When I was five, the show Bewitched debuted on TV.   I remember begging my mother to let me stay up to watch it.  It was on at 7 pm, which was also my bedtime.  I did not get to stay up and watch it.  However, it was on TV for many years, and eventually, I did get to watch that show.  The thing that I liked best about the show, was how the main character, Samantha would wriggle her nose, and all her cleaning chores would be done—brooms would sweep the floor by themselves, and dishes would be washed—oh how I wished I could do the same thing!!

It also reminded me of Snow White—when all the animals came to help and clean, and the dwarves’ dirty cottage was  transformed into a gleaming, clean, organized home.

That was the goal of my mother, and many women of her generation– to have a gleaming, clean and organized home.  A goal that was attained day after day, week after week, month after month and year after year.

I have to say right now—I love a clean, gleaming, organized home; however, I can count on my hands and toes, the times my home has been clean, gleaming and organized all at the same time.

My mother and mother-in-law make it look so easy, but I know it takes consistency, a plan, and habits.

When I was first married, I realized that I had none of those things—so I came up with a plan.  I made a list of everything that needed to be done in the house, how much time I thought each task would take, and assigned a day to each task.  I was determined to get some habits in place before I had children. 

I succeeded in my goals:  the little house we were renting was immaculate—something our landlady noted when she came to visit.

Then we moved—into the Residence Hall, (my husband was the Director of Housing at a local college where we both worked), and I got pregnant.  Every day, I would run into the apartment and into the bathroom to get sick.  Every single day of my pregnancy.   I remember sitting in the apartment with my husband, when the President of the college showed up at our door, with a group of people, to show off the newly remodeled Resident Director’s Apartment, and the apartment was a disaster.  Every time, I moved in this apartment—I got sick, and so I stopped moving and just sat with a kerchief over my nose to block out newly remodeled smells that were assaulting my senses.  Needless to say—I still cringe at the memory of that occasion and wish I had had more gumption to make my apartment the clean, gleaming organized place, I longed for it to be.

And that sums up– how much of my mental life has been lived—I have a goal and a standard, I may reach that goal and standard for a while, but eventually I fail—sometimes to my great embarrassment–I fail.  Then when I remember my failure—I beat myself up, and tell myself, “you should have, could have done better.”

I am believing lies. 

Lie number 1:  If you want to be significant, you must achieve (fill in the blank).  Everyone’s fill in will be different—it could be having a great job or position at a job—it could be having a clean house, or well-behaved children, etc. etc.

2.  If you want to be loved: you must be perfect. (You must perform your job perfectly, or be the perfect wife and mother, friend, or all of the above.)

3.  If you want to belong: you must be worthy.  To be worthy you must have position, power and possessions.

1. The truth is:  I am significant because I belong to Jesus.  In fact, I have been adopted into the family of God. (John 1:12: But to as many as received Him, to them He gave the right to become children of God, even to those who believe in His Name.)

2. The truth is: I am loved by Jesus, which means I am loved, I belong, I am significant in His love. (Galatians 2:20b:  The life which I now live in the flesh, I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave Himself up for me.)

3.  The truth is: Jesus has made me worthy and all who belong to Him worthy. ( 1 Peter 2:9a tells us:  But you are a chosen Race, a Royal Priesthood, a Holy Nation, a People for God’s own possession….)

When I believe these truths, I can be open about my failings and shortcomings, because I am already loved.  I already belong.  I have been made worthy.

When I believe these truths, I don’t have to look any farther than Jesus for my significance.  I can look at everything I do through His eyes—and I am motivated by His love to trust and obey Him. 

So instead of wanting to rush through the process of life and cleaning—I can savor the process of life and even the process of cleaning.  I can ask God to be a part of each moment—even cleaning can become an act of worship!

God is with us, each and every moment.  He loves us, we are significant in Him, and we belong to Him!!

                                                So Be Encouraged!!

Peace, Baby, Peace

Have you ever taken a ride on an airplane and looked down and everything seems so small? — Small houses, cars, buildings, trees.  I love looking down and seeing the world get small.  I feel such a peace when I am looking at life from that angle.  Why?  Because it reminds me that it is all a matter of perspective.

  Often, when I focus on a problem—the problem can seem so big, so huge, so unsolvable.  For example, in marriage, my husband and I often have differing opinions from one another.  That is to be expected, we are two different people, we had different backgrounds, he is from the East Coast, I am from the Mid-West, (I don’t have to explain any further than that—the cultural differences alone, explain most of our differences.)   There have been a few times in our marriage, where our differences were so extreme, that I wondered if they could be overcome. 

