Thank you for stopping by my blog.

I write day after day because I discover extraordinary lessons from ordinary life experiences. I record my visual portraits of everyday life filled with something sacred in hopes that my reflections might bring an insight that blesses my readers.

Monday, December 28, 2015

Learning from the manger all year long.

Managing the Manger 

            During this season of advent, I have been pondering and meditating on each figure in the crèche.  I have asked each morning for the Lord to show me more truth, meaning, and understanding of how each person and their action relates to me 2000 years later.  The good news I hear in my spirit and mind has made this season holy.
              The new babe wrapped in swaddling clothes represents the warmth of His promises to me.  As swaddling comforts a new baby, I too am comforted by the good news in the Bible.
            The manger scene evokes peace in any artist’s rendition.  Angelic singing surrounds the scene proclaiming glory in the highest and peace to mankind.  As I draw near Him, I feel his peace.  2015 creates a need for peace in this world like we have never known.  We seek His peace amidst international stress, the refugee plight, the random madness of terrorist and crazed men, and the awareness of poverty here and across the globe.  I cry out for peace unto our world as I draw near Jesus and am comforted by His pure love.
            I seek.  I seek daily understanding of the Spirit’s plan for my life.  Just as the wise men sought out the king, they had to travel a long distance.  They anticipated but did not truly grasp what they would find.  The wise men brought gifts to offer the newborn babe and knelt down at his crib.  They found him and worshipped him. These sages teach me the importance of the gifts of hope, time, and worship. Why worship?  (John 4:23) When I worship, I am changed.  The light within me is ignited. The heart of God knows no distance.  He changes our attitudes and erases the furrowed wrinkles in our brow.  He touches us when we worship. May I hold onto this teaching all year long?
            Jesus was birthed in a manger.  Why a simple dwelling?  I believe because God wanted to teach us from a meager beginning a king can be born.  The manger gives me hope that the immigrant can become a CEO, the poor can become President, and the unnoticed can be noticed and given honor.  It is Jesus that makes the difference in our lives, not where we were born or reared.
            As I look at young Mary in my mind’s eye, I realize the definition of faithfulness.  She understood that she was to birth the Son of God.  Did she understand? We can’t know, but we read how she followed the admonition of the angel. She heard and followed.  Oh, teach me,  Mary, how to be faithful in spite of not knowing the entire plan.  Mary, teach me to trust as I gaze at you kneeling beside the Christ child.
            Joseph was a saint.  The angel that appeared to him said, “Joseph, descendant of David, don’t be afraid to take Mary as your wife because the baby in her is from the Holy Spirit…” Can we even wrap our minds around that statement? Imagine following through and do as you were directed? It wasn’t popular or even acceptable to have a baby out of wedlock.  Joseph didn’t question, he tried to find a warm place to comfort Mary in her pain.  Was he wondering why shepherds and cows were the first ones to see the Son of God?  What kind of celebration could they bring? It is through Joseph we learn trust combined with unconditional love.  He is the character in the scene that reminds us to not fear but trust regardless of circumstances.
            The manger manages many themes and illustrates several truths.  The most significant one is God loved us so much that He sent his only begotten son to earth to teach us pure love.  All He asks is that we return that love.  Let’s make this the holiday season and New Year filled with returned love.


Tuesday, December 15, 2015

Judge yourself that you will not be judged.

            I enjoy reading and study the works of the older evangelist like Smith Wigglesworth and C.H. Spurgeon.  They offer guidance for purity and how to be more like Christ. Their doctrines were not compromising.  They challenged their followers to ask evaluative questions of themselves.  Maybe in this holy season,  it is a good time to ask our Lord how are we doing?
            Today I asked myself, “Has my heart been broken because of sin?”  David asked the Lord that very question and wept in repentance.
            Today I asked myself, “Has my soul been full of true confidence in my hours of trials and difficulty?”
            This morning I asked myself, “How far am I conformed to the likeness of Christ?”
            I fell short on all of these.  My prayer today is,  “ Lord Jesus, help me in this season to have real faith and warmer zeal for reaching out to others.  Help me, O’Lord, to have Your fervent love toward family and strangers. Grant me humility and meekness.  I desire to present the lovely spirit that You constantly displayed.  Make me more like you, Jesus.  Draw me nearer to You in this sacred season.”  Amen

            Christmas is a time to become closer to Emmanuel.  He is with us. I am preparing my heart and home for my Special Guest this season.  May God’s blessings be abundant in your life.  Enjoy your time with Him.

