Tuesday, July 29, 2014

The Love of God for Us and Through Us

When I think of "entering in" my thoughts are first drawn to a song my daughter, Jamie, wrote for her older sister's wedding. The title is Wedding Eucharist and is a beautiful song. You can hear it HERE. It begins like this:

"Entering his temple with reverence and grace, beauty and transcendence mystically adorn this place. To the east bend your knee to hasten his return. Let fire in your heart, like the incense burn..." 

It makes me think of entering into the presence of God. Technically we are in God's presence all the time because he is everywhere, but I'm thinking of something more intimate. I'm talking about falling down before him in worship and awe, but also with questions, with tears, begging for answers. He is Abba, our Father who loves us deeply and is not surprised by anything we say or do. He knows our thoughts anyway, so why should we be afraid to come to Him?  Too often we are taught, "You have to be good or God won't be happy with you." Sometimes this is done to shame the child into obedience. When we do that we are in essence teaching our children they have to be good before God will accept them, which is definitely not the case. Sometimes it even causes them to have an unhealthy fear of God and instead of running to him, they run away. What does the Bible tell us about that?

But God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us.        (Romans 5:8 NAS)

While it does displease Him when we disobey, that does not stop His love for us. Because of the death and resurrection of Jesus, we are able to come before God unafraid. It's like going into the Holy of Holies which formerly only the high priest could do and that only once a year.  When Jesus died, the curtain that divided that most holy place from the rest of the temple was torn right down the middle from top to bottom.  It's like God was saying, "It's okay, you can come now. My Son has made the way clear."

Yes, the way is clear for us, but what a price was paid for that privilege.  

I too often take for granted what Jesus did that day on the cross, being grateful but not thinking too much about it. What if I did take more time to think about what Jesus actually went through in fulfilling those ancient prophecies. How would that affect my day to day life? Would I want to get to know Him better by spending more time in prayer or reading my Bible or going outdoors observing the wonders of nature? I could begin praying through the hours, stopping at certain times during the day to pause and reflect. Jamie has written an ebook of poetry to help with that practice. It is called Book of Hours In Shadow and SunFor now it is a free download.

How can I live my life in light of what Jesus did for me? 

I think things might look quite a bit different if I thought about His sacrifice for me as I go about my day. Would I be more thoughtful of others? Would I take more care in how I go about my chores? Would I reach out to others more? I don't mean just those I know but people I chance to meet while I'm out somewhere. What about the people in my own neighborhood? This brings me to another aspect of "entering in."

My friend Morgan Paddock and her husband are founders of a non-profit organization called The Dream Campaign. I don't know all that they do but I know they live and work with inner city kids that are at risk. Just the other day there was another shooting in their area. This time it was a triple shooting that took place across the street from the house where one of the kids they minister to lives. You can read about the story at her blog,  A Day in the Life of the Paddocks. They have "entered in" to a ministry that is difficult, but I think she would also say rewarding. They are investing their lives in the lives of these children and their families, showing them love and welcoming them into their home as a safe place, helping them to see their worth and to realize their dreams.

What they do is an inspiration to me, but it also gets me to thinking. 

What am I doing for people in my community that may need help? I have prayed for people when needs are made known, but I'm wondering if there is something else I should be doing in my own little part of the world. I'm sure there are homeless people here, and I would guess many through no fault of their own. A few years ago we attended a concert by Ken Medema which was to raise money for a couple of organizations that reach out to homeless people and give them shelter, help them find jobs or help to meet other needs they may have. At that time I was determined to see if there was anything I could do in my area, but other duties and things got in the way and I forgot about it.

