Monday, May 29, 2017

We Remember

What a beautiful start to Memorial Day. The bright sunshine and blue sky always make a striking background to the rows of American Flags that proudly stand guard over the fallen today. It's such a powerful sight; the red, white and blue waving with strength in the breeze. My hand is drawn to my heart in respect for our country and the many military men and women who have protected our country with their lives, their service, their time and their devotion.

What hurts my heart just as much is the awareness of the mental torture that many of our service men and women have returned home to live with for the rest of their lives. I can't even imagine the horrible sights that remain frozen in their brains to continually haunt them through their lifetime. It is no wonder they experience nightmares or are unable to even close their eyes for the atrocities that return to torment them, over and over again.

"I cried out to God for help; I cried out to God to hear me. When I was in distress, I sought the Lord; at night I stretched out untiring hands and my soul refused to be comforted," (Psalm 77:1-2 NIV).

To the Veterans who suffer yet today, I pray that God will bring to you, a Counselor who can help you through the pain that lives in you. May God be a beacon that shines to them, drawing them near as He holds them securely in His loving arms of compassion. May God touch the broken hearts of the families who grieve a loved one who served so faithfully. As we remember all those who we miss so much, may God bring comfort and healing and peace.

"Then I thought, "To this I will appeal: the years of the right hand of the Most High." I will remember the deeds of the Lord; yes, I will remember your miracles of long ago. I will meditate on all your works and consider all your mighty deeds" (Psalm 77: 10-12 NIV).

Lord, I pray that You will come to those who are hurting as they remember and bring them new hope in Your Son, Jesus Christ. Thank you for providing a Way for us to draw close to You during our times of sorrow and pain. Help us to remember to turn our eyes to You alone, who will heal us of our sadness and fill the sky with Your Light, the Way to a future of hope and wellness. Amen.

Thursday, May 25, 2017

Clear Vision

"Open my eyes that I may see wonderful things in your law" (Psalm 119:18 NIV).

Several months ago I noticed a change in my left eye. It seemed like my glasses' lens was always dirty. I kept cleaning my glasses, trying to get clear vision. It never seemed to improve. Then at night I noticed flashes of light along the far corner of my left eye. I waited for my next eye appointment about a month away, to address the puzzling issue with my doctor. She said it was a floater - yet another result of getting older. She said my eye would adjust to the floater being there and I wouldn't notice it so much in a matter of time.

Sometimes I wish God would allow me to see the world through His eyes, with His wisdom and understanding. I wish I could see myself as God sees me, both the good and the bad. I wonder how I look to God. He created me just as I am, so is He pleased with what He sees? Or is He often disappointed? Do I let God down? I'm sure I do. I sometimes wish I could see the bigger picture that God sees...the answers to prayer that come sometime in His future...the way things will work out...the working plan He has in place for the rest of my life and the lives of my children and grandchildren and even future great grandchildren.

I want God to open my eyes to the world around me. I want to be able to see His will for my life clearly. I want my life to be pleasing to my God and I want Him to be my focus and the Light that guides every step that I take. When I read God's Word I want to have it touch my heart with relevance that I can understand and apply to today. I want to be made aware of ways I can make a difference in someone's life by reflecting Jesus to him or her. I want my eyes to be open to see the beauty of God's creation all around me.

"I lift up my eyes to the hills--where does my help come from? My help comes from the Lord, the Maker of heaven and earth," (Psalm 121:1-2 NIV).

Lord God, give me clear vision for Your Truth today and help me to see all that You have in store for me. Amen.

Monday, May 22, 2017

The Value of Pictures

During the past several weeks I pulled together a collection of photographs of our oldest grandchild, Paige, who graduated yesterday from Ogden High School. When she was a baby it was before digital cameras were the implement of choice. I had a fairly new SLR camera that I worked in overdrive every chance I had to get pictures of my beautiful new granddaughter. Fortunately most of the photographs were saved on CDs or on my computer so it was just a matter of looking through all the pictures, choosing favorites and saving them all to one folder.