It’s all a matter of perspective.   It’s all in how I look at the situation.  Often, reading the Bible will help me find perspective.  I find God’s point of view—His eternal view, and that makes everything else seem small in comparison to His view, and I have that same sense of peace.

When I was in college, I began my relationship with the Lord.  One of the verses that I read over and over again was, Philippians 4:6,7:   Be anxious for nothing, but in everything, by prayer, supplication and thanksgiving, let your requests be made known to God and the peace of God shall guard your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus Our Lord.

I heard a great talk by Josh McDowell, on this verse. The talk was about taking every concern to the Lord in prayer and the result will be—peace.  Not that I will necessarily have what I ask, but that when I put things in God’s hands, with an attitude of thankfulness and respect, God gives His peace.

Peace is a gift.  It is not being anxious but being calm.  It is realizing that “it”, (whatever “it” is) is all in God’s Hands, and He is motivated by love.  He can be trusted with the “it”.

Every time, I have lost someone I loved, I have been forced to look at God and look at that belief that He does love me.  He is in charge.  He can be trusted.   How do I deal with finding my way back to God when my heart is torn, battered and my soul is reeling?

I look at what I know—I know that Jesus did live, and He did die, and He did rise again.  (I am not going to go into all the apologetics of how I know this, but I will give you a link, so you can start doing research yourself into these topics.) Click here for apologetic videos.

I know that scripture is reliable and can be trusted Click here for a video about this.

I know prophesy in scripture has been fulfilled, showing me that God knows what is going to happen, and He is Sovereign, He has a plan, His will—will be done. Click here for video on fulfilled prophesies.

The Holy Spirit continues to speak in my heart, reassuring me that I am God’s child, that I am loved, that I belong.  (Romans 8:16)

There was a song that I learned when I was in college, (I was on summer break, working up north with the children of migrant workers, and attending a little tiny church—where this song was sung), the words to the song are:  “Many things about tomorrow, I don’t seem to understand, but I know Who holds tomorrow, and I know Who holds my hand.”     I loved that song.  I would sing it, over and over again. Click here to listen to song.

That was a time in my life, when I was coming to the end of college, and my future was full of question marks.  This song, helped to remind me of God, the One Who holds my hand, and the One Who holds the future.  The song helped me to focus on God and He helped me to gain perspective and peace.

God holds your hand and He holds your future too.   God loves you with an everlasting love.  When we doubt that, our peace is destroyed, as it is difficult to trust and follow God if we doubt His love for us.  So, remember—all He has done to demonstrate His love to you, all the Evidence He has provided so you can know what you believe is true and Be at Peace and

 Be Encouraged!!

October 21, 2019

This is the Ten Year Anniversary of my Dad’s Passing. I would like to share a Christmas Letter, I wrote almost 10 years ago in honor of my Dad.

Dear Family and Friends, Christmas 2009
This year, my siblings and I lost our Dad. Our mother lost her husband of 52 years. Many of you lost a brother, brother-in-law, uncle, Grandpa, cousin– a friend.
I’ve lived long enough to know that not all Dads were like mine. I was one of the lucky ones. I had a Dad who was involved and committed to his family: he loved his wife, children and grandkids. My Dad wasn’t one of the lucky ones. He overcame a very painful childhood. He wanted things to be different for his own family, and it was— in large part because of his faithful helpmate and soul mate—my dearest mother.
So many of my childhood memories involve my Dad doing things with us, taking us skating, sledding, camping, and swimming. When I was in High School I decided to join the track team– my Dad ran with me every day to get me in shape for the track season. My Dad was a great runner himself, and in many ways I think my Dad was trying to get me ready to run the race of life. We would run, and he would tell me stories, trying to impart his own passion and drive into my approach to running, into my approach to life.
It was my Uncle Jimmy, not my Dad, who told us the story of my Dad running in the State finals. He was the only white runner in the race. The other racers turned to him, and said, “Hey white boy, what are you doing in this race.” My Dad replied with a grin, “You’re about to find out”, and he went on to win the race.”
My brother Patrick summed it up so well, he said Dad has taught us and trained us in so many ways to live life. My brothers got to be with my Dad when he died, and Patrick said that Dad had one more lesson to teach them, he taught them how to die– he wrote the last chapter for them on how a life should be lived.
The biggest lesson my Dad taught me was to never give up. Our sins and failings may bring us down, but they don’t have to keep us down. My Dad was a man of faith; he learned to receive God’s forgiveness and extend it to others. This was not easy for him–sometimes the hardest person he had to forgive was himself.
The night that he died, I sensed my Dad’s presence, and he was so happy. My Dad came to say goodbye. He was finally going home—to his true home, he had finished his race, and he had finished it well.
Whenever I go to a funeral and see the body—I am struck with the fact that all of us are “living souls”. That is what the Bible calls us. It is so apparent to me that the soul of the person has passed on.
God is offering each of us “living souls” an eternal relationship with Him. He wants to give us the gift of His love and forgiveness. This is the true gift of Christmas— “The wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life through Jesus Christ, our Lord.” Romans 6:23 What we have earned is a spiritual death, because we have each sinned against God and each other. Instead of what we have earned, God desires to give us an eternal relationship with Him—Jesus’ death took away the penalty of that spiritual death and replaced it with life. But like any gift—it must be received for it to become truly ours.
In so many ways, my earthly father taught me this. I could never earn the love he freely gave me—but to experience that love, I had to receive it as the gift it was.

