Broken Made Beautiful......

  I want to tell you a little bit about my recent journey to the hills of eastern Tennessee and also to the hills of western North Carolina where I was born and raised. It is a story of broken made beautiful and a story of God's great grace and how if we are obedient to Him, if we can step out in faith and love like He wants us to, even when we are afraid that our love might be met with something less, He can and does work miracles. I was a bit afraid to go on this trip. I really didn't want the little bit that I had to be lost and a part of me feared that things might not go as I so hoped that they would.

 There will be missing parts to my tale, for to tell it fully would require a book and to tell it partially might lead to misunderstanding some of the characters of my story and perhaps misjudging them. This story isn't about judgment, it is all about grace.

  To begin I must tell a small part of our history, in order for you to perhaps be able to catch a glimpse of the miracles that I so clearly see occurring. I and my brother were raised by our father in the western foothills of North Carolina. Our mother left when I was very small and she married my father's brother. They had a daughter, my half sister.......and my first cousin....(no, that's not banjo's you hear). Needless to say you can probably imagine that the family was a bit torn regarding these things. My brother, my sister and me all paid a price in that tearing even though it was no fault of ours that these things occurred.

  My sister and I have met perhaps three or four times over the course of 50 years, once when we were children and the rest at various funerals. We have probably had no more than a few minutes to talk each time. We have been friends on Facebook for about three years now and have spoken on the phone once or twice. As for my mother, I believe I have seen her four times since she left and only for very short periods.

 I have always had a desire to know my sister, but circumstances and distance have always been an obstacle, along with my own feelings of inadequacy that kept me from stepping out there, lest it not work out and be a disappointment. I had truly believed that this was something I needed to set aside as chances are it just wasn't going to happen in this lifetime.

 My sister's fiftieth birthday was approaching and her family wanted very much to surprise her with something special. As it turns out she is a lot like me so that wasn't an easy thing. She doesn't get much excited about jewelry and clothes and such so they had their task cut out for them. It had came up in conversation how much she would like to have some time to spend with me, her and I had mentioned on our Facebook how we would love to be able to sit on the porch and chat someday. So they decided to purchase tickets and present her with me as her fiftieth birthday present. It was a new experience for me. I had never been someone's birthday present before!

  I was both excited and apprehensive about the trip. The excitement won out, for as I said earlier I had always wished for more time with my sister, time to sit and talk, time to get to know each other. Finally the day arrived and I boarded the plane to begin my journey. I won't bore you with the details of that journey from New Mexico to that beautiful Tennessee valley surrounded by rolling hills, needless to say I arrived safely.

 Her daughter surprised her by having her read a birthday card aloud while she faced the wall, I slipped in during the middle of this and stood waiting for her to turn around. She was surprised. Totally surprised. We both cried.

 And thus began a whirlwind of four days of hysterical laughter, some beautiful tears, many long talks, a lot of cigar smoking (probably too much cigar smoking) and a couple of fake tattoos (which in retrospect were probably a mistake on both our parts). We walked all over the North Carolina and Tennessee mountains and all over the city of Gatlinburg. I was able to spend time with her beautiful family and get to know them. We spent an entire day with my brother and we visited with his family, and I had the second hottest Prawns Diablo in my life, believe it or not they were served in a Mexican restaurant in North Carolina. Who would have thought!

  And of course nothing is ever complete in my life without some animals in it, so here's to Scooter, Trixie, Socks and Bullseye who all shared their canine kindness with me, and here's to Bessie 1-47, the kindly cows who tolerated my early morning conversations in the fields near my sister's home.

  But the real beauty of the entire trip was getting to know my sister, to find that she was very much like me, almost eerily so seeing how she was raised by our mother and I was not. During this four day period, God took all the brokenness between us, brokenness that was not of our doing and he forged a relationship. It is like I have known her always, and although I already loved her, she has now become quite precious to me. It was amazing how well everything went, how it was as if we had always known each other, and we marveled at how much alike we were. It was a bit like finding out you have a twin. I will forever treasure this time we had together. It was dear to me and in truth there simply are not the words to adequately capture what those four days meant to me.

  And I experienced another miracle of  broken made beautiful when I met and spent some time with my mother. I really did not want to, to be honest, it was just so much easier to keep these things at a distance less one be disappointed. I harbored no ill will towards her but I was accustomed to not having her in my life and content to continue it that way. But God kept pressing me that I needed to see her. In obedience to Him I did so, and I was greatly surprised when my eyes beheld this beautiful lady, with white hair, and her blouse all a sparkle, and I loved her. All that had transpired in the past was finished and my heart was filled with love for this woman who had given birth to me. We were able to talk and laugh and I greatly enjoyed the short time we spent together.

 The trip was amazing, it was renewing, it was beautiful in so many ways, a lot of it cannot be explained here in a blog post, as it's deeply personal to the parties involved, but suffice to say that it was a miraculous gift from a gracious God and I am in awe of all that He accomplished in my life and the lives of others during this short trip back home.

I have a sister......I have always had her, but now I know her and we have a relationship and she is beautiful, and wonderful and I love her to death. She now knows that she has a sister and a brother and hopefully she knows that she is as much a part of us as if she had come up along side us in all the hard times we endured growing up. She is family. The only regrets, the only sorrow that I have from this trip is that we all waited so darn long to get together, yet even in this I believe God orchestrated it all and His timing is perfect.

 


  Here are just a few of my photos from my trip that capture some of the physical beauty of all the places we went. From the view from my sister's front porch, to the North Carolina mountains I saw the majesty of God's creation, but the most beautiful thing will ever be the wonderful mosaic that God created from our brokenness. He does indeed make the broken beautiful.




