Thursday, June 30, 2011

In time of trial, Part I: Those who come alongside

10:18 p.m. Today's project was to teach my weekly Bible study on I Samuel 18, where King Saul tries everything from outright attempted murder, to sending David to dangerous campaigns against the Philistines, to giving him one of his daughters, anything to try to get him away from the kingdom.

David behaved very wisely, because the LORD was with him. Therefore, when Saul saw that he behaved very wisely, he was afraid of him. (I Samuel 18:14-15)

When the Lord is active in a believer's life, there will definitely be opposition from the enemy!

The devil has been trying mightily to discourage our family this past week! My Jeep's transmission quit on the way to my daughter's wedding; all kinds of problems went on before the ceremony started; our dogs got picked up by animal control, to be redeemed at great expense; our front door's frame got cracked by one of our grandsons running into it; last night's blogpost teaching the scriptural imperatives for baptism disappeared into cyberspace just as I was about to publish it; and oddly, the regular caregiver never showed up for Steve this morning!

As I shared with the ladies this morning, when you are hit with a trial, it becomes a matter of waiting to see how the Lord is going to solve the problem! And the more the trials, the more He is glorified when it is evident to one and all that Jesus intervened.

This evening at the Mary Kay meeting, I was to give the inspiration, and I had forgotten to prepare something, very unusual for me. But I flipped through the journal I keep to the Lord about my business, separate from my personal journal, and realized it was full of prayers for the various consultants and leaders, and me, that the Lord would work in our lives, give us success as He wills, and give us joy in serving other women.

I realized, "That's my inspirational talk--the Lord has already given it to me!" Despite all of the uproars and trials, the last two weeks have seen some of my highest sales, because the Lord allowed the obstacles-"thorns on the roses," my director Laurie calls them-- to be cleared away by Him! My director loaned me a van so I could keep what turned out to be lucrative appointments, and provided transportation for my family for 4 days! As for multiple trials, I have seen how many people have had the opportunity to be used by the Lord to ease our difficulties with their particular talents.

  1. When my Jeep stopped, the Lord sent two carloads of bridesmaids to quickly put me, Heidi's gown and our getting-ready supplies into one of the cars so we could proceed with hardly any time lost.

  2. When difficulties arose before the wedding, the Lord used my younger daughter Heather to find soothing music, and to lead off in prayer for Heidi's peace of mind and ensuing marriage.

  3. The Lord used our son Steven to take us home, but also to check out the Jeep later that night, and suggest that we get AAA to tow it home after trying to move it to no avail.

  4. Marc, Bonnie and Charise loaded up all the wedding stuff, minus one car, and got it home.

  5. Our mechanic Steve Kirkwood has a relatively inexpensive plan to repair the transmission!

  6. Grandson Xavier, and son-in-law Nick have been working to repair the front door.

  7. We were spared extra spaying fees by the shelter clerk, because our dogs have AKC papers indicating we could breed them. A friend will also be putting a heavy spring on the gate, preventing further escapes!

  8. Our teenage grandsons were here this morning to be with Steve in the absence of the caregiver!

  9. This evening, Matt and Samantha Simmons delivered an extra care for me to drive for as long as I need it!

  10. Our new caregiver not only hooked up the DVD player to our tv for Steve this evening, but goes to our church and knows Heidi and Pavel!

The Lord is fully capable of solving any problem you have, believer, many or few! And He knows how to bless, reward, and honor those who come alongside the needy.

Never think that you won't need help desperately at some time in your life; conversely, never think that you have no talent or substance to give to another in need!

Tomorrow, In time of trial, Part II: The value of a husband

Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Welcome to a watery grave

9:19 p.m. Today's project was to take Steve and our grandsons to Lake Perris for a baptism hosted by Calvary Chapel Moreno Valley. Our church conducts a number of baptisms on Wednesday nights each summer.

The baptism service and the site have special significance to Steve and me, because when we were first acquainted at a home Bible study, he noticed me for the first time at a Harvest baptism in 1980. And our grandsons Adrian and Xavier were baptized at the same lake three years ago, with their dad, aunties, Steve and me happily looking on!

I welcome the new members taking a public stand for Christ. God has great things in store for you, now that you have passed from darkness into the light (Ephesians 5:8).

As II Corinthians 5:17 says,

Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; old things have passed away; behold, all things have become new.

Walk in the light, as He is in the light!

Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Safe at home

10:42 p.m. Today's project was to retrieve our yellow Labrador Retrievers from the Riverside County/City Animal Shelter. Bailey and Jada had wandered down the street yesterday afternoon, slipping out of the backyard gate Steve had inadvertently left open earlier in the day.

I was told by an agent on the phone that we could pick them up by 10:00 this morning. I made sure Steve had on the same outfit he was wearing in the picture I took with us, walking the dogs with our grandsons. No such luck with Adrian and Xavier, who have both grown quite a bit in the last year! We laid out a thick layer of towels on the vehicle's carpet, took the leashes and Lysol spray, and made our way over to Van Buren and Clay Streets, in Pedley where I used to teach.

The four of us entered the facility with high hopes, only to find that the Lost Dog section opened at 11:00. What to do? No sense being irritated. "He that is slow to anger is better than the mighty," Proverbs 16:32 says, illustrated by a scene we witnessed. On our way to our vehicle, we saw people most get violent, when the front desk girl went out to record the license plates of some ladies who merely came to turn in a stray they found nearby. Pointless bureaucratic demand, in my view, but I didn't see the outcome.

We drove to a nearby McDonald's to pass the time, enjoying $1.00 breakfast burritos and a mocha frappe for me. we joined a lengthening line as the sun began to get warm, and the door was unlocked about 10 minutes late.

The process was not too bad except for the tons of fees exacted as ransom for the dogs! Here's the list:

  1. IMP 1 RV 40

  2. BOARD RV 30

  3. STATE FINE 35

  4. IMP 1 RV 40

  5. BOARD RV 30

  6. STATE FINE 35

  7. DA2PPV 9


  9. DA2PPV 9


  11. LIC RV 115

  12. LIC RV 115

  13. MCHIP 20

  14. MCHIP 20

  15. PMT PLN FEE 20


We managed to pay half today, and have 3 months to pay the rest. We narrowly escaped having to leave them for mandatory spaying (another $170) because they have AKC papers and it's assumed that we might want to breed them! (We had thought about it once, but now with Steve's Alzheimer's, all of the puppy-raising chores would fall on my shoulders). I'm already overwhelmed as Steve becomes less capable with each passing day, and I have to go show him how to do simple tasks he has always done, like hand-watering dead spots on the lawn.

The dogs were wildly happy to see us, especially their Pop (Steve). They must have been miserable in the midst of all that howling, barking nd yelping, compared to their tranquil backyard where they are the only noisemakers. At least, we were assured, they were placed in the same kennel!

It was a lesson in vigilance for me. I think we'll be installing a stiff spring on that fence so it will close on its own, no matter who leaves it open.

Yet, God is so good! Our son-in-law Nick is coming over tomorrow to fix our broken door frame; I made over $300 at a Mary Kay skincare class tonight; and our mechanic is looking for a used transmission for the Jeep. Our grandsons have been helpful and entertaining. and I've written about half of my Bible study for Thursday already.

AND, I recieved the good news from my publisher that I'll be doing a signing of Galatians: An Exploration of Faith and Freedom, at Berean Christian Store in Riverside on August 27th! Hope I have a ride over there!

During my trials I can say to the Lord what Jeremiah did in Chapter 14:9b:

Yet You, LORD, are in our midst, and we are called by Your name.

That's unmatched reassurance!

