Friday, December 28, 2012

Moving

As many of you know, my husband and I have anticipated moving for over a year. While we wait for God to arrange for my husband to receive a church call, we have been called to do many things.

Today I am called to move some furniture in our house, to make room for an additional person. No, we're not adopting again! We are delighted with our surprise adoption of almost 4 years ago, but we aren't looking to add to our family that way. And no, we're not moving our family to another location.

No, we are expecting my husband's mother to move in with us in a week or so. Her illness has left her unable to live alone for the time being. We don't know how long she will be with us, but we are shifting things around to make space in our home for her. There's always enough room for one more in our home and in our hearts.

The process of moving furniture did make me reflect on our situation, on our own waiting for a church call. Believe me, we have done our share of wondering in the past year. What is it that God wants for us? Why are we still here? When will we be able to move on?

But when I look back over the last year, I can't believe how much good has come. Our daughter has grown more confident, more secure, more capable in every way. We have been able to provide some financial support (because we sold our house and moved into a cheaper rental) to a family member who was laid-off for over a year. I was able to recover from my broken elbow and torn ligaments without having to work outside the home, which made it much easier. I've done more glass work (well, until the elbow deal). Both my husband and I have blogged, sharing God's work in our lives. We've been close enough to help my mother-in-law as she was ailing, and we've been close to my parents as they've had some illness, too.

God's timing is perfect. His plans are perfect, too. He knows why we're here and not pastoring a church, as we thought we'd be by now. Perhaps God will provide a church call sometime soon; perhaps not. Either way, we will continue to lean into God, to depend on His infinite goodness, to expect him to work miracles in our lives, here and now. He is in charge.

Wednesday, December 26, 2012

A Perfect Day

Like most Christians with children, Christmas is a two-faceted holiday at our house. We try very hard to make it center around Jesus' birth, and God's great gift of love. The picture to the left is our Christmas art piece this year: It's a print done in three colors that our daughter chose; she also drew the design. She called it "The Best Gift."

But Gifts. Oh, gifts... She loves the gifts, of course! And even more exciting: Her birthday is December 26th. So gift-getting is high on her list of thoughts in December.

A favorite gift she received at Christmas was a Barbie guitar. It plays several songs, including "A Perfect Day," a song our daughter loves to sing. It describes the perfect day, and our just-six-year-old used this term to describe today several times. "It was a perfect day, Mom!"

It was a pretty perfect day for a six-year-old birthday. She had Cap'n Crunch for breakfast (not usually allowed), cake before lunch, pizza at Chuck E. Cheese's for lunch, followed by playing with her cousins on the games for a couple of hours (and gifts!). Cake before dinner (with more gifts!), chocolate chip pancakes for dinner (her choice), and more cake. Pretty perfect.

But when she said, "It was a perfect day," I couldn't help but think of the parents in Newtown, CT, who had a very different Christmas from us. And who won't celebrate a birthday with their wee ones ever again. And how the world is overflowing with grief and need and hatred and anger and poverty and desperation.

And, oh, how I want to protect her innocence! I want to keep "a perfect day"  within her grasp.

However, I don't want her to be insulated from knowing her own blessings. Or from comprehending the world's great need for her action, her caring, and her prayer. No, I'm not going to be explaining the massacre in Connecticut to our six-year-old, but we do sponsor a child through Compassion International (a terrific organization, by the way!). We do volunteer to feed the hungry and lonely in our community. We do donate our outgrown clothing and toys to The Salvation Army. And we do talk about all of these things we do and why we do them.

But even more, I want her to know that every, single day is "a perfect day" because we are redeemed people! Even on those days when seemingly everything goes wrong, we are the most blessed people on the earth! God Himself has already forgiven and accepted us as His Righteous Ones. We are assured of His love and His grace!

And on the days, like this one, where things are going really well and "life is good," I want her to remember where she belongs. I want her to enjoy her birthdays, and may they be many. But I also want her to know that her REAL treasure is in heaven.

Sunday, December 23, 2012

Put My Heart Right

 It's been a challenge to "plan" Christmas this year: One adult child can't be here until almost Christmas Day; Another adult child has to leave early on Christmas Day; A grandparent is too ill to shop for an almost-six-year-old (who will feel rejected without a gift, despite our attempts to make her understand); A set of grandparents have plans on Christmas Day; Opening gifts late on Christmas Eve sets the stage for a wee one's too-tired meltdown..

I awoke early this morning with all of these thoughts running through my head, and I prayed, "God!  Please put my heart in the right place about all this. Help me to be peaceful in the midst..."


And God's answer was crystal clear and immediate: Put your heart on the Christ Child.

Oops.

Here I am trying to find the right time to celebrate Christmas, to open gifts together, to keep a child from getting too tired to enjoy the process, and that's not what Christmas is. Christmas is the coming of the Christ Child.

Christmas is
the coming of
Emmanuel.

God WITH us.

Almighty God Himself
choosing
to become a
helpless human
in order to rescue us all from our small-hearted sinfulness.

When I focus on that, I feel no frustration, irritation, or worry. I feel blessed.

Father, help me to remember to put my heart on the Christ Child this Christmas.
Amen.

Saturday, December 15, 2012

A Painful World

An empty swing.
An empty bed.
An empty house.
An empty heart.

I can only barely begin to imagine what it would be like to lose a child to such violence as happened yesterday. Or to illness, as two of my dear friends have done recently. Or to an accident. Or anything.

How could you possibly celebrate Christmas? How could you possibly rejoice in this season? This day?

If our kindergartner hadn't come home yesterday, how could I believe in the goodness of God?

Or... how can I respond to someone who has lost such a treasure without sounding trite or judgmental?

I think back to when I found out that I would never have biological children. Infertility is an enormous grief, as anyone who has experienced knows. One well-meaning person actually told me that God must not have wanted me to have children. Seriously?!!?  How could someone say something so cruel? I do not believe that God wanted those children to be slaughtered any more than God wanted me to be barren.

God created a perfect world and perfect people to live in it eternally. Sin intervened. Sin brought illness and death and violence and hatred and every other evil thing that we experience.

So, then, do we judge another way? Do we say something like, "Those parents must've done something awful to deserve this!" Absolutely NOT.  The blame is not on one person or a group of people; it is on all people. I am a sinner. I am selfish and irritable, greedy and self-serving. No, I didn't point a gun at children and pull the trigger. I didn't abuse my child. I didn't commit such violence, but I am far from the perfection God created.

So what can we do? How can we empathize, support, and carry those who are grieving such a loss? First, I can continue to beg God to work in me to make me more and more like the perfect person He created me to be. Second, I can look to the Bible and find that we are to A)Love one another (John 15:12); B) Serve as Jesus served (Mark 10:45); C)Pray without ceasing (1 Thessalonians 5:17); and D) Minister to those who are hungry or thirsty or naked or sick or in prison (Matthew 25:44)... and DO those things in this broken and painful world.

Therefore, I hold each of those precious children in my prayers, along with their grieving parents and siblings. I pray for peace that surpasses understanding for the survivors of the rampage, the medical and law enforcement personnel, and their families.

And I love them. Those grieving, those traumatized, those gone... and even those who have committed such horrors. Yes, even them. What pain is in a life that pursues such evil? It must be immense.

