#Searching by Peggy

That’s not a typo in the title, it really is a #. It was always called a pound sign, or number sign. Now it is commonly known as a hashtag. I’m always fascinated by the way meanings of things change over time.

Put a hashtag in front of every random thought that comes into your head (as long as it’s not more than 140 characters), and post it on twitter, the facebook and every other social media tool at your fingertips. And people will “follow” you. They may respond back with their own 140 character #thought. It’s quick. It’s fast. It’s downright viral. #instantgratification.

But what are we looking for?  Is there a thirst for knowledge anymore?

Our school systems are inundated with common core, and PARCC testing. Little kids are being taught to the test, rather than having their minds expanded as thinkers. All they can think about is how they will do on the test, how to take the test. Little kids put in front of computers to bang out answers like robots that will help the school get better grades.  Are they being taught the treasure of a good book? Are they given the time to delve into a book to get lost in the story and the wonder of the written word so their imaginations take flight? Someone recently told me her granddaughter always loved to read. Loved a good book. Until “ #teachtothetest” education was mandated. Now she hates to read. It has become a chore. See how quickly you can read and spit out an answer if asked a question. No time to linger. No time to appreciate the enormity of talent that writer may have. Just #learnit. #dummyingdownouroffspring. God have mercy!

Some of the times of greatest learning in my life have been the times that I actually stopped to linger awhile. Taking the time to read a good book. Or a newspaper. Taking the time to linger over a cup of coffee with a friend. Taking the time to question something, then seek and search for the answer. No hashtag, no urgency. Just search until finding what I am looking for.

About eleven years ago, a young girl came to me with some problems she was having in her life. She suffered through the abomination of years of sexual abuse at the hands of her father and her brother. She was convinced she was worthless and was put on earth for no other reason than to be used and abused. As she grew older, she became a very promiscuous teenager, a drug addict and a prostitute. She told me she sought out men and sold herself because that was the only way she knew how to get approval of any kind. She came to hate men so much that she then turned to women.  This poor girl really had no idea who she was or why she was ever born. She had a breakdown and crashed hard. She came to me to ask me about God.

This  girl was in such a state that she couldn’t even function and carry out the basics of daily living, like getting up and brushing her teeth. I didn’t know how to help her. There was no hashtag thought to fix it. I prayed with her. I told her about Jesus. I answered her questions about God. I told her to seek God, and she would find Him. But I knew that she, in this fragile state, would never be able to throw herself into a Bible study or church.  She literally spent days not even getting out of bed. So I gave her a “God’s Promises” booklet that I had.

She later told me that every day she would read a sentence or two from that book. It was not a Bible, but had Bible verses all listed under categories. Every day she told me she would just lay on her couch, and read at least one sentence from that book. That was the biggest goal she could set for herself: just read one sentence, one verse a day. Over time, she got better. She became functional again. And she said she found God. She found that when she asked Him a question, she would pick up that book and read one sentence, and she found Him. Through all of her suffering during that time, at her lowest point, the point of suicide, she found her answers, one verse at a time.

That, my friends, is searching. It took time. There were no facebook and twitter in 2004. # was still a number or pound sign. But that little book of verses, that was the hashtag tool of the day. One little verse at a time. For her, reading that one verse a day allowed her to understand what I tried to tell her when she asked me about Jesus. The living Word, the healing Word.

This is what I say to you this Easter: Seek for truth, seek God. Linger and search, or #search, one verse at a time, but do it. You will see, you will know. “This is what the Lord says, he who made the earth, the Lord who formed it and established it—the Lord is his name: ‘Call to me and I will answer you and tell you great and unsearchable things you do not know”   Jer. 33:2, 3

After I gave the other authors of this blog the topic for this month, I came across a poem I wrote on 3/17/2004. I wrote it after that girl told me how she had found God to be the answer to her questions. It tells her story.   My prayer for you is that you are blessed and refreshed in His awesome presence!

There on My Face

There on my face I was broken,

Felt my heart had been flayed open

To be cleaned by the Hand of the Lord.

Such ugliness was inconceivable;

Such pain unimaginable.

Being cleaned by the Hand of the Lord.

There on my face I saw Him

His eyes of mercy and love fell on me

My heart is healed by the Hand of the Lord.

There on my face I was raised up

To the place of intimate surrender

To know Him, to love Him, to serve Him.

Lifted by the Hand of the Lord.

Selah by Peggy

Selah. An interesting word, but what the heck does it mean?? Many people who read this blog have probably never even heard the word.

We see the word over 70 times in the Psalms, and 3 times in Habakkuk. Now, I don’t always do really deep theological studies. Mostly I am a talker, a sharer of thoughts. So, let’s just talk about this word. From my research, I conclude that no one is really quite sure what it means. It’s definitely used at a time of pause in the songs of Psalms and Habakkuk. Some say it means to rise and look up. That fits as an instruction to the worshipers singing the song. Some say it means bow down; humble yourself. That also is a fitting meaning at certain spots. Then some say it means pause a minute: a musical interlude, or a pause to reflect, to think about it. Again, a fitting meaning. But what does that have to do with us? Why include a technical instruction to musicians as part of the Scriptures? It must mean something to us, to our lives.

I’ve had lots of things happen this past year in my life to give me pause. At the beginning of last year, I lost my job. I was caught in a net-sweep lay-off in a company that was losing money. This was a first for me; I’ve never lost a job in my life. I felt lost. It was a time to stop and think. What do I do now?

I looked up, and I prayed. In my prayers, I asked God, (very tongue in cheek): “You know what I want, God? I want a part time job with a full time pay check. Do you think you can make that happen for me?” That really was what I prayed. Honestly, sometimes I wonder why God doesn’t just smite me –it’s a good thing He’s patient J But literally, the next day, a head-hunter called me and told me of a need for a Project Manager with my skill-set, but they only wanted someone for between 20 and 24 hours per week. Of course, I went on the interview. The offer made to me the same day was for full-time. I thought about it for a minute, then remembered what I prayed for. I said no. I was only interested in a part-time job. The head hunter went into negotiation. The executive management of this company wanted me. They said ok to the part time, and then said for me to “name my price”. I did, and they accepted. I went to work exactly two weeks after I got laid off from the other company, with a part time job, and a full time income! This caused me to pause again, and bow down in humble adoration of God, who heard my prayer and answered, in spite of me.  Selah.

Later in the year, our world was rocked when two close friends suddenly died, days apart. It was unbelievable, really, and no one saw it coming. One was the best man in our wedding. I was the matron of honor in the other’s wedding. Years ago I learned to never ask “why” when death happens, but to just ask “God, what do you want me to learn from that life, and from the experience of this death?”

