A Mother’s Christ-like Love

Family at Browns Church

Galatians 6:10

So then, as we have opportunity, let us do good to all men, and especially to those who are of the household of faith.   

Thought for the Day:  Show Christ’s love to others

I am a mother!  I am a mother of two!  I am a mother of two precious boys who have created something in me that is so very special.  But, I have sometimes fallen short of being the mother I should be.  Today, I read a devotional about a caregiver that reminded me of my own mother and how she worked with my two brothers, stricken with Muscular Dystrophy.  And, how I as a sister sometimes fell short in helping my brothers with their needs.

My mother was amazing!  I have written about her before, but she was so amazing she deserves more words of praise. My sweet mama, Mary Jane Henderson, grew up in a small town in West Tennessee to two parents who adored her.  They were an older couple and she was “the apple of their eyes.”  Spoiled a bit, I am sure, but grew up with a kind and gentle spirit.

That spirit, I believe, is why God made her the mama of my brothers.  God knew that she was perfect.  She was the perfect person to take care of two boys who would be handicapped in wheelchairs from the time they turned 7-8 years old.  As I remember the story, I understand that the doctor shared with my parents that the boys would probably need to be placed in a home at some point because it would be impossible for my parents to take care of them.  With that statement, my mama made the promise to take care of my brothers in a way that only Mary Jane could do.  And she did!  For twenty-five years she did just that.  She took care of their needs of feeding them, turning them in their beds at night, lifting them into their wheelchairs to take them to the bathroom, managing to put them in the bathtub for their baths, feeding them when they couldn’t feed themselves, driving them to public school where friends took care of them through the day, taking them to college when each son majored in different areas and met in different buildings, taking notes for them in class when they couldn’t do it themselves, and crying for them when they were hurting.  The biggest thing she did was to make sure life was fulfilling for them including taking them on trips each summer and letting them participate in interests in school.  She was amazing.

I remember doing a lot for my brothers as well, but I know I didn’t do as well as I probably should have.  I did a lot, as a sister would do, but looking back I realize that I did not always do it with the spirit I should have.  I remember feeling at times tired of the “Donna, could you get this for me?” Why was I not like my mother, who was always ready to jump up and help?  I don’t know why, but I do know that I had a perfect example of someone living the Christ-life in my mother.

Now I look at myself and realize that God gave me children with needs just like my brothers, but without the wheelchairs.  I know I have not been that extraordinary mother as my mama was to my brothers and to me.  Where have I fallen short?  I have fallen short in always showing Christ’s love through my actions.  I have fallen short in giving the children what they need when they needed it.  And, I have fallen short in living the life with my children in the way my mother exampled life to me.  Last night, my youngest said, “Mama, you are always so nice and loving to me”.  That was a feel good moment and one that made me feel that maybe I, without knowing it, had become a tiny bit like my mother.  Today, and everyday, I promise (as my mother promised) to be the mother my children need.

Prayer:  Father God, thank you for memories and thank you for placing examples of You in front of us each day. Thank you for loving parents who showed us how to show love to others. God, you see us, you know us, and you love us.  Amen.

Prayer Focus:  Parents of Special Needs Children

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Extravagant Service

John 13:14

Jesus said, “Now that I, your Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet, you also should wash one anothers feet.

Thought for the Day:  Where is God leading me today?

“What do we want to do this summer?” was the question asked in our home yesterday.  My first “want” was to get the house clean, as I have looked forward to school being out where I could dig into cleaning that has been put aside.  The next thing that came up was vacation…where are we going to go on vacation? Then the normal…of course…we will definitely be going to Lake Junaluska Music and the Arts week.  But today, I read the “Upper Room Devotional” for today which made me rethink my wants and dreams for this summer.  All of my “wants” for the summer had to do with ME.  The Upper Room Devotional for today shared the writer’s thoughts about her sister.  Her sister, from the time she became a believer in Jesus Christ, was known for her giving….extravagant giving to everyone she met.

