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Lesson 2 AKA Easy Come, but Time to Go!


Time for another lesson. Sorry I missed yesterday. Should have said in the first day that I would be posting periodically throughout the week, or maybe even sporadically, since I am not known for my routine schedule. In fact, routines scare me. I run from them like the plague. However, when I settle in them, I really learn to like them. But the commitment of a routine frightens me. I mean, what if I want to do something different instead? Anyway, I will post these semi-regularly. Which means, when I get around to it. 
Lesson 2
Easy Come, but Time to Go!
Interesting that I am talking about doing something regularly. But that is just how God is. This is something that has taken me years to learn. And I have not arrived, but I do have a measure of success in this area, after being force into it by our Heavenly Father. Mind you, I went there kicking and screaming, but now I have settled into a (gasp) routine and I can't go back. Not weeding the garden, mind you, but in my heart and mind spending regular time with Him. I need Him just to breathe right now. I am desperate.
In my garden, the weeds took root. In some ways, they were very easy to pull up because they were so big. But in other ways, it was so much more difficult. Let me explain.
When a weed is small, it lays just under the edge of the soil, right near the surface so it can absorb water and other nutrients that fall off other plants when it rains. But as it grows bigger, the surface nutrients are no longer sufficient for the needs of the plant. So it takes root, and it grabs into the soil to pull from the earth what in needs to mature and produce seed. The deeper it roots, the harder it is to remove the entirety of the plant. And the more it rips up the soil in the process. It also, if it has gone to seed, scatters its offspring into the newly churned soil, which allows for deeper roots and quicker reproduction. Which equals ugly, at an alarming rate! 
In my heart, if I take the thought captive before it takes root, then I am rid of it before it has a chance to sprout and do its damage. But if I take that little seed, and coddle it by thinking on it, mulling it over and holding it in my hot little hands and heart, I am tilling the soil to give it room to root itself fully. I am ever so guilty of this. I have been hurt by some stinging words recently, and my mind is constantly drawn back to the words. Actually it is not so much the words that hurt, but the heart with which they were spoken. Well, the words hurt too, especially since they were not true.
Now, it is perfectly ok, as we said yesterday, to be hurt by another person's words. But to grow them in our minds is not. But what if I do? What if I give life to those awful thoughts and let them consume me? How do I get my wonderful garden back? 
Get out the round-up. 
When you have to pull up those big suckers, you find other smaller weeds that were obscured by the big ones. They aren't really the main problem, but they will be if allowed to stay around. And since the big ones leave the soil tilled up, these little ones and all the other seed that fell when you pulled up the biggies are now getting great nutrition in that fresh soil, they grow really, really fast. And then they are deeper and harder to get rid of. So after getting rid of the big guys, you need to spray the entire area with weed killer. Then you spread fresh mulch around to protect that clean soil and keep the weeds from taking root again. 
The things that have transpired in my family recently have made a very fertile place for hurt to grow. And if I am not careful, I will find myself consumed by it, overcome by the despair of the situation, and thinking horrible thoughts about the persons involved. Then I will give life to those thoughts by retaliating or hardening my heart to the ones who did the hurting. And who does that really hurt? ME. Suffice it to say that when I said to take every thought captive yesterday, that is what I meant. And then I have to change my focus. But that is another post for another day. Back to pulling weeds.
When you are angry or hurt and you act on it, or you have some other habit that you just hang on to, or unforgiveness reigns in your heart, or any number of other sins have found root in you, as the Holy Spirit allows them to surface, it is time to take action. You must obey His voice immediately, pull up those weeds and cast them out by confessing and asking forgiveness. 
You are doing this for 2 reasons: 1. to agree with God about your condition, and 2. to humble yourself and place yourself under His control. 
Then, you need to ask God how you got here and where to go from here. You might need to go to the person you wronged and ask forgiveness. You may need to make restitution. And chances are, God will reveal more sins for you to acknowledge and confess. Because usually by the time we get around to seeing our sin, it is pretty grown up and we have a mess of things lurking in the undergrowth. Once you make the deliberate choice to grow this weed, and make no mistake, we have a choice, it is easier to let something else in, and then a little more, and a little more, until we are left wondering how in the heck we got here. I have personally experienced this many more times than I would like to admit! 
After the major weeds are pulled up, it is time to spray the weed killer. I really like a product called Weed and Feed. It is a great little product because it does two things: Kills the weeds (duh) and fertilizes the soil. In the heart-garden, the Holy Spirit helps us weed out the sin in our lives, and then the He teaches us to apply the Word of God as our fertilizer. He uses it to grow us through the pain to make us more like Christ. And the more we read, study and apply His Word the harder it is for those weeds to take root in our hearts. 
The final blow is the power of prayer. As we nurture our lives by spending time with Him, sin has a difficult time hanging around. We fall so in love with Him and realize our desperate state, that He somehow protects us. That doesn't mean we wont face pain and hardships. But we begin to see the difficult from his perspective and realize that "what others meant for evil, God has meant for good." When the temptation comes to feel sorry for ourselves, or any number of other temptations come, we are more able to recognize them because we are connected to the Vine and are under the control of the Master Gardener.  
So what is He doing? And why is it so difficult? And now that the weeds are all gone, what do I do? Thats for the next few installments. For now, rest. After all, that is what gardens are for. Find a quiet place and rest in His mercy and grace for you. I will too. 

