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

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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!

Time Spent with God

John 15:1-5

“I am the true vine, and my Father is the vine-dresser.  Every branch of mine that bears no fruit, he takes away, and every branch that does bear fruit he prunes, that it may bear more fruit.  You are already made clean by the word which I have spoken to you.  Abide in me and I in you.  As the branch cannot bear fruit by itself, unless it abides in the vine, neither can you, unless you abide in me.  I am the vine, you are the branches.  He who abides in me, and I in him, he it is that bears much fruit, for apart from me you can do nothing.”

John 15:1-5

Thought for the Day:  Find time to be with God today.

Centering ourselves to be more in touch with God can be difficult. Waking up to my alarm clock going off normally begins my day and lately, the snooze works very well on my alarm.  Getting out of bed to drink coffee because we can’t seem to wake up without it seems to be the routine.  Turning on the television to watch the news can be overwhelming and can cause more stress to our day.  But, no matter how busy our mornings seem to be, we all know that stopping the morning madness and turning to God for even a few minutes can change our entire outlook for the day.  For me personally, putting on my walking clothes, grabbing my camera, driving to our park, and beginning my walk is my moment.  As soon as I enter the lush green trail entrance, my heart calms and I forget about my to do list because I am entering my time with God.  For my husband, pulling out his Bible and devotional guide brings his moment with God.  He studies the devotional and then writes special scriptures on cards to place in a scripture box he has next to his devotional materials.  The most important part for both of us is that we have that moment to center ourselves, if only for a moment, on God.

As I watch people in our church and other friends, I see so many beautiful ways to spend time with God.  Small group times of sharing with special friends, helping in food pantries and soup kitchens, group Bible Studies, worship services, and individual quiet times are ways to find special times with God.  My personality calls for my personal quiet time with God.  Others need more group times with God.  God just needs us to be with Him where He can share Himself with us.

Prayer:  Father God, today we are praising You for the love You have for us.  Help us to see that love more by spending special time with you.  Help us see Your words as we read the Bible or as we see Your precious creation in nature.  Be with us today to see where You are and to help us remember to stop for a moment to spend time with You.  Amen.

Prayer Focus:  Time with God

Lolli Pop

Joshua 1:9

Have I not commanded you?   Be strong and of good courage; be not frightened, neither be dismayed; for the Lord your God is with you wherever you go. 

Thought for the Day:  Have faith in God and He will carry you through.

Waiting for our special visitors, Lolli and Pop, to drive their 400 miles to get to our house was difficult.  Worried about the traffic, as I had checked to see it was bad, kept me praying and checking in on them occasionally.  I listened to my little boy asking many times, “Are they almost here?” To which I would reply, “Honey, they are in bad traffic but will be here in a little while.”  My husband continued working diligently to prepare our house for visitors remarkably placing memory items in special places.   Then it happened, there they were, parked and getting out of their car in our driveway!  “They were here!!!!”  Then the hug, the “LOLLI hug” from a person who has filled my “mama” role since I lost my mother.  My youngest ran to Lolli and Pop giving them the biggest hugs ever.  These two visitors to our home, are the boys’ grandparents!  These two visitors came into our lives in the grandparent role because of their relationship with me. They were my first husband’s parents.  When David and I married, they “adopted” me as a daughter and then after his death and my marrying again, “adopted” my present husband as a son.  I never thought as that relationship happened that in the next few years, my husband and I would both lose our parents. When our children were born, they immediately came in to the grandparent role.  God gave us these two very special people to melt into our lives and into our hearts.  God knew we would need them and He placed them perfectly into our lives and into our hearts.

God is all loving and all knowing, and places those he ordains in our lives because He knows our future and knows we will need them.  Through so much tragedy, our lives could have taken other roads, but God saw the future He planned for us and placed people in our lives to transform our lives to walk into the future.  Everywhere we look in our lives, we can see where He has done that.  We can see where He placed friends, acquaintances, places, and events in front of us – including Lolli and Pop who have been Jesus to our children in so many ways.  God is good!