Tuesday, December 8, 2015

Whispers of the Heart      

            Proverbs 11:25, "Whoever brings blessing will be enriched, and one who waters will himself be watered."(ESV)

            I like the ending, which reiterates he who refreshes others will himself be refreshed.   I desire to maintain this focus during the holiday season.  It is so easy to get folded up into my agendas, my lists , and even my expectations.  Suddenly, a day creeps in that I am unaware or unable to meet a friend’s expectation of me. At another time, husband, sons, or others don’t meet my expectations of them.  I am setting myself up for failure, discord, or disappointment.  So, how have I learned to live life differently?
            I listen to the whispers in my heart.  For example, I notice the lady in front of me at the check out is tediously counting every penny trying to come up with enough grocery money.  I feel a slight nudging, a soft tap on my shoulder, “Yes, you,” I hear softly. “Do it now, pay her bill and wish her Merry Christmas.”  Sometimes it is not a voice but a knowing that this is what I should do.  The woman ahead looks so surprised when I tell the clerk, “ I’d like to pay for hers and mine.” The lady looks at me with a puzzled expression.  “It’s OK, God wants to bless you.” She tucks her head, smiles softly, and says, “ Thank you, my dear.”  Her thank you is as gentle as the nudge.  I am refreshed.
As I walk outside the door, the Salvation Army bell ringer is standing in the cold.  She is very heavy and her coat does not close. She looks to be at least sixty-five, but her greeting is gleeful with this message,   “ Merry Christmas.  May your holidays be blessed. ” 
            “But, Lord, I just paid the lady’s’ bill, you want me to put money in this bucket too?”  I look again at the bell ringer’s happy spirit despite the cold, and it is the nudging I need.  I reach in my billfold and give her all I have left.  It seems I hear the whispers clearer during this holy season.  Perhaps it is the cold air, the people’s smiles, or the twinkling lights that help me focus.  Whatever it is, I know these are God whispers to guide my path of love and giving, and my returned gift is a refreshing.  I don’t do it for the return, but God loves us so much, He makes our cups overflow with joy.

            The whispers are soft, the nudging is gentle, and the vessels that help me focus are often impoverished or have sad doleful eyes.  He makes our paths cross to help us enter into His holy ways.  Christmas truly is a divine time of year. Embrace the whispers and feel the blessings.  I am reminded of Mathew 25:40, “Whenever you did one of these things to someone overlooked or ignored, that was me---you did it to me.” (The Message)

