Camp Out: A Woman’s Search for Comfort

Sometimes you just need to camp out. Image When troubles beyond my control seem to come from all sides and my heart is heavy, I find a quiet place and camp out in the book of Psalms.

Those pages are now worn and well notated from many years of seeking comfort and respite there.  Favorite verses are underlined, and they are like old friends greeting me back as I scan through the beloved chapters looking for words to cling to, to strengthen faith, to restore hope.  My notes written here and there remind me of long-ago struggles since resolved.

When I go to the Psalms, I know I will find what is needed for my soul to meditate on to fight the battles raging within and without in a way that will make my Father proud.

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In those pages I RECOGNIZE God’s Greatness   

          The Mighty One, God, the Lord, has spoken, And summoned the earth from the rising of the sun to its setting. 50:1

          The voice of the Lord is upon the waters; the God of glory thunders, the Lord is over many waters.  The voice of the Lord is powerful, the voice of the Lord is majestic.

His voice alone is powerful!  I need some of that.  I crawl up on my Father’s lap, and ask Him to tell me more.         

          Who is the King of glory?  The Lord strong and mighty, the Lord mighty in battle.  24:8

He will fight for me, and no one can beat my Father!  He tells me that nothing and no one is bigger than He, and that He has ultimate control over all, big and small.

          The Lord nullifies the counsel of the nations; He frustrates the plans of the peoples.  33:10

Oh and there are so many more Psalms that describe His mightiness and strength!  Recognizing who my God is puts everything back into perspective.

I REMIND myself of my smallness

       OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA    When I consider Thy heavens, the work of Thy fingers, the moon and the stars, which Thou has ordained; what is man, that Thou dost take thought of him?  And the son of man, that Thou dost care for him?  8:3-4

For He Himself knows our frame; He is mindful that we are but dust. 103:14

He knows my limits, and He is mindful.  I think of a mother with her child.  Mindful that her child is small.  Mindful that her child needs her care and nurturing.

For He is our God, And we are the people of His pasture and the sheep of His hand. Ps 95:7

I am under His watchful eye, just as a shepherd guarding his flock.  I may be weak, but I am under His constant supervision.

What else, Lord?  I continue to scan the pages.

I REPENT any sin

Keep me away from willful sins; let them not rule over me; then I shall be blameless, and I shall be acquitted of great sin.  19:13

Have I unconfessed sin?

Search me, O God, and know my heart; Try me and know my anxious thoughts; And see if there be any hurtful way in me, And lead me in the everlasting way. 139:23, 24

What God brings to mind, I must repent of.

Look upon my affliction and my trouble, and forgive all my sins.  25:18

For Thy name’s sake, O Lord, pardon my iniquity, for it is great. 25:11

I’m on a roll now.  And my heart isn’t quite so heavy.

I REJOICE in God’s lovingkindess

Many are the sorrows of the wicked; but he who trusts in the Lord, lovingkindness shall surround him.  32:10

Lovingkindness!  It means tenderness and consideration toward us.  There is a whole chapter in the book of Psalms with 26 versus that repeat “His lovingkindness is everlasting.”  And all I have to do is trust Him!  That makes me glad.

Thy lovingkindness, O Lord, extends to the heavens, Thy faithfulness reaches to the skies. 36:5

The eyes of the Lord are toward the righteous, and His ears are open to their cry.  34:15 

God’s eyes are on the righteous.  Who are they?  They are those of us who have put our faith in Christ, whose righteousness is credited to our account and makes us righteous in God’s sight.  Halleluia.  More good news!  So His eyes are toward me, and He listens to my cry.

Many are the afflictions of the righteous; but the Lord delivers him out of them all. 34:19

My many troubles are no surprise to God.  In fact, He says we will have many.  BUT, He delivers us out of them!  Oh, how wonderful is that?

So, Lord, I Recognize Your Might and Power, and I Remember my smallness.  I Repent of my sins.  And oh how I rejoice in Your Lovingkindess.

And there is one more thing I see I must do.

I must RECEIVE God’s help

In my distress I called upon the Lord, and cried to my God for help; He heard my voice out of His temple, and my cry for help before Him came into His ears.  18:6

I pray this prayer along with the writer.  I envision my Father in His temple, walking to the window as He hears my cry for His help.  And I read:

The Lord is my rock and my fortress and my deliverer, my God, my rock in whom I take refuge; my shield and the horn of my salvation, my stronghold.  18:2

fortressAnd I go into that fortress, and let Him battle those troubles that are out of my control.

