Tag Archives: hope

Barnacles or Full Steam Ahead?

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Image taken from Wiki

Barnacles.

A crazy image for God to bring to mind.

But poignant.

Since He popped into my head, let’s go with it. Life is like a sailing ship. We have somewhere to go. We have a plan and a mission. It requires fuel and forward momentum.

The problem is sometimes crud attaches, and like a ship with barnacles we waste energy, get slowed down.

“It’s a problem as old as sailing itself. Ever since man set out sea, barnacles have been clinging like, well, barnacles to ships, growing into bumpy masses that slows down vessels and wastes fuel,” says Sarah Zhang. “Turns out these tiny creatures can make a ship burn up to 40 percent more fuel. Their collective mass is small compared to the overall ship, but their little bodies have an outsized effect creating drag around the ship’s otherwise smooth hull.”

Sounds like the crud in my life. Is this familiar to anyone else?

I’ve worked hard to change some thought and behavior patterns that are really no longer a part of me. Thanks to a good God I’ve had some inside-out healing. I’ve fought through to the truth, and it has set me free.

In freedom it is full steam ahead.

And I’ll be sailing along just fine, then I seem to slow down. It takes more emotional/physical/mental/spiritual energy to move forward.

Usually when I think to ask why, I discover stuff has attached itself to me that drags me down. A few that seem to cling too quickly to me are: worry, fear, perfectionism, self-doubt, frustration. I blogged about some of that last week.

And sometimes there’s just a general darkness making me feel sad or discouraged or inadequate.

Do you have anything that seems to easily attach to the ship of your life?

A friend and I prayed together about this stuff last week. She urged me to hold onto my joy. To take time out to say thank you. To praise my God.

As I typed I just got a picture of a barnacle slipping because I turned my thoughts toward good things and speak out positive, holy, joyful, stuff instead of letting my mind dwell on the bad.

The picture of the barnacle letting go sent me back to Goggle. According to The Economist The best way to deal with barnacles is to prevent them from attaching in the first place. The recommend a couple of chemicals, confusing the barnacles, and making the surface so smooth they find it difficult to attach.

I think praise and thanksgiving are like those chemicals that repel the barnacles of my life.

 

The method of confusing barnacles includes checker-boarding molecules that attract water with molecules that repel water. My analogy is this–what if I seek to confusing negativity by admitting its existence rather than living in denial of the stuff that hurts me. But instead of giving into it, what if I thank God anyway, saying, “I trust you, Jesus,” in good times and bad.

A lifestyle of joy is like that paint that makes a smooth service where it is hard for the barnacles to attach. What’s interesting about this analogy is that it works better for ships that are swift and active than for boats that spent a lot of time at harbor. That tells me that I need to keep moving forward, following my destiny in joy.

Here’s what I think. You and I are moving forward because God has called us forward, and He never loses. But there’s crud in this world that wants to slow us down, steal our energy, and make us work harder than necessary to cover the same space. So we need to be proactive, focusing on the good, praising and thanking the God of the Universe, admitting difficulties rather than living in denial, but choosing to believe in GOOD anyway. As we do this we seek to learn a lifestyle of living in forward momentum and joy, not grinding to a standstill when crud hits, but choosing to keep moving focused on positives.

I’m liking this.

I’m sure I don’t have it all figured out, and what I do have figured out I haven’t lived fully. This post is processing, me and God together, in an attempt to sail full steam ahead instead of giving into the barnacles of life that what to attach to the ship of my destiny and slow me down.

How do you reduce the drag of barnacles in your life? Wanna join me in full-steam ahead living?

Moving forward until next time,

Paula another test (401x192) (2)

PS I know not everyone who reads this blog sees God the same way I do. I hope you’ll still hang around and here at A Benew Journey and glean whatever makes sense to you. We can learn from each other even if we don’t always see things exactly the same way!

 

A Sacred Space

His voice broke as he hugged his son.

Emotion from my steady-Eddy.

“I’m proud of you,” he says. Then he is wrapped in the long arms of the teenager who now towers above his dad. A manly bear-hug.

Our son’s face softens, his smile one of pure delight.

IMAG0234It seems funny to me–how this moment, this thing that once raised our eyebrow–today provides a sacred place.

He is only seventeen and needed our signature.

When he first asked for a tattoo for his birthday, I gave the party-line answer. “A decision this permanent should be made when you can sign for yourself. One more year.”IMAG0241

Then I tipped the scale the other way with my question, “What do you want and why?”

“A tattoo of the wristband they gave the men at church. It’ll be a reminder that I choose God and am determined to be a man of integrity.”

“That’s really cool, Sam.’ My resistance faded. “Maybe we should talk to dad.”

