The Light in My Window

The Light in My Window

Saturday, February 3, 2018

The Music of My Life

I love good music.

I have loved music for as long as I can remember. If I am home by myself, I am playing music. When I bake or cook, I put on music first. The first thing I do when I sit down to the computer to write or study is to go to my music library. Over the years, we have collected dozens of CDs by the Wilds, Majesty Music, Soundforth and other good conservative Christian sources as well as some classical and "oldies." I have so many "favorite songs" it would be impossible to name them all. Music speaks to me, quiets me, and encourages me.

I was reading in Psalms 42 and 43 the other day, and although there are many familiar verses in those chapters, this time I noticed this verse which is repeated three times in these short Psalms:
"Why are you cast down, O my soul, and why are you in turmoil within me? Hope in God, for I shall again praise Him, my salvation and my God."

My attention was especially drawn to the phrase, "I shall again praise Him." When I studied this out, in the context of these Psalms it is talking about praising God with music. Psalms 42 and 43 were written "to the choirmaster."  But to me, the interesting word was "again." The Psalmist in these Psalms is pouring out his heart which is obviously in turmoil and anguish. However in the midst of this He reminds Himself (and us) that there would come a time when He would be able to again praise God.

When I am learning a new song, it usually isn't the notes or harmony I have trouble learning. I am a pretty good sight-reader, from many years of practice. The thing that is harder for me to learn is the timing. It takes more work and practice for me to learn the timing, especially if there are some tricky things written in. I think the Psalmist felt like I sometimes (often, lately) do - that my life is like a piece of music into which there has been inserted some difficult timing. Especially when it comes to an interlude or a rest.

I love this from Elisabeth Elliott in her book "Secure in the Everlasting Arms":
"Not without design does God write the music of our lives. But be it ours to learn the timing, and not be dismayed over the "rests." They are not to be omitted. They are not to be slurred over. They are not there to destroy the melody. We are not to change the keynote. It's His song, not mine, that I am here to sing."

In music, we not only have rests but we have longer interludes. In thinking about this, I looked up the definition of "interlude" which was very meaningful: "an intervening or interruptive period, space, or event; an interval. A musical composition inserted between the parts of a longer composition."

Doesn't that sound like our lives? God writes "rests" or "interludes" into the composition which is our life. They are designed to enhance the music, not detract from it. If we try to omit them or rush them or change them, then we are saying that the composer didn't do a good job.

Two more thoughts about interludes to remember:

Interludes are transitions. They are not the end of the song.
"I shall yet again praise Him, my salvation and my God."

Psalm 57:1 - "I will hide beneath the shadow of Your wings until this storm is past."
Jeremiah 29:11 - "For I know the plans I have for you," says the Lord, "plans for good and not for evil to give you a future and a hope."

Interludes are at the discretion of the composer. God knows what He is doing.

Isaiah 25:1 - "O Lord, You are my God, I will exalt you, I will praise your name, for You have done wonderful things, plans formed of God of old, faithful and sure."
Isaiah 46:9-10 - "I am God, and there is none like me, declaring the end from the beginning and from ancient times things not yet done, saying, My counsel shall stand and I shall accomplish all my purposes."

What has God written into the music that is your life?


Saturday, January 13, 2018

Our Default Pattern

This overcast January morning has been spent doing my very favorite things that I love to do on Saturday mornings when my husband is working: Being home, putting some yummy things in the oven, listening to uplifting Christian music, and writing either in my journal or as in this morning's case, a Bible study lesson and this blog post.

As I brought up my computer program and began to write and edit my lesson this morning, I was keenly aware of something: I want to default to the computer program I am used to.

At home we have had Apple products for years and I have been accustomed to using Pages and other computer programs that are part of the Apple world. But at work, I spend 40 hours a week in an office that uses only PCs and Microsoft Office programs. I had been used to using Microsoft programs such as Word, Excel, and Publisher in my previous jobs, but prior to returning to work last year I had been home for several years. I had gotten so used to my MacIntosh computer and programs that it took me some time (and quite a bit of re-learning) to get used to using Microsoft at the office again. And now when I use my computer at home, I want to default to what I am used to using all week. It's amazing how hard it is!

