I’m Expecting

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It’s not what you think. Funny how that phrase, “I’m expecting” has become synonymous with “I’m pregnant”. But expectations are funny that way. We often expect things that don’t happen and we don’t expect things that do. And of course, many times we expect things to happen and, lo and behold, they do! But are we expecting the right things? Are we expecting too much? Are we not expecting enough?

Recently my husband and I were vacationing in the Bahamas. We had returned to a place we had been before, so for the most part, we knew what to expect. We knew the food would be good, the people would be nice, the accommodations would be luxurious and the weather would be mostly sunny! And it all was!

But one thing we did differently was a side trip to a remote island we didn’t know much about. We were simply told to be outside the gate of our resort by 8 AM and bring nothing more than a backpack for the 3 day trip. Ummm, ok….so no curling iron and no hair dryer, I can do this! There was a van waiting for us outside the gate. We made a few stops at other resorts and then made our way to the marina to board the boat that would take us to the island. After about 20 minutes of speeding along the turquoise water of the Bahamas, the boat suddenly came to a stop and we saw the most amazing white sandbar in the middle of nowhere. I wasn’t expecting that! It was stunningly beautiful! It seemed to stretch on forever and there was no one there, just beautiful white sand and clear water. Several photos later, we got back in the boat and traveled on for another 30 minutes before pulling up to a boat dock where only my husband and I got out. The rest of the people were continuing on a tour. It felt a little strange seeing that boat drop us off and quickly speed away, but at the end of the dock was a quaint little “yacht club” with bungalows scattered along the rocky cliffs above the water. We checked in and found our little bungalow that came with it’s own boat….we weren’t expecting that! It was so peaceful looking out at the water and seeing beautiful yachts pass by on their way to other islands.

The next day, we ventured out in our little boat to explore. A few places we were told to go included another island with native swimming pigs (a must see) and a grotto for snorkeling. Off we went and upon nearing the pig island, we were met by the biggest pigs with the biggest teeth I had ever seen! They were HUGE and they were HUNGRY! Thank goodness we had some apples because the biggest pig of all decided to try boating with us. One apple chucked in his mouth and he backed off. That was definitely not on our expectations list. On to the grotto, Thunderball Grotto. I can’t even describe the grotto to its full glory. It just looked like a big ugly rock jutting out of the water with a small opening. With my GoPro camera ready, we swam through the opening and were amazed. The cave inside was breathtaking! There was an opening at the top about 30 feet above the water allowing the sun’s rays to bounce off the water and dance on the rock walls. Beneath the surface of the water were beautifully colored fish of all shapes and sizes. I was stunned! I was most certainly not expecting that!

All this expecting and not expecting got me thinking about how many times I have found God in the unexpected and how He has met me in the expected. Our trip was certainly made up of wonderful experiences that we weren’t expecting, but in life, we often experience the unexpected and it’s not so wonderful. But God wants us to expect great things, doesn’t He? I have often heard people say, “Don’t expect much and you won’t be disappointed”, but isn’t that a “glass half empty” attitude? There’s a famous quote by William Carey, a Protestant missionary in the 19th century that said, “Expect great things from God; attempt great things for God”. Carey began his life as a shoemaker and while reading theology books and the writings of Captain Cook’s travels, he recognized the need for people around the globe to know about Christ. He traveled to India where he lived for 40 years translating the bible into six different dialects of the Indian language. He expected great things from God and he attempted great things for God!

I know God can do great things, but do I expect Him to? Do I ask Him to? “Now to him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine according to His power that is at work within us” (Eph 3:20).  Paul is saying that God can do so much more than we ask or can even imagine! So why are we surprised when God grants us that peace we long for or provides protection from that thing we are fearful of? We should expect that God will do great things! We may not always see it clearly or understand the master plan, but we can know with the greatest of confidence that God will do great things.

So I’m expecting……I’m expecting God to take my life and show me His greatness! I want to see it all! And just like that grotto, I know that there are times God will take me through the ugliness first so that I can be amazed at the beauty on the other side. But if I can face that ugliness with the assurance and the expectation that God will show me His greatness, then my glass is never half empty…..it overflows. So I’m expecting…..and I can’t wait to see what happens next.