Oh my, did that speak to me.  It seems that in my tiredness from teaching and directing choirs at this time of year, and being a mama to two boys has given me that thought that I’m doing what God has called me to do.   I do believe I am doing what God has called me to do in those areas of my life, however, am I giving extravagantly as the sister in the story? And, just as importantly, am I teaching my two sons to give extravagantly?  My honest answer to that is no…I am not.  I look at my sister in Christ, Christi, who teaches school but finds the time to volunteer during the summer in our church.  I see our MANY volunteers who serve in our Pantry Ministry in our church every Saturday morning serving friends in our community who need a little assistance.

So, what do I do? I take one step forward to begin doing something for others.  So, what do I do?  I listen for God to lead me and I prayerfully make decisions based on God’s words, not mine.

https://www.upperroom.org/devotionals/en-2019-05-26

Prayer:  Almighty Father, thank you for your messages through devotional writings.  Those words, if we listen, can lead us to making decisions You urge us to make.  Amen.

Prayer Focus:  Those thankful for where God has led them.

Thanksgiving Memories

Colossians 2:67

As you therefore have received Christ Jesus the Lord, so walk in Him having been firmly rooted and now being built up in Him and established in your faith, just as you were instructed,and overflowing with gratitude.

Thought for the Day:  What are we thankful for?

There is a special moment, actually a lot of moments, when I remember our family traveling to my grandmother’s house.  I don’t remember any arguments before we got in the car to travel.  I don’t remember the fights in the car, although I am sure there were many.  I do remember the drive, trying to sleep or trying to entertain myself in some way.  Counting mile markers on the interstate, for one.  I remember my daddy  turning onto Brunswick Road because I knew we were almost there?  Then, I remember driving into the driveway.  Sometimes we drove in from the Brunswick Road driveway and other times taking the backroads and driving in the back driveway from Davis Plantation Road.  I always looked at the other cars, and their license plates to see which cousins were already there.  Weakley County meant that Kay, Joy, Ron, and Ann were already there.  Madison County meant that my cousins Amy and Debbie were there.  Crockett meant that Alonda, Alecia, and Reid had already arrived.  Cousins Keith, Joanne, and Vikki were always there because they lived near my grandmother. My cousin, Dan, was already working in Memphis so he would drive up in his MG which all of us thought was pretty cool. Wait, a lot of memories have already been mentioned, but the best Thanksgiving memory has not.

“Mama Ed”, my grandmother would always come to the door to greet us when we entered.  My little 4’ 9” Mama Ed had the most precious hug and we knew we were welcomed.  That was Thanksgiving!  That was Thanksgiving!  Going on in, we were welcomed by the hugs from all of our aunts and uncles.  Sitting with the other children during the meal was precious and I remember having the time of my life.  As we ate, I remember watching my brothers, who were both in wheelchairs, sharing time with the cousins nearer their ages.  There was a normalcy there that was special as they were totally a part of conversations and stories.

So much is gone now as many of my family, young and old, have passed away.  But I have those special memories that flow into my mind around this time of year.  My husband and I have a lot of memories of Thanksgivings  and tear up as we think of those who are no longer with us.  We weep each year as we make decisions on what we are going to do on THIS Thanksiving.  New traditions with our own two sweet boys have begun, but some of the new traditions are that we do something different each year, depending on other’s schedules.   Tomorrow, we will travel 2 ½ hours to the mountains to visit my sweet cousin, Teresa.  We found each other about three years ago and I am excited to meet another part of my family.  My husband is excited as we finally made a decision and that he has already found a love for Teresa and her husband.  Our boys love their “Aunt Teresa” now and look forward to walking into a house full of love.

Thanksgiving is giving thanks for where we are in the present, but remembering the past.  Thanksgiving is giving thanks to God for putting us in the places He moves us, and knowing that it was God’s hand that led us right where we are.  Thanksgiving is finding a way to give thanks even when circumstances are not perfect.  Thanksgiving is giving thanks IN all circumstances.  Happy Thanksgiving.

