731

Suicide

I live in a small, rural community. We have one high school. Many of the students have parents and grandparents that attended that same school. We have only lived here a few years and are slowly building those ties to the community. Two years ago today at 9:41 a.m. tragedy struck that shook the town. One of our teenagers committed suicide at the high school during the school day. Though I did not know them, the family was a part of my church. The family was loved in the community. I would guess 1000 or more showed up for the funeral. Our church building seats 400 at best. There were people packed everywhere. There were even some watching the service on a video screen outside. For me, after the funeral, the family faded back into the background because I didn’t know them.
 
But, I would see them at church. I would pray for them but didn’t want to intrude on their grief. I didn’t know them. That changed a few months ago. The mom started to go the women’s group that I am a part of. We had a few conversations and I added her as a Facebook friend. I subscribed to her blog. I watched her and her husband at church. They are not the same people I saw two years ago. Grief has changed them as grief always does. But, they have allowed grief to change them for the better. They have run into the arms of their Savior and are receiving his healing touch.
 
Some, in times of tragedy, run from God. They ran to God. They have been touched by their friends, family and their church. They have not stopped living. Life goes on for the survivors of a suicide. I have listened to Cassie, the mom, at the women’s group. She has shared stories of tears and of joy. She has shared how her family has reached out to help other families that have been affected by teen suicide.
 
I don’t mean to sound like they don’t struggle, she has shared those stories too. What I see in Cassie’s life is the love of God shining. She has chosen to trust God in one of the most difficult situations a parent can be.
 
Life goes on and Cassie is not stuck in the past. I have heard her talk of memories of her son but she doesn’t live there. Her husband is a local police officer. He recently tested for promotion. She asked for prayer for his test. She talked about planning a birthday surprise for her youngest son. She found the specific tennis shoes he had asked for. She was excited to be able to give them to him.
 

Mental Illness

I titled this post 731. That is the title of the post on her blog. I don’t think she will mind me using it too. She starts her post by saying that 731 is the number of days that they have survived since the death of their son. She chose to write the blog post on this day to grieve, honor her son and maybe save a life. I would like to stand with her.
 
Her son, Isaac, had struggled with depression. He was receiving help. But it was too little, too late. My family has a history of mental illness. No one has succeeded with suicide. There are extended family members who have considered it. I also have a dear friend whose husband committed suicide. I have been on the fringes of it.
 
Our society puts a stigma on mental illness. We in the church are no better. Mental illness can be treated. If you are in a place where you are considering suicide, there is help. The National Suicide Prevention Lifeline is available 24/7 at 1-800-273-8255. You are not alone.
 
I tell the story as an outsider. If you would like to read more, this is Cassie’s blog post. I write today to honor her family and the memory of her son, Issac. I also write with the hope that another life can be saved. I have scheduled this post to be published at 9:41 a.m. to honor Issac.

What about you?

I know that suicide and mental illness are hard topics to talk about. If you are struggling, there is help. Even if you do not have health insurance, there are places you can receive treatment. Reach out. Yes, it is scary to admit you are struggling. Take a chance and reach out. It may be your own life you are saving.  As always, comments are welcome. If you would like to say something to me privately, add that to your comment. Comment do not appear for public viewing until I have seen and approved them.

Easter week musings

Be still
And know
That I am
God
 
Psalm 46:10
 
All week long I have been thinking about a blog post for Easter week. It is such an important week in the life of the church and believers. I have tossed around a few ideas and have come up with nothing. That is until today. It is not what I thought it would be.

This week…

 
On Monday, we were invited to a friend’s celebration of the Feast of the Unleaven bread. We had some lamb in the freezer that they used in the stew they served. We had one of our   4-month-old Great Pyrenees puppies disappear. We found her. If you would like to read about the adventure, check out my husband’s blog. Because of this, we missed the celebration. We didn’t eat dinner until about 8:30 that evening.
 
On Tuesday, we had a severe thunderstorm roll through the area mid-afternoon. There was a tornado warning for our area. Hubby was working from home so he carefully watched the radar. Fortunately, none touched down and we are safe. We did get about an inch of rain in an hour. That evening, I went to a Bible study and we shared Communion. That was special.
 
On Wednesday morning a good friend came by for a visit. We spent a few hours catching up. Later in the afternoon, my older daughter and I went to feed the livestock. One of the 2-year-old rams had gotten his head stuck in a fence. He has done this before. We were able to get him out unharmed. I picked up a few cactus spines in my hand and leg in the process.
 
When hubby got home, we washed the duck and chicken eggs that we had gathered this week. He brings them to work on Thursdays to sell. He shared with me what God had been saying to him lately. He asked me what God was saying to me. I said something like, “He has not said much lately.”

