Plans and surprises…

 

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Many are the plans in the mind of a man, but it is the purpose of the Lord that will stand Proverbs 19:21

If you are like me, there have been times in your life when you thought everything was set. You made your plans in good faith. And, many times, those plans are brought to fruition without any difficulties. On those days, we might feel that we accomplished what we set out to do. We might feel that the event we attended was everything we hoped it would be. Perhaps the family gathering produced nothing but wonderful memories.

And, like me, you likely had days when, despite your very best planning efforts, nothing seemed to go as you imagined it would. You were late, had car trouble, or, heaven forbid, had the experience of being pulled over by a police officer. So much for your planning.

Then, there are those days when, out of the blue, an unexpected event occurs that blows your world completely off track. You were walking along the path that you thought would go directly to your planned destination; and then it happened. These events may be quite tragic and result in your life being redirected, altered, torn apart (See Devotional for Those Coping with Tragedy). Whether the event is traumatic, tragic, or simply a major inconvenience, it caused you minutes, hours, months, or years of distress. These types of events come in all sizes and happen to everyone at some point in their lives.

Surely there is a future, and your hope will not be cut off Proverbs 23:18

These tragic events seem to happen to me when I have taken it too easy with my faith. When our lives are in order, we lean toward thinking we can make it on our own. Perhaps, like me, you developed a bad habit of calling on God only in times of need rather than keeping Him nearby every day. It seems that the tragic events serve to call my attention back to the right direction. Does this sound all too familiar?

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Recently, there were several surprises in store for me. First, although I suspected that my grandson would be going into the Army at some point in his life, I was surprised that he did this at such a young age and that the time arrived so rapidly. Although it was an excellent choice for him, I found myself saying, “Wait! I’m not ready for you to go!” And another surprise happened when his best friend, whom I had only come to know and soon “adopt”, decided to sign up as well. And sure enough, these events found me going nearer to God again for prayer. Prayer for their safety. Prayer for their success. Prayer for peace throughout the world.

Not long after these occurrences, there were more surprises in store. A father sadly progressing rapidly down the path of Alzheimer’s, and more recently, my husband’s major back injury, resulting in many days of pain and lack of mobility and, as of yet, undetermined treatment and resolution. So, again I grow nearer to God.

Rejoice always, pray without ceasing, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you 1 Thessalonians 5:16-18

As I read the verse above, I decided to find the reasons to give thanks for all of these events. It is true that having a grandson old enough to be in the military makes one thankful for living long enough to experience this time of his life. Many people are not so fortunate, as I am, to know their grown grandchildren. I am also thankful for his bravery and determination because I know that his efforts will someday help to defend our country.

I am not quite sure yet about being thankful for anything about the disease of Alzheimer’s. This diagnosis has caused me to further research the disorder and to learn about healthier lifestyles for all seniors. By adopting these dietary and lifestyle changes in our family, we are already seeing positive healthier outcomes. I am thankful for improved health.

With a back injury, my husband has been housebound. We have shared many days of togetherness and had more conversations, read devotionals, and had more quality time with each other. I am thankful for this time together.

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And finally, having plans disrupted can call our attention back to doing what God would have us do: work for Him. When our plans are disrupted, maybe it is because we have the wrong plans. For direction, and guidance, there can be only one source, and He is always available to us. We just need to commit and remain committed to Him, in good times and bad. He knows our final plan.

Commit your work to the Lord, and your plans will be established Proverbs 16:3

 

 

 

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Our great country

36669867_10216456682385556_5662849190762381312_nBlessed is the nation whose God is the Lord; the people whom he has chosen as his heritage! The Lord looks down from heaven; he sees all the children of man; from where he sits enthroned he looks out on all the inhabitants of the earth, he who fashions the hearts of them all and observes their deeds Psalm 33:12-15

The verse above gives us pause. Imagine, from God’s view. He sees all of the children of man. What that must be like! He observes our deeds. There is so much poverty, cruelty, and violence among and between all of the children of man. From one country to another, against one country and another. The original chosen people of God, His children, were the Israelites. But with the life and ministry of Jesus, the Apostle Paul, and other disciples, we know that all humanity can be in God’s kingdom. We all have this opportunity, if we accept Christ as our Lord and Savior.  With this in mind, the verse above speaks to us in our country. In our nation, God is our Lord. Although other religions are welcome, we are still a nation with one God.

Today, we celebrate the 4th of July. The birth of our country, our independence, our unique story. And what an idea. No other idea in the history of the world has ever intrigued so many. We have the freedom to choose to believe in our God. We have the freedom to work and live as we like as long as we bring no harm to others. No other country has been founded on such an idea.

