The Pumpkin Party

 

 

IMG_2004How was your weekend? If we could have coffee and a visit I would tell you about this. My son’s family invited me to go with them to the Pumpkin Show in Circleville, Ohio, last Saturday. On that day, in that little town, I witnessed something really beautiful!

Let me set the scene for you. It was crowded, I mean packed, with people. This is what happens when the world gets invited to a small town to celebrate bigger-than- huge pumpkins. Where all food trucks have the star ingredient of pumpkin added to their recipes and wearing the color orange is what makes you blend in no matter where you’re from. It didn’t hurt things any to have the most gorgeous autumn weather the good Lord could have arranged and the ability to attend an event that has been held for 113 years in a row with no admission fee.

Except the parking, of course. This event is an opportunity for those locals to make a little extra cash and who could blame them? After all, they had their community bombarded by tourists and turned upside down on account of an orange fruit*.

*Side bar: I had to do a little research to see if a pumpkin was a vegetable or a fruit. Webster says it’s a fruit. However, because it is not sweet like other vegetables that are technically called fruits, such as tomatoes, beans, green peppers, etc., the pumpkin can also be considered a vegetable.

Okay, let’s get back to the parking. The closer you get to the action, the more the price goes up. We saw five dollars, then eight dollars and then ten dollars as you got closer to where you wanted to be. But that was really all the money you “had” to spend to enjoy this great show. You could walk right up to the prize winners and take your picture with them. It’s not everyday you get to see an over 1,400 pound pumpkin. You could watch a very talented pumpkin carver make his magic and there was a free concert in the town square with smiles and friendly faces all around. I enjoyed seeing those wearing the special pumpkin sweaters and t-shirts that gave away the fact that this was a yearly pilgrimage for them.

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My grandkids called it the “Pumpkin Party” which I thought was adorable. So let me tell you about what I loved about the “Pumpkin Party.” I saw grown-ups play concession games with their kids. And I looked at this in a whole different way than I used to as a younger adult. I used to think it was a waste of money and couldn’t see that maybe this was a positive memory for a child that may have never seen this side of their parent or grandparent.  I saw kids patiently wait their turns for tickets and rides and then the sweetest thing of all… at the concert.

“From the lips of children and infants you have ordained praise because of your enemies, to silence the foe and the avenger.” Psalm 8:2

At the front of the stage were children, dancing with pure joy to the peppy country music that was being played. My granddaughter joined them and it was such a delight to watch these children, who did not know each other, enjoy the dance together. On my left I saw a little Asian family. A precious little girl, holding on to her Daddy’s fingers, moving to the those twangy tunes that seemed to me so strange given her ethnicity. To my right, another family that appeared to be from the other side of the world as well, clapping and toe tapping to “Chattahoochee” and “Kaw-Liga.”  Their little boy doing the cutest thing with his swaying body. Everybody enjoying this day, getting along, being one.

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Dear reader, don’t you wish everyone would put down their differences and take their lead from the little ones who see things so simply? It was a party and it didn’t matter where you came from or what you looked like. It didn’t matter if you had a lot or a little. It was a kind of no judgement zone and I loved it. I wondered why we all could not be more childlike. The scripture says God ordains praise from their lips. This praise silences  foes and avengers.

“For God so loved the world that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in Him, shall not perish, but have everlasting life.” John 3:16

From what I could see that day, in this small town, we all wanted the same thing. To enjoy life with our family and friends. I just have to say “thank you” little Circleville town, for reminding me that God’s love is like a circle, with no beginning and no end. Because He has no beginning and no end. And He is love. (1 John 4:8b) This circle includes everyone. His love is for all people. God’s love encircles us with mercy and grace. May your little town continue to have pumpkin parties for another 100 years, and find us coming together time and again, over a pumpkin.

 

Choose Your Words Carefully

 

I would have never dreamed texting would be the main way I communicate with most of my family and friends. I grew up in the era of using the telephone, attached to a wall, and mostly when needed to check on folks and for the rare long talk across many miles. Back then, you always answered the phone because you had no way of knowing who was on the other end. Now I hardly ever answer my phone without knowing who is calling me. I trust a machine to answer it for me and take a message that I can check later when I have the time.

The problem with texting for me is that I’m always afraid the person I am sending it to may not understand it in the context I meant when I put the words together. Will they read into it some sarcasm or lack of concern? So many times I rewrite it and re-read it myself, to try to keep any and all inflections that might be misinterpreted out of the words. I choose my words as carefully as I can and hope the emoji I attached helps my reader to know that there was no offense intended.