And so today we stood together in a giant hug, the three of us wrapped in the hallowed spaces of a tattoo shop.

And hubby’s voice shook just a little as he looked into this baby boy’s eyes and declared his pride in the man before him.

Another boy becoming.

Another young man finding his own way with faith and temptation and questions and answers all in the context of seeking relationship with the Creator.IMAG0237

Across the room sat David, getting the same tattoo, standing (figuratively) shoulder-to-shoulder with Sam. A brother thing from this newest sibling, this gift of marriage.

Our daughter divided her time between these two of her men, watching the artists at work. Solidarity flowed between all five of us.

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David’s new tattoo is placed below the tattoo that says, “love.” He and Sarah got them while they were dating, on the night they went to a concert to raise money for, “To Write Love on Her Arms,” a non-profit dedicated to helping the hurting.

The old Christian box Jerry and I lived in didn’t have room for these sacred moments.

But this new freedom of seeking God, not a cultural mindset, allows for such expression.

Today a simple band of black and red reminds these men who they are and Whose they are.

Someday Another will declare Who He is, “And He has on His robe and on His thigh a name written: KING OF KINGS AND LORD OF LORDS.”*

Riding with Sam as we drove home I said, “I’m so happy.”

His grin was wide. “Why?”

“I think because I feel your joy, and it overwhelms me.”

In reflection I know it was all of that and more. A Dad loving his son. A son knowing he is accepted. A mom watching the youngest take another step into the fullness of who he is.

A man forming before my eyes.

The delight in freedom.

Freedom to be who we are and to express it.

Until Next Time,

paula cropped

*Revelation 19:16

 

 

 

 

 

Letting Go (Again)

IMAG0129The house is empty except for me.

After all the bustle, all the people, all of the cooking and feeding and talking, I am exhausted.

But more than that, the Mommy heart once again has to say goodbye.

I awoke to my youngest son rushing out the door for his first “real” job. My husband left before that. The other boys (men, really) drove away yesterday to face the grind of a semester end and finals week. My daughter is with her husband.

The only sound I hear is the gentle hum of my laptop.

It would be easier to say goodbye if my boys had looked eager to leave. My oldest worked on a major paper until the minute he drove away, his stress levels palpable. My middle son is farther from home, too far for a quick weekend visit. He is where God has called him, (I know this!) but he is lonely. He said one of the things he missed most was an environment where spiritual conversations happen. That it is very dry where he is.

That it was hard to go back.

I suppose the tears slipping from my eyes have dual prompts. I miss him terribly, but I also cry for him, for the path he now walks, mostly alone.

Never alone. Because I have given him to the One who never leaves or forsakes.

But beyond the reach of Momma’s arms.

But never beyond the reach of Momma’s prayers.

Whew.

And so I’ll keep praying.

A friend told me, “Transitioning from under the wings of God at one’s parents’ house can be hard as children emerge into adulthood. It’s taking what was safe and “belonged” to mom and/or dad and making it your own, then trying to integrate it into the bold-faced truth of life. It’s almost like they have to learn how to walk again. A lot of the times they slip and fall or, if they’re tired of the bumps and bruises, decide to try another path. But God IS faithful and promises us this: “Train up a child in the way he should go: and when he is old, he will not depart from it.” (Proverbs 22:6)

This is right. It is so right–the moving out and beyond. I want them to be established. Independent. Strong.

My son can’t see his growth yet, but I do. He is emerging, growing into the skin of manhood he long ago donned. The foundation–for good or not, I pray for good–is laid. And now he builds.

Not me and dad.

Each child now adult chooses which bricks will make the man or woman.

I can no longer control. I can no longer choose for them.

Even my advice must be offered sparingly and with prayerful timing. Some personalities receive it more quickly than others.

It is my job to be wise about when and what I share with them. If I give them the freedom to be adults, they allow me the advice-giving. If I push too hard, their ears close.

Which is as it should be.

Really, it is not my life to build. I no longer pour the concrete, frame the structure.

It is their turn.

I survive this because they are not alone. The One who watches and sees, the One who promises to complete that which He started, is overseeing the process. And while my children still choose, there is a hand upon theirs helping them lift the right bricks. There is a whisper in their hearts directing their choices.

Thankfully, those kids have a lot of wisdom.

Still, there will be days they turn from the whisper, pick up a brick unsuited, nail the wrong board. But He will be there then, too. He is overseer. He will see the structure is solid.

And I will pray.

I will call out to the only One who can be with them forever. The only one who cares more than their dad and I do. The only One who makes any of us stand strong.

