Sunday, December 29, 2013

One of THOSE Days

Yes!  His shirt IS on BACKWARDS!
  In those days Caesar Augustus issued a decree that a census should be taken ... So Joseph also went ... to Bethlehem ... to register with Mary, who was pledged to be married to him and was expecting a child.  While they were there, the time came for the baby to be born, and she gave birth to her firstborn, a son. She wrapped him in cloths and placed him in a manger Luke 2:1-3 
     It had been one of those mornings in our home.  Five of us were at church, but I stood alone in our row.  Tears threatened to spill from my eyes.  My sons were so angry with me that they had stormed off when they entered the church lobby.  I had refused to allow the kids to bring their electronics into the church.  Now, my husband had been dispatched to the restroom to round up one sulking boy.  The remaining son was perched on the extra chairs stacked at the back of the church.  I could feel the power of his glares even from a distance.   My daughter sat in the electronics booth running the projector that provides the congregation with the words to the worship songs.  If she had her gadgets with her, they were, at least, safely stowed in her purse.  She however, was also unhappy, because we were late.
     On most Sunday mornings I start yelling about thirty minutes before we have to leave.  I bark out orders about shoes, showers, coats, and socks.  I send people back to brush their teeth.  I threaten and plead until we are safely ensconced in the car and moving up the highway.  That morning, I had determined not to raise my voice.  I wondered aloud, "Can't you all just pretend that I am screaming and move faster! It's almost Christmas!"
  We had rushed in after the service had started.  I was surrounded by worshippers singing treasured Christmas Carols.  Agitated I glanced back over my shoulder.  No husband.  Son still looking miserable.  Daughter... daughter scuttling out the door.  I hurried after her.  Patty had surgery on her wisdom teeth a few days before.  Her cheeks were still swollen and sore.  "I feel sick," she told me pulling a yogurt out of her purse. When I began to ask her if she wanted to leave, she reassured me, "I want to stay.  Let me eat this and see."
     Feeling defeated, I walked back to my empty row.  I prayed, "I'm not sure why I bothered to come today, Lord.  It shouldn't be this hard.  I wanted to stand as a family and sing Christmas carols.  I wanted to smell the pine and the burning candles.  I wanted to enjoy being with loving friends and family.  I wanted to focus on You.  This is not what I wanted.  It's not why I came."

     "No, it's why I came,"was whispered lovingly back to my heart.

     Jesus knows about those days.  Those days when our hearts are heavy.  When we are in pain.  When we are alone.  Those days.  He knows the plans He has for us, to give us hope and a future.  On those days, He gives us beauty for ashes.  He is Emmanuel, God With Us.
In those days and at that time
 I will make a righteous Branch sprout from David’s line;
  He will do what is just and right in the land. In those days Judah will be saved
 and Jerusalem will live in safety.
This is the name by which He will be called:
    The Lord Our Righteous Savior.’  ~Jeremiah 33:15-16
      It’s why He came.

Sunday, December 22, 2013

Christmas Past

     Praying for Christmas blessings for you and yours this holiday season.
     You may be interested in these Christmas posts of the past.

Have You Any Room for Jesus?

The Innkeeper's Son: An Original Christmas Story
      A Christmas story that I wrote for my children.

Tuesday, December 17, 2013


     May you celebrate this Christmas season with joy, hope, and peace.

Sunday, November 17, 2013

The Gate Called Beautiful

One day Peter and John were going up to the temple at the time of prayer—at three in the afternoon.  Now a man who was lame from birth was being carried to the temple gate called Beautiful, where he was put every day to beg from those going into the temple courts.  When he saw Peter and John about to enter, he asked them for money.  Peter looked straight at him, as did John. Then Peter said, “Look at us!”  So the man gave them his attention, expecting to get something from them.
    Then Peter said, “Silver or gold I do not have, but what I do have I give you. In the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, walk.”  Taking him by the right hand, he helped him up, and instantly the man’s feet and ankles became strong.  He jumped to his feet and began to walk. Then he went with them into the temple courts, walking and jumping, and praising God.  When all the people saw him walking and praising God,  they recognized him as the same man who used to sit begging at the temple gate called Beautiful, and they were filled with wonder and amazement at what had happened to him.  ~Acts 3:1-10
     I have read this amazing passage of scripture many times, but what stood out to me this time was that the name of the gate where this lame and broken man was placed was “Beautiful.”


     Sometimes I forget that God finds beauty in our lameness and brokeness.  When we are just not good enough, when we are sick, or in despair, when we find ourselves in the same wretched place we have been before.  Then we turn to God with a beggar’s expectation, knowing that we don’t have enough on our own to make it through another day.  And the God of miracles and grace causes us to rise up and walk with Him past the place where we have laid so long.  With His great compassion and love, He finds us beautiful.
     Remember the woman with the albaster box of precious spikenard with which she annointed Jesus.  Consider, Jesus was not anointed until the box was broken.
      We should not feel ashamed to be broken.  God loves the broken heart and the contrite spirit.  Brokeness is just a beautiful gate, a sweet perfume, where Jesus meets us, heals us, and walks us through.
Praise the Lord.
How good it is to sing praises to our God,
    how pleasant and fitting to praise him!
The Lord builds up Jerusalem;
    he gathers the exiles of Israel.
He heals the brokenhearted
    and binds up their wounds.
He determines the number of the stars
    and calls them each by name.
Great is our Lord and mighty in power;
    his understanding has no limit.                    ~Psalm 147:1-5

Tuesday, October 29, 2013

Day 19: The Looking Glass

     Pat will tell you that I have a difficult time in the mornings.  I do not wake up feeling refreshed and ready to greet the world.  It's more like trying to claw my way out of a deep pit.  Still, my alarm goes off each weekday morning at 5:00 and after hitting the snooze alarm once, I roll out of bed, stagger down the stairs and exercise.  I confess that I sometimes sleep in my exercise clothes so that I am more motivated to exercise if I am already dressed for it.  My poor husband.  I also know that getting up at 5:30 is not any easier than getting up at 5:00.
     I exercise with a dvd for about half an hour.  When I am finished, I am, for the most part, finally awake.  I head back upstairs to take a shower.  While the water is running to warm up, I brush my hair and glance in the mirror.  Oh, baby!  It is not a pretty sight.  I'm red and sweaty from exercise.  My hair is sticking out like straw in a haystack.  There is a smudge of mascara that didn't get washed off from the night before.  I am a mess.  I climb into the shower and begin the transformation into a person that people would be willing to entrust their precious children to.
     I am reminded of this verse from James.
     Do not merely listen to the word, and so deceive yourselves. Do what it says.  Anyone who listens to the word but does not do what it says is like someone who looks at his face in a mirror  and, after looking at himself, goes away and immediately forgets what he looks like.  But whoever looks intently into the perfect law that gives freedom, and continues in it—not forgetting what they have heard, but doing it—they will be blessed in what they do.   ~James 1:22-25
     It is important to listen to what God's word says, but it is much more important to obey it.  To do what the Bible says.  The person who hears, but fails to act upon what he hears, is like "a man, or woman, who looks at his face in a mirror and goes away and forgets what he looks like."
     The mirror is God's infallible Word, a true mirror of the soul.  Sometimes we look into the mirror and see ourselves as the sinners we are in God's holy presence.  Then we look away and live for ourselves. If we are honest with what the mirror reveals and obey the light, then there comes a transformation of our heart and life.
     Second Corinthians says "we who reflect the Lord's glory are being transformed into His likeness."
     Are you being transformed today?
     This post is Day 19, yes, this messy girl is behind,  in the 31 Day Series: Welcome to My Mess.  You can read the other posts here.