Monday, June 27, 2011


936 a.m. Today's project was to find something to drive. My Jeep quit on me just before I was due at the wedding site, and I managed to park it on the shoulder of the overpass of Nason and the 60 freeway east. Praise Jesus that two carloads of the bridesmaids pulled up behind me, loaded their cars with Heidi's gown, all my get-ready stuff and my M.O.B. dress, and we went on as planned. The Jeep was towed home about 10:30 that night. Our mechanic will be coming over tomorrow to give us the verdict!

This morning while I was writing in my journal, my Mary Kay Sales Director called me, and I told her of the appointments I would be missing because I was only going to use my daughter's car to return her dad's rental outfit. Laurie countered, "The Lord had you on my heart very strongly this morning, so that's why I called you! You can borrow my van." We made arrangements for her to pick me up at 11:30, and now I have transportation for the days our grandsons will be here, as well as for my appointments. God is so good, using His people to bless one another!

I enjoy this description of God from Job 37:22b-24:

With God is awesome majesty.

As for the Almighty, we cannot

find Him;

He is excellent in power,

In judgment and abundant justice;

He does not oppress.

Therefore men fear Him;

He shows no partiality to any who

are wise of heart.

I think that we forget the immense power and glory of God because we are so wrapped up in daily issues and struggles, perplexed as to what we should do, how to lay it all out on Him instead of limiting ourselves to practical actions. Oswald Chambers writes, June 27th:

The most devout among us become atheistic in this connection; we do not believe God, we enthrone common sense and tack the name of God onto it. We do lean on our own understanding, instead of trusting God with all our hearts.

"Guilty," we can easily pronounce ourselves on this score!

Another test soon presented itself. Shortly after our teenage grandsons arrived, Steve went out to walk the dogs, but discovered that they were gone! (Steve had most likely left the gate open while working in the yards). Off he went with the boys to find them, but we discovered from a neighbor that Animal Services had picked them up. I made some phone calls, went online, and found their pictures and file numbers at the shelter's website. Now we have to wait until tomorrow at 10 a.m. to go get Bailey and Jada. I am just throwing myself on God's mercy that their "redemption fee" won't be too high. I printed up a picture of Steve and the boys with the dogs to take with us and our ID as well. Now I'm wondering, is it safe for Steve to be in charge of the dogs? We love them so much, and they are wonderful companions for him. God knows...

We took the boys with us on errands after dinner, and returned to do our hill walk and relax for the evening. As I was putting on my Skecher Shape-ups, I heard this crashing, splintering noise at the entryway. I ran over to the horrific sight of the door jamb broken, the wood splintered and the lock plate on the floor, screws scattered! What happened? Our older grandson said, "I was running into the house, tripped on my shoelace and my shoulder hit the door!" How on earth did that happen? He's not THAT big for age 15! At least the deadbolt is still in place. Maybe we'll set the alarm tonight and the next several nights until it gets permanently repaired. He and I went on a walk, and I didn't really scold him, but did say, "You're too old to be running in the house, and too old to have your shoelace untied." He was mortified, so enough said. At this stage of his Alzheimer's, Steve didn't know what to do, so I set him on a totally different little task to keep him busy while I walked on the nearby hill with Adrian.

Again, God provided. The younger grandson found some Tacky Glue--the mega-strong Gorilla Glue was not to be found--and took it upon himself to glue the jamb and the plate back into place! The outer frame isn't nailed down yet, but at least now that the glue has dried, the door is locked and bolted.

We still have some major pieces of likely bad news coming, between the Jeep repair and the dog recovery fee, but as Jesus said in Luke 12:25-26,

Which of you by worrying can add one cubit to his stature? If you are not able to do the least, why are you anxious for the rest?

My challenge for today and tomorrow is to live Proverbs 3:5-6:

Trust in the LORD with all your heart

And lean not upon your own understanding;

In all your ways acknowledge Him,

And He shall direct your paths.

Sunday, June 26, 2011

Guests from the Valley

7:47 p.m. Today's project was to welcome Steven's girlfriend Kathy and her family to our home this afternoon. As I write this, the two uber-athletes and kinesiology majors are across the street in Sycamore Canyon Wilderness Park hiking.

The two met through a mutual friend, started talking at the gym they both belong to, and later had a chemistry class together at the Christian college they attend, Fresno Pacific University. At the small Mennonite school, I imagine the kinesiology majors all know one another, unlike massive settings like CSU or UC, and are taking many of the same math and science classes. But prayer is what brought them together in ministry.

Last fall, after some financial struggles, Steven just knew the Lord wanted him to remain in Fresno, where he is a leader in high school ministry, and a part of the college group. And he had already been led to form a Saturday night prayer group with two other students. Just as Psalm 138:8 assures believers that "the LORD will perfect all that concerns me," Steven found housing and enrolled in classes.

The prayer group was small, but mighty in the Spirit's power. They decided to bake cookies each Thursday night to hand out in the student lounge each Friday. Nothing was said out loud, but their fellows began coming to them for prayer. Hundreds of healings took place, Steven told me.

"Not by might, nor by power, but by My Spirit,"

Says the LORD of hosts." (Zechariah 4:6)

In addition to Saturday night prayer, the two of them go street witnessing in difficult areas of Fresno, attend The People's Church together, and cook low carb meals together. During the summer, Kathy comes into Fresno for soccer practice at the school, where she has earned a scholarship. And Steven goes to visit her in Bakersfield at her family's home.

I was very excited when a plan came together for her family to visit friends in the L.A. area, and then come out to our house to visit. We had a nice time with her parents and 8 year old brother. We got to know each other while their young Steven played with our dogs alongside my husband Steve, and enjoyed the large toy cars Steve found for him in our garage. We had a tour of the garden, taking advantage of the dogs being distracted by dinner time, to go out there. We even found a ripe strawberry!

When her parents left with little Steven (and a new Mary Kay lipstick!), my Steven and Kathy went hiking in the Canyon, enjoying perfect weather and local wildlife. They are now off to Redlands to see my dad and then back home tonight to Fresno via Bakersfield.

This weekend has been amazing, as we hosted almost 200 people at our daughter's wedding, and made new friends right here in our home. The Lord knows what each of us needs, and the joy of hospitality and convivial conversation are, to me, some of the greatest of God's gifts to man.

Proverbs 18:24 says,

A man who has friends must show himself friendly.

Thank you, Lord, for creating friendships, relationships, and the ability to enjoy them!


11:59 p.m. Today's project was to put on a wedding for our daughter Heidi, with God's help and the help of family, friends, and professional vendors.

The day began rather oddly with my daily devotional, My Utmost for His Highest, by Oswald Chambers. Reading today's selection was not odd in itself, since that happens approximately every 24 hours. But on a day when joy and excitement were to be the themes, imagine my surprise and dismay when I read the title:

Receiving Oneself in the Fires of Sorrow

The verse quoted was John 12-27-29: What shall I say? Father, save me, from this hour? But for this cause came I unto this hour. Father, glorify thy name.

Our Lord received Himself in the fire of sorrow, He was saved not from the hour, but out of the hour.

We say that there ought not to be sorrow, but there is sorrow, and we have to receive ourselves in its fires. If we try and evade sorrow, refuse to lay our account with it, we are foolish. Sorrow is one of the biggest facts in life; it is no use saying sorrow ought not to be. Sin and sorrow and suffering are, and it is not for us to say that God has made a mistake in allwoing them.

Naturally, I wondered whether God was preparing me for a terrible incident on this bright and well planned wedding day! When I think of sorrow, it's not annoyances and inconveniences that disrupt our day, like the mix-up in wedding morning breakfast plans, or the wrong length of acrylic nails that Heidi had to tearfully file down, the groomsmen's suits being the wrong color, or the makeup artist getting stuck in traffic, the bouquet having the wrong color and types of flowers; a late-arriving bridesmaid, a tear on the wedding gown train, or a tipping cake. Causes for sorrow don't even include the breakdown of the mother of the bride's Jeep on the way to the venue, to my way of thinking.

