Monday, January 31, 2011

Any deliverance is a deliverance we can use!

4:43 p.m. Today's project was to pick my 83 year-old dad up at his house in Redlands to have a consultation with his new opthamalogist. The question at hand was whether Daddy needed cataract surgery. I believe he had one removed years ago, but don't quote me.

Steve and I arrived in Redlands in plenty of time to stop at Vons, use the rest of the balance on the Starbucks card I received from our church's women's ministry, and pick up some groceries. True to the news I'd been hearing, corn products, like cornstarch, Corn Chex and corn meal prices were very high--did you ever think that you'd be paying $4.99 for a 40-oz box of Albers yellow corn meal, cornbread lovers? Instead, I bought a 5 lb generic bag for about the same price. I am planning a little experiment: wrap the bag of cornmeal securely in Ziploc gallon bag, tape shut, and freeze. If it freezes without moisture clumping it up, I am going to stock up, because prices will go sky high when ethanol production for fuel rises. Food riots in poor countries won't be far behind. Bought an extra bottle of corn oil, Corn Chex and some cornstarch, too. We'll see how my little experiment goes!

Proverbs 6:6 says in the more commanding KJV: "Go to the ant, thou sluggard. Consider her ways and be wise: which, having no guide, overseer or ruler, provideth her meat in the summer, and gathereth her food in the harvest." On the human end, the Proverbs 31 woman makes provision of all kinds for her family. And if no real supply-and-demand problem arises, I'll still have extra supplies for my kitchen!

My dad was told he doesn't need the surgery and to come back next year. Praise the Lord! After we dropped him off at home, I called the body shop, only to find out that they had to do other things to it--they assured me it wouldn't cost me extra--and it just got painted today. They said maybe Wednesday. What?! I maintained a disappointed-but-nice demeanor and left a message for Bob and Debbie, asking how soon they need their car back.

More jolly news greeted me at the school district benefits office where I went to pay my health insurance bill. Seems I've fallen behind, but haven't received a notice to that effect. Guess I'll be out there tomorrow when my pension checks come in. One can so easily be tempted to take on a Job complex when bad news comes our way, but there is a vastly superior approach.

In Mike MacIntosh's Horizon online devotional today, which I read after we got home, he recounts the story of Ehud in Judges 3. Ehud did not lay claim to any major credentials, but verse 15 says he was "a left-handed man of the tribe of Benjamin." The Israelites had been paying tribute money to Eglon, king of Moab, and Ehud was sent to deliver the money. In a clever trick, he manages to get the king alone, and then approaches him from the left and kills him, leads a victorious war party, and the Israelites slay 10,000 Moabite warriors, buying 80 years of peace for the nation.

What caused the turnaround from subjugated to subjugator? Back to verse 15 (NLT), "When the people of Israel cried out to the LORD for help, the LORD again raised up a rescuer to save them." The people cried out, God heard them, and did a mighty work in their behalf. This is a lesson we all would do well to learn.

Steve and I took the time to pray to the Lord on the way home, confessing a lack of diligence in the matter, repenting, and crying out for deliverance. Rather than look ahead to other repurcussions, which is tempting, fall into despair or "lean on our own understanding," we decided to "trust in the LORD with all our hearts," Proverbs 3:5.

Any deliverance the Lord chooses to send will be the right kind of deliverance--and there is total peace in that!

Sunday, January 30, 2011

A work that cannot be overthrown

7:55 p.m. Today's project was to spend the day in koinonia, at church this morning and later this evening at Home Fellowship. This morning we heard a beautifully stern message from our pastor on the first commandment, Exodus 20:3, "Thou shalt have no other gods before Me." (KJV, the translation most of us were trained to memorize the Ten Commandments in). Pastor John brought out the fact that the ancient false gods of intellect, pleasure, and sensuality are still with us today, just not carved as idols to be carried about and placed in shrines.

The message hit home, because there were large altar calls prayed in at both second and third services. The great deluder Satan, the enemy of our souls, suffered a beat-down today at Calvary Chapel Moreno Valley!

Before the service, Steve and I had arrived at church in our borrowed car, and made our first destination the bookstore, where Stephanie, bookstore manager, had my Galatians: An Exploration of Faith and Freedom, ready for me to pick up. To my delight, and more importantly, a testimony to the power of the scriptures, she told me that she became engrossed in the study, not just checking for dotted i's and crossed t's! A few of my Piecemaker friends were in there, and were very excited to see the book, and encouraging to me as I enter the last steps to publication. In the sanctuary with several minutes to go before service started, I made a beeline to show it to ladies who had done the study two summers ago. One of them, Kathy Langtry, had done content edits for me. I also had a chance to talk with retired missionary Dottie Sedgwick who has been following the book's progress on Facebook.

So many friends share in the joy of this book's birthing!

After church, Steve and I had sweet conversations with our couples friends and picked up our tithe receipt. As we went around the corner, there was Carole Gift Page, author of 48 books and writing professor at Biola University, who had advised me early on and endorsed Galatians! She is currently encouraging me and giving guidance for my next book about Steve's experience with Alzheimer's. We also talked about how tough the publication industry has become. Despite setbacks that can occur, as Christians we can count on the Lord "being in our corner." Just as the Pharisee Gamaliel advised the Sanhedrin concerning the miracle-working early Church in Acts 5:38-39, I feel this assurance:

If this plan or work is of men, it will come to nothing; but if it be of God, you cannot overthrow it.

Such a stellar day did not start out auspiciously. At 4 a.m., Steve sat up, took off his C-pap mask, and I disgruntedly figured he had to go to the bathroom. But no, he heard someone knocking on our bedroom door! Admittedly, I could have missed it with a fan running and earplugs in. It took him about a minute to locate the doorknob--give him credit for having enough sense not to turn on a light with his wife trying to get back to sleep! But there was no one there. It was a minor incident, but had major repercussions. Steve went back to sleep immediately, but I stayed awake for the next 90 minutes, praying to make the best use of my time. I didn't get back to sleep until I took an aspirin about 5:45 with a 6:30 wake up time...maybe we shouldn't have watched Alfred Hitchcock's suspenseful "Dial M for Murder" earlier that evening!

A refreshing nap strengthened me for driving in the rain to Home Fellowship. We spent an hour in prayer for one another's needs, had a beautiful dinner, and closed with an exhortation to love and forgive one another--our hurts, wrongs done, past issues when our own needs were not met. I have had several opportunities to do just that this week at home, and the glory goes to Jesus for the strength to truly forgive. And when a believer chooses to forgive, it blesses the heart of God, who has forgiven us all so much!

Whether it's God forgiving a lifetime of sin for a new believer; or spouses, parents and children forgiving one another in order to follow the Master's example, that is a work of the Holy Spirit, and it cannot be overthrown!

Saturday, January 29, 2011

My God was a little too small

3:27 p.m. Today's project was to arrange a ride to and from church because we wouldn't have a car until sometime Monday. Once I got my list of errands accomplished, staying home last night and today were no problem. Last night Steve and I watched Hitchcock's "Dial M for Murder," and today, we took advantage of the sunny day to work in the garden and give the dogs a bath.

Just one problem--how would we get to church and Home Fellowship? We could get a ride to second service with my daughter, but she teaches children's church 3rd service. So we'd need a ride home. I was also trying to think of anyone from Riverside in our Home Fellowship group who could find room for the two of us, but wasn't coming up with anyone. It was just too much to ask anyone from Moreno Valley to pick us up, drive us to the far eastern edge of town, and then back home to Riverside afterwards (even though someone probably would have done it, bless their loving hearts). I was resigned to giving that wonderful Bible study a miss this week.

The Lord kept telling me to call our good friends Bob and Debbie, I figured for that much-needed ride home from church. So after scrubbing up hands and feet that seemed like they'd never get clean again from embedded garden soil, I gave Debbie a call. Explaining about my car in the body shop, I asked if they would please do us a favor and give us a ride home from church. She said, "How about this? We'll loan you our Focus! We don't need it and you'd have much more flexibility for the weekend." I said, "WOW, you're kidding!" She went on, "And I can just drive Bob to work on Monday. Then I'll go along with Bob later on and we'll get the car from you when you have yours back!"

I was just stammering my gratitude and disbelief at what I was hearing. We made arrangements for later in the afternoon and said goodbye. I immediately texted the kids and couldn't wait to tell Steve when he came back from walking the dogs. He was thrilled, and we prayed with thanksgiving for the fruit of the Spirit, love, shown in our friends' lives, to a God who is so much bigger than to limit Himself to the tiniest amount of help for one of His children!

Ephesians 3:20a describes God as

Him who is able to do exceedingly abundantly above all that we ask or think
and Psalm 23:6 assures me
Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life, and I will dwell in the house of the LORD forever.

