Thursday, August 2, 2018

My Kind of Champion

The doe was surprised when it came to eat corn to find a turkey family passing through!

"There are some men and women in whose company we are always at our best. All the best stops in our nature are drawn out, and we find a music in our souls never felt before." 
William Henry Drummond, 1854-1907

My dictionary  defines "champion" as "a person or thing that has defeated all others in a competition. Or, a person who fights, argues, or speaks in support of another or of a cause." We all know people we might consider to be a champion: a best selling author; a famous singer, a football or baseball hero, a world class chef. There are a lot of people one could call champion.

But the champion I'm writing about is not that at all. My champions are people who live a daily life for God and who are doing His work. They are faithful saints [champions] of witnesses who try to live their life according to the Bible.

The simple joy of a little vase with lovely flowers!

I'm attending a Bible study on Tuesday mornings at my church, officiated by my pastor. We are studying David Jeremiah's study called: A Life Beyond Amazing. In the chapter about endurance, it is noted that we need champions of our faith to encourage us. And that's when people started telling about the champions in their life.

Usually I hear how this family member or that family member encouraged them and helps them as they walk through life with Jesus. Sometimes the entire family and grandparents are shining examples that bring them joy and hope. Having a family member(s) who you've been able to learn from and watch as they live their life of faith is a wonderful thing. But if you don't have a family member who lives or lived a life of faith, you sometimes feel sad that there is no one for you to celebrate.

My first garden in Maryland will be in full bloom now. It was a joy to walk through it in the early morning. I was always refreshed and quiet, listening to the sounds of morning.

This is what happened to me. There was nobody in my immediate family or extended family who lived a life for Christ. I found Christ at the age of 28 and started my walk in faith with no knowledge of walking with Jesus.

In the early years of my walk in faith, a number of lovely women became friends, and I watched and learned from them what it means to walk with Christ. I still cherish those ladies today.

But on this particular day, while listening to others tell of their champion(s), I was reminded of the champions of faith in my life that I learned from and continue to learn from. I was 44 when God lifted me up and placed me in a work location that was filled with champions of my faith. And I've been learning from them ever since.

I worked for the Baptist Convention of Maryland and Delaware for 16 years and was surrounded by people of integrity, wisdom, and knowledge about my faith. I saw how they interacted with one another, helped one another and used their special gift(s) from God to encourage others.

As human beings, we're not perfect, and these champions weren't perfect. But I saw them do their best to be a living example of the Savior I gave my life too.

Since retiring, I still have contact with a few individuals who continue to encourage me in my walk with Christ. And, I hope, that one day I will be a champion for someone else.

And this is the other end of that refreshing garden.

We've all heard the saying to be careful who you associate with because you will probably become more like them. That statement is indeed true. That's why learning from a champion of your faith is so important.

Biographies and accounts of faithful men and women of God can also help you live your faith. Build yourself up with examples of people who lived faithfully for God. Learn about their struggles and how they overcame.

I may not have been fortunate to be born into a family that lived by faith, and provided examples of His work for me to learn from. But God provided a substitute to help me.

The second garden I created will also be blooming now. How I miss the joy they brought me.

Surround yourself with champions. " . . . We need living, breathing champions around us today as well as others who have gone before us. " David Jeremiah

"Who is the greatest saint [champion] in the world?It is not he who prays most or fasts most; it is not he who gives most alms, or is most eminent for temperance, chastity, or justice; but it is he who is always thankful to God, who wills everything that God wills, who receives everything as an instance of God's goodness, and has a heart always ready to praise God for it." William Law, 1686-1761


Wednesday, July 25, 2018

Dig a Well

 I remember when I saw this doe and fawn. It's the smallest fawn I'd ever seen. Must be a day or two old. I found it in the backyard of my favorite deer watching neighborhood in Maryland.

Recently I was made known of a song I'd not heard of before. "Leave a Well in the Valley." I love the words, especially the chorus, and several groups sing it on YouTube.

"Leave a well in the valley
your dark and lonesome valley
for others have to walk that valley too
what a blessing they will find
the well of JOY you've left behind
leave a well in the valley you go through."

Gordon Jensen, Lyrics 

These words struck a cord in me. As a note writer who wants to encourage those that I write, I definitely believe sharing what God has done for you will help others. You can encourage, inspire and motivate a person who is walking through their own valley.

And this was the first time I saw a fawn nursing. Same neighborhood. What a thrill!

The phrase "leave a well in the valley" signifies hope and joy. That you made it through and others will too. My dictionary defines "well" as "a spring serving as a source of water." Such as "streams in the desert."  Isiah 35:6.
 