And I serve. I volunteer to feed the hungry. I donate to provide water to the thirsty. I care for the sick. I work to provide opportunity for the disenfranchised. I try to support those who work tirelessly to stop the school to prison pipeline.

It's never enough.
I can't make it enough. That is up to God. I trust Him to comfort those left behind by yesterday's senseless violence. I rejoice in the sure knowledge that, in the end, He will make it Right somehow. I don't have to understand how; it's enough that I can trust that He will.

And I do.

Saturday, December 8, 2012

Turning Your Back

If you follow my blog, you're aware that my family is in temporary housing right now. You can read more about it here, if you'd like. But "temporary" is taking on a new meaning lately: You see, the holidays are upon us, and we're opening boxes which we never intended to have to open in this place. We thought we'd be moved into a parsonage somewhere by now.

But we're not. Evidently, God's plan is for us to be here for right now. And we're okay with that. Really. Although I must admit that opening these Christmas boxes pushes my buttons a little. However, we have an almost-six-year-old, and she deserves Christmas! So, I have located most of the decorations boxes, and we have put up my daughter's favorites.

You know the excitement of wee ones as you open the boxes of sparklies and shinies. My daughter was dancing about, grabbing each thing, setting them up in her own special way. We limited the decorations to non-breakables this year because we have a new kitten, but it was still thrilling for her. As you can see above, she even added her own toy horses to Santa's sleigh as "reindeer." (And you can see there are unopened boxes in the background!)

We have several nativity scenes among our decorations, but one in particular belongs to our youngest. When she found it, she looked all around to find the perfect place for the figures. She found a nook in the entertainment center and carefully placed all her figures. Here's how it looked:
I was a little surprised when I saw it because all the people were turned away from her, into the darkness of the nook.

As I continued to put up decorations and lights, I wondered why she would have the people turned backwards to the living room. Finally, I asked her, "Honey, why are all the people backwards?"

"They're not, Mom. They're looking at Jesus!" Like that's where they should  be looking. And indeed, when I took a closer look, they were all facing Jesus.

Looking at Jesus. Focusing on the Christ Child. Wonderful Counselor. Emmanuel. Messiah. Savior. King of Kings. God With Us.

Right where we should be looking. Focusing. Meditating. Instead of worrying about getting those last stocking stuffers. Or fussing about which side dishes should be served. Or wondering when we can possibly get everyone together.

It takes my breath away. How simple it is for her. How much she understands at not-even-quite-six. I thank God for her in my life, every single day. For the surprise blessing that she was, and for the enduring blessing that she is

Help me to come to you, Oh God, as a little child. Understanding that it's not backwards to focus on Jesus during this season. It's right. So right.

Oh.
So.
Right.
 

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Restoration

 I've been doing a lot of glass repair work and restorations lately. It's partly because it was stacking up during the time of my broken elbow, and it's partly because I wanted to clean up the studio before working on new projects.

But it's got me to thinking...What does restoration mean in the context of God? It's an inherently messy process in my glass studio; is it messy for God?

I like the idea of restoration because it takes a product that was originally very  nice (perfect, in God's case, since He created us to be perfect) and cleaning it up, adding new parts as needed, to become new again.

When I restore a glass piece, I cannot make it exactly like it was created to be. It's impossible to match historical glass precisely. Sometimes I have to substitute wood pieces for rotted sections. I use the original materials as much as possible, but it's not usually possible to recreate the piece exactly.

But the Bible says that God will restore us to perfection, to everything we were created to be. Whoa! What a promise! My restoration work is highly imperfect, but it pleases me to "fix up" a piece. How much more joy God must get from the idea of restoring us to all we were created to be!

And what a thing to contemplate: We, imperfect and flawed as we are, are going to be restored to perfection. Because God loves us enough to provide Grace through Jesus Christ, we can look forward to the future knowing that we will one day truly be all we can be.

Amazing. Wonderful.

God.


Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Unlovable

This picture shows a detail of my piece, "Good.", a piece depicting creation, including man. God created man and woman to share His joy, to receive His love, to worship Him. But humans failed. Eve sinned. Adam sinned. We sin. We are all fallen.


And God loves us anyway. He loves us enough to die for us! This is the Good News... The healing of our relationship with God. This is the heart of God's message in the Bible. He loves us.

And, oh, what a difficult thing to explain to an almost-6-year-old who feels unlovable!

Our youngest has had a hard few weeks. We have traveled a lot to help take care of an ailing grandparent. We have been out of our routine. This is hard for our wee one; she thrives on routine! And on one particular occasion, one of our extended family members said something very hurtful to this almost-6-year-old. Not meaning to be cruel, but it was taken very hard by our child, piercing her tender heart.

And WOW! Has her behavior showed her stress! She has been whiny. Crabby. Demanding. Defiant. Melodramatic over little problems. Unpleasant in all sorts of ways!

Today, as I rubbed her back while she wailed uncontrollably, I asked her, "What are you crying about?" repeatedly. Not to be annoying, but to get to the core issue(s). Her answers, in order, were:

1) "Because so-and-so was mean to me!"
2) "Because I want to go to so-and-so's house!"
3) "Because you yelled at me!"
4) "Because I was naughty in school!"
5) "Because (breaking into uncontrollable sobs) I think you and Daddy don't love me anymore!"

Much cuddling and sobbing later, she explained that she didn't think we could love her because she'd been so naughty in school. (She had been pretty obnoxious, but every parent knows that a child's misbehavior doesn't lead a parent to stop loving him/her!) I asked her if she thought that being naughty in school was worse than stealing, or if stealing was worse than being naughty in school.

She looked puzzled and said that stealing was worse. I said I agreed and asked if she remembered who Zaccheus was. She did. I asked if Jesus loved Zaccheus before or after Zaccheus had stopped stealing. "Before," she said. I reminded her that Jesus had loved Zaccheus while he was still a stealer (her word).

And He did. And He does.

He loves us when we're selfish. Crabby. Defiant. Hurtful. Deceitful. He loves us anyway.

We all have those times when we feel utterly unlovable. When we behave in unlovable ways! When even our mommas would struggle to find lovable characteristics to point out...

And that's when Jesus loves us enough to die for us. That's some powerful love.

I pray it's a love that my daughter saw today, heard today, felt today. I pray it's a love she will carry with her for her entire life.




Monday, November 19, 2012

Terminal

My husband and I have two parents with terminal illnesses right now. One is still feeling pretty good, although routines are being changed due to changes in health. Another is in hospice care at this time. The end is nearer than we'd like for both. Like all children, we would like to keep our parents here on earth for all of our lives!

We are considering what life will be like without these loved ones. It's a hard thing to think about, talk about, and plan for. The hardest for me is discussing it with my almost 6-year-old. She's already asked me what would happen if Dad or Mom would die. Beloved grandmas and grandpas who die will only bring that fear to loom larger.

I find myself returning, while pondering these terminal illnesses, to the thought that we are all terminal. None of us is going to escape this life without dying (unless Jesus returns during our lifetime). We do not know how or when we will die, but we will die. A scary thought for most.

From where do we gain comfort? If all of our loved ones (and we, ourselves) are terminal, from where does our security come? How can I reassure a 6-year-old when there is no promise that I will accompany her to high school graduation?

