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Those baby bracelets with the misspelled name, the II signaling he was born second. . . no one ever realized satan had already made a move to destroy that precious life. Satan didn’t yet realize God already had the saving plan (Part I: When Easter, Passover, and Christmas Collide)

Part I of this series talked about how during the Christmas season – Christmas and Easter collided. Acutely grateful that our Savior was born and acutely grateful that He atoned for our sin so that His loving Father could gather us into His family – it wasn’t just a sweet story; it was life. It was hope. It was faith alive, a Father who would fight the battle because we were made His through His son!

Yes, Christmas and Easter collided, coming alive like never before.

Then The Passover came alive for us. The Power of the Blood of the Passover encircled, protected and saved.

“When the LORD passes through to strike down the Egyptians, He will see the blood on the top and the two side-posts and pass over the door; so He will not allow the destroyer to enter your houses and strike you down.” ~ Exodus 12:23

Slowly, one by one, friends entered our prayer circle, people God sent who opened conversations with intentional interest, as a friend once called, “God-designed appointments.” Old friends, new friends, blogging friends that I knew would pray faith, hope, healing and miracles.

One friend sent me two books on “The Power of the Blood,” with her own personal experience praying that power in her own circumstances (The Blood and The Glory by Billye Brim, and The Power of the Blood by Carolyn Savelle). Like Salvation, it sounded too good to be true. Like Salvation – that I am saved because I believe that Jesus is the Son of God who was born of the virgin Mary, died for my sons, and on the third day, was resurrected – that I am saved now – I remember thinking, “No, that’s too easy. How did I not know that! It’s not a tally record two tallies for good marked only to have three taken away the next day.” My reaction to this was similar – it’s too easy. How did I recognize the power of the blood as a protective shield?

The blood of the lamb that covers my sin so that my Father can look upon me, come sit with me, protect me – the crucifixion sacrificial blood, I understood that, but my friend was talking about The Power of the Blood that shielded the Israelites the night the Angel of Death passed over those whose doors were covered with the blood of an unblemished lamb, the night of the Passover. That kind of Power of the Blood I had thought was just for that night, for the Israelites. I had compartmentalized it separately when it was not separate at all from the life-giving, salvation blood of our Savior.:

“They are to take some of the blood and put it on the two side posts and tops of the doorframes of the houses in which they eat the lambs.” ~ Exodus 12:7

“Encircle your husband with the power of the blood,” she encouraged.

“Figurative – right?” I wrote back (I have literalist issues).

“Right!”

So we did, we prayed in the middle of our family room, before the TAVR procedure, before we realized the truth of the nodule discovered in the lung (though the doctors suspected it was cancer), we prayed that the same powerful blood that covered the doorposts for the Israelites would cover my husband – protecting, healing, freeing.

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“All is Well” – we stood on that! All is Well – and the broken heart valve with the opening the size of a needle was crushed by a deployed new three-leaf valve. We were home the next day. A friend in the medical field pointed out that most likely, without his C-Pap device he had been using, he might not have made this far. We could only praise God’s amazing love and healing touch through these physicians.

He came home on a Monday and on Friday, the pulminologist biopsied the nodule. What she grabbed showed no cancer. “It still needs to come out,” she said, so we went to the surgeon. The surgeon pointed out that biopsies can be wrong, especially in hard-to-reach places like where this nodule had nestled in the lung. Lung surgery was schedule for the following Tuesday.

They’d take a section of his lobe, freeze the nodule and send it to the lab. “Within 15 minutes we’ll know if it’s cancerous or not. If it’s cancer, we’ll remove the entire lobe. If not, we’ll sew him up, and he’ll be home the next day.”

Every time, friend, I tried to pray that it not be cancer, and every time, God stopped me.

“I’ve got this,” He seemed to tell both of us, whether it is or isn’t cancer. He admonished me, “Don’t put me in a box. I can do so much more than you think is possible.”

Passover, my friend, came to our house, to the hospital, wherever my husband was, The Miracle of Passover was happening, the Power of the Blood encircled him, shielding him from the angel of death.

The night before lung surgery, I asked God, “How do I need to pray about this? Tell me what to say.”

He gave me this, “And Moses said to the people, ‘Fear not, stand firm, and see the salvation of the Lord, which he will work for you today. For the Egyptians [cancer, broken down heart valves, whatever challenges being faced} whom you see today, you shall never see again. The Lord will fight for you, and you have only to be silent.'” ~ Exodus 14: 13-14.

I’ve written before about how I grew up without the support of a father (herehere, here, and here) – but God that night drove home that He’d be in that waiting room with His girl, His beloved daughter. He’d take care of His girl – and if taking care of His girl, meant taking care of her husband – well, He’d do that, too. My father sent me on to bed – and met me at the hospital in the morning.

My husband and I held hands as he prayed the scriptures he’d established with the TAVR, and then I went out to wait. Being over 1 1/2 hours away, I encouraged my sons not to come until the surgery started. Until then, I sat in the waiting room, with my Father beside me, but not an untouchable, no-show, no-time-to-fight-for-you-father. Not a God set far off, reminding me of how unworthy I was.

Suddenly, I felt this Father God next to me, dressed for war – but not like King Arthur, or even King David. It was a John-Wayne kind of Father God who stood up beside me, saying, “No one! Not One is going to mess with My daughter’s dream – and if this young man is her dream, if it’s My girl’s dream to grow old with this young man and show those boys of hers what a marriage looks like as it ages with Her Dad as the centerpiece holding it all together – well. . . No one messes with what’s Mine!”

And I envisioned this John-Wayne like Warrior God with his rifle daring anyone to mess with His girl’s dream.

I realized then that He’s such a great Father God, that He’s not limited to being there with me – but He was with Keith, too, in that surgery. He was standing there with that John Wayne stance, his rifle resting across the crook of his arm, telling them, “Now do it right. . . ’cause My daughter – she wants him healthy and whole, and I’m here to make sure you do just that.”

Maybe that’s offended some of you – likening God to John Wayne characters – but for a girl who never had a father fight for her, doesn’t really know what that looks like, that Thursday in February – that’s what it looked like to me. It made me smile, tear up and courage up! My Dad was fighting for us!

