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An Imperfect Love Story

An Imperfect Love Story

He saw her across the gymnasium – a petite girl with long golden brown hair.  His Science Fair project was on Bridges and hers was on the Human Body.  He finally got up the nerve to speak with her and bought her a Coke.  A couple years later they attended their Junior and Senior proms together but were heading to different states for college.

Over those years many hours were spent on dorm hallway phones and almost daily letters sent back and forth. Summers and holidays they happily reunited and by their senior year they began planning a future together. He was going to be a Civil Engineer and she was studying Nursing – funny how their early interests would become their careers.

Senior year of college, something wasn’t right – she became very ill. Graduation was followed by a trip to the hospital for tests and later major surgery.  He sat by her bedside praying while she recovered in the ICU – what was God doing?  They postponed the wedding even though she wrestled with God over that. She realized her fiancee had proven his faithfulness “in sickness and health”! Their bond only strengthened as they thanked God for healing and chose to keep Him in the middle of every day – good days and bad.  Their wedding verse;

bride-1837148_1920This is the day that the Lord has made; let us rejoice and be glad in it.        Psalms 118:24 (ESV)

 After the wedding they started their happily ever after and saved to buy a house. Three children came along one right after the other – a girl and two boys.  Their lives took a different path when child #2 was born with cognitive and physical disabilities. Those early years included open heart surgery for that little one and casts on club feet.  Doctor visits and seeing therapists became the new normal.  The now mother of three also continued to have medical issues and the daughter had learning disabilities. Challenging? Yes.  But nothing is impossible with God so they clung to His promises.

For I know the plans I have for you, declares the Lord, plans for welfare and not for evil, to give you a future and a hope.     Jer 29:11 (ESV)

 Life was good just different because there are added concerns and some limitations when a family member has a disability. But days were filled with school, sports, church activities, celebrations and vacations just like everyone else. Most importantly they made life-long friendships.

Love and a solid faith in God along with a lot of family and friend support helped them overcome and in turn reach out.  They became involved with Family and Marriage ministry to help others. Communication and commitment is necessary while quitting is NOT an option. The couple also became involved with Disability ministries like Special Olympics and served in their local church.

They learned that every day is an opportunity for grace with communication being the key -especially when an apology is necessary. Often they would laugh or make a joke about something else going wrong. Laughter does help make the burdens lighter!

After 36+ years this couple still celebrates with gratitude for all God has provided. They have met some amazing people and traveled to beautiful places they never dreamed possible. Their story is far from over as now in mid-life they plan for the future and retirement. Their parents are gone and the children are grown with their own careers. The son with disabilities is doing well. There were many more difficulties as well as great stories through those years because life is an imperfect balance. They still have arguments and misunderstandings but at the end of every day find security and comfort in each others’ arms.

Life is not perfect but good.

What advice would they give you this Valentine’s Day?

Set priorities: God first, Spouse (before self) then Family and everything else

Laugh – A little bit (or a lot) of humor  helps along the way!

 Listening well helps avoid misunderstanding

Trust God is in control even when life seems out of control.

During the hardest times of life – PRAY MORE – God will give you the peace and strength to not only endure but to excel when you trust in Him.

Loving one another requires patience, over-looking faults and compassion.

Teach your children well.

Always kiss good night.

 

Review your own imperfect love story and have a blessed Valentine’s Day.

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A Clean Sweep

A Clean Sweep

The beginning of a new year gives a chance to look back at the accomplishments and struggles of last year and look forward to the new and hopefully better one. I change the calendar, the checkbook register and get a new “planner”. My husband and I sit down and discuss home improvements needed, taxes and vacations… but not at the same time!

_20180126_094451 (1)January is known for its “white sales” – new appliances, linens and storage containers.  Decluttering, downsizing and organizing guru’s share the latest tips to contain the mess.  Every year we make the same or similar new years’ resolutions because we want to do better, be nicer and feel healthier.

We often deal with the stuff around us but what about dealing with the “stuff” in our hearts? The classic booklet “My Hearts Christ’s Home” by Robert Boyd Munger weaves a story of inviting Jesus in and giving a tour room by room of our “house”. Each room represents a place in our lives but the host balks at letting Jesus see the hall closet.  The stuff in that closet is old and smells bad ; like bitterness, bad habits, past secret sin we hang on to. Only Jesus can help us clean, reorder and restore this closet of our heart.