We do need to take care of our own family and extended family, and not everyone is called to live in at-risk situations like my friend, Morgan. One thing I do know is that we are supposed to show hospitality to all and to be faithful in doing what God has called us to do in our own sphere of life.  I want to find out if there is anything I can do right here to help others who may need help in the basic needs of life. I pray that God would help me to remember to do this. What about you? What are your thoughts? Here is some encouragement to all of us:

And let us not lose heart in doing good, for in due time we shall reap if we do not grow weary. So then, while we have opportunity, let us do good to all men, and especially to those who are of the household of the faith. (Romans 6:9,10 NAS)

I'm linking up with Marvia Davidson again this week for her Real Talk Tuesday. Won't you join us? Tell us what "entering in" means to you, and drop on by to link up with us. Just click on the photo below. We'd love to have you.

Monday, July 21, 2014

Alone With Two Little Girls (Conclusion)

Part 1 can be found HERE, and Part 2 can be found HERE

From last week:
By the next day Sara got sick, too. Then the inevitable happened. I got sick, so there was at least one day I couldn't go visit my husband. Thankfully it was just a 24 hour stomach bug, but I wondered why it had to hit us at this particular time.

Things were not all bad, though. We had such kind church friends who came to help me do some things at the house, and others took care of the girls so I could go visit Steve. During the daytime our friends were very helpful, and I appreciated it so much, but then the nights would come and I was alone again being the only adult.

But this is still not all that happened that week...

One day my friends took the girls to the Turtle Back Zoo and Jamie got lost. She was always excitedly running ahead of everyone, and somehow she got out of their sight. What I found out later was that she wanted to find the turtle. She figured there should be one since that was the name of the zoo.

When the adults didn't respond as she kept asking about it, she took matters into her own hands and decided to look for the turtle herself. She didn't have a lot of hair but she did have a particular curl that seemed to settle right in the middle, so when my friend started asking people if they had seen her she described her as Trixie on the comic strip “Family Circus.” (I don't know if you remember that, but Trixie was the youngest child and had one curl on top of her head.)  

I asked Jamie what she remembered about that time and here is what she said,

 I went and asked an old man who looked really nice like a grandpa if he could help me find my way. I remember taking his hand and the next thing I remember is waiting in a little office area with off-white/yellow walls. I remember concrete, a black railing fence, and someone with a balloon which I envied. I remember it from my vantage point as a child. All things were up. Above my head.

Either later that day or another day that week while playing at friend's house, Jamie had to be taken to the emergency room to be checked out, but she was okay.

(Jamie, a few months later)

Another time that week after visiting Steve, I was in the hospital elevator getting ready to go to my car in the parking garage. I had taken my keys out of my purse so as to have them ready. Then I noticed out of the corner of my eye that two guys in the elevator with me were sort of pointing at me and talking. That made me a little nervous. 

Since I had a bad feeling about what their intentions were, I put my keys back into my purse and went to visit the hospital gift store. I stayed in there quite awhile hoping I would not see them again. It was a very nervous young mama who finally went to the car. Thankfully, no one was around and I made it home safely.

The toilet continued to overflow off and on that week. When the sewer backed up in the basement, too, the girls and I went back to stay at our friend's house until Steve was better. The problems with the sewer continued after that.

(What we found out much later was that the city had damaged the sewer pipe when they dug things up to put in a storm sewer. Since the pipe was broken, all of our sewage was just draining into the ground. It was not discovered at the time, because the lady that lived there didn't use as much water as a family with a washing machine would use. The problems with that and getting the city to pay for the damage is another story entirely.)

As you can see, that was a very hard week for me. Throughout it all God sustained me by giving strength, by showing kindness through my church friends, and even though it was hard He provided for all my needs. Time passed.

We fixed up the house to be a lovely place to live, including putting up wood siding and replacing all the windows. Steve also built some backyard playground equipment. Most of the neighborhood children loved to play in our yard.  

(swing and added porch)

(Jamie and Sara enjoying the slide)
Two more daughters were born to us during our years in Plainfield, New Jersey. All in all, even after such a rough start we had many happy years in that home and many memories to cherish.

{(Evangeline) Grace at 7 months old}

(Marianne loved to help with dishes)

Today's theme for 40 Days of Blogging, has to do with the home. The prompt is "What is one thing you love about your home?"

