Happy New Year

 

Another year has come and gone. For my husband and me 2015 was a wonderful year filled with amazing blessings. In fact I ended my Christmas letter like this, “God is good all the time; but, some years He seems to pour blessings from Heaven our way. This has been one of those years.”  I have no idea what my Heavenly Father has planned for me this year; but, I know that whether it is more blessings or heartache it will be for my good.

Last June we moved back to the south after being in Iowa for 32 years.  God taught me so many lessons during those years.  I believe one of the biggest was to be content no matter what the circumstances.  Often things did not work out the way I wanted them to.  I couldn’t see what God was doing.  Where was the blessing in this trial?!  At times God and I had some very distressing talks!  I explained to Him that we were serving Him and things were NOT supposed to work out this way! 🙂  After all, He promised to protect and bless us if we served Him faithfully.  Of course, my very patient Heavenly Father would remind me that I could not see the whole picture and I must trust Him. 

Now I can look back and see how each disappointment and each trial taught me something.  I know I would not appreciate all that God has blessed us with here in SC if it were not for the lessons He taught me in the past. 

God told the children of Israel to make markers as they went through the wilderness that they might remind their children of all that God did for them.  Even in wilderness experiences, God has promised to be there with us if we will be faithful and trust Him to give us strength and teach us one step at a time.  No matter what 2016 holds, we can emerge victorious if we will walk with God by daily reading His Word and communicating with Him through prayer.   

As we start a new year, let me encourage each of you to review the lessons and blessings of the past so that we will be prepared to deal with whatever God sends our way this year.  May our New Year’s resolution be that we will be faithful no matter what our Heavenly Father has planned for us.

 

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THANKFUL FOR THE THORNS

I found this story on the internet and read it for our Thanksgiving service at church.

THANKFUL FOR THE THORNS

Sandra felt as low as the heels of her Birkenstocks as she pushed against a November gust and florist shop door. Her life had been easy, like a spring breeze. Then, in the fourth month of her second pregnancy, a minor automobile accident stole her ease. During this Thanksgiving week she would have delivered a son. She grieved over her loss. As if that weren’t enough, her husband’s company threatened a transfer. Then her sister, whose holiday visit she coveted, called saying she could not come. What’s worse, Sandra’s friend infuriated her by suggesting her grief was a God-given path to maturity that would allow her to empathize with others who suffer. Had she lost a child? No – she has no idea what I’m feeling. Sandra shuddered. Thanksgiving? Thankful for what? She wondered. For a careless driver whose truck was hardly scratched when he rear-ended her? For an airbag that saved her life but took that of her child?

“Good afternoon, can I help you?” The flower shop clerk’s approach startled her. “Sorry,” said Jenny, “I just didn’t want you to think I was ignoring you.”

“I….I need an arrangement.”

“For Thanksgiving?” Sandra nodded

“Do you want beautiful but ordinary, or would you like to challenge the day with a customer favorite I call the ‘Thanksgiving Special’?” Jenny saw Sandra’s curiosity and continued. “I’m convinced that flowers tell stories, that each arrangement insinuates a particular feeling. Are you looking for something that conveys gratitude this Thanksgiving?”

“Not exactly!” Sandra blurted. “Sorry, but in the last five months, everything that could go wrong has.”

Sandra regretted her outburst but was surprised when Jenny said, “I have the perfect arrangement for you.”

The door’s small bell rang. “Barbara, hi!” Jenny said. She politely excused herself from Sandra and walked toward a small workroom. She quickly reappeared carrying a massive arrangement of green bows, and long-stemmed thorny roses. Only, the ends of the rose stems were neatly snipped, no flowers!”

“Want this in a box?” Jenny asked. Sandra watched for Barbara’s response. Was this a joke? Who would want rose stems and no flowers! She waited for laughter, for someone to notice the absence of flowers atop the thorny stems, but neither woman did.

“Yes, please. It’s exquisite.” Said Barbara. “You’d think after three years of getting the special, I’d not be moved by its significance, but it’s happening again. My family will love this one. Thanks.”

Sandra stared. “Why so normal a conversation about so strange an arrangement?” she wondered. “Uh,” said Sandra pointing. “That lady just left with, uh . . . .”

“Yes”

“Well, she had no flowers!”

“Yep. That’s the Special. I call it the ‘Thanksgiving Thorns Bouquet.”

“But, why do people pay for that?”

In spite of herself Jenny chuckled. “Do you really want to know?”

“I couldn’t leave this shop without knowing. I’d think about nothing else!”

“That might be good.” Said Jenny. “Well,” she continued, “Barbara came into the shop three years ago feeling very much like you feel today. She thought she had very little to be thankful for. She had lost her father to cancer, the family business was failing, her son was into drugs, and she faced major surgery.”

“Ouch!” said Sandra.

“That same year, I lost my husband, I assumed complete responsibility for the shop and for the first time, spent the holidays alone. I had no children, no husband, no family nearby, and too great a debt to allow any travel.”

“What did you do?”

“I learned to be thankful for thorns.”