Longing for Home

    Have you ever stood in awe of something? Ever had those moments where your heart is struck with wonder and joy and for the briefest of moments you feel as if you are about to finally grasp some great and profound truth only to have it fade to the edges of your mind, where you have to struggle and wrestle to bring it forth long enough to really ponder what it even was?

    Moments when you stand by a beautiful mountain lake, listening to the wind through the trees and gazing in awe at the beauty of it all and for a second, you have a feeling, that you cannot quite put words to, it is both perfect, and peace all wrapped up in joy, and in an instant the fullness of it has passed.

   Or perhaps you are gathered about the table, with the ones you love most, and you look upon their faces as they talk and laugh and for a second that feeling rushes in, of a perfect love, and a peace you cannot describe and a sense of rightness, of knowing that this, this right here, this fleeting second is how's it's all supposed to be. And as fast as you grasped hold it is gone again, leaving you with such a longing that it near takes your breath away.

  I call those moments glimpses of heaven, and the aftermath of them is longing for home.. Those moments when through the dark mirror of sin and  brokenness we for a second glimpse so briefly and so imperfectly the real beauty, the real love and peace and perfection that God intended for mankind, before we turned it all into one big hot mess.

 We all have memories of home, memories of the place where we perhaps felt most safe and at peace, memories of childhood where we ran through grassy meadows and we laughed and we had not a care in the world. They differ with everyone. The nostalgic longing for home may be for a place, it may or may not be the place of your childhood, it may be a person or a time, but we all long for it. We all want to go home. The trouble is the feelings are hard to put words to, and the place, that home we are searching for is often not even understood fully by us, even though we are the ones longing for it. And when we try and go back to that physical place, or that time where we believe home was at we find something missing.

 "......it is when he comes home that he recognizes most poignantly that he is, at a deep level of his being, homeless, and whatever it is that is missing, he will spend the rest of his days longing for it and seeking to find it."Frederick Buechner

  For me, those perfect moments, or perfect seconds, because often they do not last very long, are moments where I see a tiny sample, an imperfect sample, like a child's drawing of Disney World would not come close to equaling the reality of Disney World, of the wonder that God has in store for those who believe. For a brief second I catch a glimpse of home, my true home. Those glimpses make me yearn, with a deep and even painful yearning for the reality of that place, for the eternity of that place.

  Just as the moments of wonder and awe, the moments of love and peace create in me a yearning for home, so do the moments of despair. In the dark times the mirror is black, and I see no reflection of home, no sign of how things were meant to be, I see only how they are. I see the brokenness, the grief and despair, the death and destruction and bitter disappointment. When earthly hope is crushed it leaves only that yearning, a desperate yearning for home. This yearning, the one that comes in the dark times is a heavier yearning. A pressed down feeling, where you can only raise your eyes to the heavens and whisper "come Lord Jesus", where your eyes, for the moment lose the ability to see any beauty in the ugliness around you, you see instead only the brokenness of it all and in that desperate brokenness you just long so heavily for home.

 The older I get the more I yearn for home, and the more I fully understand that home is where Jesus is. The glimpses of light and grace I see in the earthly home I now live in, and in the faces of the ones I love on those brief moments when all is well, and in the beauty of the flowers, the mountains and the bright blue sky are only poor reflections of what He intended when he spoke it all into being and are only poor and dim glimpses of what He has in store for me on that day when I at last get to go home. 

  Frederick Buechner describes a moment when he and his family were at SeaWorld and where they experience one of those moments, one of those glimpses of heaven that brought tears to his eyes, and to the eyes of his family who were with him. He writes:

 "We shed tears because we had caught a glimpse of the Peaceable Kingdom and it had almost broken our hearts. For a few moments we had seen Eden and been part of the great dance that goes on at the heart of creation. We shed tears because we were given a glimpse of the way life was created to be and is not. We had seen why it was the "the morning stars sang together and all the sons of God shouted for joy" when the world was first made, as the book of Job describes it and of what it was that made Paul write, even when he was in prison and on his way to execution, "Rejoice in the Lord always; again I will say rejoice." We had had a glimpse of part at least of what Jesus meant when He said "Blessed are you that weep now, for you shall laugh".

 The world is full of darkness, but what I think we caught sight of .............was that at the heart of darkness-----whoever would have believed it?---there is a joy unimaginable. The world does bad things to us all, and we do bad things to the world and to each other and maybe most of all to ourselves, but in that dazzle of bright water as the glittering whales hurled themselves into the sun, I believe what we saw was that joy is what we belong to Joy is home, and I believe the tears that came to our eyes were more than anything else homesick tears. God created us in joy and created us for joy, and in the long run not all the darkness there is in the world or in ourselves can separate us finally from that joy, because whatever else it means to say that God created us in His image, I think it means that even when we cannot believe in Him, even when we feel most spiritually bankrupt and deserted by Him, His mark is deep within us. We have God's joy in our blood" Frederick Buechner's  Secrets in the Dark “The Great Dance,”

 

 This morning as I write these words my heart longs for home. Home is where Jesus is, and were I only able to sit on the outskirts of heaven and view Him from a distance, were that all that was promised and no more could be hoped for, that would be enough and I would be content. I want to see Him, I want to fellowship with Him, I want to depend entirely and completely on Him, I want to run my race well for Him, I want to trust Him more fully, love Him more truly and place all my hope and expectations upon Him and Him alone. Home is where Jesus is. I try, sometimes with desperation, to create that home here on earth, or at least a child's drawing of it. I fail constantly in that attempt and I am so very often broken and discouraged when it all goes wrong.

  Jesus is "my hope and stay" and everything else I hope in, everything else that my expectations are placed upon, falls short, disappoints and ultimately leaves me empty and yearning for that which I cannot quite put words to......longing for home.....glimpses of heaven.

