Monday, August 29, 2016

Answered Prayer - Now What?

Two years ago I attended the Christian Writer's Workshop in Cedar Falls hoping to find inspiration and direction for my writing. I got all I wanted plus much more. When I came home I worked on one story and submitted it to three publications. I continued to work on other projects and submitted several more before I again registered and attended the Christian Writer's Workshop in 2015. Again the Workshop delivered the inspiration and encouragement to write that I was seeking. When I came home that June I polished up three articles that were sitting in my file drawer, researched several publications and sent them off with a prayer.

"Lord, do you want me to continue to write? What is your will for me? If you want me to keep writing would you send me a sign? I don't know if this is how you want to use me in my retirement; please show me that there is some purpose in my writing - if that is what you want me to do."

In the past year I believe God has answered my prayers. In October 2015 I heard from a publisher who bought an article that is to be published sometime in 2016 (still waiting for a copy). Then in March 2016 I heard from another editor who bought a second story I wrote. It was printed in May. Then, nearly two years after my first submission I received a copy of a magazine with my article and photo, and a week later a check arrived.

Just as Pastor Scott said in his sermon yesterday, God still performs miracles and makes the impossible happen! Thank you, God for hearing my prayer and for being so gracious as to send me an answer.

I kick myself for missing the 2016 Workshop which happened right after we moved. Believe me I won't miss it again. But, I can't ignore God's answer to me about writing. I just hope He continues to give me direction about what to write next. I share this only to bring God the glory for His constant presence and listening ear. He cares enough to hear even my selfish, petty prayers. That just blows me away! How could I doubt Him?

"If you believe, you will receive whatever you ask for in prayer" (Matthew 21:22 NIV).

"He answered their prayers, because they trusted in him" (1 Chronicles 5:20 NIV).

God answers your prayers, too. Sometimes we have to wait a while, sometimes we don't recognize the answer, sometimes we are too busy to notice. Take a moment today to consider the ways God has answered your prayers, and what do you need to ask Him today?

Thursday, August 25, 2016

School Days

School is starting this week in many places and I've enjoyed seeing the first day of school pictures on Facebook. It brings back memories of sending my own boys off to school and even of my own firsts.

I don't remember my first day of kindergarten, however we moved in March of that year and I do remember my first day of going to kindergarten class in a new school. I was very shy but I remember with special blessings that one friend who came up to me and said she would show me around. I have never forgotten her kindness and we are still friends today. I also remember my teachers, Miss Smith in one school to Mrs. Smith in the new school.

Most memorable was Brent's first day of school. It had been a busy summer with a new baby to get used to so I'm sure Brent felt some separation anxiety, having to share mom and dad with his new brother. He was a very good big brother and was very loving and caring. We lived in a mobile home in the country so the excitement was a big yellow bus rumbling down the dusty road and over the bridge to pick up this little boy of mine. The bus seemed enormous as he stepped up that huge first step and waved goodbye. I remember all the fears I had. No longer were we in control of what he was going to learn. We couldn't shelter him from the world or protect him from all of the dangers.

Brady's first day of kindergarten was another emotional day. I was relieved that his big brother would be with him to help him find his room or guard him from dangers. The hard part was putting the boys on the bus and walking back up the lane to the house alone. I cried all the way.

This year holds its own emotions: granddaughter number one, Paige, began her senior year yesterday, and little Graham started kindergarten. Calvin starts his junior year today with the first cross country meet of the year tonight. Payton enters middle school (6th grade) and Bailey is in fourth grade. Piper starts a new preschool next week. How did they grow up so fast?

Parents and grandparents have struggled with these stages in life for centuries. It is a time of entrusting our children to God for His protection and guidance.

"When Joseph and Mary had done everything required by the Law of the Lord, they returned to Galilee to their own town of Nazareth. And the child grew and became strong; he was filled with wisdom, and the grace of God was upon him...When he was 12 years old, they went up to the Feast, according to the custom. After the Feast was over, while his parents were returning home, the boy Jesus stayed behind in Jerusalem, but they were unaware of it...After three days they found him in the temple courts, sitting among the teachers, listening to them and asking them questions" (Luke 2:39, 40, 42, 43, 46 NIV).

My prayers are with all the children starting school this month. May God watch over you, protect you, and place in your life good teachers and role models who will help guide you in growing up with faith. And prayers for all the moms and dads out there - may you seek God's wisdom as you parent your children through another year.

Monday, August 22, 2016


"I will shepherd the flock with justice. As for you, my flock, this is what the Sovereign Lord says: I will judge between one sheep and another, and between rams and goats...See, I myself will judge between the fat sheep and the lean sheep...I will judge between one sheep and another" (Ezekiel 34:16, 17, 20, 22 NIV).

