The Rainbow

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“God is always good and I am always loved.”  ~Ann Voskamp
http://www.onethousandgifts.com

I have this quote posted in my kitchen.  I believe this but sometimes I forget it…the times that I am struggling, the moments of sadness or stress, the days of discomfort or weariness.    When I start to dwell too much on the hardships or trials, I find myself drifting away from this truth.  Life can be hard and moments can be trials.  But, through it all I do believe that “God is always good and I am always loved.”

It helps me to count the good things, to write down the gifts, to focus on the blessings and thank God for them.  One of my very favorite books is “One Thousand Gifts” by Ann Voskamp.  She was challenged by a friend to write down one thousand things she loved.

On page 45, she says, “On a whim, a dare, I scratch it down:  Gift List.  I begin the list.  Not of gifts I want but of gifts I already have…That is the beginning and I smile.  I mean, they are just the common things and maybe I don’t even know they are gifts really until I write them down and that is really what they look like.  Gifts He bestows.  This writing it down–it is sort of like…unwrapping love.”

I too began this challenge and it has been one of the best ways I know to remind myself of His goodness and love…to keep reminding myself so I don’t forget.  Taking the time to write down the blessings has helped me worry less and thank Him more.  I have been keeping this list for over five years now and although I may not write the gifts down daily, this simple routine has helped me greatly.  In the hard moments and difficult days, my mind goes back to counting the blessings and noticing the gifts He’s given me.  My mom also kept a journal of gifts.

I wanted to share with you the details of a God-given gift that happened recently.  My dad and my mom celebrate birthdays 6 days apart.  Without mom here now, the week is somewhat bittersweet and especially hard for Dad.   This year we celebrated his 75th birthday! We gathered all together with extended family to celebrate the gift of him.  We sang “Happy Birthday” and he blew out the candles.  A few raindrops had begun to fall…it was dripping lightly on us from above.  Moments after we sang to him, the sun came out and a glorious rainbow appeared in the sky.  This rainbow had the entire color spectrum and even turned into a double rainbow toward the end as it faded away.

Some might say, it was just a combination of sun and rain that came together at the same time to form a rainbow.  I believe it was an extra-special gift from God, sent at a perfect moment with precision timing.  Dad had been especially sad having to celebrate this monumental birthday without his bride by his side.  I don’t know exactly how things work between heaven and earth. But, I do believe that God knew exactly how to show us His love and help us feel close to her at a very special moment.  Maybe she got to see this amazing gift and even got to see the tears of joy that fell from our faces as we gazed up into the sky?  Either way, I am grateful!

Thank you God for the gift of this rainbow, the colorful reminder of your promises and your love.

“Every good and perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of the heavenly lights, who does not change like shifting shadows.”  ~James 1:17

“I will give thanks to you, Lord, with all my heart; I will tell of all your wonderful deeds.” ~Psalm 9:1

 

In-depenDANCE Day

Happy Independence Day!!14565778851_621f6458f4_m

What do you think about when you hear the word INDEPENDENCE?  Often, we talk about our ability to depend on ourselves, to determine our steps, to be self-sufficient.  In the Merriam-Webster Dictionary, one definition says “freedom from outside control or support; freedom from the control of others.”  We are often encouraged to “stand on our own two feet” and be independent in this life.  And although, there are parts of being independent that are profitable and worth striving for…I have found that I need others to live this life well.

I believe we were created for relationship–with God and with others.  We need Him and we need others to encourage us in this life that often can be full of stresses and struggles.  I need guidance in so many areas of my life and although I can be independent (and sometimes stubborn)…I am finding that truly I need more than myself to get through.

It may a bit counter-cultural but I want to live in–dependence upon my Lord and Savior.  I need His help, His strength, His wisdom in every area of my life.  I want to live leaning on Him and His faithful love.  Dependence is defined as “relying on another for support.”  I certainly rely on others for support.  But, I also want to rely on, rest on, lean on Jesus.  I believe He alone knows what I need most…He alone can truly provide what my heart and soul long for.

Psalm 59:17 says, “You are my strength.  I sing praise to you.  You, God, are my fortress, my God in whom I can rely.

I John 4:16 says, “And so we know and rely on the love God has for us.  God is LOVE.  Whoever lives in love lives in God and God in them.”

