Monday, February 28, 2011

Ready to release

2:29 p.m. Today's project was to purchase and prepare all of the ingredients for my daughters' birthday dinner party. Steve worked on sweeping up the tiny maddening pods from the Silver Dollar Eucalyptus trees that tower over our driveway, and make walking barefoot during the summer an act of daring! I iced the angel food cake and have the table set.
My day moseyed along as planned, until God injected some exciting news! I read in an email from the marketing department of my publisher, Tate, that they have set a release date of May 31st for Galatians: An Exploration of Faith and Freedom! They included a link to my book's website, which I will have to figure out how to attach to this blog and my Facebook profile page. The pre-sales can begin now, so I want my friends and family to know.
Yesterday, I wrote that with one day to go in this feast-or-famine month of February, I would have more praise reports because God wasn't done yet! Of course, God is never done blessing His children, even when we think things can't get any worse. Praise God for what He says about our thoughts compared to His in Isaiah 55:8-13
"For My thoughts are not your
Nor are your ways My ways,"
says the LORD.
"For as the heavens are higher
than the earth,
So are My ways higher than your
And My thoughts higher than your
For as the rain comes down, and
the snow from heaven,
And do not return there,
But water the earth,
And make it bring forth and bud,
That it may bring seed to the
And bread to the eater,
So shall My word be that goes
forth from My mouth;
It shall not return to Me void,
But it shall accomplish what I please,
And it shall prosper in the thing
for which I sent it."
Maybe after an additional thirty years of walking with the Lord and studying His Word, I will be quicker in both difficult and delightful seasons, to say with calm and confidence, as in Psalm 62:5,
My soul, wait silently for God alone, for my expectation is from Him.

Sunday, February 27, 2011

Prayer notebook

3:46 p.m. Today's project was to reflect in amazement on the way God has blessed this short, wintry, sparse month called February 2011! I actually have been blown away the entire month, overwhelmed with praise reports.

For the last 25 years, I have kept a plastic 3-ring notebook (replaced a few times) with pages for prayer requests and praise reports. I write in my praises just before bedtime, and prayer requests as they come to my attention throughout the day. Two months are covered at a time. At the top I write a Bible verse, song lyric or phrase that I heard somewhere or just made up, that encourages me, like "My God is twice as good!" or in reference to the enemy taunting us with bad news, "A Christian doesn't take the first answer." It's whatever the Spirit leads. The upcoming page for March/April has two: "His gospel is peace," from the carol "O Holy Night;" and "God hasn't fastened your soul to a dead-end dream," by Dick Eastman in The Purple Pig.

I allow two or three lines each for each of the following categories:

  • Salvation
  • The Body of Christ throughout the world (including missions and crusades)
  • Our church
  • Steve (my husband)
  • Sean and his family
  • Kriss and his wife
  • Heidi and her fiance
  • Heather and Nick
  • Steven
  • Myself (personal, household management, ministry)
  • Extended Family
  • My business
  • Needs of others (healing, employment, etc.)
  • City
  • State
  • National and world issues
  • Other needs that come to my attention as the months progress

When I began keeping this notebook, I would put the prayer requests on about 3/4 of the width of the page, and the praises on the right-hand 1/4. Even using the most minuscule chicken scratch, I needed more space for praise reports. So I changed the set-up, devoting the back side of the college-ruled paper to two months of praises. A title for the praise side might be "My God is able to deliver me" (Daniel 3:17) or "Take no thought for tomorrow" (Mark 6:14).

Normally, the praise reports take up half a page for each month and remain within the margins. But for some divine and blessed reason (see above), February's praises for God's answers to both momentous and momentary prayers, overflowed out onto the sides. Then the praises went over the top of the page, crazily crowding out the title "I am the way, the truth and the life" (John 14:6)! There isn't a millimeter of space left to scribble on! But since February isn't over yet, I'll have to find a smidge of room before I go to bed tonight and tomorrow!

February was terrible for us financially, almost reaching a state of literal pennilessness after our big bills and car repair were paid. Yet God was so generous with His love, His gifts, family time, and fellowship. He blessed ministry endeavors and caused wedding details to come together. Through the Helping Hands ministry, I actually was able to help organize meals for invalids and even took a meal despite our own lack! I truly felt that He "opened the windows of heaven and pour(ed) out for us such blessing that there was not room enough to receive it" (paraphrase of Malachi 3:10). The blessings were not necessarily material, although groundwork was laid for future increase.

As promised by Jesus Himself, we felt the overflow of living water, the power of the Holy Spirit. And I by no means deserved one bit of it--God loves His children so much that there is no way to deserve it! Oswald Chambers' February 26 devotion in My Utmost for His Highest tells of the way we look at our circumstances like the woman at the well in John 4:11, and complain that Jesus can't possibly provide, because "Sir, you have nothing to draw with and the well is deep." When has Jesus ever had any lack whatsoever? But we humans can be so foolish, mentally dense and our perspective so limited that we just need to be picked up in our Father's arms and carried to a place of rest, peace and TRUST!

If the praise reports for the last two months were not down in black and white, a testimony to the greatness of God, I almost wouldn't believe it.

We serve an amazing, all-powerful, all-loving God!

Saturday, February 26, 2011

Jeremiah 29:11: Portrait of my daughters

5:22 p.m. Today's project was to greet Heidi on her 27th birthday, give her her card and a kiss, and pray that the rain would lift for her special day at Sea World with her fiance.
1984 and 1986 were two amazing years: Heidi was the first grandaughter on the Kruckenberg side, whose birth triggered joyfulness beyond measure for Steve's mom. The late "Grandma Orange" even went with her sister Auntie Doris to the Germantown section of Anaheim to purchase a tiny dirndl. My friend Libby made a gorgeous christening gown that both Heidi and her younger sister Heather wore when being dedicated to the Lord at Harvest. We thought we were finished having children after Sean and Kriss, because we were contented with our boys, and Steve was actually between jobs! But Heidi saw things differently as she made her presence known within my womb!
Heather's story was quite the opposite. After miscarrying an unplanned baby I'll meet one day in heaven, God changed my heart. I began to urgently pray for another child, and before long, Heather came into being. I cannot imagine my life without them, born two years, one day and one hour apart--both amazing young women who made their way in God's timing, taking unconventional paths into my generally well-planned life! However, over decades of walking with the Lord, and seeing His ways in my life, I realize more and more how shortsighted I am compared to Him!
"For I know the thoughts I think towards you, says the LORD, thoughts of peace and not of evil, to give you a future and a hope." (Jeremiah 29:11)
I once asked my late mom when I was little, "If you were married to someone else, would I look different?" Mommy, a pharmacy major in college, was prepared as always for my posers, so she said, "You would be someone else entirely," and tried to give me a little lesson on genetics. I've asked myself at times, who would that baby be who stepped aside for Heather? and what if there had been no Heidi? Only God knows, as Deuteronomy 29:29 declares: "The secret things belong unto the LORD." My curiosity and speculations are fairly pointless, only serving to send a little shiver down my spine when I realize the split-second timing of God's creative hand, and but for the grace of God, I might never have known these beautiful young women!
The Lord had a special treat for me today when I dropped off some product to Heather's mother-in-law, because as we pulled into the driveway, we saw Nick's Corolla, along with his parents' vehicles. And there in the living room were Heather and Nick, his sister and parents, just back home after taking Heather out to lunch! After a quick little visit, Steve and I went on the rest of my business errands, cheered by the sight of the cross on Mt. Rubidoux in clear view, and looking forward to our annual joint birthday dinner at the house on Monday night, which will include their brother Kriss and his wife.
This year finds me in a more pensive mood on the girls' birthdays, because Heidi is getting married in June, and unbelievably, Heather will have been married for three years in August! Their walks with Jesus are strong, they dedicate a large part of their time to youth ministry and giving to the community, and I could not have chosen better mates for them. Again, God's creative work was at hand, one "chance" sighting at a time--Heidi and Pavel spotted each other at a Ravi Zacharias lecture at Calvary Costa Mesa years after meeting one another at the University of Redlands; Heather and Nick went to different high schools, but through MySpace and Riverside Community College, became friends.
What will it be like for Steve and me once Heidi moves away to begin her new life? I cannot even imagine having an official "empty nest!" Our youngest one, Steven, is still unmarried, but lives 6 hours' drive away in Fresno. Sean and Kriss live reasonably nearby, but we don't see them more than once or twice a month. The kids are all ready and willing to help me with their dad, but we are not really at the stage of Alzheimer's where physical assistance is needed, and the Lord has provided professional assistance for me. I suppose I'll be asking, like many of my friends who have reached this point before me, "Will they come see me? Will they miss me? Will my girls want to do anything with me?" I'm tempting to fall into more of that useless speculation, and have more need to trust the Lord for His provision, lovingkindness, and a more wonderful future than I can even imagine!
As I wholeheartedly celebrate my daughters' lives, current and pending marriages, and our family's God-ordained future, I'll take Ephesians 3:20a to heart: "Now to Him who is able to do exceedingly abundantly above all that we ask or think" and remember the assurance of Jeremiah 29:11, that God has a future planned for me, for my husband, my children, and for you too, fellow believer!

