Sunday, December 28, 2014

Looking Back into the New Year




 
I pray that everyone who reads this had a wonderful and blessed Christmas. I would love to hear from all of you as to your favorite Christmas moment.  Although there are so many to choose from, I think my favorite has to be singing "Silent Night, Holy Night" while just the candles are lit during our Candlelight Service on Christmas Eve.  There is something about that moment that I refer back to throughout the year.  Please feel free to leave your special moments in the comments section below.

As I thought about what to write today, the verses from above rang true to me, and I hope they will with you as well.  The New Year typically is full of New Year's resolutions.  Yes, those promises we make to ourselves, and sometimes to others, of all the things that we will do differently in 2015.  I have to share, there are many things that I would like to do differently in 2015.  Yet, today, I hope that we can look back as we enter the New Year.

Let's reflect on the first verse listed above, "The Lord bless you and keep you."  Please ponder with me over the 2014 year and think of all the blessings our Lord has bestowed upon you.  Many will say - nothing good has happened this year.  Yet, I challenge you.  Whether it be body, mind, or soul, I am sure there has been at least ONE blessing our Lord has given to you.  Yes, we may wake up with a few more aches and pains than in previous years, but we are still waking up each day - to make a difference in this world.  Yes, I know that there are many moments where my mind made the wrong choices during 2014, but there were other times where I made the right choices - Godly choices.  I also know that during the past year, my soul was guided more by MY doings than God's path for me.  Yet, there were times when I followed God's path - and the blessings were overflowing!!  I know the Lord blessed you this past year - please take the time to reflect on those blessings and give praise and glory to the One who provided for us.

Second verse, "The Lord make his face shine upon you and be gracious unto you."  Have you seen God's face this past year?  I have!!  I have seen His face in those that have been gracious enough to forgive my sins for doing wrong.  I have seen His face in those that I have prayed with.  I have seen His face in my husband, my children, and my mom.  I have seen it in smiles and tears.  His face has shone upon me and has graced my life on more than one occasion.  Yes, let's reflect again on the times when you have seen God's face in your life.  I am sure there has been at least one time when his face has shined upon you as well.

"The Lord lift his countenance upon you and give you peace."  Countenance = support!  Did the Lord support you this past year and provide you peace?  Was there one time when you felt washed over by the Holy Spirit and found that special peace?  Not just the "quiet" peace (yes, that is a special time as well), but the type of peace where even though life around you might be busy, you were able to breath, smile, and be in the moment of God's peace.  God's peace is available for the taking each and every day - it is US that need to stop and take the time to FEEL that peace.  Has God supported you in 2014?  Has He been there for you, helped you, lifted you up?  Those are wonderful moments where we know we are His children - when we know that God came to this earth, in a manger, and died on the cross, so that we might feel his support and peace.

My friends at Proverbs 31 taught me something that I love to use when I read a special verse.  Insert MY name into the verse and personalize it for ME - for that is how God intended the Bible to be read.  So the verses would read:
    The Lord bless me, Susan, and keep me.
    The Lord make his face shine upon me and be gracious unto me, his child Susan.
    The Lord lift his countenance upon me and GIVE ME PEACE.

This past year has been filled with God's blessings, no matter how difficult the year may have been.  So please, before the ball drops on New Year's Eve, take a few moments to look back and see the blessings God so richly provided to us in 2014 before taking the leap into 2015.  I pray the following for us:
   May our Lord provide for all our needs, body, mind and soul.  May He give us the peace that passes all understanding.  May we come closer to him and his word.  Let us give God the time he so wonderfully deserves and, in turn, may we give time to each other.  Here's to a 2015 that brings us closer to God, closer to family and friends, closer to strangers, closer to peace.  Amen

 

Sunday, December 21, 2014

Love Chain


"For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life."  (NIV)  John 3:16

It is hard to believe that this is the last Sunday of Advent and that Christmas Eve is just a few short days away.  How have your preparations been coming along?  Today was "wrapping" day and I'm happy to say that we are all done!!  Yet, the gifts have been abundant this Advent well before the day of Jesus' birth.

It has been a difficult four weeks.  As I mentioned earlier, the chaos of Christmas was in full gear.  Yet, also in full gear were the wonderful "love blessings" I received throughout the chaos.  There were words of encouragement, to me and from me.  I don't know about you, but many times, when I try to share encouragement, I believe "I" am the one that is more blessed.  Whether it be words written down or spoken, all of them have had great meaning.  Then there were the moments of peace and praise at church during this Advent - times when the Holy Spirit truly touched my heart and I could feel Jesus' love.  

God shared His son with us - the people he loved so much.  He knew, from before creation, that we were going to need a savior.  Someone who would save us from ourselves.  Someone who would care for us.  Someone who would love us dearly.  Someone who would die for us.  The love chain of Jesus is so incredible to view.  Please take a journey with me . . . .

God loved us so much he sent the angel Gabriel to speak with Mary.  Mary loved God so much she took on the role of Jesus' mother - unconditionally.  She never said, "Let me think about it," like Jonah did.  She loved her Lord and would do anything for Him, that's real love.  Joseph loved Mary and his Lord so much that when he had an opportunity to walk away, he didn't.  Despite ridicule, Joseph stayed with Mary, and became Jesus' earthly father.  Moving forward, Jesus' disciples stayed with him during his ministry - and saw blessings beyond comprehension.  Jesus loved Mary Magdalene so much that he stopped the behavior she was enduring and showed compassion and love to her.  In return, Mary followed him through his ministry as well.  I know, there are so many more examples of the love chain that I could write a novel.  Yet, there is one more link that has to be shared.

The greatest example of love comes from our Jesus - our savior.  His love is so great for all mankind that he was born in the most humble manner, a lowly manger.  That first Christmas had Jesus not joining this earthly world in the comfort of a palace but in the discomfort of a stable.  Yet, his love was so great that he came - for you and for me.  His love is so great for all mankind that he died the most humiliating death, so that we might live with him in paradise.  Such love, to us, is incomprehensible.  Yet, he did so with you and me and billions of others on his mind - so that we could experience the freedom from sin, and the warmth of his love.

His love is so great for all mankind that he will come again, this time in glory.  What a glorious day that will be.  His love is with us each and every day.  We have been blessed with the Holy Spirit, who takes residence in our hearts, and continues to help us understand God's love.  We see this love in the faces of family, friends and even strangers.  We feel this love in each touch.  We hear this love from the lips of those around us.  We read of this love in God's word.  His love is all around us - blessing us, reaching us, showing us that the chain of love cannot be broken.  Experience God's love - give the gift of love to those around you.

This Advent we shared the gifts of the Advent Candles:  Hope, Peace, Joy and Love.  I pray that this Christmas you experience all four of God's gifts in abundance.  I pray that the humbleness of our Lord is shared by you each day.  I pray that your faith in God brings you the hope, peace, joy and love that only Jesus can bring.  May you all have a very Merry Christmas.

Sunday, December 14, 2014

Joy within Sorrow



"Those who sow with tears will reap with songs of joy."  (NIV)  Psalm 126:5

The third Sunday of Advent - JOY!  Joy is one of those awesome words - it helps us to understand what could possibly be greater than "happiness".  Great JOY comes in so many different shapes and sizes, so many different situations.  It's hard to believe that joy can rise up from sorrow - but then again, that is the beauty of life, of God!

