Monday, June 29, 2015

Snapshots in Time...

When I was a little girl, our family spent a summer vacation at a cottage on a lake in New Hampshire.  It had a beautiful screened in porch which overlooked the lake.  I remember how cozy it was inside complete with fireplace and white crisp curtains on the windows.  The cottage even had a row boat for our use.   

We were near Lake Winnipesaukee which has the famous Mt. Washington cruise boat that would leave in the morning for a tour and come back in the afternoon.  Upon leaving and returning, the Mt. Washington would sound it's horn.  We could hear it from our cottage.

One of my stand-out memories from that vacation was when my dad took me, my mom and brother out for a row boat ride.   As we left our dock in the morning, I could hear the Mt. Washington in the distance, sounding it's horn, signaling a fun day for the folks that were heading out to tour Lake Winnipesaukee.  I, too, was looking forward to a fun day out on a lake - in a little row boat with my family. We rowed about exploring all day long. Amazingly, even at my young age, the time out on the lake seemed to go by in an instant.  Before I knew it, I already heard the Mt. Washington sounding it's afternoon horn signaling its return.  It didn't seem possible that so many hours had passed so quickly!  The quick passage of time a testament to how enjoyable the day was.

Ever since then, I had always wanted to vacation in a cottage on a lake - a cottage like the one I stayed at when I was a little girl...

Me, my husband and children have been blessed with many wonderful vacations that did not involve a cottage or a lake.  We camped for many years throughout New England.  Our first big trip as a family entailed visiting friends in New Mexico and attending the Balloon Fiesta.  While there, we took a steam train ride through the Colorado mountains during the Fall when the aspen trees were in their full golden glory.  The Lord blessed us with not one but two trips to New Mexico.  The second visit also included side trips to the Grand Canyon and the Petrified Forest which were absolutely amazing!

When my daughter lived in California, my husband and I were able to fly out there to visit four times!!  California was a place I had never imagined I would visit, but the Lord blessed us with those trips.  We stayed in San Diego and spent days in Laguna and La Jolla.  During one of our trips to California, we visited Sequoia National Park and Yosemite.  I couldn't stop smiling as I walked through the immensely tall trees.  It was incredible!  Yosemite, of course, was breathtakingly beautiful.

My husband and I had two opportunities to vacation on Kiawah Island in South Carolina recently. We stayed in a villa with a screened in porch that overlooked a lagoon complete with a resident alligator!   During our stay, I loved visiting the plantations and seeing the Spanish moss on the trees.  We also visited Charleston and Savanah.  There is nothing like the South ESPECIALLY when you are a northerner like myself. ;-)

I still longed for a lakeside cottage vacation...

Last year, my co-worker shared about her vacation at a lakeside cottage in Maine.  It sounded perfectly wonderful!  She graciously gave me contact information for the rental and to make a long story short, we booked it for the following summer!  After 44 years of desiring to return to a setting similar to my childhood favorite, I was now realizing my dream!

And that's not all!  As you know, I LOVE spending time with my family.  Not only did my daughter and son-in-law join my husband and I at the cottage, but my brother, sister-in-law, niece and their sweet dog Connor came along!

When my husband and I pulled up to the cabin, I could not believe it!  It was absolutely perfect!!  Just as I had hoped!

The inside was amazing!  Whether in the kitchen, the living room or the upstairs bedroom, you could see the lake, right outside!

Between all of us we brought two canoes, two kayaks and my brother and son-in-law rented a nice size John Boat for all of us to share.

We spent hours relaxing on the dock that rocked with the waves.  {And we all kept on rocking when we were inside the house since apparently none of us had gained our "sea legs" that entire week!)

When inside we spent all of our time in this beautiful screened-in porch relaxing, enjoying the wonderful view; reading, playing games and thoroughly enjoying spending time together.

And we fished, and we fished, and we fished, and we fished.

One such fishing adventure caught me and my husband, my daughter and son-in-law by storm - literally!  My husband and I headed out in our canoe to a far cove from our cottage.  The "pond" was quite intimidating, knowing its depth.   Not realizing that at the same time my daughter and son-in-law had also headed out in their kayaks.  To hear the story from their perspective was quite impressive.  Suddenly, a wall of water {very heavy rains} was moving across the lake toward them!   They kayaked as fast as they could to an island and took cover waiting for the storm to pass.  My husband and I were not so fortunate as we were in the middle of the lake!!  I turned around and couldn't see anything, just that same wall of water everywhere! And then - lightening and thunder!! The extremely cold rain came down so hard that it repeatedly took my breath away!  We finally made it into the cove where the closest item to pull up and hunker down next to was a metal raft.   Probably not the greatest idea in a thunderstorm!!  The storm did pass and soaking wet, we set out to fishing. My husband caught a fish, and I caught a good story to tell when we returned.

The lake was beautiful to explore in the boat, canoes and kayaks.

A family of bald eagles lived on the island across the lake; the eaglets squawking as the parents flew in and out of the nest.

The hauntingly beautiful call of the loon echoed across the lake...

I can honestly say, even though I have been blessed to visit some amazing vacation spots, this was by far my favorite vacation!   A lakeside cottage in Maine provided memories that I will cherish forever. Special family fellowship and God's beautiful creation filled my heart with incredible joy.

The Lord placed the desire of a lakeside cottage vacation upon this little girl's heart.  Forty-four years later He fulfilled that little girl's dream above and beyond what she had hoped for, knowing that He would be praised and glorified because... Every good and perfect gift comes from above, coming down from the Father of the heavenly lights.


Placed in the hearts of all God's children is a desire for their Heavenly home...

