at work

On Friday morning when my kiddos and I were picking up breakfast at Chick fil a, I happened to see something in the drive-thru line that took me back in my memory probably 23 years.   What was it?   It was a Honda Odyssey, with a really large extension ladder strapped to the roof.  In the back we could see tools and supplies.  The man driving was clearly planning to do some construction work.

With one glance at that van, I was 16 again, standing in the driveway with my dad.  I remember it like it was yesterday.  I didn’t have my orange  ’69 pinto yet, and so I depended on my parents’ vehicles to get me where I needed to go.  At the time, my dad was self employed doing a wide variety of small construction projects for people.

Unfortunately, at 16 I did not care one iota that my dad was working hard to provide for us.   In my tiny, selfish teenager world, all I cared about was, well, me.   And so, there in the driveway, I was begging my dad to please unload the back of his station wagon of all of his tools and supplies so that I didn’t have to carry them around town with me.  Obviously, driving a car with tools in the back was humiliating.  But, my dad didn’t unload the car.  He said to me with a bit of frustration, “Melody, It’s my work car!”  and he went inside.

That was it.  He offered no explanation, and I didn’t deserve one.  That day I had to drive my dad’s work car in all of it’s glory.  But, I wasn’t nice about it.  My focus was on me and my reputation instead of the bigger picture.

That year when my dad had found himself between pastoral positions, he worked so hard to provide for us.  Long, grueling hours of back-breaking work.  He was helping people, sometimes senior citizens, or others who might not be able to afford a “big-time” contractor to do the work.  What he was doing was good.  What he was doing was very valuable.  It was my expectation that was inappropriate  in the situation.

As an adult, I find myself  still living life this way.  I let His world and His will shrink to insignificant status, and I let my own desires get enormous.  Simply – when the Heavenly Father doesn’t answer a request the way I think He should, I question His goodness.  If He is not doing things my way, I question: Is He still good?  What if I’m embarrassed by His response to my request?

Sometimes I’m not privy to His entire big picture.  But that doesn’t matter – and He isn’t obligated to me.  What is required is my faith in Him.   I can be absolutely confident, my Heavenly Father is always doing good, bringing His Great Story to pass in the World.  That may not be the same as me getting my way. But He is always at work, and it is always right, just and perfect.

 

 

 

Twelve things you need to know about Ebola (and other scary things)

Can you feel it?

Tensions are mounting. All reasonable or rational perspective is disappearing.  Panic mode is breaking out everywhere, much faster than the virus we’re afraid of,  and I can’t sleep this evening because I tried to watch the news before bed.

Flipping thru a few pins on Pinterest (trying to induce myself into a sleepy state), I saw a pin about self talk and “being the best calm and focused version of yourself possible.”  Truthfully, it was a bunch of narcissistic nonsense.  As I read the ten things I needed to tell myself I realized that I needed to start telling myself something completely other than that; I needed to remind myself, in these moments of news induced panic, what’s truly important.   I needed to call to mind and remember what God says.

And what He says applies in every situation. Always.
Here are the 12 thoughts about the Ebola “crisis” that He reminded me of tonight:

I’m in control. The Lord has established His throne in heaven,  And His kingdom rules over all.Psalm 103 :19
I’m victorious over death.  For whatever is born of God overcomes the world. And this is the victory that has overcome the world—our faith.  1John 5:4
I’m singing over you, because  I’m delighted with youThe Lord your God in your midst, The Mighty One, will save; He will rejoice over you with gladness, He will quiet you with His love, He will rejoice over you with singing.”  Zephaniah 3:17
I’m listening to you. Call to Me, and I will answer you, and show you great and mighty things, which you do not know. Jeremiah 33:3
I’ve forgiven you. As far as the east is from the west, So far has He removed our transgressions from us. Psalm 103:12
I’m preparing you.  Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all things that I have commanded you; and lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age.  Matthew 28:19-20
I’m holding you.  And I give them eternal life, and they shall never perish; neither shall anyone snatch them out of My hand.  My Father, who has given them to Me, is greater than all; and no one is able to snatch them out of My Father’s hand.                 John 10:28-29
I’m with you.  Fear not, for I am with you;  Be not dismayed, for I am your God.  I will strengthen you,  Yes, I will help you,  I will uphold you with My righteous right hand.’  Isaiah 41:10
I already know the outcome. For I know the thoughts that I think toward you, says the Lord, thoughts of peace and not of evil, to give you a future and a hope. Jeremiah 29:11
I will keep my promises. For all the promises of God in Him are Yes, and in Him Amen, to the glory of God through us.  Now He who establishes us with you in Christ and has anointed us is God,  who also has sealed us and given us the Spirit in our hearts as a guarantee. 2Corinthians 1:20-22
I love you. For I am persuaded that neither death nor life, nor angels nor principalities nor powers, nor things present nor things to come,  nor height nor depth, nor any other created thing, shall be able to separate us from the love of God which is in Christ Jesus our Lord.  Romans 8:38-39
You are mine for eternity.  Fear not, for I have redeemed you;  I have called you by your name;  You are Mine.  Isaiah 43:1

