Sunday, July 26, 2015

Marriage Tip #44: Do What He Wants

I thought about our upcoming anniversary.   I prayed one morning for the marriages in my family, and a sentence about my own dropped in my spirit:  “Do What He Wants.”  I paused, “Really?”  He’s his own man.  What if I end up in the wilderness camping by night and target shooting by day?  What if a coyote decides to have me as a late night snack?

We celebrated our anniversary early this year,
Before the kids come next week.

 And we did it his way.

This is how it happened.

I never asked him about a plan or even mentioned our day.  I remember how it all unfolded at the roundabout just as we drove into Sedona.  He asked me if I would like to go to a baseball game.  I responded excitedly, “Yeah!”  Before the day was over, he purchased tickets for a Diamondbacks home game. He printed them out.  He booked a hotel room so we wouldn’t have to drive home from the city after the late evening game.

He explained the Metro Light Rail system to me and how we can travel from the Wyndham to the baseball field. Fun adventure; a great way to people watch!

He’s an Alice Cooper fan so he suggested a late lunch in Cooperstown. 

(I told God it’s gonna get weird and it did.)

It’s a sports bar with good food.  And stuff jocks and rockers like where the waitresses paint their faces like Alice.

The Diamondbacks beat the Brewers that night.

He didn’t rush me the next morning either.  We enjoyed the beautiful pool after breakfast.

I liked it all!  Best thing is I didn’t have to do a thing except pack my bag!

And that’s the story
Of how this good wife

 Celebrated her anniversary.

Any special plans in the works for you?  

“Go and shout this message to Jerusalem. This is what the Lord says:

I remember how eager you were to please me
    as a young bride long ago,
how you loved me and followed me
    even through the barren wilderness.”

Jeremiah 2:2

Our suite was on the top floor of the hotel with a deck covering the roof overlooking the city just like in one of my favorite classic movies, “Goodbye Girl” in the 70’s when (young) Richard Dreyfuss wows the girlfriend on the roof of his apartment building overlooking Manhattan.  The best scene! 

Sunday, July 19, 2015

Fleeing Like A Bird

Photo Credit:  Peggy James

I like it when people give me the heads up that they’re visiting our church when I greet them in the lobby.  Leslie told me she came from another city, 75 miles away.  She seemed nervous as we talked and stepped back outside for fresh air and a smoke.

The praise & worship started and Leslie slid into my row and sat next to me.

During the handshake break, she leaned in close and divulged through strong tobacco breath that she is homeless and living in the park.  I grabbed both her hands and reassured her she looked lovely because she did.  Her makeup in place, she sported clean clothes and a cute hairdo. 

Still holding her hands tight, I promised to protect her back with my prayers in the coming week.  Excited, she responded:  “Oh, how I love this church!”  She continued:  “I’m fleeing from an abusive man.  I’m a woman in flight.”

I wished I had some cash on me.  Tom took me out for breakfast that morning and decided at the last minute to pay in cash.  He wiped me out at Denny’s. 

Just between you and me, I felt like Peter and John on the temple steps telling the handicapped person that I have nothing to give you but my prayers but in the Name of Jesus stand up and walk.   

Leslie is the heroin of my story today because she worshiped God with a transparent, willing heart, desperately needing Him… and us.  She could easily have hid behind a mask and no one would be the wiser. 

How many of us attend church without letting the Lord or anybody else know the pain we carry?

The Body of Christ is a great place to hang out when you’re desperate. We’re family and we’re imperfect.  We understand each other’s brokenness because He touched us.  We’re investors, investing in lives not in stocks that we can’t take with us to our eternal mansions.  Like Peter and John, we believe in miracles, signs and wonders.

Answered Prayers! 
I  learned that a few brothers from the food pantry visited Leslie in the park bringing edibles and counsel.  They invited her to the pantry for a week’s supply and I heard she volunteered one day, working hard and serving others. 

Jesus is still doing it.  He’s feeding the poor and mending shattered lives.  He specializes in rescuing those in flight.

Whatever we are fleeing from…we can be sure of one thing…He’s always there as a refuge for us and, hopefully, so are we…for one another!

Listen to me, dear brothers and sisters.
Hasn’t God chosen the poor in this world to be rich in faith?
Aren’t they the ones who will inherit the Kingdom he promised to those who love him?
James 2:5

Sunday, July 12, 2015

The Lesson of the Peanut Butter & Jelly Sandwich

Years ago when I pretended to be Pioneer Woman of my small town’s newspaper, I caught wind of a story that circulated at the elementary school.

