New Life

2 Corinthians 5:17, “ This means that anyone who belongs to Christ has become a new person. The old life is gone; a new life has begun” (NLT)

Old life, new life. The past couple of weeks Dale and I have been working outside. We have been cutting back some old life and making plans for some new life. A redesign of the exterior of our home. Nothing major, just taking out some trees and replacing them in the future with fruit trees. Recently Dale planted some berry bushes. Watching them grow and sprout into full growth is interesting. At times we wondered if they would make it. We wondered if the placement of the bushes was the right one. Will they get enough sun? Will they get too much sun?

As I began with this scripture, my mind was flooded with ideas about old life versus new life. Nicodemus wondered also when our Lord told him that he must be born again. I know I often rebelled at the thought of being a born-again Christian. I thought it was for weak people, or people who didn’t know who Jesus was. I was raised in church, I went to parochial school, I knew Jesus. I was a good person. That was all true, but for me, there came a point in my life that I knew I needed more. Once I became a born-again Christian, I discovered a whole new life for myself. The peace I experienced was different than everything else I had previously experienced. I understood what it meant for the old life to pass away and a new life beginning.

I didn’t expect as many changes that happened as result of becoming one of those Jesus people. I truly felt new. Although that was 45 years ago, I still feel like I am learning and growing. The excitement for life is vital to me. Yes, I have bad days and days that seem to linger forever, but, the basic part of me is so glad I discovered that new life.

Memorial Day

Memorial Day is not the first day of summer. It is not a day to mark the beginning of summer activities. It is not a day to celebrate with friends and family in a big bar-b-Que although we all do that. Stores have memorial day sales. Grocery stores run specials on things for a cook out.

When I was a little girl, my Dad would walk us to a local cemetery. There was an area for funerals or for memorials. On Memorial Day a small military unit stood at attention. Old men would stand up and speak. Everyone looked ancient to me. Taps was played. It wasn’t something that I looked forward to, as we had to be still and quiet. We sat on a tombstone to see the activities. My Dad would be one of them to stand at attention beside us in the grass. He looked somber. It would last less than an hour and then we would walk home, looking forward to grilled hotdogs and beans.

As I have grown older and after having been a navy wife for almost 21 years, I have realized why we have Memorial Day. It is not for veterans. It is not for those who are serving. This day is for those who died while in uniform. Lives cut short, many in foreign countries and in their early 20’s. Those boys who had the courage and determination to defend our country. They not only put their lives on the lines, they gave their lives. They never returned home. Their rooms were never occupied again, they never hugged their family again. They gave. They deserve to be remembered. They deserve honor.

Yes, we will most likely have a picnic type lunch. We will look forward to summer. We will have a day to enjoy one another. My bunting is up to show my love for our country. Red, white and blue are evident on our outside, and inside. I am unashamedly patriotic.

But today, let us remember the men and women who have given all. In the Old Testament we read many times of memorials being built to remember events. One example is from Joshua 4:4-7,”So Joshua called together the twelve men he had chosen—one from each of the tribes of Israel. He told them, “Go into the middle of the Jordan, in front of the Ark of the Lord your God. Each of you must pick up one stone and carry it out on your shoulder—twelve stones in all, one for each of the twelve tribes of Israel. We will use these stones to build a memorial. In the future your children will ask you, ‘What do these stones mean?’ Then you can tell them, ‘They remind us that the Jordan River stopped flowing when the Ark of the Lord’s Covenant went across.’ These stones will stand as a memorial among the people of Israel forever.” (NLT)

In the New Testament memorials continued, “And He took bread, gave thanks and broke it, and gave it to them, saying, “This is My body which is given for you; do this in remembrance of Me.” Luke 22:19 (NKJV)

We do things daily as remembrances, at church we do the same. Today, let us remember those who gave for you. Let us honor those who gave their lives for you.

Sundays

“And let us not neglect our meeting together, as some people do, but encourage one another, especially now that the day of his return is drawing near.” Hebrews 10:25 (NLT)

Sundays always feel like sleep-in days. I can get up at 6:30 each morning, but when the alarm goes off on Sunday mornings usually at 7:00, I groan. I don’t feel like getting up or even moving for that matter. It takes so much for me to get going that one day of the week.

I know why. The enemy of our souls does not want us to go to church. The attempt to keep us from there usually involves being too tired to move or the desire to take off just one week. I think these things through as I crawl out of bed.

Dale is on the worship team, and they practice before church, so we are there at least an hour before church starts. I go to the infants room and sit in the rocking chairs there. When I started to do this, it was to close my eyes and get a few minutes rest before I had to face anyone.

