Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Let others help!

9:30 p.m. Today's project was to follow up on the Lord's direction to me in leading my Bible study group this morning. In the process, I was blessed to see some real leaders emerge!

Since our group is large, and we come awfully close to not answering all three assigned questions, I prayed about a way to make sure each member is heard, while keeping our sharing on topic and on time. The Lord showed me to print up the questions, make three copies, and break the group into three little groups. I handed a half sheet of questions to three ladies who had arrived on time, were good and succinct in their answers each week, and who quickly grasped the process I described.

I placed my chair in the middle of the three so I could move to sit in on each group at every "shift change." I fully took part in answering the questions, but as a participant, not the small group leader! I allowed them to lead and keep their peers on topic.

Since the discussion time lasts 45 minutes before we break for a video teaching, each question would be allotted 15 minutes--easy enough. Then I would say, "time for question 2, etc." Finished or not, each small group would have to move to the next question.  The three gals I selected, Barbara, Cindy and Heather, each kept the discussion flowing, and did not allow their momentum to be lost when 2 ladies arrived quite late. My leaders quickly greeted the late ones, and kept on with the discussion, bringing them up to speed efficiently and nicely. Disruption is completely minimized when latecomers are just greeted by two others, not the whole group at once.

The Holy Spirit reminded me of Moses' father-in- law Jethro's advice when visiting the traveling children of Israel. Jethro, priest of Midian, was concerned when he saw Moses judging a never ending stream of people and their issues. He said to Moses, in  Exodus 18:21-22:

You shall select from all of the people able men, such as fear God, men of truth, hating covetousness; and place such over them to be rulers of thousands, rulers of hundreds, rulers of fifties, and rulers of tens. And let them judge the people at all times. Then it will be that every great matter they shall bring to you, but every small matter they themselves will judge.So it will be easier for you, for they will bear the burden with you.

Wise advice for anyone in leadership! Select able helpers, because no one is to singlehandedly run a ministry or even a portion of a ministry. No one is indispensable; nor does any one person have all of the spiritual gifts; and leaders are to mentor and raise up others to assist or eventually follow them in the position we have today.

The Lord may not lead me to conduct the group this way every week, but I definitely heard some excellent sharing. And no wandering off on tangents was being allowed, because the group leaders were so conscious of staying within their time frame. The sharing definitely reflected the lesson we had been assigned to learn!

A helper of a different kind drove over behind me from church to our house after Bible study. My friend Cindy came over to have a quick salad lunch and help Steve and me in our garden. She was so inspired by my Heart to Home gardening class at church last winter that she grew outstanding crops for her first year. Being raised on a farm, she is no stranger to physical work, either. So while she turned my compost over into the soil with my shovel, I grabbed my favorite tool, the hoe, and weeded the entire garden. Steve helped ut by hand-weeding and putting our pickings in the green waste dumpster.

It felt so good to be outside working physically! And having a gardening "accountability partner" made me get out there and get seriously to work, not just dabble here and there as I have been doing. (That's why my garden has been behind schedule this year). But no more! The plot is ready for a final raking and planting seeds any time we want to get back out there. Steve really enjoyed himself as well, following directions with a good attitude, and even telling a little joke here and there. And Jada loved some attention and cahsing a ball thrown by a new person.

Cindy even volunteered to watch Steve for me while I quickly showered and dressed up for an appointment  in the afternoon. They just watched "Heartland" for 5 minutes, made sure to drink some water, and Steve ate the snack I had given him.

God bless those who love to come alongside others in our meaningful endeavors!! Where would we be without them?

Monday, January 30, 2012

Knowing the way

8:41 p.m. Today's project was to plan to get together with both old and new friends--some for business, some for fun, and some for time with other couples that Steve and I can enjoy together. I also had time to text-discuss our son's educational direction toward his goal of becoming a chiropractor. Earlier this week, I encouraged his older brother to take the first steps toward getting a secondary level teaching credential.

Psalm 119:9 asks,

How shall a young man cleanse his way?
By taking heed according to Your word.

Sometimes I wonder, as a not-young, not-male person, if I shouldn't first start with the question, "how shall I know what my way is?!" If we had no need for guidance with the our daily walk, life choices and aspirations, there would not be so many petitions and prayers for guidance such as David asked of God after lamenting the deaths of King Saul and his son Jonathan in II Samuel 2:1 (NLT):

After this, David asked the LORD, "Should I move back to one of the towns of Judah?"
"Yes," the LORD replied.
Then David asked, "Which town should I go to?"
"To Hebron," the LORD answered.

In Hebron, David was crowned king over the people of Judah. Many battles to the kingship of Israel loomed, but he had taken a huge step toward that destiny!

God guides in a very personal manner, but it seems, never in the same way too often. He clearly told me what my ministry was over 30 years ago; whom to marry; where to attend church. Other times He has allowed ideas to gradually develop, such as the details for a spoken or written Bible study; or has spoken guidance to me through others whose ministry, wisdom, experience and walk are proven and respected and whose counsel I seek. Or another person's life event has opened up an entire new field of vision, such as the way that hearing about my friend Pam's publishing experience led me to pray about getting one of  my Bible studies published. And the Lord used the dynamic recorded Christian testimony of our national sales director Kathy Helou to show me that I was to begin my Mary Kay business on my daughter Heather's team in 2007.

Key to hearing from the Lord is remaining by His side every day! We can hold on to Jesus by reading and delving deeply into His word; praying continually throughout the day (and through the night if sleep doesn't come); speaking of Him whenever we encounter another person, especially unbelievers. In other words,

Walk in wisdom toward those who are outside, redeeming the time. Let your speech always be with grace, seasoned with salt, that you may know how you ought to answer each one. (Colossians 4:6)

With your heart and mind absorbed by Jesus, not only will your path be revealed to you--your path will be both clear and clean!

Sunday, January 29, 2012

A first

1:50 p.m. Today's project was to get ready for church, which with the help of our caregiver Elias, went very smoothly. He and Steve even walked Jada on this beautiful sunny day with time to spare.

After their walk, while Steve was watching America's Funniest Videos to fill the minutes before our departure time, Elias and I began talking about our faith. He is from Ethiopia, a strong believer whose two sisters are also here, working as health care professionals. Elias came here legally, patiently awaiting his selection by the Ethiopian government's emigration lottery. His sisters attend Harvest Christian Fellowship. After reading one of Calvary Chapel Moreno Valley's bulletins, he plans to re-arrange his schedule next Sunday and come to our service.  We had a very good discussion of the lack of both culture and values he has observed here in the U.S., among various people. Elias has found this astounding, when he considers the opportunities available to all who want to work their hardest in honest, above-board endeavors. I told him how Steve began working while still in high school, and worked so diligently for the next 35 years until Alzheimer's cut him down. (Our children are all hard workers, too).

Steve's and my drive to church was delayed because traffic was directed off of the 60 freeway east to the flyover 215 south, but we made it to our seats just a few minutes late. I was very excited to place my tithe from a successful week of business in the cash envelope, feeling privileged to have a profit to tithe from.

Announcements were made, and I tried not to take much notice of the annual Married Couples' Dinner being held the Sunday before Valentine's Day, because we aren't attending. As I told Pastor Sammy a few weeks ago, we'll no longer take part because Steve cannot eat appropriately in public any more, and it wouldn't be fair for the other couples at our table who sacrificed to have a special date night dinner. Many years, whether through Harvest or our current church, the dinner event would be the only Valentine's dress-up date night Steve and I would have. With more prosperity came fancy restaurant dinners, but we still generally attended our Couples' dinner for an uplifting, Spirit-filled event. 

On the way out of the sanctuary, I think someone asked if we were going, and I smilingly said no with a brief comment about it being too difficult this year, and left it at that. It seemed more noticeable today how many people are going out of their way to greet Steve by name, and give me hugs, although ours is a very affectionate fellowship always. Maybe I just needed it more; God knows the needs of our hearts, doesn't He? God is a personal God, wanting to commune with my heart and give me reassurance.  I am not afraid to seek His scrutiny as David did in Psalm 26: 2-3a:

Examine me, O LORD, and prove
Try my mind and my heart.
For Your lovingkindness is before 
  my eyes,
And I have walked in Your truth.  

This not not the nitpicking scrutiny of a harsh drill instructor that is a precursor to punishment; but the searching of a loving, interested and powerful Father  "who knows what you have need of before you ask," as Jesus said in Matthew 6:8.

As I placed Steve in the Jeep and fastened his seat belt, it was as if the floodgate of sorrow began leaking, causing silent tears to drip. I kept up talking to Steve, who was obliviously staring out the front window as we drove down the freeway, and even ate some nuts. I dabbed away the evidence as we walked into Winco, fastening Steve's hand onto my cart, to get two loaves of  the cheapest bread. Why be extravagant? In order to give him a task, I asked him to put one loaf of bread into the opened bag, but he couldn't do it. That was quickly solved by me doing it. I looped his hand into the plastic bag's opening handles, and closed his fingers around it, again, so he could contribute to our effort. We walked to the cart return together, a job he could do with minimal direction three weeks ago. But I did thank the Lord for our handicapped parking spot, because that huge parking lot is always crowded. So Steve is making a very helpful contribution!