KNOW and RELY…I love those words.  The KNOWING here seems to indicate something deeper than just casual knowledge.  To know someone more personally involves a much deeper relationship.  Trusting and relying on someone goes beyond a short encounter with them.  It happens after much time together, many shared experiences and conversations–having a history of trust-building times with them.  I want to be that kind of person–reliable,trustworthy, dependable.  Often times, I believe I am…but also so many times, I am not.

But, I have found that God is the most trustworthy One.  I’ve experienced His extravagant love, dependable strength, and faithful care.  In all the struggles and stresses of my life, He has proven Himself to be trustworthy again and again and again.  He has answered more prayers than I can list and sustained me through some of my most difficult days with a peace, strength, and hope I could not create on my own.  This is NOT to say life has been easy or stress-free.  But, God has been with me at every moment.  Living life in-dependence on Him is the only way I know how to get through it all.

My mom knew how to lean on God.  She did it with much faith and trust, in some of her deepest places of sorrow and suffering.  I was blessed to be with her the last 6 weeks of her life here on earth.  I watched how she rested and relied upon her Savior in her most difficult days as her body battled pancreatic cancer.  She continued to pray and read her Bible, go to church and Community Bible Study, journal the things she was grateful for, shower her smile and love on anyone who came to visit, go for walks and prepare meals.  It wasn’t a checklist of “good things to do” to her…it was her life and God was her hope.  She had a strong desire to spend time with her Savior and with others.  I truly was amazed how she found the strength to keep living so courageously when she was in ever-increasing levels of  pain and discomfort.  She moved forward on this difficult path as if she KNEW and RELIED upon more than what could be physically seen.  She lived in-dependence on Him and I believe He strengthened and helped her through it all.  I too want to live this way.

I love words and I would rewrite the word independence this way:  in-depen-DANCE.  As I researched the origin of the word, I discovered that the French word is spelled “in- dependance“.  I love the thought of following God being like a dance.  I am not a very good dancer but I know several people who are.  When I do dance, it does lift my spirits.  Watching others who love to dance brings happiness and joy.  With partner dances, there is a “Lead and Follow” concept that is needed for the dance partners to move together well.

Marisa Wright at http://www.hobbylark.com states, “Lead and follow” is the secret to getting two partners dancing smoothly together. It’s simply impossible for two people, dancing in close contact, to move seamlessly if each person making their own decisions, choosing their own timing and doing their steps independently. They must coordinate their moves perfectly – and the only way to achieve that is for one person to direct the moves and the other person to follow.”

I’ve found that the more I let God direct my life and the more I follow His ways, the more my life is filled with love, peace, hope, and purpose.  I’ve discovered that as I spend time reading God’s Word and praying, asking God to speak to me, looking at life through a lens of faith, noticing the God-given things and thanking Him for them, responding to nudges and interactions that come my way, then I will grow in my dependence on God.  There will be many mistakes and stumbles, and I will need God’s encouragement and grace over and over again.  Learning to listen for Him will take a lifetime of practice, but I believe it is worth it.

At http://www.arthurmurraylive.com, Chris Lynam states in his analysis of “The Dance Partner” poem–

“One of the greatest aspects of partner dancing is that every dance requires an invitation.”

Every dance requires an invitation…

I believe Jesus gives each one of us an invitation in this dance we call life…an invitation to accept His extravagant love…an invitation to let Him lead our lives…an invitation to join Him on the adventure He has already planned for us…an invitation to lean on Him and find the strength, peace, hope, and love our hearts are longing for.  His invitation is always there waiting for each one of us…

Matthew 11:28-30 says, “Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest.  Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls.  For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.”

God will never force Himself upon us.  His invitation of love will never end and is waiting “in our mailbox.”  He is hoping we will open it to learn more about His love!  I’ve heard it said that”the Bible is God’s love-letter to us.”  I have found this to be true.

If you want to learn more about God’s great love for you, may I encourage you to start reading the book of John, written by one of Jesus closest disciples? As you do, notice especially how Jesus loved the people around Him when He was here.  (It may be different than you expect.)

Happy IN-DEPENDANCE Day everyone!

May we join in the dance and may we keep in step with our Savior…may we let Him lead and may we follow with our whole hearts.

 

Anchored to Hope

This Saturday will mark the second birthday my Mom is spending in heaven. It gives me great peace to know she is in the presence of her Lord and Savior, fully alive in a place of overflowing love and joy beyond anything we can imagine. I look forward to being with her again one day…but the loss here remains and I miss her greatly.

This post was written by a close friend of hers recently. Cheryl taught me piano lessons when I was a little girl. I appreciate her insights and hope that her post will encourage you this day.

