His Garden of Grace
I am sick. Ok, I finally have to give in to it. This sickness. I am not sure when I came to this conclusion: Whether it was yesterday evening when I couldn't stop coughing and I felt like my lungs were going to explode, or at 2:00 am when I had to wake up my Dearest and have him get me a mug of steaming salt water so I could breathe enough to use my inhaler so I could stop coughing. Or when I woke up at 9:15 and realized that I couldn't muster up the strength to drag myself out of bed, so I just laid there trying to call for someone to get me a drink of water, but had no voice. And on top of that, I have a HUGE fever blister on my upper lip. And one on the edge of my right nostril. I have given it, and I am now taking otc meds and lots of vitamins, minerals and using my inhaler regularly. I think I am going to live. However, the jury is still out for now.But when I actually woke up enough to realize it was 10:30, my hubby brought me a pot of tea. I was just mustering up the strength to drag myself out of bed to go fix some, and here he comes with a pot, out to the motor home for me. And after I finished it, he took it back in the house, and walked me up the driveway and made sure I made it in. When I got in, I realized my sister had done all my laundry. All of it. I didn't even have to ask her to. And she was fixing lunch for my family, too. Together, we made Ham and Scalloped Potatoes for everyone. http://thepioneerwoman.com/cooking/2012/04/scalloped-potatoes-and-ham/ It is wonderful to have someone finish what you start, clean up after you, and take care of your family. I never want to leave. I think this is kinda like what heaven will be like. We will be serving our Beloved. I will not be a chore, but a joy. We will never get sick, never tire, and it will be with the people we love eternally. And we will all be working together toward one common goal: worshipping and loving our Savior. There will be no selfishness, no bickering, no waste, no pain, no end. We can't even imagine it, in fact, it seems almost impossible. Thank you Father, for what you have prepared for us. For those that you love and have chosen and called to your purpose. And thank you for what you have provided now, so we will have a glimpse of what is to come, and for those who serve us on a daily basis and we take for granted. Thank you for my Dearest Husband, and my sweet sister, serving me and making me feel very loved. Their simple actions spoke volumes of love to me today. In Jesus' name, Amen.
Lately I have been feeling sad. Not sad about one thing, but many. But mostly because I realize that my life of parenting little ones is coming to a close, and I am entering a new phase of life: Parenting adult children who are making life choices that I do not agree with. And it grieves me in such a deep way, that it has overshadowed every other thing in my life. And it sucks the enjoyment out of the things I used to really love. But, in some weird way, that is a good thing. Because I am learning to see the things that used to be really important as kinda trivial and a waste of time, and the things that I pushed aside are now taking a priority. Let me explain.I used to spend a lot of time worrying about how I looked. I spent time fixing my hair just so. I washed it every day, even in the winter. I permed, curled, blow-dried, and moussed the heck out of it. I shopped for fabric, clothes, shoes, and accessories whenever I got the chance.And I scrapbooked. I think I was addicted. I had to have all the latest goodies, and since I was a Creative Memories Consultant, I had to sell them to my customers, too. And when scrapbooking went mainstream, WOW! I amassed copious amounts of supplies.Then I started stamping cards. And the collection grew to astronomic proportions.And the china, tea pots, tea cups, and don't forget the tea itself.I loved me some stuff. And I loved me, way too much.None of these things are bad. None of them are wrong. But one day, I started looking around and realized that I had filled my life with so much stuff that I loved, that there wasn't time to use it. I had to spend all my time organizing and cleaning up my stuff. I hated to take anything out and make a mess because I had so much it was difficult to get it out or put it away. I had so much that I had to use up that I didn't have time to go out with a friend for lunch. It would take too much time to get ready, and take up time I needed to be doing something else.But, God is so good and he is teaching me to let go of stuff. It started by a sermon that our pastor preached about the needs in other countries, and how we have so much. I felt God was asking me to do something: Fast from buying myself anything for the next year.I am six months into it, and I am making some strides in the right direction. And the amazing thing is that, although I held my stuff loosely before this, I now let him hold it. And I have gotten to where I can go in a store and smile and say: "I don't need that. It will just take up space, and I don't want to clean up after using it, and think of how many people can be helped by the money I