I hope the bricks I would not choose for them will be far and few between, but I will not despair when they come. Because all is never lost. I entrusted each of these precious children into the hands of the Faithful One when I could still cradle them in my arms. I entrust them to Him now.

He never falters.

He never wrings his hands wondering what to do.

He never gives up.

He always loves and builds.

He promised to finish the good work He started.

In me.

In them.

And so I’ll cry a little. Pray a lot.

And learn to let go.

 

 

 

Expressing All that Excitement!

“Guess what? Guess what? Guess what?” IMAG0120

My boys responded with the teenage eye roll.

Maybe I tend toward the melodramatic, but hey, a girl’s gotta express all that excitement.

This morning it was over the working burner in my stove.

Time again to be vulnerable about a “private” subject. Since 2013 I shared here about losing weight inside and out. I’ve mentioned periodically our struggle with money.

There it is. The taboo word. Money.

Always paired with the word struggle.

But as I’ve lost weight Jerry and I have also fought to lose the poverty mentality. The attitude that money is always pain and struggle and worry. That there won’t be enough.

I admitted last week that we had some really hard times in the years surrounding Jerry’s near death, times when I couldn’t get groceries. During this season my stove went out. We found a free one on Craig’s list, but the front glass was broken in the oven. Soon after the main burner of the stove started working on only one setting: high.

This morning I put turkey bacon in my skillet and used my favorite burner on medium. MEDIUM! Hallelujah. See, little by little, (and sometimes huge project by huge project), the nagging things that have made me feel pushed down are being fixed, replaced, repainted, re-purposed.

It’s amazing what a new oven door or fresh coat of paint or new fabric on old pillows does to that weary, poverty mindset.

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Picked a nice grey accented by white for my entryway.

 

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The walls are “stone white” and the trim a high gloss white. The china cabinet used to be bright blue, but it is now the color of the wall opposite it. The back of those grey pillows is the original blue fabric, which makes them feel custom made!

Yesterday we got new carpet. NEW CARPET throughout downstairs. The old carpet was original to the house 30 years ago. And I always hated the color. LOL.

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it’s so soft and squishy!!!!!!

Today? New shelves for the freezer. After the old ones broke I was determined to not be angry every time something fell out. It took a while to afford replacements, but thanks to that $75 needed, this is no longer an issue.

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Can’t count the times that jar of yeast almost hit my toes!

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Toes are feeling much safer now!

A friend tells me, “inch by inch it is a cinch.”

And it’s true. A little effort and money here. A little more there. It’s getting done. The upgrades long overdue in my home are actually happening.

The temptation has been to not even start these home projects. There are many, and we are weary. To be candid the first project was thrust upon us, and we had no choice.

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Coming home to old wall paper gone and new sheet rock hung.

But over the last three months much has been accomplished, and I have a peace about my home that is natural. It’s a peace I fought for, sometimes several times a day, when the need for repairs or the lack of beauty threatened to send me into despair.

During those lean years I changed patterns in how I lived, hanging out in rooms that needed less work so I didn’t get pulled down by the bad carpet or old paint. I cut fresh roses and brought them in from outside or made cloth napkins from old fabric to add beauty to each day. I lit a candle. Played some Beethoven. Used the pretty dishes. Cleaned out clutter.

Tried to give the family good memories by working hard to make a big meal even when I felt overwhelmed with the improvisation of cooking without a trip to the store.

We learned a lot in those years. The kids don’t take a gift for granted. Their hearts are tender when they see a need. They work hard. (They have some wounds, too, which I ask my Lord to heal.)

I learned to pray hard. That even in the worst of times I could find something to share with someone else. To find joy in little things, like those 1,000 gratitudes I wrote in marker on my ugly wall. (By the way, it took about seven coats of paint to cover that!)

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I learned to treasure the gift of laughter, of a peaceful home life, of friendship and walks in the sunshine.

The best things in life really can’t be bought.

I learned that God cares about little things. Like when I craved mangos in my weight loss shakes, but couldn’t afford them. I prayed for them and was given a whole flat that were on the verge of being too ripe. I cut those mangos up, froze them, and enjoyed them in my shakes for weeks!

My journey has not been as intense as others. A friend of mine went without food for some time as did her son. Both left the bag of a few cookies on the counter for the other to eat, choosing hunger over taking the last bit of food. I haven’t been hungry like that. But my own journey was significant for me. I fought hard to find joy and to rise above the broken things and broken places in my home and in my heart. Sometimes I cried. Many times I found victory after the tears.

As we’ve worked together in my home I’ve learned new skills like caulking, painting, and using a power tool. This knowledge also helps me rise above my circumstances to create the beauty I crave in my home.

Today I am grateful.

For the lessons learned.

