Monday, December 27, 2010

Expecting Cardinals

I'm glad it's over. There I said it. This is the first Christmas I have ever NOT celebrated (at least a smidge). Every year, the older I get, the longer my walk with the LORD, the less interested in Christmas I become. This year was IT on the scale of absolute disinterest. You're appalled, aren't you? I sound like a pagan, huh?

But, Christ's birth shouldn't be relegated to a day in December and to me, it isn't. I try to read through the Gospels continuously in my daily Bible study. I still keep my Bible marked with my hand-braided bookmarks in five places. Rod still wakes me up before dawn with coffee and a kiss and encourages me to "get some Word in you". And I do, every day. I want to. I get to. I'm glad to.

The green and red glitz in the stores makes me sick. The worldly push to make Christmas all about Santa and gifts is such a major turn off. So, this year...I turned my heart...altogether. I went on a Christmas strike deep down inside. Oh, I showed up at all the expected events. My body was there, but the door to my heart was shut tight against the Christmas creepiness. Are you thinking that in saying "no" to all the yucky excess I ignored the birth of my LORD? Not a chance.

Right now, I need Him more than I ever have before. I'm weak and weary and heavy laden and He knows it. And He is the only One who can really understand and He is also the only One Who can carry me through it.

I know, I pulled the post about the new dog. It was also about Rachel getting her driver's license. I used her first and last name. It wasn't wise. A couple days after I posted it the LORD woke me up at 5:56 am and said, "Pull the post". So, I pulled it at 6:03. He has His reasons. Who am I to argue?

I know you all are praying. I am still fighting my way out of this funk...even though "it's over" (Christmas). But, there are more things brewing and I'm just not sure what He has in mind for us. Two weeks left of unemployment and not a job on the horizon. But, I have no real reason to worry.
My King is on His throne.

David said, "I have been young, and now am old; yet I have not seen the righteous forsaken, nor his descendants begging bread." Psalm 37:25

Yet, I must admit, I have been expecting cardinals when the ravens have delivered the goods. My continuous prayer has been, "Please Lord, give Rod a job." It's become a mantra. That's a bad thing. It feels like it's falling on deaf ears. I begin to feel that nauseating panic rise in my throat and I pray that silly prayer again. He's not deaf. He heard me the first million times. I become annoying. I begin telling the LORD of the Universe just HOW to answer my prayer. I am an"Idiotic control freak"! Now that's something true that could go on my headstone. So, I switch tactics..."Okay, Lord, not my will, but Thy will be done. Just please do SOMETHING!"

Am I immediately grateful that all the bills have been paid? No. Because I want cardinals to bring the provision we need and not the ravens He has sent. I feel guilty that the ravens that He sent to us to pay our bills, buy our groceries and provide Christmas gifts for our kids are not MY preferred method of provision. Does that make sense? God has completely provided everything we need AND MORE. My kids had the "BEST CHRISTMAS EVER!!!" That was according to Gracie who opened gift number 17 delivered by one of those precious ravens who was so concerned that our unemployed state was going to "deprive" my kids of a "decent" Christmas.

I was looking forward to a sweet, quiet, LEAN Christmas (don't ask me probably has a lot to do with my Christmas strike.) God turned that plan of mine inside out and our kids had a hearty, abundant Christmas instead. On December 14th my mom came over and asked, "When are you putting up your tree?" I responded, "What tree?" She gave me the MOM LOOK and said, "You can't do that to the kids. You're going to have to put that tree up for them." I grumbled and did it a few days later.

Praise Jesus! Do you know what God did for us financially over the last month and half? He provided so much money that we were able to pay our bills AGAIN and even gave us enough to go out on a coffee date (at long LAST)! Plus, He arranged to have our entire mortgage note cancelled altogether! People all over the country are losing their homes because the banks are foreclosing and we had our debt completely cancelled! But, the person (yes, not a bank but an individual we know and love) who held the note on our home really NEEDS the money. Yet, she asked us to turn to Deuteronomy 15:1 and read it out loud.

"At the end of every seven years you shall grant a release of debts."

She handed my husband a pair of scissors and the promissory note and told him to cut it up. She said, "It's been seven years since you all signed that note. Today, it's over. You're debt is cancelled." Praise Jesus! She is one of His ravens.

There have been other ravens in the last couple of weeks. These ravens need the food themselves (in my opinion) but the LORD knows best. I found myself telling Him exactly how to take care of us until I heard Him tell me one recent early morning, "Please stop telling Me HOW to take care of you. I'm taking care of you, right?"

So, I started thinking about the ravens. They are fine flying in flocks. And He has been providing a lot at once. This requires more than one raven at a time. Cardinals are territorial and not really flock oriented. They stick out like a sore thumb, too. The ravens are less obvious and they blend in with the landscape. Kind of like a diamond in the rough. And if you ask my mother, those "crazy cardinals are in love with themselves". She has a male cardinal who constantly moons over himself in the side-mirror on her SUV and leaves his droppings down the side of it, too. She's not too thrilled with the cardinals. And I am really thrilled with my ravens, now that I think about it. How would we ever have made it without them? Heavenly servants is what they are. Unsung heroes who don't wear red and parade about. Humble and obedient. Yes. I think I'll stop expecting cardinals and keep on rejoicing over the ravens He has sent.

Do you know what I'm talking about? I'm certain you do. But, in case you don''s one of my favorite stories about God's loving provision for His children.

And Elijah the Tishbite, of the inhabitants of Gilead, said to Ahab, "As the LORD GOD of Israel lives, before whom I stand, there shall not be dew nor rain these years except at my word."

Then the word of the LORD came to him, saying "Get away from here and turn eastward, and hide by the Brook Cherith, which flows into the Jordan.

"And it will be that you shall drink from the brook, and I have commanded the ravens to feed you there."

So he went and did according to the word of the LORD, for he went and stayed by the Brook Cherith, which flows into the Jordan.

The ravens brought him bread and meat in the morning, and bread and meat in the evening; and he drank from the brook.

And it happened after a while that the brook dried up, because there had been no rain the land.

Then the word of the LORD came to him, saying, "Arise, go to Zarephath, which belongs to Sidon, and dwell there. See, I have commanded a widow there to provide for you.":
1 Kings 17:1-9 NKJV

The season for free-running drinking water and food provided by ravens did finally pass. But, don't you know that every morning and every evening Elijah looked expectantly upward for the Lord's generous and faithful provision of meat and bread.

Oh dear, I just realized He might send me to a widow next. (Smile.) Just kidding. Right? Hello?

Dear LORD, thank You that You are a merciful and understanding and faithful God. I pray that You would forgive your foolish and grumbling servant for expecting cardinals when You have sent us ravens. Please know that we are eternally grateful for ALL of Your many blessings. Know that we have "tasted and seen" that YOU are good. Thank You for whatever You are going to do for us next. We KNOW that You have it all planned it ravens, widows, jobs, healing, dogs, baby dolls or candy canes. You are the God who sees and hears. You know our needs both materially and more...spiritually. Keep us close, LORD, as we continue to work out our salvation with fear and trembling. Hold our hands as we cling to You for protection and kindness. You are our refuge and strength, an ever-present help in trouble.
We love you and are eternally grateful for all You have done and we trust You for the rest. We are yours, Dear One. In Jesus' precious name we have the extreme privilege to pray. Amen.

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

He says, "You are Mine"

"But now, thus says the LORD who created you, O Jacob, And He who formed you, O Israel; "Fear not, for I have redeemed you; I have called you by your name;
You are Mine."
Isaiah 43:1

Yesterday was a hard day. When we woke up it was all gray clouds, chilly winds, and the impending rain. It was the first day without Mom here to run the show. She went home on Sunday after church. I bawled my forty-two year old eyes out and blubbered that God would take away the spirit of anguish and despair that was lingering around my house. God in all His mercy, answered my Sunday afternoon prayer and the evening was peaceful. But Monday morning brought the promise of a lingering rain and dark skies.

Rod got everyone fed, dressed and off to school on time. He came home to my "honey-do" list designed to keep him on track. Start the laundry, dump the dishwasher, clean the bathroom, go to the grocery store (in this rain?). Those are my regular Monday jobs. I sat in my bed and did my Bible study while he hummed around here like a Spring bee.

I hate this feeling of uselessness that I am having while recovering. My doctor said, no cooking, no laundry (except folding light items), no lifting, pushing, or pulling anything over 8 lbs for FOUR WEEKS!
When she mentioned no cooking for four weeks at my pre-op appointment I began to cry immediately. She looked at my husband in wonderment. I eeked out between tears, "But, cooking is my love-language." She laughed and said, "I think you better check that list again. Cooking isn't on there. You cannot cook for four weeks. I don't want you standing in the kitchen long enough to prepare a meal. You're supposed to be RESTING."

So, I'm resting and resting and resting. And everyone else is doing and doing and doing. Rod told the doc that he was going to staple-gun me by my pajamas to the bed. That was supposed to be funny. But, it's been three weeks and I am restless. Still, I am also really, really TIRED. I am amazed how tired any activity makes me. Church service on Sunday morning absolutely wore me out. And I didn't do anything but show up and worship and hear the Word.