Yesterday I had the opportunity to watch my son Brady judge his first sheep show. I'm sure that didn't help his nerves any. I stayed out of sight for the first few classes and then moved into the bleachers to watch the show. After all these years of sheep shows, I'm still learning. I try to see what the pros see in a sheep. They just look like sheep to me. To the real judges the sheep are skeletons covered with muscle and mass. Like me, some of them carry a little too much fat. Others have basic skeletal problems (also like me) and a few are built perfectly but have 'freshness' issues, especially at this stage of the growing process.

Brady did a fine job of sorting through the sheep and also judging the youth for their showmanship abilities. Each judge is a little different in what he or she is looking for. Each one has different expectations and preferences so obviously the results may vary. We have run into several judges in the past who were looking for something that our lambs just didn't have. Sometimes we get lucky and a judge really likes our lambs. Those are great days.

I could never be a good judge; I'm too indecisive. And I certainly respect those who have to make judgements, even if I don't agree with their decisions. However, I don't respect those judges who allow money or power to influence their results. Brady makes a good judge because he knows so much about the physiology of a sheep and has years of experience feeding show sheep. He also is an individual who cares about other people, in particular the youth who were showing the sheep yesterday. He knows how hard the families work to get their sheep ready for a show, and he knows that young people need encouragement to keep working and getting better at a task.

I'm thankful we have a loving God who judges us with love and compassion and with grace and mercy.

"The Lord is compassionate and gracious, slow to anger, abounding in love" (Psalm 103:8 NIV).

Thursday, August 18, 2016

The Fescue of Life

Living in the city has its differences from being in the country surrounded by pastures and ditches filled with weeds. We are discovering there is more required of lawns in town than there was on the acreage. When we moved here we thought our lawn looked pretty good. Neither neighbor had any yard yet. Since then both neighbors have had sod laid and are meticulous about watering their lawns. They have become lush and green. Ours, however, was sod that was now a year old and was watered only by rain.

We started noticing this weed growing within the grass and it was a lighter color and grew faster than the lawn. After several attempts of using weed killer we finally discovered it was fescue growing in our grass. Fescue is defined as various 'grasses' that are often used as pasture. The only thing that kills fescue is a chemical that also kills real grass. We also found out that fescue doesn't like water. It grows well in dry ground but watering keeps it under control. Facts we learned a little too late.

"All men are like grass, and all their glory is like the flowers of the field. The grass withers and the flowers fall, because the breath of the Lord blows on them. Surely the people are grass. The grass withers and the flowers fall, but the word of our God stands forever" (Isaiah 40:6b-8 NIV).

Our lives are a lot like our lawn. Sometimes bad stuff starts to grow up in our lives and we don't always realize what is happening until it is too late. The bad stuff or sin begins to take over control of our lives and all of a sudden our appearance has become shaggy and blemished. Fortunately, we can make a change and get our life of grace and beauty back again if we immerse ourselves in God's word and focus our attention on Jesus.

Although it is going to take some time for us to get a nice looking lawn again, we have focused our attention on getting rid of the bad stuff and fertilizing the good grass, just as we need to do in life.

Saturday, August 13, 2016

Iowa State Fair Reflections

I didn't do my Thursday blog because I was at the Iowa State Fair before 7 a.m. and I was too lazy to get up any earlier. So now, I have two days of the Fair under my belt and three more to go, I want to share some thoughts. Both Thursday and Friday started out rainy but cleared off by afternoon. I spent the mornings in the sheep barn watching the FFA Sheep Shows. Thursday Calvin showed three market lambs and Friday he showed one breeding ewe. He didn't do as well as he would have liked but received two very merited purple ribbons (the judge only gave two or three purples per class, a handful of blues and many reds). Calvin placed 3rd, 5th, 11th, and 3rd in his classes. His showmanship was excellent and the lambs looked really good. We are proud of all his hard work.

The afternoons were hot and a little humid but other than the muddy grassy areas and puddles of water to avoid it was a good time at the fair. Many people decided the same because the streets and sidewalks were a mass of people. Parking lots and neighborhood yards (also known as parking lots for the State Fair) were a huge mess. They always park the livestock trailers on Des Moines low lands so when the guys retrieved ours yesterday they were just thankful for 4-wheel drive and that they got out of the lot.

I walked the grounds to my favorite Fair spots on Thursday, braving the crowds and the golf carts. It takes patience to get where you want to go. I started with the Agriculture Building and its vegetables, bees, butter cow, and flower displays. Then on up to the Cultural/Arts Center especially to see the photography exhibits. I am so amazed at the beautiful photos that get no award and I don't always agree with the judges picks. When I read the list of how many photography entries there are in each class, I give up the thought of ever entering anything.

I walked back down the hill through the children's entertainment area, then along the Fair's Main Street to the Varied Industries Building. I don't know why I enjoy that so much but it reminds me of walking through with my parents as a child. Next was through the machinery, along the food vendor aisle and back toward the sheep barn. I enjoyed a corn dog, and two glasses of lemonade from the stand across the road from the sheep barn. I also took time to search for Graham and Piper's bricks in front of the sheep barn. Each grandchild has a brick there and I finally found them all.