By this time next year (as I texted the kids asking for prayer), the Married Couples' Dinner will not even be a blip on the radar screen of our life concerns. It's just that it's a first, and a sad one, for a long Christ-and church-centered marriage. But God is sovereign, my soul and mind tell my heart! God knows what He is doing, and how and when He will do it. "He knows the way that I take, and when He has tried me," Job declared, "I shall come forth as gold" (23:10).

And the "4th quarter" is no time to give up or give out, in either football or marriage. It's time to gather up Holy Spirit strength and determination, to love and give more to my husband, without worrying about an event he wouldn't remember even if we did attend.

First things first.

Saturday, January 28, 2012

Just a tiny fly

4:45 p.m. Today's project was to host a friends baby shower for my darling friend and team member Chelsey. The huge family baby shower would take place in the evening. Steve had taken off with his caregiver for a haircut, movie and lunch out after the two of them walked Jada.

Bless their hearts, Chelsey's mom, grandma, sisters and mother-in-law came early with all of the food, decorations and games, as well as arranging delivery of an extra table and several extra chairs. My part was to provide a clean house, and make the punch, coffee, and iced tea. Of course all the little things that come up, like getting out baskets for the tableware and gift cards; and providing the cake cutter, big serving spoons, and paprika for the devilled eggs, come into the hostess' purview, and I was happy to be of assistance. The family worked very smoothly with me as to placement of the multiple platters of delicious food, the tableware, and in the living room, setting out the game prizes, favors and gift table.

I LOVE to entertain, the more the merrier! I feel, and Steve always did, that if the Lord gave us plenty of room for large gatherings, we should bless family and friends by opening our home.

"Of Him and through Him, and to Him are all things, to God be the glory forever," goes the line from a hymn we sang in Methodist church decades ago, probably a loose interpretation of Hebrews 2:10, which speaks of Jesus bringing many sons to glory ["for whom are all things and by whom are all things"].

And how true that its--we have nothing but what God has given us, and even our own bodies belong to the Lord to use as He commands! 

You are not your own,  I Corinthians 6:19b says.

The party went wonderfully, with tons of gifts for Chelsey's little boy, hilarious games, and so much fellowship and laughter throughout. Baby Evan's mom was very blessed to read the cards and thank each person warmly.

But there was trouble brewing behind the scenes. I'd asked for a caregiver from 9-1, and it was rapidly approaching 1  p.m. We hadn't gotten to the cake and punch yet, and with a large crowd, that would take time. So I texted the caregiver and asked if he could keep Steve busy until 2  p.m., because the two of them wouldn't even be able to get into the door with such a crowd of ladies, and I was fully involved. He agreed to try, but texted that Steve was getting upset and wanting to go home. (Reminds me of how he ran out of Care Connexxus in a raging panic on his first visit, but now looks forward to it every week). I encouraged him to try his best.

Meanwhile, I spoke quietly to my friend Mae (the expectant mom's mother-in-law) who whispered a little snippet of info to Chelsey's mom. Mae and I started filling the flutes halfway with punch and handing them out to kind of get things moving along. As the last gift card was opened and read, I called out 'Chelsey, ready to cut your cake?" and she came over for her cute photo op with the cake cutter. Her sisters began handing pieces around; other family members and I began wrapping up leftovers and taking them to their cars as "behind the scenes" as we could. When Mae told me that Steve and his caregiver were on the front patio, I went over and kissed Steve, spoke a bit with his caregiver, initialled his paperwork, and went back in to keep things NICELY moving along, collecting plates and drained flutes to place back in their boxes. The family members worked diligently, evidencing true servants' hearts and the joy of being helpful, providing the best possible event for the mother-to-be. There is no way I could have hosted the shower without them--what lovely people!

In Romans 16:1-2, the Apostle Paul commends "Phoebe our sister, who is a servant of the church," saying that others are to assist her, "for indeed she has been a helper of many and of myself also." May our modern day "Phoebes" be commended as well!

The devil tried to put a "fly in our ointment," but the Lord would have none of it, and made our time of fellowship wrap up smoothly, with no one feeling rushed, and all feeling valued and very much loved. The guests kissed Chelsey and went  home, and the rest of us cleaned up. In no time at at all, Steve came in with his spiffy new haircut, the caregiver went on his way, and the family members greeted Steve on their way out. 

This afternoon spent with women of God truly was a sweet fragrance to Christ!

Friday, January 27, 2012

Birthdays and babies

4:34 p.m. Today's project was to prepare for a baby shower I'm hosting for Chelsey, a member of my Mary Kay team, and sweet Christian sister; and also to send a nice gift to my lovely daughter-in-law Marisela for her 25th birthday. Wonderfully, she and my son Kriss are expecting their son in late March. Looks like I'll be in Long Beach quite a bit more often!

Both first-time moms have selected an earth tone, jungle theme for their sons' baby showers and nurseries. So I know the Lord understands if I got a tad mixed-up as to whether I was going to Target for a baby gift for Marisela, or  something for her birthday! (I'd already gotten a gift for Chelsey).

Steve and I took advantage of his handicapped sticker to park the Jeep in plain view of the front of the store where the computers are situated.  Since we'd come from the beauty salon where I often sell products, and I have a party tonight, there was a lot of inventory in the cargo space). A clerk showed me how to access and with a few minor setbacks, I sent Marisela's gifts to Long Beach.

Then it was time to find nice cards for both girls, and lo and behold, there was a cute giraffe card! I snapped it up immediately--that's Marisela's favorite jungle critter! So the Lord's direction was evident, even in a relatively minor matter. But is anything we do actually minor in God's eyes? II Chronicles 16:9 says,

For the eyes of the LORD run to and fro throughout the whole earth, to show Himself strong in behalf of those whose heart is loyal to Him.

In the last few days, I have noticed that whenever I would decide to do a little something for a person, that the LORD has been speedily covering it with surprising influxes of cash! Today's timely dollars came in the form of a Verizon rebate card for $50, just what I need to fill out the $400 initial deposit for our church's Israel trip due on the first of February!  Lots of niggling bills and obligations kept popping up, digging into my savings, but my determination to raise the funds is strong, and God is making it possible, even probable, even certain!!

I will close with another praise report: just came in from a facial and glamour party with $179.90 in earnings, and to tithe to the Lord from my business will be an utter joy!

Despite the late hour and the early wake-up call to get the baby shower together, I will be bouncing around with the joy of the Lord, praying to be a blessing to dear Chelsey and her family, and all of our friends. Ephesians 5:18: filled with the Spirit...

Thursday, January 26, 2012

Dads I know

2:04 p.m. Today's project was to watch the movie "Courageous" with my dad and my husband.

Daddy had asked me to get the DVD, and we've all been excited to watch it--1 hour and 29 minutes of sheer Holy Spirit adrenaline! Very scriptural, from the faith and integrity the fathers learn to practice, to real "good vs. evil" action on the streets and in the hearts of the characters. We all shed some tears.

The three of us had three or more generations come into our minds. Only my dad knows the impact his father had on his successful 84 years, for the most part. I thank my dad regularly my dad for taking care of us throughout my childhood and funding my education,and  helping me raise my son after my divorce before I got saved. I owe him plenty. And now, at a time when Steve and I would not have needed any help, except for Alzheimer's rearing its ugly head, he initiates ways to fill in for tasks that Steve can no longer perform to keep up our property. Just today, he made it possible for us to hire a licensed tree trimming contractor to keep our trees from collapsing and our roof with it! Steve and I both thanked him warmly  and wordlessly as he headed out for Redlands.

Steve's story is similar, with a dad who instilled churchgoing, hardworking values that made Steve such an excellent provider. As we watched very emotionally stirrring parts of "Courageous," I assured Steve that our kids grew up seeing him pray, hearing him read the scriptures to them, and faithfully attending church with his family and every men's study their whole lives. His influence over the girls has led them to marry godly young men. As for the struggles some of the boys have faced, they are in God's proving ground, while doing their best to support, encourage and lead the good women they love. I'd like to let Sean, a dad of two great teenage sons who know the Lord; and Kriss, an expectant dad, borrow our copy of the movie. And Steven will marry into those responsibilites in good time, God's time! Ecclesiastes 3:11 says,

He has made everything beautiful in its time.

What that verse means to me in the frame of mind I am in with the movie, is that in the lives of families, not even the godliest, most committed, best-intentioned man does right by his family every single day.
 Thus, much forgiveness needs to be asked for, given and received, on all sides and between generations. There was much of that willingness to forgive seen in "Courageous," opening doors for things to be done God's way next time. And each of us have seen the difference forgiveness makes in our own lives--whether we have offended or been offended. Forgiveness, as Christ has forgiven us, is a sign of true love, of looking to a brighter future for each of us!

