Pack My Soul In a Ragged Portfolio

Just Thinking…..

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My first year of teaching was painful…. horrible. I hereby apologize to all my former students from that first year, because I certainly did not give you what you deserved. I had a good education, but somewhere along the line, no one taught me how to handle all the paperwork that went along with being an English teacher. No one taught me how to translate what I learned in college into something to tickle the minds of high school students. No one taught me the stress of doing grades in an era before calculators. No one taught me about the horrors of parent/teacher meetings. They probably tried to teach me….. but I didn’t get it.

So besides going to the Army recruiting office to sign up at the end of that very long horrible year (they were closed, by the way, so I went back and signed my contract for year 2), I dealt with the pressures in my life by writing. That had been my pattern for years: put my fears and frustrations and confusions on paper. I had journals and notebooks and scraps of paper everywhere with my original writings and things that I had copied because they meant so much to me.

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During that terrible year, I wrote a poem about packing my soul into a ragged portfolio, touching on the rigors of being a first year teacher. To my surprise, it was published in our state education magazine. It didn’t alleviate all the pain from that year, but it helped. I found the courage to keep on going.

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That’s often been the purpose with which I write: to sort out pain and to get rid of pain. Sometimes I have questions that I want to explore. Sometimes I just want to be funny. Sometimes I have insights to share. Many times I just get philosophical and muse Scripture or inspirational snippets. I’ve published several articles, stories and poems over the years, won some writing contests, but that Soul in a Portfolio still remains special to me. I do more writing now on a computer than I do on paper, but the essence of writing/thinking/feeling/seeing is still there.

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My son also did a bit of writing. He wrote a poem about our family being like a lizard (yeah, really….). He stated that Dad was the head, overseeing the direction we would go. Mom (that’s me!) was the little feet pitter patting around to get everything done. And he saw himself as the tail…. which would one day break off. He was good at observation, watching those little lizards in our woods. But his sharp mind also saw the connections to life. And yes, his poem was published.

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Now my granddaughter is foraying into the field of writing. She has the intellect, the observation, the emotion of a writer. She is reading other writings and jotting down the parts that touch her and impress her. I want to encourage her to keep on reading, keep on writing, keep on observing, keep on thinking, keep on feeling, keep on listening, keep on BEING!!!! Don’t be afraid of your own words and thoughts. Don’t compare yourself too much to others. Be yourself because you are worthwhile. You have a story to tell; tell it the best way you can right now. Remember, dear granddaughter, you are Right Here…. Right Now….. Glory be.

Grab a journal and carry it everywhere. Write…. Write…. Write…. Make this your ragged portfolio….. carry your soul in it.

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And in doing so, you will echo your great great grandfather, who wrote in a journal almost every day of his life, once he learned to write. Dear Granddaughter, writing can be a way to find God, to find His perfect will, as your writing becomes prayers of praise and petition. Write!!!

O Father! You have given us the gift of language. You have given us the ability to see and think and feel. Help us to use these gifts wisely, and most of all, to use these gifts for Your purpose and for Your glory. You are what it’s all about.
To God be the Glory

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Published in: on November 9, 2014 at 9:52 pm  Comments (2)  

Harvest: A Mystery of Sacrifice and Life

Just thinking…….

What do Willie Loman, Iowa corn and Jesus have in common? Read on….

October.  It’s harvest time here in southern Iowa.  Because of greater than average rainfall this summer, the harvest promises to be bountiful.    As I drive out of town, clouds of dust show where the farmers are working.

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Great machines roll through the fields and huge trucks carry away the grain.  This picture was taken of the harvest on the flat prairie fields in our area, where the corn meets the horizon miles away.

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(Photo by Brenda Burkhiser Jeffers)

The concept of harvest is ancient.  Early civilizations knew the importance of planting and harvesting in order to live.  For centuries, it was painstaking work by hand or with animals.  Even today, the crops are harvested this way by the Amish in our area.

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While modern machinery is huge, it was not long ago that harvesting machinery was relatively modest and not very technical.

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But whether large or small, or ancient or new, the harvest must go on.  It is essential in this circle of life.

My father was a farmer.  His farm was small and hilly.  He worked with small old machinery.  But in the end, he did what farmers have done in the past….. bring in the harvest….. and what farmers do today…… bring in the harvest.

After the spring planting, and as the summer months go by, the farmer eyes the skies, prays for the right amount of rain at the right time, hopes the markets stay steady, readies his machinery and tools, and prepares the trucks, bins and barns.  He chops the weeds that choke out the good grain.  He holds his breath as storm clouds gather in the west.  And then at just the right time, the tractors, combines and corn pickers head out to the fields.

My father would harvest well into the night.  We would take sandwiches and mason jars of water out to the fields for him.   There was a narrow window of time between rains where he could safely harvest .  I remember times when it rained too much, turning the fields into mud pits.  And Dad had to wait until the ground froze to finish the harvest.

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Despite  growing up on a farm and knowing the drama of the farm, I did not become a farmer.  I became a teacher, instructing my students in literature, composition, speech, theater, and journalism.  It was a different kind of drama.   One of my favorite pieces to discuss with my students was Arthur Miller’s Death of a Salesman.    Willie Loman was tragic, and as a farmer’s daughter, I could see some aspects of Willie’s actions that my city students could not see.

Corn.   How did it go from this  th-9

to this corn sprout

to this  cornplant

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to this  th-5.

None of it could happen if the kernel did not die.  The kernel had to be put into the dark soil, with the right amount of heat and moisture, and then the kernel died.   Out of that death, came the sprout that developed into the stalk of corn.

