Tuesday, October 16, 2012

Unforced Rhythms of Grace

Do you ever get going so fast you don’t even stop to check if even doing it right? I find I go so fast sometimes that when I type a quick message to someone on e-mail or Facebook, and I don’t bother to check my typing, and I can get into big trouble.

Not too long ago I was reading a friend’s post on Facebook about going through a difficult time with her job situation. I decided to quickly post some encouraging words to her before I dashed off to make supper. I typed something like, “I’m praying for you to find a great job and don’t worry because it is God’s job to make your path straight. Your job is to just trust him.” I posted it in the comments section of her wall and ran off to start cooking. I never stopped to read my comment back to make sure there were no errors.

Later that evening, my sister, Robbie and I were sitting in the living room. I was playing with something on my iPad and she was looking at Facebook on her laptop. Suddenly she burst into uncontrollable laughter.

“What in the world are you laughing at?” I asked.

Robbie tried to answer, but she couldn’t stop laughing long enough.

“You’re driving me crazy,! I yelled. “What is so funny?”

Finally Robbie pulled it together long enough to try to explain her outburst.

“Don’t you ever read what you type?” she asked.

“What do you mean? What did I type?”

“You left a comment on Kim’s wall today, right?”

“Yes,” I answered. “She’s having a hard time with her job right now and I told her to just trust Him. So what’s so funny about that?”

“Come and look at what you typed,” said Robbie, trying to control her laughter.

I leaned over to look at Robbie’s laptop, reading the comment to myself. I couldn’t believe my eyes. Instead of typing “Just trust Him.” I typed, “Just trust Jim.”

We both screamed with laughter for about a half hour or so. It was hilarious. But it got even worse.

“Read Kim’s comment back to you,” said Robbie.

Kim had answered my comment with, “Polly, who is Jim and why should I trust Him? Does he have a job for me?”

After reading Kim’s comment I just fell on the floor laughing. It was like something you would see in a sitcom. It took us a long time to regain our composure.

“I’d better explain my comment,” I said. I quickly left another comment for Kim explaining what I really meant to say.

“No problem,” Kim wrote back. “You made me laugh out loud and I needed a good laugh.”

Sometimes we get moving and grooving just a tad too fast in life. We’re rushing here and there and never taking the time to really slow down to pay attention to what we’re doing and how well we’re doing it. We’re always tired and worn out from our busy lives as well. What's the solution?

“Are you tired? Worn out? Burned out on religion? Come to me. Get away with me and you’ll recover your life. I’ll show you how to take a real rest. Walk with me and work with me—watch how I do it. Learn the unforced rhythms of grace. I won’t lay anything heavy or ill-fitting on you. Keep company with me and you’ll learn to live freely and lightly.” Matthew 11:28-30 (MSG)

There’s the answer. We need to learn “the unforced rhythms of grace; to live freely and lightly.” We need to learn to slow down and rest in Him. Today that seems like the opposite of what the world tells us to do. The world is constantly telling us to grab all the gusto in life and to add more and more things to do to be the perfect wife, parent or woman. Soon we are moving too fast for words and we’re too tired to even care. There’s nothing fulfilling in that kind of life.

Tire? Worn out? Learn the unforced rhythms of grace. Stop striving. Just trust Jim, I mean, Him. 