Prayer:  Thank you God, for the love you bring to us!  You know us and You know the perfect people to put in our lives to carry us through.  Thank you for family and for the ones who become family in unexpected ways.  You are awesome, God.  Amen.

Prayer Focus:  Those experiencing God’s love.

We Called…They Came

John 15:12-17

“This is my commandment, that you love one another as I have loved you.  Greater love has no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends.  You are my friends if you do what I command you.  No longer do I call you servants, for the servant does not know what his master is doing; but I have called you friends, for all that I have heard from my Father, I have made known to you.  You did not choose me, but I chose you and appointed you that you should go and bear fruit and that your fruit should abide; so that whatever you ask the Father in my name, he may give it to you.  This I command you, to love one another.”

Thought for the Day:  God loves us enough to send friends who we can hug and who we can lean on.

We called and they came!  Twenty-years ago, we called as we moved me from my home near Memphis to our new home in Dyersburg and they came!  One year ago, when we needed help packing things in our house in Collierville before we moved to Dacula, we called and they came….and stayed for a week.  There are some friends who you know before you call, will drop everything and come whenever you are in need.  They are our friends Jimmy and Becky.  They have been my husband’s friends for many years and mine since I married in to “their family”, well at least their family of friends.  Their son, John, is a precious young man who loves our family in a special way and we love him, and I am so proud that our children have grown into such friends.  As we drove into their driveway yesterday afternoon, such joy filled our hearts.  We had not seen them in so long and had missed the wonderful conversations we always seemed to have.  We picked up where we left off and enjoyed our time together.  God placed these God loving friends in our lives and placed them to “Be God” to everyone in whom they share time.  And they do it well.

This morning I reflect on these friends, and others, and easily see where they have been “Jesus” to us.  They live to love Christ and that love comes through doing for others and loving others.   This morning, I awaken feeling “filled with Jesus” because we spent that time with Him yesterday through these precious friends.  How can I “fill someone with Jesus” as I walk and talk today?

Prayer:  Our Father, thank you for the friends You have placed in our lives to be there in good times and bad.  They are our family, and they are Jesus, to us.  Be with us and teach us better how to serve others where we can be more like You.  Amen. 

 Prayer Focus:  Friends

Precious Lord, Take My Hand

Psalms 73:23-26

Thou dost guide me with thy counsel, and afterward thou wilt receive me to glory.  Whom have I in heaven but thee? And there is nothing upon earth that I desire besides thee.  My flesh and my heart may fail, but God is the strength of my heart and my portion forever. 

Thought for the Day:  Just Ask, He will hold your hand

Walking this morning in the 32 degree temperature was a bit chilly at first, but then I forgot about the cold as I began hearing sounds I have missed as I normally walk a bit later in the day.  The birds seemed to be tweeting more loudly than I had heard before, and the geese were “definitely” talking to one another.  As I walked I took in the beauty of the area.  I viewed waterfalls, felt leaves blowing in the wind making my eyes drift up, heard a woodpecker pecking on a limb, and even saw our dear friend “Mr. Tailless”, a squirrel that my boys and I met on one of our excursions around the lake.  Toward the end of my walk I did something I have never done before.  Thinking about the song, “Precious Lord, Take My Hand”, I found that I held my hand out as if to ask God to hold it.  And, although it sounds strange, I truly think Jesus was there with me.  Why do I think that, because I asked him to hold my hand.

Today, God was at the park.  He was there in all the beautiful sounds and He was there as I asked Him to hold my hand.  At the end of my walk, I stopped on the pier that goes out over the area of turtles and I began talking to a gentleman.  I shared with him that I always know when the geese are about to take flight because they start calling to each other.  He said, “but there is always one that doesn’t ‘listen’”.  We both laughed when I shared with him that one of my children is much like that goose when he doesn’t want to do what we are doing as a family. He also shared with me that one day he watched a turtle climbing up on a log falling off each time he tried.  Then the others seemed to “talk” to him telling him to go into the water and walk up the log where he could swim to the top.  He said he was happy when the turtle got on the log.  Yes, God was at the park today and I am so glad I took the time to be with Him.