The boys showed up right after that. We waited with calm, hopeful expectation that God had this – cancer or not.

During surgery, we received a call we were expecting on whether they were going to sew him up (No Cancer) or continue for another hour or so removing the entire lobe and lymph nodes. Holding my phone, a perky little nurse on the other side sounded like she was telling me I had won the lottery, “We’re removing the lobe.”  In the natural, we hadn’t won the lottery – if not for God, we hadn’t. That little nodule was cancer, Adeno Cancer, the most common cancer among non-smokers.

We were in the hospital for six days. Recovery wasn’t as easy. The NP told us as she removed the draining tube before he went home the removal was the worst thing he would feel from then on. She was wrong. The day he went home, he experienced massive muscle spasms in his chest that lasted for two to three more days. Pain medication was ineffective. It was a hard week, much harder than we expected.

But, friends, it was a miracle. “All is well!” The mistake from the year before, where he wasn’t notified about “severe aortic stenosis” – it was part of God’s plan. I asked the pulminologist, “Would they have found the nodule last year? In the surgery pre-testing?”

“Probably not,” she said. “It would have been too small or it might not have been there at all.”

God had a plan – and seeming mistakes are sometimes part of the plan.

If I had put God in a box – and asked that my husband be cancer free – the pieces wouldn’t have fit together to show The Miracle.

Because the nodule of cancer was caught so early, he doesn’t need treatment. Just follow-ups every six months for two years – and then every year. If it doesn’t return after five years, this cancer doesn’t come back.

But the story doesn’t stop there.

Nine days after we returned home, we were back in the hospital with an infection in the lining of the remaining lung. A fever, an infection, a white blood count of 25,000.

Throughout the entire journey I hadn’t experienced fear – not during the TAVR, not during the lobectomy – except for one time while we were in the hospital for the infection. I’d been sitting wrapped up in my blanket on the chair that folds into a bed. Outside it was grayness and rain. All January and February, if we were in Nashville for hospital stays, it was grayness and rain – and as I sat there during the third hospital stay, with his fever climbing, it seemed like a veil opened up that was surrounding us, and I saw fear and death outside that veil, waiting to come in.

When I felt/saw fear and death, I immediately looked to God – and the veil closed.

The angel of death was passing over where we were. The Power of the Blood shielded my husband, saving him.

The Passover came alive for us. Yes, the Power of our Savior’s blood, the perfect sacrifice to not just cover our sins, but to encircle us, protect us. All because The Son of God was willing to be born a helpless baby in a manager. All because The Son of God was willing to be Salvation for humanity.

A No Cancer result seems like it would have been easier – it’s easier to live by faith if there’s nothing really to challenge you to believe. An easy path on a hike often means you don’t have to focus so intently on the one you are following. I would never have known what it felt like to have a Dad who fought for me. I would never have learned to cling to God, learned what it is like under His wing if I hadn’t sought shelter from the storm. I would never have learned about The Power of the Blood if we hadn’t needed to be shielded from the angel of death.

All we had to do was to keep our eyes on God, trust and believe! When fear tried to steal in, I turned my eyes to my Father. When doubt tried to muscle in to my thoughts, I turned my thoughts to my Father, the one who had The Plan, an All is Well Plan.

Like I said in the beginning of this series, if you’re going through a challenge, this post is for you. Maybe it’s a teen challenge, a fertility challenge, an over-the-edge exhaustion challenge, maybe it’s a health challenge – your own or one you love.

Maybe it’s a financial challenge, a dream challenge,  a broken-down car challenge, academic or behavior challenge, a heart-breaking challenge.

Do Not Qualify Your Challenge, don’t compare, quantify, or measure,  don’t shut off conversation because it’s not the exact challenge. Challenges are challenges – they stretch the heart, stretch faith and hope; they frustrate, hurt and, yes, grow us. Sometimes they don’t turn out according to our expectations. Yet, in each challenge, God is the same.

As a child of God, though, the course of action is the same, regardless of the challenge: keeping our eyes on the one who can walk us through the challenge, protecting us, helping us, and, at times, carrying us. Whatever your challenge is, this story was for you, too – where Christmas, Easter and The Passover come alive!

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Linking with these blogs this week:
Trekking Through – http://www.trekkingthru.com/
http://www.richfaithrising.com/ Unite the Bloggosphere
http://purposefulfaith.com/ Cheerleading #RaRaLinkUp
http://www.messymarriage.com/ Messy Marriage
Mary Geisen/ TellingHisStory

Inspire Me MondayLiterary Musing MondaysTea and Word TuesdayPurposeful FaithTell His StoryRecharge WednesdayPorch Stories Linkup, Welcome Heart, Worth Beyond Rubies WednesdayEncouraging Word WednesdaySitting Among FriendsDestination InspirationTune in ThursdayHeart EncouragementMoments of Hope Faith and Friends Faith on Fire FridayFresh Market Friday, and DanceWithJesusFriday

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brokenurncc1(I’m not going to qualify or quantify my story by trying to prove to you that my brokenness was worthy of God’s healing – I am just going to tell you of the part of the journey of one of God’s girls being made whole.)

For the first 36 years of my life, God had gradually revealed himself to me:

  • First as the God who made himself known to me.
  • Then God who sees me, even when I’m hiding, misbehaving, even when no one else sees me.
  • . . . as The God who is There (He is not a God who walks out, abandons His children)
  • I didn’t know God could be a refuge, but I saw a father should.
  • He was The God who answers prayers.
  • The God who meets me anytime, anyplace, for any reason.
  • My God, My shepherd guiding me on the paths I need to take.
  • My God, my Shepherd teaching me to develop a heart for forgiveness.
  • My God coming alongside my broken-hearted self.
  • My God stopping my heart from being crushed.

I had been searching for God. . . and I found my Father.

“You will seek me and find me
when you seek me with all your heart
~ Jeremiah 29:13

At the end of Part II Wilt Thou Be Made Whole: God Becoming Father, I didn’t just realize whose I was but who I was – a daughter of the King – a realization that came alive all the way down to my soul toes.