On another note–October 21st is my husband’s dad birthday!! I wrote about my husband’s dad in the blog titled September 23, 2013.

The biggest lesson, I have learned from both of these dads–is the lesson of forgiveness and perseverance. They both finished their races in life. They finished well. I think that is so encouraging, as it is a testimony of the faithfulness of God. We can be encouraged by those who have gone before us–for if God was faithful to them, He will be faithful to us!! (Philippians 1:6)

So Be Encouraged!!

Grace Is Unfair

Grace Is Unfair

Last week, in my blog, The Gift of Laughter, I referenced the story of Mary and Martha—and I received a comment on this story that got me to thinking about why this story was included in scripture. (In John 21: 25, it says: “Jesus did many other things as well. If every one of them were written down, I suppose that even the whole world would not have room for the books that would be written.”).  God inspired what scripture would be written. (2 Timothy 3:16)   I think God had a specific reason to include this story.

  It reminded me, of another story in scripture that is referred to as the Prodigal Son, found in Luke 15:11-32.  In The Prodigal son  story you have two siblings, one, (the older sibling) stays and helps his Father, and one, (the younger brother), took his inheritance, blew it on partying, than was poor and starving, so he comes crawling back to his Dad, and his Dad welcomes him profusely—throws him a big party, hugs and kisses him, and the older brother is thinking, “Wait a minute—I stayed, have worked faithfully for my Dad, and this loser gets the party—How is that fair?”  This is my paraphrase—for the exact translation, check out Luke 15.

In the case of Mary and Martha, (this story is found in Luke 10: 38-42), Jesus and his band of 12 disciples come to their home, (probably unexpectedly), but Martha knows her role—she know she is in charge of feeding 13 extra people, (and maybe more), as Jesus traveled with quite a group at times.  So, Martha starts bustling—it is all hands-on deck to feed the guests.  Middle Eastern/Asian culture was and is very hospitable, and guests must be treated to the best.  For example: just a week ago, my daughter and I went to the home of some friends, who are from Bangladesh, to borrow some items for a Geography Fair.  They were doing us a favor by loaning us their things—yet they treated us so beautifully, served us some refreshments, and talked so kindly to us. 

 Martha, (having been trained to serve food to guests), starts making food for Jesus and his disciples, and she expects her sister Mary to help.  Mary does not help.  She sits down and listens to Jesus.  How aggravating for Martha!!  In fact, Martha is so aggravated that she appeals to Jesus, as she is certain Jesus will agree with her—and then He does not! Wow!!

Which brings me the title of this blog – Grace is Unfair!!

I think all these stories were about Grace.  Grace is a gift that we receive that we don’t earn, and we don’t deserve.  When people receive a gift for free, those who thought they worked to earn that gift, and so deserve that gift are upset. Jesus’ people thought they had to work to earn God’s acceptance and approval.

Jesus was trying to teach His people, about GRACE. 

 Jesus’ people had laws and rules—given to them by God—and they thought that if they kept these laws, they were acceptable to God and approved of by God— Jesus is trying to teach them a new lesson.  Jesus is trying to tell them and us, “You can’t do enough to be acceptable to Me—for I am Holy.  You may think that you can be approved– by keeping all these laws, but you are not learning the lesson I wanted you to learn.  I want you to learn these laws are impossible for you human beings to keep perfectly. In fact– you keep breaking my laws and presenting sacrifices in order to be forgiven.  Now—I am going to be the Lamb of God—that takes away the sins of the world—the one and final sacrifice for your forgiveness.  This is GRACE, it is a gift from God, not because of your works, so that no one can come to Me and boast— (because I did this—or that)—I deserve a relationship with You.  A relationship with Me is a gift. (Ephesians 2:8,9)