Praise the Lord for scripture-believing people who have answered the call to produce uplifting, challenging, and inspiring movies like "Fireproof" and "Courageous" that will make a difference in this generation and the ones that follow us!

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

A good experience

6:34 p.m. Today's project was to take our Korean student to the Co+Op young adult meeting at Sandals church, where our daughter Heather and her husband Nick are in leadership, high school, and young adults respectively.

Jung was feeling a little shy, until she heard that there are other international students who attend. She's already been to two Mary Kay meetings and our Sunday service. Her out of town trips include the Los Angeles Garment District for shopping bargains, Universal Studios, San Diego, and a non-gambling trip to Las Vegas. San Francisco is the destination for her  upcoming 3-day weekend. So she's getting a well-rounded American experience. I had her laughing so hard about the funny sights of New Orleans, like the jazz funerals and crazy Bourbon Street. Maybe she will get another chance to travel here and visit some of our other renowned cities.

As a Christian, she's eager to attend a service just for young adults. And I'm interested in seeing the fruit of Nick's prayers and planning this new ministry. I didn't expect to see Heather, because she'll be helping lead the Frontside high school students, especially the girls she mentors.

Hebrews 10:25 says, and I quote it often, that Christians are not to forsake the assembling of ourselves together, because we have so much of Christ's love and teaching to share with one another.

Jung was quiet as I introduced her to Nick, and then Megan, Heather's best friend. Cara invited her into the "English" group, where international students mingle with locals to practice their speaking skills. That's where I left her, and went about my way, picking up groceries and supplies for my team member and Christian sister Chelsey's baby shower Saturday. And praise the Lord, my daughter Heidi is coming to take her dad out, maybe for a movie and a walk, or even a haircut to fill the 3-hour time slot! Psalm 127:3 has it right,

Children are an heritage of the Lord, and the fruit of the womb is His reward.

I have nothing but good to say about our experience with the UCR Homestay program, and will let them know that we would like to continue with one adult guest at a time. Granted, not all of the students will have the sweet, cheerful personality of Jung, or enjoy our relatively quiet lifestyle. Some might struggle with Steve's disability on a personal basis, finding the details awkward. But even some friends and acquaintances we know shy away, and that's understandable. We all cope (or don't cope) with handicaps and disability differently.

In reading the Book of Job the last few weeks, I wonder what I'd do if I had a disability that was outwardly obvious, and as Job described his experience in Chapter 19:13-14, 17-19 (NLT):

My relatives stay far away, and my friends have turned against me.
My family is gone, and my close friends have forgotten me.
My breath is repulsive to my wife.
I am rejected by my own family.
Even young children despise me.
When I stand to speak, they turn their backs on me.
My close friends detest me.
Those I loved have turned against me.

We in the Body of Christ certainly like to think, and sincerely hope, that the handicapped are warmly welcomed--and assisted--in our fellowships.I know that after going through Alzheimer's with Steve, I will not view a person stumbling and needing to be led by the hand in the same way, as a helpless person deserving pity and only the briefest of conversations when we encounter them. I will treat them as Jung treats Steve, as a natural, regular active person in the household--or in the household of Christ on Sunday mornings.

Yes, God knew just the person we needed to stay with us this month , and next week when she leaves, Jung will be missed!

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Fear or Favor?

6:04 p.m. Today's project was to attend women's Bible study, and lead my group of Jesus-loving, expressive ladies. I think that we save up all the many things on our hearts that have consumed us all week to share with our sisters. So it's a wise arrangement to have a time of fellowship from 9:00-9:30 before the session starts!

Today's topic of choice, whether on Facebook with friends and family, a text message from one of my sons, or during our group discussion, seemed to be fear, whether stated or implied. Joblessness, health worries, or even the dread of something happening in future, seemed pervasive today, even stirring up knee-jerk reactions as to why reasonable solutions couldn't.t work--without committing the matter to prayer. Worse than the disruption it causes to our peace of mind and our trust in Jesus, fear is a state of mind that opens one up to relentless attacks from the devil.  I Peter 5:8 says it perfectly and absolutely:

Be sober, be vigilant; because your adversary the devil walks about like a roaring lion, seeking whom he may devour.

Our son has been concerned about his student loans--who wouldn't be?!--so the Lord showed me the premier antidote to fear about provision: remember God's care for you in the past. I reminded him of how God fed and housed him during a tough time of joblessness, and even gave him the ability to pay three months' back rent with his barely-acquired job! And the scripture I shared with him was my paraphrase of Luke 12:24, how God feeds the birds, and how much more valuable are YOU than the birds? I pray that exhortation helps him put his current concern into perspective!

Words of wisdom came from another of my sons on his Facebook profile page today, concluding with the thought that no decisions should be made based on fear. I commented to the effect that he was absolutely right, and posted 2 Timothy 1:7,

For God has not given us the spirit of fear, but of  power, and of love, and of a sound mind.

If we are walking with the Lord, prayerfully seeking His guidance, being a good witness to others whom we come into contact with, and filling our minds with the Bible, we can pass through trials with comfort, courage, and a profound sense of encouragement for the future, because of Emmanuel, Jesus, "God with us."

Believers have the favor of the God of the entire universe upon us!
You know, I often forget the enormity of the trial we are involved in with Steve's Alzheimer's unless it happens to strike me when he cannot perform a commonplace action like opening a car door from the inside or outside. The Lord is just so active in areas of life, business and the ministry of encouraging others that I just do not feel oppressed OR depressed! And I have been led to create a joyful home for my husband, surrounding him with cheerful believers who make him feel useful and valued.  And in the process, God is refining my character, too--a sign of God's favor towards me, corrections included!

We must be about our Father's business! And when the devil comes to threaten and beat up on you mentally, attempting to get you off the purposeful path of godliness, speak James 4:7 to yourself and DO IT!

Resist the devil and he will flee from you!

Monday, January 23, 2012

I have goals?

5:22 p.m. Today's project was to create a goal poster for myself, my life, and my Mary Kay business. I don't think I made one four years ago when I began my business, or it's been long lost and forgotten. Whatever the case, I've been drifting along without a real focus or target, for all of my efforts. And I've had some very good success, am building a team, and have good sales monthly.

But I never could make an absolutely clear statement as to my specific goal. I could state at our Thursday Nights Together a specific goal for the week or a happening I was excited about and looking forward to, no problem, because I'd be so busy cheering on my fellow consultants and being genuinely delighted for them. But making a statement about my ultimate goal, to be a Sales Director, was just plain fuzzy in my mind. and that's no way to conduct one's life, ministry, or career.

How often have we heard sayings such as, "If you aim for nothing, you'll be sure to hit it every time," from pulpits to coaches' pep talks, to sales rallies. I've sold life and group insurance; alarm systems, and Shaklee vitamins, (and sold the public on myself in 3 successful local elections)! All of which are part of our family's lives, even if brand names and causes have changed. Marriage and childbirth derailed my progress in the other endeavors, and that's a high calling that has nothing regrettable about it. But in the fall of 2007,with kids grown and Steve and I working full time,  my daughter Heather recruited me as a Mary Kay consultant. After trying the products, I was sold. And the Lord spoke to me so strongly to start my own business that I knew it was Him!

When we have stated that we are believers in Christ, and will worship only the Lord, He will be with us, as He promised the nation of Israel in Deuteronomy 26:17-18:

Today you have proclaimed the LORD to be your God, and that you will walk in His ways and keep His commandments, and His judgments, and that you will obey His voice. Also today the LORD has proclaimed you to be His special people, just as He promised you, that you should keep all His commandments. 

And what did Jesus say to those of us in the New Covenant sealed with His blood?

If you love Me, keep My commandments. (John 14:15). God has no problem making Himself clear, and
being part of a strong Christian leader's unit, "Laurie's Legacy," sealed the deal!

Whatever the Lord has called me to do, I've done by the leading and direction of the Holy Spirit to the best of my ability, as unto the Lord. Primarily, that brings to mind most particularly His call to me to teach God's word to His women, back in 1980; and to serve my husband and children as an imperfect human being under attack of the enemy continually, as will happen to those who step forward for Jesus. II Timothy 3:12 confirms:
...all who desire to live godly in Christ Jesus will suffer persecution.

So why the aimlessness with my current business? It is very gratifying to see a woman perk up and feel beautiful, some for the first time ever. The profitability has certainly been welcome for our disability and pension income limits. And I just love skincare and makeup personally, such fun, like playing with colors or dress up (which I also love to do)! There are just no downsides to this career, because I even enjoy calling ladies to book appointments, mostly people I already know. To my mind, booking calls in this business is nothing compared with making 200 "cold calls" out of the phone book every day as a new insurance agent!

