04/12: Wednesday Afternoons
Just before retirement, they built their dream home for two. Tucked at the end of the lane and next to a small lake, this became a peaceful refuge.
She'll be the first to tell you that age 62 was the launching pad for twenty of the most wonderful years of her life. They traveled to places most only wish to see, Hong Kong, Australia, Hawaii, Switzerland, Germany and Alaska to name a few. And oh, the trinkets and treasures they'd find along the way!
Four years ago the magic abruptly ended. He got sick and within 3 weeks departed for heaven. She didn't expect it. It was too sudden. For 63 years they shared everything! She had always assumed she would go first because after all, she was the one with the ailments. He was the rock.
She vacillated between grasping love-laced thoughts of the past to clutching her heart with sadness and let's be honest, irritation that he could drop from her life. What was he thinking? Leaving her here alone! That wasn't the plan!
Two years ago in her living room, I sipped on tea from a delicate cup she picked up in England. She told me of their travels. Her eyes lit up when she mentioned how he would randomly bring her fresh flowers from the yard. He was her prince charming.
And her closet was evidence that she was his princess. Ruffled gowns, intricate lace, decorative boots with hats to match were gifts he brought to adorn his bride. They were partners, and not just as husband and wife but on the dance floor too. In their matching outfits they would glide from country to country.
But now it was time to get real about her circumstances. Her crippled body couldn't negotiate the stairs, or the lawn, or the maintenance. Yet the thought of moving from their cottage was unbearable. Every ledge held a token, every corner a trinket. How could she part with anything? No one understood how they hand-picked each treasure!
With no children and no close family, she asked for my help.
For many, many months each Wednesday afternoon we had our routine. I picked her up at the assisted living home and escorted her to her cottage. The trek into the house and up the stairs was intense. We began in their bedroom. I helped her get comfortable in a chair then I started on the left and each week moving slowing around the room.
One by one, I picked up every item in her home and held it in my hands and asked, "Tell me the story about this one." Her face generally lit up remembering the exact moment this treasure became part of their home. After the story I asked, "Do you want this to come to your new place, or go to a new home?"
At first she wanted it all. How could I ask such a question?! But being able to share the stories associated with each item somehow made it more tolerable to let it go. It was as if she was honoring it one more time.
Most Wednesdays we spent several hours getting through 3 or 4 feet. It was an emotional workout yet a cleansing one.
After making our way through each room, the only one that remained was the storage room. Carefully labeled produce boxes neatly stacked on shelves held pictures, candles and tax records. Then I pulled one from the very top shelf and put it on her lap. It didn't have a label. She pulled the lid back and in disbelief, sunk into her chair. A tear streamed down her cheek, then more followed. She lifted a blue ceramic bootie planter from the box, along with other baby items. Her wet eyes met mine as she whispered, "Dale." He was their only child who died at 5 months.
That afternoon I simply held her. On our way home we made a familiar stop at Sonic for an old-fashioned root beer float.
The lessons learned from these priceless Wednesday afternoons are too numerous to count, but here are 3 I hope I never forget:
To embrace each moment with those I love.
To accumulate treasures in my heart, not in my home.
To share my journey and my trinkets with others.
May God pour through you today.
12/19: When Life Doesn't Make Sense
“If you had been here, my brother would not have died." Jesus answered, "I am the resurrection and the life. He who believes in me will live, even though he dies; and whoever lives and believes in me will never die. Do you believe this?”
John 11:25-26 (NIV)
He was shot right through the heart! The madman lying on the emergency room bed aimed at the nurse but the doctor stepped into it's path. Who would shoot the very man who was trying to save you? Are you kidding me? Really? Why God?
It's so hard to grasp the bigger picture when life slams into reality. The reality was his heart pumped blood onto the ER floor. He died. What purpose could there be in that? What good could possibly come from this devastation? These were all thoughts his wife, kids and our church screamed when we heard the news. Our dearly loved doctor was in the ER, and this time as the emergency.
God promises He has a plan, and it's perfect. He says that our ways are not His ways. But come on God, what is perfect about loss? Sometimes God, I think you must have been busy helping someone else and just missed this opportunity to rescue.
Am I the only one who has ever thought that? There are moments when we just don't get it. We struggle. We think, "That's NOT the way I would have handled it."
My friend is an artist and honestly when she begins to swipe paint across the canvas it looks unrecognizable. There's sweeping lines of various colors but nothing really is in focus. But as she continues it begins to take shape. The waving lines get a splash of white and become waves on the beach. Calm falls onto the scene when everything finally appears as the artist intended.
Let's zero in on the last sentence in the key verse, "Do you believe this?" Jesus, I believe, looked into Martha's eyes and these words shot right to her soul. His words hit the target. Martha had a pride issue. She wanted things done her way. This time was no different. God had a bigger picture than what she could possibly understand.
That night in the ER a specialist just happened to be available to handle our friend. He was resuscitated and brought back to life. It was discovered that if he had not been shot, they would never have found a malfunction in his heart that would have killed him unexpectedly.