I cannot remember how things fell apart yesterday afternoon, but by 2:00 Rod and I were yelling at each other. I was so mad at him I thought of thirty ways he could be drawn and quartered. He said he just wanted to leave and I kept thinking..."Go ahead and go, then!" In the heat of the moment, in the car, in the driving rain, when your whole life has been turned upside down and Satan is breathing down your neck you just don't think straight.

We both forgot the REAL pressure we've been under: unemployment for six months, dealing with an invalid dementia-riddled parent and his pending PERMANENT move into our home, a child with a broken arm and pins that will have to be removed in the office WITHOUT anesthesia, a teenager with grade problems and all the other social creepiness that comes with that age, plus the year of permitted driving is at an end and she is pressuring me to get her actual driver's license (oh dear LORD, I am so NOT READY for that), all the additional chores, physical healing and fatigue, not to mention a total lack of much needed marital date nights for a month straight.

The first two weeks of my recovery my husband was afraid to HUG me because he thought he would hurt me. He's been sleeping on the absolute edge of our mattress for fear that I would need to be rushed to the hospital. Do you think that all of these things are the possible cause for a raucous screaming fight in the car yesterday? (Did I mention that Saturday was our eleven year anniversary and we argued pretty much throughout the whole dinner about the logistics of moving forward with renovating the basement so that Rod's dad could move in?)

Yesterday, I made him take me home. We were halfway to the store. He did, too. He turned that car right around and took me home (gladly, I'm sure). I got in the driver's side and told him I'd pick up Gracie and he could pick up Rachel and take HER to do the grocery shopping. And that's what we did. At one point we were driving side-by-side on the highway, Gracie was waving at her dad with her good arm and I just glared angrily at the wet road in front of me. "There's Daddy, there's Daddy! He sees me, he sees me! Look Mama!" I was growling and didn't want to look at him (anymore!). Idiot. I am an idiot.

Rachel made a good dinner. Rod got Gracie ready for bed, read her Bible story and prayed with her. He came out and reluctantly (in my opinion) asked me to forgive him. I grunted an okay but didn't see the need to ask him to forgive me. He finally went to bed himself. I heard the Holy Spirit whisper, "Don't let the sun go down on your anger." I thought of Sunny Williams. She fought with her brother Nathan one day and they stayed mad at each other until bedtime. Sunny said the Lord spoke those words to her that night and she went and made things right. But Rod was already asleep.

Rachel came out with a pad of paper and a pen. She said she had a homework assignment for Biblical Womanhood. She was to make up 20 questions to ask her mother about love. (Uh-oh.) Mrs. Teague said to tell the moms to give real answers in her opinion and not "Sunday School" answers. (Yish.) So Rachel began asking me questions.

How many boyfriends have you had? (More than I can count.)

What is your definition of love? (Love is a decision, a commitment...not really a feeling. It is an act that you do, not the way you feel.)
She looked so disappointed.

When did you first experience real love? When I thought about her question, my heart went right to a moment in time that I knew God had brought me to. I tried to think of something more suitable to tell her, but I had to tell her the truth. (When I tried to break up with Rod in front of Cinnabon, before we were married. My throat closed and I couldn't speak. It was like God took away my ability to talk because He had a plan for me and I was going to mess it up. That was the first time I experienced real love. I made a commitment to move forward with someone I was ready to run from.) I could see the hurt in her eye. She was already three years old by then.

"Rachel, when you were born, I wasn't saved. I didn't know the love of God then. I was consumed with myself and I loved you when I first laid eyes on you, but I was more terrified of you than the love I felt. I didn't want to ruin your life. God taught me to be brave and to love you. But, Rod brought God to me and he was my necessary link to love." The memory began to soften my angry heart towards my slumbering husband.

She seemed to accept it and she moved on to the next question.
What is your love language? (Acts of service and quality time.)
"Acts of service, really? Really, Mom? So, how can you be mad at Rod?"

It was a smacker of a question. I grumbled quietly and said,
"Next question , please."

Who do you think of when I say Eros love? Rod, right? (Yeah.)

And Phileo love? (Liz.)

And Agape love? (Jesus.)
"Come on, Sunday School answers. Seriously. That's totally a Sunday School answer." (Okay, my Mom. She reminds me of Agape love because she acts like Jesus. She takes off her robe and washes everybody's smelly feet when they don't deserve it. Really, Rachel, Jesus is the only One who is actually CAPABLE of Agape love and Sunday School answer or not, that is the truth. I don't think there is a human being alive or ever has been who is capable of genuine Agape love. It's something we strive for and hope to accomplish but we have too much flesh in the way to really do it.)

She asked me a few more questions that I can't really remember. I answered them still thinking about Rod's acts of service for conscience bothering me. And finally she got to the end.

Last question: What is your favorite verse in the Bible about love? I reached over and pulled my Bible into my lap. I thought of all the scriptures that could be the right answer, John 3:16, and God is love, and even John 14:6. Before I opened the cover I knew what the right answer is for me. I know my scripture of love. I know THE VERSE that when I open my very marked up Bible it is there outlined in several colors of crayon and His words leap off the page at me. I gave her the reference: (Isaiah 43:1.)

She didn't wait for me to tell her what the verse says. She thanked me and left with her notebook. I thought of those beautiful words that tear my heart out every time I see them. You are MINE. Why? Why does He want us? Why does He want me? I didn't open my Bible and look at them because with all that filth in my heart I couldn't at that moment. I'm gonna tell you the truth now, I dare to believe that scripture verse is true for me.

I took a hot shower and got out with a half-grumbly heart. I wanted to wear my favorite pj's to bed and I just "knew" that Rod didn't finish the laundry and they were downstairs in the dryer in the dark and cold basement. He slept soundly as I put on my glasses and opened my pj drawer. There, right on top were my favorite jammies folded up waiting for an ungrateful wife to put them on.

Acts of service.

I don't think there has ever been a time in our thirteen years together that he has put my clothes away in the drawers. I was dumbfounded. I put on my pajamas and climbed in next to him. "You put my clothes away." He mumbled and rolled over, one eye open and a little disoriented. "Do what?" he asked. "Rod, you put my clothes away? You folded all the laundry and put it away in the drawers?" "Well, yeah, Jenn. Why are you waking me up over this?" I threw my arms around my warm and wonderful husband (completely ashamed of myself) and said, "Thank you. Will you please forgive me?" He said he thought we "already settled all that". And he rolled over and went back to sleep. I realized at that moment that there is a very important element to real love that I left out. I had to tell Rachel, "Real love is not just a decision and a commitment. Real love is humility."

I pulled my Bible off the night stand and dared to read the verse again. I thought about how someone said to me a long time ago that those scriptures in the Old Testament are not for us. They were for Israel, God's chosen nation and we've got no right to claim them as our own. And then the LORD in all His goodness let Rod and I experience adoption. Our love for Gracie is as deep and wide and thorough as our love for Rachel. There is no difference at all in the love we have for our daughters. Adoption. God's word says,

"For you are all sons of God through faith in Christ Jesus. For as many of you were baptized into Christ have put on Christ. There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free, there is neither male nor female; for you are all one in Christ Jesus. And if you are Christ's, then you are Abraham's seed, and heirs according to the promise." (Galatians 3:26-29)

"But when the fullness of time had come, God sent forth His Son, born of a woman, born under the law, to redeem those who were under the law, that we might receive the adoption as sons. And because you are sons, God has sent forth the Spirit into your hearts, crying out, "Abba, Father!" (Galatians 4:4-6)

I've been reading my Dad's New Living Translation through.
And it was the Book on my nightstand.
I dared to believe those lovely verses in Isaiah again.

"But now, O Israel, the LORD who created you says: "Do not be afraid, for I have ransomed you. I have called you by name; you are Mine.

When you go through deep waters and great trouble, I will be with you. When you go through rivers of difficulty, you will not drown! When you walk through the fire of oppression, you will not be burned up; the flames will not consume you.

For I am the LORD, your God, the Holy One of Israel, your Savior.
I gave Egypt, Ethiopia, and Seba as a ransom for your freedom.

Others died that you might live. I traded their lives for yours because you are precious to Me. You are honored, and I love you.

Do not be afraid, for I am with you. I will gather you and your children from east and west and from north and south. I will bring My sons and daughters back to Israel from the distant corners of the earth.

All who claim Me as their God will come, for I have made them for my glory. It was I who created them."
(Isaiah 43:1-7)

What a promise to a wretched girl like me!
What a wonderful God we have!
What a glorious Savior is mine!
Praise JESUS!

Art credits: Both the double rainbow photo and photo of my daughters by my daughter, Rachel Karrer. The painting of the man and woman is by Morgan Wiestling.

Saturday, November 6, 2010

On The Mend...

In a green house behind an old fort-style fence on a busy street in the "hood" is where seven souls now dwell. Six of them are of the female persuasion. Two of those are canines. The other four consist of a wounded five-year old, a stoic sixteen year old, a mending forty-two year old and a very tired sixty-three year old. The other soul is a lone male, he is forty-seven, hairy and tattooed. He dwells quietly among all those females and has found food and the LORD to be his great comforts. This isn't new, really. I had noticed that he'd lost some weight around the middle these last couple of months. But, after two weeks of sitting in his recliner a lot he is getting to be that old Irish saying: fatagin. I have to smile. I think he's cute fatagin.

