Saturday, July 21, 2018

I Found a Special on Storm Shelters!

Oh. My. Goodness. The verbal wrangling and bickering in politics are enough to want to find a storm shelter and stay there until Jesus comes or at least until the storm passes over. Recently, I’ve heard commentators and read articles that declared “America is Facing Another Civil War”. And, others warn “We’re Facing World War III”.

Maybe you're a 50s or 60s child and, like me, you remember the Duck and Cover drills we did for personal protection in case of a nuclear attack which could have come at any time without warning. We’d hear the alarm sounding and then we’d rush to get in the fetal position, face down and covered our heads with our hands. I look at this photo and I wonder how in the world would that position have protected us?

There has ALWAYS been verbal wrangling and bickering and there have always been wars and rumors of wars since the beginning of time. Unfortunately, that hasn't changed. Matthew 24:6, says “you will hear about wars and rumors of wars, but see to it that you’re not alarmed….”

Thank God FOR GOD! In reality, there seems to be no certainty in anything anywhere, EXCEPT that our God is stable, secure, and is our ANCHOR that holds in spite of storms, wars and any other force that comes against us. Bottom line. We can live unafraid because God is our rock, our refuge, our shelter in the time of any storm or war or any force that can come against us.
The most dependable, unshakeable HOPE we have during peace times AND perilous times is GOD HAS NOT CHANGED!! As God's children, we do not have to live in fear or defeat. Instead, as His kids, we go to our War/Storm/Crisis Shelter and that place is found in a 9-1-1 call. I call this number regularly.

Psalm 91:1 (911) "Whoever dwells in the shelter of the Most High will rest in the shadow of the Almighty."

If ever there was a time to find peace, security, and hope in our Father, it is now. He wants us to prepare and rise above these storms of life whether they are storms within our families, the storms of wars around our world or literal storms. It's time for us to pray passionately for the peace and presence of God in our lives. We need to pray for our world and the uncertainties that face mankind. We need to come back to our CENTER and find our peace in Him. Our peace is an incredible testimony in hard times and will help those around us to find Him as their Prince of Peace. He wants to make Himself known in the middle of the present shaking. I can't think of a better place to go to, and place to be than in God's shelter. This entire chapter is one I've prayed over my family for years. It is still relevant and precisely the "Word" for us today:

Psalm 91:1-16 -- "Whoever dwells in the shelter of the Most High will rest in the shadow of the Almighty. I will say of the Lord, “He is my refuge and my fortress, my God, in whom I trust." Surely He will save you from the fowler’s snare and from the deadly pestilence. He will cover you with His feathers, and under His wings, you will find refuge; His faithfulness will be your shield and rampart. You will not fear the terror of night, nor the arrow that flies by day, nor the pestilence that stalks in the darkness, nor the plague that destroys at midday. A thousand may fall at your side, ten thousand at your right hand, but it will not come near you. You will only observe with your eyes and see the punishment of the wicked. If you say, “The Lord is my refuge,” and you make the Most High your dwelling, no harm will overtake you, no disaster will come near your tent. For He will command His angels concerning you to guard you in all your ways; they will lift you up in their hands, so that you will not strike your foot against a stone. You will tread on the lion and the cobra; you will trample the great lion and the serpent. “Because he loves me,” says the Lord, “I will rescue him; I will protect him, for he acknowledges my name. He will call on me, and I will answer him; I will be with him in trouble, I will deliver him and honor him. With long life I will satisfy him and show him My salvation.”

Friday, July 20, 2018

Opportunity to Become God’s Fixer Upper!

If you've ever watched (and, in my case, was addicted to) HGTV's "Fixer Upper" (after five seasons, now only in re-runs), you saw a fun-loving and talented couple, Chip and Joanna Gaines, transform old, in need of repair homes into a beautiful work of art. You will also probably know about their Magnolia Market, their family and what their values are about. I had been to their place before, and once was enough, but Bryson pleaded “Nana, can we stop in Waco at Magnolia Market?”

He and his mama have been fans of the show and he knew we’d be driving through Waco. He didn’t have to ask twice because I hadn’t seen the place for a couple of years and since then, there have been several add-ons. Now there’s an on-site bakery, a seed and feed store, and there are picnic tables all over where you can eat your food that is purchased from food trucks. Bryson had a yummy gourmet grilled cheese sandwich there. AND, they have added a fifth child – a baby boy, and it seems their notoriety just keeps getting grander all the time. Good for them!

They became famous by transforming homes that looked hopeless, but it's their example of a loving family that is proving to be the truest testament to their faith. The couple told the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association, "Our family has made a commitment to put Christ first, a lifestyle our parents modeled for us very well. They showed us how to keep our marriage and family centered around God. As for 'Fixer Upper,' we have been surprised at the impact of our faith through the show. Jesus said the world would know His disciples by their love for one another, and we've glimpsed this in practice and strive for it every day."

Like the Gaines', God takes broken, in disrepair, unwanted and neglected people and through His mighty power transforms them into works of art and beauty. Chip and Joanna helped people find their "before-the-dream-come-true" fixer-upper, then the future homeowners had to let Chip and Joanna perform their "magic" on the home. In the same way, we must give relinquish control and submit to God's transforming power in our lives.

We, too, have the opportunity to be on display as "Parades of Homes, Life, and Blessings". When God is our #1, His blessings will chase us down, and His light will shine brightly through us to a world that needs to see true examples of commitment, faith, values, and love. Like the Gaines', God takes broken, in disrepair, unwanted and neglected people and through His mighty power, transforms them into works of art and beauty. Chip and Joanna helped people find their "before-the-dream-come-true" fixer-upper, then the future homeowners had to let Chip and Joanna perform their "magic" on the home. In the same way, we must give relinquish control and submit to God's transforming power in our lives.