That's because all of the above can be tolerated, corrected, repaired or redone altogether. Sorrow, to me, comes as a result of a death, loss of a child or home, the perpetration of a crime, having a friend or family member with terminal illness.

So where did sorrow come in, on a warm afternoon and evening of biblical tradition and fun? I really can't say. I know that God was definitely testing our ability to trust Him in myriad fleeting trials, to see if we would stick together instead of laying blame, take the time to pray for one another for healing of inappropriate responses to the difficulties He allowed, or the opposite: turning on one another in ways that do not glorify God.

God does not deal with us for light reasons! Hebrews 12 :11 reminds us,

Now no chastening seems to be joyful for the present, but painful; nevertheless, afterward it yields the peaceable fruit of righteousness to those who have been trained by it.

God graciously gave us all the desires of our hearts, in answer to intense group prayer, for a wonderful wedding for Heidi and Pavel, a fine start to their life together as man and wife. In light of that grace, I am bearing in mind Proverbs 10:22:

The blessing of the LORD makes one rich, and He adds no sorrow with it.

Because I have the Lord in my life, even with a towed vehicle in the driveway, I am joyful and rich indeed!!

Friday, June 24, 2011


6:01 p.m. Today's project was to help Heidi get ready for her wedding.

My day began at 3:25 a.m., when I heard the dogs downstairs in the garage, lightly barking. I slipped down there and let them out into the back, but they were still agitated. Turns out that they had had no water since 7 p.m,. when Steve inexpicably moved their water to the front yard before our rehearsal dinner started. Shortly afterward, Bailey and Jada went into their crates for the next 3 hours. We let them out into the backyard after everyone was leaving, and they ran around frantically. Neither of us remembered the water bowl. But the light went on in my brain as I let them out this morning. So I stepped out the front door, carried their bowl to the back, and boy, did they lap it up! 2 quarts gone in a flash. Proverbs 12:10 says, "A righteous man regards the life of his beast," and so should the righteous woman!

Getting up at 7 a.m,. to have devotions and breakfast before Heidi's bridesmaids arrived for a crafting session was a bit of a challenge on broken sleep, but a mug of good, strong, brewed Starbucks set things right. I then took the time to make up my eggs for today and the weekend, because there'll be no cooking tomorrow! Heidi ran out for muffins for the girls, so she and Heather, Charise, Becky, Danielle, and Bonnie assembled table favors for the next two hours.

Meanwhile, I delivered some Mary Kay products, made a bank deposit, and picked up Steve for a trip across town to pick up his correct size of suit pants and dress shirt from our vendor. Then, to my great delight, I was able to purchase my long-awaited, new set of contact lenses. The excitement was enhanced by discovering that Steve's Social Security check had been deposited 3 days early! Thank you, Lord!!

Youngest son Steven the bodybuilder was already on his way from Fresno, so his dad and I made a stop at Vons to buy the boneless chicken breast he lives off of this time in his competition prep, along with three dozen eggs. It was so exciting to see him walk in the door!

Pedicures came next, at a new salon across from Jason's Deli in the Canyon springs area. We enjoyed the luxury treatment, and some got nails put on also. I ended up with brilliant fuschia polish and a lovely flower design in white on my big toes. What a busy day! (My favorite kind).

At home. we awaited my friend Amy the massage therapist, who gave Pavel and Heidi one hour massages. Steve took the dogs for a walk and I picked up Drycleaner's Secret for Steven's wrinkly linen suit. Reminds me of another great surprise--his girlfriend Kathy from Bakersfield is coming to visit us on Sunday--can't wait to meet this godly young woman!

The marriages and relationships my children have formed have blessed their dad and me to no end! As I ponder God's bringing the ones they love into their lives, I can agree with Solomon in Proverbs 30, when he says that one of the things that is too wonderful for him is "the way of a man with a maid."

May God be glorified in Heidi and Pavel's marriage!

Thursday, June 23, 2011


4:05 p.m. Today's project was to teach Bible study at a new location, Malinda's home. To that end, as I was reviewing my notes, it occurred to me that the off ramp to exit to her house had been very jammed with construction traffic last time I drove it, so I called her to ask if we should allow extra time or take another exit.

After I completed dialing her number, a recording came on. "Do not hang up. Your call has been intentionally redirected to Verizon Financial Services." Uh-oh! This happened about 11 years ago, and I had to speedily pay my bill. Today it was the same thing, I had forgotten to pay my past due amount, and the service was ALREADY disconnected. So I arranged with the electronic system to have a payment come out of our checking account tomorrow. Meanwhile, no cell phone access for the five of us--my soon-to-be-married daughter, my youngest son, myself and Steve, and my dad-- until midnight June 24th, one day before the wedding! Talk about feeling lame and irresponsible...

I had to wake up my daughter and tell her that she could use our landline and get people to use her fiance's phone number, and I Facebook messaged my youngest son. Steve can't really operate a phone any more, and my dad leaves his out in his car, so no harm done there.

With those matters taken care of, I went on to review my lesson on David and Goliath, eat breakfast, get dressed and ready for my ride to the Bible study. "No sense crying over spilt milk," my mother used to say. And since God had allowed this embarrassing inconvenience, I confessed my carelessness and redirected my focus to teaching the His Word to the women.

II Timothy 4:2, 5b says,

Preach the word! Be ready in season and out of season. Convince, rebuke, exhort, with all longsuffering and teaching.

Fulfill your ministry.

In reflecting on the chapter at hand, I Samuel 17, I realized that before David had his smashing victory over Goliath, the giant had been threatening and taunting all of the Israelite army for 30 days, morning and night. But David didn't allow himself to be bothered at all, because He "knew Whom he had believed." (para. I Timothy 1:12). I thought, "The enemy is trying to blow my mistake all out of proportion, because the study is going to be great today! He is trying to intimidate me from teaching with the total concentration that comes from the Holy Spirit and inspires the wonderful discussions and learning we all do together each week!" Well, I decided that I was having none of it, and I would not be distracted, in the Name of Jesus!

During the ride with Charlotte and Cindy, I openly told them about the cell phone disconnection, and they said, "It's not like you don't have anything else on your mind, Dana!" We drove handily over to Malinda's, had a larger than usual group, including Bobbie, who got out of physical therapy early and came right over!

God's word rang out with power, the women shared and edified one another, and the Spirit was active and alive in that living room! The privilege I felt to be the one who merely opened the conversation was overwhelming.

What a mighty God we serve!

And as a little "sweetener," God allowed the phones to be turned back on in plenty of time for Heidi and Pavel's wedding rehearsal and his mom's fabulous homemade Romanian-style dinner!

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

The eye of the hurricane

7:22 p.m. Today's project was to welcome Steve's sister and brother-in-law, cousin Bill and cousins Chuck and Sandra, to lunch at our house. Linda had called on Monday, and with Chuck and Sandra down from Oregon for Heidi's wedding, it would be special to visit with us at length beforehand.

"We'll bring lunch," Linda told us. So who could turn that down this busy wedding week?

In lieu of the writing time I would ordinarily do on Wednesday, I left yesterday open and praise be to God, finished my prep for Thursday's study. Now Steve and I just had to quickly clean up the downstairs, water the garden, and the yards before noon.

I prayed for wisdom with two errands I had for the wedding today--picking up Steve's rental outfit, and dropping off items the florist will set out for us on wedding day. Again, I thank the Lord who gives wisdom! James 1:5 says,

If any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask of God, who gives to all liberally and without reproach, and it will be given to him.

God showed me that if I left at 10:00, I had time to do both errands in the western end of Riverside before our guests were to arrive at noon. And best of all, I could relax and enjoy the visit, not be fretting about having time to go out later, in worse traffic! Steve had already walked the dogs, and was busy picking cleaning up the yard. Happily, all went smoothly.