Monday, October 28, 2013

Day 18: Wedding Supper

     Pat and I attended the summer wedding of a friend's daughter a few years ago.  It was lovely.  The bride was radiant and the groom, handsome and sweet.
     Pat and I arrived at the reception a little late.  It was completely my fault.  I had thought that the wedding and reception, which were being held at the same place, would be in a chilly, over air-conditioned room.  I had worn a dress with long sleeves.  The wedding was held outside in a huge tent. The temperature hovered at 95 degrees.  Pat had simply shrugged off his jacket and tie.  Between the wedding and the reception, I, already melting, had insisted we run to a nearby mall so that I could buy a more comfortable dress.  That was the fastest dress decision I have ever made!
     There we were, late and I was looking decidedly rumpled.  We found our place cards and seated ourselves at Table #9.  There were about 100 guests.  We did not know anyone, with the exception of the parents of the bride and their five lovely adult children.
     After the grand introduction and entrances were made and the happy couple had danced their first dance, our friends found us.  They laughed at my dress dilemma, then invited us to sit with them at Table #1 with their family.
   So we enjoyed the wedding in a place of honor with the family.  We laughed with the bride's brothers and listened to Grandma tell family stories.  It was a wonderful day.
     I was reminded of God's grace and how in Luke where Jesus tells the parable of sitting yourself at the lowest place at a banquet so that the host will invite you to sit at a better place, a place of honor.
When Jesus noticed how the guests picked the places of honor at the table, he told them this parable:  “When someone invites you to a wedding feast, do not take the place of honor, for a person more distinguished than you may have been invited. If so, the host who invited both of you will come and say to you, ‘Give this person your seat.’ Then, humiliated, you will have to take the least important place.  But when you are invited, take the lowest place, so that when your host comes, he will say to you, ‘Friend, move up to a better place.’ Then you will be honored in the presence of all the other guests.  For all those who exalt themselves will be humbled, and those who humble themselves will be exalted.”  ~Luke 14:7-11
     Pat and I had done nothing to deserve the "better" seat, all we did was accept it.  A gift freely given.
     Soon we will be going to the wedding feast of the Lamb of God.  There the highest place will be lying low at our Redeemer's feet.  Jesus will sweetly lift us up and seat us.
     This post is Day 18 in the 31 Day Series: Welcome to My Mess.  You can read the other posts here.

Thursday, October 24, 2013

Day 17: How Deep and Wide

     Several years ago, I was standing in the upper room of a local pet shop admiring the many frogs and reptiles that were for sale.  I had chosen a frog to add to my collection and was looking at the reptiles while I was waiting for my frog.  You can read more about snakes and frogs in this post.
     A young man came up the stairs to look at the snakes.  He was a little scruffy around the edges, long haired, bearded, tatooed, wearing camo, and very obviously, missing his right arm (this will be important in a moment).  I glanced at him and went back to peering into a nearby tank.  He asked me if I were going to purchase a snake.
     "Oh, no."  I assured him, "I prefer snakes at a great distance or at least behind glass.  But I do adore frogs."   We chatted about frogs for a bit, discovering that we both had a blue dumpy frog.  It's not often that I meet someone who shares, or even understands an interest in frogs, so this young man was fun to talk to.
     The young man's passion, however, was snakes.  He rhapsodized about the many snakes he had.  He  shared about a ball python that he had gotten when it was very small.   He had it for years and it had really grown quite a bit.  He set me up and I fell right in.
     "How long is it?"
     He looked at me with a twinkle in his eye, held up his solitary left arm and said, "It's this big."  We both had a good laugh at my expense.
    In the book of Ephesians, Paul tries to describe how big God's love is for us.  It is as immeasurably large as that snake my friend was describing to me.  God is crazy about us.
     For this reason I kneel before the Father, from whom his whole family in heaven and on earth derives its name.  I pray that out of his glorious riches he may strengthen you with power through his Spirit in your inner being, so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith.  And I pray that you, being rooted and established in love, may have power, together with all the saints, to grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ, and to know this love that surpasses knowledge - that you may be filled to the measure of all the fullness of God.
     Now to him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to his power that is at work within us, to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, for ever and ever!  Amen.     ~Ephesiaans 3:14-21
     God's love is so wide, it embraces you.  It is so long-lasting, it will never let you go.  God's love will never let you down.  His love is strong enough to entrust your children to and deep enough to meet your deepest need.
     The eternal God is your refuge, and underneath are the everlasting arms.  Deuteronomy 33:27
     This post is Day 17 in the 31 Day Series: Welcome to My Mess.  You can read the other posts here.

Tuesday, October 22, 2013

Day 16: Son of Encouragement

     In the New Testament, we meet a companion of Paul who had the gift of encouragement.  His parents had named him Joseph, which means "one who increases."  The early church leaders, however, changed his name to Barnabas, which means "son of encouragement."  Barnabas was a person who others felt good being around.  He was a man who believed in the potential of a person, particularly those who mothers whom others (that's an appropriate typo) might be cautious or suspicious of.
     It was Barnabas who encouraged the disciples to give Paul a chance to demonstrate the depth of his conversion from a stoner of the believers to a missionary for Jesus.  When Paul did not want to take John Mark with him, because John Mark had left them during a missionary trip, Barnabas stepped in and insisted on allowing John Mark to come with them.
     Here is what it says about Barnabas in the book of Acts.
     When Barnabas arrived and saw the evidence of the grace of God, he was glad and encoraged them all to remain true to the Lord with all their hearts.  He was a good man, full of the Holy Spirit and faith, and a great number of people were brought to the Lord.   ~Acts 11:23-24
     That was Barnabas reputation.  This was how people talked about him behind his back.  Barnabas spent his life building and edifying others.  He showed them how much he cared for them through his words and his actions.  He knew that the best thing to do behind a person's back was to pat it, not to criticize.
     Discouraged people do not need critics.  They hurt enough already.  The Bible says, "Do not put out the Spirit's fire," 1 Thes. 5:19.
     People who are discouraged need a refuge not someone to remind them of the obstacles.  An encourager fills that need and provides a place to hide and heal.  Encouragement has the capacity to lift spirits, place a smile on a discouraged face, or change the direction that someone is headed - not just for the moment, not just for the day, but for as long as life itself.
     Think about the people God has placed into your life.  Who are the people that you can encourage?
     And it will be said"  Build up, build up, prepare the road!  Remove the obstacles out of the way of my people.  For this is what the high and lofty One says--he who lives forever, whose name is holy:  "I live in a high and holy place, but also with him who is contrite and lowly in spirit, to revive the spirit of the lowly and to revive the heart of the contrite.   ~Isaiah 57:14-15
     Use your words today to build others up.
     This post is Day 16 in the 31 Day Series: Welcome to My Mess.  You can read the other posts here.