An Apple of Gold

While HOPE is one of my favorite topics to blog about, I have chosen to emphasize it today in honor of a dear friend of mine, Judy, who went to be with Jesus a year ago in April. June 17 was her birthday on earth, and while she is celebrating that day in heaven now, I want to honor her with the following insights regarding HOPE. She anchored her faith to hope throughout her illness. The anchor with a yellow ribbon pictured above, was given to each of us at her celebration of life service. I still cling to this anchor pin as well as to the spiritual promises of hope.

In the bigger picture, the view from which Judy now experiences it, hope is the eternal full manifestation of eternitywith God. Our eternal hope is promised in Revelation 21:4, “He will wipe every tear from their eyes. There…

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Measure It UP

IMG_1044How do you measure your life?
What does success look like to you?  

How do you determine your worth?  

Do you find yourself comparing your life, your days, your looks, your accomplishments to others and find yourself feeling “less than?”

I do…

Whenever I start looking to others to measure my worth, I find myself lacking.  There is always someone better, more beautiful, more energetic, more joyful, more productive than I am.  This world continually shows us countless examples of “greater than” versions of ourselves.  In my 50 years on this earth, I have come to realize that I can’t compare myself to others to measure my worth and my success…when I do that, I find myself feeling down.  Many days, I can’t even measure up to my own expectations of myself and what I wish I would be…

I thought that once my boys were in college, I’d get my house in order…get more organized…have more time.  And, in some ways, this is true.  But, I still find myself living within several not-so-organized, not-so-cleaned-up areas.  It helps to know someone is coming over for a visit, and then I can get things a bit more tidy.  Does throwing all the paper clutter into a laundry basket and putting it on the washing machine count as organized?

I know keeping a super tidy home is not the most important thing…it’s the people in my life and relationships that matter the most.  I want to make a positive difference in this world,  love and encourage others, and be a blessing in big and small ways.  But, I don’t measure up to my wishes in this area either.

Maybe I’m not meant to get my worth by comparing myself to others or even to myself anyway…As I’ve gotten older, I am learning…
to rest in God’s love more,
to give myself more grace,
to “beat myself up” less,
to play less of the comparison game.

It’s not easy, but I believe it has to do with where I choose to look…My house may never get organized, but every day is a new opportunity to love God and love others.  And, although I will continue to not measure up by the world’s standards…this is not what gives me my worth.

How do you measure your life?
What does success look like to you?
How do you determine your worth?

I believe our worth is not based on what we do, but on whose we are.

I thank God for the gift of parents that loved me unconditionally.  From the moment I was born, I belonged to them and nothing could ever change that.  I made my share of mistakes along the way, but that didn’t change their love for me.

As a mom of two boys, I understand this kind of love.  I will always be “in their corner” and “on their team.”  I will always want the very best for them.  They will always be my sons and they will always have my love, apart from anything they do or don’t do.

I believe God loves each one of us with this same kind of unconditional love.  But, His love is SO much greater…it is beyond anything we could measure.

Romans 5:8 says, But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.” and Romans 8:31b-32 says, “If God is for us, who can be against us? He who did not spare His own Son, but gave Him up for us all–how will He not also, along with Him, graciously give us all things?”  

So, I am learning…

*If I want to measure my worth, I need to measure it UP against His love.*

We are God’s most-treasured creation and He’s proven His love for us in the greatest way possible.  He will always be “in our corner” with open, outstretched arms.  We can lean into His love and He will always be there.

When I was a young girl, I used to pick daisies and pull off the petals.  Maybe you did this too.  The popular saying was, “He loves me…he loves me not…he loves me…”  Even though it was just a game, I always hoped the last petal I pulled would be “He loves me.”
The great news is that with God, every petal says, “He loves me.”  Every single one.  

Luke 12:6-7 says, Are not five sparrows sold for two pennies? Yet not one of them is forgotten by God.  Indeed, the very hairs of your head are all numbered. Don’t be afraid; you are worth more than many sparrows.”  Zephaniah 3:17 (GW version) says, “The Lord your God is with you.  He is a hero who saves you.  He happily rejoices over you, renews you with His love, and celebrates over you with shouts of joy.”  Psalm 139:13 says, “For you created my inmost being.  You knit me together in my mother’s womb.  I praise you for I am fearfully and wonderfully made.  I know that full well.”

