Posts Tagged ‘Jesus’

Picnic Basket Epiphany

It’s 5:45pm on a Monday.
Everyone and their brother is at Target.
Maybe their grandma, too.
Why?!
It’s pouring cats and dogs outside.
Can’t people find anything better to do than peruse the aisles of knock off candles, As-Seen-On-TV gadgets and turquoise jewelry?

Wait a minute.  I’m here, too.  Without my brother, might I add (’cause I don’t have one), but Nana is waiting in the car outside.

A quick trip to the pharmacy found me lolligagging through the grocery section whilst I waited on a prescription to be filled, seeking out a quick meal to fix for my family tonight.

Spaghetti sauce?  For just a dollar a jar?
Heck yes!  I’ll take two, thank you!

Sourdough bread?  Peperidge Farm?
I never buy that brand, ’cause it’s so pricey.
It’s a splurge, but I just saved a ton on the store brand sauce.
S
ure, put it in my buggy!

Now I need some of that sprinkle stinky cheese for the top of Ole’ Smokey.
Maybe the name brand kind will be on sale.
Now where is it at?

As I rounded the corner of aisle number 5, I saw it.  I SAW IT!  Not the cheese, but something more sparkly.  Sitting on the lower shelf in the cool housewares section that taunts the hamburger meats and pineapples across the way in the grocery department, was a picnic basket.  Staring back at me in all of it’s pink and yellow woven glory, it was a simple wooden basket, much like I would imagine made a trip through the woods to granny’s house. Only, this one was jazzed up in colorful summertime hues.  It begs passersby, “Take me home with you and I’ll afford you the luxury of a perfect weekend picnic.  It will be all rainbows and unicorns.  Buy me and see!”

I realized something in that split second of hearing the fruitless attempts of that basket to promise me something it cannot (probably) deliver.

Thank you, magazine ads and television commercials.  Thank you, sitcoms and soap operas and ooshy, gooshy romance novels.  And thank you, Little Bear and Little Red Riding Hood.  Because of all these things and more, the promises of the picnic basket are alluring, to say the least.   Based on sheer emotion of these recalled things alone, it’s almost guaranteed a sell to a sucker like…well, like me!  Who woudln’t love to have a Sunday afternoon picnic with Pa and Ma and the Ingles girls in Walnut Grove?

Here’s what I’m getting at.  I’m a marketer by training, having the B.B.A. from a local university stuck behind some dresser or file cabinet in my house to prove it.  The lure of certain items, of styles of decorating, of ways of behavior…often these things come from our longing for the greener grass over there some where we’re not.

If only I would buy that picnic basket – all my fincancial woes, my menopausal blues, my family stresses, my lack of free time, my frizzy hair – all of this would go away, and I’d have chicken salad croissant sandwiches on an ant-free, plaid blanket.  I’d be drinking  lemonade spritzers  from old-timey paper straws with barber-shop stripes of orange and blue, enjoying head-tossing laughter with my immaculately clad children and adoring husband on a perfect 77 degree, partly sunny afternoon on a grassy green knoll overlooking a babbling creek.  

Babbling?  Or is it bubbling?  Babbling, bubbling…..anyhow, you get the picture, don’t you?  Can’t you see it?

I think having this picnic basekt epiphany might just cure my magazine addiction.  Yeah, we’re all addicted to something, right?  Things that promise to take us away to the perfection we imagine.

If only I could afford to buy that $400 dress from _____________ [you fill in the blank – I’m no fashionista, and little more than Wal-Mart and Catos comes to mind for me – but go ahead, plug in whatever expensive, high-end dress shop you can think of there] I’d surely turn the head of my ex-spouse and make his new girlfriend jealous…

If I eat a cheeseburger, I’ll feel so much better.  I’m a stress eater, you know.

If I [drink or smoke or do some sort of illegal drug excessively], I will be more confident.

If I buy all of those home decorating magazines, and cooking magazines, and gardening magazines, I will magically be able to turn my home into a Southern Living home, make my family healthier with all the good foods I prepare, and have a yard I can relax in.

