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Tuesday, April 30, 2013

Much More Than That

Photo Credit:  xenia at

This morning, my six-year-old daughter asked me a question.  She inquired, “Mom, who is your best friend?”  I replied, “God.”  Then, she proceeded to tell me about the little girl who was her best friend.  Finally, she reflected on my answer and said, “Mom, God is our Dad.  Well, actually, He’s much more than that.”  She hopped down off the bar stool and away she went, leaving this momma with lots to ponder.

It is challenging to reflect on just how mighty God is.  Like my daughter reminded me, “Mom…He made EVERYTHING.”  It’s difficult to think that the Lord of all the earth would care to count the hairs on my head and want to know me on a personal level.  But, He does.

I love that God sends little reminders our way that some call coincidences and others call Godincidences.  I especially enjoy when He nudges us at just the right time.  This week, I want to share a couple of stories with you from an e-mail list that I’m on, called Mikey’s Funnies.  They are rich in wisdom…very rich indeed.  “Money doesn’t change you.  It magnifies who you are.”

A “POOR” STORY (forwarded by Fayella Horn)
One day, a father of a very wealthy family took his son on a trip to the country with the firm purpose of showing his son how poor people live. They spent a couple of days and nights on the farm of what would be considered a very poor family.  Returning from their trip, the father asked his son, "How was the trip?"  "It was great, Dad."  "Did you see how poor people live?" the father asked.  "Oh yeah," said the son.  "So, tell me, what did you learn from the trip?" asked the father.

The son answered, "I saw that we have one dog and they had four.  We have a pool that reaches to the middle of our garden, and they have a creek that has no end.  We have imported lanterns in our garden, and they have the stars at night.  Our patio reaches to the front yard, and they have the whole horizon.  We have a small piece of land to live on, and they have fields that go beyond our sight.  We have servants who serve us, but they serve others. We buy our food, but they grow theirs. We have walls around our property to protect us; they have friends to protect them."

The boy's father was speechless.  Then his son added, "Thanks, Dad, for showing me how poor we are."

A “RICH” STORY by Eddie Ogan
I'll never forget Easter 1946.  I was 14, my little sister Ocy was 12, and my older sister Darlene was 16.  We lived at home with our mother, and the four of us knew what it was to do without many things.  My dad had died five years before, leaving Mom with seven school kids to raise and no money.

By 1946, my older sisters were married and my brothers had left home.  A month before Easter, the pastor of our church announced that a special Easter offering would be taken to help a poor family.  He asked everyone to save and give sacrificially.

When we got home, we talked about what we could do.  We decided to buy 50 pounds of potatoes and live on them for a month.  This would allow us to save $20 of our grocery money for the offering.  Then, we thought that if we kept our electric lights turned out as much as possible and didn't listen to the radio, we'd save money on that month's electric bill.  Darlene got as many house and yard cleaning jobs as possible, and both of us babysat for everyone we could.  For 15 cents, we could buy enough cotton loops to make three pot holders to sell for $1.

We made $20 on pot holders.  That month was one of the best of our lives.  Every day we counted the money to see how much we had saved.  At night we'd sit in the dark and talk about how the poor family was going to enjoy having the money the church would give them.  We had about 80 people in church, so figured that whatever amount of money we had to give, the offering would surely be 20 times that much.  After all, every Sunday the pastor had reminded everyone to save for the sacrificial offering.

The day before Easter, Ocy and I walked to the grocery store and got the manager to give us three crisp $20 bills and one $10 bill for all our change.  We ran all the way home to show Mom and Darlene. We had never had so much money before.  That night we were so excited we could hardly sleep.  We didn't care that we wouldn't have new clothes for Easter; we had $70 for the sacrificial offering.

We could hardly wait to get to church!  On Sunday morning, rain was pouring.  We didn't own an umbrella, and the church was over a mile from our home, but it didn't seem to matter how wet we got. Darlene had cardboard in her shoes to fill the holes.  The cardboard came apart, and her feet got wet.