For feeling like I can breathe.

For the fact that I shopped for tomorrow’s Thanksgiving meal without worrying if I would be able to pay for what I need.

I’m grateful for a new fence, new carpet, painted walls, working burners, shelves, and oven fronts. For a new-to-me couch and end tables. For pillows a friend and I sewed that spruced up furniture I already had. For new dish clothes and new shoes.

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I’m grateful for children who dug out old fence and scrapped off old wall paper and filled in holes in sheet rock. For a friend who contributed resources and taught us and for other friends who gave of their time and skills. For a husband who refused to abandon me to finishing projects even when he was bone tired from an eleven hour shift at work. Who fixed my stove burner and installed that new oven door. Who, with our son, helped hang shelves.

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Notice the old carpet! NOT my favorite color.

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Loving that new carpet beneath my new shelves!

I’m grateful for a God who is returning to us the things stolen during the hard season. For a God who cared even about the perfect painting to set the theme for my remodeled room and the 50% off candles that tied the colors of the new sectional together with the blues and greens of the walls.

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For a God who is teaching Jerry and me to live outside of the fear of not having enough and to trust Him as He teaches our hands to create the provision we need.

All our circumstances have not changed. But we are moving into a new season. We are dropping the weight of a poverty mindset.

We are learning a new place of freedom.

How about you, my friend? What’s your relationship with money? Is it friend or foe? Is there stuff at your house that drives you to despair? If so, what CAN you change? You might not be able to buy new carpet, but how about covering some old pillows or cleaning out a clutter pile?

If you’ve never had old carpet, old furniture, or old paint, have you realized what a gift that is? What about the intangibles like love and joy and peace?

May the God of all fill your (and mine!) heart to overflowing with gratitude and joy.

May He empower us all to lose the weight of the money issue and embrace the truth that He has provided and will continue to do so.

Happy Thanksgiving, my friends!

Until next time,

Paula another test (401x192) (2)

 

 

 

He Is . . . I Am

IMAG0626Identity. We have no clue how it drives our lives. How it shapes our daily, minute-to-minute choices.

Today’s post is an invitation into my journal, my musings. I’m just audacious enough to believe God meets me there, when I’m quiet in my recliner, snuggled beneath my fuzzy blanket, journal and pen in hand. (He meets me other places, too. Increasingly I believe there is no divided secular and sacred space. There is only space. And where there is space HE is. But I digress.)

On that day, pen in hand, I talked with Him about hopes. Fears. Dreams. About feeling unqualified, unworthy, and other “un” words.

He said, “I Am your qualifier. I Am your worthiness. I Am has brought you through the experience you need to do what I Am has planned.”

I told Him I knew the journey was about His ability, not mine, and I surrendered to His plan. Then I added, “I am afraid.”

“No,” His tone was gentle. “Do not use ‘I Am’ for identity statements. I Am is ME in you.”

Often I say things like, “I am overwhelmed. I am tired. I am afraid. I am inadequate.” Since this conversation with Him I’m trying to break that habit.

Am is a linking verb. In English class they taught me that whatever is on the other side of “am” renames “I.”

God reminds me not to give myself names that are outside of who HE is within me. HE is never inadequate or afraid or overwhelmed. In the book of John Jesus told His followers, “I am in you and you are in Me.” If God indwells me (and isn’t this the crux of Christian thought?) then His resources and character are also inside of me. Besides, God promises in Romans 8:29 that He is remaking me to be like Jesus. That makes me think that using identity statements about myself that differ from who Jesus is contradicts the work God is doing. I want to lean into the process to be MORE like Jesus, not to push against it!

That said, I don’t think God wants me to pretend I don’t have real emotions. However, I do think He wants me to see them as just that. The other day I caught myself saying I was overwhelmed. Just saying it made me act even more as if it were true.

My new goal is to change my verbiage from “am” to “feel” when dealing with negative crap that isn’t part of who God is. So . . . I feel overwhelmed, but I know the God who lives inside of me can handle anything. Sometimes situations seem hopeless, but God is a God of hope, and with Him nothing is impossible. Hard tasks can make me feel inadequate, but God is always up for any challenge. And HE lives in and through me.

But God . . . what a difference those two little words make. In Him I am a whole bunch of stuff that is glorious.

How about you, my friend? Been saying or thinking “I am” statements that whisper identities you really don’t want to take on? What thought patterns can you change by a twist of verbiage and the addition of “but God?”

Until Next Time,

paula cropped

*If you’ve not been around much Jewish or Christian theology, there’s a whole new depth brought to those words, “I Am” based on an experience with God and Moses. Moses, the guy who led the Israelite slaves out of captivity in Egypt, was one of those guys who felt unqualified with a glaring “UN.” When He asked God His name, God called Himself, “I AM.” Jesus also made a bunch of identity statements using those two little words, “I Am.”