There’s more hope here, in His promises, than I can ever muster in my own inward-focused self talk. I, in my own strength, will never be the solution to the hope and calm I need.  And I’m so thankful I don’t have to be!

rolling pins

It is Canadian Thanksgiving Eve.  Here, in my kitchen, that means one thing and one thing only.  It is time to bake my Grandma Brubacher’s Pumpkin Pie.   I just finished baking the pie and my house is filled with the aroma and my mind with happy memories.

Isaac begged to eat the pie now.  But I declined with every ounce of self-control I have.

As I worked on the pie crust earlier this afternoon, I pulled out a few very important tools.  I have two rolling pins that I love to use.  I know, I know, it is a little unorthodox to use two pins for one pie crust, but I do it.  You see my rolling pins are very special and fulfill very specific rolls in my baking world.

The first rolling pin was a Christmas gift from the hubs a few Christmases ago.  It is a Vic Firth rolling pin.  If you know anything from the percussionists’ world, you know that Vic Firth primarily makes maple drum sticks.  But, they also make maple, heavy as lead rolling pins.  I use it first on my pie crust, especially if the dough is chilled, to wear the dough out with minimal effort and bring it into submission.

The second is a hand-me-down.  And I’m not talking about a Goodwill find. This one was given to me by my mum, who received it a long time ago from her mum.  How I scored it for my kitchen, I’m not sure, but I love it.  It is a lovely pin, and rolls very lightly and gently.  I use this rolling pin to coax my crust into the desired shape and thickness.

My pie duties and these utensils reminded me of God’s Word, and how it works on my own heart.  There are all kinds of Scripture verses that the Holy Spirit uses for my benefit, kinda like a rolling pin, in order for me to become what He chooses.

Sometimes (actually often) my heart is cold and indifferent to my sin, or full of pride. But He consistently uses His word to penetrate deeply, bringing the warmth and shape He desires.  Often it is difficult work and my heart requires many many passes before the work is accomplished. I am a very slow learner.

Sometimes my heart is full of hurt, fear or maybe even shame.  In these times, when I feel bruised and painful to the touch, He offers gentleness and compassion with words that forgive, heal and restore me.    How beautiful those times are when He tends to my soul the way no one else can.

As the Thanksgiving season begins tomorrow, I’m thankful for many things.  But I’m especially grateful for a Heavenly Father who has given His Word, and His Holy Spirit in order to shape my life, and transform me.  It may be more than uncomfortable at times, but there is nothing more wonderful than realizing My Heavenly Father has a plan and He loves me enough to be at work in my heart.

And I am thankful for these words from Ephesians 2:

But God, who is rich in mercy, because of His great love with which He loved us, even when we were dead in trespasses, made us alive together with Christ (by grace you have been saved), and raised us up together, and made us sit together in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus, that in the ages to come He might show the exceeding riches of His grace in His kindness toward us in Christ Jesus. For by grace you have been saved through faith, and that not of yourselves; it is the gift of God, not of works, lest anyone should boast. 10 For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand that we should walk in them.

dust

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Psalm 103 is one of my favorites and I read it often.

from verses 11-16:

For as the heavens are high above the earth, So great is His mercy toward those who fear Him; As far as the east is from the west, So far has He removed our transgressions from us.  As a father pities his children, So the LORD pities those who fear Him.  For He knows our frame; He remembers that we are dust.  As for man, his days are like grass; As a flower of the field, so he flourishes.  For the wind passes over it, and it is gone, and its place remembers it no more.

