THE PERSON WHO PROSPERS

Horses…Not just a passing childhood love. Not merely a fading passion that most kids experience at one time or another. Rather quite the opposite.

For years Reece has made it clear in word and deed that her passion for riding, taking care of, and owning a horse is a goal that will not go away. Perhaps her desire took root in her birthplace of Lexington, Ky. While riding in her little car seat in the back of a Corolla we would often stop to “say hi” to the horses as they greeted us across the expansive wooden fences. Apparently, in her little mind, she took note of every simple encounter and carried it with her as she grew older.

Through those years, an across the fence relationship would prove not enough for her. The “oh they are so cute” became “I must have one.” At first we kind of laughed it off. Big mistake. Once Reece learned how to read, she began to soak up information about all animals. Horses were at the top of her list. Now, years later, ask her anything about almost any animal and she will more than likely humbly spout out an answer…a scientific type one that often leaves one wandering, how in the world did she know that? So it was fitting that early in her little years on earth she would announce her career goals as a veterinarian. It was also fitting that she would one day begin her experience with riding.

Thanks to a dear friend who has lived and breathed the horse life almost his entire life, Reece was able to learn the ropes of caretaking, bonding, and riding. It would not be long before she would pursue the prospect of competition. Now she is weekly instructed in the area of English riding. Many times, she has wondered if she is ever going to get to the “greater stuff”. Not that she wasn’t already having the time of her life. To her, cleaning stalls is as fun as riding. But she was ready for more. She knew learning technique was not going to be easy. She knew that riding is not just sitting on a horse. But there were times she wondered if the things she was learning were ever going to pay off. Recently, making those successful higher jumps made the hours of hard work quite worth it.

“Whoever gives heed to instruction prospers, and blessed is the one who trusts in the Lord.” Proverbs 16:20

I have heard it said that if you are not in the process of learning something, you are not really living. I can see truth in that. When I was in college I remember encountering older adults taking classes just for fun. What?! I was stunned that someone would put themselves through the time, effort, and not to mention, the financial burden, of college just for fun. As I get older, however, I understand it a bit more. A stagnant mind can be a dangerous thing.

Scripture has a lot to say about being idle, whether in the mind or with actions. Proverbs 19:15 says “Slothfulness casts into a deep sleep, and an idle person will suffer hunger.” 1 Timothy 5:13 also heeds a warning about those who get themselves into trouble with idleness- “Besides that, they learn to be idlers, going about from house to house, and not only idlers, but also gossips and busybodies, saying what they should not. ” All you ladies out there striving to fit even one percent of the mode of the Proverbs 31 woman?…. “She looks well to the ways of her household and does not eat the bread of idleness.”- Proverbs 31:27

So I go back to my original quote of Proverbs 16:20… “whoever gives heed to instruction…” That person prospers. Do you remember as a child accomplishing your first math problem? 2 + 2 = 4. When it finally made sense? Remember sounding out your first word after the endless Phonics worksheets and realizing “Whoa, this stuff really works (minus the million exceptions in the English language).

Years pass and you realize the beauty of instruction. You see the truth of the biblical law of sowing and reaping, the principle of seeking wisdom and finding it, and the reality of having the faith of a mustard seed carry you through the hardest times of your life.

Why is it that God desires we read his word daily? Why does it require diligent study and not just a simple “read it and remember it”? So we can bathe in the instruction of the Lord. Why do we experience trials and times of testing? Why can’t God just take us out of that messy situation? So we can bathe in the instruction of the Lord. Why is living the born again life so difficult at times? You guessed it. We are all students, my friend. We should never be “not learning” and growing in our faith.

Years ago Reece made a comment that has stayed with me. “Why in the world would someone not want to learn as much as possible?” She never ceases to teach me about life.

-Blessings!

ARE YOU GOING TO HEAVEN?

Eternal life… Heaven… Everyone gets in, right?

A man named Nicodemus came to Jesus troubled in his mind about spiritual matters (John chapter 3.) He had devoted his life to studying the scriptures, he was a prominent man with a good reputation among the people, and in his eyes he was morally acceptable. Still, in light of his self-proclaimed “A” grade, he was troubled in his mind thinking he might be missing something.

The question he really had is the same question many of us have: Am I on my way to heaven? I think we’d all agree that isn’t something we want to be wrong about.