Yes, thanks for praying...I made it through my surgeries with such blessings! All those fears I posted about, our Great and Glorious God reduced to nothing. Zero. The IV was not painful. I knocked out before they even rolled me out of pre-op. The prettiest nurse looked into my eyes as I cried out and reached a last minute panicky hand to my departing husband and teenager. "Don't cry now, Jennifer, in just a few minutes you will be waking up and this will all be over." As she said that she pointed over her head to the right, towards my IV, where another nurse stood by. That was the last thing I remember.

I was honestly hoping for one of those amazing dreams people tell you about. "I saw the LORD, He came right over to me and held my hand and gave me a big hug. He let me peek inside the Pearled Gates and WOW-WEE heaven is just amazing to behold. I can hardly describe the colors...". No. That didn't happen.

I woke up in a room full of all kinds of people. I heard a nurse telling Mr. Jones to sit up. I think he wasn't being all that compliant because she got a little louder and said it a couple more times. My nurse started peeling things off of me and smiled sweetly in my face and said, "We're gonna take a little trip down the hall here, okay?" I was really hoping she wasn't going to ask me to get up, because I couldn't even move at that moment.

The hospital stay ended the next day, Wednesday, at 12:30 pm. All in all it was a good experience. I got to pray with my doctor before she did my surgery. She came to see me bright and early the next morning. When my nurse heard my concern about some random male caretaker coming in, she promptly posted a handwritten sign on my door that said FEMALE CARETAKERS ONLY! And it was heeded. I didn't get addicted to the morphine dripping through my uncomfortable but not painful IV. I didn't get sick from the perCOset they sent me home with. (How do drug addicts ever go to the bathroom is what I want to know. The constipation following the pain killers was the MOST DIFFICULT part of this process so far. Is that too much info? Sorry. We are fearfully and wonderfully made. I can't make myself stop marveling at that.)

My bit with the painkillers ended on Saturday. That was day four from surgery. But Friday was the hardest day I experienced. It wasn't a physically painful day. It was the series of horrific phone calls. The first one was at four o'clock in the afternoon. My mom (the very tired sixty-three year old I mentioned) called to ask me to get Rod to come out to Black Mountain right away because she was certain that Gracie (my five year old) had just broken her arm at the park.

My best friend Liz and I have a mantra when we are at any playground with our kids: UP THE STAIRS, DOWN THE SLIDE! They are two, four and five. Do you think they listen to us? We wish they would. But, they don't. What kids listen to their parents? Gracie was taken by her dear Grammy to the park after school. Grammy had her back turned to the play structure six or seven feet behind her, looking peacefully out on Lake Tomahawk as Gracie made her way UP the SLIDE and promptly fell over the side snapping her dainty right arm in two jagged pieces just above her elbow. Mom said, "It was just dangling there like a broken doll arm. I knew something was wrong instantly." Gracie just grimaced and held her arm tightly against her chest. No crying. No screaming. "None of the other moms even stopped their conversation," Mom said.

Rod raced Gracie to the ER. My white-headed husband and my mom were mistaken for Gracie's grandparents. The nurse kept telling her she had such a nice Mamaw and Papaw. (I have to tee-hee, as my husband gets this ALL the time. He always has. When Rachel was eight or nine he had taken her to the Mall and one of the vendors mistook him for her Grandaddy.)

A nurse came in, an IV had to be started. He noticed her missing teeth and asked her if the footh fairy had come to see her. Uh-oh. One seemingly innocent question was all it took for The Little Evangelist to get started, broken arm or not. "There's no such thing as the tooth fairy. It's mommy and daddy who gives you the money for your teeth. And Santa Claus is a fake, too." This grown man was sort of taken aback and then asked her, "What school do you go to?" She said, "Asheville Christian Academy. I'm a Christian." Her vein kept rolling and he couldn't get the needle to sink in. She winced and drew in her breath but NEVER pulled back her arm. He was amazed. He told her how brave she was and how he had never seen an adult not withdraw their arm, even as a reflex.

The doctor came in. Dr. Hedrick. Rod said his fingers were as big as Polish sausages. He said that Gracie would have to have surgery to place two pins in her tiny arm to hold the bone back together while it healed. He would be doing the surgery but "not to worry, the LORD is sovereign in the operating room".

The second troubling phone call I received was Rod telling me my girl was going to have to have surgery. I began blubbering immediately. I didn't know then that my girl had told the nurse about Jesus and that the doctor that God brought to my girl was His own son. My dear sister Fran came running over from next door. She sat with me in my bedroom as I cried like a baby because I couldn't leave my bed and go down to the hospital to wait for my tiny Gracie to have an operation.

Fran hugged me and told me about the prophecy conference she and Pastor Billy had just come back from. Instead of allowing me to wallow in worry on my bed, He took my mind to scripture after scripture that Fran shared with me about the absolute sovereignty of our Mighty and Glorious God. He is full of mercy and lovingkindness. His plan is Divine and nothing man can do will stop it. I know my girl's end is the same as mine. I took great, GREAT comfort in my dear friend expounding on the wonders of the LORD. Her excitement became mine and I was ready for whatever the LORD had in mind.

Rod called again. This phone call was easier to take. They were bringing her home. She did fine. They'd be home in an hour. "Really? Tonight?" I couldn't believe it. And so they did. Everyone was weary after a harrowing day and a long, long week. After understanding that my mom was Gracie's grandma and why I wasn't there, Dr. Hedrick even told Rod that he and mom had had a "character building week". It was true.

I forgot to tell about the first ugly hardship of the week. That was Monday.

My mom, Patricia, is a tireless servant of the LORD JESUS CHRIST. She lived a long fifty-six years abused and abusing, working and prideful, fiercely intelligent and angry and filled with a self-loathing that led to a long bout with pill-popping and alcohol. She lived most of her life in all the wealth and finery the WORLD has to offer a burdened soul.

She was horrified with my conversion and in the late Winter of 2002 she marched into Calvary Chapel of Asheville determined to pluck me out of "the cult". But she left that little brick church a different woman than the one who came in. She fled to the bookstore and purchased an NIV Study Bible. She read it in four months...many of those days and nights she spent propped up in bed clutching her Jack Daniels reading God's Word.

Finally she finished The Book. She went to the grocery store and sat in the parking lot and spoke out loud in her car, "Okay, Jesus. I believe You are Who You say You are, but I don't love You. If You want me to love You, You're gonna have to make me." And then He did.

Her husband left her time and again. He demanded that she give up this "Jesus nonsense". She refused. How could she ever comply? Her husband told her he couldn't compete with Him. He divorced her. She got two dogs. She poured herself into caring for these dogs. She walked them day and night, snow and rain. She brushed their fur and their teeth everyday. Really. She spent thousands of dollars of my inheritance on the upkeep and medical needs of these dogs. She called them her "babies". I grew jealous and decided I did not like her "babies", my "siblings" she said.

Six months ago Harry was diagnosed with congestive heart-failure. He had only a few months to live. My mom was heartbroken about her "little boy". She did everything she could. More vet visits, more meds, called her boss and said, "take me off the schedule, Harry needs me". He nearly died several times over the past months, but wouldn't you know that the day before my surgery was the day the dog finally found his peace. My mom was beside herself with grief. I really understood. I pushed the jealousy over a dog aside and cried along with my poor mom. She lost one of her very best friends. Her baby.

And by Friday, she had taken my kid to the park to get her out of the house and her mind off of me in the bed and she breaks her arm and my poor mom has to endure the death of her dog, her daughter's and her granddaughter's surgeries. And then she moved in with us to care for us. And care for us she has.

She's cooking and cleaning and wiping and washing. She still walking her other dog, Tillie, and brushing her teeth, too...every day. She even gave my junkyard dog, Rosie, a bath..."but I draw the line at brushing her teeth". God is here with us and He was kind enough to bring along some ministering angels to care for each of us.

We're on the mend...all of us. And in Good Hands, too.
Thanks again for praying. Would ya keep it up?
Love, Jenn

Sunday, October 24, 2010

My Only Hope

It's go time for me. Before dawn on Tuesday morning, Rod and I will head over to the hospital and by sunrise I should be under the prescriptive spell of some kind of narcotic dripping into my veins.

If I had only a question mark hanging over my head as to whether or not I will "make it" out of surgery, I would probably be a nervous wreck right now. But, I have Hope. The Only Hope that anyone needs. My Hope is found in the faith I have that Jesus Christ, God's only Son, was sent from Heaven to enter into flesh and live and die and rise again as the Son of Man. He taught us how to live and how to love. He taught us how to get Home. He promised there was a Home to go to, once this life is over. He carved the path Home for anyone who will believe. Anyone: you, me, any one who will, may come. He proved His sovereignty over sin, hell, death and the grave when, after He allowed Himself to be crucified on a cross for crimes He did not commit, He rose from the grave three days later...just as He promised He would. His resurrection is my Hope.

The blood of Jesus Christ cleanses me from all sin. I did something really profound and yet simple. I realized I am a sinner. I no longer wanted to bear the guilt of my life choices. I had so many things to be guilty over: abortions (2), adultery, lying, stealing, coveting, dishonoring God and my parents, and all these things weighed on me heavily for thirty-four years. I searched for God in all the wrong places. I got so close but was still so far away.

