Blessings

I am so blessed.  My life has not always been easy.  In fact, there have been some extremely difficult times.  I wouldn’t say life is exactly easy now.  But, I do have many blessings for which I am very thankful.  What are they?

  • a husband who loves me and our sons
  • precious children
  • wonderful friends whom I love very much and who are a blessing to me
  • a church where I am taught from the word of God and encouraged to live a life honoring to God
  • family (siblings and a mother) whom I love and who love me
  • in-laws whom I think are absolutely fabulous

I could go on and on.

There is so much around us that focuses on self, on things, on wants.  TV, movies and radio seem to encourage that.  People look at the grass on the other side of the fence, thinking it’s much greener.  So many seem discontent with their lives and want something different.  I’d like to encourage you to take a moment today and, even if you’re having a difficult time, think of the blessings in your life.  Write them all down so that you have a visual reminder.  Tape them to your bathroom mirror and read them every morning.  Add to the list.   I think that you’ll be surprised by how many blessings you see in your life that you didn’t even think of before.

If you’re having a hard time coming up with a list, think about some of these things.

Do you feel sick and “headachy” and have back problems and pains that just don’t seem to want to go away (I do), but still walk and talk and have independence?   If so, write that blessing down.  So often we can be feeling so bad that we keep our eyes focused only on the pain.  Lift your eyes.  See how you can grow through this experience.  See how you can be a blessing to someone else (which often brings blessings back to you even though that may not be your intent).

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If you are in a wheel chair and may never get out again, do you have people caring for your needs?  Are you capable of trying to learn to do more for yourself and gain a tiny bit of independence?  If so, write that blessing down here… and go to Joni & Friends.  Joni is a woman who is a quadriplegic and has been since an accident in her teens broke her neck.  She draws and paints pictures with her mouth.  (See the store section for a glimpse at her artwork.)  Watch her draw on YouTube.  I look at Joni and her glowing face, her joy, her sense of peace and freedom in spite of not having a body that will move and I realize that I have no reason to complain, moan and groan.  Perhaps she will encourage you, whether you’re in a wheelchair or not.

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If you’re in a marriage that makes you miserable is there anything that you can think of and write down that is a blessing?  Are you willing to try to focus on your spouse instead of yourself… such as being a blessing to your husband or wife for the next two months and see if that makes a difference in your marriage?

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If there is always month left at the end of your money and making ends meet is difficult, can you sing?  Can you be a blessing to someone else and focus on their needs?  Can you work toward being joyful because you have children or you have special friends in your life or any number of other things?

The point of this little exercise is that each and every one of us has some blessing in our lives.  Too often we ignore the blessings and focus on the difficult things.  Change your perspective.  Find those blessings and focus on them.  Look at others.  There is always someone who is walking in more painful shoes than you.  Or, if you feel that you truly are at the bottom of the heap, there are others who are just like you, but who live their lives to be a blessing to others.  There is always someone else who could use encouragement.

Sing when you work at home.  Determine that you’re going to go to work with an attitude that you’ll make it the best job you can possibly make it.  Be a blessing to your spouse, children and/or friends.  Make it a habit to see the blessings instead of focusing on the difficulties.  (That makes working through the difficulties a much lighter prospect.)  And, if you ever think you have it too bad and can’t even be happy, think of Joni.  Read her story.  Then do everything that you can to use your skills and talents to be a blessing to others.

You’ll be surprised how your perspective changes when you start realizing how many blessings you truly do have.  Like Joni, even if you can’t dress yourself and someone else has to take care of all of your physical needs, you’ll begin to find joy.

Showing Respect

I just read a blog that rather astounded me.  It was from a homeschooling mother who feels that she should not have to teach her child to be respectful toward others.  Her reason was that if her child had to show respect, that implied that someone else was more important than she.  So, I decided to look up the word respect and see why this mother had such a strong reaction against teaching her child to call adults by “Miss” or “Mister”.

You see, I always understood the word “respect” (in reality) to mean being polite and courteous toward others.