After attending a wonderful training session Saturday, I decided to not only increase and document my activity better, but make my goal poster. I included a picture of me laughing insanely, totally abandoned and having fun with a 2 year-old great-niece in a jump house. (Laughing my head off was a lot more frequent and effortless before my husband began losing his brain power and daily functioning to Alzheimer's. But it's not unheard-of even now, praise the Lord)! I added some jewelry, which I used to totally love, and can see building up an interest in again, ditto the designer purse. I don't need or want a new car, but I included the first career car because it represents a high level of achievement. Some vacation scenes and the word "escape" have pretty blatant applicability! I even glued on a gold star marshmallow lollipop that I carefully covered in glue to fight next spring's ants; and since I was working on details for the 2013 Israel trip this morning, I clipped that word out, because I am truly working my business now to afford the trip with my church.

Pictures from my two trips to Wales and England stirred me up to rekindle my dream, or rather, determination, to return and see parts of England and Scotland I didn't visit on our 2003 and 2004 missions trips. Cycling back to current dreams and accomplishments, I glued on a picture of myself when named Queen of Recruiting in one of our unit's newsletters, as well as a clipping about the annual Seminar in Dallas, imagining myself walking on the stage as a new Sales Director!  Then a quote from Mary Kay Ash herself:

"I believe each of us needs a reason to get up in the morning. We need something to anticipate...something that truly excites us."

For me, it's my time with the Lord to start each day--reading, journalling, communing with my Jesus. But I'm like any other conscientious Christian in that I want to live this life to the fullest, to work hard, to accomplish whatever God has shown me to do. I just had forgotten that I had personal dreams, so wrapped up was I in the overwhelming responsibilities that have dulled me. My Mary Kay "girl time" has actually been an oasis of fun mixed with challenges, which I do love. Now gratefully, I'm putting a focus on my business that it has deserved all along, and only gotten intermittently.

Since I've opened my big mouth and set my goals, better get going on the first one--two new team members by the end of the month!  Now that's good and scary at the same time, but so was raising the first deposit for Israel, and that's already banked.

So let me get back to work!!

Sunday, January 22, 2012

You can't out-give God!

2:55 p.m. Today's project is to take all of the fixings for taco salad--corn & black bean relish, 4 1/2 pounds seasoned meat, shredded cheese, lettuce, chips and salsa--to Home Fellowship Bible study this evening. Before heading to the discount grocer Winco, actually before leaving for church, I checked my various accounts, and found that I had a budget of $11.00! All I had to get was the meat and a small package of cheese to go with what I had in the house, lettuce, a couple of bananas and a can of evaporated milk, and that would actually be do-able at this store.

Pastor John gave an encouraging message about giving and serving today. Thank goodness that I had just tithed on my teentsy Mary Kay profit this week! Having my own business is a joy for me, whether I make a lot of sales, or spend more time booking and recruiting for the next week(s). Rockin' week or slow, 10% gladly goes to the Lord!

And I think that when we ladies take a meal to share, we have a wonderful opportunity to give goods and time to the Lord also. With that in mind, I steered the cart, with Steve holding on and keeping up comfortably, to the hamburger section to get two 3 lb. chubs of 20% fat hamburger. Not too fatty, not too lean and tasteless. Yes, I am a nitpick about all things edible! I was delighted to see the chubs for $3.18! Wow, I knew I was in the right place!

We went through the check stand and found out how much that meat really cost, $18.00! What? (Oh, seems the meat was $3.18 /lb)!  This was more than my budget, but I needed to fulfill my meal obligation to our group of approximately 20 people. Well, I had to go through with it, because I wasn't going to find hamburger cheaper anywhere. Sadly, I had to dip into my Israel savings, comforted by the fact that I'll have money coming in on Tuesday to replace it.

But still, I felt bad, doomed  to miss out on Israel, and wretched, thinking of Proverbs 23:5,

Will you set your eyes on that
  which is not?
For riches certainly make
  themselves wings;
They fly away like an eagle
  toward heaven.

(Not to mention the devil's taunting insults that rained on my head)!

But putting the matter into the here and now, at least I am able to meet my obligation and promise to our Home Fellowship friends. We got home and as of this writing, the spicy meat is simmering away in my huge crock pot, and all of the other ingredients are in containers in the fridge.

Admittedly, I found myself being mopey this afternoon, with the cash register fiasco, a smelly dead rat upstairs which will have to be removed on Monday (caught in one of our rat man's traps in our crawl space), and dwelling in the sin of unbelief, despite the scripture we read this morning, 2 Corinthians 8:1-2:

Moreover, brethren, we make known to you the grace of God bestowed on the churches of Macedonia: that in a great trial of affliction the abundance of their joy and their deep poverty abounded in the riches of their liberality. For I bear witness that according to their ability, yes, and beyond their ability, they were freely willing, imploring us with much urgency that we would receive the gift and the fellowship of the ministering to the saints. And not only as we had hoped, but they first gave themselves to the Lord, and then to us by the will of God.

What a good example for the rest of us, recorded for history and all time and eternity!

For some reason, before sitting down to type this, I checked my Gmail. Lo and behold, the Lord had caused a total stranger to place a $100 order on my Mary Kay personal website today! Her credit card was already entered; I just needed to include a free gift and process it for home delivery. Done and done, 50% profit!

I am so glad that God never slumbers nor sleeps, but is active in our affairs seven days a week!

Believer, never get tired of believing this fact:


Friday, January 20, 2012

What's holding me back?

4:11 p.m. Today's project was to try out a new Botanical Effects skin care line over at my sales director Laurie's home. Five of us tried the new line for sensitive skin, and even a mask. It was very refreshing!

After the meeting, Laurie and I sat down to pin down my goals and write them down. First, my career goal in Mary Kay is being a sales director. We'd already talked about adding more team members, approaching more women and not "pre-judging" anyone. Who knows who might be looking for a change and would like to have their own business? Or just add income for their family or achieve a dream of their own? I have been seeing myself in that role, but perhaps not with the unfettered enthusiasm I'd like to have. Fear isn't holding me back, or doubt that I can achieve this goal. In fact, a big, scary goal like my earning the money to go to Israel, can be the best incentive imaginable!

She asked what was holding me back, other than a need to increase my activity, which I have been doing and enjoying thoroughly. I answered that's probably uncertainty about Steve's needs in the upcoming year, not knowing whether there will be more I'll be called to do, or if his Alzheimer's will call for full medical care, which I could not do--no regular person could. I hesitate when I think about my age, but my team is quite a bit younger, or close to my age, and doing great most of the time. Two prospective recruits are very enthusiastic, and prayerfully will join me this month. Laurie told me that both she and Cara, a director-in-qualification (both strong believers) have totally envisioned me in the role, and there is no logical reason why my vision should be lagging behind! For as Abraham Lincoln famously quoted Proverbs 28:19,

Where there is no vision, the people perish.

We wrapped up our conversation because I had to go over to my dad's house, but on the way, I tearfully asked myself the same question: "What is holding me back? What is it?"

Then I remembered something I had confessed to another consultant in our group hotel room at Seminar last July: my dread that I won't have anyone to share my success with. Steve won't be able to comprehend what I've accomplished or remember all of the hard work and small prizes and gifts I earned along the way. Physically he might not even be able to go to Dallas with me to see me go onstage to be recognized as a new director. Who would care for him during the rallies and meetings? I know that Steve (at least right now), my children and their spouses are cheering me on, but can any of them even get off work to attend a big award event?

It's just incredibly sad because Steve's worked so hard the last 30 years, supported our famliy, and me in particular, with everything the Lord has called me to do. To my finite mind, he deserves to share in the fruit of our MUTUAL labor. It's tough to maintain an eternal perspective when a new heartbreaking reality hits, isn't it?

My Mary Kay sisters from our unit and around the country will see to it that I'm encouraged, blessed, feted and enjoying every moment of prizes and my new role. Sales directorship will have been the earned result of good old hard work, which I love, whether as a wife and mom, Bible study teacher and ministry leader, even author and political officeholder. We will celebrate wonderfully together as sisters. most of whom are sisters in the Lord.

But at the end of the day, they'll go back to their hotel rooms or suites to their husbands, children or the single girls might even have their parents or siblings with them. Jesus will always be there as the One who loves me more than anyone ever could, but like the little boy who got scared of the dark and was assured that Jesus was there with him, according to the often-told story cried out, "I want someone with skin on!!" I think that most of us do, since God created us to be in relationship--friendship, marriage, family, and the church.

I'm not going to allow the devil to rip off my vision for my family and business with depressing thoughts about an event that hasn't even happened yet. The Lord is greater than my heart, mind and soul! His guidance is what I will seek and adhere to, not my melodramatic musings.

And the vision is here, just needs to be acknowledged, expressed and brought into reality!

Habakkuk 2:2-3 says,

Write the vision
And make it plain on tablets,
That he may run who reads it.
For the vision is yet for an
  appointed time;
But at the end it will speak, and it
  will not lie.
Though it tarries, wait for it;
Because it will surely come,
It will not tarry.

Better make my goal poster!

Thursday, January 19, 2012

Fix it nowthere's no later

10:26 a.m. Today's project was to bring our 2005 Jeep Liberty to the dealership where we bought it new in 2005 for a long-overdue basic tune-up service. Since this includes tire rotation for the thrifty coupon price of $17.95, it was pretty imperative that I find a morning when Steve and could take the Jeep in!