A few days ago marked 25 years since my grandmother had passed.  I remember the day my mom called.  I remember the days following that call.  Most of all, I remember the wake, the funeral, the family, the friends.  The people kept coming, streaming from every doorway.  I knew she was well liked, but THIS many people? It certainly brought perspective to how many lives my grandmother touched.  Amongst all the people, tears were not being shed.  There were squeals of laughter and not many tears.  This was a wake, really?  Yes, really.  Out of a time of sorrow, our Dear Lord brought great joy.  

There have been many times in my life where the sorrow I was feeling led to a moment of joy - helping me to understand that I am not always in control. When I need our Lord, He is always there for me, to bring me down a greater path.  This thought led me to all the joyful moments I have had in my life was well.  Just pure JOY that The Lord bestowed upon me or my family.  One of those moments happened this week.

After much waiting and anticipation, our son received the letter every senior awaits - the one from the college of their choice sharing that they have been accepted.  As Christian read over the letter, a sense of pure joy (and relief) exuded from him.  Such tears of joy were incredible to see.  He had worked very hard for this one moment, the moment where he could breathe and say, "I got in!"

This helped me to think about the joy we have with our savior.  Let's reflect upon Mary's utter joy when Jesus was born and the wise men visited - such JOY.  What about when Mary came upon the open tomb and met the resurrected Jesus down the lane - incredible JOY.  Most importantly to us, we have a JOY to look forward to that nobody can take away from us, the joy that we will feel when we enter the heavenly kingdom.  

I have been fortunate to have much JOY in my life.  The type of JOY that surpasses general happiness.  Blessings from God are truly to be treasured.  Reflect on the moments of JOY in your life.  Have you, too, experienced joy from sorrow?  I think that the best joy of all is the type we have when we take stock of all of our sins, too many to bear, and the JOY that fills our hearts when we know our Savior was born of this earth only to die and take all of my sins with him.  NOW THAT'S JOY!!  Advent Blessings to All!!


Sunday, December 7, 2014

Peace Amongst Chaos


"Now may the Lord of peace himself give you peace at all times and in every way.  The Lord be with all of you."  (NIV)  2 Thessalonians 3:16

It is the Second Sunday in Advent and the second candle lit today is for peace.  I don't know about you, but from the time the turkey goes into the oven on Thanksgiving until the last present is open on Christmas Day, my life can seem a bit chaotic.  Yours?  Are you feeling the chaos of the Christmas Season?

Each year I make a commitment to myself, and in turn, my family, to take these four weeks and create a more peaceful environment.  Usually, right about now - week two, the panic starts to set in.  Work is extremely busy - I can't seem to get ahead of the game.  Deadlines are looming, issues are surfacing, and a pressure I put on myself to ensure everything gets done creates a sense of chaos.  Why aren't there enough hours in the day?  Why is everyone asking for something?  Why can't we figure out a way to spread all of this throughout the year versus right now in the last month?  Why, why, why?

Then there are the household commitments - events for the kids, entertaining, events for the adults, shopping for gifts, writing the cards, etc., etc., etc.  It seems that just as I get in the car to come home from a long day at work, I begin to remember all that needs to be done at home.  Believe me, I have scaled back from years gone by, but the pile still seems to grow and grow.

What is your Advent season like?  Is it full of chaos and commitment or is it focused on Christ's birth?  If you are one to feel the chaos of Christmas, I have hope for you.

Take this moment, this one moment, and say with me, "Jesus - you TRULY are the reason we celebrate with such excitement.  The events and the chores of the season are done with the knowledge that your birthday is one the world celebrates.  Be with me, create in me a sense of peace amongst the chaos.  Only YOU can do that Jesus, and I know you are with me right now to help me get there."

I prayed a prayer similar to the above about 4 days ago.  It seemed like I wasn't going to get "it all" done.  I left it in God's more-than-capable hands.  Over me washed a sense of peace.  We all define peace in different ways.  Maybe you believe peace needs to be "peace and quiet" - nobody talking at you, nobody asking anything of you.  Many people see peace that way - those "Calgon take me away" moments where you are alone and at peace.  Yes, those moments are peaceful, quiet and precious.  

I see peace a little differently - and that is what I experienced a few days ago.  Peace doesn't have to mean quiet - I believe peace is defined as "calmness from God".  When I need peace in my life, it doesn't mean that the busyness of life needs to stop - it means that I know God is with me, guiding me, through the chaos.  At the end of the day the chores and the commitments were done out of love for my Lord, my family, and my friends.  The feeling of me wanting to scream is replaced by the Holy Spirit washing peace over me, like a blanket of comfort.  It is an incredible feeling and one that, I have to share, I have had the pleasure of experiencing over the years.

During times of darkness, times of busyness, times of joy and times of thanksgiving, I need to feel the peace of God.  He has never disappointed me.  When I reach out to him in times of prayer - asking for great peace - He has delivered this sense of comfort, as if He was giving me a huge hug.  For those of you who know me directly, hugging is a BIG part of my world.  It is the best feeling, and to have that feeling from God gives me the strength to move forward.

It is the Advent season - a time for us to do all we do out of faithfulness to our Lord.  It is a time for us to enjoy each other, to sing those carols loudly, to bake with zeal, etc.  It is also a time to stop - maybe right in the middle of the mall - and say a prayer to God for a sense of peace amongst the chaos.  I promise you He will respond in kind, with a big hug!!  Oh by the way, if you get an opportunity for a "Calgon" moment - certainly take it.  Those moments are cherished as well!!  Blessings to all.  


Sunday, November 30, 2014

Hope in Darkness



 
"The people walking in darkness have seen a great light; on those living in the land of deep darkness a light has dawned."  (NIV)  Isaiah 9:2
 
Yes, here we were, the day before Thanksgiving, and the snow started.  Heavy snow is beautiful when it comes down.  Big flakes that coat the ground and trees - it is pretty.  Yes, pretty heavy.  It also causes tree limbs to bend and break as well as electricity lines to bend (and break).  Hence, the day before Thanksgiving and roughly 200,000 people in the state of New Hampshire had lost power.  We found ourselves to be in the same predicament as the other 199,999 homes in New Hampshire.  No power and no heat.  That Wednesday evening before Thanksgiving was cold and dark.  We kept our family occupied with board games by the fire, hoping that by morning the power (and heat) would be back.  As Wednesday night progressed, one couldn't help but focus on the darkness and cold. We were able to warm ourselves with lots of blankets and such, but the darkness can be overwhelming. Once the candles are blown out and the flashlights are shut off - it is dark!  The generator was put into place on Thursday morning to keep things going.  To make a long story short, by Friday afternoon, power was restored. 
 
Yet, the feeling of Wednesday night stuck in my head.  Darkness and cold.  There was another night when it was dark and cold - the night of our Jesus' birth.  Yes, that night there were no flashlights and no big comforters.  There wasn't a fireplace to keep warm and not even a house to stay within.  That night, there was a lowly stable, with hay and animals surrounding the birth of the Messiah.  Such humble beginnings for our King!  There was something that permeated that dark and cold, though.  The star - the star that brought the shepherds and wise men to the King, Jesus.  The star that provided guidance and light.  The star that provided HOPE!  Hope for Mary and Joseph and the child they would parent and hope for the people of Jesus' time
 
The good news is that the hope of the star, the hope of Jesus didn't stop there.  The wooden manger that saw Christ's birth and the wooden cross that would see His death provided for us symbols of hope - along with the brightness of the star.  With those three symbols we will always have the hope that only Jesus, our Messiah, can bring.  The good news is that we have hope because of Jesus who came for US!!  To have such deep hope in our hearts and souls that nothing else can bring comfort except the faith that Jesus came for me is life-changing.  It replaces the darkness and coldness of this world with the hope of the star -  the star that shined over Bethlehem.
 
