Solitaire

I had no choice but to go back and work on myself, by myself, in complete solitude. To be able to continue on, I had no choice but to do so.

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Since my job of cleaning houses requires very little brain power, last summer I decided to download a solitaire game on my phone. I’ve heard people say it is a good activity to keep your mind active. It didn’t take long for me to become addicted to this pastime.

As I played the game, I learned more and more. I paid attention to the cards I needed and tossed the rest aside, moving towards the prize: winning the game. I stayed focused on all the cards around me. I soon developed a strategy to help me move swiftly through the game. I watched for the opportunity to make the right move, constantly moving forward. At times I became discouraged, but the more I played, the less I quit. I was determined to finish the game.

On this particular game, I also had the option to play in tournaments. As I began doing so, I saw others and looked on them with pity as they trailed behind. Even though I wanted to win, I felt bad when others didn’t. The cards they were given just weren’t played right. There was the option to end the game before it was finished, but if you quit, you had no chance. If you could hold up and place in the top three, you could move on to the next level. 

At times I would see players begin to gain points rapidly toward the end. Sometimes they would end up winning, but sometimes they still lost. I would watch the one in last place and I knew their struggle. I would see their hesitation to press “END GAME”. I knew that feeling from my own experience. You don’t want to give up when you’ve come so far, yet sometimes that’s exactly what we do.

I started winning many tournaments. I spent way too much time on this habit-forming game. Once I’d won so many times, I started relying solely on my strategy. Eventually there came a time when it wasn’t working for me anymore. Maybe it would even be considered cheating to the experts, yet that loophole had gotten me so far. I began to lose at the game. My option to enter tournaments had closed due to my many losses.

I had no choice but to go back and work on myself, by myself, in complete solitude. To be able to continue on, I had no choice but to do so.

As I have lived the Christian life, I’ve made use of the cards I’ve been dealt. I’ve stayed focused and I’ve lost focus. I’ve seen the enemy (aka the devil) hit me where it hurts. I’ve seen me struggle to “stay in the game”. I’ve seen my strategy fail. And I have found myself completely removed from the tournament. 

As I sit here typing, the house is quiet. Everyone is back to work and school and I have the day off. I’m trying to spend my time wisely, staying busy doing things that need to be done. Only the sound of the keys pounding on my keyboard, the dryer and the occasional vehicle passing by break the complete silence, yet the silence is deafening. I am alone. I have a lot of things on my mind and I can’t fix them. I hear the Holy Spirit whisper, “Be still and know that I am God.” (Psalm 46:10 [a] NKJV) In my stillness, I am made whole. And the silence? It helps me to better hear God’s still, small voice. I know I need to study His Word, I need to pray and I need to do these things alone, by myself, in complete solitude with my Father. I listen, by reading, what He has to say and even if I don’t understand now, I know that He is God and I am not and that is reassuring to me.

Be encouraged, be still and don’t quit the “game”. (By the way, it IS NOT a game- just an analogy.) Thank you for reading and God bless!

 

Patina

I was literally sick to my stomach. I rehearsed my apology speech in my mind until I heard the truck pull in the driveway.

I had been cleaning houses for several years when I received a call to clean for a certain couple. I accepted the job and became friends with them as well. They were usually there every time I cleaned but one day they left to run errands. I went about doing things almost as usual, only I sprayed the bathroom down with cleaner to let it soak. Usually I didn’t let it soak as long so it would be ready for use at any time. After several minutes, I walked back into the bathroom to begin cleaning. I noticed the faucets that were normally darker appeared more bright to me.

I began to get upset. I thought, “Oh my goodness, what have I done!” My mind was racing. This was exactly why I’d prolonged doing this type of work in my earlier years. I was always fearful I’d mess something up or break something. What if this was irreplaceable? I was literally sick to my stomach. I rehearsed my apology speech in my mind until I heard the truck pull in the driveway. I heard the doors shut. My heart began to pound. What would be their reaction? How much would this cost to replace, if it even can be replaced?

I waited for them to call a friendly “Hello, we’re back” as they walked through the door. I walked towards the kitchen as they were unloading the grocery bags onto the counter. “OK, well, I apologize,” I began. “I will replace what I’ve messed up. I let the cleaner soak on the bathroom fixtures longer than usual and now they’re lighter.” I walked towards the bathroom, trailing behind them a bit. In a carefree voice the lady said, “Oh, no, that’s just patina. That’s supposed to do that. Over time, a copper-like finish shows through. That’s what we want!”

