Saturday, October 31, 2009

First thing/Everything...

I woke up feeling unpressured, unhurried. I had two things I wanted to get done today, my usual Saturday housework, and then go to my mom's and clean her house. But first, light the candle and spend time at prayer bench and time in the Word.

I was determined not to rush, not to allow interruptions and distractions to rob me from divine connection. And suddenly I remembered something forgotten on my to-do list. I had said yes to something that is a bigger task than either I or the one asking me realized. I felt my heart sink and got a little teary-eyed- like someone or something is tearing me out of my Lover's arms before I even have a chance to really get there. Like a young couple desperate to be together, I want Him to put a ladder up to my window and take me away.

Take me away, Lord, from this list of things to-do, from the others who grab at me for time and attention. I can't give them Your love or the time and attention they really need, without time with You where I am filled to the full with Divine Love, so that it overflows to them. I choose right now, I am determined, I will seek You first. You said all these other things will fall into place if I do. I take my mental to do list and place it in your hands. You order my agenda today. First on the list, is You. Last on the list, is You. All through the list is You. You are my life and breath God. Not just a first thing, but Everything.

Friday, October 30, 2009

I simply remember my favorite things...

Some of my favorite things are...
...knowing all is well between God and me hearted communication with my husband
...a hot bath, comfy pajamas, clean sheets and grandma's quilt
...a cup of hot coffee warming my hands on a cold morning
...knowing I helped or encouraged someone
...ending a day knowing I ate right and exercised
...a nice warm hubby to snuggle with
...when the whole house is clean and organized
...knowing I accomplished what I needed to get done before I go to bed
...freshly bathed and pajama clothed grandbabies sun and palm trees

...snow days that shut everything down and gives the whole city an excuse to stay home

...a walk on a crispy, clear fall day with colorful leaves crunchy underfoot

...the leather smell of my Bible (even better than new car smell!)
...the scones and tea at Murchies in Victoria
...the lobster in Maine hair right after it's cut, colored, and styled, (why oh why doesn't it look like that everyday?)
...sister bonds - between my three girls, between my sisters and me

...graham crackers and milk
...a good book that you don't want to put down
So many more I could list! Maybe next Friday?

Thursday, October 29, 2009

Belly laughs...

The doctor on the t.v. show comments about how often babies and children belly laugh. His premise is that the Word of God is true, (imagine that!), and that laughter is good medicine. He says that we, as adults, need ten belly laughs a day. Ten! Not little chuckles, but belly laughs! Now I think I am a pretty positive person, with an easily tickled funny bone, but I honestly think I may be overestimating to say I probably get ten belly laughs in a month. Ten belly laughs a day! Imagine that! Maybe it's my definition of belly laugh that is the problem. To me a belly laugh is the kind of laugh that makes you laugh and cry all at once. It's the kind of laugh that you can't stop of your own accord. It's the kind of laugh that reveals your true laughing sound...not a polite controlled laugh...but in my case, it's the laugh that begins with a kind of honking sound, similar to the sound of a Canadian goose. That sound has been known to publicly embarass me...maybe that's why belly laughing is all too rare in my life!

In our family, we have an up and coming comedian...a.k.a., Mr. Funny.

My five year old grandson is either going to be a theologian, or a comedian. He can go from asking insightful questions about topics such as God, heaven, the Bible, angels, or demons to this...tromping down the stairs from his room in his Great Grandpa's tweed hat, ready to put on a show for the family. Tonight, Mr. Funny, and his big sister, Fancy Nancy, are going to spend the evening at our house. That should be good for at least a half dozen of today's daily belly laugh requirement.

What makes you belly laugh? Comment and tell me about the last good laugh you had.

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Best Friends...

holy experience

I was a lonely kid. The whole broken home thing didn't help. Back then, divorce wasn't as common as the common cold. I only knew one other girl in my elementary school in a situation like mine. At church, no one else was from a broken home. Mama was too busy trying to learn to drive, get a job, take care of us to talk. Besides, she never was one to sit and analyze and talk about her feelings...and she wasn't one to ask about mine. My best friend from down the street had moved to a different part of town. My friends from church didn't go to the same school as me. Lonely...

But I knew God was real, and I had asked Jesus into my heart at just about every church service I had ever been to. So, lying in bed at night, I would talk to Him about my feelings, tears running down my face. On my walks home from school, I missed my little friend from down the street who used to walk with me, so I started imagining that Jesus was walking with me and holding my hand, and I would talk with Him those five blocks from the grade school to my house. Silly and childish perhaps, and yet those times became the foundation I've built my life on. We developed a tried and tested relationship, my Best Friend and I.

I read somewhere that the number one thing women struggle with is loneliness. I think that is very likely true. What a shock after I got married, that there were still times of real loneliness. Surprise! Another human being couldn't meet all of my needs. And what a shock to have friends, fail me, hurt me. Surprise again! God's Word is true...all of us are sinners in need of a Savior. But Faithful and True and a steady Rock beneath my feet in tumultuous times has my Best Friend proven to be. As a little girl, I learned to walk with Him and talk with Him about everything, and I still do.

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Pure joy...