The Lord also will be a stronghold for the oppressed, a stronghold in times of trouble, and those who know Thy name will put their trust in Thee; for Thou, O Lord, hast not forsaken those who seek Thee.  9:8-10

I am seeking You, Lord.  Only You can fix things; fix people; fix relationships.  Just show me what You would have me to do.

I have set the Lord continually before me; because He is at my right hand, I will not be shaken.  Therefore my heart is glad, and my glory rejoices; my flesh also will dwell securely.  16:8,9

He cares about my whole being; my heart and my personal safety.  How great He is.

Hear, O Lord, and be gracious to me; O Lord, be Thou my helper.  Thou hast turned for me my mourning into dancing; Thou hast loosed my sackcloth and girded me with gladness; that my soul may sing praise to Thee, and not be silent.  O Lord my God, I will give thanks to Thee forever. 30:10-12

My camp out was well worth the time.  I am thankful to the Lord for our special time together, just He and I.

Blessed be the Lord, because He has heard the voice of my supplication.  The Lord is my strength and my shield; my heart trusts in Him, and I am helped; therefore my heart exults, and with my song I shall thank Him.  28:6-8

Though my troubles are still there, I am refreshed with the knowledge that my God fights those battles for me and with me.  I am encouraged to not allow them to define me or my mood, and press on, with a firm hold onto God’s hand.

I sought the Lord, and He answered me, and delivered me from all my fears.  This poor man cried and the Lord heard him, and saved him out of all his troubles.  The angel of the Lord encamps around those who fear Him, and rescues them. 34:4,6-7

That would be me.  His presence surrounds me.  Oh, how protected am I!  I am awed.  I am humbled.  Camping out in the Psalms does that to a person.

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What Will Your Story Be Found to Be?

Pennsylvania: 1928. It was a beautiful fall morning. The family piled into their Model T to make the 10-mile drive to a neighboring town to visit the grandparents. The car was packed! Besides the four of them, a brother-in-law and a boarder in their home were along for the ride.

model t 1919Off they sputtered down the main road slowing, as usual, to look both ways before crossing the railroad tracks. All clear, they drove ahead, only to have the engine stall smack dab in the middle of the tracks.

The men had just jumped out to push when the train seemed to come out of nowhere. The slight curve in the tracks and beautiful Pennsylvania trees had hidden its approach, and the Parkersburg express was coming fast.  The men only had seconds and they desperately scrambled to get the car off the rails in time. The engineer applied his brakes with all the force he could muster. There was the deafening sound of grinding metal on metal, screams and shouts, and the train smashed into the vehicle with mother and children still inside.

The husband and brother-in-law were able to jump free of the collision. The boarder must have continued trying to push the car to safety. The impact of the train striking him was so intense, he was knocked out of his shoes. He died instantly. The woman died a few hours later. The baby died after a month. The three-year-old daughter miraculously survived. In my eyes their boarder is a hero. That man also happens to be my great-grandfather.

Most of us have a natural curiosity to know where we came from. In Star Wars, Darth Vader famously tells Luke Skywalker, “I am your father.” We’d like to know where our family originated, and when and why they came to America. We want to know their story.

If you have ever read through the Bible, you cannot help but see that God is big on family lines. All those lists of names and who begat who are enough to make anyone’s mind wander. What in the world is the purpose for chapter upon chapter of people’s names? There are very good reasons God included them in His inspired word.

We’ve all heard someone say that the stories in the Bible are really just myths – in other words, none of it actually happened. But how many mythological stories have you read that have extensive family trees inserted within them? The family trees in the Bible build upon the other and verify the other, even though the Bible was written by at least 39 authors over a period of 1,500 years! Any reader of the entire Scriptures with an ounce of common sense would have to come away with the fact that the Bible is a history of the Christian faith, and not a fairy tale. Genealogies aren’t exactly bestsellers!

The genealogies we find in the Bible also show us how much importance God places on the family unit and heritage. He chose to work out His will for mankind within a family unit. He didn’t drop Jesus to earth like the mythical Thor to save us from the wicked Satan. Jesus was born on this earth into a family. Is it no wonder the enemy works so hard to pit husband against wife and children against parents? Satan desires to destroy the families through which God so desires to further His purposes.

Though skeptics claim the Bible is full of stories and myths, we hear very little questioning about whether Jesus ever existed. The lineage of Christ in Matthew testifies to the fact that he was a real person, as well as verifies the fulfillment of Old Testament prophecy. God left a well-marked path for us from the Old Testament to the New.