We had a lovely lunch--delicious chicken salad in croissants, Greek-style salad, avocado, and a huge fresh fruit plate. I asked Linda to put away her homemade cookies because of Steve's reaction to sugar (see "Sugar Bomb" posted 5/29). It's belittling to tell a grown man in front of guests that he can't have dessert with everyone else, and I won't do that. The fruit made a fantastic as dessert anyway!

There's nothing like catching up with family, the stories from decades back, mixed with interest in my book and how it came about, the Mary Kay business, and the latest technology pros and cons. Did you know there's a flashlight app. on the Droid?! Chuck and Sandra are very much the world travelers, so it was fun to swap memories. They were also able to give Heidi tips on what to do in Maui , where she and Pavel will be this time next week!

When I say the visit was the calm eye of the storm, I'm not exaggerating. Steve tried on the pants, shirt and jacket I picked up and good grief! The shirt would have fit our bodybuilder Steven, ditto for the pants! The jacket was fine. I think they mixed up my two guys' orders. Good thing I don't have a hair appointment Friday, because that's when the right-size clothes will be in. I'll have to work around the piecing together of the table favors with Heidi and her bridesmaids, as well as the pedicures that are planned for all of us!

Add in last-minute arrangements for the wedding rehearsal and the rehearsal dinner to be held here Thursday night, and we do have much on our plate. But I know the ladies at Bible study Thursday morning will be praying for us, along with our many friends and family members.

Pray that we might be found faithful in all that we do this week as a family, and that our daughter's wedding will bring God glory, and be a testimony to His faithfulness!

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

To do and do and do

8:46 p.m. Today's project was to get my study written for Thursday a day ahead, seeing as out-of-town wedding guests begin to stop in at our house tomorrow. Some wedding errands have to be done on the 22nd as well, like my visit to the florist to take the table favors, goblets and guest book. (Maybe other necessities are in that bag, too, but no sense digging through my mental files, because the focus is on staying calm and in an orderly state of mind!) I hope to make it to the Suit Exchange in the Tyler Galleria also, saving a separate crosstown trip.

All went swimmingly as I used my notes and wrote the lesson for I Samuel 17, a fun and exciting chapter beloved by children and adults, where David kills the giant Goliath. It just represents victory against all odds, and a triumph of faith over fear, God over the devil. And everyone can identify with Goliath-size troubles that seem insurmountable, from a playground bully to an IRS bill!

Throughout the study time, however, I needed to pop into the backyard to help Steve with edging the patio and cleaning up a drink cart that had sat on the patio for years collecting dust. It will be handy for the 35-guest dinner, so people don't need to go in and out of the house for drinks. The wheeled cart will be especially handy since I killed a black widow spider that was tucked up into a corner under the cover, with an egg sac to boot! Nasty, nasty.

Despite having broken a sprinkler head yesterday, necessitating hand-watering, and frequent pauses for instructions, Steve is getting a lot done and the yard is looking nicer. But I do realize that we won't be hosting large events for much longer, because his Alzheimer-induced confusion is getting more severe. The frustration I feel when working in the yard and garden with him is a result of his inability to comprehend directional phrases like, "over there"or "in front of," even while I'm pointing. The meaning of adverbs like"behind," "left," "right," "over" or "under" has faded away. Of course I'm needing to learn that repeating the same words louder isn't an effective strategy! So I generally help him move to the next step of a task, or help him complete it. The Lord knows, and He multiplies my writing time and concentration in the broken-up periods I do have. I love Psalm 92:1-2:

It is good to give thanks to the LORD,

And to sing praises to Your Name,

O Most High;

To declare Your lovingkindness

in the morning,

And Your faithfulness every


Later in the day, we went to replace Steve's phone that had gone into the wash in his jeans pocket, got gas money for our son's trip down here from Fresno, and after dinner, Steve mowed and watered the backyard. I took off for Smart & Final for rehearsal dinner items.

We didn't get our walk in as planned, but in all, the Lord's faithfulness made it a wonderful day!

Monday, June 20, 2011

Shepherding tidbits

6:47 p.m. Today's project was to begin my research for Thursday's Bible study on I Samuel. We will be covering Chapter 17, where David slays Goliath. This famous Bible chapter has so many choice lessons for us, but I was struck by the details of David's shepherding equipment that proved instrumental in his victory over the Philistine giant.

One of my sources, Manners and Customs of the Bible, has been in my library since the 1980's, when Pastor and evangelist Greg Laurie trained the home Bible study pastors (and me, the home Bible study pastorette, the only one there with a baby in tow) including reference materials we would find most useful. I was a mom at home, so it was with much prayer and careful saving that I bought each volume, because our single-earner home was on a tight budget. Most of my money was spent on commentaries, but Manners and Unger's Bible Dictionary have proved indispensable for the times when I mentally ask "what's the significance of this?" about some odd item or fact that appears in the verse I'm reading. The women I teach are excited about the cultural knowledge, just as I am. And for an historical book, these details add a great deal of richness to our understanding.

After David had tried on Saul's armor and found it too big to walk in (vv. 38-39), he gathered his shepherd's tools in v. 40:

Then he took his staff in his hand; and he chose for himself five smooth stones from the brook, and put them in a shepherd's bag, in a pouch which he had, and his sling was in his hand.

Manners and Customs of the Bible:

The shepherd carries a staff which he holds in the center. It is used not only as a support in climbing hills, but for the purpose of beating bushes and low brushwood in which the flocks stray and where snakes and other reptiles abound. It may also be used for correcting the shepherd dogs and keeping them in subjection. Thus Goliath says, "What am I, a dog, that you come to me with staves?"

The scrip was a bag of leather thrown over the shoulder, and used by shepherds and travelers to carry provision. It is still used by Eastern shepherds and is made of the skin of a kid stripped off whole and tanned.

The sling was made of leather, or of plaited work of wool, rushes, hair, or sinews. The middle part, where the stone lay, was called the cup...there was a loop at one end which was placed over the thumb, in order to retain the weapon when the stone was flung and the other end became free. The sling was used by shepherds to keep the beasts of prey from the flock, and also to keep the sheep from straying. Husbandmen likewise used it to drive away birds from fields of corn...In using the sling, the stone was put into the broad hollowed part, the ends were grasped together in the hand, and after a few whirls around the head to give impetus, the stone was discharged, frequently with force enough to penetrate helmet or shield.

Goliath mocked, reviled, cursed and disdained David's practical weapons, but the one weapon this shepherd had that made all the difference was faith in the Living God. That is what made him unbeatable. David's God-guided missile hit its mark, and Goliath hit the ground.

When we stop to pray for God's assistance like I did this afternoon as wedding expenses mount, I realized why my plans for income did not pan out, nor did they need to--God had already provided!

Let's keep this quote from Corrie ten Boom in mind:

Look around and be distressed;

Look inside and be depressed;

Look at Christ and be at rest.

Sunday, June 19, 2011

Dad: the glory of his kids

5:17 p.m. Today's project was to welcome my dad, Heather and Nick, Kriss, Heidi and Pavel to join an almost-impromptu lunch here for Father's Day. I say it was "almost" impromptu because no one knew what the main dish was, though I had some seasoned chicken fajita filling thawing out. After Kriss, Heather and Nick arrived, we decided to make taco salad, so off the kids went to my daughter's house to get tortilla chips and homemade salsa. Heather had brought some spicy potato salad from Ralphs already, so it all fit perfectly. I had grapes leftover from my spa party, so that left Jack cheese to be grated and salad lettuce to tear up. After Nick fried the meat, it was time to sit down to dinner.

Just as we sat at the dining room table, and were ready to pray, in came Heidi and fiance Pavel, a little later than usual from children's church, where they teach 5th & 6th grade during 3rd service. We had our usual hilarious meal, discussing the merits of the Welsh terrier Heidi and Pavel might be interested in (pending more information), as well as favorite flowers, goofy misdirected greetings with delivered flowers, Kriss slaughtering all comers playing interactive online spelling games, and my gripe against excessive holidays when I can't send or receive mail!