But despite what many think, a person doesn’t get to go to heaven simply by default. In fact, Jesus said many who think they’ll gain entry will be told to ‘depart from Him.’ (Matthew 7:21-24)

Jesus’ answer to Nicodemus’ question holds the only key to knowing whether or not a person is on the path to heaven. In response, Jesus told Nicodemus, “No man will enter or even see the kingdom of God unless he is ‘born again.’
Wow. If that’s the case, and it is, then how important is it for us to understand what that means?!

Let me start by saying this, we may be good (morally right) in our own eyes, but none of us is good enough in God’s eyes. Our problem is that we tend to judge ourselves in light of those who commit robbery, rape and murder. And since we’ve never done those things, then surely we’re good enough to get into heaven. But there’s a problem. When we face the Lord on judgment day we will not be judged based on the standard of goodness set by others, we’ll be judged by God’s moral standard of perfection. So if you think you’re good enough for heaven, you might first want to take a look at The 10 commandments to see how “good” you really are in God’s eyes…

Let me ask you a few questions based on the 10 commandments:
– Have you ever lied? How many lies have you told in your life? Hundreds? Thousands?
– Have you ever taken something that didn’t belong to you? Irrespective of its value?
– Jesus said if you’ve lusted after another in your mind (even if you didn’t act upon it) you’ve committed adultery in your heart. Have you ever looked with lust? How many times have you done that in your life?
– Jesus also said if you hold anger/hatred in your heart towards another it’s the same as murder in God’s eyes.

You see, its not about behavior alone. With God, its about the heart. And we’ve only looked at 4 out of the 10 commandments.

When we look at God’s commandments, they look back at us just as a mirror, reflecting our true condition on the inside. In looking at that mirror we see that we’re not nearly as good as we think we are. And the Bible tells us that because of God’s law, the whole earth stands guilty and condemned already.

We (you, I, and all of humanity) have a grave dilemma- we’ve broken God’s laws and we have to stand before Him on judgment day. On that day, our goodness will fall desperately short and our sentence is certain. Jesus told Nicodemus that unless a man be ‘born again, he’ll never enter heaven. Neither his knowledge nor his ‘good life’ would save him.

Nicodemus thought he had it together and was on the path to heaven. He was wrong. Are you?

Friend, it doesn’t matter what you think about yourself. God sees the real you. Whether or not you believe the Bible, the only way you and your loved ones will enter heaven and escape hell is to be ‘born again.’ How does that happen? Don’t listen to preachers who tell you its simple. Its simple to explain, but not easy to do. It will cost you everything.
1- Confess to God that you’re a sinner and ask Him to forgive your sin.
2- Believe that what God did in sending Jesus to die on the cross is your only means of salvation. (The heart of the gospel message is simply this: though you, I, and all of humanity stand guilty as sinners before God, instead of pouring His wrath out on us, giving us what we deserve, He poured His wrath out on His own Son. The innocent dying for the guilty. For those who believe and put their trust in Jesus, God no longer sees our sin, but instead sees the righteousness of His son. We broke God’s laws, but Jesus stepped in and took our punishment. (Read John 3:16)
3- Put your faith in Jesus alone to save you.
4- Here’s the hard part- repent of your sins. That means stop doing what is contrary to God’s desires and begin living your life in obedience to Him. A lot of people profess a belief in God and can even tell you what Jesus did for sinners. But they still curse like sailors, sleep around, take the Lord’s name in vain, get drunk, gossip, hold hatred and prejudice, they lie, they walk all over others, they care only about themselves… they don’t want to go to church to worship and be with other believers, and really, they get uncomfortable and even offended if the name of Jesus comes up around them. What they’ve done is merely form a ‘mental agreement’ that Jesus is the way. That knowledge alone will not save them. (Let me say it this way: We all believe a life jacket will save us if we’re drowning in the ocean. But even though we believe it will save us, we will still drown if we don’t put it on.)

Being ‘born again’ has everything to do with ‘putting the life jacket on.’ Turning from your old ways and turning to Gods’ ways. Asking God to forgive your sin, and surrendering your life to Him. It doesn’t mean you’ll be morally perfect from that point forward. Though you give your best effort, you will continue to fall short. But when you mess up, God’s grace and forgiveness will cover you. You’ll get back up and continue to follow Him.

Friend, I’m only writing this because a lot of people have the same question Nicodemus had, but are just too embarrassed to ask someone. I’m answering the question you’ve been wanting to ask.

