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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Finding a Place to be with God

Jeremiah 29:12-13

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.

Thought for the Day:  Are we looking for times and places to be with God.

Marching Band Season is over and I am sad, in a way.  I have truly enjoyed watching my son, Nathaniel, become a part of a team – a huge team.  On July 16, I drove him to his first day of Freshman Band Camp.  I remember going to pick him up in the auditorium because it had rained.  I remember telling him that he was one blessed guy because God had given him a coolness in the air on his first day.  July 17, it was sunny and it was hot.  I thought for sure he was going to quit.  Nathaniel was not one of those kids who I could visualize working out in the hot sun.  But he did return day after day to be a part of something great.  The season continued and the band did spectacular things in their show which turned out fantastic.  We watched and took pictures week after week as Nathaniel became a true marcher, a helper, a potential leader, and a friend to many.  God helped our boy grow into a student in a high school of almost 4,000 who found his nitch in a smaller (mellophones) group.

But that wasn’t what was special…what was special was the few minutes I experienced when I picked him up from practice.  When I picked him up, I had him all to myself and I was able to listen to him and have true conversation.  Trust me, that time was special.  I learned on a daily basis how he loved playing mellophone, but even more, how he loved being in that group of new friends.  I listened to him as he shared with me the parts of the show that were going great, the things they had changed in the show, and what he was going to be doing special like moving the prop, “The Roman Numeral IV” into place.  The day that “got me”, was the day I went to the Georgia State Competition and began videoing the performance as I tried to always do.  The end came, and all of a sudden the band members began laying on the field to form the words “Ever After”.  The video did not get that as I didn’t know it was coming.  When I picked him up from the school after their bus ride home, I said, “You didn’t tell me about the ending!”  His reply was, “Mama, I didn’t tell you because I wanted it to be a surprise for you!”  There it was!  There was the proof that our “after practice time in the car” had been worth it.  I had listened to him and he knew I was truly excited about something he was involved in.  That time in the car each day was also a time I could give him some advice, and he took it calmly.  That is the part of his marching band season that I will truly miss.

Today, I am thinking, “Am I the almost 15 year old in my relationship with God?”  That is a strange but real question.  Does God have to find a place to confine us when He wants to share time with us?  I think in my case, the answer is yes.  And, does God get excited when we are put in a place where we are totally with Him.  I think that answer is definitely a yes.  My time of picking up my son from marching band is over for now and I am already missing it.  But, I am working hard to find time to have conversation with him.  Now, I need to be the 15 year old who understands the importance and specialness of being with my parent, God.

Prayer:  Oh, God!  Thank you for the times we are able to have conversation with each other.  Those times are so special.  Help me work to find more times to be just with you.  And, while I am just with You, help me to listen.  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.

First Day Plans

Romans 12:2

Do not be conformed to this world but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that you may prove what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect.

Thought for the Day:  Be surprised by God’s Plan 

Oh, those plans!  Those great plans for the first “free” day after finishing my year of teaching.  Oh, yes, the great plan included going for my camera walk and just as important, cleaning and disinfecting my house.  Waking at my almost normal school time, I drank my coffee, checked the weather, changed to my walking clothes, and walked.  The walk was wonderful and I took in the beauty of “my” park.  I witnessed God in the lush green of the trees and woods, in the blue herons in their nest and in the marsh looking for food, in the snakes spashing into the water as I passed, in the deer calling my attention to her, and the beauty in the flowers.  God was present every step of the way and my plan for my walk was fulfilled.

Then I returned home to “clean”.  I found that every time I thought about cleaning, my mind took me to the need for naps.  With the sound of my husband downstairs with the children, I found my way back to my bed and giggled as I pulled the soft comforter over me.  “Ahh, sweet sleep!”  Throughout the day, between bouts of cleaning, I sat – and, yes, I fell asleep.  Lovely sleep.  My cleaning did not come close to being finished, but that beautiful gift of rest from God definitely happened.

God’s plan for me, on my first day out of school, took over my plan and He gave me exactly what I needed.  He must have liked my plan for the camera walk, but my other plan…not so much.  He gave me a day to rest, a day to rest in Him.  And my family gave me the gift of time, even cleaning some while I rested.  Isn’t God amazing? Isn’t it amazing to see God’s plan take over in an obvious way to give us exactly what we need.  I didn’t recognize this as I went through the day of sleep, but now as I wake refreshed, I can look back and see how His plan took over to give me what He knew I needed.

Prayer:  O, Gracious Heavenly Father!  You are so awesome.  You love us so much that you take over the plans we have and give us new direction.  Help us recognize You in plans that change in our daily routine or in life.  Amen.

Prayer Focus:  God’s Plan

My Haven

Acts 17:27

So that they might look for God, somehow reach for him, and find him.  Of course, he is never far from any one of us.

Thought for the Day:  God is with us always. 

