Thursday, May 31, 2012

Praise for His ways

11:27 p.m. Today's project was to Holy Spirit power through a very aggravating morning, which saw Steve's bus come 1 hour and a quarter late; horrendous traffic from south Riverside to Anaheim Hills, and half an hour wasted at a customer's home trying to get either of our wireless networks to connect! My customers and I prayed, and my notebook computer finally connected, using my WiFi. Praise His name, Jesus is truly Lord of all!

I went on to hold two interviews--the single gal is ready to join my Mary Kay team, but the married mother of three hosting our Virtual Makeover session is swamped with her children's music lessons and helping her husband with his business. God knows the timing and need of each woman I interview because, as Psalm 31:15 says,

My times are in Your hand.

 As I lay awake at 3:48 a.m. this morning--again--I received the idea that broke up my busy business day and blessed my marriage. Instead of waiting until almost 3 p.m. for the very tardy bus to bring Steve home, I picked him up from Care Connexxus at 1:00 on my way in from Orange County. He seemed a little confused, fearful and unsure when he saw me, which did bother me for a split second. But the reason is, I imagine, that he'd not been called away from his Wednesday routine before. The group was just relaxing after lunch doing quiet activities as they do daily, waiting to board their buses. But he gradually began to smile as it dawned on him that a break in routine was okay and we took off. For some reason, he has an ingrained panic response to any kind of change in plans, always has had. There is so much healing to be prayed for, for Steve!

Lunch and Starbucks at Vons was followed by shopping for him and his care giver's meals for the time I'll be gone to Ladies' Retreat, and getting some snacks for me. Our afternoon together was sweet! At home, I unloaded groceries, settled Steve in with his medications and snack, and then went upstairs for a nap before getting freshened up and organized for this evening's skin care party in Corona. The Lord went on the bless me at that party, netting almost $600 in sales!

Thank you, Lord, that we work better and more effectively when we allow "times of refreshing" come from You!

Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Grand Terrace

 Today's project was to drive to Grand Terrace, California, just north of Riverside, to give a facial to a member of our Circle of Friends ladies' networking group. Kristine does work for hospice, health providers and the Riverside Office of Aging. We had a lovely time, and we'll be meeting again for her glamour makeover.

Grand Terrace is a quiet  little town between major cities Riverside to the south and San Bernardino to the north, and borders former railroad center Colton. To the immediate east is the world famous medical city of Loma Linda, built around the Loma Linda University Medical Center, built by Seventh Day Adventists. My hometown Redlands, once the citrus capitol of the nation and winter playground for wealthy Victorians, lies further east.  I could go on and on, with past and recent history, but you get the idea that I grew up in the Inland Empire! The two-county area has shaped my life, ambitions and personality, before I became a Christian in 1980, and continues to have an influence on this 32 year daughter of the King! Even though I've lived in New Hampshire and Colorado, these city boundaries are my life's geographical markers. Surveyor lines become city limits. Those boundaries shape the character of the people, which forms the character of each town.  Boundaries matter!

God Himself put a strong emphasis on maintaining family and tribal boundary lines; moving the marker stones was a crime. Deuteronomy 19 :14  says,

 You shall not remove your neighbor's landmark, which the men of old have set, in your inheritance which you will inherit in the land that the LORD your God is giving you to possess.

In 2006, my mother was in Loma Linda's medical center recovering from a severe attack of Guillaume-Barre syndrome, which left her paralyzed and her organs barely functioning with the help of machines. After work in my classroom, and quickly getting some dinner together for Steve, Steven and Heather, I would drive through Grand Terrace  on Barton Road on the way to the hospital intensive care floor. Day after day, twice on Saturdays and again on Sunday, I or Steve and the kids and I would visit, sing praise songs, and pray with Mommy. At times, I would pull off in Grand Terrace, to get gas, or a few odd groceries, or grab coffee at their Starbucks and a quick snack for dinner on my way to or from her room. 

Sometimes I would just pull over in this quiet town to cry and cry, because decisions were being made against my sister's and my will to end my mother's life just as she was beginning to recover!  The Lord was with me, along with my sisters in the Lord, and all of our family. Steve's mother Ruby prayed faithfully--they were great friends. Eventually Mommy was clandestinely removed from the hospital, put on hospice and left to die in her friend's living room.The Lord sustained us all, with the knowledge that Pearl Gwendolyn Jordan Gray had gone to be with the Lord. 2 Corinthians 5:6-8 describes the confidence of the believer:

So we are always confident, knowing that while we are at home in the body, we are absent from the Lord. For we walk by faith, not by sight. We are confident, yes, well pleased, rather to be absent from the body and to be present with the Lord.

Driving in Grand Terrace on this bright, sunny day, seeing a few families, but mostly elderly gentlemen enjoying their morning walks, made me feel relaxed and refreshed by the peace and quiet, despite reminders of the time in my life when I passed through seven days a week. I am no longer stricken with sorrow, but experienced rest and peace on those streets. today.

That's the confidence of the believer!

Monday, May 28, 2012

Prayers already answered

4:09 p.m. Today's project was to get up as on any other Monday, even if it is the legal holiday Memorial Day. I'd have devotions, spend time with Steve before he headed off on his bus, pray with my prayer partner, and then make phone calls, or head over to Starbucks to meet new customers and confirm appointments. I had called both Care Connexxus and the Special Transportation line, both of whose recordings indicated that they only took off Thanksgiving, Christmas and New Year's Day. Steve was all set to go.

At 8:00, Steve's caregiver took him out to walk a bit and wait for the bus, but it didn't come. Hmmm. So I called the daycare and no one answered. Well, now it made sense. The bus wasn't going to pick up riders with no destination!  A different kind of day was to be in the offing. God had a plan, as He always does. In Isaiah 46:9b-10 our God says of Himself,

For I am God, and there is no
I am God, and there is none like
Declaring the end from the
And from ancient times things
  that are not yet done,
Saying, "My counsel shall stand,
And I will do all My pleasure."

I tend to think of the practical realities, like helping Steve to be constructively and happily busy, which can be a challenge. But God's pleasure for me today was pleasure itself! Even though I thoroughly enjoy my business, it certainly can't be called "vacation." So the two of us swept away spider webs, watered our new grass, and then he sat down to enjoy some television.

The urge came from the Holy Spirit to get out a couple of  Bibles, a Strong's concordance and commentaries and make some background notes for II Samuel, which Bible study I begin teaching on June 7th. Delving into the Word, studying the factual background and spiritual meaning of some of the book's major concepts, and interspersing personal-response questions for my women--now that's sheer fun for me! In the meantime, I'd called our friends Bob and Debbie. Since he had today off as an employee of the State of California's Bureau of Auto Repair, it made a perfect time for a visit. Bob had already planned to stop by to see Steve from time to time, but both of them were coming. (Along with an extra quart of corn chowder from Mimi's restaurant that a waitress had given them unbidden).


Honestly, I had awakened feeling sad, anticipating a lonely day, journalling about it to the Lord. Socializing as a couple is difficult enough these days, but if Steve had gone on the bus, I definitely would have been alone, even if gainfully occupied. I probably would have done some Bible study too. But my day would have been like watching our new grass grow.  I did have prayer time, a fellow consultant came by to pick up product; renter Andrew, Steve and I planned the Peruvian dinner he is going to prepare for us on Sunday night. But the Lord knows what each of us needs, and had already answered my prayers for people to socialize with! Jesus said in Matthew 6:8,

Your Father knows the things you have need of before you ask Him.

The effect of having fun plans uplifted us both. Not only did the two of us enjoy the happy anticipation of our friends coming over, but made a game out of scrubbing spots off the family room carpet and generally straightening up. God knows how Steve and I like to be active and busy!

Thank You, Lord!

Sunday, May 27, 2012

30 years so far

9:25 p.m. Today's project was to attend the evening celebration of  the 30th anniversary of the founding of our church, Calvary Chapel Moreno Valley, in 1982. This morning, a proclamation of commendation from the city's mayor was read before Pastor John's recounting of the reality of Ephesians 3:20-21 in the life of the fellowship:

Now to Him who is able to do exceedingly abundantly above all that we ask or think according to the power that works in us, to Him be glory in the church by Christ Jesus to all generations, forever and ever. Amen.