Bob and Debbie just called to say they are on their way--it's just too much and I pray I won't collapse in tears...
Bob arrived with the lovely silver car, and we joyfully fellowshipped with him before Debbie drove up with their main car. Everything was in great order, and our time together was sweet.
The sun set, the temperature dropped, and our friends headed home, leaving behind what Paul describes in 2 Corinthians 2:15 as "the fragrance of Christ."

Friday, January 28, 2011

By many or by few

3:12 p.m. Today's project was to accomplish as much as possible before turning our rental car back to Enterprise within 24 hours of borrowing it. I desperately needed the $300 deposit released back into our account, thus the determination. And of course, I didn't want to be charged for another day!
Yesterday, Enterprise picked us up at 3:30 and we rented a nice compact sedan for the price of a subcompact, because our salesperson didn't want to move other cars to get to the smallest one. Thank you, Lord! It was a bright red Hyundai, first time I'd ever been in one. It came with 1/4 tank of gas, so we filled it up for our trip to Cerritos to meet our son Kriss and his wife Marisela for dinner.We stopped by Vons for some badly needed groceries, did some banking, deposited the groceries at home, and hit the road.
During that time, Steve and I got the disappointing news from the dealer repairing our Jeep that they would be painting it today; therefore, "we'll be looking at Monday for it to be done." I was polite, of course, but wanted to say, I'm done! "Done" with being carless for a week and a half! Oh well.
Sometimes you do the Charlie Brown sigh...and just go on with your day. I had some products I wanted Marisela to try, since she is quite a talented makeup artist, helping glamorize others for fun, and will be doing Heidi's wedding face. (I always throw in a little Mary Kay business!) We had a wonderful time at BJ's and got home around 10:30.
This morning dawned very brightly, with a $60 credit card sale by phone. A friend was home from work, on the mend from a bad cold, and needed some product. She'll pick it up when she gets better. PTL! Now my day of making the best of a few hours with a rental car began!
After Steve's caregiver came over, I left for the hair salon, and picked up some future orders. From there, stopped home to get Steve's lunch started and sign the caregiver's timesheet.
Leaving again, I bought broccoli plants, spinach and carrot seeds and potting soil at Parkview Nursery, stopped at Ralphs for coffee creamer, unloaded my Mary Kay products at home, and picked up Steve. Whew! I was on a roll--speaking of which, I heated up some leftover chicken spring rolls from BJ's and ate them as we headed for Fantastic Sams in Mission Grove. There I left some catalogs and a sample of handcream at a stylist's request.
The final stop before turning in the car was Alin Party Supply to pick up Heidi's wedding invitations, which were very well done and gorgeous (and leave samples with both the male and female bridal section clerks)! You just never know who will call!
Enterprise Rental Car at last! Steve carried the box with invitations and I went up to the desk, greeting the guy who checked us out yesterday, but being helped by a nice girl. I mentioned that we had brought the car in with 1/4 tank more gas that we'd had when we picked it up, and they assured me of a voucher for that. "I'm have a business myself, so I always try to get a deal!" and we all had a laugh. I gave eye shadow samples to the three gals there. The young lady quickly volunteered to drive us home after refunding our deposit, and on the way asked about the Mary Kay business. She had tried some products, needed two items, her source in Wisconsin no longer carries her products, and she ended up coming into the house, buying one item and ordering another!
So much for having a down week because of lack of my Jeep! Even on Tuesday, a surprise product payment came my way while I was busy helping my scrapbooking instructor with the Heart to Home ministry.
As I reflected with tears of joy on my $110 week, a wonderful scripture came to mind, I Samuel 14:6b, when Jonathan reassured his armorbearer just before the two of them routed a garrison of Philistines:
Nothing restrains the LORD from saving by many or by few.

Thursday, January 27, 2011

Relishing, not regretting, last chances

1:47 p.m. Today's project was to act upon a word from the Lord to resolve a question I'd laid out before Him.

Every year, Steve and I attend the Married Couples' Dinner our church hosts, either in our cleared-out sanctuary, or at the Calvary Bible College in Murrieta Hot Springs. The cost this year, for a steak dinner with all the trimmings and dessert, is $50.00. The way this month has been going, I couldn't justify spending the money or expending the gas, and had determined to pass it up this year. I can certainly whip up a special meal for two and enjoy doing it, but I really enjoy a lovely night out on Valentines Day.

Our finances have mended somewhat now, but I hadn't changed my mind. Many couples at church are in a similar position--groceries for the week or one dinner out! The church does accept anonymous scholarships for the event, but I doubt we'd qualify like a young couple with kids who are out of work. And I would want such a couple to be blessed so wonderfully rather than us.

I would have been totally resigned to missing the dinner, if a nagging thought hadn't kept popping in. "What if this is the last time you can attend?" It would be tempting to call it needling by the enemy, but with Steve getting more and more confused, and having a harder time each day eating appropriately, I do have to take it into consideration. At home, we constantly practice keeping his napkin in his lap, eating with a knife and fork, and not eating every last tiny crumb off of his plate like he's never eaten before and never will again. So a knife and fork dinner at crowded tables could be risky, too, somewhat embarrassing for Steve and awkward for people who don't know us well, if he forgets his table manners, spills or drops something from his shaky hands...

At Sunday night Home Fellowship, where we take turns bringing dinner, Steve can no longer serve himself in the buffet line, which is fine--I just fix two plates. But then, I need to steer him out of the kitchen at the end because he'll grab cookies and wrap them in a napkin for home, like he didn't already have dessert, and there's no food here at home. One time, after the Bible study was over, I said,"Let's go!" He looked at me in a stricken way, and loudly whined, "But I'm still hungry!" (Like a child whose only reason for being at an adult gathering is to get something to eat). The others nearby who heard this exchange graciously went on with putting on their coats and leaving, because they are well aware of his condition and blessedly tactful. I merely stated in a calm voice, "Please get your coat and let's go."

As for the Valentines dinner, the Lord had other ideas! This morning, a friend who hosted the second Home Fellowship we joined, called and asked if we'd like to drive with them to the Couples' Dinner. Ron and Gretchen hadn't been to the Conference Center before, and didn't want to go alone. The four of us have gotten together over the last few years, and we have a great time. With their teaching and ministry backgrounds, they know how to keep conversations seamlessly flowing, while still giving Steve time to finish his thoughts. It's been a while since we did more than greet each other after church, so they will notice a big difference in Steve's speaking ability. But it won't matter. That's the love that they have for us!

I John 4:7 says, "Beloved, let us love one another: for love is of God; and everyone who loves is born of God and knows God."

After we talked, I went ahead and booked our reservation online for the dinner and Gretchen did the same. It was obviously the Lord! In His compassion, He knows that barring a miracle, Steve won't be able to attend next year; even getting him dressed in a suit and tie is already extremely difficult. And he won't know where we are going or what we'll be doing until the moment we walk in the door, even with me discussing the dinner repeatedly all day.

That's all right. I'll be just as proud to walk into the dinner with my husband as ever, and to enjoy his unique brand of "being in the moment!"

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

500 days of rejoicing

3:25 p.m. Today's project is to rejoice!

Not only am I rejoicing in Heidi and Pavel's wonderful engagement pictures , and the way the wedding elements are fitting into place, but am rejoicing in the way that the Lord is putting together the business aspects of my life in the smooth way He does things, rather than the agitated approach I was using two days ago! Absolutely every matter that had me up at night, whether forms to be mailed or arrangements to be put into place, lined up beautifully today. Praise the Lord!

Don't you just love the Lord our Provider, Healer, Leader, and above all, Savior? "With God, all things are possible,"Jesus said in Mark 10:27, whether that means the problems we have unknowingly avoided because of His mercy, or the troubles we've plunged into that He rescues us from.

This blog marked 500 posts in the last year and a half, posts that God has faithfully given me seven days a week, on every subject that the Holy Spirit brings to my attention by God's will for my life--for the edification and encouragement of believers, a witness to the unsaved, and ultimately, I pray, for His glory. I pray that Jesus' heart, His love, and His call to all people would shine through these articles.

When I use the word "rejoice," I am not necessarily denoting hilarity or a response to good news only, although I can rejoice as excitedly as anyone. ( Or more so!) The Greek language used in the New Testament has many nuances, some of which seem almost contradictory. Often Christians are exhorted and challenged in what we should be rejoicing in, as the following partial list from Vine's Expository Dictionary of New Testament Words demonstrates. Christians are to rejoice in:

  • The Lord, Philippians 3:1
  • His Incarnation (Jesus Christ coming to earth as a man), Luke 1:14
  • His power, Luke 13:17
  • His presence with the Father, John 14:28
  • His presence with us, John 16:22
  • His ultimate triumph, John 8:56
  • Hearing the gospel, Acts 13:48
  • Our salvation, Acts 8:39
  • Receiving the Lord, Luke 19:6
  • Our enrollment in heaven, Luke 10:20
  • Our liberty in Christ, Acts 15:31
  • Our hope, Romans 12:12
  • Our prospect of reward, Matthew 5:12
  • The obedience and godly conduct of fellow believers, Romans 16:19

I find those absolute reasons for daily rejoicing, but the following list not so much:

  • Suffering with Christ, Acts 5:41
  • Suffering in the cause of the gospel, 2 Corinthians 13:9
  • In persecutions, trials and afflictions, Matthew 5:12

Yet, I am called to rejoice in all of these matters, and several hundred more, according to this dictionary! In fact, I am told in Philippians 4:4, "Rejoice in the Lord always: and again I say, Rejoice."

