What Is Your Passion And How Can You Use It For God?

There are a plethora of things that I find pleasure doing in my leisure time.  I enjoy writing, thus this post. I find joy while gardening, decorating or creating repurposed home decor. I also am happy while singing.  I have become convicted that God has given me these passions not to satisfy my own interests. I should use them to bring Him glory and to be a blessing to others.

A person does not have to be complicated to make an impact on others. I have often felt that my skills and interests were too insignificant to be meaningful or have an effect on others. This couldn’t be further from the truth. God has used many people through the years that had simple gifts coupled with great faith that made a remarkable difference in the lives of others.

Fred Rogers is an example of how God used talent in a simple, yet meaningful way. His famous quote was “It is better to be simple and deep than to be complicated and shallow.” His simple yet loving words impacted a whole generation of children through his famous public television program Mister Roger’s Neighborhood. He told children daily for years “You are special just as you are.” Many people do not know that he was an ordained Presbyterian minister who chose his pulpit to be through television.

I suggest that you make your abilities known to others. You never know when you might be called upon to use them.  Recently, I have been involved in some gardening and decorating projects at my church. It is truly satisfying to use gifts to inspire others and  make a difference for the  kingdom of God.

You don’t necessarily have to have an artistic talent. God has given each one of us a unique ability.  You could be a good cook and could serve others in a community kitchen outreach program. You might be a good organizer and could help put together articles for donation for those that are less fortunate. If you enjoy talking to others you could reach out by telephoning those that are lonely or shut-in at your  church. Whatever you enjoy doing is the key to what you are good at. Why not think of ways that God can use you to serve others? The possibilities are endless.

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What It Means To Let Them Fly

Being a mother bird must be terrifying. First, she has to collect lots of nesting materials, one piece at a time. Twigs are collected to give shape to the nest.  Softer materials are then added to give the nest comfort. Sometimes a bird will collect leaves or feathers and mix it with their own saliva to bind it together.  I have seen birds also collect bits of moss or even fur.  One time our dog was napping in some grass, and I noticed a bird repeatedly flying within a dangerous distance for the purpose of collecting molted fur from our pet.  Of course this gave the bird a very comfy nest lining indeed.

The bird has to choose the location of its nest wisely. If it is too precarious, it risks being blown to the ground or to smithereens during a heavy wind.  Some nests are very high up in the air.  This is what amazes me for the mother bird must realize it is from this high level that she has to coerce her little ones to take a death-defying leap to learn how to fly.

Once Mother Bird has exhausted herself building the nest, she must lay the eggs then sit on them until they hatch.  She must stay there to protect them and keep them warm denying herself food unless her mate feeds her. If she were to move, a predatory bird or animal could eat the eggs or push them out of the nest.

I have become like a mother bird to my own mother, taking a reverse in roles, especially since her heart attack. It is hard to see her become more frail and dependent on others for her care.  I have begun to oversee her doctor visits, medications and care.  She has not always been so cooperative.  She always has been a very self-sufficient person. I don’t want to take this away from her and am doing everything I can to help her get back to a fairly normal, independent life again.  However, like Mother Bird, I must coax her slowly and gently until she is stronger and can fly again.

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Let Little Birds Fly

I have revisited an important lesson in the last few weeks.  I have been having difficulty letting go again.

My mother had a heart attack two weeks ago.  She had been to a doctor’s appointment that morning. She wanted to go alone but something told me to go with her.  I saw her walking up the sidewalk to the front entrance as I pulled in the parking lot. It was good for me to be there to be an extra set of ears for her as she has become hard of hearing. It gives me peace of mind also to converse with the doctor myself concerning my mother’s health concerns.