While not specifically answering the question in the story, what I can say is that I loved the wood used inside and out. That goes for our present home also, which is a log house. When we have been away for awhile leaving the house closed up, it always greets us with this wonderful wood smell as we enter. It's one of my favorite things!

Friday, July 18, 2014

Flowers - Some of My Favorite Things

Linking up with Lisa Jo Baker's Five Minute Friday today and the prompt is the word "bloom."

When I think of the word "bloom" my mind automatically thinks about flowers. There are so many varieties of flowers in the world. God has quite an imagination! We have several kinds of wild flowers just on our property, and that is nothing compared to the myriad of blooms all over the world.

Yellow flowers are some of my favorites - the giant sunflowers, the bright daffodils, yellow roses. Even dandelions have pretty yellow blooms. 

A close second are the reds - a lovely rose, the large amarylis blooms, bright red tulips, poppies.

Flowers are some of my favorite things!

If you'd like to join in and write your own Five Minute Friday post you can get all the details HERE.  If you don't have a blog you can share yours in the comments section of Lisa Jo's blog.

Thursday, July 17, 2014

Who is Your "We?"

Once again I am linking up with Marvia Davidson's Real Talk Tuesday. It's not Tuesday any more, but the link is still open and anyone is welcome to participate. You can find all the information HERE if you'd like to join in. The prompt this time is only one word, "we." Who is your "we?"

Beloved, let us love one another, for love is from God;
 and every one who loves is born of God and knows God. 
Beloved, if God so loved us, we also ought to love one another.
(I John 4:7,11)

God has blessed me with family who love me and are very supportive. My husband and my children are my go to people. I also  have my 91 year old mother who still listens when I have things to talk about, and I know she is a prayer warrior. Even though we don't all agree all the time, we are ready to listen and help each other. One of my daughters reminded me that those times actually help to make our love stronger. There are also friends I don't see very much any more because of either no longer living near or just following different paths, but I know if I had a need they would be right there ready to help as I would for them.

Now that I am doing more writing, it helps to have people who can critique and give encouragement to keep on writing. My daughters help me a lot with that, but also I have found that kind of support from the online community of women writers known as The Story Sessions.

How do we show each other that we care and are willing to listen and to help?

We will love unconditionally; we will depend on each other to be ready to help and to listen even when we don't agree. We will give support even when others may not. We will help each other think through things until there is clarity. We will encourage, and most of all we will uphold each other in prayer.

Will we do this perfectly?

No, of course not. We are human. We are vulnerable. We are not perfect people. The good news is that we don't have to be. We can be willing to admit our short comings and forgive each other and move on into a relationship that grows as we grow. We can learn from mistakes and ultimately glorify God even through all our questions, doubts and misunderstandings. He loves us and will be there to give us what we need in any circumstance as we come to Him and ask.

Trust in the Lord with all your heart,
 And do not lean on your own understanding. 
In all your ways acknowledge him,
And he will make your paths straight.
(Proverbs 3:5,6)

I believe God will lead us to those whom we can trust and who will stay with us through trials, temptations, failures and successes. He directs our paths and it's amazing sometimes for me to look back and see how He orchestrated events. Recently I was contacted by someone close to me who was having a really hard struggle. Normally at the time when I saw the greeting on my computer I would have already been out milking goats, but for some reason I was delayed that day and was there when that person needed me. Other times I have received mail or some other thing at a time when I really needed the encouragement, and people have told me that cards I have sent to them could not have come at a better time.

We are made for community.

We were not meant to live in isolation. We need each other to spur us on when we want to give up, to help us slow down when we move too fast, to encourage and to love unconditionally. It is a beautiful thing to know there are people I can always count on and will be there to help me through whatever situation I may be facing.

Who is your "we?"

