Friends – As Iron Sharpens Iron – Queen of Ordinary – Dec. 25, 2014

DSCN7582Friends are one of life’s greatest gifts.

I’ve always known that.  I may not be rich in $$$, but I am certainly wealthy in relationships and friends in particular.

I’ve learned over the years that people who come into our lives are often only passing through.  If we try to keep the ones who were not meant to stay, it only brings heartache to them, to us, or both.  I’ve adopted the mindset and the prayer, “Lord, bring into my life people who are put there by your purpose.  Bless our time together and help us to learn and grow from the time we spend together.  When Your purpose is fulfilled and our paths no longer coincide, help me to release them into your love and care, and then move on.”

I have spent a lot of time grieving over people who chose not to stay in my life.  I’m finished with that.  Instead, I choose to celebrate the ones who do and try to keep my heart open to make room for new friends.

The Bible promises in Proverbs 27:17 “Iron sharpeneth iron; so a man sharpeneth the countenance of his friend.”

Proverbs 27:6 says, “Faithful [are] the wounds of a friend; but the kisses of an enemy [are] deceitful.”

A true friend is a great gift.  I don’t want a bunch of flatterers in my life, or backbiters.  I want people who challenge me, believe the best in me, and hold me to account when I need it.  A true friend will not be afraid to love us, share their hearts with us, and tell us the truth when we need to hear it even when it might be something we don’t want to hear.  Sometimes we might “rub” each other in an uncomfortable honesty, but that is one of the many benefits of true friends – As iron sharpens iron…  We become stronger, sharper, better because of the contact.  We encourage each other in our faith, celebrate our victories, and mourn our losses.  We grow because of each other.

As I close another Christmas season, I am truly thankful for the friends in my life.DSCN7670

Children Say the Sweetest Things – Queen of Ordinary – December 24, 2014

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Children process information with such a sweet innocence, it’s hard to guess what they are going to do or say next.  I have an eighteen month old granddaughter and a three year old grandson.  They are both in awe of the Christmas season, Santa, and Elf on the Shelf (which they have named Jinx).  They are in awe of the Christmas season and all that it entails.  The Grinch, Polar Express, Rudolph, and all the rest are flooding into their little brains.  I can’t help be concerned about the true meaning of Christmas getting crowded out.

A few days ago I was tucking my grandson in and he got my face in both hands and said, “Gran, are you an angel?”  What a notion!  “No, I’m not an angel, but God is my really good friend, and I am His friend.:  This seemed to satisfy him very well.  He is quite “friend” conscious right now.

I told him we could talk to God any time we wanted and God would always hear our prayers.  It was quite an amazing thing to him.  He wanted to pray… three times.  He told God about all of the Christmas festivities at school, his friends, and so on.  After the third time he said, “Gran, I don’t think He’s listening.  I’m talking to Him, but he isn’t talking to me.  I can’t hear Him.”

I assured Him that most of the time God listens and lets us say what is in our heart to Him, but when He has something special to tell us, we will hear Him when He speaks to us.

Isn’t that like an adult?  We talk and talk and talk to God, but the instant we are finished, if we don’t get an immediate response, we think He isn’t listening.

The next night we had a party to attend at his mother’s family.  There were lots of people I didn’t know and most I had only met briefly over the years.  My grandson walked up in the middle of the chatter and said, “GRAN!”  Everyone got silent because he looked like he had something very important to say.  “YOU ARE BEAUTIFUL!” he said with all sincerity.  I scooped him up in hugs and kisses.  Never mind who else was there.

He was seeing me with his heart and THAT was the best Christmas present I could have ever hoped for from him.

In that same way, God sent His Son, Jesus Christ, to dwell among men, to speak the truth of God, and to see men’s hearts with love.  HE is the best gift the world will ever know, and we can only see Him, truly see Him, with our hearts.

2008_1108WB2Wedding0229 Glory to God in the highest, Peace on Earth, good will to men!

Merry Christmas to all!

Ugly Christmas Sweaters – Queen of Ordinary – December 16, 2014

I didn’t take photos tonight at our church ladies’ annual Christmas party and ugly sweater contest.  Talk about craziness!  The prize for first place was $50.00.  These ladies weren’t after the money as much as an opportunity to express their creative craziness.  It was all in fun.  A lot of time and energy had been spent on “outdoing” each other.  The laughter was worth it, I’m sure.

I would love to see Ugly sweater photos if anyone wants to share.  🙂

When I pulled up the topic on Google, there were over 19 million sites!  What used to painful to have to wear because someone gave it to us as a gift is now a raging fad.  The uglier, the better.

Let’s see some photos!