Sandra’s eyebrows lifted. “Thorns?”

“I’m a Christian, Sandra. I’ve always thanked God for good things in life and I never thought to ask Him why good things happened to me. But, when bad stuff hit did I ever ask! It took time to learn that bad times are important. I always enjoyed the flowers of life but it took thorns to show me the beauty of God’s comfort. You know, the Bible says that God comforts us when we’re afflicted and from His consolation we learn to comfort others.”

Sandra gasped. “A friend read that passage to me and I was furious! I guess the truth is, I don’t want comfort. I’ve lost a baby and I’m angry with God.” She started to ask Jenny to “go on” when the door’s bell diverted their attention.

“Hey, Phil!” shouted Jenny as a balding rotund man entered the shop. She softly touched Sandra’s arm and moved to welcome him.

He tucked her under his side for a warm hug. “I’m here for twelve thorny long-stemmed stems!” Phil laughed heartily.

“I figured as much,” said Jenny. “I’ve got them ready.” She lifted a tissue wrapped arrangement from the refrigerated cabinet.

“Beautiful,” said Phil. “My wife will love them.”

Sandra could not resist asking, “These are for your wife?”

Phil saw that Sandra’s curiosity matched his when he first heard of a Thorn Bouquet.

“Do you mind my asking, Why thorns?”

“In fact, I’m glad you asked.” He said. “Four years ago my wife and I nearly divorced. After forty years, we were in a real mess, but we slogged through, problem by rotten problem. We rescued our marriage – our love, really. Last year, at Thanksgiving, I stopped in here for flowers. I must have mentioned surviving a tough process because Jenny told me that for a long time she kept a vase of rose stems—stems!—as a reminder of what she learned from ‘thorny times’. That was good enough for me. I took home stems. My wife and I decided to label each one for a specific thorny situation and give thanks for what the problem taught us. I’m pretty sure this stem review is becoming a tradition.”

Phil paid Jenny, thanked her again and as he left, said to Sandra, “I highly recommend the Special!”

“I don’t know if I can be thankful for the thorns in my life,” Sandra said to Jenny.

“Well my experience says that thorns make roses more precious. We treasure God’s providential care more during trouble than at any other time. Remember, Sandra, Jesus wore a crown of thorns so that we might know His love. Do not resents thorns.”

Tears rolled down Sandra’s cheeks. For the first time since the accident she loosened her grip on resentment. “I’ll take twelve long stemmed thorns, please.”

“I hoped you would,” Jenny said, “I’ll have them ready in a minute. Then, every time you see them, remember to appreciate both good and hard times. We grow through both.”

“Thank you. What do I owe you?”

“Nothing. Nothing but a pledge to work toward healing your heart. The first year’s arrangement is on me.”

Jenny handed a card to Sandra. “I’ll attach a card like this to your arrangement but maybe you’d like to read it first. Go ahead, read it.”

“My God, I have never thanked Thee for my thorns! I have thanked Thee a thousand times for my roses, but never once for my thorns. Teach me the glory of the cross I bear, teach me the value of my thorns. Show me that I have climbed to Thee by the path of pain. Show me that my tears have made my rainbow.”

Author unknown

 

CHOOSE THE HILL YOU WISH TO DIE ON

 

As a pastor’s wife I have done a lot of counseling over the years. One character trait that can cause a multitude of problems in homes, churches, friendships, and businesses is stubborness. The funny thing about stubbornness is that if you call it determination, persistence, or endurance it doesn’t sound so bad. I have found that it is all a matter of perspective. When someone doesn’t want to change and do something my way, then they are being stubborn. But if I stick to my guns and insist that that person go along with me then I am just persistent and right!

I have also found that sometimes I have a hard time determining when God is setting up roadblocks because He wants me to change directions.   Am I just being too stubborn to see it or am I being tested to see if I will throw up my hands and quit.

Many of my struggles throughout life have been caused because I was too stubborn to do it God’s way. I was convinced that I was right and God or whoever the Lord had placed as my authority at the time did not understand the situation. Therefore, I would figuratively stomp my foot and hang in there trying to do it my way until I couldn’t stand the conviction and would go ask for forgiveness. Does this sound like a 2 year old? Yes! Sad to say, just being over 21 does not always mean that we are mature.

So what does God have to say about stubbornness? In I Samuel 15:22-23a Samuel is confronting Saul about his disobedience to God’s directions. And Samuel said, Hath the Lord as great delight in burnt offerings and sacrifices, as in obeying the voice of the Lord? Behold, to obey is better than sacrifice, and to hearken than the fat of rams.   For rebellion is as the sin of witchcraft, and stubbornness is as iniquity and idolatry.

This was a great verse to quote to my children when they were being stubborn and rebellious. But does it apply to adults also? Of course it does! In fact it’s hard to tell your children that they should submit and cooperate if they do not see you having that kind of spirit with the authorities in your life.

Stubbornness doesn’t just affect us personally. It can wreck marriages, split churches, cause us to lose a job and ruin friendships.