Do you have people you go to when you need someone to listen, when you are so hurt and angry that your thinking is muddled? What about someone who will share your successes and failures? Do you have anyone who loves you unconditionally and who will be there to support you in whatever way they can? There may be times when you do feel alone, like there is no one who cares, but to you who know the Lord, remember that He is always with you. Go to Him when you struggle and ask for help in seeking out people who will uphold you, love you and stick with you through the good times and the bad. When there is no one else that we can see, God is still there. In Hebrews 13:5, we are told not to love money but to be content with what we have, and then the reason is given :

...for He himself has said,
 "I will never desert you, nor will I ever forsake you,"
so that we may confidently say,
"The Lord is my helper. I will not be afraid.
What shall man do to me?"
(Hebrews 13:5b-6)

Because He has promised never to forsake us, I believe the truth of this scripture can be applied all the time regardless of the circumstances in which we find ourselves. I'd love to hear your thoughts. You can also click on the picture below to read what others have written on the subject this week.

Tuesday, July 15, 2014

Our Quest for the Waterfall

We took a little trip this afternoon, my husband and me, my son Robert and our French guest, Mathis. Steve had found a place called Twin Falls on Google maps. According to the map it looked like a fairly short drive to a little road which my husband thought was called Twin Falls Rd. On the map it looked like the falls were right beside the road. Looks can be deceiving. I was a little reluctant, because we had set off one time before looking for a waterfall and never found it. It was getting later in the afternoon and I knew I would have to get supper ready soon after getting home, so I made a few more excuses. Steve really wanted me to come and even washed up the dishes before we left, so I figured I should go.

We followed what we remembered from the map but made what we thought was a wrong turn. When we went a short distance and the road came to an intersection, there was no sign about a waterfall so we ended up turning around and getting to the road we were looking for. After going a short distance we passed the intersection where the other road was and saw that it would have been a little bit of a short cut, but we didn't know. 

Back on track we continued until we got to the point where Twin Falls Rd. should be but it was called Waterfalls Rd. A little unsure we turned anyway and down further there was a green sign with a white arrow on it pointing to the left, so we followed it, still wondering if we were really going to see any waterfalls. I wish I had remembered to take some pictures of the signs along the way.

We traveled on a little farther until we came to a place where the paved road ended. To the left was what looked like a parking area with one car there.  We took a chance and parked there,too. Straight ahead was a dirt road that continued on. It had a large sign at the beginning  that had rules telling us among other things, not to climb on rocks, but there was nothing about any waterfalls. We decided to start walking up the dirt road hoping we would find them. At least we were having fun exploring. I took some pictures as we began our walk.

We heard water running and came to a point alongside us where there was a stream with some tiny little falls and some interesting rocks. We veered off the road to look and take some pictures. Then it was back to the dirt road where we kept walking, but still no waterfall. It did seem that the noise of water grew louder, so we kept walking ahead seeing more of the little stream. We were climbing somewhat so we thought there must still be a possibility of finding the falls. 


Finally the dirt road became a path which narrowed to maybe 3 feet wide and continued uphill with a little bit of winding. There was a bit of a drop off on one side and a dirt wall on the other. I wish I had taken a picture of it. After walking this way a bit we came to a wooden walkway with a railing that led up to a small wooden pavilion with seats built into the sides. We figured it was somewhere between 1/2 mile to a mile that we had walked to get to that place. 

(Mathis, Steve and Robert)
Directly across from the pavilion were the Twin Falls. It was worth the wait and the short climb. 

(Mathis at the bottom)
(top of the waterfall)

Isn't it beautiful? And to think I almost didn't go!

Today's theme in my 40 Days of Blogging is "Pursuing your dreams," and we focus on battling resistance, because resistance can keep us from following our dreams. The prompt is: "It is hard to be true to my dreams because...

I think this little story illustrates how we can miss things when we let resistance block us from pursuing our dreams. I wanted to see the waterfalls, but resistance showed up with excuses. I could have listened and talked myself out of going on that little trip this afternoon. I would have missed out on a fun adventure, not to mention seeing the beautiful waterfalls. Turns out it only took us 20 minutes to drive to the place and then less than a mile to walk on a pretty easy path into the forest to find the waterfall. What if I had listened to the words of resistance? 

