Archive | January 2011

Pot Pie, Purpose and the Preciousness of Life

Have you ever had a chicken pot pie made entirely from scratch with all the vegetables cut up from fresh (not frozen), loaded with chicken and topped with a tender, flaky crust?  I’m a fairly good cook, but I take shortcuts when I can.  Peeling vegetables and chopping and dicing would not be the way I would go were I to make pot pie myself.  Opening a bag of frozen vegetables and pre-cooking them a bit in the microwave before putting them in my pot pie would be the norm for me.  I’ve always thought frozen vegetables were just as good as fresh, but wrong!  We were blessed and very surprised to receive a homemade pot pie this week from our church’s MOPS group (Mothers of Preschoolers) and it was amazingly yummy!

We felt undeserving of such a gift.  The group is large—around thirty or so women—and they had made pot pies together, I understand, to give to shut-ins, widows, the sick.  We don’t fit in any of those categories, but apparently they wanted to give it to us as a thank you for something I had written for them.  Last Sunday was “Sanctity of Life Sunday” and they were carrying the theme through at their meeting on Tuesday.   As the mother of a severely handicapped child, I was asked to write something about the sanctity of life as it pertains to disabled people.  (I am planning to share it with you next week on Robbie’s birthday.)

I’ve spent a lot of time this week thinking about the value of our lives to the Lord, to others, and even as to how we see ourselves.  About the time I was writing for the MOPS group I heard from two or three special people in my life and the conversations between us were about that very thing—finding the purpose in our lives.  

Our lives—no matter who we are, no matter our abilities or disabilities, no matter our position in the eyes of the world–are precious for we are creations of God, and His breath gives us life.   “And the LORD God formed man of the dust of the ground, and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life; and man became a living soul.” (Genesis 2:7)  Our lives are planned.  II Timothy 1:9 says, Who hath saved us, and called us with an holy calling, not according to our works, but according to his own purpose and grace, which was given us in Christ Jesus before the world began.”  And because He has a plan for us, He also has a purpose.  The Bible tells us in Ephesians 2:10, “For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus unto good works, which God hath before ordained that we should walk in them.”

We Christian women struggle sometimes with our purpose.  If we stay at home and think of ourselves as “just a housewife,” we may not feel as validated as we think we would if we had a career.  Once our children are grown and gone, we may no longer feel as needed as we once did.  We wonder, what does God have in store for me now?  What does He want me to accomplish with my life?  When we feel we have no talents or skills or strength, we may wonder, how can I serve him when I have nothing much to offer?  When we see others with fruitful ministries or busy serving in some capacity, we may be tempted to compare our own lives with theirs and feel that we come up short.

We go through different seasons of life, and often the ministry the Lord gives us changes during the passage of time in our lives.  One thing is sure—God does not set us on a shelf to wait quietly for Heaven.  As long as we are here on earth, He has a ministry for us to do.  It is up to us to be open and willing to be used by Him in whatever way He sees fit, wherever we are.  I felt for almost seven years that God had put me on a shelf for a time.  When Robbie got sick I suddenly went from actively serving the Lord in leadership roles to what I thought of as being alone in a dark, quiet corner.  Oh yes, I felt that Robbie was my ministry and God was still using me, but it was a night and day difference from how I had served Him my entire adult life.  Bob referred to those years as his “wilderness” years when the Lord drew him apart for a time.  They were not wasted years at all, for those were the years that the Lord took us away from the fray and especially worked in us, preparing us further for a different kind of ministry He would call us to in our older years.  When we were ready He once again began opening new doors of ministry to us.

The great thing is that He equips us to be perfectly made for that ministry.  It doesn’t matter what physical limitations we may have, or what talents or skills we may lack.  His grace is sufficient and His strength is made perfect in our weakness—to His glory.  It is when He works through us, poor and broken vessels that we are, that He is glorified.  II Corinthians 12:9 says, “And he said unto me, My grace is sufficient for thee: for my strength is made perfect in weakness. Most gladly therefore will I rather glory in my infirmities, that the power of Christ may rest upon me.”  If I do not have the abilities that others have, so what?  I have what it takes for the Lord to use me in precisely the ministry He has for me.  Perhaps He did not give me certain strengths.  Could it be that I would not focus on what He truly does want me to do if I had the abilities of my friends?  