How can something that is really so cool and convenient cause such stress? Because I know how important those texted words, and how they are delivered, can be. I once read about a woman who became a physician because she had a terrible memory from her teen years. She and her father were being informed that her mother had died. The doctor that brought the news into the lobby of the hospital where she and her father were waiting delivered this statement, “She is gone.” To this young woman, being told about her mother’s death in those words, made it even more devastating. She vowed that when she would have to deliver hard news, she would do a better job.

“A word fitly spoken is like apples of gold in pictures of silver.” Proverbs 25:11 (KJV)

The word “fitly” means that it is spoken at the right time. The words “in pictures” can mean settings. What we say and how we frame it can make all the difference. Have you ever taken note of obituaries? Kind of morbid I know, but when you are reading one of those short or long skinny columns, you are reading the story of someone’s life. There are the bare bone facts, when they were born and when they died. Then the names of their family members. The jobs they held, the activities they loved. The contributions they made during their circles around the sun. The ones that start with, “went home to be with his Lord” or “surrounded by her loving family” begin the story with the end and ending well is really what it is all about. The end can be truly comforting and very beautiful, when framed with such soothing words.

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Words can be instruments of art. They can create artistic expressions of love, hurt, joy, melancholy, silliness, chaos or stillness. They can crush spirits and make souls stronger. They can be framed and they can frame truths, petitions, declarations, resolutions and praise. Words can be gifts of grace, weapons of warfare. They can be heavy and hurtful. They can bring light and healing.

Right now I just want to apologize to anyone I’ve hurt with my words. When I allowed myself to spew out hurtful verbiage just because I was angry or things weren’t going my way. Over the course of time and growth in Christ, those times are fewer and farther between, but I know I still speak or write before I fully surrender my words to His Holy Spirit. Maybe you can relate. We all fail.

In this time when it is so easy to share our words, I wonder if we realize the power we wield. I am reminded again, that what I say and how I say it matters. And I pray that my words are a reflection of His. And that they count for His Kingdom, shining like apples of gold in settings of silver.

Home

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Have you ever been homesick? That awful feeling in the pit of your stomach. That longing for a familiar place where you just belong?

I had to stop by her house today to retrieve some items she asked me to bring her. I thought I could do it without crying, but I couldn’t. She should still be there. She should have been able to stay until He took her home to paradise and I am so disappointed in that. Everywhere I turn, I see her there. Cooking in her kitchen, getting dressed in her bedroom, fixing her hair in her bathroom, watching her television in her living room, playing cards with her friends at her dining room table.

But it wasn’t to be. These bodies fail us, eventually. Sometimes we have to move on to places of someone else’s choosing so that we can be cared for when we can no longer care for ourselves. All of this may be my future and I certainly wouldn’t want anyone crying about it. So I wipe my eyes and head out. Locking the door behind me and loading her reminders of home in my car to deliver to her now “home.”

She greets me with a smile and I realize that she seems to be having a really good day today. She wants me to meet a neighbor down her hallway and she tells me that a church group came to sing today and she enjoyed it. I still want to cry.

Does it ever “get” you this way? When you witness someone being so brave and accepting, which is how you would hope they would be, and it makes you sad. Because you wish it didn’t have to be this way.

God knows and understands. Can you even imagine how hard it was for Him to send us His Son? To take Him from the paradise of Heaven and have Him take on flesh and be fully human while still being fully God? To have to feel what we feel and worse?

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I know that the circumstances I just described could be so much worse, but still, they hurt. I am reminded that no matter how “wonderful” things are here in our own little worlds, they will never satisfy the ache in our hearts for our forever home.

“Let not your heart be troubled, neither let it be afraid, you believe in God, believe also in me. In my Father’s house are many mansions, if it were not so, I would have told you, I go to prepare a place for you and if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and receive you unto myself that where I am there you may be also.” John 14:1-3

Little farther on in John 14:27, Jesus says:

“Peace I leave with you, my peace I give unto you, not as the world gives, give I unto you. Let not your heart be troubled, neither let it be afraid.”

Could it be this dear lady has peace about where she is and what she is doing because it is the kind the world cannot give? I am sure this is so. And His peace will comfort the ache in my heart also, when things are not the way I wish they would be. And maybe every now and then I need to be reminded that the disappointments that we direct at God, should only be to handed over to Him for healing.

If Jesus could endure His cross, looking at the joy that was set before Him, (Hebrews 12:2), I can choose to see what hurts in this life as an endurance test and look forward to the next. There is nothing, no thing, that can separate us from the love of God, (Romans 8:38-39), and isn’t the love of God the only thing that matters? This is the joy, His love that never ends. His love that leads us home.

 

My Cup Overflows

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Sometimes it feels like I’m a turtle, crossing the road. I hate the slowing down part of my journey. I’ve always had a quick pace. Not that this was always good, because at times, it was not. But, it was familiar and I like familiar.

