I Can Be Your Eyes

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When Mark and I first started dating, he revealed to me that he had an eye disease called RP (Retinitis Pigmentosa). There is no cure and it is a progressive eye disease which eventually leads to blindness. Being married to someone with a progressive eye disease brings a whole new dynamic to a marriage. Part of my wedding vow to Mark should have read “I promise to watch out for you and not let you walk into those yellow ‘Wet Floor’ signs. I promise to steer you clear of lolly-columns and telephone poles. And when we are climbing around the rocks near the ocean, I promise to save you from stepping off the ledges into the water.” Being Mark’s “Seeing Eye Wife” (and I told him that I refuse to wear the harness that you see service dogs wearing!!), I sometimes feel as though I’ve stepped out of the role of being his wife and stepped into the role of being his mother or caregiver. We’ve had many conversations about his continued loss of vision and what our future will look like. I’ve told him that I want him to be totally honest with me when he feels as though I am hovering over him too much or keeping him back from doing something he wants to do. Recently, while we were visiting one of our favorite falls in Maine, I asked him if I was being too cautious. Mark told me that if I see he’s headed for danger, he most definitely wants me to warn him (well, duh!) and that he trusts me to keep him safe. He relies on me to see for him, to be his eyes in dark restaurants or other places, to warn him when he’s headed for something that will cause him harm.
While I was thinking about my role as his additional set of eyes, the Holy Spirit tapped me on the shoulder and asked, “Isn’t that kind of what I do for you?” God sees what’s ahead for us and does what He can to protect us from pain and heartache. Instead of a cane or seeing eye dog, God gives us His word to direct us and keep us on a safe path.

Psalm 119:105 says:

thy word

And sometimes, I get distracted by something shiny and forget that Mark is relying on me to make sure his path is clear of any obstacles. Only when he bumps his shin or runs into something am I brought back to what I was supposed to be focusing on: his safety and what’s ahead of him! Isn’t that the same thing that happens to us believers when we take our eyes off what we should be focusing on? And then when something in life comes our way because of our lack of focus, we realize that if we had just been listening to that still small voice or had been using the “lamp/light” (His Word) that has been given to us, we may have avoided this pain or obstacle.

What a comfort knowing that God sees further down the road than we do. What a comfort that our loving Father sees that the pain and heartache that we are experiencing now and knows that there is greater purpose that will one day be revealed to us. And what a comfort to know that God never gets distracted and forgets to be our “eyes”! What a comfort to know that one day, when Mark arrives in Heaven, his eyesight will be perfect!

And now I need to go because goodness knows what type of mischief Mark has gotten into because I haven’t been keeping an eye on him.

Wait!! Who punched a hole in my Monet?

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I Peter 5:10 “And the God of all grace, who called you to his eternal glory in Christ, after you have suffered a little while, will himself restore you and make you strong, firm and steadfast.”

This past Sunday, Pastor John continued his series on the book of John. The message was based on John 9:1-12 describing the account of Jesus healing the man who was born blind. Pastor John told us the story about an $11 million dollar Monet painting that was punched and damaged by some random guy. To this day, the reason for this act of destruction is still unknown. Pastor explained that the restoration process took 18 painstaking months. He related the restoration work of this piece of artwork to the restoration work of God in our lives. It only takes a minute to destroy a painting and it only takes a single word, act or experience to destroy the “masterpieces” in our lives.  I really feel as though the Holy Spirit was not just tapping me on the shoulder but yelling at me “Are you listening? Are you paying attention?” So, I decided to take a walk through my own art gallery and take some inventory of the damaged Monets in my life!

So why don’t you grab your art museum brochure and wander through my gallery with me. I’m sure you’ll see plenty of pieces that feature squirrels; they take up a lot of my attention! I’ll act as your curator and explain each piece and the background behind them.

