Saturday, December 15, 2018

What Shall I Give Him? A Christmas Reflection

There is a song from a poem by Christina Rosetti

"What can I give Him, poor as I am, if I were a shepherd, I'd bring Him a lamb; If I were a wise man, I'd sure do my part; but what can I give him? Give Him my heart"

So here's how it went. I don't know about you, but very often I have a revelation while I am sitting in church even though it has nothing to do with the passage of scripture being read or even the gist of the sermon the pastor is preaching. Sorry, pastor(s) if you are reading this! That Sunday it was in the lyrics to a song we were singing in worship. "I bring an offering of worship to my King, no one on earth deserves the praises that I sing, Jesus may you receive the honor that you're due, oh Lord I bring an offering to you." (Paul Baloche; I bring an Offering)  We had started our Advent sermon series and I was pondering the whole idea of how bringing gifts to the King has been turned by our culture into giving gifts to one another, which in turn makes us focus on the gifts we are receiving. Just like at Thanksgiving culture has us thanking the people in our lives instead of thanking God, but that's another post for another holiday...

O.K. so Gifts. It was at this point where my thoughts focused on how these last few years I had been having a lot of trouble with what God "handed" me by way of my circumstances, and truly, I have had, for numerous years struggled with what I called "waiting for the next thing to be thrown at me" through life's storms.

Now I must back up a minute and mention another song, one which my sisters from CoffeeBreak will readily recognize as it has been used in I don't know how many womens' stories. It is the one that says "What if the trials of this life are Your mercies in disguise?" (Blessings - by Laura Story) I just couldn't resonate with the premise of it no matter how many times it was shared.

So on this particular morning, I went in another direction. I thought, what if the trials and struggles that we face were viewed as an offering? What if, when things don't go as we had wished or planned or prayed, we considered it as a sacrifice we are making to give God our heart? This really turned things around for me.

All of a sudden I was not looking at what God gave me and counting it as a poor substitute for what I was asking for, instead I was seeing it as a request from Almighty God to sacrifice my wishes to make an offering to Him.

He calls us in Luke 9:23 to take up our cross, and like you, I had heard this before, but on this day, I put the 2 things together -  suffering various trials (James 1) and taking up your cross (Luke 9).

In addition, Peter talks about participating in the sufferings of Christ. So let's say I am suffering various trials, it's a given. We live in a fallen world. It hurts. It costs. But let's say I put all those things on an altar of worship, not expecting anything to change, just accepting what it is and placing it up there. Isn't it such a relief, in fact doesn't it make me want to rejoice? I found that it did. I have something to give Him, in fact, He picked it out and asked me to give it to Him!

And this brings us to the tie in with Christmas and the poem. If we focus on what we are giving to the King instead of what we're receiving and if we give him our heart, that is, keep faithful and give our trials to Him as an offering, we know that they will be a fragrant aroma (Frankincense and Myrrh) to Him and, like the little drummer boy, make Him smile. We also know that in the end we will receive a heavenly reward for standing firm and enduring and remaining faithful until He comes again in Glory.

Monday, November 5, 2018

Desert Blessings

I have to say thank you to my dear friend from Sunday School class who gave a devotion at our Women's Tea about our Good Shepherd giving us green things to nibble on in the desert. She had these visual aids showing the grazing lands of Israel with little dots of sheep on rocky, sandy hillsides. She went on to explain how evening condensation dripped down the rocks to form little patches of green at the base. (Gen. 37:12; Ps.23; John 10)

But my mind went to another place while she was talking. I thought about what the sheep's perspective was. They gladly chomped away at whatever the Shepherd led them to and when it was gone, followed him to the next spot. Not at any time in this scenario did the sheep look up and say, “What a lousy excuse for grazing land this is!” or “How am I supposed to survive out here in this desolate place?” Aahh wretched heart of mine, isn't that what I do, nearly all the time as I look at the circumstances around me? I question and doubt, even when every single day I have my daily piece of nourishment right in front of my nose. I keep looking up and all around, many times away at the future, and see what's lacking.

I am reminded of the Lord's prayer (Matt. 6; Luke 11) where it says “give us this day our daily bread” because we learn that God's intention is for us to be grateful that he provides every day, what we need without fail. We also learn that we don't need to worry about the day after that and the day after that (also from Matt 6).

I am also reminded of John Calvin who, as an exercise in understanding God's provision, counted every catastrophy he could think of that did not happen to him even though it could have, so he would have a keener sense of all that God provided in the form of protection.

Both of these examples stir me to remember that I can go through life looking at the desolation of the dry desert places, or I can focus on today and the satisfying patch of green laid right before me.