Calvary Chapel Moreno Valley is an offspring church from Calvary Costa Mesa, founded in the 1970's by Pastor Chuck Smith, a true modern day apostle, in my view! Seeing that phrase "to all generations" reminded me of a quote by Harvest's Greg Laurie  that "the total impact of the Jesus Movement may not be seen for five or six generations." In turn and in God's timing, Calvary Moreno Valley has founded churches in Alabama, North Carolina, Wales, England, and missions in Mexico and Eastern Europe.

Pictured above is one of the Gutierrez Brothers, a masterful Spanish guitar duo whose lives are "a testimony of what God can do when you give Him your life." Pastor John and his wife Robin had their children and grandchildren with them. Pastors and missionaries who were sent out from Calvary were there, along with two couples who were a part of the church from the beginning, when it met in the local Women's Club building. I especially enjoyed hearing from Pastor Bob Ybarra of Calvary Chapel Perris Valley, whose wife Cosima became a friend when she reviewed my book, Galatians: An Exploration of Faith & Freedom. I met the two of them for coffee at the Woodcrest Starbucks. Bob was the architect of the beautiful building we meet in today.

Steve and I, our son Steven and daughter Heidi have benefited greatly from the Bible teaching of the pastors. Steve, Heidi and I have been privileged to participate in and lead ministries, and to be part of a loving church family. In addition to leading many of the Calvary Chapel women in a summer Bible study of II Samuel, and a July Heart to Home series of classes, I am planning to be a crew leader for Vacation Bible School in late June, Can't wait!

I wish to give a loving congratulations to our pastors, staff, and fellow volunteers for thirty years of ministry and service to Moreno Valley and its citizens, and for saving souls  around the world. This is a church that gladdens the heart of God!

Saturday, May 26, 2012

Trying something new!

5:17 p.m. Today's project was to learn a natural approach to some of the health issues that plague us.  If Steve's wakefulness at night could be calmed, what a blessing that would be. And it would be magnificent if the arthritis that is aggravated by twisting and turning my fingers, arms and shoulders while assisting him, could be relieved without a prescription. So far, I use MSM and Hydraluronic Acid supplements, but those get pricey, and it takes a couple of weeks to show good effects. I'm just not a fan of pharmaceuticals when natural supplements and organic nutrients can be employed!

I've been inspired lately by the way the Lord is using our son Steven, who has been sending organic supplements to his dad that are actually causing slight improvements in mobility and speech. He is still ingesting the prescription meds  he's been on for months, if not years, so the supplements from Lassen's Organic Market comprise the only different aspect of his diet.  We are entering into a new phase, prayerfully moving from pharmaceuticals that are known to be worthless in late-stage Alzheimer's/dementia--even their commercials only tout effectiveness for "symptoms of mild to moderate" cases--to using supplements much closer to their original plant basis. I am trusting in what the Lord has said He would do for His people, clearing the way for them them to praise Him, Isaiah 43: 18-19, 21:

Do not remember the former
Nor consider the things of old.
Behold, I will do a new thing,
Now it shall spring forth;
shall you not know it?
I will even make a road in the
And rivers in the desert.
To give drink to my people, My
This people I have formed for
They shall declare My praise.

Today I gave a facial to a lady whose company produces non-medicinal patches designed to be placed on the same areas of the body--even on top of clothing--where acupuncturists use needles. (The only patch we've ever used was transdermal Exelon, which you had to use gloves to place on Steve's back. How safe could that be?! Being in the same drug family as Aricept, it had no effect on Steve's functioning either.

I looked forward to our appointment because two of her patches (see above photo) stopped a violent pain in my right knee that struck me just before my turn came to give a 5-minute talk at the Circle of Friends networking group last week. Honestly, I would have been hard-pressed to walk over to my presentation table if the patches hadn't started working immediately!

Why two patches? The other patch was placed over my dress on the area of my stomach, because I had mentioned my celiac (wheat allergy) disease. Apparently my digestive tract is where much inflammation resides. With her expert placement, Suzie's patches caused a synergy of relief in both areas!

To be on the safe side before placing the patches, I texted our supplement expert Steven the names of two of the supplements, glutathione and carnicine, to see if they were legit. He immediately answered back that they are antioxidants that fight free radicals in the environment. So far, so good!

We'll see how our patch experiment goes, and Lord willing, we'll have a good report soon! 

Friday, May 25, 2012

A funny movie, or?

6:36 p.m.  Today's project was to plan one-third of my day. I heard very wise counsel for the self-employed business owner with a family as well as church, other employment and community obligations:


The three parts are of course morning, afternoon and evening. It sounds simple and obvious, but you  have no idea how hard it is to stop working when you are called by God to your work, it suits you perfectly, you love the people you have the privilege to serve and bless, and are excited by the goals you are working to achieve! It's a challenge to discipline oneself as a business owner, because no one tells you what to do or when to do it, except the Lord. And Jesus is very creative in the way His Holy Spirit gives direction! Each day presents a novel and often strenuous challenge, with novel solutions.
But I often feel inadequate to the task at hand!

In Exodus 4, Moses kept objecting to God that he couldn't lead the enslaved Hebrew people out of Egypt. Verses 13-15:

But he [Moses] said, "O my Lord, please send by the hand of whomever else You may send." So the anger of the LORD was kindled against Moses, and He said: "Is not Aaron the Levite your brother? I know he can speak well. And look, he is coming out to meet you. When he sees you, he will be glad in his heart. Now you shall speak to him and put the words in his mouth. And I will be with your mouth and I will be with his mouth, and I will teach you what you shall do."

Speaking, texting, phoning, emailing or Facebook messaging the right words to the right women is the essence of my Mary Kay business, and guidance and the right words for each one keep me dependent on the Lord! And I could spend almost every waking moment between 9 a.m. and 9 p.m. doing it.

But I have followed that good advice, and work very busily at appointments, contacting customers, coaching parties, conducting interviews for new team members and meeting new people all morning, once devotions and prayers are finished and Steve takes off on the bus for Care Connexxus. That's Part I of my day, mornings six days a week.

In Part 2, afternoon, I greet Steve here around 2 :30 p.m. at home most days, and we enjoy an afternoon together. He often nods off, so I can start writing my blog or do other personal tasks or a little housework, but conduct no business. IF I have an afternoon appointment or meeting, then I take Part 3, the evening, off. Otherwise, I will schedule meetings or parties in the evenings, and arrange care for Steve after dinner until his bedtime.

Sundays are days of rest for us both.

Today, I had worked very hard seeing customers and a team member, and setting up a Memorial Day sale by communicating with my customer base, and a pair of hostesses for next week. I had eaten a good high-protein lunch, but still was not relaxed as I should have been. Steve wasn't home yet,. I remembered a bit of advice from a top director about getting those endorphins released by laughter, and her idea was to watch a funny movie or go to YouTube to watch a "laughing baby" video. We have a big supply of comedies on DVD, and everyone laughs with a laughing baby! But the Lord gave me a better idea, one that would engage my body, soul and spirit: get out to the garden this cool and breezy day! I changed into old clothes and shoes, and spent a wonderfully refreshing 30 minutes thinning carrots and pulling weeds.

The benefits were manifold.

Mentally, I felt good about a garden that didn't have quite so many weeds creeping in, and enjoyed seeing several small tomatoes on three of my plants. An immature greenish red potato had poked itself above ground, so I piled some soil over it in hopes that it would keep growing.

Physically, I was getting some gentle exercise and enjoying the cool breeze! 

Personally, I was accomplishing something constructive, with a hobby of my choice, in a relaxed frame of mind!

Spiritually, I could marvel at God's creation in miniature! Only God can turn a seed into a source of food for a family!

Steve came home, and  for the rest of the afternoon, we had a pretty restful time. After dinner, Part 3 of my day, I went to Rite-Aid to pick up some skincare class supplies while a caregiver helped Steve, and then moved my inventory and prepared an order. Now that Steve's in bed, I will call some guests who will be at a class next week.

The Lord has given me a very enjoyable, workable day, and the one-third of it I take off rejuvenates me for the other two parts! That's a wise plan!!

Thursday, May 24, 2012

Weeping in the wee hours

3:27 p.m. Today's project was to provide a pleasant morning for Steve.

This was particularly important because the last few days, he's been waking up crying. He would do this maybe once a year over the many years we've been married, or be crying in the shower when I got up after him. Sometimes his nightmares would get very sad, his frightened voice sounding more like a young boy than a grown man. When I asked him what was going on that time years ago when he cried in the shower, he replied, "I was thinking about my dad."

I'm not sure what to make of this, because his dad passed away with complications of dementia when my older daughter was a 6 month-old baby. And his mom has been gone since 2007. His older brother died in 2010, and no pertinent information has come forward from his two older sisters.

