Monday, December 8, 2014

Heaven's Perspective: Retreat


Very early in the morning, while it was still dark, Jesus got up, left the house and went off to a solitary place, where he prayed.  Simon and his companions went to look for him, and when they found him, they exclaimed: “Everyone is looking for you!" Mark 1:35-37


 When life comes at you like a freight train - full speed ahead - it's all you can do to hang on tight. There's barely time to think, no warning, no preparing or packing a bag - only time to react and latch onto whatever is in front of you until the train stops.

The unexpected happens all the time - life and death - but when they couple themselves together and come one after the other, our minds can't catch up with our hearts. In every crisis, whether good or bad, there's always stuff to be done - responsibilities and loose ends to tie up - for those holding up the arms of loved ones.

And when that freight train comes to a screeching halt - even for a brief moment - we find ourselves disheveled, speechless, utterly weary and maybe even a bit numb. We feel neither joy nor sorrow because we've been so busy caring for others that we pushed our own emotions aside. All we want is solace. Quiet. Retreat.

Isn't that exactly what Jesus felt? 

(Join me at Encouragement Cafe or Crosswalk for the rest of the story, won't you?)

Wednesday, November 12, 2014

Heaven's Song


"Sing and make music in your heart to the Lord, always giving thanks to God the Father for everything." Ephesians 5:18b-20

"Would you buy me a music book for Christmas so I can sing the songs?" asked my blond pipe-curled granddaughter. The one who couldn't yet read or follow notes but always sang from somewhere deep within her soul.

The music called them both, she and her baby brother, in the middle of the store. They sang and twirled and clapped their hands. Uninhibited soul celebration that couldn't be stilled

Isn't it Jesus who said we should be more like children? 

(Psst...put on your happy feet and dance over to {re}fresh for the rest of the story, won't you?)


Wednesday, October 29, 2014

Scary Paths


"You have made known to me the path of life; you will fill me with joy in your presence, with eternal pleasures at your right hand." Psalm 8:11

The graveyard path stared me down. It was the safest route to school, she said. Yet, my first grade feet stood motionless--planted in fear at the opposite corner. I cowered my head into my mother's side. No words of comfort, no logical argument could persuad me to cross that street and enter the gates of death.

Then, the friendly crossing guard lady approached, holding open a small, black, silk change purse filled with rainbow sweetness.

(Pull up some courage and join me for the rest of this scary tale at {re}fresh...if you dare!)

Wednesday, October 15, 2014

The Shoe Rule


"Take off your sandals, for the place where you are standing is holy ground." Exodus 3:5

We never made taking our shoes off before we entered our house a hardened rule. Maybe because my parents never enforced a shoe rule on me when I was growing up. But I do remember the households that did have a shoe rule.

Grammy had a shoe rule even though Grampy overlooked it all the time. She had rules for just about everything and it showed. Her furniture was covered in plastic, her rugs had plastic runners, her lampshades were even covered in plastic. With all that plastic, I'm not sure she really needed the shoe rule. A good broom or vacuum should have been sufficient. Maybe Grampy thought so, too.

My aunt's house had a shoe rule. We were greeted with "Hi there. Take your shoes off and c'mon in." Her house was more inviting since I could actually feel the carpet underneath my feet and the fabric of her couches on my legs.

Most Eastern countries hold fast to a shoe rule, like Japan, Korea, Turkey. Even Sweden adopted the shoe rule. In these countries, besides the practical mean of keeping the house clean of dirt, bacteria, and toxins, it has become a gesture of respect and politeness to discard your shoes before entering the home.

 I guess I understand the need for a shoe rule. It does keep the floors and furniture cleaner and even softens your steps inside the house. Myself, I prefer to go barefoot inside, especially in the warmer months, or to wear slippers in the colder months. But, I don't enforce a shoe rule on anyone who enters my home if it makes them feel uncomfortable (unless they're tracking in heavy dirt or snow). I mean, what if they have holey socks smelly feet? What if they don't want to bare their tootsies? I let them be.

God had a shoe rule. 

{Pssst! Tiptoe over to {re}fresh for the rest of the story, won't you?}

Wednesday, September 10, 2014

Letting Go: a Hard Sacrifice

In the silence I willed my aching feet up the step ladder one more time. My weary heart sank deep as I dunked the paint brush deep
into the sunny yellow paint can. One more step. One more stroke. Just. one. more. 