Romans 12 (and also I Corinthians 12) tells us that we in the body of Christ have many different gifts meant to complement and fill the needs of the whole body.  These gifts are given to us by God Himself according to His individual, personal plan for each one of us.   “So we, being many, are one body in Christ, and every one members one of another.  Having then gifts differing according to the grace that is given to us, whether prophecy, let us prophesy according to the proportion of faith; Or ministry, let us wait on our ministering: or he that teacheth, on teaching;  Or he that exhorteth, on exhortation: he that giveth, let him do it with simplicity; he that ruleth, with diligence; he that sheweth mercy, with cheerfulness.”  (Romans 12:5-8)  Hmm—“gifts differing according to the grace that is given to us…”  Remember “My grace is sufficient for thee”?  If the gifts He has given to us by His grace are of such great value to Him, then how can we not realize their true importance in the Body?

I love to listen to Dr. David Jeremiah on the radio when I get the chance.  Usually that is only when I am in the car at the right time.  I happened to catch just a small portion of the tail end of a series he has been doing the other night.  The main points of that series caught my attention and have stayed in my mind since then.  I did not hear any of the messages of the series  but its title was “The Signs of a Compassionate Life.”  The five signs he preached on were Dusty Shoes, Worn-Out Knees, Rolled-Up Sleeves, Open Hands and Outstretched Arms.  These signs exemplify ministries the Lord calls us to in order to care for others.  We may not all be able to preach or teach; we may not all be evangelists or administrators, but we are all called upon to be compassionate and loving.  Never underestimate the ministries that are in the background—supporting, encouraging, praying, uplifting, burden-sharing, giving, helping.  They are every bit as valuable and powerful in the Body of Christ.  I Peter 4:10, 11 tells us to use our gifts as good stewards and to do it according to the abilities God has given us.  “As every man hath received the gift, even so minister the same one to another, as good stewards of the manifold grace of God.   If any man speak, let him speak as the oracles of God; if any man minister, let him do it as of the ability which God giveth: that God in all things may be glorified through Jesus Christ, to whom be praise and dominion forever and ever. Amen.”

If it had pleased God to leave me in that still, quiet corner for the rest of my life ministering only to one helpless boy, it would have been a valuable ministry in His eyes, and my service to Him in that small way would have been a sweet offering of love and obedience.  It does not matter what others think of my ministry, only what He thinks.  It does not matter if others can see what I do for Him, or realize the scope or fruit of my ministry.  Success is not measured in the eyes of this world, or even among our fellow believers, but only in pleasing the Lord.  We must not fall into the trap of comparing our lives or ministries with others’.  God works in and through each of us differently.

That pot pie we enjoyed this week was made up of many good things.  Each added its own unique flavor to the whole; no ingredient was more important than the others.  Perhaps I shouldn’t compare the Body of Christ with a pot pie (!), but I think you get my drift.  The Lord made me, He made you to add your own special gifts to His work.  It is only when we allow Him to use us in our families, in His Church and in the world that we fulfill His purpose for our lives—ultimately to bring glory to Him.

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EXCUSE ME, LORD–MAY I PUT YOU ON HOLD?

I’ve spent a lot of time on the telephone lately.  I don’t talk to a lot of people usually, but there are certain people to whom I talk almost every day—my daughters, my mom, my husband when he is traveling.  My grandchildren call frequently and I am always tickled to hear from them.  It amazes me that sixteen-year-old Sara still calls her old grandma to chat for an hour at a time about her teenage concerns.  Katie has my phone number hanging on a nail in her bedroom so she can call me at any time, and even Matthew, the youngest, learned on his own at the age of two that if he pushed a certain button (redial) he could call grandma.  Of course, every once and a while he got someone else.  If they only knew it was a two-year-old calling from Ecuador!