Lord, I come, I confess
Bowing here I find my rest
Without You I fall apart
You're the One that guides my heart

Lord, I need You, oh, I need You
Every hour I need You
My one defense, my righteousness
Oh God, how I need You

Where sin runs deep Your grace is more
Where grace is found is where You are
And where You are, Lord, I am free
Holiness is Christ in me

Lord, I need You, oh, I need You
Every hour I need You
My one defense, my righteousness
Oh God, how I need You

Teach my song to rise to You
When temptation comes my way
And when I cannot stand I'll fall on You
Jesus, You're my hope and stay

Lord, I need You, oh, I need You
Every hour I need You
My one defense, my righteousness
Oh God, how I need You

You're my one defense, my righteousness
Oh God, how I need You
My one defense, my righteousness
Oh God, how I need You



Holding on to the Moments

  Someone that I love once told me of a near death experience, of a moment when he thought for certain he was going to die. He said the sky never looked so vivid blue, and the air in his lungs felt so fresh and wonderful. In a matter of moments many memories went through his head as he recalled his family and how much he loved them. It is amazing how vivid the everyday normal things around him were, and how beautiful, even in that dark place where he was at. All brought to vivid display and all written forever into his memory because death was at the door. 

 Why is it that the bad things always get stuck in our heads. We remember things that frighten us, things that break our hearts, and these memories often lead us to fear for we are terrified of reliving them.

 What if we made an effort to hold onto the mundane moments, to savor the everyday normal that we so often take for granted? Personally I believe this is perhaps a very important thing that we so seldom do.

 A few nights ago I sat on our back porch as a storm blew through. The wind was whipping through my hair, the mist from the falling rain was hitting my skin and the smell of the cold rain hitting the scorched hot earth was intoxicating. I had seen many a thunderstorm in my 56 years but for some reason this one was memorable. It was memorable because I savored it. I consciously took in the feeling of the wind, the feeling of the rain, the scent in the air, how the clouds roiled in the sky and the thunder shook the heavens. I reveled in it, and in reveling in it I was transported from a mundane ordinary moment to something beautiful.

 When my oldest son first deployed to war and we took him to the airport to say goodbye, I can still remember the scent of him, the feel of him as I hugged him tight. I can vividly recall these things. I had hugged him thousands of times over the years, I had enjoyed those hugs, I took delight in those hugs, but on this occasion I savored it. I took it in for there was a part of me so afraid that I might never again be given the privilege of holding him close. Hugging a loved one is a mundane normal everyday moment. But what if we took it to the level of savoring every hug, as if it were the very last one, what if we did that every day?

 There is a beautiful butterfly bush in my back yard, it is a favorite of mine and I have looked at it's blooms many times, rejoiced in it's beauty many times but recently I examined it carefully. I examined the large blooms that are made up of hundreds of tiny perfect purple flowers all molded into the large purple blooms that I can see from my back porch. I breathed it in, and for the first time noticed that my beautiful butterfly bush has a scent to it's blooms. It left me in awe of the wonderful detail that goes into that ordinary bush, a bush that sits in thousands of yards, a bush I have beheld for many summers, even rejoiced in many summers, and yet a bush that I had failed to completely take in.

 As Ann Voskamp once said, "we only have this one moment", this moment right now that we are living and breathing in. The next breath is not promised, the next sunrise is not promised, the next hug is not promised.....nothing is certain except this one moment right now. So breathe it in, breathe it in deep. Savor it. Whether it's a thunderstorm, a hug from a loved one, or a flower, or perhaps it is just you in the kitchen cooking dinner and feeling a bit frazzled....whatever it is, slow down, consider for a moment. What if this is the last sunrise, the last hug, the last time you ever have to cook dinner for them?

 There is so much beauty in the everyday mundane, so much holiness in the daily ordinary things. We need to seek it, look for it, live with eyes wide open to it....else we miss it entirely and in missing it we miss the wonder of it all.

 Take it all in, speak out in gratitude for all that you see, all that you sense and smell and taste that is good.

 In thinking of these things I pause and give thanks for the mundane moments of my own life:

For the old dog laying quietly at my feet, who lives and breathes to please me........

For the husband who left this morning to do work on one of our vehicles, how I often take him for granted, how lost I would be without him.......

For the younger son and his smiling face as he stands next to his beautiful girl friend, and for the fun he is having on his first excursion half way across the country...........

For the older son relaxing today in his home, for his life and the fact that he is with us, that he did not die...........

For the window that I am gazing out of now, as I write these words, for those beautiful mountains that take my breath away near every day, for the plants and flowers and their beauty........

And for so very much more.............I am grateful.......I breath it all in........and savor it........Lord help us to be people who breath it all in, who savor the moments, who see the beauty.

  " The lover’s smile in the morning, the child’s laughter down the slide, the elder’s eyes at eventide: this is for you. And the earth under your feet, the rain over your face upturned, the stars spinning all round you in the brazen glory: this is for you, you, you. These are for you—gifts—these are for you—grace—these are for you—God, so count the ways He loves, a thousand, more, never stop, that when you wake in the morning you can’t help turn humbly to the east, unfold your hand to the heavens, and though you tremble and though you wonder, though the world is ugly, it is beautiful, and you can slow and you can trust and you can receive each moment as grace. Eucharisteo. " Ann Voskamp

Much Loved By God

Pastor Adam has been preaching through the book of Daniel and last Sunday he touched on the last few chapters of that book. I've been pondering upon those last few chapters as there were many things that leapt out at me during the pastor's sermon. You see, I am a worrier, a caregiver. If someone I care about is off kilter in life, if they are sad, or in trouble, or sick or in danger, well everything in my life becomes off kilter and I fret. Some of this is good, it drives me to pray, and it is always good to pray, but some of it is not so good. Jesus was very clear in His teaching about being afraid and about worry. He plainly instructed me not to worry, and told me straight not to be afraid.