Eventually, our power was restored.  What received greater restoration that evening that Jesus was born was our souls - our souls received the restoration of salvation and hope.  We all need to have the hope that only Jesus can bring, the hope in true eternal life.  I pray that all those who read this never have to live in darkness and cold.  Yet, if that should happen, turn your thoughts, prayers and HOPE to our Jesus.  Give Him your prayers and your love.  The HOPE He gives to us is a great gift for us to hold onto. 
 
As our Advent season begins, I will try to share the meaning of the four Advent candles.  The first is HOPE, and I pray that during the next four weeks, may you turn to Jesus for the HOPE you need in this world - knowing that we have HOPE for our future.  May you all have a blessed Advent season.
 
 


Sunday, November 23, 2014

God Is Good

"And God is able to bless you abundantly, so that in all things at all times, having all that you need, you will about in every good work."  (NIV)  2 Corinthians 9:8
 
It was a big day, yesterday, for our family.  Our son and his football team won the state championship in football.  It was the first time the high school received this honor, and the whole town was thrilled.  There was a parade of cars, buses, police and fire trucks going through town to the high school.  There were speeches.  There was cake.  There were smiles and tears of joy.  This team had great leadership with wonderful coaches.  It was a big day.
 
As we sat in the stands, barely 32 degrees, it was hard not to reflect on the goodness of God.  Yes, these boys worked hard.  Yes, there were many practices.  Yes, I am sure the coaches put in an incredible amount of time ensuring the plays were just right.  Yet, as I sat in the stands before the game yesterday, I prayed.  Oh yes, I prayed that He would watch over the team and guide them to victory.  I prayed for their safety.  I prayed, a lot.  God is good and he answers prayers.  He answered many prayers yesterday.
 
God brought this team a win yesterday.  God brought families together - all for the common goal of supporting players.  God brought dear friends from New Jersey up to watch the game and show their support - through traffic and injury - they came.  God blessed our family, abundantly.  At the end of the game, as the team cheered and the fans did as well, I gave thanks.  My heart cried out to the Lord with thanksgiving.  It was then that I realized how truly good God is.  Not because the team won, but the other blessings that came with it.
 
God showed us how wonderful family and friends can be.  As the celebration continued throughout the evening, and family joined us for dinner and cake, it was great that a simple game brought such happiness and joy to so many.  God showed us what faith can bring, warm hearts despite difficult times.  God showed us the power of prayer.  God showed Himself to us.  His love, His grace, His goodness, His peace.  It was all there throughout the day yesterday. 
 
This morning, as we worshipped our Dear Lord in church, once again I realized how Good God Is!!  Through His Word, through testimonies, through smiles and hugs, we get to see how Good God Is.  Sometimes, it is hard to see His goodness.  The previous week held frustrations, held hardened hearts, held wonders of not understanding, held missed opportunities to share his goodness.  As the service came to an end, once again, I thanked our Lord.  Once again, a tear of joy fell - so emotionally touched I was by His goodness.
 
Tonight I write with a sense of peace.  To know how much you are loved, by family, friends, and God, is overwhelming.  Tonight, I feel His love.  Tonight I feel His grace.  Tonight I am in awe of the blessings God has bestowed on me.  As we sang this morning in church, "God is so Good, God is so Good, God is so Good, He's so Good to me."  Blessings to all and may you all enjoy a wonderful Thanksgiving - sharing praise to our Heavenly Father for all He has abundantly given to us.

Sunday, November 16, 2014

Leaky Pipe

"And the disciples were filled with joy, and with the Holy Ghost."  (NIV)  Acts 13:52

It happened a couple of weeks ago.  We were going about our family chores in the house when we all started smelling a gas odor.  To make a VERY long story short, we were told that we had a leaky propane line.  Not something anyone wants to hear.  We were grateful for an evening of warmer temperatures and the next day a temporary tank and line were hooked up to our home until we could have the propane line from our larger tank repaired.  As with many home projects, it is not an easy fix, but it is fixable!  My husband and I are grateful for that and hope within the next couple of days, we will be "back in business" - especially as the colder weather is knocking at our doorstep here in New Hampshire.

That evening, and many evenings following that day, I have thought much about our leaky line.  I pictured our tank being full, and then through a small leak, all of our propane was gone and we had nothing left.  I have to share, I have felt much like that empty propane tank in my life.  Yes, let me share.

There have been events in my life when I have been "filled up" with the Holy Spirit.  I have felt full of God's word, God's strength, and God's love.  It may have been a great sermon that truly left me full.  It may have been a wonderful Christian music concert.  There have also been times when I have chatted with a fellow Christian friend and have found myself full to the brim with God's love.  There have also been times when I have read my Bible and a particular verse filled my soul.  Yes, these and others have filled me up so that I could continue my days ahead with the fullness of Christ.  Have you ever had the sensation of being "filled up" with the Holy Spirit?  I pray you have felt this as I have!  

Yet, I also have to share, that maybe days, or weeks, or months (or even years), after the "filling up", I have experienced the leaky pipe!  It may be a slow leak, or it could have been a gushing break, but my pipeline to the Holy Spirit was losing gas.  This leaky pipe has always been of my own doing - maybe "my ways" became stronger than God's ways (slowly but surely, that leak has occurred).  Maybe it has been the leak of selfishness, or gossip, or judgment - yes, I'm not proud to say that those leaks have passed my lips.  Then there is the strong break of the pipe - when I have been defiant to my Lord.  Yes, those times have happened too.  As you can see, none of these times have "filled me up", they have only created a leak or a break in my pipeline to God.

As with our home projects, the fix is not always easy.  It takes time to reflect, repent, and rejuvenate.  It takes work and time to be filled up again - getting back to my Bible, back to worship, back to my friends who fill me up.  Aahhh, but when those moments happen, I can feel my pipeline being restored.  The drive, the energy, the love that is in my heart continues to grow and, thank our Dear Lord, I am filled again with the Holy Spirit.  Yes, as with our leaky propane tank, I am "back in business".

How about you?  Do you have a slow leak in your pipeline to God?  Maybe it is a huge break.  Either way, remember, it is "fixable".  God provides so much to us to gain a stronger relationship with him.  Where should you start?  For me, it starts with prayer.  Reach out and talk to God, our Heavenly Father.  He is on the other side of the pipeline - waiting for us to reach out to him and be restored.  Talk to Him and let Him know what is in your heart.  The healing will begin, the fixing will occur.  Soon, you will be filled up - filled with the Holy Spirit.  Here's to fixing our leaks!!  The warmth that comes from a leak that has been fixed just doesn't happen in MY home, it happens in all of our hearts!

Sunday, November 9, 2014

Remembering . . .

"Put on the full armor of God so that you can take your stand against the devil's schemes. . . . In addition to all this, take up the shield of faith, with which you can extinguish all the flaming arrows of the evil one."  Ephesians 6:10-16 (NIV)

Veteran's Day is this week.  This wonderful day of remembrance helps all of us to be aware, to be solemn, to be grateful for all the brave men and women who have fought on the battle lines to preserve the freedoms we have today.  I have such respect for people who give to their country in such a bold and profound way.  What makes them so very special?  I believe it is the self-sacrifice that they share with all of us.  They walk into battle, wherever that may be, knowing the dangers that surround them. They walk into that battle knowing what they may receive from their enemies - the scowling, the ridicule, the persecution, the injury, the sacrifice of life.  They walk right into that with a clear understanding of what is expected of them - to do whatever their commanding officer asks of them.  May we salute them - not just this day, but every day of our lives.

