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Praying Psalm 23

Lord, You are MY Shepherd.

I have every single thing I need, and plenty besides!

You allow me to rest in peaceful places. You gently lead me into thick grassy meadows. I lean on You and rest in Your care.

You renew my strength when I have nothing left. When cancer and sickness sap every ounce of energy I have, YOU dear God are the lifter of my head.

You guide me along right paths bringing honor to Your Name. Yes Lord! Make it so!

Even when I walk through the darkest valley…

Like when we lost our first grandson before he took a breath; when sickness took hold of our frail bodies; when we lost our ‘forever home’ and the security of our jobs, I admit… I’ve been really afraid at times.

But You dear God, YOU are faithful. You are close beside me! I know You are with me even when I can’t feel Your presence.

Your rod of protection will strike down my enemies. Your staff of comfort will keep me on the right path. You treat me so well that those who doubt my walk with You have to admit how blessed I am.

You honor me! Why in the world would You do that when You know what’s in my heart? I don’t understand why You’d pour oil on my head. Is it to heal my wounds or to give me a glimpse of days ahead when we rule and reign together?

My heart overflows with the joy of Your presence! You alone are so good to me!

I have no doubt that your goodness and love will track me down all the days of my life. When I think of being pursued by the One Who knows me best, my heart overflows!

And THEN I get to live in the home You’ve lovingly prepare just for me!

OH GOD! How blessed I am to know You! Praise Your sweet holy Name!

Ain’t No Sunshine

Our firstborn lives in the Midwest. We visited by phone one morning on her way to get groceries. When she stopped for gas, I heard her say to the screen on the pump as she pushed the buttons, “NO, I do NOT have a rewards card. NO I do NOT want one. NO I DO NOT care about saving money. YES! I need a receipt! What? Now you’re out of paper and I have to go inside? Do you not know it’s 3 stinkin’ degrees out here? STOP with all the questions! Just give me the gas for crying out loud!”

Her door slammed and her voice returned to her normal pleasant tone.

“Hey Mama. How are you? How was your week-end?”

“Are you freezin’ Darlin’?” I laughed at her misery. According to my phone it felt like negative 11 in Ramsey, Illinois where she lives.

“It’s so COLD!” she confirmed as she cranked up the heater hot enough to singe the hair off her legs. Except I’m pretty sure she was wearing several layers of britches.

“It snowed the whole time we were in church yesterday. Our cars were covered when we got out. Then last night we had a fellowship meal and wondered if anyone would come. We had a great crowd and a really good time!”

I smiled at my daughter’s cheery disposition, well… minus the whole gas pump thing. She is one of the most positive and encouraging people I’ve ever known.

Her oldest daughter had a wreck last week in South Carolina where she attends college. Thankfully it was not her fault. Someone ran a red light and did several thousand dollars worth of damage to her vehicle. Stephanie was saying how thankful she was that Mykaela was not seriously injured.

“She’s pretty sore, and very shook up. Her car isn’t drivable, but they gave her time off from work. The other person’s insurance has been amazing and very helpful. It could have been so much worse.”

I glanced out the window as she told me about the things on her plate for the next few days. To me it was overwhelming. She’s writing a VBS curriculum, planning her sessions for a ladies retreat, and putting the final touches on a Girls’ Conference hosted by her church this week-end.

I looked at the mud that’s puddled up all around our house. The yard is so squishy it’s hard to get to the bird feeder, or anywhere else for that matter. It poured down again last night. I hate all this rain and silently wondered if it would ever end. Her words broke into my thoughts.

“Jeff and I spoke at a couples retreat for pastors and their wives this past weekend. It went really well, even the games. I came up with a Jenga game where we told something encouraging about our spouses and churches according to the stickers we drew. It was so much fun!”

Personally I’d rather stick a fork in my eye than play games which also require sharing my soul. I hate to admit it but I may be entering the early stages of Crudmudgeonry.