Bob gets lonely when he is on the road.  He will often call six or seven times a day when he is gone, mostly to tell me about his work or road conditions, or just to ask how things are going at home and about Robbie.  Well, to tell the truth, even if he’s just around town, he calls a lot.  A simple trip to the grocery store will usually mean at least five or six calls!

I have a great appreciation for the telephone.  It keeps us connected as a family.  Since 1980 I have either been separated from my mother and siblings, or from one or both of my daughters.  How thankful I am that I can pick up the phone and talk to them instantly!  And I’m especially thankful for the changes that have come about in the way we telephone, as well!  I remember well when I could only afford a quick phone call to my mom once a week on Sunday nights.  I remember extremely well the hundreds of dollars we spent on international calls each month when Laurie first went to Ecuador as a college student.  Lower prices and calling plans now make it possible to talk whenever and for as long as I want every day.  Whoo-hoo!  If the teenager or toddler wants to talk to Grandma three times a day, so what?  Unlimited calling, I love you!

And the cell phone opened up new, remarkable ways of calling.  It still tickles me to shop at Wal-Mart with my daughter in Ecuador via cell phone, or to be speeding down the interstate at seventy miles an hour (as a passenger, not the driver!) while I’m chatting with my grandchildren on the phone.    Who would have ever thought it?

Our son-in-law Fernando was here from Ecuador for a couple days this week.  He had to leave on Friday to return home, but Bob was in Michigan and could not take him to the airport.  A man from our church kindly offered to drive him up to O’Hare, and Fernando was waiting for him that morning when Bob called.  Bob had a number of concerns about things pertaining to his work, so I suggested we pray about them together over the telephone.

I had no sooner made the suggestion, and we were about to pray, when suddenly the phone cut out.  Three times that happened, and then once before we could reconnect, Bob got a call from a customer.  I figured Satan didn’t want us to pray together, but eventually after several attempts we were finally able to reach each other, and Bob began to pray while I bowed my head and prayed with him.

Uh-oh.  Suddenly I heard the familiar beep-beep of Call Waiting.  What to do?  We were praying.  I couldn’t just say, “Hang on, Bob—I have to pick up this call!”  We don’t have Caller ID but the thought crossed my mind, “It’s probably Jerry wanting directions to the house so that he can pick up Fernando.”  My next thought was, “Well, you just can’t put God on hold!” 

I feel uncomfortable when people don’t show the proper reverence for the Lord when they are praying—when they yawn loudly in the middle of their prayer, or are looking around or messing with something in their hands.  In my mind’s eye I picture us in the throne room of the King, approaching His throne when—we yawn right in His face???  I don’t think so.  What I would not do in His physical presence, I don’t want to do in my spiritual communion with Him.

I ignored the beep.  I ignored it, but I was worried that it was Jerry.  Time was growing short and Fernando couldn’t be late leaving for the airport.  A minute later Call Waiting beeped again.  This time I was sure it was Jerry.  I had to pick up.  I didn’t say anything to Bob, but just quietly answered the other call.  “Just a minute, Jerry,” I quickly said.  “Bob’s on the other line.”  Bob—and God, I thought guiltily.  “I’ll get back to you in a minute.” 

I went back to the other call within seconds.  Bob was still praying.  He hadn’t even missed me, but I knew the Lord knew I had put Him on hold.  “Well, that’s a new one,” I sighed to myself.  “Putting God on hold.”

The more I thought about it later, though, the more I realized that it is not something new at all.  We do it all the time, to our shame.   We realize the importance of prayer intellectually perhaps, but in practicality prayer often ranks low in many people’s list of priorities until they need to pull it off the shelf in a hurry in a time of need.  Even mature Christians often neglect it or do not attach the awesome privilege and power to it that it deserves.  It is a privilege to boldly approach the throne of the King, the only true and living God, the Creator and Master of heaven and earth, the great I Am as His child and bring our cares and our requests to Him!  How can we treat it so lightly?  How can we neglect that great privilege and honor?  How can we ignore its power so freely offered to us?  How can we put the Lord on hold in our lives?  I can’t remember if I’ve shared the following with you before, but if I have, it bears repeating:

We must make an absolute commitment to consistently spend significant time alone with God in uninterrupted prayer.  Nothing should be more important in our lives than prayer.  When it is a priority we will desire far more than just a “prayer in passing,” a few minutes of devotions in the morning, or asking a blessing before meals.  Consider the statement above: Make an absolute commitmentI will not allow anything to get in the way of my prayer time with the Lord; to consistentlyday in and day out, without fail; spend significant timesurely I can carve thirty minutes or an hour out of my day to speak to the Lord when it is my priority; alone with Godfamily devotions are great and necessary, but I need time when it is just me and God together; in uninterrupted prayer I won’t be rushed or torn away by other things or people.  After all, what a privilege and joy to speak personally and intimately with the God of all creation and my Lord and Savior!  I Thessalonians 5: 17 tells us to “Pray without ceasing.”  That special time of day when we commune solely with the Lord should put us in the frame of mind where it is simple to be constantly in communion with Him as we go about our daily business.  If we truly understood the power of what prayer can do in our lives and the privilege it is to be able to come as His child to the very throne of the God of the universe, perhaps we would not be so complacent about out prayer lives.  Prayer should be at the top of our list of priorities.  Jesus said “But seek ye first the kingdom of God, and His righteousness; and all these things shall be added unto you.” (Matthew 6:33)

We should approach our prayer time as a relationship with God rather than a required ritual.  Prayer should not be seen as a duty, or drudgery or just one more thing to be crossed off a to-do list.  It is not memorized words, repetitious posturing or eloquent phrases all strung together for effect.  True prayer is an important part of a love-relationship between me and my Heavenly Father.  It is an intimate two-way conversation, for as I speak to Him, I will begin to hear Him speaking to me.   Many times we are so busy “serving” Him that, like Martha (Luke 10:38-42), we neglect sitting down and talking with Him.  Our Father loves it when we want to spend time with Him because we love Him.   He loves to hear us tell Him that we love Him.  He loves it when we come to Him as His children and bring our cares and requests to Him and He delights in answering our prayers when we ask according to His will.  I John 5:14-15 says, “And this is the confidence that we have in Him, that, if we ask anything according to His will, we know He hears us, whatsoever we ask, we know that we have the petitions that we desired of Him.”  We need prayer for daily cleansing; for drawing closer to our Lord as we commune with Him; for His guidance; for the power to live the dynamic life He wants us to live for Him. 

We would not keep an earthly president or king waiting, or put them on hold.  My Father the King deserves even greater reverence, and we are foolish to ignore the communication with Him that He so lovingly has extended to us

NEW ADDRESS, NEW LOOK, SAME OL’ ME

Welcome to the new home of Sundays with Cindy!  Hope you didn’t have any trouble getting here!  I did not make the move lightly, but after more than a month of struggling with technical difficulties at the previous website I finally decided it was a necessity. 

There are some things I like about the new site, and others that I don’t care for.  I am sure as I become accustomed to it, I will be able to make some changes and learn to live with the things I can’t change (ie. not having a choice of fonts or being able to justify my paragraphs.)  It is still a work in progress at this time.

I’m so glad I was able to move all the entries from the last two years over here.  If you are fairly new to Sundays with Cindy or have missed some weeks, you may want to check out the archived posts. 

I am looking forward to going on from here!  It is a privilege to be able to share my weeks, my experiences, my struggles, blessings, thoughts and prayers with you, and a joy to see what God’s Word has to offer us to encourage and edify.  As I share my life with you, I hope you will share as well.  I love hearing from you!

