Saturday, June 29, 2019

From Pain to Praise

Psalm 30:11-12
You turned my wailing into dancing;
    you removed my sackcloth and clothed me with joy,
that my heart may sing your praises and not be silent.
    Lord my God, I will praise you forever.

For the last couple of years I was employed, I carried a lot of stress. My health failed me. Pain increased as my knee cartilage disappeared. I limped and ached. The environment at work changed. We were under constant construction, updating toward a better place. But the noise and chaos troubled me. Changes in staffing and increase in responsibility took a toll. As my physical pain increased, my joy evaporated. I may not have wailed, but I cried and complained. Yet all along, God had a plan.

Last November, the surgeon replaced my old, broken-down knee with a brand new, shiny one. In May, I retired. Since then, joy has replaced my sorrow and pain. Although I still can't dance (I couldn't before, either) I rejoice and praise God for meeting my needs. He knew my future before I did. Many circumstances in life bring sorrow, crying, and pain. God takes those situations, guides us through and gives hope. Now as I look back on the many months I struggled, I see where my Father held me up and helped me, literally, put one foot in front of the other. He carried me through those last days on the job and has given me tools to help others.

I praise God for walking with me every day.
God's plan for your life, far exceed the circumstances of your day. -Louie Giglio

Friday, June 28, 2019

Flower Friday: Iris

A row of irises grew along the fence row in the front yard. Dad planted and tended them. He loved his "flags", the southern Ohio name for irises. 
They bloomed in a rainbow of colors. 

Saturday, June 22, 2019

Anxiety in the Deep

Psalm 94:19
When anxiety was great within me, your consolation brought me joy.

1 Peter 5:7
Cast all your anxiety on him because he cares for you.

I stood in the shallow water, turned and plopped my bottom into the kayak. As I paddled across the lake to the deep, I found my bearings and relaxed. Until a twinge of doubt struck me. A bit of fear crept in, then anxiety tried to shake me up. What if I fell into the water? I tightened my life jacket, pulled the oar through the water, practiced the guiding technique Tim showed me and paddled deeper.

I pushed the anxiety aside. If I didn't, I'd be miserable and unable to enjoy the trip. I closed my eyes and listened to the soft sound of the water lapping against the kayak. The birds chirped, children's laughter wafted through the air. Peace settled over me. We floated for a while on the water, then paddled in against the mild waves.

Anxiety has dogged me for as long as I can remember. Several years ago a doctor diagnosed me with an anxiety disorder. Since then my brain has required meds to help the chemical imbalance that exacerbates the anxiety. Yet, I still feel anxious at times.

In an anxious moment, I pray. God has peace to pour into me. But I need to turn my fears and anxiety over and allow the Holy Spirit to work in me. In a practical sense, I have to force myself to stop and breath. Pray and believe. When I closed my eyes on the lake, my heart slowed, and I relaxed. I knew my fear was imagined. I had nothing to worry about.

So often in life, anxiety rears its ugly head. Fear overwhelms. Satan uses our weaknesses to scare us. But, my God is bigger than any anxious doubt or made up fear. He wants us to give our doubts to him. He loves us and wants to replace our anxiety with joy and peace.

Friday, June 21, 2019

Flower Friday: Peony

I have a fond memory of peonies. On Memorial Day weekend, my Grammy and I would snip the stems of the peonies growing in Mom's garden. We'd cover glass jars with foil, add water and place the fragrant flowers in the jars. Then we'd visit Grandpa, Great-grandma, and my great-uncle's graves. Gram would have me dig a small divot, to tuck the bottom of the jar into. My brother carries on this tradition that shows honor and respect. 

Tuesday, June 18, 2019

Fiction Review: Ever Faithful (A Vintage National Parks Novel) by Karen Barnett

Vibrant historic Yellowstone National Park comes to life in this romantic mystery about a man hiding the truth, braving the west to become something more--and the woman who must confront his deception.

A man who can't read will never amount to anything--or so Nate Webber believes. But he takes a chance to help his family by signing up for the new Civilian Conservation Corps, skirting the truth about certain "requirements." Nate exchanges the harsh Brooklyn streets for the wilds of Yellowstone National Park, curious if the Eden-like wonderland can transform him as well.
Elsie Brookes was proud to grow up as a ranger's daughter, but she longs for a future of her own. After four years serving as a maid in the park's hotels, she still hasn't saved enough money for her college tuition. A second job, teaching a crowd of rowdy men in the CCC camp, might be the answer, but when Elsie discovers Nate's secret, it puts his job as camp foreman in jeopardy. Tutoring leads to friendship and romance, until a string of suspicious fires casts a dark shadow over their relationship. Can they find answers before all of their dreams go up in smoke?

My Review:
This is the second Vintage Park National Novel I've read, and I loved it. Karen Barnett takes the reader into the heart of the park and the story from the beginning. She adds in the research from that decade and creates an entertaining and heart-warming story. There is a bit of mystery as well as romance as Elsie and Nate figure out their futures. I enjoyed learning more about how the parks inner workings were and the people who worked in the background. The beauty of the park itself is woven into the fabric of the story. Pick up a copy for a great summer read! I received a complimentary copy of this book from WaterBrook via NetGalley. Opinions expressed in this review are completely my own.

Saturday, June 15, 2019

From Brokenness to Beauty

Psalm 34:17-18
The righteous cry out, and the Lord hears them;
    he delivers them from all their troubles.
The Lord is close to the brokenhearted
    and saves those who are crushed in spirit.

Waves washed the shore as we ambled on the sand, in the morning sun.