Another glance out the window revealed tiny birds taking a splash in the puddles under the feeder. They seemed as happy as-if they had good sense.

Cheerfully she informed, “I’m at Aldi’s in the parking lot. But the Jeep is really warm now. We can keep visiting if you’d like!”

I couldn’t help but smile as Stephanie continued. One can learn a lot from birds… and daughters… especially when they bring their own sunshine.

No More Whining!

I really hate whining. When our kids were little I’d stop them in mid-crisis to inform: “Mommy can’t hear you when you whine.” One of them commented when she had her own children, “I think I was an adult before I realized: you really COULD hear me!”

Now that I feel the need to whine, I’m not sure what to do. I try to keep my writing as genuine as possible. So I need you to know. I am hurting. Even a gentle hug is painful.

Did I ever tell you that I have a mystery disease? Pain grips my body at times with such fierceness that I am knocked onto my ample rear end for days. Last week was one such time. I was in so much pain I had to have help getting out of the recliner. I don’t know why. This ailment began over forty years ago when I was just a kid in high school. At least that’s the first time I remember being in unusual pain for no particular reason. I grew up around water where we jumped in the murky depths of Lake Norman from the family pier. One particular day when I sank into that cold water I really thought I might die. Slowly I climbed back onto the pier and rested in the sun. It seemed to help. Since my parents also had a “no whining” policy, I never said a word. Later when I went off to college things got worse. By the spring of my freshman year I was in such terrible pain I could hardly get home from south Florida. A doctor there gave me some pain killers so I could make the sixteen hour trip. And I figured if one pill was good, a couple more would be better. My fiancé David and his buddy Barry loaded up the Camaro, checked on the girl passed out in the back seat, and drove me home. I landed in the hospital for two weeks of tests. Frankly I was glad. Finally we’d get some answers! They took x-rays, spinal fluid, did an experimental test called a myelogram where they shot dye into my spine and searched for anything abnormal. Nothing showed up. According to them it was all in my head.

As I said before that was over forty years ago. That’s a long time to wander in a desert wishing for an end to the painful journey. During those years I’ve experienced every kind of emotion a person can have. Last week the full gamut of feelings hit once again. Tears, anger, exasperation, self-pity, you name it. I could not function. I was so mad I threw things. Okay, so it was another cancer bill I was sure I had paid, but clearly I was not the picture of style and grace.

In case you’re going through something painful too, I want to give you permission to whine. Even as I write that I cringe. I still really hate whining. However, God knows your heart. He’s a great listener! Plus He gets it. He knows that you and I are just dust. And if nothing else, some of us are going to enjoy heaven waaayyy more than others. Maybe then He’ll smile as He whispers, “Finally child! You’re in a place where whining is not only absent, it’s no longer necessary!”

Then He’ll hug us as tight as He wants. And it won’t even hurt!

Glimpses

Occasionally, if we’re watching, we get a little preview of Heaven. It’s as if God pushes back the clouds of pain and uncertainty to give us a picture of His over-the-top love. A few weeks ago we were blessed with a trip to Cherry Grove. Though it was early February, the Lord poured out warmth and sunshine just because He can. I thought you might enjoy a small glimpse of His glory.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

“And may you have the power to understand, as all God’s people should, how wide, how long, how high, and how deep His love is.” –Ephesians 3:18

 

Sound Bites

“I danced like no one was watching. My court date is a week from Thursday.” I spotted that on Facebook and had to laugh. Apparently all advice is not wise. My mom told David to rub Icy Hot on his forehead when his sinuses acted up. The poor man still weeps at the memory. That stuff lit him up!

How do we know when advice is good? One person may warn “Look before you leap!” while another will advise “He who hesitates is lost.” Which is true: “Absence makes the heart grow fonder” or “Out of sight, out of mind”?