 

 

 

At The Table

Thankfulness

It’s all over Facebook, Twitter and even Instagram…….people counting down to Thanksgiving by saying what they are thankful for. That’s a good thing, right? I’m even posting thankful prayers each day taken from scripture as a countdown to the big turkey day! As I write this, it’s only 7 days away…….whew, only 7 more posts to go. And that’s the thing, has “being thankful” become just another trend like those crazy surveys people take to know what superhero they are or the “share if you agree” posts? Have we become so de-sensitized to the meaning of a grateful attitude that we’ve boxed it in with our “things to do” list? It IS the thanksgiving season after all and there IS so much to do!

When Jesus sat down at the table in Luke 22:19, the bible says, “he took bread, gave thanks and broke it, and gave it to them, saying, “This is my body given for you; do this in remembrance of me.” He “gave thanks”! The Greek word here is eucharisteo. Ann Voskamp, the author of the best seller, “One Thousand Gifts”, explains eucharisteo in this way:

“The root word of eucharisteo is charis, meaning “grace.” Jesus took the bread and saw it as grace and gave thanks. He took the bread and knew it to be gift and gave thanks. Eucharisteo, thanksgiving, envelopes the Greek word for grace, charis. But it also holds its derivative, the Greek word chara, meaning “joy.” Charis. Grace. Eucharisteo. Thanksgiving. Chara. Joy.”

“Deep chara joy is found only at the table of the euCHARisteo; the table of thanksgiving. The holy grail of joy, God set it in the very center of Christianity. The Eucharist is the central symbol of Christianity.” 

Not only did Jesus give thanks, but he also told his disciples to “do this in remembrance of me”. He told them to remember. He’s telling US to remember; to remember His body and blood given to us in thanksgiving for the gift of grace.

So we can be thankful for the joys in life such as the sun peaking over the mountains, the laughter of children, our family, our home and our jobs. But this Thanksgiving, as we sit down at our table, let us remember another table; the table of Christ where the gift of grace was given as a foretaste of what was to come. Let us thank Him for the ultimate sacrificial gift He gave so that we could experience the deep “chara” joy at our Thanksgiving feast.

Credits:

http://www.thehighcalling.org Conversations with Ann Voscamp by Glynn Young

Work To Be Done

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Every once in a while, something hits you like a ton of bricks. It may be something someone said, a TV ad, a sermon or it may even be something out of the “mouths of babes”, but it hits you. It makes you stop dead in your tracks. Life is put on pause, if only for a second, and you think, “Wow”, I never thought of that!

I had a moment like that when I attended a worship conference not long ago. It was opening night and James MacDonald, pastor of Harvest Bible Chapel in Chicago, was speaking. He referenced the story of David, the shepherd who later became a king. And then he said this, “It’s important for us to realize the work that needs to be done between the anointing and the appointing, between being a shepherd and becoming a king”. That really resonated with me. The word “anointed” also means “blessed” or “chosen”. I guess I have always thought that if God anoints someone with a certain gift or blessing, that they are in the midst of that choosing right then. It never occurred to me that the blessing may come long before the appointment because there’s work to be done in the in-between time.

The proverbial phrase, “patience is a virtue” comes to mind. Patience is hard for me. Once I believe I know what God is planning, when I believe He has revealed something to me, then I want to run straight ahead with all my focus and all my priorities set on that goal! I say, “Ok, Lord! I got this! Now I know what You want me to do because I feel at peace about it!” But what I’m missing is the in-between time, the work-to-be-done time, the slow-down-and-wait-for-Him time. I believe God is always preparing us for the plans He designs in our lives. During some seasons, the preparation takes longer; it requires us to work harder and to have more patience. Other seasons may be short and the “appointing” quickly follows the “anointing”. But this idea of needing to do the work during the in-between time is important. It readies us for the job. It’s the exact amount of time we need to be shaped and molded into the person that’s required for the job.

David was anointed king by the prophet Samuel when he was about 15 years old, but he didn’t begin his rule until he was 30. David had to wait 15 years between being anointed and being appointed. And we can see through biblical text that he had a lot of work to do during that in-between time.