Oh my!  I could go on and on and on.  So many things seem to offer us a quick answer to what we feel is missing.

The dress?  Self-value or worth.

The cheeseburger?  Comfort.

Alcohol, smoking, drugs?  Self-confidence.  Maybe a need to be seen as “cool”.

Magazines?  Perfection.

And what about my picnic basekt?  The one I didn’t buy?  It promises me time without worry.  It sings me a lullaby of carefree moments spent without worry over bills, or my kids’ schedules, or the Middle East…

Here’s the thing.  That all sounds great, but the conjured up image I have of the picnic basket perfection fails to mention the ants.  And the bumble bees.  And the wind, which will surely turn up any and all corners of the blanket I spread out, which will probably in turn spill drinks and flip grass clippings up onto any food the ants haven’t already eaten.  The humidity will be high, causing the crossaints to be soggy.  The temperature will be high, setting the stage for quick spoiling of the mayonnaise-based chicken salad.

Yeah, I think I’m going to give up the magazines for a while, but I might just go purchase that picnic basket. Afterall, it’s a perfect reminder to stop longing for the perfection of what might be, and instead enjoying the perfect imperfection that is all around me.

Jesus tells us in John 16:33:  “I have told you these things, so that in Me you will have peace. In this world you will have trouble.  But take heart!  I have overcome the world!”

Perfection in everything earthly is just not possible.  For each of us, what we would consider perfection is different.  Take heart, my friends!  Stop seeking out perfection and trying to “fix” things with….well….with things!  Or with other people.  Jesus Christ has overcome the world, and everything here is temporary.  TEMPORARY!  That includes the bad feelings, the oppressive longings, the insecurities….all of that junk.  Take heart!  And buy a picnic basket if you need soemthing to remind you of the immaculate celebration that awaits us on a perfectly manicured, lush lawn of green in The Master’s garden.

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I Was In Darkness…And Then I Saw You

Several years ago, I went through a divorce.  The circumstances surrounding my life then left me feeling betrayed, broken and unworthy.  I was hurting.  I was angry.  And I was afraid.  The whole ordeal introduced me to poisonous feelings I had never had before, including some very unhealthy disdain for my ex-husband and his new wife.  Disdain is a nice word.  I used that instead of hatred.  But that’s what I was feeling – raw, destructive hate.  Hate for people I credited for my wounds at the time.  For my broken family.  For my children who were now part of a single-parent household.  For the gossip and rumors.  For the fishbowl I was sure I now lived in.

Years passed.  Those negative feelings, though, really didn’t.  Instead of addressing them, I buried them under busyness and new relationships.  I avoided the two people whom I felt caused me pain at all costs.  Wanted nothing to do with them.  Neither one.

Then one day, almost ten years after my divorce, I became aware of the Holy Spirit nudging me.  I strongly felt that God wanted me to reach out to my ex-husband’s wife, the one for whom I still carried most of the ill-feelings.   The one for whom I had shifted all of the blame to after all of these years.  Absurd as it seemed to me, I ignored this feeling for as long as I could.  I can remember saying outloud in my car once, “You want me to do what?!”  Softly, and continually, an urgency seemed to grow.

I had joined a church close by, one that I spent a lot of time at when I was a child, and had been getting in on bible studies and attending services pretty regularly.  For the first time in my life, I had begun to read the Bible consisitenly, too, actually digging in to understand The Word.  Christ’s ministry on earth had come alive for me and though I had been baptized when I was 24 years old, about 6 years before my divorce, pieces I didn’t know were missing started to click into place as I grew in my understanding of what it means to be a daughter of Christ.  No doubt that this is the reason it had taken me 10 years to finally acknowledge the negative, damaging feelings I had been harboring.  I was being convicted.  I had been committing the same sin for all of these years, day in and day out, and the Holy Spirit was guiding me to do what was right.

You’d think that would be enough, wouldn’t you?  But it wasn’t.

I kept ignoring Him.  I kept arguing with Him.  Debating with Him.  I didn’t want to give in.  I didn’t want to face the very person whom I had hated for all of these years.  I thought I knew what was best.