Sometimes, the houses that Chip and Joanna helped select for their clients were so pathetic, that they had to completely demolish the existing structure, and then they were able to start fresh and clean as though the old house was never there. Isaiah 43:18-19 says “Forget the former things; do not dwell on the past. See, I am doing a new thing! Now it springs up; do you not perceive it? I am making a way in the desert and streams in the wasteland.” When we are ready to demolish that old life of regrets, mistakes, failures, tragedies, self-pity, defeat and sorrow, to living the glorious and abundant life that Christ came to bring us, we will be God's "fixer-upper" and show-off what a "Brand New Life" can look like and be.

Maybe you are a fixer-upper. You desire your life to be filled with peace, joy, abundance, healing, and victory? Maybe you'd like your tired, weary and stagnant life to be transformed into life brand new? It can happen because the One Who created us is ready to transform us from the inside out! The makeover we receive is all new and perfect in His sight. It starts by placing our lives in the hands of the Master Transformer. The choice is ours. We can submit ourselves as a fixer-upper, or we can hang on to the shabby house, the tattered clothes and the old way of life. The Lord won't force Himself on us. On the other hand, He will never turn us down . . . we merely need to say, "I'm ready, Lord. Have your way with me! I'm ready to be a fixer-upper!"

Thursday, July 19, 2018

Safeguard Your Identity

When I heard Lauren Daigle’s new song yesterday morning as I was taking my granddaughter to work, I knew it was my inspiration for today’s post. The song's words describe how we see and think about ourselves and, oftentimes -- it's not a pretty sight. It's also how we think others define us. We determine that our identity is that part of us that others know us by and or the image we show to the world. Sometimes our identity is known by the amount of money we have in our bank account or our credit card. After all, identity theft is rampant – and someone out there desires our identity because they think theirs stinks...or lacks.

The fact is that our identity is all about God coming and rewriting on our heart the words the world might have said that is against us – those words that say we’re not enough and lies that tell us we’ll never measure up. God comes and replaces those lies with His Truth that we are loved, we’re strong because of Him, we’re held, we’re able and He’s a God who is willing to meet us in the middle of all times, of all things. He’s called us saints. It’s all about what He says versus what the world says.”

We can start by saturating our minds with the truth of God’s Word. It’s filled with reminders of His unconditional love for us. He says “You are fearfully and wonderfully made (Psalm 139:14). He says that “Nothing can separate you from His love” (Romans 8:35). It’s time to stop letting the enemy steal our identity. We are God’s masterpiece. It’s time to believe it!

May Lauren’s words help you rethink how valuable you are – how worthy of God’s love you are – how precious you are in God’s sight and how much He longs relationship with you each and every day…..each and every hour! You were hand-picked by the great harvester to be His one and only. Listen to the words of this song and may they bring you to a place of confidence, self-respect, joy, approval and the knowledge that you are beautiful.

“You Say” by Lauren Daigle
I keep fighting voices in my mind that say I’m not enough
Every single lie that tells me I will never measure up
Am I more than just the sum of every high and every low?
Remind me once again just who I am, because I need to know

You say I am loved when I can’t feel a thing
You say I am strong when I think I am weak
You say I am held when I am falling short
When I don’t belong, oh You say that I am Yours
And I believe, oh I believe
What You say of me
I believe

[Verse 2]
The only thing that matters now is everything You think of me
In You, I find my worth, in You I find my identity, o-ooh

[Verse 3]
Taking all I have and now I'm laying it at Your feet
You have every failure God, and You'll have every victory, o-ooh

Oh I believe, yes I believe
What You say of me
Oh I believe

Wednesday, July 18, 2018

Viva la Difference

You might think "How did THEY ever get together?" I know that's the way it was for my husband and I. He had a serious, intuitive, methodical, perfectionist, deep-thinker personality. I, on the far end of the spectrum (as far as the East is from the West), was/am a lighthearted, sanguine, fun-loving, upbeat, go-with-the-flow personality. It worked well for us. We completed each other. We made each other better because of what one of us lacked, the other had. It didn't come without years of maturing and adapting. but there was no denying we were a perfect match made in heaven. It definitely made for some interesting challenges for us but we had a chemistry that worked. This scripture explains what God has in mind for all of his children:
“Just as our bodies have many parts and each part has a special function, so it is with Christ’s body. We are many parts of one body, and we all belong to each other.” Romans 12:4-5

It’s “la difference” that makes relationships interesting, and many times….lasting. The fact is we are better together. Take making a cake for example. I love taste-testing along the way. I admit that I enjoy a few chocolate chips while mixing the sugar and butter for chocolate chip cookies. The ingredients of a dessert sort of describe how all of our parts – whether, spicy, sweet, sour, bitter – when all combined together – result in a delicious dessert. The ingredients, by themselves, may not be tasty at all, but combined – viva la delicioso!

Just as each ingredient in a recipe is necessary, every member in Christ’s body also has a special function. This is why scripture says we are many parts of one body. God gives each person a unique purpose, and together, we can serve others in the way God intended. In this way, we belong to each other. Because we need each other.

Every member of Christ’s body is essential. Those who are bold, daring, outgoing, public speakers who are confident and articulate need those comfortable-to-be-behind-the-scenes, hospitable, calm, easy-going, and steady folks to get the job done or for the program or project to be a success. Some parts function in visible ways, but the parts that function in invisible ways are just as important. We need everyone to come together, to do each part. Because we really are better together. And TOGETHER we can sure make this world a better place -- especially when they see the love we have for each other!
Oh you're my brother, you're my sister
So take me by the hand
Together we will work until He comes
There's no foe that can defeat us
When we're walking side by side
As long as there is love we will stand!

Tuesday, July 17, 2018

What We Need When We Are a Hot Mess

I was amused when one of my friends said “I’m a hot mess” – which meant not only is she dealing with the symptoms of “the change of life”, but she was also loaded up with so much to do and feeling so inadequate at the things she was doing.

Speaking of a “hot mess”, my car thermometer indicated 108 degrees outside yesterday. This comes after a long stretch without rain and several consecutive days in the lower hundreds. The heat interrupted our plans (my grandchildren and I) to go to Six Flags Over Texas. Instead, we went to Chuck-E-Cheese and to see a movie – all indoor comfort!