Deck the Halls – Queen of Ordinary – December 15, 2014

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I did not put a tree up this year for a number of reasons, but I truly love Christmas decorations.  Everyone has such great individual styles.  It is a holiday where creative expression is always cheerful and reflects the decorator’s personality.

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From the traditional, antique, sports teams, and even modernistic, I love seeing how people deck their halls. Fa la la la la… la la la la!

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Exoskeletons – Are You Wearing One? – Queen of Ordinary – dec. 8, 2104

IMG_1581  Are you wearing an exoskeleton?

I was sitting in church yesterday and had a momentary vision of people with insect shells on their back and chest over top of their clothes with a regular little human heads, arms, and legs.  It was a crazy image until I realized that so many of us are wearing an exoskeleton, trying to protect ourselves from the hurtful things other people say and do to us in life.  There is little protection in life from an exoskeleton.  It doesn’t work in insects and it doesn’t work for us when a big enough predator comes along.

The photo above is from a locust, who shed its exoskeleton on my front porch.   It is the perfect image of the locust, but such a thin and flimsy thing.  If you’ve ever walked through the woods after a locust outbreak, their shed exoskeletons will be all over the ground and sound like walking on potato chips as they break apart beneath your feet.

IMG_1881 (2)  Only an insect needs and exoskeleton.

We are to put on the whole armor of God.

Our human skin is very vulnerable as well as our human hearts.  We are emotionally vulnerable.  Our hearts are easily wounded and usually wounded most by those closest to us.  But the Bible offers a covering that will protect us and help us deflect the fiery darts of the enemy.

Ephesians 6:11-18King James Version (KJV)

11 Put on the whole armour of God, that ye may be able to stand against the wiles of the devil.

12 For we wrestle not against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this world, against spiritual wickedness in high places.

13 Wherefore take unto you the whole armour of God, that ye may be able to withstand in the evil day, and having done all, to stand.

14 Stand therefore, having your loins girt about with truth, and having on the breastplate of righteousness;

15 And your feet shod with the preparation of the gospel of peace;

16 Above all, taking the shield of faith, wherewith ye shall be able to quench all the fiery darts of the wicked.

17 And take the helmet of salvation, and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God:

Growing Old Together is a Blessing Not All Get to Enjoy – Queen of Ordinary – December 5, 2014

2008_1108WB2Wedding0344  Not everyone has the joy of growing old with their love.

“Grow old along with me! The best is yet to be, the last of life, for which the first was made. Our times are in his hand who saith, ‘A whole I planned, youth shows but half; Trust God: See all, nor be afraid!” – Robert Browning

One of the sweetest things I saw on my trip to Scotland was the way elderly couples walked down the street holding hands.  My mom and dad still do that at age 83 and 81.  I love seeing elderly couples who are still in love.

Some don’t get to experience this because of singleness, widowhood, or divorce.  I’ve been single for a very long time.  I’ve been busy in my single years, but there is part of me that still longs for God to send a precious man into my life to be my friend, my companion, my love and let us grow old together side by side.

Billy Graham and his wife have been a good example of growing old together.  This is what he says about aging.  “When granted many years of life, growing old in age is natural, but growing old with grace is a choice. Growing older with grace is possible for all who will set their hearts and minds on the Giver of grace, the Lord Jesus Christ.”

If you are growing old with someone you love, please know that you are truly blessed.

Birthdays – Queen of Ordinary – December 4, 2014

How time flies!  Today is my birthday and I can hardly believe I’m this age.  I blinked, it seems, and decades vanished.  It has been a good year, although there is always a balance of happy and sad, good and bad, challenges and victories.  It is the beginning of a new phase in my life and I can’t wait to see what God has in store in the next few years of my life.

I am thankful to have had the life I was given.  It hasn’t turned out the way I had hoped it would YET, but I’ve had plenty of wonderful people in my life through the years, great family, good friends, and interesting experiences.

Since I’m still here, I can only assume that God isn’t finished with me yet.  What is my destiny?  Why am I here in this time and this place?  What business do I have yet undone?

I believe there are still adventures and opportunities ahead that will surprise me.  Life has a way of doing that to us.

I have learned a few things in my years, but there is so much left to learn.  I have loved many people, but there are many more to love..  I have tried to serve God with all of my heart since I was a child, but there is more of my heart to give and more ways I can serve.  I have dreamed many dreams and had them come to pass, but I have probably never dreamed big enough.  I have been judgmental at times, but never as tough on anyone else as I am on myself.  I’ve had some successes, but I am daily reminded of my shortcomings. I am not rich in money, but I am rich in people.

I have tried to be good, but I know that my goodness is not what counts.  As humans we are all flawed and imperfect creatures.  We can never be good enough under our own efforts alone.

