The Light in My Window

The Light in My Window

Saturday, September 16, 2017

The Blessing of a Prepared Place

This may be a longer post than usual, because I have a lot to catch up on! The weeks since my last blog post have been a whirlwind. We've been home just a few days after spending a week in Oregon, a long-awaited visit to our younger son and his family who moved there about 14 months ago. We had such a great week, and I also learned a lot of interesting things about Oregon:
1) The Pacific Northwest takes their coffee very seriously! There is literally a coffee shop or kiosk on every corner, and often more than one. Everyone always seems to have a coffee cup in their hands. Which is just fine with this coffee-lover!
2) It is illegal to pump your own gas in Oregon. Yep, they come out and pump your gas, just like in the old days.
3) Since I unfortunately came down with a cold out there, I learned first-hand that you can't buy Mucinex-D in OR - it takes a doctor's prescription. However, Marijuana is legal. Go figure.
4) When you go shopping, you have to buy or bring your own reusable bags. Everywhere, not just certain stores. My husband unknowingly snagged a bag at Walmart. The idea is that if you have to buy bags, it will encourage people to use and re-use permanent, earth-friendly bags.
5) Smoke from wildfires (that we usually only hear about on the news) is very real and troublesome. It is normally clear and beautiful, but when we were visiting there were 19 different wildfires burning in Oregon, and the smoke in Eugene was horrendous. The visibility and air quality were very poor and you could even smell the smoke inside.

All in all, our week in Oregon was absolutely wonderful. We spent a day on the Pacific Coast, taking in the gorgeous scenery of the ocean, rocky coast and lighthouses, watching sea lions, and eating seafood. We also spent 2 days in Portland visiting a huge bookstore and the Oregon Zoo and enjoyed eating at a well-known restaurant. The rest of our time we spent in Eugene, where we did some more sight-seeing and ate at a couple more well-known and enjoyable places. But hands-down the most precious time was the time we spent together as a family - eating meals, talking, riding in the car, playing games, and getting re-acquainted with our grandchildren, ages 19 months and 4. We played and read books and laughed and cuddled.

As I sat in the Sunday services of the church where our son serves as youth pastor, my heart was so full. As I saw him in his place of ministry that God had prepared for him and prepared him for, I couldn't help reflecting on all the events that had brought him to this place. His acceptance of Jesus as Savior at Awana in South Carolina. The years of home-schooling. His friends and high school jobs and years of youth group and church involvement growing up in Illinois. His various ministries every summer during his college years, including his internship at the very church where he is now youth pastor! To see how God has specifically led and brought him to this place where he and his wife are now serving the Lord is a joy to this mother's heart. It isn't easy to have them on the other side of the country. When we were on the plane and I saw on the digital map the many states we were passing over - Colorado, Idaho, Nevada, Utah - and we visited the Pacific Ocean when we live just a short distance from the Atlantic, it made it very real how far away they are. But they are definitely in the exact place that God has designated for them to be in, and we wouldn't want them anywhere else.

This week John 14:2 and 3 caught my eye. Those verses talk about Jesus preparing a place for us. Of course, the place He is referring to is Heaven and He was comforting the disciples with the assurance that He would be preparing a place for them and would come again to bring them there. But how true it is that God prepares places for us to be! He prepares places where we wants us to be, whether it be a workplace, dwelling place, or ministry place, and in so doing He prepares us for those places. Jeremiah 7:7a - "I will cause you to dwell in this place."  From Genesis to Revelation, God led his people and His servants from place to place. Think of Abraham. Joseph. Moses. Ruth. Esther. Nehemiah. Paul. And Jesus. I had never stopped and thought about the significance of place before, but it is pretty mind-boggling!

There have been many times this past year when I wondered (and sometimes still do) "How did I end up here?" Not so much geographically, but a very different place from what we had planned and intended. I know many people who could echo the same. Yet, God has prepared this place for us.We have come to the conclusion that God would have us stay in this place, at least for the foreseeable future. We had thought this was only temporary. We had prayed for something different, and that He would open doors of a different place and opportunity to us. But God seems to have a different plan.