Contrary to the slogan of a popular antacid, this time relief was spelled P-A-T-I-N-A! I told them I had been so sick about it. I thought I’d really messed up. It wasn’t my plan, but apparently it was theirs. It was the way it was supposed to be. I saw tragedy, they saw progress.

Isaiah 55:8-9 KJV says 8) For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways, saith the LORD. 9) For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways, and my thoughts than your thoughts.

Just as the people I worked for, our Father in heaven has a plan for us that we may not understand. We may not know it, but we can trust that He knows what He’s doing. We don’t think like God, we don’t know the future but God does. His ways have much more meaning than we can even imagine. So when things seem dark and dull, in time- His time, a bright finish will shine through.

Thank you for reading and God bless!

30 Mile Yard Sale

What about when it seems as if we are getting rained on and those that do wrong just go about their lives without a hitch.

Every year the town I live in has a 30 mile yard sale the weekend after Labor Day. It’s been a couple of years. I figure I have enough stuff, I should participate in the sale by selling, not buying, but I may go this year. With the big event coming up, I am reminded of a Saturday morning several years back. I was slowly dragging around the house drinking my morning coffee, but agreed to get ready and go check out a few of the sales around town with my family.

We stopped at the nearest gas station to fill up for the day. As we were under the canopy at the pump, the bottom dropped out of the sky. The rain began to beat down overhead. As we pulled out onto the highway, we saw people set up for the yard sale. One house in particular had about a dozen tables set up with tons of items and lots of furniture. It didn’t take long for all of it to become soaking wet. I then looked at the house next door. The yard was nicely manicured. And empty. Their vehicles were parked in the driveway. I pictured them inside- comfortable and dry.

It made me feel terrible for those that had done all that work to drag all those things out. I don’t know if rain was in the forecast or if everyone just hoped it would pass on by. We never know about the weather.

Today a lady I clean house for had me help her get things ready for this weekend’s annual event. She is having her sale under her carport. We sat some of the items out today, but some she kept inside in case the rain comes and blows in under the carport. Wet weather is in the forecast for this weekend.

Although this excerpt from the Bible is out of context for this particular situation, this verse is the verse that came to mind the day of the rainy sale, and again today with the weekend’s preparations. The Word of God is called the Living Word, therefore I would hope it is ok to say it can pertain to any situation that may come about in the life we live. As long as we study and remember what it’s pertaining to, we can allow it to help us along our way.

The second part of Matthew 5:45 NKJV says, “for He makes His sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the just and on the unjust.”

These are the words of Jesus telling us about loving our enemies, how we should treat them and what we should do for them. (Of course sometimes the “downpours” in our lives are caused by our enemies.)

What about when it seems as if we are getting rained on and those that do wrong just go about their lives without a hitch. Last week there were several times it rained one place and just a piece down the road it was dry as a bone. We can’t look at our neighbor and wonder why their grass may not be wet just because ours is. It is whatever the Lord chooses. As we have probably heard many times, we need rain in our lives, just as the earth does, to make us grow.

The point is, whether we are walking with the Lord or not, we will all be rained on at some point and the sun will rise on us just as it does everyone else, as He sees fit of course.

So the next time the bottom drops out on us in life, Lord, help us to remember that you are growing us, just as the rain is needed for crops to grow. Remind us that you are filling us, just as you fill bodies of water to make them flow. Open our ears, Lord, to listen for You calling us to crawl up underneath Your canopy for shelter. No matter what, we will become bigger and stronger because of the rain You allow to pour down on us- if we only allow it.

Thank you for reading and God bless!

 

Who Opened the Door

So what do we do when we see the door to sin has been opened and is flying around to sting it’s next victim? Instead of acting and feeling hopeless, we can call out to our Father in prayer, trusting He hears our plea.

As my family and I were sitting in the living room the night before last, I saw something out of the corner of my eye. It was a wasp. Someone had opened the door at some point and that little stinger made it’s way right into the house.

As it flew around hitting the ceiling I looked over and saw the other three members of my family look up at it, then look back at the TV. Usually I’m quick to jump up and swat whatever, but for some reason I didn’t even give it a second thought. I did the same as everyone else- I ignored it.

