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Archive for June, 2012

It’s 4:30 a.m. and the sun should be peeking over the hill.  Unfortunately, thick rain clouds make it difficult to know for sure if that’s happening.  If you read my previous blog you know we are leaving bright (well, maybe not bright) and early this morning on an 8 day motorcycle trip.  And it’s seriously threatening to rain on our parade.

Yesterday was 82 degrees and gorgeous, teasing me into gleeful anticipation.  I picked out my outfit for this morning with thoughts of sunscreened arms under a clear blue sky. The shirt I chose was pink with a Harley logo on the front to match my pink leather chaps, a gift from my biker husband on our 40thanniversary.  This morning I’m tucking the shirt in my bag and pulling out my turtleneck and black leathers, much more suited to inclement weather.  And – the rain gear.

I have nothing against a little sprinkle, although this looks to be a bit more than that.  What I do have a problem with is army green which is the color of my rain ensemble.  It’s not pretty.  It’s not complimentary to my light complexion and blonde hair.  And it certainly is not fashionable!  The best you could say about it is it’s serviceable.  How boring is that?

Don’t get me wrong.  I can appreciate the serviceability, just not the lack of fashion.  It’s boxy, plain and well – green.  However, from past experience I can tell you it works.  It keeps me dry, cuts the wind, even adds some chill resistance factor.  Should the skies open up as they threaten, I will be prepared.  When we arrive at our day’s destination, I will be relatively dry.

It’s much like the full armor of God.  I don’t want to need it.  I want to wake to sunshine every day.  I want to throw my head back, suck in the fresh air and sing at the top of my voice.  But many days are not conducive to blind enjoyment.  In fact on most days I will face some type of threatening storm.  Much as I’d like to skip through life in Liz Claiborne dresses and Gucci shoes, I will most often find myself in army green.  In some environments it will not be considered fashionable.  On some days people will point their fingers and mock me.  On other days it will feel cumbersome and hindering.

But I’ve had experience enough to know it will always be serviceable.  Beyond my rain gear which deflects water, these garments will deflect the arrows of the enemy.  They will protect my most vulnerable parts from accusation and anger, from jabs and jeering, from harm and hatred.  They will keep me safe in the bloodiest wars, give me courage in the scariest situations and cover me with peace in the midst of turmoil.

The full armor of God may not be what I see in the glossy ads of fashion magazines.  But it will inevitably be the garments my world envies when they see me survive and thrive in a land of death and destruction.

Today I will wear my rain gear with this in mind.  My God has a garment for every situation.  Rain clouds will not frighten me.  I will throw out my army green, oversized arms and praise His name – with His living water running in torrents down my face.  I will smile at Mother Nature because as hard as she tries, she is no match for Father God.

Therefore put on the full armor of God, so that when the day of evil comes, you may be able to stand your ground, and after you have done everything, to stand.  Stand firm then, with the belt of truth buckled around your waist, with the breastplate of righteousness in place,and with your feet fitted with the readiness that comes from the gospel of peace.  In addition to all this, take up the shield of faith, with which you can extinguish all the flaming arrows of the evil one.  Take the helmet of salvation and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God. Eph 6:13-17

No posts next week, friends.  I will be on the road!

 

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On Friday we leave for an 8 day motorcycle trip and as I prepare I am once again faced with the impossible task of condensing 8 days worth of clothes, makeup and hair tools into the teeny weeny luggage compartment of a Harley Ultra Classic touring bike.  Big bike – little storage by my standards.

I start by putting the bag that fits inside the luggage compartment of the bike on the couch and patting the sides to puff them out so it looks bigger.  I do this several days ahead of time.  I carefully fold into a neat pile four pair of jeans, two turtlenecks in case of cold, six tanks in case of warm, two long sleeve shirts for layering, a sweatshirt, underwear, socks, sandals, tennis shoes, curling iron, hairdryer, makeup, sun screen, assorted hair accessories, book, journal, e reader and nightgown.

I stand back to look and notice the tower of items I’ve placed next to the bag looks like the stepsister’s size 10 foot next to Cinderella’s size 5 slipper.  Not good.