I was asked to speak at my girlfriend’s funeral. I reflected on her life, amazed at how much we shared in our years of friendship. I was struck at what a good person she was, and how many lives she touched with her kindness. I am better for having known her. As I looked up I thanked God for her, and I was grateful that she was not going to have to live a life in sickness. I was humbled to know that she was actually in the eternal presence of God. I can’t even imagine it. Selah.

I couldn’t find any commentaries where the authors were really certain for the instruction to selah. What does one do to selah? Look up? Bow down? Pause? I think it’s all three, but it’s in the pause that we grow and learn. I think to selah is “to faith”. Yes, it’s the action of faith. Faith is the substance of thing hoped for—it is an action: to wait, believing. Think about pregnancy: When we are pregnant, we wait for birth, as the baby grows. We have faith that the baby will be born in it’s due time, and, as the child grows and is formed in the womb, we mothers get to know her/him. Then this little person is born, and we are awestruck and humbled. To be pregnant pregnancy is to be in a state of selah.

Think of Mary: believing that the child she gave birth to is the promised Redeemer, not knowing every day how that was going to play out–how it was going to end.  How could this child, this normal little boy, be the Redeemer? Waiting, praying, believing.  Selah.

We are not born to figure it all out.  We are born to learn and to grow, to know that God is who He says He is. All of life, every circumstance, every day, is to selah. No matter what the situation, we wait in faith, believing. We are given wisdom and instruction.  We do our best as children, siblings, parents, spouses.  We do our best at our jobs, we do our best at life. And during that time, we look up, we reflect, and we bow down. It’s not just what we do, it is who we are. Selah.

 

Unlovely by Peggy

Every day that I go to work, I have to drive to what I call the “badlands” of the city. I start out in Old City, which is quite lovely. I could live there, I really could. But I must wind through the city streets, maneuvering my way through several neighborhoods, each showing worse signs of years of poverty.

My office is in one of the worst, crime-ridden sections of the city. Trash is everywhere, graffiti covers crumbling buildings, all of which housed factories and jobs a few generations ago. There are shootings nightly in this area of the city I must travel, and, as I navigate my way to other offices for meetings, I am amazed at the drug deals & prostitution deals that are going down on almost every corner in broad day light.

I’m getting used to it. I pray each day for divine protection, and believe God will provide it. It is what it is. But, there is one thing I have not been able to get used to.

As soon as I cross the bridge into the city, I come face-to-face with a side of life that most here where I live in suburbia choose not to acknowledge: the street-livers. Yes, those that live on the streets, literally. As I sit at a red light each morning, I am only feet away from a man who lives under a bridge. He is there in all weather. He has his clothes, his boxes, his blankets, all in a neat pile, and that is his home. He wears multiple layers of tattered clothing, no matter what the temperature. I noticed when the weather turned cold that he had more blankets, and more layers. He’s usually still huddled under his blankets when I stop there in the mornings—it is early, before 7:00 a.m. Sometimes he is awake, strolling down the middle of the street between the cars, holding up a tattered cardboard sign asking for money. Directly across the street is a shelter: a place where he can go and have a meal and a warm bed. He doesn’t go there. Instead, he stays on the street. He is unlovely: not one that we would run up to and throw our arms around and invite him to come and sup with us.

Every day I see people who are intellectually and developmentally challenged. They have various physical problems as well. Some act-out violently, with no one really understanding why.

I see alcoholics and drug addicts who have lost everything to their addictions: their families, their friends, their jobs, their homes. Still, they find a way to feed the very thing that has caused ruin to them and all around them.

I see people who are annoying, and dirty and crass.

I see teenagers who are so morbidly obese they can barely breathe. I see other teens and young people who are not “pretty”, suffering from acne, suffering even more from poverty that most of us can’t even imagine. They walk with their heads down, hoping no one will notice them. They know that if they are noticed, they will hear the snickers, the insults. The sneers that don’t sting like fiery darts. Fiery darts will eventually snuff out. No, these taunts will land like a branding iron, to leave a mark that will never, ever go away.

We call that “bullying” now, and noble efforts are being made to educate our young people so they will no longer do it. Putting a label on it doesn’t make the pain any less searing for the one who has become the object of others’ taunts. It will probably take at least a generation before we can see the impact of that teaching; it takes time to “un-condition” ourselves, our children. It takes time. And the un-lovely ones hurt, trying to become invisible.

I am so glad there are programs and ministries that reach out to help in any way they can. Social programs arise from the inherent goodness of mankind to help those that need a hand. Ministries arise from our call from God to do our reasonable service to show the love of God to all. Our school administrators, teachers and counselors have risen to the challenge to put an end to it. The desire and call to educate ourselves and our children about how NOT to act is overwhelming, and every sector of society that I know of is actively working on it and implementing their plans.

Yet, everyday, we hear of bullying in schools, cheerleading camps, youth groups. Every day and every night there are shootings in the “badlands” of our cities and communities, and there are young people committing suicide because they just can’t get away from the resounding echo in their heads of the taunts thrown at them daily. The taunts that are becoming meaner and more threatening than ever. Every day. Every night. The evil seems to be rising faster than the good.

At this point the regular readers of this blog are expecting me to give a sermonette on what a good Christian should be doing, citing all of the applicable Bible verses. But I’m not going to this time. This time I am addressing society at large: what can we do about this?

I don’t presume to be an expert. I am just stating my opinions and observations. Yes, we absolutely need to keep the programs going. Accept the un-lovelies into our churches and groups. And then, we need to love them. That, in my opinion, is what seems to be the missing link in all of the educational programs: love. While the people designing and running the programs and the preachers and social workers and analysts try to figure out why everyone is so darn mean to the un-lovelies, the rest of us should just be showing them some love.

I have been making a conscious effort to say something encouraging to the unlovely one that comes into my path, to let them know in some way that they are a person of value. I am trying to look beyond what everyone (including myself) sees as their problem, and just treat them with dignity and respect. There is a guy who comes into our office about once a week. He has a lot of challenges, physical and behavioral, and he is always dirty and smelly and unkempt. He talks to everyone, and everyone is very polite and greets him, but one day I noticed that no one really takes the time to engage him in conversation. So, when he came to greet me, I asked him his name and asked him what he was doing that day. I told him that his blue shirt looked nice on him. He was so excited that someone was actually speaking to him, that it was palpable. Now when he comes into the office, he still greets everyone he sees, but when he stops at my desk, he is always anxious to tell me what he is going to do that day. I am trying to always call him by name and listen to what he is trying to tell me, even if he isn’t making any sense. It seems to make his day.

I wonder if, when the pan-handlers approach cars stopped at a red light, the drivers no longer look straight ahead and ignore them. Instead I wonder how things might change if the drivers roll down their windows and give them a buck and say something like “looking good today” or “I hope you’re staying warm”.