  As I was listening to the message a passage in Chapter 10 leapt out. Where the angel is addressing Daniel and says "O Daniel, man greatly loved" Daniel 10:11 and then a bit later he says "Fear not, Daniel, for from the first day that you set your heart to understand and humbled yourself before your God, your words have been heard, and I have come because of your words. "Daniel 10:12

 O man greatly loved! What a beautiful statement! Daniel, living in exile, one mere man amongst many and yet he is GREATLY loved by God! And then it hits me, I too am greatly loved by God! Our good God loves all His children! Isn't that an amazing and awesome thing! And then those powerful words......from the moment you set your heart to understand.........your words have been heard! What glorious wonder that the God who spoke all things into being, the God who holds all things together, HEARS our words!

 No wonder we are told to FEAR NOT! No wonder we are told NOT TO WORRY!

  And then a little later the angel says "O man greatly loved, fear not, peace be with you; be strong and of good courage." Daniel 10:19

   I like how the Message translation renders Daniel 10:19......"Don't be afraid, friend. Peace. Everything is going to be all right. Take courage. Be strong.'

 Everything is going to be all right.......as someone I love who has since gone on to be with Jesus once said to me in a dream......."don't worry Ma, everything's gonna be alright, in fact it's gonna be more than alright."

    I imagine it is always going to be hard to watch people suffer, especially the ones I know and love. That isn't going to change, I don't think I would want it to, but when they are hurting my job is to pray, to love, to comfort, to speak words of truth, to come alongside, to help carry the load.....but it isn't my job to worry and fret. I need to trust God. You do too. He is trustworthy. There is nothing too big for Him to handle.

 He is the God who shuts the mouths of hungry lions.

 He is the God who steps into the burning furnace with us.

 He is the God who brings about exactly what He intends to bring about.

 He is good.

 He is trustworthy.

 Don't be afraid. 

 


Rainy Day Reflections

A rainy day, clouds cover the mountain,

She arose, much like she always has

greeted by dogs with thumping tails

Another day, another morning.

The gift of life and breath and feeling.


She is slow, her brain sluggish

A slow learner, despite His efforts to teach

But she is learning

She is beginning to see that many things thought to be awful

Are indeed gifts from His hand.


Were everything as she wanted it to be

were the coffers overflowing with gold

were the ones she loves so decked in finery

with wineglasses in hand

drinking deep from all this world offers.


Were these things so where would she be?

She would be ignorant of grace

Bereft of thanksgiving

Lost in a world of decadant plenty and unaware

of the Giver of grace.


With sorrow He has taught her

With grief she has grown

With fear she has been driven to her knees

Trials she has no hope of overcoming

Drive her to the Overcomer of Trials. 

  She is content.

   She waits in peace.

      For He is enough........

       ......and it's all grace.






50 States of Cast Iron......New Mexico

    A dear Facebook friend pulled me into a very interesting project called 50 States of Cast Iron.  A particular cast iron pan, christened Wilson, has been traveling about the country from state to state and I was given the opportunity to host him for my beloved state of New Mexico. He will be hosted in all 50 states and then his recipe book will be published and the proceeds will go to charity.

  Awesome idea and as far as I know it is the brainchild of the owner of Wilson, a man named Josh Wilemon.

  Wilson arrived in New Mexico last week with his notebook containing recipes from each of the states that he has visited thus far. Today he will be packed up and sent on his way to the great state of Michigan. Thank you for dropping in to visit with us Wilson and may all your travels be blessed with good food and great company.

For our time with Wilson and our submitted recipe in his book we used the following recipe. It was my first time cooking this and it came out awesome! This is one that I will for certain be cooking again and I give thanks to the original poster for sharing this delicious recipe!

The link to the  original recipe can be found at the bottom of this post. We modified it slightly and here is the exact recipe we used to cook in Wilson.

Southwestern Chicken and Sweet Potato Skillet.

  • 4 tablespoons of olive oil. I used Harissa Infused olive oil from the Albuquerque Olive Oil Company.
  • 1 pound boneless, skinless chicken breasts, cut into 1" pieces
  • 1 large sweet potato, peeled and cubed
  • 2 Teaspoons chopped garlic
  • 2 tablespoons New Mexico Hatch chili powder
  • 1 teaspoon cumin
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • ½ teaspoon paprika
  • ½ teaspoon dried oregano
  • ¼ teaspoon black pepper
  • ¼ teaspoon crushed red pepper
  • 10 ounces frozen corn, thawed
  • 2 bell peppers, stemmed, seeded, and chopped
  • 4 green onions, sliced, divided
  • 1 (10 ounce) can rotel tomatoes with green chilies
  • 4 New Mexico Hatch green chilies
  • 1 - 1½ cups low sodium chicken stock
  • 1 tablespoon cornstarch
  • 1 (15.5 ounce) can black beans, drained and rinsed
  • ¼ cup fresh cilantro, plus more to top
  • 1½ cups shredded monterrey jack cheese
  • Guacamole, to top, optional
  • Directions
    1. Heat 2 tablespoons of oil in a large cast iron skillet over medium heat. Add the chicken to the skillet cook until browned but not cooked through, about 6-8 minutes. Remove the chicken from heat and set aside.
    2. Heat the remaining tablespoons of oil in the skillet. Once hot, add in the sweet potato and brown, about 12-14 minutes.
    3. Add the garlic, seasonings, corn, bell peppers, and half of the green onions to the skillet. Cook for 2 minutes, stirring. Add in the tomatoes with green chilies and 1 cup chicken stock. Return the chicken to the skillet and stir well to combine.
    4. Cook for 5 more minutes. In a small bowl, mix together the cornstarch and a tablespoon of water to form a slurry. Add the cornstarch to the liquid in the skillet, mix in the black beans and cilantro, and cook until the sauce has thickened and the black beans are warmed. If the mixture is too thick, add up to ½ cup more of chicken stock.
    5. Set oven to broil. Top the skillet with the shredded cheese and broil until the cheese is melted and just beginning to turn golden in spots.
    6. Sprinkle the skillet with additional green onion and cilantro. Serve warm and top with guacamole and or sour cream.
    7. Serve with tortillas.  