One can't help but look at our own lives to draw parallel.  We have an enemy who is as strong as any opponent that has faced our country - the devil.  As our enemy, he scowls us, he ridicules us, he can injure us and certainly put us into a place of persecution.  Many people throughout the ages have fought the valiant fight of being a Christian and defacing the devil.  This includes ourselves.  There is much around us that defines who the devil is - crime, addictions, hatred, etc.  We see it almost every day in the news.

Yet, we can find comfort.  As we find comfort that our military will protect us and our freedoms, we also can find comfort that our Lord and Savior will protect us from the devil.  He is there with us, guarding us and protecting us.  As our verse for today states, we need to prepare - we need to put on the full armor of God so that we can stand up against the devil and all that he throws our way.  If we stay in the way of our Savior, we will have righteousness, the gospel of peace, faith, salvation and the Holy Spirit with us every day.  Those are wonderful pieces of armor to deter the one who wants to get to us, the devil.  With God's love, and His armor, we are able to walk into battle with faith, conviction, and love.  When WE do what our commanding officer asks of us, our Father, it is clear what is expected of us and we do it with self-sacrifice.

As we walk through the week ahead, may we be cognizant of the many men and women who have, and continue to give of themselves in our military.  May we thank them and shake their hand, letting them know how much we appreciate all they have done for us.

Also in the week ahead, may be put on our armor, and take up our sword, to defend ourselves and others against the devil.  Let God's word be your guiding force, and let His love reign down on you.  May the devil be pushed back from your life and may you shine forth in glorious victory!!

Heavenly Father, give us the strength to be soldiers for you, to put on your armor and defend against the devil.  Please be with all who are in our armed forces - protect them, guide them, and bring them home to their families.  In your name we pray - Amen

Sunday, November 2, 2014

Influence



"Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles.  And let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us."  (NIV)  Hebrews 12:1

Yes, today is All Saints' Sunday.  I sat in church this morning listening to Pastor's wonderful sermon, selection of hymns and scripture, and saw all the other parishioners.  It made me reflect, it made me wonder. . . .  all those incredible people that are now with our Heavenly Father that have had an impact on my Simple Faith and the Simple Faith of my family.  

I can't help but start with my grandfather, who was a Lutheran minister.  I never met my grandfathers and that always made me sad.  I always wanted to know what they were like, what it would have been like to walk, hand in hand, down the street.  I know they are with our Savior, but I always wondered.  Although I never met my grandfather, I KNOW he had an influence on my family's faith.  I am sure he influenced both my mom growing up and, later on, my mom and dad as a newly married couple.

My grandmothers also influenced me.  My grandma would pray her rosaries every night.  She was deeply rooted in her faith and many of my fondest memories are of her praying as I fell asleep.  My Nana attended church with us, and was always a part of my church memories, especially the day I made my Confirmation.  Both of these strong women showed me how their faith impacted their lives with such incredible strength.  I also know they are in heaven keeping everyone up there in line!

My dad, yes, also had an influence on me.  He was one who lived his faith - he showed that many times over to his wife, his children, and his surrounding community.  He couldn't necessarily quote scripture, but he lived his life as a testimony to Jesus.  He always shared that he was  "strong like bull"; at the end - that may not have been his physical condition, but it certainly was his spiritual condition.  

Then there are those outside of my direct family that had an influence on my faith.  My pastor growing up, Pastor Kucharik and my dear Sunday School teacher, Mr. Dzuroska, will forever be in my heart as people who influenced my deep faith to an understanding of a teenager.  They were amazing saints that God definitely put into my life to influence me.

What about my family past me? There is no doubt that my husband's parents, both with Our Lord, influenced his faith and commitment to Jesus.  Juan often speaks of the times his father would sit at the table with the family Bible open, just reading.  His mom, a great servant of the church, found her time to be dedicated much to God and serving the church community.  I know that their influence on Juan has found its way into my heart as well.

Such great saints - people who witnessed their faith to me, to us.  The best part is, as Pastor shared this morning, that they are still influencing us - albeit far away.  They still watch down on us, continuing to be our witnesses, helping us, guiding us, ensuring that the faith they gave to us does not vanish.  With God's ever-present hand, the faith that began with earthly family and friends, has continued to bring us closer to Him every day.  It is this faith that helps us continue on the path He provides for us - the path that God brought to our lives.

Who are your saints?  Who are the people that have gone on to heaven that influenced YOUR life, YOUR faith?  Think about them, thank our Dear Lord for their presence in your life, hold them close to your heart, and continue the simple faith that they brought to you.  That is truly the greatest gift you can give these all-deserving saints.  

Monday, October 27, 2014

Recipe for Us


"How sweet are your words to my taste, sweeter than honey to my mouth!"  (NIV)  Psalm 119:103

I baked a cake yesterday.  No, this isn't a once-in-a-lifetime occurence.  I enjoy cooking and cook/bake often.  Yet, as my family will tell you, I am one of those "unique" cooks.  Yes, the kind that sees the recipe, says to herself "Wow, that sounds great", and as they set out to make the recipe decides "a little bit of this and a little bit of that" will make it better.  

So I started with a simple apple cake mix.  Then the fresh apples were introduced, some caramel sauce after it came out of the oven and frosting that was hinted with cinnamon and nutmeg.  Yes, it was a good cake and had all the flavors of fall within - exactly what I was hoping for.  As I changed the recipe and thought about what I could add to make it better, I realized there was much learning that I had gained - from making a cake.

When I look to those around me and see all that God has created, I am always amazed.  When His hand touches us, each of us is so wonderfully made. He took the "basics" and added something special to each one of us to make us better, sweeter.  He added "a little bit of this and a little bit of that" and look at the wonders each of us brings.  Some of us bring service.  Some of us bring education.  Some of us bring evangelism.  The list goes on and on.  The greatness, though, is that by God's hand, He has added the individuality that makes us all good - together.  Just like adding the apples, cinnamon and nutmeg.  Together, we are better!!

Yet, there is one more way to look at the addition of good things that make us better.  You see, as we add good things into our lives, our blessings from God are sweeter.  As we enrich our lives with fellowship, prayer, praises, and God's word, things that make US better, we also see the sweetness of our lives increase.  It's a great feeling to know God's words penetrate us, deepen our faith, and bring us to a stronger relationship with our Lord.  This sweetness is available to us each and every day - we just need to partake of the wonderful food to help strengthen us - God's food in His word.

So the next time you set off to make something a little better, think of all God has given YOU to become a little better.  Immerse yourself in all He provides to you.  Who knows what the end recipe will yield - hopefully a better YOU.  And go ahead and make the cake - it really was delicious :)

Sunday, October 19, 2014

The Table


"He will show you a large room upstairs, all furnished.  Make preparations there.  They left and found things just as Jesus had told them."  (NIV)  Luke 22: 12-13


Last night, we sat around the table.  We celebrated my mom's 75th birthday with family and friends around a wonderful table filled with beautiful flowers, fine linens, crystal, gourmet food, etc.  It was truly extraordinary and a grand celebration.  There were surprises, reminiscing, laughter, jokes, fun and love.  It was a great tribute to a great woman, my mom.  