Willie Loman understood this cycle of life.  He had spent his life in failure: failure as a father, failure as a faithful husband, and failure as a salesman.  His past was painful, his present was fragile and he could not see a future.  In his horribly distorted reasoning, he decided to plant a garden.  It is dark, and he traces rows in the small yard which receives little sunlight.  He drops in the seeds, mumbling to himself about giving his sons another chance.  In a few minutes, Willie will leave home and have a deliberate car accident.  He dies, like the seed.  His damaged mind  had begun to equate the seed, dying in order to bring new life,  with his death, which he believed would bring new life to his no-good sons.willieloman

Willie had an idea of this circle of life, but he left out one very important part:  his life insurance.   He did not pay his premium.   And so his sacrifice of himself came to nothing.  There would be no life insurance to give his sons a new start in life.  There would be no harvest.

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Jesus said, “Do you not say, ‘There are still four months and then comes the harvest’? Behold, I say to you, lift up your eyes and look at the fields, for they are already white for harvest!.”  (John 4:35)

I don’t know what grain Jesus might have been referring to in this verse.  th-6  Here in Iowa, whether it is corn, wheat, or beans, the plants get lighter and lighter as the harvest approaches.  The fields are no longer green.  But Jesus was not referring to plants; he was referring to a world filled with people who needed to know about Him.  Look!  There they are!  Go and harvest!

I’ve been going in a few different directions with this concept of harvest.

 Let me try to tie the strands together.  

1.  When the kernel of corn dies, there is a sacrifice of form.  The corn no longer is the intact kernel.  But the result of that sacrifice (the harvest) cannot occur without the preparation and wisdom of the farmer.  And even there, the farmer must make his own sacrifices of time and labor in order to bring in the crop.

2.  When Willie Loman died, there was a sacrifice of life.  His body and soul were no longer intact.  But the desired harvest of that sacrifice would not happen because Willie had not prepared with wisdom concerning his life insurance.

3.  When Christ died on the cross, there was a sacrifice of Himself for the sins of the world.  “For God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him will not die but have eternal life.”  (John 3:16).   The fields of humans are ready for His message of life.  But that complete harvest won’t happen without the preparation of believers to share Christ’s message.  And  yes, it calls for sacrifice on the part of believers:  sacrifice of money, time, and labor.

Harvest.  Life.  Sacrifice.  It’s all one.   The sacrifice of one seed to bring forth many seeds, which will continue to nurture life.  The sacrifice of One who was both God and man,  to bring forth many people into eternal life.

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O Father…..   Let me not be a Willie Loman, understanding some aspects of life, but not grasping the part that would give meaning to his sacrifice.  Let me not be a Willie Loman, operating in darkness and not in light.  Let me not be a Willie Loman, who lacked wisdom and preparation for the harvest he desired.  Father, equip me with Your wisdom.  Give me courage to go to the harvest, and not let Christ’s death be for nothing.  

To God Be The Glory…..

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The Least of These…… Who are They?

Just Thinking…… th-4 They walk among us.  They are here…. and now…..  They make us uneasy.  They are a problem.   Sometimes they are invisible.  Sometimes they are seen too much.  Sometimes they make no sounds. Sometimes they are horribly noisy.  They don’t fit in.  They make messes.  They are awkward.  We want them to go away.  They are…….. The Least of These.

“The King will reply, ‘Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me.’  (Matthew 25:40)

And that got me thinking about church: a place where my brothers and sisters in Christ come together.  Who is the least of these in church?

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Although being Christian, being a born again believer in Jesus is the glue that binds us into the concept of “church,” we are made up of many different minorities.  For example, we have both men and women.  We have the elderly, the boomers, the young parents, the teens, the kids, the babies.  We have white, black, hispanic, middle eastern, and oriental.  We have the bright and the  unintellectual.  We have those who are wealthy, those who are of average wealth, and the poor.  We have those with healthy emotional and mental states, and those who do not have these.  We have the educated and the uneducated.   We have the computer literate and those who don’t own a computer.  We have those who can sing on key, and those who make a joyful noise.  We have some who can cook, and some who can’t. Some are in wheelchairs or use walkers or canes or crutches, and many who walk with no problem.  We have those who can see well, and those with a sight handicap.  Same with hearing.  We have rural folks and town folks.  We have the shy and the life of the party. This list could go on for many more pages, but you probably get the picture. Everyone fits into one minority or another.  (And  you probably understand by this point that I am not talking about one particular congregation; this describes churches everywhere.  You may see yourself in this list.)

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So with all this in mind, here’s the question:

Which of these shall we leave out of church?  

  • Shall we lower the lights for dramatic effect….. and leave out those with poor vision?
  • Shall we have steps into the church…. and leave out those who can’t climb steps?
  • Shall we send out all announcements and prayer requests via email….. and leave out those who don’t have computers?
  • Shall we sing only higher pitched classical music….. and leave out those who can’t stretch to the higher notes?
  • Shall we sing only the latest  tunes….. and leave out those who yearn for hymns?
  • Shall we only have church in one building….. and leave out the homebound and the ones in nursing homes?
  • Shall we only have church at one time….. and leave out those who must work at their job during that time?
  • Shall we read all Scripture from the King James…. and leave out those who struggle with this older language?
  • Shall we read all Scripture from a contemporary version…. and leave out those who love the beauty and cadence of the older version?
  • Shall we back up prayers with a musical backdrop….. and leave out those with a hearing handicap?
  • Shall we place only the  young mothers in the nursery…..  or only the older women……and leave them out of worship?
  • Shall we not even have a nursery…… and discourage all the young parents and leave the babies out of their first church experiences?
  • Shall we put those who speak a different language…. or no language…. or a peculiar language of their own in the back out of sight….. or sit with them and leave our comfort zones?
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I don’t know the answers to these questions.  I’d like to give a formula for perfection, but I can’t.  All I know is that I need to actively search for the answers.  I do wonder about preconceived notions.  I ponder a seeming selfishness in wanting things to be “my way” without regard to the needs of others.  I worry about those who seem to be invisible and silent, so no one sees them or pays attention to their needs.  I worry about the church being blind and deaf. In an ideal, perfect world, what would the church look like?  How would it function?  Would the least of these be cared for?  Would somehow each one fit into the church?  Is there a place for every believer?