Twenty-five years prior and five months pregnant with my daughter, I jumped up the rungs of that ladder, my heart feeling ten pounds lighter than today. You see, then I was painting God's gift to us--the house I longed for...prayed for...every time I strolled by. It was the perfect gift where my husband and I raised our two children, entertained friends and ministered hope. It was a true desire of my heart that God wrapped up with a shiny red bow long ago. 

And now? Now, God asked me to let it go, to change course, to release it all. 

With every coat of paint I rolled over memories hidden deep and dear inside my heart. The weight of all God asked me to sacrifice now grew heavier with every stroke. How could I release this precious gift? How could I let it go and allow strangers in? Would they know how precious this house has been or would they just consider it a place to hang their hat? 

But then God whispered, "There's something more. There's something new. Let. It. Go."

You see, I'd been white-knuckling this house like an idol--wrapping my fist around it and hanging on with all my might as though without it I'd lose my true identity; like it was my source of blessing rather than the blessing.  God was my source--is my source--and this house was but a very good gift and now He was asking me to let it go; to sacrifice something very good for something even better. 

In the midst of hard sacrifices, God calls us to worship; to refocus our attention off of ourselves and onto His goodness; to offer up our thanksgiving for His faithfulness in our past and thanksgiving for all His promises for our future.

"For I know the plans I have for you" declares the Lord, "plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future." Jeremiah 29:11

So, I transferred my focus from myself to God's goodness and worshiped God with every roll of the paint, thanking Him for the life lived between these walls and the family He helped us raise. And when I did, my whole attitude changed. I realized God wasn't asking me to give up something very good for something even less, but rather to release the hold this home has had on my heart and to prepare for change.  Something better. Something lovely and freeing and full of His hope. Because that's how God rolls.

The paint dried and every surface reflected the Son just right. We staged the rooms in picture-perfect-excellence and manicured every corner of the yard. It was time to release the gift and let strangers in.

Have you ever been asked to make a hard sacrifice? If so, was it easy to release that something? How did God use that sacrifice for His glory?

Precious Lord, thank you for the blessings. Thank you for the years of family memories and your faithfulness in providing all our needs every single day. Now we release these treasures back to you. We freely offer your gifts as a sacrifice of praise to use as you see fit. Prepare our hearts for the next chapter, the next adventure, the next new thing. Help our eyes to stay fixed on you.  Amen.


Wednesday, August 27, 2014

On Sabbath Rest and the Pope


We knew it was Sunday when…

            …the scent of bacon, eggs and coffee wafted upstairs
            …Mom awoke us by singing, “Rise and shine and give God the glory, glory!”
            …we slipped into our best clothes and spit-polished shoes
            …all roads led to church
            …we broke bread with friends between services
            …all commerce stopped

Sundays slowed us down and refocused our attention away from our busyness and onto family, friends and God. Sundays reordered our lives with the gift of time. Time to nourish our relationships and enjoy life.

For believers, we called this slowing our Sabbath—a day of rest from creating, working, and doing— as God ordered from the beginning of time:

The God blessed the seventh day and made it holy, because on it he rested from all the work of creation that he had done. Genesis 2:3 NIV

The whole Puritan movement created Blue Laws (or Sunday Laws) attempting to legislate morality by restricting certain “immoral” practices on Sundays, such as gambling, selling alcohol, etc. 

But try as they did, humanity proved (and still proves) that you can’t legislate morality. 

Recently, our local newspaper ran an article that headlined this: Pope: No-work Sundays good, not just for faithful. Pope Francis was “lamenting the abandoning of the traditionally Christian practice of not working on Sundays, saying it has a negative impact on families and friendships…He added, ‘Maybe it’s time to ask ourselves if working on Sundays is true freedom.’”

While I understand and agree that constant work hurts our relationships, I think he missed one important point: freedom comes not by adhering to the Sabbath, but by focusing our heart on our Creator. When we stop and rest we give our minds and hearts room to hear from God and move into the places he wants us to move.

God tried legislating morality and relationship with him through all the Levitical laws. It didn't work. Morality and right relationships could not be controlled by restrictions because God gifted us with free will in a sinful world. Free will + sin = law breakers. 

So why did Jesus, who was sinless, break the Sabbath law by healing a woman? (see Luke 13:14-16)

Because he knew you can’t legislate morality. 

Morality was a heart condition not a condition of forced choices. To him it was more immoral to ignore this woman’s needs and  keeping her bound by the Enemy than healing her and releasing her into whom God created her to be.

While my my childhood memories of Sabbath warm my heart I have to constantly check my motives. Am I keeping the Sabbath out of religious obligation or am I truly resting in order to worship and enjoy my Creator God? And what if part of worshiping God involves unrest—physically working to bring God’s kingdom into a needy situation?