Upon arrival, we exited the vehicle, with its key already detached from the ring, taking a leisurely pace for Steve to get out from his seat belt and step down carefully on unsteady feet. Much as I love our caregivers (and my customers), it felt good for just the two of us to get out for a morning. Reminds me of our early years of retirement, always busy, out and about, when he was very capable of everything but remembering details. We had a very pleasant time in the waiting room with our snacks, NO donuts for us! Steve watched TV and I logged on to my lap top on the dealership's wireless network. I always pray for the Lord to send someone for me to witness to, but one couple was having an issue with their RV's replacement motor; another lady didn't speak English, one woman stashed a donut and fed her preschooler one; and another lady was determinedly reading her novel, like some people do on airplanes. I had hoped to get my 4G portable hot spot to work, and it turned on, but didn't have enough "oomph" to let me log on. Onward with the technology learning curve!

Most everything that needed to be done for the Jeep was done, and only a new set of windshield wipers was added to my total. Better to catch the small things, like changing the oil and rotating the tires, before they become big things! We went on to enjoy a little shopping at Super Target for random items, and Steve did well sticking close to me and the shopping cart. Later at home, confusion took over with daily tasks, but he was tired and needed his afternoon doze, instead of wanting to be outside helping around the property. We made the best of it, and did actually get a lot done before picking up Jung from the university.

The small maintenance items checked off today make me think of the maintenance of our Christian walk. Letting a day go by without prayer, reading the Word, praising God's Name, and sharing his love are unimaginable to me. Not because I am super effective in the work of the kingdom, but because I need the closeness for my own growth and "maintaining" that deep joy the Holy Spirit freely pours into a believer. If the joy and stability that Jesus gives me spills over onto someone in listening distance of a blessed conversation with a sister, as happened before tonight's Mary Kay meeting started, so much the better! I (or we) might get a chance to witness to an unsaved person. While it's up to us to open our mouths, it's up to God to bring a receptive person into our sphere of influence, and to give them a listening ear and longing heart for Jesus!

Yesterday's frustrations, today's mixed results, and a hundred like them, have shown me the importance of this Alzheimer's trial to me personally: God is reshaping, reworking, and refining my character! My self-improvement plans are gone in a twinkling; God's relentless refinement will manifest eternal effects, up until I enter the "strait gate" (KJV) into heaven.

You and I need to fix the bad and lazy habits that need fixing before they get out of hand, so we can get consistent and stay consistent in our relationship with Jesus! Because Jesus said, Matthew 7:13-14 (NKJV),

Enter by the narrow gate; for wide is the gate and broad is the way that leads to destruction, and there are many who go in by it. Because narrow is the gate and difficult is the way which leads to life, and there are few who find it.

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

Where do they get days like this?

5:03 p.m. Today's project was to attend my caregivers' class on emergency procedures at the Riverside County Office of Aging. I was lucky to get there only 30 minutes late the way the early part of my day went! This morning had some real glitches, to say the least:

  • At one of our banks, the computers were down (and still are as of 20 minutes ago), necessitating a paper receipt for my deposit.  At the next bank where I needed to deposit an insurance claim payment for Steve's daycare so I could send Care Connexxus a money order, all of the funds aren't available until tomorrow .
  • Ralphs in Canyon Crest had no stamps, so I couldn't mail the M.O. anyway; the nearby UPSstore charges extra for stamps. No time for the Post Office, either!
  • An agency helper told me what turned out to be a rumor about Brightstar's plan of care for Steve, but investigating the matter caused unnecessary disturbance to my heart and mind, wanting always to have the best arrangements possible for Steve. (Which at this point is care at home). 
After much prayer and confession for my crabbiness, I finally settled down to taking notes on my journals for my book about our experiences with Steve's Alzheimer's. After a number of notations, I looked up at a wall clock, and it was 11:20 already! The class was slated for 11-12:30. After signing the helper out, I did manage to find a seat in the crowded presentation from the Red Cross, eat the half sandwich that was provided, and stay just long enough to leave at 12:15 with a vehicle emergency kit in hand. I did benefit from the 45 minutes I was there, and received some excellent handouts. At least now I have some numbers to call to get guidance concerning Steve's difficulties getting in and out of our Jeep.

Back at home, I had a Mary Kay facial appointment with a lovely UCR student that ended in plenty of time for me to welcome Steve home on his Special Trans bus at 2 p.m. The young lady not only is interested in becoming a consultant, but is planning to join us for STAR night dessert party, and will be bringing her dorm apartment friends with her a week from Monday for a skincare class. Another customer called me, and let me know she is putting together a party for me a week from Friday!

Steve was dropped off, we relaxed for a while, I put together the enchiladas that will be served shortly, and it was time to go pick up Jung from UCR. With Jung settled up in her room and dinner in a slow oven, I took Steve to get his glasses frame adjusted, about time (!), then gassed up the Jeep and circled on home.

Barring a devastating tragedy, no day is "all stress and no bless" for a child of God. My devotions this morning were inspiring, and I know that God did already respond, or will respond to every prayer I wrote for my business and my personal life, too. Psalm 6:9 confirms my assurance in my God:

The LORD has heard my supplication;
The LORD will receive my prayer.

He answered prayers I didn't even ask Him for, such as providing a parking spot right in front of the entrance to the Office of Aging when I had been running so late; or, as Steve and I entered the medical clinic to get his glasses adjusted, there was my friend Rita with her children. So God gave me the fun of being hugged by her little son David, who always assures me that he's four! I was able to give away some good clothing to the Vietnam Veterans' charity today, also.

Best of all, our son Kriss emailed us real-time ultrasound pictures of Clark Alexander Kruckenberg, due at the end of March. Kriss is already the proud papa, as his amazed description shows: "He's already smiling and sucking his thumb!" Like father, like son. Such a blessing, because Kriss has wanted to be a dad from his youngest years. When he was in elementary school, he declared, "I'm going to be a funny dad!" Psalm 199:90a says,

"Your faithfulness endures to all generations..." 

There's no denying the difficulties inherent in caring for a spouse. The paperwork, medical appointments, prescriptions, arranging for care, insurance claims and phone calls pertaining thereto are daunting. His personal care, and taking over both his former chores and the mutual chores we shared make for an exhausting day. No Pollyanna here! 

There's also no denying that God has me in this place, as wife of my husband of 30 years, doing whatever He calls me to do, and being whatever He calls me to be--for His glory; for a testimony to the unsaved and for the edification of His church; for an example to other married believers who will one day be caring for their own spouse. 

Deterioration and dying are part of this present world system, and believers in deep trials are reminded in I Peter 1:6-7 (NLT),

So be truly glad. There is wonderful joy ahead, even though you have to endure many trials for a little while. These trials will show that your faith is genuine. It is being tested as fire tests and purifies gold--though your faith is far more precious than mere gold. So when your faith remains strong through many trials, it will bring you much praise and glory and honor on the day when Jesus Christ is revealed to the whole world.

Lord, through it all, I trust in You!

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

You know it when...

4:53 p.m. Today's project was to lead my discussion group at Bible study today. We've been learning about James, our Savior's half-brother, and with that information we discussed the separation of Jews from Gentiles that preceded the formation of the early Church. (And caused vehement controversy well into the next decades, as I covered in Galatians: An Exploration of Faith & Freedom)! But as Ephesians 2:14a states,

He is our peace, who has made both one, and has broken down the middle wall of separation... 

My favorite verse on this subject is the Apostle Paul's declaration in Galatians 3:28:

There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free, there is neither male nor female; for you are all one in Christ Jesus.

In our group discussion of falling into the "comparison trap," we all had examples, even painful ones from childhood, of comparisons that were made between siblings, or ones we make about ourselves and others. I shared my favorite verse on this subject, 2 Corinthians 10:12, which I learned and took to heart as a young women's Bible study teacher:

For we dare not class ourselves with those who commend themselves. But they, measuring themselves by themselves, and comparing themselves  among themselves, are not wise. 

Foolish indeed, and unscriptural--God has made each of us exactly as He chose to, and will use us and grow us as HE sees fit!

But our most impassioned sharing, in which almost everyone participated, was on the topic of discrimination, whether practiced by 1st century Jews against Gentiles, or the segregation that was the law of the land in many communities in our own country. One group member of Jewish extraction had a cross burned on her front yard by Klan members in El Monte,and was severely beaten up as a six -year-old for her religion. Others shared how they had never seen an African American until later in their lives! Others were despised because they were poor. The glass ceiling against females was notorious. And I pointed out that in Redlands, blacks only began moving into the south side about the time I graduated high school in 1969. (The schools were integrated, of course, and I had many friends in that part of town. But our family couldn't buy a home there). So we had a rich discussion of all the barriers Christ broke down: religious, racial, economic, gender.

Praise God for Jesus Christ and all He means to each of His children, no matter what part of the societal spectrum they came from!