Impossible? Of course it is, in my own mind and heart! But let me return, by faith, to Jesus' words in Mark 10:27 :


Tuesday, January 25, 2011

What if there's only one?

4:10 p.m. Today's project was to prepare for our Heart to Home ministry's first class, Scrapbooking Memories, by instructor Candy Bunyan. Like our trip through Colorado where we saw this elk, memories of special occasions deserve a lovely setting to preserve them in. Since scrapbooking takes organization, motivation and embellishments to add pizzaz to the pages, it's great to offer the ladies of Calvary Chapel Moreno Valley instruction in producing a professional quality keepsake with minimal frustration.
We had a late start scheduling classes, and wanted to have a grouping of at least three choices for our 8 1/2 x 11" flyers, for a more economical use of resources. So the class only had one Sunday, two days ago, for sign-ups. Since it's a two week class, I'll take sign-ups for next week, and trooper Candy assures that the ladies will finish their book in either one week or two.
As of this morning, she has one student, but she'll teach the class, and I'll open with a devotional as if the room were full. I am reminded of when Abraham was warned by God that Sodom and Gomorah were going to be destroyed (Genesis 18). In verse 32, God agrees that if even ten righteous people can be found, He won't destroy the city. Amazingly, not even ten could be found, and the rest is history--nothing left on that plain but salt!
Our God faithfully deals with each of us, in Christ, as if we were the only one who need saving! I Timothy 1:15 says, "This is a faithful saying, and worthy of all acceptation, that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners" (and Paul adds)"of whom I am chief."
Each of us could make that claim!
And if Christ would have died to save even one of us, we can serve and minister to one class member. Could we do any less?

Monday, January 24, 2011

How to eat an elephant

4:18 p.m. Today's project was to joyfully clip out my daughter's engagement announcement from the Press Enterprise newspaper. It was very nicely done, with no spelling errors. I wish I could say that the rest of the day was as pleasing as it started out!
After a hectic Sunday evening, making 3 casseroles and safely delivering them "hot and ready" to Home Fellowship, cleaning up and getting back home, I was ready for a good sleep and a lazy Monday. Steve and I did start our daily devotions around 8 a.m., and I did putter around in my robe until 11. Wisely, he went about to his outdoor chores, while I fell for the voice of responsibility in my head that said, "It's the first business day of the week, better get the bills organized, rent a car while the Jeep is in the body shop, and do some financial planning!"
On and on I went, mailing out health insurance and gas bills, calling the administrator for the TSA I'm dissolving by February 16 when I'm 59 1/2, and later printing up the form from my computer; avoiding the end of the grace period for both Heidi's and one of my life insurance policies; checking on the underwriting for my new policy and finding that the agent's office phone number was disconnected; calling to consolidate and cut the interest rate on two bills. Additionally, I was sweating the $500 deductible we have to pay before we can get the car out of the shop, since the Christmas tree that rolled into our path had no known driver Mercury could subrogate from to pay them back for our repairs. Renting a subcompact car from Enterprise at $39.95/day isn't too bad, especially if I apply my AAA discount, but the $300 deposit on a credit card has me unnerved. I had thought to have a car by Wednesday so I could pick up my book from "Editor Stephanie," but I may just have her keep it until Sunday and cut my rental time to just Thursday-Friday when the work should be finished.
Was it a lack of faith to even rent a car? Last night at Home Fellowship, a brother prayed that I wouldn't even have to spend money to have some transportation, and someone else offered us a stick shift he doesn't need. I was blessed by the offer, but can't imagine driving in the Long Beach traffic to see my son for his wife's birthday while trying to remember how to work a clutch! Oh me of little faith, I am thinking here...
But good things are happening for the homebound! At least my carpool buddy is going to drive to women's Bible study tomorrow. And if we have any sign-ups for Heart to Home's scrapbooking class tomorrow night, the class' instructor Candace offered to give Steve and me a ride since she doesn't live that far away. God bless our family of believers!
Practically escaping out to the garden to water my carrot and lettuce seeds, I soon found myself back in the house, looking for life insurance policies and due dates. Steve had gone out with the dogs, and feeling utterly overwhelmed, I began crying. I literally thought I might say to someone, "Whatever you do, don't get into a no-fault accident in your car unlesss there's another party involved that your insurance company can get your deductible from; and don't you or your spouse become permanently disabled!" That's how bitter I was feeling. Totally in sin.
I had been praying off and on all day as each frustration popped up, but I hadn't done what I needed to do, and finally broke down, dropping onto my knees at the foot of my bed and pouring it all out to my Lord. God is definitely getting problems handled, like providing care for Steve for a few hours twice a week, good health for both of us, mortgage modification, a supportive family, and a car for last week, but I'm responsible to find tax and retirement documents that I've misplaced because so much is happening at once. Oh yes, we have a wedding coming up, too! I was forgetting that God is ahead of me and every one of my concerns, and knows my loneliness in not having a partner who can be of assistance or even take the lead in planning and prioritizing the finances.
As for loneliness, no one was lonelier than Christ on the cross, I'm recalling, as Hebrews 12:3-4 (KJV) says:
"For consider Him who endured such contradiction of sinners against Himself, lest ye be weary and faint in your minds; ye have not yet resisted unto blood, striving against sin."
Consider Him--that's what I had not done throughout my day, or I wouldn't have overwhelmed myself with several complicated, demanding, crucial tasks. I would have listened to the Spirit's urging to work at a careful, less frenzied pace. Maybe I would have had more time for Steve, other than just what was necessary. Thankfully, I did take some time for us to pray together in the afternoon, and those prayers were answered with a calmer afternoon when our daughter took me to pick up Steve's prescriptions and grab a few groceries we needed.
When I described my day, she asked, "Why did you do so much at once?" I answered, "I just bought into the lie that it's a business day, you've got to get all these things taken care of!" But it's just not so. Everything needs to be done in good time--GOD's time!
The old adage asks: "How do you eat an elephant?"
Answer: "One bite at a time."

Sunday, January 23, 2011

Survival vs. savagery

11:56 a.m. Today's project, starting in the wee hours of the morning, was to rid my mind of the picture of an innocent baby zebra being brutally dragged by the neck, bitten, kicked, stomped, jumped on, half-drowned in the water hole and left for dead by an adult male. I must stop watching these violent nature shows...

The narrating researchers trying to figure out the cause of this unbelievable beat-down came to the following explanation: his mother had been pregnant when she joined the herd, the harem of a single dominant male. And that male would not tolerate the existence of this little calf which was not his. "He is not interested in passing down another male's genes," the researcher said. I suppose one whiff of the little one told the male it was not his, so it had to die. Perhaps this male, when grown, would have had no hesitation challenging the older male for the harem as a genetic outsider. Somehow this fit in with survival of the fittest. And since animals know no pity, or justice, or generosity in the wild, what had to be done had to be done. The mother came over, kicking and biting the male, but he easily repulsed her, and the calf lay motionless on the ground. The male then signaled that it was time for the herd to move on. But you could see that the mother was negotiating, making clear she wasn't leaving her baby alone to die. It's a wonder she wasn't killed, too. But the herd left and mother and baby were left alone, very dangerous, because a pack of hyenas was nearby.

When the researchers came back in the morning, they were astounded that the baby was still lying there in one piece--but they didn't have to look far for their answer. The hyenas had killed and devoured the mother, a much bigger feast. That mom had exposed herself to certain death by staying alone with her baby. She made her choice: coming under the protection of the male was not worth abandoning her baby. A fatal error, leaving the safety of the herd, but one most human mothers can relate to!

Did I say "most," not, "all?" Sadly, yes. The human patients of a certain Philadelphia abortion doctor did not put their children first. Now a national scandal, I read an AP story on January 20, 2011, of a doctor who "made millions of dollars over 30 years." He "induced labor, forced the live birth of viable babies in the sixth, seventh, eighth month of prenancy and then killed those babies by cutting into the back of the neck with scissors and severing their spinal cord," according to D.A. Seth Williams.

The conditions were filthy, the personnel had no medical training and bags and bottles holding aborted fetuses "were scattered throughout the building," Williams said. "There were jars, lining shelves, with severed feet that he kept for no medical purpose." The "doctor" is charged "with eight counts of murder in the death of one patient and seven babies that were born alive and then killed with scissors." A high school student performed intraveneous anesthesia with potentially lethal narcotics, acccording to the D.A.