So many thoughts, so many prayers, so many busy days!  For the first time in what seems forever, I sit on my patio in the back of our house, looking out into a lush area of gorgeous green trees and listening to the creek that runs by.  After dropping one child off for a band trip very early this morning I am left with solace on a beautiful day. My husband, who has been going to physical therapy after knee surgery a couple of weeks ago, and my youngest child are sleeping in on this day leaving a feeling of peace for this very tired woman.  Now I take in the beauty and the sounds around me

I look into the green that, during the spring and summer months, hides the many houses that can normally be seen in the fall and winter.  I always look forward to the day each spring when the leaves thicken in the trees and the view of the houses fade.  That is the day my backyard becomes a haven for me.  That is the day I hear the creek more clearly and I hear the birds and other animals talking to each other.  That is the day my heart feels a special peace.  So, today, my heart feels at peace…at least for a moment.

Many days recently I have asked the question, “God, are you here?” and, “Where are you God?” in the midst of hectic schedules and deadlines.  My answer comes in the form of my haven.  God is always with me and as I turn my thoughts away from my inward “me” and turn my thoughts out toward the beauty of nature, He appears.  Wait, He doesn’t appear right then because He has been there all along.  He has waited for me to look toward Him because it is then I see Him more clearly.

For the moment, for this 25 minutes more before I prepare for my day, I look and see Him in all His glory.  “Oh, the beauty of the trees, and the sound of the birds talking, and the beautiful sound of the creek are calling me to Him.”  Ahh, He is here.

Prayer:  Oh, God!  You are all glorious and You are Here.  Thank you for loving us enough to bring us to special havens where we can see you best.  Thank you for moments of solitude and moments of Your nature.  Be with us today that we can see You better.  Help us focus our eyes on You today!  Amen

Prayer Focus:  Seeing God

 

 

 

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 is Near

Job 12:7-10

But ask the beasts, and they will teach you; the birds of the air, and they will tell you;  of the plants of the earth, and they will teach you; and the fish of the sea will declare to you.  Who among all these does not know that the handoff the Lord has done this?  In his hand is the life of every living thing and the breath of all mankind.

Thought for the Day:  God is Near

I love this time of year.  Every time I go outside, I begin hearing the sounds of God.  On several occasions over the past couple of weeks, I have stayed later at school than I should.  Tired and ready to get home, I have packed my school bag and made my way to the outside door.  One day, I came out to hear geese flying overhead immediately bringing to me thoughts of God.  Another day, after an afternoon of parent conferences, I was greeted by sounds of birds mixed in with the sun shining beautifully through the sky.  Last night, staying way after dark on a Friday to prepare for next week, I walked out and heard insects chirping and making fun noises.  A smile came immediately to my face.  God was near.

As we think of God, and where He is in our lives, we believe He is everywhere.  But, when we are tired we sometimes do not see Him.  Today and everyday, I want to strive to see God in the people around me for those people truly are the face of God to me.  I want to see God and hear God in the sights and sounds of nature.  I want to see God when I watch my students next week experience how the Earth rotates making the sun’s shadow seem to move.  I know in advance that God’s voice will speak through their innocence and through their excited voices.

Where will you see God today?  You don’t have to look far, because God is right beside you placing beautiful sounds and views before you.

Prayer:  God, thank you for stepping into our lives through the sights and sound of nature, to remind us that You are near.  Help us see more quickly and clearly that You are in the midst of nature and people around us.

Prayer Focus:  God is near

Rita on my Caller ID

RITA1 John 4:7-1

Beloved, let us love one another; for love is of God, and he who loves is born of God and knows God. He who does not love does not know God, for God is love.  In this the love of God was made manifest among us, that God sent his only Son into the world, so that we might live through him.  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:  Pray and see who God sends

Yesterday was a hard day!  You know, the kind of day you want to crawl back into bed and do a total redo.  The kind of day you feel you want to run away, but there is no place to run away to.  Those days come, and when those days come, you just pray for God to come in and save the day.  Then I experienced some time alone because my “boys” were out doing a scout outing.  I found myself yelling a bit, crying a bit, and getting a lot of “stuff” out of my system.  Then, wouldn’t you know it the phone rang and on the other end was my mother, no not my mother in heaven, but my Lolli who loves me like a daughter.  How did she know?  How did she know I needed to hear a voice of someone who loves me?  Because God told her she needed to call me.  She doesn’t normally call on Saturday morning.  We talked and cried, and shared so much with each other.

I no longer have my mother and father with me, and I miss them so much.  The three of us could always feel when we needed to call each other.  My mother would call and after I answered the phone (no matter how “happy” I made my voice sound), she would say “What’s wrong?” immediately making me burst into tears.  My daddy would knock on my door at those moments when I was needing him most.  It seemed our cars would almost drive themselves somewhere we didn’t intend them to drive and we would look up to see the other pulling into a parking area.  I believe those were God moments, and I believe that call from Lolli out of the blue was a God moment yesterday morning.  God answers prayers, even when we do not know what we are praying for, in ways that we need.

Prayer:  Father, God, thank you for loving us!  Thank you for loving us and for answering prayers in the most unexpected ways.  Thank you for placing those people in our lives who simply become You to us.  You are our awesome God!  Amen

Prayer Focus:  Friends who become “God” to us.