Wednesday, November 25, 2015

Cycles of Thanksgiving
     As we get ready for holidays, memories filter from my past. Nostalgia creeps through brain waves and reminds me of my blessings, losses, loves, and beginnings. 
      Thanksgiving as a child meant it was closer to Christmas.It meant eating my mom’s hot buttered rolls, southern style sweet potatoes, and key lime pie. I didn’t have time to stuff myself because kids are too busy playing and laughing with cousins and friends.
       As I grew older, Thanksgiving meant coming home from Ohio University to eat my mother’s gourmet cooking. I rejoiced at the delicious cornucopia of aromas. The dressing was fluffy and perfectly seasoned as was the gravy that smothered the heavily buttered mashed potatoes. Thinking about the sweet potatoes and cranberry salad still makes my mouth water. Admittedly, I selfishly looked forward to Thanksgiving break to devour scrumptious food and sleep. When I awakened, I‘d go see high school friends to catch up on their lives and share my latest news. Since we had no cell phones or tablets, we had a backup of stories that needed to be shared. I did little toward making the food or spending time with my parents. I was twenty and read to trot.
     As a young mom, my focus and understanding of Thanksgiving began to change. It was about setting an artful table, and planning and cooking the entire meal.  I rushed the little lads from the kitchen to play with dad and worked laboriously trying to create a tasty meal as my mom had done through the years.  I invited folks who had nowhere to go for Thanksgiving and relatives who would drive to Muncie to spend the holiday with us. I worked all week cleaning, cooking, and preparing a special meal. I realized all the standing, peeling, baking, and cooking my mom had done for me all those years was exhausting. I understood the pressure of getting every dish to come out on time, together, piping hot, and delicious. Thanksgiving meant a lot of hard work, but it was worth it when I heard the “yums” from those sitting around our table, and the smiling faces of my husband and sons.  Men waddled into the living room to watch the Detroit Lions, children played board games, and I was back in the kitchen cleaning up the mess with help from a couple of my aunts.
      As a mom of college kids, I cooked furiously to provide the dinner that fulfilled the guys’ expectations.  I couldn’t wait to see them, hug them, and hear of their adventures abroad or at the Naval Academy. I was obsessed to make the perfect meal. They, like I, came home, stuffed themselves with turkey, dressing and a boatload of gravy.  They inhaled pumpkin and pecan pies like a vacuum sucks up dirt. Then, off they went to see their friends and catch up on what had been happening. Den helped me clean up the mess, as adults chose to snooze, play cards, or watch football. The cycle was the same. I understood but wanted more time with our sons. I am sure my mom wanted more time with me too. But, soon the holiday was over, and the guys returned to college. 
     My focus has changed through the years.  It is important to be a part of serving the less fortunate and providing food products for families so other mom’s can cook. I pray for the needy and hungry. I understand now that Thanksgiving was so much more than about my perfect meal.  Many had no meals, no fancy table, no kids that returned to them for a family time.  The elderly have an institutional turkey dinner in the facilities where they live.  Dinner is humdrum and tasteless unless there is an unexpected visitor or invitation by a family member. These elderly ladies yearn to return to their kitchens to mash potatoes, grind fresh cranberries, and be exhausted from serving. 
     I understand that I have almost made the full cycle of Thanksgiving. Den and I are the older aunt and uncle invited to dinner. I will bring pies and rejoice with younger cousins about their tales of travel, hear the stories of how illness has altered the lives of my beloved aunts and uncles, laugh with cousins about all our genetic flaws, and reminisce on all the wonderful Thanksgivings in our past. I am thankful for all the memories of sitting down and giving thanks for our lives, family, friends, and the mother, who taught me the importance of sacrificing, cooking and creating a welcoming table so loved ones could come and share the day.
     Enjoy your Thanksgiving in the cycle where you are this holiday.

Thursday, November 19, 2015

Paris brings opportunity for us to pray for peace.

What’s your rabbit’s foot?

Today there is a great out powering of grief and suffering in Paris.  Explosions and guns were used to bomb Frenchman going to Friday celebrations and living life.  There were other countries represented in the crisis, but it was focused on Parisians.  The terrorist destroyed the beauty of architectural over 200 years old.  The enemy destroyed families, young and old people, spirits, safety, and peace.  ISIS strikes and will continue to strike.  This grief permeates our soils and souls.  We understand the enemy will continue to grow.  We need to a plan.  A big plan.  A prayer plan.  A war plan.  How can this happen in time to save our country or others?
Ancients used lucky charms like rabbit’s feet to ward of evil spirits or create a safety net within if they carried the animal’s foot.  They relied on this to bring them luck and protection.  Some of us still carry rabbit’s feet in other forms.  Sometimes we sit in our warm home in front of the fire sipping tea and feeling so content, secure, and safe.  We push away the thoughts of those grieving from disasters, the hungry and homeless, and those Christians that have been persecuted and killed in North Korea, China, Syria, and more.  Denial becomes our rabbit’s foot.  The burden is so heavy, so difficult to comprehend that we just need to escape.       
What if we used this advent season to pray?   Peace begins with prayer. Choose a specific time to sincerely seek God’s word and pray for our hurting brothers and sisters.  Pray for those being persecuted for their beliefs.  Pray for the heart of a terrorist.  Try to visualize one of the terrorists that make the news and see his heart softened.  Diligently pray every day of advent that Jesus will intercede and safeguard our country and others.  We will create a prayer wall around our brothers and sisters, peace-seeking countries, and our families. 
Do not throw away your confidence with your used tea bag.  Instead, “…my righteousness one will live by faith.  And I take no pleasure in the one who shrinks back.  We are not those who shrink back and are destroyed, but of those who believe and are saved. “ Hebrews 10:38,39
We will be richly rewarded if we ban together in prayer every day.  In these times, we need to stand together.
Please take the time to name the time you promise to pray from now through December. Pray for our country and those being persecuted.  Your responses will be an encouragement to commitment and a blessing to all.  Please add your strength to our prayer wall.