It has now evolved into something else. Women come into the little room, grab a chair if there is one left and we visit. It has become a quasi-meeting of the minds. We ask about the week, we grumble if we need to, we laugh, we hug. We have knit ourselves into a small community for the 20 minutes we are together.

Those minutes are precious to me. I have come to know these women in a better way. We pray for one another. We lift each other up. We gain confidence with each other. We have become family. It is our warm up to church. We may enter that building tired, worn from the week and discouraged. We walk out of that little room a bit hopeful, caring for another’s burden, ready to stand and worship and sing and be fed from the pulpit, words that are life giving.

Sunday is family day for me. These faces I see in church are family. They make my week complete. They bolster me. I am grateful for their presence in my life. The Lord has brought together people from all over. Many are from this area and are actual blood relations. Many of us are from different parts of this country. We even met someone who is from our area. They lived 8 miles from us growing up. My cousin was their paper boy. This world is small. Our Lord draws people together for His glory and purpose. Yes, I know again this Sunday that I will have to drag myself out of bed. I will get to church and wake up. Family has that way of waking you up and making you smile.

Blossoming into Me

Introvert: in·​tro·​vert | \ ˈin-trə-ˌvərt a person whose personality is characterized by introversion : a typically reserved or quiet person who tends to be introspective and enjoys spending time alone Merriam-Webster Dictionary

I am an introvert. People who know me tend to disagree, but I am. People can cause me exhaustion, except if I am teaching or sharing of the Lord’s goodness. I have to be comfortable with people before I can relax enough to be me. This has taken years to be able to do this.

For the greater part of my life, I felt invisible. I don’t say this for sympathy, or encouragement, it is a statement. I have two beautiful sisters, I am in the middle. Middle children tend to be a bit weird anyhow. I can say that as I am one.

We got a Christmas card from an uncle shortly after my Mom passed, the note inside addressed my Dad, my older sister, my younger sister and then it read, I forget the other one’s name. I now laugh at it, as I am horrible remembering names, but at the time it felt like a stomach punch. How could an uncle not remember my name? I guess I should be relieved that he knew I was in the family. Later on in high school my younger sister had a date with someone in my class. He knocked on the door, I answered, he introduced himself and asked if I was her younger sister. I smiled and said, no, older sister, and I have a class with you, you sit two seats away from me. He looked stunned and I laughed like only invisible people can.

Once we were married, we would go to work functions and if Dale wasn’t right beside me, people who I had met would come up and introduce themselves to me. When I reminded them who I was, they apologized and quickly exited. I told Dale that I should just put “Dale’s wife” on name tags since no one remembered me.

I say this in jest, but it caused me pain for many years. I thought that if I was invisible to people, how could I be remembered. We all hope that we leave a legacy of some sort. I knew my sisters, family and friends would remember me, but I have always had a longing to leave a mark in this world.

Because of this feeling of invisibility, I found I sought out people who were wall flowers like me. The people who stood outside circles while others were laughing and talking. I met many great friends this way. People who I could open up to and they could to me.

Now being on the downhill side to another decade, I am comfortable in my skin. It’s taken a while, I confess, but I truly feel I am blossoming into me through God’s grace and mercy.

Psalm 34:15 says, “The eyes of the Lord are on the righteous, And His ears are open to their cry.” (NKJV) True, there have been many nights of crying out to the Lord to be all I can in Him. I have asked to be the me He created me to be. I have finally gotten out of His way for the most part. I still rebel if I have to walk into a strange group or situation. I still panic having guests into our home. I don’t think that will ever change and honestly, I hope it doesn’t as then I know that the Lord is the One who has gotten the glory in my shortcomings.

We are not invisible to our Lord, Isaiah 49:15-16, “Can a mother forget the infant at her breast,  walk away from the baby she bore? But even if mothers forget,  I’d never forget you—never. Look, I’ve written your names on the backs of my hands. The walls you’re rebuilding are never out of my sight.” (MSG) I often remind myself that He knows me. He knows me better than anyone else. He knows the number of hairs on my head, as He does yours. Even those hairs in your hairbrush. He knows what is deep in my heart and mind. He sees us with His eyes. He is with us in the dark and quiet corners that we can retreat to if we are having a hard time. As an introvert I love this about our God. I can blossom into me knowing He is right there with me.

Errands

It’s been a rainy week. Yard work has taken a back seat as the ground is wet and slippery and that does not bode well for Dale to be moving around on. Instead, this morning we went to Costco.