Friday, February 25, 2011

I'll take fries with that

2:56 p.m. Today's project was to greet our new caregiver, a very nice and efficient young man from the Brightstar Agency who will be alternating with our Tuesday aide. I quickly showed him where everything Steve would need was located, made sure he went out with Steve to the backyard to greet the dogs, and went off to the hair salon to begin my morning of errands.
It certainly is wonderful to be able to make the multiple stops required to prepare for tonight's spa party, pick up birthday cards for my daughters, and buy two more packets of gift tags for my Heidi's wedding day prayer tree, without worrying about Steve's well-being. It was definitely much easier for me to run in and out of stores quickly, and get back home before the rain came down. I also had to make a stop at CVS for two of Steve's Alzheimer meds that he was out of. Can't just let powerful brain and nervous system-affecting drugs come to a sudden stop. Praise God for His provision of relief for our ills!
Despite my desire to eat low-carb today after last night's Bisquick Cheeseburger pie and bowl of ice cream with toppings that I enjoyed while watching "Fireproof" with my husband, I was sidetracked by the Tamale Man who sells to the Upper Echelon salon on my way out. Actually, in the interest of full disclosure, I walked right over to him and asked him what kinds he had today! Since I had $4 cash, I purchased 2 chicken and two cheese-jalapeno tamales, nice and hot. At home after my errands, Steve and I each enjoyed one. I feel somewhat good about my lunch because my lunch drink was a Propel Zero [calorie] "nutrient enhanced water beverage!" This scripture came to mind appropriately after my indulgence:"The spirit is indeed willing, but the flesh is weak," Jesus said in Matthew 26:41.
After viewing the 24-year old beach vacation photo of myself with my darling daughters, I'm reminded that a reduction in flesh is definitely in order before our upcoming family wedding!
Temptation is always around us; it just depends on what each one of us is tempted by. An article I just read on this blog's reading list from Fox News caught my eye. "Man arrested after caught deep fat frying wings while intoxicated." What on earth? Turns out that a Minneapolis man who works at a Pizza Hut broke into his store and began frying up some frozen hot wings! His blood alcohol level was .22, way more than three times the legal limit in Minnesota. Thankfully he didn't injure himself or burn down the restaurant. Now he's safely in custody, hopefully having learned a lesson at age 21.
The behavior of our fellow humans can be pretty outrageous, tragic, or even downright evil. Most of us see ourselves as "not that bad," when we compare ourselves to those who are a menace to society, or whose choices have destroyed their families. But it's all sin (including gluttony)! "Therefore to him who knows to do good and does not do it, to him it is sin," James 4:17 says. And as for comparisons, read the Apostle Paul's words in 2 Corinthians 10:12:
For we dare not class ourselves or compare ourselves with those who commend themselves. But they, measuring themselves by themselves, and comparing themselves among themselves, are not wise.
There is only One whose standard of behavior meets God's standard for eternity--the Person of Jesus Christ, His perfect Son! And no human being has ever met His standard!
"For all have sinned and come short of the glory of God." That's every one of us! But God has provided a remedy, a permanent remedy to take away our sin. Jesus Christ, the Son of God, was crucified for our sins on the cross at Calvary. Once for all time, for all the sins of each person who ever lived or ever will live. We can ask forgiveness of God in the Name of Jesus Christ, and receive assurance that we will live in heaven with Him for eternity!
Or we can choose to reject Christ and God's offer of forgiveness, and choose to be lost for eternity, without hope, in the torment of hell.
I have made this momentous choice, to trust Jesus Christ as my Savior. What's your choice?
Send me your comment, if you would like to receive Christ as Your Savior. I'd be blessed beyond words to hear about it, and the angels in heaven will be rejoicing, as will the Father who loves you!

Thursday, February 24, 2011

Following instructions

1:51 p.m. Today's project was to combine a wedding project with buying a product to unstop our downstairs commode. Quite a juxtaposition of needs, one to enhance the bright white loveliness of accessories for our big event, while the other would enhance the usefulness of a household accessory that's generally not mentioned!

While we wandered up and down Michael's and Jo Ann's looking for just the right small tags for Heidi and Pavel's prayer tree, and may have come away with the wrong kind anyway--gotta love wedding prep!--Steve and I had no trouble finding a product to do the job at Smart &Final, a product so toxic, apparently, that it was sealed in a heavy plastic bag that had to be cut open with scissors. No need for a skull and crossbones picture on that bottle, although I think there was one. It even stated, "If you cannot understand the instructions, DO NOT USE!" We got the message!

Steve donned rubber gloves and a worn-out long-sleeved shirt, and we measured the correct amount into a Pyrex measuring cup. I stood nearby at the deep kitchen sink while he poured in the 16 ounces the product called for. In the olden days, pre-Alzheimers, my husband would have just done the whole thing in perfect safety, and I wouldn't have paid it any heed. He still handled the cup safely, and followed the directions I read to him perfectly. He poured the solution into the bowl and the 15 minute wait allowed him to peel off his gloves and wash up for lunch.

I began to notice a tiny prickling feeling on the underside of my right arm, and thought, "Uh-oh". While Steve was pouring the solution, kind of "glub-glub" style into the measuring cup, a few tiny splashes must have hit my arm. Yikes--chemical burn. So I flushed the area thoroughly with cold water and patted it dry, to reveal three small whitish, raised areas the size maybe of a tomato seed. They no longer stung, but since I've been discovering the efficacy of olive oil for my eczema and other skin irritations, I applied some from the container I keep in the kitchen with a brush handy. At this point, the spots look no different than a freckle or age mark and don't sting at all. Thank you, Lord!

After lunch, Steve flushed the solution down, but the water rose, and plunging was necessary. I made sure the plunger was set on a rag, not the tile floor. On the second trial flush, the water didn't rise quite as high, but still needed plunging. I'm not sure when we'll try it again--we'll have to see what the bottle says! Meanwhile, my warning Post-it remains on the closed door.

I realize how merciful the Lord was to keep my injury minute, but it could have been serious. Even though I followed directions to make sure Steve was gloved and covered as the handler of the solution, I neglected to put on gloves and keep my sleeves all the way down as a participant in the project! Partially following of instructions can get you hurt!

God's instructions to believers are also to be followed to the letter! Romans 15:4 says of scripture,

Whatever things were written before were written for our learning...

and 2 Timothy 3:16-17 says,

All scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness, that the man of God may be complete, thoroughly equipped for every good work.

And we cannot forget how in I Samuel 15:10-35, the crown was taken from Saul, Israel's first king, because he only partly obeyed God in the matter of slaying every last living thing belonging to the Amalekites.

No one wants to be injured or killed because of carelessness or failure to follow instructions to the letter. But how much worse to lose the peaceful vibrancy of an obedient walk with Jesus each day! Jesus said He would give us His peace (John 16:33), and He does just that. But He makes it very clear that there is one way we can show Him our love, in John 14:15:

If you love Me, keep My commandments.

As for my forearm and whether I need to seek medical attention, I'll soon find out. The Lord "just happened" to provide a nurse as the neighbor I'm planning to give a Mary Kay catalog to later!

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

"Come and let us return to the LORD"

4:35 p.m. Today's project was to have today be the opposite of yesterday. That meant staying home, other than two necessary errands, cleaning house and doing lots of laundry. The garden is still too wet to work in, so my plan was the best option.

At 8:30, Steve's friend Howard picked him up to work on a grass-seeding project on his one-acre property, so I had most of the day to myself. I wrapped up my devotions, cleaned up breakfast and got ready for the day. (Since all of my decently-fitting clothes were in the wash, I was a pretty sorry sight)!

Thankful that I didn't run into anyone I knew at the credit union or CVS. I checked my playlist on the DVR when I got back for any newly recorded movies or shows on the Gospel Music Channel (GMC). I found "Doc," an old show (new to me) starring Billy Ray Cyrus as a doctor transplanted from Montana to New York City. In his opening song, there's a Bible verse, so I thought it worth giving a try. Turned out to be very family-friendly, concerned with ethics and morals in the hospital setting.