But, after looking up the definition in dictionary.com, I can see how this mother is upset by the Southern tradition for children (or those who are younger) to call their elders Miss Jane or Mr. Jason.   Her perspective of what respect is happens to be totally different than my perspective.  There were two different descriptions that apply to relationships:

  1. esteem for or a sense of the worth or excellence of a person, a personal quality or ability, or something considered as a manifestation of a personal quality or ability;
  2. deference to a right, privilege, privileged position, or someone or something considered to have certain rights or privileges; proper acceptance or courtesy; acknowledgment

She evidently looks at it as a bowing down to another person in a way that makes one person less important than another.  I look at it as showing proper acceptance or courtesy and acknowledgement.

Acknowledgement?  Yes, acknowledgement.  Let’s say our neighbor is a woman in her 50s.  Has she earned the right to be respected?  Not necessarily, if one’s definition of earning that right would be being a doctor or saving his life or something.  Is she more deserving of respect than my son?  No.  By being respectful toward her, my son is not lowering himself as something inferior.  He is acknowledging her years of life experience and honoring her for them.  Should she be expected to call him Mr. for the same reason?  No.  She should speak respectfully to him instead of putting him down or any of a number of ways that can disrespect a child.  But, she doesn’t need to honor him for his many years of life experience that are far above hers because those years of life experience don’t exist for him yet.

If I speak to the President (not likely to happen since I don’t run in his circles), regardless of whether I agree with him or not and regardless of whether I think he’s earned that respect with his actions, I would speak respectfully.  Why?  Because of his position.   But, if I speak to the lady next door who is 20 years older than me (or maybe 50), does it mean that I shouldn’t be respectful just because she isn’t a President or a doctor, etc.?  Absolutely not.  Unless she invites me to call her by her first name, I’ll call her Mrs. Jones or Miss Stacy or whatever her name may be.  And my son, who is a lot younger, will also learn to be respectful toward her.

Why?  Because showing respect toward one’s elders is simply “good manners”.  I strongly believe (and have experienced in life) that people who have good manners and are respectful towards others receive respect in return.  People who are not polite and have lousy manners… well, they aren’t exactly earning respect for themselves, are they?

Culture has a lot to do with it as well.  In this homeschool Mom’s blog she mentioned Germany.  In some cultures people call each other by their first names when they get to know each other, regardless of age difference.  In other cultures, like here in the South, it’s disrespectful and shows poor manners to call someone who is older than you by his/her first name unless invited to do so.  So, if I lived in Germany, I would respect that culture and say it was OK for my son to call a 70 year old man Johann if that’s what he asked him to do.  But, I moved to the Southern States as an adult and do not live in a culture such as in Germany.  My son is growing up in a culture where it is impolite for him to call a 70 year old man Joe unless specifically invited to do so by Joe.

I think that the Bible sheds a clear light on the matter of respect.  It says we are to show respect regardless.  We don’t show respect only if someone else shows respect toward us.  We don’t show respect only if they’ve earned it.  We simply honour others.

Romans 12:10 has a very simple instruction.  “Be devoted to one another in brotherly love, give preference to one another in honour.” (NASB) Another version says it in a slightly different manner:  “Love one another in brotherly affection.  Outdo one another in showing honour.”  (ESV)

To teach my son to disrespect adults in this Southern culture by calling them by their first name (when that is uninvited) is simply unacceptable.  I want him to grow up to be a man with excellent manners who has no problem being respectful and showing respect even if people don’t necessarily deserve it, because that is the kind of man who has the quality of character to earn respect.  Yes, I want my child to be respected and I would not put up with adults talking to him in a disrespectful manner.  I will not put up with him speaking to adults in a disrespectful manner, either.  Nor will I disrespect another adult in this Southern culture and tell them that they must call my child Mr. if they want him to call them Mr.

Culture has a lot to do with it.  Good manners have a lot to do with it.  But, most of all, we show respect and honour to others regardless of whether we think they deserve it or not because God tells us to treat others that way.

Lost Puppy

We noticed a stray little dog wandering around our neighborhood on Thursday, July 5th and taking shelter under our boat trailer.  It was desperately hot and muggy out with very little breeze to help cool everyone down.  I noticed him running around on Thursday and Friday.  But, it wasn’t until Friday evening that I knew I had to do something about him.

