How Not to Load a Dishwasher

As I was with Moses, so I will be with you; I will never leave you nor forsake you. – Joshua 1:5b

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I am kind of a fanatic about my dishwasher. Perhaps you are, too.

I like it loaded a certain way, everything it a certain place.  I like the food well cleaned off before the dishes go in.  I like the disposal run often while the dishes are being cleaned.  My way allows the maximum use of every space in the thing, while not sacrificing cleanliness of the dishes.

I am in the process of teaching my older boys to load the dishwasher…to my satisfaction.  It is not as easy as it sounds.

They just don’t seem to get that my way is the best way, that I have loaded more dishwashers than they could possibly count, that my way will really make their job so much easier.

Nope.  They continue to struggle with doing it the way I want it done.  I have to retrain…and retrain…and retrain.  Ad nauseum.

What a visual image for me of what I make my heavenly Father go through!  He tells me again and again in His word how I should act, what I should do, how to cram the most joy possible into this earthly existence.  His ways are the best, the easiest, the most efficient, to complete this task called living the Godly life.

Yet, I go off on my own, trying to “load” my life a different way.  I try to take short cuts in the process of learning what I should do, failing to seek His advice on matters where I have questions.  I feel like close enough is good enough, and leave it at that, not aiming for wrapping into Him and His teachings in order to be a better servant to Him.  I don’t efficiently cleanse myself of my sins before Him so that when I go through the heat of life I come out chipped and still dirty…and I have to go back and try it again and again.  I want to do it my way, and I often pay the price for that.

Just like the boys and the dishwasher.

Second revelation to me:  I often get angry and frustrated with them for their carelessness and lack of attention to detail; He is forever patient with me in mine.

Wow.  Ouch.

As I think now of the dirty dishes on my counter, and the boy who will be coming to l0ad them shortly, help me remember, Lord, to take a page from Your playbook, not only in how I load my own life, but also in how I instruct these young men to load theirs.  Help me to be more like You as I teach them to be more like You.  In Your precious Name I pray, amen.

 

Baby, It’s Cold Outside

“Then the righteous will answer him, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you something to drink? When did we see you a stranger and invite you in, or needing clothes and clothe you? When did we see you sick or in prison and go to visit you?’

“The King will reply, ‘Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me.’  Matthew 25:37-40

During a recent cold snap, I started down the stairs early one morning for my usual quiet time.  When I was about halfway down the stairs, I realized that something was wrong.  Really wrong.

It kept getting colder…and colder…and colder.

“Something is wrong!” I said out loud to no one, and hurried down the stairs to flip the light on.

I discovered that my back door was…standing…open.

Whoever had let the dogs in the night before had not closed it well, and it wiggled open.  The temperature in the house was 48 degrees.

Right away, I had several praises:

  • thanks, God, for a relatively new heating system
  • thanks, God, for two systems in the house, one of which kept the upstairs to the usual 67 degrees despite the influx of super cold air from downstairs
  • thanks, God, for no one/nothing coming in my wide open door

A bit later I could say:  “Thanks, God, that the system was efficient enough to return the temperature to 67 degrees in just four hours (which I thought was pretty good for a 19 degree jump).

But there was another blessing in store for me…an unexpected one:  the conversation at our breakfast table.

I am blessed with sweet, empathetic children, but the empathy they developed by our one cold morning in the house brought out new levels of empathy in them.

They decided that we had an abundance of blankets in our home, and that we should share them with a local homeless ministry.

They also started making bracelets in order to raise money for the same ministry to use to take care of the street people in our area.

It was beautiful to see, even though it was an expensive lesson monetarily.

Father, thank You for the way you teach us, even when it is difficult for us.  Thank You in this case that the lesson was fairly easy to learn.  I pray that it has a long-lasting affect on all of us.  I pray, also, for the homeless forced to be out in this extreme cold.  Help them, Lord, to find a warm place to spend this winter.

Welcome Home

Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth, for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away, and there was no longer any sea. I saw the Holy City, the new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride beautifully dressed for her husband. And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, “Look! God’s dwelling place is now among the people, and he will dwell with them. They will be his people, and God himself will be with them and be their God. ‘He will wipe every tear from their eyes. There will be no more death or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away.” – Revelation 21:1-4

Two of my dearest friends had their deployed husbands return this week.  What a joy to see their homecoming pictures!  They make me cry!

On several levels.

