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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.

TWO DAYS AFTER CHRISTMAS

‘Twas two days after Christmas and all through the house
No one could walk through, not even a mouse!
The toys that were scattered one end to the other
Kept stubbing the toes of this poor old grandmother!
I wouldn’t have it any other way! I love having my children and grandchildren here, and I’ll take the clutter and noise that comes along with them any time! Our house is pretty empty and quiet when they’re not here, so it is a rare treat to feel like we are living in Grand Central Station!

I’m not kidding about my poor toes, though! I’ve been hobbling for over a month now. I broke one of my toes three days before I left for Ecuador when I tripped over a suitcase. Not good timing! Since then I have had the same toe stepped on by a heelie (tennis shoe with a wheel built into the heel – ouch!!!) and had a vacuum cleaner slammed into it and the toe next to it, so I have two purple toes now! And all this week I cannot count the number of times I have tripped over suitcases left lying in dark hallways or in front of my closet, stepped on bits and pieces of toys, or stubbed the other eight toes on this or that. I’m getting really paranoid about my feet and trying to keep them tucked out of the way of anyone walking past me or sitting close!

But I digress… It’s been a wonderful week and all too quickly it is coming to an end. Julie and David and the kids leave the day after tomorrow and we will be back to our quiet, empty house again. The year 2009 is winding to a close and I will wind down along with it as I try to catch my breath after the last few hectic months. The year, as usual, has had its ups and downs, blessings and joys, trials and tears. One thing has remained constant throughout, though, and that is that God is ever faithful and loving. I feel like I have grown in Him this year and drawn closer to Him, which is how it should be. I am so thankful for my life, my family, and the future that I know He is preparing for me. Jeremiah 29:11 says, “For I know the plans I have for you, says the Lord. They are plans for good and not for disaster, to give you a future and a hope.” (NLT) I’m looking forward to what He has in store for us in 2010!

I printed “Sundays with Cindy 2009” and bound it in book form for my daughters, mom and sister as Christmas gifts. There were 45 entries and about 150 pages. I hope reading it this year has been as much a blessing to you, as it has been to me in writing it. As I look back and see the things the Lord has been teaching me, and what He has done in our lives, I just count myself so blessed to have been able to share with you. Thank you for the comments and ways you have shared with me, here and through your e-mails. You have been a blessing to me, too! May the New Year find us all growing in Him and loving Him and one another even more, and may He bless you and your family abundantly in 2010!