Question: who is the savage--the vicious male zebra ensuring control, dominance and ultimately, survival of his herd, or the abortionist, acting purely for money?

As we ponder that question, I'll close with I Timothy 6:6-10, a strong admonition to us:

Now godliness with contentment is great gain. For we brought nothing into this world, and it is certain that we can carry nothing out. And having food and clothing, with these we shall be content. But those who desire to be rich fall into temptation and a snare, and into many foolish and harmful lusts which drown men in destruction and perdition. For the love of money is the root of all kinds of evil, for which some have strayed from the faith in their greediness, and pierced themselves through with many sorrows.
Lord, pierce our hearts today, and give us a protective love for innocent babies!

Saturday, January 22, 2011

Getting out the red pen

3:47 p.m. Today's project was to review the final copy of my book, Galatians: An Exploration of Faith and Freedom, for minor errors, such as punctuation marks, that slipped past the eagle eyes of my proofreader and the editor at Tate Publishing.
Not knowing how reliable, or unbiased I'd be, I asked pastor's wife and our church bookstore manager Stephanie McTigue to do some final proofing as well. Honestly, I'm still incredulous that I've even got the book in my hands! It is beautiful in an understated, classical way that feels comfortable to hold, printed on non-glossy cream-colored pages. The publisher did a wonderful job!
I might not be reliable because I am only learning to be a "detail person"--I'm big picture all the way. Being a mother and homemaker has tempered that tendency, but let's not fit a square peg into a round hole. And I might be a tad biased for the same reason that parents don't sit on judging panels for music, beauty and sports competitions. This is my baby, although birthed 20+ years ago, it's seeing the light of day in a new form.
It actually made me nervous to read the personal stories that introduce each chapter, as if I didn't know what I'd already written! Everything seems fresh, so I kept wondering, "What's going to happen next?" like I would approach someone else's book. And then I thought, "Are these stories going to be embarassing? Or boastful? Or just seem to be what they are, factual events from my life?" Readers will be judging it for themselves soon enough!
I took the book, a red pen, and sat down at my small front patio table to begin reading the text. Last night I had gone through the Table of Contents, at the editor's written direction, to make sure the page numbers matched the chapter titles. So far, so good. The layout people have sent me an online live Word document to type in the errors I find, starting with the page, the error or omission, what is in that spot now, and then a blank space for the editor to accept or reject my correction. (I guess they know better than I do what's what!) I found that the author photograph had not been credited to Heather Allison Love Photography (my daughter's business); and that the endorsements from author Carole Gift Page and Christian school director Charlotte Stevens were missing from the back cover. I emailed that information also, with a note that these were very important to me.
There is a separate sheet in the packet that has an author sign-off on the colors of the cover. The colors don't seem to be what I'd chosen exactly, but darker, more serious. My subject matter is serious--salvation by grace alone--but the tone of the book is like my walk with the Lord--full of joy and excitement. Though sorely tried, I'm with the Apostle Peter in my faith, as I "rejoice with joy unspeakable and full of glory." (I Peter 1:8)
Whether I should make an issue of the color is a matter of prayer. How much can be changed at this point? Or does this mock-up version of the book even show the true color? As for the back cover, my portrait is there, which in and of itself is a bit unnerving! Heather did a great job--I'm just not used to the concept of me on a book cover!! It's like a dream or something I've just imagined...
The Lord is so good!
I've found some little punctuation errors, and Stephanie will probably find more. And I am trying to use the correct editing marks, with some success. As with most efforts, Ecclesiastes 4:9 rings true: "Two are better than one, for they have a good reward for their labor." A practiced, studious, neutral reader will do very well in this effort!
As long as I have dreamed of writing a book, God put it together this year, this time, for people to read now. His ways and plans for my life are beyond anything I could have imagined, both the joys and trials. I'll close with familiar verses, Ecclesiastes 3:1 and 11:
To everything there is a season, and a time for every purpose under heaven.
He has made everything beautiful in His time.

Friday, January 21, 2011

Oil and oil don't mix

4:07 p.m. Today's project was to spend more time in prayer, especially praying with Steve throughout the day, and as a result, obey God's quietly insistent voice immediately in matters large and small.

There were various tasks to do as the morning unfolded. The Lord told me to send an encouraging text message to my daughter, complete with Spirit-created wording, and when I hesitated, making sure it was Him and not my own flesh, He said twice, "Do it now." (Of course it was the exact time she could use her phone before work.) He showed me the solution to help Steve be more comfortable and not mixed up as he gets into bed with his C-pap machine, by simply going to the linen closet, selecting a different sheet set, and rearranging the covers. The odd thing was, that I remembered using that set on a queen bed, not the California King we use. Despite my hesitation, and hurry to get ready to go out, I got the sheets and they fit perfectly. Seems I forgot that they were too big for the bed we used them on before. But God hadn't forgotten. I am hoping--no, fully expecting-- that the problem will be solved this evening at bedtime.

On K-Wave radio today, Chuck Smith defined "hope" as "desire+ expectation," exemplified by believers who have our eternal hope in Christ. We desire to be with Him, and we expect to be with Him in Heaven one day! And listening to Pastor Chuck at that exact time was God's direction as well. I've been driving my son-in-law's car, bless his heart, because the Jeep is in the Moss Bros. body shop. In the morning, I generally listen to talk radio, then to KSGN for Christian music later in the day or evening. On my way to work before I retired, I used to catch Chuck Smith on K-Wave, or listen to an evangelical pastor on a Spanish station; on the way home, it was Pastors' Perspective and then Jack Hibbs, both my daughter's and my favorite, depending on the time I left work.

As a later-rising retiree, I'm not finished with my own devotions in time for morning programs, and the rest of the day can be very random. But today in Nick's car, I noticed that it only played FM, and let's just say that there is a generation gap between my ears and the station he had it on! So I tried to move it to 90.1 Christian rock, or KSGN, a little more mellow, but God directed me to turn to K-Wave 107.9. On the way to my appointment, I heard David Rosales on restoration after being away from the Lord, citing the example of Mark in II Timothy 4:11, whom Paul commended, saying (NLT), "he will be helpful to me in my ministry." I had read that passage during my own study time this morning. So beautiful the way a young man that Paul had had no use for back in Acts 13, had become a requested helper at the end of Paul's life, to minister to him in prison!

When Pastor Chuck's program came on, he spoke from I Corinthians 13:13,

And now abide faith, hope and love, these three; but the greatest of these is love.

The NLT puts it,

Three things will last forever--faith, hope, and love--and the greatest of these is love.

Love, whether between family, friends, or in marriage, is a funny thing! It seems that if two people are extremely alike, they just butt heads. Yet, if they are opposites, they attract, and perfectly complement each other, especially as spouses. I know that I get along well with the ones of my kids who are quite a bit like me, but with career or style differences, but you should see the head-butting with the ones who are almost identical in gifts, ministry and career choices!

You've heard it said, "Oil and water don't mix," and my past students have had fun doing science fair projects to prove or disprove it. But when personalities are concerned, I've found that "oil and oil don't mix!" See above illustration of my attempt to blend two kinds of liquid soap. It's been 3 weeks and they have not yet blended! They're alike, but somehow in conflict...

I am relieved to say that my husband and I are wildly different--he's quiet, technical and mechanical, I'm an academic and a bookworm and quite able to take a loud public stand on issues I believe in! I was forced to become practical because I have to live every day, darn it, and was called to raise a family. "Get your head out of the clouds," my mom would tell me daily. I did!

God brought Steve and me together because of our love for the Lord and Bible study, our similar upbringing, beliefs and standards, and admiration for the others' positive aspects. We've spent nearly 30 years being amazed by what the other can do, and have seen how things neither of us would have considered individually made a glorious, prosperous outcome for us as a couple and family when blended together.
Whether we just naturally flow with some people, never exchanging a cross word, or whether we experience periodic fireworks, those incidents will pass away. What remains forever is faith--that God will do what is best for me, and for all mankind; hope, heaven-based and heaven-bound; and love, "which has a most vehement flame" (Song of 8:6). Love must be my calling, and my privilege to extend to all whom God has placed in my life.
"As He is, so are we in this world" I John 4:17 says. And if i want to be like my Lord, I will love!