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God is.

beautiful sunrise

It has been my practice for several months now to go out and watch the sunrise in my front yard. I have a beautiful view, and it is very picturesque to watch it come up with palm cypress trees in the foreground. 
I go out to watch because I feel like it is better than the best movie. Every day it is different, and every day I sense God's presence in a new and tangible way. 
My favorite color is pink. And most every day, in my front yard here in sunny south Florida, I am surrounded in pink sky. As the pink hues of sunrise envelope my little world, I come face to face with the reality that I am loved so deeply by my creator, the God of the universe. I truly, with all my heart believe he creates these beautiful "skyscapes" just for me. Really. Because he can, and because he loves to show me just how much he loves me. I just have to get up in the morning and look for it. 
Anyway, the last two weeks have been particularly difficult ones, because of a family situation that is vastly painful beyond anything I could have ever imagined. I have been grappling with it and trying to see God's plan in it, but it has been so hard. And it has been rainy here, so the sunrises have been non- existent. They have really mirrored my emotions. Gray, and seemingly shrouded in sadness. Sometimes, it seemed that God himself was weeping along with me. Which is a great comfort to think that my sadness of heart could touch the heart of God. After all, what is happening in my family saddens his heart too. And the hard part is that I am helpless in this situation. I must sit back and watch it all unfold. 
But God has been faithful in reminding me that I am not without hope. Especially this morning. 
I awoke early and went outside, where the sunrise was just beginning. It was beautiful beyond words today. Pink was all around, and as I looked straight up, there were a few puffy lower level clouds that were pink. They were right over head. And as my eyes traveled around the sky, the entire horizon to my left and to my right turned a subtle pink. And I looked behind, and it turned pink, too. So I looked back up at the clouds overhead, and they had formed a circle of pink-ness. 
And thats when it hit me. 
God was surrounding me.
 As I watched, He was engulfing me in his presence and telling me, "You may not see me working, but I got this. You just need to rest and remain in me. See, I go before you, and I guard you on your left, and on your right. I have set my rear guard behind you, and I have covered your head. Don't worry, child. I am in The God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob. I see, I know, and I AM."
I stood there, worshipping him with a grateful heart. And as I looked around, the sun was again covered by the clouds. And the sunrise, a brief interlude today, was over. The cloud cover blotted it out, and soon, it will begin to rain again today. 
But that's ok, because God showed up today, big time. And my joy cup is filled to the brim and overflowing because He came to me in my sadness and met me there. He lifted my spirit in the way that only he can. And although my heart is still sad and hurting beyond words, I am no longer overwhelmed by it. He lifted my head above the waters that were threatening to drown me, and breathed his breath into my lungs. And my strength is renewed. My hope is shored up again. And I can go on with great joy, because he loves me. 
The song on my heart today as I woke fit this, too. It was one the worship team sang this weekend at church. An old one, that I am sure now that was chosen to strengthen and encourage me this week.
Wow, God. You really want me to get this message today.
Strength will rise when we wait upon the Lord. 
We will wait upon you Lord. We will wait upon you Lord.
Our God, will reign forever. 
Our Hope. Our Strong Deliverer.
You are the Everlasting God. The Everlasting God. 
You do not fail, You won't grow weary. 
You're the defender of the weak. You comfort those in need. 
You lift us up on wings like eagles. 
Thanks, God. I am humbled and amazed yet again. I love you, too. And I will hope in you all the day long. I trust you. 