As I write this, we are once again preparing to move - this time from our 2 bedroom apartment into a rental house nearby. No, I am not thrilled about moving for the 4th time in a year (counting having moved out and back into our house and out again last year). But we have decided that if this is going to be our God-designated place, that it only makes sense that we eliminate some of the inconveniences of apartment living, gain some space, and have all of our belongings out of storage.

The blessing of place - our Heavenly Father has a place for each of us. When we walk with the Lord and seek His will, it is then a blessing to be able to rest knowing we are in our God-prepared place.


Saturday, August 19, 2017

Secure in Him

Three weeks since my last blog post have sure passed quickly. The summer is almost over, as evidenced by the shorter days and school starting again. For many years, this week was the week when we would be seeing one or more of our children off to college. That was always a time of transition in our family as we adjusted or re-adjusted the size of our family and finally we were down to just the two of us. Now we have grandchildren heading back to school. Where does the time go?

I am thankful for those years of adjusting to the emptying nest, because these days transition seems to be a constant of my life. (I joke that the only thing constant in our life is change!) Because the lease on our apartment is coming up for renewal in two months, and we have to give notice of what we are going to do, we have been in the midst of some major decisions. And because so many things are out of our hands, we have had some big disappointments, especially just this week. Things that we had thought and hoped were going to happen aren't. And we are left wondering (again), "Now what do we do?"

My daughter gave me a book for my birthday which has been such a blessing to me. It is Secure in the Everlasting Arms by Elisabeth Elliott. I highly recommend it. If you know me at all, you know I am a big fan of Elisabeth and her books and quotes which contain so much wisdom. One of her most quoted sayings is "Just do the next thing", and that has been my theme lately.

One chapter in her book contains the following quote by a man named Jim O'Donnell, which was used by permission and refers to his wife's illness, but it spoke to me:

"We must learn to be faithful people in this new assignment, one we certainly never would have asked for but one which can still bless us and use us to serve our Creator and others." (emphasis mine)

I have been thinking a lot about that - the idea that even though it doesn't seem like God is using us at all at the present, He can still use us in ways that we never would have thought of or planned. Ways that are very different from having a formal ministry of teaching or speaking or mentoring, which I miss so much. And God recently gave me two instances to illustrate this. I hesitate to share these because I don't want the point to be me. I want to show how God can use us to influence others in very unlikely ways, and that we can have a ministry no matter what, as long as we have a servant's heart. Psalm 138:8a tells me, "The Lord will fulfill His purpose for me."

A couple Sundays ago, a woman I barely know at church came up to me and said she had been watching me and had noticed how I dress, and she wanted me to know she appreciated the example I was setting. I was shocked, because I never knew I was being watched. And I was even more surprised when after the morning service, my husband were in a local restaurant having lunch. I was dressed as I always do for church - a nice and modest dress with a matching jacket and jewelry. Our waitress, who was probably in her twenties, came over to our table. She looked at me and said,"Wow, you look so nice! I love the way you dress! I wish women like you could teach women my age how to dress." She went on to describe how it seems like women her age have no idea how to dress nicely or appropriately. My husband remarked after she left that those two incidents tell us that someone is always watching us, whether we are aware of it or not. God can use us in such simple ways as having a testimony in the way we dress.

The second thing that happened was yesterday at the close of my day at work, when my phone rang at the last minute and it was one of the managers. He said he just wanted to compliment me on the nice job I was doing and how well I handled the customers. I about dropped the phone, but it made my day. Again, I had no idea I was being watched. God can use us in the way we speak and treat others.

The point of this is not that I know how to dress or that I do a good job at work. The point is that God can use us in many ways, and sometimes those ways are totally unexpected or totally different than what we are used to. Someone is always watching us or looking to us for our reaction. But we need to be open and willing to do what He has for us.

And that brings me back to the title I gave this post - Secure in Him. Because that is what it always comes back to. It all depends on an attitude of trusting Him. I love Psalm 139, and a verse I read and meditated on this week which goes along with this is verse 5, "Thou has beset me behind and before, and lay thy hand upon me." The phrase "beset me" also means "hem me in." I love the picture of being "hemmed in" by the Lord. He holds the boundaries. He won't let us unravel (it sure feels like everything is unraveling!). He controls both the past and the future. If we really believe that, then we can be open to what He has for us.