We have a habit-trail. It's the street in our city that we most frequently drive on, heading north to my mom's, the grocery store, the bank, or church and then heading back south to our neighborhood, our home. And all too frequently, at one of the many red lights that we must stop at on this street, we are parked next to some car full of young people, with the stereo bass so loud that it literally vibrates and shakes our car. But not on this day. It was a warm sunny day in our city, but not so warm that air conditioning was needed. So husband and I were headed south, back to our house, with the windows of the car down, allowing the fresh air and sunshine in. We pulled up to a red light and heard music coming from the car next to us. It wasn't the earth shaking boom, boom, boom of the bass, but this, "Hosanna, hosanna, hosanna in the highest...Lord, we lift up Your name, with our hearts full of praise. Be exalted oh Lord, our God, hosanna in the highest." We turned to look, and there she sat in the driver's seat, a little Asian lady with stereo blasting, stopped at a red light, singing and clapping with full abandon, unashamed, oblivous to the stares as she worshipped God. It is forever etched in my mind as an example of pure joy.

Sunday, the words of a worship song smote my heart. I was overwhelmed with Jesus, the beauty of Who He is and His love for me. I had to make a choice, worship with abandon, or worry about who heard, who saw, what someone else thought. I didn't want attention on me, but I just had to respond. When I did, I had one of the most profoundly personal moments with Him that I have ever had. Glorious. Pure joy.

Monday, October 26, 2009

Black dog/white dog...

holy experience

"Godliness accompanied with contentment is great and abundant gain." 1 Timothy 6:6 Amplified Bible

My husband tells the story of an American Indian telling the preacher that his inward struggle is like having two fighting dogs inside of him, a black dog and a white dog. The preacher asks him. "Which dog wins?" "Whichever dog I feed and say sic'em too!" he replies.

I find the same battle inside myself at times...a battle between contentment, and discontent...between gratitude and murmuring and complaining. And whichever "mindset" I feed is the one that wins. I can feed discontent by dwelling on what someone else has that I don't have. I can feed contentment by counting my blessings- making my gratitude list. I can feed discontent by pouring over magazines full of beautiful women wearing expensive clothes and pictures of impossibly perfect houses. I can blind myself to the blessings around me, instead focusing on and longing after a bigger house, a fancier car, growing more discontent as I wander through the mall gazing at things I don't need and can't afford. I can feed contentment by thanking God for the things I do have and rejoicing in the blessings of His grace that surround me. I can feed contentment by being a good steward of those blessings and by using my blessings to bless others.
Daily I must choose which dog wins.

Thank you God for...
91. Ann's blog about her daddy on the same day I blogged about my daddy. I always find it so wonderful how God weaves threads of continuity as He speaks to His kids, though they be spread far and wide.
92. A good sleep after a tiring week.
93. Help from the Holy Spirit while counseling a hurting one.
94. The look of sheer happiness on oldest grandaughter's face as she got to go with Nana, Mama, and Auntie to a "Pampered Chef" party with the grown up ladies.
95. Oldest grandson, not "too cool" to interupt his play with his friends to run and give Nana a hello hug.
96. Cute little baby grandaughter legs in striped knit leggings.

97. Fat orange and black caterpillars in their wooly winter coats. (The same colored stripes as baby's leggings!)
98. A Saturday morning breakfast of pumpkin pancakes with my mama and big brother.

99. A beautiful Sunday morning sunrise out my window.
100. The beauty found right in my neighborhood.

Woods, right across the street from my house...within Portland city limits!

Birch trees lined the street I walked to school on when I was a little girl. They're one of my favorites ever since.
Up the street and around the corner, a lovely older home and red barn, again, right in Portland city limits!Awesome!

A tree ablaze with color.

Friday, October 23, 2009

Love = Time and Attention...

It's Friday and I am going to take the day off with my husband. It's been too long. We've been together, but not really. You know what I mean, right? We were together during the week before our Ladies' Retreat, but I was distracted by my to-do list. This week we have a big Sunday, with both our north and south locations meeting together, so Husband has been distracted with his preparations for that. But, enough is enough, so today, everything is being laid aside, and priority is being made for us time.

Too often, in my love relationship with God, it is the same way. The only difference is, He's always all there. His attention is never distracted from me. How overwhelmingly awesome is that. It's in me, in my mind and heart, that the problem lies. I, who so readily proclaim my love and undying devotion to Him, too often go through the motions at my prayer bench, hunched over my Bible, while my mind and heart are engaged elsewhere...distracted, unfocused, lacking true passion. And yet, in my weakness, His love for me does not waver. What kind of Lover is this, who persistently pursues such a selfish, distracted lover as me?

Thursday, October 22, 2009

The creator...

Lately I've come to realize that I love to create and that there is joy in creating. I surmise that maybe, because we are made in the image of The Creator, that this is the case with all of us-maybe we all need some creative outlet.

However, there were times in the past that I tried to create, and was miserable the whole time. I tried to be creative, and make things, because this was what someone else thought I should do, or because I wanted to mold myself into the image of another person. But, I find, when you are flowing in creativity that is truly a part of the inner you, a part of the gifts and talents put into you by The Creator, then it's a beautiful thing, relaxing, joy-producing.

My mom was a seamtress extraordinaire. Her seams, flawless, her hand stiched hems a thing of beauty. So, sophomore year of high school, I sign up for Home Economics. I am going to follow in mama's footsteps, or so I thought. Red lights of warning should have flashed with neon lettering saying, "Girl, this is just not your thing!", when I chose for my big sewing project to make a two piece swimming suit. Now, ask yourself, do you know one single person with a penchant for homemade, hand crafted bikinis? I did't think so! And the fabric I chose, was just an was a navy blue calico type print. Who was this fashionable swimwear being made for...Laura Ingalls Wilder? But I wrestled through, and proudly brought my creation home to Mama. I don't remember a look of horror in her eyes, but I do remember her pointing out all the flaws in my sewing technique...and there were plenty! So, I put aside my needle and thread until I was married and had my own baby girl.