So I got this all worked out in my mind and I shared it over kitchen clean-up with my son, thinking, “I'll keep him from falling into the 'woe is me' trap by sharing this little nugget as a teachable moment.” But boy did I get a surprise. He said to me, “Yeah, I try to stay away from that kind of thinking, and I have to keep myself from scolding my friends when they go there, saying, 'then this awful thing happened and then this other awful thing happened' I don't want to sound mean.” So basically he is already a much better sheep than I am, and that's where I found my most precious morsel of green for that day!

Thank you Lord, for elders and youngsters who can breathe truth into my life as we walk together on the path you have given us. Thank you for guiding us always to green pastures and still waters.

Saturday, September 8, 2018

A little hanging on, A little letting go

Because I have rejoined my writer's group, I sat down today with my "writer's cap" on and as I often do, I started with the title. I also start by re-reading the post from last time.

Wow. I couldn't believe the previous post title was "from mourning to dancing". I hadn't even remembered that!

Since you last heard from me, my mother, who had just received that good news, passed away suddenly on July first, just 2 weeks after the court decision...

I came here today to share about the process, and realized that I had already addressed mourning last time, yes in the title, but also in the years of caring for Mom as she was slipping behind the curtain. Talk about foreshadowing...

Now, back to the title. We have had two major events of letting go in the past two months, one was the passing of my mom, and the other was my son leaving home for college last week. He is still local, but he is no longer living here.

In the case of my Mom, the hanging on is keeping things that remind us of her, having conversations about "remember when? or I liked it best when..." This type of hanging on is a good kind, we encourage each other when we do so.

With my son, I can see that sometimes hanging on is not so good. It's when I start to fret over what he might forget to do, I feel compelled to "remind" him or check up on him to make sure he's following through. That's when I realize it's letting go time.

It's funny, just when I determined to do so, I was blessed in that it wasn't all or nothing because he has reached out a couple times for assistance in navigating his new situation or just to touch base.

In the same way, it's not all or nothing with my mom either. There is no "checking in" as she is no longer with us, so that's a definite "letting go", but there is the legacy of how she would have handled things or what she would have wanted which I  find myself wanting to hang on to as I make decisions regarding her estate. One of the biggest things in that category is that she was over the moon about my son going to the college of his choice.

So while I am letting go of her presence here on earth and his presence in our home, I am hanging on to her grand desire for him and his dreams for the future.

Friday, June 22, 2018

A time for mourning and a time for dancing

Hello friends of myhandsful! After a long hiatus I am back😀

It was a dark and scary place for a while there, which is why nothing public was here. But let me tell you God has done beyond anything we could ask or imagine (Ephesians 3:20-21).

You may remember that I said we were caring for my mom who has FTD and is in assisted living. After her move, we had some bumps in the road as far as her finances. Mainly there was some disagreement as to whether her cognitive impairment was significant enough to keep her from handling her own affairs. She and I said "no" but others said "very much so". And so ensued a year-and-a-half battle in the courts over her estate.

Along the way, I was accused of elder abuse for receiving funds from an inheritance given to her by her father's widow after she died, and for using them for help in buying a home, helping my kids with braces and summer camp, etc.  Anything used from that account was called in to question, to determine whether it was really used for her, or for my own benefit. While I claimed she had capacity to choose for herself whether to give those funds to her daughter and grandchildren, others argued that she did not have capacity and as her power-of-attorney I was culpable for taking them. It was said I had failed in my fiduciary duty to conserve her assets for her care.

It got pretty ugly I must say, and repeatedly I felt unjustly treated as I was doing so much to make sure she was being looked after, while at the same time being vilely accused. On many occasions, I had said I was willing to pay back the funds if she ever ran short and needed them, but over and over again it was reported that I had adamantly refused. All we really wanted was for her sister to be appointed conservator and Trustee, but we were told over and over that the other side refused. Many times it seemed as though she was never going have things turn out the way she wanted them, and things seemed to get murkier and murkier.

Then last week, we went to court and in a complete reversal, Mom walked away with the outcome she was looking for! All her accounts will be looked after by her sister as conservator and she will have all her financial needs met as well as some of her desires so long as they are approved. It was a complete answer to prayers said on both sides of the matter and was such a relief to all concerned.

You could just feel it in the air, the tight, hateful feelings were replaced by release and understanding -- it was none other than God at work -- and because of the eleventh hour timing, it was even more astounding!

There will probably be a much lengthier series of posts, once all is said and done, to share the journey I have gone through over these years, but right now we are just so pleased for my mom and for all of us who no longer have to bear this weight on our shoulders. Rejoice with us and check back to see what else is happening at myhandsful!