It is Well with My Soul

Psalms 62:5-8

For God alone my soul waits in silence, for my hope is from him.  He only is my rock and my salvation, my fortress; I shall not be shaken. On God rests my deliverance and my honor; my mighty rock, my refuge is God.  Trust in him at all times, O people, pour out your heart before him; God is a refuge for us.

Thought for the Day:  It is Well with My Soul

There are experiences in life when one knows immediately that the moment will be remembered for a lifetime.  We sat in our pew, taking in the music and speakers during the funeral for a dear friend’s husband.  The service was beautiful with some of the most precious words being spoken about this wonderful man.  Then, the final organ/piano duet began to the song, “It is Well with My Soul”.  The instrumental music was gorgeous, and my heart wanted to sing.  When the last verse began, we began hearing a beautiful soprano voice.  From where we were sitting, toward the front and toward the side, we were able to see the faces of the family members.  As the voice sang, we looked toward the family and realized that our dear friend was the one singing.  She sang:

And Lord haste the day when my faith shall be sight The clouds be rolled back as a scroll The trump shall resound and the Lord shall descend Even so, it is well with my soul It is well with my soul. It is well, it is well with my soul It is well, it is well, it is well, It is well, it is well, it is well It is well with my soul. It is well with my soul.

As I watched her, and as I watched her family, I felt that something great was coming.  I pulled out my cellphone, and without using video I began recording.  As the congregation listened, and as I was one who was able to watch, I saw her hand go into the air.  That moment, that special moment, my heart knew that “It was truly well” with her soul.  Her daughter then joined her as the climax of the song came.  Then, an even more special moment came when our friend sang the last note….so high, so pure, so perfect.  My heart, our hearts, leapt with the sound of that voice.  My heart, our hearts, knew that she was going to be okay.  She, in singing those words, gave her family peace that their father, father-in-law, grandfather, and her husband was in the arms of God and that God had his arms around each of them.  “It is Well with my Soul”. What strength she showed in sharing with everyone in the room that “It was Well with Her Soul.”

The song, “It is Well with my Soul” was written by a man who had just experienced great tragedy.  It is amazing that this hymn that we sing often has been sung for so many who have grieved, and has helped bring strength.  Our friend took it to a new level as she sang, giving everyone in attendance a sense that “it is truly and wonderfully well with our souls.”

(History of “It is Well with My Soul”)

Prayer:  Father God, thank you for bringing us peace in unexpected ways.  God, I ask that you wrap your arms around every member of this sweet family, that they will know your love and peace.  Thank you for speaking to all of us through the beautiful words, “It is well with my Soul”.  Amen.

Prayer Focus:  It is Well with My Soul

A Special Place of Prayer

Philippians 4:6-7

 Have no anxiety about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God.  And the peace of God, which passes all understanding, will keep your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.

Thought for the Day:  Pray

My mother shared with me a secret when I was told a story from about 1972.  I have written about it before, but for some reason it holds my heart today.  My mother and my father’s mother traveled to the Holy Land that year, enjoying the time they “walked where Jesus walked”.  During their trip, they made their way to the Wailing Wall in Jerusalem.  As people visit that very special wall, they stick written prayers on little pieces of paper into the cracks.  My mother made her way to the wall and placed a special prayer into the wall and said a special prayer.  She told no one about her prayer and carried on with life.  Through the next twenty or more years, my mother saved money where she could take my father on a Holy Land trip.  Finally, in 1995, she had enough money and they traveled on her dream trip.  That trip, after years of taking care of my handicapped brothers followed by their deaths, finally happened.  Those years in between were filled with physical and emotional strength of my mother as she took care of my brothers’ needs day end and day out. I look back and I remember, and I realize these many years later, what she truly did for these boys.  They died in 1980 and 1983.  The years after they died took their tole on my mother, as she grieved for them.  In 1995 when my mother took my father to the Holy Land, especially to the Wailing Wall, the story of her note from 23 years earlier came to light.  “God, help them not to suffer” was the written on her first note.  On this trip, my mother simply wrote “Thank you”.

Today, as I drive to work, I pray as I travel a particular area of my drive.  As I top one hill, where there is a beautiful view, I begin praying for my family and friends who are going through challenging times.  Often, after saying my prayers on one day’s drive, I will come back the next day and say, “God, Thank You”, because I have seen those prayers answered.  I would love to go the Holy Land someday and specifically the Wailing Wall.  But, for now, I have to make my own prayer place here where I am.  Mine is that portion of my drive.  For my mother, the importance of the Wailing Wall was her prayer.  For me, the importance of that small portion of my drive is my prayer.  For my mother (at the Wailing wall)…”God help them not to suffer”…”Thank you.” For me (on my drive) …”God help them through this hard time”…”Thank you.” God wants to hear from us and He wants to help us through the events in our lives.  We just need to find our place, or our time, to pray.  “God help!”…”Thank you!”

Prayer:  Our Heavenly Father!  We praise You today for helping us through our challenging times and for hearing our prayers each day.  Whether we pray in a special place of travel, or if we pray from right here at home, You hear us.  Thank You, God, for listening and for hearing then answering our every prayer.  Amen.

Prayer Focus:  Prayer