Mama’s Surprise

Matthew 21:22

And all things you ask in prayer, believing, you shall receive.

Thought for the Day:  Memories

“Donna, did you and Mark find your anniversary gift”, Mama said as she lay very sick with ovarian cancer in her hospital bed.  “No, Mama, I don’t know what you are talking about.” I replied.  “It’s in the guest room closet”, she continued.  As this was one of only a few conversations Mama was able to have in the time of her sickness, we knew it was very important. Later, we drove to Mama’s house and found a beautifully wrapped gift in the corner of her guest bedroom closet.  As we opened the gift, we both teared up because it was obviously planned.  Six months before, my Mama had surprised us by driving to our house with the beginning buildings for a Dicken’s Village.  One by one Mama sent Daddy to the car to bring in another group of buildings from the car.  By the time the gift giving stopped, she had given us ten buildings.  We set up our first Dickens’s Village in our house with those pieces.  So, back to the anniversary gift.  When we opened the gift we saw that she had given us the Dicken’s Village “Kinsington Palace”.  I cried as I realized that Mama had given us a special gift that she would probably never get to see in our village.

This week, we worked hard to put up our Dicken’s Village for the first time in about four years.  As we moved a few years ago, setting up in a new place was questionable and I wasn’t sure where we were going to put it.  My husband and I continued our collection of Dicken’s Village pieces until we had over 50 buildings and who know how many accessories.  We pulled out the boxes of houses from the basement with my son’s help.  As he brought them up, I carefully took each building out of its box and took pictures of each piece where I could remember exactly what I had.  He told me, “Mama, we are missing boxes 3, 4, and 5.” I was a bit nervous when he told me that, but I continued opening the pieces.  Later, I realized why I was nervous, my Kinsington Palace was missing.  We went downstairs and continued looking for the missing boxes, but we couldn’t find them.  As I glanced around in another section of the basement, I spotted boxes 3 and 5 and excitedly pulled them out.  I tore into the boxes, but once again was disappointed…no Kinsington Palace.  We continued the search, but still couldn’t find the missing box.  I realized that I was becoming overly sad because I couldn’t find Mama’s anniversary surprise.  Later, I decided to go downstairs one more time.  As my husband was in the basement working, he overheard me say, “Mama, I would be so excited if you could lead me to Kinsington Palace. God, please help me find that box.”  Seconds later, I looked in a pile of boxes that were in totally a different place.  And, there it was, one misplaced box that had written on the top, “Box 4 of 10”. Thanks, Mama, for bringing me special memories of you as you started me on this Dicken’s Village adventure.  Not being able to find Mama’s gift made this year’s Dicken’s village in the“finding of the gift” again even more special.  We once again found “Mama’s surprise”.

The Dicken’s Village adventure continued as most of the lights did not work after being in storage for those years.  My sweet husband and son worked tirelessly to check the cords and to go in search of new bulbs.  By the time our day, and evening, ended we had the Dicken’s Village completed with all the lights in place.  So, this year’s Dicken’s Village is more special than ever because my Mama, my husband and sons, and God all took part in making it happen.

Wow, that was special.  How excited I was when I found my Kinsington Palace!   In this moment, I am amazed at how quickly I found the missing box almost immediately after I prayed for it to be found.  Why did I wait?  Why did I put off asking God for what I needed?  Aren’t we all like that?  Last week, I received a beautiful message from a dear friend asking me “How do I improve on my prayer life with God?”  Well, obviously I am not so great at it.  But eventually I remember and I pray.  And, when I pray I feel better in whatever circumstance I am going through.  Thank you, God, for answering my prayer….I’m not sure my Mama didn’t give me the nudge to pray.  I wonder…!

Prayer:  Precious God!  Thank you for memories and thank you for reminding us to pray in special ways.  Today I am thankful for surprises that come through prayer.  Amen.

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A Peace Just Came over Me

1 Corinthians 1:3-4

Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies and God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our affliction, so that we may be able to comfort those who are in any affliction, with the comfort with which we ourselves are comforted by God.

Thought for the Day: God is the One who bring us peace.