BORN AGAIN – AGAIN

JANUARY 16, 2011
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Oh, what a week it has been! Nice things happened, bad things happened, miracles happened—and through it all we are praising the Lord. I am so glad we walk with the Lord and can literally see His hand at work in our lives!
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Let’s start with the nice things: Our son-in-law Fernando is here with us for a couple days this week. Fernando is a missionary in his native land of Ecuador. He has some meetings to attend in Cleveland, OH and decided to fly into Chicago and spend a little time with us and then drive on to Cleveland tomorrow. Of course, not having Laurie and the kids here with him makes us sad, but we are enjoying these few hours with Fernando. He loves the Lord, and he loves to laugh, and he loves our daughter and grandchildren, and that makes the fellowship very sweet indeed! We are so looking forward to the time later this year when, the Lord willing, the whole family will be back for a short furlough.
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Nice thing #2: Julie broke some good news to me this week, as well. She and David have decided to bring the family up here from Alabama at the end of the month to celebrate Robbie’s birthday with him (a few days early.) It is also Benjamin’s 13th birthday so we will celebrate both birthdays together. How fun! We were just there at Christmas but we can never have too much time together! I’m so excited!
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Nice thing #3: Robbie will be going into the hospital sometime in the next month or so for some oral surgery. Because he is so severely handicapped, any dental work that is done on him has to be done in a hospital under general anesthesia. One of his seizure medicines causes his gums to overgrow his teeth and periodically he has to have the tissue cut back. At the same time they will do fillings or whatever else might be needed.
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Bob took Robbie to see the dentist the other day in preparation for this work. While they were there, he was dismayed to find out that neither the dentist or oral surgeon takes Medicaid any more, and that is Robbie’s insurance. What a nice surprise it was to find out that both of these kind men had decided they wanted to do the work on Robbie for free! In fact, the dentist still had the thank you note and pictures of Robbie we had sent him the last time on his bulletin board. We are very grateful for them both.
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Now the bad things: Something else that came out of the visit to the dentist was his recommendation to us that we allow him to pull all of Robbie’s teeth! He said, for the sake of Robbie’s health that this would be the best thing we could do. Robbie is tube-fed and no longer eats anything by mouth so he does not need his teeth. He has ground them terribly over the years and the dentist said he is susceptible to infection, which in Robbie’s case could be fatal. In his words, “You need to think of Robbie’s well-being above your own.”
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Well, that is all we have done all these years, but I understand what he meant. It is a gut-wrenching decision for me and I am really struggling with it. Of course, I don’t want to put Robbie at risk. We have lived with the reality of Robbie’s fragility for the last ten years, fighting to keep him alive at times; knowing that at any time the Lord could take him through seizures or asphyxiation or pneumonia. We know he has already lived out his life expectancy. We would give our lives for that boy.
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At the same time I think of his handsome little face and his sweet smile, and it tears me up to think of disfiguring it this way. Robbie has enough strikes against him as far as people accepting him the way he is without adding something else to possibly make others turn away. Maybe infection could happen—but maybe it won’t, either. If we were to do this, there is no un-doing it later. He can’t wear dentures, so his smile, which is such a precious part of him, will be ruined for the rest of his life.
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It may seem strange to some people to think that in my mind Robbie’s smile would be as important to me as preventing him from possible risk of infection. I can’t help it. At this moment that is how I am feeling. Please pray for me that the Lord will open my mind to whatever is the right thing to do and that if it is following the doctor’s recommendation, I will be able to accept it with peace and comfort. Bob is leaning that way, but as I said, I am really struggling. We will have to make the decision soon and are praying about it now.
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Bad thing #2: I got a call the other day from my mother, “Craig [my 54 year old brother] is having open-heart surgery in two hours!” What??? He had gone in for a test that morning, ended up with an angiogram and then was told by his doctor that they had to do surgery immediately. He had one blockage, but it was a bad one and in a very dangerous place. In fact this particular blockage is called the widow-maker. It is the kind that kills you suddenly with no signs or symptoms to forewarn. He had been feeling just fine and had no idea that there was a problem at all.
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That they caught this just in time is nothing short of miraculous. The doctor told Craig yesterday that he had, at the most, six months to live—maybe as little as six weeks. We are praising God for His intervention and for His healing! It was amazing to me to see how well Craig is recovering in just the first couple days. He’s far, far beyond where I was after a week! He was enjoying all the company yesterday and seemed his normal self.
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I am sure he is feeling a rush after realizing how close it had been and how the Lord had spared him. Craig told Bob and Fernando yesterday when they went to visit him, “I feel like I’ve been born again—not in the spiritual sense this time, but physically.” We don’t always get a second chance at life. How thankful we all are that we still have him with us! I know Craig is ready for Heaven whenever the Lord will take him, but still I know that he is glad to be around a little longer to be a grandpa to Isaac and the new grandbaby on its way.
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Our lives are filled with the blessings and challenges; the day-to-day routine and the unexpected. We say it so often—“Who knows what a day will bring forth?” Whatever it is, God is there. We see God performing miracles in our lives. We feel His peace and comfort and presence when we are burdened with care. When we trust Him we know He will lead and provide. That is what it is like to be His child.
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The Bible tells us in Philippians 4:6 to thank God for everything—good and bad. “Be anxious for nothing; but in every thing by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known unto God.” It is easy to give thanks for the good things the Lord brings into our lives. It is more difficult sometimes when we are faced with hard trials to find something in them for which to praise Him—but there is always something. In this problem about Robbie’s teeth I can praise Him that we have had ten years longer already with Robbie than we had thought we would; that his smile—however it may appear—reflects the happiness, love and contentment that he is feeling inside, whether he can say it or not; and that no matter how Robbie is physically or mentally, God has blessed our lives with the gift of this precious child.
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Everyday we can thank Him for the good and the bad, but when we stand amazed in the face of the miraculous, we are humbly grateful for His watchcare, His intervention, His power and love—and yes, sometimes even the second chances He allows us.
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“In every thing give thanks: for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus concerning you.” (I Thessalonians 5:18)

