L.M.P.

LMPMy dear friend Judy loved lemon meringue pie, L.M.P., as she called it.  To her, it was just something you had when friends got together.  I was not the originator of this tradition with her, but I was privileged to share it with her, too.  Memories as sweet as the pie.

You see, Judy went home to be with the Lord yesterday.

So, I am up extra early this morning, thinking about sweet Judy…and L.M.P…and life.

I have a Judy story to share that, to me, sums up the lady she was.

The day Keith died, he had sent me flowers for our anniversary, which was two days later.  He did not know he would not see that anniversary.  I got home from saying goodbye to him at the hospital to find this final gift.

The ladies from church, particularly Judy and her daughter-in-law, were anxious to preserve those for me.  They made a frantic internet search to find someone to do it.  When they did, Judy’s sweet husband came and got the flowers, boxed them up and sent them away to be freeze-dried and framed.  Today, they hang in a shadow box in my bedroom.  And, as much as those flowers mean to me because they are from Keith, they mean just as much because of the work that Judy and the other ladies from my church put into me keeping them.

Back in the fall at our ladies’ retreat, I sang a special with Judy on my heart.  She was not there in person, suffering already with her illness, but I know she was with us then in spirit.  The song is Healing is in Your Hands by Christy Nockels( http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=iAMJKfWsS9o ).  Here are the lyrics:

No mountain, no valley, no gain or loss we know
could keep us from Your love
No sickness, no secret, no chain is strong enough
to keep us from Your love
to keep us from Your love
 
How high, how wide
No matter where I am, healing is in Your hands
How deep, How strong,
And now by Your grace I stand, healing is in Your hands
 
Our present, our future, our past is in Your hands
We’re covered by Your blood
We’re covered by Your blood
 
How high, How wide
no matter where I am, healing is in Your hands
How deep, How strong
And now by Your grace I stand, healing is in Your hands
 
In all things, we know that.
We are more than conquerors.
You keep us by your love.
You keep us by your love.
The Lord’s plan was not to heal Judy this side of Heaven.  I don’t know why…but I know He does Judy knew her Lord had a plan, too, and she was willing to trust in Him.  And because she did trust Him, this is not goodbye to my sweet friend, but instead see you later.  We have that promise from Him when we live in Him.  Praise God for that!
So, we can survive the here and now, the yucky parts of life, the hard parts of life, because we know that He lives in Heaven and has gone to prepare a place for us there (John 14:2-4).  Judy is seeing that now.  And that is cause for rejoicing, even with tears in my eyes.
 
I’ll be there later, Judy…and I’ll bring the L.M.P.
And I know Judy would wave her hand, flash me a 100-watt smile, and say, “All right, honey.”
 
For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future. Then you will call on me and come and pray to me, and I will listen to you. You will seek me and find me when you seek me with all your heart.” – Jeremiah 29:11-13

In the Pink

This morning I got up extra early to work on getting our day together.  I knew we had a lot on our plate:

  • hair cuts
  • Christmas crafts for relatives
  • Christmas cards
  • Christmas baking
  • youth band practice

Not to mention:

  • house cleaning for our weekend company
  • homeschooling
  • the 5-6 loads of laundry (I have lost count) that are on my bed to fold

Too much for one day!  I hurriedly complete my Bible study (sorry, Beth) and start on the planning of this hairy day.  The Amy Grant song I Need A Silent Night ( http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KRSSsNbF29I) is running through my mind.

I endeavor to persevere.  I plan the day down to the moments and get ready for the boys to get up so we can hit the ground running.

Then…

Jackson gets up and comes down…he’s got pink eye.

Ugh.

Now, this was not entirely unexpected.  I had started my day Tuesday with a run to the doc-in-the-box around the corner from the house with Tanner..  Since then, we have been washing hands furiously and peeking at everyone’s eyelids.

I thought we had dodged the bullet this time, and that Tanner was going to be the only one down with it.  Nope.

Next, checked Alex’s eyelids…pink eye starting there, too.  Matthew…same scenario.

Obviously my carefully planned schedule is out the window.  Regroup, regroup…

And someone (Someone?) has just turned up the volume of Amy Grant in my ear…

I’ve done it again, haven’t I, Lord?

