They first met at our house, these two who became one in holy matrimony only yesterday. The beautiful wedding was sprinkled with grace and truth, and those who know their story marvel at the narrative.
I first met him when he was in fourth grade with my oldest granddaughter, sitting at the lunch table with her. I remember his cute round face and the way his eyes crinkled when he smiled.
Not by chance, Sweet William and I became friends of his family, spending time at the breakfast table, hours talking over coffee, sharing Bible studies, and those evenings when he came to talk guy stuff with Sweet William. Relationships deepened.
I met her through our neighbors who live in the house next door, the one where my dear ones onced lived. These neighbors were a balm to my aching heart, me missing those I love, who now lived many miles away. These neighbors were her relatives.
She had a lovely smile and a gentle way about her. We became acquainted with her family, sometimes celebrating birthdays and holidays. I noticed her godly character.
Add the years, and I hosted Bible study at our house, a room full of women who love God and want to know His Word, including my neighbor, her sister-in-law, and my friend, his mother. At the end of the evening, I casually mentioned his name and her name, how maybe they should meet.
Maybe electricity was in the air, maybe the moon was full, maybe the angels were listening, as minds conceived possibilities, and my neighbor and my friend planned to introduce him and her. In a couple of weeks, the boy met the girl, and sitting at our kitchen table they got acquainted. During Bible study, while the rest of the women in the other room listened to Beth Moore talking about Believing God on DVD, he asked for her phone number.
That was about a year and a half ago. Yesterday they married.
I marvel at how this all came to be, how God orchestrated the plan, how He uses people to accomplish His purposes.
We offered our home, a place of gathering, a time to share the good gifts God gave us.
Some people hinted at giving us credit for this union of husband and wife, but we had nothing to do with the couple’s attraction to one another, to their budding relationship, their eventual falling in love and promise of commitment, or the hand of God all over it.
We simply opened the door to our house and said “Come in. You are welcome here.” It is that simple and simply that. When we offer what we have in the name of Jesus, He takes it as fish and bread and multiplies it to meet the need, to feed the hungry, and to bring people together in ways we cannot imagine.
The gifts God lavishes on us are not meant to be hoarded and kept to ourselves. They are meant to be shared. We give what we’ve been given, opening our hands and our hearts, allowing Him to perform wonders of His love.
What is in your hand? It may appear insignificant or small. You may wonder what good it can be. You may not think what you do is having an impact. But it could be you are an instrument in God’s hand, a pencil He is using to write His story.
What is in your hand? Give that. Leave the rest to Him to create the masterpiece.
Ever felt like asking the question, what in the ever-lovin’ world is going on? Disappointment. Heartache. Broken relationships. Death and grief. Wounds that won’t heal or scars so deep they constantly remind.
What do we do when no answers come? Where do you turn when there’s no place to go? Who can offer comfort when we all are hurting?
Go with me to another time, another land, and understand from those who have gone before us.
For hundreds of years, no prophets proclaimed, “Thus saith the Lord.” The Jews scattered, wandered and wondered where God was, a nation scarred by their rebellion. The kingdom that once shone like a brilliant star had darkened, and the people were lost without a shepherd.
As the Hebrews lived daily with promises still waiting, perhaps there was excitement in the heavenlies, preparation for the Word of the Lord soon to be delivered.
Heaven’s attention turned toward a small blue and green planet in the universe and a temple standing in Jerusalem, the city of David, where Israel’s long history was venerated.
A grey-haired man had served there faithfully all his days, more years than he cared to count. Mundane tasks were ingrained in him, receiving and preparing sacrifices, the continual ritual washing of pots, pans and himself, necessary duties that kept order as people came day in and day out.
This day was different from the routine, as the choosing of clan, of family, of a man privileged to serve in the holy place was about to take place.
Was Zachariah surprised when his name was called? He was aged by now, and his bones ached. He moved slower than the young priests eager and ready to assume responsibilities. But it was his name he heard. What stirred in him at the recognition? At long last he would be the one to present sweet incense on the table of God, offering prayers of intercession for himself and for his people.