Saturday, July 29, 2017

Controlling Our Portion

A couple days ago I marked the 4 month anniversary of beginning my new job working for the County planning department. Four months have sure flown by quickly. Working full-time after working part-time and having been a mom and/or a pastor's wife at home for so many years has necessitated a lot of changes in many areas of my life. Most of the adjustment has gone quite well. But one area that I can't seem to figure out is how to avoid gaining weight when I am sitting at a desk for 8 hours a day.

You don't need to flood me with comments and advice on how to lose weight. I know all the right things to do. I'm actually a Lifetime Member of Weight Watchers. I'm a naturally healthy eater - I love all fruits and vegetables, I don't eat many high-fat foods because I don't digest them well, and I TRY to stay away from sugar. I drink water. It comes down to one thing: portion control. I simply eat.too.much for someone who is as sedentary as I am, especially given my age which brings with it a lower metabolism. I feel better when I work out, but fitting in time for regular exercise with my work schedule is hard. So these days I am trying to remember to reduce my portion sizes.

I was reminded of this the other morning as I was having my Bible reading and came to Psalm 16. Psalm 16 contains a lot of great verses, but verse 5 especially caught my attention: "The Lord is my chosen portion and my cup, You hold my lot." That has the idea that when we walk with the Lord, He assigns us the specific portion He has for us, a little at a time, and in so doing He makes my lot, or the whole picture, secure. Jeremiah 13:25 says, "This is your lot, this portion have I measured out for you, declares the Lord." When we have a portion, we have a measured, limited amount, rather than getting an unlimited amount of everything at once (think buffet restaurants). Likewise, God seldom lets us preview everything that He has in store for us. And that's a good thing.

Elisabeth Elliot says in her book Secure in the Everlasting Arms, "We are meddling with God's business when let all manner of imagining loose, contemplating possibilities instead of just following one day at a time God's plan and simple pathway. When we try to meet difficulties prematurely, we have neither the light nor strength for them yet."

Those are wise words. Just like those controlled meal portions, the Lord lovingly and graciously measures out for us His plan for the day, one day at a time. We often would like to glimpse God's plan for our future, but the Lord knows it is too much for us to take in all at once. Accepting the portion that God gives us each day is one way that He stretches our faith. 

Not only have I been at my job for 4 months, but it has now been over a year since we left our ministry. We have a deadline looming this fall of deciding whether or not we are going to keep this apartment for another year, and we are earnestly seeking the Lord's will and plan. We have learned many things on this journey we have been on this past year, and one of them is this: the best way we can prepare for the uncertainties of the future is to be faithful today. God desires faithfulness doing whatever He gives us as our assigned portion for the day. The opportunities we have right now to serve the Lord are few, and they are small compared to what we used to do, but we know God requires faithfulness of us. In everything.

I had originally been thinking about posting some new recipes for you today, because I haven't done that in a long time. But no matter how good they are, that doesn't seem to fit with a post about weight and portion control! Instead, I will close with some verses that have been special to me this week:

Psalm 33:11, 20-21: "The counsel of the Lord stands forever, the plans of His heart to all generations. Our soul waits for the Lord, He is our help and our shield. For our heart is glad in Him, because we trust His holy name."

Til next time,

Saturday, July 8, 2017

An Unfinished Story

If you know me at all or have been following this blog for awhile, you know that I am a huge proponent of journaling. I began journaling over 25 years ago while under the mentoring of my dear pastor's wife when my husband was in school, and it has become an important piece of who I am. Journaling crystalizes your thoughts, helps you to apply God's truth to your life, and provides a permanent reminder of all the experiences, blessings, and lessons that you might otherwise forget. If you want to know more about journaling, you can look back at some of my earlier posts.