I had been watering my herbs and he was watching me from a safe distance.  When I was done watering and had walked away, he came up to my herbs and started licking at the mud.  Ohhhhhh…   I put some nice cool water out for him close to the boat trailer.   The neighbor told me that some wild animal had killed another animal down at the bottom of her property.  Most of it had been eaten, but she’d noticed the dog trying to chew on the bones.   Oh my goodness!  The poor little thing.

Not owning a dog, I didn’t have dog food available so I checked the internet to see what kind of “people food” dogs can eat.  I took out two little bowls of food… a bit of watermelon in one and some oatmeal in another.  The poor little thing scarfed it down like he hadn’t eaten in a long time.  I thought about the animal that had been killed on the neighbor’s property and knew that we had heard bob cat calls and that coyotes, foxes and other animals could have been out there.   So, I gently coaxed him into the fenced-in portion of our back yard.  We have a large wooden back porch to give him shelter from the heat of the sun.

I put a folded quilt for him to lie on under the porch.  The next morning I fed him again, and once again he ate incredibly fast.  He didn’t look like he’d been a stray for long.  In fact, it looked like someone had been taking care of him so I though he might be a runaway from the 4th of July fireworks.   My sister-in-law brought over some dog food.

We started looking for his family and took him to the vet to see if he had a chip that would tell us where he belonged.   No chip.  But, he was in good health.  Not knowing his background the vet gave him a rabies shot and I asked for flea and tick medication.  The vet thinks he’s almost 1 year old and that he’s a boxer beagle mix.  We picked up a collar and leash while we were there.

Around the same time, the weather forecast said that there would be thunder storms coming over the course of the next week.  If he was under our wooden porch, even though it’s fairly large and he could cozy up next to the house, the rain would still go through the slats and douse him.  That’s not pleasant.  At least wandering around our little country neighborhood he would have been able to hide under our boat in the rain.  So, I opened up the screened in back porch, secured the door so that it wouldn’t flop around and bang in the wind, and started coaxing him up the stairs.  He was very cautious at first, but smelled the folded up quilt that he’d been sleeping on the previous two nights.  Once he was up there and realized I wasn’t closing the door behind him, it didn’t take him very long to make that his domain.

He started slowing down when he ate and actually chewed his food.  He was getting fed regularly and started to feel comfortable.

My son and I went to the store and bought him some more dog food, chew bones, doggy biscuits and a squeaky toy… a little purple lamb, his version of a teddy bear.  When I gave it to him he realized immediately that it was for him.  He took it and, with head held high, went down the stairs, trotted around the yard a few times, back up the stairs, back down the yard, and then back up again.  That’s his teddy bear.  He now carries it around with him and will take it from chair to chair, drop it on the chair for a while and then take it and carry it somewhere else.

We haven’t found his family.  We’ve been getting phone calls in response to our notices, but none of the dogs that people are calling about are him.  (I didn’t realize how many dogs ran away during fireworks each year until this experience.)  Our neighbor called me yesterday morning saying there was a picture and description of a lost boxer mix in the paper.  But, that was a female.   To be honest, I’m beginning to wonder if someone didn’t just drop him off on the side of the highway because they didn’t want to take care of him any more.   He clearly doesn’t have a family canvassing the area or putting out pictures/notices looking for him.

Besides posting notices, I put information on Facebook in case any of my friends knew of someone who had a missing boxer/beagle puppy.  We called the animal shelter.  They didn’t have anyone calling them with a description of a lost dog that matched this one.  But, they said they’d keep the description and my contact information on file in case someone did call.

We can’t keep him because we can’t have him as an indoor dog and, being an obviously social creature, he needs quite a bit of attention.  I am not sure we’re able to give him as much as he needs.  (I get heat headaches and can’t stay outside for long.)  We also already have three cats and don’t need any more vet bills.  He needs the rest of his shots and he needs to be neutered.

