Thursday, June 8, 2017

When the Shepherd Teaches Through Sheep

When I married at the age of eighteen, my family increased with not only a husband, but his parents, and a younger sister and brother. My new in-laws loved me as a daughter. I snuggled into the warmth of their family like a baby in a blanket. My father-in-law and I had an unspoken bond of love. At our wedding, he told my new husband, his son, he'd better take good care of me.

Bronson, my father-in-law
The first time we met was in a diner in Montgomery, West Virginia while we were still in college. He was working close by and met us for supper. The stories I'd heard of how he was a rough and tumble man who worked hard, said few words, but carried a great presence, were right on target. I was terrified of him from the first handshake. The description in my mind increased after our first introduction.

As time went along and I got to know him, a different man appeared. His tender side emerged every spring, along with his green thumb. There was nothing that man couldn't do with a pile of dirt, some seeds, and a little water. He also loved his family. His generosity and kind heart showered his girls with the largest box of chocolate to be found on Valentine's Day.

Lucy, fresh from the farm
This man I was so afraid of in the beginning of my relationship with his son did something that has taught me many life lessons. He went turkey hunting in the mountains of West Virginia every spring where they had a small camp. One of the neighbors was a local farmer. Bronson, my father-in-law always stopped to visit before he left. One of his sheep had died, leaving a set of twins the farmer was feeding with a bottle. For whatever reason, my father-in-law thought of me. I got the surprise of my life when he pulled in my driveway and got out of the truck carrying two of the sweetest creatures God ever made, with the biggest grin plastered across his face. I was never afraid of him again.

My life as a shepherdess was born that day.

This spring, my Friday morning Bible study group studied the book, Finding I Am by Lysa TerKeurst. One of the chapters was titled, I Am the Good Shepherd. It was my favorite because of my season of shepherding. It was easy for me to picture the references and apply them to myself.

The words of Psalm 95:6 jumped off the page:

"Come let us bow down in worship,
let us kneel before the Lord our maker;
for He is our God and we are the people of His pasture,
the flock under His care."

A sheep has to fold its front legs to lay down. It looks as if the sheep is kneeling. It's knees are rough and calloused where the wool has been rubbed off from kneeling.

Lucy, with two lambs of her own
Scripture says, "we are the people of His pasture, the flock under His care." We are to kneel in worship.

As I read the words on the page, I pictured my own knees. Are they rough and calloused from kneeling in worship? Do I submit myself to His care or do I try to meet my own needs? Do I recognize Him as my God? I must submit myself in humility before true worship can take place. I must understand that everything comes directly from His hand. He is my provider, my protector, and without Him I am nothing. I am exposed to danger, to unseen elements that only He can protect me from. Do I truly understand what it means to be under His care?

Another thing I learned is that He loves me and you tenderly and lovingly as a shepherd loves his sheep. Just as I discovered I had no reason to be afraid of my father-in-law, I need not fear God and His plan for my life. My awe of Him, my worship of Him, yes, but not the kind of human fear that causes distrust.

My prayer is that I have knees that tell the story of how much I love Him. I am so thankful for gifts of love from unexpected places from people He placed in my life, even hard-headed sheep to teach lessons that last a lifetime.

What are the unexpected gifts you've been given that have taught you a life lesson? Nothing of value is wasted. Everything we go through, good or bad, can be used to strengthen us and then we can pass it on to another.

Tuesday, February 7, 2017

What I Learned in January 2017

I'm a list maker. I've found joy in looking back at things accomplished, whether the task is small and insignificant, or one I've been putting off, fretting over, and finally checked off my list. I also take delight in stopping to notice the simple pleasures along the way.

So it would seem natural for the list making diva that lives in me to write what she's learned in a given period of time. Many of my blogging friends write these kind of posts. I get so much enjoyment from reading them, I decided to share my own. Because really, isn't it the every day moments that make a day, a month, a life?


1. I put all my measuring spoons in a cute caddy. Cooking and baking is so much simpler since I'm not digging through the drawer looking for the proper tool.

2. I don't multi-task well with people when I have major projects I'm working on, or tasks that need to be accomplished. I'm single-minded and my brain forgets everything but what I'm working on. Why has it taken me so long to discover this?

3. Essential oils really do work. All the hype was lost on me until I started having hot flashes. I was desperate for relief and found a book with recipes. I'm a believer.

