Wednesday, November 24, 2010

God Guides

I am reading a booklet called, "God Guides".  It is a compilation of journal entries written by a woman named Mary Geegh who was a missionary in India for 38 years after WWII until she retired.  She learned early on in her ministry that she needed to have a quiet time each morning if she was going to have success in her ministry and life.  But while I hear "quiet time" and think about praying or reading the bible, when she said quiet time she meant quiet.  She wasn't making noise telling God what she needed but instead sad quietly listening to what God was telling her.  And as she proceeded through her ministry she often said to people, "I don't know the answer but God does so let's go sit and listen to Him.  He will tell you what to do."  She would bring the person into a prayer room she had set up, hand them a notebook and tell them to write down whatever thought came to their mind.

I often will say things like, "then God told me..." but many times when I suggest that someone ask God for an answer they will tell me they don't hear God talk to them like I do.

I think we make it too complicated.  I like how Mary did it, gave a notebook and said to write down whatever thought came to mind.  We give ourselves too much credit for our good ideas.  I don't hear an audible voice.  I just get a thought. 

Sometimes I tell God a problem and then I get a thought so I respond to it as if it wasn't my thought but God's voice.  Because I often find it is.

Maybe it would go like this:

"Lord, I am mad at so and so"
"What did you do?"
"I didn't do anything it was them"
"but what did you do about it?"
"I didn't start it"
"but did you help?"
"But they owe me an apology!"
"Well you can wait for one but is it really worth feeling angry?"

And on and on like that until I am ready to submit to God and follow his direction.  Then I get the real word from God.  Maybe to go apologize myself, or confront about the situation or maybe I just need to let it go.  God knows and when I am ready to obey He tells me.

You have to be willing to hear God and be vulnerable.  There are several stories in the book of people who heard God ask them about something in their lives seemingly unrelated to their problem.  They would leave Mary's home in a huff only to return a few hours or days later ready to admit the relationship between the problem and what God told them.  Maybe they were having a problem with their business because their marriage was struggling or they came with a struggling child and God told them how to change themselves rather than how to change their child.

It can be hard to obey God.  It is hard to listen because sometimes what He says is hard to hear.  And even harder to obey.

I have learned over the years that it is very rewarding to listen to God even when it is hard.  Even when I don't like what he is telling me about myself.  Even when He asks me to do things I don't want to do.  When I obey I experience joy and peace I wouldn't otherwise know.

But I have decided against obeying God plenty in my life too.  He doesn't need me.  He just used someone else.  God didn't loose out, I did.  But I will never know how much.

This past summer God told me that our women's ministry needed to spend a year praying and listening to God.  I didn't really know how it was going to look, what we were going to do or who would pray with me.  I just saw the vision, got excited, told a bunch of other women, got them excited and now we are meeting in a week to begin monthly praying together for the women of our church and the women's ministry and ask God what we should do and how we can minister to the women of our church.  I told the women this wasn't going to be a discussion of what we should do with women's ministry this was going to be a time to pray and listen.

In preparation I have been busy meeting with other godly women in the church, praying, and reading this "God Guides" book.  And it has me thinking way beyond women's ministry with this prayer and listening plan.  As I have been praying and listening to God in my personal life I feel life is changed.  Recently a friend called with a struggle and I encouraged her to listen to God, something that would have been a hollow comment in the past, but that day I said with conviction of its power when I told her, "I don't know the answer but God does.  He will tell you what to do."  And I meant it, not a blow off but the most powerful thing I could tell her to do.

I don't know what my girlfriend will decide.  I am looking forward to hearing.  I don't know what He is going to ask us to do with Women's Ministry at our church but I can't wait to find out what it will be.  And I don't know what my future or my family's future holds but I know God does and I am listening.

One of my favorite stories from the book so far tells of this woman being out of town at a conference where she met a man whose home had recently burned down and all he owned was the suit he was wearing and his bible.  After talking with him she heard God tell her to give the man all the money in her purse.  Well she wasn't sure about that because she needed to buy a train ticket to get home that day.  But she had learned to obey God when He told her something so she put it in an envelope and gave it to the man. 