Before leaving the house this morning, I was online, on facebook to be exact. I read a post from a friend that talked about how we will need to adapt to things that will happen. Gas prices will continue to climb, so having multiple vehicles will be a luxury. Eating out will be a treat, not a necessity, and we will revisit old recipes to make things go further. It wasn’t a doomsday read, but more of a ‘hey, remember this?’ kind of read. It prompted some deep thoughts in me as we rode to costco.

Since rain looked imminent, we filled up our tank first. Never a great thing to do anymore, but one of those necessary evils. I watched from the front seat as Dale put gas into the car. The price rose quickly and it seemed like the gallon mark was broken, it slowly passed. When he finished, I commented that the gas total was more than our monthly grocery bill when we first married. Granted, that was a long time ago, but for what we spent at the pump, I could have gotten six weeks of groceries back then.

Lately I have been remembering prices and how we spent money growing up, how our daughters spent money and how money is spent today. Growing up, there were lean times and a few times of enough. Our daughters always had enough and some times of plenty. Today, if we look at our surroundings and the events in the world we think we are heading into very lean times with hopefully, enough.

I can watch the news and begin to feel panic and dread start to well up in me. Let’s face it, we don’t watch news to be lifted up and encouraged. I have to remind myself of the Lord. Psalm 37:25 is a good reminder for me. “Once I was young, and now I am old. Yet I have never seen the godly abandoned or their children begging for bread.” (NLT) The Word of God promises that we will be taken care of. God does not change. He is the same yesterday, today and tomorrow. He knows what is going to happen. Times may be rough in days to come. We may have to change how we live, how often we go out and about. We may not have snacks overflowing our cupboards or pantry. We may have to learn how to make meals stretch. But, this I do know. God will and does supply all our needs. Philippians 4:19 “And my God shall supply all your need according to His riches in glory by Christ Jesus.” (NKJV)

So, as errands are finished and things put away I will declare that I will not worry about what’s next. I learned long ago not to dwell on future things. I usually have two things I think of in these situations. One is scripture (of course), “Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about its own things. Sufficient for the day is its own trouble.” Matt. 6:34 (NKJV) and the other is something I adopted during one of Dale’s deployments,

Everyone needs a good Scarlet O’Hara moment, I know I have had plenty. I even have that gesture of putting my hand on my forehead as she did. Try it sometime, it does help. Also add a ‘fiddle de dee’ just for good measure, believe me, you will smile.

Remembering

This morning as I sat listening to my favorite channel on Pandora, I was taken back to my living room in Nagai. It was a small room, but cozy. Our living room was painted like every living room in the housing area. No color, just a bland form of white-gray or gray-white. Hard to tell, really. I had two large windows in the room and a small window that held the air conditioner which only blew the cold air to the opposite wall where there was a built in bookcase. The back window looked out to our back yard and the dog house . Beyond the yard were rice paddies and fields of crops. The front window was my view of Mt. Fuji.

My schedule while living in Nagai was busy. I worked for the Army Veterinarian (part of the Calvary) on Monday-Wednesday and Friday. In the evenings on Wednesday I taught my private student English and then afterwards would go to the school where I taught two classes, Thursday evening I taught three classes, and Friday was again two. Once a month on Saturday I traveled to another school where I taught three classes English. I was always on the move with trains, buses and on foot. I loved it.

Thursday during the day was for me. I would catch up on laundry and cleaning and then I would sit in my living room. Our furniture at the time was borrowed from the Navy, except our stereo stand and the stereo. On Thursday I would sit in the chair, Bible in hand and that was my time to be with the Lord. I would read, pray and listen to music. I paid attention to the words. I allowed them to go deep in me. I was learning to worship my God.

At the time songs were scripture put to words. The words took root in my heart, planted by the artists performing the music and watered by the Lord listening to my prayers.

They were sweet times for me. I love having alone time. Time where I can be quiet and devote my full attention to God. At that time we had no children so alone time was truly alone. As the years went on alone time was next to impossible. Motherhood filled my mind with activities and chores and demands that took most of the stamina I had. Alone time had to be scheduled in and sometimes took a back seat.

Now, I find in retirement that I still have to purpose in my heart to have some alone time. Dale and I have worked to get to this point in life. After adjustment we have grown into a rhythm of being together. We enjoy our time now. When one of us have time away we miss one another.

So today, as he is gone from the house I returned to a day like my Thursdays in Nagai. I read my Bible, I have had a prayer time and in the background is music that I listened to so many years ago. What prompted me in these thoughts was hearing the song from Psalm 5. Like all music can take you to places and smells and memories, I was transported to my living room in 1978.