But our citizenship is in Heaven.  And we eagerly await the Savior from there,
 the Lord Jesus Christ. Philippians 3:20

Like snapshots in time from my family vacations which brought perspective to my most favorite vacation, snippets of our lives are but snapshots in time which will give us perspective when we arrive in Paradise to see our Savior face to face.

What no eye has seen, nor ear heard, nor the heart of man imagined, what God has prepared for those who love Him.  1 Corinthians 2:9

In my Father's house there are many rooms; if it were not so I would have told you.  I am going there to prepare a place for you, I will come back and take you to be with me that you also may be where I am.  John 14:2-3

Then my people will live in a peaceful habitation, and in secure dwellings and in undisturbed resting places.  Isaiah 32:18

The wolf shall dwell with the lamb, and the leopard shall lie down with the goat, and the calf and the lion and the fattened calf together; and a little child shall lead them.  Isaiah 11:6

And I saw no temple therein:  for the Lord God Almighty and the Lamb are the temple of it.  And the city has no need of sun, neither of the moon to shine in it; for the Glory of God did lighten it, and the Lamb is the light thereof... And the gates of it shall not be shut at all by day; for there shall be no night there.  Revelation 21:  22-23; 25

Be encouraged,  life's highs and lows,  joys and sorrows, victories and defeats are the stepping stones into Glory which will make our joy indescribably complete.

Well done good and faithful servant... Enter into the joy of your Master.  Matthew 25:21

You might find me on these link-ups:
Grace & Truth Link-upWoman to Woman Ministries,  Growing in Grace Link-up, 3DLessonsLif4eLivefree Thursday,Everyday JesusSDG GatheringInspire Me Monday, Titus 2 TuesdayA Wise Women Builds Her HomeA Look at the Book,  Sunday StillnessThe Weekend BrewSpiritual Sundays, Soul Survival,  Give Me GraceA Little R&RTestimony TuesdayWomen with Intention WednesdaysStill SaturdayGood Morning MondaysTell His StoryBlessings Counter Link-up Party,Faith & Fellowship Blog HopMotivate and Rejuvenate MondaysBe SaltyMonday's MusingsThe Art of Home-Making MondayTuesday TalkWaiting on Wednesday,Dance with Jesus,Looking Up Link-UpReflect His Love & GloryFriend Sharpens FriendWholehearted Wednesdays

Monday, June 22, 2015

Birthday Pity Party

Last Sunday, we celebrated my birthday.  For me, a perfect birthday is not made up of presents, but is spending the whole day in quality time with my husband, son, daughter, daughter-in-law and son-in-law, playing outdoor games and just being together.   My favorite outdoor games are bean bag toss, Kan Jam (if you haven't played it you must!) and croquet.  I also love to play board games.  My son-in-law turned me on to cribbage which I really enjoy!

This year I was really hoping to play croquet at a gorgeous park that sits by the bay near our home. It was on my birthday two years ago that we had last gone to the park to play croquet.  I didn't think I was expecting too much to be able to "re-enact" this scenario for my birthday this year.  I had even expressed this desire to my daughter a few days before.

If we were frozen in time two years ago, this expectation would indeed have played out.  But much has changed since then.  My son now works Sundays until 3 p.m. and lives a half hour away making it hard to get together much before 5 p.m.  My daughter and son-in-law have a three month old baby, my precious granddaughter Lexi, and although she is a very easy baby, it is hard to make intentional plans between feedings and naps.

While we were waiting for my son and daughter-in-law to come over that evening, my daughter invited my husband and I to join she, my son-in-law and granddaughter for a walk at the park; the very park I wanted to play croquet at.  She asked us to meet them there.  In my mind I was thinking, "Oh!  Maybe she is going to surprise me with a match of croquet at the park."  My husband and I arrived at the park, but no croquet - just a walk...  I was very disappointed and allowed Satan to speak incredible negativity into my head.  "They don't care about you."  "They only care about themselves."  "You deserve better than this for all you do for their birthdays."  "All you wanted to do is play croquet, was that too much to ask??"  It wasn't pretty...   If you had been there that day and experienced the gorgeous weather; the beautiful setting of the park; how sweet my baby granddaughter was, and how fun my daughter and son-in-law were, you would be saying, "Karen!  What is your problem?!?"  Instead of enjoying the walk with my family, I was quiet and stewing...  Not my finest hour.  How old am I??  And all for croquet!

Later that evening, when my son and daughter-in-law arrived, they surprised me with a birthday present, my very own Kan Jam!  The rest of the evening I enjoyed with my family and had a few great games of Kan Jam.


A few days later, the Lord gave me some insight into what I had experienced on my birthday...  and how love languages played into that.

For those of you who aren't familiar, Gary Chapman wrote a book called The Five Love Languages The following quote by Gary Chapman explains the premise of the book:

"After 30 years as a marriage counselor, I am convinced that there are five basic love languages - five ways to express love emotionally.  Each person has a primary love language that we must learn to speak if we want that person to feel loved."

The Five Love Languages are:  words of affirmation; acts of service; receiving gifts; quality time; and physical touch]

The book uses questions to help the reader determine their own love language and that of their spouse/child.  As you can see by the categories above, it would be fairly easy to discern what makes someone else happy, just by spending time with them.

After reading the book and practicing the suggestions for my husband's particular love language, indeed I noticed a difference in how he responded to me which ultimately improved our marriage relationship.

In the process, I learned a lot about myself; what I crave emotionally to feel loved.