On the appointed day, he prepared himself, dressed in pure white garments, and gathered the special spices and fire as he approached the place where God had once dwelt as visible cloud. Those days were but a memory now, the Presence departing as Ichabod was pronounced.
Still Zachariah was ready and willing. Entering behind the first curtain into the holy place, he went about his duties, memorizing his special day. He would share the details with Elizabeth, the love of his life, when he returned home.
He heard a rustling, the dividing curtains shifted as if moved by a gust of wind. Light appeared on the right side of this somber room revealing a being like none he had ever seen.
Zachariah trembled in fear, his aged bones shaking as he looked and listened, trying to grasp everything this angelic being was saying.
“Do not be afraid, Zechariah, because your prayer has been heard. Your wife Elizabeth will bear you a son, and you will name him John. There will be joy and delight for you, and many will rejoice at his birth. For he will be great in the sight of the Lord and will never drink wine or beer. He will be filled with the Holy Spirit while still in his mother’s womb. He will turn many of the sons of Israel to the Lord their God.
“And he will go before Him in the spirit and power of Elijah, to turn the hearts of fathers to their children, and the disobedient to the understanding of the righteous, to make ready for the Lord a prepared people.”
The old man was barely able to stand, astonished and trembling. The admonition not to fear didn’t help. “Your prayer has been answered,” and he wondered which prayer? He’d offered thousands of supplications in his lifetime.
The words sounded jumbled, confusing. A son? Elizabeth, his equally old wife, had resigned herself to being childless decades ago, carrying with her the shame and disgrace of it.
Name him John? Who in his linage was ever called John? A son from his loins would be great, like Elijah the prophet? To prepare the way for the Lord? The messiah was coming?Now?
Who could believe such a wild tale?
And so Zachariah asked, “How?”
The angel was given the right to see into Zachariah’s doubting heart. What were his doubts? Doubt that he was worthy of such a visitation? Doubt in the message and the messenger? Doubt that Elizabeth was physically capable to conceive and birth a child? Doubt in the God who can do whatever He chooses?
It had been a very long time since anyone heard anything from God. And Zachariah was doubtful.
Zachariah’s doubt resulted in his silence. He was speechless. He could not explain this marvelous experience to anyone with words. He could gesture, or perhaps write words on a parchment, but otherwise, he was left with his own thoughts and memories of the most momentous event of his long life. In his silent days, he remembered the years of God’s silence to Israel. He soon realized that God decided to speak up.
When God speaks, we would do well to listen.
When Zachariah went home after his service in Jerusalem, he took his dear wife in his arms like days when he was young and viral. She conceived. And the words of Gabriel sang to him for months, “Make ready for the Lord a prepared people.” With his own eyes he watched Elizabeth’s belly grow round and beautiful, exactly as the angel said, the sure message coming to pass.
God will do what God will do. He will use whom He will to accomplish His purpose. His promises are sure though we wait long for them, though fear and doubt creep into our hearts. God is long-suffering and patient with His children, and when He speaks, the words are true.
What promises are you holding in your heart? Have you lost faith that God will accomplish it? Do you sometimes wonder if He remembers where you are? Do you feel He has forgotten you?
Tell Him all that is in your heart. He will not turn away from an honest confession. He will draw you near and whisper His love to you.
The days of her confinement ended and Elizabeth delivered a beautiful baby boy. She called his name John. And Zachariah believed.
The day dawned magnificently, after rain and lower temperatures that enticed me into long sleeves.
With coffee cup in hand, I headed to the car, driving the miles to a long-awaited promise. The sky boasted shades of red and pink as the sun broke into the night, and my heart was eager for the day.
Parking my car, I walked to the church with Psalm 103 on my lips.
Bless the Lord, O my soul; and all that is within me, bless His holy name! Bless the Lord, O my soul, and forget not all His benefits: Who forgives all your iniquities, who heals all your diseases, Who redeems your life from destruction, who crowns you with lovingkindness and tender mercies, Who satisfies your mouth with good things, so that your youth is renewed like the eagle’s.
