Friday, December 20, 2013

Pray for Martin's Family

   Several years ago I started a tradition with my nephews. One of their gifts from me is actually a gift for someone else. Sometimes it's taking them to fill shoe boxes for kids in other countries. Sometimes it's picking things out of a catalog from an organization like Samaritan's Purse.
   I'm reminded of a time, I think about 8 years ago, when I "purchased" a goat for the boys. They were fairly young (6 and 8), so explaining the concept behind the purchase was a little challenging. I told them about the goat and how I bought it for them and it would go to a family in another country, somewhere in Africa. They were excited about it, but I thought they might think the goat was coming to their house because the oldest wanted to name the goat "Martin." I explained that they wouldn't be getting the goat, but it would go to someone who would use the milk to help their family. He still insisted we name the goat Martin. I tried to explain again why we couldn't name the goat. I could tell he was getting frustrated and finally he said, "Aunt Winna, we have to name the goat Martin so when we pray for Martin's family God knows exactly who we're talking about." I guess he did understand better than I thought.
   Even though it's been several years and I'm not sure of Martin's fate, I still, from time to time, pray for Martin's family. I have no doubt God knows exactly who I'm talking about.

Saturday, April 6, 2013


   I like fairy tales. One thing you may not know about me is I collect Cinderella Stories. I did a Cinderella literature unit in my class comparing the story from several different cultures. I have several DVDs of Cinderella stories; my two favorites are "Cinderfella" with Jerry Lewis and "Ever After."
   I came across a quote the other day that really has nothing to do with Cinderella, but made me think of fairy tales and how sometimes the stories help us deal with life. Here's the quote:
Fairy tales are more than true; not because they tell us that dragons exist, but  because they tell us that dragons can be beaten.   -G.K. Chesterton
     I've faced a dragon or two...or three...or more.  People are facing dragons right now. Dragons come in all shapes and sizes...illnesses, loneliness, finances, addictions, selfishness, and [insert your dragon here].  My Lord Jesus is my dragon slayer. My family and friends are my fellow warriors. So recognize your dragon(s), let the Dragon Slayer take control, and fight! The good news is that dragons can be beaten.

Friday, March 1, 2013

A Few Life Lessons

   Tomorrow is the birthday of Theodor Seuss Geisel, known by most as Dr. Seuss. Generations of kids learned to read, rhyme, and remember verse using his books. It's interesting, as I've grown older and reread some of his work, passages of scripture come to mind. Dr. Seuss taught us many life lessons; I'd like to share a few I've learned.

You have brains in your head. You have feet in your shoes. You can steer yourself in any direction you choose. You're on your own, and you know what you know. And you are the guy who'll decide where to go. (Oh, the Places You'll Go!)
    Oh, the Places You'll Go! is probably my favorite Dr. Seuss book. Several of the graduating seniors I've known have received copies with Bible verses included on almost every page from me. The above quote reminds me of  Proverbs 16:9 and Deuteronomy 30:19. We always make so many plans, but God has the ultimate say in them. It's so much better when we see where He is working and join Him. He always gives us the answer: Choose life!
Today you are you! That is truer than true! There is no one alive who is you-er than you! (Happy Birthday to You!)
   This quote reminds me of the importance of being who God created you to be.  The verses it brings to mind are Psalm 139:13 and  Jeremiah 29:11. From a very young age I knew I was suppose to be a teacher. As I grew up I was discouraged and told by well meaning teachers that I needed to use my brains and be a doctor or something besides "just a teacher." (Really? You want people without brains teaching?) I seriously thought about changing my major, but God (during a spiritually and emotionally draining experience) reminded me He had created me for a purpose an with Him by my side I would succeed. Teaching for 28 years, I have seen God's guidance and provision many times. Now that I'm retired, God still confirms that my future is in His hands. 
Be who you are and say what you feel because those who mind don't matter and those who matter don't mind.
      There's been some dispute on if the above quote can be attributed to Dr. Seuss. Regardless, it's a good quote. It makes me think of Romans 12. The Message version says it beautifully:
So here’s what I want you to do, God helping you: Take your everyday, ordinary life—your sleeping, eating, going-to-work, and walking-around life—and place it before God as an offering. Embracing what God does for you is the best thing you can do for him. Don’t become so well-adjusted to your culture that you fit into it without even thinking. Instead, fix your attention on God. You’ll be changed from the inside out. Readily recognize what he wants from you, and quickly respond to it. Unlike the culture around you, always dragging you down to its level of immaturity, God brings the best out of you, develops well-formed maturity in you.
    I've learned that my identity is found in Christ. It's not something for Sunday mornings and Bible studies. My everyday, ordinary life is my identity. Who I am is who I am everywhere all the time. I try to recognize what God wants from me and not become well adjusted to my culture. I say what I feel with love and work at mercy, grace, and forgiveness. I thank God for the precious people He puts on this journey with me; they help and encourage me along the way.
    These are only a few of the Life Lessons I've learned. If you haven't read a Dr. Seuss book lately, pick one up and see if you don't lean something. If you haven't picked up your Bible in a while, you might want to give it a try, too. 