I find my answer in the first question of the New City Catechism (and several others). It says, "What is our only hope in life and death? That we are not our own but belong, body and soul, both in life and death, to God and to our Savior Jesus Christ." The scriptural basis for this answer is Romans 14:7-8. 

And so I reassure our little one by reminding her of how God cared for her before Mom and Dad did. And of the promise of God that he will care for her always. In every circumstance. Forever.  And that God promises the same thing for sick Grandmas and Grandpas. And for those of us left behind in grief.

If I promise to be her security myself, what happens when I die? I can promise her that I will take care of her every day of my life, and that her daddy will take care of her every day of his life. I can remind her that she has a multitude of loving relatives who would step up to care for her. But her eternal security is found in God. I want her to know that.

And today, I need a reminder of that for myself, as well. Yes, our parents will die. So will our children's parents. Even our children themselves will die. Isaiah 41:10 holds us up, though: "Fear not, for I am with you; be not dismayed, for I am your God; I will strengthen you, I will help you, I will uphold you with my righteous right hand."



Thursday, November 15, 2012

RIGHT?

This is the first piece I've created since my injury in July. I've done a bit of repair work, but no actual creative pieces. And it's been really difficult! In part, because I don't have the stamina to work for long periods due to pain in my elbow. And in part, because of the frame this piece is being created for.

This frame is perfect in many ways! I love the color and the style. It's unique, and I appreciate that.

But it has only one right angle.

And that makes it difficult to build. I started with the one right angle in the 90 degree corner of my lead board and built outward in all directions. That seemed right, since that is the way I've built all my pieces. But it isn't working. You can see a nail along the bottom of the lead board where I've shimmed out the framing to make it better. It's still not working. It's not right because the other framing pieces are cut at 45 degree angles (that make a 90 degree corner) and the other corners aren't right angles.

ARGH! I just want it to work RIGHT! I can't seem to figure out how to make it right.

And what an analogy for my life right now. I am struggling with several broken relationships. I've tried to the best of my ability to "fix" things, but it's not working. Apologies have been botched or ignored. Mistakes have been made. Emotions are high. I just want it to be all right! I've tried so hard!

But that's just the thing. Right? We can't do it... not without God. I will fail every time that I try to do it myself. I cannot be righteous without Jesus' sacrifice. I can't get it right. I can only give it to God for Him to make right. And even then, right might not be the way I imagine right to be... because it's God's version of right that is truly Right.

I don't know if I will ever get the glass piece right, but I will give the project to God. I'm sure it will be better than anything I can do alone. And I don't know if my struggling relationships will ever be made right, but I give them to God, as well. I lay that burden down at the foot of the cross. And I pray that I will receive guidance in any changes I need to make... and that the others involved will be touched by God's hand, too.

Amen.

Monday, November 5, 2012

Any Good at That?


We all like to be good at what we do. And doing our best is a good trait! Colossians 3:23 even says to slaves, "Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart, as working for the Lord, not for human masters."

But I am a bit taken aback at the pressure for excellence I see some people put on their children. I was swimming at the Y in Milwaukee this week, and I saw a man and his two sons. The boys were 4 and 6, maybe. They were both good swimmers, but the father (I'm assuming here, but they were physically similar.) was walking along the pool's edge, pushing them to improve their strokes, speed, and endurance. Now, there is nothing wrong with parents helping their children to succeed, especially if the area of endeavor is inherently interesting to the child(ren)... BUT, it made me think about the importance of those things we push on our children... and maybe ourselves.

I am good at glass work. There are times I struggle with pride in my work; I want it to all be for the glory of God, but sometimes I get in the way. Even more important, though, is what I pressure our five-year-old to excel at... What do I want HER to strive for?

If I had made a list a week ago, it might have looked like this:

*Be kind
*Understand her own emotions and express them appropriately
*Be a good reader
*Understand math well
*Develop her natural ability in music and art

We work on all of these, continually. She is making progress in every area, but we still see needs and push her sometimes in these things. We also provide her with opportunities to develop skills she's interested in, but aren't natural abilities, like ballet and gymnastics. I push her to work hard and learn in these, too. Success, right? That's what parents are supposed to be doing, right?

But when I look at this list today, I want to scream at myself: WHERE IS GOD? Where is what JESUS said is most important: Love God and Love Others!?

Now, I don't want you to get the idea that we don't teach our five-year-old about God and Jesus and the Holy Spirit. We do. We read the Bible every day with her. We pray multiple times per day. She attends church and religious education classes. She and I are memorizing Bible verses in homeschool. We volunteer for child care and preparing meals. But where is my PUSH for her to excel in these areas? Where is the DRIVE to point out, at every opportunity, how we can love God and others right here and right now, like I do with reading and math?

Begin.
Here.
Now.


Saturday, October 27, 2012

Holy, Holy, Holy

I wrote about God's holiness recently; it's amazing how God provides new information and insight to me as I read and pray. It certainly motivates me to continue studying the Bible and to read devotional materials. Combine this desire with my lifelong love of the book of Isaiah, and it equals another snagged book (from my husband before he read it): Isaiah by the Day by Alec Motyer.

Alec Motyer has made a devotional translation of the book of Isaiah, explaining many of his translation decisions along the way. It's been very interesting to explore Isaiah this way, and I really love the lingual nuances Motyer describes.

One thing in particular has caught my attention: apparently in Biblical Hebrew, one makes the superlative of a word by repeating the word. Motyer gives the examples of Genesis 14:10 where "full of pits" is literally "pits pits" and 2 Kings 25:15 where "solid gold" is literally "gold gold." He goes on to say that the holiness of the Lord is the only instance in the Old Testament where the authors used a threefold repetition.

So God isn't only holy holy... He is holy, holy, HOLY. 

 He's not only separate, uncommon, pure, perfect... He's so far from that we don't have words for it! We can't even imagine it. I can't begin to understand it! Which is why I study my Bible, read devotional materials, and pray. Those activities sometimes give me a glimpse of God, just the barest glimpse.

I cling to those glimpses. I don't often understand how they fit together or how they fit the world or my life. But I know, I know, they are holy. They are not from me, of me, or through me. They are uncommon.

And when those glimpses are put together, when I am in the presence of God someday (through the finished work of Christ), I will be singing "Holy, Holy, Holy" with all of God's creation, in the glory of all that I do not now understand. It will be far more amazing than the pieces of glass I put together in my studio to make art.

Tuesday, October 16, 2012

"Normal"

A friend recently said, "I hope my life gets back to normal soon!" She has had some family challenges lately, and I deeply understand her desire for better days, but normal isn't a word I  use in this context anymore.

God doesn't promise us a carefree and easy life. In fact, He often reminds us that we will have difficulties ahead. He tells us to expect trouble to come our way.

Life has proven this out for me. Every season of my life has had its challenges and troubles, and I've learned that this IS life. Truly. This is it. With all its warts, bumps, and tragedies. The pains walk hand-in-hand with the joys. The days are filled with new babies, abused children, winning prizes, and losing loved ones.

But God doesn't abandon us to the whims of fate. Psalm 54:4 says it well: "Surely God is my help; the Lord is the one who sustains me." He upholds us in the midst of trouble. Life has taught me this, too.