I decided today to buy some gloves and hats at the dollar store and keep them in my car, so when I come across someone on the streets I can give them a dollar and maybe something else they may need. When I encounter the bridge-liver, I want to give him a hat and gloves and say to him: “I thought of you when I saw these gloves and picked them up for you”. I wonder if anyone has ever told that man that they thought of him and acted on the thought. I wonder if it has ever occurred to anyone who gives him something to also dish up a little respect with it and make him feel that someone thinks of him and notices his need.

I guess this is my challenge in this blog entry: instead of just telling people what not to do, why don’t we tell them what to do instead? Why don’t we focus on the ones who aren’t being mean, and tell them to tell the girl who isn’t pretty that she looks good today—and mean it. Wouldn’t it be great of the un-lovelies among us started to hear so many encouraging greetings, that the jeers and taunts no longer resound in their mind, hearts and spirits. Wouldn’t it be great if the encouraging voice is the one that begins to stand out, and changes the un-pretty one’s thoughts from suicide to hope? Maybe the man who lives under the bridge will stay there forever. But maybe, just maybe, if he knows that he is looked upon as a human being of worth, he will walk across the street and into the shelter. One step at a time.

Love. Isn’t that what we have been called to do? It’s time that every person knows, there is no such thing as “un-lovely”.

 Dear friends, let us love one another, for love comes from God. Everyone who loves has been born of God and knows God.  Whoever does not love does not know God, because God is love.” 1John 4:7-8 (NIV)

Something Different

It’s been a while since we’ve posted to our blog.  We all took a much needed sabbatical through the Christmas season to relax and enjoy family and friends.  But, we are back!

For this month of January, 2015, we are not all blogging on the same subject.  We are all writing what we feel we would like to convey to you, our readers. I will not know what anyone’s topic is until they submit it.  I always post them as soon as I can after they are submitted, so you will know when I do what everyone is working on.

The first to submit is Ronda, and I can tell you it is well worth the read!  Once again, she articulates what many of us already know, but somehow feel disconnected to the thought.  I am always edified by her writings, and encourage you to not only read her here, but also on her own sight, the Kelbey Chronicles.

I will be posting my blog soon;  my topic is “Unlovely”.  I don’t know what Barb and Andrea are doing, but I know the will be good!  Please take the time to read us–we appreciate your feedback and thank you for taking the time!

Our prayer for all is that 2015 bring you a year filled with all of God’s blessings!

 

Remember by Peggy

“When I was your age, I had to walk in three feet of snow, barefoot, to school every morning after feeding the goats and herding the cattle,…” yadda, yadda, yadda. Ok. So that’s an exaggeration, but who doesn’t cringe when the old folks try to tell them how tough they had it and all of that stuff.

Whenever I would hear people go on about how hard they had it, I would think to myself: “geez, why would you even want to remember that?!?” I have always liked remembering the happy things in life, and just not lingering on the tough stuff. Like Christmas. Christmas makes me happy, and so do my many memories of Christmas while growing up.

My parents never had a lot of money, but we didn’t know it. I don’t think anyone I grew up with were ever really conscious of the financial situations in our households. Stuff like that was never talked about in front of the kids. We had all of our needs met, and that was all we needed to know. We were kept innocent of life’s up and downs as much as possible.

But, come Christmas, we thought we were millionaires! Santa came and left his whole sled of toys at our house, it seemed! I can still remember the year my sisters and I got the kitchen set. It was all metal, four pieces, “life” sized, and pink! It was the greatest thing, and my parents set it up in our basement with a table and chairs, and it seemed like we had our own little house down there! Hours of fun.

Then there was the year I got a typewriter. How I loved that thing! It was a kid’s manual typewriter, and I practically had to put all of my weight on the keys to make it type, but, again, hours and hours of fun! Now, there’s some great memories! Happy things that make me smile.

Now that I have become one of the elderlies, I find that I still wish to remember the nice things and great times. I tried to make Christmas a great time for my kids, and I look back with fondness of big holiday dinners with the extended families as well.

When I remember my childhood and teen-aged friends, and realize we are still friends today, I am awestruck at the strength of the ties that bind us together in life, and how very blessed we are to still care about each other. Our parents instilled in all of us the value of relationships.

But I also, in my later years, have come to appreciate the hardships that so many have gone through in their lives that have helped to mold mine.

When I look at my beautiful, intelligent daughters and granddaughters, I think about how, when my own mother was born, women still did not even have the right to vote in this country. I am humbled by the struggles of those who took up the cause to change the tide of history, recognizing women as humans who had a valuable voice to add to the process of making and sustaining this nation.

When I see a soldier in uniform at the airport, I remember how my father fought in WWll, and how many have sacrificed before him and after him, even to this day, to rid the world of tyranny that I can’t even imagine, in order to keep our nation free. I remember, and I am grateful beyond measure.

I don’t take lightly the sacrifices that people have made in their lives. In fact, the older I get, the more meaningful those sacrifices become to me. I realize that, in this world of social media in which we live, everything that happens to anyone in their lives is newsworthy. But is anyone ever looking at the deeper implication of some things? We see all kinds of stuff about everything from the antics of puppies and kittens to the horrors of human trafficking, but what does it all mean to us? When we read a story of someone else’s struggle, do we just shake our heads with a “tsk, tsk” and scroll to the puppies and kittens, or do we stop and pause to say a prayer for them, or see if there is a way to get involved? Are we rolling our eyes at the atrocities that some face, like we do when we hear an elderly begin a sentence with “when I was your age”…

I find that many times, I am guilty of the scroll. I choose not to take on the plight of others, and I am looking for the puppies. And I am ashamed of myself. So I fight it, and try to remember something my mother said to me many years ago: “everybody has a backstory”. In other words, don’t ignore the plight of others because you may not know what got them there. Instead, if you can, try to do something to make a difference. Remember what sacrifice someone might have made that helped form you. Think of a way you can be a better person.

That is what my blog is about this month. I challenge the readers to remember the good stuff, and pass those stories on to your children and grandchildren. Don’t let the traditions and memories die because it may not be easy to keep up with them.

I challenge you to remember the challenges some have faced in your family history. Then pass on those stories, for they have helped to make you who you are today.

And I challenge you, this Christmas season, to look at others, and see what you can do to make a difference in their lives. Remember it, and pass it on.

Tell them all, the stories of good, bad, hard and help. These, my friends, are the story of you. Pass it on, someone’s life will be made richer.

And may we always remember the reason we celebrate this season:

For to us a child is born,
to us a son is given,
and the government will be on his shoulders.
And he will be called
Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God,
Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.
Of the greatness of his government and peace
there will be no end.

Remember, and pass it on. May you all be richly blessed this season with the peace of God, may His grace be yours, may you be blessed in your comings and goings, and may you have a healthy and happy New Year!