Monday, February 18, 2013

Finding My New Normal

   The first month and a half of this new year has been kind of weird for me. I was officially retired on January 1st after working for twenty-eight years in the public school system. While parent/teacher conferences were being held during the last few weeks, I stayed home and read or had dinner with my nephews. While my friends made lesson plans and tried to prepare their students to be the best they can be, I prayed, went to chemo, put up new curtains, read, shopped, took lots of medication and hung out with friends. In one more week I'll be starting the maintenance phase of my treatment for leukemia which involves cycling through oral chemo for two years. I'm really trying to find my "new normal."
   After being diagnosed and landing in the hospital for four weeks, I understood that I needed to concentrate on getting well. At the time I thought that meant treatment and being well enough to start back to school and working for Weight Watchers in January. I misunderstood.
    I feel like I'm in a type of uncontrollable movement forward, instead of a normal acceleration.This is not a good feeling for a planner who likes to be in control. But really, what is normal? My "use to be normal" can kind of be summed up in a quote from Ellen Goodman- "Normal is getting dressed in clothes that you buy for work, driving through traffic in a car that you are still paying for, in order to get to a job that you need so you can pay for the clothes, car and the house that you leave empty all day in order to afford to live in it." Looking back on that, I'm not so sure I needed to be happy about that kind of normal.
   In the past few days' devotions from Jesus Calling by Sarah Young have been very encouraging and have really addressed some of my feelings. Hear are some of the most meaningful passages from the past couple of weeks:
Accept yourself and your circumstances just as they are, remembering that I am sovereign over everything.  Do not wear yourself out with analyzing and planning...let thankfulness and trust be your guides through the day...You will never run out of things to worry about, but you can choose to trust Me no matter what...Come to Me for rest and refreshment. The journey has been too much for you, and you are bone weary.  Do not be ashamed of your exhaustion. Instead, see it as an opportunity for Me to take charge of your life...My Peace stands out in sharp contrast to your circumstances...Thank me for the conditions that are requiring you to be still.  Do not spoil these quiet hours by wishing them away, waiting impatiently to be active again.  Some of the greatest works in My kingdom have been done from sick beds and prison cells...
    Wow! I so needed to hear all of that right now. From yesterday's reading in Jesus Calling I needed to hear this wisdom:
Do not fear change, for I am making you a new creation...When you cling to old ways and sameness, you resist My work within you, I want you to embrace all that I am doing in your life, finding your security in Me alone...Don't try to force-fit today into yesterday's mold.
    Here are some of the scriptures I read:  (Just click on the scripture and it will take you to the link)  Psalm 46:1-3,John 14:27, Romans 8:28, Psalm 42 11, Isaiah 30:15, II Corinthians 12:9, Zephaniah 3:17, and Psalm 73:23-26.
   So I still am not sure what normal is exactly. I am sure that God has a purpose and a plan for me. My friend, Pastor Luke, in one of his Facebook posts said, "Don't retire, refire!" I'm going to take his advice. I'm going to see where God is working and join Him in His Kingdom work...whatever that may look like...and whatever I do, do it to the glory of God! (Colossians 3:17) Excited about the journey to my "new normal!"