“Give ear to my words, O Lord, Consider my meditation.  Give heed to the voice of my cry, My King and my God, For to You I will pray.  My voice You shall hear in the morning, O Lord; In the morning I will direct it to You,
And I will look up.” Psalm 5:1-3 (NKJV)

Tears

In the hours and days following my Mother passing, I cannot begin to imagine the thoughts and fears my Dad had. He was in his early forties with three daughters. Our ages were 15, 11 and 9. It was 1966. Women were still considered the ones to be in charge of raising children, keeping house and if working, working in traditional jobs. For a man to be thrust into the job of raising girls was most likely more than my Dad bargained for. It is only recently that I have thought of the hardships my Dad faced.

My older sister was inserted as a surrogate mom to my younger sister and myself. Now I see how unfair that was for a young girl on the brink of being an adult. Often I have thought she was cheated out of the ability to be a teenager without all the responsibility of taking care of younger siblings.

In the mental and emotional chaos coming the days following her death and her funeral I remember my Dad saying to me, “If you feel like you have to cry, blow your nose or chew gum.” I don’t know if I was the obnoxious one who was crying incessantly or if I was loud. But, I blew my nose and I chewed gum.

Unfortunately, that became a rule in my life whenever I cried. As the years passed tears came only when I was furious, or if a movie was sad. At those times, I had a pile of used kleenex beside me. You can imagine, this was not healthy. I held myself under tight emotional control.

In my thirties I was in counseling for several things in my life. Dale at that time was in an isolated duty station, which meant I was the only adult in the house.

Tears were an issue that was discussed often in my sessions. I guess being a woman and not being emotional was a curiosity. I prayed about it. I asked the Lord to show me how to cry.

When Dale was away, my treat for the evening was always oreo cookies and milk. One evening after the girls were in bed, I went to the kitchen for my treat. As I reached for the package of cookies, tears hit me.

Initially, I wondered what they were. I slumped to the floor in my kitchen. I sat in a heap of tears. I could not move. I sobbed, I cried, I could not stop. I don’t know how long I sat there, but it was long enough that I was stiff when I finally stopped. During that time a peaceful presence was with me. I felt the Lord beside me, holding me up and urging me to let it all out. Years of pent up emotion was released that night. Anxiety, hurt, fear, and anger left me. After I had stopped, I heard, “Now go blow your nose. Cry when you have to cry.”

Since that time I am a crier. Commercial from hallmark? Tears. Seeing a child walking for the first time? Tears. Running out of oreos? Tears. You get the idea.

My heart grew hard trying not to cry. I could rationalize most things. I would allow myself tenderness in prayer and worship with the Lord, but closed myself off from tenderness or emotion in all other areas of my life. Hardness of hearts is a slow process. You don’t feel it happening, and you don’t recognize it. But, unattended, a heart will grow crusty and cold. I daily pray that my heart be a heart after my Lord. I don’t want to return to the coldness that a hard heart is.

 Remember what it says: “Today when you hear his voice, don’t harden your hearts as Israel did when they rebelled.” Hebrews 3:15 (NLT)

Psalm 118:13

I was right on the cliff-edge, ready to fall, when God grabbed and held me. Psalms 118:13 (MSG)

This verse appears right under the name of my blog. I chose it as it has applied to my life many times and in plenty circumstances.

I have wanted to write about the incidents where I was grabbed and held by the Lord. There are specific times and I remember each clearly. These are the times when you know that you know you are being held by the One who formed you. You can feel His arms wrapped tightly around you and tears flow without hesitation.

I falter when it comes to writing specifically about these situations since they are deeply ingrained in me. I do not want to sound like I am longing for sympathy or recognition but I do desire to be open and honest in my writing. My motive is to allow people to see in my words what I have experienced and how present our Lord has been in each situation.

Psalm 118:14-16 says ” God’s my strength, he’s also my song, and now he’s my salvation. Hear the shouts, hear the triumph songs in the camp of the saved? “The hand of God has turned the tide! The hand of God is raised in victory! The hand of God has turned the tide!” (MSG)

Every event in my life God has been there. He was there growing up, He was beside me as I mourned my Mother, and then years later, my Father. He has been there in sickness, struggle and good days. I will attempt in my future posts to start to talk about how much the Lord has turned the tide in my life. Today, look, remember and realize how the Lord has been victorious in your life.

Vine and Branches

“Yes, I am the vine; you are the branches.” John 15:5a (NLT)

Today Dale and I finished cutting down the row of trees that separated our driveway from the back yard. The trees were fascinating to us when we moved into this home. They produced lovely flowers that attracted bees and were full of pollen.

At first, we did not know what the trees were, and shortly after moving in we found out that they were Rose of Sharon. That made us happy, as we feel the Lord directed us to this home and has blessed us with this home. One of the names of our Lord is Rose of Sharon.