But here's something I've noticed too...  Unless a person is making a concerted effort to minister to their spouse's, parent's or child's particular love language, they will naturally demonstrate their "own love language" to them because they assume, "If I like it, they must too!"  And there certainly isn't anything wrong with feeling this way.

In everything, therefore, treat people the same way you want them to treat you...  Matthew 7:12

I have certainly seen cases, for instance, where a person might be grumpy all the time, but when they are treated with kindness and love, something changes in their disposition and they start to reflect that same kindness and love back to the person who reached out to them in the first place.

But, in the case of married couples and parent/child relationships, I believe there is a benefit to speaking the other's love language.

I don't know why it is, but in those relationships, when our love languages are different from our spouse, parent or child, we just don't seem to get it!  We won't demonstrate the love language that they show towards us - a clue into the emotional desires of their own heart.  Instead, we continue to assume they will like what we do.

How loved we all would feel if we became students of our spouses, parents or children and intentionally acted upon the other person's love language while at the same time, reaching out to them with our own love language.  Not only would we be fulfilling their desire, but could actually encourage a natural flow of our own love language to manifest itself in them making for a more mutually fulfilling relationship.

My love language is primarily Acts of Service with Quality Time a close second.  My family members will tell you that I lean toward Acts of Service and Quality Time in my day to day interaction with them, yet no one in my immediate family has the same love language as me.

To me, a person's "actions speak louder than words".  Many times a sincere sentiment will be expressed to me, but the actions of the person do not go on to match their statement.   Eventually, I feel underappreciated and of little value to them whether it is true or not.

I also LOVE to spend time with my children.  It is one of my favorite places to be!  But adult children have their own busy lives, and intentionally planning quality time with me occurs less and less... which leaves me feeling neglected, emotionally distant, and I  admit it - resentful...

In reflecting upon these insights and how I felt on my birthday, I realized that my husband and children were just acting in their own love language which I think for most of them might actually be "receiving gifts".  They saw it as perfectly acceptable and wonderful to give good gifts.  And, of course, there is absolutely nothing wrong with that!  But where "acts of service" and "quality time" speak more to me, I felt disappointed in how part of the day went.

In turn, when I am planning a special occasion for my husband or children, I am either service minded or quality time minded in my approach, but a gift might be all they would need to be perfectly happy with their day.

I hope this is all making sense.  The bottom line is that God created us all to be individuals, the hands and feet of the body of Christ, with different gifts and different desires that make up who we are and how we treat others.


Whether we are single, away from family and loved ones or even in a loving family dynamic, there are times when we can still feel deprived in our primary love language.   Why?  Because we are wired to be ultimately fulfilled by the Greatest Love.

In Christ Jesus ALL the love languages are satisfied.

During seasons when you have not experienced "words of affirmation", remember that the Lord has written a love letter to you through the Holy Bible.  Lord, we know your Words bring life and healing to us.  1 Thessalonians 5:11  When you open up the pages, He will ALWAYS speak loving "words of affirmation" to you.

{God's Words of Affirmation}

I have loved you with an everlasting Love; Therefore, I have drawn you with lovingkindness.  Jeremiah 31:3

I love those who love Me. Proverbs 8:17

I am praying for {you}.  I am not praying for the world, but for those whom You have given Me.  John 17: 9

I have guarded {you} and not one of {you} has been lost.  John 17:12

And for {your} sake, I consecrate Myself, that {you} also may be sanctified in Truth.  John 17:19

I desire that {you} also... may be with Me where I am.  John 17:24

If  it's been a long time since someone has done something intentional for you just because, remember...

{God's Acts of Service}

But God shows His love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.  Romans 5:8

Greater love has no one than this:  to lay down his life for his friends.  John 15:13

Just as the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve and to give His life a ransom for many.  Matthew 20:28

If it's been a while since you have received a thoughtful gift, remember...

{God's Gifts}

For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son that whoever believes in Him shall not perish, but have Eternal Life.  John 3:16

Thanks be to God for His indescribable gift! 2 Corinthians 9:15

For by grace you have been saved through faith; and that not of yourselves; it is the gift of God lest anyone should boast.  Ephesians 2:8-9

For the wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.  Romans 6:23

The steadfast love of the Lord never ceases, His mercies never come to an end.  They are new every morning; great is your faithfulness.  Lamentations 3:22-213

If you are longing to spend quality time with someone, remember...

{God's Quality Time}

Behold, I stand at the door and knock.  If anyone hears my voice and opens the door, I will come in to him and eat with him and he with Me.  Revelations 3:20

I will also walk among you and be your God and you shall be My people.  Leviticus 26:12

I will dwell among the sons of Israel and will be their God. Exodus 29:45

And He said, My presence shall go with you, and I will give you rest.  Exodus 33:14

"Sing for joy and be glad, O daughter of Zion; for behold I am coming and I will dwell in your midst," declares the Lord.  Zechariah 2:10

I will ask the Father and He will give you a Helper, that He may be with you forever.  John 14:16

If your body aches for a loving hug, remember all the Love God's touch has already brought to you.

{God's Physical Touch}

Jesus came and touched them.  "Get up", he said, "Don't be afraid".  Matthew 17:7

And He touched my mouth and said:  "Behold, this has touched your lips; your guilt is taken away, and your sin atoned for.  Isaiah 6:7

Jesus reached out His hand and touched the man.  Jesus said, "Be clean!"  And immediately the leprosy left him.  Luke 5:12-16

Then the Lord put out His hand and touched my mouth.  And the Lord said to me, Behold I have put my Words in your mouth.  Jeremiah 1:9

I'm sure at some point in our lives, we have all had the pleasure of meeting a person who has the uncanny ability to make us feel extra special.  In the moment, they are genuinely and intentionally focused on us - like we are the most important person in their lives.