First and foremost, these dear men whom we have been praying for have returned safely from dangerous places.  They have been putting themselves in harm’s way to protect our freedoms, and their return just supports what is truly great about American military members…and their families.  They have given up so we can enjoy.  Praise God!

Secondly, I must admit that I have a few tears for myself, for my kids, and the homecoming we cannot have.  Keith’s early trip to Glory means that we do not have him here, cannot have that hug we dream of, especially on the tough days.

But mingled with the sadness are tears of joy for my family as well, for one day, we will have a homecoming greater than this.

God, in His great love and mercy, have made a way so that we can all join Him for the greatest homecoming ever created.  One day, our Savior will stand waiting in anticipation of us returning to Him.  He will welcome us into our true home, the one in Heaven.

And while I cannot say for sure what homecomings are like with the former residents of earth who have already received their reward, I am sure that if Keith can be, he will be there…smiling and welcoming us home for good.

What a glorious homecoming that will be!

Keep the Spirit of Christmas

Surely he took up our pain
    and bore our suffering,
yet we considered him punished by God,
    stricken by him, and afflicted.
But he was pierced for our transgressions,
    he was crushed for our iniquities;
the punishment that brought us peace was on him,
    and by his wounds we are healed.
We all, like sheep, have gone astray,
    each of us has turned to our own way;
and the Lord has laid on him
    the iniquity of us all.  – Isaiah 53:4-6

I did an object lesson with my boys on Christmas Eve.  While we were eating, I brought my dog’s nasty dish to the table.

It was particularly nasty, in need of a good cleaning.  Even though they are boys, and therefore very familiar and comfortable with dirt, they looked at me as if I had lost my mind.

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I asked them if they would like to sleep in there.

Again, they looked at me as if I had lost my mind.  Realization was starting to dawn with the big two, and maybe the little ones as well.

I then reminded them that Jesus came here as a baby and slept in something maybe even more nasty…all because He loves each of them.

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The packages may be unwrapped, the hoopla over the season may be done, leaving just a mess and a thousand dirty dishes (at least at my house)…but this fact does not change.

For us He did this…each and every one of us.  He came knowing what this world was like…and what His death would be like.

And He did it anyway.

Let’s remember this Christmas feeling throughout the year…and honor Him the day after Christmas as much as we did on Christmas.

Father, thank You for the indescribable gift of Your Son.  Help us to remember Him with the joy and fervor and anticipation of Christmas each and every day of our lives.  In Jesus’ name.  Amen.

No Accidents with God…When God Showed Up

You show that you are a letter from Christ, the result of our ministry, written not with ink but with the Spirit of the living God, not on tablets of stone but on tablets of human hearts. – 2 Corinthians 3:3

Well, out doing some cookie delivery this morning, I got rear-ended.  But…it was actually a blessing.

Stopped at a light, I was finishing a conversation with Matthew.  Then I felt a bump in the back of the car.  I quickly hung up, pulled onto a side street, and got out of the car.  No damage to me (benefit of a big car)…but the little black Nissan that hit me had some obvious damage.

So did the young woman (very young) who got out of the car.

Oh, not physical damage…but she was severely shaken.

I went into “mom” mode.

I asked her if she was OK, even as she continued to apologize for hitting me.  I took this trembling young thing gently by the arm and told her everything was OK.  Cars are just hunks of metal, and not that important.  The important thing was that everyone was OK.  I told her to call her parents.  She tried, but did not get them.

She said she was headed today to file the paperwork for her upcoming wedding and was meeting her fiance at his job.  She apologized again, and started to cry.  I put an arm around her to comfort her.

She wore a cross on her neck.  I pointed to it and asked if she was a Christian.  She nodded.  I told her I was, too.  Then I told her I thought we should pray.

I took this young, still-trembling woman in my arms and prayed with her.  She was quietly sobbing while I thanked God for everyone’s safety, and asked for the Lord to calm the heart of sweet Mary (for that is her name…a bit ironic) and help her to go on safely and peacefully through her day.

As we were finishing the prayer, a man in a white pick-up stopped to make sure we were OK.  We both said we were, and he answered, “You all have a blessed day,” as he drove off.  I told Mary that was our confirmation that God had the situation.  How cool when He shows up like that!

She texted me a bit later to thank me for praying with her and for being so caring.

Now, I know very little about this young woman.  I know she has a tender heart and that she trusts the same Savior I do.  Even if she did not trust Him, I knew all I needed to know to take a tough situation and try to make it better.