We complain about how hot we get by just going to our air-conditioned car to the air-conditioned building. A quick walk to our mailbox is no problem as long as we don’t stop to talk to a friend there. Fortunately, we have an “inside” to retreat to. While my sprinkler system repair man was showing me the areas that needed to be repaired, in a matter of just a few minutes, I was dehydrated and sweating.

In the midst of our world-class whining, we might consider how blessed we are in our “conditioned” comfort – especially as we develop a fresh awareness and compassion for those who live without the many comforts and conveniences we enjoy. Far too many of our brothers and sisters live without air-conditioning in summer and heat in winter, let alone a home to call their own. I may sweat through every item of clothing I own, but I will not die.

My wealth extends far beyond my material possessions and everyday comforts, but too often I forget -- especially when struggles or challenges come; when I experience a few body aches and don’t get enough sleep at night, when folks around me are having a meltdown, and, most of all, when there are future unknowns that cause me to sweat with anxiety and concern, I know I have forgotten God’s presence that is my shelter or shade even in the middle of scorching heat. I may sweat, but I won’t burn.

“Then the LORD will create over all of Mount Zion and over those who assemble there a cloud of smoke by day and a glow of flaming fire by night; over everything, the glory will be a canopy. It will be a shelter and shade from the heat of the day, and a refuge and hiding place from the storm and rain.” Isaiah 4:5

God is our shelter, our shade in the heat and covering in the storm, but nowhere are we promised we’ll escape the heat and rain. God’s presence with us doesn’t mean He’ll spare us every inconvenience and struggle, every pain and discomfort. Instead, His nearness means we have somewhere to retreat and rest and hide, even when life's "stuff" comes our way.

Like a mountain that cannot be moved, God’s presence is steadfast. That means you and I can either set our focus on the temperature gauge or learn to lean into the One who offers His shade. By the way, I just checked the weather. Turns out it’s going to be even hotter tomorrow. But tomorrow is too far away to make worry worth the effort. Today has enough to handle. And besides, God’s presence is my shelter, His glory is my canopy. In spite of the heat, I’ll be okay. He is with me. Whether I’m a hot sweaty mess or not. You too, friend. You, too.

Monday, July 16, 2018

So Much Heaven-on-Earth Packed Into One Day

On Saturday, Bryson and I started with breakfast at Ollie’s – a Tulsa family favorite since our first grandson was born 26 years ago. Of course, we had to make some memories there – so many trains running around the walls of the restaurant along with train memorabilia everywhere.
When my oldest grandson came to Tulsa not long ago – he had to go there for “old times sake”! It's a must-see for your children and grandchildren!

Then it was spending the day with Great Granny, Aunt Karen and Uncle George. Bryson was the kingpin. So much love packed into one little boy in one day!
The best part of the time was a baking class and making a chocolate cake Now, Bryson and I have the step-by-step recipe indelibly imprinted into our minds, on paper, and on photos. So much joy seeing Great Granny in her element. Oh, how Bryson loves his Great Granny – just loves to sit in her presence. Then it was playing the Game of Life while I went to church.

This day's Grand Finale was breathtaking. It was my joy to be the confirmation sponsor for the oldest daughter of my precious Tulsa “Anderson” Family. My husband and I "adopted" the whole family years ago. Owen, son #2, is my godson and now this special blessing. What an honor to be asked to walk her life journey with her. Bishop David Kondrela anointed Grace and declared “Be sealed with the Gifts of the Holy Spirit.” I love the beauty, the sacred ceremony and the “knowing” the day and the time of this beautiful sacrament forever.

I knew heaven was a part of this most sacred and beautiful time as I saw the gorgeous “yellow roses” floral arrangement at the altar. I like to think my sweetheart had something to do with them and, in fact, was a part of this special day and occasion. Yellow roses were the flowers at our wedding. Every home we lived in, after that, we planted a yellow rose bush and for every special occasion, I received yellow roses from my sweetheart.

"Heaven on earth" is when we pause to bring worship from earth to heaven and then God brings heaven to earth. When we take time to be thankful for the journeys, whether they are winding and twisting, or 4-lane smooth highways, and have gratitude in it all, heaven shows up on earth. Any time we pray, “Father, let your Kingdom come and your will be done on earth as it is in heaven,” we’re asking God to declare the truths of heaven into this world.

I know what heaven on earth is and every day I invest my time in looking for and living in my heaven on earth. Yes, one day, I'll get to graduate from this earth to heaven, but I sincerely believe God delights in our appreciating the heaven we can have daily as we commune with Him and let Him make His presence known in every facet of our lives. This day was about “heaven on earth” moments. I recognized them all. I savored them all and now I’m blogging and posting and I’m hearing that God just may have used me to encourage someone to start experiencing heaven on earth in your daily living.

Yes, all those "heaven on earth" times sure makes this journey so sweet on the way to "heaven in heaven". Every day, we can make the choice to have "heaven on earth" moments. Maybe it's time to take stock in YOUR "heaven on earth" blessings, too!

Sunday, July 15, 2018

Take the Leap of Faith

Hanging with my sweet grandson always leads to talking about animals -- after all, he has 32 animals of his own. Seems we integrate some kind of animal story into just about every conversation. After all, I've dubbed him the "animal whisperer" because all of those critters seem to calm in his presence.

I heard a very interesting message about the Impala, a medium-sized African antelope. The only "Impala" I ever knew about was the Chevrolet Impala -- particularly because it was my husband's first car. Little did I realize that the name "Impala" was selected for the Chevy because of the characteristics of the animal, the Impala. The Impala's most characteristic movement is its unique leap. In the wild, they can run at very high speeds and jump to heights of 10 feet over bushes and even other Impala, and they can cover distances of up to 33 feet in one leaping bound. That's quite amazing that their inbred abilities give them that extra "protection" against being prey for more dominant animals.

But, here's the most interesting fact about the Impala. If they are held captive in zoos by a mere 36-inch wall, they will not act on their natural instincts. That's because they simply can't see what's on the other side of that little wall. What stands between them and freedom is taking a leap of faith.

