Thursday, April 25, 2013

Sun in My Eyes

With the lengthening spring days, the sun is higher in the sky in the morning...and right in my eyes on part of my morning walk.

As I travel the road, I weave in and out of shadows and light, sometimes blinded as I turn a corner or walk between the outline of houses. The other day, as I came around one corner, a school bus was headed down the road toward me. Except for the small headlights on the front of the bus, I could not see the bus at all, only the glare of sun streaming around.

You know, that's how I want to live my Christian life.

I want people who meet me to be so dazzled by the brilliance of Christ that they can see nothing else.

A big part of how people see me, of course, is based on my attitude.   Am I looking for opportunities to be that light for Christ, or am I, quite literally, hiding my light under a bushel? 

I have a quote on my bathroom mirror that is based on a sermon I heard a few weeks ago:

Expect Divine Appointments Every Day

These appointments can come in various shapes and sizes, not always what I expect.  Whether it is as a friend who has a hug of encouragement; a widow who can say to a new widow/widower, "I get it;"  words on a page that touch someone; or as a mom who gives empathy to her own child, I can serve our living God...

...but only if I am looking to serve Him.

Lord, please help me to be willing and able to look outside myself each and every day in order to see the opportunities You put before me, to further Your kingdom and accomplish the work You have purposed here.  Amen.

"You are the light of the world. A town built on a hill cannot be hidden. Neither do people light a lamp and put it under a bowl. Instead they put it on its stand, and it gives light to everyone in the house." - Matthew 5:14-15

Tuesday, April 23, 2013

Power in the Storm

In the past couple years, our part of Virginia has become famous for microbursts...small but damaging storms that whip in with the speed of a tornado and wreak havoc on anything in their path.

During one the other day, we watched our back fence flap like a sheet caught by the wind.  We stood, helpless, praying that it would stay intact.  Blessedly, it is still standing...leaning, but standing.

We did, however, lose power.  That is pretty typical for us when we have a storm of any magnitude hit.  Our neighborhood tends to have it out sooner, longer, and more often than many of the neighborhoods in our county.  This time, it was out for only fifteen hours. 

It comes down to a sometimes-unreliable power grid in our part of the county.  New developments like ours were thrown up quickly and added to the power grid piecemeal in a short time, rather than in an organized, ongoing fashion.  Thus, taxing storms find the weak links and prey on them, causing us to be on the losing end...and without power.

I'm so glad God isn't like that!

I did not walk in an orderly fashion to Him.  I did not grow up in the church.  I came, broken and tired, haphazard in my knowledge and understanding.  But...He was, and is, there.  The ultimate source of power and strength.

Even now, when I have been walking with Him for years in my grid of life, I can get thrown into turmoil by the happenings around me.  But...His power is constant.  His love does not go out.  I can always come home to the Light of my life.

I heard once many years ago that an excellent picture of Jesus can be found by taking I Corinthians 13:4-8a and substituting Jesus for every instance of love.  Here is what we can, then, expect our Savior to be:

Jesus is patient
Jesus is kind
He does not envy,
He does not boast,
He is not proud.
He does not dishonor others,
He is not self-seeking,
He is not easily angered,
He keeps no record of wrongs.
Jesus does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. 
He always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres.
Jesus never fails.

Now that is a Power Source that I can trust, no matter what the storms of life may bring!

Praise God!  Amen and amen!

Jesus Christ is the same yesterday and today and forever. - Hebrews 13:8

Sunday, April 21, 2013

How We Communicate

I was out running errands yesterday when I got the following text from my eldest:

Tanner just puked.

About ten minutes later, I get another text:

Matthew just puked.

Now, this was not totally unexpected in our house.  My eldest and I had had the virus earlier in the week.  We thought it had missed the others...obviously not.

After praising God for a son who can deal with vomit and for other kids who have pretty good toilet aim, I finished my shopping and headed home.

At each stop light on the way home, I started the texting brigade to deal with the fallout of this situation.

There were plans to change, rides to set up, prayers to solicit.

But, praise God, by the time I got home, all was prepared and a busy Sunday could continue, minus the puking part of the Wright family.