But we sat in church proudly.  I heard some teenagers talking about the Smith girls having on their old dresses.  I looked at them in their new clothes, and I felt rich.  When the sacrificial offering was taken, we were sitting on the second row from the front.  Mom put in the $10 bill, and each of us kids put in a $20.

As we walked home after church, we sang all the way.  At lunch Mom had a surprise for us.  She had bought a dozen eggs, and we had boiled Easter eggs with our fried potatoes!  Late that afternoon the minister drove up in his car.  Mom went to the door, talked with him for a moment, and then came back with an envelope in her hand.  We asked what it was, but she didn't say a word.  She opened the envelope and out fell a bunch of money.  There were three crisp $20 bills, one $10 and seventeen $1 bills.

Mom put the money back in the envelope.  We didn't talk, just sat and stared at the floor.  We had gone from feeling like millionaires to feeling like poor white trash.  We kids had such a happy life that we felt sorry for anyone who didn't have our Mom and Dad for parents and a house full of brothers and sisters and other kids visiting constantly.  We thought it was fun to share silverware and see whether we got the spoon or the fork that night.

We had two knives that we passed around to whoever needed them.  I knew we didn't have a lot of things that other people had, but I'd never thought we were poor.  That Easter day I found out we were.  The minister had brought us the money for the poor family, so we must be poor.  I didn't like being poor.  I looked at my dress and worn-out shoes and felt so ashamed.  I didn't even want to go back to church.  Everyone there probably already knew we were poor!

I thought about school.  I was in the ninth grade and at the top of my class of over 100 students.  I wondered if the kids at school knew that we were poor.  I decided that I could quit school since I had finished the eighth grade.  That was all the law required at that time.  We sat in silence for a long time.  Then it got dark, and we went to bed.  All that week, we girls went to school and came home, and no one talked much.  Finally on Saturday, Mom asked us what we wanted to do with the money.  What did poor people do with money?  We didn't know.  We'd never known we were poor.  We didn't want to go to church on Sunday, but Mom said we had to.  Although it was a sunny day, we didn't talk on the way.

Mom started to sing, but no one joined in and she only sang one verse.  At church we had a missionary speaker.  He talked about how churches in Africa made buildings out of sun dried bricks, but they needed money to buy roofs.  He said $100 would put a roof on a church.  The minister said, "Can't we all sacrifice to help these poor people?"  We looked at each other and smiled for the first time in a week.

Mom reached into her purse and pulled out the envelope.  She passed it to Darlene.  Darlene gave it to me, and I handed it to Ocy.  Ocy put it in the offering.  When the offering was counted, the minister announced that it was a little over $100.  The missionary was excited.  He hadn't expected such a large offering from our small church.  He said, "You must have some rich people in this church."

Suddenly it struck us!  We had given $87 of that "little over $100."  We were the rich family in the church!  Hadn't the missionary said so?  From that day on I've never been poor again.  I've always remembered how rich I am because I have Jesus!

I hope these stories touched you as much as they did me.  Thank you, Lord, for giving us perspective and oh so much more than that…

Tuesday, April 23, 2013

Beyond the Mask

Photo Credit:  cjhulin85 at

I’m sure that many of you have seen the recent Dove® commercial, “Real Beauty Sketches,” where FBI-trained forensic artist, Gil Zamora, draws a woman’s face without actually seeing her.  In case you haven't, he does two separate drafts – one in which the woman verbally describes her own facial features to him and the other one, in which another person describes the woman to Mr. Zamora.

The ad did strike something within me, as I think it will with most women who watch it (it’s only 3 minutes – check it out!).  Listening to how differently the details were shared (by the woman herself vs. by someone else about her) made me think.  Women can be so harsh with themselves.  We’re much more critical than we should be.

When the women in the commercial talked about their own features, they used terms like protruding chin, big jaws, fat/rounder face, freckles, and big forehead.  The people who described the same women used words like:  a thin chin, eyes that lit up when she spoke, a cute nose, and nice blue eyes.