I married into a family where Mama Stewart had two cardinal standards that every good wife must abide by. I thought those standards had to do with loving your husband and your children. But hers were, #1 it is a sin to buy what you can sew, and #2 if it is edible, it must be put into sterilized jars, immersed in a big kettle of boiling water, and bubble away until all nutrients are cooked out of it. Then it must be proudly displayed on your pantry shelves where it awaits to save you if, #1 you are snowed in for months on end, (which NEVER happens where we live), or #2 you are faced with nucular war. (To this day I wonder, who, but she, cans meat, and if they do, who wants to eat canned meat? EEWWW! )

So, in order to be a good wife and mom, which was top on my list of things I wanted to be good at, I cajoled my husband into buying me a sewing machine. I sweated over flannel nighties for my beautiful brown eyed girl, I made dolly clothes, I made scary looking stuffed animals, I made little baby blankets. But what I very wisely NEVER made was anything she had to wear out in public. And I canned, I canned our veggies, I canned our fruit. I spent hot late summer days in a sticky sauna, formerly known as my kitchen. I was miserable!

My epiphany came when I realized, I am VERY talented at clearance shopping. I can spot high end quality items on the 75% off rack from across the room. (My biggest find was a pair of fully lined brown wool slacks regularly priced at close to $300. I paid under ten dollars.) Why sew, when I can shop, and buy something we can actually be seen in public in? So the sewing machine was retired to the back of the closet and only saw the light of day for occassional mending jobs from then on. Likewise with the was money saving to can when we pastored in the midst of orchards of apples, pears, peaches and cherries. But, when you live in the city, it's not always cost saving to buy and can your produce. So, bye bye canning jars, bye bye sticky sauna summer days. Do you hear my sighs of relief?

Now if you are the sewing, canning type, more power to you! I admire you! You have patience, endurance, talent, that I do not have. The truth about me, is that I enjoy creating if it is...simple, not too detailed, with quick results. I am about a third grade level creator. This particular epiphany came when I was an educational assistant in the third grade. I did the art with the students. They oohed and ahhed at what a good painter, what a good drawer, I was. And I had FUN! So, off I went to the craft store, and under the guise of buying art supplies to have on hand for my grandkids, I bought art paper, colored pencils, water colors, and I began to create. Relaxing, enjoyable, no stress, no pressure, just creating for the fun of creating.

Cooking is another creative outlet for me. I am not a fancy cook. I am a homestyle cook. But I can cook us some pretty yummy to the eyes and to the tummy stuff. Creating with food...

I can create a homey atmosphere in a house...oh not Better Homes and Gardens decorating..but a candle here, a picture there. Creating atmosphere, creating beauty, creating something that sets my home apart from yours.

I feel God's pleasure when I create. I feel satisfied, happy, fulfilled, as I sit as this computer and make pictures out of words. Creating - I think that we are all made in the image of The Creator, to create.

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

The Song Is First.

holy experience

I kneel by my prayer bench. I pray, I read His Word, I write in my journal. My request is to understand Him more, to go deeper into the bottomless depths of His love and who He is. For weeks now, I have immersed myself in studying to better understand intimacy with understand His love, not just for the world, as in "For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son...", and not just for the church universal. I want to understand how this God who created the heavens and the earth could be head over heels, crazy in love with me, the individual. I study the Word, fingers carressing the printed page as I read the love song of the Song of Solomon. I download and study The Way of Intimacy study notes from International House of Prayer. I read Dana Candler's beautiful words in Deep Unto Deep, and the amazing book Captivating by John and Stasi Eldredge. I have some understanding, and I attempt to share what little I know with others. But I sense that something is missing, and I sense that it's something simple that I just don't see, don't understand yet. So I ask. Ask for understanding. And then in peace I wait. There at the prayer bench, no answer comes. And yet, my heart remains at peace, for I am familiar with this part of Our relationship. I often ask, and Eternal God, often takes His time in answering.
The household chores are done, the soup is made, the bread is rising, and I head out my front door for my walk. The Ipod plays Misty Edwards in my ears, my eyes feast on the beauty of a sunny fall day in my neighborhood. And suddenly, in my spirit, not in my ears, I hear these words..."The song is first." Like a long lost puzzle piece, suddenly found, the understanding clicks into place. As usual, He makes it simple for me to understand.
When I had my daughters, and then my three grandchildren, shortly after each one was born, or adopted, as both are the case in our family, I had a song for them. I don't say "wrote a song", because it wasn't like that, me sitting around trying to think of lyrics and music, with a wastebasket full of wadded up reject songs sittting by my desk. No, in each instance, a song, simple childlike music and lyrics, just bubbled up from out of my heart, and was forever the song that I, as mama, and then nana, sang for that individual baby. Most recently, eight months ago, my oldest daughter finally had a baby after over eight years of infertility. The night Elliana was born, I was so excited about this little flesh and blood miracle, that I couldn't sleep. I thought about a song for her, but didn't "try" to make one. The next morning, still overly excited, I got up before the sun and made a birthday cake to bring up to the hospital. Then, I hopped into the shower,and there it was, the song just bubbled up out of my heart so full of joy and love...

Elliana Valentine
We waited such a long, long, time
But God heard us from heaven
You're His answer sent from heaven
Elliana Valentine
It was simple, but it was her song alone. Appropriate for one whose name means, The Lord has answered us." And God said, "the song was first" if to say it was there, waiting in my heart, for the day she was born. And then I knew, and understood something about God's love for me, the individual. I understood that the song that God sings over me, (see Zephaniah 3:17), was in the heart of this God Who always was, always is, and Who is to come, from eternity. I was always in His heart too-loved, planned for, purposed, as an individual, from eternity. And on the day I took my first breath, the God of all Creation, burst forth into my song...the song that was always in His heart for me. And all of heaven, rang out, as God sang Elizabeth's song.
A piece of understanding, just by asking, and then waiting with ears and heart open is waiting for you too.