I begin subtracting by pulling out an undergarment.  The stack does not shrink noticeably.  Darn!  I begin to negotiate with myself.  “I can wear a pair of jeans three days instead of two can’t I? “ Out comes one pair.  “It’s June – bound to be warm, right?” Out comes the turtlenecks.  “Who needs tennis shoes?  We’ll be riding not walking.”  Nix the tennis shoes.  “Book or e reader? ”  “Air dry the hair?”

I check the weather reports for areas we will be visiting.  Out come three tanks, back in go the turtlenecks.  I pull out, put in, fold tighter, sigh and start over.  I am an unlimited-luggage-for-the-cruise type girl in a black leather biker world.  I have enough clothes in my closets to make sure I don’t repeat an outfit in any 30 day period.  But I love a guy who sees changing from a black T-shirt with the HD logo to a white T-shirt with the same as a major wardrobe overhaul.  Needless to say he doesn’t understand the packing challenge.

The funny thing is, once we’re on the road I don’t find it quite so difficult to wear the same thing two days in a row or even (gasp) three if necessary.  I’m not so caught up in how I look as I am in the scenery around me.  And, I’m too busy enjoying uninterrupted time with my husband to think about impressing others.

The craziness of multiple projects, plans and people coming at me in a constant deluge disappears the minute I crawl on the bike behind him and we set off on yet another roaring adventure.  This is pure togetherness – so close we are constantly touching, our direction perfectly matched, sharing thoughts and impressions as we sail down the highway. I can almost feel his heartbeat when I wrap my arms around him and our bodies sway in perfect harmony to the movement of the bike. 

We need this trip.  Life has been like a speeding train lately.  It will ramp up again when we return.  But for the next 8 days it will be just us, our timing, our choices, our quiet talks, our laughter, our frayed bond healing.

“Scarcely had I passed them when I found the one my heart loves.  I held him and would not let him go ….”  Song of Songs 3:4

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I had to share this overcoming fear story because it involves someone very close to my heart.  I have a granddaughter, Brinkley, who is one of the great joys of my life.  She is seven and one half and her life is a true miracle.  At four months she contracted RSV and the next ten days involved several ambulance rides, an air evacuation to a hospital with a pediatric intensive care unit, several days of coma and little assurance that she would survive.  Survive she did and miraculously was left with no lasting effects whatsoever.  There is no doubt that round the clock prayer made the difference. Everyday we are thankful for her life and the joy she brings.

Brinkley has always had an exceptional fear of loud noises.  We believe it was triggered somehow by that experience while hooked up to a respirator and many other tubes and machines.  Loud noises cause her extreme anxiety and we’ve had to be careful when we vacuum, mow the lawn, etc.

My husband, Gordie, began taking our grandchildren on Harley rides when they each turned five.  They started out with day trips and two of them actually took ten day trips with him a few years ago.  But, motorcycles are loud and needless to say, Brinkley has never wanted anything to do with them.  She wouldn’t even walk through the bike shop where the six machines we own are housed for fear one would start up.   Gordie has asked her several times about taking a short ride but finally gave up a while back.

This past Sunday evening just after Gordie and I returned from an afternoon ride Brinkley sauntered in the back door.  She was wearing a Harley jacket and a Harley vest passed down to her by the older girls.  It had been hanging in her closet for a couple of years.  She walked right up to grandpa and asked if sometime he could just take her on the bike up to the mini market (a distance of about 3 miles) and if she didn’t like it she could call her mom to come get her.

Grandpa agreed that he could do that.  She asked him when and he knew he’d better jump on the moment.  Her face showed a bit of shock when he said, “right now” but she called her mom to make sure she kept the phone handy. 

With eyes wide and teeth clenched Brinkley allowed grandpa to lift her up into the passenger seat.  Grandpa was smart enough not to start the bike first.  He hopped on, started the bike and before she could back out he moved out.  We watched them travel down the driveway, slowly, with little Brinkley’s arms clutching grandpa, her helmet pressed against his back.

