"Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself.
Each day has enough trouble of its own." Matthew 6:34 NIV

Thursday, September 29, 2011

My Focus

     The other day I chose to wear my glasses rather than my contacts.  During the afternoon I went to get a haircut, placing my glasses on the counter while the lady combed and snipped.  It surprised me how little detail of myself I could see in the mirror without them on.  What I could observe was blurry and nondescript. To see clearly, I had to adjust my focus by looking through my lenses once again.
     Later, while sitting at a park, I thought about my focus in life.  Most of the time it seems to be a bit blurry.  It jumps from my children to myself to marriage to friends to...  not what it should be. I need to put on what my friend calls my "God Goggles".  Through them I am better able to view God's hand in each area of my life.  Without them on, most of life seems shapeless, hazy.
     When I try to see people and events in my life through the eyes of God I am humbled. Opportunities to love and be loved are all around me, I just do not usually take the time to focus on them. The frustrating situations I encounter with my children are shaping both of our characters. The inconsiderate coworker is really a lost soul in need of some wise counsel. The half hour drive alone in the car is an excellent opportunity to ask my Savior for help to get through the week.
     Perhaps I should wear my glasses more often to remind myself how blurry life can be without the right focus.  One problem - my daughter tried to wear them and bent one side a bit too far. (Note above mentioned frustrating situations with children ). I am thinking God has a good sense of humor.

     "You will seek me and find me when you seek me with all your heart."  Jeremiah 29:13

     All Seeing Lord, I want to see you more often in my day to day life.  I want to have the right focus - your will and not mine.  Thank you for opening up my eyes and taking away the blur.  Amen.

Thursday, September 22, 2011

The Present

     My three year old son found a page of stickers today that had been sent to me in the mail a long time ago.  They were designed for scrapbooking and had various words on them.  He happily went around our house, placing them here and there.  I instructed him that it was okay to put stickers on paper and people, but not on furniture. It kept him quite busy so I did not really mind where they ended up.
     Later in the evening, while giving my one year old daughter a "horsie ride" on my knee, I noticed the two stickers he had place on his sister's shirt: child and present.  I kept repeating the words over and over in my mind: Child, present... present, child. I thought, she is a present to our family, sent by God to give us so much joy and to teach us patience, along with the vital skill of covering our ears quickly when she shrieks in protest.  Then, another thought came to mind.  Children live in the present.
     She does not understand the concept of yesterday or tomorrow yet.  Even "in a minute" has no meaning for her.  She knows what she is experiencing now.  She lives in the present with no regrets for the past and no worries about the future.  My daughter, like all young children, is completely immersed in whatever task she is involved in.
     What a gift living in the present is.
     If I were to leave all my regrets behind and cast aside my worries for the future, could I too immerse myself more fully in the present?  Could I save precious time, freeing up those moments I used to waste contemplating things I have no control over?  Then, I would not miss the giggles of my children as they run through the yard.  I would not miss the opportunity to pray for a friend when she came to my mind.  I would be free to be where I am in the moment, like a child.

     "Can any one of you by worrying add a single hour to your life?"  Matthew 6:27  NIV

     Holy Father, I know I am given the same 24 hours in my day as everyone else.  Help me to not waste them on regrets or worrying.  Show me how to live in the present fully, like my daughter.  I do not want to miss the opportunities that are right in front of me now.  Amen.

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

The Quilt of My Life

     I am piecing together a quilt made out of the clothes I remember my father wearing the most over the years.  The process has been very healing, immersed in the fabric of my childhood. I arrange them carefully, laying patterns here and solids there.  Each individual square adds character and color to the whole.  I find it looks better when I take time to place them where I want them, rather than randomly throwing them together.
     The events that come into my life, I find, add character and color to make me who I am today.  Much like the quilt when it is finished, my life would look much different without a few hardships placed here and trials positioned there.  God knows when I need these patches to make me into the person he wants me to be.  As with my fabric masterpiece, my own quilt of existence would be boring and too ordinary if the squares were all the same. 
     If I had to be honest, though, I would request the life of the ordinary quilt.  Perhaps that would not include heartache, headaches, and longing.  But having been through some hard times and seeing growth in myself, I know that is not what is best for me.  I trust that Jesus knows what he is doing as he sews my quilt together piece by piece.  Am I looking forward to a few more colorful patches in the future? Not exactly, but I know who I'll look to when the needle pierces my fabric once again.