Writing this post reminded me of another time I pondered those two little words. At that time I wrote 10 devotionals based on those musing, and because of this post added them to my website in hopes they might encourage you. Maybe you’d like to bookmark the devotional page and spend the next ten days thinking about what God means when He calls Himself, “I Am.”

I Am the Artist

A friend of mine wrote this and posted it to Facebook. Such a valuable concept that I’ve been thinking about it over and over. Too often I’ve given the very design of my life over to others. To their opinions or expectations. But when the metal hits the road, I am the responsible for my own canvas. I choose to look to the Creator with a capital C to help me discover all He intended for this canvas. I often seek wisdom from the world around me, trustworthy people, good books. But in the end I choose. Thanks, David, for giving me permission to share this!

I AM THE ARTIST by David G. Colister

I am the artist and I am the artwork on the canvas of my life.

This canvas is and always will be mine. If it bears unwanted graffiti then I did not guard well enough my canvas. If my painting lacks the color, perspective, style, composition, or mastery I desire to represent my life then only I, the artist, am responsible.

If I lack the talent, tools, resources, and vision necessary to paint my life’s picture as I desire it, then I must devote the time, effort, study, ingenuity, and discipline necessary to realize the beauty I want for my life. And I will remind myself, demand of myself, and force myself, with all vigilance, to own up to the quality of my artwork at all times and in all stages of its development. My life is my design.

I must deny the incessant interruptions that would distract or delay my work. I must persevere in refusing access to the endless line of uninspired critics who insist on invading, without invitation, the studio of my mind.

I find nothing more heinous than the thought of someone forcing me to paint upon my canvas according to their vision. I will not let this happen no matter how much I admire, need, or fear a person — be it a relative, lover, friend, boss, co-worker, financier, celebrity, or ruler. This is my life, not another’s. I hope others love what they see on my canvas, but I will not sacrifice my authenticity for their approval, regardless of the cost to me or our relationship.

Likewise, I will refuse any selfish temptation to force my vision upon or touch my brush to the canvas of another at any cost to myself. Each one must take responsibility for the results of one’s own life’s canvas. I must give others the freedom to paint their life their way. Not only would it be wrong to take credit for the art someone else creates, but it would be artistically criminal for me to force my vision upon another’s canvas.

Therefore, I will make no excuses for the quality of my painting and I will pass no blame. I am responsible for the final version that will ultimately define my life. My painting will hang for eternity in the Museum of Humanity. I am ever mindful that I am only allowed one painting in those hallowed halls, so I will make my contribution count. I will add to the collective beauty of human history, not stain it.

With God as my witness and by His grace, I pledge to maintain my resolve to paint my life on my own terms and with my own hand and according to my own vision.

My mind is set, my hand is steady, my heart is full. I am determined to paint a masterpiece of which I am proud, that represents my truest self, that satisfies my soul, and inspires other artists both now and for generations to come. Therefore, I will paint well. I will paint true.

One day I will place my signature upon my masterpiece when my life is finished. On that day I will kneel before my God, the Creator of creators, to reflect upon the art that is my life and will do so with deep gratitude, humility, and awe for the opportunity to paint a human life…

I am the artist and I am the artwork on the canvas of my life.

You can read more of David’s stirring thoughts by connecting with him on Facebook.

For Fencine: Faithful Mom-in-Law

Sorry I’ve been so quiet. I told a friend it feels like all I’ve done since March is say goodbye: launch kids, weather long hospital stays that eventually end in burials, and clean out homes. Have done a lot of deep processing, but too raw yet for here. Instead, I want to share part of the eulogy I was asked to write and share last week for my sweet mom-in-law’s goodbye. I’ve taken out some specific names and facts–this is the Internet after all–but endeavored to leave the heart of what I shared. My hope is to honor the woman who gave me my husband and who loved her own so faithfully.

For Fencine:

IMAG0552Fencine  was born on March 3rd, 1925, in North Dakota. A twin, Fencine was the youngest of eight children, two brothers and 5 sisters. Raised on the family farm, originally homesteaded in North Dakota by Fencine’s dad and his brother who emigrated from Holland, Fencine often talked about the joy of growing up in a busy household where an older sister was assigned to each of the twins to help them as the family went about its chores.

As Fencine grew into womanhood she captured the attention of Ray, who heard about the sisters, who lived in a Dutch community north of him and were renowned for their singing abilities and godly character. Fencine, Fennie, and Catherine formed the Sacred Melodies Trio, and sang in churches throughout the area, as well as on several radio stations. Ray and his buddy Elmer began making trips to visit the twins. The German settlement didn’t appreciate two of their eligible bachelors traveling to those Dutch girls when there plenty of fine German girls available, but Ray and Elmer were not to be deterred.