Billy Ray Cyrus has made public comments recently regarding the toll that fame has taken on his family, especially his daughter Miley, of "Hannah Montana" fame. Much has been made of this situation, and comments have been more or less charitable, because we all know what it's like to have a less than perfect family. The fleshly impulse of envy responsible for the less charitable comments God will deal with. As 2 Corinthians 13:5 tells all believers to "examine yourselves, whether you be in the faith; prove your own selves," I would add that I have plenty enough to do in accounting for my own walk with the Lord every day, rather than to spend precious time sitting in judgment of people I don't know, or even the ones I do know!

I thought of that celebrity family, as well as Christians who have let their walk with Jesus go slack or even come to a halt for any number of reasons. Low-income, average, and unknown people can be just as competitively ambitious as actors and singers can be! And who hasn't sought an outstanding future for their children, and worked hard to lead them in a prosperous direction? Steve and I certainly have made a lot of sacrifices for our children's benefit.

But we cannot let Christ be put back to second place in our family's lives. He must be our reason for living. and when He is, all of the matters which are dear to our hearts will fall into place, even better than we dreamt of!

Hosea 6:1 gives hope to anyone whose life just isn't working any more, who once knew who they were and where they were heading, who have sought material goods and social standing, but still feel uneasy deep inside.
Come, and let us return to the LORD;
For He has torn, but He will heal us;
He has stricken, but He will bind us up.
That's a promise from God Himself. Take Him up on His offer and pray for forgiveness and restoration today!

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

It wasn't in the whirlwind

10:19 p.m. Today's project was to take care of as many business matters as possible, including banking business, wedding business, my beauty consultant business, tax return business, and the pantry-and- gas tank-filling business. As you can tell by the lateness of the hour as I write this, I spent almost no time at home today at all!

It all began by doing business with God during my devotion time this morning, reading the exhortations of the Apostle Peter to the church, and sharing Psalm 119:98 on Facebook, a reinforcement of the value of studying God's word. Come what may, v. 98 gives me assurance that the scriptures are always with me. Then, as I journalled my worship, gratitude, confessions, prayers, and requests for direction to the Lord for the day, my trust in Him was built up even more. Ladies' Bible study was inspiring as ever, more reinforcement of the need to know and apply the Word to daily life. I prayed for a sister at the end, and then worked on ministry matters before heading out to do a facial nearby.

When we know the Bible, we know the heart of God. If we know His loving heart, we know Him. "God is love," 1 John 4:8 says. And His love carried me through my whirlwind day.

How wonderful it is to have a caregiver at home with Steve so I can take care of family business! When I came home for about an hour, Steve was fine, had eaten, chores were done, the guys had walked the dogs, and it was time for the two of us to get ready to sign our tax return. He got the dogs' food parceled out, I arranged with our daughter to feed them at 5, and then out the door we both went. Our tax returns were finalized in a time of fellowship with dear Patty from our church, and we now had less than two hours to go before I was due at Heart to Home, and Steve at Men's Bible study.

I hadn't written the devotional I'd be giving at the start of the "Low-Carb Cooking" class, something I usually utilize that day's blog post for! I'd looked through some prepared messages while we sat in the car waiting for our tax appointment, but nothing seemed to "pop out" at me. I knew God would give me a message, so we went to stock up on dog food and staples at Winco, filled up our gas tank ($42.00, more than the cart full of food!!!), and went to church. While there I realized that I needed to take a product to the customer I'd facialed earlier that day, so we took off again, thankfully, to a neighborhood near church.

Steve helped me carry my things up to the kitchen, and went to his Bible study. I joined the class instructor--head of a restaurant/catering operation at University of California Riverside--and four other ladies to chat for a while. I flipped though my binder, but couldn't find a prepared message while we were talking. What now, Lord? I silently asked. He faithfully led me to teach out of I Corinthians 13, the famous passage on love. I opened the class with prayer, and then by the Holy Spirit, taught verses 4-8, concept by concept. As I love to have happen, and what makes teaching the Bible so worthwhile and precious to me, is that we had quite a few supportive and knowledgeable comments and observations from the ladies. The class was a wonderful success, very educational as to the components of a healthy diet, and I brought home a lovely serving of "Pizza Stew" that was made for us. Next week, it's low-carb desserts!

I reflected on just when it was that the Lord spoke to me today, and thought of what the prophet Elijah found out in I Kings 19:11-12:

Then He (God) said, 'Go out, and stand on the mountain before the LORD.' And behold, the LORD passed by, and a great and strong wind tore into the mountains and broke the rocks in pieces before the LORD, but the Lord was not in the wind; and after the wind was an earthquake, but the LORD was not in the earthquake; and after the earthquake a fire, but the LORD was not in the fire; and after the fire a still small voice.

All day I had been carrying out the responsibilities I am called to, in His will and timing, but was in a whirlwind of busyness, barely taking time to eat my pack lunch. I sought His guidance for each task, but was definitely not in a meditative mode!

When I finally sat still, just quiet in my spirit in the midst of our small pre-class gathering, not panicked by the lack of a written-out message, but seeking the exact scripture He wanted for those women and myself, was when God made Himself clear. I was to teach on His most prominent characteristic: love.

How He loves us! God even had one more "treat" for me this evening. Just before I began to write this, I listened to a message from my son in Long Beach, excited about a lecture he had attended at Biola with the Christian artists' group he belongs to, Derekstar. The most precious part of the message was Kriss' characteristic closing, "okay, love you, bye." We then had a marvelous talk about stewardship of the earth, the Lord, church, and true Christian fellowship when I called him back.

And I now I'll close this day by telling my Heavenly Father, "Love you!" But, you see, there's a difference in my greeting:

There's no goodbye, ever!

Monday, February 21, 2011

Two police matters

3:47 p.m. Today's project was to take Steve down to Vons in the Riverside Plaza for a little President's Day treat--one of their deli sandwiches for him, and some chicken salad for me. We came on the right day, because the $4.99 sandwiches, on whole grain bread, loaded with meat, cheese and fixin's, were on sale for $2.99. That made lunch taste even better!

When we pulled into the parking lot, we saw three police cruisers and some employees out in front of the store. "Probably a shoplifter," I told Steve. I did see a person handcuffed there once, right in the store. We carefully went on about our business, giving them a wide berth, but were curious, even more so when we saw an officer go back past the restrooms to the employee break room.

Lunch and shopping over, we putt our groceries into the back of the Jeep and looked over at the store. The officers were leading away a handcuffed teenage boy. I noticed that a backpack, the modus operandi of teen shoplifters, was lying on the hood of one of the cars.

I just prayed, "Lord, let that boy learn a huge lesson that will stick with him for the rest of his life, from this petty crime." No other thoughts came to mind, but the sight stayed with me. In yesterday's post, I quoted Jesus' commendation (Matthew 25:37-40) of those who visit the sick, but since it was not germane to my topic of rest home ministry, I abbreviated the quote before it mentions "those in prison." Our prayers and mercy are due to them as well, to encourage them to trust Christ as their Savior and come to new life, trusting Him for all their needs. No idea who this young man is, but I will be praying for him whenever the Holy Spirit brings him to mind!

The second awareness of the police came to me personally this afternoon. After addressing a few more "Save the Date" envelopes to Pavel's mother's side of the family, I felt dizzy and lay down upstairs while Steve was out walking the dogs and Heidi and her fiancee went out. In case something serious happened, I put on my Freedom Alert calling pendant and took a small nap. With it still on, I came downstairs to perk up with coffee and a Shaklee multivitamin, and to prepare for my Mary Kay "Flawless Faces" new foundations party. Still felt tired, but maybe I took too much Zicam for the cold I'm fighting. I went about setting mirrors and wash cloths in the dining room.

Suddenly, there's a radio-static sound and the police are saying to me, "911 emergency! What is your emergency?!" When I realized what was happening, I shut it off and said, "My alarm pendant went off, no emergency, I must have turned the wrong way." The operator said "OK ma'am," and rung off. How embarassing, and how mortifying would it have been if the police had shown up! (And how much would a false alarm cost me?) That alarm pendant is really sensitive! I was just putting items out on the table, doing some bending and reaching, but come on. It's not like I lay down on it! Must figure out how to wear it in peace...

Thank you, Lord, for those who are swift to both send help and execute justice for the public safety! As Romans 13: 3:5 says of our civil authorities and peace officers,

For he is God's minister to you for good. But if you do evil, be afraid: for he does not bear the sword in vain; for for he is God's minister, an avenger to execute wrath on him who practices evil. Therefore you must be subject, not only because of wrath, but for conscience' sake.