Let's not forget the red-tailed hawk that sits on a light standard above the Canyon Crest hill, but needs to come to our house and rid our property of vermin, if you please! I'd even welcome the cat next door at this point.

Yes, we run the gamut of conversation, but all are included in the fun. But as we all carried on, Daddy and Steve were more quiet, but proud and happy that their special occasion was also marked by cards and gifts, the best of which are happy, healthy, energetic, successful kids and grandkids. Proverbs 17:6 says,

Children's children are the crown of old men,

And the glory of children is their father.

We'll be picking up our grandsons later, so I fully appreciate the first part of that verse. But I've pondered the second part of that verse many times, and it never seemed too clear to me until I viewed a wonderful video today at church that shows a little boy following proudly behind his father. As a daughter, I know I've been shaped by my dad's "doctrines" and advice to this day. As Hebrews 12:9 puts it, "we have had human fathers who corrected us, and we paid them respect."

The closeness our children have with Steve is very precious to view. They're all proud of him for his courageous efforts to fight his Alzheimer's, and do try to help him as appropriate, in as unobtrusive a manner as possible. I'm proud of them, and touched by their kindness.

Last week, Steve was frustrated that a fertilizer spreader wasn't functioning properly, so I said, "just broadcast it by hand, walking in rows." (We are hosting the rehearsal dinner for Heidi next Thursday, so the backyard needs to look un-dead!) He would scoop up the little white beadlets but became confused at what was needed, and I had to get back to my indoor task. How precious it was to see Heidi go out to the yard and help him broadcast, biblical style, until they got the yard sprinkled with nutrient! She's also gone out to try to fix one cockamamie sprinkler head that turns around to fling water at the patio slider, but, bless her heart, despite her efforts it's looking pretty intractable; I'll just shut the system off Wednesday night.

We have a wonderful week ahead with the wedding on Saturday, and family members from both sides will be working together as yet another family forms!

Saturday, June 18, 2011

Catchy attitude

5:01 p.m. Today's project for the afternoon was to get some pictures made at CVS in Mission Grove, where Steve and I were headed to get a refund for pedicure brushes I hadn't used at my spa party last night.

Since I had some nice pictures of my grandson and also of friends from last week's garden party, it seemed like a nice little "thinking of you" gift for important people in my life. Besides, I haven't gotten physical pictures made in months, because I store and post them online. I wonder if photo machines are long for this world!

Steve and I pulled up a couple of stools at the kiosk and I began the process, selecting just 13 pictures to print. It went speedily, with no edits or enlargements, except to rotate a picture of my friend Charlotte in her garden party hat. $3.19, not bad, before the Extra Savings discount I would get later on my whole cartload. (If most of their carts hadn't been stolen, but that's a topic for another day).

Time to scan our barcode under the laser beam, see the order number 6091 on the screen, "Pictures remaining:13, " and let the print machine start dropping snapshots. Nothing was produced but promising noises, and one blank picture. The machine we put the order into read, "Errors" and "Call an associate."A young associate, Jamie, had been over once to say hi in between customers at the counter, and at that point, all was well. "Good," she'd said, "I can use some good news, because this machine has been acting up today!"

So we were feeling a bit shy about signalling her over, but we did, and in a break between customers, she restarted the machines with her passcode. We had some bantering conversation, about how long the store trained them on the machines, and how awkward this was on a busy day. She tried several things and then the machine got going again, and she went back to the counter.

I liked her upbeat attitude, and Steve even managed a quick comment during the conversation, something that isn't always possible for him. We would have preferred to get on our way, but weren't in any official rush. So while Steve stayed at the kiosk watching for pictures to drop, I went to get a refund on two unused pedicure brushes and selected and paid for a Father's Day card for him. Back to the photo machines after my transaction, I found that Steve had seen no progress. No sense getting upset! When the associate came back again, we all ruefully laughed, and she said, "You have to laugh to keep from crying with this machine," and I pointed out, "It's the machine--not your fault at all!" When she opened the printer once again, she ascertained that the paper was about at the end of the roll, so she had another clerk take over the lengthening line and inserted a new drum. (I only know the lingo from fighting with one of the copy machines at Ina Arbuckle Elementary, site of my last teaching assignment).

This time, I completed my shopping list and placed the items on unoccupied counter space-still no carts--while Steve kept watch on the machine. I went ahead and paid for the pictures with the rest of my items to keep from having Steve be rushed because my turn had come to check out. When I returned, he had a handful of pictures, I counted 13, with doubles of two of them, and we were all set to go. What a relief.

I hope we were a good witness to Jamie, and we appreciated her diligence and positivity in a stressful, busy time at the counter. Despite all of the machine's obstinacy, she even remembered to get my CVS Extra Care number both times I checked out, and offered to carry out the big packages of t.p. that we had, but that was not needed, especially with a line behind us.

Proverbs 15:15 says,

All the days of the afflicted are evil, but he who is of a merry heart has a continual feast.

And life's feast begins with a great attitude toward the annoyances of life!

Friday, June 17, 2011

Seems like such a waste

10:22 p.m. Today's project was to host a spa party here at home, with facials, pedicures and chair massages from my therapist friend. The ladies tried several Mary Kay foot, body and facial products and then had their stress relieved wonderfully at $1 per minute of massage. During breaks between clients, I had two 5-minute sessions myself. Ahhhh...

It was a wonderful girls' day of pampering!

In between groups of clients, the therapist and I had a long break, so we began sharing our testimonies and life stories over our dinner (which she took my Jeep to pick up from Taco Bell, since any ladies coming in would expect to see me at the door) and relaxed over the snacks I'd prepared.

Our conversation went back to childhood, from the first times we were dropped off at Sunday School. She seemed to remember someone giving her a picture of Jesus when she was little, that she still has, but does not remember anyone telling her that she could ask Jesus into her heart. My mother, whose grandfather was a Presbyterian minister, would occasionally quote from the Bible, and my grandmother gave me a beautiful white leather Bible with my name on it in gold. I wish someone had marked John 3:16!

In Hampton, New Hampshire, our family attended the white clapboard church across the street from 1956-59. My sister and I sang a duet on Easter, but I don't recall as a 3rd grader being told how to be saved. At 8 years of age, I was old enough to understand, certainly. Later as a high school student, I would drive my sister and myself to a prominent Protestant church in Redlands where I sang in the choir and was a girls' youth group leader while my sister worked in the nursery each Sunday. But salvation was never offered, whether in the sanctuary or the classroom!

We see Jesus' attitude toward children in Luke 18:15-1:

Then they also brought infants to Him that He might touch them; but when the disciples saw it, they rebuked them. But Jesus called them to Him and said, "Let the little children come to Me, and do not forbid them; for of such is the kingdom of God. Assuredly, I say to you, whoever does not receive the kingdom of God as a little child will by no means enter it."

Why weren't children like my friend and me led to the Lord? What decades of heartache would have been saved, not to mention the accountability of pastors and Sunday School teachers who do not take every opportunity to lead their flocks to Christ!

Perhaps the old adage is true--you can't give what you don't have yourself!

What we really concluded, having both been saved in our late twenties as single mothers, is that God's timing is perfect, even if His extended timing and patience with us is hard to understand. I sometimes wish that angels would fly over the towns where my loved ones live broadcasting a loud invitation to accept Christ! But wait-- in Revelation 8:13, at the sound of the 4th trumpet, there is

an angel flying through the midst of heaven, saying in a loud voice, "Woe, woe, woe to the inhabitants of the earth, because of the remaining blasts of the trumpet of the three angels who are about to sound.

By the merriment the unsaved exhibit when the Two Witnesses from God are killed (Revelation 11:10) it seems safe to assume that their hearts are hard, and their perdition certain, despite the physical torments and natural disasters God has sent on mankind!