Our love for the Rose of Sharon has greatly diminished over the years. It is an example of how the Lord should be in our lives, our Lord being an integral part of our lives whatever we are doing. The tree however makes certain it is an integral part of our yard. If there is a square inch of space the tree will grow there. No matter where we look on our property, Rose of Sharon are there.

This grouping though had honeysuckle vines throughout, which gave it a heavenly scent and we loved that. It filled the air with sweetness.

The past couple of days Dale has been cutting the trees and branches down and I have been hauling them to our wood pile. This has been interesting to me.

John 15:5 is one of Dale’s favorite scriptures. He will quote it often and I love hearing him talk about it. The image I get when I think of this verse is of a grapevine. Jesus is the main stock of the vine and we are the branches that go out from the center. I have never had another image of it, until today.

As I have mentioned we have been cutting and the honeysuckle is in the midst of the trees. We noticed yesterday that although the branches and the trunk were cut down we could not pull them free of the honeysuckle. This morning it was more of the same. Dale had to cut the vine loose before the branches could be moved.

I thought about the vines as I dragged the limbs up the driveway to the wood debris pile. I leaned down to pick up one more branch and noticed that the vine was like a rope, three cords wound together on the branch. As I picked up the branch I heard, “I am the Vine”.

The picture I next thought of was what I had seen happen. Dale would cut the branch, but it would be held up by the vine. What I interpreted from this is, when we have been grafted into the Vine, our Lord holds us tight. He wraps us up in Him. When satan tries to cut us away, cause us to shift our focus, we may be distanced from our roots, but our Savior is holding us tight. Keeping us wrapped in Him. The Vine giving us stability.

The rest of the above verse is followed by more illustrations. John 15:5-8 in the Message says, ““I am the Vine, you are the branches. When you’re joined with me and I with you, the relation intimate and organic, the harvest is sure to be abundant. Separated, you can’t produce a thing. Anyone who separates from me is deadwood, gathered up and thrown on the bonfire. But if you make yourselves at home with me and my words are at home in you, you can be sure that whatever you ask will be listened to and acted upon. This is how my Father shows who he is—when you produce grapes, when you mature as my disciples.”

After my morning lesson, I have continued to think about what I heard, saw and experienced. I hope that, like those branches now on the woodpile, I will cling to the Vine, having my Savior wrapped around me, helping keep me in His perfect will. I will lean into the Vine and make my abode with Him.

No Regrets

My mind has been scattered this afternoon. I sit here at my desk and ask the Lord what I should write. I do this each time I sit to write a post on my blog. To the right of me on the desktop are books, varied in interest. My desk is in our guest room so the books are there for whoever stays long enough to sit and read.

My thoughts are cluttered as I think about some conversations I have had, to what to take to the church potluck on Sunday, to wondering how our granddaughter is doing with her broken wrist. Like they say, women have spaghetti for brains, one thought touches another, touches another.

To the left of me on my desk are my journals. I go to them for ideas and memories many times.

Today I picked up one from 1993. I read an entry from November 8th. My Dad passed away suddenly on November 6th, 1993. The entry described the events leading up to Dad’s death, describing my last conversation with him. At the time, I felt it was important to chronicle this. I am so glad that I did. At the end of the passage I wrote the following, “I have no regrets”.

Family relationships are complicated. Even though my sisters and I were raised in the same house by the same father, we are each unique. We sometimes don’t understand one another, we can still squabble at times. But, there is a bond deeper than we can understand. It is the bond of family. We are knit together by something none of us can explain. The same holds true to our Dad. Each of us can see things so differently about him. We can remember things differently.

I knew at the time of my Dad’s death that there would come a time when I would question that last conversation with him. I would wonder if I had said enough, had I said too much or too little. I knew that regret may follow maybe not immediately, but time afterwards. That is why I wrote no regrets.

I have read that part of my journal many times. Sometimes they are just words. Today they hit me almost 29 years later. Again, I think it is that unexplained thread that holds families together.

My sisters and I each live in a different state. When we were little we thought that we would live close to one another, maybe next door or at least a block or two away. We have each settled miles from one another. We don’t see each other often. We talk, but not every day or even weekly. But, that bond. The bond that keeps us connected, keeps us together.

Father, I thank You today for my sisters. Thank You for the shared experiences and those that we went through alone. Father, I ask that You rain down blessing upon blessings for my sisters. May they find comfort, solace, courage and strength today. Keep them in the fold of Your arms. Thank you for placing our family together, You have had a plan and a purpose for all of us, let us live without regrets. Amen.