We waited for the call.  Five minutes went by, then ten, then twenty.  No call.  Thirty minutes later we heard the sweet sound of the Harley coming up the drive.  Grandpa had a smile.  Brinkley, arms propped on the armrests in a very relaxed pose, had a grin bigger than her face.  She waved triumphantly as they coasted past us.  Come to find, after the first mile she’d begged for a longer ride.

She loved it.  She can’t stop talking about it.  And she has already negotiated a day trip with grandpa. 

She’s seven.  Most of us are a little older than that.  Yet, how many deep seated fears do we let control our lives because we don’t ask God to just take us three miles into it?  We look at the whole chunk of overcoming and lose sight of the fact that it always starts with one small step.  Brinkley realized that if the first three miles were more than she could handle she could quit.  But evenif that happened, she would still have been three miles more into the overcoming than before. 

I encourage you today to make the three mile journey.  You may find, like Brinkley, that it wasn’t as hard or as scary as you thought.  You may even end up asking God to go ahead and take you a few more miles.  There is something brand new and exciting beyond the stopping gate of your fear.  Check it out.

I sought the LORD, and he answered me; he delivered me from all my fears.
Psalm 34:3-5

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I know that old cliché “idle hands are the devil’s playground” but do you ever long for a period of time when you actually don’t have anything to do?  Those who know me are aware that I should get a prize for my skill at over scheduling.  I take on new projects like a leaky boat takes on water.  Everything just sounds so interesting, or so much fun, or so worthwhile that I can’t turn it down.

Therefore, quite often I find myself faced with a week like this one.  Because I work full time I have to stuff all my extracurricular activities in before, after, on my break or on my lunch.  This week there doesn’t seem to be enough of those stuff-it-in places.  I have to finish up plans and bags and props for the ladies retreat on Thursday and Friday, Tuesday is Bunco night and I’m on for dessert, Monday is dinner with three other couples, a friend needs her uniform altered, the grand kids need some time, the house needs cleaning, the laundry needs doing and – Monday is blog day.

I know I could let the blog slip until tomorrow but I made a commitment when I started it that I would be consistent and on time every time.

I could put the grand kids off for a few days but I’m writing a new middle grade novel about a town where memories don’t exist. The only way for the children in this town to have a memory is to purchase one that was available but never made in a town where memories do exist.  Plotting this manuscript has made me even more aware of the need to make memories while you can and not let the opportunities pass by. 

The ladies retreat – no choice there.  It’s going to happen and 30+ ladies are expecting it to be organized and fun and spiritual.  (And yes, I have delegated.  I just delegated a few too many things my way.)

I don’t want to let go of the other fun things on my list either and I can’t stand a cluttered house.  I feel a little trapped, a little stressed, a little out of breath.

One thing I know though, I work well under stress and I do accomplish a lot when I have to – which is almost all the time.  And, when I can’t seem to prioritize because everything ends up at the top of my list, I have an expert who will do it for me.  My God sits waiting for me to recognize that I’ve done it again.  He smiles when I finally take a breath and stop long enough to focus on His word.  He sends a refreshing of peace and quietness and He speaks to me.

Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest.  Mat 11:28

Commit your way to the Lord; trust in Him and He will act.  Psalm 37:5

Trust in the Lord with all your heart, And do not lean on your own understanding. In all your ways acknowledge Him, and He will make your paths straight. Prov 3:56

Come, Commit and Trust – three words that need to come before Do.  When I remember that and lay before Him my impossible schedule, He shows me how to make it possible.  He knows everything is important to me.  He knows I can be driven and over enthusiastic.  He knows what tasks will bring Him glory. 

Most of all, He knows me.  I don’t have to explain myself to Him, justify what I do, or bargain with Him to give me what I need.  He already understands.  He has already given it.  He had a plan long before I set my schedule.  I’m going to be just fine!