After the two sketches were revealed to each woman, it was obvious that they were touched.  The fact that the two pictures differed had hit a nerve somewhere deep at their very core.  One of the women admitted, “Instead of spending time analyzing and trying to fix the things that aren’t quite right, we should spend more time appreciating the things that we do like.”

I realize that some men probably have similar insecurities about their outward appearances, but maybe they just don’t verbalize them as often as we women do.  And, I’m remembering a quote from our Esther Bible study that makes more and more sense.  Beth Moore states, “It’s tough being a woman in a world where beauty is a treatment.”  Hmmmm.  The number of beauty treatments offered in this world is endless…

A woman can look in the mirror and find ten things within a minute that aren’t quite right to her:  wrinkles, a crooked nose, random black facial hairs, dark circles under her eyes, thin lips, acne, age spots, wiry gray hair, droopy ear lobes, and sparse eye lashes.  (That’s just the neck up – don’t get us started on our muffin top, skin tags, and other saggy spots).  A man (not ALL men, just possibly SOME men) might look in the same mirror and say (jokingly or not), “Ah, yes, you’re lookin’ good my man,” kiss his biceps, pat his belly, and move on about his day.  I’m just sayin’.  We’re different that way.

For instance, some men I know (uhem, no names) immediately had a joke for the “stud finder” I used the other day to hang a shelf on the wall.  Yes, you can only imagine the jokes about why that thing kept beeping before it even touched the wall.  Good times!

Then, there was me, a woman, who ran into a friend the other day that I hadn’t seen since high school…twenty years ago (gulp!).  (I’m okay that you just calculated my age – ha ha!)  Honestly, she hadn’t changed a bit (in my eyes).  But, since she didn’t recognize ME at first in the grocery store aisle, I felt a need to explain possibly why.  So, I went on and on about having had three big ole babies and holding onto some of that “baby weight,” even though my kids are 3, 6, and 9.  Of course, she said, “No, actually I just didn’t recognize your hair color.  Didn’t you used to be blonde?”  All of that explaining and it was a hair thing all along?  The color of my hair?!  There ya have it.  Self-perception – there’s always room for improvement.

And, I know it’s a bit cliché, but real beauty comes from within…beyond the mask.  I think this is true, mostly because lasting beauty comes from the words that leave our lips and the things that we do.  More often than not, kindness begets kindness; generosity begets generosity; forgiveness begets forgiveness; and love begets love.  Aren’t the most beautiful people in our lives the ones who are kind, generous, forgiving, and loving?  I find this to be true time and time again.

We all long to be loved for who we are, and not just the beauty that is skin deep.  How do we find that?  In Matthew Kelly’s wonderful book, “The Seven Levels of Intimacy,” (it’s not what you think it’s about…), he explains that we are “afraid to reveal ourselves, afraid to share ourselves, afraid to allow others into our hearts, minds, and souls.  We are afraid that if people really knew us they wouldn’t love us, but the opposite is true in most cases.” 

Kelly states, “If we are willing to take the risk and reveal ourselves for who we are, we discover that most people are relieved to know that we are human.  Why?  Because they are human, too, and are filled with the same fear we are.  In most cases, we will find that the things we thought would cause people to stop loving us actually lead them to love us more.”

Kelly says that, “Willingness to share our weaknesses is a tremendous sign of faith, which encourages other people to let down their guard.  We are most lovable not when we are pretending to have it all together, but in our raw and imperfect humanity.  Once we learn to cherish ourselves, we would rather be rejected for who we truly are than loved for pretending to be someone we are not.”

To me, beauty is especially evident when we use the gifts and talents that God hand-picked for us Himself.  A friend, Amber, shared a story with me recently.  It was clear that she allowed God, albeit maybe reluctantly at first, to use the beauty in her voice to bring others closer to Him through song.  Here’s the scoop she shared:

“I had one of those thoughts of doubt recently about having to take MY Saturday from 7 am to 10 pm just to go sing to some guys in prison with 50 other people in the choir.  Why do they need ME?” 