Slowing and worship—a heartfelt refocusing away from busyness and onto God—can happen any day of the week.  And, while I sometimes long for those Blue Laws that "forced" the less hectic pace, I realize that I can’t legislate morality for the masses. I am only responsible for my own heart, my own motives and my own relationship with God, my family and my friends.

How do you feel about taking a regular Sabbath? What does it look like for you? 

Wednesday, August 20, 2014

Are We There Yet?


“I have promised to bring you up out of your misery in Egypt into…a land flowing with milk and honey.” Exodus 3:17
  
Our kids were decent travelers and made road trips pretty pleasant for the most part. Buckled into the backseat of our Subaru with their pillows, blankets, Teddy and Bunny and a stockpile of juice boxes and snacks between them, we were good to go.
Excitement ran high for at least the first hour in anticipation for our destination. Then, after we’d played all the travel games in my mental library, their patience ran thin and inevitably they asked, “Are we there yet?” or “How much longer?” And our answer was always the same, “About an hour.” (The first time they asked that, we truly were one hour from our destination so it became our ‘pat answer’ and eventually our inside family joke).
So there we were, stuck in the middle of NOW–our view muddled with fatigue and impatience for the road ahead–hanging onto the vision of our promised destination. 

(Pssst! Pull over and take a break as I tell you the rest of the story over at {re}fresh)

Thursday, July 17, 2014

God Can't Resist Blowing Bubbles: Glorious Joy


"Though you have not seen him, you love him; and even though you do not see him now, you are filled with an inexpressible and glorious joy." 
1Peter 1:8 NIV

Perch a kid above a tall glass of cold milk with a straw and what happens? An irresistible urge to blow bubbles!

He heaves a tiny breath and blows. Blub.

Again. Blub, blub. He giggles, blows harder. Blub, blub, blub. Joy overwhelms!

He can't resist those rising bubbles so, he blows harder. Blub, blub, blub, blub, blub, blub, blub.

Bubbles rise and fill and spill, filling him with uncontrollable laughter, until Mom walks in and says, "Mop up that mess!"

He sucks down those milk-fed bubbles and sops up all the joy he can—still giggling—savoring the fullness that carries him through his day.

Entering God's presence is like that... {Grab a straw and a tall glass of milk and join me over at Encouragement Cafe and share in God's joy?}

Monday, July 7, 2014

The Rhythm of Transformation: The Art of Waiting



"Let us hold unswervingly to the hope we profess, for he who promised is faithful." Hebrews 10:23 NIV

It stood up to infant artwork, toddler hand prints, foot scrapes, furniture nicks and vacuum mishaps. Armed with a scraper in one hand and a potent vinegar and water mixture in the other, I felt invincible. The rhythm of transformation began.

Spritz, spritz, scrape, peel. Spritz, spritz, scrape, peel.

It wasn't quite the waltz I imagined. Instead of long, graceful lengths of wallpaper falling effortlessly off the walls and dancing my way down the hallway, only minute slivers gave way with great effort and force. After day one, only two small walls stood bare. Exhausted, I left the dance floor and soaked in a hot bath hoping for a more successful day.

The rhythm of day two felt more like a waltz.

Spritz, spritz, wait. Scrape, peel. Spritz, spritz, wait. Scrape, peel.

Oh, the magic of waiting

(Pssst! Join me at Encouragement Cafe for the rest of the story.)

Friday, June 6, 2014

Driving Miss Daisy: Hope That Transforms


"But the eyes of the LORD are on those who fear him, on those whose hope is in his unfailing love." Psalm 33:18

Driving Miss Daisy (my Aunt) isn't always pleasant. She's stubborn and selfish, ornery and opinionated, just like Jessica Tandy's character in the 1989 movie by the same name. Driving her to doctor appointments and to Wal-Mart for her monthly shopping tries my patience every time.

I temper my conversation after Morgan Freeman's character by keeping my mouth shut and agreeing with a "Yes Ma'am" and "Mm mm hmmm." 

(Grab a glass of some sweet tea and join me for the rest of the story at Encouragement Cafe or Crosswalk. Feel free to share your own stories in the comments below or on the website. I'd love to hear from you).

Wednesday, May 21, 2014

When We Forget Who We Really Are

Because our souls need reminding...Here's a re-post from 2011:

My heart is stirred by a noble theme as I recite
my verses for the king.
Psalm 45:1a



They charge through the back door wearing their toothy smiles and holding out their arms, ready for great big hugs from this Grams. 


