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Archive for September, 2011

Rainy Day Lessons

Today is one of those days that has been dripping since sometime in the night.  Sometimes the rain is steady.  Sometimes it’s not much more than a heavy mist.  But the skies are leaden and the sun is completely hidden by the dark clouds that make mid-day seem like dusk.

I have candles glowing throughout the house, with at least a small lamp on in every room, creating at least a cozy feeling if not cheer.  It’s one of those days I’m especially thankful for my life of working from home and not having the necessity of getting soaked to the skin as I venture out.  However, it’s one of the darkest days I’ve seen for a while, and in spite of the coziness inside I have found myself going to the windows several times to watch the rain and sigh over not being able to get the mowing done today that I’d planned.

A little while ago as I once again stood at the window I suddenly saw movement at the top of our very private and enclosed back yard.  (I say top because it is also nearly vertical as it climbs the side of a fairly steep hill.)  As I stepped out onto the terrace and looked for the reason for the movement I became aware of being watched.  Turning my head a bit I saw the reason for it.  There were twin fawns, looking at me and feeling trapped by our fenced back yard, obviously forgetting how they got in through the driveway.

They watched me, frozen at first, and then running frantically back and forth from one corner of the fence and stone wall to the other.  I walked toward them thinking I’d frighten them toward the entrance—cute as they were, I wanted them out before they decided to lunch on my gardens—but as I moved toward them they turned and ran the wrong direction, trapping themselves in a corner.  By this time I was far enough into the yard to see their mother watching from the neighbor’s yard—on the other side of the fence.  I chased them for a while but they refused to run toward the entrance and I could tell they were terribly frightened.  So I decided to go inside and get the camera and see if I could get their picture before they discovered the way out.

I snapped a few shots, including one of the mother watching all the commotion, and then suddenly they took off in the opposite direction and ran down the right side of the hill and out the opening at the driveway.

As I walked toward the house I thought of all the times I’d felt trapped.  Sometimes I’m trapped by the expectations of others and not wanting to let them down or hurt their feelings.  But sometimes I’m trapped by my own foolishness and even sin.  Every time, there is a way out, but so often I try every other effort except the obvious one—admitting my error and asking forgiveness.  Why is it so hard to admit when we’ve sinned?  Do we really think others don’t sin?  Do we think they will not be willing to forgive?  Well, sometimes they won’t, but that’s fine.  It’s their option.  Does their unforgiveness hurt me?  Not really.  It offends sometimes, but even if they pretend to be perfect themselves, I know better.  The Bible tells me ‘ALL have sinned…’  So, I guess that would include them!

Do you know someone who’s stuck in a corner of their own sin and who doesn’t want to confess or ask for help to find the way out?  Pray for them, my friend.  Pray and forgive.  Even if they don’t ask.  Forgive because you need forgiving too.  Forgive because God forgave you.  Forgive because it frees you as well as them.  And it brings you both joy.  And you’ll both find your way out the driveway—and life will be sweet again.  Of that I am certain—because God is SO good!

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Hard Lessons

This past week we spent a couple of days with our youngest son, his wife, and two baby daughters.  There was something that happened during our time there that has really stirred something within me.  I can’t seem to get it out of my mind and out of my heart and I want to share it with you.

We were all chatting a bit in the front room, and Audrey, our precious little 2 ½ year-old granddaughter had climbed into my lap with a book.  I read to her softly while the others were chatting.  (Oh, how I love doing that!  It’s one of my very favorite things to do, and a great way to get an energetic wee elf to sit still and allow you to cuddle them for a bit while they think all you are doing is reading a story to them!)

We had finished one book and I whispered for her to bring another book to grandma.  She slipped off my lap and ran into the other room, while my ears quickly tuned back into the conversation that was going on in the room.  In a little while, Luke asked, “Where’s Audrey?”  I said she’d gone to get another book, but at the same time I was saying it, I suddenly realized she’d been gone too long for such a simple chore.

Suddenly we all headed for the door of the room and as we entered the next room we heard a soft sob.  My husband squatted down beside where we could now see her with her little face tucked under the bookcase and heard her sobbing.  As he lifted her into his arms, we saw the monopoly pieces and little by little we pieced it all together.

