Category Archive: Encouragement

Freedom, Used for Good

“The essence of America–that which really unites us–is not ethnicity, or nationality, or religion. It is an idea–and what an idea it is: that you can come from humble circumstances and do great things. That it doesn’t matter where you came from, but where you are going.” Condoleezza Rice

Marian Anderson was the first African American woman to sing at the White House, and the first black Metropolitan Opera Star. My mother, a soloist and voice teacher, learned that Anderson was going to perform in Winnipeg, Canada, where I grew up.  Although I was just a child, probably 6 or 7, I remember the event clearly when our entire family went to hear Anderson’s marvelous contralto voice. Despite having been rejected for music school because of her color; despite the racial barriers that initially limited her opportunities, Anderson continued to follow her passion, and was later received at Carnegie Hall and the Metropolitan Opera, in addition to the White House.  And, at her death at age 96, over 2000 admirers attended a memorial service held at Carnegie Hall.

As we celebrated Independence Day this week, we were reminded once again that freedom is not free. Whether the battle is for freedom of thought and worship, for racial equality, or for justice, it has cost the lives of many good men and women; others have suffered loss of family, of limbs, sometimes of emotional or mental stability. And still more have prayed for those in battle. The question is, what will we do with this hard-won freedom? That question is relevant for us as a nation, and even more so as Christ-followers. The Apostle Paul said, “For you have been called to live in freedom. Use your freedom to serve one another in love.” (Galatians 5:13)

Nellie Cashman’s purpose, borne out of Ireland’s potato famine, was to make money in order to serve others. This was what her faith dictated. Leaving County Cork, Ireland, where her father had died and many were starving, Nellie’s mother took her and her sister Fannie to the United States in about 1850. After growing up in Boston, Nellie, Fannie and their mother migrated to San Francisco in 1865.

Cashman loved the outdoors and became involved in prospecting for gold in California. Petite, she set up shop and learned mining in camps where she was the only woman. Never was she treated with anything less than the respect she demanded, and gave, in her dealings. She moved with new prospecting fields, and was noted across the American and Canadian west as a gold prospector, restaurateur and boarding house owner, nurse, and philanthropist.  She led a rescue of miners in the Cassiar Mountains–they were “my boys”.

E.A. Hegg / Library and Archives Canada C-005142

In her fifties Nellie climbed the Chilkoot steps out of Skagway, Alaska with a dogsled and provisions. With 900 pounds of food and supplies, 1100 short of the 2000-pounds required by the Mounties to pass through to the prospecting fields. She talked her way past the officers by comparing her weight (90 pounds) with that of the Mountie (200 pounds), stating why she wouldn’t need as much food and supplies as he would.

Throughout her life, Cashman used the money she earned in her many roles to build hospitals, churches, and to help those who were less fortunate. She used her freedom for good and, in 2006, was inducted into the Alaska Mining Hall of Fame.

For a fascinating novelized biography, read TOUGHNUT ANGEL, by my friend Jane Carlisle Baker (available @ https://www.amazon.com/Toughnut-Angel-Tale-Real-Life-Adventuress/dp/1522980571/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1498955102&sr=8-1&keywords=toughnut+angel).

“May we think of freedom not as the right to do as we please, but as the opportunity to do what is right.” Peter Marshall

Who has exemplified using their freedom for good in your life?

 

The Gifts of Rest

We greeted each other with open arms and hearts. It was a day to be together, to sit alone with God, and to share with each other what He revealed to each of us during our time with Him.

My five “Fab Friday” girlfriends brought scones, mini quiches, bananas, juice; I added cantaloupe and coffee. Mmmmm … after we satisfied our tummies and were challenged with scripture, each of us found a quiet place to be still with God for the next hour and a half.

I stayed on the turquoise couch in “Carol’s Cottage” (our guest house) and looked out at the birch tree, swaying in the breeze. When Don and I sit on our porch glider and look across the fields, this tree sways in the wind and dances in the sunlight, its leaves reflecting silver as they are impacted by the breeze. As the tree submits, yields to the power of the wind, so I desire to submit to the moving of the Holy Spirit.

Part of what I wrote to my heavenly Father says, “I praise you for the sounds of chirping birds, cared for by your gracious hospitality on the earth. They don’t worry or fret, but they are fed. The blue coat of the scrub jay, the sheen on the purple martin, the wings of a hummingbird, which are only seen as a blur because of their lightning speed … all speak to my ears and eyes of Your glory, and your provision. And they honor You just by being. They serve nature, the hummingbird flitting into one blossom and depositing pollen in another. Yet they’re not striving, as I so often do …”

When I’m fatigued, my temper is short, my tolerance low. And yet God often gives supernatural grace to respond differently than I feel.

Rest comes in different forms.