For a moment, while I inhale their youth, I catch a glimpse of their father - a slight resemblance - in the shape of her face and in his silly, boyish smile. How marvelous!

 Wriggling out of my arms they dive into the toy box and Sister quickly emerges with a noble theme. She proudly dons a princess crown, happily announcing her royal presence throughout the kingdom. Suddenly, Brother yanks the sparkling royalty from her head. Arms flail, tears flow, and the little prince and princess misplace their own identities.

There are times we misplace our identities, too. Maybe someone yanks our rightful place out from under us or someone steels our innocence and then walks away. Sometimes though, we're our own worst enemy - adopting those labels others slap on our backs - until we forget who we are and whose we are.

We need reminding that we are sons and daughters of the King in need of a great rescue.

The King rescues his children
 In love he predestined us to be adopted as his sons (and daughters) through Jesus Christ, in accordance with his pleasure and will—to the praise of his glorious grace, which he has freely given us in the One he loves.
Ephesians 1:5

            Throwing colored paper, stickers, and magic markers on the table, Mother and I rescue the moment by transforming the dining room into the Royal Crown Factory. Their eyes fix on my hands as I trace and cut out two pointy, cut-out paper crowns. Busy hands and active imaginations quickly transform these plain shapes into sparkling creations. Smiles reappear across their little royal faces as they once again crown themselves prince and princess.

Restoring our identity as sons and daughters of [God] the King takes more effort than simply donning a cut-out paper crown. But, when we allow God healing access to our hearts, he restores completely.  

(Join me for the rest of the story over at {re}fresh? Meet you there? Just click here.)

Wednesday, May 14, 2014

I Got This: A Book & A Giveaway:

Do you ever struggle with finances? What about giving and generosity? Yeah, me too, until my pastor's teaching changed my entire perspective. It wasn't the normal give-your-10%-sermon, but rather a revelation of God's love and generosity towards his children. 

Today, I'm privileged to share with you the Lead Pastor at Wellspring Church, Wesley Zinn, and his incredible perspective on "living in heaven's flow" of generosity in his new book, I Got This:Living in the Flow of God's Kingdom Economy

Psst: Wesley is so generous...he's giving away a signed copy of his new book, I Got This, right here on my blog, today! Encourage Wes with a comment and share this interview on Facebook and/or Twitter and we'll pick a random winner at the end of the day. Easy-peasey!

Now, here's Wesley: 

What inspired you to write this book?
The inspiration for writing this book has come from my audiences. When I have spoken on giving and generosity, people have requested more teaching and an opportunity to go deeper into the topic. I trust this book will give my readers the opportunity to do just that. 
 How do you define God’s Kingdom Economy and how does it differ from the world’s economy?Jesus teaches to pray, "may your kingdom come." With God’s kingdom comes a unique economy as well.  This world economy is centered on how much we can get and hold onto.  We often think that God's economy is about how much we can give away. Yet, my perspective is that God's economy is more completely understood as a flow.  When we measure how much we have or how much we can give, we are still at the center.  When we allow ourselves to be a channel of heaven's flow, we remove ourselves from the center of the equation and open the storehouses of the Lord. 
Why don’t Christians experience real financial freedom?
Christians often struggle with financial freedom because we don't consider money a spiritual matter. We feel we have to manage it out of our own ability and strength. In addition, when we try to apply biblical principles we often attempt to layer on top of the world. God's financial principles must be applied within his economy. 
How can our generosity lead to financial freedom?
Generosity is an expression of concern for others, which is God's heart too. When we are generous we align ourselves with God heart. This opens a flow of his resources to us and through us. The alternative is to cling to what we have, which is a concern for ourselves. God invites us to trust him to provide for us and to align our heart with his to care for others. 
What is one thing Christians can do immediately to make a chance in their financial situation?
 Keep our eyes on our Provider (God) and off our circumstances.  Our circumstances may tell us to worry, but our Provider is more than capable of accomplishing His desire to provide for his children, whom he loves. 

Where can readers purchase your book?
Readers can visit my website, http://wesleyzinn.comwhich offers links to all the major providers, both paperback copies and various e-books.
 What is up next for you?The next biggest thing is the official book launch on Saturday, May 17th at the conference called: Living in theFlow of God's Kingdom Economy.
I am also considering writing a book which will apply these same principles of heaven's flow to all areas of life.  The principles are universal and not limited to finances, and the available freedom awaits us. 