Prayer:  God, thank you for loving us and for coming to hold our hand when we ask.  Your creation is so beautiful and you have placed it in front of us where we can see You so clearly.   Help us see You every minute of every day as we learn more about following You.  Amen.

Prayer Focus:  God’s Creationdsc_6554-2

Studying for the Test

Psalms 73:21-26

Nonetheless I am continually with thee; thou dost hold my right hand.  Thou dost guide me with thy counsel, and afterward thou wilt receive me to glory.  Whom have I in heaven but thee?  And there is nothing upon earth that I desire besides thee.  My flesh and my heart may fail, but God is the strength of my heart and my portion forever. 

Thought for the Day:  God is leading, take His hand.

Studying over the past few weeks for a test on English to Speakers of Other Languages has given me knowledge about how to teach children who attend our schools but do not speak English.  Now, I find myself with deeper thoughts about these children as well as all the children who sit in our classrooms each day.  We are different from one another, yes, but we are all in this life together.  Some of us are children who speak a different language than those around us.  Some of us have different ways of learning new skills because of the differences in the way we learn.  Some learn visually while others learn through reading books and listening to lectures.  As we teach, the key word for many, many years had been “differentiation” where we look at how children learn and where they are in their learning levels.  Then, we work to find the best groupings of children where they will learn best.  In my studies, I have read information from different professionals in the field giving their thoughts about how children learn, how much more difficult it is for one child to learn a new language over another, and what we need to do to touch each child where they are in our teaching.  It has been amazing to study this information as it has given me a reminder of the best techniques in teaching and has reminded me, once again, of my desire to touch each child where they are.  All children can learn and I am apart of making that happen.  What a wonderful thought.

Over the past week as I have begun work as a long-term substitute in a school nearby, I have had the wonderful opportunity to meet teachers and faculty, but mostly to work with some of the sweetest children ever.  I feel blessed beyond comprehension to be a part of this faculty and pray God’s leading each day as I go into the school building.  God has led me to this place and although there have been hardships in the process, I have prayed for His hand to guide me and I believe He has led me to this place, and He has led me to study and take the ESOL exam.  Not only will passing the exam (which unofficially I did) give me the endorsement I so desperately needed, but the study of the material has given me special tools and reminders for my teaching.  God led me to teaching many years ago and God will lead me to the place He wants me to continue through passion and love.

Prayer:  Precious Lord, take my hand lead me on, let me stand.  I am tired, I am weak, I am lone. Through the storm, through the night, Lead me on to the light.  Take my hand, precious Lord, lead me home.  Amen.

Prayer Focus:  God leads us through the storm. 

The Laundromat

The Laundromat

 1 John 4:9-12

In this is love, not that we loved God but that he loved us and sent his Son to be the expiation for our sins.  Beloved, if God so loved us, we also ought to love one another.  No man has ever seen God; if we love one another, God abides in us and his love is perfected in us.    

Thought for the Day:  Love our brothers and sisters around the world.

 “We have to order a part for your washing machine.  It will take about a week to come in and we will call you.  You cannot use the machine until then.”  These were not the words we wanted to hear but as soon as I heard them I knew my afternoon was going to be spent at a laundromat.  After looking on the internet to find the closest ones with good reviews, I sorted and bagged all the clothes and towels, put my laundry supplies in a basket, and went by a store to get some change.  All set, I began my drive and found that the two laundromats in the little town I had driven to were covered up with people, so I got back in my car and began driving.  I ended up a long distance from where I had planned but it was good.  When I entered, I found a couple of people washing clothes, and the laundromat was clean and nice.  I began putting my clothes in the washing machines and setting them to start.  My thought was that I would study for a test I have coming up, but found that by the time I finished loading and starting the washing machines, my first load was finishing.  Then the drying began.  My process of folding and hanging the clean clothes began and continued for quite a while.  My blessing came as I shared conversations with a mother and daughter who were washing clothes for their families.  They shared about their families, including many grandchildren and great-grandchildren.  And I shared about my boys and my husband, and how they were such blessings to me.  Then, I talked to a man who was in the laundromat with his brother.  They lived together but their dryer had gone out recently.  I giggled as he asked questions to an older lady about what temperature to set the washing machine.  He was a very kind man who seemed a bit overwhelmed over his situation.  I then witnessed another lady as she and her elderly mother came into the laundromat holding a huge bedspread.  I knew she was new to going to a laundromat because she came in and went directly to one of the dryers and placed her bedspread inside.  She laughed out loud when she realized what she had done.  I’m sure she was there because her home washing machine would not hold such a large piece.  My conversations continued throughout the afternoon, and I finished my job and began to leave.  As I made the many trips to my car with the hanging clothes and baskets, I was blessed to have a couple of young men opening the door for me.  I found that my time at the laundromat was delightful and I met some pretty fascinating people.