As I was pondering this, I realized that we all have default patterns in our lives. They are traits and habits that we are comfortable with and naturally return to again and again. They are our natural bent. And whether they be good or bad, they are what we become comfortable with.

Sometime around October or November, I felt the need to depart from what I had been doing in my daily Bible reading and re-study the subject of gratitude. I realized that I had developed a "default pattern" or a natural bent of reacting with negative thoughts which lead to discouragement and fear, rather than giving thanks because I know that my circumstances are God's will for me right now, whether I understand them or not. When I respond to my circumstances with an attitude of trust and giving thanks to God for His presence with me and His plan being perfect, then that puts me in the position of knowing joy and peace.

My Bible reading the past couple weeks brought me to Psalm 79, which I have read many times before. But the last verse seemed to jump off the page to me, because my current Bible reading program is a chronological one. This time I was able to read Psalm 79 in light of the setting in which it was written.

Psalm 79:13: "But we your people, the sheep of your pasture, will give thanks to you forever; from generation to generation we will recount your praise."  That doesn't sound so remarkable until you consider that this whole Psalm is filled with the anguish of God's people about the complete destruction of their temple, and their prayer for deliverance from the enemy who had done this devastation. For the background, read 2 Chronicles 36:19-21 and 2 Kings 25:8-15.

This last verse reveals an abrupt change in attitude. It is a departure from their default pattern of despair to a determination to continue to give God the praise and to be thankful! And not only that, but to continue to teach and set the example for their children and grandchildren - in spite of their problems.

What is your default pattern - the attitude or habit that seems to come naturally for you, that threatens to destroy your peace and joy? Determine that with God's help, you will attempt to change what is your default pattern into that which is right. Only then can we know God's peace and impact others with a joyful, positive spirit.

Sunday, January 7, 2018

Post-Christmas Thoughts

Christmas is over for another year.

The gifts have been opened, the leftovers are gone. The kids and grandkids have all gone home, and the decorations and tree are (finally) down. We are less than a week into the new year.  I always find the time following Christmas and into the new year to be a time of needful reflection. In this post I will give you a little glimpse into the things that have been occupying my mind and my time.

What I Have Been Enjoying

Making Christmas memories! We are so blessed to have had an-extra special Christmas this year! Our son and his family of 4 who live on the west coast flew to Virginia for the first time since their move to Oregon and spent 2 weeks with us! Our daughter and her family of 6 from South Carolina were also here for a week of that time, and because it had been almost three years since all of us were together, our older son and his family of 6 joined us for a day from their home in Pennsylvania. We had 18 of us here for one priceless, amazing, memorable day! I felt so blessed all day! God blessed us with beautiful warm weather and we were able to play outside a lot. It warmed this mom's heart to watch our adult children and their spouses interacting with each other and all 10 of our grandchildren playing with and enjoying each other! We played, ate, talked, laughed, and capped the day off with a family Christmas carol sing and Bible time - what a blessing!

In addition to that day, the remaining 12 of us celebrated Christmas and God's ultimate gift to us of His Son Jesus. We also played lots of games, went on outings to the park and to the State Capitol, had a family gingerbread house decorating competition, made crafts and dipped pretzels, and just had a wonderful time making precious memories.

 Of course with all of this came a lot of shopping, meal-planning, cooking, and cleaning up!

What I'm Planning and Reading
Since everyone went home, in between the cleaning and re-organizing of the house and the time I spend at work, I have been taking some time to nourish my soul. I find that I need to refresh my body, my mind, and my spirit. Whether or not you have had a houseful of family as I did or your Christmas was a quiet one, Christmas takes a lot out of us. We can't continue to give out without taking some time to quiet ourselves and take in what God has for us.

Refreshing my body means getting a little more sleep than I have been lately, and cutting down on the sugar and rich foods I ate over the Christmas season in favor of a more healthy way of eating.

Refreshing my mind involves planning ways I can learn new things and stretch myself in the coming months, and as a part of that I have made a commitment to spend more time reading this year. I have subscribed to some new blogs that enrich my life as a Christian woman, and I have also been compiling a reading list. Some of the books that are on my list are Own Your Life by Sally Clarkson, Choosing Gratitude (I am almost finished with my second read-through of this) and Adorned by Nancy DeMoss Wolgemuth, Refresh by Shona and Davis Murray, His Word in My Heart by Janet Pope, and a book I got for Christmas, No Less Than Yes by Connie Patty.

