Wednesday, November 26, 2008

A Grateful Heart

Pictures from Thanksgiving '06

Things I am thankful for:

* Love from Above
* My adorable children
* My fantastic husband
* My super supportive mom and dad
* My two amazing sisters
* Sweeties K.K. and Doug the pug
* My great sister-in-laws
* My kind brother-in-laws
* My LOVING mother-in-law and father-in-law
* All of the sweet grandmas and grandpas
* All of my extended family; aunts, uncles, cousins...
* All of the love that surrounds me and encourages me from all of these people
* Friendships, new and old
* Good Health
* Jobs in Michigan (that alone is a miracle)
* A cozy home and a warm bed
** Divine Peace from my gracious God

I am praying that on this Thanksgiving, everyone will feel the love that only comes from the Godhead, three in one.

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

God the Gardener

Yesterday afternoon a dull headache quickly blossomed into a full-fledged migraine. I took some medicine and somehow managed to go into work and do hair. (Don't worry, the clients all left happy). Usually these migraines don't last overnight, but oh my this one did and this morning I woke up with the worst migraine I have EVER experienced! Thankfully, Joe fed, dressed, packed lunches and got the kids to school and daycare. I had to call off work, since I was literally flat on my back. There I lay, nauseated beyond belief with the feeling of a large mallet pounding onto my temple. The medicine did not work, because it did not stay down. Laying there, a feeling of complete helplessness and guilt consumed me. I know that the migraine was triggered by my own stress and anxiety. That's what I like to name it. "My own stress", "My own anxiety". As I called out to the Lord in my dire need, (down in a pit of miry clay that I thought I had already been pulled up out of), I realized that I do not have control over this. It wasn't my fault that I got nervous and anxious and flipped out yesterday. The more I try to take hold of it, the worst it gets. You might be wondering, "What is so horrible about her life?" "Why in the world would she be stressed out?" I can't even answer these types of questions. I don't know why! Maybe it's an attack, or maybe it's a thorn in my side that I will have to live with for the rest of my life.

What I can tell you is that God uses circumstances to prune me. We were just discussing this in my Ladies Bible study. We are doing a "A Woman's Heart; God's Dwelling Place," by Beth Moore. In one of the lessons this past week she talks about how "God is our Gardener and He has two major gardening tools for increasing our crop and for conforming us to His Son's image: His Word and circumstances." She goes on to talk about how "...when God uses His Word as our pruning instrument, it is a lot less painful because it is sharp and quick. But circumstances can be a different story. (She) I also believe(s) that God favors pruning us through His Word rather than through circumstances. (She) I do(es) not think that God wants to see us in pain any more than we want to experience it. He knows, however, that sometimes there is no other way....Without a doubt we will be pruned one way or the other." She refers to

Philippians 1:6
...being confident of this, that he who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus.

...and then reminds me of how I need to be a "doer of the word and not (a) hearer only" (James 1:22)

Well, I have to tell you that I let all of the ladies in my small group know how I didn't know if I agreed with what she was saying, about how God's word prunes us easier. In my life, it seems like my circumstances tend to prune me. Mostly unpleasant circumstances that I experience, when I feel so alone and down that I have nowhere to look but up and how I haven't noticed God's word pruning me as much. As I look closer at the verse in James, I understand more of what she is saying. I need to not only look at the word, I need to do what it says. Live it out.

I guess it is just another step in this thing called sanctification. Daily obedience. Daily remembering the fruits of this spirit living inside of me. Daily stripping of my selfish flesh and clothing myself in Christ Jesus, the most unselfish person who ever lived.

So, today my circumstances definitely pruned me into remembering how human and frail and lowly I am. Today, I felt my God reach down and comfort me and reassure me that I have no control over my physical state and I am so thankful for that. But He also revealed to me that I need to stop making excuses and start allowing not only my circumstances, but also His word, His sharp word, to cut back my dead branches and make room for more of His fruit to grow.

Galatians 5:22-23
But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control...

Sunday, November 2, 2008

Angels Among Us

Sometimes, well most of the time, I so easily forget all of the times my God has been faithful to me. When a miracle happens, I am in awe and I have such strong belief in the Most High God. Slowly, as even the hours after, turn into days, I begin to let it fade into the back of my mind. Life happens, something doesn't go my way, my feelings get hurt or I worry some menial situation into a full blown anxiety attack and I choose not to remember His faithfulness. But God, in all of His mercy and grace, reminded me today of His mighty hand.

My pastor is doing a series on the Supernatural and he told us a story of an encounter that he had with an angel, or what he thought was an angel, some 22 years ago, when he got into a terrible car accident. This angel pulled his unconcious sister out of the car and moments later, when everyone was out of the way, the car exploded and the angel was nowhere to be seen. He backed up this belief of it being an angel with scripture found in Genesis 18 about when Abraham encountered three men who were actually angels, and also refered to Genesis 19 when Lot invited two angels who appeared to be men into his house. This story totally refreshed my ever so forgetful mind of an experience that I hopefully will never forget!