Fencine said the foursome would take walks, and Fennie and Elmer would hold hands, but she wasn’t about to let Ray take hers! To keep him from trying she swung her hands back and forth as they strolled. But Ray didn’t give up on winning Fencine’s heart, and when he proposed, she said yes. Fencine’s father asked her to wait to marry until she was twenty-one. Always desirous of doing the right thing, she endeavored to honor her dad’s wishes—and scheduled the wedding for her twenty-first birthday.

Though she would have enjoyed an engagement ring, Fencine wanted to do everything she could to support Ray’s calling as a preacher. The community where Ray was raised didn’t believe in jewelry, so Fencine told him she didn’t need a ring if it would inhibit his ministry. Years later the family got her a mother’s ring, which she treasured. Fencine’s resolve to support Ray in his ministry was tested early on when her wedding day was postponed multiple times due to a successful evangelist tour that went longer than expected. Fencine never wavered, and these early sacrifices established a pattern in which she consistently put her husband and his ministry first.

Ray wasn’t sure if he should have children. He wanted nothing to hinder his calling as a pastor. But Catherine’s husband convinced Ray that raising children unto the Lord was also the calling of a Christian man. Soon the happy couple enjoyed the birth of four children. Together they poured love and faith over them, bringing them up with high standards, a determined work ethic, and a focus on God and church.

As a young mother Fencine’s faith held her through many days of caring for the children while Ray was traveling as an evangelist. She clung to God when Ray’s return home would be delayed by a longer-than-expected revival or a Canadian snow storm. Left with hungry children and little resources, there were times she pretended not to be hungry so the children had enough food, times when Fencine prayed one of the farmers in their church would think of them and share their eggs and milk, times when she turned on the vacuum cleaner hoping its noise would drown out her need to cry.

Along with these struggles and the typical pressures of a young mother and wife, Fencine weathered the extra pressure she felt as a pastor’s wife. Anyone who knows Fencine and her excellent, above-the-norm house-keeping skills will be surprised to know she weathered criticism as a young mother of four from some in the congregation who felt she didn’t keep things tidy enough. But Fencine persevered, always doing her best to raise her children well and support her husband’s ministry. She was never a complainer.

The family’s faith went beyond the church doors and into the daily fabric of family life. When their son almost died of spinal meningitis it was natural for the couple to invite their community of faith into their home and intercede for his life. Though only five-years-old at the time, he remembers hearing the passionate prayers of his parents and their friends asking God to heal him.

An excellent speller and grammarian, Fencine always edited Ray’s writing and sermon notes. She eventually served as a proofreader for her church’s denominational publication.

Ray and Fencine were always hospitable, reaching out to the church families. Fencine became known for her famous chocolate cake, which she prepared faithfully every Friday—along with fried chicken, mashed potatoes and green beans.

The couple moved often, from pastorate to pastorate, even after the children were grown and married. Ray and Fencine had a strong sense of family, and those who married into the clan were firmly welcomed. Their son-in-law, Larry, always appreciated the love and open welcome he and his children received. He was particularly blessed by Fencine’s Godly example. He said, “Fencine truly walks the talk as the saying goes. Until that point in my life I had not been close to or witnessed a person like her who studied the bible daily, had daily prayer, put worldly stuff aside and God first.  She definitely helped me gain a better understanding of what life is about, not through one-on-one teaching, but by her example.”

Fencine delighted in Ray’s “retirement” years when she was finally able to travel with him instead of holding down the home front. The couple based in a retirement community in California but flew throughout the United States and several neighboring countries on a special pass from Continental Airlines. Ray knew no barriers, racial or otherwise, and was well received into not only English speaking churches, but also into Spanish speaking congregations. Fencine would often provide support to the women in those churches, and she and Ray enjoyed doing marriage counseling as they traveled. During these years they also enjoyed touring Israel and later traveled with all the children and grandchildren for a vacation to Hawaii.

Fencine was rarely idle, always working hard. As a mother she wove relationship into the daily fabric of chores. If she visited in your home, she was right there, doing dishes or laundry or helping cook the meals. She was even known to clean when she babysat her grandchildren. Much to their chagrin she would clap her hands and say, “Let’s clean the house for Mommy!”