Ahhh, this first piece is a favorite of mine. It’s titled “Family” and the medium is finger-paints. It’s a precious picture of three sets of little hands. When we decided to become parents, I was determined that I was going to be the perfect parent. That lasted until we had our first child, Kenny!  Ohhhh! Who punched a hole in this painting? It looks like the size of  “Regrets’” fist!  Regret is an ugly character! He loves to attack often and when you are feeling vulnerable. And he usually shows up time and time again. I think Regret needs to be banned from my art museum!

Oh, and this next piece is special to me. It’s fondly called “Faith”. I’ve had this piece of art since I was 5 years old. It’s painted with a deep red paint, a shade that reminds me of the precious blood that paid for my redemption. There’s a cross on a hill and a little 5-year-old girl at the foot of this cross. I love this picture. I revisit it often and just remember the day this was painted: it was painted in a small Sunday School classroom located in the basement of the United Baptist Church in Peru. Audrey Wentzell oversaw this painting. Oh my goodness!! This painting also has a hole punched in it! Who on earth would dare punch a hole in this masterpiece? Let me guess! “Doubt”! I remember those days when Doubt would double up his fist and take a swing at my picture. Days like “There’s no more that we can do for your family member!”, or “I can’t believe God would allow this/that to happen to me!”, or “Are you sure God would really forgive you for….”. I think it’s time to move on to the next painting, this one is painful to look at right now.

The next painting is called “Friends”. This painting uses so many different colors and rightly so. I remember painting this piece throughout the years. I am so blessed by having some of the most precious people surrounding me. The size of this piece is very wide because it encompasses the friends I’ve had from an early age until this present day. If you are quiet enough, you can almost hear the laughter that comes with this masterpiece. And like the other paintings, there is a big old hole right in the middle!! And the culprit is named “Life”! During our lifetime, friends come in and friends go out. Different circumstances help to punch a hole in this piece of art. Sometimes painful situations come up as in “I no longer want to be a part of your life” or “We really don’t have that much in common anymore so let’s just part ways.” All too often, I try to restore these relationships on my own power without even considering that maybe God has allowed these friendships to fall by the wayside for my own good.

As I wander past these pictures, the Holy Spirit whispers to me and says “Remember what Pastor pointed out on Sunday? I restore sight to the blind and I can restore whatever you are hanging on to that needs to be restored!” And so with trembling and sometimes clenched hands, I turn over my “Monets” to him. They may not be worth 11 million dollars but they are priceless to me. And over time, sometimes not as quickly as I would want, He restores these masterpieces. I think back on the failures of being a parent and pray that God would fill in areas where I was lacking. I consider the faith journey that I have walked and thank God that He’s always been faithful even when I was not. He let me voice my doubts and He still loves me because He’s a gracious, loving Father. The friendships that I have made and lost, I turn them over to Him and let Him restore the relationships that should be restored and pray for peace for those that may never be restored this side of Heaven.

Thank you for walking through my museum with me. I encourage you to take a look at the masterpieces hanging on your walls. I’m sure, like me, you’ll see some with holes punched in them. You can trust me when I say that I have the best Restorer of Masterpieces working with me!

Oh, and one more thing!! Don’t forget to stop at the gift shop on your way out. We have lots of books for the art collector and bins and bins of stuffed squirrels for the distracted art lover. Ooooh, and what’s this shiny object……

 

Do you smell smoke?

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One of my all time favorite things to do is to sit around our fire pit in our backyard or the campfire while we are camping.  And usually, for the next few days the smell of the fire and smoke stay with me even after washing my hair a number of times.  I have a love/hate relationship with the smell of smoke.  When I do catch a whiff of the lingering smell of smoke in my hair, it brings back the memories of sitting around the fire with family and loved ones.  But then, while I’m sitting at work and a co-worker is standing by me and I smell smoke, I think “They must be thinking ‘Does she ever bathe?!'”  Lol.