Since Steve became seriously afflicted with dementia in 2009, I haven't noticed too much sadness, although he'd express inferiority because "everyone has something to do, they all have jobs, and I can't do anything." That is understandable from a man whose 35-year work life came to a premature halt in the prime of his life, during his highest earning years. Later, he would express frustration about his inability to write and loss of speech. But he didn't even argue about giving up driving in September 2009. In the last year, Steve has been calm and good-humored, accepting of his condition, with only occasional breakdowns of crying when he'd tell me that "all I wanted to do was help people," which he loved to do for others on his only day off--fixing car problems, hanging doors,  etc. Now, of course, he has become severely limited--needing much help himself with every basic aspect of living. But he'd slept soundly and awaken in a cheerful frame of mind, laughing with the caregivers and me, and even doing tiny dance steps!

So this recent crying seems to be coming at the same time as are improvements in walking and talking. I mused aloud to a caregiver a couple of mornings ago, "maybe with increased cognition is coming realization of his situation." That is entirely possible, I guess, because at the time my late  mother had her stroke, the doctor prescribed a medication for depression, a common result of the realization of losing one's abilities all at once. Ecclesiastes 1:18 says,

For in much wisdom is much grief, and he that increases knowledge increases sorrow.

Think of times when you've thought, "I wish I'd never heard that!" when an unfortunate piece of information comes your way unbidden. Or consider the high suicide, divorce or drug addiction rates of psychiatrists or other brilliant, celebrated professionals.

In Steve's case, maybe the same increase in brain function that is getting his legs and tongue to move more correctly, is bringing the facts of his condition to his attention once again. Or difficult childhood memories are being unearthed after three years of dormancy...only the Lord knows each aspect of the thought process that He has created in Steve. But with each new development, He will lead me with certainty how to best to serve my husband.

In addition, I am certain of this: only knowledge gained for God's purposes and in God's way will have value, now and for eternity! Colossians 2:3 says of Christ, whom are hidden all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge.

Tapping into that treasure is wisdom itself!

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

Fifty-seven and walking

6:09 p.m. Today's project was to celebrate my husband Steve's 57th birthday. We had already started with our first dinner party on Monday with daughter Heather and her husband Nick; and he had a birthday party at Care Connexxus today, evidenced by the gold crown he brought home! I had pondered having him stay home and taking the two of us to a matinee, but he so enjoys getting on the bus and his active routine at the daycare, that I aimed for an afternoon visit and early dinner with our older daughter Heidi. We enjoyed huge sandwiches, chips and fruit from the nearby Ralphs deli. I also gave Heidi a facial from our new Botanical line of skincare while Steve relaxed with Jada!

We have been amazed this last week at the sudden and positive improvements in Steve's abilities. In fact, I honestly don't know what to think! Our youngest son Steven, future chiropractor, very dedicated to organic eating, supplementation, and holistic approaches to treating disease, has been sending his dad an assortment of supplements for the last month, that may be having an effect. Steve is walking better, able to go with his caregiver once again to walk the dog. He even ran to catch his bus the other morning, because he and Andrew were just a couple of houses down the block when the bus pulled up!

Steve's speaking is showing signs of returning also. He said, "Don't want to miss the bus," yesterday morning, and "thank you" to the bus driver one afternoon! In my amazement, I'll join the declaration of Samuel F.B. Morse, inventor of the telegraph in 1844, whose first message was Numbers 23:23:

What God hath wrought!

I have no idea whether these improvements will continue, or are flukes, or comprise a truly remarkable breakthrough for natural remedies. But meanwhile, I'll remember who my God is!! Hear King Nebuchadnezzar's statements about God in Daniel 4:1-3:

To all peoples, nations, and
languages that dwell in all the

Peace be multiplied to you.

I thought it good to declare the
signs  and wonders that the
Most High God has worked
for me.

How great are His signs,
and how mighty His wonders!
His kingdom is an everlasting
and His dominion is from
generation to generation.

I couldn't agree more! And whether Steve is miraculously healed or not, I love You, my Lord!

Tuesday, May 22, 2012

Everyday buffeting

1:21 p.m. Today's project was an unexpected one, due to the pain I've been feeling in my right ear the last two days. I was sitting at my dining room table with my gathered Bibles and commentaries, getting ready to start writing for our annual Bible home study starting June 7, when the pain felt quite intense deep down. So, after wrapping up my review of I Samuel 31 and I Chronicles 10 concerning the death of King Saul from last summer's study, I called my doctor. Happily, they worked me in for 10:15.

The questions I was asked were: "Do you have a cold? Coughing, sore throat, flu symptoms, sneezing?" No, no, no, no and no.  I did sneeze once last night, but after taking a melting Zicam-style lozenge, it didn't happen again. Plus, I don't get earaches with colds, at least not for the last 60 years! There was some good news though--my blood pressure was a very good 113/68.

When the nurse settled me in a room, she took my temperature (normal) and looked into both ears, noticing a  very minor amount of wax in the right one. She gave me a hearing test, and I heard even the lowest, quietest tone, so that was good to "hear." Dr. Guzman came in, peered deeply into my ear, and said that the eardrum was intact, but that there was a tiny irritated spot near the top of the canal. He probed with an instrument, and asked if any of his motions caused the pain, and I replied "no". He mentioned that even a few specks of wax could cause some pressure, so he would have the nurse do a very gentle flushing.

While I awaited the nurse, I texted the kids with an update. Steven wrote me back that ear flushing would make me dizzy, so I promised to be careful driving.

The nurse returned with the ear kit, and other than feeling like my ear was full, and the collection of two tiny bits of wax, there was nothing to report. So I'm back at square one, so to speak.

When the Lord allows an affliction in the life of one of His children, we often wonder what the purpose of it could possibly be. W.H. Spurgeon writes in his devotional Morning and Evening,

These trials are for the testing and strengthening of your faith--they are the waves that wash you further upon the rock--they are winds which waft your ship the more swiftly towards the desired haven...By honour and dishonour, by evil report and by good report, by plenty and by poverty, by joy and by distress, by persecution and by peace, by all these things is the life of your souls maintained, and by each of these you are helped on your way.

The Apostle Paul asked God three times to remove his "thorn in the flesh, the "messenger of Satan sent to buffet me," in 2 Corinthians 12:7, "lest I should be exalted above measure by the abundance of the revelations" (of heaven).  While none of us could claim the revelations and the world-changing ministry granted to Paul, we would do well to heed God's answer to his pleas and the the apostle's response, v.9-10:

"My grace is sufficient for you, for My strength is made perfect in weakness." Therefore most gladly I will rather boast in my infirmities, that the power of Christ may rest upon me.Therefore I take pleasure in infirmities, in reproaches, in needs, in persecutions in distresses, for Christ's sake. For when I am weak, then I am strong.

Your strength, O Jesus, Your strength alone!

Monday, May 21, 2012

When work's not work at all

7:25 p.m. Today's project was to get back to doing what I do best--meeting and talking to people!
Of course by "people," I mean "women," because the Lord showed me to get to Starbucks in Moreno Valley by 10:00  and work my Mary Kay business until I needed to get back home to meet Steve's bus.

I had moderate success at Starbucks  in Riverside last Friday, picking up a couple of leads to call this week, but nothing like I used to experience when I would regularly sit down to make phone calls and quietly offer free facials to gals sitting at nearby tables. My joke is that I must look like a harmless, sweet lady because I can count on one hand out of scores of approaches those who said "no." Not everyone books an appointment later, of course, but it's all about numbers and consistent activity, making fiscal year 2011-12 my best yet. An added "sweetener" from the Lord: I've actually become friends with ladies who were once total strangers I started conversations with. As Proverbs 18a says,

A man who has friends must himself be friendly.

The Lord has given me to the ability to enjoy the company of all kinds of people ever since I was a girl. I "never meet a stranger," as the saying goes. That open and outgoing personality has served me well for over 40 years in business, education, and as a local politician. When I became a Christian, God shaped me to care about and serve others, leading and mentoring women in His Word, helping them to be better wives, mothers and homemakers.  Jesus Christ gave me my purpose: helping women learn the Bible, and through scripture, know God intimately and trust Him in everything. My purpose was revealed as my mind was renewed! Romans 12:1-2:

I beseech you, therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, that you present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable to God, which is your reasonable service. And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, that you may prove what is that good and acceptable and perfect will of God.