Happily Ever After? Right? I’m a Daughter of the King – and, like any princess in a fairy tale who has been kidnapped from her rightful place, saved after much suffering, and returned to the place she belongs – life resumes to a happily-ever-after rhythm. Right. . . . Right?

A Daughter of the King! – The knowledge of it was alive in my soul! I finally knew whose I was! I knew that . . . . but there was a gap between knowing and a lifetime of no father memories, no father words, no father hugs, no father fighting for me – just empty space where memories should be. My love language is words of affirmation – those missing words were really more missed than the hugs.

There were days I really missed having an earthly father who was tangibly there for me, who would look out for me in this “Happily Ever After.” The song “Butterfly Kisses” tore me up – I didn’t have that kind of dad who loved his girl like that – and, oh, friends, how I yearned for that kind of father-daughter relationship. I just wasn’t feeling it as a Daughter of the King.

I remember working on my rose bushes, talking to God, saying, “O.K. God. I get it. I really don’t want the mail man showing up saying ‘I’m your dad.’” That just might be more trouble than it’s worth. I know you’re the best dad ever – but, God, I’m really needing something down here. I’m struggling.”

In the rose bushes, I laid it all out –  I poured out exactly how I felt—the fear, the doubt (I believe; help my unbelief), the tangible feeling that my heart—my literal heart—felt like it was going to give out, the honest inability to talk my way through or find the solution through sheer determination and smartness—the soul shattered—because it is only when I am honest with Him about my soul condition—that He can truly save me—because only then can I allow myself to be saved – and in the saving, be made whole.

All those years ago when I’d asked him,  “Show me how to love you like I used to when I was little,” He was just waiting for the invitation – and he took me on a journey that opened my heart to that kind of love again – only better.

That day in the roses, with candid honesty, no blame – I told him how I was struggling. It was like a daughter telling her dad, she’d failed him—just wasn’t good enough, strong enough, smart enough. .  . . and all the while the daughter didn’t realize she hadn’t failed her father; the daughter’s timeline for wholeness was not her father’s timeline for wholeness. She didn’t realize her Father had long before seen her need and had already put everything in place for mending part of her broken self.

I don’t remember how long after I said that prayer a speaker came to our church one night. My husband was in the soundbooth, and I’d arrived just in time with four sons (that’s all we had then).

I scooted into a seat, when the speaker said, “Pull out your bibles.” I remember thinking, “Oh, No! It’s at home,” and feeling a small victory as I thought wryly, “But at least I got here with all these boys. ”

A white-haired, white-bearded man sitting a little further down the pew stretched his arm toward me, handing me his bible, with a gorgeous leather carved covering, engraved in exquisite detail.  I shook my head to decline his generosity. The family I came from would never have trusted so beautiful a book to a frazzled woman with a passel of boys. It might get ruined. The gentleman accepted none of my polite declining – and handed me his beautiful Bible.

Amazed, I accepted his generosity.

urnc2. . . and just like the day I was getting my nails done (See Part II), God infused my soul with a life-changing truth, another big reveal in this divine redesign, the master potter  using Kintsugi to the broken pieces of my soul. Kintsugi is “the centuries-old Japanese art of repairing broken pottery with Gold.” When mended with Kintsugi, the previously broken pottery is not only more beautiful but stronger.

This stranger handed me his bible – in the same way a father would have handed it to his daughter.

This truth started making connections to other moments of generosity over the past two years, examples of how God had been giving me Father Words through other people. (***At no point did anyone expect/ask anything in return – only Father Words were given. When God delivers blessings to us at the hands of man payment is NOT expected).

  • We’d been building our dream house, contracting out the workers and doing a lot of work ourselves. Let me tell you, the first time drywall has been painted is a lot more time-consuming than “re-doing” a paint job. As soon as the drywall craftsman (who was old enough to be my dad) finished sanding and drying, I painted. We’d debate politics and God. I kept trying to talk him into relationship with God. Every now and then, when I was paining, he’d check out how I was doing. More often than not, he’d say, “That’s now how you roll.” Then he’d take the paint roller – and show me how for about a quarter of the wall. One day during our debates, he said something that made me mad. I kept painting while he went for lunch. When he came back, he’d picked some flowers from the field next to the house and handed them to me. The drywaller, the one I kept trying to save, simply said “You’re a good kid. I’m sorry I made you mad.” The debates, drywalling and painting continued. But this man, who didn’t believe in God – was used by God to give me Father Words.

God’s Kintsugi, a broken soul piece mended, the Holy Spirit poured like hot gold filling the cracks and chipped seams. I am no longer too proud  or ashamed for God to pick up the broken pieces of myself, to mend what I cannot mend.

  • A Mennonite grandfather built our stairs and mantles.  He was paid hourly – and he probably had the highest pay per hour of many of the workers. So exact was he at his craft, that he rarely had more than an inch of scrap. I’d bring him coffee thinking to speed him up (you know – the hourly costs). He’d thank me for the coffee, but the coffee never increased his steady work speed. Each morning I’d bring coffee, and each morning he checked out work the plumbers, electricians and et al had completed the day before and advise me on what needed attention (either re-doing or re-checking). This man, who was just there to build stairs and mantles–was used by God to give me a father memory of a dad looking out for his girl.

God’s Kintsugi, another broken piece mended, the Holy Spirit poured like hot gold filling the cracks and chipped seams.

  • A couple at church became my spiritual mom and dad. My boys loved them. Everett on a Sunday morning, Sunday Evening or Wednesday service would say, “Maryleigh, you look lovely today! Keith – have you told Maryleigh how lovely she looks today.” At first, I didn’t know how to receive these Father Words because I’d never had them before – let me tell you, friends, do not discount the idea that a girl gets her self-image from the words her father gives her. I didn’t know how to receive them, though I knew he meant them honorably, fatherly. . . but once I understood, I was able to receive them as blessing, as words of a father to his daughter.

Broken piece after broken piece, God’s Kintsugi mends, the Holy Spirit poured like hot gold filling the cracks and chipped seams.