I was greeted by the women, beautiful women who had set their alarms early to arrive ahead of the crowd, who came to serve with smiles on their faces. And the joy of the Lord shone round about.
We came for Cultivate, to hear Kelly Minter teach from passages of Matthew 8 and 9, stories familiar to any who had grown up in the church. But today they were fresh, new, breathing, because the Word of God is active and living, its razor sharp edges penetrating my soul and spirit, judging the intents of my heart. I marked my Bible and took pages of notes so I wouldn’t forget.
We praised and worshiped in song with hearts and hands lifted to the only One worthy of our adoration. The music was a tender balm to my weariness. Tears washed my eyes so I could see Jesus.
At lunch I chatted with friends young and older, enjoying the fellowship of women who are dear to me. Smiles radiated on faces as we savored the experience of this day in August. Hugs were part and parcel to the love we felt.
Time flew and I was not ready for it to be over. Had we really been there seven hours? It didn’t feel like it, this taste of heaven’s atmosphere where God’s daughters are in one accord, bound together in unity and purpose.
What made the difference in this day among other days? I’ve pondered that.
We planned, prepared and prayed for it. We did our homework through Kelly’s Bible studies through the years. We were expectant and hopeful, desiring a fresh touch from our Father. We came with our hands open to receive.
And He did not disappoint. His glory was all around, and we opened our eyes to see it.
Is it possible I might experience God like this more than just one special day in a year? Is it me who holds back from receiving all He wants to give? Am I too busy with lesser things to fix my eyes on Jesus, the Author and Finisher of my faith? Do I prioritize time with Him and open my eyes to behold wondrous things from His Word? Do I put His commands in practice, keeping a humble, submissive heart?
Can I really have as much of God as I want? Didn’t my Father once tell me to believe and see the glory of God? And didn’t He prove faithful to His promise? Yes He did!
April is perhaps my favorite month of the year. It offers a beauty not easily compared. Shades of green, abundance of color, redbud trees, Bradford pear and azaleas glowing at the front of the house. Rabbits hop and birds sing and build nests. New life flourishes, and it is my time of year.
There was heartache this month. Friends suffer, and we hurt too, not in the same way, not to the depth of their grief, but we feel a measure of pain.
Prayers Sweet William and I prayed were answered, but not how we wanted. I struggle to understand and find myself saying, “I don’t understand Your ways,” to the God who’s providence is certain, who’s sovereignty is sure.
At those times, once again, I make a choice to believe that He is good, that He is strong, and that He is kind. I choose to trust through tears, bending my knee in surrender, letting go of my desire to make sense of how life happens to us all.
I read Scripture and know there is truth in the ancient words. They point me in the right direction, even when I cannot see the end of the journey or fathom what God is about.
Obviously it is the month of yard work. The hum of lawn mowers pairs with the smell of newly sheared grass. After days of kneeling then struggling to get up, pulling weeds, and generally hard work, the front yard is presentable, almost charming. Let’s don’t even talk about the back yard. It waits for another day.
A friend and I went to the movies to see Unplanned. I thought it was well done and presented a side of the abortion industry we don’t see on nightly news. Let me brag a little by saying our son worked on Unplanned, and I’m a proud momma. Seeing his name on the credits at the end is thrilling. Just sayin’.
It’s been so Springy around here. Along with flower kaleidoscopes and the greening of the little woods, bird nests abounded. A dove built in the clematis outside the bedroom window, and I spied a robin’s young in a metal structure in the front garden. On walks I watched geese sit through rain, heat and cold, and a neighbor said a wood duck nest was hidden in his wood pile.
This month I saw the baby goslings hatch, from a distance of course. Of all the years of geese at the lake across the road, this was the first time I witnessed new babies bob and sway, learning to stand for the first time. I called for my little neighbor, four-years old, to come see, because this needed to be experienced with a child.
The same day we saw the mother wood duck hurry across the field toward the little woods with seven or eight little ones following behind. Springtide was delightful.