Those extensive lists of names and begats point to the very personal nature of God, as well. Before Christ, the lineage of the Jewish people determined their land allotment. God could have named the tribes “Tribe A, “ Tribe B’, “Tribe C” and so on, and then have each person draw a name out of a hat to determine where they would belong. The Nazis used numbers rather than names in the concentration camps because the Jews were just worthless things to them. God named each tribe after the name of the first leader of the tribe.  He knew who their children were, by name. And their grandchildren.  God’s inclusion of all of those lists of names reminds us that He calls all of us by name to be part of his family. 1 John 3:1 says “see how great a love the Father has bestowed on us, that we would be called children of God; and such we are.” Romans 11 using the analogy of a tree and branches to show us that, when we, as non-Jews are in Christ, we are grafted onto that tree; permanently adopted, into His family tree!

Realizing why the genealogies are so important to God, and to us, should make reading through those tongue-twisting names just a bit easier!

Thankfully the Bible isn’t just made up of lists of names. God tells us the fascinating life stories of many of His children – Adam and Eve, Noah and the Ark, David and Goliath, Peter and Paul. In fact, the whole Bible is one big story about God’s children and His plan to save them from themselves. The good, the bad and the ugly; the proud and reckless; the redeemed and humbled.

We are often taught that our behavior should be such that those around us see as a Christians. And many of us give some thought to how we want to be remembered by our loved ones – by our children and grandchildren – leaving them a Godly heritage. But what about when everyone who knows us is also gone? After finding the newspaper article online about my great-grandfather’s accident I found myself thinking, How Do I Want to be Found?

Our stories will be out there to be found by future generations. You may not care to know about any of your ancestors, and that is perfectly fine. But I guarantee you, one day 85 years from now, if the Lord should tarry, one of your great-great grandchildren or great-great nieces or nephews, like me, will.

I discovered that my great uncle did time in prison for armed robbery. And also that he didn’t continue his life of crime once released, but instead remarried and was a member of a church. What will your story be found to be?

Each passing year, we leave behind clues that testify to who we are. If I can find out something about a great uncle’s imprisonment and church membership from the 1920s, imagine what future generations will be able to find out about us in this information age! Are we leaving a pathway that will glorify God and encourage our yet unborn generations to seek Christ?

‘Okay,’ you say. ‘That’s a bit overboard! How do we do this with everything else we have on our plate? Now we are supposed to purposely drop clues for some future generations to follow and discover?’ This isn’t labor intensive! It is simply being intentional about whether you eat or drink, or whatever you do, do it all for the glory of God. (1 Cor 10:31).  It is about loving the Lord your God with all of your heart, soul and mind.

Remember that every word you write on paper, facebook, email or text, has the opportunity to be discovered and read by someone. Are your words gracious? If you don’t have anything nice to say, don’t say it! especially on paper. Ever. Think about every photo you allow to be taken of you.  Unless it is erased before posting or developed and burned, it has the opportunity to be seen by someone. What does that photo say about you to someone wanting to discover your story? And be cognizant that every google search has the capability of being discovered, which shouldn’t be a problem unless you should be ashamed of what you are googling. You can erase it from your computer’s history, but google keeps it.

Solomon in his later years cynically said we should just eat, drink and be merry, because tomorrow we die. In other words, when we are dead, we are dead. My life doesn’t mean a hill of beans. It’s only the NOW that is important. That is the motto of the unbeliever; the motto of the worldview who sees the Bible as a fairy tale. It’s the motto of those who believe we cease to exist rather than live eternally somewhere after we leave this earth.

In Matthew 17 Jesus shocked his disciples when they scripturewitnessed his chat with Moses and Elijah, who were very much alive, or why would Peter have wanted to build shelters for them?! Ghosts don’t need shelters.

Jesus didn’t only live as an example for those in His day, but for all seekers down the generations. The same for Peter, Paul and all of the other disciples and Christ followers who left their life stories behind.

Your story and my story, just like the stories in the Bible, will be around for as long as this earth remains. They will be there for the finding whether we choose them to be or not. Let’s live our lives today in such a way that when our stories are found, they will give a glimpse to future generations of the riches of walking with Christ.

Life’s Not Just a Box of Chocolates

We just celebrated Valentine’s Day.   We women are romantics at heart.   We love to receive gifts, and it really doesn’t matter the value of the gift – just so it’s from the heart.   Something our guy believes is going to please us.   So imagine your sweetie walks in with that oh-gosh-golly-gee look on his face and he’s hiding something behind his back.   You know better than to have expectations for diamonds or gold, but what is it?   He gives you a kiss and hands you a box with a big bow on it.   Your favorite candy?!   “Oh, honey,” you say.   “You shouldn’t have!”   You open it up, and … it’s a box of VEGETABLES.   “This is how you tell me you love me?” you ask.