Sitting around the fire also reminds me of one of my favorite accounts in the Bible: the time when Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego found themselves in a fire pit themselves!  We read about this hot incident in Daniel 3.  The background of this story is that King Nebuchadnezzar had ordered that when the trumpet and other instruments was blown or played, everyone was to bow down to the golden image that he had made.  Whomever did not bow down to the image would be thrown into the fiery furnace.  Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego, being believers of the one true God, would not bow down. They told the king that they knew that God could save them, but even if God didn’t deliver them from the furnace, they still would not bow to the image.  So  they were bond by ropes and thrown into the furnace. King Nebuchadnezzar looked in on the trio and saw four men instead!  The king summoned the three young men out and noticed that their hair was not singed and their robes were not scorched. The only thing that was consumed in the fire was the ropes that had bound them.  And I love this part of the story: “and there was no smell of fire on them.”

So many times I, like other believers, pray that God would spare me from unpleasant and painful situations.  I’ve been lulled into this thought that my life should be pretty easy, carefree and comfortable.  But the reality is this: life is painful!  Life is not always easy!  I will go through and have gone through some pretty difficult times in the past few years.  And even though God did not spare me (and other family members) and prevent me from going through these times, I know for certain that just like Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego, God was walking right beside me in those “fiery” times.

Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego had the ropes that bound them burned off while they were traipsing around the furnace and that got me thinking “What ‘ropes’ were keeping me bound while I was walking through painful times?” Maybe the “ropes of unbelief“:  Why would God allow this to happen to me?  Isn’t He a good God? This doesn’t feel very “good” to me right now! Maybe the “ropes of doubt”:  Does God really know what He’s doing?!  Do I really trust Him to see me/us through this time of being uncomfortable? this time of being in pain? this feeling of being lost? of feeling abandoned?  How about the “ropes of anger”:  How could You possibly allow this to happen?  “Ropes of pride”:  I’m/We’re one of your children and THIS is how You choose to treat me/us?  I’ve been living a pretty good life testifying to how I believe you and THIS is the thanks I get?!  As you can see, I should have bought stock in a rope company!!

And just like our three heroes of the Old Testament, it sometimes takes a fire to burn off these ropes that keep our hands, our feet, our hearts, and our minds bound.  And just like our fire walkers, we realize that no, maybe God didn’t deliver us from having to go through these fiery times of pain and hurt, but we know without a doubt, that we didn’t traipse through that fire alone. God didn’t keep us from going through it but He certainly was right there the whole time.

Oh and that favorite part of that verse: “there was no smell of fire on them”?  The Holy Spirit gently taps me on the shoulder and reminds me that even though I have walked through some fires in my lifetime, because of His presence and His grace, people won’t be able to tell that I’ve gone through the fire.  Because instead of the lingering smell of smoke on me (and in my hair), they will only be able to smell the sweet smell of Him saving me by grace and walking beside me while we both watched those ropes disintegrate and disappear.  Yeah, every once in a while I pick up those familiar ropes again and start wrapping myself up in them.  But soon enough, the Holy Spirit reminds me of what it took to burn those things off.  I can stop and remember that even though I had to go through those times, I’m not the same person who was thrown into that fire and I’m certainly a different person after I came out of that “furnace”.

And with that being said….who wants some s’mores!!  I’ll grab the lighter and the marshmallows!!

 

Has anyone seen my ATM card?!

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Confession time!  I am a chicken!  I mean I’m a real scaredy cat!  You’re probably wondering what an ATM card, a chicken and a scaredy cat all have in common.  There is a correlation here, just give me a few minutes to gather my thoughts.

It’s almost embarrassing to admit that I struggle with fear.  Fear of heights, fear of being left alone, fear of falling off high places, fear of getting lost, fear of failing at my job, and fear of being a bad mother (Kenny, Sarah, and Kaitlyn: your feedback is not needed!)   A few years ago, I had to fly back from Milwaukee by myself as Mark was staying behind to attend meetings in offices in New Berlin, WI.  I almost didn’t go with Mark on this trip because I knew that I would have to fly back home by myself.  But then I got thinking “What would that say to Kenny and his family if I choose not to go visit them in Milwaukee just because of my irrational fear?”  The fear of flying alone has so many components:  What if I don’t like my seatmate on the plane?  (Yeah, let’s make this all about my comfort!!) What if I get a window seat and I have to use the loo?!  I’d have to ask everyone in the row to move so I could get out!  What if I get on the wrong plane and end up in Istanbul…because that happens daily!! Ugh.