Conformity by Peggy

Conformity

When my son went to kindergarten at age five, I wasn’t worried that he wouldn’t do well. He had been to pre-school, and was pretty smart. He seemed to understand things taught to him quickly, and was a pretty well-adjusted, happy kid.

I wasn’t worried at all walking across the street to the school for the first parent-teacher conference. Everything was well-organized when I got there. We parents were all given an appointed time to meet with the teacher, and we were instructed to bring the student with us. The parents that were ahead of me were in the room with their child, and were all smiles as the exited with a fistful of drawings and gold stars.

When it was my turn to go in, I was a little perplexed when the teacher asked if my son could wait outside the room for a few minutes so she could speak to me alone. Hmmm…. What did he do?

You can’t even imagine my shock when she sat me down and looked me dead in the eye and said: “Mrs. Gilbert, I believe David may have some learning disabilities and I want to have the Child Study Team evaluate him to see how to classify him.”   I thought to myself: “ Um…what? Learning disabilities? Seriously? I don’t get it, he was five, how much did they want him to know at five?”

So, of course, I asked what exactly the problems were. She went on to say that he couldn’t seem to even grasp the smallest concepts or follow the simplest instructions. I felt like I was in some kind of an alternate universe. I didn’t think he was a genius, but I thought he was at least average, for heaven sakes!

As she was droning on about “special classes”, and how some kids just really need a lot of extra help, and how if we didn’t get a handle on this now, then he would surely get so frustrated by the time he was in high school that he would be a drop-out, yadda, yadda.

I was expressing my dismay at this shocking news, and she, of course, went on to say that many parents go into denial when hearing news like this, and that is why the Child Study Team assessment is so vital.

Nope. I knew there was way more to this than what she was saying, so I asked for specifics. I wanted to see his work folder and proof that he was having problems. She sighed, and as I looked into the hall, I saw David turning himself upside down in the chair as he tried to sit still. What did I know? I was only a mother. Maybe she was right.

She pulled some papers from his folder, to show me his coloring. The papers were a mess. He had literally just scribbled all over the papers rather than try to color the pictures nicely. The next papers she handed me were in shreds. It was a picture of a mamma duck and her two little ducklings. The assignment was to color them and then cut them out. It was an exercise to teach them to use scissors.

I asked her why she accepted such poor work from him. Why didn’t she make him do it over? Why was he allowed to hand in such a hot mess? She looked me with pity and said: “Ms. Gilbert, he can’t use the scissors and he can’t follow directions. That’s what I’m trying to tell you. It’s very frustrating for him to watch the other children do their exercises when he just can’t do it. I don’t even give him the assignments anymore”.

The fog was starting to lift. He was manipulating her for something. I explained that it was odd that she thought he couldn’t use scissors, because he could unscrew a door knob and put it back together practically before he could talk.

I asked her what he was doing while all of the other kids were doing their assignments. “Oh, he always asks to look at the books. I let him go to the reading corner and looks at the pictures in the books.” Is that so? Looks at the pictures, does he? Imagine her face when I told her that one of his favorite past times was reading, as he was reading since he was about three years old.

I went to the door and brought my son into the room and showed him the folder with his artwork. I asked him why he refused to do the assignments and color and cut with the scissors. While fidgeting, he told me that the stuff she was making them do was for “babies”, because he did all of that in pre-school. He wanted to read. He wasn’t looking at pictures in the books, he was reading them!

The teacher couldn’t believe it.   I had to make him go get a book and read it aloud to her. She told me in all of her twenty plus years of teaching, she had never have a kid pull such a snow job on her. She had felt so sorry for him, especially because some of the other kids would make fun of him. She was used to having kids fit in, not purposely try to opt out of the stuff all of the kids were doing.

As angry as I was at him that day for being deceitful and not following teacher’s instruction, there was a part of me that thought he was pretty cool. I was glad that he didn’t care what the other kids thought of him. He was finding a way to march to his own drummer. Of course, I never told him that.

Conformity: it is the need we feel to fit in. If we just act like the others, wear what they wear, laugh at their jokes, then we won’t become the brunt of them.

Really, I think, it’s the lack of trust of other people. We don’t want them to see our “real” selves, for fear that they won’t treat that knowledge well, but instead will make fun of us, bully us, and isolate us.   It can be uncomfortable and hurtful when we let down our guard and choose a direction outside of the status quo. We will do anything to avoid it, so we conform. We become imitators of other’s, and fall in line to march to their drum. Feeling secure in the group overshadows the nagging feeling of being different. It’s easier to express someone else’s thoughts and feelings, rather than expressing our own. It takes courage to not conform.

Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is—his good, pleasing and perfect will. Roman 12:2

We are fearfully and wonderfully made, and He knew us in the womb. He made us in His image, and gave us our desires, our abilities and capabilities. He knows what interests us, and how to bring out the best in us. He did not make us to be conformists, imitators or someone else’s life.

Instead, He challenges us to be, transformed, to be completely changed from the influence of the world around us, by the renewing of our minds. Why? So we can test and approve God’s will for us! Think about that a minute: so we can test and approve God’s will for us. He doesn’t require us to imitate Him, He welcomes us to weigh out His will for us, and decide for ourselves who we are.

He has never desired to have a people who are puppets. He gave us free will, and wants us to use it. He wants us to come to Him on our own, not by coercion or fear tactics, but because He loves us.

My son was wrong to deceive his teacher and not carry out instructions.   But, even at five years old, he was finding out who he was, and taking a stand to do his own thing, no matter what the other kids thought. He chose to ignore the snickers of the other kids in order to pursue his desire to read.

He was wrong to act on his desires the way he did, but he was not wrong to have those desires. The end result of what he did forced the teacher to think outside of her twenty year old teacher’s box. She told me later in the year that she was grateful that he had fooled her, because it made her realize how comfortable she had become in her pattern of teaching. Somewhere along the way she had stopped looking at her students as individuals, but looked at them as her “class” of kids. David’s antics was a wake-up call for her, and she re- evaluated her teaching techniques. She began to look at the kids as individuals again, and had the most fulfilling year in many years, as she was able to stir the creativity in the children, and watch them evolve into who they were. She was not only challenged to think differently and creatively, but she was rewarded by seeing the results in the kids.

I think this is the lesson God wants us to learn: don’t be satisfied with everyone else’s status quo. Instead, He wants a relationship with us, based on getting to know Him. He knows us; He created us. As we allow our minds to be transformed by the knowledge of Him, not conformed or brainwashed, we will discover exactly who we were created to be. Our lives will be full. Not always without problems, but full.