That’s kind of how it feels reading and studying portions of the Old Testament.   It’s like getting vegetables when you’d rather have a box of chocolates.   “Really, Lord?   Why do I need to know this way ancient history?   I’d much rather spend my time in Philippians or Ephesians, or the gospel of John.   You know, those parts of the Bible that make me feel good and blessed.”

I make myself eat my vegetables because I am convinced they are good for me, not because I love them.   I really don’t think I would miss them if we suddenly found out that they weren’t good for us after all!   You wouldn’t find me sneaking a brussel sprout when no one was looking.   No, I would much rather fill myself up all day long with whole grains and fruits and diary products… oh, and sweets.   Yummm!   What makes it so very difficult to day after day and year after year continue to eat vegetables, especially now that I don’t want the extra calories of cooking them in butter or dipping them in Ranch dressing, is the fact that I derive no immediate benefit.   All those vitamins and minerals and fiber and whatnot are invisible.   If it were only like Popeye when he ate his can of spinach… Wow!   Now then eating vegetables would be more encouraging!   But that ain’t gonna happen.   So I must accept, by faith, that nutritionists are correct.   And I bet everyone who eats healthy foods also accepts by faith that we are better off eating a balanced diet and limiting desserts!

Now, granted, because I have eaten relatively healthy for my entire life, if I just went rogue and started eating whatever my little heart desires, it wouldn’t be long before I would notice that I do not feel as well as I used to.   But what about those unfortunates who weren’t brought up being made to eat their vegetables or they had to go without dessert, and not being allowed to eat a steady diet of fast foods?   Those folks have no idea how much better they would eventually feel if they ate right.   Therefore they continue to eat only the things that please them at the moment and completely miss out on the benefits of a balanced diet.

I think it is much the same with the Bible.   It isn’t derogatory to say that many parts of the Old Testament are akin to eating your proverbial vegetables whether you want to or not (ooh, that is what my mom used to say!).   So I thought it would be a good idea to reinforce just why it is important that we read and study the whole Bible, and not just the parts we like best.

First, just for fun (!), let’s review what makes up our Bible.

In the Old Testament, we have

  • 17 Historical books, recounting the rise and fall of the Hebrew Nation.
  • 5 Poetical books recounting the Nation’s Golden Age
  • 17 Prophetic books telling of the Nation’s Dark Days

In the New Testament we have

  • 4 Gospels, the Good News of the Man produced out of the Nation
  • The Acts of the Apostles, the beginning of the Church
  • 21 Epistles that lay out His teachings and principles
  • The Revelation, forecasting the future Victory of the Church led by Christ.

-The Old Testament is an account of a Nation – the Nation of Israel.

-The New Testament is an account of a Man – Jesus Christ.

-The Nation, Israel, was founded and nurtured of God to bring the Man, Jesus, into the world.

Here is what a few well-known historical figures have said about the Bible:

Abraham Lincoln said, “I believe the Bible is the best gift God has ever given to man.  All the good from the Savior of the world is communicated to us through this book.”

George Washington, “It is impossible to rightly govern the world without God and the Bible.”

Napoleon (Napoleon?  Really?  Wow!), “The Bible is no mere book, but a Living Creature, with a power that conquers all that oppose it.”

Patrick Henry, “The Bible is worth all other books which have ever been printed.”

John Quincy Adams (this one is my favorite quote), “So great is my veneration for the Bible that the earlier my children begin to read it the more confident will be my hope that they will prove useful citizens of their country and respectable members of society.  I have for many years made it a practice to read through the Bible once every year.”

In the history of the church, the enemy of our souls has always sought to keep people from God’s Word.  Even the Old Testament Law!

In the book of Nehemiah, a remnant returned to Jerusalem after many, many years in exile.  The people stood for hours to listen to the Law of Moses being read and explained by Ezra, many probably having never heard it before.  What they learned made them weep with joy and sadness.  Joy because they were again God’s people, and it was so good to have that wonderful identity again, and sadness because they had not been obedient to Him for a very, very long time.  The people then and there repented and began to obey the Word they had heard.

Over and over again in the Old Testament, the nation of Israel drifted away from the Law of Moses due to their own disregard, their own wicked kings and priests, and due to being in exile in pagan lands.  And each time the Law of Moses was dug out and dusted off and read, there would be revival.  Revival from reading The Law of Moses!!  That is how alive God’s word is.