DSC_0927 (1)  It’s easy to ask God to forgive us for “little sins” of omission or commission. But what if we are honest and go a little deeper? We can try to justify our feelings and actions – but that doesn’t bring peace of mind. The Bible has a lot to say about unclean hearts.  God sees and knows it all and yet we often try to sweep our “stuff” under the rug or hide.

O God, you know my folly; the wrongs I have done are not hidden from you Psalms 69:5 (ESV)

“Come now, let us reason together, says the Lord: though your sins are like scarlet, they shall be as white as snow; though they are red like crimson, they shall become like wool. Isaiah 1:18 (ESV)

Only God can wash our hearts from all the hurts and hang-ups. He says come – let me remove the “dirt” and cleanse you from the inside out. God desires to restore a right relationship with Him and promises us a new beginning. He is the God of second chances! Even if something seems impossible to forgive (like trying to get red ink out of a white shirt) there is nothing impossible with God.

11 For as high as the heavens are above the earth, so great is his steadfast love toward those who fear him; 12 as far as the east is from the west, so far does he remove our transgressions from us.       Psalms 103:11-12 (ESV)

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Start the New Year off by spending time in prayer and reflection. Let’s open up the closet of our heart and ask God to do a deep cleaning. Sometimes that deep cleaning takes a long time because first we need to recognize our fears, failures and faults in order to let Him work on those areas. The process isn’t easy but it is freeing and satisfying. Let this prayer of David be yours :

Behold, you delight in truth in the inward being, and you teach me wisdom in the secret heart. 7 Purge me with hyssop, and I shall be clean; wash me, and I shall be whiter than snow. 8 Let me hear joy and gladness; let the bones that you have broken rejoice. 9 Hide your face from my sins, and blot out all my iniquities. 10 Create in me a clean heart, O God, and renew a right spirit within me.        Psalms 51:6-10 (ESV)

 

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Weary Travelers

Weary Travelers

According to AAA, an estimated 115.6 million Americans were expected to travel this holiday season. That was a 3.9% increase from last year and includes plane, train, automobile, bus and cruise travel. AAA expected that more than 853,000 would call for some type of help. On an average there is a one out of five chance of a delay but on December 26th you can expect a 66% chance of delayed service. And for the 21st year in a row, Atlanta, GA is the world’s busiest airport! That is a lot of travelers for one season.

Throughout the Advent season, without realizing it, we have heard a lot about travel.

At that time the Roman emperor, Augustus, decreed that a census should be taken throughout the Roman Empire.2 (This was the first census taken when Quirinius was governor of Syria.)3 All returned to their own ancestral towns to register for this census.4 And because Joseph was a descendant of King David, he had to go to Bethlehem in Judea, David’s ancient home. He traveled there from the village of Nazareth in Galilee.5 He took with him Mary, his fiancée, who was now obviously pregnant.              Luke 2:1-5

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The Bible is not written like a novel so we don’t have a detailed play by play of the actual travel but we know that every Jewish household had to register in their tribal capital. That equals a lot of people traveling by foot, donkey, camel and wagon caravan. The trip from Nazareth to Bethlehem would be a grueling 90 miles up and down some treacherous mountain roads.

Jesus was born in Bethlehem in Judea, during the reign of King Herod. About that time some wise men from eastern lands arrived in Jerusalem, asking,2 “Where is the newborn king of the Jews? We saw his star as it rose, and we have come to worship him.”              Matt 2:1-2

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These wisemen from the East were astrologers that had obviously studied the Hebrew scripture possibly left by Daniel.  They may have come from Iran, Iraq, Saudi Arabia or Southern Turkey. The distance from Persia to Bethlehem (maybe up to 9000 miles) traveling over varied rugged terrain for months would be so long and tiring. Yet they journeyed on in their quest to seek the Christ Child.

Friend, in the past year did you become weary in your journey?  Did life take unexpected twists and turns that made you feel weak and vulnerable? Do you feel like you have lost your way or that somehow your dream is just too far off to ever reach? God never promised an easy carefree life but He did tell us that we are never alone.  He does promise to give us a renewed vision and the strength to reach our goals step by step when they are in line with His word.