And then…the Holy Spirit tapped me on the shoulder and asked me “What do I have to say about ‘fear’?”  Ummm, good question but I’m not sure I want to know the answer because that would mean that I’m being disobedient to your Word!

Psalm 23:4 Even when walking through the dark valley of death I will not be afraid, for you are close beside me, guarding, guiding all the way. (Living Bible Paraphrase)

Even when I walk through the dark valley of death!! Or as in my version: “Even when I walk through the terminals of an unfamiliar airport I will not be afraid of getting on a plane bound for Istanbul, for you are close beside me, guarding, guiding all the way!”

Oh, and then the Holy Spirit tapped me on the shoulder again, because I tend to be a slow learner, and He asked me “Now what do I say about ‘Courage’?” Ummm, can I just work on the “fear” issue first and then we can work on the “courage” thing?

Do you know how many times the word “courage” is used in the Bible?  Me neither, but it’s a lot!! And it’s usually preceded with “Be strong!”

Joshua 1:9 “Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged, for the Lord your God will be with you wherever you go.” (NIV)

“Have I not commanded you?”  Yeah, this being brave and courageous isn’t an optional thing!  We, as believers are commanded to be courageous! Ouch!

Matthew 14:27 “But Jesus immediately said to them: “Take courage! It is I. Don’t be afraid.” (NIV)

“Take courage!” Not, “Well…if you feel like it, why don’t you try to be a little more brave.”  This is a command! Not a suggestion.

I’m a visual learner.  You can tell me something over and over again but until I see it or can get my hands on it, I probably won’t retain it.  So with the whole “courage” thing, I like to think of it this way:

God has a big bank and each one of us believers has an account in this bank with our name on it.  And in these accounts, there is everything we need to live a successful spiritual life.  I believe that God has deposited a huge amount of “courage” into each one of our accounts and all we need to do is make a withdrawal.  It’s like having millions of dollars in the bank and living like a pauper! God tells me to “Take courage!” or “Make a withdrawal, kid!”.  I have, at my disposal, an unlimited amount of courage but I live life like a scaredy cat.  How much does that frustrate God?

So, with all that being said,  I need to use that debit card (oh and mine won’t have a chip.  I really don’t like the new cards with the chip.  It’s much more fun swiping that card than just inserting it and waiting for the beep of approval!) and I need to be constantly withdrawing from my spiritual account.

So the next time any of my friends see me looking like a deer caught in the headlights because I’m dreading something or fearing something, just remind me that I need to pull out my atm card and take out some courage!

thbq2w7xm0

Confessions from a broken crayon!

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You’ve heard the saying “Confession is good for the soul”, right?  Well, it’s time for a confession from me…a broken crayon.

I have a tendency to be a wee bit of a Type A personality.  Just a wee bit!  There are some things that I just need to be perfect or pretty close to perfection. Beds: I like the bed made a certain way: tight fitting with hospital corners.  Silverware: patterned silverware belongs together, not all mixed up. Money: all facing in the same direction.  Books on the shelf: lined up tallest to shortest.  Just to name a few of my preferences.

Oh, there is just one more: Crayons: I don’t put broken crayons back in the crayon box, only sharp, unbroken crayons belong in my box. Yes, I know I’m not a 5 year old anymore but there is just something exciting and nostalgic about a box of crayons (Crayola Crayons only, if you please!)  This morning as I was doing some deep cleaning in the living room, I found some crayons that our grandson Liam had been playing with and that had rolled under my cabinet.  One of these crayons was broken in half….I remember that I didn’t speak to Liam for a couple of hours after he broke it!  (Just kidding! lol) As I was putting his crayons back in the box, I kept this broken orange crayon out intending to just throw it away because it wasn’t perfect and up to my standards.  And then…I felt the Holy Spirit tap me on the shoulder and ask me “Aren’t you a little like that broken orange crayon?  Don’t you sometimes feel like you aren’t up to other’s definition of “perfection” or up to other’s “standards”?  Don’t you feel unworthy to serve in the way that I designed you or created you?”