Silence?

All day I have been thinking about that comment which leads me to Psalm 46:10. Be still and know that I am God. It is a verse that has been important in my life for years. Usually, God reminds me of this verse when life is hectic and I start to melt down. Not this time. All week, there has been a gentle sense of His presence but I have been concerned that I am not hearing him. I am one of his sheep and his voice brings peace and comfort. In my quiet times this week, it has seemed like all I am doing is putting one foot in front of another. I have been doing a chronological reading plan and have been in the prophets for ages. They are so hard to read! 
 
Tuesday I finished the Old Testament and started the New on Wednesday. It took me 24 hours and the turn of a page. In reality, it was 400 years that God was silent. If it were our time, God would not have said a word to his people from 1617 to 2017. That is hard for my mind to comprehend but, it happened. God was silent. I was concerned that I hadn’t heard his voice in a few days. Four hundred years of silence.
 
I realized that I haven’t heard the still small voice in my heart but God has been far from silent. I have been in his word, he speaks there. I have gone from the words of doom from the prophets to the restoration of Jerusalem’s walls in Nehemiah. And then the birth of Jesus and his miracles. He speaks through his word. I went to church on Sunday and heard his word preached. On Tuesday, I went to a Bible study and shared Communion. On Wednesday, I shared sweet fellowship with a friend. The undercurrent through the whole week has been the understanding that he lives in me. He never leaves me.
 
Maybe that is my taken away from this Easter week. I was hoping for some understanding that I had never seen. And yet, what I received is profoundly simple. The Jews had 400 years of silence but I never truly have silence because he lives within me. The Jews did not know that God had not left them. All they had left were religious observances. We have the assurance that he will never leave us or forsake us. He has told us so. So even in the moments of quietness, he is there.

What about you?

What have you learned this Easter week? Have you heard something new or the comfort of the truths you hold dear? I would love to hear your thoughts.

The Three F’s: Friends, Food, and Fireflies

 
This has been a busy week full of the normal stuff of life. You know, laundry, grocery shopping, spring cleaning, that kind of stuff. Nothing wild or crazy has happened with the animals. After last week, I am thankful that it has been calmer.
 
I haven’t written much this week. That is unusual for me. There was only one blog post and very little written in my journal. I have no idea why. It didn’t seem important to sit and write until this morning. I want to tell you about friends, food, and fireflies.
 

Friends

 
It has been a people filled week. Since I am an introvert, sometimes I find people overwhelming. Not this week. I have no idea what makes the difference. On Tuesday, we had lunch with our pastor. It was good to hear his heart. That evening, Hubby went to a men’s Bible study and I went to a women’s group. On Thursday, we had some friends over for dinner. We are getting to know this couple. They are both Master Gardeners like I am. They also want to get involved with sheep. It seems strange but we are helping them to get started. We have only been involved with sheep for four years and still feel like novices ourselves. Today we are having dinner and playing board games with long term friends. We have known these people for about ten years. We try to get together once a month and alternate houses. This month, it is at their house.

 

Food

 
So many gatherings revolve around food. Ours this week have been no different. We had lunch with the pastor at a local burger joint. They have tables outside and the weather was perfect so we ate outside. Hubby’s men’s group shares a meal. I made my world famous chocolate chip cookies for him to bring. I usually bake about 12 dozen when I make them; some to share and some for us. At the women’s group, we had build it yourself taco salads. On Thursday, I went all out for the meal. I am half Italian. My grandparents came over from Sicily around 1900. I make an amazing spaghetti. I made some Amish white bread. I usually make 2-4 loaves a week. I did a garlic butter dipping sauce for the bread. I tried a new cherry pie  bar recipe for dessert. And our guests brought a Mediterranean salad. Tonight we are going to have chicken fajitas. I am bringing the leftover dessert from Thursday and ice cream.

Amazing taste & easy to make.

I made it with gluten free flour.

 

 

Fireflies

 
Spring in rural south Texas brings two things I love, hummingbirds and fireflies. In some parts, they are called lightening bugs. Here we call them fireflies. My younger daughter says that I get as excited as a kid in a candy store about those two creatures. I sit on our front porch swing at twilight and watch for the flashes as it gets dark. It is marvelous! The other night, my husband saw a firefly that I would have loved to see. His story was hilarious.
 
He had gotten into bed, I was already there. Duke, our indoor Great Pyrenees, was laying down by his side of the bed. He had turned out the lamp on his nightstand and noticed that Duke was glowing. He watched it for a few seconds and the glow would blink off and on. He goes digging around in Duke’s fur and found a firefly! He picked it up and took it outside. The next morning, he tells me this story. I was amazed and sad I missed it.

