. My children lost their dad. I had no idea what it would be like to grow up without a dad there to give advice and encouragement. I had my dad well into my fifties. As I took on the unwanted role of single mom, I wondered how life without Terry would effect Zac and Gracie.

There were lots of offers in the beginning, “If Zac needs a male figure just call me” or “We are here to fill the void”. But, when those times arose, no one seemed to be available. It was “too awkward” or “there’s just not enough time.” But, God provides. The coaches and staff at Mayde Creek High really stepped up to the plate. I saw men just care about my kids. In time, Zac married a wonderful young woman and has a great father-in-law. He’s become a great dad himself. We’ve shed tears on all of his big days as we’ve missed his dad.

Two years ago, I remarried. It was a hard adjustment for Gracie. She had been her daddy’s little princess and had worked with him on lots of sets for children’s church and VBS. Then, it had been just “the two of us” for so long. Chris Dittert was always there to give my daughter a “daddy” hug on Fathers Day or any day she just needed it. And there were others that tried to be there, but we had developed our own rhythm. Tim was not a welcome change in her view.

As time has passed, the two of them have developed an interesting relationship. Gracie has learned to lay floors, build cabinets, run electrical wire and install windows. Although she is quick to say “we were just fine before you came along”, she has accepted and (I believe) loves her step figure in her own way. It does my mom’s heart good to see her talking and working with Tim. They share common memories of Terry as well as looking toward the future.

Both of my kids miss Terry. He was and will always be a big part of their lives. God has provided wonderful memories of the past. And he continues to provide for our family today and for the future.

“I will repay you for the years the locusts have eaten . . .”

Joel 2:25a NIV

Faithful or Fusspot

Is there anyone in the Bible to whom you relate? Are you like Mary  of Mary & Martha and just can’t wait to sit at Jesus feet?  Or maybe you are more of a Martha, always busy and wanting everyone else to be busy too?  Are you an evangelist like Peter or Paul? What about a leader like Moses or Joshua?  There are lots of people to use as a yardstick for our Spiritual lives.  Throughout life, circumstances and/or decisions may change your view of yourself.

I often have used King David as an example.  He was “a man after God’s own heart” and he did some very questionable things.  His faithfulness was never in doubt, even when his human desires stepped in to take over the situation.  But lately, another well know name from the Bible has come to mind more and more:  Jonah.

Jonah was a Hebrew prophet that God told to go to Nineveh and preach for their repentance.  Jonah didn’t like the people of Nineveh.  He didn’t think they deserved forgiveness.  So he did what every faithful follower does when faced with a distasteful assignment:  he ran the opposite direction.  We are all familiar with the story of Jonah and the Whale.  A big storm, Jonah thrown into the sea, a whale swallows him, after 3 days Jonah is vomited onto the shore. God once again tells Jonah to go to Nineveh.  At this point, Jonah decides to follow God’s instruction.

“This time Jonah started off straight for Nineveh, obeying God’s orders to the letter.  Nineveh was a big city, very big—it took three days to walk across it.   Jonah entered the city, went one day’s walk and preached, “In forty days Nineveh will be smashed.”

The people of Nineveh listened, and trusted God. They proclaimed a citywide fast and dressed in burlap to show their repentance. Everyone did it—rich and poor, famous and obscure, leaders and followers.”  Jonah 3:3-5  MSG

Jonah was successful.  The people heard what he had to say and repented.   And God forgave the people of Nineveh.   This was a reason to celebrate!  But, not for Jonah!

Jonah was furious. He lost his temper. He yelled at God, “God! I knew it—when I was back home, I knew this was going to happen! That’s why I ran off to Tarshish! I knew you were sheer grace and mercy, not easily angered, rich in love, and ready at the drop of a hat to turn your plans of punishment into a program of  forgiveness!  So, God, if you won’t kill them, kill me! I’m better off dead!”  Jonah 4:1-4  MSG

Jonah was not at all happy.  He did not like it one bit.  He fussed and complained because God had given these horrible people another chance.  He went out of the city and sat and pouted and sulked.  We never find out if Jonah reconciled himself with God’s forgiveness.

If I’m completely honest,  Jonah’s reaction is very familiar.  I know there have been times that I just wanted to tell God what to do and how to do it.  In fact, I have done just that on several occasions.  I’m pretty sure I know who should be punished and who should be forgiven.  I’m pretty sure I know how things should be done.  And I’m more that willing to fill God in on the appropriate processes, especially when it comes to my worship services at my church.