As we sat there together last night, my mind took me to different tables during my lifetime.  There was the kitchen table growing up as kids - the table where my mom would make awesome dinners - many of which I try to recreate.  There was the formal dining room table.  As I am sure it is in many homes, the dining room table was saved for special occasions - parties, holiday dinners, etc.  There was the small table at my Nana's apartment and the large linoleum table at my Grandma's home - each of those tables also saw many wonderful meals.  I then fast forwarded to my own home.  Our kitchen table is always the scene of dinners with our family.  Although most meals are homemade creations, there are those days when we need to bring the meal in - the day got away from me and I wasn't able to prepare a homemade meal.  Yet, the meal is enjoyed around the table.  As growing up, our dining room table sees less meals than the kitchen table - reserved for the "special" dinners or when the kitchen table just doesn't seat enough for all who will be enjoying a meal.  

The table, throughout my life, has always been the center of our family.  Major decisions, discussions, and dilemmas were, and are, solved at the table.  It may be where we eat our meals, but it has also been how we got through life.  Family meetings are typically held around the table.  The table has seen many tears as well as much laughter.  I see the table as strength - the legs of the table, the table top - all of it  bearing the weight of our family.  No matter where the table is, no matter which room it is in or whether it is in our home or at a restaurant, the table is strength.  The weight of our family could be happiness or sadness.  It could be distraught or jubilation.  Yet, the table is where our family comes together.  It has throughout my life - and it did last night!  

The most IMPORTANT table, though, was the table that saw our Lord the night of the Last Supper.  THAT table saw true strength.  THAT table saw true courage.  THAT table saw distraught men.  THAT table saw incredible love.  THAT table saw our Lord washing his disciples' feet.  It saw our Lord breaking bread.  It saw our Lord sharing wine.  It saw OUR Lord giving us an incredible gift - back then and today.  It saw Jesus giving us Holy Communion.  THAT table is the table all of us can model our own tables after.  I truly never thought about the tables we eat at every day the way I saw tables last night - with reflection, with honor, with love, with hope.  

Jesus is at each of our tables every day.  He is there to provide us strength, courage, and love.  As long as we invite Him to sit with us, He will be there for us.  This morning, as I was at Jesus' table celebrating Holy Communion, I once again thought about all the tables I have dined at.  The best table of all truly is Jesus' table.  He fills me up with the healthiest food I could ever need - food for my soul.  I ask you, as you sit down to dinner today - whether it is with many family members or by yourself, ask Jesus to sit at the table with you.  He will do so gladly, and I guarantee you, you will be filled to the brim with an everlasting strength and love that only Jesus can give us.  May your table always have the most special member of your family present - Jesus!!

Sunday, October 12, 2014

The Greatest Healer

"Heal me, Lord, and I will be healed; save me and I will be saved, for you are the one I praise."
(NIV)  Jeremiah 17:14


It was a beautiful fall day, just like today.  The sun was shining, the leaves were beautiful colors, the air was crisp - I can remember each detail like it was yesterday.  I walked in happy, I walked out stunned.  I had cancer.  Each moment of the next few weeks are embedded in my memory.  Each conversation, each doctor appointment, each test, etc.  Although it was a whirlwind of activity, it was all very real.  I remember telling my children, my parents, my friends.  I remember feeling scared, confused, frustrated.  I also remember praying - a lot.  The one question that was never asked, amongst many that I had, was "Why me"?  There was a reason- whatever that reason might have been - that I was chosen for this.  The journey of appointments, surgeries, rounds of chemo, rounds of radiation all began.  

I gained much during that next year.  I gained humility (that happened when the world poked and prodded me).  I gained humbleness (that happened when I had no hair).  I gained appreciation (that happened when I HAD to let others help because I just couldn't do it myself anymore).  I gained strength (even in my greatest moments of weakness).  I gained perspective (of what TRULY is important in this life).  I gained hope (not the kind of hope that you wish, but the kind of hope that provides a path of change).  I gained faith (much deeper than I had ever known before, and the kind that has grown into a love and passion for my Lord).

Fifteen years ago, to the day, is when I found out I had cancer.  I was 36, I had two children, I had a great job, and I had cancer.  That was fifteen years ago, and today is today.  That day I prayed to the Dear Lord that whatever plan He had for me, to make it useful.  I still pray that same prayer.  God has given each and every one of us incredible gifts - when we actually take the time to look and see what they are.  For years I prayed to better understand what my gift was.  Today, I believe I understand it better.  Fifteen years ago I started a journal of my events of dealing with cancer - the good days, the challenging days, and the downright HARD days (thanks always to Annie for getting me started on my writing).  I look back to that journal on this anniversary each year - remembering, understanding, and planning.  Remembering the physical, emotional, and spiritual struggles.  Understanding now what I couldn't then about what was happening.  Planning for my future when I wouldn't have cancer.

To sum up the entire experience in one word would be BLESSED.  The experience then - and now - is a blessing in my life.  I gained more than I ever lost.  I can't thank my friends enough for all that they did for me during that time - making meals, visiting, sitting and saying nothing and knowing that was okay, taking my children to events I couldn't, all of that and so much more.  I can't thank my family enough for all they did during that time - making meals, cleaning my house, holding my hand, giving me hugs, sharing presents on my chemo days (I remember Mommy), always letting me know it was going to be okay.  

Most importantly, I thank God every day - for all He gave me and continues to give me.  He was there when I cried in desperation, and there to receive my praises.  He was there to sit beside me during the discovery and recovery.  He was there to let me know there was a plan, and is there today to guide me through that plan.  Fifteen years is a long time to feel such joy and blessings - and I feel them every single day.

God is truly the great healer - of body, mind and spirit.  He healed me then and continues to heal me today.  When provided the opportunity, He can - and will - change your world.  He certainly has mine!  Thank you, Heavenly Father, for the grace, mercy and healing you have given to me.  May I continue to live in your word and on your path, for my life.  To all those around you who may be suffering with cancer - hold them close to you and love them.  Sometimes, we just need to be still to give the most.  Blessings to all who graced my life, fifteen years ago and today!  Love & Peace!


Sunday, October 5, 2014

Clothed in Beauty

                     

Fall in New England.  For those of you reading this that are not from the New England area, I ask you, just once, to come visit this area in Fall.  To me, there is nothing more beautiful, more peaceful, more gratifying than seeing Fall in New England.  The colors are vibrant, the smell of dry leaves is intoxicating, the gentle cool breeze is invigorating - it is truly something to be cherished.  There are certain years when the colors just seem to "pop".  There are other years where, due to weather conditions, the colors are more muted.  And just a few years ago, the colors were subdued under a sheet of ice (yes, that was a COLD Fall).  

This year is a "popping" year.  Any corner you turn, the colors of fall are there to greet you.  It may be one red leaf amongst a sea of green.  It could be yellow pine needles showering down on you.  It could be an ocean of color alongside a pond.  It could be the patchwork of mums integrating together in harmony.  Whatever you see, it is like a gift that God gives me each time I see something.  Maybe that is why this season gets me so excited.  I was trying to explain it to a coworker the other day - my excitement almost making me speechless - almost !

I can't help but look at this season as God whisking out His paintbrush to share His splendor with us.  No matter how we look at it, He shares His goodness with all who take the time to see it.  He is the painter and the world is His canvas.  Together, it's majestic.  God clothes His world with what only He can do - share His brilliance with all of us.  When someone needs to see a miracle, then all they need to do is come to New England during Autumn.  