The great firefly catcher at rest. There is an antler under his head.

 
How has your week been? I would love to hear from you.

The Good Shepherd’s Love

I am the good shepherd.
The good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep.
 
John 10:11

Shepherds

 
In our 21st century world, most are far removed from an agrarian lifestyle. We don’t grow our own food; it comes from the grocery store. And for those of us who are meat eaters, few have ever raised animals for food. We live in cities where somehow the food appears at the grocery store. We don’t give it much thought. I am not going to debate if this is a good or bad thing. I know you miss out on things with that life. I know I did.
 
In Jesus day, all would have understood his many references to shepherds. It was part of their everyday culture even if it wasn’t your family’s profession. Even if you didn’t personally know a shepherd, you knew about them. It would be like you not knowing that a Starbucks employee works with coffee. Even if you don’t shop there, you know that Starbucks sells coffee. Shepherds were part of their culture like Starbucks is part of ours.
 
Jesus used this common understanding to explain truths. We miss it because we don’t see the relationship between the shepherd and his sheep. I understand much more now that we raise sheep.

God works for good

 
Pie, one of our rams, died a few days ago. My oldest daughter and I tried to save his life by doing the Heimlich maneuver. In my last post, I said that I wasn’t sure how God could use this for good. There may be other ways but last night, I had a glimpse of the Shepherd’s heart.
Saturday night, one of our Great Pyrenes, Duke had a barking fit right outside our bedroom window. The window was open so he was loud! Since I was awake, I got up to go the bathroom. My muscles were so sore, everything hurt. My arms and legs were in pain. My back was on fire. It was the kind of sore you get when you exercise way too hard at the gym. You know the kind, where you don’t want to move for the next two or three days. I was in pain. On top of that, my allergies were acting up. I had my nose close to the wool of a sheep that lives outdoors. His wool was covered with oak pollen. I am highly allergic to oak. I was miserable.
 
I did my stuff in the bathroom and crawled back into bed. I pondered for a few moments before going back to sleep. I was sore and felt bad because of my allergies. And then I thought, “I wouldn’t change a thing. I am a shepherd. And shepherds take care of their sheep no matter what.”
 
Then I heard the voice of my Shepherd speaking in my head. “I am the good Shepherd. The good Shepherd lays down his life for the sheep.”
 
I was surrounded by such love. I understood that he came to earth to be our Good Shepherd. He gave his life because he does not want any of his sheep to perish.
 
We tried the best we knew how to save Pie’s life. At that moment, it didn’t matter how much I was going to be hurting, I had to give it my all to try to save his life. That was my shepherd’s heart for a livestock animal. How much greater the love of the Good Shepherd for his children. I saw that Shepherd’s heart last night. I wish I could put into words the tender loving touch I felt from my Shepherd. He laid down his life to save mine and yours. It didn’t matter how much it was going to cost him because he loves us. I got a glimpse of that love.
 
Pie was a magnificent animal. We had plans to breed him. His offspring would have had a gentle personality with beautiful horns. But that was not God’s plan for his life. He was destined for something greater. His death showed me the love of the Good Shepherd. I would never have seen it without my involvement in Pie’s death.
 
I know people debate whether animals go to heaven. I have no Biblical basis for this, but I think they do. I think animals have a special understanding of the Father’s love that we as humans don’t. I think he welcomes them home when they pass. I believe that Pie is in heaven walking the Good Shepherd.
 

What about you?

 
Has God uses something hard in your life to show you his loves? I would love to hear about it in the comment section.

Shelby (back), Pie (center) and Pineapple (front) invade the chicken coop

Death on the Ranch

And we know that in ALL THINGS
God works for the good
Of those who love him,
Who have been called according to his purpose.
 
Romans 8:28
 
I keep running into this verse lately. God is trying to drill into my being. Today it sucks. I don’t see how he could possibly use it for good. But, I believe what he says. So somehow, some way, he will work this too for good because it is an ALL THING.

Pie

 
Death happens on the ranch. It was a hard concept to get my head and emotions around when we first moved here. In some ways, it has gotten easier. But it still hurts. I guess if you don’t feel it, you have become dead inside. When you pour your heart and soul into these animals, when one dies, you grieve. We have lived here for a little over four years. In that time we have lost cats, dogs, chickens, ducks, lambs and adult sheep. But it has never happened like it did today.
 