Such little things, you might think. Some might think derisively that these were crumbs being treated as gold nuggets. Others might be embarrassed at a soul starving in a love poverty caused by fatherlessness.  A beggar taking scraps and counting them a feast. Maybe they are – but whatever these incidents were – my soul felt filled, satisfied of Father things.

Broken piece after broken piece, God’s Kintsugi mends, the Holy Spirit poured like hot gold filling the cracks and chipped seams. 

That night, when the white-haired, white-bearded man handed me his bible, and God opened my eyes to the Father Words He’d been giving me, even before I asked him that day in the roses, the broken girl within felt less broken.

Broken piece after broken piece, God’s Kintsugi mends, the Holy Spirit poured like hot gold filling the cracks and chipped seams. Piece by broken piece, He remakes me more beautiful and stronger than I was before.

A few years passed–a Sunday morning found us sitting left rather than right. In the pew before us sat the white-haired, white-bearded man with his beautiful leather-covered bible.

During Praise and Worship, God dropped the idea into my head that I needed to let him know what his simple generosity had done for me.

God kept nudging me, “Tell Him.” We nudged, God and I, back and forth, He persistently in His, “You need to tell him.”

“He’ll think I’m nuts,”  I countered back.

The persistence of God won. My boys sometimes think I’m crazy when I step out and do things God tells me to do. I’ve learned heed His nudgings. It might look crazy to the world – but the results are anything but.

My husband, well, God knew just exactly the man I needed. He’d come to accept my out-of-the-box ways. He stood by me as I talked after the service to the white-haired, white-bearded, telling him how his simple act of generosity of spirit had opened my eyes to what God was trying to show me:  the love of a father.

It was such a simple act of kindness, sharing his bible, that he had no recollection.

Friend, I would never have told him if I knew what he was going to say in response: First he showed me his bible – it was the same one, a beautiful work of craftsmanship: “I make these bible covers. And I make them for whoever God tells me to make them. God told me today that there would be a couple here I was supposed to make these for. I thought it was for a couple that usually sits over there,” he said pointing a few rows up to the right. “They aren’t here today, so I believe he meant me to make them for you.”

At that moment, he turned to my husband and said, “When God tells me to make a bible cover for one person, I always make one for their spouse, too.”

He then pulled out a binder and asked us to choose the art work we wanted. While we were looking through his drawings, he measured our bibles.

My husband chose a minimalist cover. My favorite drawing was a cover with lots of flowers and an angel holding a lamb on the front, with flowers and a dove on the back. It was labor intensive.

I was battling. . . .What? Guilt? Unworthiness? Unfairness in asking him to spend so much of his time on someone he didn’t know? An orphan mentality of not knowing how to receive a father’s lavish love? Was it this kind of mentality that God spent 40 years in the desert trying to work out of the children of Israel?

The man saw my conflict – and said kindly, encouragingly, “Choose the one you want. He wants you to have the one you like.”

. . . with those words, something spoke to my soul saying, “Your father would spare no time or challenge to do this, or anything for you – do not diminish the blessing gift I am giving  you. Choose  the one your heart desires.”

bible2I did choose the one I thought was so beautiful, the labor-intensive one because a father does not count the cost to lavish his children with love. I had to learn to live like a beloved daughter.

“Happily Ever After” – the stuff of fairy tales? Maybe “Happily Ever After” is living fully as Daughter of the King, knowing whose we are, to know how He sees us – and knowing that whatever the challenge, no matter the challenge’s bigness or littleness, no matter the pain of walking through it

My Dad’s going to make sure I know He’s there,
My Dad sees me, even when I’m hiding, misbehaving, or crying in the closet,
A refuge, my Dad tucks me under his wing when the challenges threaten to beat me up. Yeah! My Dad has wings!
My prayers whether whispered, written in small handwriting, or spoken awkwardly? My Dad listens intently anytime, anyplace, for any reason – and He always answers in His Best time in ways I never imagined. 
My Dad meets me when I call out to Him. Always! I never have to wait on Him, though, sadly, I often make him wait.
My Dad shepherds me on the paths I need to take – and teaches me to walk those paths with a heart for forgiveness.
When I’m crushed or broken-hearted, my Dad doesn’t just come alongside – He makes sure I am not crushed.
My Dad shows me how to love my brothers and sisters – and the ones who don’t know He’s their Dad.

Maybe that is the Happily Ever After in the Fairy Tales. Maybe it is the story with the redeemer Father taking care of His daughter after saving her. The challenges don’t change because that is life this side of heaven – but who I go through the challenges with – That is the Happily Ever After, the hope, the faith, the Father-God in it.

My God who made himself known to me became My Father who made himself known to me.

My Dad loves it when I come to him, am honest with Him about my struggles, with how I feel in the struggle, with my confusion sometimes in trying to understand Him or His plan – He loves it because until I’m honest to Him about how I feel, He really cannot begin the process of fixing the broken places. I am so glad I told Him.

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Part I: Wilt Thou Be Made Whole: A Broken Daughter
Part II: Wilt Thou Be Made Whole: God Becoming Father
Part III: Wilt Thou Be Made Whole: Learning to Live as Beloved Daughter
Part IV: Wilt Thou Be Made Whole: A Whole Healthy Daughter

Linking with these blogs this week:
Trekking Through – http://www.trekkingthru.com/
http://www.richfaithrising.com/ Unite the Bloggosphere
http://purposefulfaith.com/ Cheerleading #RaRaLinkUp
http://www.messymarriage.com/ Messy Marriage
Mary Geisen/ TellingHisStory

Inspire Me MondayLiterary Musing MondaysPurposeful FaithTell His StoryRecharge WednesdayPorch Stories Linkup, Welcome Heart, Worth Beyond Rubies WednesdayEncouraging Word WednesdaySitting Among FriendsDestination InspirationTune in ThursdayHeart EncouragementMoments of Hope Faith and Friends Faith on Fire FridayFresh Market Friday, and DanceWithJesusFriday

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lilies101In the movie Darby O’Gill and The Little People, Father Murphy asks who is willing to go to the next down and bring back a bell that has been donated to the church. The town bully offers, allowing that he be paid more than the good Father is willing to pay.