Friday, September 21, 2012

Clean Up Your Act

One of my least favorite things to do is to clean out the garage or my closet. Of course, eventually you have to give in and clean them out or you will end up with heaps of stuff on top of piles of stuff and you won’t have any idea what you do and do not have. My sister, Robbie, on the other hand, loves to clean out anything. She’s a very sick person if you ask me. We live together and so this is a big issue between us. She’ll get this look that says, “It’s time to tackle the garage” and I run and hide in my room.
Robbie loves to sort, organize, make lists, alphabetize items and color coordinate. This is very scary to me. Cleaning out the garage becomes, not just a tedious task, but an event when Robbie is involved. There’s a give away stack, a throw away stack, a what-is-it stack, a bulky item pick-up stack, a hazardous chemical stack, and the list goes on and on. We have to start this project at about 5:30 am in order to finish by bed time.
On the day of the project I wake up with a sense of dread. Robbie wakes up with a “yippee” in her voice. It makes me want to strangle her and put her body in the throw away stack. I drag my feet as long as I can to prolong the blessed event, finding a million other things to do until Robbie finally starts screaming, “Let’s get this party started!” I’ve never seen a woman any happier than when Robbie is standing in the middle of a big clean out project. I’m telling you this is not a normal person.
My problem is that I want to keep everything.
“Don’t throw away that thing-a-ma-bob,” I say, rescuing it out of the throw away stack. “I might need it later.” Robbie just keeps tossing things in her neatly labeled piles until we collapse on the front lawn with a completely empty garage.
“Now,” Robbie will say smiling, “let’s put each thing in a specific place, color coordinated according to labels and in categories such as gardening, lawn, tools, etc. And so it goes. I’m usually lying on my back, staring up at the sky, praying frantically for the rapture.
“God if you’re a just God, please send Jesus back now to rescue me from the ‘Evil Queen of Lists.’” I listen carefully for the sound of the trumpet or for a glimpse of Jesus on one of the clouds, but, alas, I have to get up and finish the grand garage project.
When we finally finish, Robbie stands back with her hands on her hips and say, “Now doesn’t that make you feel good?” I usually just go back inside, mumbling under my breath. Robbie will go in and out of the garage about sixty times, commenting each time on how nice the garage looks. I shower and collapse on my bed, locking the door behind me so Robbie can’t get in to see my closet.
We have to sift threw a lot of stuff in life to sort out what’s worth keeping from the junk we need to toss. Too many times we let the junk influence our decisions and we throw out the gold nuggets along with the useless stuff. Maybe we’re in a great church, but one thing happens that offends us and we’re ready to throw away the whole church because of it. Perhaps we’ve tossed aside a good friend because it takes too much effort on our part to keep up the relationship.
Sometimes we clutter up our lives with so much junk we couldn’t find the real priceless things if we tried. We don’t sort or sift; we just accept and keep with no consideration of quality or value. As Christians, we should live what we value. The things we value in our lives should shine through for others to see. The clutter and piles of junk we collect in life will reflect chaos and lack of vision to others.
We must pay close attention to the things we toss aside and the things we decide to keep. We need to get out our sifter and make sure we’re catching all the gold pieces that life has to offer and then get rid of the junk. Our life should reflect direction, purpose, and vision. People will see what is valuable and important in our life once we strip away the junk and it will set an example for others to follow. They will want what we have to offer and our life will bring honor to God.
Excerpt from Life is a Buffet So What's On Your Plate? (Copyright  ©2009 by Polly D. Boyette - All rights reserved.)

Friday, September 7, 2012

Chasing Angels Chapter Samples 1-3


“Watch out! The dragon is right behind me! I can feel his breath on my neck. Run for your lives before he destroys us all.”
Nathan was just a young boy who had not seen much of the world outside the small town of Fairhaven, and yet, he was wise beyond his 11 years. He spent a lot of time on his own these days. His mother was often too busy to pay attention to him. Nathan didn't mind though. He used his imagination to stay occupied. Right now there was a fire-breathing dragon lurking at the edge of the woods. If he kept low to the ground, perhaps he’d be invisible to the monster’s yellow eyes. He hid for what seemed like forever, until the sky was clear with only a few motionless clouds drifting above him. 
Cautiously, he left his hiding place and walked along the banks of the Black River. The trees were amber and gold today, much brighter than they had appeared yesterday. The wind sent a chill through him. Kicking at the leaves, he picked up a stick that could have easily passed as an ancient sword of a warrior who walked this same path centuries ago along the old Black River. Nathan paused to think how the river had been there since he could remember. He thought of it more as a trusted friend than just simply a river. No matter what happened, he could always come there and find the comfort and warmth that was missing at home.
The sun was radiant today. So he took advantage of it and used his powerful sword to ward off evil and invisible enemies. He felt strong with the sun shining on his back. It was different from the night, when everything was colorless and cold. He turned quickly to make sure no one had followed him with a surprise attack from behind.
Nathan jumped and rolled in the crisp leaves on the soft ground. What a day! No mere human could make a day like this, even if they tried. He leaned up against a tree and listened for a while. The birds were rehearsing a new symphony that would be debuted tomorrow morning for lucky early risers. They didn't seem to mind him eavesdropping. As a matter of fact, they seemed to sing even louder now. Nathan closed his eyes and he could almost hear a piano and a distant flute. His imagination was perfect today. He paused a little longer, and then, as if something or someone had called him, he took off running down the edge of the river's bank, skipping and dragging his sword closely by his side. "Wait, was that the dreaded dragon hiding behind that tree?" he wondered to himself. Even a dragon couldn't conquer the magical sword he possessed. He posed himself like a brave knight about to do battle with his worst enemy.
“This will surely make me famous,” he thought. “Why, I bet there hasn't been a dragon slain in these parts in hundreds of years.” The dragon was breathing heavily now. Nathan could see smoke rising from his nostrils. “Be brave,” he whispered to himself. “You have your sword. Nothing can harm you as long as you swing it with all your might.” He steadied his hand and placed one arm behind his back. He ran at the tree with the sword outstretched and leapt on the other side to greet his opponent with surprise.
The fire-breathing dragon had disappeared. Apparently, too frightened to stay and fight. But something had been left behind. As Nathan bent to push some of the leaves away for a better view, he saw what looked like a human hand. He fell backwards, landing awkwardly on his sword. Could it be? Should he look again? He was trembling inside and suddenly felt afraid. But his curiosity was greater than his fear. He stepped closer and bent down again to search for what he thought he had seen. Yes, there it was, a small pale hand, like that of a child. He carefully removed more of the leaves until he could clearly see that it was a child, a boy, with dark hair and smooth skin. The small body was motionless and cold and his lips were a bluish color. Off in the distance, he heard someone calling his name. 