Day two gave me the chance to walk the grounds with Payton and Bailey. We enjoyed the children's garden then went through the Agriculture Building where the girls enjoyed an egg on a stick. Since we still had enough time for a wait in the line we rode the sky glider together on the round trip. It was fun looking over the Fair Grounds, the top of trees, seeing all the people below and noticing places we had missed. The girls kept me calm while I shook with fear at the height. We found ice cream cones for the walk back to the sheep barn.

This was just the beginning as I will be there Sunday, Monday and Tuesday for the 4-H Sheep Shows that Payton is showing in.

"Never be lacking in zeal but keep your spiritual fervor, serving the Lord. Be joyful in hope, patient in affliction, faithful in prayer," (Romans 12:11-12 NIV).

Monday, August 8, 2016

The Race Is On

I love the Olympics! Being retired during the Olympics is a dream come true. I enjoy hearing the personal stories of how hard the individuals worked, or the obstacles they overcame to achieve the right to participate in the 2016 Summer Olympics. I am in awe of the talents the athletes exhibit and find it amazing that records continue to be broken. I feel the heartbreak of those who miss their mark, finish in fourth place, or suffer an injury during competition. I feel proud of all those who finish their race or give their personal best and represent their country with honor, even without winning a medal.

"Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead, I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus" (Philippians 3:13b-14 NIV).

Every two years, the Olympics is a great reminder to Christians that we too have a goal to aim for and achieve in life. We need to focus on our heavenly goal and continue to strive toward it each day by keeping our relationship with Christ active and alive. We are continually pushing forward, seeking the prize of eternal life with our Heavenly Father.

The scripture in Philippians tells us to leave behind the stumbles, the defeats, the painful mistakes of our past and instead lean into the promise and goodness of the future.  I may never win a gold medal in the Olympics, but I can aim for the everlasting life of the redeemed. That prize shines brighter than all the world's gold, silver, and bronze medals put together. Race on, Christians, race on.

Thursday, August 4, 2016

Just Jars of Clay

In the Bible, Paul describes our bodies as jars of clay.  The older I get the worse shape this 'jar of clay' is in. It has been through a lot and put on many miles. It feels like it is time to trade it in on a new model. There are chips and cracks and scrapes, but it is still able to hold a precious treasure that I sometimes take for granted or forget is there.

Inside this beat-up jar of clay is the gift of the Holy Spirit. God's power dwells in us, no matter what kind of shape we are in. The vessel isn't important. It's what it carries that matters. God has given us His power to work for Him, to shine for Him, to reflect the life of Jesus through it. By using our jars of clay we are able to touch others with His love and change lives forever.

No matter how fragile or broken our vessel has become, we still are empowered by God to do great things. He will use our weak and crooked bodies to shed light into someone else's darkness. He transforms our jars of clay into conduit that transmits hope into a sad and hopeless life. He fills us with His love that overflows and spreads out to the people we meet.

"For God, who said, "Let light shine out of darkness," made his light shine in our hearts to give us the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Christ. But we have this treasure in jars of clay to show that this all-surpassing power is from God, and not from us. We are hard pressed on every side, but not crushed; perplexed, but not in despair; persecuted, but not abandoned; struck down, but not destroyed. We always carry around in our body the death of Jesus, so that the life of Jesus may also be revealed in our body" (2 Corinthians 4:6-10 NIV).

May each of us use our humble jars of clay to carry God's message into the world that is so dark and troubled. May His power spill out and flood our neighborhoods with God's promises today.

Monday, August 1, 2016

In Augusts Past

It is a new month; it is already August. The heat and dryness of July certainly prepared us for the usual climate of August, but no doubt it will hold surprises of its own. When I was growing up August meant the fleeting days of summer were winding down. I missed seeing my school friends (since I lived in the county and attended church in a different school district). I had fun with my church friends on Sundays but the rest of the week I was pretty much a loner. There was plenty to keep me busy on the farm.

From the rooster's first cock-a-doodle-do in the morning to the crickets' chirping and locusts' murmur at night, I was enveloped by nature. There were eggs to gather, vegetables to pick, weeds to pull, grass to mow, clothes to hang out and gather when dry, animals to talk to, bikes to ride, black raspberries to find, iced tea to drink, flowers to admire, bees to avoid, plants to water, and best of all: acres to explore. I would find shady places to enjoy the coolness provided by the trees. Even without air conditioning, our house was a pleasant oasis from the hot summer sun, thanks to Mama's tender care to pull all the shades and curtains.

The creek offered a refreshing wade in its coolness. Searching for colorful or unusual rocks and driftwood was fun for hours, until in the shady areas I emerged from the water, legs covered with leeches. The butterflies and dragonflies danced happily along the stream sometimes resting on a rock or a wildflower, as if celebrating my visit. Schools of minnows would nibble at my legs as they hurried along. Even so, I would return to the pleasant, peaceful scene again and again, always revived by the beauty of nature.

"As long as the earth endures, seedtime and harvest, cold and heat, summer and winter, day and night will never cease," (Genesis 8:22 NIV).