Texting often gets a bad rap.  I have heard people say it is not a replacement for face-to-face communication.  I agree with that whole-heartedly.

In this situation, though, a microburst of information to different people had to go out, and I made wise use of my time at stop lights to take care of the details of things.

In my opinion, this situation was quicker and easier to deal with for all the parties involved by having the technology and using it to my advantage.

Our communication with God is just the same. 

God understands our "hail mary" prayers, and I think honors them.  When the going gets tough, the tough go to their knees, mentally if not physically.

But that does not substitute for quiet time with God, listening for His small, still voice.  That is often hard to do in our busy-busy-hurry-hurry world.

The how is not the important part, nor the where.  As a busy mom, I have kept a devotion book in my bathroom for years.  Sometimes the only alone time I have is a few minutes behind closed, locked doors while I take care of other matters.

Nowadays, for me, that time usually comes during my daily walks around our neighborhood.  Some days, I raise my hands in praise, some days I have tears streaming down my face.  Some days, I do most of the talking; some days, all I do is listen.  But either way, it is quality time, alone with the One I love the most.

This past week, while battling the aforementioned virus, I had a hard time walking...anywhere.  I was weak as a kitten.  Because I am a creature of habit, my alone time with God suffered.  My fault.  I should have used that time in bed more wisely, but, alas, I did not.

Add no worship service this morning for me due to sick boys, and I am feeling a bit alone.  It happens that quickly.  So, it is time to pray, time to get away for a few moments.  This blog is my admission to you, myself...and God...that I need to get back closer with Him...right away.

Praying for quality time with our Lord for you and for me!

Taste and see that the Lord is good; blessed is the one who takes refuge in him. - Psalm 34:8

Friday, April 12, 2013

Taking Control of the Wheel

Have you had this happen?

A friend and I took our kids and my big ole SUV on a day trip.

At one point, we were parking in a parking garage...and I promptly ran my car into one of the pylons in the center of the structure.

No real damage done to the vehicle...just another "beauty mark" for my ride...

...and a bit of embarrassment for me.

As I continued to struggle with squaring up in a spot I knew I had no business trying to park in in the first place, my sweet friend asked if I wanted her to park 'er.

Increased embarrassment...and more than a little stubbornness.

I hope I didn't snap when I gave her an emphatic "no."

Fast forward to Wednesday night services...

A sweet friend told me she prayed for me and the boys as she walked by my house earlier in the day, thinking of how hard it must be at times to be a single mom.

We talked of the common elements in hardship and of the importance of surrender in walking the path...whichever path...the Lord has given you.

I couldn't help but think about my driving.

Since Keith died, I can probably count the number of times I have ridden instead of driven on both hands.  Only driver in the house, biggest car when we ride with others.  So...I am rarely the passenger.

Except when it comes to the Lord.

There...always...I need to be the passenger and let Him be the driver.

So, I resolve to quit holding stubbornly to the driver's seat.  Unlike parking my car the other day, I need to willingly give Him my troubles, really just park them at the foot of the cross.

And leave them there.

All it takes is surrender...constant surrender.

Not an easy concept, especially in our pull-yourself-up-by-your-bootstraps American society, but that is my goal.

May I be willing to surrender all the things in my life, both large and small, to Him and His infinite wisdom. 

Then he called the crowd to him along with his disciples and said: “Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me. For whoever wants to save their life will lose it, but whoever loses their life for me and for the gospel will save it. What good is it for someone to gain the whole world, yet forfeit their soul? - Mark 8:34-36