Tuesday, August 28, 2012

Recipe for Upside Down Cake

Often in our church we have baby dedications during our Sunday morning services. It’s an important event in the life of our church. New parents, along with their families and friends, show up in their Sunday best and make a statement to the world by publicly dedicating their baby to the Lord. 

We believe that children, up until a certain age, are too young to make a decision to be baptized because they don’t yet understand enough about why we are commanded by Jesus to be baptized and what it means to their Christian walk. Therefore, we encourage parents to dedicate their baby to the Lord until he or she is old enough to decide on their own to be baptized. It’s always a beautiful and moving part of our service.

One Sunday morning we were having a baby dedication in our service. The young family arrived early and they were shown to their seats. A host walked them through the process of what would take place that morning. They were very excited. As part of the celebration, a beautifully decorated cake was specially ordered to share after the service. When the cake arrived, my sister, Robbie, just happened to be in the lobby. Since there was no one else around at the time, the caterer handed the cake to Robbie and asked her to take care of it. Panic suddenly struck Robbie as she carefully held the cake in her hands. It was a gorgeous cake with white frosting and pink roses. Robbie finally found out that the celebration was to take place in a back room and so she was told to take the cake there and leave it on one of the tables.

When Robbie arrived in the room there was a small table sitting in the corner. Robbie carefully placed the cake down on the table and started to walk away. She was so relieved to get the cake out of her hands and safely on the table. However, as she was walking out of the room she heard a weird sound, kind of like a creaking sound. As she turned around to look at the cake, she could see the table was leaning to one side. Robbie felt like she was moving in slow motion as she tried to get back to the table to save the cake, but just as she was about to grab the cake, the table collapsed and the cake along with it. Of course, the cake fell icing side down onto the floor. Robbie’s heart sank. What should she do?

Fortunately, a friend, Donna, heard the commotion and came running into the room. She saw Robbie down on the floor, trying to scrape the cake up with her hands.

“Please, help me!” Robbie shouted to the Donna. “We can still save the cake. No one will know! Help me!” As she began picking up pieces of the cake, it just crumbled in her hands. This was a disaster! The cake was completely ruined. As they examined the table, they discovered that it only had three legs and someone had propped it up against the wall. It was very deceiving. It looked like a solid foundation for the cake, but things are not always as they appear.

Donna quickly pulled Robbie up from the floor, away from the cake. She knew the cake could not be served, but apparently she had to convince Robbie to give up on her rescue mission. Thinking quickly on her feet, Donna called a nearby market and ordered a brand new cake. It would not be as beautiful as the original cake, but at least it would be free of dirt and dust from the floor. Donna told Robbie to just leave it to her and to go into the service. She would take care of everything from there.

Robbie entered the service looking like she was in shock. When she told me what happened, I have to confess, I spent the rest of the service laughing until I cried. Robbie didn’t see the humor in the situation. Me? I always see the humor, right or wrong.

The baby dedication went off without a hitch after that. The family and friends gathered in the room for cake and punch. None them were wise to what had taken place just an hour before the celebration. The day was saved.

Unfortunately, the foundation Robbie chose was unstable, even though it appeared to be solid and safe. It’s so important that we choose the right foundation on which to build our life.

“By the grace God has given me, I laid a foundation as a wise builder, and someone else is building on it. But each one should build with care. For no one can lay any foundation other than the one already laid, which is Jesus Christ.” 1 Corinthians 3:10-11 (NIV)

In this world there are so many people building their lives on an unstable foundation because they made a choice not to build Christ into their lives. Make sure you start with the right foundation, Jesus Christ. No other foundation will do. Don’t run the risk of building everything on a foundation that will, without a doubt, eventually crumble and topple over. You will find yourself down on the floor scraping up the remaining bits and pieces of your life. Jesus is the only solid foundation to build on. Start there and you will be sure of a successful life here and in the hereafter.