Often in church history the established church itself repressed the Word of God.  During New Testament times, the leaders of the Jewish Synagogues taught that their traditions and rules were equal with the Law of Moses, and put burdens of obedience to every tiny rule and law that were impossible to follow.  Jesus had some very harsh words to say to the Pharisees about that.

During the Dark Ages, the Roman Church, more of a political entity than what we would think of as a church, actually prohibited the distribution of the Bible among the people, even putting to death anyone who read the Bible!  Translations of the Bible were forbidden, and translated Bibles were burned when found, and those found with the translated Bible were burned with them.

The devout of that era were in bondage to whatever the church decreed, an example of which was the requirement of the payment of indulgences.  Indulgences were payments made for personal sins committed, as well as the sins of those who had died, according to the priests, unforgiven.  If you were the nobility, or wealthy, you could sin all you want, as long as you could afford to pay the piper!

Purgatory was taught to be a kind of waiting place between heaven and hell, but was more like hell than heaven.  The only way to release your loved ones was the payment of exorbitant sums to the church.  It was said, “As soon as your coin clinks in the chest the souls of your friends will rise out of Purgatory into Heaven.”  If you did not have enough money, and the majority of peasants had next to nothing, you were allowed toyou’re your indulgence by fighting in the Crusades, a risky endeavor, or by turning in a neighbor for heresy.  Obviously this was a fearful and desperate time.

Martin Luther, a German monk, found a Bible and began reading it.  Do you know what specific Scripture it was that compelled Martin Luther to risk going against the status quo?  To risk his life?  He was reading the book of Romans.  He read, “The just shall live by faith.” Rom 1:17.  The New Living Translation says it this way: “This Good News tells us how God makes us right in his sight. This is accomplished from start to finish by faith. As the Scriptures say, “It is through faith that a righteous person has life.” 

The author of Romans was reciting a verse from the Old Testament, Habakkuk 2:4.  It was the Old Testament prophet, Habakkuk, who was first inspired to write those words that opened the eyes of Martin Luther to see, at last, that salvation was to be gained by trust in God through Christ alone.  There was no need to purchase salvation by buying indulgences.  Salvation wasn’t earned or found in rituals or sacraments or penances.  Salvation was a gift.  Habakkuk knew it centuries before Christ was even born.  The book of Habakkuk is as alive as the book of Romans.  Peace and enlightenment washed over Martin Luther and changed his whole life.  And the lives of every Christian since.

It was the Bible in the hands of the people that brought the world out of the Dark Ages and bondage.  Copies of the Bible began to be printed and dispersed all over Germany and translated into the German language so the common man could read it.  Europe was set on fire because of the Word of God!  Because of the Reformation, protestants and Catholics alike can now own, read and study the Word of God for themselves without fear of reprisal from the church.

If you want to learn more about Martin Luther and the Reformation, I highly recommend the DVD, Luther: The Movie.  It is very good, and helps us to appreciate the fact that we have the precious Word of God because of men and women who laid their lives on the line so it could be available to all who wanted a copy of it.

Now let’s look at three more reasons the entire Bible is worthy of our time to read and to study:

  1.  Paul the Apostle, inspired by the Holy Spirit, says so!

Paul writes to Timothy: “You have known the holy Scriptures, which are able to make you wise for salvation through faith in Christ Jesus.  All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting, and training for righteousness, so that the man of God may be thoroughly equipped for every good work.”  2 Tim 3:15-17.

“You have known the holy Scriptures..”  Since the New Testament was yet to be written and compiled, what Scriptures was Paul talking about here?  The Old Testament!  Paul, inspired by the Holy Spirit, says the Old Testament Scriptures “are able to make you wise for salvation through faith in Christ Jesus”!  The Old Testament tells of salvation through faith in Jesus?  Yes!  Halley says this about the Bible:

“The whole Bible is God’s Word, all One Story, a literary structure of profound and marvelous unity, centered around Christ.  Christ is the heart and climax of the Bible.  All that goes before is in one way or another anticipatory of Him.  All that comes after is interpretive of Him.  The whole Bible may very properly be called the Story of Christ.  The Old Testament paves the way for His coming.  The four gospels tell the story of His earthly life, the epistles explain His teachings, and Revelation, His triumph.”

  1.  Jesus says so!

After Jesus was raised from the dead and before he ascended into heaven, he appeared to many people.  Two of His followers were leaving Jerusalem and were walking on the road to Emmaus when Jesus joined them and began walking along with them and talking.  They were kept from recognizing Him.