Friday night we watched a "Running Wild With Bear Grylls" TV episode with Deion Sanders as his guest celebrity to take to a challenging adventure that included jumping a canyon and eating snake. As fearless as Deion might have seemed as a running back for the Dallas Cowboys, we witnessed him being paralyzed with fear to have to jump a canyon. No positive words that Bear spoke to him had enough motivation to give him the courage to jump. But when Deion started praying HARD out loud and in tongues, within a few moments, he had gained the courage to take that "leap of faith"....and he did so successfully.

What a testament to God's stamp of approval with this post today when I looked up at my friends' glass case and I saw an Impala inside (pictured here) -- never saw it before, but on this day, I knew God was giving me a high-five on this message for us!

Perhaps we are like the Impala -- if we can see where we're headed, if we know what our destination is, if we know the end result -- we'll give it all we've got. But what if the way isn't clear? What if there's a killer-gap between our start to finish? What if we don't know what tomorrow holds? What if we don't have all the answers? But still, what if we take a LEAP OF FAITH even though we don't know what is on the other side? It's about TRUSTING in He Who already knows and has the plans for our tomorrows. We simply TRUST. Proverbs 3:5,6 "Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding. In all your ways, acknowledge Him and He will direct your paths" -- and, I might add.....even give you extra turbo-charged energy and power to "run through a troop and LEAP OVER THE WALL!" Psalm 18:29.

Maybe we should sing along with Diana Ross....'There ain't no mountain (or walls) high enough to keep me from..... leaping over them!"

Saturday, July 14, 2018

Worry FREE - Guarantee!

How is it possible to NOT WORRY in these days and times?
"Don't Worry???" You may be saying "That's easy for you to say -- you're not facing what I'm facing today." Perhaps not the exact challenge or situation, but I've known troubles and I've had plenty of reasons to worry. And, out of those times, I survived -- so much so, that I sincerely desire to "help comfort others with the same comfort that I was comforted with". (2 Corinthians 1:4). A young mother messaged me when she was facing some tremendous challenges. Her mind was bombarded with the worst thoughts. Her imagination was getting the best of her. She was expressing so much worry, fear and concern. I replied with these words, and in case you are in a place of fear and worry, I share them with you, too!

"Sweet Friend, I want to put my arms around you and help you through this time, and the best way I can do that is to give you a "Worry-FREE Guarantee". I am completely convinced that "If God said it, I believe it and that settles it -- no ifs, ands, or buts. It's a done deal!" That has been our anchor and mode of operation for many years. Plain and simple -- God's Word (the Bible) is the key to overcoming fear, sickness, discouragement, etc. There's an answer for everything in God's Word. God gave Joshua the key to success. "This book of the law shall not depart from your mouth, but you shall meditate on it day and night, so that you may be careful to do according to all that is written in it; for then YOU will make your way prosperous, and then YOU will have good success." (Joshua 1:8) Wow! There's the key. We always think that it's up to God to take care of this and do that. But, very clearly, God is saying that if WE do OUR part (not letting His Word depart out of our hearts and mouths -- thinking/meditating on His Word) that WE WILL be successful.

Here are some of those words to take to heart:
~ Proverbs 23:7 "For as a man thinks in his heart, so is he." Obviously, this means we want to do our best to stop thinking the negative thoughts. How do we get a handle on our thoughts? A shortcut to is to THINK the things that we feel good about, and avoid thinking about what we don't feel good about."
~ Philippians 8:4 "Whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is of a good report, if there is any excellence and if anything worthy of praise, let your mind dwell on these things."
~ Isaiah 26:3 "You will keep him in perfect peace, whose mind is stayed on You because he trusts in You."

It is a matter of disciplining ourselves to put a halt to negative thinking. It's like changing the channel on the TV. A negative thought comes in....quickly change the channel to the positive thought. Let this prayer be your prayer:

"Heavenly Father, I commit to living worry-free. I cast all my cares, all my anxieties, all my worries, all my concerns -- once and for all, on You. You passionately care for my family and me. I cast down imaginations and everything that exalts itself against the knowledge of You. I lay aside every worry. I think on those things that are true, honest, just, pure, lovely, of good report, virtuous and deserving of praise. I will not let my heart be troubled. I abide in Your Word, and Your Word abides in me. Thank You, Father, for helping me to be care-free. I walk in that peace that passes all understanding, in Jesus' name! Amen."

Perhaps you, my dear FB friends, needed this "word" today. I urge you to take this "word" like medicine.....DAILY. Put it in your heart and mind. You will come through with flying colors......just like the gal that I wrote this original letter to. VICTORY was and is hers, Victory is yours, too!

Friday, July 13, 2018

Living the Dream

Just living the dream……oh what fun it is to ride and drive and jive! This sweet, little man, my youngest grandson, Bryson, and I are having a great time of summer fun. This is the first time, since my first grandchild 26 years ago, to have alone time for any length of time with one of my other grandchildren. I’m savoring every moment! Usually, our time together includes big brother or one of the parents, but here we are, while big brother is at summer camp in Seattle.

Bryson’s main request while in Tulsa: Incredible Pizza – a place he remembers well and gone away from way too long! We spent several hours there yesterday -- jumping on trampolines, laser tag, and bumper cars (I wasn't jumping OR tagging or bumping, but taking it all in). But, together we rode the go-karts, played miniature golf and lots of games and enjoyed yummy pizza. I listen intently to his musings, his quick little retorts to something silly I said, and to the answer he gave to someone’s question “What’s your favorite school subject?” He said, “Math!” What kid says “math”? I’m thinking…P.E., lunch! I love his desire to impress me with his diving and swimming the length of the pool skills. I love seeing the difference in his miniature golf today (after he’s had many golf lessons from a golf pro versus the non-skilled and, quite frankly, a little bored with the game years ago). I love it when I ask him to pray for our meal and isn’t resistant in any way.