Here are just a few scriptures to hold onto as we begin the New Year:

This is my command—be strong and courageous! Do not be afraid or discouraged. For the Lord your God is with you wherever you go.”  Josh 1:9

Trust in the Lord with all your heart; do not depend on your own understanding.6 Seek his will in all you do, and he will show you which path to take.     Prov 3:5-6

For I know the plans I have for you,” says the Lord. “They are plans for good and not for disaster, to give you a future and a hope.     Jer 29:11-12

It is my prayer that we all start off the New Year on the right foot and step by step journey into 2020 with confidence and strength in God’s power, protection, and provision for the way.

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All Scripture quotes in this blog are taken from the New Living Translation

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Innkeeper and the Rest of the Story

Every Christmas pageant that I have seen includes an Innkeeper that gruffly says; “Sorryno room but there is no room in the Inn. Go away,” and he slams the door.  Poor little Billy’s heart wasn’t in it. After perfectly saying his lines he whispered, “you can stay in my room.”    I hate to burst your bubble but the Bible doesn’t mention an Innkeeper and there were no Hilton hotels in first century Palestine.

4 And Joseph also went up from Galilee, from the town of Nazareth, to Judea, to the city of David, which is called Bethlehem, because he was of the house and lineage of David, 5 to be registered with Mary, his betrothed, who was with child. 6 And while they were there, the time came for her to give birth. 7 And she gave birth to her firstborn son and wrapped him in swaddling cloths and laid him in a manger, because there was no place for them in the inn.            Luke 2:4-7 (ESV)  or because there was no lodging available for them. Luke 2:7 (NLT)

Mary and Joseph were inconveniently ordered to go to Bethlehem in Judea – his ancestral home for a census.  It would be customary to find a relative to lodge with but we can safely assume that other family members beat them there.  The Greek word used here for “Inn” is “kataluma” meaning guest room.  This is the same word used for “the Upper Room” Jesus shared His last meal in.  The word used for “Inn” in the story of the Good Samaritan was “pandocheion” where a fee was paid.

The stable we like to envision was actually in a cave or more likely an extra room below the family home where animals were brought for warmth and safety at night. The manger would have been a stone chiseled feeding trough not a wooden crib.  However the truth is it would still have been warm and far more private to give birth there than in the hallway or middle of a room surrounded by people.  We don’t know if a mid-wife was on hand to help or any other small details.

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So what do we know?   The Shepherds were told to find the baby in a manger as a sign and they did.  God shifted from the Divine to human when He sent His Son to be born to humble, outcast parents. A small baby is not intimidating but instead people draw near.  Jesus was not born in a palace but in the middle of a busy, crowded, small town to ordinary people.  Joseph and Mary were ordinary people chosen for a very unique and sacred task; to care for, teach and love the Son of God. We know that they trusted God and faithfully obeyed His Word.

Innkeeper or not, the same questions remain.  Will you make room in your heart and home for Jesus ? He doesn’t care about the busy, messy, crowded life you live. He wants to have a relationship with ordinary, everyday people, just like you. The Christmas season calls us to draw near, make room and worship Him.

 

Thou Didst Leave Thy Throne –  a hymn

Thou didst leave Thy throne and Thy kingly crown,

When Thou came-est to earth for me,

But in Bethlehem’s home was there found no room

For Thy holy nativity:

O come to my heart, Lord Jesus; There is room in my heart for Thee

 

 

 

My A,B,C’s to a Merrier Christmas

My A,B,C’s to a Merrier Christmas

Angels –  The first messengers of Jesus’ birth.  They heralded the good news for all mankind – and they sang loud and clear.

Baking –  I enjoy making, sharing  and eating Christmas cookies. It’s fun receiving them too!

Cleaning – is not optional but you can focus on the main living areas if you don’t have company coming. Nobody is going to look in your closets or under the bed  (except the kids).

Deck the HallsThe 3 main areas you should decorate if you don’t have time or the money are the tree, the Door and the Mantle or table. (however I tend to deck the whole downstairs)

Enjoy – What is the point if you run yourself ragged and don’t enjoy the celebration?  Savor the memories!  Remember Emmanuel means “God with us.”