The children of God don't have to wait for that person to happen along, because...

God loves each of us as if there 
were only one of us.  

You might find me on these link-ups:
Grace & Truth Link-upWoman to Woman Ministries,  Growing in Grace Link-up, 3DLessonsLif4eLivefree Thursday,Everyday JesusSDG GatheringInspire Me Monday, Titus 2 TuesdayA Wise Women Builds Her HomeA Look at the Book,  Sunday StillnessThe Weekend BrewSpiritual Sundays, Soul Survival,  Give Me GraceA Little R&RTestimony TuesdayWomen with Intention WednesdaysStill SaturdayGood Morning MondaysTell His StoryBlessings Counter Link-up Party,Faith & Fellowship Blog HopMotivate and Rejuvenate MondaysBe SaltyMonday's MusingsThe Art of Home-Making MondayTuesday TalkWaiting on WednesdayDance with Jesus Link-up

Monday, June 15, 2015

Gardens & Groundhogs

Our backyard has a beautiful stone wall which separates our yard from neighboring fields.  It was what I loved most about our house when we first moved here many years ago.

Over the years, we have had many different animals reside in those fields.

The first week we were in our home, I happened to look out the kitchen window to see a horse in the backyard!  I then heard a noise and realized it was stampede of horses in the fields.  It was quite unexpected and exciting all at once.  lol.

A couple of years later, cows would graze in the fields.  Sitting out on the deck on a warm summer night, I loved listening as they pulled up the grass, munching away.   I actually found it comforting knowing these creatures were just over the rock wall...

At one time there were pheasants whose mating calls were quite loud and amazing.

Years ago, before turkeys were so prevalent in our area, I saw my first wild turkey in those back fields and a very large Tom Turkey leading them along.

We have also had a beautiful albino red tail hawk take up residence in a tall tree in the back fields.

There have also been wild animals to keeps us curious over the years including a silver fox, a pack of red fox, and several coyotes, all whose late night calls would stop us in our tracks as we stood mesmerized, listening.

On occasion, we've seen graceful deer foraging around in the grass.   I was also quite excited a couple of years ago to see a large buck with a good size rack.

It may sound like I live in the country, but it is actually quite residential, with woods only bordering one side of the fields, which apparently is enough to allow us to enjoy God's creatures great and small.

The cutest visitors to our fields and rock wall are the bunny rabbits and groundhogs with their babies. Unfortunately, their cuteness only goes so far when they start eating the tender flowers off the tops of my plants, and especially, the year the groundhog became our nemesis...

For years, we enjoyed a garden in our backyard.   It was a daunting task at first because as we prepared the soil for planting, we encountered rocks everywhere!  It  seemed as though more and more rocks would continue to rise from the bottom, even once the ground had been tilled.   My husband would say, "We are growing rocks!".

We prepared separate beds and paths around them for easy weeding access.  We placed the garden right next to our deck with a low fence around it. We planted mostly lettuce, tomatoes, squash, zucchini, radishes (which we called Gilligan's Island radioactive radishes because they grew so fast and so big!), onions, cucumbers, peppers and one year we even grew corn!  I loved to watch the progress of the plants growth and would excitedly anticipate my favorite squash and zucchini as the plant's flowers first bloomed.  We, of course, watered the garden and tried to keep up with the weeds.  The lettuce had to be thinned out to allow for more growth.  In the end, our diligence reaped the reward of delicious, fresh tasting produce right from our own backyard!

But then the years of a successful garden ended...  Our plants were being eaten!  We had never had this issue before.  Then we realized why...  Our neighbor had a beagle whose favorite place to stay was in his dog house next to our backyard.  Sadly, he died and there was no longer the presence of a dog to keep the groundhog away.   The groundhog ceased the opportunity and ate it!

My husband read up on different ways to deter groundhogs from coming into the garden which included planting marigolds or placing dog hair around the perimeter.  The rabbits made planting marigolds impossible because they would eat the tops of the flowers off, and we didn't have a dog to collect dog hair from.

There there were the fencing options...

We replaced the low fence with a taller one.  My husband went a step further and rigged the fence up to slant backwards at the top.  My neighbor yelled over jokingly, "It looks like you've got a prison fence set up there!".  Well, if felt that way, only we were trying to keep the prisoners out!  It seemed to work for a couple of weeks and then it happened again, signs that the groundhog had eaten from our garden again!

The next step was to put the fence deeper into the ground, but the groundhogs still managed to find a way in.

At this point, we were perplexed because there wasn't a hole coming up into the garden where the groundhog would have burrowed in.  Our deck sat about four feet above the garden.  The only thing we could think of was the groundhog was so desperate now it was climbing our deck and then jumping down into the garden.

We then found an unconventional idea that we thought was worth a shot;  playing a radio outside during the night tricking the groundhog into thinking humans were around.  We tried that and it seemed to work, but certainly wasn't practical.

The following year, we decided not to do a garden anymore because it was so much work to keep the groundhogs at bay. Mike & Karen 0 - Groundhog - 1


Recently, I read the following amplified version of Philippians 2:12 which says, 

Therefore, my dear ones, as you have always obeyed [my suggestions], so now, not only [with the enthusiasm you would show] in my presence, but much more because I am absent, work out [cultivate, carry out to the goal, and fully complete] your own salvation with reverence and awe and trembling [self-distrust, with serious caution, tenderness of conscience, watchfulness against temptation, timidly shrinking from whatever might offend and discredit the name of Christ.]

