June 24, 2019

VISUAL OF A METAPHOR

I am the vine; you are the branches. If you 
remain in me and I in you, you will bear much
fruit; apart from me you can do nothing.
(John 15:5)


Several of my large house plants were in need of pruning and repotting. A friend came over to help me, and before I realized what she was doing. She had cut all the leaves off the dangling stems of the nephthytis plant and tossed the bare stalks aside.

When she saw my look of horror, she told me the leaves would root if I put them in water.

Our friendship being more important to me than the plants, I zipped my lips and did what she said. However, not before rescuing the discarded vines, planting them in a new pot, and putting them out on my balcony.


The vines sprouted new leaves and flourished. None of the leaves, however, grew roots--neither the ones in glasses of water, nor the ones I eventually planted in hopes they might root in the soil.

Though the leaves thrived for quite a while, some sooner, some later, all started to fade and die.


April 30, 2019

SEATED AT THE TABLE

And God raised us up with Christ and seated us
with him in the heavenly realms in Christ Jesus...
(Ephesians 2:6)

A friend recently posted a beautiful tribute to me on Facebook. It really touched my heart. For a few moments I felt valued, overwhelmed by warm, fuzzy feelings that made me all teary, and that lasted about as long as it took to re-read the post and zero in on the words about me being a connector. That's when my mind started meandering down a slippery slope of stinking thinking into a gallery where memories of painful slights, friends I had connected who preferred each other's company to mine and stopped calling or including me in their get-togethers, lined the walls. Fortunately, I had an antidote that quickly redirected my thoughts and cut my visit short, an antidote found in Heather Holleman's devotion on Ephesians 2:6.

In her devotion, Heather shares her struggles to earn a seat at the "table" she thought would bring her happiness, and how that caused her to live in a state of comparison and envy until the day the word seated in that passage of Scripture jumped out at her, making her realize we're already seated with Christ at His banquet table.  This truth transformed her life--and mine too. If you've ever experienced a similar struggle, I hope it will bring healing to yours as well.

No one needs to stand on the outside whistfully looking in. There is a special seat reserved for each one of us around Christ's table, the very best table, and all seats provide equal access to Him who loved us so much that He suffered and died on the cross so we could be forgiven of our sins and have eternal life.

April 8, 2019

WHEN GOD'S PLAN IS A DIFFERENT PLAN

Many are the plans in a person's heart, 
but it is the LORD's purpose that prevails.
(Proverbs 29:19)


As I lie on an echocardiography table listening to blood slosh through valves, the enormity of what I've been through overwhelms me. My plan had always been to choose hospice over treatment should any major disease overtake me, but God had another plan.

My life flashes before my eyes, and I ponder how differently it turned out than I ever expected or imagined.

I remember the dreams, when I was young, of falling in love with someone I would grow old with, of having a close-knit family that enjoyed doing things together. I did fall in love, get married, and have a family, but my husband and I did not grow old together, and the many mistakes I made as a single mom could have killed any chance for the strong bonds I yearned for, had God not had a better plan.

In the years that followed, so many poor choices, so many squandered opportunities, but so great evidence of God’s mercy as well.

I think of friends I went to school with who appear to have lived successful, meaningul lives, and quickly remind myself that comparison is never a good thing. We are all Divine originals, one of a kind creations--not copies or imitations. The very things I feel most remorseful about are the things that led me to Jesus. I wonder if I ever would have felt a need for His saving grace had I pursued my talents and education to their fullest, or if, instead, I would have spent my life chasing after the things this world has to offer, instead of the things that have eternal value? 

Despite my age, I am still a work in progress, grateful that God does not measure success in numbers. I know that I am exactly what and where I need to be for this particular moment in His plan. From His perspective, my life is not the tragic waste I so often think it to be.  If I reach that one person He intended for me to reach, bring hope to that one discouraged heart, or lead that one soul out of darkness to the foot of the Cross, then my purpose will have been accomplished, and my life not lived in vain.

March 22, 2019

HE KNOWS, HE LOVES, HE CARES

He knows, He loves, He cares,
nothing this truth can dim,
He gives His very best to those
who leave the choice with Him.
(Source Unknown)

 Yesterday would have been the 12th Anniversary of my first ever blog--Random Thoughts of a Great-Granny Grandma. Though I never actually deleted it, it has become defunct. God, however, has an uncanny way of resurrecting what seems dead at a time when you least expect Him to, and His timing is always perfect.