Three years ago, my two sisters and our parents traveled to Europe to celebrate our mom and dad's 30th wedding anniversary. We flew into Frankfort, Germany and drove to Florence, Italy. (Don't ask why we decided to rent a minibus and drive in Europe where there is no speed limit and the most narrow highways you have ever seen! Needless to say, I had one of the worst panic attacks of my life while driving through the Bavarian Alps, before the Xanax kicked in! ...and I will have to tell you, the whole vacation was quite an adventure!!!) On our way back from Italy, after getting lost while driving down a cow path (don't ask!), we stopped in southern Germany in a little town in the middle of nowhere, called Nesselwang. We stopped to get some snacks for the long ride and to gas up. If any of you know me and my family personally, you can imagine what "bonding" we did while traveling throughout Europe! (HA HA!!!!!!!!!!!!) Well, everyone was just so happy and cheerful and excited to be driving for several hours (the cow path adventure really put the icing on the cake!). My dad got out at the pump and couldn't figure out which one had the diesel fuel that our van required. So what does he decided to do? Ask a German speaking man of course! You have to know that throughout these last ten days, my dad is either raising his voice to an uncomfortable level while asking questions in English to non-English speaking people or speaking Spanglish because when he was stationed in Germany, in the army, his roomate was Mexican-American and all of the memories came flooding back when we were there. So very loudly and slowly he asks,

"Is that diesel?"

"Ya, diezer!" The German man replies (Which happens to mean gasoline in German!)


Mind you, as my dad is pumping, I smell the strong scent of gasoline radiate throughout the air. I knock on the window and yell to my dad,

"Dad, that smells like gasoline!! Stop pumping, it's not diesel!"

My younger sister flashes me a dirty look and says,

"Leave him alone, he knows what he's doing!"

So I retreat, but my dad continues to fill up the van and wouldn't you know it, we start to drive out of the parking lot and the van completely stalls out. KERPLUNK! It wasn't going anywhere. Oh, if you could have been a fly on the window inside of the vehicle. I'll spare you all of the angry words exchanged, but "I told you so..." must have spewed from my lips a good twenty times at least. So there we all were, stranded in Nesselwang, Germany. Our flight was leaving the next morning and we still had at least a four hour drive back to Frankfort. The rental car company said they couldn't get us another car until probably tomorrow. These kind people let us use their cell phone to call. So my older sister starts to get all of her luggage out and said she was leaving us all and going to walk to the train station. We were concerned about deserting the minibus. I can't remeber if I even uttered a prayer, but this woman pulled up in her station wagon with two German shepherd dogs at the same time that my mom spotted this old woman standing a little distance away. My mom pointed out the lady saying,

"Now that's a true little old German lady, look at her bubushca and her little stockings."

My sister said something like,

"Yeah, look there's a German woman and German Shepherds. Now I really feel like I'm in Germany."

One of us asked the lady with the dogs how to get to the train station. We went into the cashier to try and find out the train schedule and if we could call a taxi, but they acted like we were out of our minds, the nice lady offered us rides to the station. It happened to be fairly close, but at least a few blocks away and she had to take us in two different car loads because of all of our luggage and her huge dogs and all. She was so friendly and sweet. When we got to the train station we saw the little old lady sitting on a bench right by the train tracks. There was no way this older woman could have walked there that fast. We had just seen her moments before at the gas station. My mom immediately made the connection and pointed her out. She watched us get out of the car and get all of our luggage. We bought tickets for the next train ride, it was a short wait. When we boarded, I looked out the window and noticed the little old lady wasn't on the bench. We all were talking about her and then we saw her, standing off in the distance, watching. Of course my mom and I were a little emotional and my mom, in between her sobs, says,

"She's watching us to make sure we are on our way. She is waiting for us to pull away, and then she'll go."

Sure enough, she was no longer in sight as we started moving. We talked about how she was an angel sent from God. Looking back, I truly believe that my Lord sent a protector to take care of us. We made the long way back to Frankfort and were able to even get a hotel room, instead of sleeping in the airport!

Even when I am undeserving, my God still reaches down his hand and holds me. In the shadow of His wing, I find rest. This just boggles my mind. Looking back on this miracle, I am astounded at His merciful, merciful hand. You see, my vacation was filled with some anger, much anxiety and little grace for my other family members and God still chose to watch over us. There is nothing that I can do, good or bad, that will make God provide or not provide. He is God and all I can do is acknowledge it or ignore it. I can thank Him and give Him all of the praise and glory, or I can just let the memory fade into the back of my mind. Today, I am going to thank Him. I am going to honor Him. My God hears my cries! He knows the depths of my heart. He knows the depth of my sin, yet He still loves me and through my savior, the sacrificed lamb, He forgives me completely! To Him be the glory, and the honor, and the power now and forevermore AMEN!!!

Psalm 77:11-14
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. Your ways, Oh God, are holy. What god is so great as our God? You are the God who performs miracles; you display your power among the peoples.