I will instruct you and teach you in the way you should go; I will counsel you with my eye upon you.  Psalm 32:8

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I had one of those unexpected surprises this week.  You know the kind that comes out of nowhere and smacks you over the head.  Only this once smacked me in the rear bumper – not mine, the one on the back of my car.  I was royally rear ended while stopped at a traffic light.  The young woman who hit me was so distracted by whatever she was doing she didn’t even attempt to apply the brakes before meeting the brick wall of my Lincoln.  Her car was totaled.  Mine was significantly damaged.  Thank God I and none of the six people in her car were injured.

The big question is always “did she have insurance?”  Well, yes and no.  She was driving her father’s vehicle which did have insurance in effect.  However, she was driving with a suspended license and was restricted from driving his car.  The coverage may or may not be valid. Not only was she driving with a suspended license but she had two children in the car, a baby and a toddler, neither of whom were secured in any kind of child restraint.  To add to the picture, she had spent the morning telling a judge she couldn’t serve jury duty because she had no license and couldn’t drive , therefore her father would have to drive her to the court house and wait for her each day to drive her home.  The judge excused her.  I think that may be perjury or contempt of court or something. 

With my damaged car and my sore back from the impact I have been struggling with the fairness of the situation.  I am a law abiding person who follows the rules.  I wear my seat belt, never haul kids around without having them in car seats, carry insurance at all times and obey the speed limit (almost always).  I am hit by a person who has no regard for rules and no respect for the legal system obviously.  The repair to my car will probably have to be covered by my own insurance.  And – in the end, when all the details had been recorded and all the paperwork exchanged, the policeman investigating the accident allowed two men in a pickup truck to hook up to her car and tow it away, with two little ones still inside, no car seats, and her behind the wheel, no license. 

It’s easy to get cynical, questioning why I should follow the rules when others don’t.  Why should I pay for insurance when inevitably I will be hit by someone who doesn’t?  Why should I suffer (sore neck, sore back, head ache) for another’s poor choices? 

The answer of course can be found in Colossians 3:22 where we are told to “obey your earthly masters in everything; and do it, not only when their eye is on you and to curry their favor, but with sincerity of heart and reverence for the Lord.”

Obedience is a central principal of a life lived for Christ.  Any disobedience, be it against God’s law or the laws that govern my earthly life, is sin.  Sin separates me from Christ.  I can’t find any scripture in my Bible referring to life being fair or to there being exceptions to the do-not-sin rule.  Instead I am told that to show “sincerity of heart and reverence for the Lord” I’m to obey the rules even when no one is looking.  It has nothing to do with fairness or equality.  It has to do with an honest and committed relationship.

In fact, obedience that is accompanied by suffering was initiated by the Christ I serve, who never asked “why should I suffer (pierced hands, pierced feet, pierced heart) for another’s poor choices?” 

God calls me to be His light in every situation with the goal of that light shining into a heart that has none.  Instead of lamenting the unfairness of the situation I am choosing to pray that something in my demeanor reflected the grace of God.  I am hoping that my example of being responsible enough to carry insurance and a valid driver’s license will have some influence on the other driver’s thought process before she gets behind the wheel again.  And I am giving it to God who in the end is the only one who can soften a disobedient heart.  Will you join me in my prayer for a young woman named Ruby who needs Christ’s touch?

“My prayer is not for them alone. I pray also for those who will believe in me through their message…”  John 17:20

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I’m sitting at my desk looking out my huge window on a very dreary day.  It’s not storming, it’s overcast.  It’s not pouring rain, it’s a light drizzle.  It’s not dark but it’s not light either.  It’s gray.  It’s one of those days when your interests and emotions are not stirred in the least.

Bright sunshine always makes me long to get out in it, walk or garden or jump on the motorcycle.  Raging storms always send me into action repairing damage, bolstering up, hunkering down.  But days like today – they are uninspiring.  I don’t know what I want to do.

Life is so like that, isn’t it? There are good days when I want to shout and sing.  I have more energy than I can harness.  I want to have fun, accomplish things, be with people, sweep – anything that means movement.  There are stormy days of crisis when I have no choice but to jump to action. I find myself forced into fighting back, pushing through, climbing out.