“We started in one town, performing for about 220 inmates with mostly expressionless faces.  I kept smiling and singing God's praises.  I did see a few smiles start emerging.  At the end, our pastor and the prison chaplain asked if any of the prisoners were ready to accept Christ as their Savior and 16 of them stood up.  God is good!  A prison guard reminded us, ‘They are not animals; they are just people who made bad choices.’"

“I knew why God took MY Saturday, because it was never MINE to begin with.”

“We continued on to another small town, performing for about 160, many of whom we had seen last year.  They were ready, with lots of smiles, hand-clapping, and worshiping.   When we sang bluegrass, it was almost a party going on in there!  They didn't want us to leave.  Needless to say after all that, my lesson was learned.  My stubbornness and selfishness may not have heard the will of God, but HE showed me.  It was like He said, ‘Just give it up, Amber, I'm going to use you, so just let me’.  Of course, the blessings of God filled the room and we were blessed just as much as they were.”

Genuine beauty is contagious and ever so alluring, isn’t it?  I love me some make-up, don’t get me wrong.  BUT, don’t we desperately want to be around those whose beauty shines so brightly from within that we can see it in their eyes, their hair, their smile, and their actions and words (said or sung!)?  That type of beauty is enduring.

If we want to be loved for who we are…we need to reveal our true selves. Love is found beyond the mask.  Real beauty is found there, too.

AND!  Since you made it all the way to the end of this post, how about the chance to get a FREE book and CD?!  Just leave me a note that you want them in the comment box.  Please include your e-mail address and I will contact you.  A generous couple, Stephen and Diane, from our parish donated them and let me have a few extra to share!  The book is Allen Hunt’s, “Everybody Needs to Forgive Somebody” and the CD is Matthew Kelly’s, “The Best Way to Live.”  I mentioned them in my posts called “Hold On” and “Make it Texas-Sized.”  First ten peeps to comment below – ready, set…GO!

Tuesday, April 16, 2013

The Empty Chair

Photo Credit:  Bessie Grahmann

Me and funerals don’t mix.  As a rule, I normally try to avoid them.  I’m even contemplating attending my own when that day comes.  Not because I don’t care, or don’t want to be there for the family, or that I don’t want to pray for them.  It’s just that, truthfully, they’re just too unbearably sad for me.  As a faithful Christian, I know that we are going to a much better place when we die, but somehow that doesn’t stop the tears.

I’m a compassionate person and I feel for others.  I laugh for others.  I listen to others.  I’ll even worry with you, too.  And, boy oh boy, can I cry for others!  I don’t cry “pretty” either.  You know what I mean.  You’ve seen the pretty criers…sniff, sniff as a sweet little tear crawls slowly down their cheek and a single swipe of a tissue does the trick.

Me?  An uncontrollable, unrecognizable, blubbering, swollen, hot mess.  Yes.  That’s me.  I actually scare myself when I look in the mirror.  When I cry, you can barely see what might resemble eyes.  Trying to pry out my contacts once they are super-glued to my eyeballs requires a plunger.  If the rest of my face wouldn’t be so puffy, my full lips might actually be attractive, but that’s beside the point now, isn’t it?

Buckets.  I cry buckets and a full box of tissues may or may not suffice.  I don’t cry often, so when I do, the flood gates open and there is nothing on God’s great earth that can stop those tears.

Anyway, last week, I attended a rosary on Tuesday evening for my husband’s great Uncle Louis and then a funeral on Friday for a precious man, Shelton, from our parish.  I held myself together fairly well at the rosary, but then on Friday, it all came out.  I cried for Uncle Louis.  I cried for Shelton.  I cried for the family and friends they left behind.  I cried for anyone who has ever died.  I cried for everyone who ever will.  I cried.  (I’m certain that some of the folks at the funeral wondered which long-lost relative I might be.  No relation…just came to cry with you…bear with me.)