It's funny, the way the enemy had me thinking, "I'm so tired today, not really into it." But the Holy Spirit encouraged me to go forth and serve with all my heart, once I determined that I was going to lead my group no matter what!

As I shared from the Word, and listened to my women sharing, I knew what I knew, and know what I know: Bible teaching and women's ministry is my calling, my love, my life, apart from that with my family. God's word skillfully taught to me for the last 31 years, and my own delving into the Bible for myself has made me the person I am today, and influenced every single endeavor I undertake.

Believer, when your ministry causes you to "rejoice with joy unspeakable and full of glory," (I Peter1:8) that's when you know you're where you belong!

Monday, January 16, 2012

Spending a good day

7:27 p.m. Today's project was to spend a good day with Steve.

Bible study and devotions done, breakfast cleaned up, both of us dressed and ready, off we went to my first stop, the Upper Echelon beauty salon. It was a very quiet day, with just my hairdresser Irene and my friend and Mary Kay customer Earlene on duty at the next booth. Irene works just Mondays and Fridays, and Earlene meets her clients most days of the week. Not only is Monday slow in general, but it was the Martin Luther King holiday for schools, banks, the mail and government employees so the other stylists were gone..

But that made for the perfect atmosphere for Steve to take a seat by the front of the salon and look out the windows at the ambulance company's vehicles coming and going and an occasional airplane taking off from March Air Reserve base.  The conversation was lively with those of us present. I invited Irene to a special STAR celebration fancy dessert evening our unit is hosting on Thursday, when each consultant can invite up to 5 guests. I haven't gotten any firm "yes"-es yet, so I had been making phone calls most of the morning at home, and later while Irene had me under the dryer to take some of the wetness out of my hair.

Just like he does when we drive around, Steve was content to just stare out at the busy world on the other side of the windows. What is he thinking, I wonder? He used to become upset at times and comment that he felt so useless when we'd be out on errands and everyone but him had "places to go and people to see."  He is much less agitated these days, less worried or even conscious of his mounting losses. Not that he'soblivious. He would be hard-pressed to ignore his inability to put on or remove a seat belt, or open or shut his car door. Because he may need to get out of the Jeep in an accident should I become injured and unable to get him out, that's a serious concern. Steve's caregiver and I are planning for him to practice using the seat belt and getting in and out of the car this week. Should work out because it's pretty chilly for walking the dog in the morning as usual, and many times the Jeep is still here. As Proverbs 22:3 (NLT) says,

A prudent person foresees danger and takes precautions. The simpleton goes blindly on and suffers the consequences.

In God's perfect timing, the Riverside County Office on Aging is offering a special class on emergency procedures for caregivers Wednesday--and I pray they discuss vehicle issues, not just home safety. Whether the presenters cover Steve's issue or not, I'll bring it up!

The rest of the day was all business for me, though Steve went with me from place to place. When I had a facial at the house, Steve followed my suggestion that he go upstairs and take his afternoon nap on our bed rather than just dozing on the family room couch. And later, when I had to run over to Ralphs grocery store to see a gal who is seriously considering Mary Kay, he came along to support me! When my optician Sherri came by with my new set of contact lenses, hallelujah, I offered her an opportunity for free product. Work days are for working, just as Sherri and I were doing!

I loved the expression on Steve's face when I served him his favorite meal--cornbread and chili. We then relaxed for a bit, enjoying the Martin Luther King Day movie about the Birmingham bus boycott that started the civil rights movement in this country. Just think--if integration had not become the law of the land, Steve and I might never have met!

Today was no holiday for most businesses, including mine. But I'll quote hairdresser Earlene, who serves the Lord by serving her customers. When I asked how many days a week she works, she answered, "As many days as my clients need me, I'm here."

Now that's a word for all of us who want the Lord to bless the work of our hands!

Sunday, January 15, 2012

Red => White

7:39 p.m. Today's project was to attend the 9:45 service at our church. Steve was looking especially nice today in a rust-colored silk long sleeved shirt, and I had brought out my yellow "safari" style warm shirt that I had to iron, it's been so long since we had cold weather! But no worries--we get up just as early on Sunday morning as the rest of the week to let the caregiver in, so we enjoy a pretty relaxed morning.

We heard a convicting message from our pastor based on Jesus' words to His disciples not long before His arrest in the Garden of Gethsemane:

A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another; as I have loved you, that you also love one another. By this all will know that you are My disciples, if you have love for one another. (John 13:34-35)  

In a series exhorting us to behavior worthy of the family of Christ, we looked also at Ephesians 4:31-32:

Let all bitterness, wrath, anger, clamor, and evil speaking be put away from you, with all malice. And be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, even as God in Christ forgave you.

I highlighted the "kindness" part, because I find myself sorely lacking in that quality at times when some household fiasco happens that would have been unthinkable before Alzheimer's took away Steve's ability to think and function as a normal adult. (Or even function as well as an Early Stage Alzheimer's victim).  Home disasters take a much higher emotional toll on the spouse who is already overwhelmed with 100% of all household responsibilities!

Just last Sunday afternoon, Steve and I were alone at home because our guest Jung was out touring the Los Angeles Garment District. Whether she is home or not, Jung's contract states that she is to have her own private bedroom and bath. So one of our upstairs bathrooms is off-limits, which I had tell Steve repeatedly.  But he still keeps trying to use it, when I need him to stay downstairs, and use our guest bathroom when  I am downstairs. Around 1 p.m., I had just called Steve downstairs from another attempt to use her bathroom, helped him out in the guest bath, and returned both of us to the family room.

Checking on laundry, I went towards the garage, passing under a light, when I felt something drip on my head, then more and more and more--there was water pouring down through the ceiling!I tore upstairs to find Jung's bathroom sink overflowing, and the floor flooded! Steve had left the hot water faucet on, and apparently plugged the sink. I was thinking, "great--my gas bill next month!" while sopping up the water with the one extra towel I found in the linen closet. I yelled down to him from the banisters, "RUN GET SOME TOWELS FROM THE GARAGE!!"

He slowly walked the opposite direction into the kitchen!

"The GARAGE! Go to the Garage!! The GARAGE!" I kept yelling, and then I ran downstairs past him and got a pile of towels. Steve was practically scared to death, even though I wasn't yelling AT him, but TO him, because I was upstairs and he was down, and the radio was on. Also, I was running through the house, so it was obviously urgent and to him, scary. Once he saw me mopping up water with the towels, he joined in.

I was by no means proud of my behavior, so I confessed my anger--rage?--to the Lord and apologized to Steve after we prayed together. My 3:15 facial appointment arrived and we had a lovely time; and later, our oldest son brought over our grandsons for a visit. So despite my manifesting several of the unchristian behaviors in the Ephesians passage--wrath, anger, clamor--God Himself was faithful. Steve and I also manifested better conduct, forgiving one another, even as God in Christ forgave us both of our sins over three decades ago.

That bathroom is now locked when Jung isn't here!
As I look at the white swatch sewn onto Heidi's wedding gown from mine, I'm reminded  to rejoice in what God says to His people in Isaiah 1:18:

Come now, and let us reason
Says the LORD,
"Though your sins are like scarlet,
They shall be as white as snow;
Though they are red like crimson,
They shall be as wool."

Saturday, January 14, 2012


5:44 p.m. Today's project was to meet my girflfriends for breakfast at Mimi's a few miles away on the border of Riverside and Moreno Valley. It had been months since I last joined the group, due to Christmas, my lack of funds, various trips out of town and illnesses, so this was much anticipated. We catch up on ministry, family, prayer needs, current events and one another. Our core group, which is by no means exclusive, is Jill, Sherri, DeAnna, Christine, Vicky, and sometimes Yvonne, Linda M., and most years, me. We got to the point that we could have ordered one another's breakfast!Visiting daughters can join us at any time, of course. On my younger daughter's wedding day in 2008, bride Heather, her older sis Heidi and a number of her bridesmaids joined us at their own fun table. (Train up a child, amen?)

Since Steve's caregiver was on duty until noon and my dad was slated to come visit at 10:00, the 8:30 meet-up time worked.  It wasn't easy to get up at 5:30 after coming in late from Long Beach last night and staying up visiting on Facebook, but several cups of coffee, starting with two at home while I did my daily devotions and Bible study, would do the trick! Our Korean houseguest has flown to Las Vegas for the 3-day Martin Luther King holiday weekend, so I've been feeling rather free of responsibility for the weekend, not that she is any trouble at all. Just one less person at breakfast and dinner through Monday night, and no lunch to pack...

The monthly or every 6 week breakfast date has been going on for several years. My daughters were just out of high school on one memorable Saturday when Steve had gone to work out in Rancho Cucamonga, and I was with my pals. Well into my meal, I got the call in our cozy booth at Mimi's that there had been a two-car collision at our corner, a huge silver truck had come through our flimsy wall, taken out two small trees and broken our wooden fence just feet from our house! With the neighbors and police were already there, and the girls were on the porch in their robes, what was I to do? Despite major auto and property damage, apparently no one was hurt. Heidi was over 18 and had already signed the police report as homeowner, so I finished my fabulous crab and avocado omelette,  called for my check, paid and took a last sip of my latte --after all, I paid for it--and left for home.