9.      Do you have anything to add?
I encourage everyone to enjoy the flow!

Remember to leave a comment below, share on FB and Twitter for an opportunity to win a free signed copy of I Got This!




Following a successful business career, Wesley Zinn joined the pastoral staff of Wellspring Church in Berlin, CT where he presently serves as Lead Pastor. His vision is to equip and release the church and individuals to take hold of the fullness of life and the destiny that God intends. Wesley has taught on the topics of generosity and giving in numerous churches and in many settings both stateside and abroad. He and his wife, Pam, carry a special grace for understanding and living in God’s kingdom economy.

Wednesday, May 7, 2014

The Empty Suitcase

Sharing stories gives voice to the silent ones locked deep within another soul. When we step aside and let the Holy Spirit use our words to unlock those stories, we bring God's encouragement, healing, vision, and transformation that can change a life, a family, a community, the world. 

My friend, Lynne, has a story to tell: 
Somehow I did not expect God to touch my heart so deeply “at just another Easter service,” but  he did.
When Pastor Wes spoke of the empty tomb, I expected to hear that old familiar story. But, God surprised me. Oh, the story never changes, but my perspective transformed on Easter Sunday. In the reading of Jesus' resurrection story, Pastor Wes pointed out that the stone was rolled away to let us see Jesus was gone, but also to let us in to see the real miracle.  Yes, Jesus' body was gone (raised from the dead) leaving the tomb obviously empty, but continuing, he reminded us that all sin was gone.  Sin did not hold Jesus in the grave.  Hallelujah!  And because of His sacrifice all of our sins are not only forgiven, but gone.  The tomb is open.  All sin is gone.
I know you are asking…so what does this have to do with the title, The Empty Suitcase?  Well, I realized that I have been carrying around a suitcase packed full of my sins.  Over the years it has gotten heavier and heavier and heavier.
baggage

Oh, certainly I have sought and received God’s forgiveness, but then I repacked my suitcase with those same sins; all covered by the blood of Jesus and ready for my trip to heaven.   I thought they were all secure in the suitcase, but it was as if they were seeping out to remind me of my failures.  Making me feel unworthy of God’s love or anyone's acceptance.
Then God said, “Open up the suitcase, Lynne.”  And in my mind I did just that and guess what I found? It was empty!
suitcase
The true reality of forgiven sin took my breath away.  My sins are gone.  No more.  So why do I allow them to tear me apart with guilt and shame?  After pondering this revelation, I closed that suitcase and kicked it to the cellar.  I have no use for it anymore.  Once forgiven, my sin and yours disappears - gone.  Will I remember my sins?  Oh yes, but rather than feeling guilt and shame,  my heart is filled with love and thanksgiving to my Lord Jesus Christ for his great grace and sacrifice.
I hope you are not carrying around a heavy, sin-packed,  seeping suitcase.  I pray that you know the fullness of forgiven sin and the reality of the empty tomb {and an empty suitcase}.
Blessings,
Lynne

About Lynne Bowen: Lynne is a generous friend, devoted mother, grandmother and  follower of Christ living in New England. She loves teaching young and old alike about God's saving graces. She enjoys playing piano and solving jigsaw puzzles.

Monday, April 21, 2014

Sandwiched: Soggy or Fresh?

Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light. 
Matthew 11:29-10 NIV
  
The phone rings and I take a deep breath wondering who's on the other end. Is it the insurance company inquiring about our snow damage? Is it my husband asking for help at the office? Is it the nursing home or my mother needing help? Maybe it’s my child needing empathy or advice or simply my grandkids asking for a special outing?

At my weakest moments when the fatigue of caring for everyone else’s needs wreaks havoc with my emotions, I fall into my husband’s arms weeping. "Where do we turn? Who's there to care for us?"

Members of the sandwich generation are everywhere. I see them on Facebook, at the grocery store, in the doctor’s office; adult children with an aging parent on one arm and their grandchildren on the other. Our parents are living longer, thanks to better nutrition and modern medicine—three and four generations needing support simultaneously. So, just when we’re starting to enjoy our empty nests, our parents, children and grandchildren all need us. Some days caring for the older and younger generation can leave me feeling like a soggy tuna fish sandwich!

With so many people tugging at our shirtsleeves how do we keep our sanity and build healthy boundaries for our personal lives and marriage?

(Grab your cup 'o tea or coffee and join me over at Encouragement Cafe  or Crosswalk for some helpful tips).

Wednesday, April 9, 2014

Hey, here I AM. I love you.