The Michie’s (my dear friends and our Tulsa home) son was by last night and we talked about his 3-year-old and 10-month-old children and I, on my bandwagon, urged him to savor the moments. Yes, I know, when our little ones are little, the days are long and the years go by fast. But even when those days are long, I urged him to stop and listen to their words. Joseph told us that the 3-year old woke him up to tell him “I love you. I’m going to miss you today.” Oh, treasure those words today and tomorrow and for years to come.

It won't be long before this little guy and my little guy will be grown up with families of their own. I know I must sound like a broken record – but I’m passionate about the little things, the simple pleasures, the things that money can’t buy, the beauty of a tender hug and soft kiss on the cheek, a question “Nana, can I sleep with you tonight?’ These special simple pleasures keep reminding me that the greatest blessings on earth come without a price tag.

Treasuring these times, noticing simple pleasures, and counting our blessings. It means learning to live our lives as if everything were a miracle. Tomorrow may never come, so being aware on a continuous basis of how much we've been given. Gratitude shifts our focus from what our life lacks to the abundance of what we already have. Maybe, the best prescription we could take to dispel the common "woe-is-me" attitude is to offer thanksgiving for the "simple pleasures". We just might be re-energized, have new vitality and excitement for this beautiful life that is made up of "simple pleasures"! Mine starts again today -- in a big way when Bryson and I will go see Great Granny, spend time with a little cousin, swim with a friend, climb a tree house, tell silly stories, laugh at Nana singing “Cool Kids” and “What can I say but you’re welcome!” I'll savor it all and hold it all close to my heart because my heart is full and overflowing.

Thursday, July 12, 2018

This is Where the Best of Me Came From

My sweet Mom, Edna Pearl Wheat, is 107 years old today and she’s having the time of her “forever after” life in heaven. These photos are of her and my granddaughter, Alexia Wallace, 15 years ago. She was in her element when she was holding the babies. I love the "before" and "after" of Alexia getting hold of that bottle. LOL!

I treasure photos like this because it reminds me of where the best of me came from. If ever there was an angel on earth, it was her. She was my mentor, role model and everything a mother should be. She selflessly gave: "Just give me the fried chicken neck -- that's good enough for me." She always forgave -- "It's okay. God forgives me all the time. I sure can forgive you." She unconditionally loved: "It's okay that they (my siblings that lived in other states) don't write or call me much. I love and pray for them anyway." Her integrity and honesty were of utmost importance to her. I'll never forget the day as a tiny tot that I saw a package of gum on the floor in the store and put it in my pocket. I reasoned that "if it's on the floor, it's okay to have it". When she found it in my pocket, she marched me back into the store to admit my wrong-doing. That incident and lesson stuck with me like glue.

She gave me boundaries that worked: "Let your conscience be your guide." It was those words that guided me when I was choosing right or wrong. She rarely missed a church service -- Wednesday night, Friday prayer meeting, women's meetings, Sunday School AND church -- twice on Sunday. She sacrificed her own needs for my needs. She demonstrated undaunted faith and determination in the toughest of times when my dad was so sick and when our finances were so meager. I heard her praying for me and my siblings from her bedroom. She was the most tender, kind-hearted, loving, gentle, caring and pure woman I have ever known. She was my hero, and to this day, she remains my hero. Her example made me a better me.

The reason why I'm spotlighting her today is to emphasize it's not the things, treasures, inheritance or jewelry that matter. She had very few tangible things to leave us. Oh, but what she left us exceeded anything tangible. She left a legacy that money could never buy. Her influence on me caused me to be honest, to love and care passionately, to put my faith in God during the best and worst of times, to give and to suck it up when I've been hurt or offended, to trust in God's plans for my life and to pass on something so much more than the things that can be bought.

I intend to leave my children the very best of me......and the very best of me is my precious mother's example. What are those things that you'll leave to your children and grandchildren? "Her children rise up, and call her blessed...." Proverbs 31:28

Happy Birthday, sweet Mom!

Wednesday, July 11, 2018

This Guy AND I Came to Live Out Loud!

Yesterday morning, I was on the road again! Thanks, Willie Nelson, for the song to accompany my travels to here, there and back again. I really am so grateful that I can hit the road at any given time to be a part of special occasions, get caught up with dear friends and family members and take in some of my favorite places. This time will be a real joy as I stay at my BFFs’ lovely home and then have a special package delivered to me by his grandpa who lives further south in Oklahoma, my 11-year-old, Bryson. He’s going to be my buddy for the next several days here in Tulsa and back home in Frisco. And the finale of this trip will be attending the confirmation of a precious young woman I have sponsored into the family of God.

I'm taking it all in as I get to bask in these precious moments, events, celebrations and accomplishments of my precious family and friends around me. In the words of Émile Zola, French Nobel Prize winner in 1901, “If you ask me what I came to do in this world, I will tell you, I came to live out LOUD.”

I'm certainly not a "rocking chair" grandmother. No offense, if that's your gig -- rock on, Baby! But, for me, I've set big goals for my life and I won't accomplish them if I take a laid-back approach. To me, living out loud means living life with passion, being open to possibilities, and reaching for the stars.....well, at least the top of trees! Living-Out-Loud is living, laughing, and loving unashamedly. It means deliberately choosing to be inspired and motivated enough to live without limits -- or just getting off the couch and doing something! It means letting go of fear, getting gutsy and getting going.

Living-out-loud is unique to everyone. See this guy with the sign "Honk if you love Jesus!" He was standing outside of the service station where I filled my car up with gas. In this Texas heat, one could say "He fell off the turnip truck -- to stand out there with one of "those" crazee signs -- it's obvious there's something wrong with him!" Nope. He is merely living OUT LOUD, because he can. I pulled over and asked "Why do you do this?" He said "Well because I can. On January 9th, after being told I wouldn't live beyond a few months, I was totally healed. I had told the Lord that if He'd heal me I'd declare His love and healing power every chance I could. So here I am -- keeping my promise." He is really living out loud -- so loud that I noticed him. He is using his gratitude, zest-for-life and enthusiasm to make a difference. What if we did the same?