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Being Thankful in the Midst

Scalloped potatoes and ham
titus tuesdays button

I am sick. Ok, I finally have to give in to it. This sickness. I am not sure when I came to this conclusion: Whether it was yesterday evening when I couldn't stop coughing and I felt like my lungs were going to explode, or at 2:00 am when I had to wake up my Dearest and have him get me a mug of steaming salt water so I could breathe enough to use my inhaler so I could stop coughing. Or when I woke up at 9:15 and realized that I couldn't muster up the strength to drag myself out of bed, so I just laid there trying to call for someone to get me a drink of water, but had no voice. And on top of that, I have a HUGE fever blister on my upper lip. And one on the edge of my right nostril. I have given it, and I am now taking otc meds and lots of vitamins, minerals and using my inhaler regularly. I think I am going to live. However, the jury is still out for now.

But when I actually woke up enough to realize it was 10:30, my hubby brought me a pot of tea. I was just mustering up the strength to drag myself out of bed to go fix some, and here he comes with a pot, out to the motor home for me. 
And after I finished it, he took it back in the house, and walked me up the driveway and made sure I made it in. When I got in, I realized my sister had done all my laundry. All of it. I didn't even have to ask her to. And she was fixing lunch for my family, too. 
Together, we made Ham and Scalloped Potatoes for everyone.
It is wonderful to have someone finish what you start, clean up after you, and take care of your family. I never want to leave. I think this is kinda like what heaven will be like. 
We will  be serving our Beloved. I will not be a chore, but a joy. We will never get sick, never tire, and it will be with the people we love eternally. And we will all be working together toward one common goal: worshipping and loving our Savior. There will be no selfishness, no bickering, no waste, no pain, no end. We can't even imagine it, in fact, it seems almost impossible. 
Thank you Father, for what you have prepared for us. For those that you love and have chosen and called to your purpose. And thank you for what you have provided now, so we will have a glimpse of what is to come, and for those who serve us on a daily basis and we take for granted. Thank you for my Dearest Husband, and my sweet sister, serving me and making me feel very loved. Their simple actions spoke volumes of love to me today. 
In Jesus' name, Amen.


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The Perfect Pancakes

I think I have found the perfect pancake recipe. Seriously, I think they will use this recipe in heaven. It came from my new favorite cookbook: The Pioneer Woman Cooks. If you have never been to her blog, it is time to stop reading mine right now and head over there.
Go now. Do not read any further. You will be hooked. You will forget all about my blog, and never return. But thats ok. She has that effect on people. In fact, I am going to take a little break now and head over there for a while. Oh! I almost forgot....the pancakes!

You won't find this recipe on her blog. Not there. Don't know why, but it is in the cookbook. And now it is going to be on my blog. Minus the beautiful step by step photographs. But thats ok. You can figure it out without pictures, right? So heres what you'll need to make these heavenly wonders:

1 C sour cream
7 Tbsp flour
1 Tbsp sugar
1 tsp bkg. soda
1/2 tsp salt
2 eggs
1/2 tsp vanilla
chocolate chips if desired
Now, heres what you're gonna do: Get a griddle or pan nice and hot. While it is getting hot, mix up the batter IN THIS ORDER: 
1. mix the sour cream, flour, sugar, soda and salt GENTLY together in a bowl. You should not mix it together fully, but just almost. 
2. mix the eggs and vanilla in a small bowl.
3. mix the egg mix into the sour cream mixture, again, very gently. Don't worry about totally combining the mixture, as a little lumpy, swirly mix is fine.
4. melt some butter in your pan, and take about 1/4 cup of batter and pour it into the hot butter. Cook it for about 1 to 1 1/2 minutes, then sprinkle a handful of chocolate chips on top. Flip and cook another 45 seconds or until done. 
5. ENJOY! We don't use syrup, but you could certainly use some if you like. 
These were the last three on the plate. I made a double batch and it made about 24 pancakes. 
AND, since I am now gluten-free, I made an additional batch with gluten free flour, and xylitol instead of the sugar, and they were perfect, too!! So, go make some for yourself, your family and the world. They will love you for it. You will love yourself for it. And you will love me for sharing this perfect recipe with you. And you will do the Pioneer Woman proud. And you will love her too!!


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Enough Already!!

Lately I have been feeling sad. Not sad about one thing, but many. But mostly because I realize that my life of parenting little ones is coming to a close, and I am entering a new phase of life: Parenting adult children who are making life choices that I do not agree with. And it grieves me in such a deep way, that it has overshadowed every other thing in my life. And it sucks the enjoyment out of the things I used to really love. But, in some weird way, that is a good thing. Because I am learning to see the things that used to be really important as kinda trivial and a waste of time, and the things that I pushed aside are now taking a priority. Let me explain.