    "Consider it a sheer gift, friends, when tests and challenges come at you from all sides. You know that under pressure, your faith-life is forced into the open and shows its true colors. So don't try to get out of anything prematurely. Let it do its work so you become mature and well-developed, not deficient in any way."  James 1:2-4  The Message

     Father, I admit I do not enjoy every piece you have placed in my quilt of life.  Help me to trust that each trial and heartache is there for a reason.  When the more painful patches come, please use them to draw me nearer to you.  Someday I look forward to seeing the grander picture, how each piece fit into making the masterpiece you desired.  Amen.

Sunday, September 11, 2011

September 11, 2001

     Ten years ago today I was working at a home for teenage mothers, trying to make sense of what I was seeing on television.  How could something like this happen so close to me?  I was surprised, scared, angry, tearful.  That night in bed I held my husband tight, listening to the words our president shared with the country.  I was fearful of what this tragedy would mean for my life, my family.  My world of safety crumbled with the buildings.
      Today, I thought about the certainties I have in life, the universal truths I can count on. I now work at an assisted living center, helping seniors do simple tasks their aging bodies will not allow them to do. Death is the first certainty that came to my mind. Most residents I help will be there until they die.  It's hard to accept, but true nonetheless.  Likewise, I too will face death one day.  I can ignore this reality, but that will not stop it from happening. 
     Another fact of life that I will face, along with everyone else, is trouble.  Jesus told me it would come.  I look around me and see it in the faces of those I encounter every day.  Every person's issues are different, but every person has issues of one kind or another.
    Thankfully, not all certainties bring sorrow.  I know that God is love. I believe Jesus shed his blood as an offering for my sins and now I am acceptable in God's eyes.  My life on earth is only a fraction of the whole plan he has for me.  When I die, I will meet him face to face, and know more of the bigger picture than I know now.    

    Nothing else in this life is a guarantee. 

    What do you rely on?  What do you know for sure?  We cannot count on peace, good health, comfort, wealth, or the safety of our nation.  Those things are blessings, but not guaranteed to last.  If our hope and certainty rests in the arms of the one who spread his wide on a cross two thousand years ago, we are truly safe. 

     "Sin didn't and doesn't, have a chance in competition with the aggressive forgiveness we call grace.  When it's sin verses grace, grace wins hands down.  All sin can do is threaten us with death, and that's the end of it.  Grace, because God is putting everything together again through the Messiah, invites us into life - a life that goes on and on and on, world without end."  Romans 5:20b-21  The Message

     God please comfort those who lost loved ones ten years ago today.  Comfort us as we face death and trouble. Help us to rest in the certainty of your love for us. Amen.

Friday, September 9, 2011

Deeply Rooted in Living Water

     I have seven large maple trees in my yard. I have no idea how old they are, but the thickness of their trunks suggest they have been shading this plot of land since before I was born.  Under and around these trees I planted flowers when I moved in last summer.  They make me smile as I gaze out my window, thankful that God created so many different types for me to enjoy.
     During the course of the hot summer my care for these two types of plants differed greatly.  The only thing I needed to do for the trees was pick up sticks they occasionally dropped from their branches. The heat of the sun and lack of rain did nothing to stunt the growth of the trees. Their roots ran deep, finding water below the surface that I could not see. The flowers, however, demanded more attention.  I had to keep track of when it last rained and water them if it had been too many days since the previous shower.  Their roots were very shallow and needed me to ensure their survival through the season.
     I started thinking about roots and how I quench my thirst. When the scorching sun shines on my little life, do I depend on others for my nourishment?  Probably more than I care to admit.

“Blessed is the one who trusts in the Lord,
   whose confidence is in him.
 They will be like a tree planted by the water
   that sends out its roots by the stream.
It does not fear when heat comes;
   its leaves are always green.
It has no worries in a year of drought
   and never fails to bear fruit.”
Jeremiah 17:7-8

     Where are your roots?  Do they run deep into the truth that God loves you and has taken care of you, is taking care of you, and will continue to take care of you?  When they are firmly planted, we do not have to worry about the heat that may come into our lives.  We can still trust when life seems dry and cracked. We can rest in the shade and know where to find sweet living water.

     Lord I am thirsty for more of you.  Thank you for providing the hope of living water.  When the drought comes, help me to go deeper with you instead of searching in the shallow dirt for what my soul truly needs.

Sunday, September 4, 2011

Do You Have a List?

