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Archive for January, 2010

God is NEVER Late

For a few years when we lived in a small city where we had been asked to start a church for our denomination, I had a curtain business.  It began innocently enough.

We were not being paid regularly, and times were tight for us financially, but God always provided either with gifts or with wisdom.  One such answer was given as I looked at the large windows that faced the street in our little country cottage.  There were single curtain rods there above each window, but I wanted very much to have the ruffled, double-hung curtains with a valance in front.  I had priced the triple rods needed to fulfill my dream but could not justify such extravagance on our budget.  I would look at those naked windows and dream of the softness such lovely draperies would add to the stark room.

One day as I stared at the naked curtain rod I prayed that God would give me an idea how to get the curtains I knew those windows needed.  Suddenly my mind began to lay out fabric in such a way that I could make the very curtains and make all the layers fit on that one lone curtain rod.  When the pattern was complete in my mind, I next prayed for the money for fabric.  With very little money to my name, I did go to the fabric store anyway—just to see how much it would cost for the yardage I would need.  As I looked at the fabrics I longed to own, it didn’t take long to multiply the yardage times the 5 or 6 dollars per yard and know that it would not happen.  Again I prayed for God to show me what to do.  I was certain He had given me the pattern, so I knew He could provide the fabric.  As I turned my face toward the door, I saw a large sign marked:

Muslin

3 yds/ $1.00

That was my answer!  I would make the lovely curtains out of muslin and they would look just as beautiful as the more expensive fabrics and who would know it wasn’t my first choice of fabric?

Well, my curtains became the talk of our church.  They truly were lovely, but I do give God the credit.  It was HIS idea after all.  Soon some of the ladies asked if I’d make them some curtains like mine, which I gladly did.  When their friends and neighbors began asking for some, I found my time was soon in high demand and my dear husband suggested I start charging for my services.

It wasn’t long before I received a call from the local newspaper.  They had heard through the grapevine somehow about my curtains that were selling like hotcakes all over our community and wondered if they could come and talk to me.  I agreed, albeit reluctantly, and the next week my picture and story was the whole front page of the paper.  From that point on, the orders piled up and soon the curtain business was crowding us out of our home.

After much prayer, we decided to look into opening a store in the downtown area.  I had no idea what such old buildings were renting for, but I innocently prayed for God’s guidance in my heart.  I asked God to show me, and then I even asked that if it was the right thing to do, that we would be allowed to rent the building for $300 a month.  The day came for my husband and me to look at a store building.  The first one we looked at was perfect!  It had a nice show room in the front with a large work area and counter top at just the right height for the sewing machines to line up and still have room for large piles of fabric as the curtains were made.  After looking at the building, I asked how much the rent would be.  The owner required a three-year lease and the figure for rent made us gasp.  I knew my husband was thinking, ‘Well, I guess it’s not to be.’

I prayed a quick prayer in my heart, looked at the owner and said, “Would you consider renting it to us for $300 a month with no lease?”  He started to laugh, then looked me square in the face and with hardly a pause he said, “Sure.  It’s sitting empty anyway.”

Business was good until the financial crisis of 1988.  Things became quite frighteningly slow and we began to think seriously about closing the store.  The rent was due each month on the first of the month.  At one point, all the bills were paid including the employees’ salaries, but when the first rolled around there was barely enough in the checking account to keep the account open.  There was no money for rent.  I had never been late paying the rent and did not intend to be then.  All I could do was pray.

It was a Saturday and we were open until noon, but we had no customers.  I had awakened that morning full of faith that we would get a large order that day to provide the amount required for our rent.  But, as I recall, not one customer darkened the door that day.  By 11:00 my husband was a nervous wreck, and it didn’t make it any easier on him when I told him that I felt strongly that I should make out the rent check in good faith and take it the few blocks to our landlord.  Now, I don’t encourage writing checks when there is no money to cover them, but that one time in my life, I felt strongly that I should do it.  I honestly knew without a doubt that God was going to provide.