Prayer:  Our Father in Heaven!  Thank you for memories of Thanksgivings past.  Thank you for new memories we make during Thanksgivings present.  Be with all our family members and friends who are hurting and grieving those who are no longer with us.  Be with those who are sick and need to feel your arms around them.  Be with those who are not happy and help them feel your love.  All this we pray this Thanksgiving, Amen.

In

1 Thessalonians 5:16-22

Rejoice always, pray constantly, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you.  Do not quench the Spirit, do not despise prophesying, but test everything; hold fast what is good, abstain from every form of evil.

Thought for the Day:  Rejoice, Pray, Give Thanks.

Sometimes it is good to listen intently on a good sermon that talks about how we should be with other people and honestly how we should be with ourselves.  Yesterday, although I will not get it right, was one of those sermons.  Throughout my life I have lived an amazing amount of tragedy and grief.  If I looked back at every part, I would be so overwhelmed that I wouldn’t function.  I thank God for giving me enough space between the times of grief that I could find joy and peace.  I thank God that in between the times of sorrow, I had times of pure elation.  I thank God that through my times of sorrow, people were placed in front of me who would get me through the next period of my life.  But I look at friends around me who just can’t seem happy and can’t get past events that placed them in low places.  I feel for them as it seems that they feel that everyone is against them instead of looking at those around them as answers to prayers.

Yesterday’s sermon was based on Paul’s Letter to the Thessalonians:  “Rejoice always, pray constantly, and give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you.”  Hurricanes, floods, and fires have seemed to sweep across the world recently.  There is not a day that goes by that some tragedy isn’t shared in the news.  Most recently, we have read and viewed stories about the devastation of fires in California.  Before that, there was the hurricane that swept across Florida.  And Paul is saying, “Rejoice always, pray constantly, and ‘GIVE THANKS IN ALL CIRCUMSTANCES”? “Really!”  I have always struggled with this but as Pastor Jeremy Lawson preached yesterday, he brought out that tiny preposition in the midst of these words.  The word was “in”, that tiny word, “in”.  That word in changes what we think we are hearing to a more doable instruction from Paul.  “Rejoice always”.  In my life, I have been able to see the little things around me that help me rejoice…those times after a tragedy when it was obvious that God was standing right beside me – standing in a visitation line and feeling God giving me the names and memories of those who came to give their respects.  I rejoice that God was right beside me.  “Pray constantly”.  In my life, I have prayed a lot.  I learned from an early age that praying in all circumstances is what gets me through.  Now, if you ask me if I always remember to pray when things are going on around me, I would honestly have to say “no”.  If you ask me if I feel more at ease when I do remember to pray, that would be a definite “yes”.  But “Give thanks in all circumstances”!  That is a tough one.  When my sweet husband was hurt by a group of people in a most hurtful way, how could I give thanks?  It took years and there is still a bit of hurt when we look back.  How can you give thanks when so much hurt comes?  There it is…that tiny word “in”.  That word is not “for”, it is “in”.  Paul is not asking us to give thanks “for” circumstances.  He is asking us to give thanks “in” all circumstances.  That one is actually easy.  I can be thankful for people who came into my life during the tragic times in my life.  I can be thankful for the words of scripture and devotions that I have read.  I can be thankful that because of so much pain, I began to write.  I can be thankful that because of an unexpected move, I began to take pictures.  I am thankful for all these things and that my family is in “God’s place” because of His plan for us after the pain.  So, yes, “Rejoice always, pray constantly, and give thanks in all circumstances” – thanks Paul.  Those are great instructions for us, even…especially in the times we live in.

Prayer:  Our precious heavenly Father!  What a great day it is when we hear a sermon that gets our minds thinking and our hearts moving.  Thank you that through a sermon, words we think are there in front of us are actually changed to what is actually there.  Help us follow Paul’s instructions to “Rejoice always, pray constantly, and give thanks in all circumstances”. Amen.

Insignificant to Intricate Beauty

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Psalms 119:18

Open my eyes, that I may behold wondrous things out of thy law. 

