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

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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!

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.”

We Don’t Always Need to Question “WHY?” – Queen of Ordinary – November 6, 2014

IMG_1743  DSCN5522DSCN6843  Photos from Ireland, Scotland, and Wales

I am a person who always wants to understand the “Why?” of things.  I want to be able to logically sort through events and make sense of them.  Like a child, I usually have more questions than answers.

On a recent trip through the countries of Ireland, Scotland, England, and Wales I was tempted over and over to try to figure out the “why?” of it.  Why was I there?  Why had I had such a deep inner longing to be there for decades?  Why had God sent me on this journey?

It hit me very hard one day that if I didn’t quit trying to figure out all of the “whys” in this big adventure, that I was actually going to miss some of them.  The Holy Spirit spoke to my heart that I was supposed to enjoy the journey in the journey.

I was there to taste life in a different place, absorb as much of the beauty, the culture, the people, and the landscape as I possibly could.  It would take a very long time to seek out the whys and I could do that after I got home.  So, I let go of trying to figure it out and just enjoyed what was in front of me.  I’ve been home almost three weeks and there isn’t a day that I don’t think of something we saw or did in a new way, or process it with a new understanding.

I wonder how many other people in this world fail to enjoy the “now” instead of picking it apart looking for the “why”?  Since I consider myself to be quite ordinary, I dare say there are many others who are guilty of the same thing.

If someone hands us a gift, “Why?” should not be the first thing that comes to our mind.  When God showers His great love and gifts on us, we shouldn’t waste the gift or our time trying to figure it out.  Just enjoy.

I Corinthians 2:12 says, “12 We have not received the spirit of the world but the Spirit who is from God, that we may understand what God has freely given us.”

Even though I am borrowing this verse out of context, there is so much that God has freely given us in this world just because He loves us.  May we learn to embrace those gifts without staining them with the constant question of “why”.

Things We Miss if We Don’t Look Up – Queen of Ordinary – November 5, 2014

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Photo: Over the entrance to the Gothic Church of Kylemore Abbey and Walled Gardens – Ireland

Kylemore Abbey and Walled Gardens is a majestic manmade structure we visited in Ireland.  The walk from the car to the grounds held an amazing view of the landscape.  There was so much to look at, it would have been easy to miss things.

Wish camera in hand, I had to remind myself to look up as well as all around.  This was true in so many of the structures we saw and places we visited.  The stone carvers and builders put an incredible amount of detail in things overhead that most people don’t even take time to notice.

Life is like that in general.  We spend so much time looking ahead to the future and hoping for how it will turn out, so much time reviewing the past, and so much time trying to get through another day, that we often fail to stop and just look up.  The beauty in the details of our daily life are there if we will take time for God and always remind our spirit to look heavenward.  Without the realization of the details the master builder has put into the plan and purpose of our individual lives, we really don’t see the whole big picture.

No matter where we find ourselves in life – whether in the woodlands, desert, mountaintop, or ocean (literally and spiritually), we will always find a new perspective of where we are if we will simply take the time to look up.

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There is Beauty in the Art of Every Culture – Queen of Ordinary – November 4, 2014

IMG_2314 Taken in a shop in Wales

Every culture is represented by the art created by the artists of the day.  On our recent journey across four Celtic nations, there was an incredible display of ancient art, medieval art, and modern art.  The diversity of creativity was bound together by the common thread of mankind making an effort to express some human idea of things beautiful.

I didn’t even look at the price tag on the particular  piece photographed above.  Isn’t it a good thing that photographs are free?  In keeping with the marvelous stone creations, this lion’s head has the look of stones stacked to create this lovely representation of a lion’s head.

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At one point I was so overwhelmed with the beauty of the land, the scenery, the people, and the ocean that I felt as if God was smiling on our little band of travelers who had come to see His artwork in the diversity of nature.  I had the image of a child who has created something they believe to be amazing, running to share it with a proud parent.  Except in the reality, it was our Creator, pleased to share the beauty of His creation with us and very pleased that we were experiencing such joy at the work of His hands.

God’s artistic expression doesn’t stop with vast oceans, towering mountains, cloud speckled skies, or majestic evergreens.  The Bible says that WE are His workmanship, created in His image.  Mankind with all of our diversity and imperfections are part of God’s creative expression in the Earth.

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What Kind of Bridge Are You Building? – Queen of Ordinary – November 3, 2014

IMG_0823  I believe this bridge was photographed in Wales.

All across the UK there are bridges made of stone.  Some look truly ancient and some more modern, but they all serve one purpose.  They were designed to transport people and things from one place to another across a divide – either a river, a gap in the landscape, or  from one cliff to another.

They were/are not only beautiful, but necessary.

If you were a bridge, what kid of bridge would you be?

The Rev. T.D. Jakes said, “I like to see myself as a bridge builder, that is me building bridges between people, between races, between cultures, between politics, trying to find common ground.”

There is a song from my younger days that says, “… like a bridge over troubled water, I will lay me down…”

God calls us all to be bridges of one sort or another.  We are to cross the divides between people to bring His love.  In our current world, that is the most necessary and life changing thing we can bring.

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People We Meet on Our Journey through Life – Queen of Ordinary – November 2, 2014

DSCN5787  Taken from Castle View Bed and Breakfast – Ireland

On our recent trip to Ireland, we stayed in some amazing places.  The castle in this photo was taken from the parking lot of Castle View Bed and Breakfast, appropriately named.  I loved staying among real people rather than hotels filled with travelers.

We met some very interesting people during our travels.  One such person was met during our sojourn in this place.  Her teen-aged daughter had committed suicide in the recent past.  She was a beautiful girl, full of promise, loved and cherished by her family.

What went wrong?  Bullying from high school girls.  Molestation happened by a popular highschool boy who bragged about it and spread the word.  Texting.  Badgering.  Her family had no idea and she was in too much pain and shame to tell them.

She left behind grieving classmates.  She left behind grieving and broken parents.

It seems to me that she believed the lies the devil was telling her.  It will never get better.  Everyone is laughing at me.  I am such an idiot.  I’m so ashamed.  My parents won’t understand.  I can’t take any more.

We meet a lot of people in this life.  Some will love us and care for us.  Some will abuse us.  Some we are better off without.  But some will make all the difference and fill our lives with joy.  How can we tell the difference?

Sometimes we can’t.  Sometimes we do get deceived, get our feelings hurt, or even suffer abuse at the hands of someone we allowed into our lives.

But we don’t have to allow the people we meet to define who we are for good or for bad.  It is God who knows us best.  It is God who loves us most.  It is God who forgives the bad choices and God who rejoices in our victories.  It is God who has a hope and a destiny for us, God who heals us, God who delivers us, and God who helps us through another day.

Nothing is ever so bad that God can’t bring us through it.  No mistake is so big that God can’t forgive it.  No person is so worthless that God does not have a plan and a purpose for them.We can never be so broken that God can’t mend us. The people in our lives can never do all of those things for us.

The people we meet on our journey through life were never meant to fill the hole that God created inside of us that only He can fill.

I love meeting people.  I enjoy spending time with people who are different from me.  I delight in stories people choose to share about who they are, their cultural roots, and where their paths have taken them.  But no person anywhere along the journey I’m on should ever be allowed to take God’s place in my life or even block my view of Him.