So God gave me a vision.

It came to me in a dream, but unlike any I’ve had before or since.  I chose to believe it was a vision, because I was stubborn enough and so obstinate — well, it’s like the “big guns” had to be brought out so I could understand what was being asked of me, and why.

This is how it was presented to me:

It’s dark.
Pitch, so.
I can only see the outlines of figures.
It’s so dark and scarey.
I have a feeling the others all around me are not friendly.
They are talking aggressively, in a language I can’t understand.
We are alone.  
In a solitary place.
It’s small, reminding me of a deserted island;
except, there are so many others.
I cannot see trees, or sky.
I only see these agitated figures flailing around.
It’s growing louder.  Their voices.
I still can’t understand them.
Everything is colorless.  Dark.
But I am not dark.
I sense that I don’t yet belong to this darkness, but I am here anyway.

Why am I here?
Who are these people?
I become anxious.
Frustrated, because I can’t understand what’s around me.
The sound is so loud.
Almost like growling.
I feel an urgency to flee, but there’s no where to go.
Then in the rush of fear, I see two people through the crowd of bodies.
They are not dark figures either.
It is them!  
Hallelujah!
I know them!  I know them!
My heart leaps with joy!
I’m so excited over recognizing them.

And then I woke up.

The two people were my ex-husand and his wife.

I understood.  I finally understood.  No matter how much hate I felt for them, it wasn’t enough to keep me from being excited over seeing them in a place like hell.  Not because that’s where I wanted to see them, but because in the midst of all that despair, I was happy to recognize someone I knew.  That put it in loud perspective for me.

The next day, the Holy Spirit dialed my ex-husband’s wife, and before I could change my mind, I asked her out for coffee.

Forgiveness.

It is absolutely required of us, to be forgiven by the Savior.  I’m so thankful for the Holy Spirit.  I’m so thankful for a patient, loving Father.  He wants only what is best for us.  And He doesn’t want anyone to perish without knowing Him and having the chance to accept Him as Lord and Saviour.  I was headed down a very dark, dark path for ten years.  TEN YEARS.  Praise His holy name that I had an opportunity to forgive, and to ask for forgiveness.

Jesus paid a mighty big price for me.

Thank you, God.

He paid the same mighty price for you, too.

He’s waiting.  Patiently.  Is there a nudging you need to yeild to?  You won’t regret it!  The day I was obedient to what was being asked of me is one of the best of my life.  I followed through, and He was glorified because of it.  But the blessing was all mine.  Christ showered me with a joy I had never known before, but one I have known since.  I hope you’ll be obedient to what He is asking of you, too.

 

The sinful nature wants to do evil, which is just the opposite of what the Spirit wants. And the Spirit gives us desires that are the opposite of what the sinful nature desires. These two forces are constantly fighting each other, so you are not free to carry out your good intentions. (Galatians 5:17 NLT)

 

And I will give you a new heart, and a new spirit I will put within you. And I will remove the heart of stone from your flesh and give you a heart of flesh. And I will put my Spirit within you, and cause you to walk in my statutes and be careful to obey my rules. (Ezekiel 36:26-27 ESV)

 

For if you forgive people their wrongdoing,  your heavenly Father will forgive you as well.  But if you don’t forgive people, your Father will not forgive your wrongdoing. (Matthew 16:14-15)

Gettin’ Ready

Why is it that I need to…

  • Fix my hair before I go to the salon for a cut and style?
  • Mop and vacuum the floors before the cleaning service comes to my house?
  • Get “healthier” before I can go to the doctor for a check up?

Doesn’t make sense, does it?
        The stylist is going to fix my hair for me.
        The cleaning service is going to clean my house, including my floors.
        The doctor is going to help me with getting healthier.

I was just thinking about this on the way to work today.

What do I need to do to “get ready” for Jesus?  Anything?  Or am I ready now?

How about you?