 

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Fencine is in the red jacket in the middle

Ray’s failing health eventually moved the couple closer to family. Ray and Fencine delighted in their grandchildren and great-grandchildren. Highly competitive, Fencine was not the kind of grandma who let you win. She was ruthless at games. The grandchildren didn’t stand a chance at Uno or Frustration, and at eighty-years-old during a family Thanksgiving celebration, she soundly beat several grandsons in a game of horse. You should see her shoot a basketball!

After Ray’s death in 2001, Fencine worked for a time in an office. Not only was she admired for her strong work ethic and organizational skills, but the women she worked with were amazed at her agility. Though in her upper 70s she climbed stools or squatted on the ground as she did the filing. She is remembered in her small town as the woman who was daily seen getting her exercise, walking with perfect posture, erect and quick, swinging her arms at her side. When she couldn’t walk outside, she walked at the community center, finishing her exercise routine by using the stair-stepper. This continued into her 89th year. Even during her short stay at the nursing home during her last few months she wanted to walk. The staff mentioned that she would take grasp their arm for a walk down the hall, then take off at such a quick pace that they would be surprised and struggle to keep up. Many of Fencine’s children and grandchildren enjoy athletic ability and a competitive edge sure to be inherited from her.

Over the years Fencine offered many hand-written notes of affection to her family in the birthday cards she never failed to send. Fencine’s outlook on life was decided, and though a strong woman with strong opinions, she always supported her children and grandchildren as they made their own way in life. She was quick to offer advice on the best way to clean or cook or the right way to spell something, but also quick to learn from and offer support to her loved ones. Even when her own approach to life differed from that of her children or grandchildren, she found a way to appreciate the common ground. Her prayers for her children and grandchildren were consistent and treasured, and her unwavering faith and determination to do right was a solid example for all.

Fencine passage into an eternity with her God began on September 17, 2014.Fencine's service

Throughout her 89 years Fencine epitomized faithfulness to the God she loves and to her family. She weathered good times and bad with an unshakable belief that God was with her. In her years of health she was selfless, working hard to serve others. She stood beside her husband even when he spent long hours in ministry leaving her to shoulder much responsibility. She believed in him and the work he did and saw her sacrifices as her own offerings to her Savior. Fencine leaves behind a legacy of integrity, kindness, selflessness, loyalty, and faith.

She will be greatly missed.

Lessons from Sam and LOTR: “There’s some good in this world.”

The things we do for love.

Some of them aren’t so hard. My sweet Sam, still recovering from surgery and growing increasingly tired of being tied to crutches, requested a Lord of the Rings Marathon. Extended version, of course.

After 12 plus hours of immersion in the trilogy thoughts continue to surface.

Yes, I’ve read the book. Watched the abridged versions of the Peter Jackson movies. Even watched the extended movies all in one day before. (Sam’s request one year for his birthday.) But with something as deep as Lord of the Rings it seems there is always a new take-away.

One of the things I’m pondering is this scene:

Frodo: I can’t do this, Sam.

Sam: I know. It’s all wrong. By rights we shouldn’t even be here. But we are. It’s like in the great stories, Mr. Frodo. The ones that really mattered. Full of darkness and danger, they were. And sometimes you didn’t want to know the end. Because how could the end be happy? How could the world go back to the way it was when so much bad had happened? But in the end, it’s only a passing thing, this shadow. Even darkness must pass. A new day will come. And when the sun shines it will shine out the clearer. Those were the stories that stayed with you. That meant something, even if you were too small to understand why. But I think, Mr. Frodo, I do understand. I know now. Folk in those stories had lots of chances of turning back, only they didn’t. They kept going. Because they were holding on to something.

Frodo: What are we holding onto, Sam?

Sam: That there’s some good in this world, Mr. Frodo… and it’s worth fighting for.

When I watched this part of the movie, what jumped out at me is “There’s some good in this world.”

Not great revelation, but don’t we sometimes forget?

Life can grow dark. My mind can dwell on the darkness. Perhaps this tendency fueled my journey of recording 1,000 gifts. 

Writing my gratitude all over the basement walls changed me. Not that I live every, single moment in gratitude.

But I look for the good. Notice it more often.

Like Sam I know good exists. The darkness must pass. The sun will shine out all the clearer because of the darkness.

20140729_153036I read recently that perseverance alone is not enough. That true persistence is waiting on God with joyful anticipation.

Much of my life has been persevering with clenched fists instead of joyful anticipation. But maybe I’m learning. And part of my new understanding is that to embrace joy in the hard times I must remember there is good.

It shows up in simple places. The beautiful green after rain. The deep-throated guffaws of my boys, now all young men, shoveling down dinner while they crack their jokes. The feel of my husband’s hand upon my waist as I drift into sleep. Fresh strawberries. Friendship.

His gifts are everywhere. Even in the shadowed times there is good. Sometimes it’s a fight in my heart to see it.