One of them, named Cleopas, asked him, “Are you only a visitor to Jerusalem and do not know the things that have happened there in these days?”

“What things?” he asked.

“About Jesus of Nazareth,” they replied. “He was a prophet, powerful in word and deed before God and all the people.  The chief priests and our rulers handed him over to be sentenced to death, and they crucified him; but we had hoped that he was the one who was going to redeem Israel. And what is more, it is the third day since all this took place. In addition, some of our women amazed us. They went to the tomb early this morning but didn’t find his body. They came and told us that they had seen a vision of angels, who said he was alive. Then some of our companions went to the tomb and found it just as the women had said, but him they did not see.”

He said to them, “How foolish you are, and how slow of heart to believe all that the prophets have spoken! Did not the Christ have to suffer these things and then enter his glory?” And beginning with Moses and all the Prophets, he explained to them what was said in all the Scriptures concerning himself.  Luke 24:18-27

Rather than use a miracle to prove who He was, or allow Himself to be recognized so those men would believe in Him, he used the Scriptures, and those Scriptures were the Old Testament.  He made God’s Word come alive to them as never before and the Scriptures say their hearts were burning within them as He taught them.  Jesus Himself used the Old Covenant to explain the New Covenant.

  1.  The New Testament says so!

There are at least 295 separate references to the Old Testament in the New Testament.  295!  I wouldn’t call the Old Testament unnecessary or even secondary when it has been quoted at least 295 times in the New Testament!

God wrote the entire Bible because He loves us so very much.  Each book of the Bible is a love gift to us and essential for a balanced spiritual diet, whether that book is easy or hard to digest.  Yes, even Leviticus and the minor prophets!  I congratulate any of you who faithfully reading their Bibles for sticking with eating your spiritual vegetables by faith!  God is pleased, and He promises much better gifts to come!

A word of advice from one who has been eating her spiritual vegetables for over 30 years:

My two-year-old granddaughter has been sick with either pneumonia or asthma or a bad cold – no one can agree.  But she has her antibiotics and a nebulizer and her Children’s Advil and Children’s Tylenol.  She had been such a trooper with taking all of her medicines, but she decided to draw the line with that nebulizer!  I told my daughter that when all else fails, there is always M&M’s!  Because, after all, we know that just a spoonful of sugar helps the medicine go down, right?

It’s the same with the Bible.  Read a little of the Old Testament every day, and then follow that with your spoonful of sugar in the New Testament, or a Psalm, or a chapter in Proverbs.  End with a devotion that speaks to your heart, like Jesus Calling by Sarah Young.  Every day.  Why?  Because it will make you spiritually healthy and strong and enable you to walk by faith.  That is a fact and a promise!

Home Again Jiggity Jig

 

I love walking at the resort. This is the area where our unit is.

Our first stay as owners at Lawrence Welk Resort passed far too quickly.  I had looked forward to it for nearly a year after finding the exact week I wanted in the exact building I wanted on Craigslist at an incredibly low price!

Gorgeous weather.  Beautiful, relaxing views of pond, fountains and golf course.  Peace and relaxation (other than the two-year-old in the unit above us!).  A hike at nearby Daley Ranch (that kicked my bum!).  Meeting a sweet young couple at the Welk’s Festival of the Lights.  Dinner and a movie out with my Mikey (Sherlock Holmes – very good!).  Two fun days and nights with our long-time friends, Ron and Mary (golf for the guys; girl talk for us!).  Ringing in the New Year with them with an absolutely scrumptious dinner at Temecula Creek Golf Course Restaurant with a view of the golf course and setting sun following leisure window shopping in Old Town Temecula.

Lord, You have filled my cup to overflowing!

 

These beautiful bucks were only a few feet from our car as we rounded a bend on the Pala Indian Reservation. They looked us over and leaped away.

 

Here’s the Skinny(er)

Me at the Welk gym. My first visit to a gym in nearly two years!

I don’t care if I’m not as slim as I used to be.  I don’t.  I really don’t.  Oh, who am I tryin’ to kid.  Yes I do!  I do, darn it!  Ok, I don’t care if I’m not as slim as I used to be as much as I used to care, and that’s a fact.  What’s been bugging me lately is how tight my – ahem! – bra has been.  Now, that would be a good thing if I was perhaps bulging out of the top of it.  But the problem is I am straining out the bottom of the stupid thing.  Hmmm.  Weight has shifted, and that’s not good.