    :

        Wilson spent his off time hanging out with our beloved and well used cast iron pan. The view from our kitchen and dining room looks out upon the beautiful Sandia Mountains of New Mexico. I think he has enjoyed the view and the conversation.


    Mother's Day

     

     Disclaimer: If you are reading this and you are not my sons nor my husband then please use caution in following my thoughts. Not everyone thinks of diamonds as just rocks. To use my thoughts in determining your own Mother's Day gift purchase could be hazardous to your health. Please use caution.

    What does mom want for Mother's Day?

    Flowers wilt and dry out and go into the trash can. If you must purchase flowers please get a plant for the garden.

    Diamonds are only rocks. If you want to get me rocks then pick them up while out hiking and hunting and bring them home to me. I love garden rocks much more than diamonds. I have already lost one diamond so if anyone ever gets me another one it has to be large enough to place out in the garden so I don't lose it.

    I have all the jewelry I want. The wedding ring that never leaves my finger, the cross necklace that never leaves my neck, a couple of arm baubles and of course my engagement ring that sits in a box with it's gaping hole because the stupid rock fell out! (See! This is proof that I do not need diamonds, unless of course you are buying the garden variety mentioned above).

    Chocolate is good but it makes me fat. You may purchase some because I really do love it, but please don't spend a lot. Costco has awesome dark chocolate covered almonds for 10 bucks! A MASSIVE BAG!........to be perfectly honest I do not need any as I have a giant bag in the pantry.

    I don't really care for spa days, for me a spa day is soaking in my own tub with Epson salts.

    Eating out is nice but sadly everyone and their mother (literally) will be out doing that.....you know how I dislike crowds.

    Guns are sweet but in truth I really do not need any, after all you guys have plenty to go around. (Note: I have two guns, one was actually a Mother's Day gift and the other was a Christmas present!)

    Books are awesome but you all know I have too many of those already although it has always been my belief that you can never have too many books.

    Dogs are the best! But when the time comes I will pick my own.........and luvie, remember that you can never have too many dogs either......no idea why people thing diamonds are a girl's best friend.

    So what is it that mom wants most for Mother's Day?

    She wants to see your smiles.

    She wants to feel your hugs.

    She wants to hear your laughter.

    She wants to know that you are okay.

    She wants you to be as safe as God allows (cause she knows sometimes God calls us to unsafe things).

    But most of all, more than anything else, more than all the gifts that could be given, she wants you to know and follow King Jesus.

    "This is eternal life, that they may know You, the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom You have sent."

    "but grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ To Him be the glory, both now and to the day of eternity. Amen. "

    "By this we know that we have come to know Him, if we keep His commandments."

    "to know Him and the power of His resurrection and the fellowship of His sufferings, being conformed to His death,"

    In knowing Him there is assurance of all things that a mother most worries about for her children. In knowing Him there is peace, in knowing Him there is a sense of having accomplished the purpose for which He called me to be a mother.

    "He will not let your foot be moved;
    he who keeps you will not slumber.
    Behold, he who keeps Israel
    will neither slumber nor sleep.

    The Lord is your keeper;
    the Lord is your shade on your right hand.
    The sun shall not strike you by day,
    nor the moon by night.

    The Lord will keep you from all evil;
    he will keep your life.
    The Lord will keep
    your going out and your coming in
    from this time forth and forevermore."

      So please do not rush out buying things just because it is Mother's Day. Just be okay, love God and do your best to follow him. Give me hugs and laugh with me when time and circumstance permit. The greatest gift I have ever been given is the two fine sons I have. They will always be my two greatest Mother's Day gifts. On top of that blessing I have been blessed with a man who is my friend and companion for over 30 years. What more could a woman possibly want or need for Mother's Day.

     Being a mom is a calling. I have done many things right, but I have also failed in many things. Fortunately God is a great Redeemer of our failures.

    " Live the gospel in the things that no one sees. Sacrifice for your children in places that only they will know about. Put their value ahead of yours. Grow them up in the clean air of gospel living. Your testimony to the gospel in the little details of your life is more valuable to them than you can imagine. If you tell them the gospel, but live to yourself, they will never believe it. Give your life for theirs every day, joyfully. Lay down pettiness. Lay down fussiness. Lay down resentment about the dishes, about the laundry, about how no one knows how hard you work.

    Stop clinging to yourself and cling to the cross. There is more joy and more life and more laughter on the other side of death than you can possibly carry alone."  From "Motherhood is a Calling, Desiring God.org

    He has told you, O man, what is good; and what does the Lord require of you but to do justice, and to love kindness, and to walk humbly with your God.


    Oh My Suffering Friend!

     

     My heart goes out to the suffering ones, people bent low and doubled over by the weight of the things heaped upon them. Souls doing all that they know how, to lay those burdens at the feet of the Yoke Bearer and yet the pressing down is hard, it is constant, it seems relentless and to earthly eyes there is no end in sight. I have a great love for the "hopeless" ones. They are family.

     Hope is an interesting word. We use it a lot. We may pray about things but more often than not we do so having a plan. We may pray about our finances, asking God to help us get out of debt, but we do so with a plan in mind of how we are going to use the funds we know are coming to make this hope come true. We pray for someone but as we are praying we are thinking about all the things we can do to help them out. We are forming a plan, we will try this program or that program, we will take them to this church or that one, we will make appointments with this doctor or that one, we will talk to this person or that one about getting them the help they need.........we are most always working to make our hopes come to pass.