One of the best bits of wisdom I’ve ever received came on a hot pad given to me forty-five years ago. It said, “My house is clean enough to be healthy but dirty enough to be happy.” I think my mom-in-law gave it to me because she knew how crazy I could get trying to keep things spotless. While that seems noble enough, if it makes the rest of the family dread being at home, then it’s not wise. So I chose happiness over being able to eat off the kitchen floor. Therefore if you stop in for coffee sometime and your muffin inadvertently rolls across the lovely linoleum, take my advice and toss it. I’ll get you another one.

All three of our girls have their daddy’s great sense of dry humor. Plus we have to be intentional about reigning in our wonderful gift of sarcasm. It just flows all willy-nilly; except probably for Stephanie, our eldest. The girl is so kind. I guess that’s how she ended up marrying a pastor who also has a sharp wit. [That’s code for sarcasm]. They balance each other out nicely. Recently when we were going through a set of hurtful circumstances, we recalled her wise words. “God does not waste pain.” Though she had shared that particular truth several years ago, we realized again how valuable that wisdom is. I wrote her words on a notecard and placed it near my “nest” where I would see it often.

Our middle daughter is just as spiritual, but a wee bit more… direct. Her advice to me during a rough patch where I couldn’t seem to make anyone happy sounded like this. “Don’t set yourself on fire to keep someone else warm.” It was exactly what I needed to hear. And as a people pleaser it continues to be a great reminder. A card with her words is right beside her sister’s so I will remember that it’s not my job to keep everyone happy.

Underneath those two quotes is another I heard on a fishing show. A couple guys make a living showing others how to fish without a bunch of paraphernalia. Their motto is “Do Simple Better.” I like it! Currently we’re trying to simplify by decluttering our lives. It feels so good to get rid of stuff we really don’t need. We are learning to do simple better.

While writing this I realized our youngest daughter, though very wise, had not been quoted. I messaged her requesting a sound bite. Apparently it has been a hard couple days for she responded, “I’m sorry but I have no wisdom at this moment. It’s been a wisdom sucking kind of week.” Sometimes the best advice is to say nothing at all.

So what’s your favorite bit of wisdom? I’d love to hear it. Feel free to write me at biglynna@yahoo.com. I’m especially open to ideas for my next book. Talk to me people! I’ll probably dance like no one is watching. Oh, and one more word of wisdom. Never let your sister set up your email address lest you forever be labeled something flattering like Big Lynna.

Target Fixation

My hubby had a motorcycle for a while and was wise enough to take a safety class at the community college. The instructor said something that stuck with David as he was learning to ride. “Be careful of target fixation,” he advised. “When something dangerous occurs, rather than focus on what you DON’T want to hit, focus on where you want to go.”

In other words, if a dog runs out, aim down the road past it and you’ll be less likely to wreck than if you’re looking at the dog. In the fifteen or so years that David rode, he wrecked one time. A sharp curve on a bumpy country road came up way too fast and all he could see was the barbed wire fence he would hit if he didn’t make the curve. He became a victim of target fixation. Thankfully he walked away to ride another day.

Eventually he convinced me of how fun it would be if we could ride together. So I mounted behind him on the cinderblock they call a passenger seat. We rode to the beach, to the mountains and many a country road especially in the spring when the trees first start to bud. The aroma of wild wisteria throughout the woods is so pleasant. Then the smell of fires burning in the fall has a way of bringing the senses to life. I really loved it.

One day we rode up to a state park which included a small mountain range. It was a gorgeous day for a picnic. Before we headed down the mountain I was happy to find a restroom. While David waited for me, he was actually solicited by a pimp who offered to lead him to a camper where a good time would be had by all.

Sorry delicate readers. I realize you just went from a peaceful overlook with a picnic to something disgusting. But that’s exactly what happened. Yes, broad daylight, North Carolina, beautiful park, and lewd fellows of the baser sort. I do not make this stuff up.