Although he has his “puppyish” excitement still, he really has a very easy-going personality.  He hates our cats with a passion and slams into the glass door trying to get to them.  I think we may have curtailed that behavior for the most part, though.  But, he’s incredibly sweet and gentle with us.  He licks and licks and licks.  He doesn’t get involved with my son’s antics like a lab might.  After playing with him for a few minutes, if my son is a little to rambunctious in jumping around and running, the puppy will back off a little and just watch.  He really is a sweetheart.  When I sit on the love seat outside he’ll get up there and, after licking at me, will push himself up against me as close as he can.   We’ve been sitting out there with him during thunder storms, calmly petting him so he doesn’t panic during the storm.

He doesn’t mind his collar, but he HATES the leash.  He’ll either pull at it or sit and refuse to walk.  So, we have to get him used to walking on the leash.  He’ll sit quickly now.  He learns quite quickly actually… but is being stubborn about that leash.  I don’t know much about training dogs so am not quite sure how to go about getting him used to a collar.  I would appreciate some ideas for those of you who know about training dogs.

Our next job is to find a good home for him.  The one woman who was most interested (from my Facebook friends) said that once she realized he had boxer in him she knew he wasn’t a good fit for her family.  I think that where ever he goes, it needs to be a family with dogs only, seeing how he reacts to the sight of my cats.  He’ll do really well as an indoor dog in a one-dog home where his master is able to spend time with him.

 

Independence – Live My Way or Trust Him

I grew up in boarding school away from my parents.  We lived in Africa and at the time my parents had no other options presented to them for educating their children other than boarding school since both of them were required (by the organization that sent them to Africa) to work full-time.  (I can only imagine how my Mom and Dad felt sending their precious children to boarding school.  It must have been incredibly difficult for them.)

Mail was extremely slow so “correspondance courses” (the equivalent of homeschool in those days… hmmm, am I dating myself?) weren’t preferred because there wasn’t any immediate (or even fairly quick) response in grading and feed back on work that had been completed and mailed in.  That made school a long and drawn out process.  Some of the people who worked there (like my parents) lived so far in the boonies that they had to take planes to get to their stations and land on dirt airstrips in some dangerous situations because there were no roads.  So, mail came when the plane came… not every day, not even weekly.  Others lived on main roads (which were most certainly NOT highways or smooth streets) and may get someone from the organization delivering mail a little more often, but still not daily or weekly.

Thankfully now, in this day and age of technology (satellite and instant connection), wonderful homeschooling programs, improved local schools, changed policies in many organizations that operate oversees in third-world countries, and other things, there are plenty of options for parents to choose from as they make decisions about educating their children.

I was the kind of child who could be put into any circumstances and find a way to adapt and get along, for the most part.  There were other children who had a much harder time doing that.  In the boarding school there were some wonderful staff and teachers, there were some who evidently (from our perspective as children, at least) would rather not have been assigned to working with us, and there were one or two who were abusers, unable to control their tempers, directing perfect control over the children through fear, and still able to present a perfect front to the other staff so that no one would know what went on privately.

I can’t tell anyone else’s story and don’t wish to bring up huge conversations about any particular school or accusations against any particular person or people (hence use of the generic “Africa” and “boarding school” as opposed to the specific country and school).  My parents put their trust in these staff and, in my case, one of them in particular completely broke that trust.  I was abused as a child.  But, even though I won’t be telling her story, I will say that my sister was there with me and stepped in to stop anything that she saw or sensed.  I remember as a little girl sneaking down to her dorm room and crawing into bed with her where I felt safe from time to time.   My mom and dad weren’t there, but at least I had a place where my big sister could put her arms around me like a shield.  And then came the day when she left boarding school and I was “alone” there.  (I was the youngest of my siblings.)

Over time I’ll write about various things that I learned as a child in boarding school.  But, today I want to talk about something in particular.  One of the things that I learned was independence.  I didn’t need anyone.  I could do things on my own.  I learned to avoid trouble with adults and yet to still stand between bullies (children) and a few being bullied (children).  To be honest, the boarding school experience built in me a spirit of independence that is unusual in a child.  (I believe that most, if not all of the kids I went to school with would agree that they also developed a similar spirit of independence.)  So, how has this played out in my life?