save!" I admit, I haven't been perfectly faithful. Just this past week I bought something I have to return because, I just don't need it. But as I seek him, he is faithful to help me see, little by little, that it is just stuff, NOT the STUFF of LIFE. HE is the Stuff of Life.And that is the best thing that has happened is that as I let go of the clutter, I have room for Him. As I stop the busyness, and be still, I am seeing things in His Word more clearly than I ever have, and I am falling deeper and deeper in love with Him. Which I never was able to comprehend before. People would say, "I love Jesus so much" and I would wonder how they got there. And would I ever? In fact, I often thought that I didn't love him at all. Now I realize that you never really know how to love someone unless there is sacrifice. Think about it. All real, deep love is borne out of sacrifice. You love your kids and have sacrificed who you were as a childless, free woman for them. Perhaps you even resent them a little for it. I know I do. But I love being a mom. And your husband. I can't even comment on that one. It is a willing and joyful sacrifice. And thats the way Christ wants us to treat him. After all, look at what he gave up for us. What a willing sacrifice he was for us.We can love, because he set the standard. He made the ultimate sacrifice for us. His life for mine. Yet, He hasn't asked me to go to my death for him. He has asked for me to go to my life for him. Living life with him and for him. And death to my ways, thought patterns and sinful desires. Easier said than done.Which brings me back to my original thought: (you thought I had forgotten that, didn't you?) Being sad.How do I not let this sadness take root and overshadow everything with its black canopy? By choosing to live in the joy of the journey and the hope of Him. Job said, "though he slay me, still I will rejoice in Him." Practically speaking,Psalm 46 lays it out:"God is our refuge and our strength. An ever-present help in trouble. Therefore we will not fear, thought 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. Be still and know that I am God; I will be exalted among the nations, I will be exalted in the earth."Theres more, but this is what I see:God is my refuge. But I have to be still to know it. And the more still and quiet my heart is, the more I enjoy him, and the less I need to seek pleasure in stuff. And as I am still and quiet, I can look at the nations for subtle signs of his movement. I can look for Him at work everywhere. I can see the ways he is exalted in the earth: the trees, the flowers, the seas, the lakes, the rocks. Everything shouts his praise. And the nations will one day, too.And my situation will change. At just the right time, in just the way HE wants it to. When and where. And not a moment to late, or too soon. So Enough Already! I am going to embrace the moment and live for Him here and now, and rip up the roots of that black weeping willow that has taken over the joy of my heart and forge ahead in the Hope of my tomorrow. Goodnight joy-sucker, Good morning, Joy of the Morning!
I received a very special gift from a very special lady today. I consider myself very blessed to call her my friend. I know she sacrificed to give me this gift. It was something that was a gift to her, and I mentioned to her how much I liked it, and now I have one. It is part of a beautiful collection of products by Dayspring Company, the Redeemed Collection. It is a lovely wallet, with a patchwork pattern on the front, and the words "truly treasured" and Romans 5:8 scripture reference stitched on the back. I love what this collection represents: God took the bits and pieces of out broken and discarded lives, redeemed them, and then put them back together into something that is not only useful, but beautiful as well.Thats the way he works, isn't it? What we think is broken into so many pieces that it could not possibly be useful, God puts back together, making something that is an amazing mosaic of his grace, mercy and love. It never ceases to amaze and surprise me that God would choose to use me. Maybe that is part of why he does it. He loves to be our hero. He loves to keep us in awe of Him. He loves to wow us. And he loves us to praise Him in our amazement.I feel so honored to know such amazing, loving women. My joy in knowing them and having the privilege of being a part of them is beyond words. I know they feel like they are being blessed, but I am the one who is blessed. I have no words to describe how I feel so loved, so honored and so humbled at their acceptance, graciousness and love. Ladies, I love how you love. I love how God has taken all the broken pieces and made a spectacularly beautiful quilt out of each one of you. It is delightful to see God making something beautiful out of each of you, right before my very eyes. And as he takes the patchwork of your separate lives, and stitches them together, side by side, he brings warmth and comfort into the lives of so many others. Especially me. And I am so very thankful that he has chosen at this time to put your pieces next to mine. I love you all dearly.