Beautiful music doesn’t help me out one bit.  I mean, I ADORE beautiful music, but at a funeral, I’m helpless.  I pull myself together for a few moments and pick up the pieces (and all the soggy tissues), and then…they sing a song.  Helpless.

Sometimes a good cry is healing.  The salty waves of the ocean can bring healing.  So can salty tears.  The only difference is that I never get a piercing headache from going to the ocean like I do from crying.  But, I digress.

Once the flood gates closed and the Tylenol kicked in, I remembered a picture that Uncle Louis’ daughter, Bessie, had taken and posted on facebook.  Her picture of “The Empty Chair” made a great impact on me. 

Here is what she typed with her photo:  “It is with great sadness that I post that my Dad passed away late on Saturday. He was blessed with a wonderful life for 96 years.  I took this photo last week one evening after returning to my parent's home after spending the day at the hospital with my Dad and being quizzed by him if we had watered his garden? This was his chair he sat on when he watered his garden and I knew in my heart that he would never sit here again as he was growing weaker each day.”

I know that Louis will never sit in that garden chair again.  And, I know that Shelton will never again sit in his pew at church.  They will be dearly missed by many.  To my knowledge, the two men did not know each other, but they had something in common.  They shared a love for growing things.

Louis was described as a man of the earth.  He loved the land.  At an early age, he learned skills about growing crops and pecans, gardening vegetables and fruits, and cattle ranching.  He enjoyed the very simplest of things and never wanted for more.  He always shared the fruits of his labor with family and friends.  The oranges, tangerines, grapefruits, lemons, peaches, and plums were plentiful.

His daughter is sure that his daily sippings of homemade wine or “Sweet Lucy” as he called it, was a big contributor to his longevity.  She said, “If it could be made into wine, he made it.  But, his favorite wine was made from either dewberries or pears.”  Bessie wasn’t so sure that his love for Blue Bell ice cream contributed to his long life, but she does know that they WILL notice his loss in their bottom line for sales!

Louis also knew how to grow love.  He was happily married to the country gal of his dreams for over 65 years and they had three children, five grandchildren, and five great-grandchildren.  What a blessed life!

Shelton was another man who had a passion for growing things.  As a very young child, his mother gave him a shiny dime and he bought seeds with it.  He was a man of the earth.  For countless years, he had his own greenhouses and florist business.  He knew how to make gorgeous plants and flowers grow.  I can’t tell one plant from the next and it’s very probable that a plant in my care will not make it.  Not Shelton.  He had a gift and he used it.  And, it was obvious to me that he also knew about growing love, as he was married to his precious wife for over 50 years and their devotion to each other was inspiring.

I’m sure that both of these men found it so fulfilling to take a seed and see it bear fruit and beauty through their nurturing care.  While wrapping up the book I mentioned last week, Nine Words, it is timely for me that the last part of it is about growing.  Hunt writes, “A small, green apple cannot ripen in one night by tightening all its muscles and squinting its eyes and clenching its jaw in order to miraculously find itself the next morning turned into a wonderfully large, red apple, ripe and juicy.  In the same way, our transformation in Christ Jesus does not occur overnight or in one big, momentous decision.  Instead, it takes time.  It takes effort.  And it takes self-control.”

Hunt mentions the five sacred steps of self-control:  (1) Decide what you really want.  (2) Give your life over to Him.  (3)  Seek His Spirit and His help in all that you do.  (4) Replace old habits with new ones.  (5) Follow Him one day at a time.

Hunt encourages us to look around as we follow the steps listed.  He said that, “Love, joy, and peace will begin to pop up in your flower beds.  Notice how patience, kindness, and goodness begin to blossom in your orchard.  Faithfulness and gentleness will sprout up in your garden.  And you will discover that the fruits of God’s Spirit all complement one another so that the more one grows, the more the others will grow too.  And best of all, the more your relationship with Christ matures and ripens, the more your life will bear a rich harvest of God’s fruit.”

Hunt reminds us that “your goal is to become the best-version-of-yourself®.  And you know you cannot do it apart from God, for He made you to become just that.”