     I am beginning to see and believe that real biblical hope is when there is no plan, there are no more resources to use, no more places to go, there is nothing, not one thing that you can do to bring your hope to pass. Every single thing you have done to try and make it come to pass has come to naught, or even worse it has made things harder. There is not one thing you can do to bring back what has been lost, to restore things to how you most want them to be..........To be in that place when all you can do is take in one more labored breath, wipe away one more set of tears, kneel once more at the feet of the Yoke Bearer and cry out Lord, have mercy. It's a terrible place to be in, and yet it is a safe place to be in, for when there are no human hands to help, there is no earthly way to change things, there is no place to run to for assistance, there is no money coming, there is no cure, there is no hope...we find hope in the knowledge that there is a Savior, there is One who knows, who sees, who hears our weak cries. And to be His child, to be in His hands, to await His mercy, to trust in His outcome is the safest and surest place in the entire universe to be...........to be without earthly hope is not an easy place to be but a sure and certain Hope is found there. His name is Jesus.

     I know you want things to be better, you want the ones you love to be okay, to know that they will have days of sunshine and peace and prosperity, that they will be happy, loved and accepted, that the bank account will have enough to pay the bills and fill the table and maybe once or twice enough for a little extra treat. To feel some relief from the relentless grief and sorrow that burdens your heart so! It doesn't seem like too much to ask for, it's what I want most too. I can't promise you that all this will come to pass here on this earth. I pray it will, I am sure enough to believe there will be moments when these things are so, but I just don't know if we will ever reach that place where we can sit and look around us and watch the ones we love just laugh and smile and dance in the sun and live happily ever after. Not here on this earth anyway.

     But the truth of the matter is we both know, this isn't our home, and we don't want it to ever be their home either. To call this world home is to say that everything here is the best it will ever get, and we both know that ain't so. Maybe our dancing comes later, and maybe the moments we have here from time to time are just practice for when the dance is forever. When we reach that place, when the last prayer is wept out into tear soaked fingers, when the time comes that our weak and shaky legs will not lift us up off the floor even one last time, when the moment comes that we pass from this place into the next........it will be there before Him that we will dance, that everlasting joy will spring forth, that our tears will be forever replaced with laughter, it will be there that we will find once and forever that elusive happiness that we have chased all our days. And it is there when we will see and know how He has used our sorrows, our oceans of tears and our weaknesses for His glory and for the good of us and the ones we love. And as we all, from every tribe and nation gather about Him, we will look around at the multitude of faces and we will see the ones we have agonized over..........and we will count it worth every moment of fear, every moment of loss, every step of suffering that we have come to this moment.

     We are not of this world, we are in it. As we run the race, may we take note of the many ways He bless us, the gifts of grace He grants and when we cannot see may we hold fast to what we have seen in the past. “If you can't fly then run, if you can't run then walk, if you can't walk then crawl, but whatever you do you have to keep moving forward.” And as we move forward, sometimes in what feels inch by inch, may we keep our eyes ever on Him, the Author and Finisher of our faith.

     He is enough. Hold on my friend, hold on.....we will hold on together! Rejoice for our hope is in Him and in Him alone! He is enough!

    Romans 15:13 - Now the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing, that ye may abound in hope, through the power of the Holy Ghost.

    Psalms 126:5 - They that sow in tears shall reap in joy.

      In closing I just want you to know that you are beautiful! Your soul shines like the rising sun as it peaks over the Sandia Mountains! It is colored in beautiful shades of yellow, gold and orange with white beams bursting out into the sky!. I see Jesus in you, I see Him in your suffering and in your laughter.

     It's gonna be okay, we will reach that distant shore, and He is faithful, the ones we love so are going to reach it too! See with His eyes, it's so hard I know, Lord knows that I only catch a glimpse from time to time, but strive hard for those glimpses of grace. He is working, in all this mess in which we now stand He is not sleeping!

     Dance when you can, sing as much as possible!  Rejoice in the sunrise, give thanks in its setting, behold the flowers and inhale their scent, listen to the sounds of children playing, read His word, pray like there is no tomorrow, even if the only prayer you can summon is "Lord have mercy, Christ have mercy." Thanksgiving is so often in the very small things, the often unseen things. Preaching gospel to myself and to you!

    I love you my friend!

    It’s hard to stand on shifting sand
    It’s hard to shine in the shadows of the night
    You can’t be free if you don’t reach for help
    You can’t love if you don't love yourself

    There is hope when my faith runs out
    Cause I’m in better hands now

    It’s like the sun is shining when the rain is pouring down
    It’s like my soul is flying though my feet are on the ground
    So take this heart of mine there’s no doubt
    I’m in better hands now

    I am strong all because of you
    I stand in awe of every mountain that you move
    Oh I am changed, yesterday is gone
    I am safe from this moment on

    There’s no fear when the night comes ’round
    I’m in better hands now

    It’s like the sun is shining when the rain is pouring down
    It’s like my soul is flying though my feet are on the ground
    So take this heart of mine there’s no doubt
    I’m in better hands now

    It’s like the sun is shining when the rain is pouring down
    It’s like my soul is flying though my feet are on the ground
    Its like the world is silent though I know it isnt true
    Its like the breath of Jesus is right here in this room

    So take this heart of mine there’s no doubt
    I’m in better hands now
    I’m in better hands now




    Forgiveness

      I was sitting quietly, trying desperately to pray about some things that weigh so heavy on my heart today. Old wounds reopened, salt poured in. I so very much want to rage against it all. I don't understand it. I am angry and I am hurt and I so very much want to engage in battle, to rend and tear and strike out, to demean and to belittle, to use all those skills that I was once a master of, to utterly break someone, to steal their manhood and their pride and turn it to dust and ashes. I want to mock, to ridicule.......I want to repay an eye for an eye......or let's be brutally honest here. I want to do the human thing, an eye was taken, nothing less than an eye and an ear and an arm will do in return.