“Then he will say to those on his left, ‘Depart from me, you who are cursed, into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels.  For I was hungry and you gave me nothing to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me nothing to drink,  I was a stranger and you did not invite me in, I needed clothes and you did not clothe me, I was sick and in prison and you did not look after me.’  “They also will answer, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry or thirsty or a stranger or needing clothes or sick or in prison, and did not help you?’  “He will reply, ‘Truly I tell you, whatever you did not do for one of the least of these, you did not do for me.’  (Matt. 25:41-45)

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The least of these are among us.  They may not be the hungry or thirsty or naked or sick or in prison, but they are the overlooked and ignored in our churches.  What shall we do to include them and nurture them?

Father….. Forgive me for the times that I did not pay attention to the least of these.  Open my eyes to how I need to help others be fully within the church body.  Give me direction and boldness and courage and wisdom to do Your will.

To God Be The Glory…..

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I’ve Grown Accustomed to My Face….

Just thinking…..

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I hate mirrors.

They tell the truth.

And the truth is that I am not a pretty person. I am not beautiful, or cute, or gorgeous, or any of those other words that describe a winsome female. I came to grips with this when I was a little girl. The mirror showed me a skinny, short kid with crooked teeth, and a pointy chin, and tow head hair that stuck out in a hundred directions. I had knobby knees and stubby fingers. People never came up to me and chucked me under the chin and exclaimed that I was soooooo cute. Men never swooned as I passed by. Boys didn’t whistle. Clothes on the model or mannequin never hung the same way on my body. That never happened.

My husband has spent his married lifetime trying to convince me that I am beautiful. And most of my married lifetime, I thought he was blind.

Here is what I look like now at 64:

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And here is what I think I look like:
1. The bug-eyed alien

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2. The laughing fat girl

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3. The dumpy hausfrau

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Isn’t it strange how my eyes and my mind don’t match?

I spent my first 18 years trying to gain weight, and the rest of my years trying to lose.

I was born with black hair and between then and now, I have had every hair color imaginable (well….. not the pink and blue tones….). I finally just let it grow, and amazingly, I have a silvery platinum now as a natural color.

I couldn’t wait to wear make up. I lined my eyes and painted my cheeks, then went thru the “au natural” phase, then hit the professional look, and now I just wash my face and put on some moisturizer with sun screen.

I’ve been the couch potato and the gym fanatic, but I’ve never really looked toned. No one would mistake me for an athlete.

I hated my nose (I used to call it my “ski slope”) and hated my teeth, so I didn’t smile. Braces took care of the teeth, but the nose is still long….. And did I say that I hated my fat apple-cheeks?

My eyes are small. I remember my grandma talking about her own eyes being small and how wearing glasses helped to disguise that. I still don’t wear glasses, so no help there.

People used to say that I looked like my mother. I didn’t want to look like my mother. But now I must admit that my mom and I share many features. And my mother is a handsome older woman. Here we are in a sketch:

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I decided long ago that I could never depend on my looks to get ahead in life, so I had best develop my mind. I had best develop my character. Every morning I had re-develop my confidence. And every day I searched the mirror and came away shaking my head.

Recently, I listened to an amazing woman talk to a group of little girls. She told them that they were all beautiful. She told them that God created them in His own image, and that He had made each one of them to be unique and beautiful in so many ways. At first, my mind snapped back to my old way of thinking: “Beautiful? Forget it. Never have been, never will be.”

However the more I listened to her, the more I was convinced that my appearance was not repulsive to God. And I began to understand that my husband was not reviled by my appearance. I could accept others as being beautiful, so why could I never accept myself in the same way?

Honestly, I don’t know all the answers to that question. I know that I was raised to not think too highly of myself. I know that I always felt that I came up short when compared to others. And it’s good to not have prideful notions or to think that I have to flaunt my face and body to get any attention.

But somewhere along the line, I failed to realize that God created me to be a beautiful person. I got sucked into the lie that I had to look a certain way, weigh a certain weight, move in certain patterns, and wear certain clothes in certain fashions in order to be counted worthy. It’s the same lie that continues to plague girls and women. We just have never learned the value of ourselves in God’s eyes. And we have been taught in so many ways that beauty is a certain formula and set of statistics, and that if we don’t conform, then we have to live with ugly. Or least…. plain. They taught it; we bought it.

So, for better or for worse, here I am. I have slowly learned to appreciate my husband’s praises and compliments. I have slowly learned the truth that God makes no junk. And I am so grateful for that wonderful woman who talked to those little girls…. and to me.

And here I am…. just as I am:

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(photo by Pat Lane)

I still don’t like to look into the mirror. I still have to fight the lie that I have no worth or value because I don’t look a certain way. Remember that song from My Fair Lady: “I’ve grown accustomed to her face….” Well, I’ve grown accustomed to my face, but more than that, I’ve grown to accept myself. That’s not to say that I will quit exercising, or quit having my hair cut, or quit trying to keep my weight under control. I just have to keep it all in balance.

Father, “Just as I am, without one plea….” That song didn’t use to be me because You know that I didn’t like who I was, and my plea was always to wake up beautiful. Help me to continue to realize that You had perfect plans when You created me, and help me to live as Your beautiful daughter. Thank You for the gift of life, and forgive me for not accepting it as You intended.

To God be the Glory….
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Published in: on October 24, 2013 at 3:34 am  Comments (1)  
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If You Go Fishing, Then Fish The Best You Can!!

Just thinking….