Darby O’Gill, a poor single father, finally offers and says, “I’ll do it Father. I’ll do it for nothing. The kindly Father has compassion on Darby, knowing his short-comings but recognizing the innate goodness of his heart, accepts his offer, saying, “No, as a reward, you, you may have the music of the bell.”

What a beautiful gift – to be given the music of the bell.

“Give, and it will be given to you. A good measure, pressed down, shaken together and running over, will be poured into your lap. For with the measure you use, it will be measured to you.” ~ Luke 6:38

I don’t know what I’ve given sacrificially that that sounds as noble as fetching the bell for the church tower but He has given me . . . the beauty of the lilies that bloom right now – and the hydrangea that froze in a late frost last year leaving us without hydrangea until now – He has given me the blue hydrangea in abundance. The seeds of the zinnia have popped their greenness out of the ground – and He promises all the zinnias offer, too – the beauty, the butterflies that come to snack, the joyful color.

Today, He has given me the coolness of the day, too – the coolness under my feet, to my skin, the cardinal’s song, and the call of the red-winged black bird.

. . . and he has given me home after a short journey that he filled with gifts of unanticipated blessing.

Maybe the key to contentment, to a choose-joy life is to give without expectation while living expectation full of God’s goodness, knowing He is gracious, generous, good, lavish with His love. After all, He does collect our tears in a bottle, he offers the warm, comforting protection beneath his wings, he plans the best plans – if we don’t spoil them. Even if we spoil His plans, He’s got the plant to pull us out of our mess. . . and He makes miracles.

“I’ll make a list of God’s gracious dealings,
    all the things God has done that need praising,
All the generous bounties of God,
    his great goodness to the family of Israel—
Compassion lavished,
    love extravagant.
He said, “Without question these are my people,
    children who would never betray me.”
So he became their Savior.
    In all their troubles,
    he was troubled, too.
He didn’t send someone else to help them.
    He did it himself, in person.
Out of his own love and pity
    he redeemed them.
He rescued them and carried them along
    for a long, long time.” ~ Isaiah 63: 7-9

He wants us to remember; it grieves him when we do not. As parents, do we not want our children to recognize, remember the love we have lavished on them – and does it not grieve our hearts when they forget, when they don’t remember?

“But you did not remember. . . you have forgotten” – God says over and over again – forgotten what he has done in the long ago past. . . and our daily past. . .

I want to remember his lavish generosity. . . . because He wants me to remember. . . to remember and acknowledge He gave it to me, He loves me, “He will never stop doing good to me” (Jeremiah 32:40).

I want to remember because in remembering, I draw closer. In remembering, I my eyes are opened to more of Him. In remember, my heart grows in love.

“Because you did not remember”, he says, (Ezekiel 16:43, Hosea 13:6, Psalm 78:43, Psalm 106: 13)

Good relationships remember the good! The good is cataloged, savored, told about over and over again, so much so that some people might go, “Here she goes again.”

“Remember Me,” God is continually saying. It grieves him when we don’t.  Selfless hearts remember the generosity of others. Hearts that practice love remember the goodness of others. I want to live selflessly, to practice love. I want to live thankful!

I never want to stop  remembering, so today, I remember the blessing of the lilies. Thank you, Father, for in remembering me, you teach me to remember you!

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“All change comes from deepening your understanding of the salvation of Christ and living out the changes that understanding creates in your heart.” ~ Tim Keller

. . . Because Cooking can be so much more than just cooking. . . .

I adore the Louisville Hot Brown Sandwich. For a long time, I rarely ever made it. Not because the recipe was difficult, but because I believed that it must be served it on individual, stainless-steel Hot Brown plates in order to oven-broil until the sauce puffed up just a bit and turned a hint of golden brown.

Being a Louisville girl, I had to do it more right, than, say, someone not from Louisville. . . right. . . ?  But what newlywed can afford little stainless-steel Hot Brown plates? Should I have bought them one at a time. Then “Poof,” we were a family of seven and buying them just wasn’t on top of the necessary list. Since I couldn’t afford the plates, I didn’t make the dish.

It didn’t seem . . . seemly. . . to serve it any other way. Any other way wouldn’t be authentic, genteel southern. . . the right way. Besides, it smacked of wrongness to take something with a bit of white linen grandeur served with a bit of horse racing kick to it. . . and put it in an everyday ordinary casserole dish, kind of like taking a Derby winner and turning it into a plough horse.

Preconceived Notions of how things should be done are sometimes the biggest self-imposed Stop Signs preventing everyday ordinary experiences of goodness.

An it’s-just-not-done-that-way kind of mentality can sometimes make it hard for the good things to grow in life – good things like God-designed skill sets needed to build God-designed dreams, or strong, comfortable-in-their-God-designed-skin kids, life-long love, a life-changing relationship with the Father who creates and the Savior who saves.

Sometimes, I have learned, I need to let go of preconceived notions of how I think things should be – and just do them in a way that enables me to do them.

Tradition and innovation are not easy friends.

Maybe I don’t always make homemade Alfredo sauce over pasta. Maybe I buy the pre-made sauce and add garlic and parmesan, while sauteing the chicken in olive oil and Italian seasoning.

My oldest, he came home from college one day, walked through the door, saying, “We’re not like other people, Mom.”

I answered somewhat cheekily, “We’re called to be a peculiar people” (referencing 1 Peter 2:9).

I don’t think that’s what he meant. He never elaborated. Maybe that is something we could have sat long and talked much about – but, probably, it’s just that our family, my husband, me, five sons, living in a town where our extended family was hours away –  preconceived notions of what some traditions ought to be didn’t allow our ideas of life, faith, love and family to thrive, so we made adjustments to our life recipe for the outcome our hearts sought.

Maybe I don’t make homemade bread. Maybe I buy biscuits in a tin, brush them with butter mixed with pressed garlic and salt, and when they come out of the oven, brush them again.