We are our own governance. It is so precious a concept that it must be protected every single minute of every single day.  Our country’s existence is coveted by people around the globe. To be able to make your own decisions and govern your own country? Amazing. But these wonderful blessings must be defended. Because our nation is one of such high value, others seek to destroy our way of life, our world power, and our glory for God.

And you will hear of wars and rumors of wars. See that you are not alarmed, for this must take place, but the end is not yet Matthew 24:6

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With these threats on our minds, we turn our thoughts to those who defend our freedom and our way of life. There are a few brave souls who take this mission on as their own purpose. Our military seek to do this for us all. Thanks to their bravery, we can be at home on the 4th of July. We can celebrate with family and friends. Back here at home, we will grill burgers while our service men and women will eat whatever is given to them. We will watch fireworks while our service men and women will risk being in fire fights. And tonight, we will sleep in our comfortable beds with sheets and covers and our service men and women will sleep wherever they can lay their weary heads. We do not have to fight evil. Our wonderful soldiers do that for us.

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What should we do with this wonderful blessing called the United States of America? First, each and every day, we should give thanks to God for our country and for the brave people that defend us. Second, we should remember that we, as a country, believe in one God. We know the commandments given to us and we live by those. But we should not stop there. We should live as servants of God. Protect those who cannot protect themselves, serve others, tell others of our faith, live as examples of Christianity, and always, give the glory to God.

Live as people who are free, not using your freedom as a cover-up for evil, but living as servants of God 1 Peter 2:16

 

 

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Quietness

 

And rising very early in the morning, while it was still dark, he departed and went out to a desolate place, and there he prayed Mark 1:35

Just one day ago, our home was bustling with family members who came for a visit. The laughter and conversation of our grandchildren and their parents filled the air. There were a couple of evenings when our son surprised us with amusing renditions using musical instruments. Teenage granddaughters burst out in song, and suddenly, improvised  dancing routines were being displayed in the living room! We played board games, grilled seafood outside, had neighbors over for dinner, and stayed up late watching movies together. The days were bursting with activities. We swam in the perfect temperature of the coastal water, toured the sea turtle rescue center, and played golf. We went out to eat at our favorite restaurants, took long walks along the shore, and sat for hours feeling the cool sea breeze under the shade of beach umbrellas. All the while, we talked about our grandson who, instead of being here, spent this week of vacation in boot camp. Our grandson missed the first of several summer beach trips he will miss as he serves our country. We missed his entertaining conversation and laughter, and each day, we prayed for his safety.

From daylight until midnight we were busy, busy, busy. There were sunburns in the evenings and sleepy-eyed discussions before coffee in the mornings. There were piles of wet beach towels and sandy shoes. There were shopping trips for beach souvenirs and examinations of sea shells washed up by the tides. We crammed two-weeks worth of activities into just a few days. And all too soon, we heard the sound of roller-board luggage wheels wobbling  back out to the car. Then, a final wave goodbye and honk of the horn, and the carload of our loved ones began their long journey back home.

That was yesterday. This morning was quiet. Too quiet. After the days of chaotic family fun, our house is back to the usual state of quietness. After days of being on-the-go, the morning has almost too much stillness to bear. These quiet times provide a pause in which we can remember our gratefulness to God for giving us the chaos. We are thankful that our house can be filled from time-to-time with the commotion of activities from morning until night. The solitude and silence allows us time to appreciate the blessings of the past few days. And during this quietness, we can do what Jesus did in his quiet time. We pray. IMG_3549

Now Jesus was praying in a certain place and when he finished, one of his disciples said to him, “Lord teach us how to pray, as John taught his disciples. And he said to them, “When you pray, say: Father, hallowed be your name. Your kingdom come. Give us each day our daily bread, and forgive us our sins, for we ourselves forgive everyone who is indebted to us. And lead us not into temptation. Luke 11:1-4

So in our stillness, we pray. In the quietness of the day, we are grateful. We give thanks for our family and all of our many blessings. We sweep the sand from our floors and give thanks for the feet that visited our home and brought the sand with them from the beach. We wash the piles of beach towels and are grateful for the sunshine filled days and warm breezy weather we enjoyed with our family when they were here. We pray for our family’s safe travel home and safe return to us for another visit. We are thankful for our freedom and our resources that we enjoy as we travel back and forth to visit each other. We give thanks for our wonderful country in which we live and the bravery of our grandson and his best friend, as they prepare to protect us all back home. God is good.

Giving thanks always and for everything to God the Father in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ Ephesians 5:20

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Vacations….the days we wait for

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Grandchildren are the crown of the aged, and the glory of children is their fathers Proverbs 17:6

When our children were young, we ventured to destinations during Christmas breaks, spring breaks, and summer. We enjoyed the majesty of the mountains, the steamy summers of the south, and the excitement of DisneyWorld. Often, we traveled to visit family for extended visits.