Second Grade Students wrote about “How to Make a Peanut Butter and Jelly Sandwich.”  I giggled at the teacher’s assignment but after reading some of the papers, I asked her if I could visit her class and talk to her students in order to feature them in my next column.

This is what I learned!

I learned generosity from a kid, Chad, who wrote:  “I put the peanut butter & jelly on each piece of the bread, and then I add more peanut butter & jelly and put it together.”

I learned organizational skills from a girl, Sunshine, who named each ingredient and wrote about shutting the refrigerator door when you take out the jelly and putting the peanut butter back after you make the sandwich.

I learned that specific details assure success from a black & white thinker named Jason who wrote:  “Only use Skippy Peanut Butter and strawberry jelly.”

One kid, Tony, who is probably a rich engineer today, wrote:  “You take two pieces of white bread and cut off the crusts.  Put jelly on one and peanut butter on the other and then put the pieces together and get a knife and cut it but not in half, cut it sideways.”

These cutie patooties wrote about the same thing yet their methods varied.  But in the end, I knew how to make a PB&J sandwich!  I just wanted to scoop them up and take them home with me.

I wonder if that’s how our Father feels about us, His cute kids. His assignment is to go and tell our stories for the glory of God.

I ponder unique writing styles of Christian authors.  Specifically, I mull over the variety of motivational gifts I see in them and how those gifts influence the way they write.

For example, some blogs are written by writers with a gift of administration. Their leadership gets me in line and tells me what to do in a Biblical way, not a bossy one.

Some writers have the gift of teaching.  They use a lot of scriptures to support their claims and they excel in the details of the Bible making the meaning crystal clear to me.

Like teachers, some writers are exhorters.  They teach using Biblical concepts but more on the practical side with stories to illustrate their point.  Their posts call me into action.

These are just a few of the Motivational Gifts listed in Romans 12, but I think you get my drift.  I definitely see how we, as Christians,  are wired with different motivation that flows out of us.  God put it there!

Do you know what your motivational gift is?  Some Christian websites offer a free test and explanation of each gift for full understanding. 

I’m an exhorter.  Of course I am….who else is going to tell you a story about a peanut butter and jelly sandwich to illustrate a point?

Check it out:  Romans 12, Motivational Gifts

Sunday, July 5, 2015

The Daughter I've Never Talked About

Some kids bring home dogs; my kids bring home people.  Amy asked if Angie could live with us when they were in high school.

Tom and I had just transitioned into new careers.   I didn’t think we, as a family, had much to offer.  Amy countered:  “I have the largest bedroom and I don’t eat much.”  I left the room so she wouldn’t see me tear up.  Her dad had the final word and he said: “Yes.” 

Angie and Amy worked part-time jobs after school.  Our youngest attended Jr. High.  Life seemed hard at times, but I admit, our home radiated with laughter!

Challenges for me included:
1. Establishing boundaries
2. Sharing my faith 
3. Teaching about purity from my pulpit…the kitchen island

All three liked boys and they were popular. 

This had to have been when my hair began turning gray at rapid speed.   I learned *survival* praying during this time.

Angie suffered with asthma attacks.

I suffered with migraines.

What does a mom and dad in a home look like?

Angie ALWAYS had a date on Saturday night except for the night she stayed home with Tom and me.  The TV blared in our master bedroom; Tom focused on the screen relaxing on the bed with me next to him reading fiction.  We left the door wide open.  Angie stood in the hallway and asked if she could talk to us about our faith.  I beckoned her to come in, and with that she quickly leaped on the bed between us.  I distinctly heard the Holy Spirit say:  “She needs a mother and a father right now.”  She seemed small to me, like a child, and I held her in my arms as Tom shared stories about Jesus.

The Years Passed.

You can imagine my excitement when Angie found me on Facebook several years ago!  I felt humbled and weepy when I read her private message revealing she is a Christian now embracing the principles she observed in our home!

I look back with amazement.  Despite our shortcomings, God saves souls!  It’s not always about saying or doing the right things.  It is about loving as best as we can.

The years went on and so did her health problems, many of them resulting from having to be on steroid medication to survive.

Last week Amy and I took a road trip.