Friday, November 6, 2015

Grace of God


I have been studying how Jesus lived for many years.  I so want to be like Him, see like Him, serve like Him, but I always fall short.  I think that’s okay as long as I keep trying and seek His grace.
            I have specifically studied how Jesus would greet people and how He invited them into His life.  As a disciple, I  am encouraged to be an imitator of God.  That sometimes doesn’t feel like encouragement, but instead, a bar so high I can never reach it. So, these are the times I seek God and ask, “ How can I ever be all you intended me to be?”
            Gently He nudges, “ I will give you grace, my dear child.”  Grace undeserved but given to me for just trying to be like Him.  He gave that same grace to the women at the well when He told her all the things she had done.  She knew she was forgiven, didn't ask, just knew.  That was His first miracle in Galilee after turning water to wine in Cana.  Jesus invited her to be all that she could be now.  She accepted his grace and told others in the village.
 The second miracle was when the royal official begged Jesus to come with him and heal his son.  Jesus answered, “You may go.  Your son will live.” The official took Jesus at his word and departed.  While the official was returning home, his servant met him on the road to tell him the news that his son was living.
The third miracle He performed in Galilee was to tell the man, who had been crippled almost forty years, “Pick up his mat and walk.”  Just do it.  The man accepted his greeting and walked. He didn’t even know who Jesus was.  He was healed by the grace of Jesus.  The crippled man did nothing.  In fact, he saw Jesus later and then knew who had created the opportunity for him to be healed.
Each time I read these scriptures in John, I am amazed at how grace is the greeting, the vessel, and the end result.   Jesus’ grace flooded over sin, sickness, and honored obedience. 
May the grace of God be with you.  (1 Corinthians 16:23). 

Thursday, October 22, 2015

Difficulties Nurse Understanding

Pilot Light

From birth, each of us begins life with a spiritual pilot light in place. Sometimes it may dim, but it is always there.  Recently, an object lesson of life reinforced that to me.
“Husband, there is no hot water to wash dishes, my hair, or to bathe!”
 Denny checked the pilot light, and it seemed to be out.  He followed the directions on the hot water tank to reboot the pilot light, but to no avail.  We still had cold water.  So, he called the plumber for a next day appointment. We dreaded how much this would cost us.  We went the entire day without cleaning anything.  
Then, late in the evening, Denny was at the kitchen sink rinsing a dish and said, “Hey, we have hot water.”  Yep, the gizmo had reset itself, the pilot was on, and the water was hot again.  We wondered how long we had hot water.
This reminded me of the many times I thought my pilot was too dim to have sufficient faith to expect a miracle.  Sometimes I thought it was off when I could not write an inspirational blog.  Once, I even thought it went out when I lost a dear friend, Nancy Hoopingarner, who many others and I had prayed for believing a healing from cancer.  Instead, Nancy died rocking our faith and temporarily extinguishing our pilot light.   Who do you call for a reboot to your spirit?          

            Sometimes we suffer in a state of hurt and despair creating more seeds of destruction.  We operate on the premise that our circumstances can’t be fixed. We stay in that cold place a long time shivering with no hope or understanding.  We sink so low that we finally look up and ask our heavenly Father to help us.  When we do surrender, we discover warmth, a peace, and an understanding.  Were our pilot lights always lit but went dim because of what we were telling ourselves?  Were we operating on disfigured truth because of the circumstances?  How long do we stay facing the wall, when all along the eternal light within is ready to convert our worldly thinking into spiritual understanding?  My goal is to search my inner light and buried truth sooner and remember I have the constant warmth of the Spirit.

Thursday, October 15, 2015

Waiting prayers

Waiting …everything I am seeking is on the way.