 Looking through all those images was a lot like reliving 19 years in time. The first grandchild, especially, is such an awe inspiring event that most grandparents become instant paparazzi, at least for a while. You suddenly understand that each moment is fleeting and there is an urge to capture every unique expression because you know that the child will be an adult before you know it. And here we are; it has come to pass.

Photographs remind you of the happy times that were shared. They tell a story of a life that is well-lived, of experiences, of challenges, of successes and of love that surrounded a life. They show who you once were and how you became the person you are today. They show how you were molded and changed. They are evidence of how much you have learned and how much you have grown, and of how much you were and are loved.

"Then God said, 'Let us make man in our image, in our likeness, and let them rule over the fish of the sea and the birds of the air, over the livestock, over all the earth, and over all the creatures that move along the ground.' So God created man in his own image, in the image of God he created him; male and female he created them," (Genesis 1:26-27 NIV).

Photo: My son Brent and his beautiful daughter, Paige Nicole, May 21, 2017.

Thursday, May 18, 2017

Grandma's Rag Rug

"If anyone will not welcome you or listen to your words, shake the dust off your feet when you leave that home or town," (Matthew 10:14 NIV).

I have very few items from my maternal Grandmother Effie Hilsabeck. She had several children and many grandchildren. My mother asked her mother to make her two rag rugs. Grandma Hilsabeck would braid together long strips of cloth as a pastime. Mama gave me the two rag rugs about 25 years ago. The rugs weren't treated as heirlooms, but instead became useful mats that graced our dirty farm doorways for most of those years. I would shake them out frequently, sweep up the dirt underneath and put them back in place.

The rugs are oval in shape and about four foot wide by three and a half feet. My mother provided the strips of cloth for Grandma to braid together. Though my memory isn't very clear, I believe Mama took the finished braids to the Iowa Veterans Home where they were sewn into rugs. Neither rug has separated at any seam - unlike similar manufactured rugs bound with nylon thread that breaks. The braids are nearly an inch thick, providing a comfortable standing base. My favorite part of the rugs is the fabric; an assortment of old dresses and shirts in colorful patterns. One rug is more muted in color with the outside ring of gray. But my favorite rug is bordered in black and features bold, bright colors.

The rug has space between the braids so the dirt tends to fall through to the floor, rather than being on top where it tracks in. I believe the design of these rugs is more effective and practical than anything on the market these days. Though they are quite heavy, they shake out easily and freshen up with a good airing on the clothesline or deck railing.

Since we moved to town one year ago today, the above rug has been in the garage at the base of the steps leading to the house. The rug had become quite soiled after John's work car was parked over it and the snow/slush/mud dripped onto it. I mentioned to John recently that I wasn't sure how I was going to wash the rug because it is much too heavy for our washing machine.  John suggested I just throw it away. Of course that got a defensive reaction from me telling him, "No, it was made by my grandma!" He said, "Then what is it doing on the floor? You should display it on the wall." Good point, husband dear.

I used a generous amount of OxiClean and filled a tote with warm water and soaked the rug for several hours. I dumped the dirty water and repeated the soaking process overnight, then rinsed it well and hung it over our deck railing to drip dry. It will take another good sunny and windy day to completely dry but I think it looks as good as new.

Though made of cast-off clothing repurposed into a serviceable household item that has worked faithfully for more than 30 years, the rag rug is also a treasure that reminds me of my mother's depression era reasoning and my Grandmother Hilsabeck's hard-working hands.

Monday, May 15, 2017

Paraphrase of Psalm 91 For A Friend

A friend of mine recently found that she has cancer again. One of my daily devotionals encouraged me to read Psalm 91. I did and my friend came to mind immediately. This paraphrase is for her.

1 She who lives in the protection of her Heavenly Father will rest in the watchful sight of the Highest God.

2 She will say of the Lord, "You are my Protector and You build a wall around me, my God, I can rest in Your loving hands."

3 Just as God absolutely will keep you from the hunter's trap, He will also guard your body from the attack of cancer.

4 God will spread out His arms and His loving hold will keep you safe from harm; His faithfulness will surround you with a defensive force that no disease can infiltrate.

