Old Love Songs…

I used an old Chicago love song for our cool down in Silver Sneakers exercise class yesterday. Chicago songs always bring back a flood of memories for me. I can remember watching my dad sing Chicago songs to my mother when he was battling cancer. I can also remember slow dancing for the first time with a boy at a friend’s birthday party to a Chicago song. Both of these events happened within a year of one another. It’s funny how music can take you back in time.

I have been thinking about this time of my life ever since class yesterday. As horrible as it was to have a front row seat to my own father’s losing battle with cancer, there were also such sweet memories that brought light, love and life to a dark, fearful time in my life.

Isn’t that how God’s grace works in our lives? He provides a hope and light when we feel like we are at the end of our rope. He brings that friend into our life that brings unexpected laughter when times get tough. And God shows true love to a young girl watching her parents sing and dance to Chicago while engaging in the battle of their lives. What a picture of hope He was providing for me.

You see, God will not leave you in darkness. He will not leave you in hopelessness. He will not leave you in grief. He will hold you. He will comfort you. And He will reveal His goodness in the toughest of times.

God will use old love songs to take you back in time and see just how far you have come. With Him. And He will remind you that He is with you, holding you and loving you in this time. No matter what tomorrow might bring.

Be joyful!

“Let the message of Christ dwell among you richly as you teach and admonish one another with all wisdom through psalms, hymns, and songs from the Spirit, singing to God with gratitude in your hearts.” Colossians 3:16 NIV

Hands…

1-mother-and-daughter-holding-hands-lee-avison

A post came up on my Timehop app today from back in 2015. I was still driving my daughter to school at that time and she would have been in the 7th grade. That morning, she touched my hand and commented on how my veins stand out. I explained to her that is what happens when you get older. Your hands seem to always give away your age. She stroked the top of my hand again and said tenderly, “well mom, I like the way it looks.”

Interesting that my immediate thought was something negative about myself. In fact, my response back to her was obviously an attempt to lighten some harsh blow that was inevitably about to come from her observation. Yet instead, she was observing something that she noticed and liked about me, unprompted and uninhibited. I remember thinking that day about my own mother’s hands. I also have a fondness for her hands. I always liked the way her hands look. I wonder if my hands look like my mom’s hands? Then, I thought about the tender touch and comfort that can come from the loving hands of a mom. A mother’s hands wipe away tears, caress faces, gently rub and comfort burdened backs, and firmly grasp their children’s hands perfectly.

I also remember wishing that I could see myself through my daughter’s eyes that day or maybe even my mother’s eyes. Better yet, maybe I could see myself through my Father’s eyes each day, remembering fulfilled promises He has given me in both my own mom and daughter. Maybe this week, I will look around at the many hands around me. Who needs their hands held in prayer? Who needs a loving squeeze of reassurance? Who needs a hand to hold when the going gets tough? Who needs a meal prepared and delivered? Who needs a tear wiped from their cheek?

Father, help me be aware of opportunities to be Your Hands this week. Thank you for my mom, my daughter and these old hands made in your image. Help me use my hands wisely and boldly. And thank you for the hands that Jesus stretched out on the cross to save us all.

Be joyful!

“And Mary said: ‘My soul glorifies the Lord and my spirit rejoices in God my Savior, for he has been mindful of the humble state of his servant. From now on all generations will call me blessed, for the Mighty One has done great things for me— holy is his name. His mercy extends to those who fear him, from generation to generation.’” Luke 1:46-48 NIV

The Back Scratcher…

20180306_171414Monday nights have become one of my favorite nights. First, I get to spend time with my Sisters in Christ in Bible Study. Then, a new tradition has formed in our home. My man, daughter and angel dog pile on our bed and we watch the television program, Kids Baking Championship. Now before you all conjure up false impressions of my man; this is not his show of choice. He is a fishing, hunting, rough and tough, Texas man…you make no mistake! I truly believe that the main reason he succumbs to this ritual has everything to do with the back scratcher.

Honestly, my man is obsessed with the back scratcher. He received an upgraded “model” in his stocking at Christmas. It extends to different lengths, is shaped like a metal hand and has a nice cushiony grip. What I have observed about the back scratcher is that it can be used to scratch lovingly or it can be used to annoy. And usually the rule of thumb is that you get exactly what you give, which typically ends poorly for me. For some reason, try as I might, I can’t resist using the back scratcher to annoy more than love when it is my turn. I have also observed that my daughter keeps track of the amount of time that angel dog gets scratched. And, God forbid, that she is given any less time! My man gets the most time with the back scratcher and we are amazed that he doesn’t sustain flesh wounds on his back from the intensity of his scratching.

Aren’t we lucky to have a God who doesn’t give based on what He receives? “For it is by grace that you have been saved, through faith–and this is not from yourselves, it is a gift of God.” (Ephesians 2:8 NIV) We continually sin and fall short; yet His grace and forgiveness is extended again and again. His love is more than abundant!

Aren’t we lucky that we are never beyond God’s reach? Psalms 138:7 reminds us, “Though I am surrounded by troubles, you will protect me from the anger of my enemies, You reach out your hand, and the power of your right hand saves me.” His reach is deep and wide and He has the ability to forgive and forget our sins, as far as the east is from the west.

Aren’t we lucky that God loves us all equally? He extends the same love, hope, forgiveness, and grace to each and every one of us. He doesn’t play favorites! “For God so loved the world that He gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish but have eternal life.” (John 3:16 NLT)

God is the ultimate back scratcher!  I will never look at our Monday night ritual the same again.

Be joyful!