Let us make sure never to think lightly of our police and civil leadership--they are God's ministers for our good!

Sunday, February 20, 2011

Takes me back!

12:57 p.m. Today's project is to go with Calvary Chapel Moreno Valley's Young Adult group and Pastor Mark to the ICC Rest Home to minister. My daughter Heidi,who is heading up the effort, invited me, so I said yes. I'm not sure what we'll be doing, but I'll just follow the group's lead.

This ministry opportunity takes me back to when our kids were toddlers and preschoolers. I would take them with the women and other children who attended the Home Bible study I taught during the 80's to visit, sing and minister to the people in rest homes. The residents just loved the little ones, and Kriss, Heidi and Heather loved it, too. (Steven wasn't born yet, and Sean was in school).

As they got older, they'd go caroling in rest homes with Brownies and Boy Scouts,troops Steve and I volunteered with at Harvest. They never had to be talked into it, because the fellowship and appreciation of the residents was so remarkable. How blessed I am to see our daughter taking the lead in visiting the elderly now as an adult!

8:45 p.m. Before I could attend the gathering, I needed to drop Steve off with our friends Bob Debbie's house for a relaxed afternoon visit. I think visiting a rest home with residents who may have dementia would be very difficult for Steve, who has expressed a dread of ending up in a facility, as I imagine many of us would feel. But Integrated Care Services is just beautiful, filled with caring, loving attendants and managers. The even have an Alzheimer's and dementia wing, firsthand information that may come in useful, should Steve need 24-hour nursing care. But, "Sufficient unto the day is the evil thereof," said Jesus in Matthew 6:34, and I fully agree!

The staff prepared a barbecue and asked that we be served first, because the residents eat at 4 p.m. and their meal schedule is kept the same each day. It's similar to Steve taking his meds and supplements like clockwork, as long as I don't forget! A cosmetology school had sent over some students to fix hair and give manicures to the ladies, and we had a chance to talk to the ones who were waiting. One lady told me that they also have a church service in the facility. When I mentioned that we were here from our church, she said, "I can see it in you. I can see it!" Hopefully that was meant as an answer to a prayer I lift up to my Father often, that others would be able to see Christ in me! Later, I was hugged and kissed by a sweet woman who said, when I asked her when she arrived at the home, "Oh, this morning!" Truthfully, she seemed quite settled in, but it was a lovely conversation anyway!

The hit of the afternoon was a 93 year old lady who sort of blended in with a friend from church and me at our table, but was caught snacking on chips an hour before her 4 p.m. dinner time by a bemused caregiver. The attendant walked her away for a while, but the lady waited until the attendant wasn't looking, and swiftly took a bag to her room! I believe she managed this at least twice. Pretty spry!

The official meal time came, we visited some more with residents who arived at the dining hall, and then we had to go, most of us headed out to get ready for Home Fellowships at 5:30. I picked up Steve and visited with our friends for a while, and returned home. It was a precious afternoon. Before I can visit regularly, however, I'll need to get a TB clearance, which I may still be current on from teaching. I'll have to find out.

"Pure and undefiled religion before God and the Father is this," says James 1:27, "to visit orphans and widows in their trouble..."

Furthermore, when Jesus commended those who feed and clothe the poor, visit the sick and those in prison, He said in Matthew 25:40 (KJV),

Verily I say unto you, Inasmuch as you have done it unto one of the least of these my brethren, ye have done it unto Me.

Saturday, February 19, 2011

Prayerful thoughts in writing

4:42 p.m. Today's project was to address the Save the Date cards to send out for Heidi's June wedding. She wants them sent out next week because now we are only 4 months away from the big day (or to this M.OB., the deadline)!
We decided to write out the addresses rather than use address labels, for a more personal touch. My printing is fairly neat, so that's all that's required for these friendly reminders. When our married daughter Heather arrived this morning, we talked about who should be asked to adddress the wedding invitations. The three of us (Heidi, Heather and myself) are hoping to corral their sister-in-law Marisela for the task--her handwriting is like calligraphy--maybe for a small fee! God honors diligent and artful work, as in Exodus 30:25, where God commands that the skills of an incense maker be used to create the holy anointing oil for the tabernacle.
While Heidi and her bridesmaids went to Mary Me Bridal in Orange for their dress fittings, I set about to address the envelopes, beginning with family. As I wrote out each name and address, I couldn't help but feel compelled to reflect on their circumstances: one a recent widow; one family now in an apartment after losing their home; one whose younger daughter has pretty much disappeared from the family, closing off all contact; a long-time single lady now enjoying her grandchildren; one desperately seeking employment. All in totally different circumstances, all in need of prayer. I may not know our wedding guests' exact circumstances today, but I guarantee that they need prayer, just like I do. The vast majority are born again Christians and share the Lord with others in their sphere of influence. So I can lift them up in confidence to the Lord we serve. Ephesians 6:18 (NLT) says,
Pray in the Spirit at all times and on every occasion. Stay alert and be persistent in your prayers for all believers everywhere.
As for those invitees who are not saved, and maybe even living in sin, I can certainly lift them to the Lord, to come to know Jesus as their personal Savior, and leave the "clean-up operation" to Him! For the backslidden on the list, I can pray that they will receive a fresh, compelling vision of the Lord, that their hearts would be on fire for Him once again, letting go of any bitterness that they may be using for an excuse to avoid Jesus.
And I pray that the bride and groom, our families and the attendants will be stellar witnesses in all that we do or say on June 25, 2011. May we be a sweet savor of the Lord to all in attendance, including the ones who are there to help and serve us all, even to the head of the wedding facility and the catering company, no matter how large or small their role.
I want all to leave our event saying, "God was in this place." And that will not happen without focused prayer for each person involved. And if the Lord can use the lengthy task of addressing envelopes to bless and help each guest, I thank the Lord for the privilege of having a part to play in the great work He wants to do in each one's life.
May I be faithful to pray!

Friday, February 18, 2011

"Let the past sleep..." Oswald Chambers

5:45 p.m. Today's project was to reorganize, restructure, and repair the effects of the last month's poor decisions and unscriptural impatience and anxiety. If we are going to walk with the Lord at all, it needs to be a walk of faith in all areas, especially in areas where the enemy is most likely to try to make you doubt! For us on a fixed income, it's in the area of finances.

When I took a week to read Chapter One of James in five different translations, I focused mostly on seeking wisdom, persevering through trials, and being a doer of the word, not a hearer (vv. 5, 12, 22). It seems I read, but did not completely absorb the verses that would have rebuked my attitude and gained me a week of peace, vv. 6-8, about the way a believer should ask for wisdom:

But let him ask in faith, with no doubting, for he who doubts is like a wave of the sea driven and tossed by the wind. For let not that man suppose that he will receive anything from the Lord, for he is a double-minded man, unstable in all his ways.

Ouch! Even though the Lord is always gracious and looking out for my own good, His corrections still have the sting of conviction to them, because I so wish that I'd been more patient and sought Him sooner in what I perceived to be an emergency, all-out crisis! God clearly leads us on occasion to do something at a precise time, but He's not like the timeshare salesman telling us "You have to buy now! This deal is only good for today!" God's Holy Spirit is never in a panic, nor should we be! The Spirit will guide at every step, if our flesh and overwrought imagination don't get in the way.

That being said, it is clearly time to move on to the next phase: future action. I was ministered to in the most comforting way by today's entry in Oswald Chambers' devotional My Utmost for His Highest. Many years ago, in one of my biennial readings of this book, I underlined this sentence:

Let the past sleep, but let it sleep on the bosom of Christ, and go out into the irresisitible future with him.

That's what God called me to do today. Not to necessarily do the opposite of what I'd rashly done early this month, but to make arrangements in a manner that is rational, trusting, and forthright. And I found that as I acted in His timing, reflective of His character and way of dealing with others, an excellent result was achieved!

Chambers writes that Jesus told the disciples who had fallen asleep instead of watching and praying in the garden with Him to "Arise and do the next thing." He continues,

If we are inspired of God, what is the next thing? To trust Him absolutely and to pray on the ground of His redemption.

Never let the sense of failure corrupt your new action.