Now this is amazing but that isn't what really struck me about the story.  The amazing part is that she then went to the train station to go home.  WHY?  She had no money.  No way of paying for a train ticket.  Was she just going to sit at the station until money fell from the sky?  Was she going to walk up to the ticket agent and tell him that God told her to give all her money away so she was going to need a free ticket home?  She doesn't record her thoughts.  This part that I find so amazing didn't seem amazing enough to her to record her thoughts.  She had so much faith in God's provision in her life that she simply went to the train station.  If God wanted her to give away all her money then he had another way of paying for the ticket.  She would just do her usual routine and wait for him to tell her what to do next. 

Well, as she was walking up to the train station a young man comes running out and hands her a ticket!  He had seen her put her money in an envelope to give the man and God told him to run to the train station and buy her a ticket before she arrived.  So he did!

Seriously you can't make these stories up!  This is how God works.  When we walk in faith, trust Him and listen for his voice.

It is a beautiful thing. 

John 12:49 "For I did not speak of my own accord, but the Father who sent me commanded me what to say and how to say it."

Monday, November 22, 2010

40 years of gratitude

Today is the day!  Happy Birthday to ME!  I am 40 years old.  And for all the jokes about being old I am loving it.  I did have a girlfriend who turned 40 last year tell me it has been a terrible year.  Her hair all turned gray, she can't see anymore and she has sprouted chin hairs.  Well I guess if that is as bad as it gets I say, "bring it on!"

I have had a lovely but quiet day today.  I got breakfast in bed and my birthday poster which has become our new family tradition this past year.  I stayed in bed until almost noon finishing up the final book in the Midford series.  And then just felt like going to the como zoo and conservatory with Isabelle this afternoon so I did.  Finished the day with dinner out with the family. 

Because of our current financial state I didn't get any gifts, we didn't have a party and even dinner out was up in the air for a while but we decided to go for it anyway.  However, as I was enjoying the day doing nothing particularly special I thought of all the things I have to be thankful in life.  I don't really need more presents, I really have everything I need.  (Although I will confess my parents were generous with me this year and it did put a smile on my face.)  But my life is full.  I have nothing to complain about, only reasons to rejoice and give thanks. 

 My birthday poster.  They wrote all the things I am.  It was very sweet.
 Isabelle took my picture.

We continue to give thanks this week and on my quiet birthday I share the joy of thanksgiving with all of you:
  1. Friends
  2. soft beds
  3. healthy bodies
  4. lice treatment
  5. free tires for the work van
  6. 2 working snow blowers
  7. Knock knock jokes only a 5 year old can tell
  8. Adam, John's cousin who gave us tires and a place to fix the snow blowers
  9. Purdue, Jade's safety school which she got into this week
  10. freedom to study God's word
  11. A 5 year old trying to give rabbit ears to everyone in pictures
  12. Lazy Saturday afternoons
  13. A good book and a roaring fire in the fireplace
  14. vacuum cleaners to get up lice and nits from carpet
  15. the high heat setting on the dryer to kill nits off comforters, jackets and other large items.
  16. flat irons to destroy nits on the hair
  17. a great school conference
  18. Isabelle sliding along on the icy sidewalks
  19. Beautiful flowers to enjoy year around at the conservatory
  20. A new magazine in the mail on my birthday to cuddle up with tonight.


Wednesday, November 17, 2010

4 or 40?

Over the years I have found that my milestone birthdays are marked with sickness.  I recall my 18th birthday sitting in a chair with my tonsils so swollen with tonsillitis they were touching while my family was trying to be cheerful and celebrate around me.  I recall that although I wasn't specifically sick on my 21st birthday I had walking pneumonia most of that year. My 30th birthday present was a trip to the doctor because I couldn't get rid of a cough and worried as I prepared for a visit to my sister and her one year old daughter that I might have strep.  I was about to walk out the door after they said it wasn't strep but the doctor insisted on testing me for mono.  I was laughing at the thought until the test came back positive.

So I guess it should be no surprise that with my 40th birthday looming some medical disaster was on the horizon for me.