I read two books written by people whose lifestyles are very different than mine. I wanted to understand. Too many times, I’ve made judgments based on what I think I know instead of learning about the experiences of others.
As I study the life of Jesus, I see how He loved people right where they were, knowing all of the paths that brought them to that place. His compassion reached out with an understanding heart, a crystal-clear awareness of their hurts and how He could offer healing. He tenderly offered a better way.
I want to love like that.
I enjoyed time with my people, both young and older. I spent a day each week with women in Bible study who challenged me. We bonded afresh. They probably don’t know how much joy they bring to my heart.
I fixed quiche for a young woman my granddaughter’s age and heard her perspective on growing into adulthood. I was refreshed by another who is young enough to be my daughter. Among the things we share are music, teaching, quilting, and theology. Over brunch and coffee, we didn’t lack for conversation and laughter. We occupied the table until the lunch crowd began to gather.
I am a rich woman and Queen of Quite-a-Lot as a result of these extravagant relationships.
Sweet William and I are coming upon our one-year anniversary of having smart phones. I hesitated getting one because I didn’t want it to become an appendage, a thing I have constantly at my fingertips.
That has been challenging, and I’ve caught myself texting while trying to listen to Sweet William at the same time. My focus is divided sometimes. I’ve made good use of GPS and enjoy the convenience of apps, yet I still must guard against letting this piece of digital material direct my moments, let alone my life. Sometimes it feels like a noose around my neck with it’s nagging insistence to pay attention to it instead of people in front of me.
A favorite quote this month by Manisha Thakor: “The internet is both a lifeline and a plastic bag over my head.” Yes, that is it. The internet is convenient, gives me access to the world’s information, answers my questions, shows me the way to my destination, makes shopping simple, lets me communicate quickly, and in many ways makes my life easier.
But, it can become suffocating trying to keep up with all that it offers. I’m not on Twitter or Linkdin, and I’ve decided I can’t do Instagram. I thought I could add it to my online stash, but I found myself thinking how I needed to take a picture of the baby goslings wandering my yard and post an appropriate saying for the world to see instead of simply enjoying their cuteness.
I don’t judge the way others use the internet, social media and the world wide web for jobs and communication, to connect and post beautiful photos. I enjoy looking at other people’s pictures. I keep up with my family through Facebook. I use the web to interact, send messages, and post this blog, hoping someone out there is reading it.
As I read and learn, work and play, I want to live an authentic life, my own and not someone else’s. Every person has gifts, strengths, talents. Sometimes I’ve tried to be like someone else, and it has proven false and unfulfilling. I recognize my skills and aptitudes and where I am most fruitful. I also know my weaknesses, areas where I am less than.
It’s an ongoing quest to live the life I’m called to live. It has taken me years to discover this truth, and I continue to learn.
At the end of March, I said April was the new January. It has been that for me. Stretching and growing, working and loving, resting and refreshing, and choosing to be happy. This is my one wonderful life.
I heard someone say joy and sorrow run together like train tracks. We experience both at the same time. And so it has been this beautiful month of April. The glory of new life bursting forth, the celebration of Resurrection and Christ’s victory over the cross have been reasons to rejoice.
At the same time we have wept with those who weep, grappling with death and what it leaves in its wake. Sadly the grave is still part of this life. Because this is not the end of it all. Heaven is real and one day we will greet those we struggled to let go before we were ready to say good-bye.
December ends and so does another year, and my mind runs amok with a multitude of thoughts.
The month ended in a frenzy of unexpected stress, unplanned events, things I didn’t see coming. In a way, it felt as if I were blindsided.
As I opened the Scripture this morning, seeking a word of comfort, my ribbon marker opened to Psalm 100, a short chapter I memorized as a child.
Make a joyful noise unto the Lord, all ye lands. Serve the Lord with gladness: come before his presence with singing. Know ye that the Lord he is God: it is he that hath made us, and not we ourselves; we are his people, and the sheep of his pasture. Enter into his gates with thanksgiving, and into his courts with praise: be thankful unto him, and bless his name.