As I look at Bessie’s picture of the empty chair, it does sadden me.  It also reminds me to love and hug my family and friends before their chairs are empty.  BUT!  I do smile at the thought of the good Lord welcoming these two men with open arms last week saying:

Hello young men, I’m glad you’re here,
Sit down and have a beer (oh gosh, I totally put that in for Louis! hee hee!)
I’m so proud of you for what you’ve done,
I’m blessed to call you each my son!
You loved your fam, your faith, your wife,
You made me smile throughout your life.
My gardens need some tending to,
They really need the two of you.
The water is right over there,
Just beside that…

Tuesday, April 9, 2013

Dig Down Deep

Photo Credit:  raymortim at

I’m going to come on out with it.  I’m not holding back.  I’m layin’ it all on the line.  Here goes:  I CANNOT and SHOULD NOT multi-task.  Period.  End.  Of.  Story.

All moms are supposed to be able to do fifty things at once right?  Well, not this momma.  It’s not advisable.  Let me tell you a little story…

The other day I was on the phone with a dear friend.  She was sharing with me about her recent health problems and how she was coming up with more questions than answers.  My heart was breaking for her and I was very focused on listening to what she had to say.  In a conversation like that, I usually just sit on my duff in my favorite rocking chair and soak it in.  I don’t want to miss something.

This time, against my better judgment, I felt the need to finish the laundry, put fresh sheets on the beds, corral the kids, and make supper while chatting with her.  Epic fail.

Supper – check.  Listen to my wonderful friend – check.  Corral the kids – half a check.  Laundry – no check whatsoever.

I ran the dryer twice.  No biggie.  Well, it’s not a biggie in and of itself since it is OLD and we usually have to run it several times before the clothes are dry anyway.  The kicker is that the clothes were still in the washer when I ran the dryer twice.  Yep.  That’s right.  What WAS I drying?!  One will never know.  I do know that the air inside of that dryer was the hottest, driest air I’ve ever met outside of west Texas.  (In my defense, does it help if I tell you that our dryer does NOT have a see-through door?  No?  Poo!  I didn’t think so.)

Well, this little oopsie would definitely have been tucked away in my “Are you kidding me, Heather?!” file, but another party was unfortunately involved.  My dear, sweet, helpful husband.

My husband had come home from work while I was doing all of this fancy multi-tasking.  After I finished my phone call, he asked if I needed help folding the clothes in the dryer.  (SO thoughtful, that man!)  He heard the dryer running and thought we could knock out the load together so we could eat supper sooner and get the kids’ nighttime routine going.

He opened the dryer door.  He looked in the dryer three times.  Then, he looked at me.  Then, he looked in the dryer again.  I took a peek in the dryer, wondering why on earth he kept looking at me with such a weird expression.  (Oh my gosh!  An empty dryer.  No way!  All this time.  My mind was foggy.  Had I really done it?  Air?  Air!  I was drying AIR.)  I desperately hoped at that very moment that some clothes would just magically appear in our dryer.  Any clothes.  Just something.  Help me out, Lord.  (I will NOT be getting the “Mother of the Year” award after this one!  hee hee)

Luckily, my hubby is not one to holler, scream, or relentlessly make fun of me.  My loving husband took a deep breath and just looked at me kinda quirky-like and calmly asked, “Really?” 

I had no words.

Our washer is old too and keeps dripping if we don’t take the clothes out right away.  So, in silence, we gathered the clothes from the washer, wrung them out in the sink, and put them in the dryer.

Patience.  My husband did such a great job that day.  He has not mentioned this “incident” again.  Although, I’m certain that he had to dig down DEEP!  Thank you, honey.  I might have just plopped down on the floor, rocking and sobbing, had you reacted some other way.  You rock.

Little day-to-day chances to witness patience are beautiful, aren’t they?  Don’t we admire patient people?  We respect their ability to take it all in stride…to think before they react…to pray before they hastily make decisions.