This morning as I was having my quiet time with the Lord, I noticed I only have 1 more page left in my journal. I started writing in this particular journal over a year and a half ago, and much has happened since then. Our lives have completely changed. And in between that first page and now my next-to-last page, I have chronicled my spiritual journey every step of the way.

As I stared at that one last blank page in the book, I couldn't help but think how nice it would be if I could just finish the story. If I could wrap up all the events of this tumultuous past year and bring it all to a tidy, happy, logical conclusion on the final page of my book.

That is obviously not going to be the case.

Our lives are a story in progress, a story that God began writing and won't finish until we are at home in heaven with Him. I am reminded of Phil. 1:6 - "He who hath begun a good work in you shall perform it until the day of Jesus Christ." So often, when I can't figure things out and can't see any possible good outcome,  I want to jump ahead and know the end of the story, much like being immersed in a good suspenseful book when we want to skip ahead to the end and see how everything is resolved. The problem is, we become so intent on knowing the outcome that we often miss the details along the way. One of the biggest lessons I have learned this past year is that God's biggest work is often done IN us, not through us. Only God knows the twists and turns and the plans that He has for us. Each day is a new chapter. Each day brings new events that are beyond our control, and often far beyond anything we might imagine.

Such was the case this past Tuesday, July 4. Our older son and his wife and their 4 children were visiting us for the first time since we had moved to our new home. We had made plans for the day and evening for how we wanted to celebrate the holiday. We needed to drive two vehicles because there were 8 of us, so my husband and I drove ours, with the three older grandchildren in the backseat. Our son and his wife and their 1 year old followed in theirs. We were driving along on a perfectly beautiful, sunny, hot day when out of nowhere, a tree came crashing down on us. There was no escaping it. My husband did a great job and kept driving, trying to beat the impact, instead of coming to a halt in which case the impact may have been greater. The tree landed on our roof, shattered our windshield, and did major damage to the front end and entire passenger side of our vehicle. Our son and his wife who were following us saw the whole thing happen.

God was gracious to us. We were shaken up, but we were not hurt. Miraculously, we were all fine. The police office informed us that was not the usual outcome. Our vehicle was not fine. It had to be towed, and it has since been declared a total loss. Because of the July 4 holiday there were no rental car places open, so we all had to squeeze into our son's SUV for the 1-hour trip home. This was not a chapter in the story that I would have planned to write.

Friends, there is no way when I got up that morning I could have foreseen that happening to us. It was part of God's story for us - a part that was definitely not in our version of the story. It reminded me how powerless and out of control we are. It was such a horrible feeling to see that tree come toward us and there was absolutely nothing we could do to stop it. Likewise, we are often completely helpless and powerless at the events in our lives. And most often, we do not know the end to the story. We can only trust.

This week I was moved once again by the first stanza of the familiar hymn, Jesus Paid it All:

"I hear my Savior say,
thy strength indeed is small.
Child of weakness, watch and pray.
Find in Me your all in all."

As much as we would like to know the end of the story, we are powerless to make that happen. God is writing our story, and it is a work in progress, and written in a way only He can. Our job is to trust (so much easier to say than to do!) and to make Christ our all in all.

With a heart of gratitude,

Saturday, June 24, 2017

How Firm a Foundation

I wasn't planning to write a blog post this morning. I was hoping to get one out soon, but this morning I had other plans. The sun is shining. Tomorrow is my birthday. (A window just popped up on my computer to remind me of that!) I should be feeling great.

Instead I am battling feelings of frustration, even in the midst of trying to have a grateful heart.

I am very thankful for how far we have come this past year. God has been and continues to be faithful. But that doesn't mean that things are easy. I am thankful that my husband has a job, but frustrated because he is working far too many hours, and his schedule requires him to rotate between early mornings (as in 4 am) and late nights (as in after midnight). When he is finally home he is doing paperwork or sleeping. That means we seldom see each other, and even more seldom do we get to do anything together. Big change for a couple who has been married almost 42 years, and has served side by side in ministry for 22 of them.