The same applies to almost anything we want or need to do. It's so easy to believe the lies that say we cant do it and let excuses keep us from even starting sometimes, but let's battle resistance and not let it get a foothold. Who knows what waterfalls and other treasures we may find!

40 Days of Blogging is a collective in the online community of women writers known as Story Sessions.

Monday, July 14, 2014

Alone With Two Little Girls Part 2: More Problems

This is a continuation of the story I started last Monday as part of a prompt in 40 Days of Blogging. You can find Part 1 here.  The prompt for this week has to do with the word "brave" and I believe this story shows how I had to be brave in the face of circumstances at that time in my life.

(photo credit Jamie Bagley)

From last week:

To make a long story short, Steve had to have surgery on that finger and was put in isolation at the hospital. I had to put on a gown and gloves to go see him. The doctor told me that if we had not brought Steve to him that day, he probably would not have lasted through the night. That was a very sobering thought. He had to stay in the hospital for a whole week, and I was left alone with two little girls in a house that was really not ready to be lived in.

But that was not all that happened that day...

You can imagine how tired I was physically and emotionally by the time I got the girls home and in bed.

I first called Steve's parents to let them know what had happened. When his dad answered he didn't even know who I was at first. It took a few minutes to make him understand. Then I called my parents, and because of my dad's job they weren't able to come up and help us, which was very discouraging. Both sets of parents lived in Florida, so they couldn't just hop in the car and come on over.

I then proceeded to get ready for bed when the toilet upstairs overflowed and dripped down into the kitchen.

When I finally got that cleaned up I was ready to drop into bed, exhausted. Things couldn't be any worse, or could they? I got my answer when I went to check on the girls.

Jamie had gotten sick, thrown up all over her bed and was sleeping in it.

I cleaned her up and put a towel on one side of my bed for her to sleep on in case it happened again. I don't remember much about how I felt because I was so busy taking care of things.

It was a pretty scary situation being alone with the girls while Steve was hospitalized.

I probably did some crying that night feeling pretty alone there in that house with all it's problems, my husband in the hospital, my parents not being able to come, and a sick child. I finally was able to get some sleep.

By the next day Sara got sick, too. 

Then the inevitable happened. I got sick, so there was at least one day I couldn't go visit my husband. Thankfully it was just a 24 hour stomach bug, but I wondered why it had to hit us at this particular time.

(Me and the girls shortly before we moved)

You are probably wondering how in the world Steve got blood poisoning at all. 

He had been working with some pipes in the house, and since the house was very old the pipes were joined together with lead. His finger had a cut on it and we figured some of the lead must have gotten in through that cut.

Things were not all bad, though. 

We had such kind church friends who came to help me do some things at the house, and others took care of the girls so I could go visit Steve. During the daytime our friends were very helpful, and I appreciated it so much, but then the nights would come and I was alone again being the only adult.

That's not all that happened. Come back next week for the conclusion.

Saturday, July 12, 2014

Five Things Learned From Blogger Friends

(photo credit Jamie Bagley)
1. One of the first blogs I read several years ago was that of Trina Holden. I was intrigued by her story of living in a tipi in upstate NY during her teenage years . I'm convinced that the hardships she endured then helped prepare her for the life she is living now. Her passion is to help people learn to eat "real" food and find easy ways to prepare it. I can't say enough good things about her book Real{Fast}Food. In it I found a recipe for mayonnaise that actually worked for me, when none of the others I had tried turned out very well. I learned an easy way to make chicken stock and cultured refried beans, and much more. I use her tips almost every day.