The funny thing is that I seem to be aging backward with my illnesses.  Tonsillitis and mono are illnesses you get as a kid not an adult.  One of my girlfriends husbands, who is only a year or 2 older than me, is having hip replacement surgery on my birthday.  It isn't uncommon for people to experience pre-mature aging.  To have illnesses that would typically be seen in much older adults.  I have known a 20 something who had a stroke.  Heart disease is on the rise in younger and younger people.  A neighbor in her 40's had a mild heart attack last year.  It is unfortunate when it happens but not totally un-heard of.  I, on the other hand, am like Benjamin Button who was born an old man and aged backward dying as an infant. My illnesses seem to originate in a younger and younger crowd as I go from milestone to milestone.

And so here we are 5 days from my 40th birthday and I am waiting for my husband to return home with lice treatment.  That is right.  I have lice.  Yuck. 

And the funny thing about all these sicknesses.  I never had any of them as kid.  Although I had large tonsils as a kid I never had tonsillitis,  my sister had mono but I didn't and not once did we ever have lice in our home.  Until now.

I wonder what it will be for my 50th birthday.  Cradle cap?  Thrush?  Ear infection?  croup?  Maybe I should just start planning to have the big celebration at 49 instead.

Since this seems like a childhood problem I did what any child would do, I called my mommy.  She is on her way to help me comb through all my hair with a little comb, seek and destroy all the eggs on my head.  What would we do without moms?

Monday, November 15, 2010

Gratitude in Everything

The thing is that some days are good and some days are bad.  But do we have to experience the corresponding good and bad days with them?  It is easy to have a good day on a good day.  It isn't too much effort to have a good day on an only slightly off day but to have a good day on a bad day.  That takes the power of the Lord.

Saturday was a bad day for my husband.  He experienced Murphy's Law 10 different ways as he headed out on his first winter day to plow the 7 contracts I had drummed up (pretty good my goal was 10 but one was a commercial which I am counting as 3.)  The truck was parked in our backyard off the alley which was his first contract to plow.  He got started by getting stuck in the backyard before getting into the alley.  It pretty much went downhill from there.  Every time one problem was solved another would pop up.

I wanted to be able to solve his problems.  When he called to tell me the latest break down I wanted to be able to give him a magic formula to fix it and make the rest of his day wonderful.  But of course I had no more answers than he did.

I did have one trick up my sleeve.  Prayer.  I knew I couldn't fix anything but I knew who could.  And although it became clear throughout the day that things weren't going to supernaturally turn around and he wouldn't breeze through the rest of the contracts, I knew that John would not be alone.  I knew that this path before us may seem for the moment to be detoured out of control but that is only in our eyes.  In God's eyes Saturday went just as it should.  And among the trials there were blessings.

As I learn to develop an attitude of gratitude in my life not just in this month of Thanksgiving but day to day all year long, I stopped to ask myself what I could be thankful for and I was amazed how quickly I could come up with a list.
  1. 7 plow contracts
  2. A day with no other responsibilities in which to learn the plow routine and fix the problems.
  3. 2 neighboring repair shops that started a bidding war for our repairs and got the price down $100 from the original quote.
  4. The beauty of a freshly fallen snow
  5. A warm snowy day
  6. Safety throughout the trials
  7. A friend for Isabelle to play with walking distance from our home.
  8. A lovely walk in a snowy world.
  9. Patient clients who waited all day for their plowing without complaint.
  10. The knowledge of God's faithfulness in all circumstances.
  11. Laughing with Isabelle on the couch.
"Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God." Phil 4:6

Thank you Lord for your abundant blessings.

For more blessings check out the gratitude community at a holy experience.

holy experience

Thursday, November 11, 2010

Only just beginning

So my birthday is a little over a week away and I am going to be 40!  Really I am mostly excited.  I have been telling people I was almost 40 basically all year.  39 is sort of a nothing age.  You aren't young enough to be thought of as a young 30 something but you aren't old enough to take credit for the wisdom of 40.  You are stuck in a holding pattern.

I know some people want to hold on to that youth.  Be that 30 something as long as they can legitimately hold on to it.  While youth is fun and has its advantages I prefer being old.  30 was good, 40 is better, 50 will be great and on and on.  Every year of my life is better than the year before.  More learning, more growth, more wisdom, more understanding, more knowledge, more experiences, more, more, more.  I love getting older!  I don't get the worlds obsession with youth.  They may be fresh faced and full of energy but they have no idea what they are doing or what they are talking about. 

