Category Archive: Blessings

BROKEN DREAMS, FULFILLED

My dream

As a little girl, I dreamed of the day I would walk down the aisle in a white gown, a long lace veil and train following the billowing skirts of my Cinderella gown. Babies would follow and a tall, handsome man and I would share a home filled with laughter and love. A white picket fence would surround our house. It was a picture-perfect scenario.

But God led me another way. I served with an inner city ministry for ten years, then married for the first time at the age of thirty-six. Lots of conversations with my new husband centered around if, and when, we might try to have a child, or children. My husband was nine and a half years older than I. One concern was that our children, if we had any, would have significantly older parents than most of their peers. When our child was 20, we could be 58 and 68 respectively. We prayed, talked, I cried, we talked more … and determined that for us, bearing and raising children might not be the best option.

One Mother’s Day I cried through the whole church service. I cried throughout the afternoon and evening. My kind husband tried to comfort me, but my dream of being a mother was dying, and I grieved. Time healed the grief and my husband and I shared a lovely life together until his untimely death at the early age of 66. After his passing, I thought I might remain single; a few years later, however, God brought Don into my life. We fell in love and married.

         Mom and three of her four children

Today we celebrated another Mother’s Day with my sweet 95-year old mother. We are so blessed that this lovely, gracious woman is still with us, praying for us, making us laugh with her hearing loss that results in some pretty hilarious conversations.

And that dream of mine that died years ago? This week I received a beautiful note from a younger woman I led to Christ about a year ago. “You have been like a mother to me…” she wrote. As tears filled my eyes, I thought of the ways God has fulfilled my dream – in an out-of-the-box kind of way. I’ve had the privilege of discipling several women over the years, and now have two wonderful women whom I have the joy of loving and teaching and walking alongside in their relationship with Christ. My oldest brother asked today, “Carol, is Mother’s Day hard for you since you don’t have children?” I responded immediately. “No, because God has given me spiritual daughters.” Oh, I feel a twinge now and then … like when I chose not to take the “Mother’s Day mug” from church this morning because I am not a mother in the traditional sense. But those twinges don’t last long.

So, my point? God is not limited to one way of answering prayer. This is a hard day for many women – women who have never had a loving relationship with their mother; women who long to bear children and can’t, for a variety of reasons. Women who have carried a child who died in utero, in birth, or after birth. My heart goes out to each of you, for the grief you feel and the heartache that bubbles to the surface on this day.  But let’s also ask God to help us recognize His “out-of-the-box” handprint on our lives.

“As you do not know the path of the wind, or how the body is formed in a mother’s womb, so you cannot understand the work of God, the Maker of all things.” Ecclesiastes 11:5 NIV

Question: How have you seen God’s handprint on your life in unexpected ways?

post by carolnl | | 2

Drawn to Worship

Don and I stepped onto the walk-on ferry from Cannes, France, and found our seats. Motoring through the cerulean waters, we passed St. Marguerite Island, which held a stone fortress which used to be a large prison. Cannes, and its busy, over-the-top multi-million dollar yachts, its Cannes Film Festival red carpet (coming two weeks after our visit), its high-rise hotels and spectacular villas, receded into the distance. The water’s various blue hues inspired wonder as we approached the dock at Isle St. Honorat. Sailboats of various sizes and styles dotted the water surrounding this small piece of land which has been home to a community of monks since the fifth century.

Tradition says that Honoratus settled on the island, intending to live the life of a hermit. However, disciples followed him and formed a monastic community.  Their life on the island was often interrupted by raids, primarily by Saracens. The monks were expelled when the island was captured by the Spanish in 1635; however, they returned two years later when France retook Isle St. Honorat.

Continuing attacks on the monastery by Spanish and Genoese reduced the number of monks to four, and the monastery was disestablished in 1787.

In 1859, the Bishop of Frejus bought the island with the intent of reestablishing a religious community there. Ten years later, a Cistercian community was established, which has remained there since.

We were not allowed to enter the monastery; however, we could walk up to enter the church and visit the tower. The walk was beautiful. Vineyards lined both sides of the dirt road, and the monastery’s tower was clearly visible against an azure sky.

As we walked past the shops where the monks sell wine and honey made from local produce, we also saw the effect of loving care for the property. Red, pink, periwinkle flowers grew up against stuccoed walls, reaching toward the sun. I took photos and delighted in the beauty of the scene, when I heard music coming from the church. Yes, we had arrived while the monks were singing their daily mass. The acoustics in the high-ceilinged, beautiful-without-being-ornate church, bounced the monks’ antiphonal sounds into the courtyard and thrilled my being. Quietly entering the church, many of us sat to listen and worship as the monks sang “Hallelujah.”