What I'm Meditating On
By far the most important segment of refreshment is that of my soul. I need continued time alone with God and His Word because in this crazy, uncertain life, God is my stability. My favorite times are those times I can sit quietly in a comfy chair, wrapped in a blanket with a hot cup of coffee, and just relish the time of reading and meditating on the Word and writing in my journal.

Lately I have been meditating on the character of God. I find that when I get overwhelmed by life or fearful of the future (because we still have more questions than we do answers) that focusing my attention on the character of God brings the calmness and peace I need. This week I focused on verses about His faithfulness, His holiness, and His mercy and grace.

As has been my custom the past couple of years, I have also chosen a special word for the new year. Two years ago I had never heard of this. Now it seems like everyone I know is doing it. That first year my word was "perspective." Last year it was "content." For 2018 I have chosen "intentional." I have seen quite a few others choose this same word after I had already decided on it, but for me it embodied my desire this year to not just go through the motions or do things out of routine or habit, but to be more intentional and purposeful in the areas of my prayer life and my health. I want to be intentional about appreciating - to notice and to give thanks. To be more intentional about extending grace and forgiveness. And to be more intentional in my listening to and encouraging others when I have opportunity.

My verses for 2018: For some reason, I struggled this year with choosing a verse. I chose and discarded several. The verse I finally settled on is Phil. 1:6, "Being confident of this very thing, that He who has begun a good work in you will perform it until the day of Jesus Christ." I am choosing to believe and trust that God's purpose for me to grow closer to Him and serve Him that He set in motion when I accepted Christ is ongoing and will not be completed until my life here is finished.

Have you spent time lately refreshing your body, mind, and soul? Do you have some plans and goals for 2018? Most important to to keep growing closer to Him!


Saturday, November 18, 2017

Jehovah-Jireh - God, Our Provider

Happy Thanksgiving!

I can't believe we are just a few days away from another Thanksgiving...wasn't it just the 4th of July? We are excited about being able to share Thanksgiving in our home this year with our oldest son and his family!

I hope you will forgive me for being late with a blog post, and also for writing a post today that just shares my heart. I was up and out early on this Saturday morning accomplishing my lengthy errand-and-shopping list before the day got away from me, and as I was driving I was thinking about this time last year. There is something about the holidays, Thanksgiving and New Years in particular, that make me reflect on the past year. I think what prompted my line of thinking was hearing one of my favorite songs - "Jehovah-Jireh" by Matt Whitcomb and recorded by the Hamilton family. I love these words:

"Today in this place, we seek for God's will.
We trust day by day that our cup He will fill.
And when He tells us to sacrifice our treasures here on earth,
Rich blessings are in store for us,
And joy of matchless worth."

"Jehovah-Jireh, in You we hide,
Jehovah-Jireh, You will provide!
For we know that you are with us,
Your loving hands will hold us,
We rest secure,
We place our lives within Your hands."

I actually wrote these words in my journal almost a year and a half ago after hearing this song. They were so appropriate at the time. And they still are.

Last year at Thanksgiving, we had just sold our house but we had not yet moved. My husband was commuting two hours a day to and from his new job in Richmond. I had given notice at my job because we were moving but I had no idea if and where I would be able to find a new job. We hadn't yet secured an apartment. We had no church home. Things were uncertain at best.

Today, we have moved out of the apartment that we lived in for the first ten months of our transition and have been in this house (a rental house) for about 6 weeks. My husband is still working long hours but he only has an 11 mile commute to work. I have a job that I like and that provides me with good benefits. We are serving in a local church as much as we can. As I thought about all these things, I couldn't help but think how true it is that God is our Jehovah-Jireh - He has provided. He has blessed us richly and met every need.

This month in my personal devotions, I am returning to the study "Choosing Gratitude" by Nancy DeMoss Wolgemuth. I first read this book and taught this study several years ago when we lived in Illinois. It impacted my life so much that I wanted (and needed) to do it again. There is a 30-day Gratitude Challenge that is included in the book, and I have gained so much from it. It is the kind of study you can do again and again. True gratitude is missing from our lives as Christians and it is life-changing. One of my favorite quotes from the book is this: "Is the gratitude that flows out of your life as abundant as the grace that flows into your life?"