Thought for the Day:  God’s beauty can be found in the Insignificant

After I awoke this morning and as I drank my coffee, my husband came in and we began talking.  During our talk, he found himself on my facebook page where I had shared many pictures of my walk in our park.  As we talked about each picture, and the beauty that each on showed, he asked me if these were planted flowers or weeds.  I replied that I thought they were weeds as they just appear in places in the park.  As I looked at one particular picture, I stated that the colors in that one picture were glorious.  That little plant, enlarged in the photo to show the details, was just a little, insignificant plant until we looked more closely.  My husband replied, “That could be one of your writings”, and he was right. He stated that there are times when we look at what might seem insignificant, and miss the intricate details that God placed in His creation.  That child who is “just another child” was created by God.  That person who has found himself/herself in dire straits was created by God.  That weed that grows on the side of a path was created by God.  Looking at the picture of the plant again, remembering that this is God’s creation, brought my eyes to the intricate colors and blooms that I might have been missed if  I only looked from the outside.

God created me, God created us, and God created so much beauty around us.  In what seems insignificant, is God.   In what seems simple, is God.  Today, and every day, take in God.  Take in the beauty that God has placed in front of us and in the people we meet.  He is there, although sometimes we need to enlarge the picture to see the intricate parts.

Prayer:  God, thank you for placing intricate beauty in the things, plants, and people around us.  Help us open our eyes a little wider and help us look inwardly at Your creation to see You.  Amen. 

Prayer Focus:  God’s Intricate Beauty

 

Taking in God’s Beauty…in 90 Degree Heat

Psalms 96:11-12

Let the heavens be glad, and the earth rejoice; let the sea roar, and all that fills it;  let the field exult, and everything in it!  Then shsall all the trees of the wood sing for joy. 

Thought for the Day:  God’s beauty brings the heart peace. 

So, in an attempt to take a walk at the park, I decided to take my youngest son with me to let him ride his bike.  Not too long into the walk, he began to complain that it was too hot and he wanted to go home.  Truthfully, it was very hot at 90 degrees, so it didn’t surprise me too much.  So we turned around and walked back to the car.  That few moments in the park, however, got my heart going and strengthened my desire to go back.   During the afternoon hours, I spent time doing some chores around the house, but my heart kept calling me back. As I looked at the forecast, and realized the temperature was not going to go down much before sunset,  I decided to go to the park anyway.  In the 90 degree heat, I walked.

As I entered the park, I immediately began taking in the beauty around me.  The animals, being much smarter than I, seemed to be taking their late afternoon rests so they were not in eye shot.  But, beauty still remained.  There, in front of me at every corner, was the natural beauty that God put in place “just for me”.  And I took it in…every leaf, every flower, every tree, and every view of the mirrored lake in its stillness. It was hot, oh it was hot, but God’s gift shown through.  Reflecting on that walk, my heart still races and calls me back.  There is a place in my life where I can forget anything other than what God is calling me to remember.  There is peace, perfect peace, in seeing God in the beauty around us.

Prayer:  Father God, thank you for leading us to perfect peace in the beauty around us.  You, in all your glory, placed beautiful places in our path to take You into our hearts.  You are our awesome God.  Amen

Prayer Focus:  God’s Beauty

The Road that Leads Us Home

Psalms 107:4-8

Some wandered in desert wastes, finding no way to a city to dwell in; hungry and thirsty, their soul fainted within them.  Then they cried to the Lord in their trouble, and he delivered them from their distress; he led them by a straight way, till they reached a city to dwell in.  Let them thank the Lord for his steadfast love, for his wonderful works to the sons of men.  For he satisfies him who is thirsty, and the hungry he fills with good things.

 

Thought for the Day:  Where is God leading us home?