In the past month, all five of my husband's and my parents have experienced health difficulties. From heart surgery to bad cancer news. From a dementia diagnosis to pneumonia. And I can honestly say, I haven't been stressed out. Not by spending days in the ER and hospital with our five-yr-old. Not by giving up my own plans to help out. Not by the fear of losing any one (or more) of them.

Not to say I haven't been sad. I have been. Not to say there weren't times I wished I were somewhere else. I did.  But I am seeing it all through the lens of God's Grace. It's like this picture: Life is as blemished and worn as the siding behind the glass, but when we have faith, we see it all, the bad and the good, through the overriding beauty of God's Love and Grace.

Normal isn't having good stuff happen to us. It's not getting back to the good times. It's taking ALL life gives us and seeing it through the eyes of God's Amazing Love and Grace. And with the strength God gives us, we can do that.


Tuesday, October 2, 2012

Early Morning Grace

For a long time, I have walked in the early morning. For me, it's a good time to walk despite the darkness for most of the year. This year, however, I have been reluctant to walk in the dark because of my broken elbow. I have been using what used to be my swimming time to walk, and it's been good.

Last week, I returned to swimming, if you can call what I'm doing swimming. So today, I returned to walking in the early morning dark. My first impression was, "Wow! It's really dark." With just a bit of fear. I watched the ground in front of me in the moonlight, hoping for stable footing.

Then I looked up.

Oh...my. I'd completely forgotten how beautiful the early morning sky is. How the darkness accentuates the piercing light of the stars and planets. How the sweep of the morning sky takes my breath away in its glory.

I probably looked the fool, standing in my driveway, gaping up with my blinky-lights flashing, but I want to be a fool for this: God's Glory. So I stood there a long while. I wish I could say  Here I am to Worship  was running through my head, but it wasn't. I was simply drinking in God's grace.

How many times is the glory of God Almighty hanging above our heads, just waiting for us to look up? How many times, when we're looking down in fear, is grace surrounding us in anticipation of our attention? An infinite number of times. From an infinitely glorious and grace-giving God.

Look.

Up.

Saturday, September 22, 2012

Living in Response

I'm still not doing much glass work, other than repairs, so I don't have any new glass pictures to share. I thought I'd share a few of the photographs I've taken along the way today instead. I definitely love natural beauty, and it frequently inspires my glass designs.

I've also been "off the blog" for a couple of weeks because I was being blocked by the blog host. I sent multiple help requests to the host, but never did receive any aid. I finally followed my wise husband's advice and tried a different browser. Brilliant! I'm back on with no problems.

I've been mulling the concept of living in response to God. My first thoughts contrasted responding to reacting. Totally different experiences! I used to react to my birth father's rejection of me and my family, but I've learned to respond instead. Instead of feeling abandoned, I choose to feel loved by my step-father. I haven't given up praying for or loving my birth father. In fact, I pray for him with more love than I used to; I can't help but feel bad for someone who would reject their own daughter. But I don't waste time feeling sad or wishful about his return. He will return to my life or not, as he chooses. I choose to love him and to love my step-father, both.

Then I tried to think if I'd ever lived in reaction to God, and I don't think I have. So what do I mean when I think/talk about living in response to God? It is the intention that makes the difference. Living in response to God means that I am intentionally looking for God's work and God's grace in my life and in the world around me. And when I see it, I live in ways that acknowledge God's work and God's grace.

So when I see natural beauty and recognize God's hand in its creation, I choose to live in a way that appreciates and sustains that natural world, to the best of my ability. And when I know God's forgiveness for my irritable attitude, I choose to live in a way that also grants grace to those around me. A great example of this is my current peaceful frame of mind when driving. I used to be an antsy, easily upset driver, watching for the "stupidity" of those other drivers. Now, most of the time, I am able to simply slow down and allow the other driver to drive his/her way, without my derision. This may not make much difference to the other drivers, as I've never been a road rager, but it's sure more pleasant for me and my passengers, and a better model for my five-year-old!

And when I read Psalm 66:20 (NIV), its words inspire my deep adoration of God. It says, "Praise be to God, who has not rejected my prayer or withheld his love from me!" The Bible says this for ME???? How can this be? But because I live in response to God, I trust God's word, His promises, God's grace, even for me. I didn't, and CAN'T, start this relationship between God and me. I can only respond when God initiates.  I can only live in response.

So I walk through my days, watching for God's hand in my world. So I lie awake at night, thanking God for His grace extended to me. So I volunteer to help with community meals, to drive someone to the doctor, to watch a dozen two-year-olds, so that my life shows God's work in me, and so that someone else might see God's hand in their life as well.

Friday, September 14, 2012

Starting Over

I started working on glass this week: Celebrate! Except it isn't going exactly as planned. Or maybe...I didn't really have a plan. I just figured I'd "go back to doing glass" just like before.

It's not like before. I feel like I'm making my first cuts again! My left arm is weak and has a hard time steadying the glass for a cut. My cutter works best with two hands, and I can barely hold the glass with my left, so my right hand has to do all the work with the cutter. It's like starting over!!!

I've started over plenty in my life. I was the "new kid at school" multiple times. I taught at 7 schools in my teaching career. I've been divorced twice (ugh!), and married three times. I'm kind of an expert at starting over.

So what do I know about starting over? It's always hard and disconcerting in some ways. Even when it's eagerly anticipated, it's different and therefore difficult in part. It's often painful, which is definitely true this time! I know there's excitement about the possibilities and sorrow over the painful memories.

And I know that God gives us as many "do overs" as we need. He doesn't give up on us when we fail for the third or tenth time. He opens his arms and embraces us with grace. Even me. Even when I really mess up, He allows me to erase it all and begin again, washed clean, blessed. He continues to love me and call me, redeem me and reveal His work in me.

Compared to that grace, my current struggles with my arm are nothing! As frustrating and painful as it is, this is so inconsequential to my life on earth and absolutely infinitesimal to my eternal soul.

So, as I struggle to regain my strength and agility with the glass, I will meditate on God's grace, love, and beauty. Maybe inspiration will hit for a glass design. Definitely I'll catch a glimpse of grace!

Wednesday, September 5, 2012

Holy

Holy is a word I've been thinking about a lot lately. It's a word we use frequently in church, in song, and in prayer. Holy is certainly a word I think of when I think of God, but I read something recently that made me ponder its meaning anew.

I am reading Gospel-Powered Parenting by William P. Farley. My husband picked it up via Amazon recently, and I snagged it before he started reading it. It has lots of good things to say to me, as a parent to a five-year-old, but in Chapter 4, Farley really challenged my thinking.

To paraphrase, he says that the word holy isn't about being perfect or pure, but about being held apart from everything else, being separate. He states that the opposite of holy isn't evil, which would've been my antonym choice. Instead, the opposite of holy is common.

Doesn't that totally change the connotation?? I've been mulling over it ever since.

I've come to realize that I can't totally throw out the idea of holiness being perfect and pure. Maybe I'm off-base, but it seems that being perfect and pure complements being separate. God is held apart from our common, profane world. He is perfect and pure because he is undefiled by our sin. He cannot be in sin's presence any more than we can be in His perfect and pure presence... without Christ's intervention. 