They keep the children’s books on the bottom shelf of a set of shelves, and on the upper shelves are the games the grown-ups play (monopoly, card games, all sorts of board games with small pieces, etc.).  Now Audrey had been told she should not play with the games or even get into them without the help of Mommy or Daddy or an adult.  We think what happened was that her curiosity got the better of her and she was playing with one of those games before she remembered the ‘rules’.  Suddenly, she was ashamed and frightened that she’d be in trouble, and her little heart was totally broken, and she wept and sobbed so much she couldn’t even talk.  I thought my heart would break!

I wanted to hold her in my arms and comfort her.  I wanted to explain that we all sin; we all find ourselves doing things we know are wrong—and there’s no going back.  I wanted to explain that there are times when we have to simply stop what we’re doing, confess it, and accept the forgiveness.  I wanted to say, “Audrey, it’s good to be sorry for your wrongdoing, but the penalty has already been paid!  You won’t be punished for your sin.  Jesus already was!  Jesus loves you SO much that He already took your punishment in your place.  It’s done.  Rejoice!  And accept His forgiveness.  And just don’t do it again.”  But…she’s a bit young to completely understand all that at this point, and this error is just the beginning.  There will be more.  But I, for one, will be sure she understands God’s forgiveness and love.  And ours.  Her family.  There is nothing she can do that is too big to forgive or that will make us stop loving her.  Nor will God ever stop loving her.  No matter what she does.  Someday she’ll understand.  And until then…we’ll keep on loving her, and keep on forgiving her, and keep on showing her God’s love.

But I’ll never, never stop hurting when I see her precious tears.  Even though I know she’s learning and it’s part of this life, and even though I know God’s using all this and is shaping her little heart to make room for Him, it still hurts.  But, sometimes lessons are hard; sometimes the learning hurts; but always, ALWAYS, the forgiveness is sweet and God is good.  And I’d never cheat her out of learning that!

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Soup Supper

Some gifts God gives us are in answer to prayer; some are subtle and we take them for granted without even acknowledging His goodness and generosity.  Others sweep in and bless us in such an amazing way that it takes our breath away!

I was blessed in such a way this week.  One of the sweet ladies in our church has chosen to bless us all with her amazing gift of hospitality, and she does it on a regular basis by opening her lovely home for Bible Studies and all sorts of women’s ministry opportunities.  Now, not only has this sweet friend been blessed with the gift of hospitality, she has been blessed with a lovely large home and a wonderful gift for decorating it beautifully and sharing it graciously.

For several years now she hosts a fall Soup and Salad Supper for all the women of the church, and some that are not from our church.  It has become a huge event that we all look forward to excitedly.

Now I had been over to her house the week before as she and I worked on a small project, and she was just packing away summer decorations and getting out fall things to ornament her home when I was there.  It was fun poking my nose into her large tubs of décor a bit.  It was better than being in a store, because she had a collection from lots of stores and it all fit together beautifully to carry out her theme and her taste (which is nothing short of spectacular)!  So when I saw it all finished and glowing this year, it was particularly fun.

She fills each corner with fall-colored leaves, nuts and pinecones, branches and lights, pumpkins and gourds and anything autumn.  And then among it all are the scented candles that glow with particular warmth and welcome.

The supper is a carry-in sort of affair with commitments for particular assignments which make the meal complete without the hodge-podge of the typical carry-in.  There are large kettles of various soups, a variety of breads, and an array of salads—a hearty meal that is filling and tasty as well as lovely!

We were moved from one setting to another for various parts of the evening, so that we could visit with a variety of women instead of being glued to one spot for the whole affair.  It was fun collecting and giving hugs all evening!  We are blessed by a loving and caring church family, and I am SO very thankful!

There was no particular program for the evening; no lecture, no ‘message’, no agenda other than to fellowship and enjoy one another—and we did!  At one point I looked around and just listened to the noise of that many women in one home.  It seemed louder than a coliseum filled with sports fans!  But the love and laughter was so thick in that place that you could feel it!