Food & Fa-la-la  Every holiday in America seems to include food. Make the favorites and forget the experiments. If you have a big gang coming – use paper and forget the china!!!

GiftsSanta promises a gift if you are good, NOT that you will get everything you ever dreamed of.  Being thoughtful and creative is best. Shorten your lists if need be or have a “Yankee Swap”.

Humor – Try not to be so uptight. Laugh at yourself and the foibles around you. It is really OK – no one will remember if the cake fell or your furnace died.  (I know because the oil man had to fix ours one Christmas and the kids paid no attention to that nice man!)

Invitation- you may get many invitations during the holidays but you do not have to say yes to them all. Most of us already have extra concerts, programs and family obligations on the calendar. Do not over extend yourself or your family – it only makes everyone grumpy.

JESUS He is THE reason for the season. Read the Christmas story to your family. Set up a manger that the children can touch. Have a birthday cake for Jesus.

KingListen to the Hallelujah chorus –“King of kings and Lord of lords!”  It will lift your spirits!

Lights –  There are many beautiful light displays to enjoy.  The bright lights make the gloomy short days of December so much better and remind us that Jesus is the Light of the World.

Music – Listen to music in your home and car. Sing along! Sing with your children. I can’t imagine Christmas without singing carols.

Noel – means Christmas. It comes from an old Latin word meaning “to be born.”

Open – your hearts to the One who loves you most. Open your home and open your arms for hugging.

Peace – Shalom means wholeness, wellness and inner peace. Jesus is the Prince of Peace.

Quiet Time – Play games, do puzzles, have some old fashioned fun!

Rest  God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen. Treat yourself to cat naps whenever possible. When we get over tired we lose our cheer and sanity.

Shepherds – were outcasts in their day – dirty and ceremonially unclean.  But God came down at Christmas for even the “least of these.”  Sharing with those who are needy is good for our soul and teaches our children to be grateful.

Tree – is more than a decoration to Christians. The tree is a symbol of everlasting life with God. It can also serve as a reminder of the Tree in the Garden of Eden and the tree (cross) Jesus died on.

Unplug shut the news off! Very little on TV is uplifting.  Limit your own time on electronic devices as well as your children. Sometimes the constant input can crank you up instead of calm you down.

Vintage I sometimes get miffed that toys I played with are now called “Vintage”. Sharing your stories and traditions with each other brings happy memories and laughter. Looking at old photos is also a wonderful way to remember those we loved who are not with us anymore.

Wisemen – The wisemen came from afar with costly gifts seeking the  prophesied infant King. Wisemen and women still seek Him.

Xmass is not offensive to me. The X represents the Greek letter chi, the initial letter in the word Xpiotoc (Christos)

Yuletide – the Christmas season  (remember it is only a season!)

Zzzzz it’s time to take that nap I mentioned.  Have a blessed, not stressed, Christmas season everyone!

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Soul Care for the Holidays

Soul Care for the Holidays

The Holiday season can be stressful and exhausting!  It does not need to be that way! First we need to realize it is only a season!  Approximately 6 weeks of non-stop advertising and extra to-do’s added to the calendar. Everyday we have choices and can control the chaos to enjoy Thanksgiving and Christmas.

The bottom line to enjoying the holiday season is an attitude of being grateful instead of greedy . We as well as our children get caught in the trap of consumerism. We DON’T have to match up to Martha Stewart – the queen of everything practically perfect…. Or have a Magnolia house. First of all we don’t have their staff! And TV is not real life.

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What are the most important traditions for you and your family?  Put those at the top of the list!  Carefully consider other events before saying yes.  Don’t try to do it all or you won’t enjoy anything yourself. If Mommy (or Daddy) isn’t happy then nobody is happy!

Have limits and lower expectations that everything will be Hallmark perfect. If you have  small children and especially if you have children with special needs ,you may have to say no to too many extra activities.  Don’t feel guilty. No time to bake? Buy cookies. Limit the visiting hours and try to maintain a regular bedtime. One year we just couldn’t get our family Christmas letter done and didn’t send any cards. Nobody died because of it.