I have struggled with the portion that says "work out your own salvation..." because I know that the Lord has paid my debt in full.  He and He alone accomplished my salvation for me.  But when I read the amplified words to [cultivate] your own salvation, I saw this verse with new eyes when the Lord provided insights from my own garden experience.


And I will give you a new heart, and a new spirit I will put within you.  And I will remove the heart of stone from your flesh and give you a heart of flesh. 
Ezekiel 36:26

Much like the rocks that had to be removed from the soil in order to cultivate the ground to create an ideal planting environment, so it is that the Holy Spirit prepares us for His indwelling Spirit, first removing our heart of stone and then placing His Spirit within, enabling us to ultimately grow and flourish in the Lord.

Grow and flourish...  The Holy Spirit certainly works in and through us to this end.  But...  there must be a yielding on our part, and a diligence to grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ.

In my experience, the term "on fire for the Lord" is usually used when referring to a brand new believer.  The new Christian is so excited for what the Lord has done in their lives, exuberantly sharing the Good News with anyone who will listen.  Yet later on, some of those same believers will lament saying that the "fire died down...".

My husband and I were very excited about our garden when we first planted it.  We took special care to make sure the garden beds were neat and orderly, diligently weeding and watering, looking forward to enjoying the fruits of our labor.  But then, the weeds would start to grow in earnest, usually when the sun was blazing hot in the summer sky, making the task of removal more tedious and tiresome.  It would eventually become hard to pick out the weeds without uprooting the vegetables because they were growing so close together.

There have been times in my Christian walk where I have started out strong, seeking diligently to walk in obedience with the Lord to work toward living out God's call to me as a wife, mother, servant in ministry and child of the King. During those times, I enjoy God's blessings ten-fold in each of those areas.

And then it happens...  I suddenly grow weary of doing good.  It makes no sense.  I am seeing positive changes in the areas of obedience and then slowly but surely, I grow tired when I begin to face challenges - much like the hot summer sun giving me no incentive to weed the garden. I can so easily fall back to my former ways of being wrapped up in self.  Then sins [weeds] take over, and selfish desires [groundhogs] eat away the fruit that has already grown.   Before too long, I end up getting plucked up with the weeds; once fertile ground, now barren...

Spiritual lessons learned from gardens and groundhogs...

When the Lord convicts in a specific Spiritual area, cultivate beforehand by studying the Word, learning lessons from the Saints lives recorded beforehand in the Sacred Text.  Pray for wisdom and for help to stay the course.

Your Word I have hidden in my heart, that I might not sin against you. Psalm 119:11

Therefore, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses,
let us also lay aside every weight, and sin which clings so closely, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us.  Hebrews 12:1

Praying at all times in the Spirit, with all prayer and supplication.  
To that end, keep alert with all perseverance... Ephesians 6:18

Exercise discernment in those things that might seem innocent. Many times, the littlest distraction can cause the most damage.  [Remember, it wasn't the coyote, fox, cow or horse that ruined our garden, but the cute little bunny rabbit and groundhog...]

Stay alert!  Watch out for your great enemy, the devil, He prowls around 
like a roaring lion, looking for someone to devour.  1 Peter 5:8

Guard your heart, your thoughts, your eyes and ears, shield them from those things that would entice you away from obeying the Lord.  Build yourself up with the whole armor of God by praying, memorizing Scripture; reading edifying books and blog posts; being part of a church body; listening to praise music or hymns. [Remember the taller fence and the music which kept the destructive groundhog at bay.]

Watch your heart with all diligence, For from it flows the springs of life.  Proverbs 4:23

Finally brothers whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things.  Philippians 4:8

Addressing one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing and making melody to the Lord with your heart.  Ephesians 5:19

Those things you know are stumbling blocks, weed out of your life.  [Remember the good plant that got pulled up when the weeds closed in.]

He put another parable before them, saying, the Kingdom of Heaven may be compared to a man who sowed good seed in his field, but while his men were sleeping, {his enemy} came and sowed weeds among the wheat and went away...  Let both grow together until the harvest, and at harvest time I will tell the reapers, Gather the weeds first and bind them in bundles to be burned, but gather the wheat into my barn.  Matthew 13:24-25

When you start to feel challenged and/or weary in your walk of obedience, cry out to the Lord.

God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble.  Psalm 46:1

The name of the Lord is a strong fortress; the Godly run to Him and are safe. Proverbs 18:10

Come to me all you who are weary and heavy-laden, and I will give you rest.  
Take my yoke upon you and learn from Me, for I am gentle and humble in heart 
and you will find rest for your souls.  Matthew 11:28-29

God has certainly wired us to be our happiest when we are obedient to Him.  When we start the day in His Word, praying throughout the day, seeking Him in all things, desiring to please Him, diligently obeying, we feel true joy and contentment.

As long as we are in these sinful bodies, we know obedience will take a lot of effort and work... 

And let us not grow weary of doing good, for in due season, we will reap if we do not give up. Galations 6:9

Do you not know that in a race all the runners run, but only one receives the prize?  So run that you may obtain it.  Every athlete exercises self-control in all things.  They do it to receive a perishable wreath, but we an imperishable.   So I do not run aimlessly; I do not box as one beating the air.  But I discipline my body and keep it under control, lest... I should be disqualified.  
1 Corinthians 9:24-27

I have found, the more you do anything, the easier it gets.  This can be true in obedience and in sin...

Let us daily choose obedience, diligently working out our salvation with fear and trembling, looking forward to the day we will hear...