Relentless by: Peggy

I think age three was my favorite age when the kids were little. They were portable at three. Totally potty trained, they could hang in beyond nap time without a total melt down, and they were inquisitive. I loved the inquisitive stage: everything was a new adventure, a new discovery. It was fun!

You know what I mean: They’d ask a question, like: “Mommy, why is the sky blue?” I would answer: “because that’s the way God made it”.  “oohhh…” they would say, as if they thought I was the wisest woman ever born who just imparted the secrets of the universe to them!  I loved that!

Somehow, though, it seemed that child number three was never satisfied with the “WWIW (wisest woman in the world)” answer. A typical conversation with her would go more like this:

# 3: “Mommy, why is the sky blue?”

WWIW: “ Because that’s the way God made it”

#3: “But why did He make it blue?”

WWIW: “ I guess because that’s his favorite color”

#3: “But then why did He make the grass green if blue is His favorite color?”

WWIW: (sigh)…”Because green is His favorite color for grass”

#3: “ Well, how come some grass is brown?”

WWIW: (bigger sigh) “ Because maybe it needs water”

#3: “If it had water it would turn green?”

WWIW: “Yes”

#3: “well, how does that happen, because my book says the ocean is blue, and the ocean is water, so if the ocean is blue, why doesn’t it turn the grass blue like the sky?”

Sidebar: this is a recall of a real conversation!

WWIW: “God made everything very colorful for us to enjoy. He made the grass green and the sky blue and the water whatever color you want to call it. He made flowers all different colors and the rainbow all different colors. God likes colors. He’s God and can make anything any color He wants, because he wants all people to enjoy colors.”

#3: “well, then if God made all colors, and He made all people, then why did He make some people blind so they can’t see the colors?”

WWIW: (talking through my teeth now) “ok, that’s it! I can’t answer any more of your questions about colors—do you understand me? Don’t ask me one more question about colors! The sky is blue and the grass is green because God said so. That’s it—get it? No more questions about colors!! If you have any more questions about colors, ask Daddy; or Grandmom—just don’t ask me, do you understand?? ”

A moment of silence…then:

#3: “Mommy? I promise it’s not a question about colors”

WWIW: “ sigh…ok, what is it?

#3: “Is God a boy or a girl?”

You get the idea.   She was never satisfied with an incomplete answer, even at age three. All sides of the question had to be investigated and analyzed. She showed no mercy, and took no prisoners. She was relentless. She didn’t stop until she got answers that satisfied her unending font of curiosity. It was frustrating and wonderful all at the same time.

It was wonderful to see this little mind at work in such a unique way. It was frustrating because no matter what, I could never seem to satisfy her curiosity. I was always just one answer short.

When I choose topics for this blog, I always pray and ask God what He would like us to write about this time. The word “relentless” was resounding in my heart and mind. I smiled as I immediately was reminded of the many conversations with that inquisitive mind. I never knew what was in store for me in the weeks leading up to the submission of this blog post.

A dear girlfriend of mine passed away quite suddenly a few weeks ago. We had a history in Christian service together, and I was her Maid of Honor at her wedding 18 years ago. She was a friend, a confidant and a very special person. It was completely unexpected, and saddened me beyond belief.

Five days after her funeral, still reeling, I came home from work to see Jim sitting in a chair, a strange look on his face.‘What’s wrong?” I asked, never expecting him to say: “We have another funeral to go to.”

His lifelong, best friend, the little boy born on the same street as he, only ten days earlier, the one who he grew up beside, raised like brothers, had died suddenly from a heart attack that morning. The man who was our Best Man, our son’s Godfather, the kids’ Uncle John, was no more.

Bam!! Sucker punched again! I didn’t think I had another tear left in me, yet the fountain flowed. I felt inconsolable. Even worse, except for the death of his mother,  I can’t remember ever seeing my husband so sad, and my heart broke yet again, for him.

My job, for which I was hired part-time, suddenly exploded, and, in the midst of two gut-wrenching losses, I found myself working over fifty hours a week.  One week was sixty two hours, another fifty six.

I somehow got a rupture on the ligament of my thumb, was in incredible pain 24/7, found myself wearing a brace, and wound up getting cortisone shots in the thumb joints just to try to gain back some mobility.

And, there was more.  I just won’t bore you with it.

Relentless.

There are times in life when people can be incessant, nonstop, and persistent. This can be a good thing, as we are stretched and grow with our interactions with others. We learn patience and tolerance. It helps us get to really know one another, and we learn from each other.

There are also time in life when circumstances can be punishing, sustained, unabated, and unstoppable. It is what it is, and we just have to go through it. But the results are the same: we are stretched and grow, albeit painfully, and we learn.

Through it all, though, no matter what, we don’t  go through it alone. As relentless as life can seem to be, no matter what the circumstances, the steadfast love of God never ceases.

Do you have a child that challenges you, makes you think you will never be good enough? God is there to say: “ I chose you to be her mother—there is no one better suited in the entire world.” Imagine that! When you bring God into the equation, you discover who you were meant to be.

Are circumstances beyond your control that are affecting your life? Sometimes you just want it to stop. In those times, just look up and change your perspective. Life is life, and sometimes it sucks, but in those times, try to think of the bigger picture. Think of the Lord, and all that He has done. Think of how much He loves you, how He chose you to be the apple of His eye.

I am still sad. I am finding that at times grief wants to overtake me. I fight it. I refuse to give in to that. You see, if I try to rationalize it or figure it out, I am always one answer short.

Instead, I pray Psalm 136: 23 – 26. And I realize, I don’t have to figure it out. I just have to go through it, but I am not alone. And for that, I am forever grateful.

23 It is he who remembered us in our low estate,
for his steadfast love endures forever;
24 and rescued us from our foes,
for his steadfast love endures forever;
25 he who gives food to all flesh,
for his steadfast love endures forever.

26 Give thanks to the God of heaven,
for his steadfast love endures forever.

English Standard Version (ESV) The Holy Bible, English Standard Version Copyright © 2001 by Crossway Bibles, a division of Good News Publishers.

Listen by Peggy

Google the word “listen”, and you will get a LOT of sites to view concerning the art of listening. I guess I never thought of listening as an art form, just a skill that we hone with age. Unless we are born with diminished or no hearing, our ears automatically do their job and hear. We are able to hear sounds, and eventually identify and distinguish them. We must, however, be taught to listen, as a mother learns the different nuances of their baby’s cries: hungry, happy, lonely, wet, etc… The child is the same, the voice is the same, but at times sounds louder than another time, or more soulful, sometimes frantic. Mother’s learn to know the cry, and respond accordingly.