4. I may have left one of my Christmas trees up throughout the month of January. Tucked away in my bedroom, the sparkle of lights gave me joy as I read at night, much more than during the hustle of the Christmas season.

5. I went to my first book club. In fact, two book clubs in one month. And I was giddy as a school girl with her first crush. What have I been missing all these years? The two clubs were different in style, but I've loved both. My Friday morning Bible study decided we wanted to read Beth Moore's new novel in the interim before our spring study cranks up. It has been fantastic reading it together and discussing the ongoing saga of a murder mystery/redemption story of a dysfunctional family. The second is a club at a book store in Greenville, completely out of the box for me. My introverted self even joined in the discussion.

I'm sure there were many other things I learned this month, but these were the highlights. I hope you'll take a moment to look back at January before you move on to February. Notice the simple, small ways your life has been changed for the better. It doesn't have to be earth shattering. There may be someone you need to give thanks for, or a note you need to send. Remember, it's the simple acts of kindness people see and feel the most.

Monday, January 30, 2017

There is Rest, and Then There is R E S T

January is a time for a fresh start, a time for new beginnings. Madison Avenue discovered how to market advertising many years ago, with the weight loss industry leading the way in January.

I am no different. As Christmas decorations are stored for another year, I want all clutter removed. A new year begs for closets to be rid of unwanted clothing, and all junk hauled to the thrift store. While I write about rest, it's the last thing on my agenda. My brain won't slow long enough for thinking of all the projects I'd love to do, places I'd love to go, books I'd love to read.

And then I silently scream...S.T.O.P.

I rush through two devotional books, read my Bible, sip tea, and wonder what I just read, all before 6:00 a.m. My mind is so hurried I'm already leaning into 10:00 a.m. and it's still dark outside.

How do I change the inner working of my brain? How do I slow my life to an unhurried pace and really listen to the words on the page I'm reading? Shouldn't I be reading less and applying what I read, rather than trying to zip through more and more books?

Looking out my window, winter is still on the ground, yet my gardener's heart beats at a faster rate. It yearns to work in the soil. Summer temps during most of the winter haven't helped either. The month of January is supposed to give a welcome reprieve from summers' toil, yet the warm weather beckons me outdoors. And my stress level rises.

Jesus tells me to find rest in Him. He says to bring my burdens to Him. My soul, the core of who I am, the innermost being of all my genetic makeup where God speaks to me through His Spirit, needs to slow to a pace where she can rest. In this rest is where His still, small voice is clearly heard.

In this place of rest the trees become a place of refuge from the storm. Birds become the symphony for one. Nothing and no one stand in the way of communion with the One who knows me best. He has the power to soothe my troubled soul and lift the burdens from my shoulders. Through His gentle words of love and comfort, I'm reminded of my worth in His kingdom. He refreshes me with words of encouragement for the tasks He's gifted me with, and prepared me for.

As He leads me to the water for a time of reflection, I'm reminded of His blessings. Every good and perfect gift is from Him and my heart is thankful. As a child who feels safe in the lap of its parent, I feel loved and cherished in the strong arms of my Savior. His promises are true and give me strength and hope to face the challenges of life.

This, is the kind of rest my soul longs for.

How about you? Do you find it difficult to rest? How do you slow your mind for the kind of rest needed for the body and soul? We were not made to live as robots in this fast paced world of ours. Please share how you find rest for the dailyness of your life.

Thursday, January 19, 2017

Rest, Renewal, and Reduction for 2017

I don’t know about you but I’m glad to see 2016 fade into the distance. I’m facing the coming year with a renewed sense of God’s presence and I’m at peace with much in my life, though a work in progress for sure. He has been faithful to bring healing to broken places I’ve carried since childhood.

I don’t normally make resolutions, but sometimes pick a word for the year. As I was looking at the books I received for Christmas, a theme emerged, one of rest, renewal, and reduction. My reading journal for the past year reflected books centered around these topics as well.

When I speak of rest, I’m not only referring to the Sunday afternoon kind of rest. I want to live an unhurried kind of lifestyle that allows me to find rest in God for my every need. I want to know complete peace when I lay my head on the pillow, no tossing and turning from carrying my own burdens. Jesus offers rest down by the water and I plan to take Him up on His offer.