I like the shortcut, the faster route, and the quick results. Again, not always good. As I studied this turtle in my driveway, head lifted high, extremities out of its shell, vulnerable, I saw myself. I try to venture out in this vehicle of a blog, into the vast openness of social media with my meager offering of words for souls. I carry around my shell for protection. I return to it for a while but know I cannot stay there forever. I have to share what I have been given and receive from others what nourishes me.

Never before can a person think they know how important they are. The “likes” and positive or negative “comments” validating their influence. It takes a hard shell to keep plodding along. Keep plodding along sisters. Put something out there and don’t check how it’s doing. Do it just because He led you to and trust Him for the eyes to see it and the souls to be touched and made a little bit stronger because of it. Resist the urge to word and re-word, just trust that God will use the words for good.

God is showing me that as I slow down, what I have to offer actually has more value. It comes with years of experience of living life with Him as my Lord. Since a little girl, He has been with me. Using every bit of my story to bring Him glory. The mishaps, the victories, all of it. To give wisdom.

Proverbs 3:17:

“Her ways are ways of pleasantness, and all her paths are peace”

That turtle is on a peaceful path. Not without danger, because anyone in a hurry and distracted could crush her in an instant. And so am I. If I pay attention to what the world has to say about today’s Christian women, I can be hurt badly. Our culture is sadly post-Christian. Even many who claim to be Christians do not hold to the teachings in God’s Word, the Bible. But this does not change the Truth and I am commanded to speak the truth in love. (Ephesians 4:14-15)

Tears of deep joy run down, He fills and my cup overflows. He turns “you are bad” into “you are beloved” dear ones. Because it is true. The truest words you will ever hear come from Him. He has chosen you, and made you His. (Ephesians 1:4-5)

Someone reading this may be afraid that what they say won’t make a difference. Don’t believe that; God will sort all of that out. He can use anything for our good and His glory. Venture out of your shell, reach out and be blessed.

Glorious Day!

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Glorious Day!

This post may be my last “solo” one, and it is fitting that it reflects on Easter, a celebration of the resurrection of our Savior. From my heart, I can only pour out gratitude for the grace that the Lamb of God gave with such a cost to Himself. So that our salvation could be a free gift for us to accept.

“For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him, should not perish, but have everlasting life.” John 3:16

For God so loved, He gave. He could have held on to His glory. His place in the heavens and said “no.” But because of his great love, He was obedient to the plan of His Father, to redeem us and set us free. (Luke 22:42)

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Photo Credit: Emily Bonnette Hendershot

“There is therefore now no condemnation … For the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus hath made me free from the law of sin and death.” (Romans 8:1 and 2.) Jesus took the condemnation, so we would not have to. The condemned couple that had to leave the garden no longer determines my fate. My eternity is redeemed, my place is secured, just as if I was already there. Not because of anything I have done, all I needed to do was receive this, trust this finished act of His love. (John 19:30, Titus 3:5)

“In whom ye also trusted, after that ye heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation: in whom also after that ye believed, ye were sealed with that Holy Spirit of promise, which is the earnest of the inheritance until the redemption of the purchased possession, unto the praise of his glory.” Ephesians 1:13-14.

Yes, He paid an awful price. Physical, emotional torture. The weight of sin, all sin, placed on Him. His Father turning from the sight of it all. Taking it all to Hell. Where it could be conquered once and for all. Once. For all.

Scripture tells us of a woman, another “Mary” knowing full well that her loving Lord was dead because she had seen this with her own eyes. She comes to His grave and finds the stone, rolled away, the tomb empty. She runs, and tells the men and they came too. They had to see it for themselves. Then, Glorious Day!, Jesus, very much alive, speaks to Mary, asks her why she is crying, and she turns, and there He is. This account is so exciting! Such fitting words in the last verse of John, chapter 20 –

“But these are written, that ye might believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God; and that believing ye might have life through his name.”

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Photo Credit: Melanie Lamb
Life! Fresh new life! Embrace Easter. All the new life of it. Believe in it, Trust in it, Rejoice in it! Make it a new start for you, looking forward to that Glorious Day when you see Him face to face. Glory Renewed.

 

 

Better and More

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Better and More

“There doesn’t have to be choice!” Jim Craig says to Jessica Harrison in “Return to Snowy River.” One of my all-time favorite movies. Let me describe the scene. Jessica loves Jim and wants to marry him, but her father, a very strong-willed, self-made man, thinks that Jim is not worthy of his daughter. Mr. Harrison tells Jessica, “it’s me or him Jess” (or something like that) but Jim pleads that it doesn’t have to be that way. I don’t want to spoil the outcome if you’d like to watch it, but just so you’ll know for this illustration, Jim is right.