On Kelleys Island, Tim and I searched for lake glass and colorful rocks, along their small coastal beach. I love finding pieces of glass that the waters have tumbled and refined. The bottle, or whatever the glass piece is topples into the lake. Over time the fragile piece falls against the rocks and breaks. The ebb and flow of the lake's water tosses the glass back and forth, bumping it into sand and debris, replacing the sharp, broken pieces with beauty.

When I find an ideal fragment, the jagged edges are smoothed away and a subtle, frosted sheen covers the surface.
The sharp broken edges are transformed into perfection.
Like the jagged glass, the struggle with forgiveness results in broken edges for the soul. Anger results with more sharp edges and brokenness. Life hasn't turned out how you planned. Disappointment sharpens another edge. Friends turn away, church leaves you empty, you've tumbled down a hole of sin and destruction. Rejection and hurt cause the heart to break; the sharp edges to poke and injure.  

God who formed the lakes and oceans, wants to take the broken pieces of our lives and create beauty. Sorrow, sadness, anger, sin, betrayal, hurt; he will take them all and sand off the sharp edges through grace. In that grace, he offers hope. The hope of a new life in him.

God will fill the emptiness and turn the sorrow into joy. He loves the brokenhearted and wants nothing more than to heal the wounded soul. Pray to him for forgiveness, help, and guidance. He will takes the sharp, broken edges and replace them with peace and hope.

Saturday, June 8, 2019

Pray Now

Romans 15:30
I urge you, brothers and sisters, by our Lord Jesus Christ and by the love of the Spirit, to join me in my struggle by praying to God for me.

Remember when prayer chains moved across telephone lines, one person at a time? Some still do. But, now many are posted on social media. I’m concerned that the ones posted may be overlooked or forgotten. We flick through the pictures, glance at captions and comments, then move on. I think I'll remember to pray or at least write them down as I see them, but I've found the best method for me is to stop and pray at that moment. God wants me to seek him in prayer. Not just for myself, but for others. For the burdens of life, praises and joy and to bring others to salvation. He wants to hear the requests, groans and thank yous.

Even the apostle Paul asked his friends to pray for him. Packed and ready to move along on his journey, he sought out prayer warriors, who would take his needs to God.

As I write this, hundreds of people pray healing prayers to God for a dear, dear lady in our community. One who has suffered at the wretched hands of cancer. She's a light to all who know her and a joy to the children she loves. Her ministry has touched countless lives. Now she needs our prayers. Even in her suffering she loves God and continues to shine Jesus light.

Pray for Lori, her family and the friends who rally around her and love her. God is bigger than all of this.
Therefore confess your sins to each other and pray for each other so that you may be healed. The prayer of a righteous person is powerful and effective. James 5:16

Wednesday, June 5, 2019

Here's the Church, Here's the Steeple

This old church, the stories it could tell. But what kind of stories? Rejoicing, babies born, funerals planned, sermons preached, friends made, prayers recited, confessions made. So many stories.

I'm intrigued by church buildings, especially those that have been abandoned. They once held the soul of the church, the people. Did the folks who attended get along or did they bicker. Did they serve or did they want to be served?

I've attended church in traditional buildings with a steeple, in a high school where assembly and tear down were part of worship, in a former bowling alley. I've worshiped outside and watched the sun rise over the mountain, and the water wave in the lake.

Yet, those old clapboard buildings intrigue me with their memories. My imagination goes to church picnics on the lawn, funerals where the casket is buried in the cemetery that sits on the same plot of land. Old hymns drift out windows so birds can join the melody. Hands held and heads bowed in prayer.

The church building I focus on today is an old, abandoned one. The outside looks worn out, weathered.

I'm sure cobwebs and thick layers of dust fill the pews. Like someone who has abandoned Jesus. Worn from the sin of the world, weary of life. A no trespassing sign graces the front door. No one is welcome. Sadness drapes over the building. Sorrow embraces the person who won't welcome hope.

What happened? Was the building condemned?

Did the person, whose soul weighs down with weariness of the world, give up?

The building may be a remnant of the past, but the person, the people still have a chance. Jesus waits with open arms calling the lost sheep home. He's never abandoned a soul. He waits.

Saturday, June 1, 2019

From Caterpillar to Butterfly

2 Corinthians 3:16-18
But whenever anyone turns to the Lord, the veil is taken away. Now the Lord is the Spirit, and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom.  And we all, who with unveiled faces contemplate the Lord’s glory, are being transformed into his image with ever-increasing glory, which comes from the Lord, who is the Spirit.

Blue Morpho butterflies, the size of my hand, darted around Krohn Conservatory. They flashed their iridescent blue wings in every corner of the tropical dome. My grandkids, Eli and Ella Cate, watched in awe at the many varieties of butterflies that dipped in and out of our path.

On the way to the conservatory, I read a book to the kids. It was all about a caterpillar who was learning to become a butterfly. The whole process tested his patience. Once he figured out that he had to spend time in his chrysalis in order to sprout colorful wings and fly, he embraced his quiet dwelling and waited.

Reflecting on the story of the impatient caterpillar reminds me that I'm in a chrysalis, a place to grow and change in Jesus. Once I chose to follow Jesus and claim him as my Savior, I started the transformation journey. Each day that I proclaim my faith, I change a little more. Being a Christ-follower is a process. I have the Holy Spirit in my life, who helps me transform. He gives me guidance and wisdom, comfort and hope while I live on earth. Like the blue morpho, one of these days I will burst from my shell, then I'll stand in heaven with God, as a new creation. One who is fully transformed, because of God's grace.

The caterpillar feet were gone, the wings unfolded.
One should never lose hope! - Tomas TranstrÖmer