Well done good and faithful servant... Enter into the joy of your Master.  Matthew 25:23

Monday, June 8, 2015

A Phone Call Changes Everything...

The steadfast love of the Lord never ceases; His mercies never come to an end;
 they are new every morning; great is your faithfulness.  
Lamentations 3:22-23

Those who know me well have heard me say, "A phone call can change your life in an instant."   I usually say this in response to hearing about a dire or tragic situation.  It's not that I'm being maudlin, but more making an observation of how fragile life can be...

As some of you may know, I have suffered with fearfulness and anxiety for a good part of my life.  

If I were to give my top 10 fears , they would be as follows:

#1 Death of a loved one
#2 Serious illness of a loved one 
#3 Serious illness in myself
#4 Doctors
#5 Hospitals
#6 Surgery
#7 Driving long distances alone
#8 Flying alone
#9 A severed relationship of someone I hold dear
#10 Living alone

My fears seem to fall into two categories:  health issues & being alone, whether in an activity or in general.

My life verse, Deuteronomy 31:8, was born out of my fears.

It is the Lord who goes before you.  He will be with you; 
He will not leave you or forsake you. 
Do not fear or be dismayed.    

I hold onto this verse as if it is life itself...

His Words ARE Life itself...

My phone call came in 2008...

When my husband Michael was in his late 40s, he began experiencing severe headaches that were continuing off and on for a few weeks.  We just assumed that his typical sinus migraines were a little more ramped up than usual.  As the headaches persisted, my husband saw our family doctor who recommended a brain MRI, but the insurance company denied the test...

Michael eventually started having issues with numbness and tingling in his arms accompanied with visual disturbances.  At this point, our family doctor diagnosed "cluster headaches" and recommended that Michael see a neurologist.  The neurologist recommended an MRI which the insurance company then finally approved.

Incredibly enough, my husband continued working through the severe headaches.  Michael scheduled his MRI in the morning before work and planned on heading in after the MRI was completed.  I can honestly say I wasn't too concerned that the tests were going to find anything seriously wrong.

Then the phone rang...

   I answered the phone.  It was my husband who sounded upbeat and calm.   As he started to speak and I heard the words he was saying, I began shaking; it felt like the room was spinning.  The MRI detected something on his brain.  My mind started racing.  Was it a brain tumor?!?

Michael said he needed to be taken to the hospital as soon as possible and asked me to come pick him up.  (The Radiology Department didn't feel the situation warranted an ambulance.)

I remember thinking, "Karen, you need to hold it together for Michael, and for your children (who were 21 and 17 at the time).  You have to be strong."   On the outside, I may have looked like I was holding it together, but I was barely functioning as I was rushing to get dressed to go out the door to pick my husband up and bring him to the hospital.

It seemed all my fears were crashing down around me - possible impending death of a loved one; serious illness of a loved one; hospitals, doctors, driving alone - Would I become alone, without a husband?...

I got behind the wheel of my car, turned on the ignition, and started driving, not knowing how the day was going to end...

I then began praying God's promise to me, back to Him, "You go before me and are with me, you will never leave me or forsake me."   I fervently prayed for my husband, for his protection and healing.  I prayed for the doctors who would be treating Michael to have wisdom and understanding of the situation.  I prayed for peace for my daughter who was upset and waiting at home alone, and I prayed for strength from the Lord to carry me.  I knew I could not do this except only by His strength.

By the time I reached my husband, I started feeling this "other-worldly" strength and peace.  I no longer felt "out of control", but "in-control" and calmer.

 When my husband and I arrived at the hospital, the staff took Michael into triage right away.  I had to stay in the waiting room while they worked him up.  My son arrived at the hospital at just that time.  It was such a comfort to have him there - and later on, to know that he was in the waiting room...

The nurse called me in from the waiting room and I followed her to where Michael was.  It was surreal to see my husband on a hospital gurney in a johnny, critically ill, but I was still uncharacteristically at peace...

The doctors needed to run more tests, and I went to another area to fill out paperwork. A little while later, the doctor retrieved me and brought me to my husband.  As the doctor and I walked up the hallway, he started explaining the results of the MRI.  He said my husband had suffered a carotid dissection.  The doctor held up his two fingers and spread them apart four inches along his own neck to describe how far the carotid artery had tore.  The doctor went on to explain that Michael had suffered a stroke as a result of the carotid dissection.  The surrealness of it all was incredible!  Yet despite seeing the doctors fingers spread four inches apart and trying to grasp what he was saying, I felt such undeniable peace.  You would have thought I was walking up the hall at the mall without a care in the world!  

In the midst of this whole experience, the Lord did provide some moments of humor...

While waiting for  Michael's hospital room to be prepared, another neurologist came in to check on him.   He conducted several neurological tests.  The first one entailed my husband having to count back from 100 by 7's.  Well, Michael sailed along just fine.  I'm sitting there trying to do this myself - 100.... um... 93 um....   I thought to myself, "Apparently, I've had a stroke!"  lol.

Then the neurologist said to my husband, "Demonstrate to me how you nail a hammer."  Well now I'm thinking, "What does that even mean??"  lol.  My husband, without missing a beat said to the doctor, "Look, I've had a really tough day, don't you mean, hammer a nail."  We all had a good laugh after that.

It was then, actually, that the Lord glorified Himself through the tender mercies He had bestowed upon Michael and I through this intense trial...

The doctor turned to both my husband and I saying, "For a person who is only in their late 40s and just had a carotid dissection and accompanying stroke, you and your wife are so calm and have such a great sense of humor about the whole thing."

We both testified to the doctor that God is our strength and that through His saving grace, we have the peace that surpasses all understanding.