Maybe we don’t always sit down around the kitchen table for dinner because there’s a college student, a high school student and one who works still living at home – and maybe we sit more often at the counter some evenings and have individual conversations about big and little things. Sometimes we’re all at the counter, some finishing up, some coming in, some in the middle – and the conversations intertwine in an oddly real, sweet, out-of-the box meaningful way that is soul food in itself – all because I let go of Preconceived Notions of how I once thought things should be done – and in order for an environment to be created that makes room for God with us, in us, around us, in the good and the bad, the wins and the losses, the overcoming and the misses, the hard challenges and the celebrations.

I’m not angling for a t.v. show, though I’m into “good things” and “best dishes” for my family. I’m angling to make those who sit at my kitchen counter or table content, satisfied, comforted, filled with stuff good for the body with side dishes of soul food – both love and truth, the sweet and savory, the easy and the hard, the veggies and the meat – and I want them to come back for more. . . even when their mail doesn’t come anymore to this address.

Yes, after 36 years of marriage, almost 33 years of parenting, I am still weeding out preconceived notions of how to do things – or maybe they’re inappropriate expectations of how things ought to be done – and making changes for better-hearted, God-designed living.

So I finally gave up on the most authentic way to serve a Hot Brown Sandwich – and turned it into a casserole – much to my sons’ delight! I hope it gives you an opportunity to sit long and talk much with those God gives you to sit at your table or you kitchen counter!

“To live is to change, and to be perfect is to have changed often.”
~ John Henry Newman

hotbrown2cMuddy’s Hot Brown Casserole
The crux of the sandwich is the sauce, which, oddly enough, is a combination of two sauces

Sauce One or Bechamel
½ cup butter or margarine
½ medium-sized sliced onion, minced
1/3 cup flour
3 cups hot milk
1 teaspoon salt
A dash of red pepper
A couple of sprigs of parsley if you have it, but parsley isn’t a must
A dash of nutmeg

Melt the butter or margarine in a saucepan. Add onions and cook slowly until a light brown, about 15-20 minutes. Add flour and blend until the flour makes a smooth paste(you will see the browned onion minces in the paste). Add milk and other seasonings and cook 25-30 minutes, stirring constantly and briskly at first until the sauce of thick and smooth. When it is thick and smooth. Some recommend straining the sauce. I never have.

Sauce Two or Mornay
2 cups of sauce one
2 egg yolks
½ c. grated parmesan cheese (more doesn’t hurt)
1 tablespoon butter
8 tablespoons Heavy Whipping Cream Whipped

Combine egg yolks with a 1/2 cup of room temperature Sauce One. When combined, add to the rest of Sauce one. Heat, stirring constantly and remove from stove when starts to bubble. When hot and thick add cheese and the butter. The sauce must not boil or it will curdle.

hotbrown3cThen for every ½ C. sauce that is to be used for the sandwich, fold in 1 tablespoon of whipped cream. For this it would be 8 tablespoons whipped cream. The cream gives a lift to the browning-off under the broiler.

hotbrown4c.jpgTo assemble, cut the crusts office 2 slices of bread for each sandwich. Toast the, lining with toast either a casserole dish or a cookie pan (I use a 15X21 when we have a house full to feed)  On top of the toast, layer a slice of country ham topped with a layer of chicken. Enshroud with a goodly portion of the sauce. Place in a very hot oven or under the broiler until the sauce slightly puffed with a little bronze to the top, but not too bronze.  Top each piece of toast with a half a slice of cooked bacon and parsley.

Ingredients List:

Bread (one long loaf of white bread)
(20 slices of bread for a 15X21 cookie pan)
Bacon (a half a slice for every piece of toast)
1 lb. sliced turkey or chicken
1 lb. ham or country ham
2 egg yolks
1/2 cup parmesan cheese
1/2 cup heavy whipping cream
3 cups hot milk
½ cup butter + 2 tablespoons (or 10 tablespoons total)
1/3 cup flour
1 teaspoon salt
A dash of red pepper
A couple of sprigs of parsley
½ medium-sized sliced onion, minced

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Linking with these blogs this week:
Trekking Through – http://www.trekkingthru.com/
http://www.richfaithrising.com/ Unite the Bloggosphere
http://purposefulfaith.com/ Cheerleading #RaRaLinkUp
http://www.messymarriage.com/ Messy Marriage
http://holleygerth.com/ Coffee for Your Heart
Mary Geisen/ TellingHisStory
abounding Grace/Graceful Tuesday/
Creativity with Art

Inspire Me MondayLiterary Musing MondaysTea and Word TuesdayPurposeful FaithTell His StoryRecharge WednesdayPorch Stories Linkup, Welcome Heart, Worth Beyond Rubies WednesdayEncouraging Word WednesdaySitting Among FriendsDestination InspirationTune in ThursdayHeart EncouragementMoments of Hope Faith and Friends Faith on Fire FridayFresh Market Friday, and DanceWithJesusFriday

 

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I was given the gift of a handicap to keep me in constant touch with my limitations. Satan’s angel did his best to get me down; what he in fact did was push me to my knees” ~ 2 Corinthians 12: 9 The Message

After walking through A Great Challenge, in the middle of an everyday ordinary moment, when rinsing out the upteenth glass of chocolate milk, filling the dog’s water bowl, or clearing away the clutter on the kitchen table –  that is when the courage, strength and resilience dissolve, leaving me nothing with which to hold myself together. Maybe it’s just God’s timing, telling me that it is in the everyday ordinary where it is safe to let go, to let the frayed edges recognize they are frayed so they can then mend, the tiredness rest, the bedraggled soul refresh.

No danger then of walking around high and mighty! At first I didn’t think of it as a gift, and begged God to remove it. Three times I did that, and then he told me,

My grace is enough; it’s all you need.
My strength comes into its own in your weakness.” ~ 2 Corinthians 12: 9 The Message

Mending time is where I need to give myself space for healing to wholeness. The Everyday Ordinary can be a re-set space, where the hum of routine soothes, even familiar acts of organizing the forks, knives and spoons, of rummaging through the socks for mates. . . of measuring ingredients for the green beans. Routine allows thoughts and emotions to simmer, to steam up and release in the mending space of. . .  the everyday ordinary.