Here's how I live out loud: I purpose to be present to take in God's signs and wonders. This is one I cultivate daily. I purposely choose positive thoughts and intentions. If a stray negative thought creeps in, I quickly change the channel. I take time to enjoy and appreciate family, friends, food, music, children, blue skies, sunshine and ordinary moments. I invest time in my relationships, put the “good” china on when I have friends and family over. I light up the candles for ambiance. I know that giving and doing my best is the most important thing I can do to show the love of life and of those who I value so much in my life. I take a deep breath and express my gratitude for being alive. And, while I’m at it, I observe the sights and sounds and smiles around me. I am so thankful I can see and hear!

I just may not pass this way again, so I'm making the moments count. I’m going to LIVE OUT LOUD with every moment that I can! Why don't you join me? It will be worth the trip! <3

Tuesday, July 10, 2018

Go Ahead. Judge a Watermelon By Its Cover!

Watermelon is my favorite summer fruit. It’s amusing to watch people thumping on watermelons trying to find the best one. I could never nail that sound. But HOLD ON Mr. Watermelon Thumper! I finally aced my watermelon sweetness picks. Here's the real deal on picking the sweetest watermelon:
~ Make sure it has a prominent yellow spot. This is where it sat on the ground ripening. No spot = premature pick = not ripe. ~
~ Look for "webbing". This is the brown, coarse web-looking material caused when bees pollinate the flower and scar the membranes that later form the fruit. The more pollination = more webbing = sweeter fruit. *****You're welcome!!!*****

Did you read between the lines of picking a sweet watermelon? We need to find the sweetest ones by looking for imperfections, flaws, defects, yellow spots, brown, coarse webbing, and scars.
Yes, we SHOULD judge a watermelon by its cover – but NEVER should we judge a book OR another person by their cover. Those perfect and well put together, dressed-to-the-nines folks might be filled with anger and hard-heartedness. And those with scars, body piercings, tattoos, or multi-colored hairdos might be the most genuine, loving and caring people with hearts after God and care more about others than we can imagine. Only God knows the hearts of His children and is their "fruit inspector".

Guilty -- as charged. I was at a church a couple of weeks ago and sat by a beautiful young woman who had tattoos all over her arms and legs. I hugged her and "God blessed her", but inwardly I was thinking "What was she thinking when she did all that?" Yes, I was judging. Then, on a video was a guy speaking who was all tattooed (from what I could see) except for his face. I think I may have gasped because the person I was with whispered:"He is the kindest, SWEETEST and devoted-to-Christ person you will ever meet." I later found out the gal beside me was his wife and "is also, the SWEETEST".

Immediately, I remembered when the Lord sent the prophet Samuel to Jesse's home to anoint the next king of Israel. Jesse had eight sons to choose from. Sure, with Samuel's eyes, it was plain to see that the obvious pick -- the tallest, most handsome, and best choice to be king would be Eliab. "But the LORD said to Samuel, “Do not look on his appearance or on the height of his stature, because I have rejected him. For the LORD sees not as man sees: man looks on the outward appearance, but the LORD looks on the heart.” 1 Samuel 16:7.

That sounds a lot like the sweetness of a watermelon, doesn’t it? Little, ruddy, shepherd-boy-David was overlooked. In fact, he wasn’t even invited to the “beauty pageant”, but when Samuel asked “Are these all of your sons?” and when Jesse replied, “I have one more son – young shepherd boy David”, Samuel asked for him to brought to him. We know the rest of that story. Young David was anointed king of Israel that day. His heart was a heart after God's own heart. (1 Samuel 13:14)

What God cares about the most is the sweetness of the fruit that is growing inside us. Our Master "Picker" sees that we are all very precious and valuable and He is always "checking out our flaws and imperfections", giving us "heavenly" thumping because He's very aware of the "maturing" that needs to go on inside.

Obviously, this post is pointed at you with one-finger. The other four are pointing back at me. I'm on a mission to have my Father's eyes. Eyes that find the good in things and people; eyes full of compassion and sensitivity -- NOT looking at the outward appearance. Sure we all have imperfections and flaws and that's a good thing because, like the watermelon -- the greater the flaws and imperfections.....the sweeter the fruit. I certainly want the Fruit of the Spirit to be a reflection of He who is the sweetest and most desirable in me. May we be imitators of our Creator and rather than the desire to BE beautiful....that we desire to create His beauty everywhere WE ARE and everywhere WE GO!

Monday, July 9, 2018

Predictable or Unpredictable

Ever since my grandson, Payton (now 18), was just a little guy he’s loved playing the piano. It started with my husband who could play anything but loved Christian music and jazz. "Little" Payton jumped on the piano bench to plunk out notes while Papa played. The first song Papa taught him was “Chopsticks”. He learned those one-finger-at-a-time-notes that were easy-peasy and Papa would play the full chords that were in-sync with Payton’s one-finger notes. "Chopsticks" was called “Chopsticks” for a reason. It was choppy and predictable.

I’ll admit it’s comfortable for life to be predictable. Every time Papa would sit down at the piano, it wasn’t long before Payton wanted to play more and learn more. It was such a beautiful tribute to my husband’s life as his mentor, teacher, and beloved “Papa” when Payton played “Fur Elise"at Papa’s funeral. All were in awe at that 10-year-old boy who was fearless and well-trained, to play for such a large crowd with absolute perfection.

Today, Payton not only loves to play the piano, he's a piano teacher. Yesterday I went to their home for lunch and as so often heard in their home, was music-to-my-ears as I walked to their front door. Payton was playing some jazz music – one of Papa’s favorites. I knew he was serenading me. Yesterday would have been our 52nd wedding anniversary. Jazz music is unlike the predictable notes of a memorized song like “Chopsticks” or "Fur Elise". Jazz music is unpredictable. A jazz pianist will just “flow”. Their emotions are translated into beautiful innovative riffs, cool tones, and complex rhythms.