This post is a repost of something I wrote shortly after venturing into Blogland. It would have remained forgotten, except for a comment that showed up in my e-mail this morning.

You see, one of the things that can still push my buttons, is not being acknowledged, and for some time now I have been praying for the Lord to heal me of this need, and just put whatever I write into the right hands at the right time. Today, He responded to that prayer by giving me a tiny glimpse into the unseen to reassure me that He is in control, and doing just that.
"Instead of going to Book Club today, I decided to stay home and write a Dear God letter about the ever growing mountain of frustrations I have been battling these last few weeks. Computer glitches that hold me up and keep me from doing what I want/need to do, friends who don't answer e-mails even when a response is repeatedly requested, legalism that doesn't allow for special circumstances, and on and on.

It all came to a head yesterday when I received an announcement from one of my job managers that we were getting yet another pay cut. Thanks to outsourcing, the choice has become work for less, or not at all. And the solution for keeping up with the growing cost of living? Work more hours and be grateful that there is still work out there to do. Kind of like the Israelites being told they had to continue making the same amount of bricks, but now they also had to collect their own straw (Exodus 5:6). Well, maybe that's a stretch, but it definitely described my frame of mind as I decided to take it to the Lord.

As I furiously scribbled, a couple of Scriptures came to mind. Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart, as working for the Lord, not for men (Colossians 3:23); Promotion comes neither from the east, nor from the west, nor from the south. But God is the Judge: He puts down one, and exalts another (Psalm 75:6-7 ); Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your understanding; in all your ways acknowledge him, and he will make your paths straight (Proverbs 3:5-6).

Now I started feeling a little sheepish, and even more so when I felt that still, small voice in my heart gently questioning me: Have I not always taken care of you? Was there ever a need that went unmet? Have I not proved myself to you over and over?

Memories started popping up of my circusmatnces 11 years ago when I found myself uprooted and transplanted into an unfamiliar town, and how different things are in my life today. I remembered the days of overwhelming debt, the days of looking for change in the parking lot so I could go grocery shopping, the days of calling in sick to work because I didn't have money to put gas in the car. And I also remembered how the Lord provided in miraculous ways--not only for my needs, but for some wants as well. A crumpled $20 bill by the door of the supermarket; bags full of very gently worn designer clothes from a boss/friend who was constantly buying more and thrilled to find someone who would take the old ones out of her closet to make room for the new; a brand new car when the old one died.

Not that I would necessarily want to relive those days, but they were days when the Lord was able to reveal Himself to me in awesome ways. They were days when I learned to trust Him more than ever as I experienced first hand the manifestations of His faithfulness and love.

Today I am completely debt free, working in the comfort of my home at two jobs I really enjoy. Those are things I would never have dreamed of years ago when I first landed in this neck of the woods. And the Lord still continues to surprise me with little unexpected gifts from time to time. Like the check I recently received in the mail in an envelope with no return address. The name and address on the check were Paraclete, Philippians 4:19 (which for those of you not familiar with the Scriptures, is the address of a verse that reads And my God will meet all your needs according to his glorious riches in Christ Jesus); the check number was not a number, but the sign of the fish; under the amount to be paid was a single line in bold print--With God All Things Are Possible; and the check was signed Paraclete. I still haven't figured that one out.

With each memory,the praises and thanksgiving flowed, and before I knew it, all the frustration had melted away, replaced by overwhelming peace and joy. Nothing had changed really, and yet everything had."

P.S. The picture comes from a post on my photo blog that reminds me to never say never.

February 10, 2019

TENTH ANNIVERSARY

The dark threads are as needful
In the weaver's skillful hand
As the threads of gold and silver
For the pattern He has planned.
(Corrie ten Boom)



 Today is this blog's tenth anniversary. I started out with lofty goals in mind, but allowed myself to be derailed by the sudden and unexpected. As a result, I was MIA for a whole year, and it took the following quote scribbled on a crumpled piece of paper to get me back on track.