What’s the big deal about this wasp? Well, it could’ve been a big deal if someone would’ve gotten stung. Most of the time when Jason (my husband) gets stung he ends up having to go get a shot at the doctor. That would’ve been a big deal and a big bill!

So who let it in? Did they realize when they opened the door they could’ve been letting something in that could be harmful? Was I the one that let it in?

I remember many years ago my mother-in-law talked to me about how when someone does something they shouldn’t, it was opening the door for sin to get in not only in their lives but also the lives of their family. At first I didn’t understand all that well what she meant. As time passed on, I would see it happen in families. It’s always easier to look at someone else instead of ourselves, but over time my eyes were opened and I saw it in my own family as well. To be completely honest, I’ve swung that door open wide and just stood there way too many times letting the good out and the bad in.

Its kind of like that wasp that was flying around. Someone opened the door and it put our whole family in danger. Furthermore, we all saw the wasp and none of  us did anything to protect our family. Me, of all people, especially since I was stung not long ago, should’ve remembered the pain I felt and jumped up, grabbed a shoe and protected my family. I should’ve stopped that wasp as soon as I laid eyes on it.

So what do we do when we see the door to sin has been opened and is flying around to sting it’s next victim? Instead of acting and feeling hopeless, we can call out to our Father in prayer, trusting He hears our plea.

What if we are the one that opened the door? First we have to realize we did! Then what? We can’t change the past, but by repenting and praying, God can change the future!

Oftentimes I’ve opened the door and I’ve seen someone (sometimes multiple people) get “stung” immediately. Whether we realize it or not, we have an influence on the people around us.  To quote my mother-in-law, “All it takes is a tiny crack in the door for sin to get in.”

She couldn’t be more right.

A lady I clean house for has a small crack under her screen door. That small crack was big enough for a lizard to come inside her house.

Ephesians 4:27 NKJV says, “nor give place to the devil.”

I know that is an incomplete sentence but there is a list of things mentioned in Ephesians chapter 4, beginning in verse 25, all the way to the end (of the book of Ephesians). Some are things to either not do, or do, so that we don’t give place to the devil. Chapter 6, beginning in verse 10 tells us how to “gear up” to prevent that door from being opened. The importance of the verse picked out pertaining to this story is: not to give the enemy a home.

Our home- a safe haven for us and our family.  It’s a place where we can choose what comes inside. We can make our home a place of refuge from this world, or if we aren’t careful, we can allow turmoil in and it can take over us and those we love in the blink of an eye.

Lord, help me to fill the cracks in my home. Help me to close the door on sin in my life before my family, friends or anyone else is destroyed because of what I have allowed to come in. In Jesus’ name, Amen.

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As always, thank you for reading and God bless!

The Brick Wall

I believe a common thing we do after we experience hurt is to build up a brick wall- at least that’s what I did. If I built that wall, no one could get in, right? I didn’t want anyone in.

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I put up a brick wall only to have it torn down.

I’ve always loved rooms that were added on to a brick house- the ones that have the bare brick showing on one wall. I’ve seen them in people’s houses, in movies or television shows that have a brick wall on the interior and thought it looked so neat. Maybe about a year and a half ago I was at Wal-Mart looking around and saw a package of brick print wallpaper. It was about $15 on clearance, and although I’m a bit of a cheapskate, I liked it so much I placed it in the shopping cart.

The particular wall I had in mind to put it on wasn’t going to work out so the package had been sitting around for quite a while. I’ve measured different walls to see where it would fit but always ended up setting it aside. Well, last night I finally decided I’m going to do this! I took everything off the wall in my dining room and started my little project. I realized I didn’t have what is called a seam roller to do the job so I messaged a friend for advice. I ended up using a small paint roller I’d used to paint around the small areas in the kitchen last summer. Learning to use what I have instead of worrying about what I don’t have is commonplace in my life. It ended up working well.

After hanging one strip I saw how cool it was going to look. That one piece gave me the drive to continue on. After all, it wouldn’t look right if I didn’t finish. I maneuvered around the obstacles I encountered. I dealt with an uneven wall, patched up some things as best I could and found the finished product was very satisfying to my eyes. I just sat at my dining room table after midnight and looked at that awesome wall!