When I emerged from the bathroom, David took my hand and hurried down a steep hill covered in about a foot of loose wet leaves. Suddenly he stumbled a bit and turned his ankle. We sat on the side of the hill as I silently wondered how we’d get home. I had no idea how to drive a motorcycle. He didn’t tell me about the earlier solicitation until later. He was probably afraid I’d jerk a camper door open and express my hot displeasure. Thankfully his ankle was strong enough to drive and no harlots were harmed in the making of this story. But I decided to take my own motorcycle class in case I ever needed to drive.

I did way better than I expected. Of course the bikes used in the class were very little compared to ours. But I could maneuver it through the cones with ease. The instructor yelled at me to go faster, so I did. What he didn’t realize was that I couldn’t figure out how to stop. I was last in line and everyone else had parked neatly side by side waiting for me to finish. I saw it before it happened and I could not look away. Everyone scattered as I plowed right into the row of bikes knocking every single one of them down. As warned earlier, I became a victim of target fixation.

Writer Adam Holtz received the same warning in his motorcycle safety class. His instructor wisely added, “Where you’re looking is the direction you’re going to go.”

Have you been knocked on your rear lately? As Mr. Holtz says, “Scripture encourages us to look past our problems to the One Who can help.” In fact, Philippians tells us to focus on one thing: Forget the past and look forward to what lies ahead.

Sometimes we just can’t fix things. Instead of a picnic with a scenic view, ugliness comes out of nowhere. There is only One Who knows our future. He alone will get us safely home. Set your eyes on Him. He is worthy of our focus.

Pluck the Day

Is it just me or has this been the wettest winter in the history of mankind? The last time I saw the sun was Wednesday a week ago. Two of our grandkids came over to play. After lunch we bundled up and went outside. For the younger readers, bundling in this case has nothing to do with phone or internet service. Bundling is what old people do to stay warm. Anyway, the wind began to blow and the air turned chilly. Actually it was COLD. The kids never slowed down. Five bucks each for the big flying discs we bought them a few summers ago was probably the best money we’ve ever spent. Those things caught the breeze and sailed like kites on the beach. As the kids chased them, the mud in our backyard literally sucked a boot right off Marie’s foot as she ran. Jesse paused just long enough to retrieve it and pass it to his sister while she held her sock foot up waiting. Off they scrambled again snatching flying discs from the air.

Suddenly Jesse’s feet flew out from under him and he landed flat on his back. Slowly he sat up with his whole backside covered in mud. It was in his hair, down his neck, all over his coat and jeans. At least his boots were still on but only because they were the lace up kind. Again the kids were laughing that deep belly laugh that only comes on rare occasions. For me it’s usually in church or somewhere I’m supposed to behave. I do not know how to chuckle quietly. Those kids had me laughing so hard. Now our backyard looks like a heard of pigs ran through it. Did I say pigs? I meant to say sweet little lambs. What a mess! After hot baths and clean clothes from their grandmother’s stylish wardrobe of vintage t-shirts and fuzzy socks, the pair curled up on the sofa for an episode of Wild Kratts. Okay, so we may have watched five or six. I smiled as the kids’ tired little bodies relaxed into the soft warm quilts and their eyes grew heavy. When their mother came for them I assured her that they’d sleep well that night. As soon as they were out the door I curled up in a recliner with a blanket and napped for a good solid hour. I was worn slap out. Their mom sent me a video of them that night. There was a mattress on the floor and they were jumping on it like a trampoline. Apparently they were not as tired as their Grammy.

Usually there’s a moral to my story. I’m not sure there is one today… unless it’s Carpe Diem; Literally “Pluck the Day” or more commonly “Seize the Day.” Usually when I hear that phrase I feel guilty, like I should be doing more with my time. However, the older I get the more I realize that I’m doing all I can. So no more guilt! Jesus plucked a nap here and there and I figure I should probably follow His lead. In fact, I may just throw down on a little Carpe Diem after lunch today. That way I’ll be ready the next time the kids come over. Besides, one should always strive to be more like Jesus.