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Daddy's arms...

When I was a little girl I was diagnosed with having rheumatic fever. The treatment was daily doses of penicillin and COMPLETE bedrest. The only time I was allowed out of bed was to go to the bathroom. This was my life for over three months. My days consisted of lying on the couch. I can still vividly remember the rough, scratchy, taupeish brown colored brocade fabric, it's swirly pattern being traced by my little fingers, over and over. My entertainment, mountains of books from the library four blocks up our street, sometimes my Barbie doll. I didn't understand this disease. I only knew it had something to do with my heart. No grown-ups took the time to talk to me, to explain that I would get better. So, in my 8 year old mind, I associated anything with the heart with all of the things I had ever heard about people dying from heart attacks. I was terrified each time I would lay my head against the pillow and hear my own heartbeat...terrified that I would actually hear it stop.

My mom, her love language being acts of service, brought me my meals, brought me those piles of library books, and continued doing all of the laundry, cooking and cleaning that it took to keep this household of 7 children functioning. My memories are of her somewhere in the house, or outside at the clothesline, but mostly my memories are of being there on that couch alone, while the noise of life was going on outside, somewhere else. Except for twice a day...first thing in the morning, and last thing every night, my dad carried me. In the morning, he carried me from my bed upstairs down to the couch, and at night, he carried me back up. And out of each 24 hours, those minutes were what I looked forward to, day after long, lonely day...the feeling of being carried in my daddy's arms.

I'm still often at that same place. Often in this world I feel like the noise of life goes on outside, while I am alone with my fears. Often, the love lanquage that other's speak to me, is not the one my heart wants, needs. To this day, books are often my mentors, my company, more than a flesh and blood person. And to this day, the best thing out of each long, and sometimes lonely day, is the time I let my Father carry me. I just lean my head against Him, and rest, feeling loved, cared for, understood, cherished. No matter how loved I am by husband, children, grandchildren, family, friends, church's Daddy's arms I have longed for all of my life.

Monday, October 19, 2009


The house was massive, impressive, intimidating even, from the outside. But we were greeted at the door with a huge smile and a warm hug. Inside the house was a home, not pretentious, but welcoming. Touches of old European taste were here and there, oil paintings, lace tableclothes. We had been invited to dinner, my husband and I, my son in law, daughter and grandaughter, and another couple from our church, to the home of this couple we are just beginning to know. We are their pastor's now, since last May. They moved here from Romania in the seventies. Believers under communist regime. He, imprisioned for being caught with a car full of Bibles. After communism fell some of the documents were released to them, records being kept of all of their activities. Informants revealed, some trusted fellow believers, betrayers due to fear of the consequences for not cooperating with the authorities. The meal was lovely. The conversation good; enlightening. As the evening was winding to a close, our lovely hostess looks me in the eyes and says, "We have wanted to have you over for quite awhile, but now, now is the time." And then she says the words that pierce my soul. "It is such an honor for us to have you in our home." And I say, meaning it as much as I've ever meant anything in my life, "No, the honor is ours!"

I'm grateful. One of the greatest blessings God gives me is correcting my perspective about what I perceive as trials in my life. Believers all over the world are suffering, persecuted, giving their lives, for the cause of Christ. I needed to be reminded that night.

holy experience
81. The body of Christ, from every nation, tribe, tongue-and our little part of it that we pastor
82. Old friends and new friends
83. Watching a good movie lying in bed next to my husband
84. Fall's treasures

85. Our beautiful part of the world...our yard, my little piece of Portland

86. Health
87. A thunderstorm
88. Jan Karon's "Mitford" books...I think I've read them all at least 8 times!
89. A bathtub full of hot water and bubbles
90. Adults spontaneously singing "Jesus loves me this I know" in church Sunday morning

Sunday, October 18, 2009

A Tender Hearted Bean

"You're a tender hearted bean" she said in her thick New York accent. Living on opposites coasts of the U.S., I only saw my Aunt Evelyn a handful of times in my life, but she made quite an impression. Being raised in a church where smoking was taboo, she was the first person, that I knew personally, I ever saw smoke a cigarette. At ages 6 and 4, my little brother and I "smoked" stick pretzels for weeks afterwards. She introduced me to the taste of true New York style pizza...delish! And she said those words that I've never forgotten. I have no idea what tender hearted and beans have to do with one another, but I got her point. I'm sensitive.

The world is not always a fun or safe place for us tender hearted bean types. Being in church leadership can be especially vulnerable. Many, many times I have felt like the wrong personality for life in this cruel world, especially in this "line of work". I need to be tougher, less vulnerable, more thick skinned. I need to be more guarded, less open hearted, less trusting. So, I try, try to be more, try to be less...but just as surely as my slightly quirky sense of humor, is sure to come out sooner or later, my T.H.B., (you do get the initials, right?), side comes popping out too. I question, question that T.H.B. part of myself, the part that weeps too easy, opens up too readily, feels too deeply. Life would be easier if I wasn't me!