But many of my days are like today, just days when nothing happens to fuel my fire. I don’t want to make plans for lunch.  I don’t want to think about the evening activities.  There’s just nothing that sounds appealing when surrounded by gray.  Even writing is hard because so much of my inspiration comes from my environment and no one wants a scene depicting a day with no extremes. I would call this a not bad, not good, middle of the road, no reason to get excited about anything day.

Here’s the scary thing about blah days.  On bright and beautiful days I am inspired to pick up my cross and follow Him.  In the midst of a big storm I am committed to pick up my cross and follow Him.  But on gray days, like everything else, I don’t want to pick up anything or follow anyone. 

I wonder if David’s day was gray when he let his army go to war without him and in his listlessness found himself pacing his roof top.  I wonder if gray days were the ones where Solomon looked beyond the borders and saw more color in foreign women.  Scary thoughts.

A gray day plan is critical if I am to keep myself on the narrow road, fully focused on moving forward and not sideways, or worse yet, standing still.

1)   Find purpose in every day. I must choose actions even on gray days that lead me forward.  Reach out to someone, pray about something, focus on a scripture, clean something, write something – do something I can look back on and feel good about.  Prov 16:3  Commit to the Lord whatever you do, and your plans will succeed.  Prov 3:6 In all your ways acknowledge Him, and He will make your paths straight.

2)    In a world of overstimulation, remember that God calls me to commit and to be diligent every day no matter the weather.  Col 3:23  Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart, as if working for the Lord and not for men. 

3)    Give thanks even when it’s not exciting.  1 Thess 5:18  Give thanks in all circumstances, for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.

4)    Remember glorious sunshine of past days that set my feet to dancing.  And remember raging storms that strengthened my grip on His mighty hand.  I will remember the deeds of the Lord; yes, I will remember your miracles of long ago.  I will consider all your works and meditate on all your mighty deeds. 

In case you’re interested, my plan for lunch today includes my umbrella, my sweater and my Bible.

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If it’s true a watched pot never boils, then it’s a miracle my roses have bloomed.  From the first tiny sign of a green leaf following my spring pruning I have checked and rechecked daily, measuring progress. I’ve watered and fertilized, weeded and sprayed.  I felt personally attacked the day I found aphids trying to take up residence and I rushed to the garden shed to grab the proper insecticide. I have been over-diligent.

When the first tightly coiled buds began to form I announced it to my friends and family like a prospective mom announces her pregnancy.  When those green buds grew to bursting and I saw the first traces of color, I danced among the bushes. The first delicate pink rose began to open, exposing sweetness and velvet layers.  I wanted to park myself right there in the garden and watch it finish unfolding into breathtaking beauty.

Now my bushes are loaded with yellow and peach and red and white tributes to the rose horticulturists who painstaking developed each strain. 

I’ve poured a lot of time and effort into my roses and they have paid me back tenfold. I will enjoy them, take pride in them, share them and glory over them until they once again withdraw into their time of dormancy and dryness only to be coaxed into full bloom again once they’ve survived another winter.

My life has been a rose garden of winter trials and summer blooms. God has been the dedicated Gardner.  He cares for me gently and with great attentiveness, pruning, coaxing, watching for attack, nurturing, and hovering over each sign of new growth. He encourages small green buds of hope and ministry, beauty and song into promises of great beauty and the scent of spiritual growth.  My heart is overwhelmed when I think of Him, the Great God of the Universe, hovering over me with expectation and pride, waiting for me to fully open to the beauty of my current season.

I recently read Wildflowers from Winter, a debut novel by Katie Ganshert (http://katieganshert.com/blog/).  She so beautifully showed her main character emerging from a season of cold and dark to the beauty of one who fully lets God hold her heart.  It is a lesson we learn over and over in the ebb and flow of life.

Dark times will come, must come.  But God promises newness and beauty will follow.  Have you allowed Him to tend the garden of your heart?  Have you seen beauty bloom when you thought nothing could ever come from your brittle branches?  I’d love your comments on how the great Gardner brought you to life again.

But during the night an angel of the Lord opened the doors of the jail and brought them out.  “Go, stand in the temple courts,” he said, “and tell the people all about this new life.” Acts 5:19-20

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