For the Lord is good; his mercy is everlasting; and his truth endureth to all generations.
The familiar words of the King James Version came easily to my mind. I was refreshed with their ancient newness, words of assurance and love, reminding me to praise no matter what the day produces. I kept them in my heart throughout the day, believing that God is who He says He is and He meant every word that He preserved for me to read.
December was joyously spent with friends and family. Tables filled to the brim with few and many, shared meals or simply a cup of hot cocoa. Conversation was always the prime ingredient. It was beautiful, and I’m grateful for the gift of relationship that lasts all year long.
The holiday season was busy with a recital, a craft fair and birthdays added to the hustle of gift buying, cooking/baking, and opening our home every chance we got. I’m always down to the last wire getting the Christmas boxes to the post office in time for delivery to our dear ones. I have settled it in my head that I’m a late gift-wrapper. I can’t seem to do it ahead of time in spite of the wrapping paraphernalia setting out in readiness since the first of the month.
In contrast, there were quiet days for contemplation, shared devotionals with Sweet William, time to sit by the fire and sip slowly of life. I appreciate days like that. Too much, my younger self spent all her days in frenzied activity. I’ve learned that slow is a good speed for me.
I re-read an old book, Two From Galilee by Marjorie Holmes. It’s a fictional account of Mary and Joseph in the days of their betrothal through the birth of Jesus. While much of the story was imagined, the Biblical details were accurate. I enjoyed thinking about the young couple, the love they might have shared, the criticism they endured from Mary’s unique pregnancy, and the hardships of a long trip to Bethlehem ending with birthing in a stable.
The drama came alive to me, a real story with real people living out an unusual calling. I was reminded that God’s ways are different, to say the least. His ways are higher, too profound and deep for me to completely understand. And yet, He is so near, so involved in history and our daily lives. He came to be with us so that we could know Him. Amazing.
And so we begin a new year. In an odd sort of way, I like endings and beginnings, the closing of a book cover only to open another, finishing a project with the satisfaction that I can move on to something else. It is the anticipation of starting fresh and new, like the untouched page of a new journal or notebook. It awaits the imprint of inked words.
As I reviewed my bullet journal and prepared the new one, I saw that I didn’t complete many of the major projects I’d planned to do this year. Which presents me with a conundrum. If they were not a real priority, what shall I do with them in the coming year?
I haven’t decided yet. Perhaps I’ll just go like a butterfly, take each day as it comes, feel for the wind of the Spirit and go where He is moving.
I do enjoy the re-reading of a good book. This morning, it is the account in Luke of a couple of old folks with whom I can identify. The words are anciently familiar, yet they are fresh like a sip of pure spring water on a parched tongue.
I opened the Book to the story of Zachariah, the aged priest, who just so happened to be chosen on this particular day for a special assignment. He entered the Holy Place of the temple to offer incense on an altar that represented prayer and petition to God. The people were praying outside while the priest prayed inside.
As he offered up prayers, the smokey fragrance of incense encircling him, I wonder if Zacharia thought of that one prayer he had prayed again and again through his many years? That one prayer for blessing, for a child, a son from his loins?
Yet here he stood, an old man whose wife was equally well along in years, childless the two of them. Because Elizabeth was barren.
God’s timing for answering prayers are so often out of sync with what I envision.
The angel’s appearance was awesome, causing fear, but his announcement must have been confusing to Zachariah. “Your prayer has been heard.”
Which prayer was that? You mean the one I stopped praying years ago? The one I stopped expecting to be answered because I’m old now? The prayer that would have been on a timetable more suitable for me? That prayer?
Zachariah and I, we have things in common.
The prayers I am grappling with sometimes grip my heart with their urgency. I cry out to my Father, my eyes filling with tears, longing for an answer. And please, can it be today?
How many times have I read that God’s ways are not my ways, that His time is not my time? And yet, I want Him to do it according to my prescription and on my schedule.
Faithful Zachariah and Elizabeth had lived blameless lives, following the commands God gave to His people. Surely their prayers would have been answered. Undoubtedly their desire for a child would not have gone unheeded.