The calendar reads "spring" but somehow I'm not convinced it's here, yet. I yearn for warmer temperatures, soaking up sunshine and yard work. Yes, call me crazy, but I love yard work.  It serves as my playtime, really. Digging in the dirt, creating designs on my lawn, watching nature's changes from every corner of my yard, neatening unruly bushes, and enjoying visits from the birds and butterflies thrills me. It's like playing at God's house. He lays things out there and says, "Hey, here I AM. I love you."

(I'm playing over at {re}fresh today. Grab your gardening tools and let's dig in! Just click here)

Wednesday, April 2, 2014

Purging the Attic

Image from addspacetoyourlife.com
Jesus looked at them and said, “With man this is impossible, but with God all things are possible.” Matthew 19:26 NIV

It's not the first time we've cleaned the attic. In fact, it's been a process over that past six years since our kids married and flew the nest. We thought we had a good handle on our "accumulated garbage" until an insulation contractor crept up the attic stairs and started poking around. 

Armed and ready we climbed up the attic steps last weekend and began hurling unwanted, broken household items out the window and filling garbage bags to overflowing. It was easy, even liberating to rid ourselves of all that unnecessary stuff. Why would anyone keep old wire hangers or old curtain rods or broken lamps? What's the use? Those things were easy to toss!

Some boxes, though, stopped us in our tracks; (Pssst! Join me for the rest of the story at Christian Children's Authors blog. Just click here.)







Wednesday, March 26, 2014

When Giraffes Look Out Windows and Time Hangs on the Wall

We never know how the last moments with a loved one will affect us, or what we'll notice while we sit by their bedside and wait. But, in hindsight to my father's passing, these are the things I noticed, what I experienced, what was most profound as we held hands and waited. 

I enter his room for what might be the last time and squeeze behind the drawn curtain—the one that made him feel claustrophobic.

His brown eyes greet me as I bend low and kiss his ashen cheek. He draws a shallow breath and barely whispers, “Hello.” I pull the purple chair close because I want to hear every.last.word.

He thanks me for coming and caring since he took ill. “You’ve been so good to me and Mum.”

“It’s how I honor you, Dad. It’s the least I can do.”

Before he speaks again, I ask, “What more can I do for you?”

“Just hold my hand,” he whispers.

“Okay, now rest. Mom’s on her way. I love you.”

“I love you, too.”

So, I take his hand—the one that used to hold mine—protect me, sat me on his lap while we watched the Wonderful World of Disney.

Our words are few because we've left nothing unsaid. We've asked forgiveness and forgiven; loved one another the best we knew how. God redeemed all our lost years and our brokenness so we could love one another well, even with all the sickness and physical demands over the past seven months.

Dad rests, but death hovers. I clasp his cool hands above the covers hoping my sweaty palms somehow spread warmth and comfort over him. Piano solos stream softly from my iPhone filling the silence between us as we wait. That’s when I notice the giraffe sitting on the window sill. This cute paper giraffe faces out—points away from death—toward the horizon. Huh. How profound, I think, as this giraffe distracts me; carries my thoughts from death to life. I squeeze my dad's hand and he squeezes mine as if to say, “It’s okay. Let me move toward that new horizon. Let me leave this old world behind.”

“Bang, bang, bang,” the hammering interrupts. A new patient arrives and the orderly hangs photos on the wall; frozen images in time. That’s how it feels for these dying patients…like time just freezes...hangs on the wall. The clock hands move, but death comes slow for the long-suffering.

Mom arrives within the hour and I let go, join the giraffe and keep watch on the horizon while time hangs on the wall.

The next morning I awaken, surprised the phone call hadn't interrupted my sleep. Giggling grandchildren fill my morning while my son grabs time for his farewell. When the phone finally rings, the nurse says, “Now.”

My son retrieves his children and I run out the door. I enter Dad's room where death feels palpable. His vacant eyes fool us into thinking death's already arrived, but the nurse says he's still there and he can hear. So I speak deliberate, intentional words. “I love you, Dad. No words left unsaid.”

The clock hands finally move. Time runs away, but I notice that giraffe's still sitting on that window sill keeping watch on the horizon where hope for all things new finally comes into focus.


I’m grateful for those moments alone with Dad the previous day. Many fear death, but I found his death brought the rawest emotions of love and gratitude than any other time we’d ever shared. I am forever grateful to have comforted him and held his hand while he waited to say farewell to all the family. We were never alone again. 

Friday, March 21, 2014

When All You Hear is Silence

"... Search your hearts and be silent." Psalm 4:4

Sometimes I don't understand what God's doing in me, through me, or around me. Do you ever feel that way, too? Like you're playng a part in some great adventure but you have no clue what it's all about or what you're doing in the middle of it all?