Monday, October 21, 2013

Day 15: Five Dollar Bicycle

     For many summers, our family went camping with two other families.  A variety of children, tents, trailers, chairs, firewood, and marshmallows mixed together with stories, laughter, some friendly competition, a few assorted tantrums - not all of which were the children's, and lots of activity.
     One year, in the midst of my frenetic packing for our trip, a very important item did not make it into the truck.  Anthony, who was eight at the time, was crushed to learn that his bike had been left behind.  A bike for Anthony was not just a convenience, it was a necessity.  I humbly begged the master of tag sales in our group, Mary (of The Red Lion Inn fame), to take me with her the next day so I could try to find Anthony a bike.
     Mary leaned over to comfort Anthony and decided to pray.  Her prayer went something like this.  "Lord, Anthony needs a bike for camping.  Please let us find him the perfect bike for five dollars tomorrow morning in Jesus name.  Amen!"  Mary, apparently satisfied with her prayer, sat back and told Anthony not to worry; he would have his bike tomorrow.  Anthony went off smiling to roast marshmallows.  The bike was practically his.
     Meanwhile, I was the one who was way beyond worried.  I was in a state of panic.  My mind raced. Saying, " Jesus name," is not like using a magic wand.  In fact, that was rather presumptive on her part.  God can not be strong armed into doing something.  I would never pray like that.  I wouldn't have the nerve.  But now, I had been backed into a corner - by someone else's prayer.  The pressure was on.  I had to find a boys bike, of the right tire height, the next day, FOR FIVE DOLLARS!  I couldn't even go with Plan B, which was to buy a bike at the local Walmart, because Mary had prayed so specifically that it would cost five dollars.  Five dollars for a bike!  Who ever heard of such a thing?
     I felt incredible pressure.  I was afraid that God wouldn't pull through.  I reasoned, five dollar bikes are just not possible.  Anthony's faith for a life time was going to be trashed, if I didn't find a five dollar bike!  I needed to help God make this miracle happen.
     The day arrived bright and sunny.  I hustled Mary into the car.  We were on a mission.  I asked Mary for directions.
     "I guess we could just head into town and look for signs,"  she calmly responded.
     My heart rate tripled!  GUESS!   LOOK for signs!  I thought she KNEW!  I needed a plan guaranteed to find a bicycle and she didn't know exactly where the sales even were.  The plan was to drive around and hope to stumble on signs for tag sales!  I mumbled some things that ought not to be repeated.
     Sure enough when we got to the next town, there were signs.  In fact, we discovered that I had built in radar for finding those tag sales.  We found about seven tag sales in a one mile radius.  Mary bought toys for her grandchildren, dishes, and things to excite her seamstress heart.  I found, but did not buy, a whole fleet of exercise bikes.  I was pretty sure that Anthony would not want a stationary bicycle.  I began to chew my nails.  I never chew my nails.  At our seventh tag sale I was completely discouraged.  Mary, came up with her own Plan B.  She asked the home owner if there was a local thrift store.  Armed with directions, we continued our search.
     As we pulled into the parking lot of the thrift store, I could see the bike!  It was a bright green boy's trail bike.  It was the perfect height.  I excitedly raced over to it.  It looked as though it had hardly been used.  The brakes worked.  The tires had air. The bike was in wonderful condition.  I searched for a price tag.  None.   I wheeled it right into the store.  I was determined, that bike was going to be Anthony's no matter what it cost!
     Of course, the first clerk I asked didn't know how much the bike was.  It had just come in.
She went to check with the manager.  God has a sense of humor and left me to stew for a few minutes.
    The manager arrived and appraised the bike.  She pursed her lips, "Well...I think that five dollars would be a good price."
     I about fell over.  Of course, Mary and I told the ladies how they had been used as an answer to a little boys prayer.
     Mary and I loaded the bike into the car and drove off in triumph.  Anthony was thrilled to have the bike that God had given to him.  He wasn't as impressed as I was, because he had never had any doubts.
     God taught me a lot through a five dollar bicycle.  First, God is God and I will trust HIm.  It is easy for me to trust God for other people.  I know that He will save you.  I even know that He will watch out for me.  Because I am a control person, it's harder to trust Him for my children, and yet, they have always been His.  I have an illusion of control over their lives and happiness, but really they belong to God.  He loves them much more than I ever could.  Finally, I learned that God does not need my help.  He is perfectly capable of performing a miracle all on His own.  He even wants to.  Our God is a mighty God.  There is nothing that He can not do.
My son, do not forget my teaching,
but keep my commands in your heart, 
for they will prolong your life many years
and bring you prosperity.
Let love and faithfulness never leave you;
bind them around your neck,
write them on the tablet of your heart.
Then you will win favor and a good name 
in the sight of God and man.
Trust in the Lord with all your heart
and lean not on your own understanding;
in all your ways acknowledge him,
and he will direct your paths.   ~Proverbs 3:1-6
     This post is Day 15 in the 31 Day Series: Welcome to My Mess.  You can read the other posts here.

Friday, October 18, 2013

Day 14: Do You Know Everything?

Anthony and Connor
     I wrote this when our son, Anthony, was about four.
     It had been a busy Saturday cleaning day.  I had spent the morning cleaning and vacuuming, picking up toys, doing bathrooms, and folding laundry.  Feeling as though I had made a dent in the mess, I went into the kitchen to relax with a cup of coffee.  I spotted Anthony, who had also been very busy.  Anthony had dumped all of the toys out of the basket in the family room onto the floor.
     Immediately, I went into scolding mode.  "Anthony, did you have to take out all of the toys?  Couldn't you just have taken out what you were actually going to play with?"
     Anthony looked at me and sweetly responded, "I didn't do that.  Patty did!"
     "Well, no she didn't!  That was you, Mister."
     Heaving a huge sigh, Anthony answered, "Mom, do you know everything?"
     "Well, yes.  Yes I do!"

     Have you ever asked God that question?
          God do you know everything?
          Are you really listening to me?
          Do you know what I did?
          Do you know what I want?  What I need?
         Are you there?
     Sometimes we are very aware of God's presence in our lives.  At other times, we are sure of His absence.  After all, we can't see Him, or touch Him.  We've got this idea that we can "visit" with God at church, at a retreats, or during prayer time.  During worship, we talk about "entering into God's presence,"  as if we had ever left it.
     Jonah seemed to think that he could escape from God by jumping on a ship.  Jonah learned that God was with him on the ship.  God was with him when he was tossed overboard.  God was even with him in the belly of a whale.
     God may be above us, apart from us and seem very different from us.  But God is absolutely near.  He is with us and in us.  In Christ, He has become like us so that we can become like Him.  Paul assures us that God is not far, "for in Him we live and move and have our being."  Acts 17:28
     God is present everywhere and at the same time.