Now, on to tearing the wall down. About 5 years ago, the church I was extremely involved in was suddenly split down the seam. During this time I was overcome with many deep, negative emotions such as fear, anger, sadness, depression and, at times, utter disbelief. For a while I even believed that the Lord didn’t love me anymore. I didn’t walk away from the Lord at that time, but instead dug in to His Word and drew closer to Him. I realized how easy it had been for me to buy into the lie that God didn’t love me, even after all I’d been through, and after all I’d been shown by Him. It was after this experience that my book was written. I felt it was important to stress that, no matter what, “In Every Situation, God is There”.

I’m not going to go too far in-depth as to what happened with the church, (that’s a different story for a different day, or maybe not at all.) One thing I will say is the unbelievable became reality and the situation left it’s mark on mine and several other people’s lives.

Many can and will tell you, “church hurt” has a deep impact, no matter who you are, it leaves a scar. I believe a common thing we do after we experience deep hurt is to build up a brick wall- at least that’s what I did. If I built that wall, no one could get in, right? I didn’t want anyone in. Who is anyone? (Gulp) Church people. When someone would invite me to church I felt my facial expression change uncontrollably. I didn’t feel as if I was running from God, just all of His people. Well, those that went to church anyway. I didn’t want any part of it. I had been hurt and I didn’t want to experience that pain again. Matter of fact, I wasn’t going to be hurt again. I was bound and determined to avoid the possibility altogether.

Over the past 5 years I’ve gone to several different places of worship (from time to time) lugging around my brick wall. Quick to scope out exits or who I may have to reach around to grab my daughter’s arm to drag her out at the first sign of “danger”.  (And yes, unfortunately there are dangers, such as false teachings. Unbeknownst to me years ago, the Holy Bible is full of examples.) I had my guard up. Although it’s very important to make sure we aren’t led astray, that wall I’ve been toting around for years has kept a lot of people out that need to be within those four walls of a church building to hear the hope of the gospel. To have a community of brothers and sisters in Christ to fellowship with. And yes, one of those people I was keeping out was me.

Several months ago I had a dear family member tell me he needed me to go to church. It would motivate him to go. Guess what I did with that? Absolutely nothing.

The week before last I talked with a dear sister in Christ. I was telling her how someone had asked for help and I didn’t help them. Within a few hours that person I refused to help showed up at my house. I brought it up and apologized. As we both stood with tears in our eyes, I knew I needed another chance. I wanted to make things right.

So attending a church service this morning was a plan I selfishly dreaded. I walked in. Thinking back, I wonder if anyone could see my back bowed under the pressure of the heavy bricks I was carrying. The sermon began and my sturdy wall began to weaken as I sang along to the old familiar hymns.

Philippians 1:21, which happened to be a favorite verse of a beloved ex-pastor of mine, was the beginning verse of the Scripture used in today’s sermon. The favorite verse of the pastor I had when I loved going to church services. The minister that was there when I was involved in the church. Ironic? Not at all. Coincidence? I think not. The Lord? Most definitely. It was also a reminder of someone that had taught me to love the church and to see the importance of it.

Philippians 1:21-26 NKJV  21) For to me, to live is Christ, and to die is gain.  22) But if I live on in the flesh, this will mean fruit from my labor; yet what I shall choose I cannot tell. 23) For I am hard-pressed between the two, having a desire to depart and be with Christ, which is far better. 24) Nevertheless to remain in the flesh is more needful for you. 25) And being confident of this, I know that I shall remain and continue with you all for your progress and joy of faith.

The preacher said, “Paul put himself and his wants below other’s needs. He would rather die and go to be with the Lord than to continue living in this old sinful world, but He knew He was needed in this world to help others find their faith in the Lord.”

The mortar between the bricks in my wall began to crack. As the service went on and the Lord used that preacher man to speak to me, I wondered if anyone saw the wall I had built tumble to the ground. Did they see the pile of rubble beneath my feet?

During the prayer, teardrops fell from my eyes onto my crossed hands that grabbed the chair in front of me. They were so large that I seemed to hear them drop, yet I never heard the sound of that wall that finally gave way. As I stood, turned and walked out of the sanctuary, somehow I didn’t have to step over that pile of bricks from the wall God tore down. He must’ve swept them away so I wouldn’t trip.