 

Show Me Your Muscles…

muscles

My mom is the strongest woman I know. I learned leadership from her and the importance of having a quiet, steady faith in God. She is still the most beautiful woman in any room, as far as I am concerned. She is my mom first, my best friend second and has walked me through the highs and lows of my life.

She is also my biggest cheerleader. If I sneeze, she will tell you that it was ‘the best sneeze ever sneezed’ in all of history! She is always on my side, even when I am terribly wrong. She is my PR agent. When I was a freshman in college, she dragged me across the room to meet the University President at orientation. She loves to make me laugh. One time, she stood in our front yard, showing me her “muscles” and from then on was deemed “muscle mom.” She taught me the joy of “retail therapy” and we earned our degrees in this “vocation” the year after my first father passed away.

She was meant to be a mother. God gave her extraordinary skills in this role and she has served Him mightily.

She was a Girl Scout leader, youth leader, PTA President, retail shop manager, receptionist, to name a few. She remains an avid bridge player, master gardener and animal lover. She believes in community service and involvement. She is a wife of a Pastor, which should, in and of itself, speak to her mighty strength.

My mom and first father were middle school sweethearts. When God called my first father home, she was left with two teenagers to raise. She was only 41 years old. Many nights after he died, my mom would walk around our swimming pool and yell at God. She would question him in her grief and would tell Him exactly how she felt. You see, in her grief and anger, she reached out to her Father. She knew that He could take it.

It occurred to me in my adult life what strong faith she showed during those honest cries of grief and heart ache. We do not argue or get angry or “lash out” at someone that we don’t believe in whole heartedly. She knew that her Father would hear her cries and would not forsake her. She knew He loved her and that He would heal her broken heart in His perfect timing. You see, she was in relationship with God, the author and perfector of her faith and ours.

Are you facing something in your life that has left you heart broken, angry, sick with grief or faint from lack of understanding? Your Father in heaven is only a cry away. He will never leave you. We see example after example in the Bible of times where He sees His people, hears His people, and loves His people.

He sees you. He hears you. He loves you. Trust that He can handle your grief. Your anger. Your lack of understanding.

Just like my very own Muscle Mom, He will show you his muscles! And trust me, our God is stronger!

Be joyful!

“The righteous cry out, and the LORD hears them; he delivers them from all their troubles.” Psalm 34:17 NIV

A Tale of Three Fathers…

sunsetinclouds

When I was 13 years old, my biological father died of esophageal cancer. He was an amazing man, with an infectious personality. He loved to laugh; he loved his family; he loved to tell a good joke; he loved fishing; he loved oysters; he loved the beach and he loved God. He was the kind of person that people were drawn to and wanted to be around. I was blessed to have him. I know that I had more of an earthly father in those 13 years than some people experience in a lifetime.

Here is the amazing part. I now have a second father who is equally remarkable. He has been my father since I was 16. (The poor man has been putting up with me for 29 years. I think he deserves a medal!) He loves to laugh; he loves to cook; he loves to travel; he loves to read; he loves his family; he loves to garden, and he loves God. He, too, is the kind of man that people want to be around. I currently have more of an earthly father than some people experience in a lifetime.

There were several years when I resisted loving my second father. I was so afraid that he would try and take the place of my first father. What I didn’t realize was that he just wanted a place in my heart. And God made our hearts big enough for all kinds of love. We simply have to put fear aside.

Now, are you ready for the UNBELIEVABLE part? My Father in heaven orchestrated all of this to His Glory. You see, He knew that one day I would have a daughter. And He knew that cancer would have touched her life too. And that the loss of a parent was part of her story. He knew that my love and respect for my second father would grow to new heights as I, too, navigated being a second mom. God knew that I would understand a little more the capacity of His heart and the kindness of His nature. He knew that I would encounter grace in ways that only He can orchestrate in our lives. And how God can weave brokenness into beauty in ways we will never fully understand.

I have the extraordinary privelege of having three amazing fathers. Except I think I may have muddied the order here. God is my first Father and He blessed me with two more. I am one lucky gal!

Be joyful!

“For I know the thoughts that I think toward you, said the LORD, thoughts of peace, and not of evil, to give you an expected end.” Jeremiah 29:11  (American King James Version)

 

Early Morning with An Angel Dog

Did you know that dog is God spelled backwards? I think that my angel dog can teach us a lot about God actually.

We have a ritual in the morning. The angel dog gets on the bed and then finds his way under the covers. He then lines his body up with mine, as close as he possibly can. I pull him even closer at this point and enjoy the warmth that he provides back to me. We doze together for as long as we can depending on the demands of the day. It might be ten minutes. It might be 30 minutes or longer. But, the angel dog always finds his way to me and snuggles in close.

“Whoever dwells in the shelter of the Most High will rest in the shadow of the Almighty. I will say to the Lord, ‘He is my refuge and fortress, my God, in whom I trust.’ Surely he will save you from the fowler’s snare and from the deadly pestilence. He will cover you with his feathers, and under his wings you will find refuge; his faithfulness will be your shield and rampart. You will not fear the terror of night, nor the arrow that flies by day.” Psalm 91:1-5 NIV

Wouldn’t all of our days be better if we had the same ritual as my angel dog? What if we sought out the shelter of the Most High each morning and made our way under the protection of His wings? What if our first instinct was to line our bodies up next to His and steal away in His warmth and closeness as long as we possibly could each morning?What if we allowed Him to pull us even closer and wrap His mighty arms around us? Surely our day might look and feel differently. Our Father in heaven wants our time and attention. He wants to be in relationship with us. Take some time today and snuggle into Him. He is worth it!

Be joyful!