He is painting a perfect picture in your life and mine. It may look like a mess. The lines may be blurred and the colors don't make sense. The Master designer has a completed portrait He intends to show you. Lean in. He's looking into your eyes. He wants you to hear this, "He is the Rock, His works are perfect, and all His ways are just. A faithful God who does no wrong, upright and just is He."
He has not made a mistake. Self makes a lot of noise. It drowns out, covers up and pushes aside the bigger picture. Life doesn't make common sense, yet we serve an uncommon God. The one who formed you. The one who has a plan. Jesus is asking, "Do you believe this?"
Dear Lord, help us with our disbelief. We know you have a perfect plan. Hold us through the hurt until our eyes can see Your picture. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.
To anyone with kids of any age, here's some advice. Bill Gates recently gave a speech at a High School about 11 things they did not and will not learn in school. He talks about how feel-good, politically correct teachings created a generation of kids with no concept of reality and how this concept set them up for failure in the real world.
Rule 1: Life is not fair -- get used to it!
Rule 2: The world won't care about your self-esteem. The world will expect you to accomplish something BEFORE you feel good about yourself.
Rule 3: You will NOT make $60,000 a year right out of high school. You won't be a vice-president with a car phone until you earn both.
Rule 4: If you think your teacher is tough, wait till you get a boss.
Rule 5: Flipping burgers is not beneath your dignity. Your Grandparents had a different word for burger flipping -- they called it opportunity.
Rule ! 6: If you mess up, it's not your parents' fault, so don't whine about your mistakes, learn from them.
Rule 7: Before you were born, your parents weren't as boring as they are now. They got that way from paying your bills, cleaning your clothes and listening to you complain about taking the garbage out. So before you save the rain forest from the parasites of your parent's generation, try cleaning up your own room.
Rule 8: Your school may have done away with the terms 'winners' and 'losers' but life has NOT. In some schools they have abolished failing grades and they'll give you as MANY TIMES as you want to get the right answer. This doesn't bear the slightest resemblance to ANYTHING in real life.
Rule 9: Life is not divided into semesters. You don't get summers off and very few employers are interested in helping you FIND YOURSELF. Do that on your own time.
Rule 10: Television is NOT real life. In real life people actually have to leave the coffee shop and go to jobs.
Rule 11: Be nice to nerds. Chances are you'll end up working for one.
11/19: Thanksgiving Fun
May He be magnified in your efforts to bring others closer to Him.
Please share your prayer room stories with us on Encouragement Cafe's facebook page!
09/12: Hawaii - Stunning yet Sad
More than unplugged, we were transported to a different reality.
Honolulu and Waikiki beach felt like NY city in paradise. The pace slow, the views phenomenal.
Walking through a rain forest, smelling the flowers, feeling the splash of a waterfall and soaking in the Hawaiian sunsets burned permanent tattoos in my brain. It can't adequately be described.
Pearl Harbor tugged at every emotion. Reliving the day that changed everything for America left us speechless.
A surprise encounter happened on the beach. Most nights we watched the sunset from a bench a block from our room.
In front of the bench was a beach mat, an umbrella, a suitcase and a towel.
The first time we saw it we wondered who would be brave enough to leave their belongings unattended? At the end of the week we met their owner.
Every Friday night an area hotel unleashed a 10 minute display of fireworks. We perched on our favorite bench to enjoy the show.
A 57 year old Hawaiian gentleman strolled over and tucked something inside his suitcase. He looked tired and much older than his age. With a tilt of his head he caught my husband's eye and stated, "Fireworks tonight."
"Yes," my husband answered, "we thought we might catch them here." He asked where we were from and when he heard, NC, he said, "Tarheels." My husband lit up. He and Keith carried on about sports and players and coaches like they had been buddies for a lifetime. Keith was a graduate of Oregon State.
He apologized for his trembling right hand, "Parkinson's Disease," he explained. "Four minutes to fireworks, but that building will block your view from here. You'll see them better over there."
We shook his hand, thanked him and hurried off to watch the sky light up.
Neither one of us could forget about Keith. We wondered, how did he end up staying on the beach? What happened in his life to bring him to this point? He was obviously very intelligent, there just seemed to be a distance in his gaze.
As we packed the next morning to leave, I discovered a copy of "What on Earth Am I Here For?" by Rick Warren. It's a condensed version of The Purpose Driven Life in a little booklet form.
I typically keep several in my glove compartment and give them away as God leads. Today, one was hiding in my suitcase.
I held it up and my husband smiled. We headed to the beach hoping to find our friend, but all we saw was his pile of treasures. All week the pile had been just that, a disheveled heap, but today it was neat and tidy. We tucked the book into the suitcase.
There were many Keith-like people wedged into the corners of this paradise. One woman stood on the corner with flowers she had picked and at night we watched from our balcony as she snuggled in between a nearby building and a dense shrub.
In the midst of God's beautiful landscape, broken lives stood on the shore. Keith and the woman on the corner were obvious, but many others were disguised.