Here we were, on another side of the world, enjoying worship with monks we’d never met, with different languages yet united in “hallelujah” to our God. That will remain a treasured moment in my soul.

When has your spirit been drawn to worship because of music, a kind word, or a loving touch?

 

He will quiet you in His Love

Searching for documents

My fingers tapped the table. My mind struggled to remember where I’d put those documents.  I’d been gathering information for our CPA for hours already that day. But I couldn’t find some significant paperwork I needed to complete my part of our tax preparation. Finally I went outside to find my hubby.

“Don, I need your help. I can’t find these papers and can’t finish my tax information without them.”

“Let’s both go look.”

I leaned into his shoulder while my love put his arms around me, holding me close. My spirit quieted because, whether or not we found those documents, I wasn’t alone in my search. Don was there for me, helping me, sharing the load. We walked into the den and checked everywhere we could think of, without success.

I spoke up. “Lord, we really need your help here. I have no idea where else to look.” Don looked up at me. “Have you checked the safe?”

“No, but that’s a good idea.” I got out of my chair and walked towards our room. Before I got there my view fell on the folder I needed in the hall closet.

“Thank you, Jesus … and Don.” He took my into his arms and we both laughed, rejoicing that the lost was found.

This is such a teeny example of the truth in a scripture I love. Zephaniah 3:17 says “The Lord your God is with you, he is mighty to save. He will take great delight in you, he will quiet you with his love, he will rejoice over you with singing.

When I take my concerns to the Father, He puts his arms about me and says, “Let me carry this burden, my child.

I’ve got it!” And even more, the God of the universe rejoices over me with singing. That feels like the tenderness that surrounded me when my mother sang lullabies to me as a little girl. In God’s love I feel enfolded. And my heart and mind quiet in His presence.

What helps you give your concerns to the One who wants to quiet your heart with his great and unconditional love?

A Tearful Farewell

We said a tearful goodbye Wednesday morning. Our sweet, 14-year old Kelly has recently gone steadily downhill. It hurt to watch her stumble, her legs splay underneath her, her turn away from food, and sleep most of the day.

Don and I have prayed that God would give us wisdom as to when it was time to say goodbye. Several times we’ve thought we were there, but then she’s rallied. And Kelly has never been a complainer, so we watched her eyes, her walk, her food intake, her energy level. Monday we took her to the vet for blood tests. “I’m really not happy with what I see,” Kelly’s kind and competent doctor told us. It was time.

We took our Kelly-girl home for another day and a half to love on her and to say goodbye. En route home I said, “Don, I’d love it if we could take her to the beach one more time. But I know it’s supposed to rain tomorrow.” Kelly slept on my shoulder for two hours that night, something I don’t think she’s done since Don and I married, when she retreated to the bottom of the bed.

My sweet number 1 girl

Rain was heavy Tuesday morning, but the sun peeked out about noon. “Let’s go!” Don and I took Kelly and Paige down to the beach, where we strapped Kelly into her doggie stroller. Paigey ran alongside. We walked over a mile in glorious sunshine, a lovely breeze cooling us. Kelly perked up enough to sit up and watch life around her. It was a wonderful time and the sunshine, a gracious gift from the Father to assuage my hurting heart, allowed us to do something special for Kelly on her last day.

This little beauty has brought a lot of joy and laughter to our lives over the almost ten years I’ve had her.

  • She came to me, a good gift from God, when I was alone and lonely. During a time of grief, she gave me a reason to get up every day because she needed me. During cold winter months I often wakened to feel her little body cuddled under the covers against my thigh. She sneaked under without waking me. I never knew how she managed to breathe underneath the blankets, but she did; and I loved waking to her warmth.
  • Kelly’s antics made me laugh. Early in our life together I went straight to my laptop in the morning. Kelly looked at me from across the room. She opened her mouth and chomped her teeth – I hadn’t fed her yet! Message received.
  • She was my buddy and sweet companion, and I took her along whenever I went somewhere dogs were allowed. She sat quietly and unobtrusively at my feet in Bible studies, lunches, and one-on-ones, never disrupting except with her sweet cuteness, happy as long as she was with me. And if I lunched with a girlfriend and left the table to use the restroom, Kelly stayed behind, remaining in one position, her big brown eyes fixed on the door until I returned.
  • She had grit. When Kelly was just a baby, she took on a big dog who broke her jaw. In the last few years, my girl’s tongue hung out to one side of her sweet, crooked mouth. I think her imperfection made her even more beautiful. And when we brought her grandpup, Paigey, to join our family, Kelly definitely let her know who was boss!
  • I acquired Kelly two months after meeting Don. When we began dating, Kelly was always happy to greet him, to sit with us, to go on walks with Don and his gentle German Shepherd, Ginger. I once waved my hand to include Kelly and said to Don, “You know this is a package deal.” He smiled. “Oh, I figured that out a long time ago.”
  • Our precious princess has left us and we miss her. I am so grateful for this good gift God gave me when I needed her more than I knew.