So, ‘are you’ on the path to heaven and eternal life?
Jesus said, nobody will enter or even see the kingdom of God unless he is born again. That’s the only way. Think about these things. There is nothing more important in this life than being prepared for the next. This life is temporal, what follows is eternal.

I STRONGLY encourage you to make sure your family and loved ones understand this. And for the love of God, don’t merely hold the life jacket in your hands- put it on!

~ Jason Mayfield
Pastor, Brushy Fork Baptist Church

 

JUST A REMINDER

Hey there,

It’s been a while since we’ve spoken. I thought I’d try again to break the silence between us and write you a brief note. Sorry if you think that the internet isn’t the best place to contact you. I’ve tried other means, but you haven’t responded. Plus, you’re always on here.

I don’t mean this in a prideful kind of way, but I do have a lot of wisdom, and I am pretty knowledgeable. And for the life of me, I don’t know why you always second guess whether my advice is good or right for you. It’s both. It’s good, and it’s right. Deep down you know it’s true. I’m always right. Now that I think about it, I can’t recall a time that I’ve ever been wrong,… just saying. And you know this, yet you never seem to want to hear what I have to say anymore. It’s like you firmly decide what you want to do and you just run off and start doing it. You don’t even ask me anymore what I think.

Listen, I love you, you know I do… But you really should listen to me more often. And I do wish you’d stop pointing your finger at me. You know I didn’t do this, you did. If you would have just listened to me in the first place, you might not be in this mess. But I’m not going to bring that up. All I really want at this point is to see you back up on your feet. I want to see you rebound from this. And you can. I can help you if you’ll let me.

Now. Are you going to try and fix this yourself, or are you willing to listen and do it my way? If you want to talk, I’ll be around. You know where to find me. Until then, just know that I still love you deeply and I miss you.

Your Creator,
God

Our choices have consequence. And sometimes, choices made without godly counsel can leave us with heartache, irreversible damage, and much regret for months or even years to come. But for the child of God, we have access to the creator of the earth and the heavens. And all throughout scripture He implores us to seek His wisdom and counsel in the choices we make. It’s available to us. All we have to do is ask Him.

JOB 38:4-7 “Where were you when I laid the foundations of the earth? Tell Me, if you have understanding. Who determined its measurements? Surely you know! Or who stretched the line upon it? To what were its foundations fastened? Or who laid its cornerstone, When the morning stars sang together, And all the sons of God shouted for joy?”
JAMES 1:4-5 “If any of you lacks wisdom, you should ask God, who gives generously to all without finding fault, and it will be given to you. But when you ask, you must believe and not doubt, because the one who doubts is like a wave of the sea, blown and tossed by the wind”
~ Shalom!

(This post written by my husband, Jason Mayfield)

A FRIEND’S WARNING

“Keep your eyes on the sky!” This has become a regularly stated sentence in our home. More specifically, this has become a regular saying in our yard.

After losing a rooster to a hawk a couple of years ago, we take few chances with our chickens and ducks. Foraging times have become more supervised and reminding one another to look up has become more prevalent.

Sometimes it is difficult, I must admit. When two bird dogs are tracking rabbits and diving in the pool…when two ducks are standing on the edge of the pool threatening to jump in with the dogs…when five chickens are finding the juiciest worms…and when outdoor chores must get accomplished…Supervising must become more creative.

Oftentimes, two bird dogs are forced to stand watch over the flock while one of us takes care of the coop, garden, etc. Sometimes a row of bushes becomes a shelter from the predatory skies while a trek to the other side of the property is necessary.

Ideally, our birds would be hovered over by a human at all times. Realistically, our birds are hovered over by a human…or a dog, as often as possible.

It is not uncommon for our hens and ducks to protect themselves from overhead danger. I always know when something is flying over when I see a feathered head cocked to one side with an eyeball fixated on something above.

There are other times when I witness several feathered pals suddenly running toward the pen, the shed, the bushes, or a human. I look up at the sky, and sure enough, a red tail hawk is flying over. There are many times when one feathered pal cries out a warning and all other pals run for cover. Yes, chickens and ducks are smart enough to recognize danger and honorable enough to warn others.

It is no secret that roosters protect the flock. But now that our hens are bachelorettes (minus Walter, the duck) they have become professional security guards themselves. Between chasing the cricket, biting off some clover, and bathing in the dirt, our flock, including two spoiled ducks, keeps watch above. When danger lurks, they take refuge.