But good is worth fighting for.

Until next time,

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Refreshment

20140722_093918-1The breeze brushes my face, wispy fingers cooling my questions.

It’s funny what conquers the ragged places. You think it will take something big–like getting the answers you want–but sometimes it’s the simplest relief.

Like this light wind whisking away the heat as we sit beneath the shade trees of our backyard .

It doesn’t answer the questions I asked last night. It doesn’t change the circumstances of frustration.

But it is LOVE.

And isn’t this life full of Him when I open my heart to see?

Conviction hits with that statement. It’s not always about my ability to open my heart. Last night’s questions weren’t coming from this happy, open place.

The breeze, this quiet moment away from the sweltering heat of my home and the suffocating heat of my heart is a gift. I didn’t earn it by being some goody-goody person living open and happy.

I have cultivated the notice of such by an intentional decision to say thank you. I did ask God last night for help when I felt the doldrums coming on. But I didn’t make the breeze. I didn’t force my heart open.

I think only God can open the heart. My will can ask Him to. My logic knows it is good for me. But the heart? That’s something different all together.

The heart is where HE lives. And He is hope. Joy. Peace. Love. All the things I long for. He opens this place to the Good.

When I cried out in the sweaty night, hot and tired, unable to sleep, He granted my body rest and awoke me to this day. This moment.

I’ve no doubt that His Spirit tempted me outside. It started with notice of wilting basil leaves, so thirsty.20140723_124649 Then the act of running up and down the stairs, back porch to plant watering jug in hand, awakened me to the possibilities.

Sam’s hot and tired, too. Maybe even more than I with all of his aching surgery hip and sitting in front of TV and gaming station, being tied to crutches, mostly trapped inside.

So we breakfasted in the breeze. Talked of everything and nothing. How this summer was his favorite summer of baseball ever. He thanked me for his childhood, precious son that he is, as we stared at the swing set which sits mostly still these days. I guess kids reminisce, too. Even as I silently mourned the decaying tree house, the lack of shrieking, giggling little ones, he celebrates the good, sees the big yard and the tire swing and dangling climbing rope and remembers. Happy. (And yes, I hear the lesson in that.)

Now we sit side-by-side, lap-tops perched on the patio table that speaks love, too (It once belonged to Bernice, and I know she would rejoice in seeing us here). We let the fresh air clear our head, cool our bodies, lift our spirits.

A pure, white butterfly flits by. Lands on the rose bush.

Bird song wafts on the breeze.

We believe again in season, in ups and downs, and how the downs don’t last forever. His crutches will soon be abandoned. The stuff that weighed on my emotions last night will pass. We remember that even in those downs there is relief. We discover gifts. Embrace love.

I am happy, too. Son beside me. Cool breeze refreshing.

Hope you’re finding joy in the simple pleasures, too, my friends.

Until next time,

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Free Indeed

Never before have I heard anything that encapsulates my journey with God in one quick message better than this does. I don’t know if you can experience it like I did without the years of journeying through the questions I had behind the concepts taught here, but if you want to know my passions and belief statement, here it is folks.

I wish I could embed it, but I can’t figure out how. So please visit Flatirons Church for the whole service. If you prefer to listen to only the message rather than watch the whole service, you can do that, too.

A little background on the subject: This series is based on the Galatians, a book in the New Testament of the Bible. It was written by Paul, one of the first guys who traveled around telling others about Jesus coming to save the world. Paul was raised a Jew, and after Jesus’s death actually killed people who believed in Jesus, thinking He was doing God’s work. But then God revealed Himself to Paul, and Paul became of one the most prolific writers about the new order Jesus came to bring to earth.

A little background on me: Perhaps the reason I’m so passionate about this particular message is in my early years I longed to know God but became caught up in religion. I felt enormous pressure to do it all “right.” I talked before about how my need to be perfect was incredibly damaging to me. You can read more of my story here. In my mid-thirties I went through some deep healing. During this season I awoke one morning to the Spirit whispering to my heart, “It is for freedom I have set you free.”

These words are found in Galatians, the book this series at my church is based upon. That morning I jumped out of bed and grabbed my Bible and read the whole passage: “It is for freedom that Christ has set you free, therefore don’t return to a yoke of slavery.”

And that has been my goal ever since–to walk with the Lord in the light of His acceptance and freedom, not caught up in trying to follow rules or please people, but to become immersed in His love and unconditional acceptance and to discover how to live a life that offers it to others without destroying myself. Part of freedom is learning boundaries. Much of freedom is learning there is only One to please, and all others fall underneath that first goal. Resting in His Love, not my efforts, is the best part of life.