“He will be the sure foundation for your times, a rich store of salvation and wisdom and knowledge; the fear of the Lord is the key to this treasure.” Isaiah 33:6 (NIV)

Life can be shaky at times; leaving you feeling like everything might fall right out from under you at any moment. But if you have built your life on the sure foundation of Jesus, you will have an unlimited source of salvation, wisdom and knowledge. Build on the fear of the Lord. This fear doesn’t mean being afraid of what God might do to you, but it means respecting and acknowledging God in every area of life. Acknowledging Him as your source for all you need for an exciting and successful life, even in the middle of difficult seasons, will ensure you will make it through anything life may throw at you. Your foundation will stand strong in the face of storms and uncertain times. Stay away from the three-legged tables that the world offers you. They may look solid, but they cannot stand the test of time. That's a sure recipe for upside down cake.

Wednesday, August 1, 2012

Chasing Angels Reviews Coming In

Check out this link to see what readers are saying about my latest book, "Chasing Angels."

If you've read "Chasing Angels," please post a review on Amazon.com, Twitter or Facebook.

Thanks for all your support, prayers and encouragement.

Tuesday, July 24, 2012

Mom's Homecoming

On July 5th, 2012 our mom finally ended her battle with dementia and went home to be with the Lord. It was her true desire and focus to be with her Savior and her family in Heaven. The last few days were very difficult, but God gave us some very special moments with Mom that we will treasure always.

We live with the hope and faith of knowing that she is now at complete peace. She is healed and whole. Her brain no longer suffers from the brutal symptoms of the dementia that caused her to slowly slip away from us every day.

Where does this hope come from? My Christian faith in Jesus Christ. Jesus gave up all his deity in Heaven to come here and live out life as a man. Yes, He was God and man, but He suffered all of the trials, temptations, pain, sadness, etc. that we experience in this life. Why? So He could restore our relationship with God and become the perfect sacrifice for our sins. Not just the sins we committed in the past, but the sins we will commit in the future. He died for those who haven't even been born yet. It is in that gift of salvation that I place my hope and my future. Mom's life just ended here on earth, but her eternity has just begun and it will never end. So when she slipped away from us here we mourned her passing, but we celebrated her new home in Heaven.

This is our temporary home. Heaven is our permanent home. I love the song by Building 429 that says, "All I know is I'm not home yet. This is not where I belong. Take this world and give me Jesus. This is not where I belong."

Mom was so ready for her permanent home. It's amazing how God starts preparing your spirit to go home. As we watched her in her last moments, she seemed to be at complete peace. She did open her eyes for a short period and we were able to tell her how much we loved her and that we would be fine here. We didn't want her holding on for our sakes. We watched her try to communicate with us by moving her eyebrows up and down. There were lots of tears, but also lots of joy. We felt like we had helped Mom feel like she could let go and run into His arms. That's the way I always pictured her homecoming. She would just take off running free, with no obstacles holding her back. Jesus would be standing there with His arms wide open, waiting to embrace her with a love that only He could give.

We miss Mom more than I can say, but when I worship in church I always picture her worshipping right along with us, free and happy. She was unable to attend church during her last few years. Yet now I feel like she is able to worship with us. That is a powerful vision for me.

I have felt nothing but peace since our mom's passing. That's a peace that only comes from our hope and faith in Jesus Christ. This peace is a gift that we just have to reach out and accept. There are no strings attached. There is nothing you must do to earn it. It's a pure gift. To receive it you just need to say, "Jesus, I ask your forgiveness for my sins, past, present and future. I want to serve you with the rest of my life. Thank you for your gift of salvation. I accept it now. I am a Christian. Christ now lives in me. Amen." It's that simple. You will look the same and maybe even feel the same at first. But the same power that resurrected Christ from the grave will now live inside of you. That's a lot of power. And believe me, to walk out life here on earth, you will need every bit of that power every day.

It's such a simple thing to do in order to receive that same hope and faith that brings peace beyond your own understanding. I pray you accept that gift today. I pray everyone finds this kind of peace and hope. It is possible for everyone to receive this gift. Reach out and grab it while you can.