One afternoon I heard the man I had been married to for three years tell my eight year old daughter, his stepdaughter, she was a sinner and needed a Savior. He told that little girl that Jesus is the Only One Who could be anyone's Savior because He did not have His own sin to pay for. He came, sinless. He lived, sinless. He died, sinless, until He Who knew no sin, BECAME sin for us who would believe in Him. I heard my husband, an alcoholic and an addict at that time, tell my little girl the Good News of a risen Savior Who makes His people whole. God the Father through the death, burial and resurrection of His ONLY begotten Son, offers forgiveness of sins for any who believe on His name.

The Amplified Bible defines "believe" as TRUST IN, CLING TO, and RELY UPON.

That afternoon my little girl waved her stepdaddy off. But, I sank to my knees in total recognition that I needed Jesus. I wanted Jesus. I wanted to stop running from Him and run to Him. Jesus said, "I am the way, the truth and the life and no one comes to the Father except through Me." John 14:6

Let's talk eternal life for a minute. Yesterday my (now) sixteen year old daughter begged me to take her to the mall. I had a small hissy fit in the car and finally agreed, knowing this would be our last outing together for awhile. As we wandered through the mall I FELT the absolute spiritual vacuum that is there: the celebration of the world. What a tragedy. What a hoax. What a lie. Like a stage prop, the whole mall is set on display, wooing a lost and dying world into thinking there is anything offered there that will make that aching void go away. There was only one place where Hope was offered at the mall. It is located in Barnes and Noble on the second floor, nestled victoriously between books on Buddhism and Islam. The Holy Bible, God's Word, is the Only Hope the mall has to offer. It is the only proffering they sell that will lead a soul to satisfaction. I wonder if anyone found it yesterday.

So, what about that eternal life? What does the Bible really tell us about it? John the Baptizer, Jesus' cousin, said, "He has come from above and is greater than anyone else. I am of the earth, and my understanding is limited to the things of earth, but He has come from Heaven. He tells what He has seen and heard, but how few believe what He tells them! Those who believe Him discover that God is true. For He is sent by God. He speaks God's words, for God's Spirit is upon Him without measure or limit. The Father loves His Son, and He has given Him authority over everything. And all who believe in God's Son have eternal life. Those who don't obey the Son will never experience eternal life, but the wrath of God remains upon them." John 3:31-36 NLT

Jesus said, "I assure you, those who listen to my message and believe in God who sent Me have eternal life. They will never be condemned for their sins, but they have already passed from death into life." John 5:24 NLT

And He said this too, "But you shouldn't be so concerned about perishable things like food. Spend your energy seeking the eternal life that I, the Son of Man, can give you. For God the Father has sent me for that very purpose."

They replied, "What does God want us to do?"

Jesus told them, "This is what God wants you to do: Believe in the One He has sent."
John 6:27-29 NLT

And He goes on, "And this is the will of God, that I should not lose even one of all those He has given Me, but that I should raise them to eternal life at the last day. For it is my Father's will that all who see His Son and believe in Him should have eternal life--that I should raise them at the last day." John 6:39-40 NLT

I'm feeling a theme here, are you?

Jesus said, "I assure you, anyone who believes in Me already has eternal life." John 6:47 NLT

A warning from Jesus, "Then He said to them, "You are from below; I am from above. You are of this world; I am not. That is why I said that you will die in your sins; for unless you believe that I am who I say I am, you will die in your sins." John 8:23-24 NLT)

Jesus' friend, Martha, was grieving. I suspect she and her sister Mary were a little angry with the Lord, too. After all, He was given the heads up that their brother Lazarus was deathly ill. Jesus didn't show up until after Lazarus was dead four days. Both sisters, independently of each other, said to Him, "If you would have been here, Lazarus would not have died."

Jesus' answer, "I am the resurrection and the life. Those who believe in Me, even though they die like everyone else, will live again. They are given eternal life for believing in Me and will never perish." John 11:25-26a NLT

He asks Martha the most important question God can ever ask, "Do you believe this, Martha?" v.26b

Well, do you? It is the single most important question God asks living souls.

At the end of His earthly life, Jesus prayed for me. He did. He prayed for you, too. Did you know that?

"When Jesus had finished saying all these things, He looked up to Heaven and said, "Father, the time has come. Glorify Your Son so He can give glory back to You. For You have given Him authority over everyone in all the earth. He gives eternal life to each one You have given him. And this is the way to have eternal life -- to know You, the only true God, and Jesus Christ, the One You sent to earth."
John 17:1-3 NLT

After His resurrection, Jesus talked about me again. Me! (and you!)

Then He said to Thomas, "Put your finger here and see my hands. Put your hand into the wound in my side. Don't be faithless any longer. Believe!"

"My Lord and my God!", Thomas exclaimed.

Then Jesus told him, "You believe because you have seen Me. Blessed are those who haven't seen Me and believe anyway."
John 20:27-29 NLT

The twentieth chapter in the Gospel of John ends with these words:
"Jesus' disciples saw Him do many other miraculous signs besides the ones recorded in this book. But these are written so that you may believe that Jesus is the Messiah, the Son of God, and that by believing in Him you will have life."

In the midst of the anxiety that should be what I am carrying around leading up to surgery and two weeks of bed rest, two more weeks of no cooking or housekeeping and two more of reduced activity for a very active wife and mother...I carry the peace of God that passes all understanding because I believe Jesus is Who He says He is. According to Him, eternal life is ALREADY mine. I know, no matter what happens on Tuesday, where I am going. Do you?

Sunday, October 10, 2010

Slaying Goliath

David Dragging Goliath's Head
by Giovanni Lanfranco

I can't stop thinking about this painting. Last Saturday morning while Rod was at Men's prayer and Gracie was immersed in Smile of a Child cartoons, I was surfing the net looking at Biblical art. This piece popped up on the screen and immediately a sense of what we are currently going through rang loud and clear to me. Goliath needed slaying. Sometimes our "insurmountable" problems are not.

I mentioned in my last few posts that Rod's dad, Kert, had had a fall and was taken to the hospital. He was then transferred to a nursing home. He liked it there, at first. They were keeping him busy with rehab physical therapy exercises and occupational therapy (making banana pudding) and batting around a balloon with a group of other elderly ones on the mend. Yes, on the mend. They are not there to stay. This was news to Rod until this past Wednesday, when Kert's caretakers at the nursing home informed Rod that Kert will be released in two weeks. His rehabilitation will be complete and he will have to leave. Needless to say, Rod came home stunned.

We were informed by the social worker at the nursing home that we needed to find him a place in an Assisted Living community. The DSS social worker said that Kert's Medicaid was "pending". Friday morning Rod and I made a plan to visit four reputable Assisted Living facilities in our area. Kert was glad to hear that. The place that he liked in the beginning has begun to wear on him. He is in the dementia wing and due to his now intense lucidity "these people are driving me crazy" is his lament.

In the hospital Kert was exhibiting extreme dementia. Once he was released into the care of the nursing home all of that began to subside and he became his old self again. The ER doc thought that he had a seizure and promptly put him on seizure medicine. Perhaps these meds are the reason for the great turn-around. I'm not sure. All I do know is that he "comes and goes" and you don't know when it's going to happen. It must be so difficult to be 80 and subject to perfect strangers who don't know who you REALLY are, twenty-four hours a day. But, Friday, Rod and I went out in search of a good "home" for Kert.

Our first stop was a very beautiful place closest to our home. We got the grand tour from the Head RN as the director was out at Wal-Mart with several of the residents. When we walked in the door the whole place smelled like my Grama's kitchen: bacon and cornbread. I walked through the welcoming, sunny dining room and noticed trays and trays of cornbread muffins sitting on the counter in the stainless steel kitchen. By the time we got there breakfast was long over and lunch was obviously being prepared. The whole place was carpeted, even all of the resident rooms. Each residence that we glanced into looked like it had been decorated to be someone's home. Quilts and afghans covered beds, family pictures and paintings adorned their walls. Music flowed from radios and small TVs glowed. Overall the sense of the place was homey. The residents we saw pushing walkers through the halls looked at us with kind eyes, many responding in kind to my hellos.

After the first fifteen minutes I was utterly sold on the place. We had financial questions the RN could not answer. She turned us over to the finance expert. After a twenty minute meeting with her we realized without Medicaid Kert could never afford the place. And oh yeah, they did not have any beds available either. The Director finally returned from her Wal-Mart outing and greeted us with the same kindness we had already experienced. She agreed with the finance expert: no beds are currently available and without Medicaid it will not be possible. "But keep us in mind".

Rod and I went home for lunch with mixed feelings. We'd spent about two hours there. We were sold on that place but we also had three other places to go look at before the kids got out of school. As we were eating lunch his cell phone rang. The DSS social worker informed Rod that Kert makes "too much money" to qualify for Medicaid. His application was denied. And, Kert doesn't make enough money to pay for any of the Assisted Living facilities on our list...or any other facility in or around our area for that matter. What now?

As human nature has it, and with the devil's help we did what people do when they feel pushed into a corner: we got mad at each other and had a screaming argument. That is so stupid but that's what happened. (That man is not my enemy. And I am not his. What is wrong with us???)