Wednesday, April 10, 2013

Prayer Needs of Grieving Families

Prayer Needs of Grieving Families

To help those grieving, you can pray for:
·  The physical strength to get through the extra tasks associated with a death—from the funeral itself to the phone calls to all the creditors, insurance companies, etc.
·  The emotional strength to get through the same—dealing with all the paperwork and all the expressions of sympathy
·  A clear head to remember all the details that need to be taken care of
·  The ability to let people help them, regardless of how uncomfortable it can be at times
·  Peaceful sleep
·  An appetite
·  The strength to ask for help when they need it
·  The strength to ask to be left alone when they need it
·  The freedom from self-consciousness when they tear up a million times and in a million places
·  Ease in actually saying the words that their loved one has died
·  Loving friends who will listen (especially important when a wife loses her husband—those words she needs to say each day need to go somewhere)
·  Peace through the holidays, especially the first ones without a loved one—birthdays, anniversaries, even the first time they do anything they always did with the other person
·  Financial peace—especially if they were not the financial person in the family before
·  Freedom from “what-if” types of questions and regrets—to forgive themselves for not being perfect and to know without a doubt that the other person loved them even if they were not perfect
·  The ability to trust fully and completely in God—to crawl up in His lap and let Him drive for a while
·  The ability to answer all the tough questions they are asked—especially those asked by their children
·  Discernment to know when to let others in their family alone and when to push them into talking about any issues about the person who passed away—especially their children
·  Having the freedom to realize that all grieve in a different way, and just because theirs is different than someone else’s doesn’t mean it is wrong or incomplete or any reflection of how much they cared for the person who died
·  Support from others who have been through the type of grief that they are facing—especially those a little farther down the path of this journey who can give them advice and help them know that they are doing OK on their journey—someone to show them where the potholes in the road are so that they can slow down for them
·  The strength to get out and be with others
·  The ability to recognize the signs of loneliness and depression and the strength to do something about them if they are facing them
·  Peace about being alone—learning to be alone without being lonely
·  The strength to seek out a “new normal” for themselves and their family
·  The freedom to know that grief has no time limit or set of specific steps that they need to go through and to give themselves a break if they seem to take one step forward and two steps back
·  Discernment to know what changes to make in their lives and which things to leave the way they were—finding a balance between old traditions and new ones, and old ways of life and new ones
·  The ability to see God’s hand in their lives, and to look for ways that they can glorify Him during the grief process
·  The strength to cry out to God when they are hurting and to accept the comfort that He gives—and to look to His people for the same
·  The strength to realize that God never gives them more than they can handle with His help, and that He will be there today, tomorrow, and forever
·  The ability to trust Jeremiah 29:11:  “For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you.  Plans to give you hope and a future.”


My dear friend Judy loved lemon meringue pie, L.M.P., as she called it.  To her, it was just something you had when friends got together.  I was not the originator of this tradition with her, but I was privileged to share it with her, too.  Memories as sweet as the pie.

You see, Judy went home to be with the Lord yesterday.

So, I am up extra early this morning, thinking about sweet Judy...and L.M.P...and life.

I have a Judy story to share that, to me, sums up the lady she was.

The day Keith died, he had sent me flowers for our anniversary, which was two days later.  He did not know he would not see that anniversary.  I got home from saying goodbye to him at the hospital to find this final gift.

The ladies from church, particularly Judy and her daughter-in-law, were anxious to preserve those for me.  They made a frantic internet search to find someone to do it.  When they did, Judy's sweet husband came and got the flowers, boxed them up and sent them away to be freeze-dried and framed.  Today, they hang in a shadow box in my bedroom.  And, as much as those flowers mean to me because they are from Keith, they mean just as much because of the work that Judy and the other ladies from my church put into me keeping them.

Back in the fall at our ladies' retreat, I sang a special with Judy on my heart.  She was not there in person, suffering already with her illness, but I know she was with us then in spirit.  The song is Healing is in Your Hands by Christy Nockels( ).  Here are the lyrics:

No mountain, no valley, no gain or loss we know
could keep us from Your love
No sickness, no secret, no chain is strong enough
to keep us from Your love
to keep us from Your love
How high, how wide
No matter where I am, healing is in Your hands
How deep, How strong,
And now by Your grace I stand, healing is in Your hands
Our present, our future, our past is in Your hands
We're covered by Your blood
We're covered by Your blood
How high, How wide
no matter where I am, healing is in Your hands
How deep, How strong
And now by Your grace I stand, healing is in Your hands
In all things, we know that.
We are more than conquerors.
You keep us by your love.
You keep us by your love.