It's a paradigm shift to think of God's holiness to include being held apart from the world's evil. For me, it emphasizes my desperate need for Christ's intervention on MY behalf. I can't begin to be holy on my own. No way! I can sometimes imagine being somewhat good, but being something other than common is far beyond me. In order to be in God's presence, I must be holy, therefore I must cling to Christ's redemption. All my hope is in Him.

Amen.

Saturday, September 1, 2012

Repair Work

Almost two months ago, I took this picture of the repair work I had accumulated. My plan was to go on our European trip and return to fix these pieces. Instead, I broke my elbow and tore ligaments in it... on the first day of our vacation.

Since our return from Europe in late July, my elbow limitations have kept me from even going in to my shop, until yesterday. My arm is feeling good enough that I went in, swept up, and actually repaired the small piece on the right side of this picture! It was only soldering, but it felt good to get back on track.

I'm pretty sure my arm is well enough to pick up the pace and fix the rest of these repair jobs. I'm even considering what my next artistic piece will be (hint: birds!). And I'm beginning to think about which holiday I want to create a piece for and what it will be. It's delightful to begin thinking creatively again. I feel like I've been "on hold" for a while.

I feel like I've been "on hold" in other ways, too. My exercise routine has been drastically altered since weight-lifting, swimming, biking, and kayaking are all elbow-dependent. But I'm glad to say I haven't put my spiritual life "on hold." I have kept up with my reading and praying. I thank God for that. We have worshiped in a few different churches over the past two months, including St. Paul's in London and places where my husband supplied the preaching for a vacationing minister.

God has been working on necessary repairs in my life during this time. Not just healing my elbow, but continuing to change my heart and my mind to seek Him more, to follow Jesus more closely, and to grow in many ways. I am thankful that I am NOT finished because there is so much of me that is still selfish, petty, and irritable, and I ask God to continuously do the repair work so vital to my life. Amen.

Sunday, August 26, 2012

Just a Phone Call

This afternoon I got a phone call from my husband's brother, saying that their dad was in the hospital. At this point, none of us knows what the problem is or how serious it is. I had a difficult time getting the news to my husband, and when I did talk to him, I had frustratingly little information for him.

My father-in-law's illness comes just after I found out that my step-dad received bad news from his oncologist this past week. My heart is heavy with sadness, thinking about our parents' aging and illnesses. I don't want to lose any of our parents!

Sometimes it seems like chaos is just a phone call away. The phone call in the night that reveals your teen has been arrested. The phone call about the death of a grandparent. Is our hold on "okayness" so fragile? Or are we anchored more deeply?


In the past, I've spent many years afraid of what could happen. "What If?" chased me in my nightmares and my daydreams. It seemed that my hold on wholeness was tentative at best. My faith has grown and matured over the past decade. Fears no longer rule me, and my hold on "okayness" is strong.

I am anchored more deeply now than ever before. How? By the grace of God only. He has asked me to trust, and I have. He has provided more faith than I ever knew possible. My life is not perfect, but I am no longer concerned about making it perfect. It is not about me anymore.

I still worry when we get those phone calls. They aren't "just" a simple phone call, but my security isn't jangled or dislodged by just a phone call. Thank God.

Sunday, August 19, 2012

Dare I Claim?

Awaking very early this morning, I read my devotional, Living the Message by Eugene Peterson. Today's devotions led me to Galatians 3:1-7. The Word speaks of living our lives in faith, just as we began our Christian lives with faith. Specifically, Galatians 3:3 says, "How foolish can you be? After starting your Christian lives in the Spirit, why are you now trying to become perfect by your own human effort?" (ESV)

And oh, that's me sometimes! I fear that I am not faithful enough, not good enough, to reach God. Silly me, this scripture says! Silly me, to think that I need to reach God. He is ever, always, reaching for me! Because he loves me. And you. We do not have to be good enough, strong enough, faithful enough, because HE loves us and wants us and calls us.

So, as this truth struck me this early morn, I asked, "Dare I claim this to be true for me?" Me, whom I know intimately to have many, many faults and shortcomings? Me, whom I know hasn't lived up to what God would have me be?

And I reached for my Bible to read on a bit... with my left hand... my broken elbow... I could not lift my Bible that way! My elbow is too weak, too painful, so I let go immediately and reached with my right hand.

I realized in that moment that my broken elbow is an apt metaphor for this passage of scripture. I know my limitations physically... why not in faith? My physical strength is in my right arm; my spiritual strength is in Jesus Christ's finished work of love for my redemption.

Dare I claim the promise of God? YES. I claim the truth that Philippians 1:6 states so clearly, "And I am certain that God, who began the good work within you, will continue his work until it is finally finished on the day when Christ Jesus returns." I, by myself, am not enough to become perfect, finished, God-worthy. But through Jesus Christ, I have been redeemed, and I trust that God will complete the work He has begun within me.

I can see little pieces of His work in me. I can feel little bits of the fruits of the spirit growing, but it is not my doing. God is at work in my life. And yours! Trust Him to continue His work. Amen.

Monday, August 13, 2012

A Glimpse of Glory

I have been limited in many ways since I broke my elbow a month ago. I began walking again last week, and it's been lovely to be outside again. Today I had a great opportunity to take a long walk while our wee one was in an Arts Camp in a neighboring town. I didn't know my way around, so I asked the leader of the Arts Camp where to walk (and to tie my shoes, please!). She sent me to a lovely, quiet, secluded path through a wood along a river.

Ahhhhh..................

Now, I didn't take my camera, so these pictures are actually from Scotland and England, from our vacation. But they convey the same feelings of solitude and beauty that I experienced today. I have missed this. As I walked, I drank in the babbling of the small river, the low hoots of a great blue heron, and the whistling call of an unknown bird. I relaxed... and realized that this quiet beauty and peace is a glimpse of the glory of God.

And what beauty it is! I came across at least 10 turkeys as they milled around the path. I heard a deer in the woods, just off the path. And the sun shone through the leaves, something like the ferns above (in Scotland). The wildflowers were shining, wet with dew. It took my breath away.

And this is just a glimpse of the glory of God! How brightly is the son going to shine then!? How lovely will the forest be? If this earthly beauty takes my breath away, how much wonder will I hold when I see God? It's exciting to imagine!


Tuesday, August 7, 2012

Weighty Burdens and Blessings

I have walked a couple of miles a day for well over a decade, usually carrying and wearing weights. I have a 12 pound weighted vest that I wear to maintain my bone density, which has been an issue for a long time. I also have a 6 pound hand weight that I lift as I walk. Needless to say, my broken elbow and torn ligaments have changed this routine! 

It will be a long time before I can carry the hand weight, but I wore the weighted vest this morning for the first time in almost a month. Talk about a heavy burden! And it got me thinking about burdens this morning. The kind of burdens life gives us, like a broken elbow on vacation or a lifetime of paralysis because of an irreversible moment. 

Each of us has burdens to bear, but Jesus says (ESV, Matthew 11:28-30), "Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light." (Emphasis mine) 

I started thinking about Jesus' burdens, wondering if/how they are different from life's burdens. I believe that God can help us carry life's burdens, no doubt. I know that prayer had a great deal to do with my being able to enjoy our vacation, despite the pain and limitations of my elbow. I don't believe that God "made me" fall and break my elbow, though. It was simply an accident. Not directed at me personally, just something that happened. I was grateful to have God's peace in the aftermath, but I don't believe that it was God's will that I fall and hurt myself.