I am thankful to God that she was wearing her cross that I could see it, thus feeling more open about praying with her.  The old saying about there being no atheists in foxholes probably would apply to car accidents as well, but the confirmation from a small piece of silver with diamond chips was a blessing.

I am thankful, too, for the confirmation of God from the man in the pick-up…both for my sake and for Mary’s.

I am thankful that no one was hurt and that her car was able to be driven.

But, mostly, I am thankful for God giving me the strength to help show Him in a situation where it would have been so easy to respond in a worldly manner, rather than with the love of Christ.

And while I pray that her car is easily fixed and that she does not stress over it any longer, I thank God that I got to meet Mary today.  She will be in my prayers for many days to come.

A Reminder

And my God will supply all your needs according to His riches in glory in Christ Jesus. – Philippians 4:19

I go to the commissary once a month to get most of our staples.  Consequently, it is a big, time-consuming trip.  My attitude is usually positive, but today, I really got an attitude check.

I was walking through the aisles, filling my second cart, and happened to be near a woman who was speaking under her breath as she put each thing into her cart.  This is nothing unusual…I often do it myself, marking off my list carefully as I go.

As she leaned in to get something near me, though, I heard something that made me stop in my tracks…and gave me a glimpse of the Divine.

What she was saying each time she put something into her cart was, “You are good.”

My breath caught.

Not being shy, I touched her arm a few moments later and said, “I have to ask…are you thanking the Lord each time you put something in your cart?”

“Yes,” she replied simply.

Tears in my eyes, I said, “That’s beautiful.”

She smiled slightly and moved on to continue to fill her cart.

I, however, was rooted in place.  Tears fell down my cheeks.  I felt both blessed and humbled.

Two full carts.  Six years without Keith.  Every time I need something, and most of the time when I want something.

You.  Are.  Good.

I think I am a thankful person.  I certainly try to be.  But I go to the commissary each month without really thanking the God of the universe for His infinite, patient, precise care of me.

You.  Are.  Good.

I learned a lesson today, one that I pray never leaves me, one that is still bringing me to tears.

You.  Are.  Good.

This sweet lady and her mom were in line behind me, and I had the opportunity to talk to them again.  Still with tears in my eyes, I said, “You have touched me today.”

Still just a slight smile, and a humble, “I’m glad.  Thanks.”

No, really, thank you, sweet sister…and thank You, dear Father.

You.  Are.  Good.

Monitoring the Pressure

I have had an ongoing battle with my tire pressure monitoring system on my car.

A couple years ago, one of the sensors got broken off when I purchased new tires.  Since then, the system has given me fits, telling me I have no pressure in a tire that is obviously just fine.  The system itself even registered it as fine just before it went haywire. 

This whole issue has led to frustration, to say the least.

Today, as sweet friend who owns a body shop told me something about tire pressure monitoring systems that I did not know. 

They are actually wireless gadgets and have to be activated to a particular computer system in a car.  Think of synching your IPod.  Because they synch this way, they can get thrown off if they are too close to another car when synched and then can be triggered by something other than your particular tire pressure.  Kind of foolish, if you ask me.

But I have to wonder…how often do I do the same thing?  Do I, by my actions or inactions, cause someone else to get off track, like my wayward tire pressure system?

I know it happens some days at home.  Keith used to say that I determined when I got up in the morning what kind of day we would all have by how the morning went.  Smooth morning, smooth day, and vice versa.  If we started out crummy, I had it in my head that it would be crummy all day…and then it became a self-fulfilling prophesy.

I think I have gotten a bit better about this…most days.  This single-parent world is just too crazy to get wrapped around the wheel about little things that happen.  As a result, I am better able to take a breath, put things in perspective, and move on. 

I still fail at times, though, letting my poor night’s sleep, my stresses of the day, or my failure to plan better for a calm day, take over and affect the way we operate as a family.  At those times, I am extremely thankful for grace.  Aren’t you?

My tire pressure monitor problem was finally solved today.  It was a bad sensor.  It has been replaced.  I only pray that I can as easily and completely replace my bad attitude and over-stimulated blood pressure to not give the wrong reading to those around me…especially my boys.

Turn to me and be gracious to me,
    for I am lonely and afflicted.
Relieve the troubles of my heart
    and free me from my anguish.
Look on my affliction and my distress
    and take away all my sins.

– Psalm 25:16-18