Psalms 139: 13&14:

“For you created my inmost being;
    you knit me together in my mother’s womb.
I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made;
    your works are wonderful,
    I know that full well.”

I love this verse but how well do I believe that last line:  “I know that (all that has been written in the previous verses) full well.”  Do I really believe that I am fearfully and wonderfully made?  Or do I live as though the verse reads “I’m okay and so-so made”?! Do I live in victory or defeat?  Do I live as though I couldn’t possibly be used because I don’t look like the other crayons in the box?

I may not look like the other crayons in the Crayola/Christian box but I am unique.  I’m a unique “color”!  God has given me legs that work, eyes that see, a brain that works..occasionally!  He has given me a heart to feel deeply and love others.  A spirit to adore Him and want to become more like Him even though I mess up daily.

What about you?  Do you ever feel like this little broken orange crayon?  Feeling like you’re not worthy to even wear the title “Daughter/Son of the King”?  Not deserving to claim to be a Christian? Or do you feel that you need to become like those perfectly sharpened other crayons before you can even begin a relationship with the loving Artist?  Feeling like you are so far away from the crayon box that you’ll never get there?  Thankfully, God, the Great Artist can use all of His little crayons: broken or whole.  And unlike me, He loves all of His “crayons” no matter what they look like or how they perform.

As I was looking up the verse from Psalms 139, this was the verse of the day on Bible Gateway:

Ephesians 2:10 (NIV) “For we are God’s handiwork, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do.”

Coincidence?  I don’t believe so. So with that being said, I’m logging off to finish cleaning the living room.  Ooooohhhh, is that a coloring book under the couch?!  Maybe I’ll just grab my box of imperfect crayons and color for a while.

 

 

 

Rest Stop Ahead, Please Pull Over!

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I think Mark and I may be part gypsy! We love being on the road looking for a new adventure or a new place to explore. On our travels to Maine and New Brunswick, Canada, it seems as though we like we stop at the same rest stops or visitor’s centers: there’s the visitor center in Kittery, West Gardner, Bangor and Medway.

In the summer of 2014, Mark, Kaitlyn and I drove from Kenny and Kelly’s place in New Berlin, WI to Chambersburg, PA in one day. Fourteen hours of driving! It was the longest distance that I’ve ever driven in one day. Trust me, we took plenty of stops for me to get out, stretch, get a caffeinated drink and get some fresh air. There were times during the day when I would tell Mark “I don’t think I can drive another mile!” or “I think I’m going to doze off if I don’t stop and get something to drink!” We were so eager to get as close to our destination, Gettysburg, that I was pushing us to get as much distance covered as possible.

Hang on because I’m switching subjects rapidly but you’ll see where I’m going in a couple of minutes.

Lately, I feel as though this road trip called “life” has been too long. I’m feeling drained, worn out and just ready to hop off the next exit and hang up my keys. Yesterday I sat down to read my Bible. I’m ashamed to say that it’s been 9 days since I’ve read it. I took out my reading plan (I’m reading through the Bible this year) and opened up to 1 Kings. The reading covers the ministry of Elijah. What a guy. You know it’s amazing what God can accomplish when just one person listens and obeys the word of God….but I digress.  Elijah was a prophet of God. He wasn’t always popular with those who were the recipient of God’s message. In 1 Kings, we see Elijah feeling a little concerned about his life and his standing in the popularity contest with Jezebel, King Ahab’s wife. Basically he wasn’t even in last place in the contest, Jezebel wanted his neck!

I Kings 19: 7 & 8a

                The angel of the LORD came back a second time and touched him and said “Get up and eat, for the journey is too much for you.” So he (Elijah) got up and ate and drank. Strengthened by that food, he traveled forty days and forty nights until he reached Horeb, the mountain of God.