Thursday, February 17, 2011

Sizzling adventure

3:08 p.m. Today's project was to make some tortilla chips at home. I had about 2 lbs of stale, previously frozen corn tortillas. I finished off a 5 lb bag I'd bought a while back and somehow dreamed I'd use up with only two people to feed...must have been some kind of irresistible deal!
As I got out my recently-seasoned cast iron Dutch oven, tongs, partial bottles of corn oil, bowls and paper towels to layer the chips on, I reflected that it's the toughest times financially when I "dig deep" in the freezer and pantry and make the most creative meals and snacks. Once years ago, when I was cooking up a large vat of refried beans from scratch, my youngest son Steven said, "I love it when we're poor! That's when you make the best food!" Now that he's a fitness and nutrition coach, I can see that he appreciated food made purely from scratch at an early age!
Steve and I kept on praying, trusting the Lord through our occasional financial struggles, but to the kids it was an adventure. After all, who else did they know who made dog food at home? I almost did that today, actually, but since Winco has a bulk price of .32/lb, and I needed two bananas and some coffee creamer, I drove over there and bought 4 lbs to tide our Labrador retrievers over for two days.
While I was setting up for deep-frying the tortilla wedges, I checked the crockpot of turkey-vegetable-potato soup I had started. One thing about struggling financially is that it makes you dig deep in the freezer and pantry for anything to make a meal out of. I found a meaty drumstick and two wings from our 22 lb Thanksgiving turkey that were buried in a ziploc bag at the bottom of our chest freezer, and with limp celery, 1/2 an onion, and Emeril's "Asian Essences" seasoning for a different taste, we'll have a good meal.
Proverbs 24: 3-4 says,
Through wisdom a house is built,
And by understanding it is established;
By knowledge the rooms are filled
With all precious and pleasant riches.
Our source of riches isn't in the pantry, the freezer, the bank, or within the walls of our home--trusting and knowing the Lord, gleaning wisdom and guidance for each day, is true treasure indeed.
And quite a lot of daily adventure as well!

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

A break in the rain

12:42 p.m. Today's project is to pray for urgent needs in our family. Of course I need to attend to Steve and to our home during the day, because I Timothy 5:8 says that if I don't, I "have denied the faith and am worse than an an unbeliever" (NLT). We truly need God to make a break in the rain for us, provide some relief to our souls.

A rainy day is a perfect setting for contemplation, prayer, and quietude. Thinking in matters of dollars and cents, today's gentle rain will save on our water bill by watering seeds in the garden and germinating them. The last several days the Lord has awakened me early to pray, and those seeds have already shown a harvest of provision for our youngest who's too far away for us to help directly. Other specific prayers in my journal have come to pass, or are well on their way.

  • Helpers have been provided for Heidi's wedding
  • Social Security has corrected a problem that could have stopped Steve's payments
  • Much Mary Kay business has come forth, along with future event plans
  • Steve did very well at the Married Couples' dinner
  • Pavel (Heidi's fiance) just now dropped off John MacArthur's book Anxious for Nothing:God's Cure for the Cares of Your Soul
  • Steve slept well and calmly last night--no Alzheimer-induced tremors or spasms
  • Heather can stay with Steve so I can go to an MK meeting Thursday evening
  • Meals have been provided for a sister from church recovering from triple-by-pass surgery
  • I've completed the detailed form for obtaining much-needed funds in a retirement account
  • Service providers are working very amiably with me and lending encouragement
  • Wedding plans are firming up

And I am persuaded that the best is yet to come today! And it just did--Steven's financial aid check arrived, our car insurance issued us a $12.00 credit, a sauce I thawed out for an "enchilada" casserole that was to feature only cheese and corn tortillas turned out to have lots of meat in it; even the dogs have full dishes. On top of these blessings, I spent the drizzly, grey afternoon reading scriptures on trusting in God's love and providence.

And having ended this day of reflection, prayer, and praise with the completion of Anxious for Nothing, I now have a refreshed perspective on our trials!

Today's finishing touch will be watching the live podcast of tonight's service featuring the Potter's Field ministry, based on the picture of God as the Potter and we as the clay. Isaiah 64:8 brings the realization of safety and a contentment that only knowldge that God has a plan for my life and will carry it out, can bring:

But now, O LORD,

You are our Father;

We are the clay, and You our potter;

And all we are the work of Your hand.

Do a work, Lord, in me, for I know it will be right, and righteous, if it is Your doing!

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Juxtapose rose

4:48 p.m. Today's project was to check out the better-quality paper and plastic plates at Costco and later at Smart & Final, for Heidi's wedding reception.

Her heart's desire is really to have china plates (which can be rented for 30-40 cents apiece), but that choice comes with a big hitch: the contracts for all of the companies I checked out and talked with call for the food to be scraped off the plates before they are turned to the containers they came in. That begs an obvious question: who is going to do that? Certainly not the bride and groom! The bridal party, parents of the bride and groom and other family will be seeing the newlyweds off to their honeymooon, bidding guests goodbye and collecting and transporting gifts to our house to be opened when the two return.

Another problem with rented china is that our caterer will not take responsibility for another vendor's equipment. But their staff will set, clear, and throw out disposable products that they or we supply. That's a big plus!

So we are torn. I did get into Costco as a guest of a Bible study friend after a number of us had eaten lunch at Chik-Fil-A. I haven't joined either Costco or Sam's Club lately because we no longer have 7 people at home. When is the next time I'll need two dozen croissants? (Never!)

We examined the paper goods closely, and found large, thick, shiny white plates for .08 apiece. I snapped a cell phone picture and sent it to Heidi. Then at Smart & Final, I sent her pictures of plastic ware, very china-like, good enough, honestly, for any unused ones to function as their daily plates at home. But at .86 apiece, that's more than double the price to rent china.
I juxtaposed a fine china cup with a really cheap paper plate (above) in order to illustrate the contrast between the spectacular formal gardens of the Kimberly Crest Estate, and the cost-effective disposable paper products we might choose. What would the Lord have us to do?We know we can trust Him in even the small details!
Can economy and elegance go hand-in-hand? I texted Heidi this morning and told her that if she could recruit 4 friends willing to serve in clearing the china plates between dinner and the cake, and at the end of the wedding, I'd go ahead with the china rental, so we're now praying about whom to ask!
Psalm 37 verses 3, 4 & 5 promise (and we believe God's promises to be true),
Trust in the LORD, and do good;
Dwell in the land, and feed on His faithfulness.
Delight yourself also in the LORD,
And He shall give you the desires of Your heart.
Commit your way to the LORD,
Trust also in Him,
And He shall bring it to pass.

Monday, February 14, 2011

Worldly vs. Un-Worldly Love

4:11 p.m. Today's project was to spend a quiet Valentine's Day gardening with Steve. Heidi was home doing lesson plans, and I logged in addresses for her wedding invitations as people sent back reply messages on Facebook.

The peace was shattered a bit when I looked into the house and saw the dogs staring back out at me! Apparently I had left the slider open when I came out carrying seeds to plant. I let them out and went back to the garden. Minutes later, Heidi called out that they had left "presents" in the living room area, but I hadn't smelled a thing. The tangy aroma of the barbecued chicken I have simmering in the crockpot apparently overpowered any possible competition. Thank the Lord, the cleanup was minimal, the germicide was applied, and we went on with our day.

After lunch Steve went back to working in the yard and Heidi and I watched two shows I'd recorded about England's royal family weddings, romances and, sadly, scandals and tragedies. On this Valentine's Day, one always hopes to see people marry for true love at least, and remain faithful, especially since Queen Elizabeth is the head of the Church of England where divorce is forbidden. One scandal after another tells us that was a vain hope, and we can only pray that the next couple to marry, Prince William and his Kate, will do better and live reputably.

(The reason Heidi and I are so fascinated by the royals is that 30 years ago, Steve and I married just weeks ahead of Charles and Diana; and she'll get married to Pavel this year just after William and Kate. We will both hop up in the wee hours to watch that wedding!)

I know it can be possible for a marriage to be fulfilling and last for a lifetime without the Lord, but the odds are against it. With sleeping around and shacking up so prevalent, even if a couple does marry, it's not the way God intended. Focus on the Family has published statistics that prove that marriages that start out as shack-ups fail at nearly twice the rate of marriages where the couples delay gratification and begin to live together only after marriage!

Yet, there is forgiveness for sin that is confessed and repented of! I John 4:9 says, "If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness." I can testify to new life in Christ, leading to love for a lifetime with Steve. I was a divorced single mother when I became born again. My husband of almost thirty years and I met at a home Bible study. Fate, luck, kismet? None of those! Our meeting was a result of two people having made a commitment to Jesus Christ, and joining a fellowship to learn more in-depth in a small group atmosphere that couldn't be achieved at Calvary Chapel Riverside, which was large even in 1980. After we wed, we attended Harvest and raised our family there, always attending home Bible studies in addition to services and events at church.

