Simmering pots and changing views

food-pot-kitchen-cooking.jpg“Up, up”, cried the curly blonde headed toddler as I stirred the big simmering pot of lima beans.  The scent of supper hung in the air, tempting me to perform yet another taste test.  My pallet satisfied, I turned to put away the remains of the ham I has used to season my savory soup.

I felt a tug on the leg of my blue jeans, prompting a downward glance at a vision resembling my youngest 20 years ago.

The practical, get-things-done side of me almost said, “Go play, sweetie”, but the Nana in me bursting with love for this little angel, took one look in those blue eyes filled with curiosity and I picked her up and positioned her on my hip instead.

She was fascinated by the steam coming off the pot and pointed toward it, exclaiming “Hot, hot!”.  Right on the heels of “hot, hot”, was “eat, eat”.  I guess she repeats things to make sure she gets her point across.  God does that with me.

As I held her, allowing her to touch the cool, granite counter, hold a round, ripe grapefruit and smell it’s clean citrus scent she smiled.  I gave her a taste from a small spoon, after she and I “blew it” to cool it off, and I was reminded of something.

While she stood on the kitchen floor, hearing the sounds of lids banging, water boiling, the chopping of onions, she couldn’t see any of it.  She could smell something that awakened her hunger, but she couldn’t dig in, she heard noises but she couldn’t identify their source.  From her line of vision, her viewpoint, her perspective, things were unclear, possibly a bit confusing, maybe even a little scary or unsettling at times.  Only when Nana picked her up and began explaining things, did it start to make sense.  At her age, and with her limited knowledge, things still aren’t 100% clear, but at least she got a glimpse.

Another spiritual lesson or reminder for me in the everyday things!  We can’t see the whole picture yet, the goodness God has prepared for us continues to unfold, but often from our perspective we can’t understand.  At times, our lines of vision is obstructed or clouded by unbelief.  Since His ways are not our ways, we can’t fathom His plan.

As we lean into the Father, tug on Him and say “up, up”, we begin to get a least a glimpse.  And because of His unconditional, passionate love toward us, even if we don’t understand 100%, we have peace in knowing we are in good hands.  The more we seek Him, the more we find Him.  The more we eat, the hungrier we become.

Let His word and His love change your perspective today.

Post Irma musings

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As I sit on my cousin’s porch here in Tennessee, the air is cool in the midst of my favorite season.  The birds are filled with song and two little squirrels are chasing each other up, down and around a tree.  In the midst of one of the most chaotic seasons of my life, I sing praises to my Creator and thank Him for His abundant mercy and the beauty of my surroundings.

After losing our home in hurricane Irma, I am a grateful guest in a household that is filled with the love of Christ.

Due to my granddaughter’s health condition and fearing long lines and possible fuel shortages, we fled the state of Florida prior to Irma’s approach.  Some said we were over-reacting but I had prayed about it, discussed with my husband and had peace with our decision.  He would stay and continue to make preparations and be close to assess the aftermath and my daughter, granddaughter and I would head for the hills.

The first weekend I was here I remember sitting in Sunday school thinking that if I let one tiny teardrop fall, I was going to bawl a big ole ugly cry in front of a room full of people I didn’t know.  I did cry during service as the Pastor described efforts already underway to send trucks of essentials and workers down to assist in our area.

The emotions pre-Irma, mid-Irma and post-Irma have been like the tea-cup ride at Disney.  One minute you’re screaming as someone spins the cup faster and faster and the next minute, you need to throw up.  And, all of my emotions have been from afar, so add a strange sense of guilt for not being there with and for my friends and family.  All I could do was pray, and that I did and continue to.

Mid-Irma, we watched with horror as we experienced wind and storm surge in real-time, thanks to Facebook, face time and videos sent to us.  We sometimes watched along with the people we love who stayed to ride it out, hearing the fear in their voices as the waters continued to rise.  Thankfully, technology also provided a way to let us know everyone was safe immediately after the worst of it.

Post-Irma my husband sent pictures of the destruction as he walked for the first time back into what we once called home. We cried along with him.  We lamented some of our most painful material losses together, always thankful that we still had each other.

Then we shed overwhelming tears of gratitude as we saw people from all over; loved ones, clients and strangers begin to load up trucks like the hands and feet of Jesus, destination Everglades City, to unload a little bit of love and hope.

Homeless Irma victims, we have so much to be thankful for.  We have family who immediately opened their home to us until we can find a place of our own, more family and friends, clients and colleagues who have blessed us with gift cards, money, prayers and encouragement, and a place for my husband to stay while he is down there working.  We have our lives and our precious memories of how things used to be.