My mind had to be renewed if  I was going to work my business in the manner God has planned out for me! I had to stop worrying about exactly who is going to be in my future unit and who didn't join in the last two weeks. I need to do what I do best that leads to a unit being built: get out and talk with people. Freshen up relationships with current friends and customers, and meet new ones each day. Have fun and let that fun become contagious. And leave to God the identities of the future beauty consultants I'll lead one day!I need to be God's best, Spirit-filled and Spirit-led Dana Kruckenberg, NOT somebody else using somebody else's successful approach!

God is not in the cloning business. Each of us is individually gifted and once we learn our spiritual gifts, and use them faithfully to honor God, we will see God do amazing things.

Today, I sold a product on the spot from my inventory in the Jeep; booked a spa party, got 5 new leads, booked 2 facials and a guest for our fun Thursday Night Together! And it's only Monday.

Thank you, Lord, for Your plans for me!!

Sunday, May 20, 2012

Heads up

3:13 p.m. Today's project was to attend our usual second service at church. Steve started moving around in the dark bedroom at 4:38 a.m., which woke me up, but the caregiver's arrival at 5 a.m. allowed me to go back to sleep. Blessed rest! You don't appreciate slumber until it gets disrupted. I was so thankful for God's gift of rest in the morning..

Being awakened in the wee hours certainly causes one to use the time to pray; in my case, for Steve to be healed and sleep normally, and, an issue that's never far from my mind, asking my Father what to do when he begins fully "sundowning" as dementia patients often do, being fully awake and active at night. Hire an agency caregiver for 10 p.m. to 8 a.m. for the home (which would cover until the bus comes Monday through Friday) or a residential placement? There is no one answer that suits every family.

The tricky part is, that the more expensive hourly care I hire now, the fewer funds I will have available for the day when residential care becomes a must for medical and safety reasons. My desire is to have choices, not to have to settle for a nursing home that Medicare/or Medi-Cal would completely cover. Steve and I have, by God's grace, worked too hard and sacrificed too much for him to end up neglected because of a crowded or understaffed facility that doesn't have the capacity to create a pleasant atmosphere specifically for dementia victims! I must continue to pray and trust God for the timing and perfect answer for Steve's needs, since He is the one who laid it on my heart to begin looking for more professional future care.  Isaiah 30:15 says,

In quietness and confidence shall be your strength.

Steve has been walking better lately, due, I think, in the physical realm anyway, to the organic supplements our son has been providing for us. Our walk from the handicapped parking space to the sanctuary door went smoothly, once I got Steve backed up enough that the closing passenger door wouldn't hit him in the head, and then turned him around to walk in the right direction.

During the worship songs, Steve was very attentive, not singing much any more, but keeping his eyes closed and and his hands lifted a bit. The Holy Spirit has always ministered to him through music, whether at home or in the car. The two of us used to sing to and with our children every night--he has a nice voice, and in musician son Kriss' words, "Dad never misses a tone." I do hope Steve gets his singing back, even if it is just a silent moving of his lips.

The weekly problems start with the sermon. Steve' head goes lower and lower, until I have to "stage whisper" for him to "sit up and look at Pastor John!" at least 12-15 times per message.(We have been sitting in the last row so no one will be disrupted by Steve's leaning over or dropping anything). I ponder just letting him sit there for 45 minutes literally bent in half, so I can focus on the Word, but he seriously could tip over and fall down, or at minmum hit his head on the back of someone's chair, and not even wake up.

I suppose that getting up in the early morning could make Steve sleepy when sitting down, only this is just an extremely exaggerated case of his dropping off at church since the time I met him 32 years ago.  Of course, the difference is that back in the day, he would wake up and be alert after a reminder. Not so now. He is oblivious as to what everyone else is doing--listening and following in their Bibles--and doesn't know which direction to turn his head once he lifts it up. With a jumbo screen on each side of the pulpit, it's hard to miss the speaker's face. So, so sad...

At this time, Steve's involvement in the worship is plenty reason for me to keep bringing him to church, because the music ministers so strongly to him. As at every other step on this tragic journey, God will give me a peace, and the appropriate action to take.

Amos 3:3 asks,

Can two walk together, unless they are agreed?

May I walk in agreement with my God, in regard to His child Steve!


Saturday, May 19, 2012

We bless you in the name of the Lord

7:15 p.m. Today's project was to join in the celebration of new directions in the lives of beloved friends and family members. My nephew David's fiancee Kendra was honored today at a family bridal shower at 11:30, and later in the afternoon, after dropping off my daughter Heather (above) in Riverside, I gassed up the Jeep and drove to the east end of Moreno Valley for a fellowship gathering. Ben and Joanna Snow are moving with their three children and their dear friend Sarah, to begin serving in ministry at Calvary Chapel of Foley, Alabama. Steve was cared for by an LVN from the Brightstar agency. My dad even dropped by to visit and bring him a McDonald's lunch!

God brings major transitions into our lives as soon as we accept Christ as our Saviour. Ephesians   4:21-23 describes our new life this way:

If indeed you have heard Him and have been taught by Him, as the truth is in Jesus: that you put off, concerning your former conduct, the old man which grows corrupt according to the deceitful lusts, and be renewed in the spirit of your mind, and that you put on the new man which was created according to God, in true righteousness and holiness.

Basically, as a new person, a born again believer, you no longer are to think or act as you used to! How gracious of God to give us the Holy Spirit to indwell us, call our attention to our bad motives and quench our desires for what is bad for us, so that as we grow as believers, the "besetting sins" of our lives as unbelievers gradually--or suddenly, like my foul mouth 32 years ago--drop away, and our new character is revealed! God can use us as He sees fit, and we become obedient to the calling He has for each of us!

The next biggest transition for the believer, if single, is to allow God to bring them the wife or husband He has planned for them since before they were born. Wedding day is the biggest step into trusting God that  a person can plan for! The day of our salvation is our truly greatest day, but I don't think I've met anyone who woke up saying, "Today, I am going to become born again and completely changed by the indwelling Holy Spirit, ready to come or go in service to God as He wills, anywhere, any time!"

For the married person who becomes a Christian, their transformation from a 50%-er to one who does 100% to make his or her marriage work, is a witness to their unsaved spouse. When both spouses accept the Lord, their home and family life becomes holy unto the Lord, fit for His good use!

While obedient believers are called by God to edify their local church with the gifts God has granted them, Some believers are called to make another kind of major transition: to pack up and move to an entirely different scene of ministry, like Abram in Genesis 12:1:

Now the LORD had said to Abram:
"Get out of your country,
From your father
And from your father's house,
to a land that I will show you."

Ben and Joanna have been called to move to the other end of our country to serve in Alabama with their dear friends Pastor Joe and his wife Lorraine. Two newlywed couples went along to help start the now-thriving church, and another young family moved from Indiana to join the Foley church last year. The arrangements and sacrifices each family made to serve Jesus was enormous, but where would you rather be, believer, than in the center of God's will?

Our gathering was loud, crowded and busy, with many young families present, but bittersweet, too. It's very hard to say an even temporary goodbye to friends we're not likely to see for along time, even if God is calling ! Our comfort is in what we know about God from Deuteronomy 32:4:

He is the Rock; his work is
For all His ways are justice,
A God of truth and without
Righteous and upright is He.

Because we know our God, we can bless our loved ones in the name of Jesus!

Friday, May 18, 2012

The gift of laughter

1:56 p.m. Today's project was to put gas in my Jeep, so I went to the Shell station on Alessandro, where I can get a 10 cents/gallon discount for my grocery spending at Ralphs. Nothing out of the ordinary, just getting ready for my weekend driving.

The station was crowded for 11:30 on a weekday, probably with other Ralphs shoppers, desperate, like me, for any break whatsoever on a few gallons of regular! You have to understand the station's layout. Each lane has only one pump on each side, so I pulled up behind a white compact car and awited my turn.

The driver wasn't hooked up to a gas pump while he was cleaning his windshield, and being me, I impatiently considered moving to another pump. But the other lanes were full, and realistically, how long should it take to run a squeegee over the windshield? Come to think of it, did he need to block the only avaialble gas pump if he was finished with it? Or wouldn't you have cleaned your windshield while the gas was flowing to make best use of your time? Shouldn't have asked myself those questions.

This young man painstakingly dipped the squeegee, smiling pleasantly, carefully doing one section of the window. He was oblivious to the need for speed, being considerate, or any protcol for "moving things along" when others are behind you, that our society has established. Something about him made me just sit with a neutral expression and attempt to cope. (Which was probably what I needed, God knows each of us that well)!