You have searched me, Lord,
    and you know me.
You know when I sit and when I rise;
    you perceive my thoughts from afar.
 You discern my going out and my lying down;
    you are familiar with all my ways.
Before a word is on my tongue
    you, Lord, know it completely.
 You hem me in behind and before,
    and you lay your hand upon me.
 Such knowledge is too wonderful for me,
    too lofty for me to attain.
 Where can I go from your Spirit?
    Where can I flee from your presence?
 If I go up to the heavens, you are there;
    if I make my bed in the depths, you are there.
 If I rise on the wings of the dawn,
    if I settle on the far side of the sea,
 even there your hand will guide me,
    your right hand will hold me fast.
 If I say, “Surely the darkness will hide me
    and the light become night around me,”
even the darkness will not be dark to you;
    the night will shine like the day,
    for darkness is as light to you.  ~Psalm 139:5-12
     This post is Day 14 in the 31 Day Series: Welcome to My Mess.  You can read the other posts here.

21 Graces: Week 9

  1. 31 Days of Welcome to My Mess!
  2. A beautiful day in Albany.  The sun was shining and the trees are beginning to show off their colors.  A lovely day.
  3. The pictures I took at the school BBQ came out even better than I thought they would.  
  4.  I solved the problem where my comments disappeared.  Well, at least I think I did!!!
  5. The trim around the new window in our bathroom looks awesome!  It was our practice window.  Now we only have, well, I don't know exactly how many windows, but a lot left.
  6. I will be walking as a Survivor at a Breast Cancer Walk on Sunday.  It is wonderful to see so much pink in the month of October.  It is encouraging and inspiring.  I wrote about my journey through breast cancer here.
  7. The delicious aroma of pulled pork simmering in the crock pot when I came home from work.
  8. Walking on the Walkway Over the Hudson twice this week!   Once with good friends and then again with my family.
  9. Connor told me that I was awesome.  A compliment from an eleven year old is pretty special.
  10. A midweek date with my husband for dinner.  
  11. My boys had wonderful midterm report cards from their teachers.  They have worked very hard.  We are so proud of them.
  12. An unexpected treat at work.
  13. The trees are displaying their Fall colors.  They are just beautiful against a clear blue sky.
  14. A very kind word from someone I admire.
  15. My Dad is celebrating a birthday on Sunday.  

  16. I'm grateful that I was able to send a gift to my Compassion Child, Jimi, for Christmas.  I love to imagine him opening a present and knowing that we care for him.
  17. Connor won a raffle at the dentists office.  He was so excited.
  18. I'm reading A Million Little Ways:  Uncover the Art You Were Made to Live, by Emily Freeman.  I love this book.  It is inspiring and amazing.  You can find it on Amazon.
19.  Picture Day at an Elementary School which includes tiara's, sparkle shoes, puffy dresses and elaborate hair styles for the girls.  And for the boys denim jeans, tuxedoes, hoodies, bow ties, and sweater vests.  Adorable.
20.  Still feeling grateful for coffee.  Daily.  
21.  Making s'mores with the kids over a campfire in our backyard.

Wednesday, October 16, 2013

Day 13: Joy Comes in the Morning

     About thirty years ago, I heard a wonderful speaker share her moving testimony about how the Lord had taken her through some extremely difficult trials in her life.  During the course of her testimony, she related an account of something that had happened in her Bronx neighborhood.  The story touched me and I would like to share it with you.
     An unfortunate young woman found herself pregnant.  She was hardly more than a child herself.  She was unmarried and frightened.  She couldn’t care for a baby.  She could scarcely care for herself.  She gave birth alone, in a wooded park late at night.  She tenderly wrapped her daughter in a tattered bath towel, pinned a quick note on it and pushed her baby deep under a large bush.  The night air felt warm.  The young mother left and never was seen again.
     The night became darker and colder.  The air temperature dropped.  The newborn awoke.  She began to cry and to wave her small fists.  The branches of the bush scratched her tiny arms, sparking even more wailing.  She kicked the towel off of her legs.  Her legs, too, were scratched by those sharp branches.  She was cold, wet, hungry, and abandoned.  The night air and the damp ground seeped the warmth out of her small body.  Her cries became weaker and weaker.
     Dawn broke on the new day.  A man was walking his dog.  The dog, as dogs do, was investigating every bush in the park.  In fact, the dog was trying to push into one particular bush.  That was when the man heard the sound of a tiny kitten mewing.  He was shocked when bending over to rescue a kitten, he discovered, instead, a baby.  The man tucked the infant inside his jacket to warm her and hurriedly called the police.
     The baby was whisked to a nearby hospital.  At the hospital she was treated for dehydration and exposure.  She had many scratches and a few deep cuts from the branches.  These, too, were tended.
     The story was on the news and in the papers.  When the doctors were asked how such a tiny newborn could survive the cold night air without any real protection, the doctors stated that it was a miracle, but also it was because of the branches.  The branches scratched and poked the infant’s tender skin, causing her to cry.  The crying and movement helped to raise her body temperature.  Had she been comfortable and sleeping, she would have died.
     Jesus says in John 14:18, “I will not leave you as orphans; I will come to you.”  And He does.
     Some of us think that, if we believe life will always be sunshine and roses.  But life is not like that.  There are times in our lives when we are poked and scratched.  There are times when we are persecuted.  We suffer loss.  We watch our child struggle with pain and illness.  We get sick ourselves.  We want to say, “Enough!  God, I just can’t handle anymore.  Aren’t you picking on me a little much this week?  How much can I handle?  How much do I have to handle?  This hurts.”
     But during that time God is still holding us securely in the palm of His hand.
In the day of trouble he will keep me safe in his dwelling;
He will hide me in the shelter of his tabernacle and set me high upon a rock.
Hear my voice when I call, O Lord;  be merciful to me and answer me.
My heart says of you, “Seek his face!”  Your face, Lord, I will seek.
Though my father and mother forsake me,  the Lord will receive me.
I am still confident of this:  I will see the goodness of the Lord in the land of the living.
Wait for the Lord.    ~Psalm 27:5-14
    This post is Day 13 in the 31 Day Series: Welcome to My Mess.  You can read the other posts here.

Tuesday, October 15, 2013

Day 12: What Kind of Character are You?