A Heart Full Of Happy

A Heart Full Of Happy

This morning I woke with a sing-song heart. A rhythm of happy blended with a spirited topping of thankfulness. You know where in the Bible God’s word tells us that “in times when we don’t know how or what to pray, the Holy Spirit will do so for us”? I was reminded of that when I realized it was my sing-song heart that actually woke me. I didn’t wake up and start this melody, this melody started within and woke me up!

I’ve never thought of that verse, Romans 8:26, outside of times that are sorrowful or filled with uncertainty. The Bible actually says that the Holy Spirit will interceded for us with groans that words cannot express. I first really learned of this verse when my friend, Jennifer, brought it forth as we were all mourning the loss of a dear friend, Mr. Philip. Since then, it is truth that I have pulled strength from in times of trouble and uncertainty. Times when I knew I needed to take situations or feelings to the Lord in prayer, but I didn’t know how to, or what to say. But this morning…

This Morning!

This beautiful, Glorious morning!

There is no mourning in this morn. I woke with such a thankful, praising heart! It’s the most amazing, beautiful start I’ve experienced! So maybe the Romans scripture is not one I should tie to this joy I have, but just like the Holy Spirit will intercede in times of angst, I feel like the Holy Spirit was interceding before my consciousness stirred today, and was praising and loving the Father through worship.

Amazing. Totally amazing. Thank you, Jesus!

This week I have had the priviledge of meeting two of my husbands dear, dear friends from his Navy days. Days that happened long before I ever knew of my husband. Bryan and Kelly are more like family to him, and over the years I have heard so much about them that I felt I had known them forever the minute I hugged their necks. I was also able to meet their beautiful daughters and their good friend from the DC area. All week I’ve been thanking the Lord for their friendship and influences in my husband’s life, because I know they played a role in shaping who my husband is today. All those paths you cross in life, you know? The cumulative experiences that become a part of your own fabric.

Our time with these friends concluded yesterday, with a day spent seaside in North Carolia. It was a beautiful day for making memories and sharing in God’s Glory.

See that picture of the shoreline? That’s what the song sounds like in my soul today. 🙂

Thank you, Lord, for friends and family who tie us to one another in ways undeniably orchestrated by Your hand. Father, you fill me so this morning, and I praise Your Holy Name for the blessings You have lavishly given to us. Thank you for the laughter, the time of fellowship. Thank you for the furry friends who bring us so much comfort and love. Thank you for the surprise family meetings along the way, for Garland. I know it is only by Your Hand that these wonderful crossings happen. And thank you, Lord, for giving us your son, Jesus Christ. It is in knowing this we have the hope and peace of being united always. Thank you for this sing-song heart. Amen.

Leaving This Place

Leaving This Place

The soft spot on the roof of my mouth, toward the back, is burning. My ears burn, too. Sneezes and dizzy spells abound. I’m a fury of hot…no cold…wait a minute…no…hot flashes and red-nosed-ness and crumpled Kleenex. Frustrated in this delay. Who has time for this? Taking on guilt completely unwarranted for being out of the office today. I am my own worst boss. Committed to meeting the appointments of drop off and pick up for the kids, pets. Praying for God to protect my little orange car from missteps, as it’s driver is really feeling yucky.

Mashed potatoes.

I don’t even really want them, but the thought of the smooth, warm creaminess against my sore throat was enough to drive me across town for a family sized container.

This stoplight ALWAYS takes so long. Why does it take so long to give me a green arrow? I’m waiting to turn left beside Virginia College. Then I see it. THERE IT IS!

It is the most luxurious sunset I’ve noticed in a long while. It takes my breath away. Or was that the mentholatum cough drop?

Immediately, in all my achiness and frustration, I think of my Jesus and that day that He has promised to return.

I wonder what the sky will look like.

I often think about the verse in Matthew that says: “But about that day or hour no one knows, not even the angels in heaven, nor the Son, but only the Father.” And it goes on to say a few verses down, “That is how it will be at the coming of the Son of Man. Two men will be in the field; one will be taken and the other left. Two women will be grinding with a hand mill; one will be taken and the other left. ”

Lord, I will be taken, right?

I will, won’t I?

Then I wonder what it would feel like to be plucked from all I know by the hand of God and be “gone from this place”.