So how do we determine the difference between stubbornness and endurance?

1. Ask yourself, “Will this matter in 10 years or in the light of eternity?”. When you are in the middle of an argument or disagreement you should check your attitude. Why do you want to win this discussion? There are so many things that we can argue about that we won’t even remember in ten years. Unfortunately, in some cases, the results of that argument will still be evident. A good example of that is the family that one half is still not speaking to the other half but they don’t know why. When you ask them why they are mad at “Aunt Susie”, they don’t know why. In fact, they may not have even been a part of the original fight. How sad! All those years missed because two people were too stubborn and full of pride to give in and say, “I’m sorry.”

2.When in the midst of a battle, choose the hill you wish to die on. A few years ago a friend of mine used this saying to describe a decision that she made about not continuing an argument with her husband. Ladies, some battles just are not worth winning! When you have a difference of opinion at home, church or on the job, you must decide is this important enough that I am willing to fight to the death to win this argument.

There are battles you have to win.   It doesn’t matter who you alienate…you must win! There are times when winning is not worth the cost. Remember that a wise general understands that he must keep his eyes on the goal–winning the war.  He may lose a few battles in the process of getting to the hill that his troops will die, if necessary, to conquer and win.

So what “hills” should we be willing to die on? We cannot sin to please someone else. For instance, if our boss expects us to lie or cheat as part of our job then it is not stubbornness to tell him that you will not do that. If he doesn’t like it and won’t change, then it is time for you to look for a new job.

3. Submit to the authority over you. The concept of submission to authority is considered almost archaic today. But, like it or not, it is Biblical. God tells us over and over in His Word that we are to submit to authority. He promises to bless us if we obey and to punish us if we refuse to submit.

Now for some people submitting seems easy. For others of us, it is a constant struggle. I have never taken commands easily! My natural tendency is to argue and question every side of an issue assuming that I know the best way to do something. I even tend to have this attitude with God. Naturally, this plan has never worked well for me; but, I still sometimes have to try it just to see if something has changed!! 🙂 Guess what? Nothing has changed. God’s plan is still best and will work every time.

Even our Lord and Savior submitted himself unto the will of His Father when he prayed in the garden …O my Father, if it be possible, let this cup pass from me: nevertheless, not as I will, but as thou wilt. Matthew 26:39.  If Jesus could submit to God’s authority, we should also be willing to submit to our Heavenly Father.

Besides God’s authority, the Lord has put other people in places of authority over us and He expects us to obey them. Colossians 3:22 says Servants obey in all things your masters according to the flesh; not with eyeservice, as menpleasers; but in singleness of heart, fearing God. In today’s language that would mean employees obey your employer. You may think that there is a better way to do it. There is nothing wrong with suggesting a new method to your boss, but, if he or she says no, then it is your responsibility to obey.

God doesn’t say, “you may disobey if your boss is an idiot.” He simply tells us to obey. I have told my children that someday they may be in authority and they will want others to follow them. Right now it is up to them to follow their leaders. Good followers make good leaders.

We must remember that sometimes those in authority know more than we do about the situation or they have had “this” happen before. They may be making their decisions based on information that we do not have and do not need to know. All we need to do is quit being stubborn and give in to the authority over us.

We also need to remember that whoever that authority is, must answer to God someday for his or her actions. It is not up to us to make them do right, it is up to us to obey God by humbling ourselves, giving in, and submitting.

If you simply cannot do this because it is sin or you just can’t swallow their reasoning, then it is time to move on. Start praying and asking God to direct you.

In most of the cases that I have seen, this is not the problem. It is merely a matter of sinful pride and rebellion. The toddler mentality of “I want it my way”!

Let me insert one note here. When I say move on if you cannot submit, I am NOT suggesting that a wife leave her husband because she doesn’t like some of his plans or methods. God’s word is very clear that wives are to submit to their husband’s authority (Eph. 5:22). If the husband is asking the wife to sin she should refuse. But, in most of the situations that I have counseled, it was simply a matter of she wanted to do it her way. This is not a time for separation it is a time for prayer and maybe counseling.

A wise pastor’s wife once told me that she learned after years of marriage that she could accomplish much more change in her husband by nagging God about her husband’s problems then by nagging her husband. The end result was a peaceful and happy marriage. This plan of attack can work just as well with your children, on the job, or in a church situation.

4.  God calls us to be peacemakers. I am not suggesting that we work for world peace. What I am saying is that God tells us that our goal in any given situation should be a peaceful resolution. The Lord tells us in Romans 12:18 If it be possible, as much as lieth in you, live peaceably with all men.

Notice that God knew that some people simply would not cooperate with others. He did not make us responsible for their sinful attitudes. The Lord simply told us to do everything within our power to bea peacemaker. That means that sometimes we must be the one to give in and let the other person have their way. We don’t have to agree with them, we just swallow our stubborn pride and let them do it the way they want to so that there can be a spirit of peace. Remember, not all hills are worth dying on!