This thought of clothing our world in beauty opened my eyes to how God clothes us.  He has rained down on us His grace and righteousness.  It clothes us each and every day.  He allows us to bask in His glory, His love, His grace.  We are like the strong oak waiting for His paintbrush. He clothes us with all that we need to spread His word and love to others.  The question is, "Do we?"

When others see us, do they see the beauty that God has poured over us?  Do they feel God's love through our hugs; do they see God's love in our smile; do they hear God's salvation in our words.  Do they?  Do they see hope or despair?  Do they feel love or hate?  Do they know Jesus' unconditional love through the sacrifice of His life for our sins?  Do they know they can be forgiven?  Do they?  Do they hear words of encouragement or criticism?  Do they feel strength or intimidation?  Do they?

Yes, these reflective questions help me to review my life and what I want the world to see.  I want them to see the person who is clothed in Christ.  I want them to see the beauty that God gives to me.  I want them to feel the Holy Spirit.  If I want all these things - then I need to be the red, yellow and orange leaves of a tree in autumn.  God's brilliance needs to be shown to all.

Take the time, this fall, to experience the clothing grace God provides - in us.  Take the time, this fall, to experience the beauty God provides - in our world.  May the incredible beauty and majesty of this season bring you peace.

"I put on righteousness, and it clothed me:  My justice was as a robe and a diadem." (NI) Job 29:14

Monday, September 29, 2014

Where Are We Going?



As with many highways across our nation, they are under construction.  As I travel to and from work every day, I can't remember a time when the road hasn't been under construction.  Day in and day out, we wait for the construction to be done so that we won't have to dodge cones and barriers, and enjoy a smooth ride.

For some reason, this became extremely evident to me this past week.  The portable signs shared that we had a "New Travel Direction".  Wow, I got excited.  Here is what we have been waiting for.  As the commuter traffic veered towards a new route, nothing much seemed to change.  Yes, we veered to the right versus the left, but we were still two lanes, there were still cones to dodge.  I kept trying to figure out what had been done - why are we going to the right, why are the cones still up, what are they trying to accomplish . . . .  The questions seemed to continue to wander through my mind.  I'm not kidding, it was about 10 minutes I kept thinking about this.

Then it hit me - Susan, there is nothing you can do to change this!  You need to take this road to work and I'm sure that when all the work is done, there will be a better road.  Why are you trying to understand every detail of this work?  It is not something I am proficient at - civil engineering is not my forte.  Yet, I was spending a great deal of time and energy on this.

Once I realized it was not mine to understand that morning, I said to myself, "God, you know better than me," and I let it go.  What happened next in my mind was stronger than I have experienced in some time - how many times in my life have I tried to understand the situation versus trusting God?  How many times have I forced an understanding , "This must be happening because of _____," or "This has to make sense - it must be _______."  I will then put my belief and trust into my OWN understanding of the situation versus letting it go and trusting that GOD has the true understanding.  

I realize I do that often.  Rationalize, justify - whether it is a situation or a decision.  Yet, what I can do better is to give the situation to God, and trust in Him and His will, which far surpasses any understanding I can have.  In the "road construction" of life, God's understanding and guidance of a situation is far greater than mine.  Yet, I will many times rely on my OWN understanding first - and many times -  my OWN understanding can get me into trouble.  I may understand incorrectly, leading to assumptions, judgements, and sin.

If I left situations up to God's understanding - realizing that I need not understand every situation and just pray for guidance, I would have God in my corner and not the devil.  I would much rather have God with me any day!!  I tried to do more of that during the week that followed ahead.  In situations when I didn't understand what was going on and the WHY behind it- I gave it to God.  I said to Him, "You know what I don't God.  Please guide me to respond to YOUR will, not mine."  This doesn't mean that I didn't have frustrations during my week, but I let go of them much quicker. I didn't hold on to them, and I had a more peaceful week.

Try it with me.  When you are faced with a situation and NEED to have answers, NEED to have understanding - give it to God.  Pray the following prayer, "I give this situation to you, God.  I don't need to understand, I just need to respond in the way YOU want me to respond.  Give me peace and the wisdom to do YOUR will."   Let me know how it goes!  It is hard not to always have a clear understanding.  Yet, when we KNOW and have the SIMPLE FAITH that God DOES know, that He DOES understand, we can rest assured that the situation is in the best hands possible - God's hands.

"Trust in The Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding."  (NIV)  Proverbs 3:5

Sunday, September 21, 2014

The Master Weaver


Tomorrow is the first day of Fall.  Yes, truly the best season of the year - especially if you live in New England.  Cool crisp weather, beautiful trees, magnificent mums, apple picking season, pumpkins on the doorstep; the list of "goodness" just goes on and on and on.  Anyone who knows me knows that this is truly the season I live for every year.

As I spent time this past week trying to see all of God's wonderful blessings in my life, I couldn't help but continue to see the Master Weaver in practice.  Whether it was the apple weaved into a place mat on my kitchen table, or a patch of beautiful leaves turning color amongst the green, it seemed as if God was showing me how he weaves wonderful items of beauty into our lives.  

It made me think about all of the blessings God has wonderfully weaved into my life.  The people that have become such a strong influence and source of comfort amongst difficult times.  The highs and the lows that I have experienced through personal strife and tribulations.  The incredible family that I have and how they are such an integral part of my life.  It has been as if God has taken a huge loom and just started weaving all of the experiences I have had into what is known as my life.

God does that, doesn't He?  He is able to see and know what we need at every moment in our lives and provides just what is needed.  Does that mean that each day is going to be one of comfort?  No - not even close!  Does it mean that we won't struggle and have tough times?  I don't know about you - but there have certainly been struggles in my life!  What does it mean?  It means that each and every moment - the easy and rough; the good and bad; the highs and lows; are all intricately weaved into each day - our Lord knowing that one moment would weave perfectly into the next.

This image of the Master Weaver also led me to the times in my life when my personal choices - the bad ones - led to my life unravelling.  When I followed my path, my choices, my decisions that were not God driven, I found my moments not so well weaved, but it was as if someone took a piece of thread and pulled until there was nothing left.  That feeling of emptiness is also something I have experienced.  To know that the choice that I made led me to a place of despair.  

Yet - those places of despair were, once again, repaired into a beautiful tapestry.  This ONLY happened when I went to my Dear Lord in prayer, knowing that if I submersed myself in God's word and put my trust into His hands, my life would, once again, become a life of beauty.  How many times I have turned from my God's purpose in my life?  How many times I must have disappointed him?  How many times He must have said, "Again, Susan??"  Yet, no matter how many times I may have turned from choices and decisions rooted in Him, He NEVER turned His back on me.  He has continued to turn my life, this little life amongst millions, into a life I cherish every day.

When was the last time YOU let the Master Weaver do the work in your life?  Has He created an incredible masterpiece for you?  Are you LETTING Him do his wonder or are you turning away in selfishness.  Take some time to think about these decisions, about our focus on God, about how He can weave each moment of every day into something outstanding.  Along the way . . . grab a freshly picked apple and a gaze at the foliage. . . remember - it's Fall, when God weaves incredible beauty into our lives.

"And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose."  (NIV) Romans 8:28

Sunday, September 14, 2014

Look Up



Today, our Gospel lesson was the wonderful story of Zacchaeus.  Oh, how I enjoyed teaching that story in Sunday School to our little students.  The story, the song of the "wee little man" - I enjoyed every moment of it.  It was a true treat to hear it preached today from our wonderful Pastor.  It put a different light on the story, one that made me consider throughout the day of "looking up".