Will it hurt?

Will I even know it’s happened?

Will it just be like this strange sensation, but not really cold or hot or painful?

Oh, my God, please don’t leave me!

As I look at the beautiful, fading sunset, I catch myself saying outloud, “Jesus come quickly.”

The discomfort of a head cold or flu or whatever bug I have is nothing compared to the strife and pain this world has going on.

And just like that, a voice that has no sound, yet I know it the moment my heart hears it, reminds me, “I have held you before.”

I begin to weep.

Tears. Streaming down. No sobs. Just hot, salty tears birthed from a head that is under pressure. My eyeballs are burning hot. The tears are almost soothing.

I have left this place before.

I have.

It was April 3, 1993. I was 24 years old. Barely so. I was young, and desperately wanting to have control over messy decisions I had made.

Just the day before, I had cried out to God in a moment that was as raw and real as sitting here now. I can feel that same breeze brush across my check, entering through a rolled down window in the driver’s side door of my little blue Accord.

“God, I can’t fix this. There’s nothing I can do to get out of this situation. I’ve tried everything. I need you to help me.”

And just as quickly, the ignition was quieted and I grabbed the car seat with my 8 month old son it it and headed inside.

I didn’t think about my request again. It was a plea, really. But the busyness of being a new momma, an about to graduate (okay, hoping to graduate) college student and an estranged young wife (or is it wife of an estranged husband?) kept me in motion, without another thought – not a single one – of God.

The next afternoon, I stopped. Just stopped. Later I would learn I was involved in a head on collision, but that was later. For several days, I just wasn’t.

It’s been more than 20 years since that fateful accident. It’s something that changed my life forever. Surgeries and lingering pains aside, it’s something I am thankful for, every day.

As my memory started waking, I began piecing together information about the accident (mostly overheard from the conversations around my hospital bed), though I had no personal recollection of the wreck. I have a memory of a vague image of a man with curly dark hair in a red shirt, or at least I think it was red, leaning down, his face in mine. It may have been dark and red colored because of my own blood that flowed from lacerations to my face, and injuries to my left eye. I felt as though his face was close to mine, but I couldn’t make out any features. And I coudln’t hear him. I was telling him quietly, “help me”, as I held my arms crossed in front of me, but I didn’t hear my own voice, and wasn’t really sure why I needed help.

I don’t remember my baby boy crying. I was told he was screaming loudly. Lacerations to his own face and a broken right ankle. I thank God for the stranger who scooped him up and gave him comfort, when I wasn’t even aware there was such a need, nor such a child.

I don’t remember sirens, or any other medical professionals, although I was told there were dozens of vehicles and rescue workers. Mine was not the only car. I don’t recall the “Jaws of Life” as it cut open my mangled hatchback.  And I don’t remember the pain of the jagged metal cutting into my thighs as I was pulled from the pryed open doorframe.

I didn’t hear any loud noises – no car crash.

What I do recall, and this came to me some time  after the accident, was the quiet hum of an ambulance. A couple of years after the accident, I was parked outside of the K-Mart with my window rolled down, and I heard that unmistakable, steady rumble of the idling ambulance engine.  I closed my eyes and I remembered.

I felt a warm heat surrounding me. May have been from the exhaust. Or maybe the sun-baked asphalt.

I could hear swishing, which I believed was the tall highway grass in which I was laying.

I saw a bright light, which I’ve always chalked up to the setting sun, since it was around the time of sunset.

And I saw a flowing, light green, almost sherbert colored green, garment above me, topped with flowing strands of gold that seemed to merge right into the garment. I saw no face.

And I felt peace.

The weeks that followed my “coming to” were filled with a peace that many didn’t understand. I didn’t recognize it as strange. I had great love for the woman in the other car – the car that I later learned was driving down the wrong side of a 4-lane highway before I entered it’s path. As soon as I could, I went down to her hospital room, in my wheelchair. I wanted to meet her. To meet her family. I wanted them to meet my baby son. More than anything, I wanted them to know “it was okay”. I wanted to give them comfort. I didn’t think about it really at all. I was acting on impulses that were not of my own, yet, I coudln’t exactly put in to words why I had them. I just wanted them to know I cared. I felt strangely connected to this family, to this young woman who was driving the strayed car. In a strange, otherworldly way, I felt our paths were crossed with reason.