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Things had been strange for the past three years, and the last few days were very tense. The world as they knew it turned upside down and inside out. What they had thought were priorities turned out to be last on the list. What they thought could never happen, never ever, had happened. Even the laws of the universe seemed to be invalid, and at this point, they wouldn’t be surprised if the law of gravity would be repealed.

They had come from diverse backgrounds, but all had a similar quest and calling. A man had asked them to leave what they were doing for a living, and doing in life…. give it all up, and come with him. If it had been any other man, they would have laughed in his face. But this man was different; they knew it from the moment they met.

So…. with families wondering and friends doubting, they left it all and followed. There had been some exciting moments, some scary moments, some moments of being bone tired and of being confused. There were the moments that they had glimpses of understanding, and then those moments passed. Overall the journey was quite the adventure, but the last year had been rough.

Some of the public had started to make things uneasy for the group. The group was committed to doing good, so the negative reactions stunned them. Hate stares, the whispered innuendo, the attempts to trip them up and shame them, and even death threats had become part of life. The situation accelerated to the point that the leader was arrested and condemned to death.

The little group looked around at each other. Now what? Three years for nothing. Now to go back and face the scoffing family and friends, to piece together the interrupted career, to hear the “I told you so’s”….. But more than that, the incredible dream that they had all bought into seemed shattered. How had they been so easily duped?

At this point, the truly incredible happened. Their leader, whom they had seen die and be put into the grave, became alive again. It was beyond anything they had ever seen and gave new vigor and determination to the group. The last three years were NOT a mistake, and they could continue in the ways to which they had become accustomed.

Not so fast. The journey had just begun, and the route was going to be different. The leader announced that he would be going away, and that a new leader would be taking over. Huh?

One man, who had run a fishing business before all this began, announced that he was going back to fishing. Charismatic and impulsive, he headed for the lake, and others followed. But the fishing was terrible that night and once again the group was discouraged. Fishing was all he had known…. and now it seemed to be falling apart.

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A man on the beach called out to them and asked if they had caught anything for breakfast. No, they had caught nothing.

The man on the beach suggested that they change tactics and lower the net on the other side of the boat. The men rolled their eyes, but had nothing to lose. The net went down…. and came up filled with fish…. 153 BIG fish!!! And suddenly they recognized the man on the beach; he was their leader. They headed for shore. This was only the third time that they had seen him since the miracles of his death and life had happened.

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The man had breakfast cooking over a camp fire when they arrived: bread and fish. And they ate.

Today I was reading this story again, in John 21 and I zeroed in in Peter, the fisherman. Fishing was what Peter did for a living and fishing was what he went back to. I began to think about when Jesus first called Peter to come follow him.

Matthew 4:19 says: “Walking along the beach of Lake Galilee, Jesus saw two brothers: Simon (later called Peter) and Andrew. They were fishing, throwing their nets into the lake. It was their regular work. Jesus said to them, “Come with me. I’ll make a new kind of fisherman out of you. I’ll show you how to catch men and women instead of perch and bass.” They didn’t ask questions, but simply dropped their nets and followed.”

Yes, Peter went back to fishing, but it was a whole new kind of fishing. His fishing skills were used in a new direction. Did he possibly think, “All I know is fishing. How do I go around fishing for people?” Did he have an image in his head of a big net with arms and legs sticking out of it? Did he understand immediately what Jesus was asking of him?

And the question that started forming in my mind was: Does God ever take what we do as a career or skill or hobby and then use it for His glory?

I was trained to be a teacher and I taught school for many years. Does that mean that I will teach in the church? A friend is a nurse as a secular job. Is she to somehow use that skill to be a nurse in the church? And the list could continue.

The case of Peter seems to confirm that God can take our abilities and training and then use them for His glory. He can take those skills and change them to a more useful form. In my career, I taught language arts in high school and on the university level. But I was also called to teach groups of women in a Bible study. God took what I did for a living, and tweaked it to equip me for teaching a different audience and in a different way.

But can He, does He, take a person who has never taught anything ever, and use that person as a teacher? Based on my experience, I would have to say yes. Kathy worked in real estate. Never in her life did she think she could be a teacher. But she now teaches children each week about the Lord, and has found an uncommon success in doing so. God took her willingness to serve, and tweaked it to equip her for something altogether different.

So if you go fishing, FISH!!! Fish your heart out! Fish to the best of your ability! And then when you are unexpectedly asked to be a public speaker, do so knowing that you will be equipped.

Keep in mind that I’m not a theologian. But it just seems to me that I sometimes put God in a box and try to limit Him on what He can do with people. My dad was a farmer; could he be a farmer for God’s glory and use his farming skills in the church? What about an accountant? Or a beautician? Can God use those skills for His glory? Or can He take that accountant, farmer and beautician and give them entirely new skills in order to equip them to serve? Is “church” only about preachers, teachers and song directors? Or can God use other skills and training to glorify Himself? I have to say yes; God can use us in unexpected ways. God uses our ability, but He also uses our willingness.

What do you think?

Father, take me and any abilities that I have and use me. I want to serve, even though I sometimes have fear about how to do what I am called to do. When everything seems upside down and I ask “Now what?”, please, Father, calm me. Forgive my fear and equip me to serve in any way that You deem worthy.

To God Be The Glory…..
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Published in: on August 30, 2013 at 12:26 am  Leave a Comment  
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Travel Lightly….. And Carry On….

Just Thinking…

It’s not that I don’t get out much. I’ve been half way around the world and back, and have travel blood racing in my veins. It’s that I still don’t know how to pack.

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This is what I want my luggage to look like.

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This is how much I actually end up with.

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And this is what I do.

Pathetic, isn’t it. Too much stuff. Why is it that when I see this sign:

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that I immediately also see this tag:

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Sigh.