When I returned from delivering the check, Rick had gone home.  On arriving at our house, he picked up the mail from our mailbox to see what bills were there and found a beat up letter from my brother who was serving with his family as a missionary in what was then Zaire, Africa.  When he opened the letter, a check for the exact amount of our rent fell into his lap, with only a small note saying, “I don’t know what this is about, but God has spoken to my heart strongly that I need to send this to you.  Love, Steve”  He had mailed that envelope 4 MONTHS earlier, and it arrived 15 minutes before our bank closed and we were able to cover that rent check and enjoy a wonderful weekend knowing beyond a shadow of a doubt that God works in mysterious ways to provide for His children who are obedient to Him!

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Precious Gifts

Fragrance from an op’ning rose

Scattering petals as breeze blows

Cardinals red upon the snows

Dancing flames as fire glows…

A finger trace along my nose

Love within the bosom grows

Standing on my tippy-toes

To see what heaven only knows…

Silvery notes from violin bows

Soft and lingering tunes compose

Making poetry from prose

Easier than you’d suppose…

All this beauty ‘round us shows

Secrets only heaven knows.

From His storehouse freely flows

The precious gifts that He bestows.

–by Judi Ehresman (2006)

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Housework

I realize I am a dying breed, but I love housework.  I love doing laundry and organizing kitchen cupboards and vacuuming and washing floors and … hmmm….no, I really don’t like dusting for the most part, but you get the picture.  I like having the pictures hung straight at just the right level—not too low, but not above eye level so that you have to stand on a step stool to see them!  Of all of it, I think I enjoy laundry the most.

Why?  I haven’t a clue.  When I was a child we didn’t have a clothes dryer or even an automatic washer for most of my years at home with my parents.  We used a wringer washer with the double tubs and hung the laundry on the clothes line and ironed practically everything that was washed.  I loved to iron.  (My sister hated ironing and I hated mowing so we traded off and we were both happy—I did her share of the ironing and she did my share of the mowing.)  Laundry day was a lot of work (I’m from a family of 7 children, so with Mother and Daddy there was laundry for 9 twice a week.)  But tell me, is there anything more wonderful than slipping into the smooth, fragrant sheets that have dried in the open air on a sunny day?  Or buffing your damp body with a slightly stiff but fragrant towel that has hung on a clothesline in the sunshine?  There’s just something about it.

I’ve been thinking about it and I think the work is therapeutic because the results are so immediate and so tangible.  But, could it also be that God created us to enjoy order?  Look at his perfect design for the world and for humanity and the order of the seasons—nature as well as our lives.

Lately I’ve been realizing that my spiritual housework is just as important as the physical, and it is much easier when it’s kept up on a regular basis.  Our church has the wonderful practice of weekly sharing the Lord’s supper, or communion, and I love that practice in particular because it forces me to keep the ‘cobwebs’ swept out!  Before partaking I must do some personal inventory.  Have I sinned willingly?  Am I holding grudges?  Do I have some bad attitudes?  The prayer time before partaking is such a blessed thing—like taking a bath after a dirty job.  It’s refreshing as well as cleansing.

Each day, as I begin my quiet time I try to have that same time of cleansing and confessing.  It is so very liberating.  On the rare occasions that I can’t make time for a lengthy time of reading God’s Word and talking with Him in a quiet place, I still take a few moments before getting out of bed to confess and chat with my Lord.  It’s my favorite kind of ‘housework’ of all!

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Bonnie Sunshine Glasspoole

One of the great gifts God gives to us, His children, is that of a best friend.  My best friend for most of my adult life has been Bonnie Glasspoole.  How can one think of Bonnie without smiling?  Years ago our family tagged her as “Bonnie Sunshine” because she was just that to us:  a lovely ray of golden sunshine.  And we still think of her that way and call her Bonnie Sunshine and probably always will.  These last few years Bonnie has wrestled with that great evil of this world:  cancer.