I am thankful for my sister in law being able to leave the Marshall Islands where she and my brother serve as missionaries to come home and help my mom care for my dad, who broke his vertebrae in a fall, following having broken his ribs in another fall. I was even doing fine with God not allowing it to be me being there with my mom to be the caretaker right now, when I wanted to so badly. A sweet friend reminded me that this is God's time to give my sister in law the blessing of doing that. But now that he has been moved back from rehab into the SICU last night due to shortness of breath and dropping of oxygen levels which was causing him even more confusion, I am feeling frustrated that I can't even go see my dad for a long weekend because I am too far away unless I can get time off work.

This morning when I was asking the Lord for His help in all this, He brought to me the words to the hymn "How Firm a Foundation." I know it was Him, because I had not even been thinking about hymns. These are the words that ministered to my heart:

How firm a foundation, ye saints of the Lord,
Is laid for your faith in His excellent Word.
What more can He say, than to you He hath said,
To you who for refuge to Jesus have fled?

Fear not, I am with thee, O be not dismayed,
For I am thy God, and I will still give thee aid.
I'll strengthen thee, help thee, and cause thee to stand
Upheld by my gracious, omnipotent hand.

When through the deep waters I call thee to go,
The rivers of sorrow will not overflow.
For I will be with thee, thy trials to bless,
And sanctify to thee thy deepest distress.

When through fiery trials thy pathway shall lie,
My grace, all sufficient, shall be thy supply.
The flame shall not hurt thee, I only design
thy dross to consume and thy gold to refine.

(My hymn book says "Author Unknown")

I am reminded once again of the firm foundation which is laid for me in the form of my personal relationship with Jesus Christ.

At a family funeral a few weeks ago, I was also reminded of the Godly foundation which was laid for both my husband and me in the form of Christian homes and a Godly heritage. As we listened to a graveside message that clearly proclaimed the gospel, we realized that not all families are privileged to hear that. As we wandered the cemetery and found the graves of my husband's grandparents and great-grandparents, who knew the Lord to the best of our knowledge, we realized anew the Godly foundation that had been given to my husband. It was an incentive to me to pray even more for this Godly foundation to be seen in our lives for our grandchildren.

As one of my favorite verses says,"God is my refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble. Therefore, we will not fear, though the mountains be carried into the midst of the sea.." (Psalm 46). Thank you, Lord, that You are my firm foundation!


Thursday, June 8, 2017

When You've Been There

Hello dear readers! I've missed being able to write my blog as frequently as I used to.  In this new chapter of life, a full-time job takes up most of my time, and my hours outside of work are spent with my husband and maintaining my home. There is a familiar verse which has taken on new meaning for me as I have been meditating on it recently: 1 Thess. 5:18 - "In everything give thanks, for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus concerning you." Although I may be doing something other than what I would like to be doing with my life right now, and at times I feel like I am missing out on so much, because I know that this is God's will for me at this time I can have (or at least try to have!) a positive attitude of thanksgiving. We all have circumstances in our lives which are not to our liking. It isn't easy, but if we remember that everything is ordered by the Lord and is His will for us right now, that goes a long way toward helping us to be content.

The other day at work I was speaking to a customer on the phone and was attempting to give them directions to a meeting that was being held at another location. I have a good resource book that I use to give directions, but because I have never personally been to the place in question, when the customer began asking specific questions I had to hand the call off to someone else who had actually been there and was better able to help them. I couldn't help but notice the correlation between actually having "been there" and the ability to answer their questions.

Did you ever notice that when you are talking to someone and you find that you both have been to the same place, you have an instant rapport with them? You compare notes and swap stories about where you've been, as only those who are intimately acquainted with a place can do.

Likewise, when we share a common life experience with someone, it puts us in a unique position to relate to that person in a special way. That's why support groups are so popular - we know that others who are or have been in our same situation can really understand and relate to what we are going through. I am convinced that God's design for us is to use all the experiences that He gives us to minister to others who might be going through similar circumstances. 2 Corinthians 1:3-4 says, "Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies and the God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our affliction so that we may be able to comfort those who are in affliction, with the comfort with which we ourselves are comforted by God."

How can we use our having "been there" to minister to someone else?