I believe we are all blessed by God to do something and it may not be one thing. So what has He blessed you to do? And are you doing the work that needs to be done before He appoints you? Or maybe you’ve already been appointed and you’re doing it! Consider this: is this your time to be the shepherd waiting for the anointing (blessing)? Are you in the “in-between time” needing to do the work that prepares you for what God is calling you to do? Or is this your time to be king and represent God’s calling on your life by doing the job He appointed you to do? In all of this, God’s timing is perfect. Recognize the anointing, do the good work and receive the appointing.

Photo credit: http://www.wallpaperscraft.com

Make Something Beautiful

Make Something Beautiful 1A few weeks ago, my husband and I were travelling up the coast of Maine to find reprieve from the summer heat. The northeast coastline is beautiful with its towering pine trees that meet the water on rocky shores. We took a ferry to a smaller island to explore a quiet village of local lobstermen and fisheries. As we walked around the island, we saw a young girl sitting at a small table in front of her home selling sea glass. She had them organized into tiny clear plastic boxes all lined up on her table for a small price. Of course, we couldn’t resist so we bought some. I really didn’t think much about the little “stones” that were green and white. I just wanted to help her out, much like the children that sell lemonade in my neighborhood (not the best lemonade I’ve ever tasted). But I recently came across an article written about sea glass that gave me reason to pause and think about the formation of these stones.

Up until the early 1970’s, it was perfectly legal to dump trash into the ocean. Waterfront communities needed a place to discard their unwanted items and the ocean seemed like a good place since the water would quickly carry it away. Various items of trash were dumped including anything from household trash, kitchenware and appliances to cars and trucks! Over time, as long as 30 years in some cases, the crashing and pounding of the ocean tide wears away all but the glass. The broken, jagged shards of glass continue to tumble around in the ocean while sand and other ocean rocks serve as sandpaper and smooth out the rough edges. What’s left is a smooth, frosted “stone” of sorts with only the color giving a hint to what it once was; the “rubies” of the ocean may have come from old tail-lights, traffic lights or old beer bottles, whereas the “sapphires” may once have been apothecary jars or perfume bottles. These smooth, frosted and colored pieces of glass are then washed up onto the shore creating a magnificent display of color and beauty from what was once considered to be old, unusable and worthless trash.

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Don’t we all have “unwanted” parts of our lives that we would love to dump into the ocean and watch the water carry away? Feelings of jealousy, hurt and anger, hidden desires, lies we’ve told, dirty little secrets and broken relationships. But God, in His unending grace and infinite mercy, can take the trash of our lives, the refuse that threatens to spoil the best we have, and turn it into something beautiful. He enables us to turn jealousy into contentment, pride into humility, anger into peace, guilt into forgiveness and brokenness into healing. All because of His unfailing love. Ecclesiastes 3:11 says, “He has made everything beautiful in its time”. “Everything”. All of God’s works are divinely ordered. There is balance and harmony and beauty in His creation and we are valued the highest among them all! When we mess it up with our own foolishness, He is there to smooth out the edges and polish away the imperfections, sometimes tossing us around in the tide of His grace and love. “In its time”. Not to be rushed and left incomplete. God wants us to be beautiful through and through.

The little girl on that island saw something beautiful in those stones. She saw something valuable. Despite the trash of our lives and the things we see as ugly, God sees us as beautiful and valuable.

An Empty Nest

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We found this sweet little nest in our garage only one day before we were planning to leave for a two week vacation in Maine. I had seen the mother bird flying in and out of our garage for several days and had hoped she wasn’t building a nest because that would mean a very intentional plan on our part to raise the garage door early each morning to let her out and lower it in the evening (this has happened to us before on several occasions). Sure enough, we finally found the nest meticulously made very securely in the bowl of our fertilizer spreader. Because of how she positioned the nest, I wasn’t able to peek inside so I lifted my 3 year old granddaughter up to see if there were any eggs inside and she said, “yes, Gigi, there are 3 eggs!”. Well, great!! Now what!! We were leaving the next day and if we left the garage door shut, the baby birds would surely die. I called our neighbor to make the ridiculous request of having him come each morning to raise the garage door and again in the evening to lower it. I’m pretty sure he chuckled, but he was gracious and said they would love to, BUT they were leaving for a one month vacation in Sweden!