  1.  There are people who just don’t deserve forgiveness.  I have a hard time letting go of the past.  There are some people who have caused pain to my family that I do NOT like.  I’ve been very eager to point out how they did not deserve God’s forgiveness.  Fortunately, God didn’t consider whether or not I deserved His Grace.  He just forgave me.
  2. What’s wrong with the way “we’ve always done it”?  I claim that I don’t like changes.  But, I’m always ready for the next computer or cell phone or other technology that is out there.  So, why can’t I be as open about changes in the way God leads in my church or my worship?
  3. The kids aren’t being taught respect.  Just look how they dress in church. When I was a child, I had school clothes, play clothes and Sunday clothes.  I had dresses that were only worn on Sundays that were a bit fancier than my other clothes.  Through the years, the way we dress has changed for work, for school and for church.  Business casual is the norm at work.  T-Shirts and jeans are acceptable nearly every where else.  Dressing up is not the norm.  I did require my daughter to wear a “girl” top and my son to wear a collared shirt on Sunday’s.  The more relaxed clothing expectations has made it more comfortable for some to attend church.  I still object to short-shorts or work-out clothes at church, but I can only control my own reactions.
  4. I hate the music used in church worship.  It’s too old-fashioned (or modern).   Music has become one of the most divisive areas in our churches.  If you grew up with the hymns and hymnals, the new stuff is “too loud” or “too repetitive” or “not musical”.  If you didn’t grow up with hymns, then they are “old-fashioned” or “have too many word” or “don’t make sense”.  I remember the discussions that arose over changing from the Broadman Hymnal to the Baptist Hymnal and then  later to the New Baptist Hymnal.  There were too many new songs (like “He’s Everything to Me”  or  “Because He Lives”) in this newer version.  I may prefer the “old” hymns over the newer praise music. However, my preferences cannot be the most important ones.  God is in control.  He has a plan.  I need to follow His leadership instead of pouting on the sidelines.  And, I’ve learned to love some of the newer worship songs.  Especially the ones that include a taste of the “old” hymns.
  5. Real worship only occurs in the sanctuary of a church building.  Many of the  churches that are most successful at reaching the community are meeting in schools, strip-centers, etc.  The less “churchy” environment is more inviting some.  My church meets in a movie theater.  We have the most comfortable seats around!
  6. Real worship needs an organ and a piano.  I don’t like guitars & drums.  Some of my dearest memories are of the Mrs. Stapp playing the organ at church.  I’ve played piano in my several churches throughout my life.  Not every church can afford a piano and an organ.  Many churches have no one to play them anyway.  Piano lessons were a given when I was a child: everyone when through lessons and recitals.  That’s not the case any longer.  A well prepared band or even a single guitar player can greatly enhance the worship experience. God used the loaves and fishes to feel the multitude, can’t He also use a guitar to feel your spirit?

I’ve done my share of complaining and pouting.  I understand Jonah a little more that I would like to admit.  I may want to be more like David and be recognized as one after God’s own heart.  But, I know that I am so much like Jonah in wanting things done MY WAY.  Unlike Jonah, I want the end of my story to be clear: I followed God’s leading regardless of my own preferences.

What about you?  Will you known as one of the Faithful or as the Fusspot who grudgingly served God?

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Winter Does End

Spring has officially arrived. After months of blah winter, we are entering SPRING! We love to talk about the seasons. Usually, lamenting the current and looking forward to the future. And it’s the same with the various stages of life. We can’t wait to get to the “next” point and too often we miss the best parts of where we are.

Spring. The word itself makes me think of bouncing. Spring is excitement, joy and everything new. The trees are putting on new green growth. The flowers are starting to bloom. The clothes are lighter and just feel more FUN. We do spring cleaning and move into this new season with a bounce in our step. In life, the spring season may be a new love, a new job, a new family member. Everything is new and exciting and still to be explored. And, we just can’t wait for summer to arrive.

Summer. Sun. Vacation. Play. Rest. Summer is FREEDOM. Time to enjoy life and take a break from the hum-drum of the normal routine. It’s a time to look at the beauty that spring provided even as the leaves turn from bright green to a darker more somber shade. School is out and camps are in full swing. Vacations are full speed ahead and we wear ourselves out relaxing. And, summer brings heat. And, we complain. We don’t like the heat. We don’t want to be hot. We just want to have fun. We want to go back to the joy and newness of spring. And we forget to enjoy the summer moments. We look forward to fall.

Fall. Crisp autumn air brings a welcome coolness after the heat of summer. The trees begin to lose their green and turn to yellow, orange and red and finally brown. The pink and red hibiscus of summer are replaced with the yellow and purple of the fall pansies. We pull out the heavier clothing and prepare to bundle up. I think fall is my favorite season. It’s a time to celebrate what we’ve accomplished. Many activities in the fall are preparation for endings, but we celebrate those endings with bright colors and lots of fanfare. Fall is the time of looking back and reflecting and remembering as we enter the winter season.