Following retirement, my husband and I moved to the coast. Now we are one of the vacation destinations not only for family, but friends who live great distances away. The vacation season is upon us once again, which means our children and grandchildren will be heading our way soon.

The sheets and towels are all changed, house ready, and a few meals cooked ahead of time so that we can enjoy every minute. As I look forward to their arrival, I think about their visits of past years. We have witnessed young babies in floaties, sun caps, and inner-tubes, slathered in sun screen, wearing oversized sun glasses, as they kicked their little feet beneath the water. We weathered through a hurricane, flooded roads, and bat-sized mosquitoes. We have seen children appear with braces for the first time, and return again with straight bright teeth. We witnessed surf lessons, golf lessons, and had all of our faces painted on a pirate ship. We went to church by the sea, went on dolphin watches, and sailed on catamaran dinner cruises. We’ve decorated Christmas trees, gone Christmas shopping, and viewed the latest movies. So many days of our vacations with so many memories.

During the time I wait with anticipation for vacations, I cannot help but be thankful for every single minute we shared together as a family. It is not the pirate ships, the golf course, or the surf that make the best memories. My favorite activities are sitting on the screened porch watching the sunrise and sipping a cup of coffee with teenage grandchildren who are barely old enough to have coffee. Or sitting on the patio while visiting with my grown children for hours at a time as the smell of the grilled fish or steak permeates the warm air. Or the time spent in the kitchen making homemade pizzas, pasta, and cheesecakes with my children and grandchildren while we visited about events happening in their lives over the past weeks. And of course taking those early morning walks, jogs, bicycle rides, and swims as we talked about the coming days’ activities. Those precious moments are the real blessings. Those are the moments that warm my heart and remind me of the goodness of God’s many blessings. Those moments are what I wait for and what I enjoy the most.

This summer will be different because our oldest grandson and his best friend will not be with us as they were in the past. They are in the military and are sacrificing their family time as they serve our country. These young men are a crown for us. I pray for their well being every day.

Beloved, I pray that all may go well with you and that you may be in good health, as it goes well with your soul 3 John 1:2

The fact that these two young men are away underscores the preciousness of each second we have together with the remaining grandchildren. Before we can say Amen, our other grandchildren will be grown and busy with their own lives, too. But for now, I give thanks for the time we are given. I give thanks for the health and welfare of all of our children and grandchildren. And I give thanks for the vacation days ahead. I am abundantly blessed.

And God is able to make all grace abound to you, so that having all sufficiency in all things at all times, you may abound in every good work 2 Corinthians 9:8

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Pets, Children and Love

Whoever is righteous has regard for the life of his beast, but the mercy of the wicked is cruel. Proverbs 12:10

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As I sit on the sofa with a thunderstorm raging outside, I look down at my little puppy asleep beside me. She is recovering from a minor surgery and has been asleep for a few hours. Glancing at her, I remember how our children used to talk about older people and their dogs. We laughed because we had dogs too, but the older folks treated their dogs like children! And now, here I am. Our children have children of their own. And my husband and I have a new dog. My daughter recently remarked that we had become “those people” who treat their dog like one of their own offspring.

I cannot deny this. We do baby this puppy. She goes with us everywhere we can possibly take her. She goes to the store, to any restaurant with outdoor dining, and even to the beach.  She goes on road trips, sleeps in our hotel room, and looks out the car window toward our next destination. And now, as she lays quietly and moans, I think about our love for animals and even more, I think about our profoundly deep love for our children.

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There are guidelines in the Scripture about parents and children. There are verses about how fathers and mothers are to be parents. And of course there is much written about how children are to behave, listen to, and respect their parents. All of these verses about children, and about animals, have one thing in common: love. The guidelines are there so that we, as Christians, know and understand how precious these lives are. And, as Christians, we know a lot about love. The Scriptures are full of examples and stories about love. As it turns out, love is the most essential part of being Christian.

We love because he first loved us. 1 John 4:19

And how much does God love us? The most important indication of that is found in the well known verse from John:

For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son…John 3:16.

Think about that. As parents, it is hard to conceive of loving others so much that we would offer up our own child to die for other people. But that is exactly what happened. And even more difficult to comprehend is the love that God has for his Son, and the love that Jesus has for us. Jesus said:

As the Father has loved me, so have I loved you. Abide in my love.  John 15:9

We cannot possibly love as much as God loves us. But we can try. We can follow the guidelines set before us to strengthen our faith and our love for our children, our family, our God, and of course, our pets. My puppy will recover and we will go on our next adventure. We trust that God will also watch, guide, and love our children, and their children, as they go through each day. We know His love is powerful enough for us all.

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