Tuesday, July 3, 2012

How to Create a Clickable Table of Contents

In preparing my newest mystery novel, “Chasing Angels” for publishing on Kindle one of the most difficult things for me to figure out was how to make a clickable table of contents. I was able to find lots of instructions on the internet for setting up a table of contents in Word (I was using Word 2008), but no clear instructions for making the table of contents clickable for the Kindle. It seemed all of the instructions I found made it appear way more difficult than was necessary. Once I finally figured out how to link my chapters and make them clickable on the Kindle, I decided I should share this information in simple terms for others to use. It is really quite simple once you understand it.

Here is how I managed to make my table of contents clickable for Kindle (using Word 2008):

After you establish your Table of Contents in your book. Go to each of your chapter headings in your book. Highlight each heading and click Insert from your menu: it should look like this:
Click on Bookmark and this window will open:

Type in the name of your bookmark. (It can be anything you like as long as you know that identifies this particular bookmark). I chose to use Chapter1 because I’m going to link it to Chapter 1 in my book. Then click “Add.”

Then go to your Table of Contents and highlight Chapter 1 (or whatever your Chapter name is). Then click insert again, but this time you are going to click on “Hyperlink.”

When you click on “Hyperlink” this window will open:

Click on “Document” in the window and then “Locate” to find the name of your bookmark (created earlier) to link your Chapter.  A list of your bookmarks will open. Click the appropriate bookmark for that Chapter heading.

Select Chapter1 then click OK. This links the Chapter 1 in your Table of Contents to the bookmark you created for your Chapter Heading in your book. Do this for each of your Chapter headings and each Chapter listing in your table of contents. You can bookmark all of your Chapters first in your book and then go to your Table of Contents and hyperlink each one to those bookmarks. Or you can create the bookmark and then the hyperlink as you go, whichever works for you. I chose to create all of the bookmarks for my Chapter Headings within the book first and then went back and added the hyperlinks for each Chapter listed in my Table of Contents. When you’re done, your Chapters will be linked to your Chapter headings in your book.

I hope this helps make this process a bit clearer for you. It may be slightly different if you are using a different version of Word, but this will give you an idea of how the process works.

Friday, June 22, 2012

Now Available on Kindle!

Looking for a great Summer read? Check out my latest book, Chasing Angels. If you love to read mysteries and suspense novels, you'll love this book.

Chasing Angels is about Nathan Staby, a successful writer who returns to his hometown of Fairhaven to find answers to the mysterious death of his childhood friend, Robert Sanding. Nathan has no idea his decision to go back home will begin the unraveling of so many tightly held secrets and memories from his past; secrets involving death, deception and even an encounter with an angel. 

A young boy himself at the time of Robert’s death, Nathan had been the one to discover his friend’s body buried beneath a wet pile of leaves in the woods near his house. Yet the mystery of how Robert died has haunted him for many years, with only the memory of finding the body and that of a mysterious stranger waving to him from the woods as he ran away from the scene. The angelic figure even called out his name, “Goodnight Nathan. Goodnight.” 

After only a short time of being back in Fairhaven Nathan is alarmed to hear the news that another child has been found dead in the woods. The body belongs to a local boy named Todd Harper. The horrific event jars Nathan’s memory to the day he found Robert’s body in the very same woods. He reluctantly rides along with the sheriff to have a look at the scene. There, as he stares at the lifeless body of Todd Harper, he knows he has to be part of the investigation, believing in some strange way, Todd’s death is connected to Robert’s. 

Nathan’s world turns upside down again when he reconnects with Marcie Sanding, his childhood sweetheart and Robert’s sister. He finds himself not only fighting for answers to his past, but also fighting to rekindle the only true love he has ever known. Nathan realizes now he can’t live without her in his life, but he’s not sure she feels the same for him. His attention is torn between unearthing the mysteries of his past and exploring his chance for a future with Marcie. 

Chasing Angels is filled with mystery, blackmail, deception, love, angels and more. This novel will put Nathan through rigorous trials of torment and doubt, leading up to the final climatic unraveling of a lifelong mystery.

If you love to read just for the pleasure of reading, you will love Chasing Angels. It is pure entertainment and will keep you turning the page to see what happens next.

Sunday, June 17, 2012

Coming Soon

Chasing Angels is about Nathan Staby, a successful writer who returns to his hometown of Fairhaven to find answers to the mysterious death of his childhood friend, Robert Sanding. Nathan has no idea his decision to go back home will begin the unraveling of so many tightly held secrets and memories from his past; secrets involving death, deception and even an encounter with an angel.

A young boy himself at the time of Robert’s death, Nathan had been the one to discover his friend’s body buried beneath a wet pile of leaves in the woods near his house. Yet the mystery of how Robert died has haunted him for many years, with only the memory of finding the body and that of a mysterious stranger waving to him from the woods as he ran away from the scene. The angelic figure even called out his name, “Goodnight Nathan. Goodnight.”