I know what happens to luggage at the airport; I’ve watched the guys throw them onto the little carts and then toss them on the conveyor to the plane. I’ve seen how they come slamming down into the baggage area carousel.

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And I know how luggage all looks alike, and I know how people personalize their luggage. Mine is black with red and yellow sparkly yarn tied to all the handles. My parents used to put duct tape initials on the sides of their luggage. I know folks who deliberately buy the rattiest most beat up luggage they can find at yard sales, on the presumption that no one will bother to steal it at the airpot.

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You can make it yourself, or buy it at:

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Sigh. I don’t want ugly luggage. I don’t want luggage that is busting out the seams. I don’t want luggage that makes me pay extra for excess weight or pieces. I just want to travel with a nice piece that is easily organized, easily totable, and fits all the regulations. Is that too much to ask? I want something like this:

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So what’s the problem, you ask? The problem is that I want to carry too much stuff. If I’m gone for a week, do I really need 7 tees? Do I really need 5 pairs of shoes? You get the idea. The sad part is that I end up actually not using all this stuff that I so frantically packed. So I just tote it around….. for nothing.

The rule about carry-on’s actually helped me. It made me think a little more carefully about what I choose to take with me. And I have now reached the point that I can travel with a carry-on bag and a purse and it covers just about any need that I may have. Maybe less really is more?

And the same rule is true in most of life. I can go to one extreme and be a hoarder, piling up “stuff” to the ceiling in every room of the house. Or the other extreme is being exceptionally austere with barely anything to sit on in the room. I prefer a balance, and try to get a balance that’s more to the austere end.

Or how about my closet. I have three sizes of clothes in there: too big, too small, and just right. I call it my “Three Bears” closet. Yes, I know that I’ll probably never wear the too small clothes again; yes, I hold on to them.

My hall closet is stuffed with toilet paper and kleenex. I have this fear of running out of either at midnight during a snow storm. The fact that this has never actually happened to me doesn’t matter. I just want this stuff…. this sense of security, know what I mean?

My pantry is full. I expect to feed an army of starved teenage boys at any moment…. or at least, it looks that way.

Now none of these examples are actually wrong, or a moral failing. But there are other areas in which I carry too much baggage that can be problematic. I carry too much weight, and should ideally lose 10-20 pounds. Sometimes I carry worry or grudges. Sometimes I carry fears. Sometimes I carry the weight of the world. Sometimes I carry bad memories of bad choices. And those start to look like overstuffed ugly luggage.

So I keep telling myself to let it go, travel lightly, stay sensible. Matthew 11:28 says, “Come to Me, all you who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest.”

The Message puts it this way: “Are you tired? Worn out? Burned out on religion? Come to me. Get away with me and you’ll recover your life. I’ll show you how to take a real rest. Walk with me and work with me—watch how I do it. Learn the unforced rhythms of grace. I won’t lay anything heavy or ill-fitting on you. Keep company with me and you’ll learn to live freely and lightly.”

That’s what I need to do: learn to live freely and lightly as I walk with Jesus. He won’t give me too much to carry because He helps me carry it.

I like this from Matthew 11:30: “For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.” If I am to be like Jesus, then I need to travel with a lighter burden. And I have to do that by turning it all over to Him.

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Yep. In the travels of life, it’s nice to only go with carry on luggage. I really don’t want the burden of excess baggage, and I REALLY don’t want the burden of ugly excess baggage.

Father, Help me get rid of all that excess baggage that I seem to insist on carrying around with me. Help me carry on…. with Jesus. Amen.

To God Be The Glory….
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Published in: on August 25, 2013 at 4:31 am  Leave a Comment  
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I Don’t Make Many Messes….. But….

Just Thinking…..

I’m a neat person. I’m organized, clean. I put things away when I’m finished with them. I wipe up spills, file papers, and put dishes into either the dishwasher or cabinet, as the situation warrants. We empty the trash on a regular basis. I clean my closets, scrub the toilets, wash windows. Like I said, neat.

But when I make a mess, I make it big. Good and big. Huge, actually. My messes are different from this picture. This is more like a habitual mess….. a hoarding mess. That’s not me.

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Even this next picture is not my kind of mess. This is an uncontrolled mess of a shorter duration than the hoarding kind of mess. My big messes are more of a very short term kind of thing, a sudden burst of a mess sort of thing.

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Take for example, the time I tried to cook rhubarb.

Growing up, I helped Mom with the rhubarb. I cut it out of the patch. I chopped off the big leaf at the top. I cut the stalk into inch lengths. I washed it. But I realized when I was married and in my own home, faced with a stack of rhubarb, that I had never actually cooked it.

Those rock hard little nubbins would surely take all day to simmer and soften. I didn’t have that sort of time, so out came my trusty pressure cooker. I packed in the rhubarb and water and fired up the stove. The little jiggler thing on the top began to dance and make a noise. So far, so good.

But suddenly the jiggler thing flew straight up into the air, followed by a pink stream of steaming goo. The pink mucus hit the ceiling and then began to drip and form pink stalactites. I knew I had to get the pressure cooker off the burner, or at least turn off the burner, but it was dangerous navigating the hot dripping glop. I searched for an umbrella, but alas…. So I ran about, calling out the Hub’s name, hoping that he could hear me and rescue me.

Brave man. He dodged the “stuff” and turned off the stove. I was left with a very pink kitchen to clean, and I ended up with a permanently pink stained ceiling. The sweet stickiness covered every surface in the room; my feet stuck to the floor with every step. It took several days to completely clean the mess. Big mess….

After that, I tried to be careful. But I recently had another disaster. A friend gave me some lovely beets. I put water into a large pot and heated it on the stove. I cleaned the beets, carefully leaving on the stems and roots (so that all the color doesn’t bleed out during cooking). I gently placed the beets into the boiling water.