But this IS me, and so here I am facing 36 ladies this weekend at our retreat. Half of them, due to our recent church merge, are fairly new to me. But out it comes, the minute I start to share, teary eyed T.H.B. all exposed and vulnerable. Thirty six ladies look back at me. I know that God's anointing is only on the real me, not some facade of who I wish I was. Those 36 ladies deserve God's anointing. And so I trust, trust that God can and will, use and also guard and protect, my tender heart.

Saturday, October 17, 2009

God is calling...

God is wooing, He is calling us, even through the beauty of creation.
Help us to hear, to see, You calling, and to run to You with open arms, open hearts today.

Friday, October 16, 2009

His beauty...

"Let the beauty of Jesus be seen in me
All His wonderful passion and purity
O my Savior divine, all my being refine
Till the beauty of Jesus be seen in me."
In just a few hours I am leaving for our weekend ladies' retreat. This is my prayer, the words of a song that I first heard years ago when I was a young wife and mama. I was at a ladies' Bible study taught by a woman in her 70's, a former missionary. As she taught us God's Word, I saw the beauty of Jesus in her...His love, His grace, His kindness, flowing through this human vessel. I wanted some of what she had...she made me want more of Him.
That's what I need ... for His beauty to be seen in me. God help me, use me to draw others to Your beauty.
Beautiful One I love
Beautiful One I adore
Beautiful One, my soul must sing!

Thursday, October 15, 2009

It's overwhelming...

I am overwhelmed with my own inadequacy. What made me think I could communicate a truth that I have barely scratched the surface of to 36 ladies at our yearly retreat? The retreat theme is "First Things". That sounds relatively easy...there's dozen of first things in God's Word that we could talk about. But there's really only one first first thing. It all began with LOVE. God, perfect and complete in all that He is and in all of His ways is LOVE. Perfect love existed between Father, Son and Holy Spirit. There was nothing lacking, no need, that drove God to create you and I. He created us, not out of need, but out of desire. A God who desired to bring His creation into the realm of perfect love that already existed in Himself. He made us so that out of His creation would arise voluntary lovers of God who would become His family, and the bride for His Son.

I think of this, this God who made Himself vulnerable by loving and longing after such a contrary lover as myself...and I can barely grasp it for myself, and yet I am desperate to communicate even what little I am learning to these ladies. I know that this is the key, the answer to so much of what drives us down wrong paths, pursuing wrong lovers...we just don't get it, don't understand what we have already have, don't understand Whose we are, and how ravished He is with love for us. I thought I understood Ephesians 3:18...the breadth, length, height and depth of His love...but like some bottomless lake, the farther I wade into His love the deeper it just keeps getting. Overwhelmed with His love, and with my inadequacy to explain this love so vast, so endless, and yet so personal.

"Where is your Beloved hiding Himself? For we would seek Him with you." Song of Solomon 6:1
36 ladies together seeking You this weekend...Beloved One, show us Your face.

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

His Divine Embrace...

holy experience

Slowing down...Ann Voskamp on her blog, Holy Experience, asked us to share on this Walk with Him Wednesday about how we slow down. Like a splash of icy water on my face, the very thought sent shivers through me. "Not this week, I can't slow down, can't even think about slowing down until next week!" was my thought. You see, I have this big ladies' retreat coming this weekend, and there's just so much to do to get ready for it, and, and, and...the excuses make a long list.

I am NOT in general, a procrastinator. If there's a job to be done, I like to get in there and just "get er done". I like to do it well, but I like to do it fast. Detailed arts and crafts or home projects that take weeks or months are not for me. I have been known to stay up all night to get a room painted, a kitchen wallpapered. I want to get things done.

Tuesday nights I watch my 8 month old grandaughter while my son in law and daughter lead our church's youth ministry. I brought my brief case full of things needing done for this weekend's upcoming retreat. But when I walked into my daughter's home, baby grandaughter leaned out of her mama's arms and reached out to me with a big grin. The brief case fell to the floor as I reached to meet her embrace. I played ball with her, delighted in her laugh, played peek a boo, watched her splash and squeal as I bathed her, felt her little hand caress my face as I fed her a bottle. After she was tucked into bed and asleep, I pull out Dana Candler's book, Deep unto Deep, The Journey of His Embrace. I'm studying for this weekend, opening His Word as well as gleaning from other's writings. By page 5 I have to stop, I am forced to slow down. Through her words, pointing me to THE WORD, my Bridegroom Lover God woos me. Her words help me understand the concept of God's romance of me...not just His Bride, the church, but His Bride, Elizabeth. And for the second time that evening, briefcase falls to the floor, as I reach to meet a loving embrace, His divine embrace.

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

There's a miracle in my house...

Sunday was my turn to share the Word to our church. We are now one church-two locations, one here in Portland and one across the beautiful Columbia River in Vancouver, so twice I shared the Word. We are doing a continuing series on Contending in Prayer, and my topic was Contending for Marriage, Home and Family. I love to teach the Word of God...I love it because I know it's true, I know it's powerful, I know it works! I'm overwhelmed with passion for others to know and believe this as well.

Tommy Barnett, pastor of a huge church in Phoenix, Arizona, has a book Called There's a Miracle in Your House. Basically, the premise is that the makings of a miracle are right under our nose. That's what our marriage, our home, our family is...a miracle, a miracle of God's grace.

I'm a miracle. Number 6 out of 7 children from a marriage that was bad, that was broken. Being number 6 has it's advantages. There are things the older ones remember that I was too young to. But I do remember that by the time I was eight Mama spent some time in the state mental hospital. She was so depressed she didn't want to live anymore. By the time I was nine, Daddy was out of there. He had found a new wife with a new family. By the time I was ten an acquaintance in the town next to ours, heard about what happened and made arrangements for Mama, now home, and us kids to have a ride to her church. And grace wrapped us up in the arms of that church family, and loved us, helping us find healing and wholeness.