2.  In her post titled Back to Writing {For Writing's Sake}, Trina began with the question, "Are you a blogger or a writer?"  She was not really trying to separate the two but show that probably before becoming bloggers we really were writers. She encouraged me to write for the joy of it, to not get so caught up in trying to make money, trying to make a name, trying to get likes and sponsorships that I forget why I am writing/blogging in the first place. She said, "Focus on your calling as a writer and leave the increase to God." The whole post was really a gem and helped me focus on just why I write.

3.  Jennifer Upton taught me how to slow down and really look at things. She showed me how ordinary things can have beauty, too. All we need to do is look for it. When I do take the time to really see I am inspired and sometimes able to write a short poem on the spot. She encourages us to take pictures and then come up with a story about the picture. She has opened up a whole new world for me. She is phenomenal with her photography skills and is not afraid to try new things. Her enthusiasm overflows into the lives of many people with much encouragement. You can see some of her work here.

4.  Elora Ramirez in Story 101 helped me to see that I have a voice and that my words matter. She also said we should never throw our words away, even those we don't use at a particular time in our writing, and also those that no one hears. We should let them sit and come back to them. She likened those unused words as "compost, the soil that our writing comes out of."  I thought that was a good analogy.

5.  No list would be complete without my daughter, Jamie Bagley, who encourages me almost daily. She is the one who got me into writing with that first guest post she asked me to do before I even started blogging. She then helped me with setting up the blog and getting started. In this post she is talking about wholeheartedly trying things. She says, "So we want to be artists, poets, photographers, writers? Let's take some steps." Then she proceeds to give five steps to help us on our way. She helps me see that we don't worry about "arriving." Instead we think of it as "cultivating."  We should push away resistance and just begin with whatever it is we are interested in not worrying about knowing everything about it first.

This is by no means an exhaustive list. I have learned much from many bloggers in the community known as Story Sessions. If you have not done so you might want to come take a peek at some of what is offered in this unique online group of women writers.

This post is the result of a prompt in the 40 Days of Blogging.

Friday, July 11, 2014

My Unique Voice

Today is Day 12 in 40 Days of Blogging, a collective I am participating in sponsored by Story Sessions. The theme for today is "Using Your Own Voice," and the prompt is a set of questions I chose to answer in an interview type format.

What can I never stop writing about?

I can never stop writing about God, the Creator of the world, who also made me in His image with the ability to create in my own finite way. He is the One who loves me, who has forgiven all my sin, and is the one who cares for all creation. He has given me a love for people, a desire to write, to photograph things, to share His love with all those who cross my path. I want everyone to know Him.

(artwork by Abby Norman)

What is one thing I keep coming back to? 

I'm always drawn to the sights and sounds of nature, and I want to encourage others to look at the things all around them with eyes that see and notice details like the colors of flowers, the intricate designs of spiderwebs, the varying patterns of butterfly wings, and water droplets sparkling in the sun.  I want to encourage people to listen to the myriad bird songs, the sound of the cricket and cicada, and the rustling of leaves as the wind wanders through them.


What is my message? 

It would be to encourage everyone to take time for some solitude outdoors. Look at the different cloud formations and the vastness of the sky. Let the beauty of nature inspire you and point you to the Creator who is full of mercy and grace to help with all of our needs. The more I go about each day and let the busyness crowd out my time outdoors, feeling rushed and frustrated by all the clutter around me and all the work that needs doing, I realize how important it is to make myself take some quiet time outside. Being outdoors refreshes me and helps me to have a better attitude when I tackle the work inside. 


And how will I deliver it?

I will continue to write poetry as I am inspired by what God has created. Using my camera I will continue to take photographs of what I find in nature, sometimes overlaying them with poetry or inspiring quotes. Using my blog I will also continue to share little snippets of my life showing the many ways God cares for me.


Wednesday, July 9, 2014

A Choice Made Years Ago

Welcome to another day of the Story Session's collective, 40 Days of Blogging led by my daughter, Jamie Bagley.  She is featured today on the Story Session's blog with an interview about her recently published ebook, Book of Hours: In Shadow and Sun. It's a treat!