As I awoke in a TICU waiting room twenty-three years ago today, I felt hopeful that my husband, David, would have shown some sign of improvement during the night. He had been in a car accident two nights before and had multiple injuries.   I was hopeful that when his parents and I saw him, things would already be getting better. That changed, however, to anxiety and concern when the nurse called us into a special waiting room closer to the TICU. My parents were present with us during this time. All of us were very anxious and all we could do was pray. After a few minutes, I felt something in my heart that I could not explain. But, I turned to my mother who was sitting beside me and said, “Mama, a peace just came over me.” She did not respond but gave me a very loving and calm look. The doctor came in a few minutes later to tell us that David had not made it and that he had died a few minutes before. I believe that my mama knew when I felt the peace that David had died but she didn’t say anything. I believe that at the instant I felt peace was the moment he passed away to be with God. God gave me the feeling of peace to let me know that David was at peace with Him.

Today, looking back, I know that the feeling of peace was indeed God’s way of telling me that David was with Him, but He was also telling me that I was going to be okay. Throughout the years following David’s death, I have felt God’s presence through finding a new love and husband, adopting two beautiful little boys, and mostly finding a closeness with God that I had not felt so completely before. God has walked before me, beside me, and behind me all my life but it was through that time that His presence was made so clear to me.

Prayer: God, thank you for giving us peace during times of grieving and hardships. Help us to feel you walking with us everyday, just as you have throughout our lives. Amen.

Prayer Focus: THOSE GRIEVING

God’s Message Through a Squirrel

 

And why are you anxious about clothing?  Consider the lilies of the field, how they grow; they neither toil nor spin; yet I tell you, even Solomon in all his glory was not arrayed like one of these.  But if God so clothes the grass of the filed, which today is alive and tomorrow is thrown into the oven, will he not much more clothe you, O men of little faith

Matthew 6:27-30

Thought for the Day:  God will provide

After several weeks of missing what once was my daily routine of walking and taking pictures, I made sure I planned time yesterday to walk before deciding to do anything else.  As I walked, I saw so many familiar things and noticed a few more.   I noticed first that I didn’t see a lot of turtles out on the logs nor did I see any geese that are normally seen around the lake.  What I also notice was the abundance of scampering squirrels through the wooded areas.  I walked the equestrian walk that took me way up into a beautiful area through very serene and peaceful hills.  As I walked I noticed that the scampering squirrels were not chasing each other as I observed a month or so ago, now they are searching for food and hiding their nuts below logs and piles of leaves.  They are preparing for winter.

After getting back on the normal paved path, I came to a familiar place where I have stopped many times to sit on a picnic table to pray.  As I sat, I asked God to tell me what I need to do next.  It was then that yet another squirrel scampered by searching here and there for food.  I watched as the squirrel got a nut in its mouth and scampered off to hide its find.  As I sat and pondered the moment, I could almost hear God telling me to start saving more in preparation for the “Winter”.  I was also able to observe through watching the squirrels running through the branches making the acorns fall from the tree that God was telling me that He will provide our needs…we just need to do our part.  That was my God, my Father, giving me advice for the day.  I love my Father.

Prayer:  Father God, thank you for giving us what we need.  Thank you for the thoughts through the animals around us that You will take care of our needs.  You are our awesome God.  Amen.  

Prayer Focus:  Preparation

God’s Plan After the Closed Doors

Isaiah 55:8-9

For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways, says the Lord.  For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts.

Thought for the Day:  God Knows

Riding in my car the seven minutes to work recently, I found myself struggling with leaving my family that early in the morning.  This left my husband to get our youngest son on the bus and to wake our oldest son for the morning.  As I drove, I noticed it was cloudy and that the clouds brought beauty to the hills in front of me.  In that moment I began praying, thanking God for putting my family in this beautiful place and for reminding me with the clouds that He was taking care of our needs.  As I turned on the road to the school, I began tearing up as I remembered the many times I drove to that school and sat in front of it praying that God would bless me with a position there.  “How many doors did You close, God?  How many interviews went well only for me not to be called back?  How many times was I heartbroken after feeling excited after my visits to schools?”  So this time, as I drove into the parking lot of the school and looked at the building, I was able to say, “This is why You closed those doors…this is why.”  I am in a very special position at a very special school and now I feel…I know that God has put me in this place.