When I was very little, I would bring my mother to utter exasperation because I didn’t respond appropriately to her instructions. She told me that one time, while at the doctor’s office for my regular checkup, she mentioned to the Dr. that I was the most obstinate child she had ever encountered! She went on to tell him that often she would speak to me and I would literally just sit and ignore her. The Dr. apparently thought that a little odd, and asked her some questions, and then offered that he thought I should go to a specialist for a complete hearing evaluation, because he suspected I was hearing impaired. She said she told him that was impossible, because if a truck went down the street or an airplane flew overhead, I would hold my ears and scream and hide under the dining room table. If I could hear that, I could certainly hear her speaking to me! Even so, he insisted, and off to a hearing specialist I went.

I was very young, and have only vague memories of it all. I do remember extremely painful earaches, lying with my ears on a heating pad, and a lot of trips to the Dr. I thought that was pretty cool because his nurse’s name was also Margaret, and she taught me how to type it on her typewriter (a big deal for a 4 year old!). Mom told me I had lost 60% of the hearing in both ears, and somehow noises such as trucks and planes seemed amplified to me. I went through 3 surgeries on my ears, the last one taking my tonsils and adenoids and inserting tubes into my ears. She was unable to tell me what was really wrong with me, or even what the first 2 surgeries entailed, but she said for one solid year the doctor, and only the doctor, had to put drops in my ears. She said they were some kind of experimental medicine. (Again, I have no idea what they were or what they did). I remember being at the doctor’s office a lot, and also him coming to the house a lot. Whatever they did to me, it worked, because my hearing was greatly improved and considered “within normal limits” at the end of it all. After all of that, I was able to hear, but had to learn how to listen and respond.

I think sometimes we are losing our hearing in the instantaneous writings of this electronic age. We pay attention only to the loud and sudden noises that get our attention. Take tweeting: random thoughts bookended by a hashtag: strobe-light communication. They drive me crazy. (Sorry all of you tweeters; nothing personal). We are losing the ability of deeper communication, thus the ability to listen. One can hashtag a very limited number characters, and another can read it in 2 seconds, even responding to it. But are we asking “why” of a hashtag phrase? Of course not. The very design of this form of communication is to hurry up and get it out, hurry up and read it, with no expectations. Reading without full comprehension, hearing without listening.

I think of my life and the many wonderful and lifelong friendships I am blessed with. One thing I know: these relationships were formed over many hours of conversation, spending time together, and getting to know each other. I have a friend I met in first grade, at the age of 5. We spent a lot of time together in grammar school, and even though we both moved to other places for high school, we spent our holiday breaks and much time together over the summers. Time has gone on, and we have each raised our families, and we probably only see each other about once a year now. But as soon as we call each other, it’s like we never spent any time apart. We know how to listen to each other. Friends know how to listen and know the unspoken “why” of a call. We hear the joy, the pain, the frustration and elation in one another’s voice. We let the other one talk as long as they need to, and we listen. Friendships don’t just happen, they are cultivated over time, through spending time together and listening.

A relationship with God is cultivated the same way. We do not have to strive for salvation, we need only accept Him, but if we really want to know Him, we need to learn to listen to Him. How? Read the Bible, set aside time to spend with Him and pray. His still, small voice will become a part of who you are, and you will hear Him. As we tend to that relationship, we become doers of His word, not just hearers. We hone the art of listening to Him, and It’s like our spiritual ears are opened and we comprehend who He is, and how important we are to Him. We find out who we are, who we were designed to be.

But prove yourselves doers of the word, and not merely hearers who delude themselves. For if anyone is a hearer of the word and not a doer, he is like a man who looks at his natural face in a mirror; for once he has looked at himself and gone away, he has immediately forgotten what kind of person he was.”     James 1:22-24

Have you taken a look at your spiritual self lately? Sum up in one sentence who you think God made you to be. Spend some time with Him, and let Him show you the multi-faceted prism of beauty He created in you!

Grace by Peggy

GRACE

I was raised a Catholic. I went to Catholic school, we went to Mass every Sunday and Holy Day. I really loved my upbringing. When I was in 7th grade, during Lent, I would get up extra early every school day and go to 6:00 a.m. Mass with the nuns. I truly felt very holy, but, also, there was a change happening inside me.

I was a very “awkward” kid: not pretty, wore glasses, big nose, big eyes, big teeth, frizzy, curly hair, clumsy. You know the type: the nerdy one who was one hot mess! I did always have friends, and they seemed to like me; maybe it was because I tried to over-compensate for my looks with humor, I don’t really know, but I did have a good life and a fun childhood in spite of me. But during that Lent of going to morning Mass, I was changing. It’s still hard to articulate into words what was happening, but there was a new presence of comfort and acceptance deep within. It didn’t make me want to be a nun or anything, but it was a good feeling, as I was losing the consciousness of my short-comings. I didn’t know it then, but as I look back on that time, I think God was showing me a glimpse of myself as He saw me, and His mirror was so much kinder than mine, His thoughts so affectionate.

Fast-forwarding to the teen years, I hated going to Mass! I would do anything to try to get out of it—I just wanted to be squirreled away in my room with my stereo and my pen and paper. Not rebellious, just typical. But every Sunday, we would get woken up, and driven to Mass. The best part of my day was when it was over! So, when I married a non-Catholic at age 19, going to church was not a priority at all, and Sunday was a day to sleep in and just bum around. It seems I had forgotten all about God.

We agreed that we would raise our children Catholic, so when I was pregnant with the first one, I registered in the parish of our town, and dutifully went to church to establish my presence. She was baptized Catholic, as was our second-born.

Sometime in those years, I realized there was something missing. I longed to feel that comforting presence that I felt in my Lent of morning Mass. I had a good life, but I yearned for a spiritual presence. My husband felt the same, and started attending a local protestant church. It totally changed him. He went from being a “hey-wow-hippie-radical-freak”-like person, to someone completely changed. I thought he was a little nuts—ok, a lot nuts. So I figured “ok, buddy, if you’re going to be nuts in the protestant church, I’m going to start going to the one, true, holy church and get involved” . And I did. I became a CCD teacher, went to Mass every Sunday, helped out with the Christmas pageant, and joined the charismatic prayer group. Meanwhile, the folks in Jim’s church were praying for my unsaved, immortal soul.

When my prayer group needed someone to do the music, Jim agreed to come. He attended that group with me every Tuesday night for about a year, but he still went to his church on Sunday. He would have long talks with the priest and the deacon, and really enjoyed fellowship with the people there. One day, though, he came to me and said he just couldn’t be Catholic. He loved the people, and was glad I was there, but just couldn’t agree with all of the teachings, and didn’t want to be a hypocrite. By then, I had reestablished my relationship with God, coming to realize that my relationship with God, not the church, was what was important, and I felt it was better to be a unified family and raise the kids together in church, so I left the Catholic church to join Jim in his.