That day when Jesus was on His journey, walking through Jericho, he looked up.  There, up in the tree, was Zacchaeus.  So the story of the hated tax collector goes.  Jesus tells him that he is going to go to his house and Zacchaeus immediately heeds Jesus' words.  Zacchaeus gives of himself - time, possessions and soul, to the Lord.  It is a wonderful exchange of the lost being found, of Jesus finding Zacchaeus, the little, lost man.

As I sat, listened, and remembered the sermon throughout the day, I couldn't help but "look up".  Jesus, walking along, to the time to look up.  I couldn't help but "look up" throughout the afternoon.  Up towards the beautiful blue sky; up towards the tops of the swaying trees; up towards the top of a flag pole with a flag flying stoically; up towards the hawk that gracefully soared through the air; up towards the cross that hangs in the front of our church.  Up . . . towards my Lord. 

When I look up, I realize what Jesus provides to me with all the things that are "up".  The flexibility of the swaying trees certainly symbolize to me the times when I need to be humble, and not so controlling - to sway with the air towards what is right and away from MY needs and MY wants.  I look up at the flag and can't help but send prayers to all those that have fought for my freedom, from long ago to today.  Although I might not know each person by name that I pray for, I know that Jesus hears my prayers and is looking over the service men, women and their families.  I look up at the hawk that glides and I remember the power of my Lord to help me out of the difficult situations, as long as I follow His path and His will. 
 
My final look up is to the cross - the cross where my Jesus died for my sins.  I look up and I see His suffering, His scorn, His death. I look up to remember His life here on earth; how God sent His only son so that I would not have to suffer the consequences of my sins in hell.  I look up to know that on
that cross, Jesus took my sins on His shoulders - to bring me eternal life. 

I look up at the beautiful blue sky and all I can think of is the day our Lord finally rose to heaven in all his glory. What a sight that must have been.  The joys of looking up!!  As we think of Jesus looking up to Zacchaeus, may we also look up - to all of the glorious things our Lord has provided for us when we glance upward.  There is no doubt that all of you look up and see our Lord's glory, His peace, His love for us. 

The next time you are outside, I ask that you look up.  Even if looking up means that a raindrop falls on your nose - that, too, is a blessing from our Heavenly Father.  Sometimes I feel that I look at things too simply (maybe that's why the title of my blog fits me so well).  Yet, I  believe God gave us simplicity for our faith.  I believe that He didn't want it to be too complicated.  He wanted a simple man, Zacchaeus, to simply believe, to know that His salvation comes from Jesus.  And Zacchaeus believed.  May you believe as well.  Blessings for the week ahead.

"So he came down at once and welcomed Him gladly.....Jesus said to him, "Today salvation has come to this house, because this man, too, is a son of Abraham.  For the Son of Man cam to seek and to save what was lost."  (NIV)  Luke 19:6-10

Sunday, September 7, 2014

Our Roots


We had some pretty severe weather here yesterday.  Lightening, wind, thunder, rain - even a possible tornado, which is VERY unlikely for our area.  This morning, as we were driving home from church, we noticed a beautiful huge oak tree that was totally uprooted from the ground - similar to this one.  It seemed unbelievable to me that a tree of that size could actually uproot from the ground that its been living in for decades.  Thankfully, the tree cleared any building or car so no damage was done.

Just as unbelievable to me was right near that tree, there were many other trees that were still in the ground, standing tall.  These trees were much smaller in stature, just as lovely.  It's amazing what weather can do to our surroundings like trees, rivers, etc.  It literally can take something that was growing for years and years and destroy it in a moment.

I couldn't help but parallel what I saw with our journey with Christ.  Just like the tree, we grow in our faith, nurturing it with all that God gave us - great pastors, teachers, church families, and most of all, His Word.  The Word of God becomes our roots, what we base our faith on.  We read it, we digest it, we live it out in all that we do.  For many of us Christians, the Word of God is our soil tht we can firmly plant our roots in so that we can live lives full of God's wonder, mercy and grace.

Yet, there are times, when a devasting turn in the "weather"  comes our way.  Maybe we lose a loved one; maybe a relationship breaks; maybe financial concerns are great; maybe there are health issues.  The weather of our lives can certainly reek havoc on our roots of faith.  As we journey through our life here on earth, we are faced with many situations, that can shake our roots.  It is easy for us to lose our way from our roots.  We can easily "blame God" for the nasty weather in our lives.  We can blame others - we can even blame ourselves.  All of this doesn't provide the umbrella necessary to weather the storm.

Rememer, that unlike the tree, we can keep our roots deeply planted.  During turbulent weather, we can have our roots take hold in the fertile soil of God's word and our faith-filled resources.  We can be the other trees near the uprooted tree - holding tight onto our church family, our Bible teachers, or our pastors.  What we can easily hold on to the most is God's word.  

When the storms of life pass our way, that is the time to open our Bibles.  If those roots start to shake, it's time to "stake" ourselves with the greatest blessing God gave us, His Son Jesus.  He is with us always, to hold us up strong during turbulent weather so that we are not uprooted, but dug in deep.  

The next time you pass a great tree standing tall, reflect on yourself and know that God wants you to plant yourself deeply into His Word, so that you may stand tall.  By the way, the storm has passed and it is a beautiful day in New Hampshire today - there is a light breeze, cooler temperatures, and the SON is shining upon us.  Those that are deeply planted have come out of the storm to sunshine. Blessings to all in the week ahead.

"...just as you received Christ Jesus as Lord, continue to live your lives in him, rooted and built up in him, strengthened in the faith as you were taught, and overflowing with thankfulness."  (NIV)  Colossians 2:6-7

Monday, September 1, 2014

Miracles Every Day


Please tell me that you can relate to this.  You and your spouse are working at least 10 hour days, getting home and doing household chores, making sure the bills are paid - only to wake up the next day and do it all over again.  Days can become one huge blur, especially as summer ends and the school year begins.  That is what our lives have been like lately.  My husband and I seem to be running and running to make sure that all of the children have what they need to start the school year.  That is, of course, in between doing all the other things that need to get done.  Just stopping and breathing seems to be a challenge.

That was until Friday afternoon.  We both decided to take a 1/2 day off from work to get ahead of the traffic that is typically very heavy going north on Labor Day weekend.  As we both connected after doing respective errands, my husband says to me, "Do you remember the sprinkler system going off this morning?"  After briefly thinking about it, I realized it hadn't gone off in a few days.  Obviously - THAT wasn't a good sign.  Visions of the pump being burned out raced through both of our minds.  It was working so well this summer - no kinks in the process - until Friday.  

My husband went to assess the situation.  Sure enough, a big and heavy tree had fallen down, inhibiting the flow of water and stopped the pump from working.  My husband came up to change into his "pump working clothes" and shared the bad news.  He would go down to see what he could do, but we prepared for the worst - having to purchase a new pump and all the work that goes along with it.  

Being the good wife, I waited patiently by the house, not wanting to hear his disappointment of what was going to be inevitable news.  About 20 minutes later, I ventured out his way.  Juan looked at me and said, "You are not going to believe this."  As he tried to lift the huge tree from off the pump system, he stated there was no way it was going to move.  It was just too heavy.  He asked God for some help - knowing that we couldn't afford a new pump and that the project would be a difficult one.  He pulled the tree from a different angle and it moved effortlessly.  Juan was astonished; I was astonished.  Even with the tree moved, there was more that should be wrong.  The pump would need to be primed again, even if it did work.  When he plugged it in - lo and behold, water starting raining over our lawn from the sprinkler heads.  We both looked at each other in amazement. 