Each day you show up, interact with all the characters on Life's Stage because that's what God's asked you to do. Some days it all makes sense - the tasks and conversations all point to some significance - but other days you struggle with your lines and your stage presence is awkward at best. You stand there listening for any backstage cues, but all you hear is silence.  

Bustling busyness surrounds you and yet you're frozen in one spot, still listening for some direction, a line, a clue and you're left standing there in awkward, crazy nothingness. Uneasy and feeling quite useless, you race backstage, rummage for your script to find it's blank - no lines, no direction - nothing. Taking your obviously defective script to the director, you ask for a trade, but he refuses - barely takes his eyes off the action on Life's Stage - says it's supposed to be blank.

"Just take your place," the director smirks. "It'll all make sense in the end."

Isn't that life sometimes? (Let's switch scenes and meet over at Christian Childrens's Authors blog for the rest of the story).

Wednesday, March 19, 2014

When My Muse Won't Let Me Write


Finally, someone admitted it...no...an author admitted it..,they haven't the time for writing. Whew! And I thought I was the lonely, no-writing, wordless author standing alone in a great big room filled with word-swirling, masterpiece creators. 

I let out a great big sigh of relief when I read her confession on our shared blog. As authors, we were asked to share our everyday writing routine with the world (okay, not the world, just our readership). I did that once, two years ago, but asked to do it again? I blushed. 

Writing routine? What routine? Have you seen my Facebook posts lately? When would I have time to sit and write, let alone come up with some pithy, creative stories that inspire? 

You see, like my friend, life has pulled my bottom right off my writing chair the past fourteen months. Between caring for aging and ailing parents, grieving over loved ones passing, welcoming new grandchildren, playing with older grandchildren and tending to my home and husband, there's been little time to sit and breathe, let alone write. All these events experienced one at a time can send you spinning, but many of these events have happened either simultaneously or in direct succession. No sooner had I buried my sister, my father took ill; my father passed and my mother-in-law was admitted for physical rehab on the same day; they discharge my mother-in-law and my newest granddaughter arrived three weeks early. 


Life--all of its sensory experiences--is my muse. We learn, we celebrate, we grow, we move forward, we become who and what we are from life's events. But, when these events piggy back one another their weight multiplies and overloads our senses until the stress breaks us. It's difficult (impossible for me) to extrapolate meaning or inspiration from anything when stress rules. 


Lately, I've battled my place in the writing world; wondered if there ever really was a place or will be a place, because I've lost my way a bit. So, I sink into the worn leather couch cushion by the warm fire in my "Wicked Good" slippers and ask God what on earth he has planned. And you know what his answer is? Rest. Because out of rest comes worship. Out of worship comes creativity. 


So, I chuckle. Rest? Is it time? May I rest? Oh, please, may I rest my weary body and mind? It's been a long, long, long fourteen months of crises. The future is never certain, but for now I see nothing on the horizon. Nothing out of the ordinary. 


Maybe. Just maybe I'll have time to sit and ponder life...the past, the present, the dreams...and write.


 God is my source. Worship is my rest. Life is my muse. What's yours?

Wednesday, February 19, 2014

Jesus' Healing Hands


 
Jesus went throughout Galilee, teaching in their synagogues, proclaiming the good news of the kingdom, and healing every disease and sickness among the people. Matthew 4:23 NIV
Hospice interrupted our drawings. Five and three-year-old fingers gripped Crayola's while Dad was slipping away. He only had hours and I needed to go. But what do I tell my grandchildren? How do you explain you're saying good-bye to your dad without frightening them?
They'd already experienced the loss of their grandmother less than a year ago, so they were familiar with good-byes. I wish I could spare them, but these kids are inquisitive and intuitive. While I fumbled for my shoes and waited for their dad to arrive, they asked the question.
"Where are you going Grams?"
(Sharing my heart on Christian Children's Authors blog. Click here to see how God orchestrated this conversation).

Wednesday, February 12, 2014

Hide 'n Seek

 
 
'You will seek me and find me when you seek me with all your heart. I will be found by you,' declares the Lord..." Jeremiah 29:13-14

His toddler feet pedal past me resting only when he's found a suitable hiding place behind the rungs of a dining room chair - the one his daddy usually occupies. Through uncontainable giggles he yells, "Come find me, Grams!"

Playing along, I seek him out behind curtains, under the couch, around corners and with every failed attempt he squeals, "I'm here, Grams! I'm here!"