Saturday, February 16, 2013

Sarah's Daughters

   I've been reading a lot lately, more than usual. Some books I read through and think of as kind of a once a week TV show...a way to pass the time. Some books, however, I read and they have a profound effect on me. In spite of the "chemo brain," I remember something and it won't let me go. This happened when I read Betrayed CoverJeanette Windle's book Betrayed. It is definitely a thriller. I had a hard time putting it down. Two sisters, one working on behalf non-profits for children and one working for a wildlife rescue, cross paths in Guatemala. It's hard to tell who to trust in the midst of government corruption and past secrets surrounding the sisters' parent's deaths. Windle's experience growing up in the mountains of Columbia to missionary parents has brought realism to the writing. I'm looking forward to reading more of Windle's work and starting her newly released Congo Dawn.
   The part of the book I just couldn't forget was the missionary at the orphanage and her advice to live as "Sarah's daughters." I have been studying the Bible for years, but have never come across this term/idea. (I'm also constantly learning that the more I learn about the Bible, the more I don't know!) With the author's permission (Thanks, Jeanette!), I'm posting an explanation taken from a conversation the missionary has with one of the sisters who is trying to decide what to believe and do:
You see, we keep thinking that if we can just figure out how to manipulate the sistuation, if we can read the future and make the right decisions, we can make things turn out the way we want them.  The problem is, we don't know all the facts, and we can't read the future nor are we called to.   All you and I are called to do in any situation is to be Sarah's dauhters. Do what is right. Do not give way to fear.  If you just do that, believe me, the heavenly Father, your sister loved to sing about will take care of the outcome, just as He did for Sarah. It might not be the outcome we planned, but it'll be the right one.
    The concept of being Sarah's daughters comes from I Peter 3:6. When talking about Sarah, the verse says, " You are her daughters if you do what is right and do not give way to fear."  Remembering to do what is right and not give way to fear is something that needs to become second nature to us all.
    Now if you're like me and have studied some about Sarah, you may be saying, "Hey, wait a minute. Sarah didn't always do what was right." The book addressed that, too. The missionary goes on to say, "It's when we forget- or figure the end justifies the means to get what we want- that we really mess things up." This was also demonstrated by Sarah when she was promised a child by God, but didn't wait for His timing. (See Genesis 16) Sarah's choice to do things on her own continues to affect the world today.
   Yes the book Betrayed is realistic fiction, but it does a great job of portraying how Biblical truth is woven into the fabric of our lives. Conclusion: Even though my mom's name was Shirley, I also want to live as one of Sarah's daughters.

Friday, February 8, 2013

The Note Taker...HOPE

   While looking up scripture during my devotion time, I came across some notes I'd taken in bright orange highlighter.  I know some would be appalled at me writing in my Bible; I've used colored pencils, pens, pencils and highlighters. You see, I use to take notes on bulletins and in notebooks, but came to realize I never really went back to read those notes or couldn't find what I was looking for when I wanted to reread the notes. That's why I started taking notes in my Bible.
  What I came across was concerning HOPE. (Hope is the word God gave me for this year.) My notes were written in spaces on the pages containing Psalms 42 and 43. I think they were in a sermon Pastor Casey gave...not sure when. Here they are:
Despair is our recognition of our human condition. It drives us back to God. HOPE is God's recognition of our human condition and His response. Despair and HOPE occur simultaneously. Romans 8:8-25
   I also have verses 5 and 14 in Psalm 42 and verse 5 in Psalm 43 underlined. All are identical: "Why are you downcast, O my soul? Why so disturbed within me? Put your hope in God, for I will yet praise him, my savior and my God." (NIV)
   I needed a little boost in the hope department. I was excited to find out my cancer is in remission. A little voice in the back of my mind said, "That just means you don't have symptoms; it could still pop up again." First I had to take my thoughts captive an place them under God's authority (II Corinthians 10:5). "So what if it does?" I thought, "Circumstances do not define me!" Then I was reminded that my hope is not wishful thinking. My HOPE is God's response to my human condition...that response is Jesus! My HOPE is real, unshakable and eternal.
   So glad I took those notes in my Bible! I came across them when I needed them. Think I'll continue to write in my Bible!