We have an agricultural channel on Sky Angel. (We do not have cable or sattelite. We have Sky Angel, which is a Christian television provider. If you have wireless internet you should look into it. It's wonderful. No smut, no cussing. Nothing offensive. You can walk out of the room while your five year old is watching TV and you know they aren't going to be educated by the world.) Anyway, I was watching a cattle auction on RFD TV (Rural Farm District). Deep down inside I want to farm but this is only a fantasy, I know. Still, a cattle auction caught my attention. While the un-intelligible information was spewing from the professional auctioneer the video that ran above the ticker-tape showed the branding of calves. A cowboy with two long sticks that looked like pool cues was herding the calves one at a time into these two metal bars with an opening in the middle. The guided calf ran and stuck his head between the bars and two other cowboys swiftly closed those bars on the calf's neck. His head was trapped. He couldn't go anywhere. Amidst the excited babbling voice of the auctioneer another cowboy applied the scalding brand to the calf's rump.

I'm telling you this to say, this was the distinct impression I got on Friday. That the LORD was herding us into a specific place to do a very necessary work. I don't think those calves were too jazzed about being herded into a head-trap but there was work that needed doing and in the world of calves, cowboys know best.

God was unfolding His plan to slay this current Goliath we were dealing with. Unfolding reminded me of the anticipation I felt as a little girl each year just before my birthday. My Grama bought me an add-a-pearl necklace from Carroll's Jeweler's on Las Olas in Ft. Lauderdale. One day in mid-July she would come over to our house with a small square of white tissue paper and a sweet smile on her face. "Do you want to see it?" she would unnecessarily ask. I would hold my breath in complete anticipation as I watched her UNFOLD the tissue to reveal the small pinkish opalescent pearl to be added to my necklace. It was a special thing only my "Grandmommie" and me shared. I will never forget those days.

I calmly now, told Rod, "God is unfolding HIs plan." I told him the story about the pearl that I just told you. He thought it was amazing. I prayed that God would cause us to understand what He was doing and forgive us for kicking against the goads. I cried out to Him, "Kert is Your child. What do You want for him, LORD? Where should he go? Where will he be safest? What can he afford? He makes too much for Medicaid and not enough to afford ANYplace! We don't understand what You're doing, but we know YOU ARE DOING SOMETHING. Sharpen our minds to comprehend. Forgive us for our assumption about what we think is best and open our minds to embrace YOUR plan, which is obviously something we haven't thought of. Please make a way for Kert. Give him Your best, LORD. WE love You. We trust You. We want to do what is right for Your son, Kert. Please help us, LORD! In Jesus' name, Amen."

As I was doing the dishes that afternoon I almost FELT the LORD opening my mind. A thought came to me that was radical...and yet, so conventional that it made complete sense. That married with God's direction to Rod at the beginning of his unemployment made it clear what the Lord wanted us to do for Kert: finish our basement and take care of him ourselves. Remember when Rod was praying about his unemployment in April, God told him, "You take care of your father and I will take care of your family." Suddenly, it all made sense.

We began plying Pastor Billy with questions (this man has a HUNGER for building projects; songs have been written about really, they have!). Pastor Billy came over and had a look. He caught the vision and shared with Rod what was possible in our partially finished basement that is already electrified. The decision was made and we are moving forward with the plan to slay this Goliath of a problem.

Yes, it's true...all of it is happening in whirlwind fashion just before my surgery (I'm so sick of talking and thinking about that. I know you're sick of reading about it, so let's just leave it there.) My MOM is concerned that this is going to take too much of toll on me taking care of my family and now my father-in-law. Pastor Billy told Rod one of the greatest things his own parents ever did for their twelve kids was to move BOTH grandmas in to the home and care for them until they departed this earth. It will be another ministry, for sure. But, who better to care for my father-in-law than us? Who knows him better than we do? Who knows better how he likes his bananas and his chicken? Who knows better than I do that he loves apricot pie because that's what his momma used to bake for him in the California desert in the 30's when he was a little boy?

I told Ruth King about our Goliath of a problem and the God-inspired solution after church on Sunday. She said this verse came into her mind immediately, "Now, thanks be to God who always leads us in triumph in Christ, and through us diffuses the fragrance of His knowledge in every place." 2 Corinthians 2:14

Ruth explained that "triumph" there means "a trophy of Christ's victory". David dragging Goliath's head is the celebrated trophy of God's victory.

I want to leave you with this. Perhaps you do not do this, but maybe you still do. I think the swift answer to our prayer came through one element of it. Instead of asking the God of the whole universe to twist things around to make them what I want and expect them to be, I asked Him to change my perspective and give me a heart and mind that will embrace what He has in mind.
Slay your Goliath with that prayer.

God be with you in your conquest.
Love, Jenn

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

Honey Thumbprints

(Oh dear, borrowed pic again. But, my cookies really do look just like these! This photo is pirated from World Market website. To have a gander at the beautiful pictures my professionally-talented sixteen year old does, go to Rachel Karrer Photography on facebook. Then, please send her many emails imploring her to teach her mother how to upload photos. Thank you.)

Okay, hysterectomy surgery is coming up three weeks from today. I went to lunch with Liz yesterday and she surprised me by telling me that it was only three weeks away. I knew it was coming up but I've been busy with many other more pressing things. Yes, blocking it out of my mind is probably what I've been doing.

The doctor's office gave me a packet from the hospital telling me how to prepare for this particular surgery. One of the many things I need to do is STOP taking all vitamins and supplements and any kind of pain or allergy medicine. The only thing I can take is my nightly blood pressure medicine. I have been on these meds since I was 26 years old. It's crazy but my precious doc admonished me..."You have a DISEASE, Jennifer, it doesn't care how old or young you are!" So, there it is. I've been worried about how to stay healthy on the build-up to my surgery date WITHOUT MY VITAMINS!!!

My friend Valerie said, "Just eat them in your food and don't worry about taking the pills." She encouraged me to eat lots of dark leafy greens and other veggies and fruits. I already drink lots of water. Miss Fran encouraged me (she didn't know I took her advice personally, she was actually telling someone else) to stop drinking so much caffeine. And, I knew that the white flour and sugar had to come to a stop. I have to admit I've been sneaking white flour in here and there. SOMEBODY brought a sourdough cheddar and jalapeno loaf to the fellowship lunch after church at Calvary Chapel on Sunday. I really can't resist jalapenos on anything, especially on some kind of cheesy sourdough bread. And yesterday, Liz took me to lunch at Piazza and we ate a delicious piece (okay, two pieces) of their awesome wood-fired pizza. Man, it was yummy. Thank you, Gabriel Dickinson!

But, I have been off white sugar since September 20th. Again. You guys know I "fast sugar" from time to time. Sugar makes me feel like I'm on speed. I can't think, I can't do anything without feeling like I'm jumping out of my skin. My body hates white sugar.

About two years ago the LORD gave me a dream. I was locked in a bathroom with a window that was a tiny bit open. Pretty soon this beautiful Siamese cat squeezed under the window. It purred loudly as I pet its intensely soft fur. The more I pet the cat, the more it purred. All of the sudden the cat turned black and had blazing yellow eyes and it snarled and bit me in the face and began to attack me viciously. When I woke up I heard these words, "The spirit of gluttony rides a horse named Sugar."

I wrote those words down and pondered them for a long time. Sugar is the gateway drug. My pal Rachel Wemple gave me a sticker that said that. My daughter took a picture of it and saved it on my cell phone as a reminder. My family hates it when I'm "on sugar". I'm a whole different person when I'm off of it. All of that being said, I thought it best to begin fasting a full month before the surgery. So far, so good. I keep it all in prayer. I know Who keeps me from temptation.

Mondays Rod and I go out for our coffee dates. This is a three year old tradition. Our marriage has never been better. Since he is unemployed and we have been spending tons of time together I declared as we pulled out of the driveway, "We have nothing left to talk about." He quickly retorted, "How can you ever say that about us? We ALWAYS have something to talk about!" He was right. We did.

Usually we go to Starbucks, not for the atmosphere...only for the strong coffee. I like to get a decaf Americano with room for lots of cream. Rod gets the same and as I have mentioned before...sometimes he gets one of those ugly, cold, tasteless "Old Fashioned Doughnuts" they sell. Yick! I'm never tempted. But, I do pine for something to dunk in my coffee. Yesterday afternoon I knew we were going and I was determined to make some kind of yummy treat that didn't have white flour or white sugar. Here they are, Honey Thumbprint Cookies. These little beauties are ab-fab. I found a recipe for whole wheat thumbprints online and then I tweaked the daylights out of it to produce a cookie that satisfied my sweet-tooth without punching a hole in my desire to eat healthy. I baked a batch up, let them cool and put them in a tin that we took with us to Starbucks. They didn't sell my husband one of those nasty doughnuts last night. Amen.

Before I give you the recipe. I have this on my mind...Wanna pray? If you do, here's a list of things you can pray about for me regarding the surgery: I'm afraid. (God has not given me a spirit of fear, but of power, love and a sound mind. 2 Tim 1:7) I'm afraid of the anesthesia and the pain killers. I'm terribly allergic to anything with COdeine in it. I am pretty sure that includes: perCOset and oxyCOtin and anthying else with CO in the name. My husband and I have ministered to addicts for long enough to hear how these prescription addicts started out normal enough: one surgery. The IV, I'm afraid of the IV. When I gave birth to Rachel, the most painful part was the IV. (I'm being honest here, the IV pain made me sick to my stomach.) And I'm afraid of the demonic spiritual element wandering around in the hospital while I'm sleeping. After I gave birth to Rachel this male nurse or CNA or whatever he was came and lurked around our room and every time he came in I felt the heaviness of the enemy. It was a sick overwhelmingly horrid feeling. Other than those things, I'm good to go. No worries. So, pray that the LORD will just deal with all those nagging fears I have and I thank you right now!