I cook maybe like some men fish. I imagine fishing centers one into an everyday, ordinary hum of a routine, a kind of going home where the right now can be poured through the sieve of memories of those who mentored, teaching things about fishing that were more than fishing, to better process what needs processing – and, by remembering, ennoble the heart to indirectly help face a challenge directly – or the aftermath of a challenge.

Cooking is that kind if processing for me – connecting to the past – to the future and to the right now. Cooking allows a particular kind of busyness that allows the spiritual and emotional effects of challenges to safely bubble to the surface, letting me face issues at first indirectly, then directly.

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My grace is enough; it’s all you need.
My strength comes into its own in your weakness.

Once I heard that, I was glad to let it happen. I quit focusing on the handicap and began appreciating the gift. It was a case of Christ’s strength moving in on my weakness.” ~ 2 Corinthians 12: 9 The Message

Sunday I made a pot of green beans, just the way Aunt Joyce showed me not quite 36 years ago when I married. She doesn’t remember anymore, how to make her green beans. Dementia steals the good stuff: the stories, the good conversations, even the recipes. She is 3 1/2 hours away – and I miss our conversations about the nothing going on or about the challenges, the quirky stories and the recipe sharing – and so I make her green beans, the everyday, ordinary, home-cooked but not garden-fresh green beans (I fail at cooking fresh green beans) because in the challenges I miss being with these women who taught me to be resilient enough to overcome the challenge. That Never-Give-Up Spirit is a Pass-It-Down Thing – and it’s something I want to pass down to those God gave me – and to show them how to never-give-up with God beside me! Cooking in the kitchen reminds me of them, which reminds me of the things they taught me, which always leads me to inviting God into whatever has led me to stirring, mixing or whipping up an idea of something that tastes like savory or sweet, feels like a warm hug, conjures joy – whatever the needs in the everyday ordinary.

Cooking Aunty Joyce’s green beans makes me feel less alone in the challenge. Making my mom’s caramel icing or chocolate fudge or creamed spinach, though she’s eight hours away, makes me feel the same way, like she’s right there, encouraging me.  Fry Chicken – well, that’s time with Grandmother – nobody could fry chicken like she could – or make a Charlotte Russe. When I cook, sometimes all the women who poured into me, are there – and, though I’d rather they all be there still, sitting in my kitchen pouring into me, I remember the lessons they taught me, and it encourages me.

Sometimes, the fried chicken is more than fried chicken, the caramel icing is more than caramel icing – and the green beans are more than green beans. Sometimes God uses the recipe to do a healing, shalom kind-of-work within me.

Cooking takes me back to the kitchen where I grew up – filled with Grandmother and Mom, and then later to Aunt Joyce’s kitchen, filled with Grandmother, Mom and Aunt Joyce – and I miss those kitchen moments of long-ago home, and this sadness has indirectly created a release valve of today’s challenges walked through -where the courage, strength and resilience can dissolve making space for mending, resting and refreshing – and it started with those never-ending glasses of chocolate milk that needed cleaning out, followed by the green beans that needed making, my mind a rabbit warren full of memories, and a soul desperately trying to rest in its creator but not quite knowing how to achieve it on my own.

Maybe the kitchen isn’t your refreshing, soul-mending space. I’d love to know 1) what you busy yourself with to ennoble the heart to indirectly help face a challenge directly, and 2) the mentors who poured into you as you grew into your soul-mending space.

Aunt Joyce doesn’t remember the recipe anymore, but I do – and my grandson loves them by the plate full, my husband by the heaping big spoon full.  The boys?  I’m not sure they really care about green beans. Me? They taste best right out of the pot!

 Now I take limitations in stride, and with good cheer, these limitations that cut me down to size—abuse, accidents, opposition, bad breaks. I just let Christ take over! And so the weaker I get, the stronger I become.” ~ 2 Corinthians 12: 10 The Message

Aunt Joyce’s Green Beans
(I’d never measured for green beans before, but I did for this. I’m sure if you love them as much as I do (and my husband and grandson), you’ll soon get into pouring and mixing without needing to measure.)

Green Beans (50 oz can), drain,  rinse and pour them into a pot. Fill the pot with water, turn on medium heat.
Add the following:
1/2 the juice of one lemon
1/4 teaspoon. marjoram
1/2 teaspoon. summer savory
2 tablespoon bacon drippings (or vegetable oil for a healthier choice)
2 bouillon cubes
1/2 a regular onion, quartered (quartered so those who don’t like onions but respect the flavoring they add can easily remove before serving)
salt/pepper to taste

Bring to a boil for 15 minutes, then simmer on low for hours, maybe all day. Some think green beans are best when cooked all day and served the next. I tend to agree. Like a good marriage, the longer some things simmer together, the more they blend into something delightfully more savory.

“What grace is meant to do is to help good people, not to escape their sufferings, but to bear them with a stout heart, with a fortitude that finds its strength in faith.” ~ Saint Augustine

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“Give thanks to the LORD,
for He is good;
His loving devotion endures forever”
~ Chronicles 16:34

“The LORD is my strength and my song” ~ Exodus 15:2.

My husband received a call the other day about unclaimed money – apparently, there’s some out there, and we ought to go claim it. Yet, what about the unclaimed goodness God has left for us since the day we were born? God has left and continue to leave his goodness in every day of our lives. This isn’t about prosperity. It’s about the goodness God leaves us in the daily, how he lavishes his love on us, letting us know he is there, wooing us into relationship with him. There are years and years of unclaimed gifts because I didn’t know – years I spent not understanding how he is present in every moment of my day, how he leaves reminders of his great love for me . . . in what seems like the everyday ordinary. Maybe I cannot vintage all the goodness He left me in the past, but I can certainly claim the goodness he has left me today and in the future.

I’m in the middle of a challenge right now – and I find myself needing to keep close to the one who knows my heart – who designed it and understands it better than I do, so right now – and maybe throughout the summer, I’m going to be journaling God’s goodness He leaves me along the path of each day’s journey. Maybe you will join me with your own journals of his goodness and leave a link in the comment section.