 Jesus is trying to teach us about GRACE, by using these stories.  Martha is used as an example of how we can all try to do what we think Jesus expects us to do, but it may not be what He wants us to do at all. He wants us to rest in Him, enjoy our relationship with Him.  (Come to Me, all who are weary and heavy-laden and I will give you REST.   Matthew 11:28)  Mary is an example of resting in Jesus, enjoying our relationship with Jesus.  This is the gift Jesus wants to give each of us.  Often, resting in Jesus, will mean, finding out what Jesus wants us to do, before we do it.  (Not making assumptions about what His expectations really are.)  For my story about how my husband and I did this—see: “The Gift of Hindsight.”)

In the Prodigal Son—The older son is used as an example of the person who is faithful, loyal, working for God/Dad, (the Dad is used as an example of who God is, in this story), and older brother thinks he has ‘earned’ his relationship with his Dad and ‘earned’ a reward.  The Dad tells him—”you did not have to work to ‘earn’ a relationship with me—you ‘are’ my son.  That is your position.  All these years, we have had fellowship with one another, working with each other, being with each other.  That has been our reward, that has been our gift.  Your brother was lost, he was not apart of our fellowship.  In fact, he was dead, and today, he has come back to life!!  This is worth celebrating!!  Celebrate this with me, my beloved son!!”—this is my paraphrase. J  Actually, the Dad in the story said, “Son, you have always been with me and everything I have is yours.   But we had to celebrate and be glad, because this brother of yours was dead and is alive again; he was lost and is found!

So what about all these laws God has given us—in Galatians 5:18,22-23, it says— “If you are led by the Spirit, you are not under the law……The fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control, against these things there is no law.”   In other words, if God’s Spirit is leading you and producing these fruits in you—you are not under the law, because you will be living out all the things the law tried to help you do.  Jesus says all the law can be summed up in, “Love the Lord your God with all your heart, mind, strength and soul and Love your neighbor as yourself.” (Matthew 22:36-40)

In other words—it’s all about Love—love for God, love for others.    So simple, so hard, Grace is so needed!!   And that’s Jesus’s message— “You all need Grace.  You all need Me.  You all need a Savior.  You all need The Spirit to lead and guide you.  I know what you need.  Just come to Me, and I will give you what you need.  You don’t have to do this on your own!!

If that isn’t something to Be Encouraged About—I don’t know what is!! 

So Be Encouraged!!

The Gift of Laughter

This week I saw a video of Ellen DeGeneres explaining why she was sitting next to President George Bush at a Cowboys football game.  She was funny and humorous explaining how this happened and her key point was we should be kind to everyone, not just to people we agree with and who agree with us.  (A timely and important message—by the way.)

Ellen DeGeneres also explained that she wasn’t really cheering for the Cowboys, but for the other team, the Packers, whose quarterback was her friend. She had to hide her Cheese hat, while sitting in the box.

That reminded me of something that happened to our boys when they were 9 and 11.  They had been invited to the local college coach’s box, as their good friend was the college coach’s son.  The home team was playing Boston College.  Boston College is their grandfather’s alma mater.  So- my boys wore Boston College sweatshirts to sit in the box.   Fortunately, their friend’s mom had a great sense of humor and was a wise woman.   According to my sons, she laughed at the sweatshirts they were wearing and then she gave my sons two oversized t-shirts displaying the local colleges’ logo to wear during the game.

We still laugh about this incident.  It illustrates the point of this blog—laughter can bring us together and diffuse tense situations.  It can restore perspective.

Here’s another situation where laughter saved the moment:  Just yesterday, my daughter was looking for an apple corer.  She had left this implement out –dirty on the counter. She asked me if I knew where it was.  I told her, I had taken care of it, my exact words were, “I probably washed it and put it away, because that’s just the kind of mom I am.”  Instead, we found the corer in the sink, under a plate.  I laughed and said, “Yup, that’s just the kind of mom I am.”  My daughter laughed, and repeated, “That’s just the kind of mom you are.”  We dissolved in laughter, and it was a bright moment for us.

I could have gotten upset with her for leaving the apple corer out on the counter– (we have rules about these things—rules that are ignored frequently.)  She could have gotten upset when she wasn’t finding it – (oh wait she did get upset) J  But laughter—diffused the situation and even made it a bonding moment for the two of us.

 Often, my husband and I can be disagreeing with each other, and then one of us will change the tone of the conversation, just by bringing humor into it.   We laugh and wonder what we were really getting so upset over.

