Sunday, May 26, 2013

Filthy to Clean

It's that time in New Hampshire us gardeners have been patiently waiting for, planting season.  I definitely received this passion from my dad.  My mom has passed down to me many wonderful characteristic traits, but gardening isn't one of them - this one is Daddy's.  He loved to garden.  Our entire backyard in NJ was a garden, dedicated to growing the most wonderful vegetables (and roses) you have ever seen.  Each year, my mom would diligently wait for "harvesting" season where she would can and freeze the abundant fruits of his (okay, my brother and I were included) labor.  What seemed as such a chore back then has now turned into a time of year I can't wait for~~

So today, my daughter and I hit the garden shop.  We started with herbs - something I knew would weather the next few days that might stand to be a bit chilly at night.  The herb garden is always the first to get planted.  The smell is right outside my kitchen window and I just love to snip and pick them all through the summer.  Yet the best part of planting season is getting my hands in the dirt!  I love to feel the dirt in my hands again, and realize it is from this dirt that miracles seem to happen; small seeds or little plants grow into great vegetables.  I also realize that on planting day (and subsequently, weeding days), I get a bit filthy throughout the process.  The best part of it all, though, is getting all the work done and coming inside for a great shower - cleansing myself from all the dirt and mud, and relaxing into some "comfy" clothes.

Thinking about this entire process reminded me of our Dear Savior and how closely this entire process resembles the love and sacrifice He gave for us.  We, as well, are filthy.  Our sin, and each of us is very familiar about what our own sin is, makes us dirty.  When we realize that our sin can cloud over us, sin such as greed, impurities of the soul, anger, falsehoods, stealing, rage, malice, etc., it can create a filth that is difficult to wash away.  Yet, Jesus came for us, lived on this Earth for us, endured hardship and temptation for us and paid the ultimate price of a horrific death - for us - and for our sin.  With that, we are washed clean, completely clean.  There are no traces of dirt, no traces of filth.  We are clean and in the "comfiness" of God's love.

There is no better feeling, than realizing that we are eternally cleansed from our sin by Jesus.   We shouldn't continue to commit the same sins, but work to shed our "old self" and create a new self, one that is closer to God - with an attitude and ways by which we walk closer to God, in our words and actions.  How will you pursue this journey?  Maybe you will speak kinder words.  Maybe you will seek God's word on a regular basis and find comfort in His story.  However you decide to pursue this journey - create a new self, become cleansed, and plant a few little "miracles" in the process.

" put off your old self, which is being corrupted by its deceitful desires; to be made new in attitude of your minds; and to put on the new self, created to be like God in true righteousness and holiness."  (NIV) Ephesians 4:22-24

Sunday, May 19, 2013

Feel The Tingle

It's Pentecost Sunday.  Yes, this Sunday is a yearly reminder for all Christians of how blessed we are to have the Holy Spirit in us to help us live out Christ's love here on Earth.  As a child, the Trinity was something I always struggled with (okay, as an adult, there are times I still struggle).  There's the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit.  All different, yet all the same.  Yep - try teaching that to 2-year olds!

As an adult, though, there have been repeated times when I know the Holy Spirit was with me, in me.  It has provided me guidance to do God's will, it has led me to prayer, it has shared with me the words that I needed to help others, it has moved me against temptation.  It has also been there when I made poor choices - following temptations to sin, or when I didn't open my mouth for words a friend might have needed, or when I felt I didn't have the courage to take a step in Christ.  The Holy Spirit is there each and every moment of my days, just like God the Father and Jesus the Son are.  It is the Holy Spirit that can help us to lead the life of faith that we may be challenged with.

How can the Holy Spirit do all this?  Again, not being able to see the Holy Spirit, how do we know the Holy Spirit is with us?  Think back with me, to a time in your life - maybe it was many years ago, many months ago, or maybe you are fortunate enough to relate to a relatively new experience.  You made a choice.  The path you might have had in front of you led you to two opportunities:  one where Jesus is standing in front of you saying, "Great job", the other He is saying, "I'm disappointed".  First let's examine the "disappointed" choice.  This choice leads us to times when we might be jealous of others, promoting conflict, or general discourse.  Now, the choice where he said, "Great job".  This choice may lead us to helping others, kindness, self-control.  How did you feel after that choice?  Did you smile?  Maybe tingle inside?  Maybe others were excited to be with you at that moment?  That is the Holy Spirit working inside of you.