Times have been good, great, and also deprived (like now) for Steve and me through our years. But divorce was never an option! We love the Lord too much to shame His Name. Even today, I was comforted by our mortgage company's rep concerning our payment being late,and how Steve and I plan to get back on track. I will follow his advice: "Just trust the Lord, Ma'am! He's the only one who can do it! It's all about Him. "

That was a pure gift of grace, from a total stranger!

No amount of pomp, fame or jewelry could ever replace the preciousness of my marriage to Steve, our children, or even the trials we have come through together. With Christ at the center, we have confidence in our future, tomorrow and forever!

Psalm 3:3-5 says, KJV:

Thou, O LORD, art a shield for me; my glory and the lifter of mine head.

I cried unto the LORD with my voice, and he heard me out of his holy hill. Selah.

I laid me down and slept; I awaked; for the LORD sustained me.

The Lord will sustain our lives, our home and our marriage with a love that is anything but worldly!

Sunday, February 13, 2011

Valentine's Fellowship

1:31 p.m. Today's project was to attend the Calvary Chapel Moreno Valley Married Couples' dinner at the Conference Center in Murrieta. We'll be riding with our good friends Ron and Gretchen, who've never been there before.

If it weren't for them, I might have let my worries about Steve's dining difficulties get the better of me and would not have registered for the event. I'm glad Gretchen called! Tonight's dinner will be extra nice, because the entree is steak. It sounds delicious, but cutting up steak in public will be a challenge for Steve, whose Alzheimer's is now causing some loss in small motor control. So, in the last two weeks we have been reviewing knife-and-fork eating, a few times on chicken, and then last night, we practiced on pork chops. I'm standing on God's word in Psalm 138:8, "He will perfect all that concerns me."

My friend Paige Philpott wrote this a few months ago:

God is so faithful to take care of you!
I love that our uncharted territory is known thoroughly by Him,
inch by inch.
8:30 p.m. As promised, Gretchen drove up at 3:30, since with Ron's heart condition, it's no longer safe for him to drive, as he could faint at any moment. He now has a monitoring and alert system. I matched her face to a shade of Mary Kay mineral powder, set the house alarm, and off we went. We would have arrived early but for a slowdown around Menifee, which outraged Gretchen, but I said, "We drive to San Diego pretty often, and I'm surprised it didn't jam up in Perris already." The highways must be pretty wide open in Texas where they came from, I guess!
Arriving about half an hour early, we had time to relax for a while, visit with friends, and select a nice table up front. The worship, the prayers, the food and the fellowship were excellent. Pastor Lance Cook of Calvary Chapel La Habra gave a thoughtful, challenging message with self-revelatory comments about changes he's had to make over 24 years of marriage, and took us through relevant passages in Genesis.
That "the two shall become one" (Genesis 2:24) is God's plan for marriage is evident in both the Old and New Testaments, no matter the culture, no matter the time in history--God created humans and He knows the best way for a man and a woman to find true, lasting joy. It's marriage.
Steve and I nodded and smiled at each other at a particular juncture in the message, where Pastor Lance spoke about how God knows what each one needs from a spouse in each season of the marriage: when they are first married, a few years later, further along the road, and at the several-decades mark of a marriage. God already had planned, from before the creation of the world, what I would need from Steve during particular stages, and what he would need from me. And because He selected us for each other, no one else would be able to fulfill those needs but--Steve and me!
What an omniscient, mighty God we serve! I feel like getting up, marching and singing the song, "What a Mighty God We Serve!" I'm singing the chorus, at least!
Praise Him for the most important relationship He created for people, second only to our relationship with Him: marriage!

Saturday, February 12, 2011

It begins with a wedding

5:20 p.m. Today's project was to collect addresses for the guests invited to Heidi's wedding. I started last night going through my address book for family members' addresses, and then texting the ones I couldn't find. Heidi then suggested messaging her and my Facebook friends, so I typed up messages for hours, long after Steve, and then she went to bed. I was kept entertained by listening and occasionally glimpsing at the TLC show "Four Weddings," where brides compete for a spectacular honeymoon. It was gratifying to see that the one spent the most, thought she was so superior with her exorbitant Egyptian-themed wedding, and continually made snide remarks about the other girls' efforts, came out last! Opulence doesn't necessarily equal excellence. As Jesus put it, "The first shall be last and the last shall be first." (Matthew 19:30)

As I sent messages, it was fun to get answers back right away from several people who were also up late posting on Facebook. Some replied with just addresses, but several others last night and today took the time to thank us for inviting them and chatted with me a bit. After viewing poor manners and generally lax behavior from young adults on television (and in public) these days, I find Heidi and Pavel's friends from our church to be a breath of fresh air. You can sense the difference their relationship with Christ makes in even small matters. They exude the "sweet savor of Christ." (2 Corinthians 2:15). I also received encouragement from another MOB (Mother of the Bride) whose daughter got married last fall. "A word spoken in due season, how good is it!" Proverbs 15:23 KJV says, and the NLT puts it, "Everyone enjoys a fitting reply; it is wonderful to say the right thing at the right time!"
More messaging and jotting down addresses in Heidi's Bride's Book, with breaks to clean and polish everything downstairs. Friends Ron and Gretchen are coming by Sunday afternoon to take us to the Married Couples' Valentine's dinner our church is hosting at Calvary Chapel's Conference Center in Murrieta. Our living room is spruced up considerably by the gorgeous Valentine's bouquet Pavel brought over this morning. The Lord is so good! Even if my husband can no longer drive or shop for me, my home looks festive anyway. Later after dinner we'll go to the nearby grocery store so Steve can select a card. Mine just needs to be signed.
The enemy tries to taunt me with "Next year, you won't have any flowers, because it will just be the two of you! And you won't be able to take Steve to the dinner, either!" So what? I can buy flowers myself for both of us to enjoy, and there's no telling how Steve will be by Valentine's Day 2012. SO GET BEHIND ME SATAN, IN THE NAME OF JESUS!
The important thing about a marriage centered in Christ is that Jesus is not hindered by Steve's Alzheimer's from causing love to continually flow between us, and granting miracles every day. Many aspects of our marriage are stronger than ever, and the time we have together each day is precious.
What God hath joined together, let not man put asunder!

Friday, February 11, 2011

Psalm 119:67-77 in real time

3:22 p.m. Today's project was to cap off a nice morning of Mary Kay sales by walking over to the neighbors' homes with invitations to a "Flawless Face" makeover party my Sales Director is hosting for me at home a couple of Monday nights from now.

As I crossed my street back to the house I saw Steve returning with his caregiver and our two labs. Those two were huffing their way up the block, straining at their leashes, especially the lead dog, Jada. She doesn't seem to realize that if she weren't pulling so hard, she wouldn't be so tired! But I guess being Number One is all that matters to her. Sounds like us humans, doesn't it? So wrapped up in what we want to do, striving so hard, that we don't realize we're hanging ourselves, strangled by our own desires! (And to think that the Lord is just waiting to help us conduct our lives peacefully and successfully, HIS way).

I took some time to ask the young man about his schooling, his family, and shared quite a bit of what Steve and I have been through, giving testimony for the Lord the whole time. As he opened up more and more, I realized that this conversation was a divine appointment. He talked freely about the bad choices he had made prior to beginning his career in the medical field, going from driving an $11,000 car to a $900 one, pretty much losing everything because he came to our lovely state "to party." Almost like the prodigal son in Luke 15, he woke up at a point in time and thought, "This ain't cutting it." He began to look at the friends he had been hanging with, the problems they had caused themselves, the dead-end lives they led, and made a U-turn.

Putting stress on the inner change I had been through, my B.C life and my coming to the Lord at much the same age he was when he saw himself as he really was and took a new path. I told him, "It's not the money that matters--we once were well off, putting 4 kids through college, enjoyed an RV, Hawaii and Alaska vacations--but we have the Lord and we're fine.You could say we've lost everything due to Steve's disability, but really, we haven't lost what's most important. That's the Lord."

The young man said that a friend invited him to a church in Rancho Cucamonga, and he now goes every week. I pray he has committed his life to Christ; it sure sounds like he has. "Only the Lord can make a complete change in a person's life, accepting Him as your Savior," I concluded.
We'll have more chances to talk!