Thinking back to my unsaved self, 31 years ago, childhood openness gone, my heart was hard. I had no intention of listening to the gospel message as a young adult even though I still went to a church of my denomination in Westwood as a UCLA student. No altar calls were offered there!

And my friend spent time in a legalistic church where the congregation ran around the sanctuary wildly yelling to the point that if an invitation were given, it couldn't have been heard!

It just wasn't the precise time for salvation for these two sinners, even though He had chosen us "before the foundation of the world" (Ephesians 1:4). God waited for us to be open to hear the gospel, to let the Good News soak in, and accept Christ as Savior of our own free will, the same as He does for everyone.

As we shared our testimonies, we realized that God wastes nothing, and that all of our experiences will be used for His glory!

Thursday, June 16, 2011

It's appearances that we love

3:51 p.m. Today's project was to teach I Samuel Chapter 16 to our Thursday ladies' Bible study. In a mere 23 verses, the nation of Israel has been turned upside down! The Lord has stripped the kingship from disobedient Saul, and taken His Spirit from him as well. Yet Saul continues to appear to reign, for all intents and purposes as far as the people know. A distressing spirit from the Lord came upon him, and his fits of depression and rage were well known in his court.

We had quite an extensive discussion as to whether the Holy Spirit can be removed from a believer in Christ, and we came to the consensus that once a believer rejects God's commandments repeatedly, rejecting the wise ministrations of the Holy Spirit, he runs the risk of being open to demonic spirits due to his own repeatedly sinful and defiant choices: the places he or she goes, the people they associate with, the distorted thought patterns they adopt. (For future reference, Hebrews 10: 26-31 offers a severe warning to straying believers).

King Saul's biggest and most prominent supporter, the prophet Samuel, had been mourning Saul's downfall ever since it happened, but God was ready to move on. He states at the beginning of the chapter,

How long will you mourn for Saul, seeing I have rejected him from reigning over Israel? Fill your flask with oil and go: I am sending you to Jesse the Bethlehemite. For I have provided Myself a king among his sons.

Samuel expresses outright fear about going to find a new king! "How can I go? If Saul hears it, he will kill me."

We had some interesting conversation at this point. Would Saul really have killed Samuel? Ancient kings certainly killed their disloyal subjects and rivals, as both Saul and David did later on. And Saul had threatened to kill his own son Jonathan for breaking a fast he knew nothing about! But God had Samuel covered, just as He has us covered in every situation in which He places us. Psalm 46:1 says, "God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble."

Samuel took a heifer to sacrifice, and invited Jesse's male family members to the feast.

As each of Jesse's seven older sons passed before him, Samuel kept thinking, "Surely the LORD's anointed is before Him!" But God gave one of the most important concepts in scripture to Samuel, who apparently found a tall, handsome "Saul clone" when he saw the oldest son Eliab,

Do not look at his appearance or at his physical stature, because I have refused him. For the LORD does not see as man sees; for man looks at the outward appearance, but the LORD looks at the heart.

Eventually David, the youngest, was called in from tending sheep and Samuel "anointed him in the midst of his brothers, and the Spirit of the LORD came upon David from that day forward."

It wasn't long before David was called in to soothe Saul's rants with his praise songs and skillful playing on the harp.

We humans spend so much time making sure our outward appearance in all of its facets, including our physical appearance, clothing, house, car, job, even the church we attend, make us look good in the eyes of others. Additionally, we spend an inordinate amount of time judging the outward appearances of other people. Folks we can't imagine speaking to can end up as wonderful fellow believers once we get a glimpse of their hearts. And those who initially look perfect in our eyes turn out to be anything but, once we get a glimpse of their hearts!

ONLY GOD KNOWS THE HEART OF EACH PERSON! And what does He say about the human heart? Check out Jeremiah 17:9-10.

The heart is deceitful above all things,

And desperately wicked;

Who can know it?

I, the LORD, search the heart,

I test the mind,

Even to give every man according to his ways,

According to the fruit of his doings.


At first, I added the picture of the furious Queen of Hearts with the spiritually oppressed King Saul in mind, but now that I think of it, she could represent you or me, when we don't take the time to keep up our treasured appearances!

Be as real with others as we are with God! As James 5:16 says (NKJV),

Confess your trespasses to one to another, and pray for one another, that you may be healed.

Appearances fool no one!

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Just in time

6:46 p.m. Today's project was to help our daughter with wedding details, different projects for each day, now that we're a little over a week away! Exciting times, though not always pleasant. Lots of stress--deadlines will do that to you! But deadlines also get us moving, don't they?

I had picked up a dozen bottles of Martinell's sparkling apple cider at Vons last night for the toast, but upon arrival at home, two bottles were discovered to be apple-pomegranate. Delicious, but not quite uniform for a wedding reception. So we needed to switch for another case. I went to bed not thinking much about it, until the Lord woke me up at 5:54 a.m.

"Hmmm," I thought, after a few minutes, "Vons opens at 6 o'clock"! I called, and got the bookkeeper, but she made arrangements with a manager to have a case ready for exchange. (And unlike the virtuous wife of Proverbs 31, who rises while it is still night, I went back to sleep!) Praise the Lord, Heidi went down the hill and made the trade.

Another quest I undertook on the way home from delivering makeup to a customer, was to find a nail salon large enough to take Heidi and her bridesmaids, and possibly me, at the same time for pedicures the day before the wedding. I know of one close by, but maybe my younger daughter Heather has something in mind. We're on the case!

Neither Thursday Bible study nor my business are on sabbatical the next two weeks, so I spent the afternoon writing the lesson for tomorrow. While on a stretch break, I confirmed a caregiver on Friday for 2:15-8 p.m., because I am hosting a spa party here at the house that will occupy the whole downstairs. While ladies soak their feet, they'll enjoy a facial. Then, if they care to, they may pay my friend Amy, a certified massage therapist, for a chair massage at the rate of $1/ minute. I think even 5 minutes of professional massage would really change anyone's outlook for the better, don't you? I just envision the stress fleeing away! Of course I hope to make some sales of my products, too.

The hoped-for plan for Steve and his caregiver is to go to a movie, have something to eat, and maybe see what else they can do to stay occupied. We have a tv upstairs that can show DVDs, so that could wrap up their evening. But talk about God's timing! I was looking for movie show- times in our nearby shopping center, when my glance fell upon the beautiful picture of a dear friend's mother on the obituary page. Alma Herman was 93 when she passed away, blessedly into the arms of Jesus. I had met her many times over the years at my friend Linda's home. She had been living with Kim and Linda the last 7 months. Whenever Linda and I had a chance to talk, we could truly commiserate with one another as caregivers. I was able to send Linda a message of condolence, and hope to talk to her soon.

What if I had just tossed the paper for lack of time to read it, like I do several times a week? But God had a different plan, didn't He? A wiser, more superior plan, guided by the Holy Spirit, while I was just going about taking care of business!

No matter how busy and hectic our lives become, if we have given our lives to Christ, we have this assurance in Psalm 138:8

The LORD will perfect that which concerns me.

Tuesday, June 14, 2011


4:48 p.m. Today's project was to attend the last class of the Alzheimer/dementia caregivers' support group presented by the Riverside County Office of Aging. This was the first series undertaken and it was a great success in my opinion.

I definitely did not want to miss this class, because the topic was "Caregiver Burnout: Learn Signs, Symptoms and Prevention Techniques." While I generally feel at peace and joyful as a believer, there are definitely an increasing number of stressful incidents with Steve as his cognition and emotions deteriorate. So I need this class as much as the woman who is changing her husband's diapers or the one whose ninety-year-old mother screamed at her, "I want my daughter!" (They share the same home).