(photo credit Jamie Bagley)
The theme of Day 10 is "Choices" and we are to choose one of the following prompts: a) How a choice changed my life or b) Choosing my words well. I chose the first one.

There are many choices made through the years that have changed my life. The choice to take piano lessons is one of the earliest I remember. I had already played around with the piano trying to figure things out, so by the time I was nine I was quite ready to learn. It was very enjoyable to me and I learned things pretty quickly. During one recital I and the other students played through an arrangement of part of the "Peer Gynt Suite" by Edvard Grieg, with each of us doing one of the songs. My part was the the song called "Peer Gynt's Return Home."  It was the last song of the recital, and I had worked very hard to get it right. Would you believe I still have the music?

Playing opened up such an outlet of release for me. In an earlier blog post I mentioned about how I would use it when I was angry to help get out the anger by playing a hard, loud song. Sometimes on a Saturday morning if I thought my dad was sleeping too late I would play a loud song on the piano. I know, that was pretty thoughtless, but I was young, and I don't really think he minded all that much. If you're interested here is a youtube video of someone playing the exact song, "Knight Rupert" by Schumann. Other times I would actually get out of washing dishes after supper if I went to play the piano right away. I played hymns a lot and my mom loved to hear me play so she would do the dishes while I played.

My first teacher moved away after two years, but I was able to get lessons from my pastor's wife for the next year. Then she told me that she thought I needed someone who could give me more advanced lessons. For awhile I just played on my own, but when a new youth and music director who also played the piano came to my church, I asked if he could give me lessons. At first he wasn't sure, but we were able to find an agreeable time and place. There was a time just before church one Sunday evening that he asked me to play for the service, but I guess I was still pretty shy back then. My mother told me that I at first told him I didn't think I could, but he returned with, "Gayl, you get up there and play."  Evidently he was more sure of my abilities than I was. Eventually I played some for the youth choir and in later years for the main choir, taking turns with others.

In high school I had the privilege of accompanying the girl's choir which they named "The Girls Glee Club." That was a fun thing for me. As I mentioned earlier I was pretty shy growing up, but having the piano as an outlet really helped me to come out a little more.  One year the choice was made to pick out a pattern and material to make our own outfits for the choir. Those dresses were the most hideous I have ever seen.  I remember several of us talking about them and we said they made us feel like pumpkins! We also had sparkly gold shoes to wear that really didn't even match.

When my husband started teaching in Christian schools I was able to accompany the choir in some of them. I remember one concert where the director and I were both very pregnant due fairly close to each other, but we still were able to do our parts for the concert. Through the years I have also had opportunity to play for the different churches we were a part of. Some had choirs and some did not. In one church one year several of my family members were on the worship team with me and it was such a wonderful time being able to work with family members. The music director at that time gave me some good pointers for my piano playing. When I took that job it had been awhile since I had done much playing in church, so I appreciated his help.  In fact, my experience there helped me to apply for the position in another church and feel more confident in my abilities.

In this new position I found myself practicing at least an hour a day just to be able to handle the choir songs, and I had to pick out what to do for a prelude each Sunday. That experience really stretched me in good ways and I thoroughly enjoyed my time there. Some of the music was difficult, but like an earlier time, this music director also had more confidence in me than I had in myself. I am very thankful for the experience.

My choice to learn the piano brought many opportunities I would never have had if I had not learned to play. I wonder what my life would have been like if I had not made that choice those many years ago.  Many people have told me that my music really blessed them and really added to the worship during the church service. Also, I would have missed out on the fun and refreshment playing the piano gives me.

Tuesday, July 8, 2014

What Do I Need?

If you were to ask me what I need I'm sure I could come up with a myriad of things, but what do I really need? Do I need approval from others before I attempt to do anything? Do I need to be afraid of failure? When I fail does that mean I've blown it and my life can never be what it was meant to be? Do I always need to put myself last so that my needs are seldom met? Does God expect me to fix myself up before I offer myself to Him? Do I have to make sure I have all the answers before I can share Christ with someone else? Do I need to put on a happy smile all the time and pretend everything is perfect? The list of questions could go on and on and never stop. If I think about it I realize many of these are questions I and others have grappled with at some point, and some still may be unanswered. Do I really need to have all the questions answered?