There are times when one just HAS to believe in God, for there is no other explanation for what happens.  My husband and I had the honor of God bestowing a miracle on us that day.  In the busyness of our lives, things get overlooked - forgotten.  It was as if God said, "I need to get your attention in a way that helps you know I am still here."  He got our attention, all right.  On a simple Friday afternoon, when it seemed as if there was too much going on, God said, "I am here with you- every day - always."  He performed a miracle.  Right then and there, in our backyard, we gave praise to God, thanking Him for doing only what He could do.  The rest of our weekend has been a little slower.  We have talked about that  moment every so often - with a smile on our face.

Yes, life gets busy.  Sometimes we can't see the forest through the trees.  Yet, God puts miracles in our paths to help us be reminded of what we can't always see, His awesome power and love.  It feels good to have God shine on you.  Think over the past few days - a time when something went right.  Amidst difficult times, God is still there for us, loving us, trying to help us open our eyes.  Stop and open your eyes.  See His wonderful goodness and miracles of faith.

"Everyone living in Jerusalem knows they have performed a notable sign, and we cannot deny it."  (NIV)  Acts 4:16

Monday, August 25, 2014

The Waiting Game


I waited, and waited and waited.  I had a plan, and it wasn't being fulfilled (I know many of you are surprised at that)!!  It was Saturday morning and I had a full day of activities to attend to.  The first one being, I was going to be at the grocery store at 7AM.  Now, that's not abnormal for me, but of course, I am still in the "broken ankle" boot.  I had it all planned, though.  I am cleared to drive small distances, so the grocery store fits into that distance.  I would leave home at 6:50, be at the store at 7AM, do my shopping and be home by 8:15, put away groceries, and be ready to leave for the next errand at 8:30.

That was until my husband woke up with me and said he would take me to the grocery store.  The more I insisted that he didn't need to come, the more he insisted that he did.  I wasn't going to win this one.  Okay, how many of you ladies are very envious of me - having a husband who is willing to go to the store with me??  Of course, he needed to shower first, get ready, etc.  Yep, you guessed it, at 6:50AM I am waiting near the door, list in hand, ready to go.  6:50 passed.  So did 6:55, 6:58 and the bewitching hour - 7AM!!  Now I'm REALLY ready to lose my patience (okay, maybe that was lost when he shared he was coming with me).  I kept trying to put all of this into perspective, but my lack of patience was getting the best of me.  At 7:05, he arrives, ready to go. 

In the car, I looked out the window - AND PRAYED.  The car ride was quiet as I reached out to God, asking for a new batch of patience that day.  Of all the things for me to get upset about - REALLY?  Yes, my schedule was off.  Yes, I might be a bit late to the next appointment.  Yet, I had a wonderful husband sitting next to me in the car, going shopping with me on the only day he could sleep in.

I began to realize the things I get frustrated about - lose my patience over.  I seem to be better with "the big things" and sometimes let the little ones be the catalyst for me losing my patience.  My thoughts drove me to Jesus.  Now THERE'S a man who has patience to be modeled after.  He has such patience for me.  With all that I've done (and continue to do) wrong.  With my poor actions, improper words, and yes, at times, lack of faith - He still continues to have patience with me.  He is there for me, patiently waiting, until I recognize and repent my sins.  He is there for me, patiently waiting, until I turn back to Him for guidance and counsel.  He is there for me, patiently waiting, to love me and bless me abundantly no matter how many times He could have turn His back on me.  He is there for me, patiently waiting.  The more I thought of Jesus' patience, the more my heart melted and my impatient behavior faded away.  I had the gift my Jesus gave to me, my precious husband, sitting right next to me - even if we left 15 minutes later than I wanted.  Jesus' patience is a model for how I should act - EVERY TIME.

We completed the shopping quickly (probably quicker than if I were to have done it by myself) and we certainly had plenty of time to leave by 8:30 for the next errand.  Throughout the day, I found myself to have more patience - not getting thrown off by the little things.  Bottom line, my Simple Faith kicked in Saturday morning, and brought a more peaceful day for all.  A big thank you to my husband - I do appreciate everything you do for me.

An even bigger thank you to my Jesus.  Please pray with me:  Jesus, your model of patience is all around me.  You are patient with my behavior, my words, my actions.  You are patient with my praise to you (or lack thereof sometimes).  You are patient, most of all, because I know you love me.  Help me, Jesus, to continue to be patient in all I do.  Show me, guide me, to not only be patient, but show my patience to others.  I love you, Jesus, and may waiting always show me grace.

"But for that very reason I was shown mercy so that in me, the worst of sinners, Christ Jesus might display his immense patience as an example for those who would believe in him and receive eternal life."  (NIV)  1 Timothy 1:16


Monday, August 18, 2014

Clouds of Love


There is something about a cloudy day.  Many people say they enjoy the sunny days.  Yes, I do too, but when there is a cloudy day, something comes over me.  A sense of reflection, of peace, maybe some melancholy.  Either way, I do love my cloudy days.  Looking at the clouds up in the sky is such a great reminder of God's power.  His creation of clouds helps me to see His incredible power and strength.  The clouds can bring devastation with torrential rains and heavy flooding.  Clouds can bring much needed relief to parch-stricken land.  Clouds can bring comfort on a hot day.  As always, God's creation can share much for us.

As I focused on the beautiful clouds, I couldn't help but be taken in by their beauty and strength.  When a weather person predicts a "partly cloudy" day, I get excited for I know that I will get to view God's hand at work.  It made me think of the "partly cloudy" days in my life.  Some days, when the sun may not shine all the way - I realize I probably have more of those type of days than once thought.  Maybe the day was going great - lots of positive things going on, and then a cloud of "discomfort" comes along to cast a shadow on the day.  Maybe my thoughts were nice thoughts, and a cloud of improper or not pure thoughts came into my head, bringing a cloud of sin.  Yes, many times when we think of clouds, we think of storms or impending floods in our lives.

Yet, it is always important to think of the good things that clouds can bring.  When my life seems "parched" with not much goodness, a cloud of blessings can rain over me.  Those are joyous days!  When I can't see the joy or happiness this world can bring, God is always there to bring clouds full of laughter and smiles to rain down on me.  Clouds are filled with God's love.  Even the clouds that brought the great flood of Noah's time were filled with God's love.  Yes, they brought destruction for those that didn't focus on God's greatness, but it also brought a way for us to strengthen our faith in God - knowing that He will bring goodness for those who obey him.

Job is a great example of God's love in clouds.  Job, a man who seemed to have it all, lost everything in what seemed like a blink of an eye.  Yet, God's love rained down on him as Job showed his dedication and faithfulness to God.  God will deliver the clouds of love.  God will share with us all we need, even on the "partly cloudy" days.  In fact, it is on those days that we can feel His love, and see it around us.

So the next time that the weather person calls for a partly cloudy day, see it as a chance to look up in the sky and see God's wonder - and look forward to feeling God's love.  I pray that as you read this, God rains His love on you in buckets!  May the week ahead bring all of you joy and happiness.  

In our Father's name - peace!

"He brings the clouds to punish people, or to water his earth and show his love."  (NIV)  Job 3:13

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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.