Brothers, on an ordinary day, revealing their character.
“Who despises the day of small things? Men will rejoice when they see the plumb line in the hand of Zerubbabel.”    ~Zech. 4:10 
     I’ve been in school for most of my life, as a student and as a teacher.  I’ve seen the Dick and Jane McGuffey Readers, the nightmare of ITA in the 60’s, whole-language, phonics, No Child Left Behind, Reading First and balanced literacy, and now Common Core with literacy blocks and differentiation.
      During the literacy blocks, our children are frequently asked to complete graphic organizers like this one.  (This is a link to This Reading Mama which is a wonderful resource for homeschoolers and teachers.  She offers free printables.)  The students need to list the character, recount the setting - which is where everything takes place, state the problem, and finally explain how the problem was resolved.
     I was working with a group of fifth graders this week discussing character.  Character is not simply writing the name of the person in the correct spot on the graphic organizer. The word character is also used to describe a persons traits, attributes and abilities. The famous character, Dumbledore in the Harry Potter Series said, “It is not our abilities that show what we truly are.  It is our choices.”  The character of a books’ character is revealed through their actions and words over time.
      My character and yours is revealed in the same way.  Our life and character are not usually defined by great heroics, but rather by the ordinary decisions we make as we go through our ordinary day.  Our smallest actions, our choices, our attitude, tell the story of our life.
     In John 10:25, Jesus answered the religious leaders of His day,  “I told you, but you don’t believe. Everything I have done has been authorized by my Father, actions that speak louder than words.”  (The Message)
     Jesus said, what I say and what I do, reveal who I am.
     As we seek to clothe ourselves in the character of Christ, our daily actions, no matter how small, should serve to validate what our heart values.  Our actions may be baking cookies for fellowship after church, planning a children’s service, honoring our parents, or washing the dishes at the kitchen sink.  God can do a lot with a little and multiply our faithful actions for His kingdom.      
     And if our actions have been less than they ought, take comfort in this.
     Though no one can go back and make a brand new start, anyone can start from now and make a brand new ending.   ~Carl Bard
     What do our choices tell others about our character?
     This post is Day 12 in the 31 Day Series: Welcome to My Mess.  You can read the other posts here.

Thursday, October 10, 2013

Day 11: Red Lion Inn

     A few years ago, I had the unexpected privilege of going away for a Fall weekend with a girlfriend.  On a Friday evening, Mary and I left our respective spouses and kids to tough it out and we headed off to Mary's timeshare in Massachusetts.  We had lots of fun.  Mary and I spent Saturday morning at some outlet centers.  After that we wandered through the shops on the main streets in some cute little towns.  Eventually, we ended up in Stockbridge.
     At the center of Stockbridge is a gorgeous landmark, the Red Lion Inn.  The Red Lion Inn was built in 1773.  It is an enormous rambling hotel, complete with an indoor pool, dining room, and two stores.  You may have seen a picture of this inn on the back of the Country Curtains catalog.   The picture does not begin to do it justice.  Two waist high pumpkins sat on either side of the main stair leading to a lovely porch that stretched across the entire front of the hotel.  People sat in rocking chairs, and at table on the porch enjoying the day.
     Mary and I climbed up the steps onto the porch.  We wandered over toward the main doors.  On our way, we passed a man who looked entirely at home, tipped back in a rocker, his eyes slipping closed, feet propped up on a hassock.  We commented to him that he looked very comfortable.  He laughed and agreed.  It was a beautiful Fall day.
     Mary and I toured the gift shop and then went into the beautiful main lobby.  The floors were old wide board planks with oriental carpets placed artfully about.  The rooms were full of elegant antiques..  There were portraits on the walls and a grand piano.  We saw a golden-cage type elevator around which was a staircase leading up to the guest rooms.
     Naturally we were curious about the guest rooms.  Looking like we knew where we were going, and as though we had every right to be there, we started up the steps.  The second floor had wide hallways that bowed slightly in the middle.  There were curio cabinets filled with antique porcelain dishes and teacups more portraits and odd bits of memorabilia.  OUr subterfuge had not been discovered and the second floor made up want to see the next.  So we continued on and up to the fourth floor admiring all the wonderful old things on display.
       Mary and I were glad we hadn't been caught out, but frustrated that we could only see the hallway and not the rooms.  I commented to her that it was too bad that we didn't know a real guest of the hotel, when the gentleman who had looked so comfortable on the porch appeared.  Mary lost no time in boldly asking him if we could take a peek at his room.  I'm sure he thought that we were nuts - at least I hope he thought we were only nuts.  He did agree and graciously opened his room door for us.  He introduced us to his wife, who was a little startled that he was bringing two women to their room.  The room was lovely.  It was prettily decorated with a love seat and puffy wing chair.  The four poster bed was tucked under the eaves.  His wife told us that each room in the hotel was decorated differently, but that all were nice and cozy.  We thanked the pair of them and them still giggling, over our adventure made our way back down the stairs and out to the street.
     My Sunday School teacher once said, "Walking into a barn doesn't make you a horse.  Walking into a garage doesn't make you a car.  Walking into church doesn't make you a Christian."  Well, walking into the Red Lion Inn did not make Mary or I, guests at that hotel.  We were just trespassers.  We had no real presence there.
     So often, that is how we go about our lives.  We are not even paying guests, with rights and responsibilities.  We are just visitors.  We are not fully present.  Our minds are elsewhere.  We sit at the family breakfast table thinking of all that we have to do when we get to work.  We don't pay attention to the children or even to the spouse who is right there beside us.  When we talk to someone, we are thinking of what we will say next.  When we are at church, we are thinking, "I hope the service isn't too long.  I have a lot to do today."  We never enjoy the moment by being fully present in it.
     In Luke, we read about Jesus visiting the home of Mary and her sister, Martha.  Martha had the opportunity to sit like Mary at the feet of Jesus, but instead she allowed herself to be distracted from what was truly important.
     When Jesus was in the Garden of Gethsemane, He asked the disciples to pray with Him.  Instead, they fell asleep.  They were there, but not present.
     In 1 Kings 19,  God told Elijah-
"Go out and stand on the mountain in the presence of the LORD,
for the LORD is about to pass by."
Then a  great and powerful wind tore the mountains apart and
shattered the rocks before the LORD,
but the LORD was not in the wind.
After the wind there was an earthquake,
but the LORD was not in the earthquake.
After the earthquake came a fire,
but the LORD was not in the fire.
And after the fire came a gentle whisper, a "still, small voice."
     Sometimes I need reminding that I need to live by being present in the moment God has given me.  I need to pay attention to that still, small voice.
     This post is Day 11 in the 31 Day Series: Welcome to My Mess.  You can read the other posts here.

Wednesday, October 9, 2013

Day 10: Losing My Mind

My son, Anthony, has lost his mind, too!  Don't try this at home, folks.  This can be dangerous.
    I lost my mind a long time ago.  My children will tell you that this is true.  My husband of thirty-three years can certainly verify it.  My parents, who have known me the longest, have said on more than one occasion, "Donna, are you out of your mind?!!!!"
     That I have lost my mind does not come as a surprise to me.  About thirty years ago, shortly after the birth of my first child, I made a cross stitch sampler that read, "Of all the things I've lost, I miss my mind the most."  Some might say that I was going through a phase, like adolescence or the chicken pox, or even brainlessness induced by sleep deprivation.  But I know better.
     At school, I have a small poster hanging by my desk.  It says, "I've lost my mind.  I think the kids took it."  My first graders don't understand it.  The fifth graders want to know "Which kids?"  Parents, on the other hand, understand the sentiment and smile.
     The truth is, that most of you have lost your mind, too.  It's scriptural.
     Paul lost his mind on the road to Damascus.  He had lots to say about it, too.
     If we are out of our mind, it is for the sake of God; if we are in our right mind, it is for you.  For Christ's love compels us, because we are convinced that one died for all, and therefore all died.  ~ Corinthians 5:13-14
     Therefore, I urge you, brothers, in view of God's mercy, to offer your bodies as living sacrifices, holy and pleasing to God--this is your spiritual act of worship.  Do not conform any longer 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.   ~Romans 12:1-2 
     When I lost my mind, it wasn't just misplaced, and for sure the kids didn't take it.  Jesus did.  When we become believers we exchange far more than our sin for robes of righteousness.
     First Corinthians 2:16 tells us that we have the mind of Christ.  We can renew our minds by reading God's word and meditating on it.
     And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.  Finally brothers, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable--if anything is excellent or praiseworthy--think about such things.  Whatever you have learned or received or heard from me, or seen in me--put it into practice.  Ant the God of peace will be with you.  Philippians 4:7-9
       I may have lost my mind, but really, it was no great loss compared with what I have gained.  Have you lost YOUR mind?
     This post is Day 10 of my 31 Day series, Welcome to My Mess.  You can read the other posts here.