In the past few weeks we have spent a lot of time together reminiscing, she and I.  Such great times we had together!  Such warm memories we have! But as we spent New Year’s Eve together a couple of weeks ago (as we did most New Year’s Eves) we read scripture together and prayed together.  We both sensed that we would be apart soon, and we clung together and thanked God for all our good times together and for our sweet friendship.  I will always cherish the memories of that evening together.

One thing impresses me about Bonnie.  It seems as though she was everyone’s best friend!  Bonnie never knew a stranger.  And she loved everyone, whether friend or foe.  I’ve heard her feel sorry for those who said and did hateful things to her.  She knew they would regret it later and she was not about to hold a grudge.  She forgave immediately and readily.  Oh, if only I could learn to be as forgiving as our Bonnie Sunshine.

I never felt as though Bonnie did not have time for me.  Or for anyone else.  Everyone was always welcome at Bonnie’s house.  And such a refuge it was for me!  Sometimes when burdens became heavy for me, I’d just go to Bonnie’s.  Most of the time I didn’t even talk about my problems.  I didn’t need to.  I just needed to feel the warmth of her love and know that with someone, I was just ok and always accepted.  Bonnie was my strong harbor.

And oh!  Such laughter we shared!  And such fun we had raising our children, cooking and canning together, gardening together, decorating our homes together, shopping for clothes together (I didn’t have daughters and I needed the help of hers and still do!), enjoying one another’s successes and commiserating our failures and errors.  Bonnie has been a special gift from God to our family, but especially to me and I will always thank Him for this gift.

And now our Bonnie’s gone.  I already miss her terribly.  But I am thankful that I grieve as one that has that hope of being reunited.  I know without a doubt that Bonnie is waiting for me to join her as she sits at Jesus’ feet and is completely healed.  And even in heaven, I have a feeling it’s just a little brighter there now.  After all, they have our Bonnie Sunshine!!!

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Snow Lessons

Oh what a glorious gift we’ve been given today!  Contrary to the nature of this place, we’ve been pounded by an 18-inch snow, and life as we know it has come to a stop.  Today is Sunday, and our church has canceled services and Rick and I have each taken the time to meet with God personally on a bit more extended meeting than our hurried lives allow each morning.

It is truly glorious to meet on a regular basis with the body of Christ, to worship and to strengthen and encourage one another and to simply be part of that glorious community that is His Church.  But to tell the truth, having a Sunday to be ALONE with God on a rare occasion is also a glorious gift!  What lovely things He has showed to me today.  Several things really, but one thing I would like to record and ponder at greater length.

After my glorious time of meeting with Him by the warm fire, the lure of the brilliant sun glinting on the sparkling snow lured me out into the cold.  I shoveled for a while, and while I shoveled, somehow that little girl part of me pushed through the years of built-up “maturity” and this nearly 60-year-old woman built a snowman!

Oh, what fun it was starting with nothing more than a handful of packed snow and an imagination!  I couldn’t help thinking of Genesis 2:7 (“The Lord God formed the man from the dust of the ground and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life, and the man became a living being.”)  Now I cannot breathe life into my snowman, but he taught me many lessons all the same.

First, as I began shaping his body, it would lump and sometimes crumble and it was not an easy chore to make a nice round base for him, to root him to the ground so that he would not topple over.  I worked and worked and thought of the years it took my Lord to build a stable enough base for me to be able to stand up spiritually without totally toppling over.  Now, if a strong enough blow should happen, my snowman will topple anyway—regardless of the time and effort I took to make that base solid.  And I’m afraid it is the same with me.  I must be very intentional to keep my base solid and grounded by daily being in close communication with my Maker.  This is imperative to stand for any length of time spiritually.

I have to say that the base was the most difficult and took the longest for me, but the next two big snowballs also took concentration and work.  Finally, I had the form of a snowman.  I began dressing my creation, and don’t you know (you’ll smile at the symbolism here—I did too!  It can’t be helped!), I had a hard time finding a hat big enough to fit that big head!  I still had to chisel and pack and whittle and carve until I could finally make that hat stay in place.