Jazz is an effective way to describe discipleship. We like to know what's expected of us and we like to know the how-to's, the when-to's and where-to's -- like the notes and simplicity of a song like “Chopsticks”, but a jazz musician will just sit down at their instrument and play from their heart and soul. Life is so unpredictable and we want someone to teach us everything we need to know, but we simply can’t know everything. Our faith journey is about preparing for the unpredictable and then going with the flow of that beautiful music that is playing on the inside that comes from a heart full of faith and trust in God's flow.

I heard that listening to jazz music has benefits for our health. The rhythms can bring natural relief for mind and body. Studies show that just 45 minutes of soft, slow music like jazz before bedtime results in better and longer night-time sleep as well as less dysfunction during the day. It also reduces the intensity of migraine headaches and reduces chronic pain. No wonder that King Saul's tormented soul was soothed when David played his harp for him. "Whenever the spirit from God troubled Saul, David would play the harp. Then relief would come to Saul; he would feel better, and the evil spirit would leave him." 1 Samuel 16:23.

In the atrium of the Cancer Treatment Center in Tulsa was a beautiful grand piano. Even though in tremendous pain, before my sweetheart would go in for treatment, he would somehow muster up the strength, while sitting in his wheelchair, and draw a crowd as he played the piano which relaxed him for the treatment up ahead.

Honestly, this post is far more important than styles-of-music. Of course, we live our lives with necessary routines. But it is also about living our lives with an absolute abandonment of worry and stress and tension to free-flowing in God’s grace and mercy, knowing that whatever music we’re playing or life circumstances we’re living with, being completely aware that our great Teacher and Lord is sitting at the piano bench with us 24/7. Whatever song we’re playing, He’ll be in-sync with us – making our lives a symphony of harmony and beauty when we go with His flow!

Sunday, July 8, 2018

Till There Was You -- Happy Anniversary, My Love!

Bear with me again, please as I reflect on this day, July 8th. I will always post about this special, picture-perfect day when my sweet man and I became husband and wife. We held strong for this day -- for over five years -- and then, the wait was over. What took us so long? I needed to graduate high school before we got married. LOL! My Mom had to consent and sign for me as I was still a minor, at age 17. Some said, "It will never last!" I'm pleased to say we proved them wrong.

It was a wedding-on-a-budget. My precious mother somehow managed to have just enough for us to have everything we needed. My uncle walked me down the aisle (my dad was in heaven) and my brother sang our song, "Till There Was You". I wore my sister's wedding dress. My bridesmaids paid for their own dresses. The ceremony was officiated by my father-in-law in the church he pastored. The two items that cost the most for our wedding were the flowers and the cake. Our honeymoon wasn't at an exclusive 5-Star location -- it was Lake Texoma Lodge.

And, as I type this post, I assure didn't take big expense, extravagance, explosive fanfare, or perfection to create these precious memories that I still have today. I'm remembering what mattered most on this day. Two kids who knew, without a shadow of a doubt, that they were meant to be -- that they were tying a knot that would last through eternity -- that they were in true love that would stand the test of time.

What is it that causes "until death do us part" to be the deciding factor that creates an unquenchable, inseparable, unwavering and unrelenting love that knows no end? I'm not saying that there were never hiccups along the way or many times having reasons to walk away from the pressure and strain of "making it work". But our vows said, "For better or worse" (and, believe you me....we had some "worst of times") and "For richer or poorer" (Lord have mercy -- we had some mighty poor seasons) and "In sickness and health" (we both knew "sickness") and "Until death do us part". Those were our promises to each other and our vows before God.....and they stuck in the good times and the bad times. I am saying.....tough times don't last...but tough people who have God as NUMERO UNO in the mix of literally everything that concerns what sustains, equips, and remains forever true.

My Sweetheart isn't here with me today, but those "Till There Was You" song words hold true. The bells are still ringing, the birds are still winging, and the music is still singing in this heart of mine. What was it that mattered most then? What is it that matters most today? The ONE common denominator -- God, Who blessed us with 44 years together on earth, and these 52 years, is still the ONE who blesses me today. He is the ONE who continues to "ring my bells", causes me to see birds winging and each day causes my heart to sing". Spending FOREVER with Him AND my Sweetheart will be awesome.....and FOREVER is a long, long time.

Saturday, July 7, 2018

Time is Flying at Breakneck Speed

A full six months have raced by already this year -- only 5-1/2 months until Christmas. Whew! Just think about how slowly time went for us in our childhood when we said: "I can't wait until school is out for the summer". "How many more days until Christmas?" Or, when we were so in love and counted down the days until our wedding day and what about that nine long months for our baby to get here?

You know the saying, “Time flies when you’re having fun!” Well, I had a lot of fun as a kid and time sure didn’t fly for me. You remember the movie “Back to the Future” where a teenager (Michael J Fox) is accidentally sent 30 years into the past in a time machine invented by his friend? The reality is – we don’t get to hit a “reset button” or go back in a time machine, but here’s the really great thing…..we DO get to start each new day with the wisdom and knowledge we gained from the past.

Instead of watching fireworks on the 4th, we decided to stay in, have popcorn, chocolate shakes and enjoy a movie in my children's theater room. We selected the sci-fi movie, “Arrival” in which linguistics specialist Dr. Louise Banks is brought in to decipher and communicate with aliens that have landed on earth. The most impactful line in the film to me was in a closing scene when Dr. Banks utters “If you could see your whole life laid out in front of you, would you change things?”

That question made me think about how I might have done things differently if I had known how things would turn out in my life beforehand. I might have withheld things I just felt like I HAD to say or did. I might have been kinder, less judgmental, made different decisions or reacted entirely differently to such incidental and did-it-really-matter situations.

We can’t do anything about the past, but we can sure do things differently now and in the future. We can take life less seriously and enjoy the ride much more. We're the pilot on this flight and in many ways, IT IS like a RESET button. Each experience – good and bad, has equipped us to be better, do better and appreciate time more. It is the dawn of a new day, today. I know one thing for sure -- we can’t live in the past, and the future isn’t ours to predict. But, we can make moments, minutes, hours and days really count for what matters most.