As my husband and I pulled out of our driveway early the next morning, we left the garage door open about 18 inches. We even made sure to open it all the way and then lower it again so that by some miraculous telepathy, the mother bird may know what we were doing. I had to laugh when my husband asked me if I had locked the door…….”Does it matter? If someone is going to break in, all they have to do is crawl under the 18 inch opening we left for them!”.

I worried about those baby bird eggs the entire time we were gone. I kept wondering if the mother knew how to get in and out of our garage and if she would continue to sit on her eggs, keeping them warm and giving them what they needed to hatch. When we returned, I anxiously grabbed a flashlight, stood on tippy toes and peeked inside. Looking back at me were the tiniest little featherless baby birds with beating hearts and curious eyes. And yes, I said, “Awwwww” ever so quietly.

For the next several days, we made sure to raise the garage door early each morning and lower it at night. We could hear the mother bird chirping out in the trees when we would come and go, protecting her little family tribe. Curiosity kept me peeking in on them each day as they grew feathers and it became a little more crowded in the nest. Today, I checked in on them and saw them staring back at me, still so little and looking a bit scared as I shined the flashlight on them.

A few hours later, when my husband came home, I took him out to the garage to show him the babies and they were gone! Just like that! There one minute and gone the next! That couldn’t be! Surely they must have fallen out of the nest. We looked all around and found no trace. My heart raced as I considered the possibility of some critter having eaten them, but there was no sign of any damage to the nest or random feathers or bird remains. I have since discovered that, according to Wikipedia, it is to the bird’s advantage to leave the nest as soon as possible due to predators and parasites. The mother bird continues to find a safe haven for them each night while teaching them to fly during the day.

I worried about those birds. I thought about them each and every time I drove my car into the garage. I thought about them each morning as the sun came up and I knew they needed to be fed. I thought about them every evening as the sky darkened and I wondered if the mother had made it back safely to the nest. I thought about the verses in Matthew 10: 29-31 that say, “Are not two sparrows sold for a cent? And yet not one of them will fall to the ground apart from your Father. But the very hairs of your head are all numbered. So do not fear; you are more valuable than many sparrows.” As much as I worried about those little birds, how much greater does the Father care for me? I find great comfort in knowing that my loving Father cares if I am safe, if I am fed, if I am protected. He cares enough to teach me the “flying lessons” of life during the day and He cares enough to provide a safe haven for me at night.

Tonight, I will check once more to be sure the birds have not come back to the nest, but I know in my heart that the Father has orchestrated nature this way. The birds, wherever they are, will be counted among those special creatures that He cares about and loves and that they will fulfill whatever purpose they have. And in all of this, I know that God has an even greater love for me.

Hold On

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My husband is always amazed that I can remember certain details of my childhood with such clarity.  I asked him yesterday if he ever remembered holding his parents hand as a little boy and he said no.  Maybe that’s just because he’s a boy and boys don’t generally remember things like that.  But I distinctly remember holding on to my Daddy’s finger when I was a little girl.  He would hold out his finger and I would grab onto it and off we’d go.  As long as I was holding on and walking alongside him, there was no danger of me getting lost, or falling or being in harms way.  However, if there was a crowd or even a chance that I might let go of his finger, the finger-hold became a hand-hold; stronger and more secure.  And then there were the times that I let my own free spirit get the best of me thinking my way was better than his and squirmed my way out of the hold.  That’s when the hand-hold became the underarm grip; even stronger with no chance of escape!  I may have let go of my hold, but he never let go of his.  And when I was too tired to walk and couldn’t keep up, he would carry me.  I loved being carried.  As a little girl, there was just something about the strength of my Daddy carrying me that made me feel safe and protected.  I would often pretend to fall asleep in his bed at night just so he would carry me to bed, and he played along every time.