And then I got busy with something else and forgot them. The smell of charred veggies and the wafting smoke reminded me of my transgression. I yelled at the Hubs to OPEN THE GARAGE DOOR, and I grabbed the pot with pot holders and bee lined it outside. I opened windows, fanned, and prayed that the smoke detector would not start to blare. And even a can of Oust could not remove the odor….

The next morning, I surveyed the damage. The pot was charred inside, but I had heard that boiling a little water and baking soda could clean messes like this. So I added water and baking soda to the pot and put it back onto the stove. For good measure, I added a squirt of dish soap. Couldn’t hurt, right? I turned up the heat.

Then the phone rang. And then, some time later, I heard a strange hiss.

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Now this picture is not my pot or stove. I was too embarrassed to take a picture of the mess I had made. My mess was about 4 times worse than what you see in this pic. White billowy foam covered the stove top, the burner cavities, had run down the oven door, was in the little storage drawer under the oven, had dripped onto the floor, and was on the counter tops. I grabbed a roll of paper towels and began to sop up the mess.

What I learned was that boiling baking soda in water can leave a fine white powder on any surface, and that it mocks my cleaning. Paper towels, wet dishcloths, dry cloth towels, rinse and repeat, and rinse and repeat finally did the trick. I had to lift the stove top, take out all the burners and burner shields and wash them repeatedly. I had to clean the oven and the drawer. The floor was wet….. and I slipped. I had soda powder all over my clothes and it was in my hair and under my finger nails. What a mess….

The good news was the pot really did come clean of the charred beets. But getting the white film off it was not so easy.

I was reflecting on this latest mess while changing my clothes.

The kitchen was clean again. I brushed the dry soda out of my hair. All the soppy wet towels could be washed. Everything looked as if nothing had happened. But I knew the hard work that went into the clean up.

I’ve made some other messes in life that weren’t so easy to clean up. Ever have a financial mess that took a while to clean? Ever have a professional or personal mess that you had to struggle to clean? I’ve been blessed that I’ve been protected from the worst messes that I could have slipped in, but like most folks, I’ve had my share of situations that were my fault. And it took time to clean it up.

And then there’s that whole sin-mess. So grateful that Jesus helped me clean that up, and I can’t possibly know or understand the hard work that went into the cross….. just to clean up my mess. And like the rhubarb fiasco, I find myself calling for help when I’m deep into my mess. So grateful that God hears me call….

Oh, did I mention that I cooked the next batch of beets with no incident? Whew…..

Father, I confess. I have sinned. Sometimes I didn’t even realize what I was doing, but most of the time, I just walked straight and deliberately into the messes. Forgive me. When I think of what You went through just to pull me out of my mess and clean it all up, I am ashamed. And I am grateful that You loved me enough to do this for me. I’m grateful that You heard me when I called out Your name.

To God Be The Glory…..

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Published in: on August 21, 2013 at 3:43 am  Leave a Comment  
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Insomnia Club Is In Session. All Rise!!!!!

Just Thinking….

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It’s 6:18 AM, light enough outside now that I can see the leaves on the trees. This was not so at 5:18 AM, nor at 4:18 AM, nor at….. you get the idea.

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Yep. Insomnia strikes again. And last night made 4 nights in a row. A girl has got to get her sleep, and it’s not just for beauty! Insomnia makes me bleary eyed, slumped, and dismal. But it also makes me slow thinking and grumpy. Not a pretty picture…..

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I’ve tried various measures: the warm milk (yuck) or cheese for tryptophan. Read that turkey is a good source of tryptophan. Note to self: get some turkey…. Massage. Warm bath. Soothing music. Night before last I sat in the hot tub, searching the skies for a Perseid meteor. Took a supplement called CLA. Took melatoin. Took potassium. Each of these items works…. for a very short time. And then PING!! I’m awake again. And don’t even mention counting sheep. Whose bright idea was that? Maybe turkey and cheese while sitting in the tub? Bad idea….

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A cramp hits my big toe; I’m awake. Nature calls; I’m awake. Weird dream; I’m awake. The Hubs snores, yawns, rolls over, breathes; I’m awake. A car light filters through the blinds; I’m awake. I get hot; I’m awake. I start thinking or remembering or pondering; I’m awake. I feel hungry; turkey and cheese anyone?

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Then it’s what to do. Do I just force myself to lay and not move a muscle? Do I try to find a more comfy position? Do I get up and have more cheese? Do I adjust the thermostat? Turn on the fan? Turn off the fan? Pray?

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So what I do… finally…. is get up. I read, play a game, lean back in my recliner and try to relax.

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Impossible. Thoughts of the past few days begin to twist my gut and make me cry. All of the “what-if” scenarios go crashing through my head. My schedule for the day keeps popping up in my mind. Worries are crowding my brain. And it’s all covered with thoughts of “I’ve got to get some sleep.”

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Right. That’s why I’m sitting here in the recliner tapping away on my blog…. right? Sheesh…… all these little pictures are keeping me awake…..

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The good news is that I am retired and don’t have to be alert for a job and up at the crack of dawn. The bad news is that I will get draggy tired and fall asleep in the middle of the day. I’m like a baby with my nights and days all mixed up. But it’s 7:08 right now, and time to make coffee. Lots of coffee. Strong coffee……

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Father! Soothe my troubled mind and spirit. Help me find the refreshing sleep that I so desperately crave. Amen

To God Be The Glory…..

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Published in: on August 14, 2013 at 1:09 pm  Leave a Comment  
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A Tale of Piggies and Builders (sad subtitle: I Never Knew You)

Just Thinking…….