Last night I put brick wall paper up. I even said at one point, “I don’t want to go to church.” Isn’t it funny how the Lord is apparently guiding my steps, even down to putting wallpaper up. 

I pray this won’t discourage anyone, but encourage. If you have a wall, ask the Lord to help that thing fall. It’s so much weight to carry, it’ll only hold you down.

If you know anyone this might help, please share it with them.

Thank you for reading and God bless!

Cleaning My Own House

This week I’ve worked a lot more than usual, therefore I’m more tired than usual. The mountain of laundry, sink full of dishes, dining room table serving as a catchall completely overflowing, things strewn about everywhere and even cobwebs here and there are a reminder of the busy week I’ve had. I usually keep Mondays open for me to clean up the week’s mess here at home but this Monday I worked.

On the way to the shower this morning, in preparation for the day’s work outside the home, I decided to message the client and make sure we were on for today. Before I walked into the bathroom I noticed the messy house and just how uncomfortable I was in my own home. I thought about my family and how they may feel about the lack of a home cooked meal as the days of the week have passed. I’ve done less and less with each passing day. Although I am grateful for all the work rolling in, I was a bit overwhelmed.

As I was in the shower, I thought of Jesus praying before His time to go the cross. He said, “Father, if it be possible, let this cup pass from me: nevertheless not as I will, but as thou wilt.” (Matthew 26:39 b)

I’m sorry to say, but this is the way I felt this morning when I was waiting for the reply as to whether I’d be working today or not. After I got out of the shower, the reply was I wasn’t needed today. I have been so exhausted I nearly cried. I took it as a much needed break and praised God for the day off to get my own house in order.

A few weeks ago my friend, Elizabeth, and I were talking about needing to clean our own house (spiritually speaking) before we tried to clean someone else’s. Many times we’ve talked about needing the Lord to cleanse our hearts. The dirt, cobwebs and dirty laundry can pile up in a split second. So today, as I am picking up what all has piled up in my own house, I am reminded I need to work on cleaning my own mess before I try to clean someone else’s.

Psalm 51:9-10 KJV   9) Hide thy face from my sins, and blot out all mine iniquities. 10) Create in me a clean heart, O God; and renew a right spirit within me.

So it is better to not be so preoccupied with cleaning up for others that I neglect cleaning my own “house” spiritually and physically.

Thank you for reading and God bless!

Toys Picked for Me

I am my parents’ 5th child and am the baby of the family. By the time I was 3 years old, my oldest sibling was of legal age. A few years later, my brother next in line was graduating high school so the majority of my childhood years at home were with my sister and my  other brother- the third son of the family.

We were tight-knit long ago, as we lived in the country and were around one another the majority of the time. My brother and I were actually babied by our older sister.

At the age of 4 years old, kindergarten wasn’t quite ready for me yet, but I was becoming bored at home. I remember wishing I could go to school like my siblings, Becky and Keith. I’m not sure if I expressed my feelings, or if it was just their good idea, but that year they started leaving toys out for me to play with during the day.

I remember a particular morning when I woke up and checked that special spot. They had a purple and white airplane laying out, among other things. I was so excited and felt so loved that they had taken the time out of their morning to hand-pick specific toys just for me! I remember thinking, “Wow! They really want me to play with this today!”

Although these were toys I had full access to on a daily basis, it was the thought that counted. Even after 30+ years, I can still feel how special and important that act made me feel. It also made me feel as if they were with me during the day.

The memories of those plans they had for me still bring a smile to my face and warmth to my heart.

They cared about me and wanted me to have fun and enjoy my day.

Jeremiah 29:11 NKJV says, “For I know the thoughts that I think toward you, says the LORD, thoughts of peace and not of evil, to give you a future and a hope.”

Even when life doesn’t seem as joyful as having toys laid out for us to play with, our Father in Heaven has good plans for us. It doesn’t mean we won’t feel lonely at times or wish we were somewhere other than where we may be, but He thinks good things of us. He wants us to have a future and a hope, but that hope can only be found in Him.

When we walk with Him, He picks out our plans and lays them out specifically for us, just as my sister and brother laid out the toys they planned for me to play with each day.

What an act of love from our Father. He cares about our days and longs for His presence to be present in our lives. With Him, our future is far better than we could ever plan for ourselves.

I pray this will be a reminder of the hope we have in Him through Jesus Christ. Thank you for reading.