I love pretty things. I love decorating my home, making it cozy and comfortable. Going through counseling over the last few years, I’ve learned a lot about myself. I have a difficult time letting go of things. It’s deeply rooted in childhood trauma. I’m not a hoarder, but I could be. My family of origin was too neat and practical. My solution is I don’t buy much. I’m learning how to reduce clutter so I can live a more productive life. More things equals more time to manage all those things and less for real living...reading a good book out on your back porch, or taking a walk. Going out to dinner with family or friends, or strolling through an antique store at your leisure. 

Every turn of the calendar on December 31st gives an opportunity for renewal, that day we begin again, reset goals, thought processes, inner voices, however you choose to name it. If you’re blessed and breathing, you get a do-over.

Scripture speaks a lot of renewal. It begins in the mind. Aligning my thoughts with His thoughts will begin the renewal process. I’m asking God to renew my mind through His Spirit. He says if I ask and seek Him, I will find Him. In His presence I find peace, because He is Peace, and He will never lead me in the wrong direction. 

There’s a fourth “R” after Rest, Reduce, Renewal…well kind of…Writing. I want to write about my progress in each of these areas. Writing helps keep me on track. I don’t know how I’m doing until I’ve processed it through the written word. My thoughts are a swirly mess in my brain until I journal what I'm thinking. When I write, it either sounds silly and I discard the thought, or it makes perfect sense and I explore how I can weave it into the fabric of my everyday life.

What are your plans for 2017? Do you choose a word, make resolutions, or set goals for yourself?

How do you sort through your dreams and goals for your life? Do you journal like me, or do you need to talk it out with another person?

I’d love to hear your thoughts.

Friday, December 16, 2016

When Hope Healed Broken and Scattered

I opened my eyes today, and for the first time on this date in forty-two years, there are no tears. I  wrote this on the anniversary of my mom’s death. To write these words is a miracle. I believe God is in the process of doing a work in me, but I never imagined this possible. I’ve lived with the ache of unresolved grief and burdens for so long I couldn’t fathom life any other way.

I read Looking for Lovely by Annie Downs this week. In her book she states, “I had to be broken to be rebuilt, but breakdowns seem to often come before breakthroughs."

And man, have I been broken. Broken and scattered.

But God…

He is restoring my brokenness one piece at a time. He didn’t forget where all the pieces were scattered. What I didn’t know was that He’d already picked up all the pieces and kept them safe until I was ready to put them back together.

"He has sent me to bind up the brokenhearted...and provide for those who grieve in bestow on them a crown of beauty instead of ashes, the oil of gladness instead of mourning, and a garment of praise instead of a spirit of despair. They will be called oaks of righteousness, a planting of the Lord for the display of His splendor."
Isaiah 61:1-3

I had to return to my five-year-old self and come forward to see the life He ordained before I took my first breath.

The thing is, I have hope. I can feel His Spirit healing me and it’s because of Jesus; the same Jesus who came to earth in the form of an infant, lowly and meek. The same Jesus who traveled to Jerusalem with His parents at the age of twelve and stayed behind at the temple. The same Jesus who gave His mother fits when she couldn’t find Him, and they had to circle back to retrieve the young lad. When His parents found Him he said, “didn’t you know I’d be about my Father’s business?”

This same Jesus approached the woman at the well, healed the sick, raised the dead, and resisted temptation from Satan himself.

This same Jesus sweat drops of blood in the Garden of Gethsemane as He agonized over what was to come. This same Jesus prayed for me in John chapter 17, and every believer throughout the ages.

This Jesus went to the cross and died for me. He arose for me and makes intercession to the Father for me…and you.

This is the Author of my hope. He is the reason I get up in the morning. He is the reason I had no tears on December 14th.

This Jesus has been my healer and protector. He has been my deliverer of more fears than I can count. He is the lover of my soul, faithful, and true to His Word.

He will do the same for you. Your date on the calendar no longer has the power to hold you prisoner. He will set you free and give you the same hope I have. 

This flesh and bone story of Jesus began long ago in a manger, in a land appointed by God on high, but it continues today in a risen Savior who dwells in us. He is the One who heals our brokenness, forgives our sin, and changes the way we view ourselves. 

At Christmas, and always we should celebrate Him as King of Kings and Lord of Lords. He lives, He reigns, and He will return for all who believe in Him.

May you have the merriest of Christmas holidays!