Now, in no way am I comparing my life or my struggles with Elijah! But what spoke to me is the message from the angel to Elijah: “The journey is too much for you! You need to eat and drink.” And then I feel God tap me on the shoulder and whisper, “Terry, this journey of life is too much sometimes. That’s when you need to pull over, eat and drink and rest!” Going 9 days without reading my bible depletes me. My spiritual gas tank needs to be filled daily. I wouldn’t start out on a journey in my van without filling up, how much more important is it to start off my day with my spiritual gas tank filled?! Elijah’s food was actual food and drink. In my spiritual life, my food is the Word of God and my drink is the Holy Spirit. Why do I think that I can go through the days without those key elements helping me out?

I can tell when my tank is getting dangerously low and I’m getting weary. Why do I use my bible and the Holy Spirit as my own Spiritual AAA? These tools I’ve been given shouldn’t be used “In Case of Emergency”! They should be used as preventive maintenance. Ugh, I feel as though some days I’m back in Drivers Ed. Instead of exhibiting the skills I’ve learned over the 40+ years of driving this road called the Christian Life. I’m so thankful that God is a God of patience and that He never gives up and stamps a big “FAILED” on my spiritual driver’s license.

 

Hello, my name is…..

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It’s been a while since I’ve written on my blog.  Trust me, it’s not because God hasn’t been “tapping me on my shoulder”!  He’s been teaching me a lot lately.  Some of the things He’s been trying to teach me…well, let’s just say that it’s basically same lesson, different day!  I’m such a slow learner.  But one lesson that I’m learning over and over is the voices in my head are not what God would want me to be hearing. Following is a testimony that I gave at church recently.  I think there are many of us that struggle with what I’m about to share.  Hopefully the lesson that I am learning encourages you.  🙂

Recently, I shared with a “sister” of mine an error I had made at work and apparently I was pretty hard on myself. She stopped me and said “You put yourself down quite often.”   Really? I took this to heart and told her that I was going to work on correcting that. She is now holding me accountable.

That evening, I told Mark what my friend had said. On several occasions, Mark has told me that “You are not what that family member said you are!” I think when you are told something enough times, you start to believe it and not question it.

The next morning, on my way to work, I drove by a young man riding his bicycle. It was an extremely cold morning and I noticed that he was not wearing gloves and his hands were bright red from the cold. As I drove by this young man, I heard God say to me “Give that man some gloves.”   What?! I’m already running kinda late and if this guy didn’t know enough to grab some gloves on this frigid morning, well, I’m sorry but I needed to get to work so I just kept going. And then I heard God say again “Give that man some gloves.” So I turned around and drove back past where I had seen this man riding his bike. I turned around once again and pulled over on the side of the road. He had “just happened” to pull over and was standing by his bike. I rolled down my window and said “Ummm, excuse me. Would you like some gloves?” He asked “Excuse me?” Again I asked him if he would like a pair of gloves. After looking both ways, he approached my van and I passed him Mark’s gloves. He told me that he really appreciated the gloves and that he was going to pray for me! I told this young man that I would pray for him, too. And then he asked me “Are you a believer?!” I told him that I was and he told me that he was also a believer. I waited to make sure that he was safely back across the road and then I continued on my way to work. And then it hit me! The Creator of the Universe spoke to me! God! God speaks to me. Who am I to tear down or put down someone whom God loves and wants to interact with.

About 4 months ago, Pastor Jeff was preaching on the power of the tongue. He shared with us that he asked his staff “When you do something that isn’t wise, what’s the word that comes to you about yourself when you do that?” He used the words “Idiot” “Dummy”. Pastor said that we use these words because we have probably heard these words spoken to us. That really hit home as these are just some of the words that I had heard growing up by some family members. After the message, I shared with Pastor what had just happened that past week with my boss, the bicyclist and the gloves.

I am not who people say I am. I’m not even what I say to myself. I need to remember that I am a Child of the King! And the King speaks to his daughter.

Trust me, I’m still struggling with this lesson.  Weekly I have to remind myself that I’m not who people have said I am. It’s a constant battle to erase those names that have been written on my “Hello, my name is…” name tag. But thankfully, I belong to the One who has given me a new name.

 

 

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