     I hate feeling like this, I hate when that old me rises up. She loves a good fight, she is very good at returning evil for evil. I don't like her at all, and yet I yearn to embrace her today. The battle rages as I try to pray.

      I hear the battle cry in my heart. My cause is righteous, my hurt is real. I want to lash out, strike back, and I bounce like a ping pong ball between outrage and despair. We have come so far, through so much sorrow, it just isn't fair. People can be so awful, so ugly, never understanding the power of their words or just how much damage they can do, and sadly sometimes not even caring. It's not fair. I pray and I pray and I cry......why Lord?

     And as I pray slowly and quietly a song begins to play in my head.

    " It’s the hardest thing to give away
    And the last thing on your mind today
    It always goes to those that don’t deserve"

       Oh Lord, I really do not want You to play that song for me today. Please not today.........and it plays on..............and I cry at the words.......

     "It’s the opposite of how you feel
    When the pain they caused is just too real
    It takes everything you have just to say the word…"

      I do not know if I can say it Lord. Is thinking about it sufficient for now? Is working through it enough for the moment?

    "Forgiveness"

     
    "Forgiveness"

       And I remember the words I read just last night, of the servant who owed his lord a vast sum of money. so much money that he could never repay, how that servant kneeled before his lord and begged for time to repay the huge debt.........and the lord forgave him. Stood him right up and said go, you owe me NOTHING. It's all forgiven, its all wiped out, the slate is clean. Every last penny has been accounted for.

      And the man went away. I bet he was dancing! I bet he was leaping and dancing and celebrating! He had been in debt so deep that he would never ever dig out, and in one small moment every single bit of it was forgiven and he was FREE!

     And then he came across a fellow servant who owed him a few bucks. He demanded his payment. It was his right to do so, this man OWED him! "Pay me right now or its off to jail for you!" he said. The man begged for mercy but he would not hear him and sent him away in chains.

     When the lord heard of this he was very upset, had he not forgiven a huge debt, a debt so large that this man would never have been able to pay it, and now here this servant was demanding the life and freedom of a fellow servant for a few bucks? Needless to say the lord did not deal nicely with that servant who refused to forgive his brother.

      I once owed a debt that I could not repay. Were I to do all the good works in the world for all of my moments and all of my days from the very first until the day I die I would not be able to make a dent in the debt I owed. I once owed a debt that I could NEVER repay. I was doomed to die, the chain of that debt wrapped around my soul, a chain I could not escape from, a chain I rightly deserved for my failure to pay the great debt I owed.............and He forgave it, He paid it all, every last piece of it, He paid the debt for my sins, struck the chains that held me in bondage and made me free.

     And here I sit with a desire in my heart to see another bound in chains and beaten and imprisoned until he has paid every last piece of the hurt he has inflicted............how dare I. I have not the right. Instead I should be shouting out LORD, LORD, SET HIM FREE TOO! Set us all free!

      The song played on........and the tears continued to fall as I listened to it......


     " It flies in the face of all your pride
    It moves away the mad inside
    It’s always anger’s own worst enemy
    Even when the jury and the judge
    Say you gotta right to hold a grudge
    It’s the whisper in your ear saying ‘Set It Free’'

      Oh Lord my pride, my foolish pride, and the mad inside, it is so very difficult, surely Lord You understand why it is so difficult? You know the price, you know what this cost, what it might cost...... Lord I want to be the jury and the judge though it is not my right to be, it just seems so unfair, it seems so wrong, surely I have a right to hold a grudge?

     And the song plays on.......

    "Forgiveness, Forgiveness
    Forgiveness, Forgiveness"

    " Show me how to love the unlovable"    Oh Lord please show me!
    "Show me how to reach the unreachable"  Oh Lord please show me!
    "Help me now to do the impossible"   Oh Lord help me!

     And the song plays on............and I am conflicted between my righteous outrage, my hurt, my sorrow, my pain........and the still small voice that asks me to define who is broken........I am broken........he is broken.......we are all broken.....

     And the song plays on...........................................................................

     "Forgiveness, Forgiveness"

    " Help me now to do the impossible"  It's not possible, you just do not understand the magnitude of what has happened, nor the cost we will pay because of it? Were you to know perhaps you would weep along with me.......or worse perhaps you would not care at all what you have done.......it isn't possible.......it isn't possible.......with man it isn't possible, but with God all things are possible.

    And the song plays on.....................................................


     "Forgiveness"

    It’ll clear the bitterness away.............................Oh Lord I want it gone!
    It can even set a prisoner free...........................Oh Lord I want to be free, but I want the ones I love to be free too!
    There is no end to what it’s power can do..........I believe Lord, help my unbelief!
    So, let it go and be amazed...............................I want to Lord, help me, help me! I let it go and I snatch it back again! Lord help me!
    By what you see through eyes of grace.............Oh Lord Your grace, I so need Your grace, I am weak and injured, I am so very tired and weary. Lord help me to see with eyes of grace instead of eyes of anger and wounded pain.


     The prisoner that it really frees is you................Lord, might I be so bold as to ask for my freedom, the freedom of the ones I love who were also hurt.........and the freedom of the one who did the hurting?

     And the song plays on..........................................