Thursday, January 20, 2011

Standing in the gap

3:04 p.m. Today's project was to plant the iris and amaryllis bulbs Check Spellinggiven to us by our daughter's fiance Pavel, whose family are major gardeners. After calling for some quick instructions, I had Steve use his post-hole digger and make the holes I needed.
The area I've wanted to beautify is the slope on the side of our front yard. The year my mother died, I had planted a fern and shade garden there with lilies of different kinds, a soothing place to pray after my daily visits to her bedside at Loma Linda University Medical Center. The next year, a massive auto-truck collision broke down our wall, knocked down two trees, and destroyed my garden. No one was hurt, praise the Lord, but it sure was strange to see a huge truck in the front yard...even the cops were taking pictures on their cellphones!
Today, I wanted the flowers to be about a foot apart, in a zigzag pattern on the lower part of the slope. It was important, Pavel said, to leave at least a 1 foot gap between the bulbs, because they'll spread and multiply over the years. That's a good thing for flowers, but gaps are not acceptable when it comes to prayer and ministry to the Lord!
There's been a quiet strain of thought--or more accurately, conviction--going on in my mind over the last month, especially since I finished reading a Christmas gift from my son Steven, The Purple Pig and Other Miracles by Dick Eastman, that chronicles the beginning of 24/7 prayer ministries throughout the globe: worldwide house-to-house evangelism by Every Home for Christ; the International House of Prayer in Kansas City; the Call, the annual youth prayer gathering in Sacramento; the Day of Prayer May 23rd; and Youth with a Mission, that takes young people across the seas with the gospel.
Before that, I had been inspired by a speaker who came to the high school group where Steven is a leader at the People's Church in Fresno, Marta Escarcega, who taught the students about intercessory prayer. The warriors of the Seven Mountain Worship Intercession Network keep the Central Valley covered in prayer in homes and on the streets of the city. I had the privilege of sitting in on one of her sessions while visiting Steven's church, and learned quite a bit.
Last night, while Steve and I were enjoying worship and Bible studies on God TV, I texted Steven to ask if the Saturday night prayer meeting he started on the Fresno Pacific campus was inspired by Purple Pig, and if it led to asking the Lord a contemporary version of "What wilt thou have me to do?" as Saul of Tarsus asked the risen Jesus on the Road to Damascus (Acts 9:6). Yes, he answered, and now they have added worship with the prayers, sometimes with instruments, sometimes not. I texted him back that I am now asking God the same question.
I definitely know that I don't commit enough time to focused intercession--that's a sorry fact. My tendency is to share, preach, teach and write about God's Word. As a people person, I thrive on ministry to my sisters and serving wherever asked at church. However, even though each believer has specific gifts from the Holy Spirit (Romans 12:4-8; I Corinthians 12), we are ALL commanded to pray for one another for healing (James 5:16), for victory in spiritual warfare (Ephesians 6:18) and to pray for the furtherance of the gospel (2 Corinthians 1:11). How many prayer meetings have I attended lately?! None. Lord, forgive me for not making the effort!
Today on Facebook, Steven posted Ezekiel 22:30:
And I sought for a man among them, that should make up the hedge, and stand in the gap before me for the land, that I should not destroy it, but I found none.
He followed with a question: "Who will stand in the gap?"
I want to say to God, "Send me! Use me to pray, seriously commit to prayer in any way You desire and design!" but I feel nervous and uneasy, concerned about more time away from my husband in his time of need, gas money, etc. etc., a pile of excuses and lame ones at that. I can commit to prayer time right here at home; Steve and I can pray more together to start with. And God can lead in any direction He chooses, that's the best part--assuring, yet a bit scary.
Will the gap widen or shrink? We believers must each ask what our part is to be in the ministry of intercession.

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

What was supposed to happen

2:30 p.m. Today's project was to make sure I had transportation home after dropping off my Jeep at Moss Motors' Riverside body shop. It would also be nice to have something to drive for the next 5-7 days, but the Lord would have to arrange that. For all I know, He might ordain me to just stay home! That's exactly what I did when my kids were small, because it was just too much stress some days to get everyone ready---by then we'd just about be ready for our nap!

But I left a hopeful request to borrow one of their cars with my son-in-law Nick .

The Mercury Insurance adjuster needed to look at the car by 12:00 p.m. Knowing I only had until noon to get any errands done, I got both of us up early, we had our morning devotions and breakfast, and I headed to the grocery store for some needed non-perishable supplies, in case I were to be stranded for a week. Then I headed downtown to McGrath's, a caterer I have used before, both at my home and for school events. Mark McGrath's daughter was on Mock Trial with our Heather the year that King High won several County titles, including our daughter as "Clerk of the Year." And I was the mom who arranged the celebration banquet for the team and families--with McGrath's. They cater many school district and civic events with great food, service, and prices.

Mark and I had been talking over the last few days, and Heidi and I had explored their website, very pleased with our "preliminary findings." So today, I got to ask all of my questions, take notes, and give enough information to have him work up a quote for us later today, based on number of guests and two pasta choices, all-inclusive, with 3 servers for the buffet. Oddly enough, the owner just now called me by accident, because he had my proposal in front of him, but meant to call another company!

I might suspect that this is the caterer God has brought to our attention at this relatively late stage. With a June wedding, this should have been settled months ago, but with Heidi being sick and several matters postponed, we are now a bit behind in "wedding time." But God's timing is not ours, as Pator Tim Hamilton reminded us on Sunday, from Psalm 90:4:

For a thousand years in Your sight are like yesterday when it is past, and like a watch in the night.

As I talked with Mr. McGrath, he mentioned that he had a memorial to cater today that had come up suddenly. I asked, was it (my friend) from Panhellenic whose husband suddenly died last weekend, memorial today? Sure enough, it was. Hmmm, it's looking more and more like a God thing!

About 10:30, while we were going over details and figures, Heidi texted me to bring her some clothes from home. Ok, I answered, thinking, now I have to not only go home, pick up Steve and drop off groceries, but now go back and forth to Jurupa? And all before dropping the car at Moss Motors, several miles west off the 91 fwy? Ai! (or ach!) So in the same text I asked her if next Tuesday she and Pavel could come do a tasting, and set that for 6 p.m. It was now definitely time to end the meeting and head back up the hill towards the house! An insistent call from the insurance adjuster making sure we'd have the car at Moss on time didn't ease my tension.

I worked my way through Heidi's closet and saw a cute reminder of my two daughters rooming together for years: in black marker, now worn down to grey, were the words Heather's side forever! A married woman of two years' experience was just a little bit of sweetness from the Lord to lower my heart rate and let me enjoy my day! After all, hasn't God given us "richly all things to enjoy" (I Timothy 6:17)?

We drove off to Heidi's school, Pacific Avenue, I signed in, left a Mary Kay sample and catalog for the receptionist, and took the bag of clothes to her classroom, where she introduced me to her amazed 1st graders. They stared at me without making a sound--I don't think little kids can picture their teacher having a mother like they do! I complimented them, signed out at the office, and we headed out to the dealership.

Praise the Lord, that even with the switch-ups in plans and construction on the roads, we arrived 8 minutes before twelve! We had a very good visit with the receptionist while the adjuster and the body shop manager compared their numbers--more samples and a catalog given out--and we were soon on our way in the dealer's van headed towards home. The friendly gal driving heard that we have a daughter getting married and asked, "do you have a caterer?" I said, "I think we may have one--why?" She replied, "My husband works for one here in town, he's a cook." I politely asked, "which one?" "McGrath's." We just burst out laughing when I told her that's where I'd been this morning.

As a Christian, I am not a believer in coincidences. But three--or four, if you count Mock Trial--connections just today? That's no coincidence, that's the Lord bringing something to my attention! May the tasting next Tuesday seal the deal and a signed contract be the confirmation if this is the caterer God wants.

Meanwhile, I got a message from Heather's husband and called him back. They'll be bringing a car for us to borrow tonight at 6 p.m.

The events of today may not have been exactly what I'd been planning, but it was what was supposed to happen!

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

How did it go?

4:07 p.m. Today's project was to attend Bible study and then, after eating my pack lunch in the shade in their parking lot, have my initial tax return appointment for 2011. This was also the first time Steve's caregiver would be with him for six hours instead of the usual three.

I left a thorough list of hobbies and tasks Steve would usually be doing, plus, since the time was lengthy, planting carrot seeds and hoeing out the irrigation rows in the garden. Steve and I had lined them out yesterday, so now the job was to deepen them. We had also picked up some carrot seeds in preparation for today.

The morning started out in two odd ways: the caregiver had gotten a ticket last Tuesday for parking on the street in front of our house between 8:00 and 11:30! The new streetsweeping ordinance for 1st and 3rd Tuesdays each month, had gone into place during the summer, but since no one at the house parks on the street, I'd forgotten all about it. And, the sweeper goes by early in the morning, like 7:30. He was ticketed anyway, I guess for failure to read the sign. Should we pay the $41, or should his agency, since he was working? He didn't seem to have a problem paying it, but we were all feeling aggravated. "No temptation has overtaken you but such as is common to man," I Corinthians 10:13 says, so I guess we believers need to be more awake and aware of the local ordinances and be happy for the other two Tuesdays no tickets were issued!

The other obnoxious matter was that the automatic sprinklers came on at 8:00 a.m., instead of at midnight like Steve set them up 23 years ago! Lately, since being shut off for the rain, they have been coming on during the day, and since he's forgotten how to re-set the timer, and I never knew how, it's stuck in our craw! (Plus it's not "waterwise" to water during the day and we could get reported). His caregiver said he'd take a look at it, because he has a system at home.