I on the other hand have lived life.  I have done it right and I have done it wrong.  I have had wonderful experiences and I have experienced tragedy.  I have spoken every thought I had and have kept quiet.  I have been proud. I have been humiliated.  I have taken risks.  I have made mistakes.  I have learned.  I have listened.  I have grown.

And really at 40 I am in many ways just beginning my life. 

Last year I wrote about how John and I have always said, "when we are 40..." in a way that implied that it was a future date so far away anything is possible.  Yet we never made actual plans to accomplish any of those "when we are 40" goals living as if we never would be 40.  Yet SURPRISE here it is.  Now we are saying, "when we retire..." feeling like that future date is so far away we can accomplish anything.  And yet we have learned from the last 20 years of our life that those future dates do indeed come whether you planned for them or not.

So now at 40 (John) and very, very, very close to 40 (me) we are beginning our lives again.  Planning for the dreams of retirement and all the things we want to do in between.  And excited to see how God works in our lives during the next 2 decades of our lives mindful of all the amazing things he has done during these first 2 decades of our adult lives.

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Will Plow For Food

"If you won't plow in the cold you won't eat in the harvest" Prov 20:4

How fun is that considering we will be snow plowing this winter?  I love when I come across a verse so perfect for my life.  This was in an old book written in the 70's when they loved the Living Bible translation.  The NIV version doesn't talk about plowing but this version brings joy to my life.  I am planning to tape it to the dash board of the plow truck.

Very exciting.  Just thought I would share.

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Daily Thanksgiving

It is November.  Notable for 2 reasons.  One, Thanksgiving and Two, my birthday.

For the past several months I have had a strong need to focus more on gratitude, on being thankful for the many, many blessings in my life and take my focus off all my perceived needs.  Trusting God to meet those needs and stop worrying about them so much.  Instead to see all the amazing ways he has blessed me every day and be thankful.

And of course I am always dragging my family along with me.  Mostly willingly. :)

I have a big chalk board in my kitchen where I write scripture verses, grocery lists, phone numbers, whatever needs jotting down.  This week I have carved out a corner for our family to begin writing down the things they are thankful for throughout the next year (or forever, we will see.)

Honestly, I know I benefit from these things I drag my family into more than they do but it is wonderful to see what they have to say as well.  This morning I awoke to discover my teenager had written, "food" on the list.  Definitely important in a growing boys life.

Here are a few things I have noted this past year from my list:
  1. A beautiful morning run
  2. The smell of fresh cut grass
  3. a smile from my daughter
  4. a hug from my son
  5. the sound of a twins game on an am radio
  6. a full tank of gas
  7. driving on a warm day with the windows down
  8. my husband's kiss
  9. little girls giggling together
  10. an afternoon at an antique store
  11. beautiful old buildings
  12. a legacy of faith
  13. a working furnace
  14. friends who encourage and support me
  15. a new job
  16. Isabelle's birth parents
  17. work for my husband
  18. spontaneous evenings with friends
  19. date night
  20. a wonderful church family
How about you?  What will you write on your gratitude list today?

I Thessalonians 5:8 "give thanks in all circumstances, for this is God's will for you in Christ Jesus."

Thursday, November 4, 2010

Sibling Rivalry

I must confess that I never really thought I would have anything to say about sibling rivalry.  At least not where my own children are concerned. (Now my own siblings is another story...)

Folly and Crisis are almost 11 years apart.  I didn't expect they would ever be fighting over the same toy or both wanting to sit on my lap together.   Being of the opposite sex I didn't think I would ever hear my son complain that I let Isabelle get her ears pierced younger than him or how unfair that she had more dolls to play with than he did.

Crossing those off the list I figured I was good.  And to this point it has been good.  But suddenly something has happened.  Isabelle isn't a baby anymore.  She isn't a little toddler wandering around the house who doesn't understand the world around her and can be easily re-directed elsewhere when she gets in your way.

And so here I sat this weekend listening to my children bicker in the basement.  My 16 year old son and my 5 year old daughter fighting back and forth about how loud the tv was and touching his stuff like they were both 5 year olds.  Isabelle yelling that she is not short, don't call her short and Jake egging her on telling her that she is in fact short.  I sat upstairs listening and laughing and half expected to hear one of them come running up the stairs to tattle.  And I don't mean the little one.

While over all I still think I am off the hook on the whole sibling fighting issues it is fun to know some things are the same no matter the age.