Amused by his own clever hiding skills he's more excited about being found than staying hidden. His heart soars when I finally spot his big blue eyes twinkling between the rungs of his hiding place and he runs to catch my embrace as I announce, "I found you!"

There's something about that pursuit that thrills this little boy...

(The {story is hiding in plain sight over at {re}fresh. Just click here.)

Wednesday, February 5, 2014

Helping Our Kids Recognize God's Love


 
…God’s love has been poured out into our hearts through the Holy Spirit, who has been given to us. Romans 5:5b
Valentine’s Day conjures up fun childhood memories like: red and pink construction paper hearts, paper-lace doilies, lollipops and chocolates. Oh, and remember taping heart-shaped mailboxes to our school desks?
I treasured every classmate’s Valentine’s Day cards as if they were meant just for me, ignoring the fact that every classmate got the same or similar message. I’d read and re-read every card and tack each one to my corkboard above my bed as a reminder of their affection.
Holding my newborn son, I wondered how I could ever communicate God’s affection for him. It wasn’t as easy as sending him a red heart on Valentine’s Day or giving him a heart-shaped box of chocolates. Of course I would show him God’s love through my own affection and care, but how would he concretely know the love of an invisible God?
(To read on, click here.)

Wednesday, January 15, 2014

Curing the Straighten-It-Out-Aholic in Me



Hello. My name is Dawn and I’m a straighten-it-out-aholic.  

Wherever I go—a doctor’s waiting room, a church pew or a restaurant—I fight the urge to straighten out the piles of magazines, tithing envelopes and menus like it’s a disease. It’s not OCD because I can successfully leave those skewed piles alone, but I don’t like it.  

Ask my daughter who noticed my madness in her preteen years and challenged me while in the pediatrician’s office, whose end tables had lost the fight with toddlers all day long. “Don’t touch them, Mom,” she chided. “You can do it. Leave (those magazines) alone.” I ignored them, but my heart raced until the nurse called us into the examining room. 

(Pssst! Leave your messy piles for just a minute and click HERE for the rest of the story...and maybe a cure?)

Wednesday, January 8, 2014

Now what, God?


Mary awakens. Her newborn, wrapped in rags and lying in a crude straw filled bed, beckons her. Tired from traveling and birthing she had little time to ponder the night’s events—the angelic fanfare and surprise visits from burly shepherds. Busy with all the mundane tasks like feedings and swaddling changes, Mary might have thought, “Now what, God?”
 
Not the life you’d imagine for the mother of God’s son, but just as she was chosen for her faithfulness and servant heart, Mary remained loyal to God’s teaching, even in the midst of the everyday.

After eight day, she and Joseph, took [Jesus] up to Jerusalem to offer him to God as commanded in God’s Law: ‘Every male who opens the womb shall be a holy offering to God,’ and also to sacrifice the ‘pair of doves or two young pigeons’ prescribed in God’s Law,” (Luke 2: 22-24 The Message).

This imagery of Mary’s obedience, offering and sacrifice sets and example for our own lives as we ponder all God may have prophesied over our lives.  

Each January 1st we awaken to a new birth of sorts that holds endless possibilities, but soon enough, we get stuck in all the striving and the failures that we lose sight of what God’s trying to accomplish. We might even catch ourselves asking, “Now what, God?”**
 
**Wondering how this all ends up? Hop over to {re}fresh and find out.
 

Wednesday, January 1, 2014

Unintentional Ministry: Becoming the home where kids gather

Between Christmas and New Years Eve our home rarely sat quiet. Around noon the day after Christmas, my kids' friends trickled into our house one-by-one with their newest video game or movie under their arms until our house looked like NASA and Best Buys combined.

While the boys set up Command Central on the dining room table and fought virtual enemies, shoulder-to-shoulder, through various computer controls, the girls clumped together, dreamy-eyed, watching their newest chick flicks on the living room floor.

My husband directed Command Central and kept the boys at bay, while I gladly placed the pizza orders and collected delivery money, stocked the 'frig with soft drinks, and strategically placed platters of leftover Christmas cookies within their reach.

As the hours wore on and the all-nighter gang gained parental permission to stay and clear pick up times were agreed upon, we'd slip upstairs with our own new movies and keep our ears to the ground through the night.

It wasn’t always pleasant or easy hosting these all-nighters, whether planned or impromptu, but they were worth it...

(There's many benefits I learned as a Christian parent while hosting these parties. Join me at Christian Children's Authors blog for the list of benefits).