I’m sitting here at the kitchen table next to my bouquet of roses.  Roses – my husband gave them to me last week celebrating our 15th anniversary.  The thing is, my beautiful bouquet is wilting, the petals are beginning to brown at the edges. ( Do not misunderstand – my marriage is not wilting – it is thriving and well.  And I’m very grateful for that. )  I can’t read these words from Psalms without being real about my own life ; I’m reminded that life is disintegrating, right in front of me.  That’s right.

Just like every bouquet of flowers I’ve ever received, I’m falling apart.  Literally a failure at many of the things I set out to do.  And I know many friends who feel the same.   At home, at work, as a parent, as a housekeeper, in my walk with Christ – many aspects of life that are unseemly.

But, these words from Scripture -if I soak in them a while, I find them so refreshing right now. If I’m going to be honest with myself, I need to hear what His voice is saying!   In the midst of all the ways that my life is broken, I see His promise in these verses.  It says it: He Remembers.  He knows how he made me and knows my end.

And because of this He knows precisely what I need:  Mercy.

I need His Mercy.  for forgiveness.  for strength to move forward.  for loving others and myself.  for being what He’s called me to be.

And that’s what He lovingly, graciously offers.

verses 17-19

But the mercy of the Lord is from everlasting to everlasting on those who fear Him, and His righteousness to children’s children, to such as keep His covenant, and to those who remember His commandments to do them.  The Lord has established His throne in heaven, and His kingdom rules over all.

Mercy – that spans from east to west, and is everlasting to everlasting – His kingdom ruling over all.  There is a day coming when I won’t be broken anymore, I won’t be the picture of a flower returning to the dust.   But, until the day he chooses to return and make all things new again, His mercy, surely is enough.

 

 

 

dumpster delivery

photo copy

 

For our fifteenth anniversary my husband rented a dumpster.  This is not a bad thing; don’t think ugly thoughts about Michael.  I had requested it, so he was indulging me.

The thing is – in our fifteen years together we haven’t moved in the last thirteen years.  We haven’t purged closets, or the garage, or our storage areas.  I mean,  I’ve taken clothes and toys to good will from time to time, but I’ve never really cleaned out.

The problem is : We have collected stuff.  Stuff we don’t need.  Stuff we don’t want.  We’ve kept broken stuff, used up stuff and stuff that we just don’t like anymore.  fifteen years of stuff.  And we were full to the brim.

The dumpster was delivered last Friday and all weekend we dumpstered.  We sorted, piled, and organized bits and pieces of stuff to keep and after that we began pitching.  All day Saturday and Sunday we threw away stuff.   It was terribly hard work.

And it felt good. – We begin year sixteen of marriage free from the bondage of all that stuff!

I realized that there is nothing better than clean and organized closets.  Items put in their place are refreshing and appealing, rather than overwhelming and controlling.  I can’t even explain how good it feels to not be afraid or embarrassed of those closets and their contents anymore.  Only the good stuff fills our storage spaces now.

So, Sunday evening when our dumpstering had come to a close I had time to think it all over.  This messy situation isn’t too far from the story of my heart.

Although I am a believer, there are times when I collect my sinful fears, thoughts, emotions and desires –  and I keep it all hidden in the dark places of my heart.  Hard stuff, that I’d rather conceal than choose to look at and purge.  Ugliness I’d rather be filled with, than confront honestly.  And that’s just what the Deceiver wants me to think – that it is better and easier and more comfortable to keep it under wraps than to deal with it.  That there is no true deliverance only emptiness.  And there are a multitude of ungodly reasons to believe him.

But, what is the real truth?  from Hebrews 12:

Therefore we also, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us lay aside every weight, and the sin which so easily ensnares us, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, looking unto Jesus, the author and finisher of our faith, who for the joy that was set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame, and has sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.

The Holy Spirit whispers to us, calls us, begs us to pull out that sin ; bring it into the light of day and then give it to the one who sacrificed enough to eliminate it permanently.  Sins lurking in my heart are meant to be dealt with.  I don’t have to reconcile with them – I need to get rid of them!  That is His will for me : to live eyes wide open to the truth,  empty of my sinful self, delivered from that sin, and filled with His goodness by His grace and mercy !

 

* * * * * * * * * * * * * *

There’s a song I’ve heard –  a prayer of deliverance.  I’m moved to repentance every time I hear it.