Praise the Lord once again for His provision!

With the sprinklers going full force in the backyard, throwing the ball to the dogs was out of the question, but the garden is located out of the way. The two guys put in a really good day's work with lunch "sandwiched" in between. The front yard looked really nice, and the dogs had been walked, too. Apparently Jada and Bailey had some kind of sit-down strike along the way that I'm still waiting to hear about...quite odd!

Our tax appointment went well, with just a few new angles, so Patty and I had a pleasant time. I'll be back as mortgage and other interest forms and 1099's come in the mail. Now we'll see if the rice I added to my crockpot of chicken and gravy cooks! Not looking good so far...

My life just full of oddball irritations and delays, unreturned calls, ministry deadlines and wedding pressures that just need to be laughed off and coped with. When we heard at Bible study this morning about the truly dangerous conditions the ladies of Casa del Pastor, the women and children's shelter our church supports in San Vicente, Mexico, have escaped from to a new life in Christ, my daily issues are fairly benign. Perhaps they serve as useful distractions from the tragedy of Alzheimer's that looms over us daily. Sometimes, though, I allow myself to vent, and honestly, that's just wrong!

Carole Gift Page writes in her book Misty, the story of the child she lost hours after birth, about the many aggravations she and her husband faced in the months after their loss, like a rejected manuscript, and a car breakdown:

Lord, I recognize that my anger today wasn't just a response to a rejected manuscript; it was my grief over Misty erupting in another unexpected way. It's just like when Bill (her husband) exploded over the car constantly breaking down, then he mentioned Misty, and we both knew she was on his mind through the whole thing.

Lord, may I recognize the true reason for my occasional sadness, carelessness and distraction, and irritation when things "go south." Please give me Your peace, strength, love, compassion--Your heart--for Steve!

Monday, January 17, 2011

God, the true Master Gardener

4:52 p.m. Today's project was to get back into the garden now that the rain has passed, leaving good nutrients and soil texture perfect for raking up, weeding and sowing the seeds of winter crops.
Tomorrow, Steve and his caregiver-companion will be doing some gardening while I go to Bible study. This morning Steve and I pulled weeds and excess nasturtium plants, and I made shallow irrigation rows that the two of them can dig deeper tomorrow. We have prepared the soil by the fence for sowing carrot seeds tomorrow. Time to buy our seeds.
At Parkview Nursery on Chicago Avenue, we selected the reliable and common Danvers carrot. I was tempted by some of the multicolored, round, or supersweet Asian varieties, but those seed packets were more expensive, didn't have as many seeds in them, and had longer days to maturity. I am hoping to have some carrots to share before our Sunday night Home Fellowship ends on May 22nd. That deadline inspired me to get some Mesclun, or mixed variety salad lettuce seeds also. God's creative colors and tastes of vegetables just delight me, so we are off to a third garden season.
In the first year, Steve and my dad buit a chain link enclosure for the garden, and we both worked daily as soon as I got home from teaching and each weekend. Creating the best soil we could, working in the compost we'd had rotting for two years, adding topsoil and potting soil took a lot of advance work, and the resulting basic crops of heirloom tomatoes, lettuce, corn, green beans, peas and my one cantaloupe were wonderful. That fall and winter, compost and additional potting soil were worked in to rest and enrich the soil.
In year two, women's ministry, writing Galatians: An Exploration of Faith and Freedom, and daily blogging took up more of my time, as well as teaching my annual summer Bible study, whose mailing list for lessons expanded to 60+. Steve did the bulk of daily maintenance, a good thing for keeping his mind sharp and his Alzheimer's at bay. I also taught a gardening class for Heart to Home at church. By spring time, Heidi's engagement and wedding plans were in full swing, joyfully consuming portions of my free time. But we'd expanded the garden and really enjoyed the new additions--tomatillos, hot red, green and bell peppers, spinach, broccoli, cantaloupe, strawberries and cucumbers. The corn was much better in 2010 also. We even had volunteer red-skinned potatoes that came out of peelings in the compost! One section yielded plenty of roma tomatoes to can, and we're enjoying them, as well as our pickles, even this week.
God is so good--it is He who gives us the power to work and earn, in or outside of the home! And my annual harvest is a source of true nutritional wealth! Ecclesiastes 5:19 (NLT) says,
It is a good thing to receive wealth from God and the good health to enjoy it. To enjoy your work and accept your lot in life--this is indeed a gift from God.
One concern I have is that last summer, Steve began having difficulty in following directions, having lost the discerning of left/right, in front of/behind, this one/that one, over by the fence, move forward or back, directional words. For instance, I'd ask him to move the hose from one irrigation row to the one on the left, or the next one, and he wouldn't know what I meant. So instead of getting back to inside chores, I'd need to go inside the gate and point right to it. That's not such a huge problem, but telling me he'd already watered, and hadn't, or watering twice, did cause some difficultiues. And today, he had a very hard time going back to a row where he'd just pulled out one dead plant, to pull up the weed next to it. He couldn't remember what he had done within less than a minute. So patient explanations, and showing rather than speaking, is called for, God is showing me.
We are both very enthusiastic about our next gardening season, but I do have some concerns as I now have all of the household responsibilities on my shoulders. Steve definitely does lots of work around our home, but it's up to me to mention what the jobs need to be, not always, but more often now. So his caregiver will be invaluable when I'm out, or eventually, even when I am at home. Thank you, Lord, for knowing just what I need!
As I lay out a list of tasks and hobbies for Steve and his companion to do tomorrow (since I'll be out until 3 p.m. due to an income tax appointment) I'll want them to keep physically active as Steve does daily. After lunch, the two guys can walk the dogs, and enjoy this lovely weather.
Whenever you or I feel tempted to be overwhelmed, remember Psalm 138:8:
The LORD will perfect that which concerns me: Your mercy, O LORD, endures for ever: do not forsake the works of Your hands.

Sunday, January 16, 2011

A new tradition for a new year

4:35 p.m. Today's project was to welcome Steve's sisters Linda and Sharon (pictured), his late brother Larry's wife Michaele, his cousin Stephanie, and Linda's husband Mike over for an afternoon visit.

It was really quite a surprise when Sharon called yesterday to see if we'd be home Sunday afternoon. I was very happy to get the news that they wanted to come over, because a series of difficult events kept us from enjoying the traditional Kruckenberg Christmas Eve celebration. We had lost Larry on December 14; and other family members wanted to gather in a smaller group. So it ended up that our children, their spouses, Heidi's fiance and my dad joined us for rollicking Christmas Eve and Christmas celebrations.
Yet we still felt regret over not seeing Steve's side of the family. When older sister Sharon called a few days after Christmas and pitched out the idea that maybe we could begin getting together in January, or even every few months, I thought, "Since my own family is already 12 people if you count my dad, Christmas will be a full house from now on anyway, even with no one else in attendance!" So I let her know that we'd be willing to give that a try. Philippians 4:5 says, "Let your moderation be known to all men" (KJV). and the NLT phrases it, "Let everyone see that you are considerate in all you do." "Moderation" is translated as "considerateness, a forbearing spirit" (Amplified version).
I confess that I crave huge family gatherings after Christmas Eve service. There's lots of noise and commotion, everybody's specialty cookies and candies, crockpots full of chili and corn chowder, singing "Stille Nacht" (Silent Night), reading the Christmas story and fellowshipping, young and old, in honor of Jesus. A lively game of White Elephant rounds out the evening before gifts to grandchildren and grandparents are opened.
But with our kids now having their own families, and juggling visits to parents and in-laws, it's getting complicated--delightfully complicated, but complicated nonetheless. I wouldn't trade my kids' spouses for anything, and I love their parents too. Steve's sisters feel the same way. So maybe the tradition is just too difficult to keep up in 2011.
God told the Israelites of Isaiah's day, in 43:19,
Behold, I will do a new thing; now it shall spring forth; shall ye not know it? I will even make a way in the wilderness, and rivers in the desert.
And God is doing a new work in Steve's family now, too. As believers, we all need to heed the preceding verse:
Remember ye not the former things, neither consider the things of old.
And that's what we'll do. Respect the work God did in the past, and move with Him into the fresh and exciting future!

Saturday, January 15, 2011

Thrify with the cheese

2:58 p.m. Today's project was to find yet another way to economize. I no longer run the dishwasher, got an electric rate reduction for Steve's C-pap, and am in the process of slicing my life insurance premiums in half. And when Steve qualifies for Medicare, which I am still praying about enrolling him in, because of the shenanigans these days, the savings on my health insurance will be dramatic.