There will always be the debate over whether quality or quantity is the better when it comes to time and the heart, but I believe they are pretty much at a dead heat. Time is important because we have to live and work in this restraint, so quality has to be right there with it because this keeps the quantity worth it. It redeems the quantity of what is spent on anything or anyone. Time is like a currency that we all have a pre-determined by God amount of. So whatever uses our time, must in a sense be worthy of it. No one’s time should be more important than the others. We all need to make our time matter because it most certainly does. Don’t “kill” time. “Live” time.

Shouldn’t anything we do that is worthwhile be done better and more? Don’t you want more time to do the things that feed your soul and bless others? Is there a way to make all that your life entails holy and good?

These are my new goals. I want to love God and others better and more. I want to trust God better and more.  I want to follow Jesus better and more and this requires quality and quantity. My best and my most.

Oswald Chambers’ devotional, My Utmost for His Highest, comes to mind. I have been through this devotional several times and that statement, which is the title, should be mine. Every, single day. This man, passing to glory at the age of 43 said this:

“Shut out every other consideration and keep yourself before God for this one thing only – My Utmost for His Highest. I am determined to be absolutely and entirely for Him and for Him alone.” (Oswald Chambers, 1874-1917)

This man didn’t sequester himself in a monastery so that “normal” life would not distract him from this purpose. He was married, became a father and served as a chaplain in the military in Egypt. That is about as much of the “real world” as you can live in. He followed Jesus example of going to the public with who He was and is and will forever be.

No matter what is going on around us, our relationship with God is the most important. It is what we should give quality and quantity to, be better and more for. There doesn’t have to be a choice it is a command for our good and His glory. The only choice we need to make is to run our own race. The race He has created us for. And run it with the most honest effort we can muster.

Hebrews 12:1-2, “Therefore we also, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us lay aside every weight, and the sin which so easily ensnares us, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, looking unto Jesus, the author and finisher of our faith, who for the joy that was set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame, and has sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.” (NKJV)

Glitter in the Rug

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Glitter in the Rug

I love to make sparkly things for my granddaughters. As they get older they don’t go for that much, but my four-year-old one, Lilly, loves them. I just finished up a sparkly tutu for her and I’ve vacuumed glitter for days.

There’s this ugly rug in my sewing/workout room. Mainly gray and black fibers, designed to hide dirt. But it can’t hide the glitter! As I glance across it, those sparkly particles reflect light and remind me of what we are to be in this world as followers of Jesus. In the world but not of it. Reflecting Light, being Light in places that would be dark, dismal, hiding dirt. (2 Corinthians 4:6)

A small child is such a gift. They are the perfect example of the child-likeness that Christ says we should never lose. And four-year old ones are my favorites. They are old enough to communicate their thoughts and feelings. Old enough to kind-of reason with. And young enough that their imaginations have not yet been tainted by the world. If you have one in your life, you are blessed indeed. If they are loved and nurtured correctly, they have no limits to what they can contribute to our world. No wonder Jesus gave such a stern admonition to anyone who would harm them. (Matthew 18:6)

That glitter in the rug reminds me of how I am a child of God. I’m in a temporary place right now and I am to sparkle for Him. Stand out, be set apart for Him. (Psalm 4:3) I can’t tell you how much I’ve failed at that lately.  I know He loves me the same, but I hope to do better and am thankful that He has given me another chance to reflect His glory. (Matthew 5:16)

The following list is how I hope to get my sparkle on for Jesus:

1.       Start each and every day with a song. Hum it, sing it, pull it up on my ipad for background music:  get a melody going in my mind about His goodness. (Psalm 96)

2.       Go back to list making. Just a few items of “have-to-dos,” so there are no regrets about missed appointments or overdue bills. More items of “get-to-dos,” things to do that keep me healthy and happy and child-like. (Ecclesiastes 3:1, 8:6)

3.       Memorize more scripture. The power of the Word of God has been the greatest transformer in my life. I could never get enough.  (Hebrews 4:12, Psalm 119:162)

It is a fault of mine that I want the list to be longer. That it will become my boss and I would eventually rebel against it, so I am determined to keep it short and see how just 3 commitments can get my sparkle back.

This is kind of a confession post. I have done and said things lately that have made me see that my testimony has not been what I would hope it would be for Jesus. He deserves better than that from me and I am sorry. My patience has been short, my words rather sharp. I repent. His Spirit is my Keeper. He stands at the gate of my life and reveals what should be going in and coming out. I am very thankful for this.

Dear reader, maybe you are right where you should be with Him, maybe you need to make a list of 3 new commitments of your own. I would love it if you would share them in the comments. I will be praying for you.