I speak a lot about it, but I repeat: Treasure THIS day – make memories for yourself and someone else. Live as if there were no tomorrow. Spread sunshine. Give love and laughter and life to those who need an injection of fun, faith, and friendship.

The BAD news -- time flies, but the GOOD news, we're the pilot in the hands of the MASTER PILOT Who holds our future in the palm of His hands! And, I assure you, if indeed “time flies when you’re having fun”, then I must be having a blast!

Friday, July 6, 2018

F.E.A.R. – False Evidence Appearing Real

That was my husband’s definition of fear. And, he was right on. How many times do we have fears that are false fears based on false information? As much as I’d like you to believe that I’m this fearless dynamo, I still have those times when fear is an unwelcomed guest in my heart. I know better than to let Mr. Fear in because I know too many scriptures where God commands (not suggests) “Do not fear”. This one is my favorite: “So DO NOT FEAR, for I am with you; do not be dismayed, for I am your God. I will strengthen you and help you; I will uphold you with my righteous right hand.” {Isaiah 41:10}

During my childhood years, they called girls like me “Fraidy Cats”, and I was. I feared my home burning down because I smelled smoke coming from neighborhood chimneys. After seeing a film about “The Rapture”, I was so afraid that I would be one of those left behind, that if I called out for my mom and she didn’t answer, I panicked. F.E.A.R. False Evidence Appearing Real. It was a false fear, but fear was my constant companion.

But, then one day, all those Bible stories I heard and read about, and all those "Do not fear" scriptures I thought about, clicked in me. The more of God’s commands and promises I read about, the more fear left me. I started sensing His presence wrapping me up in a “security” blanket. Many years of living and soaking up His presence has transformed a “fraidy cat” into a fearless, relentless, equipped, and on-purpose woman.

For many, many years, now, I have known those "I am with you" words to be true. I really know and sense His presence with me daily. I soak up His presence. And when I don’t sense His presence – it’s not because He’s left “the building”. I’ve left Him. I may be thinking about something that is bothering me, or I may be involved in a disagreement with someone, or I may be watching something on TV or social media that doesn’t bring joy and light into my room (my heart) and then fear sneaks in.

When we seek Him with all of our heart, we find Him, and when He’s with us, Fear finds no place in us. I wish I could say that I don’t have moments of occasional fear. You know them, too.
Times when we may have lost our keys or cell phone (if you're like me, you're well acquainted with that knot in your stomach when you can't find them), or what about a huge repair bill that came in, and there just wasn't enough in the bank or credit card to cover it? Or, even worse, maybe a negative medical report came in, that left you feeling hopeless. The easiest thing to do at any of those times is to retreat and to run away from it all to escape. I want you to know....I've been there. I've experienced those circumstances, and I know how easy it is to fall prey to FEAR! But I also know that when we move forward with undaunted faith and determination, and we face that giant of fear head-on and we aim our fear-less stone at his ugly head and declare: "I am more than a conqueror" he will FALL.

Fear must flee in God’s holy presence. And, in His holy presence is where I endeavor to stay. God doesn’t promise to make our lives easy and carefree, but He does promise to be with us every single step of the way. He is with us, dear friends. We can count on it. He will never leave us and never forsake us. He will love us through whatever circumstance or fear we face.

Thursday, July 5, 2018

Trusting God When It Just Doesn't Make Sense

I sincerely ask God to give me the words I should provide in my daily posts, and today, I was compelled to share these words. Maybe your heart is breaking because of a recent tragedy and you don’t know if you’ll survive the pain and heartbreak. I know some of you who are there right now. You are on my mind.

I heard a speaker share about when his dad was so ill, and in so much pain, that he really thought his dad would take his own life. He called his friend, a Christian psychologist, for advice. His friend said, "We pray that he won’t, but you may be right. He just might. And, it would be heart wrenching and painful for you. But, you will be okay, because you will still trust in God's sovereignty. You will bounce back because you will hold to your faith in God and you will live on with hope and determination. I know you. I know the storms you’ve come through. You will survive.”

That is so true for those of us who have met with a personal crisis, have experienced the loss of a loved one, who knows the tragedy of financial loss, who knows the pain caused from a divorce or broken relationship.....and we carried on. We made it through those times or, we are making it through those times right now. The speaker went on to say that his dad lived beyond that time and, in fact, his last days were filled with sweet times with his family and friends and trusting in God.

Yesterday, after our faith community had prayed months together for a dear 26-year old man who was battling cancer, I received the request for prayer for his beautiful wife (just married in June) and his parents, as his battle with cancer was over. As heart-breaking as that story is, without a doubt, I know there will be loved ones and friends who are already stepping up to give them support and comfort in these very tough times. There will be a healing process and they’ll be desperately looking for answers. But, with God’s abiding faith and love, they will make it. I know it because I know so many tragic events and I know those families survived and are thriving today.

When tragedy comes, we have an Anchor, and if we hold onto that Anchor, we will not go under. Yes, it hurts. But we will be okay because we still trust in our loving Father’s plans and purposes for our lives. We will bounce back because we will hold on to our faith in God and live on with hope and determination. Yes, we will carry on -- that is, those of us who know that this life is just a breath, compared to eternity. We will live another day and rejoice in our ability to stand strong in the face of overwhelming circumstances -- not in our own strength, but in His strength. "But He said to me, 'My grace is sufficient for you, for My power is made perfect in weakness." Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ's power may rest on me." (2 Corinthians 12:9)

Jesus said, “Never will I leave you or forsake you.” (Hebrews 13:5) One of the most beautiful promises in the Bible is that God “causes all things to work together for the good of those who love Him…” (Romans 8:28). On this side of eternity, we don’t always see how He takes the broken pieces and creates something beautiful with them, but we can have peace in knowing that He will redeem the tragedy somehow in His perfect timing. Perhaps some of the good He will bring is to use the pain to bring us closer to Him or bring us into a relationship with Him for the very first time. And at the end of each day, we will still proclaim: "God is good. All the time. And, all the time, God is good!"