There is also a book by the same title by Dale Peterson. I appreciate these words he said: "Emotional and spiritual stamina begins with the tiniest seed--thoughts of hope deep within the recesses of our hearts and minds." How true. That word hope matters. Hope. HOPE! GOD'S HOPE!

"But as for me, I will always have hope; I will praise you more and more."
 Psalm 71:14

Hope is a big word for me. I live it. I trust it. I believe it. Sharing that hope with others makes a difference. 

These are some of the buck that started coming up to our back gate morning and evening from July to October after I prayed and asked God to give me some opportunities to take pictures of buck the previous November. We had eight to enjoy each day.

I also like these words Dave Brown said in the description of this book on Amazon: "God prepares deep valleys for some of us to walk through in order to touch many lives with His love and grace . . . Instead of allowing Peterson's troubles to destroy him, he dug wells in his valleys that would not only refresh him but also water the lives of those his life touches."

I believe strongly in leaving a well in the valley so others can be refreshed. The second verse says:
"Blessed is the man who has learned to understand
He's to be the hand of God to those in need
then all the tears that you have shed
with God's help become instead
a precious balm for those hearts that bleed." 

This doe and twin fawn were one of the first that started coming up to our back gate when we started feeding deer in Maryland. The snap where both fawn heads showed was too blurry. But it's been one of my favorite snaps of doe and fawn.

My life verse identifies with the words "leave a well in the valley:" Proverbs 11:25: " . . . he who refreshes others will himself be refreshed."  In Matthew Henry's Commentary he speaks about Proverbs 11:25:

 "The liberal soul, the soul of blessing, that prays for the afflicted and provides for them, that scatters blessings with gracious lips and generous hands, that soul shall be made fat with true pleasure and enriched with more grace . . . He that waters others with the streams of his bounty shall be also watered himself, God will certainly return it in the dew, in the plentiful showers, of his blessing, which he will pour out, till there be not room enough to receive it. (Malachi 3:10)

Our first family of triplets! What a thrill to watch for them each day.

I'm so thankful for the joy that is ours because of the creative gifts of writers who fill our soul with good things to read. I'm so glad I was introduced to this song. It is encouragement to me!

And that well you dig in the valley? It may just refresh you again, for we all walk through many valleys in our lifetime.

This is the first fawn I found lying down in the woods. I was turning a corner in my car and spotted it about 30 feet into the woods. I was able to get out of my car and walk to the edge of the woods and take pictures. Another great thrill for this amateur photographer. 

Yes, He does give you the desires of your heart, even when you just want to take a picture of buck, doe and fawn! "Take delight in the Lord, and he will give you the desires of your heart." Psalm 37:4


Thursday, July 19, 2018

Hope Matters

 One of the twin fawn that come to our backyard each evening.  Not as sharp as I'd like, but I like the picture.

"Do not look forward to the changes and chances of this life in fear; rather look to them with full hope that, as they arise, God, whose you are, will deliver you out of them. He is your Keeper. He has kept you hitherto. Hold fast to his dear hand, and he will lead you safely through all things; and, when you cannot stand, he will bear you in his arms. Do not look forward to what may happen tomorrow. Our Father will either shield you from suffering, or he will give you strength to bear it."
Saint Francis of Sales (1567-1622)
 
I enjoy reading biographies of famous people from the 17th, 18th and 19th centuries. Learning about the choices others have made can be inspiring and encouraging.

I read three biographies last week about people who fell from grace. Two overcame with God's help, and the third did not recover from bad choices before his death.

The three men are well known in this age in Christian circles. All three had difficult and disadvantaged childhoods. Let me tell you about them.

Billion Dollar Painter: The Triumph and Tragedy of Thomas Kinkade. A friend and co-worker of Thomas Kinkade wrote the amazing story of Kinkade's beginning. G. Eric Kuskey worked for Kinkade for 14 years, and regarded him as a close and dear friend. Kuskey was kind and truthful of Kinkade's rise to fame and his fall which led to his death.


I found it very interesting as he described Kinkade's two closest friends and business partners and the intriguing and competitive friendship between the three of them. Kinkade's art wasn't accepted in the world of art, and it played a major role in his demised.

I enjoy Kinkade's art and have a painting hanging in our living room. One of his books, Lightposts for Living is a favorite of mind where he shares about living in the light of God's love.


I'm glad I read this story even though Kinkade was unable to overcome his fall from grace. It is a thoughtful and favorable story.

The second book I read is by Michael English, Christian singer well known from the Gaither Vocal Band. The Prodigal Comes Home: My Story of Failure and God's Story of Redemption. I've never been a big fan of Michel English but decided to read his book anyway. The depth of his failures were  great, but God restored him and uses him to reach others for Christ through his brokenness.