Now my snowman sits in front of our front door, welcoming both stranger and friend to our hearth and home.  She’s a jolly old girl (yes, she took on the female gender when it was only one of MY hats that was big enough for that big head), and I pray that the heart of her will touch others as they pass by.  And when she is melted and gone and only a memory and a picture, at least I know that she has served a purpose.  She made me think.  She caused me to worship.  And, hopefully, she made others smile.  Will the same be said of me?

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Golden Peace

I’ve never been someone who needs people around me to feel secure and at peace.  I know those who are totally at a loss when left alone for very long, but that’s not me by any stretch of the imagination.  Indeed, I need time alone with just God and me.  I crave it.  It refreshes me, it nourishes me; indeed it fills me with peace and joy.

It doesn’t take long at all for a social setting to completely drain me.  Don’t get me wrong.  I love people.  I love to help people, and share with people.  But I definitely need my space, and plenty of it.

For many years my husband and I lived in the country where we had about nine acres of our own.  Through the years I made gardens galore and enjoyed a procession of colorful flowers that started in April and finished with the last of the mums just before Thanksgiving.  Something was blooming all through the spring, summer and fall with a grand parade of vibrant color.  God spoke to me as I worked alone in those gardens.

We had a large covered deck built across the back of our house.  It was huge, and we enjoyed great parties there, but most of the time I enjoyed the peace of that place.  Sitting on that deck I could watch the sun rise on the eastern horizon as it smiled over fields of corn and beans that stretched as far as the eye could see.  As soon as the weather was warm enough I would take my Bible and journal to that deck early each morning and God would meet me there.  What wonderful times of fellowship we enjoyed!  What rich times of blessing with each tryst.

In the evening, we watched the sun set behind the willow tree that grew on an island in our pond to the west of our house.  As dusk enveloped those few acres we could sit and hear the frogs as they splashed along the banks, the cicadas as they sang in the trees and the peace of that place lifted my heart into the very hands of God.

Now I have entered the autumn years of my life.  Our children are grown, married, and beginning to bless our hearts with grandchildren.  As they married, our children settled several states away from us there in the Midwest and begged us to move east to be closer to them.  Since our children are definitely more important to us than a place, we agreed, sold our little piece of heaven and moved nearer to them.  Now I find myself surrounded with mountains and with people.  The mountains have a beauty all their own which cannot be denied, but I desperately miss the wide open spaces where I could feel God hovering near.

Last week, my husband and I flew down to Florida to be with an aging parent a bit.  We were planning several outings and when I was asked what I wanted to do, I only wanted to go to the beach at sunset.  And so one evening after dinner, we went to the beach.

The beach was not nearly as crowded at sunset as it was during the daytime, but there were still a good number of people enjoying the warmth of the sand.  We walked along the water’s edge for a fair distance quietly, then turned to walk back to where Dad was waiting on a bench.  We sat in the sand and the vigil continued.  We watched the sunbathers gather their belongings and leave, while the energetic few remained.  A young boy and a man lifted a kite into the evening breezes and it soared into the sky.

The waters splashed with a quiet rhythm as I watched the path of gold that led across the undulating water directly into the lowering sun.  The path was white in the center, fading into golden splashed blues and greens as it widened.

I sat facing the dropping sun, aware that the waters were growing darker to my right and left at the edges of the world that I could see, and the golden path to the dropping sun became brighter.  It was so beautiful and so peaceful that it made my very soul ache like the deliciousness of ice cream making a warm mouth ache with its sweet coldness.  Such richness!

When the white and golden ball finally dropped completely out of sight behind the horizon, we walked slowly and silently back into the busy and noisy world of real life once more, but somehow, I brought a little chunk of the quiet of that moment with me.  I’m holding onto it while I can as it slowly will dissolve once again, but I’ll ever remember the sweetness and the peacefulness of that moment in time.

And I thank God for that moment.  If we still lived in our quiet space in the Midwest, could I have enjoyed that moment?  But for all the bustle and noise and commotion of my present life, it was precious to me.  And I am thankful.

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