So many years, so many times I prayed and so many times I shared with others my belief that God had something planned for me in teaching.  In my human thoughts, I had to admit that my faith in myself that God had something special planned for me began to become weakened.  There were doubts and there was fear.  But I kept saying, “God has something planned for me” and “I just have to wait for God to give me His plan.”  I kept telling people about my faith, although my faith was not so strong inside me.  Now, I can share my faith with others and tell them that I have seen God’s hand lead me to the right place for me…the perfect place.

Prayer:  God, thank you for bringing your plan to us in Your time and in Your place.  We doubt sometimes, God, that You really have our life planned in Your special way.  We lose faith and we feel fear.  But God, You come through to help us led by Your mighty hand.  You are amazing, God, and I am thankful.  Amen

Prayer Focus:  Closed Doors

The Red-Winged Blackbird

 

Matthew 18:6

But whoso shall offend one of these little ones which believe in me, it were better for him that a millstone were hanged about his neck and that he were drowned in the depth of the sea.

Thought for the Day:  God loves us

How can it be that in one hour of walking around our park, I witnessed red-winged blackbirds tormenting other birds.  I haven’t seen it before so I was a little surprised, as I know nothing about that bird species.  As I began exploring the internet, I quickly realized that the reason they seem to attack larger birds is that the birds fly over their nesting areas.  So, much like geese do not like it when other animals get too close as they are nesting, and the blue herons scream out loudly if other animals get too close, the red-winged blackbirds are just protecting their babies.  As a mother, I know I can be almost over-protective of my children.  I hover over them when they are sick and make sure they know about harmful possibilities in the community.  So, am I over protective or am I similar to the red-winged black bird in my want to be a good mother and to help my children succeed in life as I make every attempt to teach them to live a God centered live.

Now, I look to our Parent, God, who loves us and will help us whenever we need Him.  He sends His angels to protect us and He guides our hearts in the way we should go.  All we have to do is read the Bible and we will find the hundreds of stories where God led people to where they needed to go, and opened the doors that needed to be opened.  God showed His love to us.  So, red-winged blackbird, protect your babies where they will know how to live when it is their time to fly free.

Prayer:  God, thank you for leading us where we need to go and for directing our feet.  Thank you for the birds of the air as they show us that they, too, protect their babies.  Help us look at all of nature to see how God shows His love to even the smallest animal – which shows us how much He loves us. 

Prayer Focus:  Parents

He Never Forgets

Isaiah 43:2

I have redeemed you; I have called you by name; you are Mine!”

Thought for the Day:  God knows each of us, and loves us deeply. 

“God never forgets any of us. Though each of us is only one among billions, God always knows who we are. No matter how far we stray or how much time passes before we return to the Lord, God always remembers us, loves us, and calls us by name.” (The Upper Room Devotion, 04/01/2017) Those words should mean something special to every person who is created by God, our Father.  As I read those words today, I found myself rejoicing.  Those words, those special words, were written for every one of us.  There are those days, yes, there are those days when we feel alone, scared, down, and we don’t feel good about where we are at that moment in life.  It is hard to find ourselves “worthy” of God’s love.  But, the good thing is that we don’t have to be “worthy” of God’s love because He never forgets us, He always knows us, and He always loves us.  On this day, I found myself down in the dumps as I did a chore that I really did not want to do, and I do not feel I do it well.  After many hours, I sat to relax for a while.  As I sat, I opened the website for The Upper Room and saw those beautiful words written by the author.  As I read the words, “God never forgets any of us”, I felt myself rest more at ease as I felt His love for me.

God does show us His love every day, doesn’t He?  My hard day followed a day when I took a walk in our park.  During my walk, I witnessed the many ways God takes care of needs, yet as I did the chore I felt inadequate.  So, I looked back at the pictures from the walk and remembered once again of God’s love for all of us, even the animals.  And now, just now, I heard the geese honking as they flew over our house – heading to that park – I feel sure.  Remember how much God loves you today – “God never forgets any of us. Though each of us is only one among billions, God always knows who we are. No matter how far we stray or how much time passes before we return to the Lord, God always remembers us, loves us, and calls us by name.”