            In May, I planted two small moonflower plants.  I wasn’t sure they would grow on the trellis because it was not located in full day sun. I asked God to bless them as I do when I plant most of  my flowers.
             As each of my spring beauties blossomed, I marveled at their bright colors of yellow, purple and pink and wondered when my moonflowers would bloom.  As summer annuals were mixed into my perennials, I looked at the moonflower vine and observed it was growing, but there were no buds.  Annuals bloomed brightly, and soon in July and August my ten hydrangea bushes burst forth large, elegant white and pink blooms.  I looked at the moonflower vine, and it was still climbing the trellis.  September came and I pulled wilted annuals and cut back some of the perennials and wondered if I should pull up the moonflower vine since it was doing nothing but producing heart shaped leaves.  I was rushed that day of gardening and decided to just leave it and pull it out when I came back from vacation.
              As I surveyed the gardens when I returned, I could not believe what I saw.  Giant moonflowers were on my trellis and evidence of some that had bloomed and wilted while I was gone.  The plant produced what it promised.  It bloomed in its time and its season.  In the midst of becoming my blessing, I almost uprooted it.  Instead of expectation as I had in the early months, I felt disappointment toward the end of summer. I almost destroyed my blessing before the bloom time was here. 

            How many of us have planted prayer seeds and wondered if they would be answered?  At first we were patient and diverted by other things around us.  However, months passed and seemingly no answer.  Then, it shows up.  It slips into your life so quietly, with grace and ease.  You might not even believe it at first.  When you weren’t looking, working, or even praying about it; suddenly the answer is there.  My moonflower taught me a wonderful lesson this summer.  Pray for something with all my soul, my full heart, and have confidence that God hears my prayer and acts on it.  That’s it! In fact, I don’t have to do anything but look up and see my moonflower in His timing.

Thursday, September 10, 2015

Art Is Used To Help the Congo.

 In memory of Congolese displaced women.  


    Today I am posting four paintings that will go to our church auction.  All proceeds go to World Relief Congo.  Violence and conflict in the Democratic Republic of Congo have been prevalent for many years.  My church, Fellowship Missionary, has made a commitment for the last few years to come along side of World Relief and provide prayers and funding to help these troubled people.  We have been a part of training peace builders among the tribes.  By we, I mean the people at my church  and World Relief. We pray all 
year for the displaced women of the Congo.  Many of our members train for the Race for Peace and solicit funds from sponsors. The monies go to World Relief to provide more counselors for teaching ways of resolving personal battles and ministering to the tormented and abused women. Over five million Congolese have been killed and slaughtered since 1996. Seventy-five per cent of the population lives on less than $1 a day.  My heart is heavy and burdened for the people of DR Congo.
          As I paint Congo scenes, the women, the surrounding tropical trees, it is as if I am stepping into their land and seeing individuals that become real to me.  God has given me a dream  for three successive years and shown me what I should paint to raise funds.  This year was no exception.  He showed me three women praising, and hope rose as they praised and prayed. 
     I enjoyed painting a stylistic portrait of the three gathered in praise.  This is a different style for me.  Friends have asked me who are the ladies that I paint?  I don’t know how to answer. The ladies live in the canvas and when I apply paint and prayer, they appear.  Now, sometimes I have to repaint if I get a color wrong or a body part out of proportion, but I never tire of painting.  I am as surprised as the viewer with the end result.  God gives me the design and image, but I must create His vision on the canvas.  It is like living on the edge of paradise.  His call, his gift, and the Holy Spirit leading creates these images. Putting our gifts together for the kingdom of God is what Race for Peace and Create4 Peace is celebrating.
     The woman sitting alone at the graveside appears somber.  Yet, there is hope rising in her.  Mysteriously, the MP3 laid down their arms last year.  After four years of intense praying, we heard the news report that for an unexplained reason they would no longer fight.  The warmongers stopped raping and attacking after years of violence in the DR Congo. The woman in the painting has buried her loved one and is not being hunted or accosted by the MP3. As she grieves for her loved one, she is sitting quietly finding hope in her future.
     The two figures carrying something on their heads represent hope rising too.  Hope is slowly rising in the Congo.  Peacemakers hired and trained with our race and art proceeds are helping tribes resolve problems. Life journeys are still sacrificial and difficult, but hope is welling up in individuals.
     The small map is a prayer map.  The woman stands in the midst of the Congo. She sees a beautiful sky and knows that life is getting better.  The keeper of this prayer map is reminded to pray daily for the women of the Congo.  Pray for healing of memories, emotions, and losses.  This map was created on a small four by six canvas, so it can sit on a desk or table and be a daily reminder to pray for our brothers and sisters in the Congo.
     I submit these art pieces and continued prayers that my sisters in the Congo may know peace and hope. Pray with me that these art pieces will bring a hefty price at our silent auction.  These funds will be added to the funds of World Relief Congo.