I understand that there are times we just can’t stand to let someone else think that they are right. I remember one time when I was a teenager, my mother and I were having an argument about what I would wear to a church picnic. When Mama went outside, I called my father at the office and informed him of my problems. Daddy, in his mature wisdom, said calmly, “Marcia what difference does it make? Just wear what Mama tells you to.” I being a very wise 16 year old said, “That’s not the point! If I do that, she will think she won!”

Isn’t that the way we are as adults sometimes? It’s not that we have to do it our way as much as that we don’t want the other person to think they won! 🙂

What does God call that kind of attitude? The term is foolish pride. Proverbs 16:18 says Pride goeth before destruction, and a haughty spirit before a fall. When we allow stubbornness and the desire to always win to rule our lives, we can be sure that disaster will follow. God will not bless that kind of attitude.

On the flip side, God tells us in Matthew chapter 5 that He will bless those that work at keeping the peace. I used the word “work” because sometimes it takes work and humility to keep the peace in families, churches, and in the work place. We may be the one that has to give in or apologize even when we don’t see that we did anything wrong.

5. We must remember what our goal is—to be a good testimony and effect people for eternity. That sometimes requires us to keep our mouth shut, back down, and even let the other person think they won. So what! God knows the whole story and He is in control.

Remember, God will not hold you responsible for the other person’s actions. He only holds you responsible for your reactions.

6. One last thought—How do we discern the difference between stubbornness and endurance? If this has not happened to you already, it will at some time in your life. All of us go through times when everything just seems to be hard. Nothing we do seems to go right. So you question. “Lord are you just testing me to see if I will quit or are you telling me that I need to change direction?” How do you find the answer?

First, get into the Word of God and ask the Lord to direct you. Look up and study verses pertaining to the situation in question.

Secondly, ask yourself is there any sin involved in what I am doing? Is the Lord trying to tell me that this is wrong? Sometimes the Lord is causing everything we do to fail because he is trying to get our attention to help us see that we need to change. Hebrews 12:6-11

Third, seek help in wise counselors. The Bible tells us in Proverbs 11:14 Where no counsel is, the people fall: but in a multitude of counselors there is safety. By this I do not mean that we go to our peers for advice. A wise counselor is someone that is mature in the Lord and maybe has been through a similar experience and been victorious.

Finally, if you determine that you are not sinning and the Lord is not directing you to move on, then you must accept that he is just testing you to help you grow. Read and study the book of Job and James chapter 1. Also remember that everything that we learn, and the Lord gives us victory in, we can use to help others (II Corinthians 1:4).

May each of us learn to serve the Lord with humility and the discernment to know which “hill” is worth dying on. May the Lord give us the grace to be peacemakers.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

LIFE’S LESSONS Chapter 4

I know it has been 5 months since the last chapter. In this series I have been sharing how God worked to move us to Iowa and have us start a Christian Camp. The last 5 months have been consumed with moving out of Iowa and back to the South. We are now moved so I can continue my story.

God provided the perfect site for us to build Living Water Farms Christian Camp. But, we still needed a place to live. It is a little hard to look for a house to rent or buy when you have no regular income and your house has not sold to at least provide a down payment. So, Larry kept driving 45 miles each way to work on the property and we waited and prayed. One day in August Dave Phelps came to us and offered for us to use his father’s farm house. Mr. Phelps had died and the will stipulated that the house was to go to whatever family member needed it. At that time, no one needed a house. Dave told Larry that we were welcome to live there rent free while we got the camp up and running. It turned out that we lived there for 1 1/2 years rent free and the only thing we paid for was our telephone. Dave took care of the electricity and we used wood to heat the place in the winter.

What a blessing to see how God could provide for our family even though we had no income that we could count on!  This house was only about 3 miles from the camp property so it saved my husband tons of time and gas while he was working on the buildings.  This also gave us a place to keep staff and speakers during the first few summers of camp.

The first summer we held camp was called the “Pioneer Year” for good reason.  We had no electricity or running water.  All the meals were cooked either in my or the cook, Dorland Abernathy’s, kitchen.  Then Dorland and 2 college boys carried it all out to the camp and when they were done, all the dirty dishes came back to my kitchen to be washed.  When the weather was good, they could drive the food right up to the dining area.  Rain caused problems.  In Iowa if you don’t have gravel on the roads, rain turns that black dirt to thick mud which is almost as bad as driving on ice.  We had day after day of rain that year.  Many times the boys had to walk all the food and dishes in through the woods and haul it back out.  Many of the staff have lasting memories of what it was like without gravel on those roads. 🙂

For showers, Larry built an outdoor shower for us to use.  There was a gravity fed black hose going from the 1000 gallon water tank to the showers.  If it was a sunny day and you were one of the first in line, you would have a nice, hot shower.  Otherwise, brace yourself for cold water!  There were so many things that were not done that first year.  But the speakers did their best, the staff worked hard with a smile on their face, and God worked in hearts.  Years later some kids actually said they missed the camp being so rustic.  Not me!  I was delighted when we finally got running water, a water heater for the kitchen and electricity.