"Forewarned is forearmed," my dad used to say, and Proverbs has many adjurations toward prudent planning:

  • the prudent man looks well to his going (14:15)

  • the prudent are crowned with knowledge (14:18)

  • the heart of the prudent gets knowledge (18:15)

  • a prudent man foresees the evil (22:3)

One key piece of information we received was the definition of Burnout:

Burnout is a "most of the time"state of emotional, mental, and physical exhaustion caused by excessive and prolonged (chronic) stress. Burnout can take place on a job, at home with a family to raise, or as a 24-hour-a-day caregiver to a disabled person. What can cause this condition? Among other things, feeling little or no control; working too much without time to relax/socialize; trying to be too many things to too many people; too many responsibilities/ not enough help; not enough sleep; lack of close, supportive relationships; perfectionistic tendencies (can't delegate); pessimistic view of yourself and the world.

As a mother of five, if I hadn't known the Lord and if I had lacked a strong family, church family and many loyal friends, I could see postpartum depression and burnout happening. Remember Andrea Yates who drowned her 5 children? Burnout is real!

Emotional signs of burnout are: feeling helpless, trapped and defeated, alone, and unmotivated, with decreased satisfaction or sense of accomplishment. We all want to feel that the Lord put us here for a purpose (which He did) and that what we do for others matters (which it does). Here's where you and I come in for an overworked caregiver: make sure to affirm the good job they are doing with their loved one's care. Tell them you are praying for them, and then PRAY!

Proverbs 25:11: A word fitly spoken is like apples of gold in settings of silver.

Behavioral symptoms of burnout to look for in a friend or family caregiver are: withdrawal from responsibilities; isolating oneself; using food, drugs or alcohol to cope; taking out frustrations on others. The presentation states that a person may be on the road to burnout if:

  1. Every day is a bad day

  2. Caring about work/home seems like a total waste of energy

  3. You're exhausted all the time

  4. Most daily tasks seem mind-numbingly dull or overwhelming

  5. You feel like nothing you do makes a difference or is noticed by others

  6. You feel "all dried up,"

  7. You feel that nothing will ever change

For the believer, if you reach this point, it is critical to get help immediately from godly counselors and your pastor. They can assign a "helps team" to visit and alleviate some of your burden at least temporarily, even giving you some respite, until family members can be called to accountability in assisting the main caregiver.

Don't be too proud to ask for help, because "pride goes before destruction and a haughty spirit before a fall"(Proverbs 16:18). Your life is what we are talking about here! If you die, then who will care for your loved one? Did you know that 51% of caregivers die before their love one with dementia? I was shocked to hear that statistic! And I have made a strong, daily commitment to exercise as a result.

Also, agencies exist, that you have paid for with your taxes, to assist with placement of in-home help, like what I pay for through insurance for Steve a few times a week for Bible study and conducting my Mary Kay business. Riverside County Office of Aging provides respite services that can give you a day or a weekend off to rejuvenate. Or you may need help to find a placement for your loved one if their needs are too far advanced in the medical realm for you to manage alone or even with other family members.

If this post is speaking to you, whether you are an overwhelmed mom or an overwhelmed senior citizen caregiver, live in our community or in another state, please contact me and I will help you! May we be there for one another, nurturing and caring for one another, until the Lord calls us home!

Monday, June 13, 2011

Some new news

6:09 p.m. Today's project was to start my studying for Thursday's lesson on I Samuel Chapter 16, where David is anointed by the prophet Samuel as God's choice for King of Israel. This was a surprise to the prophet as well as to David's whole family, considering that he as the youngest was out tending sheep, not even considered worth inviting in to the sacrifice and feast God designed in his honor!

Unbelievable, aren't God's ways many times? But surprises and shocks to His people are merely ways God operates in this world to get our attention and cause us to be ever more awed at His omnipotence, omniscience and everlasting love.

Before my day really got rolling, I was reading today's devotional selection in My Utmost for His Highest by Oswald Chambers. It says,

There is only one thing you can consecrate to God, and that is your right to yourself (Romans 12:1 present your body a living sacrifice). If you will give God your right to yourself, He will make a holy experiment out of you. God's experiments always succeed. The one mark of a saint is the moral originality which springs from abandonment to Jesus Christ. In the life of a saint there is this amazing wellspring of original life all the time; the Spirit of God is a well of water springing up, perennially fresh. (Italic scripture insert mine)

I had a number of surprises today, including the discovery that in the commotion that greeted me when I arrived home after Thursday's Bible study, I had forgotten to mail out the online lessons! Thanks to an email from one of my group, I sent it out this morning. On the pleasant side, a young man who has helped us out before, offered to take our Jeep to his house to replace the brakes, and left his car for us to drive--very considerate, and still scads less expensive than having our dealership do the job.

But the biggest surprise of all was the news that Tate Publishing has arranged a book signing for Galatians: An Exploration of Faith and Freedom at a local bookstore! I've been selling books as I get them in, and some have been sold online. So a public opportunity to meet readers will be a blessing, and good exposure!

My life indeed has been a grand experiment by the Lord Jesus Christ, the same as with all who have fully given their lives to Him to use as He will!

Sunday, June 12, 2011

Loveliness with godliness

8:14 p.m. Today's project was to drive to my friend Rachel Monreal's garden party at her home in Lake Elsinore. I had dropped Steve off with his friend Howard and picked up his wife Charlotte to go with Kay and me. Other gals were coming a bit later, and some of Rachel's local friends were already there.

Kay was kind enough to drive, and we made good time, despite totally missing Rachel's street and having to turn around when the paving ended! Our hostess took a moment from tempering the chocolate for her fountain to set us back on the right path.

We enjoyed refreshing drinks and delicious artichoke-ricotta dip as we fellowshiped, and more than one of us dipped a gigantic strawberry into the burbling chocolate fountain. But that didn't spoil our appetite for lunch! After Rachel's welcoming prayer of blessing on our afternoon, we enjoyed pasta salad, fabulous lightly curried cashew chicken salad on croissants, more strawberries, dip and raspberry-filled cupcakes with cameo decorations on the top! Rachel truly went all out, and it was sheer joy to visit in her lovely French-country style home with toile draperies that really set off all of her antique finds.

"Whatever you do, in word or deed," Colossians 3:17 says, "do all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through Him." Rachel certainly did that!

As we took our plates to the garden, wearing sun hats that Kay provided, we had the nicest, most relaxing conversations, like we'd known each other our whole lives. Our two tables of ladies made as amiable a gathering as I've been to lately, much needed during this high stress wedding month for our family. It was true koinonia, Christ-centered conversation, with Jesus Himself as our common bond. We encouraged one another also, as Hebrews 10:24-25 exhorts:

And let us consider one another in order to stir up love and good works, not forsaking the assembling of ourselves together...

After lunch and dessert, we gathered around the comfy couch and cushioned patio chairs, including her Bichon-Frise/Poodle mix, who leapt up on the couch to cuddle with me, but then settled down to pose for pictures before we all shared and had devotions.

My topic came from the observation earlier this week that the most gorgeous of the world's botanical creation, flowers, have not the slightest anxiety--a far cry from the way most of us function! Jesus told us in Luke 12:31, not to worry about what we will live on,

But seek the kingdom of God, and all these things shall be added to you.

As the Lord closed our afternoon with hugs and goodbyes, He laid it on two of my friends' hearts to buy copies of my book, which is a nice help for our family right now.

The Lord sent us home refreshed, ready to serve our husbands, and refilled with His Spirit!

Saturday, June 11, 2011

Keep digging!

2:04 p.m. Today's project was to plant the free Pinkerton avocado tree we brought home last Wednesday afternoon. I had only watered it once, because I didn't want it to be too heavy when Steve carried it out to the far corner of the backyard. It's new home is on a bank among the citrus and pine trees and a "volunteer" tree whose type and origin nobody knows.