Lord, sometimes the darkness in this world seems overwhelming, yet Your Light shatters all darkness. Will You open Keith's eyes to Your purpose and plan? May he in turn point others to Your Light. In Jesus' name, amen.
How do you prepare for the unexpected encounters in your life?
08/24: Happy Birthday Mom
Thank you for baking homemade bread when we were young. The aroma still conjures up sweet memories of walking in the door and knowing "I'm home."
Thank you for showing me in second grade what a fun mom looked like:
Playing tag with me and my girlfriends in the yard
Going for really long walks into town
Helping me climb trees
Picking strawberries in the neighbors garden
Dressing me up to be a flower girl
Giving me a Mickey Mouse coin purse for Christmas
Gently caring for my frostbitten toes.
Thank you for taking us to church and giving us a foundation.
Thank you for teaching us how to survive in the midst of struggles.
Thank you for laughter at the kitchen table.
Thank you for making Christmas at Thanksgiving so special.
Thank you for never minding having family and friends packed in for a weekend on couches and floors and in every bed.
Thank you for teaching us how to cook and do laundry and repair things.
Mostly mom, thank you for your amazing hugs that taught me how to express love to others. No matter what ever happened in my life, I knew there was a hug waiting at home.
I miss you.
Alzheimers slipped in and you slipped away.
Wishing you could share a walk down memory lane today.
Yet I'm so grateful you passed on rich memories for us to treasure.
Happy birthday mom, I love you.
08/21: Still Driving
Then I talked about Mr. Safety driving in the passing lane.
Today my mind is camped out on the Yield sign.
"Now then," said Joshua, "throw away the foreign gods that are among you and yield your hearts to the Lord, the God of Israel."
So I pause today to think about the little gods I've established in my life. What takes precedence over my time with Jesus?
I spoke with a gentleman last week who said, "When I retire THEN I'll use my talents for Christ."
Life is busy. It always has been, it always will be. It's just deciding what we choose to be busy doing that defines our worship.
I've been busy downsizing lately. It's amazing what we end up giving away, throwing away or selling that at one point owned real estate in our life.
YIELD - means give way to arguments, demands or pressure; relinquish possession.
Lord, I give way and relinquish possession of my heart today. Simplify my life and focus my attention on worshiping You. I pray in Jesus' name, amen.
08/17: And Work
The Hebrew word here for 'work' is Asah - meaning to do, make, work, create accomplish, prepare, obey, offer, sacrifice.
Asah seems to emphasize the fashioning of created objects.
Maybe it's just me. Sometimes I lack motivation. This usually happens when I feel pulled in so many directions that I get stagnate.
This verse today rejuvenated me. It made me remember that I am not in this alone EVER!
God is calling me....and you to get going! Go do what He has created us to do!
Create something that only you can create. Accomplish something that only you can accomplish. Offer something that only you can offer.
I just got the Mp3 of the opening talk I gave at She Speaks this year,
Staying Encouraged in the Midst of Discouragement.
Maybe it will encourage you today to get up, get going....and work.
08/16: Small Voice
I think that's the best description I've heard because when I try to explain it to someone they look at me as if I had two heads.
Even yesterday in my post I described the still small voice as a 'pushing in on my heart' and that just tells the physical part of how listening to God affects me.
The reality of His small voice in my life comes much like Os explains it, as a 'sense of restraint'.
As I pondered that this morning it was clear that before I accepted Jesus as my Lord and Savior, any restraint I felt about doing the wrong thing came from a list of dos and don'ts I had learned.
After I gave my heart to Him, His counseling, convicting, changing voice pressed in as a 'sense of restraint' in areas I hadn't noticed in the past.
Like yesterday with Mr. Safety, for example. Before Jesus, Mr. Safety (see yesterday's post) would have irritated me, then I would have felt guilty for being irritated because of a 'don't' I'd learned about losing my cool with other drivers. I'm sure I've seen a commercial about the dangers of Road Rage.
But instead of guilt, that 'still small voice' pressed in and made me see myself in Mr. Safety's seat and it had NOTHING to do with him. It was a life lesson God was whispering to me, "You stay over there in the past lane too long too. Sometimes you want to live there so you don't have to face today. Come with Me. I've got a road before you that you haven't even traveled yet ;o)"
(Yes, I felt the gentle smiley face at the end of that 'sense of restraint'.)
I felt compelled to share that today because before the Holy Spirit took up residency inside my life, I didn't get it. And now I'm often asked, 'How do you KNOW when God is speaking or guiding you?"
Os describes it well. It's with His 'sense of restraint' that causes me to stop focusing on the problem, the circumstance or the injustice and zero in on the lesson. His Voice creates a hesitation from reacting in old familiar ways and provides a split second opportunity to approach this moment from a new perspective.
God, thank you for the gift of Your Holy Spirit! I remember what life was like before it and I am forever grateful for your grace that saved me from that path. Tune us into Your Voice today. Give us listening ears and a tender heart to receive every 'sense of restraint' with obedience. In every small detail, have Your way in us today, we pray in Jesus' name, amen