Lately, her blood pressure has been elevated and when they tested her blood, she was anemic. The doctor prescribed an iron supplement which we were going to fill after getting a quick-lunch.   We went to a local Panera Bread since Mom likes their soup. She was feeling fine until we sat down. Suddenly she started feeling dizzy and put her head down. She started going in and out of consciousness. Her left arm started shaking.  I tried talking to her. She told me she needed to use the restroom then wanted to go home. I walked with her to the restroom. As soon as she got to the bathroom stall, her legs buckled and she began falling. Fortunately, I was there to catch her and break her fall. I laid her head down on my purse so that she did not hit her head on the floor.  This was the first miracle. The second miracle was that I had passed two police officers at a table just outside the bathroom. I grabbed them and had them call “911.” The paramedics came within minutes.  They took her to the hospital.  I phoned my husband and met him at the emergency room.  The EMT’s met me at the door and told me my mother had a heart attack. They were working on her.  We waited for about an hour to find out the prognosis.

The time in the waiting room seemed like an eternity. Some candy-stripers offered us some snacks to eat that had been provided by a church. I looked down and noticed that the bag of chips I had chosen had a scripture verse taped to the outside. I marveled at how God must use this wonderful ministry to provide comfort to distraught family members in the hospital waiting room.

As I nervously sat with my husband, I noticed a lady sitting alone across the aisle from us. I struck up a conversation to try to console her as well as myself. Her husband was having heart surgery. He was only 49. She said he had a condition known as “the widow-maker.” As worried as I was about my mother, I wanted to offer a prayer for this woman. I asked her if I could pray for her and she was happy to oblige. Somehow, praying for someone else in the midst of my own crisis made me feel better.

Finally, after an excruciating wait, the doctor came out to talk to us. He took us into a room and showed us an image of my mother’s heart.  He said he had put a stent into an artery that was 99% blocked and that she should recover well but would need to stay in the hospital at least 3 days.  We were told in the ICU that she was very lucky! She still has some challenges to overcome.

I have been caring more for my mother as she has gotten older. I try to convince her to do things to take care of herself as she gets stubborn sometimes. She almost refused treatment in the emergency room. If my husband had not been there to coerce her, she might not have signed over to let them work on her.  Try as I might, I have to keep giving her back to God.  He has given her back to me this time. For that I am grateful.

I find myself revisiting the old lesson that God keeps trying to teach me to let go. As I left the hospital during one of my visits when I struggled convincing her that she must stay a few more days and abide by the doctors’ directives, I felt the Lord saying to me “Let little birds fly.”

 

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The Hope of Spring

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Whenever faced with a difficult season of life, it is good to start planning ahead for something in the future as a way of relief or light at the end of a tunnel.  Whether it be a trip, an outing or some fun activity, it is a way to help us muddle through whatever situation we currently find ourselves.

Gardening has been a way that I have found hope for the future, especially during particularly dry spells. There is something exciting about seeing signs of life stirring in a dormant winter garden.  New green shoots that protrude through the ground from crocus bulbs, Lenten roses or cheery yellow blossoms on forsythia bushes are often the first signs of spring that I spy in my garden during late January or February on warm winter days. It is always uplifting to my weary soul.

This year,  I am more eager than usual to find the ever-comforting signs of spring to offer me hope for my current winter doldrums.  I especially need a little boost of encouragement from my plant friends since my mother’s recent heart attack and health challenges.

 

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Overcoming Evil With Good

This week, I have been the fortunate recipient of several unexpected gifts of goodwill. I was given five dollars while standing in a check out line at a local retail store. I was given the sale price a day early for a 12 pound turkey at the grocery store bringing the new price to just over $5. In the same store a week earlier, I was given a free boxed lunch because the packaging was unmarked.   Recently I also had my lunch paid for by another patron as I went through the drive through at Chick-fil-a.

I don’t know if people are making more of an effort to be kind to their fellow men because of recent incidents of violence and terrorism in our country. It does give me hope, however. This year at Christmas, we should emphasize to our children especially.” Yes, children there are still good people in the world.” Despite the rampant evil that is everywhere, keep doing acts of kindness to others. In so doing, we can overcome evil with good….as Paul admonishes Christians to do in Romans 12:21.