And about those cookies (how can she put ALL these things in one blog post???)'s the recipe I developed. Enjoy!

Jenn's Honey Thumbprint Cookies

use a liquid measuring cup and fill to 1/2 cup with honey, fill up to the 2/3 line with molasses (or just use 2/3 cup honey, I didn't have it, so I used molasses to make up the difference)
1 stick softened butter
1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla
1 1/2 cups whole wheat flour
3/4 cup rolled oats
1 Tablespoon cornstarch
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 Tablespoon orange juice
your favorite jam, I used Polaner All Fruit Raspberry (Would ya please pass the jelly?)

PREHEAT oven to 350
LINE baking sheet with parchment (love parchment, it's a mahvelous invention)

In a LARGE mixing bowl stir together honey/molasses and butter til smooth. Add vanilla and orange juice and stir til smooth again.

In a MEDIUM bowl combine flour, oats, cornstarch and salt.

ADD dry ingredients to wet and stir just til combined. The dough will be tender.

ROLL dough into 1" balls and place about an inch apart on sheet. Poke gently with your finger (I use damp index finger) to make a well for the jam.

ADD tiny amount of jam, just filling to the rim of the well. If you put in too much your jam will spill over during baking and make a mess of your cookies.

Bake for 7-9 minutes. Transfer to racks to cool.

I have to say, the first two batches were little puffy cookies. I like a flatter, more crispy cookie for dunking, so the last batch I flattened a little between my fingers before I placed them on the sheet and made the well marks. I liked these flattened ones better. But, it's up to you.

God bless you and healthy eating.

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Comfort Foods That Really Do!

(Ahem, I borrowed the pix. My photographer daughter has YET to teach me how to upload photos...technologically, I'm challenged. But, not in the kitchen. Amen.)
My mom's Molasses Spice Cookies were just the ticket that filled my young heart with the joy of forgetfulness. For some reason we called these "Joe Froggers". But, when I went through my mom's (majorly huge) collection of snipped and clipped recipes last year I found another recipe for Joe Froggers. That particular recipe didn't appeal to me at all. Mom handed me this recipe and said,
"This is what you're looking for." I don't know where the mix-up in the name happened. But, when I followed her recipe I realized...these beauties were indeed just what I was looking for. Oh, the childhood memories flowed.

Rod's dad had a nasty fall last Thursday. Meals On Wheels called us saying that he was covered with blood from the bridge of his nose to his knees. He wouldn't let them in and he shut the door in their face. Not like Kert at all. So, Rod went right over. After a four day stay in the hospital and many tests and prayers the decision was made that Kert needed to move from his home-alone situation into Assisted Living. My husband (and his sister) are both shocked and emotionally worn out from these last days turn of events. Kert's joyful disposition in his new home has eased a lot of the guilt. I hate to say these cookies could help also, but I have to.

But, there's more, too. We can't live on sweets alone. (Unfortunately.) So, this recipe is my solution to the need for additional comfort. My sixteen year old is my greatest testifier about this soup. Last year I made this chili recipe one morning while she was at school. I waited at the bus-stop for her and the minute she got in the car she said, "You made White Christmas Chili, didn't you? I can smell it on you. Can I have some when we get home or do I have to wait for dinner?"

If you are in need of some other kind of spicy comfort, this is it. I think this is one of my very favorite recipes. I got it out of the Southern Living November 2002
issue. My family is a bunch of cilantro-shy folks. Not me, I love, love, love it. If you like cilantro use it, if you don't...skip it (your loss).

If you're in need of comfort: these foods do the trick!


1 1/2 sticks unsalted butter (PLEASE do not ruin your cookies with anything else)
1 1/2 cups sugar (1/2 cup for rolling cookies in)
1/4 cup molasses (I use Grandma's brand)
1 egg
2 cups sifted all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons baking soda
1 teaspoon cinnamon
3/4 teaspoon ground ginger
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon ground cloves

MELT butter in medium saucepan over low heat, set aside to cool to room temperature.

STIR 1 cup sugar, molasses, and egg into melted, cooled butter.

SIFT together flour, soda and spices.

ADD to butter mixture and mix well.

COVER dough and chill in fridge 45 minutes.

PREHEAT oven to 350.

SHAPE dough into 1" balls and roll in remaining 1/2 cup sugar.

PLACE 2" apart on UNgreased cookie sheet.

BAKE for 8 minutes until cookies are deep golden brown and crackled.

COOL on wire racks and keep yourself from eating every single one of them.



4 boneless/skinless chicken breasts
5 cups water
1 large onion (I use yellow, less tears), chopped and divided
2 Tablespoons butter
2 celery ribs chopped
3 16 oz. cans Great Northern Beans (I actually use two of GNB and one of Chili Beans)
3 4.5 oz cans green diced green chilies
1 cup chicken broth (canned or boxed)
1 teaspoon ground cumin
1 bay leaf
1 teaspoon salt
dash cayenne pepper
1 Tablespoon chopped fresh cilantro

TOPPINGS: sour cream, shredded colby jack, tortilla chips, salsa, MORE CILANTRO!

BOIL chicken and half of onion in five cups of water over medium-hi heat for about 18 minutes. Remove and dice chicken into bite sized pieces. SAVE the BROTH!

MELT butter in skillet, add celery and onion. Saute' til tender.

STIR chicken, celery mixture, 2 of the cans of beans, and next six ingredients into the broth.

COOK at medium-lo for 1 hour, stirring frequently.

PROCESS remaining can of beans in food processor, scrape down sides, until smooth.

STIR bean puree into soup and mix thoroughly.

REMOVE Bay leaf and discard.

THROW in CILANTRO (if you have no pickie-younies in your home), otherwise use it as an optional topping.

SERVE with toppings. I pray God's wondrous blessings on you and yours as you enjoy!

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Being still

Be still and know that I am God...Psalm 46:10a

It is a quiet time for me. I am having a season of firsts. This is the first time in my life that I am alone in the daytime. Both of my girls are (thankfully) attending school. One, a sophomore in high school; the other in Kindergarten.

My life has been all about my children these last seven years. First homeschooling Rachel the year after I recognized the LORD and then bringing sweet Gracie home from the hospital to foster and then adopt. My days have been full to the brim and overflowing these last years. Now, after a whirlwind of bacon, eggs, cinnamon-honeyed toast, vitamins and milk, lunches made, papers signed and a drive to school I return to dirty dishes and a silent dog who no longer greets me when I walk in the door. "She's old," I tell myself, "it's not personal."

My grandmother encouraged me to get a little part time job somewhere. "Call the Mayor's office and get your old job back. They liked you, you were good there. They'll hire you back." Poor Grama. She doesn't understand the way the world works now. I'm old and out of date, technologically speaking. I'm no longer useful to anyone in an office environment where computer skills are necessary. She makes it sound so they'd be getting a good deal. I laugh at that.

My mother tells me to rest. "You've earned it. You've spoiled your family rotten with all that cooking that you've been doing over the years. They've been eating eggs and bacon for breakfast EVERY DAY of the WEEK and a "gourmet" meal every night! They won't know what to do with themselves once you have your surgery and you HAVE to be in the bed to recuperate for two-plus weeks. And I'm warning you, Jennifer, you BETTER STAY IN THAT BED! You'll be sorry if you don't!"

Surgery. There's another reason I need to be still. Yes, I got through "all the emotions" associated with signing that horrible paper acknowledging that after my hysterectomy on October 26th, I will never be able to bear children again. At least I thought I did.

And then a couple of weeks ago I was doing my normal weekday afternoon routine. Picked Gracie up in the lower school building and was waiting outside the upper school building for Rachel to emerge for the ride home. Here comes a woman just a little younger than I am with the coveted treasure snuggled sweetly up against her chest and neck. He was probably about two months old, if that. Such a tender package. I could almost smell him. I could almost feel the incredible softness of his newborn skin and then right there something inside me died all over again. Why, God, does it STILL HURT SOOOO MUCH????

Now, I try to avoid the upper school building. I don't want to see her and him again. But, yesterday there was another one. Her baby was older. He had one one of those sweet long-sleeved button-up rompers where all of his limbs were nestled inside soft stripey cotton. They're everywhere, these little marvels. To me, they're like forbidden chocolate. I want one sooo bad. I can't have one, though.

Enter Satan. He's ruthless, in case you didn't know. He loves to plant wicked seeds to see what will grow. Since they didn't schedule my surgery until the end of October that means I have to endure two more cycles until then. When I saw the first bundle of joy it was the beginning of September. I spent two weeks believing that faint little false-hope that he had planted...maybe I will shock everyone and get pregnant right before my surgery...AT LAST!!! Everyone will laugh with me and I will have the joy of calling my doctor and saying..."nevermind about taking out all these broken parts...turns out we were wrong!" I held onto that hope and dared to believe it until last week when just like clockwork my cycle began. I rejoiced that it was my "next to last one". I cried because I believed the lie, AGAIN.