What’s the lesson here?  Most of us in America take for granted that our electricity will work.  We can plug in our appliances and they will work for us.  We expect to have hot water when we turn on the faucet and unlimited water to wash whatever we need to clean.  In short, compared to the rest of the world, we are spoiled!  Those first few summers at camp taught many of us what we were capable of when faced with the lack of modern conveniences.  The right attitude and a sense of humor goes a long way to help us overcome in difficult circumstances.  Also, it is easier to keep the right perspective when other Christians are there working beside you to help ease the burden.  Many of the trials that God allowed us to experience in building Living Water Farms were shared by others who had a burden to see the camp up and running.  I believe we all learned to say with Paul “I have learned in whatsoever state I am, therewith to be content.”  Philippians 4:11b

TAKE THE TIME

The last 3 months have brought great changes in my life.  In March my husband, Larry, was called to be the new pastor of Calhoun Baptist Church in St.  Matthews, SC.  He had been corresponding and talking to the deacons of this church since December and we visited there the first part of March to officially candidate.  So this was not a surprise.  We actually had known for 3 years that God was going to move us.  We just didn’t know where and when.

From the time that Larry announced his resignation at Heritage Baptist Church we had 2 months to prepare to move.  Our house and another building in town needed to be prepared to sell.  I had to resign from my decorating job of 14 years.  We had other positions to resign and decisions to make about what to move, trash or sell.  The time flew by and soon we were down to the last couple of weeks.  This is when the Lord gave me an object lesson about how we treat the people in our lives.

There were people who suddenly wanted to take us out, have us over or spend time telling us what we had meant to them over the years.  It is always nice when friends want to show their appreciation; but, here’s what I thought.  Why now?  It would have been nice if some of those friends had said thank you, taken us out or done something else nice during some of our truly depressing times.  Yes, I know I am as guilty as anyone in this regard.  I generally procrastinate on things like writing notes or taking time to do something nice just to show that I care.   After all, I can always do it tomorrow.  The problem is that tomorrow never seems to come or suddenly it is there staring us in the face  and it’s too late.

So why don’t we do this for others on a regular basis?  We often wait until people are leaving or we have lost them in death to suddenly show how much we care for them.  Most of us live such busy lives we are overwhelmed with the tyranny of the urgent.  We spend our days just trying to get through most of our to do list and we never schedule in time to let someone know how much we care for them or appreciated something that they did.

In my training in college and at other times in my life I was taught to schedule family & friend times as well as business appointments.  Maybe we should do that each week.  Pick a loved one and schedule time to write them a note, phone them or do something special with them.  A word of encouragement or thanks can sometimes be the one thing that a person needed to keep going on a very bad day.  All of us at times need to be reminded that what we do for the Lord and others is not in vain.  Receiving that kind of affirmation a little at a time could be the blessing that would inspire someone to take one more step toward victory.

Isaiah 50:4  says “The Lord God hath given me the tongue of the learned, that I should know how to speak a word in season to him that is weary: …”  This is my challenge to myself and you.  Take the time to encourage and thank others.  Let’s make it a part of our weekly schedule.

LIFE’S LESSONS Chapter 3

 

 

Larry started the process of calling pastors to make a appointments to visit them and share our vision for a good Christian camp in the Midwest.  He soon learned that most pastors weren’t receptive to a stranger with no “connections”  who just wanted to stop by to talk to them.  Many times we would drive to the city where we knew there were several good churches and call the pastor and ask him if we could drop by in 30 minutes since we just happened to be in town.  It reminded me of a door to door salesman who had to get his foot in the door before people would listen to him.  Now, being a pastor’s wife, I understand that these men only have so much time and most of these small, Midwestern churches have limited resources.  Therefore, a pastor has to pick and choose who he invites to present their ministry to the people of his church.  But it still made it hard for us nobodies with no finances to get our foot in the door.  However, we were led to some good men who had a vision for what God could do.

During this time we still had not found any land so there was not an existing camp that we could show pictures of.  All Larry could do was tell people what God had laid on his heart.  He would explain about our philosophy of camping and what we wanted to accomplish in people’s lives.  He would tell them that a good Biblical philosophy, and quality Christian staff were more important then the physical place.  Then someone would inevitably raise their hand and say, “This sounds great!  Where is it?”  To which my husband would answer. “We don’t know.  The Lord hasn’t shown us yet.”  You could almost see those careful Midwesterners lean back on their wallet while they thought, ” these two people are crazy!”  After 6 months of travelling all over Iowa, Missouri, & Western Illinois, presenting our ministry we were about ready to agree with some of these church members. 🙂

During this time, we had calls from people who had “camps” they wanted to sell us.  We hiked over many acres and checked out dozens of buildings to no avail.  One of the camp properties was so bad that we both agreed that a bomb would be the best solution. 🙂  Then God led Dave Phelps to call us.  He was a deacon at a small Baptist Church where Larry had presented the camp ministry.  Dave was wondering if we had found any land.  He had some acreage that he needed to sell.  It was the farm crisis of 1983 when many farmers were having to sell land and equipment to help them with their astronomical debt. 