Saturday, January 12, 2013

Remember Not to Forget

   I've been forgetting a lot lately. I will be talking and in the middle of a sentence totally lose the word I want to use. I usually am able to describe the word I want and my friends are becoming good at playing guessing games. It's really frustrating because I know I'm doing it; I am thankful it isn't permanent. It's a lovely irritation known as "chemo brain." Some of my friends have been exhibiting some of the symptoms...I'm thinking they are having "sympathy chemo brain." (Wow, that could be a study!)
  I had to smile this week when I saw the title of one of my devotions, "Don't Forget." I thought, "That's easier said than done." The scripture for the passage was Numbers 9:1-23, where God gives instruction on how to celebrate Passover to remember all God orchestrated to bring the children of Israel out of bondage in Egypt and into the Promised Land. This act of celebrating Passover served to "jog" their them to remember not to forget.
   "As humans, we are forgetful people, and as forgetful people we need tangible reminders- symbols- of who God is and what He's done." (Eugene Peterson, The Message//Remix: Solo An Uncommon Devotional) Yes, I resemble that remark. The devotion goes on to suggest you create symbol to remind you of God's faithfulness.
   I got to thinking, I already employ that method. I haven't really "made" symbols, but have picked them up or received them as gifts. Not only do I use these symbols to remind me of God's faithfulness, but to remember specific prayer requests. Here are some of my "symbols" and their meanings:
  • Hope Trinity Cross necklace (3 parts that form 1 cross)-the certainty of God's promises
  • Star of David with a cross in the center-God's covenants and the fulness of the New Covenant completed in Christ
  • Silver Survivor Ribbon- God's faithfulness as I survived breast cancer and will survive leukemia 
  • Puzzle piece (from camp)- I am a piece of God's grand design; I have a purpose.
  • Rock from the shore of the Baltic Sea- Pray for Estonia: Camp Gideon and The Lighthouse
  • A rock from Mable Ha Creek, Belize- Pray for the pastors, churches, Sunday schools and  people of Belize
  •  A piece of barbed wire- Pray for my brothers and sisters of the suffering church
   Okay, I didn't realize I used so many memory aids. I'm glad I do remember all these things and more,  because each of these memories are an important part of who I am and  am becoming.
   What are some of the symbols you use to remind you of God's faithfulness and provision?

Tuesday, January 1, 2013


   Before this day is over, I wanted to do my first blog post of the new year. It seems like this is the time everyone reflects over the past year and makes plans for the coming year.
   Last year was a roller coaster kind of year for me. I had a blast celebrating my 50th birthday with a trip on Route 66. I got ready to celebrate being 5 years cancer free from breast cancer. Got diagnosed with leukemia. JOY became my word! God proved Himself faithful over and over. Family, friends, and my healthcare team cared for me and loved me through some not-so-fun times.Had a four week stay in the hospital. Blogging helped me work through a lot of emotions. I had an article featured in Heart Magazine, an online Christian woman's magazine. Started a second round of arsenic. Enjoyed Christmas with family and friends. (For more details, you can check out my previous posts.)
   This year my word seems to be HOPE. A few weeks ago during my weekly Bible study, I got a new perspective on HOPE (see previous post). Since then, HOPE has been showing up a lot. My sis shared the following quote by Tertullian (c. 160 – c. 225 AD prolific Christian author)- "Hope is patience with the lamp lit." Jeremiah 29:11-13 has crossed my path several times.  Because I see HOPE as a "sure thing" instead of "wishful thinking," I am more encouraged and assured of my place in God's hands. 
   I enjoyed bringing in the new year with family and friends. Today was my first official day of retirement from 28 years of teaching. I will go to day 5 of round 2 of chemo tomorrow, even though I would rather be lying in a hammock on a beach in Belize. I will be tired and take lots of naps. I will continue to be blessed by family and friends who love me well. God will continue to be faithful and my HOPE will be in His love for me!