Prayer:  Father God, Thank You!  Thank you for loving us even when we feel we can’t love ourselves.  You take us as we are, You know us more deeply than we know ourselves, yet You love us anyway.  You are our Father and You have a Father’s love for us.  We love You, God!  Amen.

Prayer Focus:  Those Needing to know God’s Love for them.

I Didn’t Know…But God Did

Psalms 139:1-6

O Lord, thou hast searched me and known me!  Thou knowest when I sit down and when I rise up; thou discernest my thoughts from afar.  Thou searchest out my path and my lying down, and art acquainted with all my ways.  Even before a word is on my tongue, lo, O Lord, thou knowest it altogether.  Thou dost beset me behind and before, and layest thy hand upon me.  Such knowledge is too wonderful for me; it is high, I cannot attain it.

Thought for the Day:  God loves us and knows us – He holds us close and knows the future for each one of us. 

Goodness Gracious – Early on this Thursday morning, I arose very early not able to sleep.  I have tossed and turned, I have fixed my morning coffee and have had a cup, I have checked Facebook messages, I have opened the bedroom window – and shut it quickly as the temperature outside is in the 20s, and I have read my devotional.  As I pulled out my computer to begin writing, I thought, God what are you wanting me to do right now?  I looked down in the corner of my computer screen and there it was, today’s date.  There it was, my reminder of an anniversary – an anniversary that comes every year and an anniversary of something very hard.  Twenty-two years ago today was my husband David’s car accident.  When he left for a jazz rehearsal, I didn’t know it would be the last time he walked out of our house and the last time I would see him full of life and full of hope for the future.  I didn’t know that 36 hours later my life would stop at the moment he went on in peace to see God.  I didn’t know that I would need to lean on God in a way I had never leaned on Him before.  I didn’t know.

But God did – God knew my future.  God knew and in time, much time, I found that God had walked before me setting the stage for a bright future as I continued teaching, as I dated and married another wonderful man – Mark, as I learned new skills that led me to new possibilities, and as we adopted two remarkable boys.  God knew that after Mark’s and my parents passed away that David’s mom and dad would become our children’s grandparents.  Today, I find myself once again not knowing what my professional future holds.  But, today, I am aware that God has been with me through every heart ache and through every pain.  God has been with me through every surprising joy.  God was with me when I lost the love of my life and He was with me when I found my new love of my life.  I am thankful today for the love God has shown me every day.  As my devotional read a couple of days ago:  Thank you, God.  Today I thank God for the future He is working on for me.

Prayer:  Father God, thank you for loving us and bringing Your plan for our life into the light.  Be with us as we go through the day to recognize the blessings You show to us and the blessings we do not see.  You know our every need, every struggle, every joy, and every moment.  Help us learn to place them all in Your hands knowing You have each of us near to Your heart.  Amen. 

Prayer Focus:  God knows the plans He has for us.   

God Knows Me

Repeated  Devotional

John 17:23

Jesus said, “I in them and thou I me, that they may become perfectly one, so that the world may know that thou hast sent me and has loved them even as thou has loved me.”

Thought for the Day:  God knows us and loves us

Where do I think of when I want to go somewhere for prayer and time with God?  Recently, I have observed friends saying, “It is nice to be alone with God as I hear the bugs making noises”, “Hearing music brings me closer to God”, and “Sitting and listening to the creek is where I feel nearest to God.” Thinking about that today and hearing of the deaths of friends’ parents made me go back in my memory to my place as a young person.  When I was young, I found my way to the piano when I needed to “get away” from the stress of school or from the worry about my brothers.  In one of our homes, the placement of the piano was not perfect and I did not hear about it until several years later.  The piano was placed on the wall to the left as we went in the front door, but was on the other side of the wall from the head of my parents’ bed.  Yes, the only thing separating the piano from the bed was a thin wall.  My time with God and to be alone with music included playing old recital pieces which were full of runs that could get loud.  My time also included singing songs as I played.  Years after we left that parsonage, my Daddy shared with me that in the late hours when I chose to play my mother laid in bed trying to go to sleep.  She would say, “Gordon, you are going to have to go ask her to stop.”  He said that every time that request came from my mother he would say, “I am not going to stop her because she needs this time.”  My Daddy knew me and he knew my need for time alone in that moment.