As I left and remembered all my conversations and the people I met, I realized that I had been in the company of other God’s children.  It was obvious we came from different backgrounds, but we were all there together with the purpose of cleaning clothes for our families.  The conversations were wonderful, but just a sweet was the experience of having families of different ethnicities as one little girl shared with me that my washer had stopped, and one young man opened the door for me several times in a very polite and precious way.  I was in “the family of God” in the laundromat, and I feel very blessed today having shared that special time with them.

Prayer:  Father God, You are almighty and You are our Father.  Help us each day to remember that we are all Your children and no matter our backgrounds, we are all living together in this beautiful world.  Help us learn to better respect and love our brothers and sisters around the world.  Amen.

Prayer Focus:  Brothers and sisters in Christ.

A Year

Jeremiah 29:11-14

For I know the plans I have for you, says the Lord, plans for welfare and not for evil, to give you a future and a hope.  Then you will call upon me and come and pray to me, and I will hear you. You will seek me and find me; when you seek me with all your heart.  I will be found by you, says the Lord, and I will restore your fortunes and gather you from all the nations and all the places where I have driven you, says the Lord, and I will bring you back to the place from which I sent you into exile.

Thought for the Day:  Look at your life to see where God has led you in His plan.

Christmas Break finally came for my children as they returned home from school yesterday with excitement that Christmas is almost here.  As my children have ended their first full year in Georgia, I reflect on thoughts of them.  My oldest child, shy as I, has found that this place has offered and fulfilled many life experiences for him.  He began school less than a week after we moved and it began on a very rocky road as he did not know anyone.  But it didn’t take long before he became involved in the church middle school group, The Middle, where the other youth and adults took him in.  That led to groups at school where church friends were near. He enjoyed band and playing trumpet where he still had those church friends around.  Boy Scouts has been another experience for him where he has become even closer to some of the church friends from The Middle.  Our youngest, very outgoing child, had some difficulty in beginning a new school as he had challenges in learning.  After time, things began falling into place.  Once again, the church friends have been very involved in his success.  That sweet boy began first grade, a little behind, and because of the work of his teacher who is a church member, and another sweet teacher, he is now on grade level and doing extremely well.  At church, where at first he would not enter the Sunday School experience without tears, he is now walking in knowing he is going to enjoy his day.  At home, he has two sweet friends who knock on the door for him to come out and play.  My heart is warmed every time I hear that knock on the door. Cub Scouts has been an experience for him as it has been for his big brother as once again, church members have helped lead him to feel success in Scouting.  My children are ending the year feeling that God has led them to this place.

As I began writing this morning, I sat for a long time trying to think of something to write.  My first thoughts went to myself and pondering where I am in this moment.  I struggled in that thought.  Then I thought of my children and the thoughts opened up as I felt how wonderful things have been for them.  As I think of the scripture, “For I know the plans I have for you”, I sometimes get down.  I have yelled at God a few times as I feel that I am not seeing His open door for me.  But then I think about my family and realize how obvious it is that God has brought our family to a new place.  Observing my husband and his work leading a congregation in song through choir anthems and hymn singing makes it extraordinarily clear that it is a part of God’s plan for him.  Looking at my children and the way they have had so many happy events happen since our move makes it extraordinarily clear that it is a part of God’s plan for them.  Observing myself as I write, take pictures, lead children’s choir, and sing, I do see where God’s hand has led me.  I am falling in love with the people here and I feel we are in a special place.  “For I know the plans I have for you” clears my mind to see why God has led us to this place.  God is here in every minute and every special moment of our lives.