However, there are certainly "burdens" in my life that are God's will. I have to say "burdens" in quotations because I don't consider them burdens, but blessings. And that's not my wishful thinking or Pollyanna attitude; it's because they ARE God's will. The clearest example is our dear, sweet five-year-old. 

My husband and I had only been married for a year and a half, and we were enjoying our empty nest together. Each of us has two older children, and we never expected to raise any more wee ones. We did enjoy our grandchildren very much, when they were able to visit! Then came a life-changing phone call asking us if we would be foster parents to one of our grandchildren, with the possibility of adopting her.
At first, I could only see the burden of how very different our life would be with a two-year-old, but after some prayer, I realized this is what God was calling us to do. We didn't accept because it was noble or the "right thing to do," we accepted because we deeply believe God was calling us to take this little girl into our home. We did end up adopting her, and she is now 5 1/2.
And our lives are vastly different from that first year and a half. Some people would say we are "burdened" by parenting our grandchild. Not us. You'll never find us wishing she were somewhere else because she is our greatest blessing! The yoke is easy and our burden is light. Truly! Not that she is always easy, but being family with her (and her extended family) is a blessing beyond measure.

Sometimes I see a need within our church or our community, and I wonder whether I should fill the void. I have learned to weigh the "burden" to help me decide. If my skills fit well, AND it is a joy to fulfill the need, then I usually volunteer. If my skills fit well, but it feels like a heavy burden to complete the task, I usually don't volunteer. THIS DOES NOT mean I only do the jobs I like or that are easy!!!! It means that when my abilities and God's will coincide, the burden will be light and the yoke easy... no matter how difficult the task. It means that the doing will be a BLESSING, not a burden.

I thank God daily for the blessings that abound in my life!

Saturday, August 4, 2012

Broken, Waiting, and Prepared

Broken. And I'm not talking about glass this time. Or the brokenness that each of us knows because we're human and fallen. Nope, this is much simpler: I broke my elbow. On the first day of our vacation in Europe. The FIRST day! (We had a great vacation anyway, traveling through England, Scotland, and Iceland.)

So, now there is no glass work, no swimming, no kayaking, no bike riding, no lifting anything heavier than my iPhone with my left hand. (Which means no dishes!) At this point, they don't think I'll have to have surgery, but I'm going back in a couple of weeks for another round of x-rays to be sure.

It means another form of waiting. Waiting to be able to continue my glass projects. Waiting to be able to go without the brace on my arm (I graduated from the sling above to a brace when I saw my doctor at Mayo). Waiting to take our little one swimming again before summer is over... hopefully! Waiting to be able to lift my weights and swim my laps.

When you add this waiting to the fact that my husband is still waiting for a church call so he can be a pastor, which he spent five years preparing for and feels called to do, it's a LOT of waiting! And I know I've said before that I'm not a good waiter... I'm pretty impatient, really.

However, God has somehow prepared me well for this waiting period in my life. I'm not anxious about my arm's progress; I'm doing okay. And as for waiting for a church call, I wait with anticipation of a call, but I am able to enjoy where we are right here, right now. I find many blessings here and now. My parents are nearby, and my older daughter and my brother aren't too far away. My son is within driving distance. We're living in a fun place with just under 6 acres of land to play on. I'm able to stay at home and create art and homeschool our youngest child for kindergarten. This is a good place and time.

When my frustration mounts regarding my limitations with my arm or regarding the uncertainty of our family's future, I turn to God and ask for more peace, more patience, more awareness of the blessings of here and now.  And He provides. Every time. Not always in the same way, but in the best way for here  and now.  I rest in Him.

Tuesday, July 31, 2012

Much Grace

My family just returned from a grace-filled vacation. Many people wouldn't see it that way, but I do. Truly. Despite the 17 hour travel that turned into 27 hours. Despite the broken elbow and wasted day at a foreign hospital. Despite a five-year-old who had some pretty spectacular temper tantrums when we made her hold our hands crossing London streets. Despite the flat tyre (We were in Scotland...They have tyres, not tires!). And the 30 pound parking ticket (That's about $47 US, for a parking ticket!!).

Yes, all that stuff really happened. And there were certainly times when I was in enough pain from my elbow to make me miserable, but overall, we had a wonderful time. Looking back on it, I wonder how. How on earth could we possibly enjoy the vacation when so many bad things happened?

God's grace. That's the only way. God gave my husband and me insight into our daughter's needs amidst her horrific tantrums. God graced me with enough endurance to make it through the pain, and with enough wisdom to know when to say, "Not me. You guys go ahead!" (Like climbing to the outer walk at St. Paul's Cathedral or riding a horse in the highlands of Scotland.)

God gave my husband the grace he needed to become the caretaker of hair for both me and our daughter, even when I needed to have my ponytail fixed in public! God's grace filled our daughter as we searched endlessly (seemingly, anyway) for an open health care centre. She was able to play and sing happily for many hours.

We were able to see the blessings in a flat tyre: Being only 1/2 mile from a service station with a willing mechanic and knowing that nobody had been hurt in the process of getting the flat. There were times of breath-taking beauty, of quiet friendship with fellow travelers, and of complete exhaustion with a bed available. In it all, we were blessed and filled with God's grace. There is no way I could have been so peaceful about it all on my own.

God is Good.
All the time.


Thursday, July 12, 2012

The Fix-It-Up Chappie

First, a nod to Dr. Seuss' "The Sneetches" for the title of this post. The Fix-it-up Chappie was the guy who put stars on the Sneetches bellies (and took them off). I love Dr. Seuss, but he's not who I'm talking about today. God is.

I've almost caught up with glass orders, except for the repairs. I'm planning to work on them when I return from vacation in a couple of weeks. I've never had so much repair work in all my life as a glass artist! I have pieces with broken zinc framing and whole glass. I have pieces with broken glass. I have pieces in old window frames that need work on the glass and frame. I didn't know there were so many ways to be broken. I guess I'm the glass Fix-it-up Chappie, if a woman can be a chappie!

It's easy for us to think of God as the ultimate Fix-it-up Chappie. You know: "We ask; He answers." and "Those who are His can trust that their lives will be happy." Except that's not how it works. We know that, too.

I've been hanging around with/know several families who have been experiencing loss or grief. I know of a young boy who is going through chemo treatments for cancer; and I know another family whose young son lost his battle with cancer. I've been spending time with the family of a friend who has been in critical condition for over 2 weeks. Yesterday, our prayers were answered and she received a liver transplant. That doesn't guarantee a full recovery, but it's the first step!

I've learned not to expect that my prayers will be answered exactly as I asked. Bad things happen. Beloved ones die. I have usually been able to find a silver lining to the bad things, eventually. I can thank God for those silver linings.

Here's something weird, though: Sometimes I struggle to attribute the positive happenings to God. I know God is in charge and that He ordains all things, but if God doesn't go out of His way to afflict us with the negative happenings in our lives, does He go out of His way to bless us with the positive happenings?