My marriage is a miracle. From the paragraph above, I'm sure you know that I had some issues, some brokenness, some baggage, that came with me into my marriage. My husband came from a family with it's own issues. Who doesn't in this broken sin-sick world? But we were 19, head over heels in love, and blissfully ignorant about the challenges we would face over the years. Two broken, willful, stubborn people can have some ISSUES! Grace, grace, grace...if we weren't both lovers of Jesus, we would have never stayed around long enough to see the miracle in our house. Thirty three years later, we're both still learning to love God's way...but we're still here, learning it together...GRACE!

Three beautiful girls, miracles in our house, each one. Miracles that we didn't totally screw them up is what they are! I'm sure they could each tell you things we, as their parents, did wrong. Thank goodness for the grace they've extended to us that they don't! And thank God for the grace He extended, to cover our mistakes, our blunders, our sinful failures, as parents.

Grace, grace abundant, grace lavished, grace poured out, on us, on our marriage, on our home, on our family.

As I preached God's Word on Sunday, I looked out and knew not everyone could grasp what I was saying. They are just too deep in the pit, too covered with their stuff, too hopeless about the mess they're in. They don't realize, don't believe, that right in their house is a miracle waiting...God show them, show them what Your grace can do.

Monday, October 12, 2009

3-D glasses

holy experience

The four of us sat there in the theater for the 3-D matinee, popcorn balanced on our laps. Papa, me, oldest grandaughter, only grandson, all in a row wearing the big black-framed 3-D glasses. They looked like the joke glasses that come with a nose and mustache attached, only minus the nose and minus the mustache. However, once the movie started, the effect was worth the humiliation. The credits opened with a scene of snowflakes. They seemed so close to our faces that grandson reached out with his hand, thinking he could catch one.

At times I wish I had a pair of heaven sent, supernatural glasses. Glasses to help me see things the way God wants me help keep my vision focused on the abundance of blessings that God has lavished on me, instead of on today's irritations or problems. Glasses to help me focus on "whatsoever things are lovely" instead of on the scratches, dents, wrinkles, imperfections, of life in the flesh in this temporal world. Instead, God says, choose Elizabeth, how to see, what to think. And in my choices, my daily, moment by moment choices to focus on the praiseworthy, may He be glorified.
71. Teaching the Word of God in church yesterday...what a privilege!
72. Notes of encouragement
73. Baby grandaughter's first attempts at words, "ba,ba,,ma, ma"
74. My mom, another health rebound! (Evidenced by her request for me to take her to the store to buy some chocolates!)
75. Paper, pen, blank computer screen, tools to pour out thoughts from the heart
76. A church of young families, all posting pictures of family adventures at the pumpkin patch
77. Yesterday at church, a very broken woman, melting, weeping, being changed by God's love
78. 34 ladies going on a retreat together
79. A car repair that turned out to be minor, inexpensive, easy to fix
80. My husband's voice as he sings and worships

Saturday, October 10, 2009

A man's man...

We drove along in the car together, my friend and I talking about our husbands. Her husband is the one my husband calls "best friend". Those two, much alike in some ways, both strong-willed, opinionated, out-spoken, sports-lovers, what some would call a "man's man". As we talk, my friend, 12 years younger than I, mentors me with her words. "Some women struggle with my husband's strong personality," she says, "they don't have husbands who will stand up TO them or FOR them. So, I just tell them, at least I have a husband who will stand up for me."

That conversation took place almost two weeks ago, and the words still convict me. For 33 plus years times 365 days a year times 24 hours a day, how many hours have I wasted picking at the speck in his eye, this man's man that God gave me. Me, in my flesh, am too prone to compromise in order to keep peace. I want everyone to like me, to like us. (I'm afraid that if I was one of Jesus follower's when He lived on this earth, I would have tried to correct the Son of God when he called the Pharisees vipers or whitewashed tombs, or when he violently overturned the tables of the money changers in His House. I would have said, "Now Jesus. That is not the way to make friends and influence people!") Why wasn't my focus, like my friend's, on the fact that God gave us protective fighters for husbands as a who would fight for us and our children to the death.

But don't be fooled, my husband is not all tough without the tender. It's amazing how much he has laid aside his own rights for me, for our three girls, and now our grandbabies. Me, I have a tendency to be self-focused, selfish. He is generous to a fault. A man's man, and yet when we had one, two, three daughters, to this day he says how glad he is to have girls...never once making me or them feel bad that he had no sons. On Saturday mornings when the girls were small, I heard the banging of pots and pans as he made, not one, but four trays of breakfast in bed. Not just once, but almost every Saturday. So the kitchen was a disaster zone...why was my focus on that and not on the wonder of a Daddy so kind to his little girls? And now, the tradition continues...grandbabies eating plates of sticky syrup covered pancakes in bed when they have a sleepover at our house.

On our day off, his first words are, "Where do you want to go? What do you want to eat?" This man's man has spent more hours in shopping malls than any man should ever have to, pleasing me, pleasing his girls...adapting to us, our interests, our needs. Now he has a grandson to play catch with, to take to football games. And yet, like an old dog who finds it difficult to learn new tricks, Papa, trained over the years of life in a house full of girls, takes oldest grandaughter to ooo and ahh over her favorite sparkly sequined covered shoes and hats at the local mall.