I loved meeting Angie’s family and exchanging memories, enjoying fellowship and a special dinner together.  I forgot how affectionate she is and funny, too.  What do you get when you have a room full of sensitive people:  tears, joy and healing?  

Before leaving town, we gathered with the family for a time of powerful prayer.  Angie opened her heart real big as Amy and I asked God to heal her. 

This week, she will face yet another surgery, a complicated esophagus surgery.  A hip replacement will be next.  Her heart operates at only 35 percent.  She’s 41 years old.

Angie calls herself our third daughter.
Our daughter needs prayer
Our family would love to have you join us in asking God to touch her once again.

The Lord will work out his plans for my life
For your faithful love, O Lord, endures forever.
Don’t abandon me, for you made me.
Psalm 138:8 

Monday, June 29, 2015

June’s Big Lessons

I learned some things in June.

When you’re a middle child, you’re not cute like the baby and you’re not in charge like the oldest.  I won’t go so far as saying you’re overlooked, but it still happens that when you do open your mouth to share, the rest of them start talking over you like you are not there.  That’s what happened one night at dinner with my family while I was in Chicago. The dynamics kicked in and soon I was overshadowed by the rest all talking at once and not listening to me.  I don’t like it when they do that, but this time I did not quietly retreat into my shell.  I called them on it.  They heard!  Every eye was on me as they told me to finish my story; I told them I didn’t want to now.  (All of a sudden I was ten again!)  Of course, I finished my *wonderful* story!  When my daughter heard about this, she shouted “It’s about time, mom!”   I’m wondering if there is a proverb somewhere for the middle child syndrome.  I just haven’t found it yet!  So in June, I learned to speak up for myself.  

I learned that the Lithuanian language is beautiful.  One Saturday morning, we placed our Wal-Mart purchases in the trunk; the family that parked next to us did the same as they conversed in their foreign language.  As we pulled away from the parking lot, I mentioned how beautiful the Italian language sounds.  Tom corrected me, “They were speaking Lithuanian!”  He would know; his mom’s mom lived with them when he was a child and did not speak English.  I only wish he would speak it for me.  He told me he will not speak in tongues.  Wise guy.

I learned that relationships are still the best gift you can give to another person.  Our oldest truly gets this concept and took her dad on a two-day road trip down Route 66 for Father’s Day.  I loved hearing how much they laughed and enjoyed making a special memory together.  She’s investing in the right thing.

I learned how to make an apricot tart.  I still have apricots from my tree; they’re delicious this year!  The recipe was awesome and made enough for a large tart and smaller one to give away.  You can view recipe here.

I had opportunities to learn the spiritual lesson of obedience in June.  I learned that you don’t have to plan what you will say or do, just go when God says: “Go!”   He truly does take care of the details.  Then He gets the glory for all the good stuff that follows.  And then I look back and say “Wow, God.  You did amazing things!”

That is what I learned in June!  Name something you learned in June.
Linking up with Emily Freeman What We Learned in June.

Sunday, June 21, 2015

Tale of Two Women

For God so loved the world
That He gave His One and Only Son
 That whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life.
John 3:16

This is a tale of two women.  One is rich and the other is poor.  You have to guess which one is the rich one.

My girlfriend, Marge, lives in a ritzy suburb west of Chicago. Her lawyer-investor husband did well and when he passed away, she inherited his successful business.  Her kids help run the business but her phone rings often and she makes important decisions.

Marge’s phone rang when I met up with her for breakfast.  She’s quick and bright so it’s not a big deal.  After breakfast, Marge offered to take me home.  She stopped at our favorite craft store.  When it comes to paper crafts, she’s my girl.  We had a blast looking at everything and she, again, shared helpful tips. 

Marge got off the expressway and took the scenic back roads pointing out several businesses and buildings that she owns.  I thought to myself, “If I owned just one of them I could get my nails done regularly!” 

We passed the Christian mega church and I exclaimed:  “Oh, I would love to attend one of their services someday.”  Marge told me she is not impressed with that church because like most Christian churches these days, they have become businesses not real churches.

We weren’t hungry at lunchtime, but I agreed to appetizers and Marge  pulled into a nice sports bar.  We sat outside on the patio.  When our ice tea arrived, I toasted to our friendship:  “May we always be close friends even in eternity.”  Marge responded with:  “Mary, what if I don’t believe in HeavenHow do you know it really exists?”  I told Marge that Heaven is in the Bible and that I wasn’t aware that the Bible wasn’t her benchmark for truth.  You can just imagine the rest of our conversation. 