Well, first of all, how would you feel if you were assigned to be a dorm parent to 26 little girls or boys?  How would you handle that situaiton?  I look back and am amazed because, as an adult looking back, I can see the effort they put into taking care of so many children from 1st graders on up.  Yet, in reality it was really not possible to be able to give much individual attention to each of the children.  The dorm parents had a daunting task in taking care of so many children coming from so many family backgrounds and parenting styles, so many personalities and temperaments, various ages and levels of maturity within the same ages, so many needs.  On top of being dorm parents, these staff also had other responsibilities… nurse, principal, teachers, etc.  In hind sight I’m astonished that anyone thought it was logical that they could effectively accomplish as much as they did.  They must have been exhausted… and often.  No one can keep giving and giving and giving of themselves without getting worn down after a while.

So, even though this is a part of my story of how people and circumstances affected my life (and not always in a good way), I have to stop for a moment and say THANK YOU to the staff at that school!  Thank you for working so hard.  Thank you for doing your best to teach us.  Thank you for spending time with us even though you were stretched thin.  For those who did extra things like having little girls over to your apartments to teach them something fun like how to bake cookies, thank you!  For those who observed and noticed when a child really was sick and needed the nurse or the hospital, not just playing sick to get out of school, thank you!  For each of you giving up your comfortable lives in your home country to go to Africa and teach children, be dorm parents and do many other things in a boarding school, thank you.  For those of you who actually showed us God’s love through your very life choices, actions, words and deeds, thank you!

For my favorite teacher, thank you for your joy and obvious love of teaching and of children because you motivated us to want to learn.   You have gone home to be with the Lord now, but you motivated a lot of students and left them with wonderful memories of you.

For my favorite piano teacher… the one who taught me my first two years… thank you!  I loved music and you encouraged that.  I wanted to do my best for you.  I saw you as a sweet, kind, gentle, loving woman and wanted to be around you.  Thank you for everything that you poured into each of us kids.

Now on to part of my story.  Instead of relying on any adult in my life as I was growing up, I learned to resolve problems on my own and do things myself.  Unfortunately over my lifetime that complete sense of independence has translated into not really needing anyone… including God.

Don’t get me wrong.  I am a Christian and I love God with all my heart.  But, one of my biggest struggles has been to learn to depend less on myself and depend fully on God, His plan and purpose for my life, and His guidance.  There have been so many times over the years when I’ve been tempted to do things my way because that’s what I learned to do from the time I was a little child.  There have been times when I knew that God was there, but He seemed far off and, at times, I seemed to be the only one with a vested interest in my life and choices.

But, that is all a lie… false thinking.  First of all, God is fully vested in my life (and yours).  He created each of us.  Jesus Christ (fully God) allowed Himself to become a tiny baby (fully God and fully human), be temped just like we are, live the human experience with struggles and pain just like we do, and yet live a completely sinless life.  He freely gave His life to pay the penalty of sin for me and for you.  And, He rose up again three days later, victorious over sin and death.  I would say that He is fully vested in each of our lives.  It’s up to us to acknowledge that and come to Him.

But, more than that, I am not God.  I am not the Creator.  I do not see the big picture of what my life is going to be like.  Someone in my past (I don’t remember who) once gave an example of needle work.  We look at the work on our lives from the bottom and see only the cut threads, criss cross areas, and mess.  But, God is making a picture out of our lives.  He sees it from the top, the perfectly stitched needlework of our lives and what they are going to be like in the end.

So, independence from everyone, including God, is a foolish thing.  Although I can plan for my version of the future, all I can see is here and now.  Why would my independence and personal choices be wiser than God’s?  He’s the One creating a beautiful picture out of my life.  I only see the parts and pieces in the here and now.  God IS the Creator.  He does see the big picture.

He knows that experiencing only sunshine in our lives will bring nothing, but more independence and lack of growth.  He knows that if I go through struggles I will learn and grow just like a garden needs rain to grow and produce.  He knows that if He rescues me from the consequences of all of my poor choices I’ll never learn and will just keep making the same poor choices.  We all have to pay the consequences of our poor choices. Unfortunately, because of sin, there are plenty of consequences out there that are not of our own making, as well.  He knows that if I go through struggles not of my own making and learn to turn to Him, beauty will come out of ashes… the oil of joy for mourning (Isaiah 61:3).  I can learn to lean on Him, learn from Him and allow Him to change me into a person who is beautiful on the inside, understanding and caring of others because of those experiences.