Man! What an eye-opener! Coming from a church of rote memorization, the liturgy of the Mass, and a real background of the church being hallowed ground, I was not prepared for the open, unstructured atmosphere of Jim’s church. The actual service was structured, but kids were allowed to run all around, climbing on chairs, and when people came into the building, they were laughing, talking and greeting one another right up until the time the service began. No tip-toeing into the sanctuary, no genuflecting and kneeling in prayer until the service started. It was certainly a new experience. Everyone was very gracious, always greeting me warmly with a handshake or a hug, always seemingly glad to have me there. Until one day I overheard some ladies talking. There were a few older women in the church who were sisters and apparently had been there since that church began. We were meeting in a school building while the church building was being built, and I was in the room that was being used as the nursery. The elder sisters were outside the door, talking to the pastor’s wife—about me.

They were saying how very concerned they were that I seemed to want to get involved in the church, when, after all, I was a Catholic, and a smoker, and not really “saved.” The pastor’s wife agreed with them. I was horrified! Just because I never ran down the aisle of the church and threw myself on the altar in public repentance for all to see, they doubted my salvation! I don’t know, but I always thought that because I believed that Jesus is the Son of God, and it is through his shed blood and resurrection that I am redeemed, and by His grace, I am saved.

For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith–and this not from yourselves, it is the gift of God.” Eph. 2:8

I knew I believed that. I did not lead a bad life. I was a good person, although admittedly a little rough around the edges for some, and certainly had a lot of growing to do in the Lord. But not “saved”? Saved from what?? The only thing I felt I needed saving from was these narrow-minded biddies and their untrue judgment. I went outside and lit a cigarette to contemplate the situation. I could not understand how they could be so gracious when speaking to me when they obviously felt that I was less than them. That incident messed with my mind and emotions for a long time. The consciousness of that nerdy, not-good-enough kid returned with a vengeance. I didn’t know how to fit into this world of what I perceived as the worst sanctimonious insincerity.

Thankfully, there was also another group of women in the church, also all related to one another, that were the most loving people I had ever encountered. They were not only gracious to me, but actually liked me and never ever made me feel that I was some kind of an inferior person. They accepted me for who I was, and we all became very good friends. We raised our families together, and had amazing Bible studies and prayer meetings. They knew how to walk in the gift of grace, and I learned the difference between being gracious and being an instrument of grace.

To be gracious is an act of being nice, treating people well, in spite of who they are or what they have done. It’s a good thing to do that. We are supposed to be nice and treat each other as we would want to be treated. Grace, however, elevates both the giver and receiver.

Each one should use whatever gift he has received to serve others, faithfully administering God’s grace in its various forms,” 1Pet. 4:10

To be a “grace dispenser” is saying that one desires to use themselves as an administrator of whatever God has for the recipient. It is to purpose to put oneself and opinions aside, and look at others through God’s mirror. It may be to exhibit an act of kindness, it may be to lend an ear, or to be a friend. One ministers grace to others freely, and never looks at others to see if they are “worthy” enough to receive it. We are to walk in the gift of grace. “No one is less than me”—that is the unspoken motto of one who understands grace.

In a previous blog I quoted a Scripture:

 Are you tired? Worn out? Burned out on religion? Come to me. Get away with me and you’ll recover your life. I’ll show you how to take a real rest. Walk with me and work with me—watch how I do it. Learn the unforced rhythms of grace. I won’t lay anything heavy or ill-fitting on you. Keep company with me and you’ll learn to live freely and lightly.” Mt. 11: 28-30 (MSG)

I love that! I believe during that Lenten season of my youth, I was learning the “unforced rhythms of grace”. The friends I met in that church walked in that, and were able to minister it to me, despite what others thought of me. Grace in practice is a powerful lesson!

I am forever grateful for the amazing grace of God that saved me, the blood of Jesus that was shed for my salvation. I am still a work in progress, but I pray that I have been able to extend grace to others, as that which was extended to me. If ever there has been a time in our history that we should consider God and His grace, it is now. I close this post with a quote from Abraham Lincoln, and pray God’s abundant grace and blessings to you and your families!

We have been the recipients of the choicest bounties of Heaven. We have been preserved, these many years, in peace and prosperity. We have grown in numbers, wealth and power, as no other nation has ever grown. But we have forgotten God. We have forgotten the gracious hand which preserved us in peace, and multiplied and enriched and strengthened us; and we have vainly imagined, in the deceitfulness of our hearts, that all these blessings were produced by some superior wisdom and virtue of our own. Intoxicated with unbroken success, we have become too self-sufficient to feel the necessity of redeeming and preserving grace, too proud to pray to the God that made us!“   Abraham Lincoln

Destiny by Peggy

 

Destiny—wow! What a loaded topic! I can write all kinds of deep philosophical, theological and even emotional discussions on this topic. Discussions that are sure to raise the ire of some and the agreement of others. But, that’s for another time. In this forum, I’d rather just stick to keeping it simple, from my vantage point.

When my mother was 7 years old, she lived with her Mom and Dad, two brothers and a sister. The year was 1924, they were not well-off, but doing ok; making it together as a family. She was secure and safe. One morning, as told to me by my aunt, their mother was making her daily family breakfast. She stepped into a back vestibule area leading to the outside from the kitchen to grab some potatoes stored there. A bolt of lightning struck the outside door jam, and the current traveled across the floor, striking her in her right foot, traveling up her body and exiting out of her shoulder, while her children looked on. She lived for about a week before infection set into her paralyzed right lung. She succumbed to her injuries and died, leaving her kids and husband behind.

My mother was 7 when she witnessed her mother be felled by a freak lightning strike. She was 7 when she lay in her bed, listening all night to the “whir-shuk” sound of a pump in the bathroom on the other side of her bedroom wall. A pump whose purpose was to empty the blood from her mother’s body and fill it again with embalming fluid. She was 7 as her mother lie “in state” in the parlor of the house where they lived, never left unattended, for 3 days, as was the custom of that time. She was 7 when she had to “take her turn” and sit alone in the living room with her mother’s body which was lying in a simple casket. She was 7 when the family buried her mother. She was 7 a few months later when her brother fell backwards off the front porch, breaking his neck, killing him instantly. She 7 when she re-lived the rituals of preparing a body in the house for burial, attending yet another funeral of one she loved so much . She was still 7 when her father abandoned them, overcome with grief, leaving his other 3 children to be raised by their grandparents. She was 7 when she moved to her grandparent’s house a few blocks away—a house that already contained 8 other inhabitants, 3 of them male borders. In 1924, my mother was 7.