God's strength, wrapped in His mercy, clearly carried me and my husband.  I experienced peace like never before in my life while I faced the biggest fears of my life!  My husband remained calm and maintained an upbeat attitude which made everyone around him feel at ease.

But God had worked the most incredible mercy when we didn't even know it was happening...

Once the testing was analyzed, it was determined that the day my husband was supposed to have the first recommended MRI, which had been denied  by the insurance company, was actually the day my husband had the carotid dissection.  It was a miracle my husband survived AND with no lasting side-effects from the stroke.   Man may have made a bad call in denying my husband's MRI; But God...  In His incredible mercy, spared my husband's life.

When I say my husband had no lasting side-effects, I mean in the sense of those that come to mind such as impaired speech, vision and motor skills.  However, the area of my husband's brain that was effected by the stroke was the "planning and organizing" center of the brain.

You see, my husband was pastoring a church at the time of the stroke, and writing sermons required planning and organizing.  But God...  In His mercy, gave Michael the cognitive strength to plan and organize while writing and then delivering the sermons.

My husband did go on to make a full and complete recovery. Praise God!

I came across an article entitled, God's Mercy in Making Us Face the Impossible, on Desiring God's website which was written by Jon Bloom.  Excerpts from the article truly summed up how I saw the Lord working in my life and in my husband's life through what at first seemed impossible.

"God is not content for us just to understand the idea that nothing is too hard for the Lord [Ah, Lord God!  It is you who have made the heavens and the earth by your great power and by your outstretched arm!  Nothing is too hard for you.  Jeremiah 32:17]  He wants us to have the overwhelming joy of experiencing it."

"There are times when God orders our circumstances in such a way that from a human standpoint His promises are impossible to fulfill.  And if at that point, we find these promises almost unbelievable, as did Abraham and Sarah [when God promised that they would have a son in their old age], what God has exposed are the boundaries of our faith - boundaries He means to expand."

"Resting in the promises of God is learned in the crucible of wrestling with unbelief - seasons, sometimes long seasons, when everything hangs on believing that "God gives life to the dead and calls everything into existence the things that do not exist" and there is no safety net."

Jon Bloom closed his article by offering the following words of encouragement:

"If you are in such a season, [facing an impossibility and wrestling with unbelief] as difficult as it feels, God is being incredibly kind to you.  Because such seasons are when we really learn that nothing is too hard for the Lord.  And the joy in God that results makes any agony endured not even worth comparing.

Abraham and Sarah "grew strong in [their] faith" because God pushed them to believe more than they thought was possible.  For the sake of our joy, He does the same for you and me."

Yes, a phone call in 2008, did change my life in an instant -- to a life of faith that had grown exponentially; to a life of overcoming fears through the strength of the the Lord; and to a life of great joy - waiting expectantly for God's mercies.

You might find me on these link-ups:
Grace & Truth Link-upWoman to Woman Ministries,  Growing in Grace Link-up, 3DLessonsLif4eLivefree Thursday,Everyday JesusSDG GatheringInspire Me Monday, Titus 2 TuesdayA Wise Women Builds Her HomeA Look at the Book,  Sunday StillnessThe Weekend BrewSpiritual Sundays, Soul Survival,  Give Me GraceA Little R&RTestimony TuesdayWomen with Intention WednesdaysStill SaturdayGood Morning MondaysTell His StoryBlessings Counter Link-up Party,Faith & Fellowship Blog HopMotivate and Rejuvenate MondaysBe SaltyMonday's MusingsThe Art of Home-Making MondayTuesday TalkWaiting on WednesdayDance with Jesus Link-up

Monday, June 1, 2015

A Little Bird Told Me

Ever since I was a very small child, I loved watching birds.  I would wake up with them!  I remember sitting at the front picture window very, very early in the morning watching the robins as they hopped around the blades of grass glistening with dew.   The robins would tilt their heads to listen for worms and suddenly snatch one up!  This little girl's fascination didn't stop there...  On warm summer evenings, after a fresh bath, I would put on crisp pajamas and crawl into bed for an early bedtime of 7:30 p.m.  As the sun would set, I loved falling asleep to the sound of the Robin's beautiful night song which would fill the air with such comforting sounds.

I still love listening to the different bird songs that fill my backyard.

There is a particular bird that sings in the springtime and autumn that always makes me laugh when I hear it because it sounds like an old man whistling.

I find the mockingbird so fascinating as it imitates different noises.  One summer, the mockingbird was imitating a car alarm!

In the middle of the night, warm summer breezes blow through open windows, carrying with it the sound of a lone bird calling in the distance, and such peace washes over me.

As the sun begins to rise and with its setting, the bird's song seems to be the most exuberant and cheerful.

I sat and pondered this... whether I face each new day with singing and rejoicing or do I complain and dread the day.  Or... as I lay my head to sleep, do I rejoice in the day that the Lord had given me, praising Him for His many blessings or am I weary from burdens, grumbling as I fall asleep...

I confess that too often, when I become fully awake and aware, all my troubles seem to come flying back into my head after being tucked away while I slept.  And at bedtime, I can find myself presupposing what the next day will be like, borrowing trouble.

The attitude of my heart should instead sing aloud of His steadfast love in the morning.  Psalm 59:16 

My heart should never be lacking in praise to my God and Father.  No matter what my circumstances are, there are always reasons to praise Him; most especially for His unfailing love for me!  Starting my morning with praise on my lips to the Lord will set the tone for the rest of the day.