Another important thing to keep in mind is that God created us to be social creatures.  In His Word, He tells us that we need to worship Him together, encourage each other, love one another, lift each other up, pray for each other, serve one another, listen to each other, care for each other and so much more.  The theme is “community”, not independence.  There is no such thing as complete independence from each other in the Christian life.  We need each other.  God also knows that we (with our various personalities, perspectives, styles, etc.) will rub each other wrong from time to time.  So, learning to serve those who rub us the wrong way… learning to pray for them, love them, listen to them, work with them, care for them… that helps sharpen us and develop growth in us.  (“As iron sharpens iron, so one man sharpeneth another.” Proverbs 27:17)

So, independence from others and especially from God is neither wise nor good.  God is not a far away God.  He says to us, “I will never learn you nor forsake you.” (Hebrews 13:5)  “I am with you always, even to the end of the earth.”  (Matthew 28:20)  He created us.  He has a plan for us.  He is fully vested in our lives.  He will never leave us.

So, the next time you think that you must be independent of everyone including God, think about the following verses.  (Look up www.blueletterbible.org, type in the reference, and read the verses for yourself.  Blue Letter Bible is a website that has the Bible in various versions printed on the web.  You can actually go on there and read from chapter to chapter if you don’t have your own Bible.)

Matthew 6:8 – God knows your needs before you even ask Him.
I Timothy 6:17 – Don’t trust in uncertain riches, but trust in the Lord.
Ephesians 6:10 – Trust in God and in the power of His might.
I Timothy 5:11 – Encourage one another and build each other up.
Ephesians 4:7-12 – God gave each of us special gifts and capabilities for the purpose of “edifying” each other.

These are only five of many, many verses that tell us that we need each other and God, something that we know deep down (whether we want to admit it or not).  I hope that my life lesson will be an encouragement for you.  If you don’t know God, start reading the Bible and seeing what God has to say about you, about Himself, and about life.  Ask Him to really reveal Himself to you.  If you know God, I pray that this will be an encouragement for you to trust/rest in God in all circumstances and live in community with your brothers and sisters in Christ so that you can encourage them and they can lift you up and encourage you.

Krill Oil and Weight Loss?

It looks like I might need to rethink supplements.  My body can’t handle fish oils.  I always get an unpleasant reaction.  I hear that krill oil doesn’t have that problem so may try it.  Here are a couple of interesting articles.

Can Certain Brain Activity Cause Weight Gain?  Yes, this is a sales company writing this.  If you click on the link it will take you to the video.  If you’re not interested in the sales part, don’t click on “Continue” after listening to the video clip.   But, I’m posting this because the video clip has information to think about.

Here’s Dr. Mercola’s take on it all.  Again, although he gives tons of information (like a scientific/medical product review), at the end of his web page, it is, indeed a sales opportunity for his organization.  But, you may want to listen to what he has to say and read the information at least.

Setting the Temperature on Your Keurig Vue

I have noticed that one of the Google searches that brings people to my Keurig Vue Product Review indicates that they are trying to figure out how to use the temperature control feature of the Vue.  Once you discover where the temperature control is located, it’s a quick and simple thing to change the temperature.

On the main view screen (see picture) you’ll find a tiny i in the very bottom right corner in the little white circle.  Press the i and the temperature control option will pop up.  Select temperature control, set your temperature up or down, and hit the little back arrow a couple of times to exit out of it.  The temperature of your drink has just been reset.

In our house, we generally all like our drinks the same temperature.  However, I have a son who likes his hot chocolate to be a little cooler.  But, he doesn’t drink hot chocolate that often.  So, we have two options (both very simple)… (1) put an ice cube or two in his cup and select 8 ounces instead of 10, or (2) set the temperature cooler and then reset it back to our normal temperature after fixing his hot chocolate.  If you’re a purist when it comes to your drinks and don’t want to risk diluting your final product with ice, choose option 2.

Enjoy your Vue!