Well, I haven't posted in a few days, for many reasons, the least of which is that I decided not to continue with LOAD this month. (Layout A Day challenge with Lain Eiman: www.layoutaday.com). I haven't made a page in a week, and I haven't felt a bit guilty about it. At first it was a little weird. And I do miss it, but I really can't afford the time or energy it was requiring. So instead, I am focusing on what is really important right now, which is my relationship with Christ, and with my husband and family.It is so easy for me to get distracted. Now I am not saying that it is wrong for me to scrapbook or do other crafts for that matter. I love to record the memories we have created as a family. I love to create wonderful things from my supplies, especially fabric and paper crafts. And I believe my talents and abilities come from a super creative God who allows me to be creative because he is creative. That is not what I am talking about here. There is nothing wrong with that. What was happening was this: LOAD became my single focus. I was thinking about that day's challenge all throughout the other activities of my day. I was distracted, and tried to race through the "less important" activities like: reading to my kids, homeschooling them, fixing meals, laundry (ok, so that one really is less important, however, it is necessary) well, you get the picture. I am embarrassed to say that I really did not want to take very long reading to the kids or doing school because I wanted to do something for me. Something fun. Something meaningful. Whoa.Yes, sad but true, I am not perfect. I get distracted and selfish. I try to justify it by saying I am doing something important, but what I really mean is that I am doing something self-serving. Something that I can post online and all you wonderful people can look at and tell me how talented, fun, creative, and blessed I am. But the older I get, the more I realize that there is only one person I want kudos from. And that is Jesus. I want to look him in the face someday and have him say, "good job. You did what was real."Paul says: Although I speak with tongues of men and angels, and I prophesy and give all to the poor, but don't love, I am nothing. That means to me: I can create all kinds of beauty, fill my home with stuff and look good on the outside. But if the people who know me best miss out on Christ in me, what is it worth? And how can they see Christ in me when I am so self focused?Yes, I am a very loving, giving person. Only because of Christ in me. But I want to abandon my wants, my desires and even my own needs for the sake of Christ. He knows what I need, what will make me shine his love inside and out. He provides Great Love. Not just "good enough love". And I want to be a reflector of that. A radiator of His Great Love.How do I do that? By setting aside the things that so easily entangle me. Like LOAD. This time, at least. Maybe in October, I will be able to do it, as my situation will have changed. Like I said earlier: Scrapbooking is not bad. Crafting is not bad. It is not wrong, nor should it make anyone feel guilty- even me. But when it becomes an All-consuming distraction for me it is. Sometimes, I need a distraction. It is necessary. Not from Christ, but so I can see Christ in the midst of difficulties. Sometimes crafting helps me connect WITH Him....my Creative Creator. But right now, my all-consuming passion needs to be Him. With no distractions. And I can't do that and do LOAD, too. So I gave it up to pursue a deeper need.Hello. My name is Leslie, and I am a craft-aholic. It has been exactly 7 days, 4 hours and 32 minutes since I last crafted. I just made the times up. I really don't have time to figure out exactly how long it has been. I've got a more important passion to pursue. Christ in me, Christ in me, Christ in me: the hope of Glory; You are everything....Be my everything. Be my everything. Be my everything.
I read a profound blog post on(in)courage, on of my favorite blogs that I read daily, and I think it will forever change my life.... my outlook.... ME. It was called "Why Weren't You Moses?". In a nutshell, the author, Angie Smith was reading a book about St. Francis of Assisi called Chasing Francis: A Pilgrim's Tale by Ian Morgan Cron. In this post, she eloquently related something simple, yet something so profound: God made us the way we are, to minister to those he has put around us JUST AS WE ARE --- WHO WE ARE RIGHT NOW. He doesn't need us to change to do the job we are called to do right now. He needs us to depend on Him. Which means: My church, my friends, my family ---- they need me. NOT someone I hope to be someday. Not someone I compare myself to. Not just anybody. Not anybody else. JUST ME. HE put me THERE, in that position I feel so inadequate to fulfill. In fact, if he would have wanted someone else to live in my shoes, they would be. SO WHAT??? This means I don't need to compare myself to someone else. Not my best friend, my pastor's wife, or even my husband. I don't need to worry about what I don't have, or feel I have been equipped for, or that someone else could do it better than I can. It also means I don't have to have the most verses memorized, work in children's choir or sing on the worship team if he didn't call me to do it. I don't have to know all the journeys of Paul, or all the Beatitudes in order to serve where I am called. That stuff fills me with pride anyway, and he has to smack me down when that happens. (I don't really have to worry about my pride in the memorization arena. My mind seems to have found the delete button and has started eliminating important information on a regular basis. However, I can still remember all the lyrics to every song from the Mary Poppins movie, as well as a host of other 60's and 70's hits. I guess my brain thinks that is priority information. I don't agree. Remembering where I laid my keys down would be much higher on the totem pole in my estimation. But apparently even though it is my brain, I don't get to choose what it remembers at this stage in life. My theory is that the hard drive space is all filled up, so it has to dump stuff in order to remember new information. Unfortunately, I don't control what it remembers and what it forgets. Where was I anyway??)I just have to do what he tells me to, and be the best ME I can be. ME. Me. With all my quirky-ness. Me. With all my insecurities. Me. Without fear or judgement of others. Me. Warts and All. ME. Just ME. Using all I have been given, all I am right this blasted minute to bring all He is to MY little world, while bringing Him all the glory. ME. I hope this stays with me forever. If you want to read the whole post, please go to incourage.me and read the post for August 30. She says it way better than I do. I know you'll be blessed.