Gratitude must come from a humble heart - when I am dissatisfied or resentful or comparing it is because of pride, thinking I deserve better when I don't. Having a grateful heart means sometimes we choose to be thankful when it is hard. Psalm 50:23a is encouraging - "The one who offers thanksgiving as his sacrifice glorifies Me." 

Along with this study I have been reading through the book of Isaiah. Chapter 40 is one of my favorites in the whole Bible. I started to highlight my favorite verses and found I was highlighting the entire chapter! It is full of the characteristics of God, and a picture of contrasts - God is described as powerful, strong, infinitely wise, everlasting, Creator, great and mighty. Yet "He will feed His flock like a shepherd, He will gather His lambs in His arms. He will carry them in His bosom and gently lead those that are with young." (verse 11) As our Shepherd, He knows what we need, and He is our provider - our Jehovah-Jireh.

Wishing you and yours a very joyful and blessed Thanksgiving,

Saturday, October 14, 2017

God of the Hills and the Valleys

If you know me personally or follow me on Facebook and are familiar with all that has been going on with us, you are probably really surprised to see this blog post. You are no more surprised than I - writing a blog post was not on my (very full) agenda for today. Just one week ago today, we moved into this house. We are only about 8 miles from where our apartment was, but there was still as much work with this move as any other. There is a world of difference being in a real house once again! And on this Saturday morning, if I ignore the stacks of boxes everywhere and the mess and the dirty windows and the lack of decor, it almost feels normal to me. I have some good music playing, I made baked oatmeal for breakfast, and best of all I have spent the last hour at my computer preparing the lesson and the outline handout for the Ladies Bible study I will be teaching this coming week.

Yes, God has answered prayer and has opened the door for me to teach ladies once again. It is only once a month, but truthfully with me working full-time that is probably a good thing. I have not taught for 18 months, and I have missed it so very much. I guess only someone who loves to write and teach as much as I do can understand how much a part of me that is. As I sat and studied and wrote this morning, it felt so normal and wonderful. My heart is full.

I wanted to share a verse with you that my attention was drawn to in my devotional time with the Lord this past month. 1 Kings 20:28 - "Thus says the Lord, Because the Syrians have said that the Lord is the God of the hills but He is not the God of the valleys, I will give all this great multitude into your hands so that you shall know that I am the Lord."

God is God of the valleys, as well as God of the mountains. These past few weeks have been full of mountains and valleys. At the end of September, our oldest son was ordained into the ministry and installed as Associate Pastor at the church that he and his wife have been at and served in ever since they were married in 2004. Being there for the weekend and witnessing the ordination and installation service that was so moving with magnificent music, meaningful Scripture readings, my brother and another bringing messages from the Word, and watching my son so confidently yet humbly saying his vows was an incredible, overwhelming experience for me as a mother. I could only think of Luke's words in Luke 2:19, "But Mary kept all these things and pondered them in her heart."

Another mountain was seeing God provide a rental house for us, and His provision of people to help us move. I have moved many, many times in my life, but this was the first time I ever had to move while also working full-time. It seemed impossible, and it would have been if it had not been for the help we received. A sweet friend gave up an entire afternoon to help me pack for 4 hours straight. The Lord sent my brother and sister-in-law, missionaries on furlough, to visit us the last few days before we moved. They were invaluable in helping us pack, take down and re-install things, and cleaning the house before we moved in. Last Saturday we had a dozen people show up from our new church with willing hearts and hard-working bodies. God's provision was such a blessing and encouragement.

There have been valleys as well, places of deep disappointment and discouragement. Getting our things out of storage has brought some hurtful memories. Nothing is like I thought it would be at this point in our lives. But as I reflected on this verse, I had to remind myself that God is still the same God in the hard times as much as He is God of the good times. He still leads. He still provides. He still protects. He still blesses. He still is a sovereign God. If He doesn't lead through the valleys as well as the mountains, then He wouldn't be God. As I am re-studying the book of Exodus in preparation for teaching, I m reminded that just because we might be in the wilderness does not mean God is absent. Through both the mountains and the valleys, God's desire is that we glorify Him.


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.