As the windshield cleaning proceeded, I glanced over to the next lane, and an amused lady outside pumping her own gas grinned and shrugged her shoulders at me in comically exaggerated sympathy, which just made me start laughing to the point of tears. The Lord used that lady to show me there was nothing to be angry about, just go with the moment. The squeegee process didn't speed up, so I left my car and went inside to pay, which you have to do to get your discount, walking at a pretty leisurely pace. The conscientious car owner looked up at me and smiled as I went by. He had not a care in the world. (Wish I could say the same)!

Now at the checkout inside, the regular attendant was training a new gal, so at every step of my transaction she was telling her how she performed the action. Since I was officially in no hurry at this point, I didn't mind. Then it was my turn to hold up a line, because the attendant not only had to pre-figure my discount, but I had changed my mind about whether to use debit or credit. I told the tense lady behind me "sorry!"and put my card in quickly to get the deal done.

But for the lady behind me, the straw that broke the camel's back was that the real attendant had to carefully explain to the trainee what she'd done to change my transaction, and how to put in a reason code. The lady behind me muttered nastily in reference to the trainer, "You've got to be kidding..." so I said, "That was my fault. I didn't make my selection fast enough." The attendant never paid the irritated woman any mind, kept her focus and accomplished her training goal, good job! Our friendly winshield cleaner had left, and then I finally got my turn to use the gas pump.

The verse I immediately thought of was Proverbs 17:22a,

A merry heart does good like a medicine,

but then I thought of verses just as applicable to today's situation. Proverbs 16:32:

He who is slow to anger is better than the mighty, and he who rules his spirit than he who takes a city.

And the ulitmate, the Golden Rule from the lips of Jesus Himself, Luke 6:31 (NLT):

Do to others as you would like them to do to you.

Thursday, May 17, 2012

Stewardship or Pride?

2:06 p.m. Today's project was to hire a brother from church to repair one of the pop-up sprinklers on our backyard slope. Steve designed, organized and installed an automatic sprinkler system for our entire property in 1988 and we've not had much difficulty until last fall. Since the electrical  connections needed skilled time and expertise that Steve can no longer manage, we have just been turning on each station by hand. Six stations control 24 sprinklers. The picture above (preparation for Heidi and Pavel's wedding rehearsal dinner last summer) gives an idea of how big our backyard is, 2,216 square feet, all grass. That's a daunting bill for either re-seeding or sod. Re-seeding is cheaper, but comes with the added penalty of keeping our lab Jada in the house all day for two straight weeks. And that, my friend, is not going to happen...

It seems that the Lord has put on my heart to gradually restore the lawns at our house. We've used and repaired the power mower Steve was using. When it broke down again, my business has been able to finance a lawn service twice a month, thank you, Lord. My dad gifted us with cutting back our overgrown Chinese elms, which finally exposed the front yard to some sunlight! The next step was to have large patches of the ground sodded and re-seeded. I'll be hand-watering those sections for another week.

This has been made considerably easier by my Mother's Day gift--a brand new garden hose. Amazing how something so simple can feel like a luxury, isn't it? God is so good! Psalm 103:1-5 says,

Bless the LORD, O my soul;
And all that is within me, bless
  His holy name!
Bless the LORD, O my soul,
And forget not all His benefits:
Who forgives all your iniquities,
Who heals all your diseases,
Who redeems your life from
Who crowns you with
  lovingkindness and tender
Who satisfies your mouth with
  good things,
So that your youth is renewed
  like the eagle's.

Now, I am pondering whether making gradual improvements to the yards with our limited disposable income, is pride or stewardship.  "The Preacher" in Ecclesiastes rails against vanity (or "emptiness" in the original language) of every kind, including the way we use the word today. Chapter 1:2 says,

"Vanity of vanities," says the
"Vanity of vanities, all is vanity."

Yet, after eight chapters of ruminations, verse 9:1 speaks a good word to the righteous and the wise:

For I considered all this in my heart, so that I could declare it all: that the righteous and the wise and their works are in the hand of God.

So who are the righteous and wise? Romans 3:10 says, "There is none righteous, no, not one." The only way a human being becomes righteous in God's eyes is to ask Jesus to forgive their sin and be their Savior, to be born again. How can one become wise? Paul writes to Timothy that he has from childhood "known the Holy Scriptures, which are able to make you wise for salvation through faith which is in Jesus Christ." Jesus before His death promised the disciples understanding of matters they would not at that time be able to bear, in John16:13, "when He, the Spirit of truth, has come, He will guide you into all truth."

As a born again Christian, I have the indwelling Holy Spirit to guide me and give me the ability to make righteous and wise decisions. And the more I listen to His voice, the better I do.

And even relatively minor issues like restoring my lawns can become a praise to His guidance, provision, and love for me!

Wednesday, May 16, 2012

Saved by the blood

9:22 p.m. Today's project was to meditate on a miraculous delivery of the armies of Israel, Judah, and Edom from their mutual enemy the Moabites. II Kings 3:16-18 says,

Then it happened, when the musician played, that the hand of the LORD came upon him. And he said, "Thus says the LORD: 'Make this valley full of ditches.' For thus says the LORD: 'You shall not see wind, nor shall you see rain,; yet the valley shall be filled with water, so that you, your cattle and your animals may drink.' And this is a simple matter in the sight of the LORD: He will also deliver the Moabites into your hand."

It seemed like an unbelievable directive from God, but the ditches were dug, as they left the results to God. That takes the kind of faith noted in Hebrews 11:1.

Now faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen.

Last night, our Mary Kay unit watched "Facing the Giants," a Christian movie about the faith of  a football team that took them all the way to the state championship. We later shared about belief in what God has said despite what the devil throws at us, what I described as

  • disappointment
  • discouragement
  • disparagement
  • disillusionment
If we linger mentally on those arrows shot at us, we will experience defeat in any and every area of our lives. But God is greater than the greatest outside threat, or our worst inner weakness!

The people arose the next day, verse 20 tells us and this is what they discovered when they had given the grain offering--the land was filled with water! But even more amazing, the sun shining of the water made it look like blood to the enemy Moabites, so they presumed that the the three kings' armies had turned on each other and killed themselves. So the Moabites rushed in to collect the spoil, and were killed.

An illusion of blood defeated Israel's enemy. But the blood that Jesus Christ shed on the cross for you and me, and all of the world's people was 100% real, as for the whipping and spitting He withstood on His way to the cross. His shed blood made it possible for people everywhere to join the family of God as born again children of God.

But each person must make the decision to accept Christ's offer of salvation, confess his sins, believe that the Son of God will forgive his sins, and ask for that forgiveness, to be saved and have the assurance that you will spend eternity in heaven with God!

Won't you make that decision today? Please let me know!!

Tuesday, May 15, 2012

Four cups of warm water

3:46 p.m. Today's project was to bring some cheer and pampering to an old friend and prayer partner whom I've known since she and her husband were young marrieds and Steve and I were engaged.

She has survived empty nest, menopause, financial struggles, and most recently, breast cancer with surgery, full chemotherapy and radiation treatments. When she came to the door today, she looked very stylish and pretty with her mid-length hairdo. She is having breathing problems, due to the foggy mornings lately, causing constant coughing, which she handles with a nebulizer. Despite it all, she is active in a ministry to a small group of married women and serves her church as hostess extraordinaire for their large fellowship events. She is also head of the workers' food service for the Anaheim Harvest Crusade!

At the news of her and her husband's latest trial, we've had some prayer sessions by phone.  I was pondering what I could do, until the Lord showed me a unique treat she would enjoy: a Mary Kay spa pedicure and facial, complete with a botanical mask treatment!  Jesus said about the way we represent Him with acts of kindness, in Mark 9:41,

For whoever gives you a cup of water to drink in My name, because you belong to Christ, assuredly, I say to you, he will by no means lose his reward.

In this case, the foot basin was full of warm water with a eucalyptus fizzy tablet for a nice softening soak. While we visited, she also enjoyed her facial with a purifying, soothing mask while she scrubbed and smoothed her feet. Like most of us during this hot week, we're wearing sandals and flip-flops and our feet are in dire need of care!!  She loved both "top" and "bottom" treatments, and also got her perfect "matte" foundation match.

We encouraged one another, counseled one another on matters of concern, and laughed like crazy. We prayed for one another, particularly lifting our husbands up. Then it was time for me to go home, blessed, comforted, and even more grateful to Jesus for my friend and the "cups of water" we gave one another today!

