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

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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.