One young lady brought a friend who has no church–in fact, who does not know our Lord.  She had so much fun that she said she wants to come to our church.  She hasn’t caught on that it’s not the church that brings us joy, but the Lord that we worship and know intimately.  It’s not the house, or the meal, or even the people—it’s the sharing of our Savior that gives us that bond; indeed, that love for one another, and that most important common denominator—our joy.

When I remember such a spectacular event, such a display of spiritual gifts being shared with one another, such joy emanating from our very hearts, I have to wonder:  why would anyone NOT want this?  Why would anyone choose to deny Christ and follow the ways of this world?  And above all that, I’ll never understand why would anyone ever turn away from Christ once they have tasted the goodness from His hand?  There are a few who do, and it’s something I’ll never grasp.

But for me?  Give me the good life!  I love the joy of the Lord and the goodness of His gracious hand.  I love the warmth of His people and the security of His care.  And I love knowing that next fall we’ll have another Soup and Salad Supper.  God is SO good!

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My Destiny

It is not mine to question,

to wonder, or to sigh.

It is but mine to trust Him

whose side I’m walking by.

 

It is not mine to doubt Him

but only to obey.

I would not understand it all

if He revealed the way.

 

And so, when tears are forming,

and sighs press on my breast,

I choose to look into His face—

the One Who knows me best.

 

I choose to trust His power,

His wisdom and His might.

To take me where He wants me;

to trust HIM with my plight.

 

I choose to focus only

on what He shows to me,

and leave the rest in His great hands

to plan my destiny.

 

by: Judi Ann Ehresman 9/9/11

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The Edge of Autumn

Today it rains.  The thermometer on the side of our garage has its wrought iron hand pointing directly at the ‘60’.  It is mid-morning, but looks like dawn as the sun hides behind the gray, heavy clouds.  The damp chill of the day is SO welcome after the intense heat of the summer just passed, and I think:  “What a gift is autumn!”

Do you ever stop to wonder if God was smiling as He created the seasons?  I do.  I wonder if He saw me perspiring in the gardens this summer and thought, ‘Be patient, Judi!  Wait until you see what I have for you!  And it’s just around the corner…’

Some people think of days like today as gloomy days.  I think of them as cozy ones!  I turn on a cheery lamp or two in each room of the house, light a few fragrant candles, play some good classical music and do something either inspiring or fun (or both)!  It’s the kind of day that just begs for reaching out to others as well as enjoying God’s peace in our own hearts.  By the end of the day, I hope to be snuggled down with a good book as I listen to the driving rain outside my window.

We are just on the edge of autumn now.  The leaves are still mostly green, the mums just starting to show their rich, fall colors.  The birds are singing lustily and being quite obvious about enjoying the cooler weather.  And I find I have more energy, more drive than I had during those last hot days of intense summer heat.

In my preschool Sunday School class we are studying creation.  I love that this is scheduled to happen just as the seasons are changing.  It lends itself well to the children being able to understand the changes, and God’s power and might in creating our glorious universe.

This past Sunday as they came in and found their seats I asked them, “If you could make anything you wanted, what would you make?”  I heard things like ‘a dog’, ‘a friend’, ‘a bird’, etc.  So I said, “Ok.  Make one.  Each of you make exactly what you just said!”  They sat there looking at me dumbfounded.  Totally speechless (which is quite an accomplishment for pre-schoolers!).  Then I smiled and said, “What?  You can’t make it out of nothing?”  I handed them each a tub of play-dough and said, “Here.  See if you can make it out of this.”  Then as they formed their object I explained to them that God had created the world, indeed the universe, including all the plants, each individual animal and fish and creature—out of absolutely nothing.  He SPOKE, and it was so!  Only for man – humankind – did he use something to make us out of.  Just like they were creating out of play-dough, so God used earth to make clay that He shaped us out of.  But He did something they cannot do.  He breathed the very breath of life into his creation and we lived!