A Firmly Rooted Tree

Right on the corner of our property our “signature” oak tree has been living, tall and beautifully shaped… so big, I might be able to reach half way around the base with my arms.   Of all of our trees, it has been my favorite.  It seems like it must be at least a hundred years old, maybe even two hundred, as huge as it is.  I wish I had a picture to show you, but since it seems like it’s been there for ever, I have not been in a hurry to take a picture, opting to get the flower bed in around it first.

I wonder what that oak tree has seen over the years.  Have children climbed up into it and played?  Has it provided the shade for enjoyable family picnics over the years?  Was it ever a romantic meeting point between some young man and woman?

Our property must have been a farm at one time.  Trees and scrub brush have grown up over much of it and wild-life is enjoying the cover.  There were very old log buildings in some places and foundations dotted around the place where old buildings had once been.  My husband and I had not long ago finished hauling rocks from the foundations of old buildings to build a low, rustic, rock wall around that huge oak.   Then my husband cleared out the weeds, put down black plastic so they wouldn’t grow back, and filled in the area with top soil.

I had wanted lillies of various colors all around the oak.  So, my husband finished planting them.  I watered the entire area until some of the lillies started coming up, then focused on watering just those plants.  Little by little plants started popping up out of the ground.  Surprisingly, a few had already bloomed even though their stalks were very short.

On Sunday we went to look at the property where we plan to build a house to enjoy seeing the results of work that had been done in the last couple of days.  (To be honest, it was too hot for me.  My husband was the one out there breaking his back getting work done.)  We go there often to work… and look… and think… and dream… and plan.  One day our house will be built and we’ll move our family in.

It was early afternoon, right after church, and as we noticed black clouds with high thunderheads starting to  fill in the sky around us, my husband said, “We’d better get home before that storm hits.”  Not 10 minutes after getting into the house high winds started laying our garden flat.  Then came rain and hail.

It didn’t last long at all, but it did a lot of damage in our area.  Power was out in a lot of homes because trees were lying on power lines.  Trees had gone through the roofs of some houses.  Cars were pelted (and some totally ruined) with golf-ball-sized hail.  Thankfully, our house and vehicles survived and our garden plants later started to stand up up again.

Later my husband went back to the property on his way back from running an errand and called me with bad news.  Trees here and there on our property looks like a huge hand had twisted the tops off.  My favorite tree had gone down.  We all went over there to see the damage.

My husband and some friends went over there on Monday to cut up and haul off the wood.  The tree is so huge, they couldn’t get it all done so will be back again today.  There’s no point in letting that go to waste.  It can be used for firewood in the winter.

While they were working, my husband looked down in the hole that the tree had made and discovered why this massive tree  went down.  It has lasted for so many years, but the sheer winds got to it because it had become heavy and was growing around a huge boulder.  Oaks have tap roots that need to go down deep in the ground.  Instead of having a deeply grounded taproot, this tree had spread roots in all directions over top of this massive boulder.  It had survived storm after storm over the years without a sturdy taproot going straight down.  But, this storm was one too many.  There was a hollow area in the middle that was over the boulder that just didn’t give it enough of a foundation to withstand the turbulence of those sheer winds, despite roots that had spread around the boulder.  It needed that tap root in the center, but the taproot had never grown firmly down into the ground.  The boulder was in the way.

I’m up at 4:00 am writing in my blog because my son had a nightmare.  He crawled into bed with us and lay there for a while until he had calmed down.  Once he was calm and sleepy again I tucked him back into his bed.  But, when I went back to bed, I couldn’t sleep.  There was too much on my mind and a sense of urgency to share it with you.  This tree came to mind and with it a lesson that it can teach us.

You see, spiritually we have tap roots as well.

Psalm 1:1-3  “Blessed is the man who does not walk in the counsel of the wicked, nor stand in the path of sinners, nor sit in the seat of scoffers.  But, his delight is in the law of the Lord, and in His law he meditates day and night.  He will be like a tree firmly planted by streams of water which yields it’s fruit in its season and it’s leaf does not wither.  And in whatever he does, he prospers.” (NASB)

What kind of foundation do we have?  As a “tree” are we growing over top of a huge boulder, unable to grow a tap root deep down that will keep us standing firm no matter what the storms of life bring us?  Do we have shallow roots that will allow us to be uprooted when things get tough?