I am not a big eater.  Never have been.  But I love sweets.  Love them.  I could skip dinner and go straight to dessert if I was a dessert eater.  Thankfully I never got into the after-dinner dessert habit.  I live for snacks.  Crunchy snacks.  Chocolate snacks.  For the last several years I have eaten a handful of semi-sweet chocolate chips out of the bag as an after-lunch treat with my after-lunch cup of hot tea.  But now my brassier is tight.  Grrrr.

My sweet sister, who has always been the skinny one in the family, is also battling the midriff bulge (gosh that sounds awful!).  She has started a new program where she counts calories.  Imagine that!  Counting the calories you consume rather than just assuming you are not consuming more than you need and then wondering why oh why are those pounds sneaking on around the midriff.  She discovered this cool little app called My Net Diary ( https://mynetdiary.com/logonPage.do ) and downloaded it onto her iphone.  Now, I have never in my life counted my calories; nor has she.  We were blessed with good genes.  It’s time to face facts with the majority of our sex that calories do matter!  What an epiphany.  And she had lost seven pounds in a month using this app!

So, desperate to cut down belly fat and not to be outdone by my sister, I downloaded the MyNetDiary ap onto my Droid.  I filled out my profile and what I thought was a reasonable weight goal for a postmenopausal woman in her 50’s.  I thought losing a pound a week would be realistic.  The app then let me know how many calories I would need to eat each day to lose that measly pound a week.  ARE YOU KIDDING ME?  WHO CAN SURVIVE ON THAT?  I entered in what food I had eaten for the day and was shocked at how much my coveted snacks added up to in calories.  Whoa.  No wonder the waist expansion.  Especially now that I procrastinate about exercising a wee bit too often. 

It has now been two weeks and I have diligently stuck to entering in my calories.  I even upgraded to premium so I would have some “skin in the game” – i.e. money – to keep me accountable to the program.  I have lost four pounds in two weeks!  After the first week, I stopped being hungry all day and accepted the reality of being content with saying no to eating anything and everything I want.  I’m trying to add in more activity to not only quicken the weight loss but allow me to eat more – MyNetDiary keeps track of exercise calories burned, as well.  I am hoping that in a couple more weeks, I won’t be aware of my bra digging into my ribcage.    I’m a great starter.  All gung ho.  And then I quit.  I’m hoping I can – and will – stick to a more healthy lifestyle and not throw in the towel.  So, one day at a time!

Now, I’m off to take a stroll on the lovely grounds of the Lawrence Welk Resort where we are currently on vacation.  And burn a couple hundred calories so I can have a handful of chocolate chips!

I Miss Them!

Just finished a wonderful book, Major Pettigrew’s Last Stand by Helen Simonson.  The Major is an extremely proper Englishman who lives in a small village in the southern United Kingdom.  The story follows his life as he awakens from grieving over his deceased wife, who was the love of his life.  The Major must come to terms with the death of his only brother, his superficial only adult son, and his own selfishness through an unlikely friendship with a village shop woman, felt to be “below him” by his peers. 

 The author unfolds the story slowly and deliciously in such a way that one feels they, too, are a part of the slow-paced village life which is the background of the story.  Each of the characters are so real, it feels as if we could go and visit them and have a chat over tea.  I find myself thinking of them fondly throughout the day!

 This was a book I didn’t want to end.  I immediately sought more books by this author and was disappointed to find that this was her first book.  I will be sure to keep my eye out for her next lovely novel.

Is Jesus Invited?

There is just so much to do!  At an Aztec football game a couple of weeks ago, two of my girlfriends and I were talking about Christmas.  The decorating part.  We are all over it.  All over it, as in, done.  Done, as in: don’t look forward to it!  We aren’t grinches or scrooges, really.  Just tired of all of the STUFF.  Sure, much of it has to do with the fact that our children are no longer children.  One of my friends has a daughter in college and one who was recently married.  My other friend has two sons, one of which is in college and still at home; the other out on his own, but they are BOYS.  I’m the only one with grandchildren and a completely empty nest.  We were commiserating that our husbands are now the ones that want the big tree and all the trimmings!  No table-top tree for them, oh no!  And they want it all up right after Thanksgiving.  So, it is our husbands’ boyhood memories and the fact that our children will moan and groan if they come to an unChristmassy house that motivates us to spend an entire weekend decking our halls.  Bah! Humbug!  Did I just say that?  I mean, Merry Christmas Every One!  I do.  I really do!

Christmas is now, what, 10 days away.  What I wouldn’t give for those childhood days when each day felt like forever.  Time seemed to actually stand still in December.  Would Christmas never get here?  Adulthood, especially working-woman-adulthood, brings Christmas like a freight train.  It whooshes in and it whooshes out with barely time to catch a breath!