Single parenthood is never easy, but especially not if you try to be Supermom, creating the best. Christmas. ever.

I know better than this!  Really, I do!

Yet it happens again and again that I get myself too deeply planned, too tightly stretched…

Not good for anyone.

And that is when God steps in…and gives me a time out…this time in the form of pink eye.

Instead of the crazy rushing around, my day now involves movies and jammies and an afternoon nap…and maybe some of those Christmas crafts and that laundry to fold.

Sorry, Lord, for doing it again…and again…and again.

Thanks, Lord, for loving me enough to get me out of my stress-mess via a time out.

Now I have to check my own eyelids…praying that other shoe does not fall.

“For My thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways My ways,” declares the Lord.  “As the heavens are higher than the earth, so are My ways higher than your waysand My thoughts than your thoughts.” – Isaiah 55:8-9

Of Course I Will!

My hope is built on nothing less than Jesus’ blood and righteousness.
I dare not trust the sweetest frame but wholly lean on Jesus’ name.

It has been one of those days.

I woke up with a headache.  I cried at the breakfast table because I felt unappreciated by my children.  I cried on my walk because Keith was not here.  He (usually) knew how to make me feel better when I was in one of these moods.

I walked along, tears flowing…whining to God (gotta be honest here).

I knew I was about to reach where Renee stands in the morning, waiting for the school bus with her charge.  I met Renee walking but found out she attends the same Wednesday night service I do.  I dried my tears and smiled.

“Good morning, Renee!”

“Hi, Liz.  How are you this morning?”

“Fine, thanks!  How about you?”

“Good, thanks.”

“Great!  Have a good day!”

And I walked a few more steps.

Then God spoke to me in my spirit.  Nope.  Own in.  Go back.  Tell her.

So, swallowing my pride, I broke stride from my walking and went back.

“Actually, that’s not entirely true.  I am having one of those mornings.  Will you please pray for me?”

With a big hug, Renee said, “Bless your heart!  Of course I will!”

And I walked on, feeling better.  Provision!

I could now hear the birds singing.  I even found a quarter…that will go in the missions box the boys and I are currently filling.  I smiled at the others I normally see and speak to on my walk.  My world had tilted back in the right direction.

My morning was just some of life’s “light and momentary troubles” (2 Corinthians 4:17).  They happen to us all.  Jesus promised they would.

I am thankful for a God who is gracious enough to put people in my path (literally) for the times when I need them.  And I am thankful that He knows I sometimes need that extra little push to take what He has so graciously given to me.  Sometimes, it is just a matter of me looking beyond myself  As I reflected on this, I could see many blessings in my life, things that had been hidden from me as my thoughts circled myself instead of the bigger picture.

At the end of my walk today, I ran into my sometimes-walking-buddie Carol.  We greeted each other and she asked how I was.  And I could honestly tell her that I am doing…OK.

Praise God!

In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.  — John 16:33

Crows vs. Hawks

On my daily walk the other day, I heard…long before I saw…a murder of crows harassing a hawk.  (Yes, I looked that up.  That is what you call them.  Word lesson for today completed.)

Oh, they were really giving it to him–circling round and round, cawing away.  He gave them  a couple of shrill cries in return, but they were really dominating.

As I watched the exchange, I realized that I could see myself in that scene.  And sometimes I am the crows…and sometimes I am the hawk.

I can be a fuss-er.  I sometimes get focused on something and worry it to pieces.  Whether it is finances, or boy behavior, or the cleanliness of my house (or lack thereof), I get hold of an idea and won’t let go.  Like the crows, I fuss and fume.  I try to bully the ideas, pushing and shoving them into what I think they should look like. I continue the harassment, regardless of the facts, and God’s plan…seeing threats where there probably aren’t any.  Sometimes I even find my own “murder” to fuss with me.

Sometimes, however, in my better moments, I’d like to think I am the hawk.

Sometimes I doggedly maintain my God-directed course, taking the attacks as they come, and maintaining my place in the sky, like this hawk was.  I don’t see the harassment and obstacles–whatever form they may take–but stay the course.  When the opportunity presents itself, I, like the hawk, cry out my side of the story, but from a position of calm statement, not from a position of stressed excitement.  This hawk calmly held his position, and so do I–or at least I try.