I've been posting verses from Psalm 119 on Facebook for a couple of months--it's the longest chapter in the Bible--and the section that has really spoken to me, and others, this week concerns the Lord allowing us to be afflicted before we truly turn ALL of our lives over to Him
according to His word. Hear verses 67-68, 71-77:
Before I was afflicted, I went astray,
But now I keep Your word.
You are good and do good;
Teach me Your statutes.
It is good for me that I have been afflicted,
That I may learn Your statutes.
The law of Your mouth is better to me
Than thousands of coins of gold and silver.
Your hands have made me
and fashioned me;
Give me understanding, that I
may learn Your commandments.
Those who fear You will be glad
when they see me,
Because I have hoped in Your word.
I know, O LORD, that Your
judgments are right,
And that in faithfulness You have
afflicted me.
Let, I pray, Your merciful
kindness be for my comfort,
According to Your word to Your servant.
Let Your tender mercies come to
me, that I may live;
For Your law is my delight.
The Lord does indeed discipline the ones He loves, the ones who belong to Him, but oh, how precious beyond words are the results of His comforting, redeeming, tender love!

Thursday, February 10, 2011

An event-full year

3:23 p.m. Today's project was to begin pinning down a date for Steve's and my 30th anniversary party, and my 60th birthday. We also want to renew our wedding vows with our children standing up with us, and our grandsons present, along with family, friends, and the pastor who officiates. I would love to have our son Kriss and our nephew and niece sing. It's a little early to get the program pinned down, but a girl can dream, can't she? Daughter Heather is our event planner, a role she has done so well for State Senator Emmerson. I'll leave it up to her to find appropriate locations here in the neighborhood. She'll have plenty of help from her siblings.
Funny, but when our children actually did "spring up like olive plants around [our] table" (Psalm 128:3), we couldn't have envisioned how competent, committed to service in their community, country and in their churches the five of them would become. They are no more perfect than we are, but they will not tolerate injustice or chicanery, especially in the public arena. And they are pretty outspoken in their Christian ministries as well! May I add that their spouses and Heidi's fiance reflect the same qualities, as do our grandsons. We have been blessed--and challenged-- by their youthful zeal. And zeal in a righteous cause is always in order. A messianic prophecy of Jesus Christ in Psalm 69:9, quoted again in John 2:17 when He overthrew the sellers of merchandise at the Temple, says of Him,
Zeal for Your house has eaten me up.
Lord, give me zeal for the things of You--Your word, Your people, Your work, Your heart for the lost! May I "treasure the words of Your mouth more than my necessary food" (Job 23:12).
Planning for our renewal of vows will have to take a back seat to our daughter's upcoming wedding. It's seeming a little too upcoming, with only 4 months to go! Every day I work on one project or another to help her along and alleviate her stress. Teaching a primary grade is no easy task, and she puts in long hours at work and prep time at home. I well remember those first couple of years as a teacher. All those personalities, the details and the planning--and then an announcement comes over the intercom that blows your whole day. "Blessed are the flexible," we teachers would hear more frequently than we cared to. So Mom here tries to help out my bride-to-be.
July brings another kind of major event for our youngest son Steven, the National Collegiate Bodybuilding Championship in Pittsburgh, PA. I'll be flying out to watch and cheer him on, so a number of logistics will need to be coordinated besides the flight and lodgings--either caregiver or family help for Steve staying here at home. Travel was already becoming confusing for him years ago, so he'll enjoy a "change of personnel" right here for a weekend. That way, Steven can enjoy a stress-free focus on winning, along with some mother and son bonding time.
That reminds me of another quality the Lord has gifted our children with: diligence bordering on perfectionism in their work. The confidence in the Lord they received growing up, and the love God gave us for each one to grow into the person God intended, has caused them to be able to set long-term goals and high standards for themselves. It's God's doing--Steve and I just lent discipline, guidance and mature judgment to their endeavors, and let them fall a few times, knowing we'd be there to pick them back up and keep cheering them on. I've always loved the verses below, about all of the starts and stops, ups and downs of the Christian's life, our life in the last three decades:
The steps of a good man are ordered by the LORD,
And He delights in his way.
Though he fall, he shall not be utterly cast down;
For the LORD upholds him with His hand. (Psalm 37:23-24)
Light is sown for the righteous,
And gladness for the upright in heart. (Psalm 97:11)
There will be plenty of opportunities to stumble and fall with so many events coming up this year, but we won't fear, because our infinite God will pick us back up!

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

James 1:5

2:42 p.m. Today's project was to take Steve to be fitted for a "Father of the Bride" suit for our daughter's wedding in June. This will be his second and final stroll down the aisle in this honored role, after escorting our younger daughter in 2008 (right).
We arrived at the Galleria at Tyler, and found a good parking space at the end of the mall we needed to visit. Just parking was not without incident, however, because Steve cried out, "Whoa! Whoa!" as I backed up to head into a parking spot when there was no car anywhere near us. It was like his yelling, "Look out!" as I crossed a virtually empty intersection of the 215 and Alessandro on a green light last Friday afternoon. Each time, I remind him that yelling out has to mean an imminent accident with another car, structure or a pedestrian. So an otherwise pleasant outing today became very nerve-wracking for me. Frankly, I need wisdom in dealing with a potentially dangerous situation! Is there such a thing as a dangerous passenger? I think there might be...
The Suit Exchange people were very nice, added Steve to groom Pavel's list of attendants, and we found a summer weight suit in a slightly darker color than the group is wearing. That way, Steve will be a bit distinguished from the groom and his grromsmen. We can also use the suit when we have our 30th anniversary gathering this August, to renew our vows. Our highly sociable daughter Heather will be handling those details, something she's good at! Proverbs 18:16 says, "A man's gift makes room for him, and brings him before great men," and in her case that is certainly true, whether organizing family events or representing a State Senator.
The post office was our next stop, because I needed to mail my mock-up book, Galatians: An Exploration of Faith and Freedom, back to Tate Publishing for corrections. While we stood in line, I spotted a stand of Valentine's Day cards, and suggested that Steve might want to pick one out for me. [Since he cannot drive or handle money, each year I hand him cash and take him to select a card. I've long ago given up on receiving any surprises, whether cards, gifts or flowers, on this romantic occasion. Alzheimer's would dash my hopes annually if Iallowed myself any hope of normal retail activity on Steve's part at all.]
So Steve went to the display, and kept picking up and examining the cardstock labels that separate and keep the cards in front of them straight. He'd take one out, look it over and put it back, but never picked up an actual card. I couldn't call out to him because that would draw attention to us. Meanwhile, a father behind us sent his 3 year old son over to pick out a card for his mom, and the little guy came right back with one. My sadness and dismay were almost unbearable, but I calmly stepped over and selected a card for Steve to hold along with some one dollar bills. We ended up putting it back because I only had enough cash to insure and mail the book, but I assured Steve, who needed guidance to find his way back to the display, that we still had time to get a card at the grocery store this weekend.
With dribbling tears as I write this, I am asking the Lord to keep me from taking this as a personal blow, because it's not my husband's feelings toward me causing problems, it's the disease, which like Satan, came to "steal, kill and destroy" (John 10:10). I need Your wisdom, Lord, as well as Your love!
Continuing on our outing back across town to our neck of the woods, Central Riverside, we stopped in at the Auto Club to pick up tour books for Pittsburgh and Kansas City, where I am planning to travel with Steven this summer for his National Collegiate Bodybuilding competition. After a quick deposit of profits from my Mary Kay sales this week, we headed home to a late lunch.
Wedding details are being taken care of (with many left to work on), youngest son Steven's financial aid for college in this new semester is falling into place, the dogs got walked and we are now waiting to hear of a permanent caregiver for Steve. Our finances are generally hanging by a thread, but I will trust the Lord to handle it all, because He said that He would, repeatedly throughout His word. And I believe Him!
Yesterday morning, I began reading the first chapter of James in the New Living Translation and was comforted, challenged and convicted by the admonitions to godly living and assurances that God is with me to lead me through my trials. Believers are told in v. 22, NLT:
But don't just listen to God's Word. You must do what it says. Otherwise, you are only fooling yourselves.
Convicting as that verse is, I am most drawn to James 1:5 at this critical season of our lives:
If you need wisdom, ask our generous God, and He will give it to you. He will not rebuke you for asking.
I determined to be a hearer, reading this chapter once a day in different translations for the rest of the week, maybe longer. So far I've read the NLT and NIV. But I am also determined to be a doer of God's word, seeking Him daily and desiring to be filled with the Holy Spirit so that I might overflow onto others with love and compassion, starting here at home.
Father, please bless not only the reading, but the acting upon, Your Holy Scriptures. In Jesus' Name, Amen.

Tuesday, February 8, 2011

When, not whenever!

1:35 p.m. Today's project was to greet a new caregiver, show him what Steve's needs are and where important things--like lunch food and the lawnmower--are kept, so I could get to Bible study by 9:30.