Pie was an adult ram. He would have been two years old on April 1st. He had a twin sister named Blueberry. She died when she was 5 months old. He had nice quality wool and beautiful horns. He had a gentle personality. We had recently decided to breed him when the ewes came in season next. He died today when he choked on an alfalfa pellet.
 
Our sheep are primarily grass fed. They do get a mixture of corn and alfalfa pellets for treats. I had thrown them some on the ground like I usually do. I went to do my chores in the chicken coop while older daughter took care of the ducks. The rams and the fowl are in different areas separated by a fence. She was the first one to notice that something was wrong.
 
She saw that Pie was choking. He was shaking his head and salivating. Shelby, our adult breeding ram, was head butting Pie. Another 2-year-old ram was doing the same.
 
From where I was standing, I did not have a clear view. I saw Shelby hit another ram. I am yelling at him to stop. Shelby is the alpha male of the group. He uses his status to bully the others. This is what I thought was happening. Daughter yells back at me that Shelby was trying to help. Still yelling, she stated, “We need to get into that pen, Pie is dying.” I thought she is overreacting because I can’t see anything yet.
 
I told her not to go into the pen. Shelby has an attitude with people too. He has knocked myself, husband and older daughter to the ground with his head butts. He sent my flying butt first into a cactus bush. Yes, it was as bad as you are imagining. You never walk into that pen without corn to distract him or our walking sticks. The sticks are used to herd all the rams into a different area. Or you point it at him to keep physical distance between your body and his. They are never used to hit or punish.
 
I remember telling her, “I don’t care if he dies while you are watching, don’t go in there unprotected.” She listened. Fortunately, we have trained the rams to quickly move from one pen to another when you shake a container of feed. We moved the other ten rams and went into the pen with Pie.
 
It was evident that it was really bad; he wasn’t breathing. I have never had sheep first aid so I wasn’t sure what to do. But, he was dying in front of us. I have taken human first aid and CPR many times. I did the Heimlich maneuver on a 100 lb. ram. The Older daughter was amazing. She has never taken first aid so I was talking her through this. We had to adapt for sheep anatomy. Sheep have four stomachs so I didn’t know if I could get enough pressure going to clear the airway. Daughter is holding his horns to keep his airway in the proper position. She was also helping to hold up the sheep. I had my arms around his belly, holding him up and doing the Heimlich maneuver. Did I mention that both daughter and I are a hair under 5 foot tall and weigh about 125-130 lbs.?
 
It worked for a few minutes. It didn’t completely clear his airway but he was breathing. He was more alert and we thought he was going to be fine. Then he threw his head back like he was looking up at the sky. Ten seconds later, he was gone. It is silly because he was a sheep but, we called the time of his death. It marked the point of closure and finality. We couldn’t have done anything more. We went inside to take care of ourselves and call my husband with the news.

After Effects

 
We both understand the need to deal with the emotions. We are both very sore. She more so the legs. My arms and chest are in pain. It hurts to type and move the mouse. She is missing work tomorrow. She works at an animal shelter. Her boss is an animal control officer; he understands the lifestyle. Tomorrow we will get up and take care of the chickens, ducks, emus, dogs and sheep because that is what we do.
 
Pie was a livestock animal. But he was ours to care for. He was a fine sheep. We had plans to breed him. There is an emotional loss and a financial loss. We go through this every time a sheep, lamb or livestock guardian dog dies. We grieve and then we go on.
 
We knew nothing of this lifestyle until four years ago. But we would never turn back because we are shepherds and ranchers. It is part of who we are.
 
I am physically sore and emotional drained. It has been a difficult day. I know that death is a part of life. We have had animals die before. But, I have never had one die in my arms while I am trying to save its life. I choose to believe the truth of Romans 8:28 but I hurt.
 
Though the fig tree does not bud
And there are no grapes on the vines,
Though the olive crop fails
And the fields produce no food,
Though there are no sheep in the pen
And no cattle in the stalls,
Yet I will rejoice in the Lord,
I will be joyful in God my Savior.
 
Habakkuk 3:17-18

RIP
April 1,2015- March 30,2017

ALL THINGS and my computer

And we know that in ALL THINGS
God works for the good of those who love him,
who have been called according to his purpose
Romans 8:28

I had an ALL THINGS event on Saturday evening. If you are just joining my blog or don’t remember, here is my previous post about ALL THINGS.

Master Gardener

 
I am a Master Gardener. I know it sounds all official and like I know stuff. Well, I do, kinda. I took a semester-long course and learned a lot about gardening. But in practice, I am still a novice gardener. When the editor of our newsletter resigned last summer, I took the position. Master Gardeners is a volunteer organization. So I receive no monetary compensation for doing the newsletter. I put together and publish about a 20-page newsletter once a month. It is fun and I enjoy it, until tonight.
 