A BLANK CANVAS UNFOLDS

JANUARY 9, 2011
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Happy New Year! We are off to a good start—better anyway than last year. I looked over Sundays with Cindy 2010 as I printed several copies of it to give as Christmas gifts. There were forty-six entries, 146 pages. The first entry in 2010 was called “A Fizzle and a Thud.” I was sick at the time I wrote it—too sick to write my usual devotion for the week. Well, Sundays with Cindy 2010 ended with a fizzle and a thud, as well! There were no entries for the last three weeks. I wrote a devotion for the first of those weeks but the website was having a problem and I could not post it. The following two Sundays we were traveling to and from Alabama. *Sigh.* I am sorry that it ended that way.
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But this is a new year and a new start! I am looking forward to what the Lord will do in our lives in 2010! The big question for me is, “I wonder if this is the year that Jesus comes back for His own?” I am so ready for that to happen! So ready for Heaven—but in the meantime life must go on here on earth.
The year unfolds as a blank canvas. We don’t get to know what will be revealed ahead of time. I am glad for that. I don’t want to know ahead of time the challenges and trials we may have to face. God gives strength for those things at the time we need it. If I knew too much too soon I would waste precious time and energy worrying about it. Better to walk by faith, trusting God for the path ahead and to lead me step by step through the hard times.
But isn’t it nice that He gives us glimpses ahead of time of some of the good things we have to anticipate? In our family we have the birth of a new baby to look forward to in a few weeks! Laurie will be delivering her baby girl sometime in February and we are all so excited about that! Julie and David are a few steps closer in their adoption than they were at this time a year ago. Will this be the year they finally get the children they have waited to welcome into their family for so long? Sometime this year we are expecting the Naranjos to return from Ecuador for a few months. Oh, happy day for this grandma! Having joys like these to look forward to makes the journey today easier.
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There will be changes in our family and in our home and I am anticipating the things I will have to do here to make way for those changes—or should I say make room? The Naranjo family—all eight of them—will probably be staying with us, at least for a while. We have the bedroom space, but not a lot of closet and drawer space. I am already thinking about the wardrobe cabinets and plastic dressers for the kids I can bring in and where I will put them.
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There will be changes in lifestyle as well. Gone will be the days of a quiet house where Robbie sleeps and I sit with my computer on my lap and write eight or ten hours a day. There will be life and noise and activity and fun! Grandma will help with home-schooling, play games with the kids, and rock the new baby. Robbie, hopefully, will wake up and enjoy the hustle and bustle and the sound of little kids’ voices and laughter. Gone will be the quiet suppers for two in front of the TV. Our table will be filled to overflowing and Grandma will have to start cooking for real again! Gone will be the privacy and peace of an older couple, but taking its place will be the love and joy of having family here again under our roof! And what will make it complete will be when the Sanchez family joins us for a visit and we squeeze in even closer! Can you see I am excited about those changes?
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There are other changes I am anticipating, as well—changes that may not be quite as exciting, but certainly challenging. These are the changes I have been praying about, and actually working on for the last few months—changes in me. It is natural when we stand on the threshold between the old year and the new, to take stock of our lives. Many people make resolutions (or at least they have in the past) to do better in the new year—to lose weight, or quit smoking or drinking, or control their temper, or spend more time with their families—whatever. I quit making resolutions a long time ago. They never lasted more than a few weeks and then I was right back to my old ways.
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Resolutions don’t work for me and I know why—they are dependent on my willpower and my strength. Unfortunately my willpower and strength aren’t what they used to be. I can’t do it on my own. And so I turn to the Source of power and strength—the Lord. I can’t change me, but He can.