     "Forgiveness, Forgiveness
    Forgiveness, Forgiveness

    Show me how to love the unlovable
    Show me how to reach the unreachable
    Help me now to do the impossible
    Forgiveness"

    I want to finally set it free.................Lord I do want to set it free, Lord I want to see You make this into something beautiful!
    So show me how to see what Your mercy sees...........Lord show me Your mercy!
    Help me now to give what You gave to me.................Lord help me to give what You gave to me!
    Forgiveness, Forgiveness

        Lord help me, I know that You bring beauty from ashes, I know that You take the broken and the awful and You make them into beauty. I know You redeem the hard things and You bring good from the bad things we endure. Lord I believe.

     Lord bring Your mercy.

    Two Women...........

    The plight of two women is what haunts me. Two women whose faces I have never seen and who I cannot describe even one feature.  If I were to see them face to face I would not recognize them, and yet they haunt me.

     They are women trapped in a goldfish bowl, they scream, they cry out but the world outside the bowl in which they reside moves on, oblivious to their plight, their screams go unheard.

     It brings back memories of another woman long ago, who felt as if she were trapped in a goldfish bowl of violence. She was alone in her fear and in her pain. She used to sit at the window of her home on a beautiful sunny day and look out, and watch the people going about their lives oblivious to her plight.

     As she was face down on the floor and the punches and kicks were falling upon her, she would find herself thinking about how that old couple next door are probably sitting down to dinner, a very pleasant dinner where she asks how his day was and he regels her with stories and she laughs and laughs…..and they both are oblivious to the cries from the fish bowl.

      She sits in the corner of the room as he holds the shotgun to her face; she’s long past fear now, just resigned to the facts. As he raves and shouts and threatens, she sees the lights of the cars going past and thinks of the people going to and fro. Some are going out to eat, some are on their way home, their radios are on, and they are bopping in time to the music, oblivious to the scene going on inside the fishbowl.

     She was set free one day, by someone who loved her, someone who finally managed to see through the thick glass of the fishbowl she lived in. But who will set these two women free?

     Perhaps they are free already, perhaps they have paid for their crimes with their lives, perhaps for them the nightmare has ended and the goldfish bowl that trapped them lies shattered in a pool of their blood. The thing that haunts me most is that I will never know.

     You see, these two women, these brave two women reside in Al-Raqqu, Syria under the leadership and oppression of DAESH (also known as ISIS). They risked their lives to show the world what life inside the goldfish bowl of Sharia law under DAESH is like. They carried hidden cameras under their black tents; they did so in spite of the fact that had DAESH noticed this, had they been caught, they would have been subjected to a most terrible death.

       As you watch their video you notice that you cannot see even the slightest bit of skin on any of the women. They are covered head to toe in black, like some great tent that enfolds about them and they look sort of like those PACMAN ghosts in the old video game, a blob with eyes peeking out.

     Their video shows them moving about the city, dressed in their tents. They speak of terrible things, of killings and beatings and of fear and oppression. Amongst all that it seems rather strange to me that one of the most powerful parts of the video is nothing more than a beauty supply rack containing hair dye. A harmless enough item, used by women all over the world, and yet in this video it too represents the oppression they live under. Depicted is a rack of hair dye filled with a variety of colors and each and every box has the woman’s image blacked out. A rack of multi colored hair dyes and they all look identical. A box with a black shape that did represent a woman displaying the color hair of the dye but is now just a black blob.

     What kind of man is threatened by an image of a woman on a hair dye box?

      In the world in which these two women reside death is a constant companion. Executions are the norm. Heads displayed on the spikes of the fence that circle the roundabout are common. Nothing to see here folks….just heads on a spike….move along......don’t forget to stop and buy your hair dye.

     Here women oppress woman, with gangs of DAESH women going about the city enforcing Sharia and checking on their sisters to make certain they are in compliance. To be found out of compliance can be a very costly mistake.

     Here persons who are gay are thrown head first off the tops of high buildings. To be honest they are perhaps the lucky ones as some of the executions performed in this place are brutal, terribly brutal and to be launched from a tall building head first is perhaps a mercy.

     Here in this place where these two women reside, there are slave markets. Men go there to purchase women and little girls. Women and little girls who have been ripped from their families, many watched their families brutally murdered, are sold to the highest bidder.

      I think of these women often. I wonder if they are still alive. Do they hold onto hope or is all hope long since been lost?

      At the end of the video one of them says “I long to take off the niqab and the darkness that cloaks us for good.”…………..”to be able to go out in the street without being scared.”……………..”nothing matters more than freedom.”

      Oh my sisters, I see you in the fish bowl, and yet I am helpless to do anything. I have no power, no money, no means to free you! Rest assured my sisters, what I can do I have done. I have cried out again and again to my elected officials and I have prayed, I do pray, I will pray!

      Oh Lord of mercy, Lord who heard the blood of Abel crying out to You from the ground, see Your daughters caught in slavery, in oppression, who live their lives in fear trapped under black tents, trapped in a place that should not even exist upon this world. Oh Lord see them! Deliver them! Come to them in their dreams with words of hope and life!

     Oh Lord how the blood of this place much cry out, if Abel’s blood cried out then the cries rising up to You from this one town in Syria much be thundering, ear-piercing, tumultuous and loud enough to wake the dead. Oh Lord hear them, hear the cries of the blood that screams from Raqqa and hear the cries of these women enslaved in this horrible system of oppression and fear.

     And Lord, if it is possible, let the world hear the cries of the blood, let the world hear the piercing cries of the blood of slaughtered innocents rising up to You.

     Oh Lord have mercy upon these two brave women, and upon all the oppressed living in that terrible place. And not just that place Oh Lord, but to each and every soul who feels unseen, who lives under the threat of violence and death, who knows hopelessness…Oh Lord save. As You once saved me Oh Lord…….save them.

     

    "We want the world to know," they say.

     

    Read their story

    http://www.expressen.se/nyheter/womens-secret-films-from-within-closed-city-of-islamic-state/?cmpid=youtube