My mornings should begin with prayer and time in the Word.  Let me hear in the morning of your steadfast love, for in you I trust.  Make me to know the way I should go for to you I lift up my soul. Psalm 143:8

Every verse in God's word speaks of His steadfast love for me.  To begin my day remembering I am wholly loved by Almighty God, brings confidence to the day, a day I don't have to face alone, but with God, my ever-present Help.  Through prayer and the Word, I can seek God's will for my day, and He will direct my steps in the way I should go.

In the morning, I must commit my day to the Lord to be a pleasing sacrifice as I seek to obey and walk with Him.  In the morning you hear my voice; in the morning I prepare a sacrifice for you and watch.  Psalm 5:3 

Whenever I have committed my day to the Lord, including Him in my thoughts and decisions, I am always amazed how much better the day goes.  I am more tranquil and content. The sacrifice of committing my day to the Lord is truly something that I can watch unfold throughout the day as I see His blessings surround me.

When I've started out my day in praise, prayer and Scripture reading, the blessings of the day will naturally outflow into evening.

In peace I will both lie down and sleep, for you alone, O Lord make me to dwell in safety.  Psalm 4:8


The trees and bushes in our backyard seem to come alive on a rainy day with the birds proclaiming loudly their individual songs.  I love to have the window open; their cheerful songs brightening my mood despite the rain.

I thought about this one day as I listened to the rain drops bouncing off the deck outside; the birds singing as if it were a beautiful sunny day.   Do I sing loudly and cheerfully when adversity is pouring down or do my complaints rise above the pitch of everything else.  The answer more often than not is that I complain.

My form of processing problems is to talk through them.  I don't hold things in that are bothering me.  Instead, I need to talk about them.  Unfortunately, this form of processing can turn into complaining which accomplishes nothing, and is a poor testimony to those around me.

Non-Christians are always watching those of us they know are Christ-followers.  They watch how we handle everything!  Especially when trials or difficult people come our way.

This morning I was reading Philippians 1:12 when Paul said, "I want you to know, brothers, that what has happened to me has really served to advance the Gospel."  Paul was talking about his imprisonment.   It started me thinking about our own imprisonments.  We aren't behind actual bars, but there are many things in life that can feel like imprisonment or bondage such as anxiety, addiction, affliction, depression.  All of these circumstances can make us feel very alone.  But through Christ, we can overcome despite these trials, and it is through this testimony of a peace that surpasses all understanding, that we too advance the Gospel...

In the last ten years, I have been struck with two very humbling afflictions...

The first one occurred after several falls onto my tailbone which rendered me at the outset unable to sit in a normal chair without the aid of a special cushion with a whole cut out where the tailbone would sit.  It was very humbling, especially at church, to be a fairly young woman who needed to carry a special pillow around just to be able to sit through the service.  There were many times that I would have to get up and stand at the back of the church.  By nature, I don't like to draw attention to myself or have all eyes on me.  My pride was being sorely tested, and there were definitely times of woe is me and much complaining...   But God in His wonderful mercy helped me to accept this affliction, giving me a sense of humor about it.  God has a sense of humor too!  I ended up having to move on to a special chair that I found at Target which was perfect and mobile, but the only color they had was red!!  And so there I would come, my RED chair in tow, and set up camp at the back of the church.

By the strength of the Lord, He blessed me with a humble attitude and an acceptance of the situation; a true testimony of God's faithfulness in adversity.

The second affliction occurred about three years ago when I suddenly developed a blocked tear duct.  At this point in life, the only course of action to correct a blocked tear duct is surgery.  But unfortunately, there are lasting side effects from the surgery that are worse than what I am currently dealing with.  So, for now, I have chosen to forgo surgery.  When I first realized what this diagnosis meant, I was to the point of despairing.  Despairing from the aggravation of dealing with it for the rest of my life and from embarrassment being around people who didn't know why my eye was tearing all the time.

In my current role as an itinerant Pastor's wife, I would become quite apprehensive when visiting a new congregation as I wanted to be gracious in my role, engaging the congregation, but my pride and vanity wanted me to go sit at the back of the church and have nothing to do with anyone...

After a time, the Lord showed me a way to deal with the problem which actually prevented aggravation of the tearing and seemed to curtail my need of dealing with it to only on an every 15 minute basis, using a small mirror and a Q-tip.  My ophthalmologist was quite curious about my system and asked me to demonstrate so that he could share with other patients who also have a blocked tear duct.

God has pruned me through this affliction, gently humbling me, and teaching me acceptance and grace along the way.

In both instances, I hope that those who are watching me, in my affliction, will discern a singing  spirit within me so that God would be glorified and that those who don't have a personal relationship with Christ would desire the same peace that only He can give through accepting His free gift of salvation.

Birds have brought me joy throughout my life, and it pleased the Lord to use those same sweet creatures to teach me lessons for singing His praises and to walk in obedience with Him.

Why should I feel discouraged, why should the shadows come,
Why should my heart be lonely, and long for heav'n and home,
When Jesus is my portion?  My constant friend is He:
His eye is on the sparrow, and I know He watches me.
His eye is on the sparrow, and I know He watches me.

I sing because I'm happy, I sing because I'm free,
For His eye is on the sparrow, and I know He watches me

"Let not your heart be troubled."  His tender word I hear, 
and resting on His goodness, I lose my doubts and fears;
Though by the path He leadeth, but one step I may see;
His eye is on the sparrow, and I know He watches me;
His eye is on the sparrow, and I know He watches me.

I sing because I'm happy, I sing because I'm free,
For His eye is on the sparrow, and I know He watches me

His Eye Is on the Sparrow, Civilla D. Martin