You are good, Father, my strength and my song
two red birds chasing each other, flying
ahead of me
God invited to the table
a little boy snuggling close, trusting,
falling into nap
ice cream joy
the quiet with God before the busy sets in
You are good, Father, my strength and my song

morning footsteps in the kitchen, sharing coffee and the needs
for the day ahead
courage to push the clamor of tasks back to give attention to the call of my soul
golden-retriever comfort
the soothing repetition of layering, brushing melted butter,
layering, brushing pastry sheets
for baklava
in a space not hurried by the clock,
the methodical layering, brushing, layering, sprinkling walnuts slowing
my harried heart
the layering, brushing, sprinkling training me in healthy barrier setting
so God joy and peace in the little things
aren’t rushed away
before being savored
little arms hugging in excited, happy welcome
You are good, Father, my strength and my song

vanilla drops in ice water
hearts that don’t let misunderstanding stop the conversation or break the connection
chocolate kisses, sour-patch kids and jelly beans in candy jars
remembering good memories
self-less prayers for others
for God-designed plans fulfilled,
insight into choices,
needs met for the day’s challenges,
for success to rise out of failures
and desire fanned to draw closer to God –
self-less prayer not to make me breathe easier
worry less
but for others to live their God-designed plan
because their story is their story
not mine
You are good, Father, my strength and my song

the bantering of my boys
cooking behind the kitchen counter and watching . . .
one son opening books to study,
another sitting down to take an on-line quiz,
a group sitting around the table talking,
the plastic glasses taken out of the cabinet,
filled with water, one stirring chocolate into his milk,
shoes kicked off and left in the middle of the floor,
“What’s to eat?”
daughter-in-laws who break the boundaries to become daughters
Sadie, our golden, running for her stuffed bunny when someone walks through the back doors.
chocolate ganache over white butter cream.
You are good, Father, my strength and my song

Thank you Father, for your goodness, for your enduring devotion.

Trekking Through – http://www.trekkingthru.com/
http://www.richfaithrising.com/ Unite the Bloggosphere
http://purposefulfaith.com/ Cheerleading #RaRaLinkUp
http://www.messymarriage.com/ Messy Marriage
http://holleygerth.com/ Coffee for Your Heart
Mary Geisen/ TellingHisStory
abounding Grace/Graceful Tuesday/
Creativity with Art

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Father’s Day is bittersweet for me. I rejoice that my son’s have the father I never did – and I realize more keenly what I missed and wonder what I would have been like had I a father like they have. This post is for all the fatherless daughters, whether because their fathers were physically absent or emotionally absent, this is for you.

For these daughters whose father never said, “You are mine, a gift from God, to cherish and protect,”

or wrapped you in his arms to hug away your wounds, whether self-inflicted or inflicted by others,

If your father did not  provide security or chase away the night terrors,

or missed seeing you receive your award because he was standing outside smoking a cigarette,

If you missed those Father Words, telling you you were beautiful, filled with awesome gifts – well, every daughter should have a father who thinks she is beautiful.

If your father did not carefully help your mother choose your name and rejoice on the day you were born and every birthday afterwards,

Who did not stand between you and danger,

Who received your shabby chic gifts with careless disregard, saying your handwriting too small to read your stories,

Who never treated you like a princess, or the world’s greatest softball pitcher, or the next Jane Austen because your dreams just never entered his mind.

Never tucked you in or taught you to pray,

Who never said, “I believe in you” when the world did not,

Who left it up to someone else to teach you how to drive a stick shift with manly patience,

Who did not rejoice in your marriage or was there to hold your child in his arms when he was born, to be a doting grandpa who would say, “Don’t talk that way to my daughter, boy.”

Who never said, “I love you,”

If you had an earthly father who did not father you, I encourage you to ask our creator, our Father, our God to fill that empty void, to open your eyes to the true daughter-ship that you have in Him, your rightful place in His family. Brokenness through rejection is NOT God’s plan for you.

“But Jesus turned him about, and when he saw her, he said, Daughter, be of good comfort; thy faith hath made thee whole. And the woman was made whole from that hour” (Matt 9:22)

God will be that Father you never had. He gave you great gifts that unfurl within you at just the right time He created you beautiful (Psalm 139).

He rejoiced the day you were born and on the first day you sought Him out – “When thou saidst, Seek ye my face; my heart said unto thee, Thy face, LORD, will I seek” (Psalm 27:8)

He knows the needs you have before you ask him (Matt 6:8) He wants to know what is going on in your life. He wants to hear every rambling word, every detail, every thought written in your heart no matter how small.

He not only takes care of the night terrors but the life terrors as well “I sought the LORD, and he heard me, and delivered me from all my fears” (Psalms 34:4)

He is a father who not only provides but is like the father who stops by and fixes your sink when your husband’s out of town, who checks in on you when one of the kids are sick. “And he sought God in the days of Zechariah, who had understanding in the visions of God: and as long as he sought the LORD, God made him to prosper” (2 Chronicles 26:5)

“How great is the love the Father has lavished on us, that we should be called children of God! And that is what we are! The reason the world does not know us is that it did not know him” (1 John 3:1)

Stop swinging your arms like a small child fighting someone bigger. You waste your energy. Let Him stand between you and danger. He wants to fight your battles. It is like He is telling you, “Step back, little one. Take deep breaths. Stop shaking. Wipe your nose on your sleeve. Be still. I’ll take care of this for you” (Exodus 14:14).

The first thing I want to do when my spirit soars is to throw my arms around his neck for a massive father-daughter hug that I have spent my life reaching for, believing for. He wants it for me; He wants it for you, too!

Dear Father, I thank you that you called me away from a spirit of brokenness and rejection. Father, there are days here that I miss the tangibleness of an earthly father who loves me, but I pray that you will open my eyes to the relationship you offer me. Open my eyes to how you help me through the day. Help me to overcome what I do not feel or see – but have by faith and hope. I want a father/daughter relationship abundantly alive and real. Replace emptiness with Father Words and Father Memories. Help me to live that. Thank you Jesus your great sacrifice so that your father could be mine, too!

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