I have to admire someone who fell from grace before every eye in the Christian community and was transformed and accepted back into the family of God. His road to redemption was long and filled with wrong choices. But he didn't give up and shared his story to help others. I don't think I have the guts to share my story for the whole world to know. But I believe stories like his can be great encouragement for those with similar burdens.

Rory Feek, of the famous duo Joey and Rory, shares his life in This Life I Live: One Man's Extraordinary, Ordinary life and the Woman Who Changed it Forever. This is another Christian artist who is well known for his music, writing and storytelling. His wife, Joey, died of cancer. The first half of his book shares his first 35 years of life and the choices he made. The second half shares of his life with Joey and how he continues to live each day with God's help.

It is inspiring to know God reaches to all people, through all of the wrecks and messes in their life, and transforms them with His grace. I was surprised and inspired with his story. His blog is: roryfeek.com.

All three stories gave me opportunity to pause and think about my own life and the choices I've made through the years. It reminds me that all it takes is one bad choice to turn your life in a wrong direction and fall from God's grace. But a wrong choice can be redeemed. And God offers you that redemption at every turn.

"I like to remember this Scripture verse: "Against all hope, Abraham in hope believed . . ." Romans 4:18  That same hope is there for every Christian believer.

Our lives are filled with ups and downs. Heartbreak and happiness. Joy and sadness. And there is one who never gives up on us. He's always ready to turn our lives around. Always loves us. If nothing else, these three books reminded me that the hope I have in Christ is able to redeem me from my human weakness and change my life to one of good and right.

I think I'll read a good fiction book now.


"A man must completely despair of himself in order to become fit to obtain the grace of Christ."
Martin Luther (1483-1546)

Monday, July 9, 2018

Through

"One of the marks of spiritual maturity is the quiet confidence that God is in control . . . without the need to understand why he does what he does."
Charles R. Swindoll (1934 - )


  My opportunities to snap fawn are not as easy as they were in Maryland. With all the woods and forest in the surrounding area, they can run quickly for cover before I'm able to get a snap off!

I did manage to get a few snaps last year, and only two so far this year. So I went on a journey through my digital photograph albums so I could enjoy the thrill of seeing a fawn. I'll share some of them through this post.
 


Last week I brought up several books from the basement that I hadn't read in years. This week I've been reading in "Something Beautiful: The Stories Behind a Half-Century of the Songs of Bill and Gloria Gaither."
 

It's been a good read. I like to know the stories behind songs and pictures--what prompted someone to write those words or snap that shot. What memories do they bring to the one who created the music or took the picture.




There are many songs included in this book that I've never heard before. When you write 1,000 songs over your lifetime, I guess all of them can't be hits.



This morning the song's title was "Through," and Gloria shared that it's the one word they hear over and over again. "The songs got me through." I liked the lyrics and want to share them with you.



"Through the fire, through the flood, Through the water, through the blood,
Through the dry and barren places, Through life's dense and maddening mazes,
Through the pain and through the glory, Through will always tell the story,
Of a God whose power and mercy Will not fail to take us through.

"When I saw what lay before me, 'Lord,' I cried, 'what will you do?
I thought He would just remove it, But He gently led me through.

"Without fire, there's no refining, Without pain there's no relief.
Without flood there's no rescue; Without testing, no belief.

I know He could part the waters, At His voice a mountain move;
But His love would crowd me to him---Through my need His presence proved.

Come, my child, I'll take you through it; When you faint, I'll carry you.
Cast on me your fear and weakness--Trust my heart; I'll take you through." 



I've been through many mountains, and I'm sure you have too. I can gladly say, "He took me through." I would have gladly run from the burden; turn my back on it, and step away. But that
 doesn't accomplish anything, except leave me with bad memories.



Every one of us has to walk through our own mountain(s). And there are usually many in the course of your life. I'm glad I know the One who walks through them with me. He promises "He'll take me through!" That's one promise that has helped me numerous times.



"I would rather walk with God in the dark than go alone in the light."
Mary Gardiner Brainard (c. 1860) 




Tuesday, June 26, 2018

My Dreams. God's Plan.

So good to see my sister! Kathy has lived in Oklahoma all of her adult life. Having just a tiny amount of time to sit and talk and laugh with her was delightful.


We are now a party of two. The move of my mother took place last week. She's safely with my sister, and hopefully settling in fine.

"A man's heart is right when he wills what God wills."
Saint Thomas Aquinas, 1225-1274

During our drive to Illinois, where we met my sister and her husband, I played some mind games. I hadn't done that in a long time and it was fun. Here's what I decided:

Five states I'd like to live in: Tennessee, around the Smokey Mountains. North Carolina, around the Smoky Mountains. Colorado and those Rocky Mountains. New Hampshire and those Green Mountains. West Virginia. "Take me home, country roads, to the place, I belong, West Virginia, mountain Momma, take me home, country roads." Yes, mountains and country roads are where I like to be.