Having read the directions, I knew we had to dig a much wider and deeper hole than the height and diameter of the root ball. We needed to accommodate some potting soil mix under and around the plant's roots. So I took those measurements while Steve started with his post hole digger. He would dig, and after every few stabs, I would shovel out the loose dirt. We had also poured potting mix into our wheelbarrow a few days ago, so I wheeled it out of the garden and into the backyard to have it ready.

Attacking the dirt with the post hole digger, Steve kept saying, "This soil is really hard and rocky!" (Our neighborhood is built on decomposed granite, very steady in earthquakes). "Well, " I replied, "at least it'll have good drainage." I pitched in with the shovel, too, and it was tough going at first, not very productive.

But as he dug deeper, Steve proclaimed, "The soil's getting looser now!" and so it was! The dirt moved out of our hole much faster, and soon we were finished. We shoveled in some potting soil, leveled it, fetched the tree, sat it on top of the added soil, loaded up the hole with a few more cubic feet of soil, and the tree was planted! We dug an irrigation channel encircling it, we began a steady drip of water, then went over to work in our garden.

Like Steve in the initial going with his post hole digger, we come to times in our walk with the Lord when it's just too hard to go on, it seems. I felt that way last night, just overwhelmed and somewhat discouraged by trials and issues piling up. But after the Lord gave me a good night's rest, I woke up to the news that two more friends are joining our mutual friend Rachel's garden party tomorrow where I'll be speaking. Praise you, Lord!

But no problems were solved, not until I dug deeper into my heart and poured it all out to the Lord in silent prayer, weeping, and continued in my journal. We need to cast all our cares upon Him, for He cares for us, according to I Peter 5:7, and "all" means "all." From recent embarrassments and inconveniences to the serious trials that actually caused a physical pain in my chest this morning from stress, I had to "keep digging" until I found that malleable soil in the depths of my heart, where I could finally tell the Lord that I just can't do it alone any more! (Jesus knew that, and was waiting for me to agree with Him!) I felt so sorry for myself that I took an aspirin in case I was having a heart attack, and put on my Freedom Alert pendant that calls 911 at the push of a button. That made me feel even more pathetically alone, because with just the two of us at home today, and Steve's mounting confusion, there's only one person who could even call 911!

A upbeat phone conversation with my Dad full of tips for correctly planting our tree, followed by good, strenuous outdoor work, took away my pain and set my mind on things above. Steve needed many repetitions of directions; no one magically took care of wedding finances and details; and I still need to plan a way to house and feed my grandsons, my sister, her dog, and my youngest son during wedding week, while running my business and teaching the Word on Thursdays! But I have a deep confidence now that was absent yesterday and this morning. The Lord has shown me how much support, opportunity and encouragement He has provided, and will continue to provide, in the very situations that I label "stressful."

As we dig ever deeper into God's word, seeking His counsel to face our trials directly, confessing the sin that often lies at the bottom of our problems, as well as confessing our fears and anxieties as sin, we will find that our going gets easier! Let's journey with the One of whom this promise is written in Psalm 16:11:

You will show me the path of life;

In Your presence is fullness of joy;

At Your right hand are pleasures forevermore.

Friday, June 10, 2011

Thirty years' lace

3:25 p.m. Today's project was to welcome our friends Kenny and DeAnna here so that she could stitch a lace flower from my wedding gown onto the train of Heidi's gown. It's a family tradition for the "something old" which began with our daughter Heather's gown three years ago. And who knows if a third generation's bride might use a piece of her mother's gown!

This morning as I read my portion of scripture, Numbers Chapter 2, I noticed that God commanded an exact count of each of the twelve tribes of Israel, especially the men ages 20 and above (fighting men), and that each family, clan and tribe were to stay together in a specific area in relationship to the Tabernacle. The NLT charts it out very well: Judah, Issachar and Zebulun on the east side, first to lead when the Israelites moved forward; next, Reuben, Simeon and Gad to the south; then came the Levites carrying the Tabernacle and all its furnishings; then Ephraim, Manasseh and Benjamin on the west; bringing up the rear were Dan, Asher and Napthali on the north side.

If we hadn't believed it until this point, we can see that God is a God of exacting order and cares deeply about details! He wants His people to be safe, well-positioned for war, and His glorious Presence over the ark of the covenant guarded above all by His chosen servants the Levites.

God tells us in His word that He cares about the small details of our lives, whether as part of a family event, our daily walk with Him, even our thoughts, because as Hebrews 4:12-13 (NLT) says,

For the word of God is alive and powerful, sharper than the sharpest two-edged sword, cutting between soul and spirit, between joint and marrow. It exposes our innermost thoughts and desires. Nothing in all creation is hidden from God. Everything is naked and exposed before His eyes, and He is the one to whom we are accountable.

As I watched Deanna sew on the flower piece with excruciating attention to each minute stitch, I was inspired to do my utmost in my endeavors in family life, Bible teaching, business and caring for our home. God sees and knows all about you and me, so why not please Him by doing things His way, "as unto the Lord." (Colossians 3:23)

Thursday, June 9, 2011

Today is the day

4:36 p.m. Today's project was to teach I Samuel Chapter 15 to our weekly ladies' Bible study. This amazing chapter has one of the most blatant examples of direct disobedience recorded in scripture, as well as one of the most famous rebukes.

Through the prophet Samuel, God told King Saul to utterly destroy the Amalekites, down to the infants and animals. Why such a tremendous judgment?

God had declared in Deuteronomy 25: 17-19, concerning Amalek,

Remember what Amalek did to you on the way as you were coming out of Egypt, how he met you on the way and attacked your rear ranks, all the stragglers at your rear, when you were tired and weary; and he did not fear God. Therefore it shall be, when the LORD your God has given you rest from your enemies all around, in the land your God is giving you to possess as an inheritance, that you will blot out the remembrance of Amalek from under heaven. You shall not forget.

Now that Israel was an established kingdom, it was time for the king to act on God's behalf. "Vengeance is Mine," says the Lord. "I will repay." (Romans 12:19) Only a holy, righteous God has the right to exact punishment on the evil. Human rulers are then tasked to act in His behalf, upon His established laws.

Saul exhibited God's mercy by warning the Kenites to leave Amalekite territory, for they had shown kindness to the Israelites (Judges 1:16), just as He spared Lot from the destruction of Sodom, just as He warns the remnant of believers to flee Babylon prior to its destruction (Revelation 18:4). Then the slaughter took place--or did it?

In verse 9 of I Samuel 15, we find that Saul did not destroy all of Amalek. He and his men kept all of the best of the animals and even spared King Agag! (You'll recall that Haman, the arch-enemy of the Jews in the Book of Esther, was called an Agagite, so obviously, some Amalekites had survivied in the Babylonian empire). And it was not until 250 years later that we are told in I Chronicles 4:43, that King Hezekiah, the 14th king from Saul, finally wiped them out of the land)!

Saul's longtime mentor and friend, the prophet Samuel, had to deliver one of the sharpest rebukes in the Bible to his protege:

Because you have rejected the word of the LORD, He has also rejected you from being king.

Exact, unhesitating obedience to God's commands is a problem for us today as well, isn't it? God tells us to make that difficult phone call, honor our marriage vows, apologize, share Christ with a friend--do we leap up to obey, drag ourselves to do it, do only some of the task, or pretend we didn't hear the Spirit's voice?

Or do tempting valuables, like the cattle Saul and his men saved, keep us from obeying?

Hebrews 3:7-8; 12-13 say,

Therefore, as the Holy Spirit says: "Today, if you will hear His voice, do not harden your hearts as in the rebellion, in the day of trial in the wilderness..."

Beware, brethren, lest there be in any of you an evil heart of unbelief in departing from the living God; but exhort one another while it is called "Today," lest any of you be hardened through the deceitfulness of sin.

Today, not tomorrow, is the day to begin obeying God with your whole being--body, heart, mind and soul!