Monday, May 14, 2012

Better yet

2:52 p.m. Today's project was to try to straighten up a goof-up of mine from last weekend. In all of the fun and excitement of my week's close, I forgot to make the Friday afternoon call to Riverside Special Senior and Disabled Transportation to arrange rides for Steve this week to his daycare!

So, I had completed most of my devotions when 8:01 arrived and I was able to call RTA. I'd seemed to remember that between parties on Saturday, I had made a call, because the service is open from 8 a.m.-4 p.m. But perhaps I sat down to do so and was distracted or interrupted, and didn't actually make the call, because the phone lady said Steve wasn't on the schedule, and of course he couldn't be added until Tuesday. So that was that. Now "remembering" that I'd called on Saturday to make Steve's ride reservation was harmless in this case, because Steve was ready to go, but I called them any way, double-checker/confirmer that I am!

Have you ever done that? Envision yourself doing something so vividly that you thought you actually did accomplish it? Proverbs 23:7 says,

For as he thinks in his heart, so is he.

Actually, if the Lord has given you a goal, a dream of a future ministry or accomplishment at home or in a career, God's gift of imagination can be both positive and powerful in cementing that vision in your heart, especially if it will not be fulfilled any time soon, and you are tempted to doubt whether God spoke to you at all. I love the prophecy of Joel 2:28-30 for the last days, God speaking:

"And it shall come to pass
That I will pour out my Spirit on
  all flesh;
Your sons and your daughters
  shall prophecy.
Your old men shall dream
Your young men shall see
And also on My menservants
  and on My maidservants
I will pour out My Spirit in those

At the same general time as I needed to make the bus call, my prayer time with Cara was to start, and then our leadership conference call with our sales director Laurie was scheduled for 8:15! I needed to prioritize rapidly. so at 8:04, I called Cara, and her voicemail, but she called me within two minutes. We did pray, and then I was able to participate in the conference call, sharing and gleaning ideas and inspiration. We all hung up to start our day.

Downstairs meanwhile, the caregiver (who knew about the bus snafu) was guiding Steve into other activities as a distraction, so he stopped focusing on looking for the bus. Good job! Steve helped attach my new garden hose to the front spigot, occupying the time before his care giver's shift ended at 8:45, and allowing me to finish up my personal journal. Only 8:45, and I definitely had received new matters to write to the Lord about!

The rest of the day went smoothly, with a few errands I took Steve on, a nice lunch together--not as nice as the full hot meal he gets at Care Connexxus each weekday, however--and checking out the newly blooming Amaryllis in our front yard.

As I reflect on the different kind of Monday, I realized that I pocketed $51 not spent for a day at the activity center; and thanked the Lord that the Special Transportation people had gone ahead and simply put Steve down for Monday through Friday from now on! That's one less task to remember and one less phone call to make!

I also received a fresh vision for our days together because things got shaken up a bit. Instead of feeling off kilter and annoyed, I was given a new outlook on the Lord's plan for today, a better one yet!!

Sunday, May 13, 2012

Mother's Day-- a new way

4:51 p.m. Today's project was to enjoy the fun of Mother's Day without worrying about keeping traditions, a real first for me.

I was just recalling Mother's Day 2011, and my worry about Steve giving me a card, even if I would be the one helping him to select it and then pay for it. It's all coming back to me now. We were standing in a long line at the Post Office at Pierce and Hole Streets in the La Sierra area of Riverside, with my proofed copy of Galatians: An Exploration of Faith & Freedom in order to mail it to my editor at Tate Publishing. In the corner by the packaging materials, I spotted a revolving rack with Mother's Day cards on it. I asked Steve to go to the rack and pick out a card for me, like he had independently done in 2010 at a Vons grocery store. Just before Steve walked over, a father in line urged his 3 year-old boy to select a card for his mother, and the little boy went right over and got one, envelope included. It was very cute.

Steve walked over after repeated urgings, and started fingering various cards, in complete indecision and confusion, and came back with the separator between the cards and an envelope. I slipped out of line, put the separator back and handed him a "To My Wife" card to go with the envelope. Little did I know that it would be the last Mother's Day card he would ever get for me!

And little do I care this year. Funny, but a card from Steve is the last thing on my mind, now that he can hardly walk and can't talk, eat unassisted, dress or care for himself.

8:38 p.m. I just came in from dinner at P.F. Chang's with my daughters, a great time of sharing in God's word, funny family anecdotes, and very delicious food. And above is my requested Mother's Day gift--a garden hose for the front yard!! Thus goes the stripped-down life.

Jesus said in Luke 12:15,

Take heed and beware of covetousness, for one's life does not consist in the abundance of the things he posseses.

For me, the stripped-down life has been a very blessed life!

Saturday, May 12, 2012

Ruth rang a bell

3:36 p.m. Today's project was to attend a  women's ministry event at Sandals Church in Riverside, a gift from my daughter Heather who attends and is active there. She also treated her mother-in-law Kathleen to this special time. The Rev. Billy Graham's daughter, Ruth Bell Graham, was our featured speaker for this dynamic morning.

And I do not use the term "dynamic" lightly, considering the Greek word dunamis from which this word was derived! The word "dynamite" is also a member of this word family. The term dunamis was used to described the coming of Holy Spirit power in flames of fire on the heads of Jesus' disciples in the Upper Room after our Lord's return to heaven.  Acts 2:1-4 describes this day:

When the day of Pentecost had fully come, they were all with one accord in one place. And suddenly there came a sound from heaven, as of a rushing mighty wind, and it filled the whole house where they were sitting. Then there appeared to them divided tongues, as of fire, and one sat upon each of them. And they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak with other tongues, as the Spirit gave them utterance.

The Holy Spirit fell with power on our gathering today. Ruth spoke of the pain in many women's lives, and reminded us that in Genesis, that as the Spirit of God hovered over the face of the waters, He created life, and order out of chaos. And as the powerful testimonies of local women were played on the screens, we saw living proof that God is still creating order out of chaos!

As Ruth taught the story of the Prodigal Son from Luke Chapter 15, she wove each of us into the story--which person were we? Her spellbinding testimony of marital betrayal and then falling into sin herself, showed us the unconditional love of our heavenly Father through the complete and compassionate forgiveness of the prodigal upon his return home. Her parents' welcome was unequivocal when she returned as well. came home, too. As we saw and read the testimonies of women who had experienced God's healing, the Holy Spirit spoke to me, for certain, of the ways in which I need just come to Him for healing, forgiveness, and direction. Over 900 women were comforted with God's love.

In some moments of silence, each woman wrote what she knows that needs to be brought to God; on the other side, to write the answered prayer! On the back of my card, I wrote what it would look like not to dread the future with Steve's disease. So the Lord gave me a picture of the virtuous woman, clothed with courage and confidence acquired from preparation and hard work for her family, Proverbs 31:21 (NLT):

She is not afraid of winter for her household, for all of her family has warm clothes.

Lord, that I might be clothed in You, with confidence and trust in You alone, that you will meet and surpass every need that I bring to you, as well as needs I don't even know I have! In Jesus' name, Amen.

Friday, May 11, 2012

The last enrollment

2:13 p.m. Today's project was to participate in my last Open Enrollment for the health care plan with Jurupa USD, the school district I retired from in 2009. It's the last, I believe, because I'll be 62 next year, and I'll automatically be dropped because I'll be eligible to sign up for Medicare. Wow! Life has certainly gone by fast since I retired. And the Lord has packed each day with excitement of every kind.

The first year after my retirement, Steve and I were able to travel in our RV, and because of the one-time annuity payout I received (known as a Golden Handshake) we paid off obligations and were able to keep a good savings account. Steve had not yet qualified for lifetime disability income, so he received unemployment and later, CA State disability. The Lord was good to us, allowing us to stay in our home with just his unemployment and my pensions from Jurupa and the Public Employee Retirement System, from my 13 years of school board service. Our drastically reduced income allowed us to modify our house payment before we even fell behind. And since our house in Wyoming has a small payment which renters are covering, we saw no difference in expenses there. Psalm 4:8 describes the way I feel about God's provision of a safe home for our family to live in:

I will both lie down in peace, and
For You alone make me to dwell in safety. 