Tuesday, October 8, 2013

Day 9: My Bicycle Basket

You make known to me the path of life; 
 you will fill me with joy in your presence, 
 with eternal pleasures at your right hand.  ~Psalm 16:11
     Last June Pat and I took a bike ride on the newly opened Rail Trail over by us.   We bought our bikes the summer before last, so they are fairly new.  I have a cute little basket on the front of mine.   We put our water bottles in the basket and set off.  When we got on the trail, people admired my basket.  Baskets are handy things to have after all.  I envisioned a romantic bicycle ride through beautiful scenery, chatting with my husband.  I hoped he would be able to keep up with me.  Pat might be stronger than me, but I do a lot of running around up and down stairs every day.  Did I mention that God has a sense of humor and pride does come before the fall.
     Much more  quickly than I anticipated, like right away, my legs began to ache.  I begged Pat to stop and rest.  He looked at me funny but waited for me to catch up.  I panted, "I think my gears might be a little rusty or something.  I feel like I’m pedaling in water."  Pat glanced over.  There was nothing obviously wrong with my bike so when I caught my breath, we began again.  Pat helpfully suggested that I try shifting gears.  I shifted in every direction.  Nothing helped.  One painfully long mile later, I was grouching, surely we were going up a subtle but steep incline.  My legs were quivering.  To make matters worse, Pat looked great!  He was practically riding in circles around me.  It was humiliating.  After three miles, Pat had compassion on me and we turned around.  I was sure the return trip would be better because now I would be going down hill.  Except that it was just as hard to pedal.  I practically crawled back to the car with my bike.  We had gone a total of six miles.
     A few weeks later I got up enough courage to go back to the trail again.  I took all of the kids, olders and youngers.  Pat was working on something at home.  Before we left, Pat helpfully oiled the gears on my bike.   At the Rail Trail, I started off hopefully but once again got into trouble pretty quickly.  My son Brian, graciously offered to put my bike into a gear that made sense.  I think I had shifted it so much the trip before that it was in hundreth gear.   I got back on my bike and while it was easier to ride, I still felt like I was going up hill even though it really is a relatively level surface.  Another very painful six miles.  When we arrived home, I complained to my beloved and long-suffering husband.  “I just don’t get it.   My bike didn’t feel like this last year.  It is just so hard to ride.  I can’t possibly be that out of shape.”
    To humor me, Pat did some investigating.  Pat had me lift the back of the bike.  He spun the wheel.  It rolled merrily along.  Not like me.  Then we tried the front wheel.  He gave it a spin.  After a rotation it slowed then stopped.  He spun it again with more force.  Again the tire went around once then stopped.  We both leaned in and spotted the difficulty.  My beautiful basket was pressing on the brake line.  I had been riding with the front brake dragging on the wheel for twelve miles.
     “Well that’s gotta be tough.” was Pat’s understatement.
     Jesus says in Matt. 11:28-30
 “Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.”
     Jesus understands that sometimes we feel like we are pedaling up hill both ways.  He understands how hard life can be sometimes.  He understands difficulties and disappointments.  He understands that life does not always go as we thought it should.  He understands all of this and more.
     Jesus offers us an invitation.  It’s not an invitation that denies the reality of our situation, or tells us that it is not as hard as it really is.  What Jesus says is, “Come.”
Come to Jesus, enter into His embrace and He will ride with us on this journey of life where there is fullness of joy and rest for the weary.
They that wait upon the Lord shall renew their strength; they shall mount up with wings as eagles; they shall run, and not be weary; and they shall walk and not faint.  ~Isaiah 40:31
     Those that wait upon the Lord will even ride their bikes without the brakes on.  We just need to ask Him to join us on the bicycle ride of life.
     Did I mention that I rode TWELVE MILES with the brake on?!!!

Monday, October 7, 2013

Day 8: Royal Crowns

     Each September I have the pleasure of screening about fifty kindergarten students.    They love to show me their new shoes, clothes and haircuts.  On the screening time, I am the one to evaluate their motor skills - which is how well they are able to catch, hop, skip, and jump, and use a pencil and scissors.  They giggle when I can’t catch the bean bag they throw wildly over my head and they laugh at me when I show them how I skip.
     One little girly-girl wore a pink tutu type skirt, sparkly shoes, and a tiara on top of her curls.  She was not in costume, this was her going to school outfit, and she could carry it off.  I leaned over and said, “I love your tiara.”  She shared that her mommy gave it to her.
     “I have a tiara, too,” I confided.
     The little girl's eyes opened wide, “Really?”
     “Yes,” I nodded, “I wear mine at home when I’m vacuuming.”
      My little friend needed some time to think that over, but wouldn’t you like to hear the conversation when she told her mom about her day at school?
     Our Bible tells us about crowns.   It says that God will bestow upon the grieving a crown of beauty instead of ashes.  It also says that, “Gray hair is a crown of splendor; it is attained by a righteous life.” (Proverbs 16:31)
     Tiara’s and crowns represent royalty, valor, and even, prestige. Our media symbolically crown’s people for their success, achievement, wealth, and beauty.
     Paul writes this in 1 Corinthians about athletic games, “Do you not know that in a race all the runners run, but only one gets the prize.  Everyone who competes in the games goes into strict training.  They do it to get a crown that will not last; but we do it to get a crown that will last forever.” (1 Corinthians 9:24-25)
    1 Peter 2:9 tells us we “are a chosen people, a ROYAL priesthood, a holy nation, a people belonging to God,..."
     As Christians, we are – quite literally – Kings and Queens.  Each night at the dinner table, you are seated beside royalty.  Look around, that boy stirring peas into his mashed potatoes,  a prince.  That girl wearing sauce on her face, a princess.  Even your spouse has a regal bearing because Jesus made it so.
     You see, we are working royalty.  We have responsibilities.  We teach.  We wash dishes.  We vacuum.  We were created in Christ Jesus to do good works.  So I ask myself: Where is my attention focused?  Am I putting effort into the places in my life that will make a lasting impact, a heavenly impact?
     Jesus too, wore a crown.  The One most worthy to be crowned King of Kings had a crown of thorns placed on His head in cruel mockery.
     I love the crown that Jesus wore.  I love it for it's power to bring this poor soul into heaven.  I love it for it's redemptive power.  I love it because it represents the depth of His love for me and the sacrifice He lovingly made.
Revelation 19
The Rider on the White Horse
 11:  I saw heaven standing open and there before me was a white horse, whose rider is called Faithful and True. With justice he judges and makes war. 12His eyes are like blazing fire, and on his head are many crowns. ... 13He is dressed in a robe dipped in blood, and his name is the Word of God. 14The armies of heaven were following him, riding on white horses and dressed in fine linen, white and clean. ...16 On his robe and on his thigh he has this name written:
      When do you wear your tiara?