These choices do not need to be monumental acts such as the disciples made in Jesus' time.  Wow - now there are some choices that I really wish I could make in my life.  Let's start with ones that we know we can handle (and work our way up)!  A kind note to a friend who could use some words of encouragement, a phone call (or better yet a visit) to a shut in, a hug to someone who is distressed or the most powerful of all, a prayer for one in need.

I remember a few weeks back putting lotion on my dear mom's feet after she went through heart surgery.  Her feet were swollen and she was working so hard on getting healthy.  One night, as we sat together, I had my lotion and just rubbed her feet.  The smile on her face made me realize that the very small act that I had chosen made a very large difference in her life at that time.  I felt I couldn't do much to show her my love - I couldn't heal her.  It was the one thing I could do to give her a little relief.  She seemed happy.  I tingled.  And will remember that moment all my life.  The Holy Spirit works in us to make great choices - listen to the Spirit speak~~  Remember, it is all about having a Simple Faith to believe that the Spirit will guide us to better choices, better places.  We have to do our part too - believe!!

 "Since we live by the Spirit, let us keep in step with the Spirit. Let us not become conceited,provoking and envying each other." (NIV) Galatians 5:25-26 

Thursday, May 16, 2013

The Pool Vs. Us

As I have admitted more than once in this blog, I have a control issue.  It's getting better, really, you can even ask my family!!  Many years ago, I felt as if I needed to do it all by myself.  I needed to orchestrate every minute of every day of those in my life.  Work, home, children, everything needed to work like clock work.  Do you know what happens to people like me when it DOESN'T work like clock work?  Chaos.  Now, "normal" people may not find it very chaotic when you leave the house two minutes late, or when dinner is seven minutes late on the table, but I did.  Problematic, don't you think?

Oh, yes, it can be more damaging.  When there are major issues or concerns that don't go as planned, it causes an increasingly high level of stress - not just for me, but I'm sure for those around me.  Such was the day of the pool.  I was newly divorced (like three weeks divorced).  I was adamant that I would stay in our home and ensure that the children would continue to live their lives with as much consistency as possible.  This meant, opening up our pool for the summer, a task that was always done by my ex-husband.  So, I started.  I called the pool store, received the proper instructions, and began the process.  It was going fine, until - the leak.  I tried on my own for 24 hours to work with this pool, in very hot weather, extremely determined that I was going to successfully do this and do it on my own.   Yes, super woman I was.  There was much yelling and screaming (to a pool that didn't talk back) as the girls watched, I'm sure, in horror.  I have to admit, it was not one of my finest moments.  Finally, out of pure exasperation, the two girls and I went off to the pool store.

While on our way, I silently prayed.  I shared with my Lord that I just couldn't do it all - I couldn't live this life on my own, I couldn't do all that needed to be done the way I had done it before.  I prayed for help - desperate help.  Now don't get me wrong, I have prayed out of desperation before.  Yet this time, I truly let go.  "Your will be done, Lord.  If this pool is not meant to be fixed, if I need to call for help, if I can't fix it, then, let me know."  We solemnly walked into the store and shared our tale of woe with the "pool guy".  He promptly knew exactly what the problem was (a worn O-ring), got me what I needed, and off we went.  We left with a rejuvenated spirit (and I with much relief).

On the way home, the song, "We are Survivors" came on the radio.  We all belted it out - and it quickly became our anthem as we spent the next couple of years trying new and different things on our own; cutting down our own Christmas tree, painting rooms, etc.  We changed the O-ring and the leak was fixed.  The pool was enjoyed that summer.  We had "won".