Our house may now be decorated, thanks to my little-boy husband who drug it all out of the attic the day after Thanksgiving.  But there are still gifts to buy and then to wrap.  There’s the meal to plan and guests to invite.  In fact, I’d better get on those invites TODAY!  Heavens!  My aunt and uncle are probably wondering if the Wilmers’ home is open this year!  I’ve got the house to clean, the porch to sweep and the dogs to bathe.  No one wants to share the couch with two stinky little dogs.  They probably would rather not share the couch with any dogs, let alone stinky ones! 

 My husband, blissfully unaware of all of these holiday pressures, gets nostalgic for acquaintances we haven’t seen in two years and sets up dates with them.  Now.  Right in the midst of my mind in a chaotic frenzy.  After 36 years of marriage and Christmases, he doesn’t get it.  Come to think of it, I’ve yet to hear of a husband or father that does get it.  How many men have you ever heard opine about how much they have to do before Christmas?  Nary a one, I’d bet.  It seems to be our job, and to be honest, I wouldn’t want my hubby to buy the gifts and decorate the tree.  He does a fine job with the outdoor lights.  So what if one 8-ft portion is on twinkle and one on travel while the majority is on no-twinkle, no-travel.  Let’s keep our set up the way it is!  But as my brain is ready to burst making sure I haven’t forgotten anyone or anything, making sure I get the packages to the post office, and finishing up all those Christmas cards (I have to hand sign them – even the business ones, I just do!), he’s thinking up things to do and people to see.  What a team!

Christmas.  We love it and, some of us, dread it, all in one.  And what, pray tell, do we do about Jesus?  After all, it IS His celebration.  Somewhere in all of this stress and mess, the Birthday Boy has gotten lost in the shuffle.  “Not NOW, Jesus!  Can’t you see I’m busy getting ready for Your Birthday?!”  Ouch.  Have we ever stopped to think what kind of a hostess we would be if we held a party that was far more important than the guest of honor?  Yet most Americans, even those who call themselves Christian, do just that year after year with the birthday celebration of our Savior.  In fact, many don’t even notice that Jesus doesn’t show up.  We’ve displayed our obligatory nativity scene.  Isn’t that Jesus there in the manger?

Jesus is no longer in the manger, and since this IS the birthday celebration of our Lord, how can we make him more a part it?  I have a 6-week long list of things to do before Christmas on my refrigerator.  How about making “inviting Jesus” part of that list of things to do to.  Invite Him to join us in our joy and in our drudgery.

Next on my list is calling guests to invite them to dinner and let them know what dish to bring.  I can ask Jesus: “Lord, would you bring Your love, Your grace, Your peace and Your mercy into my heart?  I want to be a light to everyone I’m in contact with this Christmas season.  It’s busy and hectic and I can’t be that light without Your help!”

Then, I’ve got to finish up the shopping and the wrapping of all of the gifts.  I can tell Him, “Lord, I am thankful for the blessings you have given us and the ability we have, though they are small this year, to give these gifts.”  As I place the gifts now ready for unwrapping under the tree, I can allow them to remind me of Jesus.  “These packages are pretty and sparkly, Lord, but You are the greatest gift of all!  Thank you, God, for the eternal gift of salvation!”

As I then sweat and stress to get the house ready for the Big Day, may it remind me to ready my heart.  “Lord, forgive the bitterness that I have toward my sister-in-law, my covetousness of all I see at the mall that I can’t buy for myself, and my worry over bills getting paid.”   As I push the vacuum cleaner and search out cobwebs, I’ll pray, “God, show me my hidden sins so that I might have a heart scrubbed clean for You on Your birthday.  Show me any sinful attitudes and desires that have crept in unnoticed and that are clogging the pipeline to experiencing Your peace and contentment.  Create in me a clean heart, oh God!”

On Christmas morning, though I had been hoping for an ipad or a pair of cute new boots, I don’t want to forget to give Jesus what He desires.  “Lord, You own the cattle on a thousand hills!  What can I give You?  I give you my heart anew today.”

Whether your Christmas is celebration is big and sparkly and over-the-top, or small and intimate by candlelight, make sure to invite the Guest of Honor.  I once read a plaque that said “Christ (or Jesus) is the unseen guest at every meal, the silent listener to every conversation.”  My prayer is that Christ would be the unseen but invited guest at our Christmas meal, and the silent but welcome listener to every conversation.”  Amen!  Merry Christmas Every One!   

It's Christmas