Do we think we’re Christians because we’re good people?  Do we think we’re Christians because this is a Christian nation?  Do we think we’re Christians because we go to church?  Do we think we’re Christians because our parents were and we grew up in a Christian home?

Each and every one of us is responsible for our own spiritual life.  We will not be going to heaven hanging onto our parents’ coat tails.  We will not be going to heaven because we are part of a group that meets together on Sundays or Saturdays or whenever your church meets.  We will not be going to heaven just because we’re good people.

God is a holy and pure God.  He cannot look on sin of any kind.  And even if we have so much self-discipline that we are able to completely control ourselves and our actions so that everyone around us looks at what we are on the surface and thinks we’re incredible people, God knows our very thought-life.  He knows us deep down inside.

Isaiah 53:6  “All of us, like sheep, have gone astray.  Each of us has turned to his own way.  But the Lord has caused the iniquity of us all to fall on Him.”

Only someone with perfection could pay the penalty for our sins.  God gave us the opportunity to spend eternity with Him when He sent His Son, Jesus Christ, to live a perfect and sinless life and to pay the penalty for our sins by dying on the cross.  The punishment for sin is death.  We will all die physically.  But, we’ll also “die” spiritually.  Spiritual death means separation from the light, life, love and warmth of God forever and ever.  But, God loved us so much that He didn’t want us permanently separated from Him.  He wanted us to be with Him.  Christ, the Son of God, died so that we don’t have to spiritually die.  He died so that we could live in victory over sin.

He died so that we could be planted by the streams of living water, growing our taproot into Him, the most solid foundation possible in the storms of life.  He did this for us as a free gift.  All we have to do is accept that gift, turn away from sin and walk with Him.

Tough times will happen in this life because we live in a fallen, sinful world.  The consequences of sin are all around us and seen in many ways.  And we have to pay the consequences.  But, when we’re firmly planted and rooted in Christ Jesus we can have victory over our own sin and when “bad things” happen, we are able to stand firm.  We won’t break in the sheer winds, hurricanes and tornadoes of life.

And, because those tough things can and will happen, being firmly grounded and rooted in Christ during the turbulence of life allows us to grow and become stronger.

When He is our foundation, we are never alone in the storms of life.
When He is our foundation, we can endure trials with joy.
When He is our foundation, we can become the people God created us to be.

Remember, that person who is like a tree in Psalm 1 meditates on God’s Word day and night.  That means that we take time to read His Word daily, learn what He says and think about those things.  We ask Him to show us what it means if we don’t understand.  We meet together with other Christians (go to church, small group meetings, etc.) to listen while the pastor, who has studied God’s Word, explains it to us and to encourage each other in our walk with God.  His Word is His letter to us and helps us grow that spiritual taproot.  That is the thing that enables us to understand more about God and about ourselves.  That is what allows us to grow to the point of being able to produce amazing fruit in various ways in our lives (love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control – Gal. 5:22-23).  That fruit is tangible proof of our relationship with God.  And it is all possible because of Jesus Christ and what He did to save us and give us the opportunity to spend eternity with God instead of being eternally separated from Him.

I’m being extremely straight-forward here because this is extremely important.

Do you know Christ as your own personal Savior?  Are you rooted in Him so that you can stand firm in the storms of life?  If not, I have shared what faith in God is all about under the My Faith tab on my blog.  Take time to read it.  This is the most important decision you will ever make in your life.  Life is short.  One strong wind can blow a tree down on your life.  Anything can happen at any time.  What matters here is important, but our focus must go beyond this life to the choice we have before us… eternal life (living with the Living God in His Light and glory, experiencing peace and joy forever) or eternal death (because of your choice to deny Him, being forever separated from the Living God and going on in aching darkness forever separated from the Source of Light, peace and joy).  The purpose of this life is to prepare us for eternity.  Make your choice for Christ today and then put everything you have into learning about Him and living for Him.

Although I will miss my favorite tree, I am thankful for the lesson that it provided for me and the opportunity that I have to share those thoughts with you.

Have a blessed week.