Yet, the true winning had come with the release.  I realized that evening, and many evenings since then, that the power of my days and nights comes in the release - the release to God.  Our Dear Lord is the one in control, not us.  He is the winner, over sin, death, and the devil.  When I truly release my life to Him, I too become the winner.  Oh, the journey to release has not been easy.  I often confess to dear friends the struggles I continue to have with the temptation to hold onto things in my life too long - worry, frustration, doubt, fear, etc.  Do you?  Do you struggle with these same temptations?  They can truly overcome us, with stress so overwhelming that it can work to destroy us.  Have Simple Faith.  Start today.  Pray with me that we will start each day in God, asking Him to be with us, guide us, help us as we move forward.  It has changed my life.

When I give my days over to God, he has blessed them abundantly.  I remarried and my husband became my "live-in" pool guy.  God, indeed, blessed me abundantly with my dear husband.  He worked wonders with that pool for many years, as our blended family enjoyed the summers together, swimming and laughing.  The pool is now gone, but the lessons that I learned have shown me the wonder of God, the strength He has in my life and the power of Simple Faith.

"I can do everything through him who gives me strength."  (NIV) Philippians 4:13

Sunday, May 12, 2013

Greatest Gift

It's another Sunday evening in New Hampshire and I have to say what started out as a dreary and rainy morning has become an incredibly beautiful evening.  The rain clouds parted and the winds blew in.  The sun is beginning its evening set and the crisp cool air of a spring night has returned.  The day reminds me of many tough times I am sure we have all had at one point or another in our lives.  Tough times start out dreary, lots of dark clouds.  We wonder if they are ever going to leave - as it is difficult to see a bright spot amongst any of the difficult moments.  Yet, when we least expect it, the clouds part.  The tough times lift.  A ray of sunshine breaks through the pain, and there we are, on the other side.  The other side, shows us a rainbow of infinite possibilities, limitless journeys to new and glorious paths that our Lord has ready for us.

Getting through those difficult moments can prove to be draining.  There have been many times throughout the years where I wondered if I would actually GET THROUGH them.  Some may have been around relationships, some around health issues, some around parenting, others around my work.  Yet, the rainbow was always waiting for me.  I felt God was always waiting for me on the other side.

What I truly realize now, is that God isn't waiting for me on the other side.  He is WITH me through the entire event, through every difficult moment, every tear, every frustration, every moment of despair, He is there.  He is holding me up, helping me through, guiding me to the other side.  What I need to do is let Him show me the rainbow.  It isn't up to ME to tell God what needs to happen, it is up to Me to listen to God.  Yes, many times I have a problem with the listening part.  I am getting better with that - but the listening - truly listening is where the growth, the guidance, the richness, the rainbow comes from.

A rainbow reminds us of the relationship between us and God - it is always a wonderful and gentle reminder to me that God gives us so richly the many blessings of our day.  It's Mother's Day!  I had a wonderful day today.  I receive many blessings each and every day.  Today, I was wonderfully reminded from my children how blessed I am to be their Mom.  Their kind words, their generous gifts, their warms hugs, all made my day so much brighter.  I am also kindly blessed to have my Mom next to me this day, enjoying it with us.  It has been a tough year for her health wise, which made today so much more special.

I was anxious 7 1/2 years ago to get married and have our family grow to four children.   Today reminds me why I said "Yes" when my husband asked me to marry him.  Yes, I love him dearly and I want to spend the rest of my life with him each and every day.  Yet, I also wanted us to be a large family.  We have had our fair share of turmoil, of difficult moments, of dark clouds and rainy times.  But we have had more rainbow-filled days guided by God.  That I wouldn't give up for anything.

God will guide us, we just need to let Him.  Listen for his guiding hand.  And follow . . .

"He guides the humble in what is right and teaches them his way." (NIV) Psalm 25:9

Thursday, May 9, 2013

The Waiting Game

I have yet to meet someone who truly enjoys waiting.  Whether it be waiting in a grocery line, waiting in traffic, waiting at your favorite restaurant . . . waiting means we aren't getting what we want - whether it be OUT of the grocery store, home after a long day at work, or enjoying a great meal.  Waiting can be difficult.  Typically waiting can be stressful.  When I look at the areas I just spoke of, they seem trivial compared to other waiting I have done in my lifetime; waiting for a biopsy result, waiting for a call from the oncologist, waiting to hear from my mother's heart surgeon.  That waiting took on an entirely different approach, and was a completely different level of stress.