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An Idyllic Mountain Vacation Setting

Recently my family and I took a much-needed trip to the mountains. As on most vacations, we never know what our accommodations are going to be like as I reserve lodging spots sight unseen. It is a little easier with the use of the internet. However, as each owner makes their own rental sound simply amazing and breathtakingly appealing, it can be somewhat misleading and we never quite know what we are going to get until we arrive at each vacation destination. At a certain price point, we can be pretty assured that it will be acceptable. However, one never really knows what awaits. Will we be out in the sticks, miles away from town and unable to find grocery stores, restaurants and shopping? Will everyone be happy with their designated bed and/or room? We have rented houses in the past through real estate rental management companies and have recently discovered vacation rentals by owner. Most often, we have been happy.  One time, our house was up a very steep hill that left us all scared to make the ascent each time we would go to and from our rental property. We have been far away from civilization and were exhausted each time we had to find a grocery store to gather our supplies for the weekend. We have had rustic quarters where someone had to sleep on a cot, a sleeper sofa or worse, on the floor.  We have stayed in what we refer to as “the elf house” that was literally so small that we could barely turn around. We had to make up the couch/bed and push aside the kitchen table each day in order to have a spot to sit down or eat.

The story that tops them all is when we stayed at a “resort” in West Virginia. I use the term lightly as this is how it was advertised. Little did we know that it had been a former women’s prison in the early part of the 20th century.  We stayed in a room that had been the infirmary. The bathroom had no updates and I got an uneasy feeling about the sanitary condition of a place that must have treated contagious diseases and all sorts of ailments. Even worse, the twin beds in the room seemed like they were original to the prison.  We could barely sleep with imaginations of what prisoners had stayed in the room before us. However, what was unnerving were the eerie sounds in the building and particularly in the floor above us throughout the night. Upon closer examination the following day, we discovered that there were still cells and bars on the windows in the upper rooms. It was a space that was rented out each Halloween as a haunted house. It was equipped with a coffin, skeletal figures and other ghoulish apparitions. We could not leave that vacation spot quick enough.

We have been on the other end of the spectrum  when we knew we had spent too much for our rental and the space was so too nice that we couldn’t really relax for fear that we would mess something up and would forfeit a rental deposit. One time our children marvelled at the sight of a refrigerator in an upscale hotel room.  They took treats out of the refrigerator all through the first day of our stay before we realized it. Of course they did not know that those candy bars and sodas were not free and were attached to our already expensive bill at then end of our vacation.

I guess this is part of what makes vacationing an adventure.  Our family always has a ball together. We laugh at each other until we almost cry. It is a much-needed break from our hectic life and we love times that we spend together.

This year’s fall mountain trip offered us one of the best accommodations yet.

We scheduled to stay in a house in a lake community that was built in the 1920’s. From the pictures, I could tell that it had a nice front porch with a view of the lake.  There were plenty of bedrooms and bathrooms for everyone.  It sounded nice enough and since it was in an area where we had never stayed before, we decided to take the risk. It was not far from town, so we figured there would be plenty to do if our house was not quite to our liking and we wanted to venture out.

We arrived in two cars. My mother, son and I arrived earlier in the day. My husband and daughter arrived later that night. We found the house to be better than we had imagined.  It was old but charming because it reminded us of a grandparents’ house. It was furnished in craftsman style with oak wooden floors and moldings.Wallpaper from another era was still on bedroom walls. The bathrooms were not modern.  We found cast iron tubs  in two baths upstairs. There were quilts and rocking chairs throughout the house.  The lack of updates added to the appeal by taking us back to a simpler time. There was only one television in the lower downstairs bedroom. We discovered that we were actually relieved to do without modern technology. It was good to be coerced to unplug for the weekend. We played card games, communicated a lot with one another and  found interesting reading material amongst the many bookshelves throughout the house.

The community was private and quiet.  There were walking trails around the lake.   Canada geese waddled by the lake’s edge. Other water birds could be seen floating  in the distance.  Among them were ducks, swans and loons. These birds were delightful to watch even though they made quite a racket and disturbed our sleep by their constant honking throughout the night.

My daughter took the opportunity to go for a run each morning and made it all the way around the lake.  She explored the neighborhood and brought us back to see a cross at the top of the tallest hill and a bridge that crossed the lake at its narrowest point. There was a feeding area for the swans and a couple of gardens that were maintained by residents throughout the year.