So why am I not able to be more hawk-like all the time?  Why do I take that drift toward the stressful group-think of a murder of crows, seeing threats everywhere, real and imagined?

Usually it is because I have taken my eyes off the Ruler of the Skies…if I may be so bold as to give Him a name like that.

I get freaked out and stirred up when I don’t spend enough time with the Lord…in prayer, reading His Word, seeing things from His perspective.

I also get in a tizzy when I choose to be around the “murder” instead of alone with the Lord.  Oh, I am not discounting the value of good friends…not by any means!  But we all need to be careful of miserable comforters.  Time alone with the Lord can get me soaring again instead of squawking.

May I find those moments today!

Though youths grow weary and tired, and vigorous young men stumble badly, yet those who wait for the Lord will gain new strength; they will mount up with wings like eagles, they will run and not get tired, they will walk and not become weary. — Isaiah 40:31-32 (NASB)

The Importance of Being

I have a dear friend walking her days with a very serious illness.  No one but God knows what the outcome will be.

Sitting with her this week, she had a lot of questions for me…about Keith’s last months and days.  She is exploring and preparing for what may be.

I knew the questions were coming.  I knew she was thinking.  I was blessed to be able to share.  Keith would approve, too.  He loved this dear woman, too.

The talk went fairly smoothly…not too many tears from either of us.  I told her some things that the average person does not know about that last day…some even my family does not know.  That day was hard, personal, and very private in some ways.

This dear, sweet, Christian lady told me again and again that she is not sure what she is supposed to do.  She said she keeps asking God, but is just not sure what to do.  I gave her some form of answer, but felt there was more to say.

I have thought about that statement all week and have come to some conclusions, which I am sharing with you all…and with her.

Sometimes being is enough.

We are go-getters, especially as Americans, I think.  We feel that we need to be doing, acting all the time.  I think part of it comes from all the opportunities we have here…constant entertainment, work, activities for ourselves and our families.

It is hard for us to be still and know that He is God.  But sometimes that is all we can do.

Be still.  Know.

This precious lady is in the palm of God’s hand.  He has her.  He has this illness.  He will heal her — this side of Heaven or that.  In that she can rest and just be.

She can be other things, too, even from her sick bed:  wife, mother, grandmother, friend, sister.

The bottom line is that none of us is guaranteed tomorrow.  None.

I have a couple dear friends who lost their spouses in the conflicts in Iraq and Afghanistan.  They had more of an inkling, perhaps, that something could happen.  I have other friends whose spouses took some sort of a trip (fishing or to the dump) and never came back.  Others faced longer sickness, multiple tests, lingering, and finally failing, hope of healing here on earth.

That is life here.  Death happens.  To some sooner than others.  To some with more warning than others.  To all eventually.

We all face the life-and-death questions that this sweet sister faces, whether we realize it or not.

This is not scary…or shouldn’t be.  God’s got it.  He is in control.  His Word says that again and again.

And sometimes all we can do is be…and the most important thing we can be is His child.

For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future. – Jeremiah 29:11

Mousetraps

This morning I saw a mouse run across my kitchen floor.  I literally heard the little scampering feet and looked up to see a little dark streak out of the corner of my eye.

My first reaction was to fuss at Dakota, our Great Pyrenees, who was not 6 feet from there, dozing while I did my Bible study.  She should be reacting to this little invader.  She surely reacts strongly enough to every random car and child on a bicycle that comes near the house.

Next, I stalked the little critter to see if I could tell where he had gone. Alas, no luck!  I also had no shoes on, if he did run out at me.  Yes, I would stomp him if I could.  Bloodthirsty or no, he has invaded my territory and the gloves are off.  He’s going down!

So, I pulled out my box of mouse-eliminating paraphernalia.  Oh, I have some of everything!  Old fashioned, standard mousetraps, and glue traps of various shapes and sizes.  (I don’t do poison because of dogs and children.)  They are now placed in some strategic locations.

Then I started looking for the why of the situation.  Is there spilled food somewhere that I missed that is attracting him?  I checked in the pantry and then headed to the garage.  Sure enough, I found a ton of dog food on the floor behind the dog food container.  Note to self:  find a better way for the 5-year old to dip up the dog food.  I cleaned up the dog food and went back to my Bible study.