So, this week I've told myself again all the reasons why I don't want another baby. They aren't any of the reasons you're thinking of, I'm certain. Because I love changing diapers. I love getting up in the wee hours of the night to have a "visit". I love the cuddling and the laundry and the bathing and bottle-washing and formula prep. I love, love, love the absolute routine of caring for a baby. No, all those are reasons other people have for dreading babies.

I dread the raising part. The discipline and the worry. I dread the constant feeling of being completely inadequate to be a good mother. I dread the fear that something horrible will happen to them (because of my neglect somehow). I dread the anguish associated with raising a person who loves the LORD more than themselves and their sin nature. I am smack dab in the middle of these dreads with my other two. And honestly, I see no end in sight. I know my Rachel is a year and half away from walking out our door for good. I should rejoice but I can't. I wish I had done so many things differently for her. But, I was not walking with the LORD for her first eight years and I only gave her a wicked foundation to grow on. I know only God can fix our past. And I do know He is working "all things together for good" somehow.

Okay. Enough uncontrollable weeping. Be still. Be still. Be still.

I may never give birth to another child again. My parts may very well be broken. However, I have confessed my desires to my husband for another baby to hold. Another life to guard. Another chance. And I have confessed it to Him, too. He knows the desires of my heart. And it's funny that I never got to do all those things for the child that I DID give birth to. But, I got to do all those things for the child I DIDN'T give birth to. So, giving birth isn't the real key issue here (even if Satan wants me to believe it is). Maybe one day down the road I will be picking up my precious daughters at school with a new bundle nestled against my neck.

For now, I am being still and I know that He is God.

Saturday, August 28, 2010

Coming Boldly to the Throne of Grace

This painting is by Emile Munier

Miraculous things happen when we pray with believing hearts. Encouragement from God's Word and church are key.

Here's the thing...I have never had peace about homeschooling Gracie. She never did either. We were going to make the most of it because, financially, that's where we were. I didn't want to teach her at home, not because I think I can't do it. That's not it. I know I can. But, just because you CAN do something, doesn't mean you should. It hadn't been going well. And it only got harder when Rachel started back to ACA on Wednesday, August 18th. Gracie continually asks, "Why does Sissy get to go to school and I can't? How come I have to stay home all day with you, Mama?" (Ouch.)

I have explained to her many times that Rachel's is all taken care of. Praise the LORD! Gracie is unwilling to accept this. I agree quietly. It's not fair. Yet, instead of praying to God, I keep whining about it.

I want Gracie to have EVERYTHING the LORD has for her. I never want to stand in the way of what He has for her. SHE BELONGS TO HIM! He brought her to us on her one month birthday. We realize He hand-picked us to care for her and bring her up to know HIM and love HIM with a loyal and willing heart. That part, I can do. That is the reason I believe God chose me to be her mother. I can impart a loyal and grateful love to Grace towards our Heavenly Father. But, teaching her academically...nah. I stink there. You can ask Rachel about that.

The family joke is that I haven't any patience. I tell them, "I don't have any patients, I'm not a doctor." Ha ha. But, it's really not too funny.

Enter the Holy Spirit and He stirs up my tenaciousness. My husband hates my tenacity. He tries to run and hide when he sees it rising up. Here's what happened.

In February, while Gracie was attending preschool at ACA we applied for financial aid to pay for her Kindergarten. She was tested and approved to begin Kindergarten there in August. Our financial aid came through based upon Rod's income in February. The school offered us a nice grant in April. Rod lost his job just around the time we found out about the grant. It was going to be a total stretch now. We did not sign the school commitment letter for Gracie. We waited all summer for things to turn around for us financially. I prayed lazily that God would just help me be patient while He comes through with the next job for Rod.

We had a nice summer hanging around our lovely home. (Thank you, Lord for this wonderful place you've given to us.) The deadline to sign the commitment letter for ACA passed. We decided to homeschool. I was bummed but that was nothing compared to Gracie's reaction. Fast forward to mid-August.

I don't want anyone out there to think I am against homeschooling. I'm not. I know some lovely homeschoolers who are adults now (Sunny Williams, Rachel Osigian). I know it's a wonderful gift that some very dedicated mothers give to their children. But, I believe in our case, my girls are better off with a variety of God-loving teachers who are trained to be teachers and a mama who trains them at home about loving God and family. This is what works best for us. But for the moment we had one shoe on and one shoe off, so to speak.

Pastor Mike began preaching about Boldness. Four Sundays in a row he preaches nearly the same message: Boldness. Living boldly for the glory of God. YES! Not skulking around in the shadows sinning quietly as a habit and then slinking into church on Sundays to repent (again). Boldness is being courageous enough to recognize that you must humble yourself like a little child and keep your eye on the Prize. Boldly reign in your flesh. Boldly share your faith. Now is the time for boldness!

During this time Pastor Glynn Bachelor brings a teaching on the awesome work of the Holy Spirit. He quoted R.A. Torrey, "Many in the church claim for themselves only a small part of what God has made possible for them in Christ because they know so little of what the Holy Spirit can do--and longs to do--for us."

And Pastor Glynn also gave us this quote from Lloyd John Ogilvie, "Sadly, many Christians settle for two-thirds of God. They are what I call 'bi-tarians' rather than Trinitarians. God the Father is way up there somewhere, aloof and apart from their daily lives. Christ is out there somewhere between them and the Father. The Holy Spirit is some kind of vague force or impersonal power, but they do not know Him personally." (Ugh. That kind of made me feel sick.)

After church I go pick up Gracie from my mom's class. Here comes another ACA mom who we also go to church with. She has a daughter Gracie's age. She looks me seriously in the eye and asks, "Where is Gracie?" I knew she meant, why wasn't Gracie in Kindergarten at ACA? I told her we were homeschooling because of Rod's job situation. She shook her head in understanding and as she was I heard the voice of the LORD say to me, "Hezekiah. Hezekiah. Hezekiah." Hhhm. Hezekiah.

While I made lunch I thought about what I know about King Hezekiah. The LORD told Isaiah to tell him he was going to die. He went home and curled up in bed and faced the wall and cried. He plead his case to the LORD. The LORD heard him and sent Isaiah back to tell him he had been given fifteen more years.

I whispered to the LORD, "Am I curling up and taking it instead of pleading my case with you, LORD?" That night Rod and I went to church because Bill Delong was preaching. I love Bill. I can't tell you all the reasons why. He and his wife Edith are some of the most dear people I have ever met. Bill and I share a birthday, so I feel like we have this special connection and also, I just love to hear his wonderful stories.

That night Bill said he heard a Word from the LORD about boldness and he wanted to share it with us. He said that God told him that boldness isn't just about sharing your faith but there are so many unopened blessings in Heaven because God's people just won't ask. He reminded us that we are to "...COME BOLDLY TO THE THRONE OF GRACE, THAT WE MAY OBTAIN MERCY, AND FIND GRACE TO HELP IN TIME OF NEED." Hebrews 4:16

Needless to say that message accompanied by my Hezekiah prompting and Pastor Glynn's sobering quotes weighed on me Sunday night. By Monday morning I was filled with HOLY SPIRIT-led BOLDNESS to state my case before my King.

"It's not fair, LORD. This is YOUR DAUGHTER! You want the very best for her. I want the best for her and we both know she is withering here at home with me. I trust You, LORD that YOU chose the best mother for her in choosing me. I thank You for that extreme privilege, however, I am not the best teacher for her and YOU KNOW IT! Please, LORD, please make a way for this child to go to ACA. I am coming to YOU boldly and boldly asking for mercy and grace for help in time of need. Gracie needs a DIVINE INTERVENTION that only YOU can provide, LORD. You're leading me and I'm following, now please, throw open that door for Jesus' Name I come boldly to You with this request! Amen."

By 8:15am I had an ox-goad pressed into Rod's back as he phoned the headmaster at ACA. Rod asked him to "re-evaluate us financially" so that we could possibly get a larger grant since our finances are different now than they were in February. He said he would call us back. Rachel was sitting in class. Gracie was working on her math workbook I bought for her at Ingles. Rod waited. I waited and then I prayed some more.

In the meantime a relative of mine called out of the blue. He said he wanted to do something for Gracie. I told him what we were trying to do at the current moment. He laughed and said, "I want to contribute monthly to her tuition." I thanked him and told him how nice that was but no, that wouldn't be necessary. He said, "It isn't for YOU, it's for her. Now, just say thank you and tell me your address again." I did and I got all hopped up in faith.

I pictured the LORD down on his knees with his arms outstretched to me saying gently, "Come on, come on, you can do it. That's it. Keep coming. Come on, come on, you can do it. That's a girl, keep trying." His gentle urging reminded me of watching Gracie take her first steps. And it made me smile.

Friends, by 3:00 pm last Monday I was walking around the ACA campus with my arms full of tiny size 5 uniforms. Gracie started Kindergarten the next morning bright and early. I've never seen her happier. I am so filled with gratitude at our fabulous LORD for listening to my plea and answering my prayers (and Gracie's)!

I never want to become an unbelieving Holy-hand-tying "bi-tarian". The first scripture verse I ever taught Gracie was, "With God ALL things are possible, yaaaaayyyy!!" (Of course I added my emphasis to Mark 10:27.) God can do anything He wants to. And He uses his Holy Spirit to lead us into all truth. We must worship Him in Spirit and in Truth. I want to believe Him for anything, and everything. When He answers my prayer my faith in Him grows by leaps and bounds. I hope my daughters see it too and their faith grows as well.