Over the last few days, I have put in about 10 hours of work in preparation and then designing the newsletter. Right before dinner, the newsletter was almost finished. I had maybe another hour or so work before I could send it out to my proofreaders. I shut down the program and then wasn’t sure I had saved the last change. It seemed strange that it didn’t ask me if I was sure I wanted to close without changing. I tried to open the program.

But…

 
It told me that it had discovered a problem and for the safety of my computer it would not open the program. I waited a few minutes and tried again. It gave me the same message. My husband is an IT guy as his profession. I asked him to look at it. He said, “Let’s eat dinner first.” He suggested that I close the program. Not what I wanted to hear but I was okay with it.
 
We have had a busy day and leftovers were planned for dinner. Dinner was quickly on the table. While I was microwaving the leftovers, I decided that this was an “ALL THING”. If I had lost several hours of work, God was going to use it for good. This is not my normal reaction to computer troubles.
 
My husband is good with computers, his skills put food on our table. Me, I have basic skills and can work a few programs. But, I have almost no knowledge or skill with what make a computer tick. When things go wrong with my computer, I freak. The only thing my husband dislikes more than helping me with computer issues is fighting with me. I don’t understand computers inner workings so when they fail, I am a mess. (Hubby feel free to leave a comment to let my readers know I am not exaggerating.)

Trusting the Shepherd

 
I decided that that yes, I may have lost 6 hours of computer work but it wasn’t the end of the world. God was still on his throne and in control. I may have to re-do the entire issue but I was fine with that. Hubby and I ate dinner and I was calm.
 
After dinner, he said he wanted to go sit on our front porch swing. I joined him. It was a beautiful country spring evening. We saw two hummingbirds come to the feeders. We saw either a hawk or an owl fly low across our property. We heard an owl. We watched the dogs and the livestock. I looked for fireflies but did not see any. It was a relaxing time with my husband enjoying God’s creation. And I didn’t think about the computer.
 
We went back inside and I asked him if he could look at the computer tonight or if it needed to wait until tomorrow. I was okay with either answer. He said he would look at it in about five or ten minutes.
 
While I was waiting, I caught up on Facebook. I know, not real spiritual but this is real life. When he was ready, he asked me to try to open the program again so he could see the error message. Well, I opened it expecting to see the error message again but that is not what happened. The program opened correctly and all my work was there. There was no loss at all! Everything was perfect.
 
I have no idea what happened, I am not that good with computers. It was all there!

Tuesday

 
I wrote the beginning part on Saturday night. It is now Wednesday morning. Yesterday, I got the same error code and I had not saved an extra copy. Yes, I know, it was a silly mistake. I won’t make that one again. This was the longest newsletter that I have done; 29 pages. I thought it was all gone. Once again, God said are you going to trust me or freak out? My IT guru husband was working from home yesterday. I asked him what to do. He gave me his opinion. I did what he suggested and I got my file back. I have now finished the newsletter and sent it out to my proofreaders.
 
Romans 8:28 says, “And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose.” We, or I, tend to think of that verse with the big issues of life. It has to do with the everyday small things too. Some things I deal with it better than others. Computer issues are not one of my best. Others I do okay with. As with anything with God, it is a process. Some days are better than others but he reminds us that he has no condemnation for us.
 
Therefore,
There is NOW NO CONDEMNATION
For those who are in Christ Jesus.
 
Romans 8:1
 
What about you? Do you have trouble with All Things in everyday life like I do? Do you consider some days a win and others a fail? Don’t beat yourself up! He loves you and does not condemn you. I would love to hear your comments.

My IT rancher husband plowing the 2016 spring garden

 

Pumpkins from the 2016 spring garden


 

 

 

Guitar part 2?

The other Day

 
The other day in my post, Fear, I wrote about stopping playing the guitar because of fear. I ended the post with something like maybe someday the guitar will come back. Maybe I will find that I am both a writer and a musician. I don’t have an answer to that but in my mind, it was a question. I didn’t expect God to do anything with it. I didn’t expect it so soon. I wrote about it last week and opened my heart to the possibility of someday, maybe. It wasn’t a real hope or dream, just maybe. Well…, let me tell you what happened this week.