  • Physical: often when I find myself short-tempered and impatient, frustrated, out of sorts, or engaging in “stinkin’ thinkin’, rest is the first thing I need. I love to sink into our bed and fall into a renewing, refreshing sleep.
  • Emotional:  a walk on the beach or through the woods, relaxed time with friends with whom I can be vulnerable, a belly laugh, or a good hug from my hubby, soothes my heart. Sometimes I need a good cry.
  • Spiritual: As God’s creations, we are not divided into parts. Our physical, emotional and spiritual beings are intertwined and so, sometimes the walk on the beach also brings about spiritual times of refreshing. Rest can bring me back to a balance in all of life. Spending time in God’s word, especially the Psalms which are so expressive of our humanity and need, brings renewal. And in prayer I share my burdens with God.

As I thought about this, I realize that, for me, rest leads to:

  • Creativity, when my mind isn’t trying to track with multiple needs and is open to new thoughts, ideas, and plotlines.
  • Openness to see and appreciate the beauty around me.
  • Delighting in God, and in life, when I’m not just focused on “the next thing”.
  • Listening (how often do I forget to listen before speaking?)
  • Peace, that tender feeling of being cocooned in God’s love.
  • Margin in my heart, mind and spirit which frees me with space to share with others, with grace instead of resentment.

These are amazing, life-giving gifts … so why don’t I/we take more time to be still with God, to be renewed, to rejoice in His goodness, to delight in His presence? I am choosing to more of this going forward.

A yellow butterfly flitted past the window and I smiled, thanking God for beauty.

“May the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart be pleasing to you, O Lord, my rock and my redeemer.” Psalm 19:14, NLT

May you make space for quiet stillness this week so that your heart can be renewed.

Do you struggle with the pace of our culture, as I do? How do you find rest for your body, spirit, and soul? What renews you?

 

Giver of all Good Gifts

I went shopping today. I’m on a search for a new comforter set, but have time to find just the right thing. However, I did find a pretty, teal throw to place at the foot of the bed in our guest room. Don and I folded the afghan in thirds and laid it in place, then stepped back to admire how it brings out the turquoise and teal in the pillow shams and the stained glass window. The throw complements and completes the room.

Do you enjoy redecorating? Sometimes finding just the right pillow, throw, or picture makes a delightful change, refreshing and making a room feel new again. I love that feeling. Sometimes it’s just a matter of rearranging what we already have in a new way. Sometimes it’s reorganizing so what I need is easier to find.

As we ate our eggs florentine this morning, I looked out the window and watched the tall, golden grasses waving as they yielded to the power of the wind. Our lives are like that grass. We have a firm foundation in our God. When the wind blows we may bend; but by his grace we continue to stand.

We can be swayed in many ways. Every day, we choose which way we will bend. Will we trust God and allow His Spirit to form and shape us to His will, to allow Him to continue His work of perfecting, beautifying us? Will we yield to Him when the road is rough or try to make our own way out of trials? We might be swayed by the influence of the world, friends, and our own desires that run contrary to God’s good will. Will redecorating, losing weight, finding the right mate, or achieving a long-awaited goal be our primary focus? Or will we allow God to mold us, enjoying in His good gifts, trusting Him, delighting most of all, in Him as the ultimate Gift and Giver?

Today I am delighting in Him, and in the good gift of an inexpensive throw that completes a welcoming room for guests in our home.

Whatever is good and perfect is a gift coming down to us from God our Father, who created all the lights in the heavens. He never changes or casts a shifting shadow.” James 1:17, NLT

What is delighting your heart today?

 

 

How’s Your GPS Working?

Grey clouds hovered overhead as raindrops dropped onto the windshield. Don, his son Dan, and I drove out of Meridian, Idaho and into the town of Eagle.

Don wanted to show Dan a specific property Don’s son Victor owns in the foothills. It had been a long time since Don was last there, so navigation by memory wasn’t working too well. And since there was no specific address, we couldn’t just call it up on GPS. By phone, Victor told us the nearest crossroads, but we had already overshot one of those. We drove in a big square, took a couple of wrong turns, and were uncertain which direction the other road was from our location.  Between Don, Dan and me, a GPS and my Waze, we finally got to the crossroads Victor had mentioned. Recognizing the area, Don turned right and then off the highway and up a dirt road onto a hill where we looked over a newly planted field and the Eagle area valley. The stunning view was worth the wrong turns and difficulty finding this place.

I thought of how often we take wrong turns in life. Maybe it’s a choice to run with people who are a negative influence; perhaps it’s a relationship that promised the moon, but left us in the ditch; it may be getting into drugs, alcohol, or pornography. Perhaps it’s our own selfish “me first” attitude; or allowing life’s challenges to take priority over our focus on God.

The husband of a friend of mine fought cancer valiantly. Now, although cancer-free, he is suffering with an internal infection that requires one surgery after another to clean and disinfect the area so he can  heal. Today is surgery #20. My friend is tired, burned out. But her focus remains on a good Father who loves her, her husband and son. Her posts continue to honor Him, to speak honestly of her weariness while she throws herself on His grace, love, and healing touch. I’m challenged by her trust.

God’s Word says he will “restore the years the locust has eaten” (Joel 2:25).  He calls us back to Him, even when we’ve made wrong decisions or turned away from Him. He welcomes us with open arms, forgiveness and love. And He has given us a reliable GPS–His Word. As we return to our focal point, our God-given GPS, His Spirit resets our path so that we again find our way on His path.

What a gracious God!

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?