After only a short time of being back in Fairhaven Nathan is alarmed to hear the news that another child has been found dead in the woods. The body belongs to a local boy named Todd Harper. The horrific event jars Nathan’s memory to the day he found Robert’s body in the very same woods. He reluctantly rides along with the sheriff to have a look at the scene. There, as he stares at the lifeless body of Todd Harper, he knows he has to be part of the investigation, believing in some strange way, Todd’s death is connected to Robert’s.

Nathan’s world turns upside down again when he reconnects with Marcie Sanding, his childhood sweetheart and Robert’s sister. He finds himself not only fighting for answers to his past, but also fighting to rekindle the only true love he has ever known. Nathan realizes now he can’t live without her in his life, but he’s not sure she feels the same for him. His attention is torn between unearthing the mysteries of his past and exploring his chance for a future with Marcie.

Chasing Angels is filled with mystery, blackmail, deception, love, angels and more. This novel will put Nathan through rigorous trials of torment and doubt, leading up to the final climatic unraveling of a lifelong mystery.

If you love to read just for the pleasure of reading, you will love Chasing Angels. It is pure entertainment and will keep you turning the page to see what happens next.

Tuesday, May 29, 2012

So What's On Your Plate?

Hey everyone! My 2nd book in the Life is a Buffet series, "So What's On Your Plate?" is now available on Kindle. This book contains hilarious stories and simple biblical principles about making wise choices. It makes a great gift for someone who may be going through a rough season in their life or for someone who just needs some laughter in their day. You can click here to check it out for yourself. I've also included one of the stories here along with a teaching so you can get the flavor of the book. You can also visit my website at www.lifeisabuffet.com to read reviews for "Life is a Buffet So What's On Your Plate."Enjoy!


My sister, Robbie and I took a trip not too long ago in her car and when we stopped for gas I opened up her trunk to get something and starting thinking to myself, "what if we have a flat tire on this trip?" I decided to take a glance and make sure I knew where the spare tire was and the tools I would need if I had to change the tire along side the road. Robbie drives a Honda CRV. You have to pop up the window and then open the hatch to get into the back. I moved things around and pulled up the floor covering in the back looking for the spare tire, but it was nowhere to be found. 

"Robbie, come back here," I yelled. Robbie slowly climbed out of the car and strolled to the back of the car where I was standing with my hands on my hips. I was looking very agitated. 

"What's up?" asked Robbie.

"Where is your spare tire?" I asked. 

"I don't know. Isn't it in the trunk there?" Robbie asked, sticking her head in to look. 

"No, it's not," I replied and proceeded to give her a lecture about riding around town without a spare tire. 
For the rest of the trip, every time I got the chance, I reminded her how important it was to have a spare tire. I mean, I'm the older sister so it was my responsibility to ride her about this. 

"Will you stop with the spare tire thing already? If we have a flat tire we'll just ride to the closest station and get it fixed," said Robbie with a look of disgust on her face. I decided to let up for awhile and enjoy the rest of the trip. 
When we arrived back home, Robbie decided to wash her car and vacuum it out. "She cleans out her car, but she doesn't pay attention to the important things, like a spare tire," I mumbled to myself as I went inside the house. Just as I sat down to read the newspaper, Robbie yelled for me to come back outside. I mumbled some more, but made my way back out. There she was, standing behind her car with a very smug look on her face. 

"What is it?" I asked impatiently. 

"I found my spare tire," she said. 

I popped opened the back window, swung open the back door and looked inside the trunk.Where, I don't see it?" I said, pulling up everything to look underneath it. 

Robbie grabbed my arm and pulled me away from the car. She then slammed the back door shut and pointed to the spare tire that was hanging there on the back. I couldn't believe it. We had opened that door a hundred times on our trip, while we frantically looked for the spare tire and never saw it hanging on the back of the car. I felt like an idiot. 

"See, I do too have a spare tire," Robbie said proudly. I had no answer back. We just stared at each other and then burst into laughter. The spare tire had been the subject at hand the whole trip and now it had mysteriously appeared on the back of the car. We laughed at ourselves and how we could have been so blind. One of us not seeing it there was one thing, but both of us? How humiliating. You’ve heard the saying, “What’s two times zero?” 

Sometimes the answer we seek is right in front of us and we just pass right by it. We search, worry and scratch our heads. We make the solution seem very complicated and out of reach, but often it's hanging right in front of us. 