Facings Tons of Fears

 
I had been invited to a Bible study at the home of someone I didn’t know. Hubby goes to a men’s group on Tuesday night so I was going to be going alone. The person who invited me unexpectedly was not able to go. She said, “You should go, you will have fun.” Hubby said the same thing. I was ready to back out. I am an introvert. I was going by myself to interact with a bunch of new people. It hit all my panic buttons. I went. I had to use GPS since it was in an area that I had never been. GPS was wrong; it said that my destination was on the right. There was nothing but a field on my right. Have I mentioned that I have no sense of direction? I wanted to go home. I called my hubby. He called the leader of his men’s group. It was his parent’s house that I was trying to get to. I found the house and there were no cars there. I was already 15 minutes late. I knocked on the door.
 
Fortunately, I was in the right place. All my fears said that I was knocking on the wrong door. They invited me in and showed me where the food was. Dinner was being served before the meeting. The food was good, simple fare served on paper plates. There was an open seat next to the lady of the house, Mrs. A. She invited me to sit next to her and introduced me to all. I began to relax, they weren’t going to eat me for dinner. I know it sounds silly now, but I don’t do well with crowds by myself. I was so far out of my comfort zone last night. But He was with me.

Worship

 
Mrs. A. finished dinner and grabbed her guitar. I later found out that she was the worship leader for this group. She was laying out her music as we chatted. She asked if I played. She caught me with a mouth full of food. There must have been some expression on my face that she caught. She continued speaking like I answered yes. She said I thought you played, I could tell. As I am still chewing, she said that people tell her all kinds of reasons why they don’t play. She said that most people play better than she does because she only knows a few chords. I swallowed my food and told her the truth. Yes, I did play but haven’t picked up a guitar at all in a few years because of fear. I told her that I played classical guitar and not a steel string like hers. She took what I said at face value. She didn’t try to talk me out of my fear or tell me that it was silly. All she did was turn to one of her daughters and say, “She plays classical guitar.” Then she went back to preparing for worship.
 
Worship was not what I expected. Several of the churches that we have attended have a worship style that feels like you are going to a concert. It is neither good nor bad; it is a style. It is hard for the average person to join in and sing. This was far from that. Her style was beautiful. It was far from professional; it was simple and inviting. All could join in. She led four songs. Two were traditional hymns. The hymnals were sitting on the kitchen table for those who needed the words; me. Then she sang two songs that the style was more contemporary. I knew those words.
 
While this was wonderful, it was not what caught my attention the most. When she sat down to play, three of her grandchildren got their guitars to join her. I am guessing at the ages but they ranged from about 10-15. No one tuned their guitars to play as a group. If you know anything about musicians, tuning is a big deal. Mrs. A. mentioned that they haven’t tuned for a couple of weeks. If someone was out of tune, it wasn’t noticeable. I could only see the face of the youngest. He would stop playing and look confused at certain parts of the song. But, he kept going. The two older ones would stop at certain places too. No one mentioned a thing. No one cared that it wasn’t perfect. When worship time was over, all four put their guitars away. The eyes were not on the musicians. It was all about worshiping Jesus.

Next Week

 
Next week, yes I am going back, I want to bring my guitar. I won’t know the songs. I will forget a chord here and there but it is a start. It feels like a safe place to start anew. Maybe, just maybe, I am a writer and a musician too.

What about You?

Are you and God working through something that you find fearful? He tells us in Isaiah 43:2 that he walks through things with us. He is there to hold your hand in the fearful times.

When you pass through the waters, I will be with you; and when you pass through the rivers, they will not sweep over you. When you walk through the fire, you will not be burned; the flames will not set you ablaze.

You are His lamb. He holds your hand as you walk through.

 

 


Muddy Puppies and Jesus’ Love

But God demonstrated his love for us;
While we were still sinners
Christ died for us.
Romans 5:8
 
I walked outside a few minutes ago and what a sight I saw. Our two female, twelve-week-old Great Pyrenees puppies were covered in mud!

Her name is Snowball. She is not white today!

Sugar after she was tackled by Snowball.

 
They love me and wanted to be hugged and petted. They were not happy that I didn’t want to touch them. They didn’t understand why I didn’t want to shower them with love like I usually do. They were being puppies and had found a mud puddle. They had fun and wanted to share it with me. I was wearing shorts and flip flops. I didn’t want my legs covered with mud. I had to take pictures because they were being so adorable.
 
As I was snapping picture after picture, the above verse came into my mind. He spoke gently to me. He said that we were still sinners when he died for us. We were covered with the filth of sin like the puppies were covered in mud. I didn’t want to get the puppies’ mud on my skin. Christ, who was a holy and perfect God, became sin. He did this to rescue us from the power of sin. We weren’t clean and pretty. We were not pure white like clean Great Pyrenes puppies can be. We were muddy with sin. And he chose to die for us when we were in that condition.
 
He loves you! You don’t have to clean yourself up before you come to him. You come to him and then he makes you pure. I don’t understand the concept; I take it on faith. When I accepted him, I died and he lives with me.
 