What do I need?

Do I need people to know and accept me for who I am? Do I need to accept me for who I am? Do I need to accept others for who they really are? Do I need to acknowledge my failures and instead of being ashamed and afraid, accept them, learn from them and move on? Do I need to continue trying new things, stretching myself, digging deeply to know my heart's desires? Do I need to keep writing and creating even when some days seem too hard?

What do I need?

Do I need to be willing to meet people where they are, rather than insist they change? Do I need to share the love of Christ in my words and actions and leave the work of change up to the Holy Spirit? Do I need to be open to the leading of the Holy Spirit in my own life to be willing to change views if I realize they have been wrong? Do I need to take God at His word and trust Him to care for me as He has promised to care for all His children? Do I need to be obedient to Him even if others disagree? 

Can I know what I really need in this life I live?

Could it be that I just need to come to God with arms outstretched and empty hands to accept His love, demonstrated by Christ when He bought me with His blood by His death on the cross at Calvary? Could it be that I need to lose myself in Him to find out who I really am? Could it be that as I read His word and follow Him that He will meet my needs at just the right time?  Could it be that I need to praise and thank Him every day? Could it be that I need to trust Him not just when things are going well, but even when things are hard, when I can't see through to the end of the tunnel? Yes, I must because there is always light on the other side of the darkness.

Will God really meet my needs?

God has proved Himself over and over again to me throughout my life. I have had my share of troubles, but God has been faithful to bring me through each one. When money was low we had groceries provided. When I was pregnant with my first child my husband was not always paid on time because the Christian school where he taught lacked the funds. But I remember that between gifts and things loaned we had everything we could ever need or want to care for a baby. I remember wishing there was a way to repay an older couple who had been very kind to us. What they told me has stuck throughout the years. They said that one day we would be the older, experienced ones and we would be able to help those younger than us in much the same way we were helped. I have found that to be true many times over.

Here is what is promised to us in Hebrews 4:14-16:

Since then we have a great high priest who has passed through the heavens, Jesus, the Son of God, let us hold fast our confession. For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but one who in every respect has been tempted as we are,yet without sin. Let us then with confidence draw near to the throne of grace, that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need.

God will supply our needs. This is not to say that He will always give us what we think we need. He goes with us through the darkness, when we can't see Him, when it looks like He is gone. We may not see Him, but He is always there, pursuing us when we run, holding us when we hurt. He may have to bring us to the end of ourselves before we realize that we can't do it alone, that we need His help and guidance every step of the way. Jesus calls us his sheep and I take comfort in the fact that He holds me in His hand.

Jesus says in John 10: 27-31:

"My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me; I give them eternal life, and they will never perish, and no one will snatch them out of my hand. My Father, who has given them to me, is greater than all, and no one is able to snatch them out of the Father's hand. I and the Father are one."

I am thankful for all the experiences I have had, for the privilege of having His word, for having the proof of Creation to show me that He is who He says He is and will care for me in whatever situation I face. 

What do I really need?

I need to acknowledge the hand of God in my life in everything I do. I need to thank Him for making me who I am with all my imperfections.  I need to follow the desires of my heart, because if I am trusting Him, I believe my desires will be in line with His will. I need to create, using the gifts He has granted without fear of failing or of someone's disapproval. I need to love and be loved, to encourage and be encouraged. I need to live each day filled with gratitude rather than complaining, because only then will I be truly happy.

What do you need?

I'd love to hear your thoughts and welcome your comments or ideas on this matter of needs.

This was originally written for Day 9 of 40 Days of Blogging, a collective led by my daughter, Jamie Bagley.. The theme is "Learning to Ask" The prompt is : "What I Need..."