We had been praying for 5 things: 1.  150 acres of land.  You can’t build a camp with lots of activities without space.  2.  Rolling hills and trees.  In Iowa most land is flat which is great for farming but not very picturesque.  3. Private but accessible.  We had looked at some camps that the drive to the facility would be a hindrance for some people.  We also had been offered some land that a railroad track ran right through the middle!  4. A pond for water activities or a place that one could be built.  5. Affordable.  Remember, we had no money and no steady income. 

The Phelps’ land had it all plus extra!  It was 160 acres of rolling hills and trees with a small farm pond on it plus two other low areas that eventually became bigger ponds/lakes.  It was only a mile from a paved highway and at the end of the road.  Dave only asked for the amount that he had invested in the property and he would give us from May to October to raise what money we could for the first payment.  We didn’t even have to go to a bank to secure a loan!  The best thing about this land was that Dave and his wife, Lonna, told us that they had bought the land years ago thinking that it would make a great place for a camp for young people.  They had seen the need from working with the youth in their church.  God had a plan years before He called us to move to Iowa. 

We signed the papers to buy the land and went to work.  God had given us everything we asked for.  Unfortunately, we had not put on that list minor things like electricity, running water & buildings.  There was one other minor detail that we needed–a place for us and our children to live.  We were still living in the upstairs of Mom & Dad’s house which was 45 miles north of the camp property.  Our Heavenly Savior had more surprises for us which I will tell you about later. 🙂

Self Discipline

This is a departure from my series entitled “Life’s Lessons”.  I was thinking last week that it is much harder to discipline myself then it was to discipline my children. There were many times when my kids were young that I was so tired I was tempted to ignore whatever infraction of the rules they had committed.  Most of the time I was able to overcome the laziness and take care of the problem knowing that inconsistent discipline leads to more problems in the future.  Sooo, you would think that I could make myself do the things I know I should.  After all, there is only one of me!  However, it is amazing how many excuses I can come up with to avoid whatever I don’t truly want to do. 🙂

It seems that I am in good company.  The apostle Paul had the same problem.  In many of the epistles that he wrote Paul talks about his struggle with the flesh and encourages Christians to walk in the spirit and keep our bodies in subjection (Rom. 7:18-19; 13:14; I Cor. 9:19-27; and Gal. 5:16).  It boils down to the fact that I must allow the Holy Spirit to set my priorities and work in my life so that I can produce good fruit that will draw others unto Him.

What does that mean in my life?  I must quit making excuses for not having time to exercise.  My body is the temple of the Holy Spirit.  If this temple crumbles because I did not do my part to eat well and exercise, I will not have the strength to help others and I may make it harder on my children as I age.  Not only do I need to exercise my body and care for it; but, I must also exercise my mind so that I am ready to witness and encourage others who need the Lord.

How do I do this?  By putting first things first.  Have devotions & study the Bible BEFORE I check my email & facebook.  Make sure I allow time to do my exercises even if I don’t read every post that my friends put on facebook. 🙂  I managed to live more than 50 years without all these wonderful posts so if I miss a few shared quotes or blogs it probably will not hurt me.  But, skipping my spiritual and physical exercise over time will weaken my body and mind.  I pray that the Lord will help me to overcome the excuses that the devil puts in my path.  I want to become a vessel fit for the master’s use.  Will you join me?

LIFE’S LESSONS Chapter 2

In the last chapter I mentioned that we were leaving NC in January to go to Iowa.  We did not have a hefty savings account to finance our trip.  There were no churches that had agreed to support us.  We were simply moving on faith that God had called us to do this and He would supply the need.  Since both of us are your typical type A personalities we knew how this was all going to work out.  God would sell our house and we could use the profit to finance our trip and live on for a little while until we had raised support.  The Sunday before we loaded the moving van arrived and the house was still unsold.  The church had a going away party for us that evening.  There were many nice things said mixed with an abundance of tears.  At the end of the testimonies, the chairman of the deacon board stood up and told us that the church had taken up a love offering to help finance our trip.  They had also voted to pay Larry’s salary in full for 3 months and 1/2 salary for another 3 months plus 6 months of insurance.  We were stunned!  The offering was enough to pay for the moving van, gas, and all but one meal.  God certainly provided!  What God orders he pays for.

Remember, I mentioned that it was nuts to move to Iowa in January?  The week before we moved there had been a huge snowstorm in the mountains of North Carolina.  It was so bad that semis were stuck on the interstate overnight while road crews cleared the mess.  This was the same interstate that we would be taking the next week.  By the time we left, the roads were clear but the snow was piled up on the shoulders.  As we were driving down one of those mountains, the brakes on the moving van that Larry was driving started to overheat.  My husband realized it and all of us pulled over while he grabbed handfuls of snow to throw on those brake lines that were cherry red.  If there had been no snow, we probably would have been dealing with a fire that burned up all of our worldly goods and possibly my parents things which was packed in the trailer hooked on to the moving van.  God was already providing for our care with a snowstorm that we didn’t think was a good thing at the time. 🙂  Even though there was snow the week before we left, we had no bad weather during the trip and it didn’t snow again until we had the moving van completely unloaded.  We serve an amazing God who controls the weather in His perfect timing.