Prayer reveals answers to our problems if we put time aside for meditating on His Word and let God speak to us. He knows the problems and holds the answers. We just need to stop frantically running from place to place trying to find the answers for ourselves and learn to be still and listen for His voice. He does still speak to us today. We just don't take the time to listen. We're too busy, or we think the problem's too big, or we believe we can handle our problems all byourselves. This kind of thinking keeps us from finding the answers God has placed right in front of us. If we just slow down, take a step back and then be still and listen we will find the answers we need in life

By the way, Robbie recently put a big tire cover over her spare tire so it will be more visible in the future. We found the tire, now if we could only find the jack.

Thursday, May 10, 2012

Be Strong and Courageous

There are seasons in life that are joyful, happy and just plain extraordinary. Then there are the seasons when you feel like you are overwhelmed, sad and sometimes just plain exhausted. Ever have one of those seasons?

Our mom, AC, has been living with my sister, Robbie and I for about 25 years. We have given her the best care we could possibly provide, but there came a time when we realized we could no longer care for her in our home. Mom is 89 years old now and in the late stages of dementia. We felt it was no longer safe for her to be in our home. We had someone assisting us for 25 hours a week, but the other times were too scary to even think about. Sometimes we would come home from grocery shopping or church and find the water running or that Mom had fallen. On one occasion I remember arriving home to find Mom had been out the front door and we live on a lake. It was frightening to say the least.

So Robbie and I made the hard decision to place Mom in a nursing center where she would receive around the clock care and supervision. This was one of the hardest decisions I have ever made. After giving Mom the best care we possibly could for 25 years I now had to place her in the hands of strangers and walk away. Oh we visit her daily, but still, you have the sensation of just abandoning your parent to the trust and care of people you've never met. Robbie and I didn't want Mom's last days to have to end this way. She raised four children and was always there when we came home from school. We were hoping and praying she would just go peacefully in her sleep one night, but that hasn't happened.

I wasn't prepared for all of the feelings I experienced once we placed Mom in nursing care. I felt angry, frustrated, sad and I was overwhelmed with guilt. I wanted to do more. I wanted to keep her in our home until she passed. But that meant putting my life on hold for an undetermined number of years. It meant being away from home at times and having someone else looking out for Mom and praying nothing went wrong while I was away. In addition, I felt an incredible amount of frustration and stress while caring for Mom in our home. It wasn't because I didn't love Mom. I understand now that I have an incredible amount of love and respect for Mom. But it was because I was limited in the type of care I could provide for her. Often she just sat on the couch staring out at the world going by. She didn't want to go outside or even let us push her around the neighborhood in a wheelchair. She often had mental meltdowns if there was any amount of variation in her daily routine. I kept telling myself we could manage her care, but it was getting more and more difficult. Every time I passed her sitting in the living room I felt guilty that I couldn't do more to engage her or to eliminate her confusion and despair.

Mom also suffered with chronic pain in her shoulders. She took pain pills to help, but nothing seemed to make her comfortable. So when the opportunity came to place her in a facility of our choice, we decided to go for it. The nursing center only gave us about 48 hours to make this difficult decision because they had a long waiting list. If we didn't take the room, somebody else was available to take it. Then we could find ourselves waiting a year or longer for another opportunity in a place of our choosing.

Years earlier our dad had a series of strokes and was placed in a hospital. Suddenly one afternoon the hospital called and said we are discharging your father and you must find a place for him right away. Our mom wasn't able to care for him at home and so we found ourselves scrambling to find a temporary place for him until we could arrange care at home. Unfortunately we didn't have the opportunity or time to choose a preferable place. He only lived a couple of days after being placed in the facility we were forced to select. I promised myself that would never happen again. Therefore, having the ability to select a place for Mom that we felt would give her the best care was an opportunity we didn't want to pass up.

After placing Mom in a nursing facility we found out how empty our lives felt after being caregivers for so many years. We thought we would breathe an air of relief, but instead we found ourselves worrying and feeling guilty. Every time I pass Mom's room in our home, I start to cry. Did I do all I could do for her? Was there a better way? If I had unlimited funds I'm sure I could have arranged for a better situation. However, reality dictates our choices. I pray Mom knows we love her very much and that we just want to do what we feel is the best for her. And she tells us constantly how much she loves us. I'm thankful for that.