As I ponder this question, I seek guidance where we should always seek guidance: God's Word. The ESV version of Mark 11:24 is, "Therefore I tell you, whatever you ask in prayer, believe that you have received it, and it will be yours." To me, that makes it sound like God is the Fix-it-up Chappie and makes our every whim come true. The NIV version is almost identical. It's when I read The Message that I understand better. It says, "That's why I urge you to pray for absolutely everything, ranging from small to large. Include everything as you embrace this God-life, and you'll get God's everything."

If I embrace this God-life, I must trust God. And I do. I trust God completely. So I trust His reasons for the death of a child, even though it hurts desperately. I trust that someday I'll understand this agony. This part is easy for me, for some reason.

So for these positives, I must trust God. Completely. So I trust His reasons for providing a liver for my friend. I trust that someday I'll understand that this happiness I feel isn't selfish because it's what I want. It's unselfish because it's what God wants.

I think that's it! I think the reason I have a hard time attributing the positives to God is that I feel like I'm being selfish! It's what I want, so it's selfish. But if it's also what God wants, how can it be selfish? I will work on trusting God in ALL things. Even the good ones (as weird as that sounds!)

Thursday, July 5, 2012

Endurance

Endurance is a virtue we should strive for, right? I mean, Roman 5:3-4 says, "We can rejoice, too, when we run into problems and trials, for we know they help up develop endurance. And endurance develops strength of character, and character strengthens our confident hope of salvation." And Mark 13:13b says, "But the one who endures to the end will be saved."

In more secular terms, endurance is prized as well. My husband is a marathon (and ultra-marathon, occasionally) runner; he knows endurance. I have great endurance in dealing with children and their behaviors. 28 years in public school classrooms have taught me that endurance is sometimes the only way to get through to a student or group of students. My own children have opened that door regularly, too.

Our current living situation has been a test of our endurance in some ways. We sold our house very quickly and moved into our rental home before the landlord was really ready for us. When we moved in, one bathroom was completely gutted and the other had only a very small shower with very poor water pressure. I opted for showering at the local YMCA most days, but my husband showered every morning without complaint.

There have been other endurance challenges in our home: very low water pressure (It took over an hour to fill the washer for EACH wash/rinse cycle); lots of spiders; a leaky roof in several places, including my side of our bed! In each, we have patiently practiced endurance, and our landlord has diligently sought solutions... and found them!

Overall, I think my endurance has been okay.

But...
this
HEAT
is
killing
me!

I no longer have any endurance for it. I have gone swimming, kayaking, played in the sprinkler, laid on the floor in the kitchen (The only room in the house that is truly COOL, despite our two window air conditioners), taken multiple showers each day, and taken refuge in the local public library, among other places. 

I'm still hot.

I'm past my endurance for heat; now I'm simply enduring. Yesterday, my husband ran two races and my daughter ran one. I was a good sport, cheering them on and taking pictures, but I wasn't peaceful about it. I was enduring it. We went to the fireworks display last evening, and I tried to focus on how much cooler it was (It was 91 degrees at 8:30ish.). But I wasn't really enjoying it; I was enduring it.

So what's the difference between having the virtuous character trait of endurance and merely enduring? I think when I am focused on "WHEN will this be OVER?" I've entered the land of merely enduring the torture. It's not virtuous, that's for sure!

Endurance seems to me to be more about being sustained by God's grace. Enduring seems to be in the range of barely tolerating. For me, it certainly includes being slightly (I hope that's all) irritable.

I pray that God will give me more endurance. That He will transform my enduring to endurance. (And that maybe, just maybe, He will see fit to lower the temperatures by 20-30 degrees...)

Sunday, July 1, 2012

Life is Good

Life is really going well these days. It's summer, and we're having lots of carefree summer activities. My glass work is just right, too. I have enough work to keep me busy, but I've caught up a bit so I don't feel overwhelmed. We continue to wait for a church call, but I'm enjoying this time of waiting. Our family is planning a trip to Europe in July. Life is good.

Become One, a wedding gift. Available in any colors for $100
I often say, "I'm blessed" about my life. And I am. I wonder sometimes if people know what I mean when I say it, though. I don't mean that all is going well. Being blessed isn't about the circumstances in my life. Not really. God blesses us in each and every day, in every single circumstance. I was blessed during the time that one of our daughters and her two children lived with us in our three bedroom house because the daughter was hit by a car while crossing the street. Life was crazy, and I was blessed. I was blessed during the times of my broken marriages, when I hurt so badly I could hardly breathe. Life was awful, and I was blessed.

 
So what does being "blessed" really mean? In Deuteronomy 28, blessings are given for obeying the Lord your God. In Matthew 5 (The Beatitudes), God blesses those who are poor, mourn, humble, merciful, persecuted for doing right, those who hunger and thirst for justice, those who work for peace, those whose hearts are pure.

For me, being blessed comes down to being at peace with my decisions and my life. And that happens when I obey the Lord my God. It happens when I live within God's boundaries for my life. It happens when I ask for God's blessing as I am in agony at the pain a family is feeling when facing the death of a loved one. It happens when my life is easy and carefree... and when my life is filled with anguish.

When I think about my "blessedness," it's about feeling the touch of God, knowing the peace that surpasses all understanding. It's not about winning the game, making a lot of money, or any other circumstance. It's the peace within the circumstances, whatever they are.

God bless you.


Monday, June 25, 2012

Blessings

Today I am overwhelmed by gratitude, by God's grace in my life. Right here. Right now. I just read the blog post of a friend who is going through chemo. Was she whining about having cancer? Nope. Was she lamenting the loss of her health? Not a chance. Was she expressing anger at her situation: 5 kids and cancer? No way. She was thanking God for the blessings in her life.

Now, I'm not really a whiner, either. I am content with life, even in our waiting mode. I haven't let a leaking ceiling in our bedroom (yes, really!) color my days gray. But, am I really, truly, grateful? How do I show it?

This piece is created for the blessing of twin boys!

I often say "Thank you, God." Thank you for my children, all five of them. Thank you for the two attending school and working, and for the two working, and for the one that is with us every day. Each is a blessing!

Thank you, Holy Father, for my marriage. For the Godly man you dropped in my lap when I decided I was never going to marry again. For his faith, his love, his support and his kind spirit. Thank you for the daddy he has turned out to be, when neither of us expected to parent again.

Thank you, Jesus, for my faith. For the fulfillment of promises made. For working in me to remake me every single day. For the grace poured out on my life, which has been filled with mistakes and sin.

Thank you, Heavenly Father, for the gift of being able to work with glass. It brings me great joy, and You are glorified in it.


As I write, it seems a little like writing a list for Santa or something. A litany of my blessings. Not nearly important enough for how very much the Lord has blessed me. Each of these things on my "list" is important, but just listing them and saying "Thank You" doesn't seem like enough.

This enormous appreciation for all the good in my life (and even the bad) is part of what spurs me to live a life that pleases God. I am so grateful for the blessings of faith, love, family, hope, gifts, etc. that I have to seek God's will in my life! I cannot imagine how empty life would feel if I wasn't amazed at all the good God has given me and done for me.

 Even in the most horrible parts of my life, I see God's hand. In the darkest of my days (which as many of you know, were very dark indeed), I heard God's voice very clearly. I was sustained by Him in my weakness and fear. He promised me a marriage relationship beyond anything I'd ever imagined, and he has provided more than I could ever have anticipated.