How should we measure our worth?
*May we measure it UP against His love.*  

One of my very favorite verses in the Bible is Ephesians 3:20.  “Now to Him who is able to do IMMEASURABLY MORE than all we ask or imagine, according to His power that is at work within us, to Him be the glory…forever and ever. Amen.”

I believe this is not only talking about all He can and does do in our lives…IMMEASURABLY MORE.  But, also His love is IMMEASURABLY MORE than all we can imagine.

*If we want to measure our worth, may we measure it UP against His love.*

John 3:16-17  says, “For God SO loved the world that He gave His one and only Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish but have eternal life.  For God did not send His Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through Him.”

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Live Like Yellow

IMG_9952I want to live like YELLOW…

let me explain…

Yellow was my mom’s favorite color.
It was a perfect color for her…bright, cheerful, uplifting…a JOY-full color and one of HOPE.  The yellow-ish sun and stars…both bright lights, just like her.  We might say she had a “sunny disposition.” An article in Psychology Today says if yellow is your favorite color, “Finding happiness comes easy to you and others would compare you to sunshine.” She was like a ray of sunshine, and radiated love and warmth to all who came into her path.  She had a way of warmly caring for people she knew well and those she didn’t.  Many have shared they miss her smile.  Mom looked on the bright side of things and focused on the positive always.  She rarely complained, even when she was in the battle of her life and in great pain.  Oh, how I want to be more like that…

I want to live like YELLOW.

One of the definitions in the Merriam-Webster dictionary is  “a color whose hue resembles that of ripe lemons or sunflowers.”  Again…perfect for her.  She loved lemons, all things lemon…she loved lemon slices in her water, squirted lemon juice onto vegetables and chicken, and baked lemon squares with powdered sugar on top.  And sunflowers…we had sunflowers on the tables at my parents 50th wedding celebration.  Sun–flowers…always lifting their heads up to the sun…how perfect for my mom…always pointing me and so many others to the Son, her Savior, Jesus Christ.

Just as anchors mean so much to me, so does the color yellow.  Both remind me of my precious mom and I notice them wherever I go.  There have been so many gifts of yellow and gifts of anchors this past year…such precious gifts from God.  Seems like I notice these things everywhere I go now.  They are reminders of her love, her life and they always brighten my day when I see them.

I want to live like YELLOW.

Gifts of Yellow:
*Anchor Pillow:  When I returned back home a year-ago April after Mom’s Celebration Service, my bench in the front yard had a beautiful large yellow pillow sitting on it with a big white anchor on the front (along with beautiful planted flowers nearby).  This was a gift from a friend.  She had been at Marshalls looking for something special to give to me from my Bible Study group.  She saw one large pillow and “pulled it off the shelf because it was yellow.”  She couldn’t believe that it had a large anchor on the front and she got chills when she saw it.  (Nautical themes often have anchors, but they are very often patriotic colors).  The fact that an anchor was on a yellow pillow was quite unique…a special gift from God.
*Goldfinches:  I have a bird feeder right outside my kitchen windows and I love to watch the many colorful birds that eat seed there every day.  I see bluebirds, cardinals, sparrows, chickadees, and blue jays there daily.  I have never seen gold finches.  But, the first Sunday after I returned back home, there were two bright yellow gold finches at my feeder.  My husband noticed them and when I saw the two bursts of bright yellow that morning, tears came to my eyes.  Following that sighting, I purposely bought special thistle seed to attract more gold finches.  I watched and waited day after day, week after week, month after month from last April-September for the goldfinches to arrive.  They never came.  My Dad was here for a visit this past October and I asked God if He would send us a goldfinch…One of the last days my dad was here, he was working outside in our yard.  I went out to check on him and just as I got close to him, I looked up at the tree and there sat a goldfinch for both of us to see!  The only other time I saw a goldfinch that first year without mom here, was this past April 13…the one-year anniversary of Mom’s departure to her heavenly home.  Once again, I asked that God might send me a goldfinch as it would be such a special gift on a day of missing her greatly.  I went to my neighborhood Bible Study and couldn’t believe my eyes…my friend, who was hosting, also has a bird feeder out her kitchen window.  But, she gets a constant flow of bright yellow goldfinches at her feeder daily!  There were several of them!  How like God to send these bright yellow gifts to me to make me smile on a day of sadness. How wonderful for Him to use a friend to encourage me in the process…

So once again, I’ve bought some thistle seed and I’m happy to report that this May, gold finches have found the seed.  Daily now,  I get to admire these beautiful gifts of yellow and I am so very thankful.