Today, my Daddy knows me.  Today, my Father God knows me.  With all the billions of people in the world and the many places and faces here, God can see me and He loves me.  No matter where I choose to spend time with Him, He is listening.  As I thought about this, I remembered a Sandi Patty song from awhile back called, “He Loves Me” where she sings about how, in the midst of everything going on in the world today, that God is still there listening, knowing, and loving each one of us.  Today, your Daddy knows you.  Today, your Father God knows you.  Today, God can see you and He loves you.  Find your place and pray.

Prayer:  Almighty and loving God, thank you for loving us as our earthy Father’s love us.  You see us and know every part of us.  Yet, you still love us in a way that is far beyond any love we have ever felt.  Be with us as we find our special place to be with you today.  We love you.  Amen.

Prayer Focus:  God is with us

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 Photograph

dsc_5274-2Luke 2:9-11

 And an angel of the Lord appeared to them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were filled with fear.  And the angel said to them, “Be not afraid, for behold, I bring you good news of a great joy which will come to all the people; for to you is born this day in the city of David, a Savior, who is Christ the Lord”.

Thought for the Day:  Calm down and remember the Reason for the Christmas Season is Jesus Christ.

What fun!  What remarkable fun!  I was asked to take the Christmas Photograph of the Church Staff.  Working with the Director of Communications to come up with the “look” for the photograph was awesome.  The staff members trickled into the Worship Center chatting about the day and about how prepared they were for the coming weeks.  They teased and cut up about the colors of green and red worn as everyone was asked to wear green or red.  The Director of Communications and I worked together beforehand to work on lighting and camera settings so we were ready for the pose to happen.  I watched as she moved the twenty-five or so people into place and worked on making the “special effects” work perfectly.  My fun came in taking pictures as these awesome friends interacted with each other as they waited for her to get everyone into place.  The pastors laughed together creating a wonderful and positive atmosphere for the others on staff.  The Worship and Tech people joked and were downright silly as they took the props and created funny poses.  The final people were put into place and the true photographs took place.  When I took the pictures, I could feel they were going to be good because of the smiles and delightful attitude of each person there.  As I looked at the images on my computer later, I knew immediately the photograph that would be used.  Each person probably had in the back of their minds their “list” of things that needed to be done in the coming Christmas Week.  Some stood in place knowing their children were at work with them because they were ill, or they themselves were not feeling well.  All thoughts were put aside for that moment, that precious moment, when the perfect picture was taken.

Christmas is almost here.  We have our long lists of gifts to purchase and wrap, foods to prepare for family visits, clothing to be worn for pictures, and work related things that need to happen.  These lists of things can cause anyone to lose the “joy” of Christmas if the true meaning of Christmas does not remain forefront in our minds.  What can we do to keep the “joy” throughout the season?  We read the Bible and remember the true meaning of Christmas.  We make sure that in the craziness of life that we attend those beautiful Worship Services and do our part to help make them special to those around us.  We pray that our work to purchase and wrap gifts, prepare our food, clean our homes, or anything else on our list does not come in front of the most important thing.  That most important things is that God sent His Son, Jesus Christ, to earth as a tiny baby to change our world.  That baby came to earth to live among us, and then to die on the cross to save us.  That baby “made the angel sing”. That baby “made a new star shine in the sky”.  That baby is the reason for Christmas.  Let’s keep that reason foremost in our minds.  “Happy Birthday, Jesus! – that is what we are preparing for.

Prayer:  Father God, thank you for Your Son, Jesus, to the world as that tiny baby.  He came so vulnerable as all of us came into the world.  But He was special in the way none of the rest of us are.  He was Your son, born of a virgin, who came to die on the cross for us.  What love, what powerful love, to have no sin yet have the willingness to die for the sins of all.  Help us each day, throughout what has become a crazy season, to remember the “reason for the season”.  Help us calm down and help us love, for that is what Jesus taught us to do.  We love you, God!  Amen.

Prayer Focus:  Those stressing over the Christmas Holidays