Winter. Words to describe winter are cold, dead, bleak, gray. Winter is a time of death, a time of struggling to protect what was. We look for protection. We wear heavy coats and keep doors and windows shut. We hurry from place to place to avoid winter. In many ways, we just exist while we are looking forward to the spring. Just as ice and snow can sometimes cover the landscape, I can feel encased and frozen in my personal season. It’s during winter that we prepare for growth. Winter is vital. I have a rosebush in my front yard that I grew from a cutting from a bush at my parents house. The first three or four years that I had this little rosebush I protected it from winter. I covered it in when it was too cold to keep it warm and protect it from freezing. I had no roses. One year I didn’t cover it and let it freeze. It was full of the most beautiful roses in the spring. That rosebush has to freeze to produce roses. It’s important to go thru a full winter cycle in order to bloom. In our lives we have to go through winter. We have to “just exist” for a time in order to fully bloom when spring returns.

Every season in life is important. We need the newness of spring, the full heat of summer, the changes of fall and the barrenness of winter. And, we must learn to live and I mean REALLY live in each season. If we are always looking for the “new and exciting” in life, how can we find the joy that is available to us in the comfort of the ever-changing but familiar parts of life. Instead of dreading the heat that comes with maturing and facing life, maybe it would be better to embrace the challenges as opportunities to grow. I’m not a fan of change, but there is no way to avoid the changes that will come into my life. I have to be able to celebrate the past and move forward. And, during those times that I feel frozen, unnecessary or maybe a little dead inside, I need to embrace the time to be dormant and to rebuild. I don’t just exist in a shell as a faint memory of what once was. The harder the winter, the more beautiful the blooms that will come in the spring.

Honestly

Can I be honest? There are times when I want to go to sleep and never wake up. Ever. Before you start sending me Suicide Hotline numbers, let me be clear: I’m not thinking about hurting myself. It’s not that I want to die. I just don’t want to live. Not in this reality. I don’t feel this way every day. But on those days when I am over-whelmed with waves of frustration, sadness, desperation and/or (honestly) hopelessness, disappearing from this life sounds really good.

I have a great life from most viewpoints. I have a good job and a nice home. My kids are growing into successful, productive members of society. There are no needs and few wants in my life that are not met. I have friends and encouragers all around me. I was married to my best friend for 18 years. So what’s the deal, right? Right. I ask myself this all the time.

I try not to think too far ahead in my life. My son is working and on his own, building his own life. My daughter just graduated from College and is getting ready to move into her “adult” life. Gracie tells everyone that I am “kicking her out” in June of this year. And I did tell her that realistically, she should have a job and be on her by the summer. But, I’m not kicking her out. I think she needs to grow up. I think we need some space between us. Since her dad’s death, we’ve spent a LOT of time together. Out of necessity and out of habit. I’ve seen Gracie decline invitations because she didn’t want to leave me by myself. It’s time for her to have her own life and for me to have mine. This is when I start to hyperventilate. I hate coming home to an empty house. I’ve shared a home with someone for 28 years. I don’t want to live alone. But, its best for both of us.

With the new changes coming so soon, I’ve considered selling my house and downsizing. An apartment would eliminate some of the responsibilities that cause me so much grief. Someone else would be responsible for leaky pipes, and bad water heaters, and critters in the attic. But, this is the only home my kids have known. It’s the house that Terry and I sought out and bought together. I’m not sure that I ready to leave it. (sigh)

I’m not Rip Van Winkle and I’m definitely not Sleeping Beauty. I can’t sleep for 100 years and avoid the reality of my life. Friends will come and go. I can’t stop the changes that are coming. So, I’ll take a deep breath and face life as it comes. This too shall pass.

There is a time for everything,
and a season for every activity under the heavens:
a time to be born and a time to die,
a time to plant and a time to uproot,
a time to kill and a time to heal,
a time to tear down and a time to build,
a time to weep and a time to laugh,
a time to mourn and a time to dance,
a time to scatter stones and a time to gather them,
a time to embrace and a time to refrain from embracing,
a time to search and a time to give up,
a time to keep and a time to throw away,
a time to tear and a time to mend,
a time to be silent and a time to speak,
a time to love and a time to hate,
a time for war and a time for peace.