Some tips: carefully calculate coupon and store savings before grocery shopping, rather than spend extra gasoline on driving a long distance to a cheaper store (have you seen how high-priced gas has gotten?!) Don't forget the day-old markdown bakery cart for really delicious artisan breads as well as the sandwich staple loaves. Mixing up cheaper dry dog food with our Iams helps, or we've even found excellent brands on sale or with coupons to blend in so Bailey and Jada won't notice. Canning and freezing homegrown vegetables, using the crockpot and pressure cooker to make cheaper cuts of meat tender, and buying coffee in bulk save money, too, for the things we find important to indulge a bit on: really fresh, top quality eggs, flavored creamer for my coffee, and buttermilk to make up Original Hidden Valley Ranch dressing!!

I cook 4 scrambled egg breakfasts at a time, and buy bulk cereal. Oatmeal is very cheap when you run out of milk, too. And always keep a can of evaporated milk in your pantry that can be mixed speedily. I reuse dryer softener sheets, and when the sheets have been used twice, put them in shoes to freshen them in the closet! Swiffer-type mop refills, including generic brands, can be flipped over to cover a larger floor area.

We didn't renew our Disneyland passes, although the small monthly bill was tempting! But I don't want any more bills. And in our case, I'm not sure how much Steve will be able to enjoy the park by the end of this year (gas savings, too). Since we don't have children at home, we almost never buy clothes--we stick with items that can be mixed and matched without going out of style. At 59, I've seen plenty of styles come and go and come back again! I had my first set of bell-bottoms in 1964! Remember Sonny and Cher? Now bellbottoms are called "flares."

Saving on every day purchases can open up the way to charitable giving to causes you believe in. And you can occasionally help a friend in need, too. Having a kid in college definitely causes any number of financial "emergencies," but ours is getting more self-supporting with each passing year. He has to. We are all trusting the Lord, and praying to be "found faithful" with all that He's entrusted us with. (I Corinthians 4:2)
Todays newest idea follows. Whenever we run out of Kraft American cheese slices, I've had to go get more, because Steve enjoys them in his daily sandwiches. But yesterday, I saw a hunk of cheddar cheese in the freezer, and by today it was thawed out. What if I sliced it ahead of time? But, I reasoned, the slices would stick together. So the Lord gave me the idea to separate each pair of slices with parchment paper squares I had in the pantry, then stack and wrap in Stretch-tite plastic wrap, and put in a quart-sized Ziploc bag. From a half pound of cheese, Steve has sandwiche slices for two weeks! And the crumbled bits that fell off while slicing went into the 4 days' worth of scrambled eggs I was making. "Waste not, want not," as my parents used to say.
If you have ideas to share, please post them--we can all support one another in these difficult times! The blogosphere is actually its own neighborhood, isn't it? We are able to befriend people from thousands of miles away, all who have the common interests of living for the Lord and caring for our families. Let me remind all of you "cyber neighbors" of Proverbs 27:10:
Better is a neighbor nearby than a brother far away.

Friday, January 14, 2011

In a strait!

3:03 Today's project was to make a final decision on having our Jeep repaired. The choices were the local dealership where we bought it in 2005, and a reputable independent local body shop. The two estimates were very close, within $29.00 of each other.

Our insurance company seemed to be pressuring me to choose the local shop that's on their "preferred list," and even advised me that they were going to send them the check! I told the claims agent that I'd not decided where to have the car repaired, so I'd gotten two estimates. "Why did you do that?" she asked in an affronted tone, to my surprise. "Because I wanted to compare." Good thing she gathered herself to remember that by law, I the policyholder can have my car repaired wherever I choose. But then she advised that the insurance company would have to come down and inspect the vehicle along with my shop of choice. Is there some downside to that? Doesn't seem to me to be one.

I have been considering and praying about this car repair for over a month. A Christmas tree rolled in front of us on the way to Home Fellowship on December 5th, doing minor fender and light cover damage to the passenger side front. Steve has patched it up with duct tape. So it's ugly but totally drivable. Of course, the two body shops found undercarriage damage and factored in the cost of replacing the bumper and grille, and about 20 more things you'd never notice or think of. The estimates both came in around $1,700. One silly pine tree!

Talk about being in the wrong place at the wrong time!!

You might wonder why I haven't just gotten the car fixed, but to me it's simple: we have one car and one driver only, me. And with daily living, family, church and ministry responsibilities, being without a car is going to be very difficult. We've never been able to afford to add the rental car benefit to our policy, and never needed that protection before. Because we always had several vehicles here along with their drivers, any one of them could have been called upon for assistance. I could take Steve to work, if need be, or one of the kids to college or high school. Or I could be dropped off at my teaching job. But things have changed since we first got our policy.

Unfortunate accidents have much more impact when you are already in a difficult position with many limitations! The Bible speaks of people being "in a strait" (1 Samuel 13:6, when the men of Israel saw that they were in a dangerous battle position, KJV); we still use the phrase "in dire straits" for serious trouble. But the meaning I see of "strait" or "straitened" can be: severely limited, hemmed in, or precluded from action. David said to Gad in I Chronicles 21:13, "I am in a great strait," when the prophet offered him a choice of 3 severe punishments on the people for David's presumptuous sin of numbering the people. (Maybe that's why my late mom would yell out, "Gad!" when appalled or shocked. Must be where it came from).

Paul stated in Philippians 1:23, "I am in a strait between the two," whether to go to be with the Lord or stay and minister to the believers. Proverbs 4:12 says of the one who has heeded wisdom, "When you go, your steps shall not be straitened." And Job 36:16 speaks of deliverance from suffering "into a broad place where there is no straitness."

So it could be said that we are "in a strait" today. Action needs to be taken, one way or the other. I've been weighing the pros and cons of each body shop, but seeing the dealer's van delivering parts to the independent body shop while I was there last week helped with my decision.

The "middle man" would be eliminated. The dealer told me that they can get the job done in almost half the time, lessening the days I might need to rent a vehicle at $25/day, the going rate. Less annoyance to family members, too! Much as I liked the gals who helped me out at the body shop, I have gotten excellent service every quarter for 5 years from the dealer. I trust them, because they have always found ways to help make services and parts affordable. It simply comes down to deciding which choice will benefit our family most--or harm us least! And I do have a peace about this, finally.

Micah 2:7, asks a rhetorical question of the house of Jacob:

Is the Spirit of the LORD straitened?

And the answer is, of course not! God is not limited by anyone or anything, nor is His love or provision for His children who trust in Him. There will be details to coordinate, but God already has them handled, and we're on our way out of this particular "strait!"

Thursday, January 13, 2011

It's not about money

2:26 p.m. Today's project was to begin filling out the preparation form from our tax lady Patty. There are many, many little spaces and blanks for any itemized deduction a person might qualify for, so with check register and pencil in hand, I began.

Last year was the first time I had full responsibility for this task, because Steve couldn't do it any more. He used to do a stellar job, carefully documenting the numbers from the forms and packets I would supply for him. Of course, I would gather and copy down the figures for my Mary Kay business. The only thing I ever knew him to leave out was our car registration fees for 2007. Our former tax man Mr. Massoud quickly caught it and I delivered the information the next day.

With Heidi getting married, we can definitely use our refund, so I am starting early with the documents I have. The form says we don't have to have every last piece of information on hand to make an appointment, so I set it for next Tuesday after Bible study. This way, I won't procrastinate. I keep myself on a short leash these days... I'll need to exercise that fruit of the Spirit, self control (Galatians 5:23), because there are way too many distractions, and I have many little hobbies and tasks each day that turn morning into afternoon before I know it!

I Peter 1:13 (NLT) tells us, "Think clearly and exercise self control."

For medical mileage, I went through the 2010 calendar for all of our doctor, audiologist, colonoscopy, neurologist, pharmacy and optometrist appointments. I included my appointments at the Brightstar eldercare agency, too. Steve had 11 appointments alone, to my one! Between his Alzheimers, his odd weight loss, hearing difficulties at times, sleep apnea tests and equipment fitting, I can answer the question, "Now that you're retired, what do you do all day?" pretty easily. (That's why I retired!) But God has provided the health coverage (tax deductible also) that makes this high level of care possible, so, with the Apostle Paul, let me say, "with food and clothing, let us be content" (I Timothy 6:8) Nothing to complain about here.

Volunteer miles came next, so I noted the ministry activities that happened separately from services and studies we would have attended anyway. Our women's helps team delivered meals to a bedridden sister for a few months, and we helped another family, too. Exciting Moms' Morning and Heart to Home planning meetings came into view on pages at the beginning of the year. Last October's annual Panhellenic Home Tour saw me greeting long-time Riverside patrons. December brought wonderful opportunities to host our church's ladies and their guests, and our widows as well.