I've said it before and I'll say it again: "Praise Jesus!"

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Dry, Dry, Dry. But, Not Forever!

This painting is by Morgan Wiestling

It's been a very dry season for me. I'm not talking about lack of rain, either. All of my plans have been rearranged by the LORD and I have been struggling through the process.

In early April my plans were all set. Rachel, my oldest, would be turning 16 this summer and heading to tenth grade at her wonderful private Christian school. Gracie, my very active five year old, was already tested for Kindergarten at the same school and was enrolled to begin in the Fall. She had just finished preschool there and absolutely loved it. And I loved the idea of them both going there. It's a great school. Full of teachers and staff who openly love the LORD. These are people who have had struggles in their lives and share with zeal how the Lord brought them through those hard times. It's one way we overcome the enemy: the word of your testimony.

On April 20th everything turned upside down. It was going to be a difficult day anyway. I knew this before I woke up that morning. It was the one year anniversary of my father's suicide. God has blessed me with assurance countless times that my believing father is with Him. I cling, cling, cling to these assurances. I KNOW that my earthly father is with my Heavenly One even at this moment. Still, the date was there. It's hard to forget.

But, one year later, that afternoon my husband came home from work early and announced that he'd been laid off from his first paying ministry job. He's been a custodian and a laborer all of his life until God finally opened the door for him to get PAID to minister. What a blessing! But, now after a year and a half of that, God had closed the door. Yes. God did it. We were well aware.

By mid-July Rod still had not been able to secure work. He had applied for janitorial jobs at the hospitals and schools, yet no interviews, let alone, phone calls came out of this. My dear brother offered him good paying, hard laboring construction demo work out of town. Rod went. He worked. He ministered to hurting people with conversation and prayer. He made enough money to get us through July's stack of bills, except the first payment for Gracie's school.

It was evident that we were going to have to let that go. Like I said to begin with, God was rearranging my plans. I wept, at first. Gracie did, too. "This is God's plan for now, Grace. This is what God has for us. We have to be flexible in His hands." She admitted she would keep praying. She did not want to be homeschooled. I did not want to do it, either. Even if it is only Kindergarten.

Okay. After four months of my husband being unemployed I got mad at God. I withdrew and felt the ground around my heart get real hard like a dirt road in a dry summer. I kept going through the motions: morning devotions, Bible study (I can't get out of this because Rod wakes me up every morning at 6:30 with a steaming cup of coffee at my bedside and gently demands that I get up and study my Bible). I kept up with prayer. Inside I was ticked off, really, because I got to that hard place of: "Why pray? He isn't listening, anyway?" I felt myself getting madder. I knew I had a choice to make. I knew I was making the wrong one. With my mouth I praised the LORD but my heart was far from Him. You don't fool God and you only hurt yourself with this behavior. Still, I felt very much like a spoiled child. My spiritual arms were crossed angrily across my heart and my face was scrunched up with displeasure.

One night I could not sleep. I was so dry. I was so tight with emptiness. Without Him I am nothing. Without Him I cannot function. If I am not for Him, then I am against Him. I got to a quiet place where I just fell to my knees and admitted my anger at Him. I let it all out. It had been quite a stretch of time for me. I try to make this a regular practice: casting all my cares upon Him because He cares for me. But, I couldn't bear this dry, heavy load anymore and I felt His gentle quiet voice remind me that I was never designed to. I didn't feel much better once I got off my knees, though. I was still dry. Deep inside, I kept thinking, "Now, He'll give me my way." Dangerous. Pride is the biggest sin of all. I was trying to play a game with Him and He doesn't play games. I forgot that, momentarily.

More bad news came. I was sent for tests. I need surgery. Because Rod is unemployed we actually qualify for me to have the tests and the surgery for free. (A Silver Lining to unemployment.) I struggled with the idea of this surgery, too. It means the absolute end to the eight year old hope that someday I will give birth to Rod's son. The end of that hope. The tests also reveal the reason Rod and I have never been able to conceive. Mystery solved. Surgery needed. Life is changing in unexpected ways.

In April, I didn't see this coming. I didn't give all my anxieties to the LORD about these things. I mourned over what I've done to my body in my pre-Christ life, AGAIN. I mourned over never being able to give this precious husband of mine his own son. I heard my enemy whisper, "He got a real clunker when he married you, huh?" I waved him away like an annoying gnat instead of resisting him like I should have. I carried these worries and burdens around on my shoulders and then, finally, I got sick. All the what-if's in the middle of the night. All the regrets over things I can never ever change (that have been washed in the blood of the Lamb, by the way...only I forgot because I ran out into the desert like Hagar, thinking I can handle this on my own.)

I wandered around my house one agonizingly sleepless night just coughing, wheezing and unable to breathe freely. I began muttering, "Dry, dry, dry. Oh, God, I'm so dry. Dry, LORD, I'm dry. I'm just so dry and I can't get any relief. Where are you? Why are you so silent? I'm dying of thirst here. I can't breathe. I can't catch a single breath, LORD. It's so dry." And then, in the dark I remembered Ezekiel 37. I flipped on the lamp and opened my Bible.

"The hand of the LORD came upon me and brought me out in the Spirit of the LORD, and set me down in the midst of the valley; and it was full of bones.

Then He caused me to pass by them all around, and behold, there were very many in the open valley and indeed they were very dry.

And He said to me, "Son of man, can these bones live?" So, I answered, "O LORD GOD, You know."

Again He said to me, "Prophesy to these bones, and say to them, 'O dry bones, hear the word of the LORD!

Thus says the LORD GOD to these bones: "Surely I will cause breath to enter into you, and you shall live.

I will put sinews on you and bring flesh upon you, cover you with skin and put breath in you; and you shall live. Then you shall know that I am the LORD'."

So, I prophesied as I was commanded; and as I prophesied , there was a noise, and suddenly a rattling; and the bones came together bone to bone.

Indeed, as I looked, the sinews and the flesh came upon them, and the skin covered them over; but there was no breath in them.

Also, He said to me, "Prophesy to the breath, prophesy, son of man, and say to the breath, "Thus says the LORD GOD: 'Come from the four winds, O breath, and breathe on these slain that they may live.'"

So, I prophesied as He commanded me, and breath came into them, and they lived, and stood upon their feet, an exceedingly great army."

And this verse I had marked on the opposite page in my Bible from Ezekiel 36:26-27,
"I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit within you; I will take the heart of stone out of your flesh and give you a heart of flesh. I will put My Spirit within you and cause you to walk in my statutes, and you will keep My judgments and do them."

It was my "word in season". The next morning I was new and revived in my spirit, but my flesh was wheezing, coughing and perishing. Rod sent me back to the doctor. I didn't want to go. A voice kept whispering, "Haven't they seen enough of you?" But, I went back. When I checked in the receptionist dodged my covered cough and instructed me to wear a mask so that others wouldn't be contaminated.

I was thoroughly humiliated at having to wear this mask in a room full of people, but I put in on and casually leafed through a copy of a parenting magazine. Soon enough a sweet young, face in pink scrubs came through the door and called out my name. She took one look at me in my mask of shame and her face was filled with the compassion of Christ. As soon as I stepped through the door she said softly, "Take that off, now."

She took me into the examining room and began asking me all the necessary questions as she gently checked my vitals. I was grateful to the Lord for sending me a tender-hearted girl to nurse me that day. It's a Christian clinic that I go to, so I felt completely at ease as I started to shed my complaints both the worries about my upcoming surgery (couldn't this be a contributor to my current illness?) and then my fears at homeschooling Gracie because we can't afford to send her to her school.

Here is the LORD at work. This girl. This eighteen, maybe nineteen year old girl reveals to me that she is currently enrolled in a fine college and attending nursing school, pursuing her dream, only because of her diligent homeschooling mother. "I would never have been able to get into college and become a nurse without my mother as my teacher. Never."

All the weights dropped off of me, right there at that moment, in that room. She smiled sweetly at me and confessed that she's been really "dry" lately and was just struggling with how to get past it. I laughed between choking and coughing spells as I told her about Ezekiel 37. She asked me twice what the reference was. We talked some more and I thanked her for her kindness. Before she rose to leave she said, "I want you to know that I was praying that God would send me someone tangible, someone with flesh on, to encourage me in my walk. He sent me you. Thank you."

I have been praying for her. Her name is Sarah. The LORD blessed both of us that day. It may be dry at times but it won't last forever. (It just occurred to me, as I typed her name, that when Hagar ran away into the desert, God told her to go back and submit herself to Sarah. Hmmm. Hagar and Sarah were both having the same struggle of unexpected things in life that the LORD had for them.)

I had to go to a dry place of my own choosing. God didn't leave me alone there. (He didn't leave Hagar alone, either. She called Him "the God who sees me.") He waited patiently for me to realize, it's not my will, but His that matters. I must get past my ideas about how my life and the life of my family "should be" and accept what He has for us. It is the only way to maintain a peaceful heart. Jesus did this same struggle in the Garden hours before his Divine Suffering. We all must remember "Humble yourselves under the mighty hand of God and He will lift you up." James 4:10