Prayer:  Heavenly Father, thank you for showing us Your plan when we move to a new place.  There are so many times, we do not open our eyes to see You and we are sorry.  Help us to open our eyes to see You and to know You are with us.  Help us see clearly the path you place in front of us and help us have the courage to follow Your path.  Amen.

Prayer Focus:  Looking back to see God’s plan

The Baby Jesus

Luke 2:42-46

And when he was twelve years old, they went up according to custom; and when the feast was ended, as they were returning, the boy Jesus stayed behind in Jerusalem.  His parents did not know it, but supposing him to be in the company they went a day’s journey, and they sought him among their kinsfold and acquaintances and when they did not find him, they returned to Jerusalem, seeking him.  After three days they found him in the temple, sitting among the teachers, listening to them and asking them questions; and all who heard him were amazed at his understanding and his answers.

Thought for the Day:  Remember the life of Jesus

“I have never heard that song before”, and “I have listened to that song before but never thought about the words” were comments I heard after I sang one of my favorite songs for a program last evening.  Steven Curtis Chapman captures the “real” life of Jesus in his song, “This Baby”.  The words share little things about Jesus’ life as a baby, youth, and grown up man.  It has been a while since I have sung the song, but I realized as I was rehearsing it that the words make even more sense now.  The last time I sang the song, my oldest child was a baby so the first verse spoke to me.  “Well he cried when he was hungry, did all the things that babies do.  He rocked and he napped on his mother’s lap, and he wiggled and giggled and cooed.  There were the cheers when he took his first steps and the tears when he got his first teeth.  Almost everything about this little baby seemed as natural as it could be.”  Every word shared in that song was where I have been with both of my boys so singing those words is special.  Now, as my oldest is now thirteen, the second verse made more sense as it is where we are living with him right now.  “This baby grew into a young boy, he learned to read and write and wrestle with Dad.  There was the climbin’ of trees and the scrapin’ of knees and all the fun that a boy’s born to have.  He grew taller and some things started changing, like his complexion and the sound of his voice.  There was the work to be done as a carpenter’s son, and all the neighbors said, ‘He’s such a fine boy’.”  As I rehearsed and then sang later, this verse touched me the most.  As I look at my child and see the young man he is becoming right before my eyes, I realize that his young man is now several inches taller than me and that in ten years, he will probably be graduating from college.  I, in a small way, am experiencing what Mary and Joseph did as I am watching a child grow into a young man.  But Jesus, God’s son, our Savior was that baby born of Mary.  He made the angel’s sing, made a new Star shine in the sky, and came to save the world.  The shepherds, wisemen, and people for over two-thousand years have fallen on their knees to worship Him.  That precious baby, that grew in stature as our children grow today, was Jesus.

Today, as we find ourselves closer to Christmas, the words and music to this song will live in me.  Each year we celebrate the birth of Jesus.  Each year we look at the pictures of Jesus lying in a manger.  Today, let’s look at things differently and remember how he lived and that he came to earth to learn and grow, just like our children.   Today, I share three links.  First, the sermon about Mary offered by our Pastor Jonathan Andersen two Sunday’s ago.  Second, the sermon about Joseph offered by our Pastor Mark Westmoreland this past Sunday.  Both sermons put the lives of Mary and Joseph in perspective in ways I had not pondered before.  The last link is to the video of “This Baby”.

Sermon – Pastor Jonathan Andersen – https://vimeo.com/194280896

Sermon – Pastor Mark Westmoreland – https://vimeo.com/195371745

“This Baby” – Steven Curtis Chapman  – https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wlxFaHBbizA

Prayer:  Jesus, our Lord!  We praise You today as You are our Lord and Savior!  Thank you for pastors and writers who bring us to a better understanding of how Mary and Joseph must have experienced you as a baby.  You were a baby, youth, young man, and then our precious Jesus who hung on that cross to save us.  We love you, precious Jesus. Amen.

Prayer Focus:  The Life of Jesus