Some would say that surely, she was destined to live a miserable life. The notes of her lifesong were already recorded: tragedy and unhappiness the chords to be played over and over. As if it was so, she dropped out of school in 10th grade (not unusual during the depression years for a woman), she married a man she loved dearly, but who didn’t have the capacity to return it. She had a son who died at age 9 months, a “crib death”. The dirge of her destiny resounded louder in her soul which each passing and painful year. She gave birth to two more sons, but lived a life of fear and unspeakable pain as she was repeatedly and brutally beaten by the man who fathered them. She told me that he convinced her she deserved the beatings—she knew no better than to expect misery. Her destiny was playing out in her life, and she dare not hope or believe for anything better. Until one day, she did know better. One day, her husband took out his anger on one of her boys, kicking him in the head with a steel-toed boot.

Keep safe that which is entrusted to your care1Tim.6:20

Something from deep within rose up in my mother that day: she knew she had to fight—she could no longer accept this destiny. While her husband was at work, she took her boys and went into hiding with them. No one in her family would take her in. She rented a room in a stranger’s house (It was during WWII, and many women took in borders as their men were off to war). She could not support her boys, she of little education and no marketable skills, the scarlet letter of divorce branding her every move. Eventually, she made an agreement with her husband that the boys should go to live with his aunt and uncle, who were willing to take them in. In order, to save them, to change the course of their lives, my mother gave up custody of her boys. Of course she visited them constantly and took them when she could, but she never thought she would recover from the guilt and shame of leaving them with someone else. There is so much more of her life in those years, bad decisions and good ones, but to keep this blog manageable, I’ll just skip ahead: She eventually met my father and married him. Giving birth to three girls, we all lived very happily together. I was not from a broken home and had a very safe and secure life.

“Why?” That is a question we all seem to ask ourselves when faced with circumstances for which we have no explanation. The pursuit of knowledge, to know the reason, is an unquenchable thirst in our soul. That very thing can skew our destiny and set a crooked path. It is a question that my mother asked herself with every fist that landed on her small body. The answer never came, so she gave up asking. Until that day. It’s funny how things come into our minds at odd times. ”Whether you turn to the right or to the left, your ears will hear a voice behind you, saying, This is the way; walk in it.” Isa. 30:21

As a child my mother’s grandparents made sure their charges were raised in church and Sunday school. That day, when that steel-toed boot landed on a tiny skull, she knew what she had to do: ”Keep safe that which is entrusted to your care…” 1Tim 6:20.  She knew it was up to her to keep these boys safe, so she did what she had to do, breaking the curse of a hopeless destiny, and set her sights on a new destination for herself and her boys. She made hard choices, and yes, my brothers were from a broken home, didn’t understand it all, and suffered some scars along the way. But she kept them safe. She made sure they knew they had choices and value and could live happy, productive lives. Her life got better, and she lived it out as a generous, albeit toughened, woman. She cared for people. She didn’t sit in judgment on people’s lives; she knew that everyone had a back story. She helped people when she could, she worked hard and loved unconditionally. The lament of her lifesong was restructured into a symphonic hymn, setting her life on a trajectory to her destination: to provide safety, love and security for her children; to live a life that was well-lived.

She was not a “religious” woman; far from it. She was seasoned and wizened in a harsh world. But His Word was hidden in her heart. How do I know? When my mother was 76 and in the hospital from a heart attack, I had the unique privilege of spending some time alone with her. Visiting hours were over in ICU for the night, and every night the security guard would come around and make sure all visitors were gone. I went to see my mother that day right from work, so I was wearing scrubs. My mother was not really a “touchy-feely” type of woman, but that evening my sister left when I got there, so I was the only one there with her. She told me she was just so darn uncomfortable and she wanted to sit up so she was not leaning against anything. She was also furious that she couldn’t smoke and that OJ was being chased down the highway all day in that white SUV, which totally interrupted her stories and game shows! J I asked her if she wanted me to rub her back and she said “oh, yeah—that would be nice” (very unusual for her). So, I was standing by her bed giving her a back rub when the security guard came around. I guess because I was in my scrubs he just assumed I was a nurse and didn’t ask me to leave. I got to stay an extra hour with her that night, undisturbed. It was then that I asked her outright if she was afraid. In her usual stalwart manner, she said “oh, no—I figure when your number’s up, it’s up, nothing anyone can do about it”. We had a really nice conversation about life and “religion” and heaven. She said that she knew she was going to heaven because when she was 12 she answered an altar call and accepted Jesus, so that meant she was going to heaven, right?   I was shocked to hear her even say that. We had a few discussions over the years about religion and God, but I never heard her say anything so blunt. She went on to say that she tried to be a good person, even though she made a lot of mistakes along the way. She said when she was young she always read her Bible (because her grandparents made them), and knew what it said, even though she rarely went to church as an adult. And then she said that she did have some questions to ask God, because some things in her life she just didn’t understand, but all in all, she was ok with it. She was proud of all of us (her kids and grandkids), and was ok with the way things turned out. Of course, she let me know in no uncertain terms that she was not expecting to die anytime soon! She died the next night. I am so grateful to have spent that time with her!

The dictionaries define the word “destiny” as a state in the future that seems to have been decided before-hand. A future out of one’s control. I don’t agree with that. We are born with free will. Yes, things happen at times in our lives that are out of our control, but how we walk out our lives is within our will. In Jer. 29 God tells us “I know the plans I have for you, to prosper and not harm you, a plan for hope and a future”. When I read that, I put the emphasis on the second “I”: “I know the plans I have for you…” Like God is saying He has a plan for us all, but it is up to us to choose to walk in His ways or our own. If you are like me, you miss it more than you make it. But the Lord says that all things work together for good for those who love Him. And “Trust in the Lord with all of your heart, lean not on your own understanding, and He will make your path straight”. Prov. 3:5&6

The path—to me that is the key to understanding destiny. In the dictionary according to Peggy (:)), destiny means the path that we take to arrive at our chosen destination. My mother didn’t know what path to take, but she knew she had to get off the one she was on. She stopped thinking about her present state of circumstances, and instead set her eyes on a new destination. What did she want? She wanted to make a safe environment for her children. She wanted to be a wife and a mother. She wanted to be a good person. She wanted to provide a home for her family that contained all of the things that were removed when she was 7. She wanted to end her life knowing that she instilled love and independence in her children. She took a step towards it and purposed to follow a new path.

This is the choice we have: stay in a place whereby circumstances define our life, or set our eyes on a destination and purpose to get there. “As for me and my house, we will serve the Lord”. Josh. 24:15   I choose to serve the Lord, and let Him make my paths straight. I choose to see what His plans are for me, rather than taking my chances with whatever life would throw at me. My destination is to end my life in this world, and to have God say “Well done, my good and faithful servant”. He will not say I am perfect, he will surely roll His eyes as He reviews some things in my life, He may even “LOL” at the ridiculousness of me, but I have chosen to live my life seeking His direction. He is my final destination.

Think about it, consider it: Destiny or destination? How do you define your life right now?