Sitting to the right of my small computer desk, is a wooden desk where I can spread out my Bible, books, study notes. Last week I commented to my husband that I needed more room for study...commented that the small computer desk has no room to spread out my books. The very next day, he disassembled his desk, from his office, and put it in my office. He is the pastor, the one who really needs room to study, and now his computer sits on top of a file desk at all in his office, while I have two. "I didn't mean for you to do that!" I cried. "You need a desk more than me!" He shrugs nonchalantly, "that's okay, I wanted you to have room to study." The amazing thing is, he means it. It literally does not bother him to give like that. He sacrifices, while I keep score of socks on the floor, and spilled coffee not wiped up.

A tough man's man, yet tender in the right places. In God's presence in worship, he really grasps that he is the Bride, worshipping a Bridegroom lover God. How hard is that for any man, yet alone a man's man. And when we're alone, he's sensitive, giving, loving. I used to weigh 50 pounds more than I do now. That's almost another half of a person! Yet when I talk about how I used to be fat, he says "I don't remember you ever being fat." I look in his eyes, and I see that he's not joking! He doesn't remember??? He thinks I'm beautiful and he always has, literally through thick and thin.

Is he perfect? Absolutely not. Are there things in his life that God needs to change. I'm sure there are. But my friend, her words made me see, the log in my eye, instead of the speck in his. A man who will stand up TO me, (did I mention that I can be highly opinionated and stubborn?), and FOR me...a tough/tender man's man. A man who has sacrificed his own interests for me and our girls, and who has chosen to overlook my faults. Thanks honey. I love you forever.

Friday, October 9, 2009

Just a boy from Lathrop, Missouri...

The phone rang and when I picked up it was my dear friend from across the country. Her voice is sweet, kind- I thought it was a call just to chat. But instead she said, "Remember that boy at my son's school, the one that we helped because he had no lunch money?" I remembered. Her son had been coming home from school hungry because he had been giving his lunch away to his friend. So our friends went to the school and put lunch money into this young boy's account. "He lived with his dad," she continues, "and Sunday, his dad was killed in a car accident."

He came back to school, just two days after the accident. My friend's son saw him, and instead of hanging back, not knowing what to say, how to act, a sixth grade boy became Jesus' voice, Jesus' hands, wrapped his arms around his friend, and said, "I'm so sorry about your dad."

This morning, here in my Portland, Oregon home, so far away from that small town in Missouri, I awake with that fatherless boy on my mind, my heart. I have never met him, never seen him. But I feel teary, there's a lump in my throat, and I know I have to pray, pray for this boy. I pray that through all this he will come to know God the Father's love, that God will guide all decisions being made now concerning him and where he will go, who he will live with, that he will be placed somewhere with someone who loves and serves Jesus, that God will comfort him. Will you join me and pray for this boy from Lathrop, Missouri?

Thursday, October 8, 2009


The clock on the bedside table read 5:29 a.m. I'm an early riser, but not that early. Lying there, I heard His voice in my spirit. "Strength and dignity are her clothing." I knew that the familiar words were from Proverbs 31, I wasn't quite sure which verse. And I wasn't sure of the point He was trying to make.

Dignified...not a word I would use to describe myself. I can only keep up the dignified facade for so long, before the quirky, silly sense of humor me comes bursting out from behind the mask. Strong, maybe, but dignified?

Later that day I looked the verse up, Proverbs 31:17. I looked it up in several different translations of the Bible. I read commentaries in hopes of gaining insight into what He wanted me to hear, to understand. Finally, I grabbed the old, red Webster's Dictionary from the shelf above my desk. There I read that synonyms for dignity are worthy, honored, esteemed, nobility. Suddenly, it clicked. I turned in my journal back to the pages that held sermon notes from Husband's Sunday message. There I found it, "satan comes to strip, to steal, the dignity and created nobility of humanity...". The Voice speaks again, "and in Christ you are once again clothed in the dignity, in the strength, that the enemy has robbed from you." I picture in my mind, the God of the Universe covering me in a beautiful royal robe, a robe of dignity, a robe of strength, not because of who I am, or what I have done, but just because I am His.

Tuesday, October 6, 2009

Her hands...

I wanted flowery words of love and affection. I wanted lots of hugs and kisses. I wanted her to be gentle as she combed the tangles out of my long, fine hair, wet from my Saturday night bath. There were seven of us kids, and I the one who was labeled "tender hearted"...too much so, too easily hurt and brought to tears... too easily afraid and insecure.

Her way to love was to work. She worked hard. Cooked our meals, sewed our clothes, worried about how to make the money stretch. Now I see it, now I see that was her language, her way to say "I love you". But that little girl back then didn't see, and didn't understand.

Now I know that when those hands stayed up late into the wee hours, making an intricate lace trimmed nightie with matching robe for me to open on Christmas morning, she was shouting, "I love you!" As her hands kneaded the weekly batch of homemade bread, the bread that no matter how hard I try, I just can't quite duplicate, she was loving all seven of her noisy brood. The thousands and thousands of homemade cookies those hands made. The homemade candy at Christmas time. The tons of laundry they washed...not carelessly thrown in together in the washer...but even with seven kids, separating out the items that needed extra care or hand washing. Then the tedious hours of ironing that followed, back before the days of permanent press. "Read to me" she would say as she ironed, and so I would, reading Swiss Family Robinson to my mom as her hands never stopped.

Those hands are old, wrinkled, shaky now. It's getting difficult for those hands to even care for herself now, much less for those she loves. Now it is my turn, my turn to speak back to my mom, in the language that she speaks. To bring her some of my home cooked food. To scrub her kitchen floor. Even to tie her shoes. God, help my hands to be an instrument of Your love today.