Gosh, the sky before me is bright, brilliant white, as the sun dips lower and lower. It’s almost a non-color. Goldenish. So illuminated, if that’s possible. Illuminated illumination.

I have forgotten how long this light takes to turn green.
Instead, I had all the time in the world for God to remind me of what it feels like to be held in the palm of His hand.

The hum.

  • The rythym of His creation.

The swishing.

  • His cooing me into calm.

The heat.

  • The warmth of His presence.

The light.

  • His Glory.

The green and gold.
The flowing.

  • The watch of His angels.

And just like that. The green arrow appeared. I pressed the accelerator and continued crying out my praises to My Saviour all the way home.

Thank you, Jesus. Thank you.

“Therefore keep watch, because you do not know on what day your Lord will come. But understand this: If the owner of the house had known at what time of night the thief was coming, he would have kept watch and would not have let his house be broken into. So you also must be ready, because the Son of Man will come at an hour when you do not expect him. “

Day 710

Seven Hundred Ten is a nice, even number, don’t you think?

That’s 1 year, 11 months and 10 days, exaclty.

Or 17,040 hours, approximately.

Wow, that hours number doesn’t freak me out as much as the almost 2 years number.
My gifting is in colors, not numbers, and in the case of moments away from home (which is 1,022,400!), that’s a good thing.

710.

Nice, round, evenly divisible number.
Also a great stopping point, don’t you think?

Many of you have followed my “count up” since Day 1.
            (On this blog, that would be since Day 19, the first public post of the count up)
In doing so, you have also shed some tears and smiles with me along the way.
Many of you have also offered prayers and lifted our family up to The Lord, and I’m confident that the immense strength we as a family have had during this journey has been a blessing from God, and I am thankful for the faithful prayers of friends and strangers alike.

My son will be returning soon.
That’s right!  We have a count down in progress now!
In just a few short weeks, our family will be reunited, and words cannot express the excitement every one of us has, as we prepare, plan and dream a little bit louder about our reunion.

But the journey is far from over.  As much as we prepare, plan and dream, and think about our desires for the coming months, it is Our Saviour who remains in control.  We understand that it is His perfect and holy, Masterfully orchestrated script that will unfold before us.  It is in knowing this that I ask for your specific prayers.

Please join us in continuing to pray for safety & protection.

For provision.

For us to recognize the direction of the weather vane.

For understanding.

And above all else, pray for us to be yeilded to The Master’s plan, and to move in obedience with His will for our lives.

As much as I have looked forward to having all of my chics under my wings again — oh! My heart leaps at the thought! — I know that like the seaons and other things of this earth, temporary is the moment, and eternal is the life.   Please pray for our time together to be an easy transition and a powerful ignition into a new chapter.

Tomorrow is a new day.
A new number.

Praise the Lord, for great things He hath done!

I Have Made Some Crappy Choices

It’s morning.

Driving to work.

Should I listen to the radio, Lord, or shall we talk on the way to work today?

I hit the radio button.

“It’s a good morning!”

It’s also a beautiful day.

Figures.

Clear skies and sunshiney rays of hello lend to poor reception.

Too many different sound waves happily traverse the space around my car.

Sorry, Mandesa, I have to turn you off this morning.

So, I guess it’s a talky-kind-of-morning.

I’m no different from the next guy.

Really, I’m not.

I sin.

I have a hard time learning a lesson.

Gosh, I’ve made a bad choice and decided against making the same bad choice, only to do it again.

And again.

And again.

Lord,  I’m so glad You love me and You forgive my shortcomings.

I’m so glad you’re patient.

I have made some really crappy choices.

Yes, but you’ve made some really good choices, too.

Thank, you, Lord, for pointing that out.

I have made some really good choices.

I HAVE made some really good choices.

I get it.

Thank you!