5 You will feel God's comfort as you confidently sleep in His arms when the darkness falls, and there is no fear in His light throughout the day,

6 For the cancer cells that linger in your body will not be a danger to you.

7 Though others may fall around you, danger will not come near you.

8 You will watch patiently as the Lord answers your prayers.

9 If you make the Holy Father your home--the Lord God will indeed dwell with you

10 And no illness will develop from those evil cells.

11 For the Most High God will instruct His angels to guard all your ways;

12 They will lift you up in their hands so you can not even stub your toe!

13 You will walk safely through medical tests and exams and escape with no results of concern.

14 "Because she loves me," says the Lord, "I will deliver her; I will protect her, because she knows my name and trusts in me.

15 She will call upon me, and I will hear her and answer her; I will be with her in every moment of fear, I will bring her through safely and heal her.

16 I will bless her with a long life and show her my everlasting salvation."


Thursday, May 11, 2017

Remembering Mother's Day

I was 44 years old when I lost my mother. Not old enough. I wasn't ready to live without her and my grief was long and hard. I can't believe she has been gone nearly 18 years. When she died it was as if I didn't know how to live without her. Who would be there to share my joys? And who would share my brokenness - as only a mother can? Somehow during those 18 years I healed enough to go on but it wasn't pretty at first.

I was a dreadful teenager, arguing and mouthy toward my parents, trying to find a way to fit into a world that was strange and disrespectful. Only after I married and had my children did my relationship with my mother begin to be one to cherish. I had wasted so much time. I didn't realize how little time I had to make it up to my mother by being the good daughter she deserved. I so wanted to make her proud of me.

"But his mother treasured all these things in her heart," (Luke 2:51b NIV).

I wonder what my Mama treasured in her heart.

Mama was blessed with five children over 20 years; running a busy household for a farm family. Raising huge gardens to feed the family, the neighbors and many friends, she canned and froze the bounty to provide generously throughout the winter season. Her hands were skilled at cooking and baking and her generous heart always shared her deliciousness with others. Her love of serving others through their stomachs has passed through the generations.

She partnered with her husband to farm the ground and raise a barnful of animals. She cared for her children and their children much of her life. She was a seamstress for her family and recycled everything of value. There were illnesses, injuries and financial burdens and the overwhelming heartbreak of loosing her only son when he was just becoming a man. Yet, she continued to nurture and love and she filled the air with music and her love of God.

Mama gave everything she had to care for others. She took in those who needed a home. She helped her daughters when they became mothers and cared for grandchildren as they were her own. She nursed her mother and her mother-in-law as they aged. She celebrated the education and marriages of her grandchildren and watched as they attained greater and greater successes. Her heart expanded with love even until congestive heart failure began to take away her physical health.

"Her children arise and call her blessed; her husband also and he praises her: 'Many women do noble things, but you surpass them all.' Charm is deceptive, and beauty is fleeting; but a woman who fears the Lord is to be praised. Give her the reward she has earned, and let her works bring her praise at the city gate," (Proverbs 31:28-31 NIV).

I miss you, Mama.

Monday, May 8, 2017

Thank You, Jesus

My morning devotional gave a faith step or action suggestion: write a thank you note to Jesus for all He has done for me. It sounded simple enough at first, but as I think about doing it the task seems overwhelming. Where do I even begin?

It seems logical to begin at the beginning. Thank you, Jesus, for creating me within my mother's womb. For giving me a body, a heart, and a mind that was designed to be only me. Thank you for planning my life and writing each day in Your book of life. Thank you for my loving parents who raised me in a home of love and faith. Thank you, Jesus, for being there for me as I grew to know you and reach out to you. Thank you for being my constant companion, my protector, my counselor, my guide.

"For you created my inmost being; you knit me together in my mother's womb. I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made; your works are wonderful, I know that full well. My frame was not hidden from you when I was made in the secret place. When I was woven together in the depths of the earth, your eyes saw my unformed body. All the days ordained for me were written in your book before one of them came to be," (Psalm139:13-16 NIV).

Jesus Christ went to the cross to die for me while I was still a sinner. When Jesus was on the cross, He was thinking of me. He saw me as valuable enough to give His life to save me (and you). Jesus, thank you, for providing a faithful, loving husband, filled with integrity to join me on this walk in life with you. I am so thankful for John's faith, strength and leadership that has helped me grow in faith as well. Thank you, Jesus, for walking with us through times of financial need, illness, and difficult periods of grief.