Along with the deductible events and projects came the fun family times, like helping Kriss and Marisela move into their apartment, dinners with our oldest son and fiancee, and with Heather's in-laws. We gave Heidi and Pavel an engagement party; got all of the siblings together at Sean's; traveled to Fresno a couple of times to see Steven. Heidi's future father-in-law built a fence section for us after a random wind blew it down. (Hmmm...a deductible home repair expense that our insurance didn't cover!) Our August party was a real blowout--one of the biggest ever. Lots of family to visit and have over to our home come December, too. The San Diego Civic Youth Ballet's staging of "The Nutcracker" gave us the opportunity to applaud our great niece Cameron and visit with our nephews and niece. Kriss and his wife Marisela both got the jobs they applied for, as noted by the scribbles to pray on critical dates. And Steven's spiritual growth has been astounding at Fresno Pacific, as has his ministry at the People's Church, along with his physical development to bodybuilding competition shape. We really enjoyed his competition in May, where he took a respectable 5th place heavyweight in the state of California!

We had sad times in our family, too. Giving up our RV was hard, because we had enjoyed traveling around the country with our grandsons. But finances were not able to support the large payment. Little Cody, 4, our great nephew, was diagnosed with a cancerous lump that had to be removed, and he still gets treatment at CHOC. Steve's brother Larry went to be with the Lord in December. Heidi struggled to make ends meet as a pinkslipped substitute teacher until today, when she got a full time job at her favorite school beginning tomorrow!! She has been obedient to Psalm 37:4, her life verse: "Delight yourself in the Lord, and He will give you the desires of your heart." Praise the Lord for the way He cares for us, even when we can tend to get discouraged. He's teaching and training us, every day!

Steve and I were abundantly blessed with friends and fellowship last year: an RV trip to Lake Havasu for a spectacular fireworks display; Sunday evening Home Fellowship and Thursday night couples' Bible study at Jeff and Monica's in Woodcrest. Praise the Lord! All of these believers have prayed us through a tough year, and we've done the same for them.

We'll be looking for tax summary reports from one of my pensions, our rental business in Wyoming, our own home mortgage, interest on the RV payments, our church's tithe receipt, and documentation from other charities we support. Student loan interest forms for both Steven and me are on their way, too. But it's not money or numbers that have made up the last year, it's the people, the experiences, the sights and sounds that make up: life.

And with the Lord, be the events sad or exhilarating, it's a wonderful life! I recalled my life verse, Philippians 1:6 just now:

Being confident of this very thing, that He who has begun a good work in you will complete it until the day of Jesus Christ.

Thank you, Lord!

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Better than insured

3:30 p.m. Today's project was to have a physical exam complete with a blood draw and urine sample taken for a new life insurance policy. It seems to be an annual event these days, since I retired in 2009 and lost the life coverage available to district employees. No paycheck, no paycheck deduction! So I spent months last year applying and finally qualifying for standard rates from two different companies. My 2003 bout with breast cancer is considered cured after 7 years, praise the Lord!

On Monday, an agent for one of the companies showed us that by replacing two policies with a new one, we would save $200 a month. So this morning at 8:30 was the big scary needle stick! Since I would have to fast without even water after midnight, around 10:30 last night I asked some of my medically-inclined Facebook friends what my "last meal" should be. I didn't want to be shaky or faint or ridiculously starving. A rumbling stomach is just plain rude!
I got sound advice: fruit juice and peanut butter on toast, from three friends, one of whom is a supervising nurse. Thanking them, I had to tell them that I'd just have to go to bed with a nice glass of water because I hate peanut butter, am allergic to wheat products, and didn't have any fruit juice in the house! "I'm a little tweaked," I confessed.
Jesus said that "even the very hairs on your head are all numbered" (Luke 12:7), and so must our taste buds and other bodily organs be considered worthy of our Father's attention as well, because we are each certainly unique. Just think about God knowing every cell of each of us!! That's real love, unmatched love, unconditional love! That's real assurance for us believers.
Waking up in the middle of the night, I went over the morning's schedule over and over: should I get up really early to make sure all of my devotions and quiet time were done, and then clean up, dress and greet the phlebotomist? Or get up later, clean up and dress first, get the medical exam over with, and then have devotions? (My normal morning routine is to put on my robe, get coffee, and begin devotions immediately upon rising). I "voted" for a compromise: get up early, quickly bathe and dress, and have my devotions first.
The very pleasant lady came at 8:30, and at my request, got to the "sampling" right away so I could get my coffee before the headache and rumbling started. I turned on the coffeepot, made sure Steve was situated, and then she took my blood pressure, so no coffee just yet, I decided, in case it might cause an uptick in my numbers. And at 59, we don't want that! I'm paranoid enough being overweight and not having started my walking program yet without risking any other averse factors!
The three numbers were very good: 122/76, 116/74, and 120/74. I guess there's something to be said for going up and down stairs during the day! And as for my height and weight, I'm still almost 5'4"--no shrinkage yet--and have lost 3 pounds since Christmas! Good thing I threw the last of the fudge into the trash a few days ago! The electrocardiogram looked very regular, which was a huge relief, considering that I had first glanced at the flat line on the back of the tape! Whew! Still alive.
With the use an amazing array of portable medical testing devices and the technician's notebook computer and wireless network, my results would be sent to the insurance underwriters, signed electronically, within 15 minutes. We live in amazing times. And prayerfully in a few weeks I'll be insured enough to give the kids funds to care for their dad and our property should I pass away before Steve does.
Having life or any other kind of insurance is wise if you feel led in that direction, but it can never provide what we refer to as the "Assurance of the Believer." The blessed assurance we have is that we will one day have a home in heaven with Jesus if we have put our trust in Him for salvation.
No physical exam required!

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

It all broke free

3:31 p.m. Today's project was to attend Bible study at church, a "Breaking Free" video session by Beth Moore. The topic was, generally, the difference between our expectations of happiness and God's plans for our eternal joy.
One key verse was Psalm 37:4, "Delight yourself in the LORD, and He will give you the desires of your heart." Members of the group pointed out that focusing on God changes the desire of your heart to the desire of His heart; or as I see it, after 30 years of walking with and serving the Lord, God knows our hearts better than we do, and eventually we will find that what He gives us [our lot in life] will be so wonderful that we couldn't have known to ask for it!
The desires of my heart, once I became a Christian, were to have a godly marriage and family, learn the Bible, grow in my understanding of the Lord, and fulfill the ministries God called me to. Through many "toils and snares" the enemy has put in my path, I can honestly say that God has very abundantly given me the desires of my heart--a wonderful marriage and four children to join my son from my first marriage. I even have two grandsons! The ministries He has entrusted me with have gone beyond teaching Bible studies, and like our women's ministry director Robin shared, I too have many daughters in the faith--such a humbling concept for any of us, beyond my wildest dreams. And the Lord has granted me the time and ability to prepare a book for publication--something I barely dared to hope for! I love another scripture that was brought to life for us today, I Corinthians 2:9:
Eye has not seen, nor ear heard,
Nor have entered into the heart of man
The things which God has
prepared for those who love Him.
I can testify to those verses, but I still won't have any comprehension of the true rewards God has planned for His children until I step into His presence in heaven!
But here is where I had a "breaking free" of my own during the video, quite unexpectedly! As Beth Moore spoke of the way that our very dreadful trials, like my 2003 bout with breast cancer and Steve's Alzheimers today, are meant for our holy beautification by God, that the Father might "show us off" to His Son! One passage I have always found strengthening came to my mind just now, Malachi 3:16-17a:
Then those who feared the LORD spoke to one another,
and the LORD listened and heard them;
So a book of remembrance was written before Him
For those who fear the LORD
And who meditate on His name.
"They shall be Mine," says the LORD of hosts,
On the day that I make them my jewels." (italics mine)
During the video, I just lost it, and all of my pent-up tears of sadness and sorrow for our current situation, in which I am losing my husband as I've known him, and have already lost both of our incomes, just stated rolling down my face, non-stop. I carry little Kleenex packets so I kept discreetly dabbing my cheeks, to no avail, but I kept it up. Praise the Lord for the loud and compelling video, because no one was looking my way at all, even though I sit in the front row and most of the lights were on. My time to "get it together" was running out, because at the end of the session, a number of us step forward to pray with ladies who have a need.
As we were taught today, however, a believer cannot minister effectively to others unless they have suffered deep tribulation themselves--period. So as God is ordaining or allowing us to hurt and lack the amenities we are so used to, He is fitting us for service in the Body. He's giving us "street cred!"
My trusty Mary Kay waterproof mascara never ran, my eyeshadow didn't crease, and I was able to stand up, walk a few feet and pray with a good friend. By focusing on her needs, I put aside my own once again for the time being. Another sister told me I really looked tired as we were leaving, but she probably meant, "What hit you?!" I had awakened in the middle of the night, so that was a truthful response I could offer in the few seconds' exchange as we walked up the sanctuary aisle to the exit.
There's no telling whether God has a specific ministry for me on this side of heaven that will open up, if He is strengthening my empathy for others, or allowing a lengthy trial for purposes I cannot fathom... but I do know this, that my eyes and ears have not seen or heard, nor have I even imagined, the things that God has prepared for me!