Marge got a text message that required her signature on a document.  I get text messages too.  Most of mine are prayer requests.  The grand kids had pink eye just before I left and I’m close to a young vet suffering from PTSD, and he tried to commit suicide three weeks ago. Important updates call for my attention to pray, immediately.

I hated to see our fun morning end.  Marge and I are living proof that a Jesus lovin’ conservative and a New Age Liberal can hang together and survive.  Honestly we like each other, a lot!

Did you guess who the rich woman is?  Yeah, it’s me. 

Sunday, June 14, 2015

Back in the Middle Again

“Happiness is having a large, loving, caring, close-knit family in another city.”
Sara Swank

There’s nothing like a trip back into the past to stir up my neurosis.  Is anybody else out there a “Middle Child?”

I just got back from Chicago and I can’t help but smile.  I witnessed amazing things.   My brothers spoiled me and I felt like a princess.  “Whisper your wishes and we’ll make them come true,” they said; and they did!    A fat princess at that because of all the deep dish pizza and wet Italian beef sandwiches I wished for and got.


My first day in town started off with a bang.  You know how bloggers are when we get to meet with one another in person.

I go crazy.

It’s one thing to connect with our words and understand with our hearts but then to be able to hug and chat in person is the ultimate best. 

Ceil from the popular blog, Surrounded by theSpirit Connecting the Everyday to the Divine, is loving and considerate.  She was gracious to answer all of my many questions when we met for coffee.  She lives in a close proximity to my youngest brother and found a Starbucks nearby making it all very easy for me.  I wonder if that’s why I enjoyed my visit out there so much because it was jump started with encouragement from meeting up with Ceil?  She is a cute sister in the Lord; we had a fun time!  I feel like I’ve known her for years.  When I got back to the house, family asked: “Did you meet with your friend?  How was it?”  They could tell I enjoyed my time with her by the glow on my face!

I’m use to being in the middle, and I like being in the center of my brothers.  They had big smiles on their faces (me too) because we missed each other.  When I’m with them, I miss my dad.  They look like him, talk and walk like him.  They’re kind like him.  Every day with them was special!

They took me out on the town.  But before we got into the big city, we drove past our childhood home and reminisced together.  It’s fun to hear their memories and to share mine.

I grouped my photos together to make viewing easy and fast.   Have you ever been to the Botanical Gardens in Northbrook?  Greenery drenched this parched desert dweller, especially in the Japanese Gardens.   We posed for pictures in front of the waterfall.    We saw a wedding party hamming it up.   And I saw a lilac bush in full bloom; smells from childhood. 

I showed my nephew this photo of an old church I took in the city.  He said it is the oldest church in Chicago, St. Patrick's.  Interesting.

One night as we all sat around the dinner table, we discussed just how three years ago, my sister-in-law, Bonnie, fell and sustained two aneurysms and a stroke.  We rejoiced that Bonnie pulled through and although she is still seeing doctors regularly, she improves!

I remember when I worried out loud and my on-line friends consoled me and helped me pray.   Bonnie is seated next to my brother, Denny, in this photo. 

My prayer for this family is to know just how personal God is and how much He loves them.    I opened up the topic of faith and also politics, but the debate with my big bro wasn’t a healthy one.   I made the others tense.  I guess we’ve come a long way from the days he would take me to the corner drug store, lift me up on the counter seat and buy me a cherry coke and tug at my pigtails. Now I just get “You watch too much Fox News.”

Outside of that though, I was a gracious house guest!

I’m close to my younger brother, a passionate Christian man, and our times of fellowship and prayer were powerful.  God gave me a very special word to pray over him on his birthday while I was there!

We’re like any other family with our differences and issues!  I like our family.  We choose to keep loving each other despite our imperfections.

When I arrived at my sister’s, she was depressed from so much physical pain.  I still am amazed at our prayer time together and the miraculous breakthrough she received as we uncovered some things that the Holy Spirit revealed to us.  Her smiles now make me smile!  Her faith in God inspires me.  I helped her with her necklace.  You know things are going well when a girl puts on her pearls!

I close with this quote:

What can you do to promote world peace?
Go home and love your family.
Mother Theresa