"Dear  friend, God may send you some valuable gifts wrapped in unattractive paper. But do not worry about the wrappings, for you can be sure that inside He has hidden treasures of love, kindness, and wisdom. If we simply take what He sends and trust Him for the blessings inside, we will learn the meaning of the secrets of His providence, even in times of darkness." (A. B. Simpson)

To me, New Year's Eve 2018 was definitely a gift wrapped in unattractive paper. While others celebrated with toasts and fireworks, I lay in a Cardiac Intensive Care unit, intubated, hooked up to a ventilator, heavily sedated with Propofol and Fentanyl, and suffering from acute congestive heart failure, as well as double pneumonia. Yet, in retrospect, it truly did turn out to be a valuable gift filled with hidden treasures.

While still in the hospital, I felt inspired to write OIL OF MYRRH, a testimony to God's goodness, and the way He worked in my life during what started out as a very dark time. If you would like to read it, you can click on this link for a free download. I pray that it would bless and encourage you.

At the foot of the cross there is mercy and grace. There is forgiveness, healing, and deliverance. This is the place where the slate gets wiped clean and you can have a fresh start. All you have to do is believe it, and receive it.

February 4, 2019

A SACRIFICE OF TIME

Dear children, let's not merely say
that we love each other; let us show
the truth by our actions.
(1 John 3:18 NLT)

During prayer group this morning, our leader uttered a word she thought might be a message for one of us--sacrifice. No one responded. It definitely didn't feel as though it applied to me. Much later, though, while sitting in my car waiting for the light to change, a memory surfaced from long ago.

I was a camp counselor, and had befriended a special needs girl who worked in the kitchen. One evening she asked me if I would go fishing with her, and I used curfew as an excuse because I didn't want to go. Her response haunts me more today than it did back then. "Everybody is very nice," she said, "but when you need someone to do something with, there's nobody there."

I've always been selfish with my time, and have many regrets about how much of it has been squandered on things that have no lasting value. Sadly, I cannot undo the past, but I can change my priorities going forward. That word, sacrifice, may well have been a message for me after all.

October 7, 2018

CHOOSING TO TRUST GOD

Consider it pure joy, my brothers and
sisters, whenever you face trials of
many kinds, because you know that
the testing of your faith produces
perseverance. Let perseverance 
finish its work so that you may be
mature and complete, not lacking 
anything.  -- (James 1:2-4 NIV)

It's been almost a year since my last post, and when I looked it up to check the format, I was surprised to see the same verse prefacing it as the one above.  "Trials of many kinds" seem to have been a recurring theme. even then

Those of you who know me, or who have read my book, Oil of Myrrh, are probably familiar with the severe  needle phobia that plagued my early years, as well as the unexpected crash course I was subjected to during a lengthy hospital stay in January. Now it's exam time, and I wonder if I'm ready to pass it. How will I handle the hurdle of back to back trips to frustrated phlebotomists trying unsuccessfully to draw blood from collapsed veins? Will I be able to keep my focus on the Lord and trust Him to the end?

I re-read Oil of Myrrh, zeroing in on the chapter, "Night of a Thousand Needles."  I think of how God was with me as I hovered between life and death, and through everything else I endured on the road to recovery. I remember the revelations and insights that only an incident such as this could have provided, and how it gave me confidence to fearlessly opt for open heart surgery a couple of months later. However, I also remember the way I wavered when faced with an unexpected bump in the road while being prepped for surgery. Neither the prepping nurses, nor the anaesthesiologist, were able to find a vein to start the intravenous drip going, and even after a pediatric nurse with a perinatal needle came to my rescue and spoke words of encouragement to me, my faith felt shatered.

So far I have made it through two trips, to two different phlebotomists in two different facilities, and tomorrow I will be making a third trip. As I write this post, I try to take my focus off of what will happen if they still can't find a blood yielding vein and, instead, place it on how God has had my back every step of the way. Even when things didn't play out the way I expected them to, He has never failed me. I choose to trust Him and leave the outcome in His hands.

October 17, 2017

COUNT IT ALL JOY?

Consider it pure joy, my brothers and
sisters, whenever you face trials of many
kinds, because you know that the testing
of your faith produces perseverance. Let
perseverance finish its work so that you
may be mature and complete, not lacking
anything. -- (James 1:2-4 NIV)




First a flood, followed by a week of noisy fans blowing under ripped up carpet while drainage tubes ran from holes in the wall to the bathroom sink. Then another week waiting for a carpenter to fix the drywall, and for someone to come replace the damaged vinyl.