Waiting, whether for a short or long time, whether insignificant or life-changing, can steal peace from our lives.  I am sure each of us has endured a situation where we wanted a different outcome, and life did not respond as quickly as we would want it to.

As I progress through this life, I begin to realize the importance of beginning my "waits" in prayer.  By opening my wait in prayer to God, I know that the prayer will be answered.  Yes, He has three wonderful responses, "Yes, No, and Wait".  That last one has frustrated me on many levels many times.  I can even handle the "No" better than I can handle the "Wait".  Over time, though, I have realized that God's timing is SO much better than mine.  When I have forced situations, forced relationships, forced decisions and did not wait for God's answer, my path has not turned out as fruitful.

Waiting can be stressful - until we utterly and joyfully place our situation in God's hands.  It is at that moment of truth, that moment of full disclosure, that things seem to release from us.  On more occasions than I care to admit, when I am at some of my darkest moments and want to hold on to situations so that "I" can make the decisions that can't seem to move forward, it is at those times when I share them with God and the peace, "the peace that passes all understanding", floods over me.

No, the seas don't part and the bushes don't burn in front of me (wouldn't that be wonderful), and I continue to wait.  But the waiting is now done with joy - knowing that the Dear Lord has a greater plan for me.  In "Stressed Less Living", Tracie shares how God could change our circumstances at any time, but chooses to change us THROUGH our circumstances.  I loved reading that.  Once again, a sense of peace.

The stress created by waiting can stop us in our tracks - physically, emotionally, spiritually.  Yet, when we rely on God, the waiting - as long as it may be - becomes bearable, maybe even fruitful.  Whether the wait is in a grocery line or is life changing, we need to take it to the Lord.  Let's go to Him in prayer, together.  We will be changed, we will grow, our faith will become grounded.  I remember many years ago my husband struggling from being laid off.  He was frustrated by the lack of response from resume after resume being sent out.  It was a difficult time.  The waiting seemed more than he could bear.  On a sunny afternoon, I shared with him, "Honey, it is in God's time, not ours, that you will be blessed.  God has a plan."  God did have a plan.  Soon after, he found a good job.  And let me tell you - my husband often reminds me of those words I shared with him that sunny day - and I am VERY glad that he does.  Simple and Fruitful Faith.

"With man this is impossible, but not with God; all things are possible with God." 
(NIV) Mark 10:27

Sunday, May 5, 2013

That Great Song!!

For many years, a dear friend of mine, Marcia, and I taught Sunday School - to pre-school children.  There was a great wonder in teaching God's children (very little children) His Word.  We looked forward to all the stories, and no matter how many children were in the class (sometimes 2, sometimes 12), we tried our best to share the story personally with each.  The last few years we had the blessing of teaching in a room where a very talented member of our congregation painted the Noah's Ark scene (not the one above - but you get the idea) on one of the walls in the room.  It was an inspiration for teaching just to walk through the doors.

What was even more special was our chance to share those incredible stories from the Bible with our precious children.  Through the telling of the story, arts and craft time, snack time, and song time, the smiles on their faces warmed our hearts.  Yes, there were many weeks (remember, I shared that we did this FOR YEARS), that preparing for the lesson that Sunday seemed arduous.  Yet, when the time came to share the story, something happened.  Giggles, laughters, even tears, would come from the children, but at the end of the class, the singing and happiness would be there.  I often wondered what transpired in that room, in Marcia, me and the children, that turned all of us into different people - large and small - for one hour of the week.  For one hour, our cares and woes were left at the door.

There is no other explanation than the Holy Spirit filling each of us in that room, each adult, each child.  What I saw when teaching Sunday School, especially to little ones, was truly the essence of faith, Simple Faith.  These children believed.  They believed what was shared with them - lived it by sharing with their classmates,  teaching their parents the songs we would sing, asking questions the next time we got together about the previous lesson, taking patience in many of the handiwork. . . . they had faith.  Yes, I understand, I am speaking of 2-3 year-olds, but isn't that the kind of faith our Heavenly Father wants us to have?  