The Lord's plan was not to heal Judy this side of Heaven.  I don't know why...but I know He does Judy knew her Lord had a plan, too, and she was willing to trust in Him.  And because she did trust Him, this is not goodbye to my sweet friend, but instead see you later.  We have that promise from Him when we live in Him.  Praise God for that!

So, we can survive the here and now, the yucky parts of life, the hard parts of life, because we know that He lives in Heaven and has gone to prepare a place for us there (John 14:2-4).  Judy is seeing that now.  And that is cause for rejoicing, even with tears in my eyes.

I'll be there later, Judy...and I'll bring the L.M.P.

And I know Judy would wave her hand, flash me a 100-watt smile, and say, "All right, honey."

"For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future. Then you will call on me and come and pray to me, and I will listen to you. You will seek me and find me when you seek me with all your heart." - Jeremiah 29:11-13

Sunday, April 7, 2013

Showing It

This week, one of our teen bands led worship.  In that band is my 14-year old son.

We have a lot of musical talent for a fairly small church, especially in our youth.  They always do a phenomenal job, and it gladdens my heart to see them unreservedly serving their Lord in this way.

But the thing that touched me the most this morning was watching my son's face as he worshiped his Lord even as he played to lead us in worship.

He was singing to his King.  I was crying in the seats.

His face shone with joy as a child of the King.  Beyond his musical talent (which still floors me), his worship was an expression of how much he has learned and is learning to trust the Lord.

For this momma, that is the best thing I can ever see.

I gotta be honest...I have wondered how this widow-walk would affect my boys.  Would they see Him as the Giver of Life or as The One Who Took Daddy?  Would they get that there are plans we can know nothing of here, may never know anything of, even in Heaven?  Or would they turn their backs on the Lord?

They were so young when Keith died!  My oldest, the one acting as one of the lead worshipers today, was not quite 9!

But God, in His infinite mercy, great wisdom, and unlimited caring for us as a family, has shown Himself to be worthy of our praise.  So many prayers answers even as they were barely words on our lips!  So many men ready to jump in and help teach them to be the men of God that Keith and I always dreamed they would be!

As I watched my son through the tears, I was again reminded that God's got it.  My boys are all learning to love the Lord, and they want to serve Him.  They are all growing in Him each and every day.

They get it that God is God, even on the hard days, the sad days, the bad days.

And for that I am eternally grateful.

And that allows me to raise my arms and my heart in praise as well, worshiping right there with my son.

Amen and amen.

Shout for joy to the Lord, all the earth.
Worship the Lord with gladness;
   come before Him with joyful songs.
Know that the Lord is God.
   It is He who made us, and we are His;
we are His people, the sheep of His pasture.
- Psalm 100:1-3

Friday, April 5, 2013

Just Another One of Those Days

Last week, it was just another one of those days:

3:39 a.m. – Eight-year old says he can’t sleep and climbs in bed with me.  He rolls around for a bit, can’t fall asleep in my bed, and returns to his own.

4:39 a.m. – Awakened by a horrendous musical sound that I thought was the alarm clock.  Tried to turn off alarm clock only to find it would not go off.  Figured out it was a game on the tablet sitting next to me.  Don’t know why it went off them.

4:40 a.m. – Mistaking the clock setting for 5:00, I decide to get up (yes, I do normally get up that early).

4:50 a.m. – The dog throws up.  The big dog.

5:00 a.m. – Still working on preparing the first cup of coffee when 11-year old comes downstairs.  I shoo him back upstairs.

5:04 a.m. – Go on a hunt for wrapping paper, which I find…along with a large mess in a room that I thought was clean for company tomorrow.

5:05 a.m. – I try to wrap the 8-year old’s birthday presents only to find we have no tape.  Tape hunt begins.

5:10 a.m. – Hear noise from upstairs and go up to shush the two children who are now playing in one’s room.

5:30 a.m. – Hear my alarm going off in my room.  I must have turned it on inadvertently while trying to stop the noise at 4:39.  The beeping makes the dog still in my room start to howl.  The other dog, downstairs, starts to join in the howling.  I rush upstairs before all the boys are up, turn it off, and quiet the dogs.