“The prudent see danger and take refuge, but the simple keep going and suffer for it.” – Proverbs 27:12

Prudent would be a good word to describe the instinctive flock in our back yard. Is prudent a word that describes you?

What kind of danger can you foresee. I’m not just talking about the obvious dangers that threaten our every day lives. How about the danger of indifference, lukewarm faith, or unwise choices? How about the danger of a volatile relationship or ignoring the advice of a Godly friend? Maybe the danger of living your life to build your own kingdom rather than the kingdom of God?

There are hopefully people in your life who can discern danger when you do not. Those friends who love you enough to speak truth into your life even when it is difficult…Even when they could risk losing you as a friend. The friend who sees something you do not and loves you enough to bring it into the light rather than hiding it in the shadows so as not to “offend” you.  Yes, those are the friends that are truly friends. And those are the ones I want around to signal the warning call when a predator is flying over.

My advice? Keep your eyes on the sky. And when you hear a friend’s warning, be wise and take refuge.

Blessings!

WHO DO YOU SERVE?

They live to please. They wake up wondering to themselves, “how will I make my people happy today?”…Then they throw in, “and…what might I do that will get me an extra treat today?”

Dogs. Though it may be cliche to say, they truly are the best of best friends to humans. I cannot think of any creature, both human or non, that is so enthralled by the activities of their people.

Our hedgehogs enjoy our company. Our rabbit likes our presence…but definitely thinks the world revolves around her. Our ducks follow us to seek security and companionship. Our chickens enjoy our affection and being involved in the daily routines and outdoor chores. But our dogs- they are all of the above, minus thinking the world revolves around them. No, to a dog, the world revolves around their people.

Our two German Shorthaireds are prime examples. Moses has the routines memorized. He has mastered the chores of taking care of all the animals with us. He knows when it is time to feed the hedgehogs and he reminds us when it is time to get ready for bed. He anticipates every next move and is familiar with our expectations of him.

Jemma is catching on quickly. Every time I turn around she appears in a doorway, she follows at my feet, and she observes intently the very details of our actions. Her observation of tooth brushing time still leaves her a bit puzzled though. She has learned the general order of events with morning routines and, like Moses, she gets a thrill when an unexpected car ride comes along.

What more could you want than to have a wagging tail as your door greeter when you get home? What better way to chill out with a movie next to your husband, daughter, and two best friends?

Yes, argue with me if you must, but there is no convincing me otherwise. A dog is God’s perfect portrait of true devotion and love…Ok, aside from Jesus Christ, of course,…and aside from the picture of true love and commitment in a devoted marriage. And then there is the pure love and instinctive sacrifice of parental love…But…then…yes, then, dogs are definitely next on the list. However, the commitment and sacrifice of our military, law enforcement, and first responders are high on that list too. But definitely next is…you guessed it…dogs.

Winning the approval of their people is the priority of canine pals. Winning the approval of God should be the top priority of God’s people.

“Am I now trying to win the approval of man, or of God? Or am I trying to please man? If I were still trying to please man, I would not be a servant of Christ.”- Galatians 1:10

While dogs long to serve to seek the approval of people, the opposite should be the case for followers of Christ. Whether we recognize it or not, we are controlled by our desire to please. Maybe we are too much of a people pleaser. Maybe we only seek to please ourselves. Or maybe we seek to please God only because we are so focused on works and not enough on relationship. A dog could teach us in this area. A dog wants to please his people for approval. But it is the kind of approval that makes the people want to have that special relationship. The affection, the provision, the adventure, and the quality time.

So should it be with us and our Lord Jesus. Because if you haven’t noticed, we become servants to whomever’s approval we are trying to get. If it is our own approval, we slave day in and day out to get ahead at any cost- to make sure that we are the one who gets noticed or we get that pat on the back. If we strive for approval from others our slavery shines through from the moment we pick out our clothes for the day. Our every action is somehow controlled by what others will think of us.

Dogs have the benefit of serving their masters. The one who feeds them, shelters them, takes care of their health and needs…gives love and affection, discipline, unconditional forgiveness…I would much rather become a servant to my Master. For it is He who provides. He who protects. He comforts, leads, warns, forgives, and He alone is my Daily Bread.

So when you look into those irresistible canine eyes that stare into your soul be reminded of two things: how to love and how to serve. Then go read your bible to get more details!

Blessings

NEAR DEATH EXPERIENCE

REPOST

When I was a kid we had about as many animals as our home does now. From dogs to Guinea pigs, from cats to rabbits. So what difference would one stray dog make?