The last visit with Mom I sat by her bedside and listened as she sang out loud to Jesus. It wasn't a song I had ever heard before. She was making it up as she went along. She was singing in the Spirit. She sang words of praise and thanks for her family, for God's love and for a home in heaven that she would one day inherit. Tears rolled down my cheeks. I had never heard her sing in such a wonderful way. Her eyes were fixed on another place, perhaps beyond where I could see. I believe she was looking straight into the eyes of Jesus. At one point she looked at Robbie and then me and said, "Help Steve build the church." (Steve is the pastor of our church). "Have fun at church. Enjoy your time there." You have no idea how incredible these words were coming from my mom. Before, she always resented our going to church because it took time away from her. She didn't believe in giving money towards building new facilities for the future. She always seemed focused on herself. But now she was talking about giving, building, and enjoying our walk with the Lord. My eyes flooded with tears.

When we pray and ask Jesus to help us not to have to suffer through the tough times we fail to have the faith that he chooses to take us through those tough times and not around them. The Holy Spirit can give us strength when we are weak. Walking through the difficult times gives us a different perspective. I don't believe I have ever felt such incredible love and admiration for my mom as I do now. I've also had the privilege of seeing the Holy Spirit comfort her to the point of hearing her sing his praises at the top of her voice. Whether I was a Christian or not I reckon I would have had to walk through this hard time with Mom, but I'm so glad I get to do it with Christ by my side. I can't imagine what this would be like without him encouraging me, comforting me, strengthening me and showing me the way with wisdom and direction.

I don't know how much longer Mom has on this earth. Her mind is slowing slipping away. But I do know that even though she isn't always aware of what's going on around her here in this place, she is so aware of another realm. It's a spiritual realm where I believe the Holy Spirit ministers to her and gives her peace. One day, I don't know when or how, she will slip into the arms of Christ and see him face to face. I rest in knowing I will see her again one day, well and whole. We'll sing his praises together. Then I hope to tell her how I wanted to do so much more for her. But then she'll probably just say, "Don't worry anymore. We have all eternity together now." Thank you Jesus for that gift. It gives me hope and courage. As I walk through each day I believe I hear God telling me, just as he told Joshua when he was heading into battle, "Be strong and courageous. I will not abandon you."

Life is wonderful, but sometimes it's also hard, but if you trust God you will be strong and courageous. He will walk through the good times and the hard times with you. Sometimes he will take you around trouble, but sometimes he will walk you straight through to the other side. Trust him daily, but always trust him.

Monday, April 16, 2012

Stop Your Whining

I just recently bought a 2 month old Golden Retriever. His name is Indiana (Indy for short). He's adorable. I had a Golden named Sunny for 8 years. Sadly he developed a brain tumor and had to be put down a few weeks before Christmas 2011. I was devastated. He had been a close companion that followed my every move for all those years. I couldn't believe I had to let him go. I missed Sunny so much. He was a great dog. He would go swimming with us. He loved to play ball. He was just a fun and loving dog.

So I decided to purchase another puppy, forgetting what it is to have a new baby around the house. I'm not a morning person, but now I'm up at 7am or earlier to feed Indy, and to let him out, and to play with him, and to make sure he doesn't eat the house. I have to supervise his every move. I'm used to sitting down in the evening and doing some work on my iPad, but since Indy has come along I find it's next to impossible to do anything, but follow him around and make sure he doesn't pee, poop or eat something that might kill him or, worse yet, make me want to kill him.

 I'm looking forward to him growing up to being a mature, loving, obedient, and loyal companion that I know Goldies can be. In the meantime, I've got to get him through this learning stage. I've got to let him explore and correct him to keep him on the right path. I've got to protect him and feed him 3 to 4 meals a day to make sure he grows up to be strong and healthy. Indy needs special food because he can't chew the solid foods that a normal mature dog can eat. He requires my constant attention.

In the same way, when we first become Christians we're pretty much like Indy. We are excited. We need nurturing and protecting. We need a mentor to shadow us and teach us along the way. We need constant feeding and encouragement. But there comes a time when we should be able to stand on our own two feet. The word should be planted deeply inside us at this point and we should be looking to impact our world for Christ. We should be ready for solid food. However, this is not the case with many Christians. There are so many who have been serving Christ for many, many years, but they still need constant nurturing, encouragement, teaching and discipline. They get their way by whining and demanding the constant attention of leadership. Hebrews 5:14 tells us, "But solid food is for the mature, who by constant use have trained themselves to distinguish good from evil."

 Are you still whining for attention or are you teaching and helping others? Do you require constant nurturing and cuddling? Let's always be growing and moving forward in our faith. If someone is constantly chasing behind the immature Christians there is no time to impact the world of non-believers out there. Let's stop salting the already-salted and be the salt and the light for the rest of the world. Now, I must go and feed my puppy again. He's crying for his food. He knows how to use his whining to get attention.