The weather was balmy the first day. My son and I took the opportunity to sit out on the porch and read for a while.  It was good that we did for it rained the next day and turned colder.  We had no choice but to take an indoor shopping excursion and a car tour of the area. The night before we left, the temperature dipped into the 30s. It caught us by surprise forcing us to bundle up as we packed to leave. We started to see snow flurries on our departure and even heavier snow fell along the mountain roads as we travelled home. None of us cared because we had a wonderful time and fond memories of out trip to the mountains.

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Eyes That Can Still Cry

I attended my nephew’s wedding this weekend. I wore the purple dress that I had picked out months ago at an end of season sale. I wore silver sequined accessories including shoes, purse and shawl in case the weather became cool as one never knows what to expect the first week of October in the Carolinas. It turned out that the day was rainy after almost a month of drought.  The wedding venue was on a farm. The outside ceremony had to be cancelled and brought indoors.  The barn was decorated in farmhouse style with chandeliers and rustic tables.  Lovely peach and pink roses mingled with sprays of eucalyptus in arrangements at each dining and serving table. Lace runners ran along the tables which were dotted with mercury glass candle votives. At each place setting was a lovely english china dinner plate that the british wedding planner had supplied for the occasion. The “naked” lightly iced but beautiful five layered cake sat on the serving table as a focal point. It was decked with more sprays of flowers that matched the bridal bouquets.

A string quartet played a collection of classical and contemporary wedding music including Pacabel’s Canon as the guests arrived.  My own brother played an oboe solo entitled Gabriel’s Oboe. The mood was perfectly romantic and as the guests arrived they shook off rain droplets and left umbrellas at the door. It was apparent that a little rain was not going to damper this beautiful wedding. Everyone seemed happy and not at all upset by the weather.

I had prepared myself with kleenex tucked away in my purse because most women cry at weddings.  I thought I would get emotional on this day, especially because my nephew was the first in our family of four grandchildren to get married. I watched as my brother’s handsome son stationed himself beside his pastor before the crowd that was gathered.  With a beaming smile he beheld his beautiful bride as she linked arms with  her father. She trailed behind her bridesmaids who were dressed in seafoam green gowns and walked down the aisle towards the makeshift altar. She was radiant in her sleeveless white gown with sweetheart neckline. It was embellished with lace appliques and beading on the skirt, vail and train. She wore her pretty long blonde hair down around her shoulders. It fell in curls and was pinned up in the back with white satin roses that were attached to her vail.

The pastor gave a stirring message about marriage which encouraged all those present to reconsider their own wedding vows and dedication to Christ. It is true like he said, that many today don’t make their marriage the focus but focus too much instead on the wedding itself.  As the couple exchanged vows and rings, I noticed the bride’s and groom’s mothers get emotional. The groom’s grandmother teared up because she had longed for this day. She had hoped that her own husband would have lived to see their grandchildren get married. I was touched but remained fairly emotionless. My two children attended the wedding. My son was a groomsman. My niece was a bridesmaid. My daughter sat beside us and took pictures. With all my family around me, my heart was warmed but I was not emotional.

It bothered me following the ceremony that my emotions had not been more stirred. Why didn’t I shed a tear? Perhaps it was because only the previous week there had been a mass shooting in Las Vegas, the biggest one in US history.  I have gotten used to seeing horrible acts of violence from terrorist attacks or sniper shooters spread across the television screen in recent years. There have been dangerous hurricanes and pictures of suffering people almost every week on the news only in the last several months. It is numbing to the senses to see such carnage and violence repeatedly.  Our emotional well-beings are not meant to handle and process that kind of information on a regular basis.

There is a lot that is ugly and vile in the world in which we live. We were made to behold or meditate on what is true, noble, or lovely.  Philippians 4:8

Life is not measured by the number of breaths we take but by the moments that take away our breath -George Carlin. This wedding was one of those moments for me. It gave me a chance to meditate on something beautiful and refreshing to my heart and soul.

Seeing two young people in love with wonderment in their eyes and enthusiasm for their lives ahead gives me hope. There are good people who follow Christ in this world.  God has called them to a mission to make their world a better place and to share His love with all they meet. I pray for their courage to face this world and to continue to be a beacon of light in the darkness.

 

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