Amazingly, by the last quarter of 2009, we'd helped with Kriss and Marisela's wedding; and we'd given them Steve's unused Saturn. We helped Steven get settled in Fresno, where he began attending a Christian university where he founded a student prayer group, and also got his start in youth ministry at The People's Church. By 2010, Steve and I still traveled, with me driving the RV now. We also were blessed with fun togetherness by using our annual passes to  Disneyland. This was Heidi's engagement year, so the Lord allowed us to begin our parental "contribution" for her wedding.  And God brought about the finances to help with the author contribution that allowed the Bible study Galatians: An Exploration of Faith & Freedom  to be published the following year! Retirement cleared my schedule to write the book as well!

2011 came in with a bang because of our daughter's June wedding at Kimberly Crest in Redlands. Yet, with only a minor amount of stretching, we were able to do our part to make our bride's day ideal! But 2011 also brought the realization that Steve needed more care than I could provide and still supplement our fixed incomes with my Mary Kay business, so we began to tap into another resource God had given us the means and wisdom to purchase: long term care insurance.  At first, the caregivers provided companionship with tasks and chores, like gardening and walking the dogs with Steve over two miles a day. Fast-forward to 2012, and Steve is not only covered by insurance for 5 days a week of adult daycare at an activity center, but has home care beginning at 5 a.m. seven days a week. Only the Lord's good provision could make that possible, now that my arthritis is making itself felt and my growing business requires alertness and the enthusiasm and ministry I feel on the inside to manifest itself genuinely on the outside! Constant early hour wake-up calls (like Steve crying out "HELP" at 3:40 a.m. today) are for new moms like our Marisela, not for senior citizens like myself! I need to sleep in until at least 5:30!

I also thank the Lord that my flexible appointment schedule allows me to call or drop over to my 84.5-year-old dad's house in Redlands, now that he is slowing down quite a bit and calls upon me for the odd errand a couple of times a week. Praise the Lord that my Heidi and her husband Pavel live just a few blocks away from Daddy!

Perhaps you are under thirty years old and cannot fathom turning sixty-one; or you may be in your fifties with no plans for your senior years. Pray, my friend, pray hard for guidance. Jesus promises, in Luke 11:9,

So I say to you, ask, and it will be given to you; seek, and you will find; knock, and it will be opened to you.

Hear James 1:5:

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.  

And do not only pray for wisdom concerning your own life. Pray and plan your life and livelihood so you can best serve others. God may be giving you a bold vision for ministry, like He has given to a friend of mine. God will do what He has promised; but meanwhile, she is working hard to have the financial means to give of her time freely as His plan for her evangelistic ministry unfolds.

One day believers will come to that "last enrollment"-- our entrance into heaven. Pray, work and plan--because should the Lord tarry, you and I have decades of time for God to use us.

So live ready!

Thursday, May 10, 2012

May not see a sign

3:45 p.m. Today's project was to head off to Anaheim Hills for what I optimistically was calling a Mary Kay "party." I say "optimistically" because the hostess said it might just be her, and possibly her mother, in attendance. I told her that was fine, and we'd have fun with her facial anyway.

In the morning, I was feeling rather down, even though Steve had a good start to his day and got on the bus in a cheerful mood. It was just me having doubts about the rate of growth of my team, and foolishly comparing myself to others who have experienced their own ups and downs. Actually,       II Corinthians 10:12 warns us about comparing ourselves to others and wise counsel it is!! I am thrilled by my fellow consultants' successes, and try to assist in any way I can, because I know experientially that God will do His supremely individual work in my life, in His timing. It just would have been nice to see a little evidence and have some confidence that I was going to have an excellent day...

After I finished my scripture readings and prayer journalling, I logged onto my Gmail account, mostly deleting less critical items, while my scrambled eggs reheated.  I came across the daily online devotion by Mike MacIntosh of Horizon Christian Fellowship in San Diego, formerly Calvary Chapel of San Diego, a massive church that does outreach worldwide. When Steve could still focus his eyes and be seated at the computer, he used to read these messages and the supporting scriptures, which would give me the opportunity to have my own quiet time. Then caregivers had to read it to him while he sat. (One of our caregivers prayed with me to receive Christ after being in God's word daily, NOT coincidentally)! But now, they read to him out of a devotional book while he eats,  because changing seats from the computer to the kitchen table makes for one  too many confusing actions to undertake.

The title of today's message was "God will be your answer." That caught my attention right away! The scripture was Mark 8:11-12:

Then the Pharisees came out and began to dispute with Him, seeking from Him a sign from heaven, testing Him. But He sighed deeply in His spirit, and said, "Why does this generation seek a sign? Assuredly, I say to you, no sign shall be given to this generation."

MacIntosh goes on to suggest ways that we perhaps make Jesus sigh with hurt over us, such as being hard-hearted and insensitive. I would add to that list, when we are unbelieving. This is not the unbelief of the Pharisees then or the unbelievers today who adamantly oppose Jesus' claim to be the Son of God. This is the unbelief that Christians like you and me can slip into. We truly do expect God to do what He has promised--such as His promise that He is in this business for me. But when all the lights aren't green, we get a little quavery, if that's a word. And when doors we just knew were going to open, shut in our faces instead, we panic for a while until we pray and get our Holy Ghost equilibrium back. When we make God our answer, He is then free to work miraculously in our personal lives and business affairs!

I arrived at my hostess's home, a very lovely one, in good spirits because she'd told me that in addition to her, she would have her mom and a friend there. All three ladies, Romanians, are very strong Christians, so the fellowship was sweet. The hostess said she especially liked knowing of Mary Kay Ash's Christian testimony and the Golden Rule that the company was formed on, which is still corporate policy today. The company's motto, "God first, family second, and career third," also resonated with the ladies. The party was very successful, and a follow-up session is planned.

Father, I pray you would grant me a fresh filling of Your Spirit, that I may trust you more and more! In Jesus' name, Amen.

Wednesday, May 9, 2012

Cleaning up!

6:37 p.m. Today's project was to enjoy an uplifting hour and a half with friends in Redlands at our Legacy unit's Wednesday Morning Makeovers. As Cara and I had prayed at 8:05 a.m., I was looking for a clean, refreshed approach to building my team of beauty consultants. To my mind, the best ideas are a result of synergy between colleagues who seek to build one another up, especially when we build one another up in the Lord through prayer and praise! Jude 20 counsels us, after warning against divisiveness,

But you, beloved, building yourselves up on your most holy faith, praying in the Holy Spirit, keep yourselves in the love of God...

This morning at breakfast, I began a cleansing detox program that our son Steven had brought with him from Lassen's 100% organic market in Fresno. The teaspoon of "ZeoForce" grey powder mixed easily into a tall glass of  water, and had no taste at all! I will see how it works, but things are looking good so far. (At least I didn't have the kind of results you get from some detox programs that seem to be more of a violent purge)!

It was Cara's turn to train us on booking appointments, which led us to making lists of women to call and then proceed to call them. It's fun to communicate with friends, and it's good business to make calls, texts, and emails in a focused period of time. The camaraderie, mutual encouragement and  fun gave me a real emotional "clean-up" that was sorely needed and right on time. I might actually get into the doldrums if it were not for sisters in the Lord and in my business to cheer me on.

Upon leaving to get into my car, I noticed how very dreadfully filthy the Jeep was looking in the bright, hot sun. With a very nice party on my books for tomorrow, I thought, "This looks unprofessional," and it does. Years ago, when I was an insurance agent at the prestigious old-line company Connecticut General, I remember our manager telling us, "You don't have to drive a new Cadillac, but you can keep your own car clean!" I think that showing your care for details makes customers more certain that you will care for the details of their lives and needs!

As believers, we are to be wise stewards of all that God has given us. If we believe that all we have belongs to and is on loan to us by God, I Corinthians 4:2 makes us take our responsibility for all that God has entrusted us with quite seriously:

Moreover, it is required in stewards that one be found faithful.

Caring for my vehicle wasn't all seriousness! Like many of my tasks, using the drive-through car wash on Barton Road was quite a bit of fun, especially with the cheddar and sour cream Ruffles chips I treated myself to as I was rinsed, soaped, scrubbed, dried, waxed and polished. I was also satisfied that I had saved 10 cents per gallon of gas by purchasing the Deluxe wash.  The cash refund was only 50 cents, but it was 50 cents I wouldn't have had otherwise, while continuing to drive a dusty Jeep. I'll add the car wash to my business expenses for 2012 taxes, because that's the reason it was done!

God had a great surprise for me back at home. After Teresa the Brightstar Agency nurse had finished updating Steve's Plan of Care forms, she agreed to have a facial! So we enjoyed a much more relaxed time than we'd had in the previous 1/2 hour spent discussing the bad changes in Steve's condition. I hope she emails in her before and after pictures to our Makeover Contest, because Nurse Teresa's cleansed and made-up face looked gorgeous when we finished!