 

 

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“Little pig, little pig, let me come in.”
“No, no, not by the hair on my chinny chin chin.”
“Then I’ll huff, and I’ll puff, and I’ll blow your house in”

Remember?  The three little pigs went out into the world and each built a house.  The first  built one of straw and the wolf blew it in.  The second pig built one of sticks, and it was the same scene.  But the third pig….. now that was an entirely different story.  The  house  was built of bricks, and try as he might, the big bad wolf could not  blow it in.

Today in church, we read a similar story, but this time it was two builders.  The first man, a foolish man, built his house on sand.  The storms destroyed it.  The second builder was wise and built his house on a firm foundation: rock.  The storms could not blow it over.

I’ve often wondered about this. The piggies all seemed to have access to the same building materials. Yet two of them chose fragile materials and only one choose the more permanent brick. The builders were working on a similar structure: a house. Yet one chose a foundation that was open to shifting and blowing, while the other secured the home to a rock.

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I remember singing a little song when I was a kid; it went like this:

The Wise Man Built His House

The wise man built his house upon the rock
The wise man built his house upon the rock
The wise man built his house upon the rock
And the rain came tumbling down
Oh, the rain came down
And the floods came up
The rain came down
And the floods came up
The rain came down
And the floods came up
And the wise man’s house stood firm.
The foolish man built his house upon the sand
The foolish man built his house upon the sand
The foolish man built his house upon the sand
And the rain came tumbling down
Oh, the rain came down
And the floods came up
The rain came down
And the floods came up
The rain came down
And the floods came up
And the foolish man’s house went “splat!”

We had all the vigorous hand motions to go with the song, and every movement just helped to engrave the song into my mind.  But the real message of the song didn’t become clear to me until much later.

The Hubs and I built a house, and oh! what a house!  It was a passive solar home, and we custom designed it and built it.  It looked solid and substantial.  But a few years after we built it, a crack developed in the foundation.  We paid engineers to analyze and correct the problem.  The soil had compacted during a drought and that allowed the foundation to sink.  It didn’t sink much, but even a little led to the crack.    The foundation held, the house still stood, and we continued to enjoy many good years there.

It could have been worse.  When we were in Fairbanks, Alaska, we saw a home that had been built on permafrost.  When the family moved in, the activities of daily living, such as laundry, cooking, showering, breathing, had started the permafrost meltdown.  The entire home imploded as the foundation turned to water.  It was a beautiful home, but built on the wrong foundation.  (Disclaimer:  this photo is not the house we saw, which was owned by the University of Alaska, but shows a similar sinking home.)

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Our pastor today led us in studying Matthew 7: 24-27 a little more closely as we considered the importance of foundation in our beliefs.  Here are the probing questions he asked us:

1.  Is Jesus one of many,  or the one and only?

2.  Have I decided for Jesus, or committed to Jesus?

3.  Do I know about Jesus, or do I really know Him?

4.  Am I more focused on the outside,  or on the inside?

5.  Am I a self empowered fan, or a spirit filled follower?

These are some of the foundational questions that I must ask myself if I believe myself to be Christian.  The Matthew passage is the conclusion of the Sermon on the Mount, where Jesus was instructing the crowds in this new way of kingdom living.  But it had to be based on something solid and true.

Here’s the passage:

Matthew 7:24-27

24 “Therefore everyone who hears these words of mine and puts them into practice is like a wise man who built his house on the rock. 25 The rain came down, the streams rose, and the winds blew and beat against that house; yet it did not fall, because it had its foundation on the rock. 26 But everyone who hears these words of mine and does not put them into practice is like a foolish man who built his house on sand. 27 The rain came down, the streams rose, and the winds blew and beat against that house, and it fell with a great crash.”

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And here  some observations:

1.  Verse 25 does not say on “A” rock.  It says on “The” rock.  Big difference!  “The” points out one particular rock, not just one of many rocks.  And remember, Jesus calls Himself the rock.

Matthew 21:42                                                                                                                                                                             42 Jesus said to them, “Have you never read in the Scriptures:

“‘The stone the builders rejected
has become the cornerstone;
the Lord has done this,
and it is marvelous in our eyes?

1 Corinthians 3:11
11 For no one can lay any foundation other than the one already laid, which is Jesus Christ.

2.  The storm assaulting the house came from all directions: from above, from below and from direct hits.  The rains came DOWN; the floods came UP, and the winds BLEW and BEAT.  I’ve been there.  I’ve experienced those days when I felt as if I was being attacked from every possible direction.  Those were the days that I just wanted to cover my eyes with my hands and then run and hide under my blankets.  Ever go through a tornado or hurricane or monsoon?  Even hiding under the blankets is no good if the house careens off the foundation.  There’s very little comfort in knowing that everything could topple in a moment.

3.  Matt. 7:24 starts with the word “therefore”.  A pastor once told me that when I see the word “therefore,” I should ask myself what it is there  for.  Well,  in this case, I look back to verse 21.  It is chilling. Some folks are being turned away from eternity with Jesus because they never knew Him as Lord.  They called Him “Lord”, but the words made no difference if the relationship was not there.  Did they think that they had secured the relationship and secured eternity?  This is when I reflect again on the builders.  Why would a builder waste money and time and energy building a house on shifting sand?  Why deliberately set himself up for failure?  Is it possible that the builder saw the firm, packed sand and thought that it would work?  Is it possible that those in the last days desperately crying out “Lord!” thought that certain rituals or observances would work?  And then when the storms come, the truth is revealed.

4.  What is sand?  Each grain of sand is a tiny miniature rock, and is a particle of an original rock, but it is NOT the rock.  The sand in one way looks like rock, but it can never in and of itself be the original rock.   It’s a fragment.   Perhaps this is where the deception lies.  We build faith on something that looks somewhat like Jesus, but it’s not Jesus.  That is faith based on a fragment and not on the whole.