Ecclesiastes 3:1-8

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Latest and Greatest

I’m a gadgets person. I love gadgets. I want the newest most up-to-date gadgets that are available. I don’t care if it’s a phone, a tablet, a reader or can opener, I NEED one. That would probably explain why I own an IPhone, an IPad, a Microsoft Surface tablet and 2 Nooks (black and white and color). For a few months, I also had a Kindle Fire that I won in a raffle. But, I managed to control myself and give it to someone who would actually use it and enjoy it. For Christmas, I was given an apple TV. I love the technology that is available and I want to be part of it. It’s exciting and new and different.

But still, I resist change in other areas of my life. I avoid it. Despise it even. Why can’t I view changes in my life in a positive light? What will make me look forward to the “new technology” that is available to me, personally? I have no problem with the thought that newer is better when it applies to things that will make my life easier or faster. But, when the suggestion is made that I can be improved, it hurts. Am I not good enough? What’s wrong with me? My emotions get involved and it’s often downhill from there. But, there are things that I need to change within myself. There are areas of improvement. If only it was as easy as running the latest update to my program to update my phone.

Improvement means change. Change means giving up something: a habit, a memory, a relationship. So, change means loss. And regardless of what that loss is, there is mourning. It doesn’t matter if you are giving up sucking your thumb or an hours sleep to run before work or walking away from a toxic relationship, there is loss and mourning involved. It takes time to make the adjustment. It takes a concentrated effort. Just as it takes time to learn and use the newest features of my latest smart phone, it takes time to see the benefits of any life-change.

New gadgets come wrapped in plastic, all shiny and new. They come with instructions. Life changes aren’t always pretty. They rarely come with an instruction book. But, they can be exciting. What exciting changes are coming in 2014? Hang around and find out!

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The Middle

What happens when you wake up one day and realize that there’s no way around the fact: You are middle-aged? I know that 20 is the new thirty, blah, blah, blah. When you hit 50, there’s no denying it. You are on the downhill side of life. I’ve known people who hit their 40’s or 50’s and go thru the “middle age crazies”. They dump everything that’s been important: family, job, reputation, stability. The need to be young brings new adventures, new boyfriends/girlfriends, new family units and sometimes new jobs. It’s sad to watch lives implode with the panic that comes with middle age and the need to abandon everything “old”.

But, what happens when middle age hits and you find that you’re done? The kids are raised. Circumstances have ended that important relationship you hoped was forever. The job is just a way to pay bills. The days are just an excuse to get up so you can go back to sleep later. There’s not much left to do. What then? What if you don’t want a new family or new adventures? What if the best thing in the world is to sit safely at home on the couch with a kindred spirit and talk or watch a movie or play separately on your electronic devices? What then? Is it better to dump life before it has the chance to dump you?

There have to be new adventures out there that even the weary middle-aged person can attempt. There must be new joys each day to make the day worth living. There are better things to do than just drift along and wait for life to stop in for a visit. There must be. And, I’m going to find them.

Proof. . .

I’m a math nerd. I admit it. I like the way numbers are consistent and tell the same story every time. Two plus Two will ALWAYS equal Four. I liked Algebra formulas. When it came to Geometry, not so much. While some people loved the graphing and seeing the little boxes appear, I often couldn’t see them. I knew they were there, but you never knew where they would be or what shape and I struggled to find them. But, give me a proof to write and I was in heaven! I fell in love with the logical order of proofs. Because that’s what they were: LOGIC. It was just writing down how I solved a problem, step by step.

Unfortunately, there are few things in life that are as consistent or logical as a geometry proof. I know there have been many times when I took all the right steps, but the result didn’t add up. Two plus two seemed to equal Five in my life. Yet, I still plan. I still over-think. I still set my expectations. And, usually that’s the problem: MY expectations.  I recently read this passage from “Bittersweet” by Shauna Niequist:  “I believe that faith is less like following a GPS through a precise grid of city blocks, and more like being out at sea: a tricky journey, nonlinear and winding.”  I don’t know about you, but I truly prefer the GPS option. 

 Psalm 27:14  says “Wait for the Lord; Be strong and take heart and wait for the Lord.”  Jeremiah 29:11 states “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.”   Proverb 3:5-6  “Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways submit to him, and he will make your paths straight.”  Great verses.  So, why do I feel so undirected at times?  Why do I need a proof?  Is my faith too small?  Does it really matter?  Maybe, I’m just not ready to give up control.

The reality is that “stuff” happens all the time.  Not everything will go the way that I want it to go.  Even if I do everything to set it up the way I want it, things happen that are out of my control.  I have to be able to roll with the seemingly unfair circumstances that sometimes are a part of my life.  I don’t have a map to tell me what’s in my future.  But, I do believe that God is firmly in control. 

Two plus two will always equal four.  But for me, it may look more like this: 
2+2= (SQRT(9)+(0.5*2))*(2013-1959)-212