Monday, October 5, 2009

Just a conduit...

holy experience

"There come's a time when you come to the end of your human capacity to love", the voice on the radio said. I was a very young wife, with a beautiful brown-eyed baby girl sitting there in her high chair in our small yellow kitchen. Husband went to college in the morning and worked a full-time job late into the night. This was my companionship- Holy Spirit, baby girl, the voice on the radio. Those words have been etched on my mind and heart since that day so long ago-that day 31 plus years ago. The voice continued, "that's when you must ask the Holy Spirit to give you His love. (Romans 5:5) It takes God's love in you to even love God back...and especially to love others."

During our 33 years of marriage, our over 30 years in ministry, those words have been a treasure hidden in my heart. All human love runs out...when Husband said or did something that hurt my overly sensitive feelings, when little girls filled the house with noise and mess, when people and their problems seemed impossibly overwhelming...and yet again, when I asked Him, let Him, Holy Spirit love poured in, and I the simple conduit, when I let Him, felt the "divine flow" that wasn't from self. Him loving Hubby, girls, difficult and hurting people, through me.

What joy, when I'm yielded, tender, willing, to be a conduit of His love. What a privilege for this voice to speak His words of love to a wounded heart, for these arms to be used by Him to hold one who is mourning as they sob out tears onto my Sunday dress, to love Husband and girls when I, at the end of my "human" love, did not feel loving. That the Holy Spirit puts God's love in my heart, not only for me, but through me to love Him back, to love others as He does...what a wonder that is. Thank You Holy Spirit.

61. New believers in Christ, hungry to learn of Him and His ways
62. My brothers and sisters
63. My 84 year old mom
64. Fall colors
65. Cold nights
66. Warm quilts made by grandmas
67. Tears of repentance
68. Our daily bread-God's provision
69. A big red-tailed hawk sitting on a fence post
70. A visit with friends

Saturday, October 3, 2009

Home-It's a beautiful thing...

In just a handful of hours we will be on the plane heading home. Home is a great word, a beautiful thing. For those of you whose house could be featured in the Street of Dreams, or Better Homes and Gardens magazine, you may beg to differ with me about the house I call home. It's not large, it's not fancy, but it's ours, our home.

The house that I sometimes design in my imagination is much bigger, especially the kitchen. It also has a much bigger dining/living area. For someone who loves to cook and have people over that is something I have been known to covet. But I refuse to be ungrateful, and do nothing while I waste my life with "if only I had..." thinking. So I still have big holiday gatherings, parties, get- togethers, family dinners in this small house we call home.

Sometimes in the unbalanced prosperity theology of the American church, I think we forget that "nothing in this life could ever truly satisfy the desires of your heart" as Justin Rizzo sings. And it's God's mercy that it doesn't. If a person, or thing, could fully satisfy you or meet all of your needs, then that thing/person would be god to you.

Today, we're going home and in spite of it's imperfections, it's a beautiful thing.

Friday, October 2, 2009

Ready for a new season...

I'm ready for fall. Ready for cold, crisp weather. Ready for homemade soup, stew, cold weather foods. The house is ready, decorations of the new season placed here and there. But the weather isn't cooperating. While we have been visiting our youngest daughter here in Missouri, typical Oregon rainy, cold, fall weather has arrived. But according to the weather report, the day we fly home, it's going to be back to "unseasonably warm".
How like me, like many, this contrary weather is. God wants to move us into a new season, to new things in Him, but we are so reluctant to let go of the patterns of the past, the things that are old and familiar. How much in Him are we missing while holding on stubbornly to what was?
I am feeling the push forward. Feeling God's hand on my back, pushing me into some new things. I feel His hands gently cupping my face, trying to keep me looking forward, instead of longingly back.
The other day I woke up with the words of a chorus going through my mind..."It's a new season, it's a new day, a fresh anointing is coming your way...." I want the fresh anointing, a fresh touch of God's Spirit on my life flowing through me to others. According to Scripture, in order to hold the new wine of the Spirit, I must become a new wineskin...supple, yielded, pliable to hold the new wine. (Luke 5) Embracing change can be hard for me. I like things comfortable, familiar.
But to embrace God's new season for me, I have to quit being wishy washy, like Oregon's weather, and make a decision...I'm all in, God, for what You have ahead for me.

Thursday, October 1, 2009

Out with the with the new...

"Trees lose their leaves because they become a draw on the energy of the tree, as the tree would otherwise have to feed the leaves through the winter and autumn." That is the Wikipedia reason for why deciduous trees lose their leaves in the autumn.

One of the most life changing truths in the Word of God to me has been the truth about the necessity to renew our mind...that through doing that, with the washing of God's Word, our soul, (mind, will and emotions), is restored.

Our old ways of thinking, reacting, responding, are like autumn sucking, life draining... In order to survive and thrive during the dark, cold winters in our lives, those things have got to go in order for the new to come.

When we are born again we become new creations in Christ. But like a new computer loaded with old software, our minds are still loaded with all of the old experiences and thoughts and attitudes of our before Christ life. Those have got to go, be deleted, allowed to fall away...or they become life draining lies. When winter comes, they suck away at the life sustaining flow in us by raising up doubts about the reality of our salvation, of God's love and grace, of His goodness.

Just like the new leaves of spring, the new has got to replace the old...the truth of God's Word, replacing all the lies our minds have been filled with. Ephesians 4:23-23 Amplified Bible "...put off the old unrenewed constantly renewed in the spirit of your mind, having a fresh mental and spiritual attitude, and put on the new nature, created in God's image."