5.  So…… the foolish piggies built houses of straw and sticks and they came tumbling down in the bad breath of the bad wolf.   The foolish builder built his house upon the the sand foundation, and it came tumbling down in the winds and storms.  What was the foolishness of the people that Jesus was talking to in the Sermon on the Mount?  Well, in chapter 7 of Matthew alone, they were judging others without looking at their own situation.  They were not asking and seeking in the right places.  They were streaming toward and through the wide popular gate and ignoring the narrow more difficult gate.   And they were not recognizing deception from those that they wanted to trust.  Foolish….. foolish….  And then they cry out “Lord, Lord!”  and with sadness, the Father has to say, “I never knew you.”

Oh Father!  Clear the foolishness out of my life!  I want to be firmly bound to the Rock; I want to withstand the storms that life throws around me.  Help me to be not so judgmental.  Help me to seek You in the right place: Your Word.  Help me to journey though the narrow gate.  Help me trust in You only, and be aware of deception.  Father, forgive me.”  Amen

To God Be The Glory……..

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Permanent….. Uh huh…….

Just thinking……..

When I was a kid, Mom used to give me home perms.  I’ll never forget Toni and Lilt.  I hated them.  First, they stunk.  Second,  the rollers pulled on my hair.  Third,  I had to sit still for a long long time.  And fourth, it was ugly.  My hair never came out in Shirley Temple curls.  It just stuck out in 90 degree angled tufts with a spiral here and there.  I cried all the way through the ordeal.  I cried when Mom went shopping and came home with the dreaded perm box. I cried when she dug out the box of pink rollers and those flimsy little papers.

The weird thing is that they were called “permanents”.   But they didn’t last forever (which is a good thing, considering the angular bent my hair took).  Nope.  A few months later, the box and rollers and papers appeared all over again.

Despite the hate-relationship with Toni and Lilt, I really am a permanent kind of girl.  I like for things to last forever.  I’m known for wearing awful shoes, because I fall in love with a pair and wear them until they are tilted over, scuffed up, and unstitched.  If I had my way, I’d still be wearing that gray pair…..

My clothes are decidedly out of date.  This is partly because I’m cheap, but mostly because I find something that I like and it takes up residence in my closet forever.

I drive a little red Tracker.  A what?  You heard me: a Tracker.  My grand kids call it The Buggy.  They told me to never sell it.  I’m obeying.  I like that little car, and I hope it lasts another 20 years….. or more.  It’s comfy and just the right fit for me.

As soon as I could afford it, I bought some Calphaln cookware.  I had gone through the cheap thin tin pots and had to keep buying a replacement.  That offended my permanent soul!   This Calphalon should last the rest of my life, and my granddaughter’s life, too.

The Hubs and I designed and built a passive solar home of our dreams about 35 years ago.  And it worked like a dream.  And it made our energy costs a dream.  We built that home to last.  Only thing is that we no longer live there.

My swimsuit is from the last century.  Really.  The hot tub has faded it and stretched it, but it’s still my fav suit.  And when I put it on, I pretend like it still fits.  If I squint just right, it looks good.  But good or not, I’m sticking by it.  We have a relationship……

And that reminds me of people.  Relationships are a BIG deal to me.   If you are my cousin or niece or nephew or sib or kid or grandkid, then you will always always always be family. I don’t care if we are third cousins twice removed (whatever that means).  As far as I am concerned we are family.  And if you were my friend in grade school and we now reconnect, you are still just my friend.  If you are my friend, and you move away or change churches  or change jobs….. big deal….. you are still my friend.

The Hubs is my best friend.  I want him to be in my life forever.  Right now I am sitting with my feet up in my comfy recliner.  He is in another recliner reading the newspaper.  I look over at him and think, “Wow.  What a guy.  To think that he loves me.”   And I want that to last forever and ever.  I want us to grow old together (so far, we’re doing a pretty good job of it).

And I don’t want to even think of a time when I might be alone with out him.  I don’t want to be without my home, my Tracker, my cooking pots, my worn out shoes and out of date clothes.  But mostly, I don’t want to be alone.  I’d just like for this relationship to to be permanent.  A forever thing.

The rational side of me says “Sweetheart.  It’s not going to happen.”  I know that.  My grandparents, who I cherished, are gone.  My dad died last month.  Things happen; death is a given.  And yet my soul keeps reaching out for the permanent.  How very sweet and reassuring to know that the Hubs is a believer, just as I am, and that in some form or another, eternity is ours!  We don’t know exactly what it will be like or what our relationship will be like, but I know that it will not be a permanent separation.

I think of foster children, shuttled from home to home, with no bedroom to cal their own, let alone a mommy and daddy to call their own.  Oh how they must crave some sort of permanence.  How they must just want to be able to come to the same address every day after school and lay down in their own bed.  It’s that forever feeling.

I think of some of the novels set during the Civil War (by Lynn Austin) and how the slaves had no sense of permanence.  They had no guarantee that they could keep a child or a husband.  They had no place to call their own, no sense of the four walls around them of ever being secure.

I think of my son.  When he was little, he announced that he was never going to leave home.  When we asked why, he replied, “Food’s good.”   Obviously that changed:  both the food and the leaving home.  He has his own home now, his own children, and he’s a mighty fine cook.  Nope, that was just a passing fancy, not a permanent arrangement.

The rational side of me knows that the only permanence I’ll ever really know is eternity and Heaven.  Maybe when I’m struggling with losing people and seeing material things rust and decay, it’s just that eternal part of me biding time.

So Toni and Lilt aside, I’m a permanent girl living in a decidedly un-permanent world.  Ay, there’s the rub…

Father, I ask for a glimpse of eternity, that fleeting vision of what is to come, that hope that someday we will all be gathered before You in eternity.  Fill my heart with appreciation for what I have now, and with anticipation for what lies ahead.  Thank You for all those You have put into my path, even though it is not forever.

To God Be The Glory…..

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