We never claimed Henry to be ours. More importantly, Henry never claimed us as his. We must have had a quiet understanding that once Henry was finished using us he would move on. All parties involved were okay with this.

Henry was a mutt that made his way to our home one day. I was too young to remember many memories with him. I do remember when he died…. And then can back.

Let me explain. One hot summer evening, possibly the Fourth of July, my family and some friends of my parents stood at the edge of our yard letting fireworks off in the field behind us. Henry sat by us mingling with the crowd and seemingly having a dog gone good time.

Whether it was due to the sound of a particular firework remains a mystery to this day, but suddenly, Henry collapsed. Stopped breathing. Died… We thought.  Not breathing, I remember him being gently shaken by the adults to see if he would respond.

There was then talk of burying him. This was more than my little heart could stand.

Then it happened. After a few minutes of lying lifeless on the ground, Henry stood to his feet…er…paws.

Was it a seizure? A trick? Or did Henry have a so called near death experience?

No one knew. All I knew was that I was content to have him stick around our home some time longer.

If you haven’t already then you more than likely will… Or maybe you are now…I’m referring to your “near death” season. The one that took you to the depths and had you and everyone around you believing this was the thing that would overcome you.

Maybe it was an addiction, loss of a spouse, or the divorce…loss of a child, disease, insecurity, depression,… You fill in the blank.

Mark 9:26-27  “The spirit shrieked, convulsed him violently and came out. The boy looked so much like a corpse that many said, “He’s dead.” But Jesus took him by the hand and lifted him to his feet, and he stood up…”

The boy in the scripture had been fighting his battle since childhood. It literally almost took his life according to verse 21- “It has often thrown him into fire or water to kill him”. His deliverance came when Jesus showed up. (That tends to happen).

But don’t miss this. After the spirit came out the boy looked like a corpse. Those around him assumed he was dead…

Your “fill in the blank” season will or already has left you for dead as well. Maybe even now you are as a corpse. Listen. It is not God’s desire that you be left in this pit. He is telling you to get up! And the neat thing is that He is offering His hand.

-Blessings!

PEACE TO YOU MOMMA RACCOON

She clung to the tree with all that she had. Slowly one long sharp claw at a time began to lose grip in a desperate attempt to remain right where she was.

A few minutes prior, Moses, our German Shorthaired Pointer had found this raccoon momma laying on the ground under the tree. By the time I arrived at the scene, they were having a staring contest almost nose to nose. One would have thought that neither one of them knew what kind of creature the other was.

By the time my husband and daughter arrived, the raccoon, with her irresistible cuteness, slowly and vulnerably looked each one of us in the eyes. We wondered if she was hurt, possibly falling out of the tree. The previous morning Moses had treed a mysterious creature in this same location of our yard. It would make sense that this very raccoon had been the mysterious creature either finding a location to give birth to her babies or finding a location to move them. Making her temporary home in the high branches of the tree would have been a safe haven for her when she had noticed a wet snout from a bird dog headed her way.

Just when we had considered possibly becoming her rescuers she darted to the tree and struck the very pose you see in this photo.

Minutes passed as she clung to the tree probably praying that we would leave. She hoped that she would not have to either climb further up or defend herself in a famous raccoon way. We decided to relocate to the deck to spy on her from afar.

Her fear continued to grip her as she gripped to the completely vertical tree bark. Eventually her claws gave way and she rolled to the ornamental grasses below. A bit stunned, she then made her way to the safety of some tall plants by our house and disappeared.

Although raccoons have a reputation of fierceness and being predators of chickens, it was clear that she was more fearful of us than she hoped we were of her. Her fear made her think unclearly and she allowed it to control her for as long as we were witnesses.

How many times have we done the same? We fear a lot in this world we live in don’t we? From sickness and death…to loss of a job and financial security. We fear for the safety of loved ones. We fear the uncertainty of the future. We are even afraid to admit we are afraid of these things. If we go back even further, we can remember fearing the lights being turned off at night. We were afraid of the creature hiding under our bed to grab our feet at night unless they were securely covered by a blanket. We were afraid of that weird creaking noise and we feared that spoonful of nasty medicine our mom made us take when we were sick.

Fear is quite often our “go to” when we do not know what to expect. When we find ourselves in a situation beyond our control, we forget the promises found in Scripture…

“Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid.” – John 14:27

 At the time this beautiful piece of scripture was spoken, Jesus was with his disciples in the upper room partaking in the famous “last supper”.  Jesus had explained to them that he would no longer be with them and that the Father would send the Holy Spirit.