Sunday, October 6, 2013

Day 7: May the Lord be Your Banner

    Last Sunday, the congregation prayed for our Pastor regarding his upcoming shoulder surgery.
     When you have pain in the shoulder joint, movement is hindered. It’s painful to lift your arm, and in fact, you really can’t lift it at all without supporting it with your other arm.  While praying for our pastor God reminded me of Exodus 17.
     Let me set the scene.  The Israelites were in the desert after fleeing from Egypt.  They have been having a rough time.  God has provided them with water and food, but they are about to be attacked by  the Amalekites.  The Amalekites made their livelihood by raiding other tribes, taking their possessions and selling off the people as slaves. When they saw the newly freed Israelites, they expected a quick and easy victory.
Now Amalek came and fought with Israel in Rephidim.  And Moses said to Joshua, "Choose us some men and go out, fight with Amalek. Tomorrow I will stand on the top of the hill with the rod of God in my hand."
 So Joshua did as Moses said to him, and fought with Amalek. And Moses, Aaron, and Hur went up to the top of the hill.  And so it was, when Moses held up his hand, that Israel prevailed; and when he let down his hand, Amalek prevailed.  But Moses’ hands became heavy; so they took a stone and put it under him, and he sat on it. And Aaron and Hur supported his hands, one on one side, and the other on the other side; and his hands were steady until the going down of the sun.
 So Joshua defeated Amalek and his people with the edge of the sword.  Then the Lord said to Moses, “Write this on a scroll as something to be remembered and make sure that Joshua hears it, because I will completely blot out the memory of Amalek from under heaven.” Moses built an altar and called it The Lord is my Banner.  He said, “For hands were lifted up to the throne of the Lord.”  ~ Exodus 17:8-16
     Joshua was given the responsibility of leading the battle in the valley.  Moses, on the other hand was to go to the top of the hill.  Moses chose the warriors Aaron and Hur to go with him in the battle to come.  Aaron’s name means “strength;”  The name Hur means “liberty.”
     As long as Moses was able to hold his staff up, the battle went well for the Israelites.  But when his arms grew weary and began to fall, the Israelites began to lose.  And that is what God reminded me of - the support of Aaron and Hur.  Strength and Liberty.
     Moses’ hands became heavy, because sometimes the burden you carry is too heavy for you to carry alone.  Moses was in a physical battle, but he was also in a spiritual battle.  Aaron and Hur stood beside Moses and provided support, not because they were asked, but because they recognized the need.  They even dragged over a rock for Moses to sit on to make him as comfortable as possible.  Because of the support of the two warriors, Moses hands were able to remain steady for as long as it was necessary.    
     And maybe we are someone’s warrior.  Maybe we are the one that God is asking to pray or shoulder the burden for someone.    Most of us are fighting battles in an area of our life.  It is important to know that warriors are placing our names before the throne of heaven. Prayer changes us.  Prayer changes the ordinary man or woman and makes them extraordinary.
     Max Lucado said, “When we work, we work, but when we pray, God works.”
     May the Lord be your Banner today.

Saturday, October 5, 2013

Day 6: Details

     Ever had one of those days?  Ever had one of those weeks?  You know where your prayers are more like “Honey do lists,” flung up to God. “Lord, let my car start.”  “Father, can I just make that traffic light, I’m already late.”  “Lord, please let this child sleep through the night, I’m so tired.”  “God help my son understand his fraction homework.”  "Oh Lord, please help me to straighten out this mess."  I’m sure that you’ve prayed one or more of these prayers on occasion.
     Not all of the time, but sometimes, my prayers are just about me, my life, my family, my home, and what I deem to be important at that very moment.  I know that there are much bigger problems in this world than the minutia of my day, but I feel better when I tell God what I need, even when it’s silly or trivial.
     I am not saying that we can skate by on missing worship, sitting in God’s presence, fellowship, or Bible reading.  I’m just sharing that I often have a conversation with God in my head which is not necessarily spiritual.
     I was reading in 2 Kings recently and came across the passage about a floating iron axe head. This takes place right after Elisha has healed Naaman of leprosy and right before Israel’s army is delivered from the Arameans.  Elisha and Naaman were important men and the war was certainly an important event.  But the floating axe was really only important to one unnamed man who found himself in a bit of a mess.
     The men who were following Elisha were cutting trees by the Jordan River to build larger quarters to accommodate their growing numbers. One of the men broke the top of his axe handle and the iron axe head fell into the river. He couldn’t work and to make matters even worse, the axe had been borrowed. When Elisha heard the man cry out he asked him where the axe head had fallen into the river.  The man showed Elisha the place. Elisha cut a stick, threw it into the water, and the iron axe head floated right up to the top where the man could reach down and pick it up.
     The man was obviously not a big, important person like Naaman, after all we don’t even know his name.  He didn’t even have enough money to buy his own ax, but had to borrow one. He also wasn’t performing some big, important task like fighting in Israel’s army.  But he was doing what God had called him to do – building a home so that God’s Word and work could be furthered.
     As we go about our every day lives in our kitchens, going to work and school, we sometimes don’t feel we are important or that we are accomplishing anything important.  But we are. We are building God’s kingdom in our little corner of the world.  And God cares about the details. He wants to hear our little prayers. He cares about our worries and concerns.
 Cast the whole of your care, all your anxieties, all your worries, all your concerns, once and for all on Him, for He cares for you affectionately and cares about you watchfully.     ~ 1 Peter 5:7 (The Amplified Bible)
     Many times God will use our trivial little prayers and the answers He gives us to teach us about Himself and His purposes for us. All we need to do is ask for the lesson in the midst of the mess we find ourselves.  God will use our everyday life circumstances to draw us to Him, to build our faith and ultimately change us into His likeness.
     The next time you feel your prayer or need is silly or unimportant; remember the floating axe head and that God cares about the details of your life.

Friday, October 4, 2013

Day 5: Midnight

     This post is part of my 31 Day Series: Welcome to My Mess.  You can read the previous posts here.  Actually, you need to read Day 3: Embracing the Cinderella in Me and Day 4:  The Ball to understand the post below.  If you haven't read them, go ahead.  It is worth it.