I have been crucified with Christ and I no longer live,
But Christ lives in me.
The life I now live in the body,
I live by faith in the Son of God,
Who loved me and gave himself for me
Galatians 2:20
 
I understand that we are people and not dogs. But think of the puppy as an analogy for your life. You are a puppy that gets dirty and muddied by sin. My puppies thought I wanted to love on them while they were a mess; I didn’t. I didn’t want to touch them until they were clean. We think that is how God feels about us. We are wrong. No matter how much mud of sin you have caked on you, He comes to offer you love. And he offers to take the muck of your sin upon himself and give you his life.
 
He loves you!
 

What about you?

 
Do you know him? Does your life look as messy as my muddy puppies? God offers his love and he will make you whiter than snow. Ask Jesus into your life
 
There is nothing fancy about doing that. Some people call it the sinner’s prayer. You can use your own words or mine below.
 
Dear Jesus,
 

I am a muddy, messy puppy. I have sin in my life. You know about all that muddy sin I am stuck in. I am covered with it. I have tried to change my life but it doesn’t work. I am coming to you as my Savior. I want you to clean up this messy puppy and make me white as snow. Your word says that I am crucified with you and I die. And that you live within me. I don’t know what that means but I want it. What I understand is that somehow you see my messy, muddy life and still love me. I want you in my life.

Sugar and Snowball-8 weeks old and white.

If you have made a commitment to Jesus and have turned from a muddy puppy to a snow white puppy, let me know. As always, I would love to hear your comments.

All Things

And we know that in  ALL THINGS
God works for the good of those
Who love him,
Who have been called
According to his purpose.
 
Romans 8:28
 
In this verse, God promises to work for our good. He does things for our good and his glory. This can be a verse of great comfort. It is also a verse that causes confusion. 

Pain and Hope

 
Years ago as a twenty-something year old, God taught me a truth in this verse. He has repeated time and time again. Let me set the stage for you. I don’t remember what exactly why I was upset and heartbroken. At that point in my life, it was either because of my job or a guy. I remember standing in the shower, washing my hair and the tears were streaming down my face. Whatever caused such angst back then doesn’t even register in my memory now. Yet, the lesson is still as fresh as that day.
 
In my tears, God reminded me of this verse. He wasn’t upset that I didn’t see the truth of this verse. He wasn’t mad that I didn’t understand that this heartache would work for good. He came to bring comfort. He came to hold my hand in the pain. He came to bring truth into my life. He can do no other thing because HE is the TRUTH.
 
He spoke these words to me as I stood washing my hair. These words have stuck with me for thirty something years. this story It has become part of who I am and I share it.
 
He asked me, “Is this an ALL THING?” I was brokenhearted. I was in pain and he dared to ask that. To me, seemed like a stupid thing to ask. I wanted to know how he was going to fix the situation. I wanted my pain to go away. I didn’t want to answer the stupid question. He gently asked it several more times before I answered.
 
I had to say yes to his question. ALL means all. There were no exceptions written in that verse. It doesn’t mean that there is a “no way” clause for things we don’t like. Things like cancer, job loss, adultery, the suicide of your teenager and much more are included in that verse. We don’t see how God could work for our good in these times. All we see is what is in front of us. Everything in us screams that God cannot or will not work for our good in this situation. But the verse says ALL THINGS!
 
We can’t see it with our human minds. But God… He doesn’t think like we do. He says, “For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways. As the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts.” Isaiah 5: 8-9 NIV
 
God is so big and so awesome that we can’t even begin to understand his thoughts. That is a good thing! I wouldn’t want the God who runs the universe to only have my mental capacities. It would be a mess. But when the ALL THINGS happen we want to understand because it hurts.
 
If you are in an ALL THINGS time, read the next few paragraphs like Jesus is talking to you. While they are my words, they contain the truth of HIS WORD.

Jesus wants you to know…

 
When the day is a mess, call out to me. When you are stressed, call out to me. When you feel that you are at the end of your rope and can go no further, call out to me. I will rescue you. Sometimes that means I will change the circumstances. But most times it means that I will hold your hand during the storm.
 
I will be there to quiet your pounding heart. I will be there to give you directions when there seems to be no way. I see the way because I Am the Way. I am your peace in the storm. When there are torrents of rain falling, I will hold your hand. When hail the size of tennis balls is falling, and thunder crashing, I am there. I walk with you through the scary stuff of life. I never leave you. I will never, ever, ever forsake you. That means I will stick to you like glue. My presence is always with you.
 