The young man got stuck in bad traffic driving in from Moreno Valley, so I didn't even leave for the session until 10:00! Momentarily, I toyed with not going at all, so late, but that ploy of our enemy the "roaring lion, seeking whom he may devour" (I Peter 5:8), fell flat, because it's just not my way to miss Bible study! I slipped in around the side and sat in the front row where I can pay the best attention, contribute to the discussion as the Lord leads, and be ready to step up to the front in case any ladies need prayer.

Beth Moore's lesson concerned God's unfailing love, and how it is evinced in the lives of those Christians who truly believe and live in the light of that love. Because I had arrived with a heavy heart over a faith matter with one of my children, my tears of joy and renewed realization that I must trust the situation to my Father just plain overflowed. (But my waterproof mascara and foundation held firm!)

From the discussion time and all the way through the video, the Lord impressed upon me that I must speak with a particular pastor right after Bible study. I needed to clue him in on the matter, and ask him to pray, especially, and speak or do as he sees fit, as a pastor and a dear friend. I assented, but stalling, and coming up with excuses, I said to the Lord in my mind, "What if he says, 'Let's pray right now?' I'll disintegrate in a pool of tears and all the pent-up fear and heartache will flood out!" The Lord reiterated what I had to do, and I realized that it was a chance I'd just have to take. Period.

At the end of our video, questions were asked about our love for God, such as, Do I think about God regularly? Am I eager to spend time with Him? Does my life demonstrate love for God? Do I enjoy God? I was comfortable in answering on a scale of often, sometimes or rarely, "often."

But the kicker was question 5: Do I ultimately find relief or satisfaction in obedience? As I answered "often," quite truthfully, I knew that this opportunity to obey God was no different than in times past: I would severely regret not speaking to the pastor as the Holy Spirit had directed. This area of immediate and exact obedience is one I am growing in this year. When God tells me to call someone, I do it. When he told me to sit right down after I came in the house just now after errands to write this post/devotional, I only took a minute to put things away, and I am writing this in His timing. There truly is no satisfaction in our Christian walk better than knowing we have shown our love to Jesus by obeying Him!

The Bible study and prayer time ended, and I needed to answer some questions about the Heart to Home classes we are offering, and one lady asked me to wait a minute, but she went all the way down to the front of the church to talk. The Lord said, go on! Since I was compelled to go seek that pastor, I went up to the office to ask for him. And do you know that within 30 seconds, he came right around the corner before the receptionist could even call for him!!

I walked outside with him and poured out the situation, we shared for a few moments, and he said he'd take care of it. As I went on my way, I knew, that, even if the pastor's intervention rubs my child a bit the wrong way, that's the chance I had to take--and because the Lord set it up, I can trust that He will heal, mend, strengthen, encourage and bless all concerned.

That's His way!

Any time God speaks to you, obey WHEN He says to, not WHENEVER you feel ready! Because trust me, the voice of 31 years of experience, that time will never come. And neither will your blessing!

Monday, February 7, 2011

Changes, challenges, Part II

4:03 p.m. Today's project was to make sure Steve has a new caregiver/companion lined up for tomorrow. The gentleman we've had the last several weeks is a believer, very helpful and has helped guide Steve through a number of much-needed household projects and tasks. Even our dogs like him!

I talked with the nurse manager Lisa at the Bright Star Agency, who is awaiting news from the last caregiver as to whether he'll go back to working for the County part-time, since they've called back some laid-off workers. Seems they found out that they needed the people after all. The bureaucracy has become less responsive to their constituents' needs in an effort to cut costs. Since that's what taxpayers are demanding, looks like they can't win! We will see what happens.

Nothing had been mentioned to Steve until we knew with more certainty about a change in caregivers. No sense making him anxious if the one we've had is coming back anyway. Lisa told me that she has a young man for us, a former military police officer, with two years at the agency, very experienced. He is a CNA (Certified Nurse Assistant), in training to become an emergency room RN. So I did tell Steve this morning, and he seemed a little troubled, but didn't complain. He'll be surprised tomorrow, but he always welcomes a chance to visit with any and all people who come his way. Like me, he suddenly left the work force, and all of the daily collegial interactions it provides. Unlike me, he does spend most of his time at home, while I have family business, Mary Kay business appointments and ministry details to attend to, and even if they can be handled online or by phone, it's still a lot of person-to-person interaction. At this point in his Alzheimer's, Steve can't punch in a phone number or create an email, so there is a real risk of becoming isolated.

So Steve's time with the caregiver needs to be upbeat, busy, and constructive, with lots of encouragement and good humor. I certainly have enjoyed peace of mind two mornings a week!

When inevitable changes come into our lives, adults usually "roll with the punches" because we inform ourselves of the rationale, the other person's position, and all of the relevant circumstances. Christians also prayerfully submit the happenings in our lives to the Lord for clarity--or closure. That's because our faithful God does NOT change, even as each day brings new circumstances our way, a fact that gives us the confidence to move forward. Malachi 3:6 says, KJV:

I am the LORD; I change not.

There's no way of knowing how Steve will react to the new gentleman, whether he'll forget by tomorrow morning where his other helper went, or just enjoy a new friend. The dogs will certainly bark at first, but they'll come around pretty quickly. As for me, I'll want someone who can take direction concerning the day's activities without me having to repeat myself, and who can size up the situation quickly. I was assured by the nurse/manager that the new guy has plenty of experience with Alzheimer's, so things should work out. I'll put together my instruction sheet like I do each time, and allow some extra time before I leave for Bible study to show the caregiver where the lunch food is kept, and tools for yards and in the garage.

Let's hope our new caregiver knows the Lord, number one, and likes walking dogs!

Sunday, February 6, 2011

Changes, challenges, Part I

5:57 p.m. Today's project was to host a little Super Bowl get-together with friends, and then go to our Home Fellowship meeting. That plan was changed by early this morning upon receipt of an email from our HF leader Mark, telling us that the meeting is cancelled because the host Gilbert is seriously ill, just released from the hospital!

Well, I thought, we'd watch the game and funny commercials, and then visit our daughter Heather's Church, Sandals, for their 7:00 service. Normally, we'd still be way out in Moreno Valley ending up our fellowship, and it would be 7:30 before we could arrive. But that wouldn't work, because she and Nick would be at a Super Bowl party with friends, so they wouldn't be going to that service, will be quite a while before her dad and I get another opportunity.

Meanwhile, Steve and I had heaping bowls of homemade chili and took the dogs for a short walk, and then settled in for the game. Seems our friends' out of town guest stayed later than expected, so we had a pretty quiet afternoon going. I like football enough to follow it "over to the side," as it were, listening with one ear to the plays and touchdowns while doing other things, like making sure Steve had a consistent supply of nachos.Thinking of a project, I got my coupon holders out of the Jeep for a little mindless clipping while watching the game.

Then it hit me: I looked over at the mock copy of Galatians: An Exploration of Faith and Freedom, and realized that I hadn't filled out the online corrections form due back to Tate Publishing by February 19. Seemed like as good a time as any to get to work, because the noise from the tv wouldn't distract me.

Several errors were already circled in red in the anecdotal and instructional introductory comments throughout the book, and tabbed with translucent neon green post-its (I love those things)! Now it was time to go through the question sections, looking mainly for punctuation and typos, but also for missing scripture references that weren't caught before. It got pretty nitpicky, but since my name is on this book, thanks be to God who gave me the entire Bible study back in the 1980's. And my desire is that readers and Bible students will not be distracted by tiny errors--or big ones either!! Happily, I got through the whole book and emailed the form to my layout editor. By the way she emailed me back so quickly, I take it she wasn't tuning in too carefully to the Super Bowl, either!

Solomon talks about people staying up all night worrying about their work in Ecclesiastes 2:22-23, NLT:

So what do people get in this life for all their hard work and anxiety? Their days of labor are filled with pain and grief; even at night their minds cannot rest. It is all meaningless.

I personally would not characterize the laborious efforts that come with being a wife, mother, teacher and Bible teacher as no more than meaningless anxiety! I am one who finds great joy and satisfaction in my life's work. But the cynical Preacher himself gives the reason for true satisfaction in life--looking to God as the source for all true pleasure and satisfaction. Verse 25-26 says,

For who can eat or enjoy anything apart from Him? He gives wisdom, knowledge, and joy to those who please Him.

He also gives a great sense of calm when changes come one upon another. And God's knowledge of what is going to happen is a priceless facet of His character that we can always count on.

And God has a sense of humor, too. By mid-afternoon our guest bathroom suddenly became unusable--good thing our friends never did come over!