I know without a doubt that there are dark days ahead of me, as well as behind me. I am not expected God to remove all difficulty and obstacle from my path, but I know that whatever I face in the future, He will sustain me through it. That surety is one of the greatest blessings of all. Nothing is too big or too bad for God.

 Nothing.
What more could I want?


The glass piece above is a sample baby gift for twin boys. I can make it for a single baby, too. Both boys and girls, of course! It's 9x9 inches, framed in zinc with rings for hanging. For a single baby, it's $45.00; for twins it's $50.00. Order this unique gift via email (agoginglass@yahoo.com), telephone (507-292-7202), or on my Facebook page (A Glimpse of Grace).

Wednesday, June 13, 2012

THIS Day

When I hear the words "this day" I usually think of Psalms 118:24, which I must have memorized from the Revised Standard Version of the Bible: "This is the day which the Lord hath made; let us rejoice and be glad in it." This verse has helped me through many a troubling day and has focused my joy on many a happy day.

I found another way to think of "this day" this morning. I was walking, listening to Christian music on my iPod, when a song by Matt Redman came on. "Fearfully and Wonderfully Made" has this line: "What am I going to do with these days You've ordained?"

Whoa. That's a paradigm shift for me! God ordained THIS day for me to be here on Earth. This struck me as beyond being glad and rejoicing that God gave me a day to live. This thought is that God has something for me to do today... beyond enjoying the weather and my activities, beyond changing the lightbulb and making lunch for my 5-year-old... It's amazing!

Of course, this begs the question, "What IS it I am supposed to do today?" I don't know yet! But you can believe I will spend my day looking for whatever it is... and THAT will change my day in unforeseen ways, all by itself. So, I'm off to start my day, searching for God's will! Have a great day looking for what God has planned for you!

Tuesday, June 12, 2012

Pain

Avoiding pain is an almost universal thing. Who would seek out pain?! I suppose it's a survival instinct. My OT husband who works with spinal cord injury patients talks about pain as a necessity, a message that is essential to our well-being. Once I told him that I thought a lack of pain would be just fine with me, but I was wrong.

I have a finger that doesn't feel pain. I damaged the nerves in an accident with a knife when I was thirteen. (Maybe some of you remember that trip from my party to the emergency room in our Halloween costumes!) It's never really caused me any problems, except that I can't trill very well on my flute.

This week, however, that lack of pain caused me a problem. I got a sliver of glass in the finger and didn't know about it at all. Not a clue, until it festered enough to burst open when I slid my finger along a book. Yuk.

Needless to say, the mess drew my attention to the injury, and I cleaned it out so it could heal. Okay, I thought, so physical pain is a necessity, but I can certainly do without emotional pain! But then I thought about that...

I don't think so. I think I need emotional pain, too. I think God uses it to guide me. His Holy Spirit speaks to me from my heart, and sometimes that comes out as emotional pain. When have I grown the most? In the midst of emotional pain. In the times of my life that hurt.

When I hurt, I notice what I'm doing wrong and clean it up so I can heal. I can think of many times this has been true in my life, but none more powerful than the weeks leading up to my current marriage. I had been dating a guy, a nice-enough guy who clearly wasn't Mr. Right for me. Nor was I Ms. Right for him, but being together was better than being lonely.

I didn't feel right dating him, though. It was emotionally painful to consider breaking up because I didn't want to be alone. I prayed to God, "Please, God, if this is NOT your will for my life, make it clear to me. Then I'm done dating until you drop the right man in my lap, and I will do it your way."  Four days later, Not-Mr.-Right dumped me.

Pretty clear.

So I proceeded with my life, assuming I would be alone. My heart hurt a lot, but I was determined I was going to do this God's way, not mine. Mine didn't work! (Obviously! I'd been divorced twice, I'm sorry to say.) I was committed to changing the way I dated and built relationships.

 About 3 weeks later, on a Friday night, I was doing a web search for a project at church. Up popped an ad for christiancafe.com. I was intrigued; maybe a Christian site would produce a better quality of guy than I was watching my single friends meet online. On a whim, I filled out my profile and did a single search. Off this nationwide site, the FIRST man on my "matches" was from MY city. I clicked on it, and found the man who became my husband. We met a few days later, and prayed together on our first date. Within a week, we had established parameters for our relationship before marriage, not knowing how long that would be. Within three months we were married. It's coming up on five years later, and neither of us has regretted our relationship and marriage for a nanosecond.

The emotional pain I had been in was the motivation for changing my life, which led to a marriage that is right in every way. I guess we need emotional pain, too. Not that we should seek it, but that we should see it and change our lives to align with God's will.

Amen.

This is the wedding gift I made for my husband. Our faith is central to our marriage.

Saturday, June 2, 2012

Competition

"It's NOT a competition!" I said to my five year old for the millionth time this week. Lately, EVERYthing is a competition for her. Who connects their seat belt fastest? Who can run to the door faster? Who can jump higher, yell louder, build a higher tower... you get the idea.

I truly don't remember my two older children going through this. I'm sure we had many competitions, but I don't remember it being soooooo important. I found myself seeing this as a "fault" in this five-year-old, something flawed that causes so much emphasis on competition. Surely, it can't be normal to make everything into a competition with a winner and a loser.

Then I went swimming.

As I swam my laps, I realized there was a faster swimmer in the lane next to me. That almost never happens! I ramped up my speed and effort to match the other swimmer and quickly passed him. Whew! I almost lost my status as the fastest lap swimmer....

Uh, oh.

Yep. That's ME, turning it into a competition. The guy in the other lane wasn't racing me; he was exercising. Like I was supposed to be doing. Except that it really mattered to me that I was the fastest in the pool (at least at the time I swim). IS life a competition??

It's a hard call. We want our kids to succeed, to do well, to accomplish all they can. If they run a race, which our wee one does regularly in the summers, we want them to TRY to be first. I certainly want to make my glass pieces the BEST I can imagine them being.

Pride comes in here, too, I think. Maybe it depends on why we want to be first or best. If the reason is so we can feel superior (like me with swimming), it's a sin. If the reason is because we want to do our best for God (like I try to be in my glass work), it's a virtue. I feel like most of the time, I fit in the middle somewhere.

So what do I teach my five year old? It seems hypocritical to say, "Do your best! Go! Succeed! Win!" and then expect her to forgo the pride. It also seems wrong to tell her that doing well doesn't matter at all.

As usual, the Bible has the best advice I've found. Colossians 3:23 says, "Work willingly at whatever you do, as though you were working for the Lord rather than for people." This is in the midst of instructions for Christian households, giving advice for persons of each role in a household.

If we honestly work willingly at whatever we do, as though we are working for the Lord, I don't think we can go too far wrong. At my best, I certainly try to honor God in my glasswork. Can I swim for the Lord? I don't know. One thing I have done lately (since my realization that I am so competitive about it) is pray for the people swimming and aqua-cizing around me.

 I hope and pray that we, as parents, can find ways to help our young child understand why she shouldn't put herself (or anyone else) on a pedestal OR in the trash heap, win or lose. We are each God's miraculous creation, precious to Him, not to be belittled or idolized. Competition often does one, the other, or both. I want her to know that God expects her best for Him, not in relation to how well others perform, but her very best. And that He is worthy of it... and more.