Remember -"this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you." This is what God has for you right now, and remember that His desire is that we glorify Him in everything. One way of doing that is remembering that because God has equipped us with having "been there," we in turn may be able to help and comfort others who are going through similar trials.

Reach out - It is very easy to get wrapped up in our lives, to feel like we are the only ones going through this, and to shut others out. There is no lack of opportunity to minister to others, only a lack of vision. We need to be looking for people who may be experiencing what we have already been through and for opportunities to encourage them. If we realize that God may have a ministry for us of encouraging others as a result of our having "been there," we need to actively pray and seek to be used by Him.

Rely on the Lord - Rely on the Lord for wisdom and for help in being a blessing to others. As a pastor's wife I used to worry about saying the right things and having the right answers when it came to helping others. I remember when I finally realized I didn't have the answers or the ability to help people, and that only God did. I felt like a huge weight was lifted off me. I don't have all the answers - and you don't either - but God does, and all we need to do is point people to Him. Relying on the Lord in our weakness is what Paul was talking about in 2 Cor. 12.

What have you experienced in your life that God can use to encourage someone else? Infertility? The death of a spouse, parent, or child? Being a care-giver? Losing a job? Children leaving the nest? Illness? Moving?  Have you been there? You can help someone else who needs your encouragement.

Til next time,

Friday, May 19, 2017

Giving Up Control

I have an amazing husband. I really do.

Some of you may have seen my post on Facebook about the wonderful dinner he cooked and served me when I came home from work one evening this week. He cleaned up the kitchen, too! He has never hesitated to pitch in and help, whether it be cooking or dishes or laundry.

During the course of our marriage, I have always pretty much taken charge of the house and all the related tasks. I thoroughly enjoy everything about homemaking, and after 41 years I am pretty good at it. But since I began working full-time a couple months ago, we really have been working together as a team. If he gets home from work before I do, he cooks. If he's working at night and home during the day, he'll do some of the laundry or run to the grocery store instead of me having to do it. When it comes to the finances and bill paying, I have always taken care of that as well, but now he might be the one who goes to the bank or pays the bills.

Don't misunderstand me! I am definitely not complaining! I am very blessed to have that kind of a husband. But for me, there is a difficult side to this. I have been doing these things for a very long time - and I am used to having complete control over what I do. He often doesn't do things the way I do. No longer being in charge means that sometimes I have items on my grocery list and I look in the refrigerator or pantry and see my husband has already bought them. I don't know what clothes are clean and what is still in the hamper. I have to check to see the status of our finances. After so many years, it is a bit of an adjustment to not feel in control of things at home.

Losing control can be an uncomfortable feeling but it is ultimately a good thing. Likewise, often I have struggled with the Lord over who is in control of my life. I have my plans and my idea of how things should go and how they should turn out. And more often than not, life doesn't go that way. Never have I been so out of control of my life as I have been this past year, when everything suddenly changed and nothing turned out as we had planned. In fact, that is one thing that the Lord has really driven home to me these past months: We may plan and we may think we are in control, but God's plans will stand. Proverbs 16:9 - "The heart of man plans his way, but the Lord establishes his steps." And Proverbs 19:21 - "Many are the plans in the mind of a man, but it is the purpose of the Lord that will stand." 

Plans - it's kind of ironic that I work for the county planning department and I work around plans every day. Plans are something that we  put a lot of thought and work into, and we think they should be set in stone. But when we give our lives to the Lord, we need to realize that we are no longer in control. God desires that we submit our will to His. And God in His love and wisdom does a much better job at being in control of our lives. While we may have Plan A, God's plan is really Plan A, even though it may be quite different than ours. And God's plan is always better.

I am reminded of the words to this song that is sung by Mac and Beth Lynch:

With my whole heart I humbly seek you;
Now use my life, O Lord, I pray.
I yield my stubborn will completely,
May your commandments light my way.

My life, Lord, is yours to control;
I give you my heart and my soul.
I'll seek your will, never mine,
Rich treasure to find.
Give wisdom to choices I make,
Along every path that I take.
So when I complete life's race,
"Well done" you will say.

And in the end, that's what it's all about.