The day before we got to Iowa my husband called his mother to see if she had found a place to store our furniture.  She told him that she was working on it.  Working on it!  Are you kidding?!  In 24 hours we would be arriving and needed a place to store 2000 square feet of furniture.  We were going to be living in their upstairs while we looked for a place to build a camp and live.  Well, there was nothing we could do but pray and hope.  Surely God had a plan.  After all, he had taken care of everything so far.  By the time we arrived, Mom had secured an empty apartment over a storefront in downtown Wayland, Iowa.  We unloaded my parents furniture into the mobile home that they had bought a few months earlier then proceeded to Wayland.  The next day a crew from Mom’s church came and helped us unload all of our worldly possessions into that apartment.  Those were the steepest stairs I had ever seen and it seemed like we were climbing halfway to heaven with our arms loaded. 

I also got a preview of small town living that day.  There was a grocery store across the street.  As I would go back to the moving van for another load, I would glance across the street and notice a line of onlookers in the windows.  I guess we were the entertainment and topic of discussion for the day.  It was sad to me that not one of those people walked across the street to welcome Larry home after being gone for more than a decade or to introduce themselves to me and welcome me to their town.  Note to those of you that live in a small community.  When new people come to town, don’t ask others who they are and why they are there.  Walk across the street or the aisle, introduce yourself and offer to help them find their way around.  Do what you can to make them feel a part of the village that you live in.

We rearranged the furniture in Mom’s upstairs to make a sitting room/office at the top of the stairs and started the process of contacting churches.  Several months before we moved my husband had sent out a letter to fundamental churches that he knew in Iowa asking if they thought there was a need for A good Christian camp.  There were 14 pastors that responded that this was a wonderful idea.  They thought there was a great need.  Unfortunately, out of those eleven men there were only 2 that supported us when we actually moved to Iowa.  It seems that they wanted a good camp for their people as long as God didn’t ask them to use their money or time to make it happen.  Is that what we do?  Do we pray for something and when God shows us how we can make it happen we tell God that we didn’t expect to have to pay for it or use our precious time to accomplish the task?

One thing I have learned is that God DOES listen to our prayers.  When we ask God to bring something to pass we better be prepared to get involved either with time or money.  If we are not willing to get involved in the Lord’s work, God will still make it happen in spite of us; but, we will miss the blessings.  At this point we were involved with both feet and no idea how God was going to work out the impossible task of building a camp somewhere with nothing.

CREATIVE USES FOR EVERYDAY ITEMS

Recycling has become a big thing in this nation.  We are encouraged to find a way to reuse many things that in the past we would have just pitched in the garbage.  When I was growing up recycling was a way of life we just didn’t have a special name for turning other people’s trash into our treasures.  My mother was great at finding ways to reuse things even if it wasn’t designed for that purpose.  I have continued that tradition in my home.  Let me share with you some ideas for using things you already have to help beautify or organize your home.

  1. Use old mugs, pitchers, and glasses to hold and organize groups of things. Most of us have a collection of mugs, glasses and pitchers that are the last of a set or they have a chip in them so they are not safe for liquids.  These containers can be used for all kinds of things.  I have used mugs and glasses to hold flower arrangements.  Often they are a better size than the vases that I own.  I use pretty mugs as pen and pencil holders that I place near each phone and between Larry’s and my chairs in the family room.  They are decorative and that way I have a writing utensil handy when I need it.  I use pretty glasses to hold cotton balls in the bathroom.  I have a large, heavy pitcher that holds my curling irons next to my sink.
  2. Use small candy, sauce, or pickle dishes for something other than food. I have an assortment of decorative dishes that I have inherited or been given over the years.  Most of them are never used for the original purpose.  For instance I have a long narrow china dish originally made for holding things like celery.  It is just perfect on my bedside table to hold my hand cream, nail file, and other things that I like to have handy.  I have a little cut glass dish that I use by my sink to hold safety pins and hair clips that I use regularly.  The point is to be creative.  Just because that dish was made for food doesn’t mean that is the only thing you can use it for.  It is so much better to use a pretty dish to organize a group of things and make that area look nice than to keep it stored in a cupboard and never see it.
  3. Leftover wallpaper or wrapping paper. Instead of buying shelf paper to line your cabinet shelves and your drawers, use leftover wallpapaper or wrapping paper.   Vinyl coated wallpapers makes great kitchen shelf paper because it is scrubbable.  I have heard of new brides using their wedding paper to line their drawers.  When my children were born, I used the paper from the shower presents to line the drawers in the nursery.  It was a nice way to remember all the love that was bestowed on my family by our friends.
  4. Toilet paper and paper towel rolls have all kinds of uses. I use toilet paper rolls to hold extension cords and small appliance cords. Folding them and stuffing them inside the roll saves a lot of untangling when you need to use the cord.  These rolls can be used to wrap ribbons around.  Wrap each ribbon around the roll and secure it with a small straight pin.  Next time you need a ribbon it will be easy to spot the color that you want and it won’t be wrinkled.
  5. Ice cube trays can be used to organize your drawersDo you have old ice cube trays stuffed in a cupboard somewhere?  Those little square holes could be great for those small items that you keep in your junk drawer.  You could fill those holes with hooks, nails, screws, paper clips, all kinds of little things that you don’t want to throw away but never can find when you need them.  If you don’t have a nice jewelry box or armoire, put some ice cube trays in a top dresser drawer and use the divisions to store your earrings
  6. Empty jars can be used to store all kinds of small itemsTake the labels off of clear glass or plastic containers then write on them with a magic marker or attach mailing labels to them that you can write on.  These can be used for batteries, screws, nails, hooks, innumerable things that are small and get lost easily if just thrown in a box or drawer.
  7. Empty shoe boxes make nice dividers for your lingerie drawers. Instead of investing in plastic dividers for your sock and underwear drawers, why not use shoe boxes?  If you have children at home, you probably have an assorment of shoe box sizes.  Find the size that fits your drawers and the items you want to store.  Once you work out a system for storage of these small items you will find that it is much easier to grab what you need in the morning because you are not rummaging through a mixed up mess in your drawers.