I thought of a Scripture, 1 Thessalonians 5:18, that exhorts us to give thanks in all circumstances. Although I was not thankful for the flood or the upheaval it created, it was easy to find things to be thankful for.  For one, I was very thankful this all happened before my scheduled paint job. For another, had I not followed an inner prompting to go down for my mail late that afternoon, instead of just waiting until the next morning to get it, the flood in progress would have gone undetected and the results could have been catastrophic. Focusing on these blessings made me feel surprisingly patient and calm.

Finally the day came for the vinyl to be laid, and with it, a test of my ability to count it all joy. I failed the test miserably.

The sight that greeted my eyes looked like something out of the fun house at a carnival. My reaction was not joy.

After the initial shock and disbelief came the pity party, and the questions--why can't anything in my life ever turn out perfect? Why do even the best things always have to be flawed?

The answer comes from a friend who had an experience--funny now in retrospect--but that might also have produced similar feelings of shock and disblief. He and his wife had won an all expense paid trip to a vey expensive, fancy resort. When they got there, just about everything that could go wong did. The jets in the jacuzzi didn't work, the pool was out of order, there was no volume on the TV in their room, the restaurant was closed, the shower in their bathroom didn't drain, the building fire alarm went off while they were geting a massage and they had to evacuate, and the cleaning lady walked in on them when they were in bed. What was supposed to be a relaxing, romantic holiday that sounded heavenly, was actually filled with one problem after the other. In his words, "The truth is, this world ain't heaven. We live in a fallen world, and as good as it sometimes is, it will always have its problems. It won't be heaven until heaven!"

February 23, 2017

IT'S ONLY A CHAPTER, NOT THE END OF THE BOOK

 
Though I can't remember which devotional those words came from, they've stuck with me, reminding me, when things look particularly dark or discouraging, not to judge the end of a book by the chapter in its middle.  This amaryllis is a wonderful illustration why.

My friend gave it to me in a starter kit for Christmas, and after carefully following the instructions on how to plant the bulb, I put it on my windowsill in the same spot where the one she had given me the Christmas before had thrived and grown tall.

Before long, a single stalk emerged and started to grow, but unlike its predecessor, it did not shoot up or grow tall.  Nor did a second stalk appear.  I watched and waited with great anticipation, but it stopped growing at about half the height I expected it to reach, and it's top, where the buds should be, looked frayed and brown around the edges.  I continued watering it and turning it towards the sun, but as more and more days went by with no sign of change,  I gave up on it and declared it dead.

One evening, shortly after that declaration, I noticed that the stalk seemed a little taller, and its frayed top had opened slightly.  Was it my imagination? But no. A few days later, buds started to appear, and my heart sang a song of joy as I realized my "defunct" plant was not dead at all.  It was starting to bloom. Right on time. God's perfect time.

Before long, those buds turned into four stunning flowers.  and as if that weren't enough, when those four flowers faded and died, two more buds popped up to replace them.

How often have I been ready to give up on something because it seemed hopeless, walking away before it had a chance to come to fruition; or been convinced that I had reached a dead end and come face to face with something too impossible to be turned around.  And yet contrary to what my natural eyes or intellect may try to tell me, nothing is impossible with God. The story is never over until He finishes it.

                                         "Trust in the LORD with all your heart, and
                                          lean not on your own understanding."
                                          (Proverb3:5)

January 9, 2017

OVERLOOKED BY OTHERS; HAND PICKED BY GOD

"I will praise You, for I am fearfully and 
wonderfully made; Marvelous are Your 
works,And that my soul knows very well."
(Psalm 139:14)

"Overlooked by others; hand picked by God," was a phrase, on the back cover of a book, that caught my eye. Though I no longer remember the name of the book, those words have stayed with me. They are a comforting reminder when I feel passed over or left out. 

For as long as I can remember, I've had a deep desire to make a difference, to feel significant, to leave my mark on the world, but instead, more often than not, I've felt rejected and "less than." Now, as a member of my church's prayer team, I'm seeing an increasing amount of prayer requests from or for people battling similar feelings, who have turned to destructive behavior patterns in a futile attempt to numb the pain.  I'm also seeing an alarming increase of drug overdose deaths and teen suicides in our community.

I know this is not a widely read blog, but it is my prayer that at least one lonely, hurting person will see this post and be uplifted by its words. I pray that it will convince you of your infinite worth, and lead you to the foot of the Cross where you can be healed and made whole.