Five places I'd like to go on vacation: Alaska. Nova Scotia. Montana/Wyoming. Canada.Oklahoma (to see my sister and drive all those dirt roads).

Five vehicles I like: Volkswagen Beetle. Ford Taurus. Ford F-150 Pickup. Jeep. Recreation vehicle.

Five Foods I like to eat: Sirloin steak. Prime Rib. Meatloaf. Pizza. Ice cream.

Five jobs I'd like to have? Wildlife Photographer. Sewing/Quilting professional. Best selling author. Creator of designs. Successful baker.


My neighbor, Norma, has a Hummingbird nest in her backyard. You can barely see it on the wires near her house in the back yard. It's just to the left and higher to the feeder. To my thrill, the eggs hatched, and I got to see them when I went down to thank her for watering my flowers while we were gone. As if that wasn't enough, the mother came and fed them while I was there. I was sitting about 20 feet away and so excited I got the snaps!



It was fun to pass the time thinking about my favorite things. My dreams. But God's plans are so much better!

"I know the plans I have for you, "declares the Lord, "plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future." Jeremiah 29:11


I may not be a professional photographer, but I love taking pictures and enjoy my serendipity travels to find good snaps. I enjoyed sewing early in my life, and have now learned quilting and can create simple pieces that make me happy.

I may not be a best selling author, but I enjoy writing and encouraging others with my words. I've created many designs on the internet and have fun making cards and bookmarks. I'm famous for my chocolate chip coffee cake that many people enjoy.

For all my dreams, God made it possible for me to enjoy them at different times in my life with my skills and desire.My only goal in life as a young girl, was to be a secretary, and God made that possible. I enjoyed 40 years of work in the secretarial field.

God's ways are always better. I'd rather have His ways anytime! But Nova Scotia would be nice.

What's your dreams? How is/has God answered?

"God will either give you what you ask, or something far better.
Robert Murray McCheyne, 1813-1843


My friend, Kathy, just returned from a trip to New Hampshire where she enjoyed the abundance of beautiful lupines. Thanks for sharing Kathy!

Wednesday, June 13, 2018

A Second Chance at Retirement

 The other week I spotted another bear during my early morning drive through the forest. There wasn't much light shining through at 5:45 that morning, so I couldn't get a good snap. But the bear did stop for 4 or 5 seconds and look at me before walking out of sight. It could almost be a painting rather than a picture, but I'm glad I got it!

A second chance at retirement. Yes, its been awhile since I retired in October 2011, but the reality is I was only retired for 10 months. In August 2012 my mother came to live with us because of declining health, and we've been care givers for almost 6 years. It's finally coming to an end.

Next week we'll be moving my mother to Oklahoma to live with my sister and her husband. Jerry and I had to make the decision that we couldn't care for her in our home anymore because of Jerry's health and my emotional and mental burnout. I'm thankful that my sister and her husband stepped up and offered their help. They will be in my prayers as they take on this responsibility.

I've enjoyed looking at the blooms on this Martha Washington Geranium plant. The flowers are gorgeous!

It's been a long 6 years of having someone live with us where relationships were not good. So why did we do it? Because God's Word says children should honor their mother and father. Period. I'm not looking for any accolades here or pats on the back. It's just a fact. Since we try and live according to God's Word, it was a responsibility we had to take.

Honoring your parents doesn't rank high in society today, as I listen to many friends share heartbreak and sadness because of separation with their children. I admit, I don't like my mother, but she is my mother, so I've tried to do what I believe God would have me do in regard to her.

My childhood home was without warmth, hugs, kisses, and expressed love. There was bitterness in the home, with lost hopes. There had never been a loving relationship with my mother, so caring for her was very difficult. I couldn't have done it without Jerry's help. He was the one who stepped up and said she would live with us when the situation arose, and he did all he could to make it easier on me.

This was the reality of an unloving and dysfunctional family.

It may be that I'll never see my mother again. She has a critical heart valve and the days of her life are definitely numbered. I feel sad for her, from what I perceive of her life. I hope the years we gave to care for her will bore some good.  It's always best to do the right thing, even if your heart isn't in it. God will provide a way through, and release you when His timing is right.

So retirement begins anew for me. A weight has been lifted from my heart. I am set free from a weary season of life. Jerry and I can try and find our life together once again.

I'm going to miss my favorite deer spotting place again this year. I never failed to find deer and fawn! Snapping this picture through the fence rail was fun! Mommy Doe wasn't concern at all!