After we lost our son Sean, I thought about that a great deal.  I would look back and wonder why I was getting so upset over so many stupid things.   The things I thought were so important, were not important at all.  In fact, most of the things I got upset over, were rather trivial in the grand scheme of things.    Jesus talked about this with Martha and Mary, (this story is found in Luke 10:38-42)—he said to Martha that she was worried and bothered about so many things, but Mary had chosen the better part, and that would not be taken away from her.  Mary had chosen to spend time with Jesus.   Mary wanted to sit at His feet and listen to His stories and treasure the time she had with Him.  I want to do the same thing—I want to treasure Jesus, the One who loves me and gave Himself for me.  The One who died to give me an eternal relationship with Him.

I am going to say something at the risk of people thinking I’m a little cuckoo – God and I have laughed together.  I talk with Him in my mind  throughout the day, just as I would talk to a friend, and He talks back to me—in my mind, and often, we laugh. 

 My hope for you is that your life will be filled with laughter— So Be Encouraged!!

It’s a Sunshine Day!!

Recently, my husband and I watched The Brady Bunch Renovation.  (We grew up watching The Brady Bunch).  Watching The Brady Bunch Renovation brought back so many memories.   I remember gathering at my friend’s house after school to watch The Brady Bunch.   Even now when I catch a snippet of the show, I am flooded with ‘feel-good’ memories. (I’m hoping this blog’s color scheme of olive green and orange will bring back memories of the Brady Bunch’s kitchen. 🙂 )

 What is it about The Brady Bunch, that had so many in my generation so involved?  I really don’t know.  I do know what I liked about it—I liked that Mr. and Mrs. Brady found happiness with each other, and their respective families after experiencing loss and tragedy.  I liked that the children were given the love and security of a new family after experiencing insecurity and devastation when they lost a parent.  (This was the time of my life when my cousins lost both of their parents, and I wanted them to have a new beginning—a new family and a happy life.) 

 I also liked the order in the family.  Mr. and Mrs. Brady were definitely– in charge.  The kids were respectful to their parents.  The parents were respectful to the children—but still definitely in charge.  Alice was respectful to Mr. and Mrs. Brady and the children, and they were respectful to her.  (I love the character of Alice—and honestly, who wouldn’t want an Alice in their family—someone to cook and clean—what a dream!! I remember telling my mom, that I was going to have a maid when I grew up, and my mom laughed and said, “I have four of them—referring to me and my three sisters. I didn’t think that was as funny as my mom did. )

I could relate to The Brady Bunch because there were 6 children in my family.  There was also order in my family.  My parents were definitely– in charge.  My siblings and I were respectful to our parents.  (Of course, that respect was reinforced with consequences, just as the Brady Bunch kids received consequences for their wrong choices, so did we.)  It was a world I knew, and within which I felt comfortable and safe.

I remember when my oldest son was 10 years old and he discovered “The Hardy Boys” book series.  Apparently, the books had an impact on him, as he started wearing button-down oxford shirts and khaki pants and calling his dad, “Sir”.    Others started noticing him calling his dad “Sir” and commenting on it in a negative way.  They thought that my husband and I were too strict and made our son say, “Sir” when addressing his dad.    I was a bit shocked by that response, as I thought it was kind of cute and it was respectful.

 One of the college students who worked for us noticed that my husband sought and asked for my opinion and thought that was so amazing.  Something that we thought was a natural way of treating each other, was extraordinary in his eyes.

I had a family example to share here, but the person involved asked me not to share it.  Since I am talking about respect, I am going to respect that person’s input and not share this example, except to say that I have been asking God to help us be more loving and respectful of each other in our family.

God’s answer to my request for wisdom is simple actually, “treat people in the same way that you would have them treat you…..” Matthew 7:12

The problem is—it is so easy to see how others are treating me wrong, and not as easy to see how I am treating others wrong.  God tells us in Matthew 7:5  “…take the log out of your own eye, and then you can see clearly before you try to take the speck out of your brother’s eye.”

This is where I need God’s help—to open my eyes and cause me to see the truth about myself and how I am really treating others.  God has said, “You shall know the truth and the truth will set you free.” John 8:32

I am trusting that God’s Spirit will show me the truth—of how I can be more respectful, more kind, more loving.    Perhaps as each of us ask God’s Spirit to show us the truth to help us change into more loving, respectful people, our families will change into loving, respectful families!!  Then it will really be —“a sunshine day”!!  (this is a lyric in a song the Brady kids sang.) Here’s a link:

   So Be Encouraged!!