Thank you, Lord Jesus, for a "clean sweep!"

Tuesday, May 8, 2012

Yours fondly in prayer

5:42 p.m. Today's project was to wrap up our women's Bible study year at Calvary Chapel. I have so enjoyed leading my group, exploring God's word as it rings utterly true in human lives at every age, location, race and cultural background. We'll be looking forward to our ladies' retreat the first weekend in June, and there will be a monthly study gathering at church.

With our home Bible study on  II Samuel beginning Thursday, June 7th, I'll once again be dedicating unbelievably joyful and productive hours studying, researching, and writing the message for my ladies each week.  I am so grateful that over 25 years ago, the Lord gave me lessons for the book, so all that had to be done was to have a gifted sister Kathy Langtry, a retired secretary, put those hand-typed papers into Microsoft Word format. Last year, our I Samuel lessons went out online to 70 women, not all of whom could physically attend Bible study.  The essence of the ministry is simply this: God's grace, God's calling, God's gifting, God's plan, God's doing!! He thinks so much bigger than I could ever have done back when I wrote lessons for the 30 women who attended Bible study in our home in the 1980's! Romans 12:5-8 exhorts believers, [bold type mine] we, being many, are one body in Christ, and individual members of one another. Having then gifts differing according to the grace that is given to us, let us use them: if prophecy, let us prophesy according to our faith; or ministry, let us use it in our ministering; he who teaches, in teaching; he who exhorts, in exhortation; he who gives, with liberality; he who leads, with diligence; he who shows mercy, with cheerfulness.

When I  went forward at an altar call on January 6, 1980, the Lord gave me an insatiable desire to learn the Bible. He placed my son and me at Calvary Chapel Riverside (Harvest Christian Fellowship) where there was a tape library of teachings by Chuck Smith and Greg Laurie. Since I was working as an insurance agent, I would take in some teaching in between my client appointments. Additionally, I listened to cassette tapes and every radio Bible study I could find while driving around. Isn't God good to give us the desires of our hearts, according to His will for us?         I John 5:14 says,

Now this is the confidence we have in Him, that if we ask anything according to His will, He hears us. And if we know that He hears us, whatever we ask, we know that we have the petitions that we have asked of Him.           

And I asked God for more knowledge of the Word! And the Holy Spirit gave me my request. then as I was about to head up to the Harvest tape library, sitting in my 1980 T-bird, a 6-month-old baby believer, the Lord said to me, "You are going to teach women's Bible studies."  That's quite a shock for a new Christian to absorb, but rather than fight and argue, I applied myself even more. I spoke to Tim Weeks, a future pastor who led the home Bible study I attended and where god had place my future husband Steve. He said, "Keep studying, and find a mentor in the women's ministry." Bonnie York, teacher of the Tuesday morning women's Bible study and teacher of the children's Church class I assisted her with, agreed, and I sat under her teaching, and eventually began to sub occasionally. I was married to Steve by then, and learning both by studying and by doing the ministry God called me to. By 1983, I had a two -woman Bible study at a neighbor's; by 1983 I was the Tuesday morning teacher; and my home Bible study was in motion, growing and serving the church and surrounding community until 1988 when I "bequeathed" the study to 3 trusted godly young women I'd mentored, to carry on after the birth of my 5th child.

The Lord has called me to several ministries over the last 31 years, and I am always happy to serve as asked, as leader or participant. But I never feel as at ease and with just the perfect mix of challenge and excitement in any other ministry as I do in teaching and mentoring women in God's Word. Just as the Apostle Paul exclaimed in I Corinthians 9:16 (KJV), "yea, woe is unto me if I preach not the gospel," I feel the same way about teaching the Bible. With my God-given hyper energy, I get agitated and even bored when I am not studying with a pile of Bible versions, commentaries, dictionaries and concordances on my desk. And putting a message into writing is a slice of heaven on earth to me!

Not one to ever stop learning, I still listen to Chuck Smith, Greg Laurie, J.Vernon McGee, and David Hocking just as I did in 1980. Imagine how many pastors and teachers have sat at the feet of these men of God. Praise God for Christian radio! 

The only plans I can make are immediate ones such as resuming our study next month. But whatever God calls me to do, when, where, or how, or with whom is His call.  I'll leave it all up to Him, because my Father knows best!!

Monday, May 7, 2012

Post-whirlwind blessings

5:05 p.m. Today's project was to see our youngest son Steve and his girlfriend Kathy off to Long Beach to visit with his older brother Kriss, his wife Marisela, and their new son Clark. Additionally, they planned to visit the Long Beach Aquarium.

The house was in pretty good disarray as soon as Steven arrived. He had a huge pile of laundry and a gym clothes, and regular clothes.  Kathy, coming from her parents' house in Bakersfield, had clothes for visiting and gym clothes. They arrived a little after 8 p.m., so it was really stretching to keep Steve awake almost an hour after his regular bedtime. Then the rush was really on! Steven and Kathy had to go out to get special foods for their very specialized healthy diet, so they went downhill to Ralphs grocery while I put Steve to bed. They then blessed  me with the lovely Mother's Day gift shown here!

Speaking of beds, that took some finagling. Our renter has one spare room, and Kathy was assigned to the other extra bedroom. Steven took to the family room couch and somehow ended up in the living room by morning. Steve was up at 5,, but I managed to turn over and grab another half an hour after he got back into bed. As my morning routine went on with devotions and wrapping up my last lesson of this year's church Bible study, I planned which questions to ask my group tomorrow.

At the top of Steven and Kathy's agenda for today after a 100% healthy breakfast was a strenuous workout. The are both personal trainers, in addition to full-time pre-med university courses, the Fresno Pacific soccer team practices and games for her; and full-time work, high school mentoring ministry and bodybuilding for Steven. Next stop for him, after a few more classes, will be chiropractic school.

I'm sure glad it's them and not me--the J.O.B. days are over for me! Having my own Mary Kay business is challenging, but I set the challenges with God's direction--so much more rewarding. (And flexible for visiting kids)!  Once Steve got on his bus, I had prayer with my friend, and Steven and Kathy went to the gym and then on to Long Beach I could get to work booking appointments for the week.  The whirlwind suddenly lifted from my house and moved west! But at least I had 15 hours to enjoy the kids.

My times are in Your hand, Psalm 31:15a reminded me, so I got to work, mindful of my 5-hour time limit before Steve's bus dropped him off at home by 2 or 2:30. I so enjoy talking and texting with old and new girlfriends to bless and encourage one another and just enjoy each other's company. In between series of calls, completing a challenge from my director Laurie, I watered our slope and the planter near our walkway, and made an arrangement with our lawn people to re-seed a small portion of our front yard. Then I informed the kids that I would like a medium-length garden hose for Mother's Day to replace the old dried and kinked one I deal with in the front yard now. "No jewelry or purses," I texted them. "I win those every month!" So that should make for a low-cost shared gift expense for next Sunday. Guess my blood runs green!! Love it! Remember God's first job assignment to Adam, Genesis 2:15:

Then the LORD God took the man and put him in the garden of Eden to tend and keep [cultivate] it.

Enough of that fresh air and sunshine and petting Jada on the patio, and it was back to work, this time on e-notifications for party hostesses for Saturday.  I received a text from my prayer partner that her request from this morning had been answered and was able to text-rejoice with her (and ask her if she had a particular shade of foundation I can borrow in exchange for some eyeshadow samples she needs from me)! A late lunch and more planning calls took up the time until Steve's bus arrived. I got him ready and we left for errands.

At my optometrist's office complex, we got a prime 5-7 minute limit parking spot, so I ran in for my next package of contact lenses, having been blessed with collecting rent money this morning, figuring on $46.  And hallelujah, as I pulled out my $100 bill rent payment, my optician friend told me, "There's no charge! They're trial lenses and they're free!!" Woot Woot! I left the office loudly rejoicing, and the other patients were laughing, too. That money went into the bank, and a 10th of it will be given to the Lord this Sunday. God has been blessing us with wonderful help and savings of our precious resources in the last months and I give Him the glory for being true to His word in Malachi 3:10:

"Bring the tithes into the
And try me now in this,"
Says the LORD of hosts.
"If I will not open to you the
  windows of heaven
And pour out for you such
That there will not be room
  enough to receive it."

My heart is definitely overflowing!!