“So, my very dear friends, don’t get thrown off course. Every desirable and beneficial gift comes out of heaven.” James 1:17a (MSG)

I love you, Kelly girl! Your imprint will always be on my heart.

Have you lost a pet? What did you love about him or her?

 

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Hairpins and Hope

The dual switchback gave us no visibility to what might be approaching on the one-lane road. What if a local driver comes barreling around that corner? We’re on the cliff side of the road! Much of the drive was enchanting. Every change in elevation exposed different flora and fauna.  Some areas were lush, some covered with red dirt. “Look at this plain,” I said at one point. After climbing mountains and traversing hairpins for miles, the flatland was a lovely surprise. We crossed narrow bridges and stretches where meeting an oncoming car required one of us to pull out or back up, depending on the amount of margin on the side of the constricted road.

Don pulled over at one cliff, where we looked down at the lava rocks below, and spoke at length with the artist recreating the pastel ocean scene. Near Annalise, spread over a rock and colored the same, was a wild pig skin. I didn’t realize it until I saw hooves and a tail … and smelled an odor that was ripe. Some “rite of passage,” according to Annalise.

We drove past a picturesque little broken-down church, heavy tile roof falling in on itself, that was once charming. It sat above cliffs that led down to roaring waves, tumbling waterfalls, and a little village. We’d seen a sign earlier for banana bread so we pulled over at Julia’s tiny green shack.

I stepped up onto the porch behind a young woman who asked about banana bread. “Last loaf,” was the reply.

“Oh no,” I spoke without thinking.

The woman turned to me. “Do you want to split it?” Her husband joined her. “We don’t need to eat the whole thing.”

“Really?” I asked. Really!

I thanked them, and we divided the bread and shared the cost. Waving goodbye, Don and I continued on our journey, enjoying the moist sweetness of the loaf, which almost melted in our mouths.

More hairpin turns. More one-lane passages. More  beauty—orange and yellow-leaved shrubs, magenta flowers atop trees, hot pink bougainvillea, and palm to pine trees. And lava rock, and some small rock slides, and cliffs that plunged into roiling waves below.

And I thought, kind of like life. There’s a great deal of beauty, enjoyment, ongoing blessing as we walk with Christ. At times we need to hear a brother or sister say “You want to share?” … or perhaps we need to offer the shared blessing to others. There is also challenge, and difficulty, and pain, and suffering. Sometimes the road we travel is smooth and lined with blessings of health and love and productive work and hope. At other times the road is dark, the switchbacks prevent us from seeing the next step, and we have to move forward in faith, our hand in the Father’s, knowing He has promised never to leave or forsake us.

Julia’s

I’ve had a few big switchbacks in my life, along with lesser ones. Threats of mutilation while ministering in the ghetto; pain following departure from a work I loved; some health challenges; the losses of a nephew, several dear friends, my father, my first husband. But I’ve also seen the beauty of being carried through those hairpins by a God who loves me and would not let me go; of loving and being loved well by two wonderful men, and by family; of the gift of travel; of the joy of ministering to and encouraging younger women in their faith walks.

And sometimes it’s the hairpin turns, the switchbacks where we can do nothing but pray and trust, that teach us most clearly that our Father is always there, loving, guiding, walking alongside as we navigate  day by day.

So, while there’s no way I want to suffer, I also don’t regret the times my road has been hard. Mixed with the joys, the difficulties remind me to trust and rely on God in both good and bad times. I can’t become an oak of righteousness, rooted and grounded in Him, without His love and pruning and deepening, the same One who promises to give beauty in place of ashes.

The prophet Isaiah recognized his anointing from the Lord …

” … to comfort all who mourn, and provide for those who grieve in Zion—
to bestow on them a crown of beauty instead of ashes,
the oil of joy instead of mourning,
and a garment of praise instead of a spirit of despair.
They will be called oaks of righteousness,
    a planting of the Lord for the display of his splendor.” (Isaiah 61:2b-3)

What’s encouraged you during some of the hairpin turns of your life?

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