I guess wild hysteria is not my style, at least when nobody's been hurt. I've found that I need to trust that the Lord has just the right personnel, both family and professional, on the scene, and I am not indispensable in every circumstance--or let's face it, the Lord would have had me stay at home that morning.  Isaiah 28:16 (KJV) says of a believer's sure foundation and confidence in Christ,

Therefore thus saith the Lord GOD: Behold, I lay in Zion for a foundation a stone, a tried stone, a precious corner stone, a sure foundation; he that believeth shall not make haste.

Once I got home, what a mess. Knocked-down tree limbs were everywhere. A policeman was taking pictures on my walkway with his cell phone, the drivers were talking it over on the sidewalk, our insurance guy showed up momentarily, and Steve was still on his way. A neighbor lady I'd never seen was sitting on my porch with her toddler, and our neighbor  Emmanuel was there, having been the first one to hear the thunderous crash and wake the girls up after he'd called 911. This was quite a neighborhood event! I wish I still had the picture of our forlorn Golden Retriever Kena staring from the backyard through mangled wood slats. Praise God that none of our patio flagstones went flying from the impact! God was definitely there.

We now have a reinforced brick wall and a brick and cast-iron gate. No more easy-breaking wood in the front facing our dangerous corner, with two collisions in 14 years landing in our front yard. The Lord has kept us safe, and that's what matters to us!

Today's breakfast brought two new friends to the group, new commonalities and even new menu items. But our fellowship is golden and unchanging, because it's from the heart. Not one of us has a life the world would call ideal. Illnesses, disability, grown kid issues, house issues, issues afflicting loved ones and friends. All of us would be there for any one of us in a heartbeat. That's because we have the one true source of strength and hope--the Lord Jesus Christ, His word and His promises. He doesn't promise to remove trials from us, but to walk with us through them, carry us through the depths of tragedy such as we are experiencing with Steve's Alzheimer's, and deliver us in His timing. Deliverance could mean healing, the solution to a vexing problem, or a believer's triumphant entrance into heaven!

And Jesus has even provided us slices of heaven such as we enjoyed today--the fellowship of believers. No wonder Hebrews 10:23-25 says,

Let us hold fast the confession of our hope without wavering, for He who promised is faithful. And let us consider one another in order to stir up love and good works, not forsaking the assembling of ourselves together...

We need one another!

Friday, January 13, 2012

Crouching between two burdens

1:27 p.m. Today's project was to continue the commitment to hard work that the Lord, through Charles Spurgeon's Morning and Evening devotional, assigned me yesterday. I would have written about this last night, but although our network was connected, neither my laptop nor my desktop were receiving the message. I felt rather bad for Jung, our Korean student, because she had an online assignment due, but as for me, the Lord apparently wanted me to get some sleep!

A little background: January 12th had been looming over my perfectly made-up head for two weeks. My Sales Director Laurie and our Director-in-Qualification Cara were headed to a conference in Atlanta for which they qualified, leaving me as one of the leaders to run our Thursday night meeting. I would be training the other consultants on booking appointments from conversations started with ladies we all meet during our daily errands. I have to admit that I thoroughly enjoy meeting people from all walks of life, but with Mary Kay, that gift is being used to help my business grow. (And  being a retired teacher, I had no valid way to chicken out)! Having to let myself into the house, do the alarm code and get the meeting set up 45 minutes early did add to my angst, though--more things that could go wrong. But I agreed to do it...

As if that weren't plenty to have on my mind, Cara asked if I would take her place at a table advertising Mary Kay products at Chico's women's clothing store at the Riverside Plaza from 1 p.m. until time to leave for our meeting in Redlands. The event was a fundraiser for the Riverside County Wraparound program that keeps families together, I would be gathering leads from ladies hoping to win a basket of hand care products. I would also give squirts of peach-scented handcream, which would be highly welcome in our current dry weather.

Since Cara and I have done a number of lead-gathering events together and worked hard on the Adopt-A-Grandparent program to donate gifts to Care Connexxus adult daycare, I could hardly turn her down. Plus--fresh, qualified leads are the lifeblood of any business, small or multinational!

So I made many preparations for my table, lots of decisions about the right outfit, and notified friends and customers of the Chico's event. I prepared my teaching notes for the meeting, the big day came, and honestly,  


First thing in the morning, while in this nervewracked state, I read my morning portion of the Spurgeon devotional for January l2, entitled "Ye are Christ's". Here's the section on hard work:

Are you placed where others are sitting down idly, doing nothing? Rise to the work with all your powers; and when the sweat stands upon your brow, and you are tempted to loiter, cry, "No, I cannot stop, for I am Christ's. If I were not purchased  by blood, I might be like Issachar, crouching between two burdens; but I am Christ's and cannot loiter."

Issachar was one of the sons of Jacob. His father's deathbed pronouncement in Genesis 49: 14-15 is as follows: 

Issachar is a strong donkey, lying down between two burdens; he saw that rest was good, and that the land was pleasant; he bowed his shoulder to bear a burden, and became a band of slaves. 

So there you have it--work hard, don't pawn off your assignment on others, lest you become a slave to those who are willing to work hard!

The Lord pulled me together, once again assuring me, "I'm in this for you!" and was with me every step of the way, down to the colors I'd selected to decorate my table with. (They matched the clothing colors being featured at the Chico's store)! In only three hours, enough leads were collected to make my time worthwhile, and I made some new business friends.

Our weekly meeting went very well, with former Sales Director Sunnye doing the corporate gathering and glamour makeover, and most of the consultants attending my training. We learned, laughed, and challenged one another the Mary Kay way. As our founder said herself, "If I have an idea, and you have an idea, when we share them, we each have two ideas!"

The evening wrapped up, Laurie's husband and boys came home, and I made it safely home, with a smile on my face and the satisfaction of two jobs well done.

One day, all of us who have listened to the voice of the Holy Spirit and served the Lord and others in any capacity, whether as parents, ministers or business people, will hear these words from our Savior's own mouth (Matthew 25:21):

Well done, good and faithful servant; you were faithful over a few things, I will make you ruler over many things. Enter into the joy of your lord. 

Wednesday, January 11, 2012

It's shaping up!

7:47 p.m. Today's project was to dig back into one of my 2006-2008 journals for hints, trail markers, warnings and outright incidents from our past, almost "peeking in" at a Christian couple walking towards the late stage Alzheimer's we  now live with in 2012.

The purpose of notating journal entries is that they will form the basis for my next book, which I've titled but am keeping mum about, because a publisher might want to change it anyway, and I'd bow to their editorial wisdom and marketing savvy unless the Lord blatantly showed me otherwise.  But because this certain phrase has characterized so much of Steve's and my married life, it will always be the "real" title as far as my heart is concerned!

Today I was working through the latter half of 2008, which did offer some praise reports, like occasional victorious days at Mission Plastics for Steve, his attendance at Men's Retreat, and participation in the Audio-Visual ministry at our church. But extreme forgetfulness, missed deadlines at work, and emotional pain were beginning to cast a dark pall over Steve's daily attempts to continue as a contributing husband, father and employee.

2008's journal also contained  the first mention of praying for his late brother Larry's healing from Alzheimer's...

The crusher for 2008 was Steve's September firing from Mission Plastics as maintenance crew leader--the pinnacle of his 35-year career, earnings, reputation and responsibilities. He did go on to lesser jobs in plastics because of his outstanding resume, references and industrywide reputation, but did not last more than a few months at each one. Imagine reading through this gut-wrenching year day by day, not just the facts, but picking up on nuances originating from my heart's observations!  The Holy Spirit was my Teacher, Guide and Comforter as I journalled prayer-after-prayer in my husband's, young adult and adolescent kids' and my own behalf.  I can only take for a fact that I went out and taught school each morning, and initiated and led the Mom's Morning ministry, because the journal says I did! God was carrying me through. Psalm 121:5-6:

The LORD is your keeper;
The LORD is your shade at your
  right hand.
The sun shall not strike you by
Nor the moon by night.

Yet tonight, when it took both a caregiver and me to assist Steve with a very difficult personal issue, I thought back on 2008. Even with the devastating Mission Plastics job loss and beginnings of emotional breakdown, Steve was still working at a series of less-demanding jobs. He was still driving--cars, our RV, and later, even semi's in truck driving school! He was able to go online and post his resume multiple times, search for jobs, call potential employers, and do repairs on the kids' cars and our RV. He participated in A-V ministry, a real work of precision. He could still speak fluently and enjoy conversations with friends. He could work a cellphone...

As hard as that stage was, I would gladly have kept him at that level if I'd known what four more years of this disease would do to my beloved husband! But God's created concept of time does not stand still, or Steve and I would not have enjoyed two wonderful years of retirement together in 2009 and 2010. And the progress each one of us has made in becoming closer to the Lord through this trial would not have happened either.  And I wouldn't have learned to maintain my Jeep, run the sprinkler system, use spray gap-filler in a hole in a wall, or truly trust the Lord for each day's strength, courage and enthusiastic anticipation of His fresh work in our lives.