I want to live like YELLOW.

*There have been so many other yellow gifts that I might write about in the future…my yellow knock-out rose bush that bloomed this past December for the first time, the beautiful yellow swallowtail butterfly that lingered at my butterfly bush often this past summer, a yellow iris that bloomed for the first time at my Uncle’s home last spring (It had never been planted), the gift of the yellow ribbons/anchor pins for my Mom’s celebration service…

So, on this Friday before Mother’s Day…I thank God for the gifts of yellow and the gift of a Mom who brought so much Son-shine and happiness into my life.  Her love and life shine brightly still and will continue to inspire me to live more like the color yellow.  

I also want to thank God for her identical-twin sister, my dear Aunt, whose favorite color was also yellow.  She truly was a blessing, full of overflowing kindness, warmth, love, as well as the same Son-shining faith.  It gives me great comfort knowing that these twin-sisters are in heaven together, shining brightly like the stars and in the presence of their Savior, Jesus Christ.

Isaiah 60:1 (AMP) says:  “Arise [from spiritual depression to a new life], shine [be radiant with the glory and brilliance of the Lord]; for your light has come, And the glory and brilliance of the Lord has risen upon you.”

The Message version says it this way:  “Wake up. Put your face in the sunlight. God’s bright glory has risen for you…But God rises on you, His sunrise glory breaks over you.”

The brightness of a sunrise…the magnificence and beauty as the sun breaks into the darkness at the beginning of each day…radiance…glory…beauty…

I want to live like YELLOW!

 

 

Come and See!

“COME AND SEE!”
When do you use or hear this phrase?
Seems like usually it is said excitedly and followed up by, “Hurry!”
When someone is anxious for me to come and see something, s/he wants me to come see it NOW.

Often, it is something that doesn’t happen very often…like a beautiful multi-colored rainbow in the sky.  It may be a significant milestone…like when a baby starts to crawl or walk for the first time.  I still remember many special milestone events when my boys were growing up.  I always wanted to capture them on film so that I could share these significant events with my extended family and friends.  It might be something beautiful like an amazing fluorescent sunset or sun rays shining through the clouds.  A completed project, a home renovation or major school assignment is usually worthy of a “Come and see!”  If there is a news story or Facebook post that someone thinks I would be interested in seeing, I may be asked to “Come and see!

These days, we are inundated with all kinds of things to see on Instagram, Facebook, and YouTube.  The vast amount of things we have access to these days to “Come and see!”  could keep us on the internet or cell phones for hours and hours.

But, I think the things that are the most significant…the most meaningful…the most life-changing…are often the things that are shared with us by someone we know… someone we trust…someone we love.

We share the things that matter to us…with the people that matter to us.

In the book of John,  I find it intriguing that when two young men saw Jesus for the first time, they wanted to follow Him.  These two men were John and Andrew, both fishermen that fished often on the Sea of Galilee.  I’m sure they were very curious about who Jesus was, but they also must have felt safe enough to follow Him.

John 1:38-39 says:  “Turning around,  Jesus saw them following and asked, “What do you want?”  They said, “Rabbi” (which means Teacher), “where are you staying?”
“Come,” He replied, “and you will see.”  So they went and saw where He was staying, and spent that day with him.  It was about the tenth hour.”

After spending a day with Jesus, the Bible tells us in John 1:41, “The first thing Andrew did was to find his brother Simon Peter and tell him.

We share the things we care about…with the people we care about.

The next day there is another interaction with Jesus, this time with Philip.  And it says in John 1:45: “Philip found Nathanael and told him, “We have found the one Moses wrote about in the Law, and about whom the prophets also wrote– Jesus of Nazareth, the son of Joseph.”  

Nathanael doubted…but his friend, Philip told him to “Come and see!”

These meaningful interactions with Jesus made a huge impact on these young men and the first thing they wanted to do was to tell the ones close to them about what they had seen…Andrew told his brother, Simon Peter, and Philip told his good friend, Nathanael.

My Mom’s life was always overflowing with kindness and joy.  She served others with her whole heart and with great love.   In her 40s, her life became more and more about her faith in and love for Jesus…Her life became one of “Come and see!”  She was like a window we could look through to see Jesus.  She was always pointing me and so many others to Him, in how she lived and how she loved.

We share the things we love…with the people we love.

My hope and prayer is that my life, too, is one of “Come and see!”