I used to spend a lot of time worrying about how I looked. I spent time fixing my hair just so. I washed it every day, even in the winter. I permed, curled, blow-dried, and moussed the heck out of it. I shopped for fabric, clothes, shoes, and accessories whenever I got the chance.

And I scrapbooked. I think I was addicted. I had to have all the latest goodies, and since I was a Creative Memories Consultant, I had to sell them to my customers, too. And when scrapbooking went mainstream, WOW! I amassed copious amounts of supplies.

Then I started stamping cards. And the collection grew to astronomic proportions.

And the china, tea pots, tea cups, and don't forget the tea itself.

I loved me some stuff. And I loved me, way too much.

None of these things are bad. None of them are wrong. But one day, I started looking around and realized that I had filled my life with so much stuff that I loved, that there wasn't time to use it. I had to spend all my time organizing and cleaning up my stuff. I hated to take anything out and make a mess because I had so much it was difficult to get it out or put it away. I had so much that I had to use up that I didn't have time to go out with a friend for lunch. It would take too much time to get ready, and take up time I needed to be doing something else.

But, God is so good and he is teaching me to let go of stuff. It started by a sermon that our pastor preached about the needs in other countries, and how we have so much. I felt God was asking me to do something: Fast from buying myself anything for the next year.

I am six months into it, and I am making some strides in the right direction. And the amazing thing is that, although I held my stuff loosely before this, I now let him hold it. And I have gotten to where I can go in a store and smile and say: "I don't need that. It will just take up space, and I don't want to clean up after using it, and think of how many people can be helped by the money I save!" I admit, I haven't been perfectly faithful. Just this past week I bought something I have to return because, I just don't need it. But as I seek him, he is faithful to help me see, little by little, that it is just stuff, NOT the STUFF of LIFE. HE is the Stuff of Life.

And that is the best thing that has happened is that as I let go of the clutter, I have room for Him. As I stop the busyness, and be still, I am seeing things in His Word more clearly than I ever have, and I am falling deeper and deeper in love with Him. Which I never was able to comprehend before. People would say, "I love Jesus so much" and I would wonder how they got there. And would I ever? In fact, I often thought that I didn't love him at all. Now I realize that you never really know how to love someone unless there is sacrifice. Think about it. All real, deep love is borne out of sacrifice. You love your kids and have sacrificed who you were as a childless, free woman for them. Perhaps you even resent them a little for it. I know I do. But I love being a mom. And your husband. I can't even comment on that one. It is a willing and joyful sacrifice. And thats the way Christ wants us to treat him. After all, look at what he gave up for us. What a willing sacrifice he was for us.

We can love, because he set the standard. He made the ultimate sacrifice for us. His life for mine. Yet, He hasn't asked me to go to my death for him. He has asked for me to go to my life for him. Living life with him and for him. And death to my ways, thought patterns and sinful desires. Easier said than done.

Which brings me back to my original thought: (you thought I had forgotten that, didn't you?) Being sad.
How do I not let this sadness take root and overshadow everything with its black canopy? By choosing to live in the joy of the journey and the hope of Him. Job said, "though he slay me, still I will rejoice in Him." Practically speaking,

Psalm 46 lays it out:

"God is our refuge and our strength. An ever-present help in trouble. Therefore we will not fear, thought the earth give way and the mountains fall into the heart of the sea, though its waters roar and foam and the mountains quake with their surging. Be still and know that I am God; I will be exalted among the nations, I will be exalted in the earth."

Theres more, but this is what I see:

God is my refuge. But I have to be still to know it. And the more still and quiet my heart is, the more I enjoy him, and the less I need to seek pleasure in stuff. And as I am still and quiet, I can look at the nations for subtle signs of his movement. I can look for Him at work everywhere. I can see the ways he is exalted in the earth: the trees, the flowers, the seas, the lakes, the rocks. Everything shouts his praise. And the nations will one day, too.

And my situation will change. At just the right time, in just the way HE wants it to. When and where. And not a moment to late, or too soon. So Enough Already! I am going to embrace the moment and live for Him here and now, and rip up the roots of that black weeping willow that has taken over the joy of my heart and forge ahead in the Hope of my tomorrow. Goodnight joy-sucker, Good morning, Joy of the Morning!

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