We have a lot to do and some new paths to forge but I remain steadfast in the knowledge that my God will provide.  He has not forsaken us, nor will He.  This life is fragile and our things are perishable but His love is everlasting and His promises are sure.  I pray for wisdom to follow without hesitation His perfect direction and plan for my life.

My deepest gratitude to all who have helped in any way.  May God richly bless you.

Killing Orchids

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My thumb is not a nice dark green.  I suppose it’s more of a seafoam or chartreuse color.  What I am trying to say is that I seem to have about a 60/40 chance of growing beautiful things.  Many of my plants do indeed thrive.  They have deep, robust color and if a bloomer, they have plentiful and hearty offerings.

Then there are those that start off with a bang, bring me viewing pleasure for months and then die a slow and pitiful death right before my eyes.  Others limp along, making little progress only to become diseased.

In the past I attempted to grow orchids.  My sister does a great job with them and hers always look beautiful.  My friend, Rudy has several that thrive.  She shows pictures of them on Facebook and I gaze in wonder at their beauty.   One of my uncles used to have many different varieties and he also seemed to believe they were not hard to grow successfully.

I have brought several of them home with high hopes and visions of grandeur, imagining an entire shelf popping with several blooms in every shade of color in various heights.  I have cringed as I watched one after another succumb to my inefficient treatment (and they aren’t cheap!).   Much to my dismay, I’ve never seen one last for more than a month or so.  Yes, I have read about the lighting, fertilization and watering and I have also solicited advice from the above mentioned orchid hall of famers.  All to no avail I might add.

Then, I read something the other day.  It was about how when the bloom falls off; you can cut the stem a little below the bloom and wait.  Often, although it can take a long time, your orchid will bloom again.  No one told me this.  I always thought that once that flower was gone, it was as good as dead.  Now I learn that as long as my leaves still have some life to them, it is very possible that my orchid will rise again to its former splendor.  I just needed to wait!  Isn’t the waiting always the hardest part?  I’m sure some of you are laughing at my ignorance right now and I can’t say that I blame you.

So, I considered my hydrangea which is my favorite flower ever and not the easiest to grow this far south (at least not for me).  All the leaves had fallen off.  I could barely remember the last flower.  But, I haven’t had much time for yard work lately so I hadn’t dug it up yet.  I went out and took a peek and lo and behold, there are several green leaves gracing that once barren little collection of sticks.  Therefore, I will wait.

In life, one of the things we have the hardest time with is waiting.  We wait for the phone to ring, we wait for the water to boil, and we wait in line.  We wait for the answer to that prayer.  We hear, “good things come to those who wait”, extolling the virtue of patience.  And in our exasperation, we throw out the orchid, we dig up the hydrangea and we avoid the plant aisle for fear of another failure.

I have learned today in my mediation on this topic and my prayer is that you have too.  We will have to wait for the fruition of good things.  We might have to look at an ugly barren stem for a while before we realize the beauty.  May we be more patient with things, but more importantly with people.  Let’s set our sights on the coming growth and glorious blooms instead of the dead branches of the now.  I want to see what God see’s when He looks at me; His plan and the possibilities.

Door number two

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Let’s face it, some days are just harder than others.  Every once in a while you wake up realizing immediately that your attitude needs adjusting and sometimes all seems well until a challenging situation comes out of nowhere.

You wake up on time feeling ready to take on the day.   The aroma and taste and just right temperature of your coffee pleases 3 of your senses.  Your devotion reaches down to touch you in the very depths of your soul and your prayer time is heavenly.

Your cereal doesn’t get soggy and your toast doesn’t burn and you find the perfect outfit on the first try.   You get out of the door with time to spare and notice that your hair looks almost perfect in your rear view mirror.

You run some errands.   Everyone is pleasant.  Traffic is light and you find a nice shaded parking spot.  You’re in a marvelous mood.  That’s a pretty easy accomplishment when everything is going your way.

Then boom, out of the blue, just like that it can all change.  The day that was so agreeable just a few moments ago takes a turn for the worse.  Sometimes its a call or a text.  At other times, it is something more subtle and sneaks up behind you and grabs you before you know what hit you.

Either way, from this point forward something shifts, the atmosphere around you that was filled with peace and hope now feels like turmoil and dread.   Your once sincere smile turns into a pinched and pained one.  Tension hovers over you like a cloud ready to burst.