A faith that is totally real.  A faith that is pure and innocent.  A faith that shares the goodness with all, with no fear of what people will say or how they will treat you.  A faith that knows that our Saviour is always there to take care of us, to love us.  There is no doubt that one of the children's favorite songs (and one of mine) always was "Jesus Loves Me".  As an adult, those words always bring comfort to my ears and my heart, as I lovingly am reminded that although weak, He is strong and that He loves me.  I have no further place to look, but the Bible.

There are days when we struggle with this difficult grown-up life that we have and all that we are dealt each day, financial woes, relationship concerns, health issues, and the list goes on.  Rest assured that when we bring God those troubles and have Simple Faith that he is there to receive our words, hear our crys, and know He will help us - in His time - He will deliver us from our weaknesses.  Remember the words below:

Jesus loves me, this I know;
For the Bible tells me so,
Little ones to Him belong,
They are weak, but He is strong...
Yes, Jesus Loves Me.  Yes, Jesus Loves Me.  Yes, Jesus Love Me - The Bible Tells Me So~~

We are all God's children.  Close your eyes, imagine holding Jesus' hand, sitting on the grass with Him, having Him listen to your problems.  That's the Jesus of Simple Faith.  He's Listening!!!

"So in Christ,  you are all children of God, through faith..." Galatians 3:26

Thursday, May 2, 2013

Driving Signs

There are those moments in your life, when you have reached your limits and don't know where else to turn. They may come from financial burdens, grief/loss, work situations, health concerns, etc.  Yet, when we have reached those moments in our lives, we simply need to turn heavenward - reach out to God for guidance, patience, and hope.  Of course, if we went there FIRST, our burdens would not seem as heavy, our path would be shared earlier, and our journey would always be heavenward.  I have been a lifelong Christian, and I am still learning to focus and share my cares with God earlier for a more Stress Free Life.

I believe our Dear Lord has shared many life-changing moments with me.  These moments have been small treasures from heaven.  Yet, it was when I was going through much crisis in my life that I wanted to really HEAR from God - I wanted him to stop me in my tracks and really TALK to me.  Other people had that opportunity.  Friends had shared with me how they believed God truly talked to them.  I wanted that so much, to truly feel moved in such a real way, by our Lord.

As always, our Lord did not disappoint me.  Parenting is not an easy part of life.  There are certainly the great moments that I have truly cherished, first steps, first days of school, confirmations, graduations, proms, etc.  All of them are wonderful childhood "rights of passage".  As a parent, we look forward to those moments.  What they forget to tell you about is the trials and tribulations that stand strong throughout a child's life, especially those teenage years.

That is where one of my darkest moments took me.  One of my daughters and I were having a difficult time. We weren't seeing eye to eye and there was much discourse in our relationship.  Hurtful things were said and hearts were broken.  I was up all night worrying how to fix the situation - how do I gain our relationship back again.  As I set out for work in the morning, through many tears in the car, I asked God for a sign, what could I do to make things better.  As I shared earlier, he didn't disappoint me.

Though all my tears I looked at the car next to me on the highway.  There, on the license plate, it said, "TRSTGD".  I couldn't believe it - He actually TALKED to me.  Oh wait, it gets better.  I looked at the billboard, the one I pass all the time for work, and there, in big white letters it said, "FORGIVE".  As tears of joy rushed down my face, I realized it was time - time to forgive and trust that God would help mend our broken relationship.  And He TALKED to me!!!  The joy of both things is with me to this day - over two years later.  I will cherish that moment, and know that I experienced exactly what I needed from God at that time.  What I needed was Simple Faith.  Jesus had forgiven me for my sins, I needed to do the same.  It was a truly blessed day that I remember every time I go to work.  Peace, Joy, Simple Faith.

"Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways submit to him, and he will make your paths straight."  (NIV)Proverbs 3:5-6

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Thank you for visiting my blog. I hope we can share how God's grace has been life changing and that SIMPLE FAITH, getting back to a life that is rooted in the basics, can truly set us free to achieve so much in our lives.