      I like to make lists.  They organize my thoughts and help me remember. Once in a while I'll come across an old list of mine that makes me smile.  It's interesting to see what was so important to me months or even years ago.  Often, though, if I do not write something down, it slowly slips into history, long forgotten.  Resting in that fuzzy part of my brain are numerous phone numbers, the name of my fourth grade teacher, and what I ate for dinner two nights ago.  Along with these trivial matters, I similarly find myself unable to recall times when God answered my prayers or blessed me with little miracles. 
     About ten years ago I made a decision to remember important things, specifically times in my life when I knew God had come through for me.  I started keeping a list in the back of my Bible of times I was sure were not really coincidences.  There I  recorded how God provided money for us to fix our car in the form of a "random" check from grandparents.  Also, I wrote about when we felt led to put our house up for sale in a terrible market, and it "amazingly" sold in three days.  Big miracles and little blessings, I write them all down.
      Why do I feel the need to remember?  When I look back at the last ten years and see so clearly the hand of God, I am less likely to worry that he will not provide for my needs now or in the future.  When I go through times of doubt, I can see this history of his hand in my life and be comforted.  I do not have to be afraid that the future will be any different than the past.
     When the Israelites were about the enter the promised land so long ago, God parted the waters of the Jordan for them much like he did for Moses when they were initially fleeing Pharaoh.. Joshua relayed to them a message that God had given him: “Go over before the ark of the Lord your God into the middle of the Jordan. Each of you is to take up a stone on his shoulder, according to the number of the tribes of the Israelites, to serve as a sign among you. In the future, when your children ask you, ‘What do these stones mean?’ tell them that the flow of the Jordan was cut off before the ark of the covenant of the Lord. When it crossed the Jordan, the waters of the Jordan were cut off. These stones are to be a memorial to the people of Israel forever.”   Joshua 4:5-7
     The twelve stones were something visible that they could point to and remember how God had come through for them in the past.  It was the beginning of their list, and they shared it with their children for many generations.  I wonder what would happen in my life and the lives of my children if I regularly pointed to my list saying, "This is how God's hand has been on our family.  He has been holding us and providing for us for years.  Do not worry or fear that he will ever let us go."
      My Rock and Provider, thank you for the many times over the years that you have blessed me and my family.  Help me to remember how you have upheld us, and give me courage to share these times with my children.  I have faith that ten years from now, I'll have notebooks full of blessings for which to sing your praises.  Amen.

Saturday, September 3, 2011

Victory over Fear for my Children

     My father died one month ago.  This single event has catapulted my emotions, my faith, and my fears into areas I was not expecting or prepared to deal with.  My sisters and I, along with my mother, have made many hard decisions over the past few weeks.  I know many more will come.  One thing his death has caused me to do is think about the final chapter of my life, and eternal realities in general, more.  I feel like an unseen layer has been removed, making the distance between the present and eternity much closer.

     Strong emotions, for me, have a way of materializing out of thin air. I'll be fine one moment and feel the need to run and hide under my covers the next.  The other night I went in the room where my two young boys were sleeping and started to pray over them.  Seemingly from out of nowhere, the thought occurred to me that they will one day be planning my funeral and going through the belongings that surround my life. 

     I won't sugar coat it - I sobbed, my face on the floor, gasping for breath.  I was terrified.  I did not want my children to have to deal with the same tough issues I was dealing with for my dad.  How in the world was I going to shield them from such anguish?  Then I felt helpless.  I knew I was unable to protect them from the realities of this sinful, fallen world. 

     I do not have the power to keep all evil at bay from the little souls God has entrusted to my care.  He does not ask that of me because it is impossible.  What he asks me to do is expose them as much as possible to His love and in child sized doses, to the realities of the world we live in.  He also asks me to trust Him with the rest, to let tomorrow worry about itself.

     God loves me deeply and passionately.  He loves my children deeply and passionately.  God has provided me the strength and courage to walk through this tough time in my life with Him.  When my children face tough times, God will be there to provide them with the same strength and courage.  If he is holding my hand, why should I worry he will let go of theirs when they need Him most?

     "The eyes of the Lord are on the righteous,
        and his ears are attentive to their cry...       
     The righteous cry out, and the Lord hears them;
        he delivers them from all their troubles."
                                          Psalms 34:15, 17

     All knowing Father, I do not know what the future holds for my children.  I put their futures into your hands, for they are so much bigger than my own.  I trust that you will not let go of them.  I recommit myself to showing them your love through the events of our days.  Please give me wisdom to know what truths they are ready to be exposed to.  Amen.

Here is a song I find myself thinking about a lot as I am going through trials:
"Blessings" by Laura Story