If this is a particularly stressful or financially tight year for you then only decorate the Tree, The Mantle or table and the front door. The tree represents – eternal life and Jesus the Light of the world.  The Mantle or table decoration is right in view for you while the front door is what others see and where you enter and exit everyday.

Plan and limit your shopping. It is too stressful to push through the crowds of people to”find the perfect gift”. I have been so happy with online shopping. Truly watch your spending and set limits there too. Getting into debt over gifts is not a satisfying feeling afterwards.

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Stop and take a deep breath – seriously. Breathing helps clear our minds, calm our racing thoughts and lower blood pressure. Think about it for a minute– do you hold your breath when upset???

Make sleep a PRIORITY –  Take cat naps if necessary – I am finding a great benefit to it. Have a coffee or tea and take a 5 minute power nap – it really will refresh you!

I love the idea of  “no politics” at the table. Sharing funny stories or remembrances is a much better way to enjoy and connect even with difficult relatives. Take a walk, play a board game or watch a classic movie together instead.

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Take advantage of FREE things. Driving around the neighborhood to view different lights and displays is fun!  Enjoy a local holiday parade (or Macy’s on TV).  Play music: slow to relax or fast to pump you up to finish a task. Music is an international language that directly speaks to the soul!

Most important DO NOT neglect your time with God!  Read a Christmas devotional or one Chapter of Luke each day for the month. Read the real story of  Thanksgiving. Learning about their first winter and harvest meal will make you grateful! Christmas is about celebrating Jesus’ birthday and why He came.  Don’t focus on the chaos and big to do list. Ask God to help you count blessings and not focus on difficulties. He will fill your heart with peace, wonder and the joy of the season.

 

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God Rest You Merry, Gentlemen

God rest you merry, gentlemen, Let nothing you dismay

Remember Christ our Savior was born on Christmas Day

To save us all from Satan’s power, when we have gone astray

O tidings of comfort and joy – O tidings of comfort and joy!!!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

My “What-Ifs” Went Over the Bridge

My “What-Ifs” Went Over the Bridge

Traveling over the Tappen-Zee bridge I symbolically threw all my “what-ifs” over the railing. That was a long time ago but I still remember it vividly. There comes a time in all of our lives when we need to deal with the things we hold on to that never happened.  Past plans, dreams or maybe lost opportunities can resurface in our minds and cause discontentment in our heart.

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We were heading south to visit some dear friends. Paul was driving and our young children were buckled in the back with kids music playing on the radio. We traveled Rte. 95 with all of its twists and turns.  As we went through Bridgeport I saw two of the hospitals where I interviewed as a graduate nurse….but I was never meant to work there.  A twinge in my heart wondered, “what if” I had worked in the Cardiac unit I was hired for? “What if” we had moved to Connecticut? “What if”???

For I know the plans I have for you,” says the Lord. “They are plans for good and not for disaster, to give you a future and a hope.         Jer 29:11 (NLT)

My life took a very different path.  I had major surgery right after graduation that took awhile to heal and my now husband had changed jobs to one in Boston.  I ended up training for the Operating room in MA, a career  I have loved for over 34 years.  We bought a nice home and met awesome people at church who are now life-long friends. We were much closer for our children to be loved and spoiled by their grandparents.  Life was different from my simple “what ifs”  but in a good way!

Is it wrong to think back and wonder? Not really. But for me they created a little wedge of discontentment, a feeling that I had missed out on something. It was wrong thinking because I haven’t missed anything – I have enjoyed all that God did have in store for me and my family!

As we passed over the bridge I silently prayed,  “God take all my “what-ifs” because You call me to live in the present and not hold on to the past. Your plan is better than I could ever imagine. Don’t let me feel any regrets or false yearning but contentment instead.” And over the bridge they went.

And now, dear brothers and sisters, one final thing. Fix your thoughts on what is true, and honorable, and right, and pure, and lovely, and admirable. Think about things that are excellent and worthy of praise.         Phil 4:8 (NLT)

Seeds of discontent and comparison should have no room in my heart. Instead I will make the choice to count my blessings. I will choose gratitude and praise towards God for His faithfulness and provision for all of my needs. Satan still uses the same old tactics he used in the Garden when he told Eve that God was withholding something good.  So the next time he whispers in my ear, I’ll tell him to jump off the bridge.

 

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