From the love of my own comfort
From the fear of having nothing
From a life of worldly passions
Deliver me O God

From the need to be understood
From the need to be accepted
From the fear of being lonely
Deliver me O God
Deliver me O God

And I shall not want, I shall not want
When I taste Your goodness I shall not want
When I taste Your goodness I shall not want

From the fear of serving others
From the fear of death or trial
From the fear of humility
Deliver me O God
Deliver me O God

And I shall not want, I shall not want
When I taste Your goodness I shall not want
No, I shall not want, I shall not want
When I taste Your goodness I shall not want

 

 

 

Fifteen!

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There are many miracles that happen daily in this world.  But, today, the best miracle of all is LOVE, marked by the occasion of a 15 year anniversary.

Today Michael and I celebrate fifteen years of marriage.  Fifteen years of God’s gracious favor given to us.  Fifteen years of digging deep.  Fifteen years of “I’m sorry”  and “I forgive you.”

Any time two people can come together, and survive 15 years of that togetherness, for the sake of love – it is miraculous.

Frankly, I’m grateful he’s survived me – I wouldn’t want to live life without him – but anyone who has put up with me this long,  deserves saint-hood.  and that is the truth.

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Happy Anniversary, my love!  Here’s to another 15, and many more!

mean tangerine..

pinto

That was its name.  It was gawdy orange with black leather interior.  Yes, my first car was an orange 69 Ford Pinto.  It did not have power steering or power brakes or a working radio.  But it did have a horn that sounded like a tug boat’s.  I drove it with pride. sometimes.

I remember the day my dad pulled up in front of the house in my new ride.  I had just passed the test and had my license. finally.  He had told my sister and I that he had found the perfect little car for us at a family friend’s used car lot.  We were ecstatic! What would it be?  A little honda, a cute mazda? Maybe a super fun volkswagon?

I’ll never forget the look on my dad’s face when he pulled into the driveway.  or my sister’s.

From my parents’ perspective there were good things about a bright orange 69 Ford Pinto.    We couldn’t go fast;  pedal to the metal and the car was going 45.  maybe.  We couldn’t hide or sneak around town; no one misses an orange pinto, I promise you.  We couldn’t leave the city limits; the car was just not reliable enough.  Keep in mind that my home town of Bowling Green, Ohio might have been four square miles.

I remember calling my dad for assistance one day.  My muffler had fallen off.  I had picked it up from the side of the road and brought it home.  Dad reattached it with a hanger and some sort of adhesive.  nice.  I think we repeated this particular pattern several times.

From my perspective there were terrible things about the car.  We couldn’t go fast ; pedal to the metal and the car was going 45.  maybe.  We couldn’t hide or sneak around town; no one misses an orange pinto, I promise you. We couldn’t leave the city limits; the car was just not reliable enough.  Keep in mind that my home town might have been four square miles.   hmmmmmm…..   sound familiar?

Well, did I learn to drive?  Yes.  Did I have little fender benders in my parents’ nicer vehicles?  No.  Did I grow a thick skin because of my friends’ teasing?  For sure.  Am I stronger now because of it? Absolutely.   Can I see now that this was the best little car for me at the time?  Yes.  Was it hard to understand way back then?  You better believe it.

The very things I found detrimental, it turned out they were for my good.

After all this time, I’m still learning this lesson.  There are things in my life that I’m not sure I like.  Not sin, not moral dilemmas – just situations, stuff.  And I look at my Heavenly Father and say, “Why?  I do not understand this!”  From His perspective there is definite purpose.  But my point of view is clouded at best.

It’s in these moments of questions and insecurity that I have to look at Him and say, “Okay.  I trust You.  I don’t get it.  But, I’m okay with it.”  In this case, that is all I know to do.   If my dad, who loved me so much, did what he knew was best in giving me my first car…  how much more is the Heavenly Father going to take care of things?

In Romans 8 :28 (along with many other places in Scripture) He promises that at the heart of his plan His will is for my good:

And we know that all things work together for good to them that love God, to them who are the called according to his purpose.

Thank you Heavenly Father for your constant care and protection.  Even when I don’t get it, when I lack understanding, You’ve already planned it all.  It’s so good to know you are a loving Father, prepared to give me what is best.  Amen.

From Luke 12:  “Consider the ravens: They do not sow or reap, they have no storeroom or barn; yet God feeds them. And how much more valuable you are than birds! 25 Who of you by worrying can add a single hour to your life[b]26 Since you cannot do this very little thing, why do you worry about the rest?”

(originally written on February 23, 2011.)