It is what you do at this point that sets your course.  You can choose door number one, the one our flesh wants to chose every time, and open it up to continued strife.  You can embrace the sour mood, wallow in the unpleasantness, welcome the surly attitude and guarantee more negativity.

Or you can choose door number two, and press in to prayer and worship.  Find your strength, peace and love in Christ and let Him be your rock.  Lift your head up, forgive quickly, remember to Whom you belong and encourage yourself!  Amaze yourself (and others) in your reaction to what the enemy tried to use to defeat you.

I’m learning to choose the second approach and save myself a lot of stress and grief (and repentance).  I don’t always succeed but I can definitely say my percentage is improving and that’s a start.   Mom always said, “it’s the little foxes that spoil the vines”.  Don’t sweat the small stuff.

What lies beneath?

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Today’s prompt hit a nerve as soon as I read the word….surface.  My mind immediately began to form poems about layers and things hidden deep within.  It affected me because it reminds me of a topic that I’ve been contemplating for days.

A few nights ago, I taught on Motives; those deeply private and often impure reasons we do the things we do.  As I studied in preparation, I thought a lot about my own motives.  I asked myself questions like, “What is hidden in this heart?” and “Are my motives usually pure?”  I know better than to ask “always” because I think we all know that our hearts deceive us sometimes and there are other times when we have just allowed the wrong things in and our actions correspond.

I knew I had written on this very topic before so I did a quick search on “motives” and lo and behold, I find Check My Motives.  This post was from 2014!  So two years ago, God was dealing with me on the same topic.  I’m thankful for God’s long-suffering towards me as obviously He is re-addressing this with me once again.  I am either a very slow learner or my human heart just needs a reminder from time to time.

We do find ourselves with messy motives though, don’t we?   Have you ever done something for someone else with the hope that someone else will notice and praise you?  Would you do some of the good things you do if there was to be no visible payoff?  Do you hide behind social media and post something with a motive to hurt someone or embarrass them, but tell yourself you are innocent of such?

In all seriousness and honesty, I really do want to have pure motives all the time.  In order for that to happen my heart has to be pure, because out of the abundance of it, the mouth speaks (or writes, or posts).

Sometimes things done with insincere motives unwittingly benefit others and often we don’t even realize where our motives are coming from when we act.  It is a topic definitely worth reflecting on in your quiet time.

Proverbs 16:2 says, “People may be pure in their own eyes, but the Lord examines their motives.”  We know God looks upon the heart, but we may forget what that means.  He examines our motives.  If that isn’t reason enough for me to examine my own, I don’t know what is.

 

 

 

Monday musings

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Why did I cook homemade cornbread today?  I initially told myself it was because I love my husband and I wanted him to have something special to go with dinner.  In reality, I wanted it.  My motivation for making it was two-fold; I was in the mood for some fluffy, sweet bread and making it would kill two birds with one stone, because my husband would also appreciate it.  Two large pieces later, I am questioning my judgment.

When I wrote Check My What back in November, God was dealing with me about checking my motives and looking at the why behind my actions.  I’m still doing that and I still recommend it.

I even find my faith increasing as I learn to trust God completely and not try to fix things myself in the background (like He can’t see exactly what I’m doing anyway).  When I open myself up completely, no hidden agendas, no hidden motives and I just pour out my heart; God loves that.  It’s so real.

Have a blessed Monday!  And if you want a good cornbread recipe, go here.

Seed of faith

In response to The Daily Post’s writing prompt: “In Good Faith.”

Describe a memory or encounter in which you considered your faith, religion, spirituality — or lack of — for the first time.

I was raised to have faith and I can’t remember a time when I didn’t have it.  Thankfully, my mom and grandmother took me to church faithfully, and taught me to read the bible.

One memory I have that brings back a smile is when I received the gift of a mustard seed necklace.  I don’t remember who it was a gift from, but I think it was on my birthday.  It was a little gold chain, sporting a tiny orb which contained an even tinier mustard seed.  The mustard seed may have been tiny, but it helped ingrain in my young mind the scripture promising that even a little seed of faith moved mountains.

I loved wearing it and if my memory serves me correctly, I believe it broke and was put to rest somewhere beneath the spinning ballerina in my jewelry box.  I suspect when I was a little older, I thought I was too cool for a mustard seed necklace and chose to throw it away instead of fixing it.

In my almost 50 years, with all the bumps in the road, and the ups and the downs, I have often thought about that little necklace and what it symbolized.  The promise has proven true time and time again.