Next time you want to organize something check your cupboards and closets.  You might just find some great surprises that will improve the organization and beauty of your home.

LIFE’S LESSONS

 

40th Anniversary cruise 002On June 1, 2014 my husband was asked to preach the 75th Anniversary sermon at Marshall Baptist Church in Winston-Salem, NC.  He was their first youth pastor from 1979 to 1983.  I had an opportunity to share my testimony of all that God had done for us and taught me in the last 31 years.  The next few posts will be what I shared that day in an expanded version.

Jeremiah 29:11 tells us that God has “an expected end”  for us.  Nothing surprises God!  When we left Marshall Baptist Church there were many tears.  I couldn’t even begin to imagine why God was calling us to the Midwest to build a Christian Camp on faith.  That is what Larry told me we were called to do. In the late summer of 1982 my husband sat at our kitchen table and shared with me the burden that he was struggling with.  He felt God was calling him to go to the Midwest and build a Christian Camp.  He had already been struggling with it and arguing with God that this would not work.  After all, we were not trained in camp ministries.  He paused in his narrative, looked at me and said, “You are white as a sheet.  You look scared to death.”

Oh I definitely was!  I told him that there were many reasons this scared me.  First he was talking about moving to Iowa.  He may not have noticed but that is above the Mason Dixon line and it snows more up there in winter then I wanted to see in a lifetime.  THIS FLORIDA GIRL DOES  NOT LIKE TO BE COLD. 🙂  My next objection was moving to a small Midwestern town where everyone watched you and knew your business or at least made something up.  I grew up in Longwood, FL a suburb of Orlando.  We had lived in Greenville, SC and Winston-Salem, NC.  I liked cities with all the shopping, museums, concerts, people.  I had been to his hometown which is like a Norman Rockwell painting.  It’s a lovely place to visit but I didn’t want to live there. 🙂  Then I pointed out that I did NOT  like camping.  My idea of roughing it was Holiday Inn with the windows open.  Yes, I went to camp with our teens because I loved them and was willing to put up with some inconvenience for a couple of weeks to see their lives changed.  But, for the rest of our lives to be a camp directors wife?  Not my idea of fun!  Because I am a woman, and have the right to change my mind, I even pointed out that I did NOT want to be a camp director’s wife.  I wanted to be a pastor’s wife.  The ironic point here is that before I met my husband I had emphatically told my mother that I had never dated a preacher boy and I was not going to marry a pastor!  Last, but not least, was the fact that Larry was talking about moving on faith that God would provide.  That was NO guaranteed income.  Now, I could trust the Lord to provide all kinds of appliances, furniture and luxuries and unheard of prices because I prayed.  The problem here was that he was suggesting we trust him to provide housing, utilities and food.  We’ll starve and freeze to death!

Do you see the problem with all my objections?  It was all about me, my comfort zone, and being willing to step out on faith.  We had been teaching our teens that you must be willing to do the Lord’s will and trust Him to provide even if it wasn’t what we wanted to do.  We were serving God in Winston-Salem.  Why couldn’t we stay there?  Because you can’t serve God in the wrong place and be blessed.

When Larry and I were married, I promised to go wherever the Lord called him to assist him in the ministry.  I was not going to break my vow to God and him; but, I told my husband that he would have to pray for me to get used to this idea.  This was not even close to my plan A for our lives.  In fact, it was dangerously close to plan Z. 🙂  So we told the church we would be leaving in January and started making arrangements to move to Iowa.  Yes, I said January.  What person in their right mind moves to Iowa in January?!  We did.  In the next installment I will tell you how God’s timing was perfect and His provision was just enough

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