After so many years they must have become resigned. Head shakes and whispers behind their backs would have been hurtful. People can wonder when trouble beats us up and we are not being blessed in the conventional sort of way.
And yet, on this day in an old man’s life, the angel Gabriel, who stands in the presence of the Almighty, was on a mission to proclaim wonderful news to Zachariah. “Your prayer has been heard.”
God declares in His word that my requests, petitions, prayers are heard. He answers when He gets good and ready, in His own sweet time, because He alone knows when all the pieces are in place.
So, my fellow traveler, don’t let discouragement weigh you down. Don’t give in to doubt and unbelief. Throw off the lie that you are forgotten and forsaken. Keep believing God. Keep bowing the knee. Keep trusting in a faithful God who hears your every plea and preserves your tears in a bottle.
Believe that your prayer has been heard. In the fullness of time, and according to the perfect plan of God who does all things well, there will be an answer.
How quickly a ride in the park can turn on its heels and take you in another direction, down a dark tunnel where you cannot see the light.
After a companionable family gathering on Thursday, I got a call while still out on Black Friday. “A mass in her brain . . . being admitted to the hospital . . . it’s very serious.”
Entering my house, I tell what I know while I fumble about with the insignificant, still trying to assimilate in my own mind what I’ve just learned. When unexpected trauma appears I ask the same question, “How can this be happening?”
I put on my coat and scarf, gathered Maisie’s collar and leash to go walk. I aimed for the end of our lane where an old cedar post used to stand. It was a place my dad went to pray when trouble blindsided our family.
As I reached that spot, I paused to remember.
My cousins’ parents and mine moved to this piece of undeveloped property in the 1960s. We grew into adults on this lane. We added spouses and then houses sprung up, all of us living in proximity to one another. As our children were birthed, one by one, the sounds of childish play roamed these 40 acres, all the neighbors being our kin. It was unusual for sure, and it was beautiful beyond description.
I think of all the prayers our parents prayed for us, sometimes when we knew it, but more often when we had no idea.
The family leaned on my dad as our prayer warrior, his habits and customs unusually disciplined and structured. It was his agreement between him and his God. He called all our names in prayer daily, nightly, and he interceded when we were in trouble. He stood at that cedar post at the end of our lane on several occasions that I can remember to speak to the One who knew us well.
Dad had a list with family names on it. It grew longer through the years as we increased in number. After mother’s death and his remarriage, he moved away from this lane into the house of my step-mother. Though miles away, he had a nightly ritual of going outside and turning toward the south, where we still lived, to pray for each of us one by one.
I returned from my reverie of memories to the present. The old cedar post that stood as a memorial is gone. I looked about my surroundings. The fields that used to surround our homes are filled with subdivisions, privacy fences and apartment complexes. Other people live in the houses that used to be home to my family members. Things are different now.
As tears rolled down my cheeks, I prayed too. The words that came were simple: “Lord Jesus help!” I knew He heard me just as He heard my ancestors years ago.
He is a God who leans down to listen. He was not surprised by a devastating diagnoses like we were. His intention and purpose are already in place.
Our family has a traditional day-after-Thanksgiving evening meal of Hot Browns to finish the leftover turkey. I asked my cousin, who hosts us, if she still wanted to do this. She answered “I think we are better together than apart.” I agreed.
Sweet William and I entered the house and the atmosphere was somber, so unlike the day before when cheerful noises greeted us at the door. This night we are quiet, faces solemn. The axiom, “when one hurts, we all hurt,” is true.
Before the meal we were not really hungry for, we joined hands and lifted our praise to our God who has been faithful to us through the years; who has seen us through troubles great and small; who has shown Himself huge and performed miracles we didn’t deserve; who has given grace to walk the hard places; who has never left us alone to ride out the stormy gales.
We asked Him for mercy, for healing, for strength, for wisdom, for His comforting presence. Our hearts are assured He will answer our cries.
This is what my family does in times of crises. We gather and we pray.
Today I turn on music to soothe my heavy heart. This is the song I wait for: