Tuesday, September 22, 2020

Manna in the Morning

I slowly roused myself from my warm, quilt-covered, king-size bed, fed and "pottied" my sweep pups, then brewed myself a steaming, hot cup of Yorkshire Gold tea..  

My morning was off to a great start! 

Ah, but then I was faced with my first choice of the day.  

 I knew my Lord Jesus was waiting to meet with me, but, first, I needed to check my email, glance at the local news headlines, take a shower, get dressed, do my hair, etc.  You know, I needed to get ready for the day. I figured I would just do those things first, then meet with the Lord.

Alas, you know how it goes . . . one email became several, and many of those were blog updates and weekly newsletters, which took time to read.  The local news  involved clicking to other articles. Then---since I was already online---I visited a couple other news sites and then Amazon to check the status of an order. Oh, and since my Amazon homepage recommended a couple of books, I read the synopsis of each of them, then clicked over to Goodreads to add one of them to my "to-read" list.  Of course, that quick visit to Goodreads was anything but quick, for on the right side of my home page were descriptions of new releases and other books I might enjoy.  I just had to check those out too!  Before I knew it, I had been on the computer for over an hour, and it was time to hit the shower and get dressed.

By the time I was done with my hair and makeup and was "ready," the morning was half over.   It was time to get started on the day's duties.  There was certainly no time for Jesus right then.

That's okay, though.  I'll just meet with Him in the afternoon.

But after several hours of errands, chores, coffee dates, phone calls, dinner prep, and who knows what else, the day was gone, and that "later" time for meeting with Jesus has slipped by.  

Oh, well, that's okay.  I'll meet with him before bed.

But then, after an evening walk with my husband and our nightly TV viewing, I was too tired to do anything except fall asleep.  No Jesus this day.

I wish I could say this scenario didn't happen often for me.  I wish I could say it was more the exception than the rule.  But that would be a lie.  The truth is, much too often, that is how my day goes.

I've been lamenting about it to the Lord a lot lately.  And then I read these words in Exodus, and clear as day, I knew the answer to my dilemma.

Exodus 16:21  The people gathered the food morning by morning, each family according to its need.  And as the sun became hot, the food they had not picked up melted and disappeared.

As the sun became hot---meaning that, as the day went on---the manna disappeared.  If God's people didn't get their sustenance first thing in the morning, they didn't get it that day.  
The same is true for me.  If I fail to gather my daily bread in the morning (thinking I will get it later in the day), I end up not getting any that day.  Just as the sun melted the manna, the busyness of my day melts away my provision for the day. 

So, here's what I am vowing to do:  before checking my email or the news, before even taking a shower, I am going to meet with my Lord.  I will still feed and potty my sweet pups, and I'll still brew that hot cuppa.  But then it's manna time.  Nothing else is more important than time with Jesus---not a shower, not my email, and certainly not the news.  Only after I have spent time in God's Word and in prayer can I face the challenges of my day.

Those wise and beautiful words in Exodus remind me that God wants to sustain me every single day.  I absolutely cannot get by on yesterday's provision.  I need my manna each day.

Thursday, September 17, 2020

Reeling from Shocking News

This past weekend, my husband and I were blindsided by the news that previously-very-close friends had divorced this month, after nearly 34 years of marriage.  While our friendship with this couple had changed in the last decade, there was a period of time when we were extremely close.  We spent Sunday afternoons and holidays together, evenings during the week; we even lived with them for a time when we were between houses.  Due to my Enneagram 9 inability to tolerate conflict, though, I backed away from the friendship for awhile, but in God's time, we were reconciled, and while not as close as we had been, a solid friendship has remained between us.  

Thus, when we learned that they had divorced, we were shocked beyond belief---I mean, this was a couple we thought had a strong marriage.  We were also grieved to our cores---not only because of the heartbreak to the party who was "left" and for the inevitable "splitting time" difficulties now looking at their adult children and young grandchildren, but even more, because they are Christians.  The leaving party professes the name of Christ and in the past had expressed sorrow at the rate of divorce within the church.  

I recognize that I don't know the full story, but from what I am able to tell, I'm pretty sure, the divorce did not come about because of adultery.  It seems like there had been "problems" and a "growing apart" for years and the one party just couldn't take it anymore, so they sought a divorce.

It is not my place to judge---only God knows the true circumstances behind their divorce. So judgment isn't the reason for this article.  Rather, I am so floored by this situation that it has served as a wake-up call for me in my own marriage.  Here are a few things I am pondering right now:

1.  There but for the grace of God, go I---Gary and I have weathered storms in our own 34-year marriage, and I think we are strong right now, but I don't want to ever think we are incapable of being destroyed like this.  The enemy of our souls prowls around like a hungry lion, seeking to devour Christian marriages.  If this devout couple can fall prey to his schemes, so, then, can Gary and I.

2.  I must guard my marriage and pray for it daily---If I'm not praying for my marriage, I am leaving it unprotected and ripe for the enemy of my soul to move in for the kill.

3.  I must make sure communication stays strong in my marriage---This is a hard one, as my husband isn't a huge talker anyhow, and by the end of his work day, he is often talked out and ready to just sit quietly in front of the TV for awhile.  But we will need to make the effort to share our hearts daily.

4.  I must show love to my husband in tangible ways---I say "I love you" several times a day, but words alone aren't enough.  I need to do better about speaking his love language (acts of service) and showing love in the way he best receives it.  I must also regularly let him know how thankful I am for him.

5.  I need to refrain from nagging---Thankfully, my nagging is pretty much a thing of the past.  Ever since I became content where I live, I haven't been badgering him every single day to move us someplace else.  I'm not the angry, bitter person I used to be.  Still, the more I look for the good in him and focus on that---even praising it---instead of pointing out only negative things, the more harmony there will be in our marriage.

I'm sure there are plenty of other ways to safeguard my marriage and build it up, but these are the things uppermost in my mind right now.

Linking up with:

  Faith on FireGrace & TruthHeart Encouragement, I Heart Verse,  InstaEncouragements Legacy Link-upLet's Have CoffeePurposeful FaithRecharge Wednesday,  Remember Me MondayTell His Story

Monday, September 14, 2020

Not Always Blood

A few years ago, a gal from our church was put on bed rest with a difficult pregnancy.  With three children ranging from 3 to 11, being down for several months definitely made for some challenges for this sweet lady and her family.   Without question, they were in need of some tangible help.  It wouldn't have been enough to say "I'll be praying that everything works out" and then not do anything practical to help her. (James 2:15, 16 )  Yes, this family needed prayer, but they also needed some daily assistance.

Though the family went to our church, I barely knew them.  Sure, I knew who they were, but with the mom being 20 years younger than I and the two of us being in different seasons of life, our paths rarely crossed.  However, they lived close to us, and it was in my power to help.  God put upon my heart to take a meal to their family on a regular basis throughout the remainder of her pregnancy.

Now, I could have said, "Really, God?  Surely you don't want me to do that.  I mean, I don't really know her."  But knowing that I would have no peace if I sought to run from what God had put upon my heart, I stepped out in obedience.  I took their family a meal pretty much once a week for about three months.  As I popped by each week, I got to know the kids . . . and I got to know the mom.  I prayed with her and for her, and I encouraged her with cards.  A friendship sprang up between us, and with each visit, it blossomed and grew.  And not just between her and me, but between every member of both our families.  Their family has become very dear to us, and we get together with them often. We love them deeply, and they love us.  In fact, not long ago, Natalie said to me, "You know, family's not always blood.  Your family is like family to us."

Wow, what a gift!  For the price of a few meals, I received a family!  Talk about receiving far more than I gave!

Beautiful things can happen when you reach out to others!

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Thursday, September 10, 2020

My Only Option Is to Trust

One of the devotionals I use is Paul David Tripp's New Morning Mercies.  It's a book that never ceases to meet me where I'm at, and the January 14th message is one which I turn to regularly.  I must remind myself of this particular truth over and over and over yet again.

Mr. Tripp writes, "...you will face moments when what the God who has declared himself to be good brings into your life won't seem good.  It may even seem bad, very bad......

if your faith is based on your ability to fully understand your past, present, and future, then your moments of confusion will become moments of weakening faith...

You will never understand it all because God, for your good and his glory, keeps some of it shrouded in mystery...

You need to remind yourself again and again of his wise and loving control, not because that will immediately make your life make sense, but because it will give you rest and peace in those moments that all of us face at one time or another---when life doesn't seem to make any sense."

Yes, it all comes down to trusting God.  Even when I don't understand his "why," I must trust his heart---that it is good and is filled with love for me.

Why have I sought out those words this week?

Because I find myself in the same place I have often found myself in the past.  That place of wondering "why?"

For whatever reason, God chose to close my womb after the birth of my second child.  Though I cried, pleaded, and begged for seventeen long years, God did not see fit to remove the mysterious fertility issues that had come upon me.  No matter how many tears I shed, the answer remained the same---"no more pregnancies."

It took me nearly two decades to come to terms with that, and now, here I am, past my childbearing years, and at peace with God's answer.

And yet...

Every time I hear of a woman who is pregnant with baby #3 (or 4), I find the old questions surfacing once again.  "Why couldn't I have a third baby?"  "What was so wrong with me that God said "no" to that request?"    No, I don't want another pregnancy now at age 59, but, still, when I was the age those gals are now (30's and 40's), I did. 

So I wonder, "Why did God say "no" to my request for more children, yet say "yes" to her?"  "Why was I denied the blessing of 3 or 4 children, yet she wasn't?"  "Why, why, why?"

Every time I read the book of First Samuel (which I am doing right now) and see how God responded to Hannah's brokenhearted cries for a child, I wonder why my sobs didn't bring about a reopening of the womb.  "Why, God, did you give Hannah the longing she cried out for, yet you said "no" to that same request from me?"

Again, why, why, why?

There I am going around the same old mountain again, wondering why God allowed the ugliness of infertility in my life, wondering if he really IS good, if he really does love me?

And then comes Mr. Tripp's devotional thought, and I am reminded---once more---that "peace is found only in trust, trust of the One who is in careful control of all the things that tend to rob (me) of (my) peace."  That's what the Christian life comes down to---trusting God.  Trusting him always, but especially when I don't understand, or when his answer is not the answer I want.

Monday, September 7, 2020

You Take Yourself with You

"The time to be happy is now.  The place to be happy is here." 
(Robert Ingersoll)

To be honest, I used to look at those words on my flip calendar and be angry.  I knew it was true, but I just didn't want to do it.  I didn't want to be happy now . . . not in this house . . . not in this city . . . not in this state.  I would be happy later . . . when I lived somewhere else . . . when I had everything I wanted . . . but not now . . . and certainly not here.

Eventually, I learned that if we are not content with where we are, we will not be content elsewhere either.  I learned this truth in a painful and expensive way.

Contentment about where I live is not something that has come easily to me in the last twenty-two years of my life.  In fact, since June, 1998, I have been content where I am living for only about ten years.  That means, twelve of the last twenty-two years have found me discontent, unhappy, and wanting to move.

After making the cross-country move from Florida to Idaho in May, 2000, I found myself content and excited about where I was living; however, those feelings lasted less than three months, because by August, the longing to leave the rental and move to a house of our own had kicked in. In September of that year, we bought a house, but within four months, I was, once again, unhappy and yearning to move.  And move again we did---within six months of buying one house, we sold it (for a loss), and we moved once more, this time to a completely different section of town.  In less than a year, though, I wanted to move back to the other section of town, so we put our house on the market. When it didn't sell, I chose to be content for a time, but after about a year, the "itch" to move hit again, and the house went back on the market. Two years after moving into that house, we were able to sell it and we made another cross-country move.

Despite the fact that I was sure I would be happy in our new location (Georgia), I wasn't.  In fact, I was miserable,   Add to that, my husband couldn't find a job.  It was a very bleak time for us, and we ultimately realized that leaving Idaho had not been a good thing for us to do---so, three months after leaving Idaho, we returned and moved into a rental house.  Do you know how expensive it is to move a house full of stuff 2,000 miles?  Twice?  Obviously, such foolhardy actions destroyed our finances, and we continue to reap the financial repercussions of those actions even now, seventeen years later.

For about a year, I was content, but all too soon, I was pushing to move once more, this time to a house of our own, which happened in October, 2005.  (That makes 6 moves in a 5-year period.) By early 2007, I was anxious to move again---this time out of state once more.  Things didn't work out, as employment doors remained closed, keeping us stuck where we were---but just because we were unable to move, it didn't mean I was content or not trying to make things happen.  In fact, I said nearly every single day that I hated it here, that I couldn't wait to leave here, that this place would never be my home.  I even made my family promise that if I died here, they wouldn't bury me here.  I was all about getting out of Boise for the next six years.

But a couple strange things began happening in 2013.  First, I began to realize that I had spent well over a decade of my life being unhappy and discontent.  Sure, I had had plenty of good times and could have fun, but deep in my heart, there was the constant desire to be somewhere else.  I began to recognize that this was sin.  Also, I recognized that no matter where I went, I would be taking my discontent, unhappy self with me.  I realized that if I didn't want to waste another ten years of my life, I had better get my act together and embrace where I was.

As I made the decision to be content and to bloom where I was planted, something surprising happened---I actually became content.  I came to the realization that there are worse places to live than Boise, Idaho.  In fact, when you get right down to it, Boise is actually a fantastic place to live.  (Which is why it is one of the most moved-to cities in the country these days.)

Slowly---without my even being aware of when or how it happened---I became content where I live, something which has brought peace and joy to my heart.  It was an expensive lesson to learn, but I am finally no longer pushing to move somewhere else.  I no longer have moving on my agenda.  To echo the Apostle Paul's words, "I have learned to be content..." 

 In other words, what I'm saying is, "Boise is my home.  It is where God has me at this time in my life, and I am totally happy living here."  For this "gotta go someplace else" gal, those are some mighty surprising words.  How I thank God for working in my heart and bringing me to this place of contentment.

Yes, Mr. Ingersoll is right, "The time to be happy is now, and the place to be happy is here."

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