It is the goodness of God, His love, His mercy, His purpose, His design for my future, His paths that are most important to me in this life.  At the end of my days, when no more birthdays are waiting for me on this side of heaven, I hope to hear God say, “Well done, my good and faithful servant.”  That new day, that birthday in eternity will be the best ever.

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Death Is But a Pause – Queen of Ordinary – December 3, 2014

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The light is fading now.  I must away.  The distant sound of bagpipes at play.  To sleep I must away.  It was early morning on 22 March, 2000.  She died on an artist’s day.  The sun was shining.  The sky was blue.  A sleep you shall have.  A rest you must take and our parting shall be but a pause.

This tombstone was in a random graveyard along the way of our Celtic tour.  I’m so glad I took a photo of it.  Someone’s love clearly rested beneath.  I loved the line, “Our parting shall be but a pause.”

My aunt, Elsie Hamlin Hensley, was laid to rest today at the age of 91.  She was such a lovely person.  She loved people, loved to cook and make people welcome, and loved to laugh.  She had not been her true self for the last several years due to dementia and resided in a nursing home.  Her hair still had some natural color and she had almost no wrinkles – EVER.  But what I remember most was the sound of her voice and her laughter.

My mother’s family had 16 children, and my father’s 14.  I have a lot of aunts, uncles, and cousins.  Through the years we have lost many, but I am always comforted by the belief that our parting is only temporary.  I plan to spend eternity with them in heaven.

First of all, I must run my own race, finish my course, and fulfill my purpose and destiny on this planet before I get my promotion from this life to the next.  It seems that time accelerates with each passing year.  We are pilgrims and strangers only passing through this life on our way to the next.

John 14:1 – 6  Let not your heart be troubled:  ye believe in God, believe also in me.  In my Father’s house are many mansions:  if it were not so, I would have told you.  I go to prepare a place for you. And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again, and receive you unto myself; that where I am, there ye may be also.  And whither I go ye know, and the way ye know.

Thomas saith unto him, Lord, we know not whither thou goest; and how can we know the way?

Jesus saith unto him, “I am the way, the truth, and the life:  no man cometh unto the Father, but by me.”

Facing a Fear of Heights at Snowden, Wales – Queen of Ordinary – December 1, 2014

IMG_1188 IMG_1189  Snowden, Wales

There are some things that frighten me, but fear of heights is probably at the top of the list.  These photos were taken on top of Snowden – the tallest mountain in Wales.  We rode a train up, but still had a ways to walk and up a lot of stairs to reach the absolute summit.  As close as I was to the top, I was afraid to make those last 10 – 20 stone stairs, but our travel guide and my travel companions came back for me and I went to the top of the top with them.  I was as tense as a mouse trap, but once I came back down from the last flight of stairs, I was awfully glad I had done it and swallowed my fear.

In my heart I knew that God doesn’t want us to be prisoners of our fears.  I could have just as easily “set it out,” but I was too stubborn to let my fears overcome my faith in God’s ability to help me.

Another place where I had to fight through the fear was the Carrick-a-Rede rope bridge which seemed like at least 100 feet above the cliffs and surging ocean below.  I wrote about that experience in a previous post.

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The William Wallace Monument was another challenge with over 250 spiral stairs straight up and then the same coming back down.  The rooftop tour of Penrhyn Castle also required a long climb up spiral stairs to the rooftop and then a view from the top of the castle.

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How did I find the courage to do these terrifying things?  I didn’t want to miss out on any part of our journey or fail to enjoy what the whole group experienced.

My fear of heights didn’t vanish, but I didn’t let that fear paralyze me into not doing what I wanted to do.  I kept quoting a bible verse to myself at the highest points, Philippians 4:13 – “I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.”

God Has a Sense of Humor – Queen of Ordinary – November 30, 2014

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I think God smiles more than we realize.  I’ve always heard that if we want to make God laugh, we just need to tell him our plans.

He spoke to me about something this week that cracked me up and I could honestly feel Him chuckling.

Sometimes we get so stressed out and worried about our circumstances that we make a bigger mess by trying to fix things ourselves.  I am guilty of worrying more than I praise, and fretting over things I can’t change.

There is not a single day that God starts out by saying, “Oh, NO!  What am I going to do today?  How am I going to fix the problem in (insert your name)’s life?  I better call and ask (insert any name) and see if they can tell me what I need to do!”  And this is where he chuckled.

No matter what comes our way, no matter if it shocks us, it doesn’t come as a surprise to God.  No matter how big of a mess our lives might be, God knows how to untangle the disasters if we’ll let Him.  AND He doesn’t have to ask anybody else for their advice, their opinion, or their instructions on how to do it.

Pray.  Put your needs before the Lord.  TRUST.  God is big enough to handle anything we put before Him….