Just as the Lord is gradually giving shape to Steve's and my story of God's grace to us in the face of a fatal disease, He gives me assurance in His word daily that He is with me. I will close with Psalm 121:7-8's faith-building words:

The LORD will preserve you
  from all evil;
He shall preserve your soul.
The LORD shall preserve your
  going out and your coming in
From this time forth, and even

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

A little different way of looking at things

4:13 p.m. Today's project was to attend the new session of Bible study at our church. It was wonderful to get back together with all of my sisters, especially my discussion group members, after a long holiday hiatus! We are starting a series on the book of James, and the year is off to a very exciting start by studying the faith journey of the oldest half-brother of Jesus.

After praying with a sister at the close of our study, I took advantage of the hour I had of further caregiver time to use the $25 gift certificate my daughter Heather had given me for Christmas. I thought I'd get a quick pedicure at the former "Happiness" Nail Salon. I wrote "former," because the salon was dark, locked up, and posted no change of location! I called the phone number on the certificate and on the door, but it had been disconnected. So the money Heather spent not even a month ago is gone, sadly. It's not like young couples have money to throw away these day. Since my feet were in wretched shape, and I'd looked forward to the relaxation, I actually gave myself a nice pedicure at home later with my Mary Kay spa set, but I feel sad that my daughter lost her $25.

It was certainly no surprise to the Lord that the salon owners would be gone. Colossians 2:3 says the Father and Son are the ones "in whom are hidden all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge." Times are difficult, and starting a business in a depression like this one is a pretty bold and optimistic endeavor. I've been a customer of two former nail salons that folded, but praise the Lord that one of the owners accepted Christ and a Vietnamese Bible before she and her co-owner went out of my life!

When we give from our hearts, the Lord knows how to make good many times over, just as He does when we tithe to His work. The more faithfully we give (even a small amount like the size of the tithes I give on my profits on a light week!) the greater blessings God has in store for us. As so many pastors and Bible teachers have told us, "You can't out-give God!"

After the Apostle Paul commended the Corinthians for their generosity to less prosperous saints, he wrote in 2 Corinthians 9:6-8,

But this I say: He who sows sparingly will also reap sparingly, and he who sows bountifully will also reap bountifully. So let each one give as he purposes in his heart, not grudgingly or of necessity; for God loves a cheerful giver.

I can't wait to see what the Lord has in store for my daughter the cheerful giver!

Monday, January 9, 2012

Treasure these times! The first decade of marriage

4:42 p.m. Today's project is to encourage the young married couples and parents of little ones to treasure the early years of your marriage!

What brought this on was the births of two new babies this week, adding joy and blessing to the households of friends of mine. Another wonderful couple has announced a first pregnancy; one couple is celebrating their 2nd anniversary; and my own son Kriss and his wife Marisela are expecting their firstborn, a boy, in March.

Other young families have children who are just now beginning the marvelous adventure of elementary education, either at home, Christian schools, or neighborhood schools. What daily rejoicing God has planned and prepared for the first decade of marriage!  Proverbs 5:18 exhorts husbands,

Let your fountain be blessed,
And rejoice with the wife of your 
As a loving deer and a graceful
Let her breasts satisfy you at all
And always be enraptured with
  her love.

The virtuous wife of Proverbs 31 is commended as highly as any wife can aspire to in verses11-12 and 28:

The heart of her husband safely
  trusts her;
So he will have no lack of gain.
She does him good and not evil
All the days of her life.

Her children rise up and call her
Her husband also, and he praises

As for the interaction of a God-fearing husband and wife, Ephesians 5:24-25, 33 says it all:

Therefore, just as the church is subject to Christ, so let the wives be subject to their own husbands in everything. Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ loved the church and gave Himself for her...Nevertheless, let each one of you in particular so love his own wife as himself, and let the wife see that she respects her husband.

As I consider the first ten years of Steve's and my marriage, it was all about building--building our marital relationship as we got to know one another intimately; building our way of life, our home and our prospects, and most important of all, building our family from one child to five, a birth every or every other year, from 1982-1988, some planned, some unplanned, but each precious baby known and brought to us directly from the Lord how and when HE saw fit.

What fun, exhaustion, commotion, accountability and ministry, raising our young ones to know and love Jesus, and to accept Him as their Savior, which they did in their early elementary years. The kids were loved and encouraged, spanked and kissed, but one thing they were never allowed to do was disrupt Steve's and my "alone time!" No matter what, no matter where, no matter how cheap the lodgings, we would go away for a weekend at least once a year. In more prosperous times, we'd go to a married couples' retreat. Praise the Lord our parents and the kids' aunties were happy and willing to babysit. Some years, I had to leave quarts of my milk behind, but our marriage was and is our priority.

The marriage is the permanent basis of a Christian home; childrearing is a phase that will one day be over. (I know you brand-new parents and parents of tots find that hard to belive in the middle or end of a  long --but blessed--day)!

In our first decade, the thrill and excitement of God's way of "living married" made serious trials, struggles and disagreements fade as we learned to trust Jesus together. By praying together and alone, studying the Word for ourselves from men's and womens's studies; reading couples' and family devotionals, we stayed close to the Lord and one another. We both served our church in the ways each of us were called--Steve as an usher, me as a women's ministry teacher and leader. And we never forgot the home Bible study where we first met in 1980. We felt strongly called to honor the Acts 2:42-46 model of close fellowship by continuous home Bible study attendance in those early years, where we found friendship and encouragement from couples who were a few year's more experienced than we were!

We didn't know what our second decade would bring, but with Jesus as the center of our marriage, we knew His will would always be the best for us, and that we were in it for the long haul--" 'til death do us part."

Sunday, January 8, 2012

A household of God

12:15 a.m. Today's project was to attend 1st service at our church, which begins at 7:45 a.m. Since we normally attend the 9:45 service, allowing us to enjoy a leisurely morning, this one-time switch would require getting up at 5:30 and moving at a quick pace!

The reason we had to go early was that our guest Jung had  plans with friends at 10 a.m., so that gave her a chance to visit Calvary Chapel with us. We agreed that she would be ready to go at 7:30 when we said goodnight last evening.

I texted our caregiver to see if he could come to help Steve at 6 instead of 6:30, but I knew I'd need to get Steve's vitamins and meds started as soon as I was showered and dressed. Then any shower, shaving and dressing help would be needed and welcome as always. Of all the days to be a couple of moments late, I mentally groused...I had Steve started in his shower when I heard the doorbell ring and Jada barking furiously from the garage. I guess Andrew had arrived a few moments before, but the shower upstairs had drowned out the noise. Well, praise the Lord, because of his help I was able to carry on my devotions and get the kitchen lined up for everyone's breakfast. This morning reminded me of the Proverbs 31 woman with her busy household! (v. 15)

She rises while it is yet night, 
and provides food for her
And a portion for her

Thankfully, for this home executive, this pre-dawn routine won't become a daily necessity!

We did have fun while eating breakfast, watching our son Kriss' video of his King Charles cocker spaniel playing Keep Away with a piece of Styrofoam packing material as if it were the most wonderful treasure imaginable. (Kind of the way a two-year-old focuses on the wrapping paper on Christmas morning)!All went smoothly, and we were actually out in the garage just after 7:30!

Steve's caregiver had warned us about the fierce wind that came up this morning on the 60 freeway west down to our house. By the time we left, it was a clear, bright morning, and the blowing was not quite as strong, so the Jeep didn't give me any worry, not being pushed at all by the wind. On arrival at church, I had a choice of parking spots, but didn't want to take a chance of driving further to the handicapped spaces, and then have to drive all the way around the sanctuary if the spots were taken. (O me of little faith!) Steve was walking all right this morning, so the three of us made it to the foyer during the first song. Jung and I were greeted by hugs from the Joy Splashers, gals whose ministry is to hug each and every one of the ladies who enter. Jung was happily surprised. Our women's ministry takes quite seriously the admonitions from the closing of Paul's epistles to the Romans, Corinthians and Thessalonians, and Peter's first letter, to greet other believers with a "holy kiss". (But most of the time it's just a warm, loving hug).

We had a fine message from Pastor John on being a "member of the household of God," as mentioned in Ephesians 2:19:

Now therefore, you are no longer strangers and foreigners, but fellow citizens with the saints and members of the household of God... 

Very apt message for our little trio as we heard that there are no ethnic, national, gender or economic differences between believers in Christ--we are united in one Body. I can state with a great probability of accuracy that Jung was the only one in the sanctuary following the sermon in a Korean Bible, but she was as much a part of the congregation as anyone who comes every week.

Each believer listening and learning  at our church by the power of the Holy Spirit this morning has an equal standing with Jesus--and that gladdens and refreshes my heart for today, tomorrow, and for all eternity!