In the next few weeks we will be discussing the things God created, and the detail involved.  Among those things discussed will be the seasons.  I am collecting some green leaves now that we will compare with the colored leaves then.  Just thinking about it all fills me with new joy, new excitement, a new sense of thankfulness for all the gifts God has given us in this world.  And one that I’m particularly thankful for right now is autumn!  For a reprieve from the summer’s heat, a rest from the summer’s work, and a promise of rest for the winter before it all starts over again.  Isn’t our God so amazing and GOOD?

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Fragrance

Have you ever stopped to think about what a gift our noses are?  Yes, I know, they sunburn too quickly, they freckle easily, and some are misshapen and too long, but other than those things, think how empty our lives would be without the gift of smelling.

I love fragrance.  It can relax me.  It can comfort me.  It can even uplift and stimulate me.  There are many fragrances that are part of our lives, but too often we take them for granted.  Have you ever just stopped to say ‘Thank You, Father!’ as you smell a bouquet of flowers in the spring or a spicy pie baking in the fall?

When our children were small, our youngest son had a favorite blanket that he cuddled when he sucked his thumb to go to sleep.  He called that blanket his ‘dee-dee’ and cuddled that thing until there was nothing left of it but a scrap.  When he was two, part of his birthday ritual was that now that he was a ‘big boy’, dee-dee needed to stay on his pillow.  If he was upset over something and wanted to suck his thumb a bit, he would have to lay his head on his pillow to do it, because for some reason he couldn’t suck his thumb without dee-dee tickling his nose.  (It was my way of keeping the thumb out of the mouth for the most part, and it did work.)  One time we had gone visiting for a few days and when we came home he handed me dee-dee and said, “Mommy, will you please wash dee-dee?”  I looked at it and it was still nice and clean (it did live on a pillow all day, after all!), but when I questioned him, his reply was simply, “It smells like —-‘s house.  It doesn’t smell like my dee-dee.”  Of course I washed it that very day.  I’d always thought it was the feel of the blanket he loved, but it was the smell that comforted him!

I love the fragrance of clean laundry, of spices flavoring something baking, of scented candles burning brightly on a long winter evening, of autumn leaves crunched underfoot, of flowers and herbs—but not roses!  (For some reason, roses always make me think of a funeral home and I detest that smell.)

Fragrance is mentioned lots of times in the Bible.  Of course, God created fragrance.  One of the first places we think of is in Song of Songs (or Song of Solomon in some Bibles).  Verse 2 says:  “Pleasing is the fragrance of your perfumes; your name is like perfume poured out.”  There are lots of places in the Old Testament that speaks of the aroma of an offering to God.  Even God loves a sweet fragrance.  When Jesus was born, one of the gifts the wise men brought was a very expensive fragrance called ‘frankincense’.  Esther was pampered with a year of fragrant ointments before she was finally presently to the king.

On the other hand, one of the things that repels us is a bad odor.  A skunk uses his horrid odor to keep predators at a distance.  Have you ever been around someone that had a bad body odor or bad breath?  We tend to keep our distance from such a one because of the repelling force of bad odor.  Roses smell like a funeral home, so I never have them in my home if I can help it.

Because I love people and want them near (I’m a hugger—I readily admit), I shower daily (at least once a day—in summer it can often happen more than once!), and I use a softly scented lotion to moisturize afterward, and I shampoo often.  More than once after a hug from someone I’ve heard  “Um!  You smell good!”  It’s always accompanied by a smile and that makes me happy.

Good hygiene is not only good for our health it’s good for our well-being because it brings people near.  God created us to need one another and to need touching.  There’s nothing quite as affirming as a pat on the back or a quick hug or a gently-squeezed hand.

I cannot for the life of me figure out why there are so many baby products now that are ‘fragrance free’!  What in the world smells better than a clean, fragrant baby?  They tend to create their own smells that are not so pleasant—a little fragrance in a baby lotion or baby powder helps make them all the more cuddly.  God made babies to need cuddling.  A gentle touch does something that words cannot do.

Have you ever smelled some certain smell and it ‘took you back’ to a fond remembrance of a person or place or occasion that you loved?  For a moment you feel warm all over and can’t help smiling.  Yes, all in all I think noses as well as fragrances are a very special gift from God.  He is SO good!

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