No matter how things may be looking to your natural eyes and intellect, or what lies Satan has tried to flood your mind with, the truth is that your Father is the King of Kings and Lord of Lords, and your identity lies in Him alone--not in how you feel you measure up to others, or what others might think of you. You were not an accident. God knew you long before you were conceived, and created you for a special purpose no one else can fulfill (Psalm 139:15-16). You are a Divine original, a masterpiece, wired and gifted according to the strengths and weaknesses needed to fulfill His pre-ordained plan (Romans 12:4-6; 1 Corinthians 12:14-24). 

There is no sin so great it cannot be forgiven, or life so broken it cannot be restored. God loves you so much that He sent Jesus to die for you on the Cross, so you could be forgiven and set free (John 3:16). However, the gift of salvation is a free gift you can only receive by grace, through faith. It cannot be earned by good works (Ephesians 2:8-9). God will not impose His will on you or force you to accept it. The choice is yours.

December 6, 2016

WHERE'S THE LINE TO SEE JESUS



An original song performed by father and daughter, Steve Haupt and Becky Kelley
Recorded at Shock City Studios, Saint Louis, MO
Produced by Chris Loesch
Video by Robbie Haupt and Greg Haupt

The story behind the song, as told by Steve Haupt, is as follows:

"While at the mall last year, my 4 year old grandson saw kids lined up excitedly to see Santa Claus. Having been taught as a toddler that Christmas is the holiday that Christians celebrate the birth of God's son, with the innocence of a child, he asked his mom, 'Where's the line to see Jesus? If Christmas is Jesus' birthday, why don't we see Him more?'

As his grandpa, I was so happy that little Spencer understood the meaning of Christmas at such a tender age, and then the words for a song were jotted down in just a few minutes. The song was inspired by my grandson, and the message was inspired by my Savior.


Out of the mouths of babes come profound truths that many adults can not understand. Hopefully Spencer's observation and our song will cause people to reflect on the love of Jesus, and the certainty that one day we will all stand in line to see Jesus."


(Reposted from Christmases past)

November 30, 2016

A TIMELY REMINDER

"I will praise You, for I am fearfully and
wonderfully made... Your eyes saw my
substance, being yet unformed,  And in
your book they all were written, The days
fashioned for me, When as yet there were
none of them." - (Psalm139:14a, 16)

This post is a reprint of something I wrote many years ago on my first blog, which is now defunct.  I came across it the other day, and wondered what it was I was reminding myself of.  Turns out it was something I still need to be reminded of today -- BEWARE OF FALLING INTO THE TRAP OF COMPARING YOURSELF TO OTHERS.
---------------

2/25/2011

There were several reasons I started blogging.  Some personal, but it was also my hope that in some way I could brighten at least one person's day, or perhaps offer encouragement to another.  Lately, though, there's this little voice in my head that keeps saying, "What's so special about you that makes you feel you have something to offer?  What do you have to say that hasn't already been said by someone else, and said better?"  At the same time, there's a warning light flashing off and on: BEWARE OF FALLING INTO THE TRAP OF COMPARING YOURSELF TO OTHERS.

To confirm the above warning, I came upon a very timely devotional during my quiet time this morning.  It happens to be a January devotion, which I would not have seen on this particular February day, except that it's in a book, Streams in the Desert, that I just purchased a few days ago and decided to start reading from the beginning.  No such thing as coincidence!

Anyway, this particular devotional tells the story of a king who goes into his garden one morning and finds everything withered and dying.  He starts asking the plants what the problem is. The oak says it doesn't want to live any more because it's not tall and beautiful like the pine tree, the pine tree is upset because it can't bear grapes like the grapevine, the grapevine bemoans the fact that that it doesn't produce fruit as large as the peaches on the peach tree, the geranium is disheartened because it's not tall and fragrant like the lilac, and so on it goes throughout the garden until the king gets to the little violet and and comments on how happy he is to see at least one flower bright and perky.  To which the violet responds, "I know I'm small, yet I thought if you wanted an oak or a pine or a peach tree or even a lilac, you would have planted one.  Since I knew you wanted a violet, I'm determined to be the best little violet I can be."

What a great reminder that God loves me just as I am, and that I'm a Divine original (which you are too) created for a special purpose that no one else can fulfill.  Summed up so beautifully in the little poem at the end of the devotional:

                  Others may do a greater work,
                   But you have your part to do;
                 And no one in all God's family
                    Can do it as well as you.