Isn’t that just like our Heavenly Father; always there beside us, teaching us to walk alongside Him in faith and guiding our steps in a closer, more intimate relationship? Psalm 73:23 says, “Yet I am always with you; you hold me by my right hand”.  Sometimes, all we have to do is reach out and grab hold as we walk obediently in step with Him and the path is easy.   Yet so often, the path becomes slippery and we lose our hold.  We let go. We either forget to hold on or we intentionally think our way is better.  We will squirm our way out because we are tempted.  Tempted to do things our own way.  Tempted to give in to our own desires, wanting things to be as we envision them to be.  But God is faithful and He never lets go.  He’s not the one that loosens His grip on us.  His grip is strong and secure.  Isaiah 41:13 says, “That’s right. Because I, your God, have a firm grip on you and I’m not letting go. I’m telling you, ‘Don’t panic. I’m right here to help you.‘”. (Msg)  And when the path becomes tiring and we’re weary and worn down, the Lord picks us up and carries us.  “He tends his flock like a shepherd: He gathers the lambs in his arms and carries them close to his heart” (Isaiah 40:11), “Let the beloved of the Lord rest secure in him, for he shields him all day long, and the one the Lord loves rests between his shoulders.” (Deut. 33:12) and “”Praise the Lord; praise God our savior! For each day he carries us in his arms.” (Psalm 68:19)

The security I felt as a little girl when my Daddy held me is the same security I feel now when I think of my Heavenly Father standing beside me.  There are days when all He has to do is hold out a finger and I grab on.   And there are days when He knows the road ahead and sees the danger of me falling, and He holds my hand even tighter.   The days when I take my focus off of Him and go my own way, He is willing to tighten His grip and grab onto me.  And praise God indeed, as the psalmist says, “For each day He carries us”.  He is always with us, all we have to do is hold on.

Snowflake Masterpiece

I can’t really remember how many times in my life I’ve woken up to fresh fallen snow, but being a southern gal, it hasn’t been nearly as many as my friends in the north.  Yet, each time it snows, I am genuinely intrigued by it all; the quietness that comes with everything being blanketed, the sharp contrast between the cardinals and evergreens and the stark white of the snow, and the excitement and child-like enthusiasm that springs forth from every grown man and woman.  Anything that looks flat and would fit a backside becomes an instant sled, snow-cream becomes the favorite and re-creating child-hood memories of baking cookies and drinking hot chocolate are the priority.

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The mystery, however, lies in the snowflake itself.  Did you know there are research scientists that actually study snowflakes?  The old adage, “No two snowflakes are alike”, has actually been put to the test!  Researchers don’t know why the crystals take on different shapes at different temperatures, but they do know that the likelihood of two fully developed snowflakes being alike is pretty slim.  Once the branches of a crystal begin to grow, they “very easily begin to pick up their own shape”.  A man by the name of Charles Knight, who is a snow scientist (I didn’t know those even existed) at the National Center for Atmospheric Research, estimates that there are 10,000,000,000,000,000,000 water molecules in a single snow crystal!  “The way they can arrange themselves is infinite”.  The microscopic images of snowflakes take my breath away!  Each one is a masterpiece and is stunningly beautiful.  Researchers have also estimated the number of snowflakes that have fallen on the Earth over the course of time has been 10 followed by 34 zeros! That’s a lot of little crystals being uniquely formed to create a breath-taking landscape of winter.

Psalm 139: 14 says, “I am fearfully and wonderfully made, marvelous are your works and my soul knows very well”.  In the original Hebrew text, the word ‘fearfully’ means: with great reverence and heart-felt interest and respect.  The word ‘wonderfully’ means; unique, set apart, uniquely marvelous.  The psalmist knew that God’s love for each one of us was so great that He made us to be unique, set apart from all others and unlike anyone else in the entire world through all of time!  I love the image of the snowflake becoming fully formed and uniquely “picking up their own shape”. God created each of us, just as the snowflake, to be unique and marvelously distinct.  As we grow and mature in our faith, we “pick up our own shape”, so to speak, and become the child of God that He created us to be, stunningly beautiful in His image.  It’s hard for me to wrap my head around the enormity of water molecules in that little snow crystal and yet, even still, God knows all of His creation. He even numbers the hairs on our head (Matt 10:30).

I don’t think I will ever look at a snowflake the same way again.  Just as each one is uniquely formed and beautifully designed, so too are we “fearfully and wonderfully made” through the love of God Who desires to see us as “set apart” from all others, His own masterpiece!