Thank you, Jesus, for the blessing of two sons and their wives and our grandchildren. Thank you for John's work ethic and his drive to be the best provider he could be. Thank you for his commitment to You as his Savior and the example he has been for our family. Thank you, Jesus, for putting godly people in our lives to pray for us and guide us. Thank you for the challenges, the heartbreaks, the rough times that You helped us endure and grow through.

Jesus, I can only scratch the surface of the unmeasurable ways You have touched my life with Your love and grace. Thank you for coming to earth to save us and for living within us each day. Without you, Jesus, I am nothing. Thank you. Amen.

Thursday, May 4, 2017

Awakening The Senses

This is the time of year that I can hardly wait to get my hands in some dirt. I love the fragrance that rises from the earth after it has been freshly cultivated. I love to see the carefully charted lines that cover the fields and say, "I am planted!" The trees are alive with the songs of beautiful birds, joyfully returning to their spring homes to nest. It makes my mouth water for hidden morsels of morels and watch for the growth of rhubarb and asparagus. Spring has arrived to awaken our senses.

When I had a garden, I would reach into the rich black soil and feel either its coldness or the warmth of a sunny day as I dropped the seeds into the usually crooked furrows I had made with my hoe. I would carefully nudge the perfect ground to cover the seeds and mark each row with a stake or a rock. I would anxiously await the day when a sprout popped through the soil, reaching for the sun. And real excitement would follow when I could see the whole row of green.

Last year my garden consisted of one tomato plant in a pot on our deck, and a few flowers along the sidewalk. This year we have added a small above ground bed that will hold perhaps another tomato plant and even a short row of something delicious. We will be using purchased soil. Did you know they sell top soil with moisture-locking pellets or Miracle-Gro incorporated? Time will tell how it works but I'm hoping for the best. It will be fun to try for a little more vegetation this year.

"You take care of the earth and water it, making it rich and fertile. The river of God has plenty of water; it provides a bountiful harvest of grain, for you have ordered it so. You drench the plowed ground with rain, melting the clods and leveling the ridges. You soften the earth with showers and bless its abundant crops. You crown the year with a bountiful harvest; even the hard pathways overflow with abundance. The grasslands of the wilderness become a lush pasture, and the hillsides blossom with joy. The meadows are clothed with flocks of sheep, and the valleys are carpeted with grain. They all shout and sing for joy!" (Psalm 65:9-13 NLT).

Thank you, God for awakening our senses to Your beautiful creation all around. May every tiny seed and every row of crop cry out with praise to its maker and provider, "Thank you, Father. Amen"

Monday, May 1, 2017

Happy May Day

Do you remember making May baskets as a child? Simple construction paper baskets or a styrofoam cup with a pipe cleaner handle? Filled with popped popcorn, gum drops, jelly beans and perhaps a few picked violets? It is May day. A new month, a new week, and hopefully a new weather pattern of sunshine for awhile.

Perhaps this is exactly what I need today. Preparing a little surprise gift to take to someone. Spreading cheer always helps lift the gloom and sadness of a broken heart. I'm looking forward to the bountiful May flowers that should follow the saturating rains of this weekend.

I remember John's story of living in town and a neighbor girl who was determined to get her May Day kiss so she followed him all the way home, through his front door and upstairs to his bedroom door that he quickly slammed.

"The Lord has anointed me to preach good news to the poor. He has sent me to bind up the brokenhearted, to proclaim freedom for the captives and release from darkness for the prisoners, to proclaim the year of the Lord's favor and the day of vengeance of our God, to comfort all who mourn, and provide for those who grieve in Zion--to bestow on them a crown of beauty instead of ashes, the oil of gladness instead of mourning, and a garment of praise instead of a spirit of despair," (Isaiah 61:1-3 and Luke 4:18-19 NIV).

Lord, though my heart is sad today I ask for Your healing good news to raise me from the heaviness of hurt and let me focus on You and doing good for others. Lord, comfort those in mourning and bring them Your peace. Amen.