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I have been praying that the Lord will change me (my mindset, my will, my obedience to Him, my priorities) in two basic areas—how I relate to others and how I relate to myself. I began to see a need in my life to put people first again. I have spent the last ten years alone much of the time as I stayed home and cared for Robbie. He was my first priority as his needs were so great. Gradually, though, I began to fill my life with projects to fill the empty hours and days as I sat by his bedside. Though they were good and often a ministry, I finally saw that they were hindering my relationships with other people—eating my time, keeping me isolated, becoming more important in my life than the people I loved the most.
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I asked the Lord to change me in this area—to help me see what I could completely cut out, and what I could cut down on, and to give me the strength to actually do it. I asked Him to give me the determination to step out as I could and do for others. I have always looked at writing as my ministry for the Lord and to others, but I began to realize all over again that our love and service ought to go beyond words and become action. I have always respected pastors who are not just scholars and orators hiding behind a desk and a pulpit, but who are real people-persons, out there showing their love in real ways for their flock. I am limited still in how often I can get out of the house, but not as much as before. I need to get out of my comfortable rut and out there meeting face-to-face the needs of family, friends and others to whom I can minister.
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I am asking the Lord also to change my attitudes about caring for myself. It is far easier for me to see and desire to care for the needs of others than it is to take care of my own needs. As I get older, though, I realize that if I want to continue to care for Robbie, Bob, my grandchildren and other loved ones, then I need to take better care of myself. For some reason my physical needs have always had a low priority in my mind. I don’t know if it is because I think of my spiritual well-being as having far more importance, or if it is because I have no fear of death, or if I am just so lazy that it is not a priority. To God it is important however, and if I am to be obedient to Him I ought to take it more seriously. This old body, He says, is the temple of the Holy Spirit, and as such ought to have the care and respect that the tabernacle in the Old Testament or Solomon’s temple received. “What? know ye not that your body is the temple of the Holy Ghost which is in you, which ye have of God, and ye are not your own? For ye are bought with a price: therefore glorify God in your body, and in your spirit, which are God’s.” (I Corinthians 6:19, 20) No, I am not making resolutions to lose weight or manage my diabetes better, but I am asking God to change my mindset on this and to help me realize that this is not something I can slough off if I want to be obedient to Him—and I do want to be obedient to Him.
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I cannot change myself. I am weak, but I know that just as Christ changed me into a new creation through the power of His blood, He will continue to work in me and change me if I allow Him to do so. I leave you with some Scripture that reminds us of the good work He has done in us already, and His promises to finish that work:
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“Therefore if any man be in Christ, he is a new creature: old things are passed away; behold, all things are become new.” (II Corinthians 5:17)
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“And that ye put on the new man, which after God is created in righteousness and true holiness.” (Ephesians 4:24)
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“For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus unto good works, which God hath before ordained that we should walk in them.” (Ephesians 2:10)
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“Create in me a clean heart, O God; and renew a right spirit within me.” (Psalm 51:10)
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Just as the New Year unfolds before us as a blank canvas, so do the rest of our lives—ready to be created into the masterpieces only Christ can make of them when we allow Him to work in us.