I probably should have been more prepared, had my traps out already.  It is fall and we have had some cooler days.  Inevitably this time of year, some furry critter is foolish enough to try to find hospitality at the Wright house.  And, inevitably, he never makes it out alive.  I am determined here.  I don’t want those nasty creatures in my home, touching my stuff.

But am I this determined when it comes to keeping out the nastiest creature of all — Satan?

Y’all, I had a whole blog post prepared for this morning.  Reading back over it, it was a bit…whiny.  I know that days like this come, that they are part of life here on this rock, especially in grief, but do I need to wallow in them?

I had been unprepared for the Creature scurrying in under cover of night whispering yuckies in my ear…and he is the one who is in charge of the night!  I should have expected him.  I should have been better prepared to handle the situation, both before and after.  That negative poison is no good for me…and certainly is not good to spew out and pass on in this venue.

In my personal Bible study this morning, I was reading toward the end of the book of Nehemiah.  The remnant who had returned rebuilt the wall in record time, and they praised God for that, but they still had some concerns…chiefly, their brothers and sisters still in captivity.

Know what they did?  They spent time rereading to the assembly the Word of God and retelling the God story they had been given.

My God story over the past nearly-five years could fill a book…in fact, I hope to do just that.

God has been there, there, there!  By recounting that story, remembering all the times He has taken care of me, held me up, saved me from the darkness that could envelope me…I can be free of it.

But it is all about choice.

I have to be prepared, then be ready to take action…away from Satan and toward God.

God can handle my bad days.  After all, He knew they were coming.  In His word, He says “in this world you will have trouble” (John 16:33).  But He also says to take heart, for He has overcome the world.

So my whining will be replaced by rejoicing.  It could be much worse than it is.  Those negative thoughts, that whiny-ness serves no purpose.  I can acknowledge the tough days to God and move on.

The ugly little thoughts are going down, just like the critter in my house.  I am determined!

Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding;in all your ways acknowledge Him,and He will make your paths straight. – Proverbs 3:5

The T-Shirts We Wear

Americans surely have a love affair with their t-shirts.

They express loyalty:  to sports teams, universities, and causes.  They express belonging:  to families (and reunions), a variety of special interests, and teams.  They express fondness and memories:  to old TV characters, favorite sayings and scriptures, and trips taken.

In my house, we have a plethora of t-shirts that show all the different rec teams my guys have been on.  The standard souvenir when we have been on a trip is a t-shirt.  All the boys have t-shirts with my alma mater (Go Hokies!).  We also have a variety of t-shirts for the Nationals, Yankees, Giants, and Colts.

I had a conversation this morning with a dear friend about the t-shirts we should wear.

You see, she has had hard stuff in her life, too.  She lives with cancer, and has for more than 14 years.  She is doing well, the doctors say.  She is a survivor.  And I think she is amazing.

But she shared with me that sometimes she would like to have a bio to pass out, rather than to retell the story.  She would rather not deal with the pity — or the label.  She would rather wear the t-shirt I Have Cancer, But I’m Still Here than to go through the whole, drawn-out explanation.

I get that.  Some days I am ready to share my life and my story; some days I am not.

Some days, I see myself wearing a t-shirt that says Widow with Four Children – Don’t Judge Me, Just Love Me.  That way, I don’t have to go through the story or the pity, either.  And I might not have to explain being a little…off.

Other days, I am more ready to wear a t-shirt that says Ask Me My Story…See God in Action!  Or, I’m Not Superwoman, But My God Is Superman!  I am ready and eager to share what God has done and is doing in my life and the lives of my kids.

I guess my point is this:  I am more than the label, more than the momentary t-shirt I wear.  In my humanness I often miss the mark of representing Who I love the most.  And I need to ask Him to forgive me for that.

I have the opportunity–and the responsibility, I believe–to rise beyond my circumstances and be a living example of my God.  I am the sum total of all I have been through and all I will go through, but, most importantly, how I have responded to these things.

And as such, the t-shirt I strive to wear is this:  God’s Child, Wholly and Completely!

But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes on you; and you will be My witnesses in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth. – Acts 1:8