Linen rose

Linen rose

Matthew 17:20 So Jesus said to them, “Because of your unbelief; for assuredly, I say to you, if you have faith as a mustard seed, you will say to this mountain, ‘Move from here to there,’ and it will move; and nothing will be impossible for you.

Morning dew and joy

rain drops on hisbicus

rain drops on hisbicus

The only light she saw was the blue dot on the DVR player and a soft glow from the computer screen.  At 2:00am, it was dreadfully dark and silent except for the sound of the ceiling fan as it followed its infinite circular route.

It was time; time for prayer and quiet reflection, time to stop suppressing the angst and the pain; time to release the fear and let it all tumble out in salty cleansing tears.

She doesn’t like to cry, especially not this kind of cry; the heart-wrenching sobs that had threatened like a black and dreaded storm cloud for days now.  She likes to show herself strong, capable, and unmoved by life’s jabs and pokes and knockouts.

But deep within, she knows that to give up on self, to let go and let God is the answer.  That is when the healing can begin and joy will return.  Not the “ha-ha” playground laughter kind of joy, but the deep-down to your soul kind.  On her knees, pouring it out in sobs that are interrupted by deep gasping breaths, she lets God right things.

Then, peace ensues and a heart at rest can finally rest.   The mind stops racing, and the once elusive sleep comes quickly.

Morning breaks with a sunrise of hope and goals and motivation afresh!  Yes, joy does come in the morning.

A matter of trust

another FL sunset

another FL sunset

 

Since I work from home on a laptop all day, I try to make an effort to get outside and take a walk or work in the yard during my lunch break.

Today, as the sky threatened to open up and pour buckets on me any minute, I figured it best to stay close to home.

As I was weeding, I heard a rustle.  I thought it was just lizards (here I go again, denigrating the lizards; see yesterday’s post to understand) until I saw the familiar red hue of the male cardinal.  He wasn’t even four feet away from me, hanging out, hopping around in the shrubs.

I found myself both thrilled and somewhat amazed that he trusted me that much.  But, after all, I am out here every day.  My husband and I do keep his source of food brimming over for the continual taking.

The first time I ever saw the cardinals, they were very skittish and flew away if we got anywhere near, but with time and the proof that we care (food) and we won’t harm them, they are growing to count on the fact that they can come and go as they please.  I couldn’t be happier.

You know those people who you feel like you just can’t reach?  Their problems seem overwhelming; life has been seemingly overly difficult for them.  You want to reach out; you want to be that listening ear, to help them in some way.

Be reminded that trust takes time especially once it has been broken.   Gaining confidence takes patience.  That acquaintance may have lived through hurt you can only imagine.  What you perceive as anger and hatefulness might be a mask that hides years of pain.  Keep smiling at them.  Keep praying for them.

That teenager who lives down the street might have been burned more than once.  The surly attitude and atrocious manners might be hiding abuse.  Be gentle, and forbearing.  But also, be diligent, and persevere.  You will reach them one day.  You might be the only one who cares enough to wait quietly, with ears to listen, arms to hold and a heart that beats to give hope to others.

And a note…I would be remiss if I failed to mention the Boston and West, TX tragedies that have shook our nation.  We must pray diligently for swift justice to the perpetrator, spiritual, physical and emotional healing for all involved and hearts that are never hardened to another’s pain.

Blessings!

Removing the barnacles

This picture was taken from our dock and you can see all of the barnacles on the piling; the longer they are allowed to grow, the greater their adhesion.  We have to remove them from the boats because they will slow us down and cost more fuel.

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I think on occasion there are things in our lives that resemble barnacles, slowing us down, causing a “drag” so to speak, that can feel like a large noose around our neck.  Sometimes, these can be what the bible describes as hindrances, weights, or besetting sins.  At other times, it’s just something that shouldn’t be a priority in our life, but we’ve fallen into bad habits, or we know something is bugging us, but it’s in our power to rectify it (this one is often one of my issues due to procrastination) and we haven’t.

If your goal is like mine, to live life to the fullest, to run this race with all you’ve got, then at times we have to take inventory.  We have to look at our lives with eyes of faith and a sense of our purpose and recognize and accept when change is necessary.  Sometimes, we even have relationships with people who are spewing forth cynicism and gloom and doom, bringing us down.  In this area, of course, we must handle with love and kid gloves and always try to help and encourage first.  We don’t want to hurt others, but we can’t forever be the receptacle for all things negative, either.

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Spring is on it’s way and is always a good time for cleaning house (inside and out)!  So, I guess it’s time to get out the gloves, pressure cleaner and the scrapers and get busy.

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