When there is a traffic jam and you are late for work, I am there. When the worst thing in your life happens, I am there. Because you are mine, I am able to protect you in ways that you don’t see and can’t even imagine. You have no idea how many times a day I protect you. And even in the times when it seems like I am not protecting you, I am. You don’t see the big picture of your life. I have the best in mind for you. I love you.
 
Sometimes the most growth comes in the painful times of your life. I do know what is best for you. I only allow pain and hurt in your life for your good and my glory. All things do work for good. But, when you are in the middle of the pain, you don’t see that. I do. That is why I allow the pain and suffering in your life. I see the end. I see the beauty that comes from the ashes. I see and understand what the pain creates in your life that could not be created any other way. I see the good that comes from the pain and frustrations of life. Please trust me that I know what I am doing. I ask you to walk a life of faith and trust. I know that it is not easy. I know more than you could understand. Remember I walked that life of faith too. Yes, I was fully God but I was also fully man at the same time. I understand the fear and uncertainty that living the life of faith can bring. ALL THINGS do work for good. Trust me.

Things to think about

I don’t want to give you the impression that I have this stuff figured out. Sometimes I get it.  And other times, well my reactions are not pretty. You would even wonder if I know Him by the way I react. But, I am his daughter. He lavishes me with love and grace.  Do you know this God that offers nothing but Grace when we don’t deserve it? I would love to hear your thoughts. 

Fear, It’s not going to stop me this time.

A writer and a teacher

 
I am a writer. I have written off and on since I was a teenager. But, I didn’t call myself a writer until last year. You see, I am a teacher too. I never thought of myself as a writer because writing is so much a part of the teaching profession. I looked at it as something I did because I was a teacher. I figured it was a skill I picked up along the way because all teachers write.
 
Until last year, that is how I thought about writing. I lumped it into the same category as public speaking. That is a skill you learn as a teacher too. Getting up and talking in front of a group of people is scary for most people; teachers do it every day. I have 20+ years of experience as an educator and have yet to die speaking in front of a group. It doesn’t scare me.
 
Last year, I started taking writing seriously. I discovered the idea of sharing my writing in public was daunting. It was as scary as public speaking is for most people. At first, I wrote only in a journal for myself. Then I shared with family members and a few friends. It was a vulnerable experience and terrifying.

The problem was fear

 
 I knew that I had words to speak. I didn’t know if I wanted others to listen because it meant I could face rejection. And so I started a blog. I know it was a silly step if I didn’t want people to read my work. But, I was conflicted. I wanted people to read the blog and I was fearful that they would read it.
 
Yes, it was and still is scary. Yet, I have been down this road before. I chose fear. I used to play classical guitar. I took a semester of it in college as an elective. I learned a bit more on my own and enjoyed it. But I would never play in front of people. The fear of rejection paralyzed me. I was a beginner. No one would have expected perfection from my level of skill. I thought I had to have that to play for others. So I hid, used excuses and ultimately I stopped playing. I walked in fear. What if I had kept playing despite the fear? I took that class in the summer of 1981. I would have had 30+ years of experience. Would I have been a master or mediocre? I don’t know because I let fear rule me.

Yes, it is a regret. Yet, God can use regrets for good. I learned and am determined not to make the same choice again. I don’t want to hide behind fear with my writing. I debated even writing this post. You have no idea how scary this is. But I have learned, and am learning, that if things are out in the open, they have less power.

The solution is faith

 
This is my line in the sand post. I have done it in my journal. Now, I choose to do it on the blog for all to see. I commit my writing to God. I will go where he directs. This is my version of Isaiah 6:8. “Then I heard the voice of the Lord saying, “Whom shall I send? And who will go for us?” And I said, “Here I am I. Send me!” I have no idea what this means, but I say yes to what God is asking of my writing.

The guitar

 
And about that guitar, I still own it. I have the guitar that I used in that class many years ago. It is a beautiful guitar and its tonal qualities are amazing. Over the years, I have had people offer to buy it. I can’t sell it. The whole guitar thing has never felt finished. Perhaps its purpose in my life has been fulfilled. I failed at it but God used it to help me walk through the fear of sharing my writing. Or, maybe in time, I will rediscover the guitar. I might be both a writer and a musician. Only time will tell. If so, fear will not stop me this time.

What about you?

What about you? Is God asking you to do something that is scary? Join with me on this faith journey. Take that step of faith. I know that I will not be perfect with this; that is okay. I will probably be like a turtle and stick my head back into my shell of fear occasionally. But, I invite you to come back to the blog to witness my journey. My journey can give you hope. Will you walk with me into His immeasurable Grace and Love? Let me know what you think.