5:35 a.m. – The 8- and 11-year old ask if they can go to the basement and play.  I figure it is the best alternative and may allow me to salvage my quiet time, so I let them.

5:40 a.m. – The 6-year old wakes up.  Send him downstairs.

5:50 a.m. – I am tired and in need of another cup of coffee.  I still have not done my quiet time, which is the reason I get up this early anyway.

5:59 a.m. – Last child gets up.  Hope of quiet time is dashed for good today.  Start breakfast and the day on a prayer. 

I am not making this up.  I couldn’t make up this level of crazy detail.

Yet, that is my life.  Fire to fire to fire.  It can be exhausting, especially on your own.  Especially when all this happens before 6:00 a.m!


These are light and momentary troubles.  I know they are.  They are the results of having a big family and lots of blessings.

The night before, my oldest and I watched The Passion of the Christ (  Keith and I had started the tradition many years ago to watch it at Easter time.  As painful as that movie is to watch, I find it a good reminder of just what is important in life.  It helps put "those days" into perspective.

Even when "those days" start before the first cup of coffee.

Kids up early?  Thanks, God, that, with our busy schedules, I have "morning people" for children. 
Dogs barking and throwing up?  Thanks, God, for the blessing of our dogs, who are an almost constant source of affection and fun, never mind the protection factor.
Kindle going off?  Thanks, God, for the technology that you have given our world, and that we in our family can share it.

And thanks, God, for our nice, warm home, our health, and the blessing of living together as a family in this great country of ours. 

Sometimes the best reminder on a stress-filled day is the pictures in my head of Jesus hanging on the cross...for me. 

Surely He took up our pain
    and bore our suffering,
yet we considered Him punished by God,
    stricken by Him, and afflicted.
But He was pierced for our transgressions,
    He was crushed for our iniquities;
the punishment that brought us peace was on Him,
    and by His wounds we are healed.
- Isaiah 53:4-5

Wednesday, April 3, 2013

The Heat is On!

Well, the dryer is fixed.  New heat element.  New lease on life for it.  Praise God!

As I climb out from under the mountain of clothes (well, not too much of a mountain due to my creative drying around my room), I realize the dryer is drying...better than I remember it!  Clothes are done faster!  (Yes, now the mountain is on my bed to fold.)

Turns out, the lint had been slowly building up, clogging the outtake shoot...and slowly sucking the life and power out of the dryer.  Perhaps that is what caused the overworked heat element to break, perhaps not.  Regardless, it was a problem that needed a solution.

Aren't I just like my dryer? 

I allow the little things to build up, slowly sucking away my energy...and my joy.

Messy rooms and returning phone calls and dishes in the sink and doctors' appointments and torn pants and shoes ruined and poor math grades and dirty car seats and mouthy boys and uncleaned plates at dinner and jeans outgrown and broken toes and too much TV and soccer practice.

I could go on...and on...and on.  Life is full of little pieces that can easily become annoyances.

And...I must admit, sometimes I let them get to me.  I juggle and juggle my to-do schedule, but find that I just cannot get it all done.  And that makes me grumpy.

Sometimes I can just clean out the lint trap of my mind, scrapping the negative thoughts and grumpiness and moving on.  Sometimes, however, I need to try something new!

Maybe I need a new Bible reading plan or devotion book.  Maybe I need a quiet coffee with a dear girlfriend to put things back in perspective and give me some relaxing laughs for a bit.  Maybe I need my journal and quiet time with the Lord.  Maybe I need a weekend retreat away from the kids and the stresses of single parenting.

Thankfully, I have a loving Savior who will allow my clogs to become known to me...through friends, devotions I have read, or the buzzing in my soul, indicating the load is unbalanced and needs to be reseated before I can continue.

And after I have reset myself and my attitude, I can better appreciate all that I have and all that I am in Christ (by His strength and not my own), and can continue to roll. 

And I am made as new as my dryer, ready to (hopefully) do it better!

"...He will wipe every tear from their eyes. There will be no more death or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away.”  He who was seated on the throne said, “I am making everything new!” Then he said, “Write this down, for these words are trustworthy and true.” - Revelation 21:4-5