December 27, 2017!  Today, I found myself reading a devotional about moving to a new place.  As I read The Upper Room Devotional about a family moving to a new town, my mind went straight back to our situation only a few years ago.  Our situation came in such a way that hurt, and totally came from somewhere we never imagined.  But, then, we realized that God was closer to us and our situation than we had ever felt before.  During our time of grief over a great loss, we found ourselves falling into the arms of God.  We found ourselves loving our time with Him.  My husband began reading daily, for many hours, “Jesus Calling”.  The stories in that book hit home as he read about others who have found peace through Christ.  I heard him say on many occasions, “God gave this to me today!”  I, one day began writing.  “What? Writing? Me?!”  In the depths of our despair, I found myself wanting to share an experience I had as a teen with a teen going through a similar situation.  Next, I found myself saying to God, “I promise I will try to write every day!”  “What? Writing, Me?! – Everyday – What?!” Between my husband’s realizations that God was with us and was taking care of our needs, and my new love of writing, we knew God was with us.  We had ups and downs…many downs, but that knowledge that God was there walking beside us made them a little better to deal with.

Time has passed now, and we now find ourselves in the place where God has led us.  The road has led us “home” in a way.  The road led us through the wilderness of loss and grief.  The road led us through self-change in our relationship with God.  The road led us through searching as we asked God to lead us to the place He wanted us to be.  The road led us through acceptance that God was changing our thoughts and desires from where we thought we would be.  The road led us to something better than we ever imagined – All we had to do was let God take the reins and lead us.

Prayer:  God, thank you for being as close to us as our next breath, even when we don’t feel you.  You are the one who leads us through the wilderness to the place you want us to call “home”.  Help us each day to recognized you are near, and help us let you lead us through.  You are our guide, our friend, and creator.  Amen.

Prayer Focus:  Finding Home

The True Meaning of Christmas

John 3:16-17

For God so loved the world that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life.  For God sent the Son into the world, not to condemn the world, but that the world might be saved through him.

Thought for the Day:  Remember the true meaning of Christmas

Over the past weeks, since Thanksgiving, actually, the busyness of the Christmas Season and end of school semester has kicked into full gear.  Children’s musical, school observations, grading, planning for Christmas parties, Christmas Cantata rehearsals, etc.  My mind has been put to the ultimate test. This weekend has been spent doing the chores around the house that have been put off for weeks and now, I sit and ponder.  I sit and ponder what it is all about.

Our children’s musical, “Christmas Spirit”, was presented one week ago with children remarkably telling us about the True Meaning of Christmas.  Experiencing the cast members learning their parts so perfectly and so quickly (to my amazement) was such an answer to prayer, and the choir learning the music to such beautiful songs touched my heart.  My heart was touched several times during the rehearsals, but one thing touched me more than any other.  It was when I saw with my eye one cast member “getting it”.  As the lines were rehearsed, we noticed that this child smiled at times when the character should have been very serious.  In watching, we realized that the reason for the smile was that she didn’t understand what the lines meant.  How does a young child understand the meaning of the birth of Christ and the meaning of the Crucifixion? As we shared with the child that Christ is the Son of God who was born in a manger and who died by being hung on a cross for us – for her, she began having a look in her eye of understanding.  She had heard the story of Jesus Christ before, but had never understood the true meaning.  During the presentation, she was able to portray her character perfectly and was able to tell the true meaning of Christmas.  So, what is the true meaning of Christmas.  “That God loves me…He sent His Son beloved, to die on Calvary.  And on Christmas morning, a new hope was born – and now I know the secret.  That’s what Christmas means to me.”

The Christmas musical was about a little girl who saw all the hustle and bustle of the season in the gifts given and the craziness that surrounds the time.  In her heart, she knew there must be more…but no one gave her a satisfactory answer.  It took a dream, or was it a dream, for her to get the answer and for her family to see the answer as well.  That was the same little girl who “got it” in rehearsal.  And she told the true meaning of Christmas to those in attendance.

During the coming weeks, as we go through the hustle and bustle, keep in the forefront of your mind the true meaning of Christmas.  The true meaning of Christmas is that God loves you…He sent his Son to die on Calvary…for you.  Hear that…for you, He died on the cross for you.

Prayer:  God, thank you for sending your Son to be born in a manger for us, and for sending Him to die on the cross for us.  This love you showed to each of us should not be overlooked by the hustle and bustle of the season.  Please forgive us when we let busyness and selfishness keep us from seeing You.  Be with us each day to help us hear over and over the true meaning of Christmas.  Amen.