In Allen Hunt’s book, “Nine Words,” he addresses patience.  He breaks it down into three categories:  end-time patience, social patience, and personal patience.

For end-time patience, he says, “Believers wait for the Lord.  We wait for the completion of the Lord’s plans in the world.  We wait for the return of Jesus.  We wait for the arrival of the Kingdom of God.  We wait for our souls to be united with Jesus forever.  We wait.  All Christians live with an eye toward God’s eternal future.  We already know the outcome of history.  We know where we are headed.  We have the assurance of God’s final victory.  In the meantime, we wait and anticipate.  End-time patience.”

Hunt says that we needn’t worry that we won’t get enough things or fulfillment in this life.  We don’t need to invest ourselves completely in the achievements of this worldly life since there is a life to come that will be more rewarding.  When things don’t go our way, Hunt reminds us that we shouldn’t lose heart, because the purpose of God will prevail.  That is worth waiting for.

Hunt states that “the Holy Spirit provides a whole level of internal peace that allows you to live richer, fuller lives.  You can afford to be patient because you know that this life is not the end but merely an anticipation of eternity with our Lord.”

The second dimension is patience with other people – social patience.  Hunt writes that “social patience blossoms directly out of end-time patience.  As you learn to have a Kingdom view of the world and of your life, the Spirit then is able to move you to a deeper level of patience with other people.  In other words, the more you know God and trust in His eternal ways, the more you are able to be patient with the other people around you.  You know the big stuff, so the small stuff begins to occupy your mind a little less.”

Hunt says that “just as God is patient with you and your failures, so too does God desire that you will be patient with your difficult neighbor, your rebellious child, or your opinionated co-worker in your struggles to live and be together.  Bearing with one another even when shortcomings and failures are apparent – THAT is social patience.”

In the Patience chapter of his book, we are reminded that it is not a natural human response to bear with people who mistreat us or to have endless patience with the most difficult of people.  It is only through the work of the Spirit that we are able to.

And, finally, the last element of patience is personal.  Well, personal patience, that is.  And, it is quite possibly the most difficult.  Patience with ourselves.  “The work of the Spirit bears fruit as we learn to be patient and endure through personal suffering.  The Spirit makes Himself known to us as we learn to experience the hand of God in our suffering rather than IN SPITE of our suffering.  This lesson may be the hardest one to hear and the hardest to learn, but it is also the most fruitful.  God can and does grow your patience by using suffering in your life to draw you closer to Him and to form you in His image.  God does not CAUSE you suffering, but He can USE it to grow you.”

I really enjoyed pondering patience through Hunt’s three descriptions in his book.  I hope to cultivate more and more fruit in the garden of patience.  So!  When you “think” you have set the microwave “timer” and it runs without a single food particle inside, be patient.  When your kid’s Easter Party becomes a man-hunt for the six decorated “unboiled” Easter eggs, be patient (a friend’s story – no names, though!).  When your wife runs the dryer (twice) without a stitch of clothing inside, be patient.  Dig Down Deep.  Be patient.  Be patient.  Be patient.  God is patient with us.

Tuesday, April 2, 2013


Photo Credit:  anitapeppers at

One of my personal little pleasures is running out of Bath & Body Works® hand soaps and lotions.  The reason I enjoy it so much is that I then allow myself a trip to the store to “restock.”  I grab my coupons and off I go!  Weeeee!

When I stocked up last week, the store had a fresh batch of hand soaps and I grabbed one of each.  Just listen to this line-up:  Aloha Orchid, Mango Paradise, Coconut Cove, Berry Sangria, Island Breeze, and Ocean Sunset.  Ahhhhhh!  Soaps with names like that are irresistible because I feel like I’m on a mini-vacation each time I use them.  And, as often as Moms wash their hands…what a treat, huh?!  It’s like I’m on island time all day long!  (ha ha)

Now, as far as the lotions go, I’m pretty predictable.  I usually grab the same three scents – Japanese Cherry Blossom, Twilight Woods, and Moonlight Path.  Same three.  Every time.  But, as my cousin, Donna, reminded me, “People really like to hold on to their comfort zone and life doesn’t really begin until you leave it.”  Hmmmmm.  Truth.