     The Beauty Pageant competition was over.  We girls had done all that we could.  Now it was up to the judges.  TheJones Brothers and Jack whispered heatedly back and forth heads together.  They erased.  They called for more lemonade.  Then the big moment arrived.
     The elder of the Jones Brothers stood to proclaim the winners.  The fourth runner up was... Suzie.  Suzie gasped and began crying.  A little slow on the uptake, I thought Suzie had won, in my confusion I began to clap.  Suzie wailed the louder.  The Jones Brother continued...the third runner up was...Cathy.
     What a mess!  Cathy and Suzie began shouting at each other and at the judges.  That is how the Jones Brothers, Anne, and I learned about the basis for the whole pageant.  Jack jumped into the argument.  Jack shouted the girls down.  He revealed how he had reached his decision.  Jack  explained that while his sister's were mean to him all of the time, Anne had given him freshly baked chocolate chip cookies and lemonade, not to mention a comfortable lawn chair in the shade.  The Jones Brothers, not to be left out,  complained that they would not have agreed to be judges if they had known it was to see which sister was prettier than the other.  Their decision was also going to stand.  Suzie left sobbing. Cathy stood glaring at the rest of us.  She was not going anywhere.  Cathy would see it through.
     The judging continued.  The second runner up was... Anne.  The boys hadn't liked the violin, but they had given her extra points for the chocolate chip cookies and the lemonade.  Cathy complained that refreshments were not part of the competition and so awarding points for them, was just not fair.  The judges disagreed.  One of the Jones Brothers correctly pointed out that cookie baking is indeed a talent.
The Pageant Dress and my youngest brother.  Adorable wasn't he?
     That made me - the stunned winner of the pageant.  Apparently, the tap dancing had won the day.  The judges hadn't even noticed the old dress, the flip flops, or the crazy hair.  I was presented with the bouquet and the silk flower for my hair.  Cathy was outraged.  She shouted for a few minutes longer, then like her sister stormed off down the road.  The Jones Brothers left in disgust.  They were angry that they had been used and then hollered at.
     Jack sat on the shady patio with Anne and I.  Together we finished off the cookies and the lemonade.  Jack grumbled about having to put up with his sisters.  Anne and I sympathized with him, after all, he had to live with the diabolical duo.  We praised him for outwitting them.  Obviously, Jack had saved the day for Anne and I.  He was our hero.  Eventually, I gathered my flowers and like Cinderella after the Ball, walked home.
     Isn't it amazing how imaginative children can be when there are only five TV stations?
     Nearly everyone wants to be thought of as beautiful whatever age they might be.  The Bible says in Ecclesiates 3:11 that "God makes everything beautiful in His time."  In Isaiah 61, scripture reads that "God will give us beauty for ashes."
     In Bible times, it was the custom for people in times of great mourning or difficulty, to sit in the ashes of the fire, rather like Cinderella.  Consider that for a moment.  Life has so overwhelmed you that you just sit in a pile of ashes.  But the scripture says that God will take your difficult, depressing situation and give you beauty.  He will pick you up out of the messy ash pile of life and make something beautiful out of you.
     It is not always glamorous to be a woman.  There are crazy hair days and days when your shoes just don't fit.  You worry that you are not pretty enough, busy enough, or talented enough for the competition you are in.  Being a woman is hard work.  Being a mother, really complicates things. There are days when the perfume we wear smells more like eau de diaper pail than Heaven Scent.  But, being a woman of God allows Him to reveal the true beauty He has placed within each of us.
     So this month, as I talk about messes, I pray for you a true fairytale ending.  May you marry the Son of the King.  I looking forward to seeing you at the banquet.

Thursday, October 3, 2013

Day 4: The Ball

     Yesterday I shared the first part of this story in Embracing the Cinderella in Me, the third day of my 31 Day Series:  Welcome to My Mess.  You can go ahead and read it.  I'll wait.
     The story continues:
     I was so excited about the Beauty Pageant.  I spent the afternoon busily planning my outfits.  I decided to wear what I thought was a beautiful white dress I had gotten for my First Communion at age seven.  Five years later, I am embarrassed to say, it still fit.  The dress had just become fashionably shorter.  Looking back, it certainly did not fit the ball gown idea.  For the swim suit competition, I went with my favorite bathing suit.  As for the talent portion, I had that nailed.  I had just completed my dance recital.  I planned to tap dance.  I even had a pink fringe flapper style costume to wear.  I am sure that whatever you can imagine does not begin to touch the reality of that costume.  The crowning glory of my preparations was added by my mother.  She tied my pin straight hair up in knotted rags to make spit curls.  No really, SPIT curls.  That night, I barely slept.  I just hoped I wouldn't be awful.  I had knots on my head and knots in my stomach.
     The day of the pageant was beautiful and sunny.  I nervously dabbed my mother's Heaven Scent perfume behind my ears and walked down the block to Anne's house.
     Anne had decorated the patio with crepe paper streamers.  Her mother had given her permission to cut some roses.  The roses were nestled in water but tied together with a ribbon for the lucky winner.  Her backyard looked wonderful.  I surveyed it with a tremulous sigh.
     Anne and I were surprised when we heard that there were to be only four competitors.    Cathy and Suzie told us that all of the other girls in the neighborhood were busy.  Anne and I remained clueless.  The three judges took their places in lawn chairs.  Thanks to Anne, they even had a side table to put their lemonade on and a large plate of freshly baked chocolate chip cookies.  Finally the big moment had arrived.
     The first competition was the swim suit competition.  We had all worn our bathing suits under our clothes, so we were ready.  Cathy and Suzie were in it to win it.  They had thought to bring fancy sandals.  Anne quickly grabbed a pair from her closet.  I had foolishly not considered my feet.  I reluctantly slipped into the rubbery elegance of my flip flops.  Each of us strolled down the wooden ramp, spun and walked as gracefully as we could.  The other girls shoes musically click, click, clicked. Mine feet squashed flip, flip, flip.
     Next came the talent competition.  Cathy and Suzie sang.  I did not get to hear Cathy, but I heard Suzie.  Suzie wasn't as good a singer as she thought she was.  Anne on the other hand, played the violin.  I was pretty impressed.  Violins can be screechy, but Anne managed to play something recognizable.  Then it was my turn.  I didn't have music, but I flew through my recital routine.  My tap shoes rang out on the flagstone.  There may even have been a few sparks.  I made a few false steps but I was hopeful that in all of the noise, they wouldn't be noticed.
     The judges nodded appreciatively at each act, made notes, drank their lemonade and crunched on the cookies.  They whispered back and forth a few times.
My brother's and I.  That is THE dress I wore for the Pageant.
     Finally, we were ready for the ball gowns.  Cathy and Suzie had long dresses from a wedding they had attended.  They looked beautiful.  Anne had on a pretty easter dress.  I wore my old white dress.  My hair was crazy looking from all of the tap dancing.  Once again, we walked down the wooden runway.  This time each of us answered a question.  Time has completely erased the question from my mind, but I am sure that our responses involved world peace and getting along with others.
     We, girls, had done all that we could.  Cathy and Suzie smiled smugly at each other.  It was now up to the judges.
     A mess was about to ensue.  Only one of us could see what would happen next..  Join me tomorrow, as I share the conclusion of Embracing the Cinderella in Me.
    Updated:  Here is the conclusion:  Midnight
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