Prayer Focus:  The True Meaning of Christmas

God’s View from Above

Psalms 139:13-14

For thou didst form my inward parts, thou didst knit me together in my mother’s womb.  I praise thee, for thou art fearful and wonderful.  Wonderful are thy works!  Thou knowest me right well.

Thought for the Day:  God sees the beauty from above the canopy.

Over my past couple of walks in our beloved park, I have gone up…I have gone up into the hills for exercise and for seeing the colors from different heights.  One section of the walk literally lets one look down over the tops of small trees and a creek area.  As I walked recently, I began thinking about God and how He looks down to see us.  What does He see?  What does He think?  From our perspective, many things are out of balance and when we look at ourselves we see our flaws.  I know I look at myself critically in how I look, how I act with my family, and how I teach my students.  I am never satisfied.  But, what does God see?  As I stood looking down at the tops of the trees last week, I realized that the colors looked more vibrant from above and I couldn’t see all the little flaws of the downed trees and fallen leaves below the canopy.  Is this how God looks at us?  Is this what He sees?  We are God’s creation and we know that God loves us as we are.  This is what God sees.

Now, does this mean God does not see the bad and the ugly?  I don’t think so.  I believe God sees everything and I believe God knows our struggles and stays with us throughout our time of grief and sadness.  But, I believe God knows that when we get “Home” with Him in Heaven, that all will be beautiful and glorious.  We might have a lot going on within us that is not beautiful, but God created us and as I have heard before, “God ‘don’t’ make no junk!”  We are His children and we are beautiful in His sight.

Prayer:  God, thank you for loving us and for looking at us from above to see a beautiful canopy.  Thank you for always being with us through our struggles and for seeing the beauty within.  Help us each day to see the beauty in those around us.  Help us see from above the canopy.  Amen.

Prayer Focus:  God’s view from above

His Sister Said, “WOW!”

Psalms 16:11

Thou dost show me the path of life; in ty presence there is fulness of joy, in thy right hand are pleasures for evermore.

Thought for the Day:  Look for God’s great surprises!

Today, I awake so excited!  My children’s choir is singing at the beginning of one of our worship services and I am so excited!  Today, I have the usual butterfly feeling in my stomach, as I always do when I direct my children’s choir…but today, I am really excited!  Walking into my children’s choir rehearsal only four days ago, I truly did not know who I was going to choose to sing the little solo that begins the song for today.  I decided the best thing for me to do was to let the track play and let anyone who wanted to try, sing a little bit of the song for me.  I went child by child and heard their sweet voices.  Then I got to one little girl, Addison.  Her little voice was so clear, so perfect, and so beautiful.  My heart leapt, and I looked to see my accompanist behind the child with a look of, “Yes!”, on her face.  Then I kept going around the circle.  As I went around, it happened again. His little voice was so clear, so perfect, and so beautiful. And he was the brother of the little girl who had caught my attention a moment before.  My heart melted when I heard Landon’s sister go, “Wow!” as a reaction to his singing.  You see, these two sweet voices belonged to twins.  These two have been in my choir for a couple of years and have sung many times for me, but this time, there was something special.  This time was a “God Special Moment” because when I heard the sister’s reaction to the brother’s singing, I knew instantly that they would be singing a duet to begin the song.

As we went to the Worship Center to rehearse, the adults listened in awe of what had happened.  These two children, who are so different, sounded as if they had the same voice.  These two children didn’t even realize the other had such beautiful voices.  God put it all together and set His plan in motion as they sang a tiny part of a song for me.  Today, they will sing together and I am so excited.  There are so many “God moments” in the song today but the biggest “God moment” will be hearing these twins, who had no idea the other could sing so beautifully, will be singing together.  I am in total Awe of God today.

Prayer:  God, thank you for giving us your “God Moments” when we can get excited over you.  We praise you today for your wonders.  Amen. 

Prayer Focus:  Look for the God Moments!