Black Ice

After a week of rainy, yucky weather when I have not been able to walk, I was excited to see a clear, but cold, sky this morning.  I do so enjoy my morning walk!

I suited up and stepped out the door and started across the street…only to have to catch myself from falling on my can!

Black ice…little patches of it.  Too small to affect cars and school buses, but doing a number on my balance.  They were forcing me to mince along rather than take full strides.  Since much of my walk is along sidewalk-less roads, I turned and headed home, not wanting to wrench a knee or hip with awkward muscle movements…or worse yet, slide under a car.

In short, I got a little scared.  So I headed home to safety.

In this widow-walk that I know so well, there are moments like this, too.

I can be traveling along, taking life as it comes, trusting the Lord and moving forward, when all of a sudden…those unexpected moments come and I am slipping and sliding…in my walk and in my faith.

It is often something totally innocuous that sets me off…a song on the radio, a gesture from one of my kids that is so like their dad, a phrase heard in passing.

Then I have to slow down, take stock of what I do have, make the decision to either continue where I am and what I am doing, or take the high road and exit the situation.

Unlike this morning, I don’t always have the freedom to turn around and walk home, giving up until another day.  I need to press on.  The bills must be paid; the decisions must be made; the children must be disciplined.  But that doesn’t mean I do it alone.

God is with me every step of the way, whether I am striding along or delicately, painstakingly picking my way.  And He always will be.

God is our refuge and strength,
    an ever-present help in trouble.
Therefore we will not fear, though the earth give way
    and the mountains fall into the heart of the sea,
though its waters roar and foam
    and the mountains quake with their surging. –
Psalm 46:1-3

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

Unpacking Christmas

It is the beginning of December and that means the annual frenzy to get the house ready for the season.

Right now, it looks like Christmas threw up.  Not a pretty sight.  Boxes are strewn everywhere.  There is foam and fake pine needles all over the floor, and half-done shopping lists and baking lists cover the counter.  You can barely move without having to shift something else first.  I rush around, doing one thing, until I spy another that needs to be done just as much, and stop and tackle that.  The boys try to be helpful where they can, but they don’t think like me (imagine that).  (Actually, that is a great blessing.)

Currently I am unpacking the boxes of ornaments for the “family” tree.

And in this activity, I get my first Christmas miracle.

This is the tree of memories.  I have the pretty tree in the living room, but this tree holds my heart.

I unpack ornaments that graced my tree as a child:  a knitted stocking Mom made, needlepoint I did, wooden Santas as old as the hills that may have even come from Mom’s tree growing up, my grandmother’s Hallmark carousel ornaments.  I praise God that I grew up in the family that I did, with love and joy all around, and with Christmas memories that still bring me to tears.

I unpack the first Christmas ornaments that my mom so lovingly picked out for me and Keith, and Christmas ornaments that we got for our wedding from the Huffs and the Fontaines.  I praise God for a loving husband.  Even though he went home to Glory early, I would not have traded one moment with him.

I unpack the ornaments made by the boys over the years.  Some are crude and falling apart, but they make me smile.  I praise God for loving children, who love God, and who love me, despite my cranky days.

I unpack ornaments that Shari and Julie helped my boys to make a year after Keith died, the presents they gave me that year.  I praise God for friends who care enough to make my Christmas special.

I unpack a bell from Becky’s wedding, and bluebirds from Courtney’s, favors that have graced my tree since those blessed events.  I think back to the beautiful brides they were and praise God for their marriages and their children.

And then I find it.  It doesn’t look like much, but to me, it is priceless.  Aunt Hilda gave my sister and me each one…can’t even remember when.  It is about 1″ x 1/2″ x 2″…Mary, Joseph, and Jesus in a little glass box.  From the time I was little, I just knew looking at this ornament that it was real…He had been here as a baby, and a man, for me.

And that is the greatest miracle of all.

I pray that this moment can stay fresh in my mind through this entire Christmas season.

For God so loved the world that He gave His one and only Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish but have eternal life.  – John 3:16

Testimony Today

I gave a testimony at our church this morning:

Testimony 11-11-12
            Today, I am grateful for many things.
            First of all, today is Veteran’s Day, a day dedicated to those brave enough, devoted enough, to be willing to put themselves in harm’s way for the sake of others.  I praise God for the men and women willing to be of service to their country, regardless of the cost.  There are many veterans in this room.  Thank you for your service to this great country of ours.
            Today is also my 17th wedding anniversary.  Two days ago, Friday, was the 5th anniversary of Keith’s graduation to Glory.
            Today, for me, is bittersweet…but mostly sweet.
            It is in this loss that our family has really learned to be grateful.
            I have much to be grateful for in having been married to such a wonderful, Godly husband.  His Christian example has helped to make the boys and me into the people we are today, and his dedication to Christ and Christian principles have allowed us to go on without him…and even to thrive.
            I look around this congregation and see much to be grateful for as well.
            Several of you were there on the day Keith and I married.  You have been with us since the beginning, welcoming each of our boys in succession, watching us grow and change with each passing year.
            I see even more who have been there every step of the way since Keith’s death.
            In these past five years, the boys and I have confidently, consistently, completely felt your support and love.
            Whether it was Mother’s Day or birthday gifts, home and car repairs, or support for the boys as they become men, this congregation has listened to the Holy Spirit’s prompting and helped out my family.
            That’s what community is supposed to be…the church as described in Acts.
            I can never fully express what that means to me…and to them.
            Mostly, though, on this day I am grateful to a God who loves me in spite of my failings with a passion that I learn more of each day.  He holds me in the palm of His hand…and He always will.  He loves me enough to hone the rough edges…and to make glory out of my ashes.  He quite literally floors me with His love.
            I am thankful that in my grief and sorrow, He has not left me but instead has allowed me to grow ever closer to Him, being my Husband in a new and special way.
            I have learned many lessons over the past 5 years.  Some of them have been painful; some of them have been very painful.  But the most important lesson my family and I have learned is that God is always there.  On the good days, on the bad days, in the middle of the night, on the road trips, as the boys grow.  Always.
            And I am grateful.  So, so grateful.

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