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

Pumpkin Carving

Every year we all have holiday traditions we enjoy not only within our families but as a society on the whole.  We eat turkey for Thanksgiving, hide baskets from the Easter bunny, set off fireworks on the 4th of July and we carve pumpkins for Halloween.  We take for granted that everyone has done it and grew up doing it.

Then you make new friends.  Our friends Sam and Mwende didn't grow up in this country.  They didn't eat a Turkey, find baskets from the Easter bunny or carve pumpkins on Halloween.  And after 20 years in this country Sam still had never had a pumpkin carving tutorial from anyone.

Well being their son, Leumas', godparents they have stated that one of our roles is to help them give him an American childhood.  But I have to say that experiencing these things with Sam and Mwende for the first time is as much fun as experiencing them with a child.

John shared his pumpkin carving knowledge with him.

Mwende and I got our hands dirty sorting the seeds for roasting.

Little Leumas had fun watching daddy.  (isn't that what it is all about?)

Isabelle felt the face couldn't not be made without her creative input.

Sam planning his master piece.

A successful first Halloween pumpkin.

Tuesday, November 2, 2010



After many years at home I have to say that jumping into 40 hours of classes for my new job was a bit overwhelming.  I anticipated I might be tired from being gone all day but I didn't anticipate the mental anguish of having to absorb so much information in such a short period of time and knowing I would be tested on it.  All those parts of my brain used for school have been collecting cobwebs for years.  I had to go home and do some serious spring cleaning of the brain to fit in all this new information.  Tuesday afternoon right before lunch I almost started crying right there in the second row but I didn't think that would be very professional so I held it in and felt much better after a little lunch.  By the third day we were mostly building on the previous days and the level of new information was going down.  I was able to start organizing this information in my head so I could actually recall some of it when necessary.

Not only was I gone all day but I had to study the material in the evenings.  I sat near 2 women who lived out of town and were staying at the hotel next door for the week.  I felt a little like I might have been better off doing that as mentally I really don't think I was home most of the week.

In the mean time my pre-planning went wonderfully.  Dinner was planned and quickly made all week long.  Even the nights I made it the prep time was only a couple minutes to put it in the oven.  Love the frozen meals.  And since nobody was home all day the house stayed clean.  Plus all our clothes were clean on Monday morning so we all had plenty of clean underwear for the week.  And each day someone was there to pick Isabelle up as she got off the bus and give her a fun filled afternoon.

My husband was wonderful and kept the kitchen clean and got Isabelle on the bus each morning.  He even did a couple loads of laundry.  He has also begged me never to do that to him again.  It is nice to be appreciated.  And the good news is that this is the hardest week.  It won't be like this again.  My job will be less than half those hours giving me plenty of time to keep up with the laundry, make dinner, help Isabelle with homework and in general take care of my wonderful family.

We will be a team.  They have showed me they can help and are willing to be supportive of me as I begin this new phase of my life.

One thing that I contemplated was the idea of re-defining my role if I went back to work.  I am the homemaker, the mom, the wife.  I do all the cleaning, laundry, schedule management, school activities organizer, shopping, meal planning and almost all the cooking among other things.  When I go back to work I am going to need a little help with some of that stuff.

I love being at home.  I would not have spent all these years sacrificing if I did not believe that my being at home was best for my children and my family.  I never saw myself as simply doing daycare for my own children or as a cleaning lady but as someone who was creating a home.  Truly a "homemaker".  I actually love that term even though I know it gets bad press for being old fashioned.

Where do I turn to help re-define my existence?  The bible of course.  There I see lots of women who are working along with their husbands to provide for their families.  The classic example is the Proverbs 31 woman who,"considers a field and buys it; out of her earnings she plants a vineyard."  Priscilla and Aquila worked together as tent makers and Lydia sold purple cloth.

I am feeling excited to work along side my husband to provide for the family but without the burden of responsibility to provide, that will remain his.  And while he and my children will help out with household chores the responsibility of our home will continue to be mine.  We may redistribute the weight but we will continue to live in our usual roles.  The adjustment will be slow I am sure but we will get there.  And it will be wonderful.

Today I took that test and passed it.  Hurray!  The dust and cobwebs of my brain can now settle back down in their place.