So, instead of the regulars, I ventured off into the Aromatherapy lotions.  New territory.  Unchartered waters.  Livin’ on the edge, I was!  The lotion that caught my mommy attention was “Stress Relief.”  It was a Eucalyptus Tea body cream that claimed to help calm feelings of stress and uncertainty.  What?!  Did you know that a simple lotion could do that?!  I should have grabbed their entire display!  No more feelings of uncertainty?  Who WOULDN’T want to slather on a layer?!

Then, as I read a little further, the last line on the lotion was, “Breathe deeply for best results.”  Aha.  The key.  Maybe it isn’t so much the lotion, as the slow breathing that should go with it.  I adore the lotion.  But, the thing that has brought me the most calm has been the deep breathing that has accompanied it.  Don’t freak out if you see me sniffin’ my arm (NOT my underarm, silly, just my arm).  I’m doing stress therapy.  No worries.

The simple gift of breath.  Don’t we take that for granted each and every day?  Why, you’ve probably taken several good breaths just reading this post so far.  But, I can almost bet money that you haven’t thought about it until now.

Someone that treasures breathing is someone who hasn’t been able to.  My friend, Milissa Z., suffered with pulmonary arterial hypertension for so long that she eventually needed new lungs.  New breath.  Someone’s last breath became her new life.  I marvel at watching her, doing just wonderfully four months after her bilateral lung transplant.  To protect her lungs, she wears a mask in public to lessen the chance of her getting sickie germs from all of us.  Good idea. 

I can’t see her nose or mouth.  BUT!  Do you know what I CAN see right above that mask?  Her eyes.  And, they are the eyes of a brave woman.  I have again looked into the eyes of the brave and it gives me much hope, courage, and strength.  She once told me, “I figured that I can be in pain at home or in church.  I opted for church.”  LOVE her!

Someone’s last breath gave life.  Does this sound familiar?  Jesus is coming to mind. 

As I rub a little more lotion onto my arms, hoping that all uncertainty will just fade away, I remember that it’s a WHO, not a WHAT, that can calm my biggest doubts and fears.  But, when the road gets rocky, don’t we sometimes wonder if He is even listening?  Is He even there?  WHY can’t things just go our way?  Where IS He?

Then, I got an e-mail that served as a wonderful reminder about why things might happen in our lives.  It’s “Mail from Jesus.”  Let me share it with you:

“If you never felt pain, then how would you know that I am a Healer?
If you never had to pray, then how would you know that I am a Deliverer?
If you never had a trial, then how could you call yourself an overcomer?
If you never felt sadness, then how would you know that I am a Comforter?
If you never made a mistake, then how would you know that I am a Forgiver?
If you knew all, then how would you know that I will answer your questions?
If you never were in trouble, then how would you know that I will come to your rescue?
If you never were broken, then how would you know that I can make you whole?
If you never had a problem, then how would you know that I can solve them?
If you never had any suffering, then how would you know what I went through?
If you never went through the fire, then how would you become pure?
If I gave you all things, then how would you appreciate them?
If I never corrected you, then how would you know that I love you?
If you had all power, then how would you learn to depend on me?
If your life was perfect, then what would you need me for?”

I don’t know about you, but these reminders took my breath away.  They are so true.  We ask for this.  We ask for that.  We want our life to be perfectly smooth.  All.  The.  Time.

But, this “Mail from Jesus” reminds me why it’s not.  It reminds me to breathe.  It reminds me to breathe in my blessings and breathe out my burdens.

Jesus had no servants, yet they called Him Master.  He had no degree, but they called Him Teacher.  Had no medicines, yet they called Him Healer.  Had no army, but kings feared Him.  He won no military battles, yet He conquered the world.  He committed no crime, but they crucified Him.  He was buried in a tomb, yet He lives today.

Because of Him…I breathe.