Imagine you are with those who mean the most to you for the last time. Chances are you will not be discussing the weather or the game. You probably won’t be analyzing the plot of the movie you watched last week. You will be talking about the things that matter the most to you. Your legacy, your advice, your most desired wishes. You want to make sure your loved ones know how much you love them. You want to make sure they can see past their upcoming grief and take hold of a beautiful future in store for them. Jesus wanted the same.

He explained to them that fear does not have to hold them for ransom. His peace and his comfort are enough. But his peace is not that which the world tries to give.

The actual meaning of the word “peace” Jesus refers to in this passage is “shalom”. This actual meaning is not the same as some other meanings of peace. At times, the word “peace” refers to a time without war, an attitude, or not having feelings of hostility. However, the term Jesus refers to here is so much more. Shalom means completeness, soundness, welfare, peace.

One of the frequently used names of God the Hebrew people used was Jehovah-shalom, meaning “The Lord is peace” or “The Lord is our peace.”  Therefore, the gift Jesus leaves is so much more than a feeling. It is HIS completeness, His soundness, His welfare, and His peace.

I don’t know about you but that’s the kind of peace I need. How did Jesus sleep in a boat during a raging storm? How did Jesus continue to walk through his short time on earth knowing what his walk to Calvary would entail? Shalom. Completeness…soundness…A peace found only in Jehovah-shalom…in even the most agonizing of situations.

Momma Raccoon may have been facing one of the scariest times in her life that day we found her. If only she understood that the bird dog she saw was actually a gentle giant. If only she understood that the humans known as the “Mayfields” were willing to nurse her back to health if necessary. If only she understood her situation was not what it appeared.

Shalom was what Momma Raccoon needed that day. Shalom is what we need everyday. Stop clinging desperately to that tree branch that can hardly hold its own weight. Cling to the one true vine and the source of life.

Blessings!

PLEASING JEMMA

Moses and Jemma are definitely pals now. They nap together, eat together, and play together. They assist with daily chores… in their own way. They wait around for morsels of rabbit, chicken, and hedgehog food to drop to the ground as the other pets are being fed.

Jemma is pretty much in tune with the routines of the day and always anticipates our next move. She is learning from the best… an eight year old GSP. 

One thing she has not learned at this point is the humility and giving spirit for which Moses has become so famous. In fact, in her curious brown puppy eyes, the world revolves around her. When Moses has a toy she wants…or doesn’t want… she whines until he gives it to her. When Moses is getting love and affection, she whines to receive the same attention. In fact, any time she wants something, Moses is the one who usually ends up giving it to her. Jemma has learned to intercept balls, gracefully knock toys out of Moses’ mouth, and highly “encourage” him to allow her the last bite of a treat. 

Her diva ways are not nearly as impressive, though, as the gentleman qualities that Moses possesses. He humbly allows her to snatch a toy that he could easily hang on to with his strong jaws. He allows her to catch up to the thrown tennis ball first even though his leopard speed could easily outrun her. Many men could take chivalry lessons from this bird dog. 

It is not clear if his giving ways will remain as heavily once Jemma is full grown. For now, though, he has mastered the art of sharing and kindness. He understands that she is a mere student of becoming the ultimate bird dog just like him.

“We who are strong ought to bear with the failings of the weak and not to please ourselves. Each of us should please our neighbors for their good, to build them up. For even Christ did not please himself but, as it is written: ‘The insults of those who insult you have fallen on me.'”-Romans 15:2, 3

Jemma would truly love that chew bone but she does not necessarily have to have it. ..though she would beg to differ. Moses gives it to her anyway. Unlike two German Shorthaired Pointers, this scripture is not instructing us to please others just anyway they see fit. Rather it is instructing us to please others in an eternal sense. We are not trying to make them feel good about themselves, get their way, or think that they are right even when doing wrong. God dictates what pleasing our neighbor means.

Our neighbor’s “good,” which begins with salvation, means one thing- God’s edification and our neighbor’s spiritual well being…ok, two things. We must stop every attitude and action which would tear down our neighbor. We must keep on with those things which will build him up in his faith. Ultimately, their spiritual health brings glory to the only One who is truly “good”…Christ.

So how do we know when pleasing others is Godly or not? Take the test. If you must choose between pleasing others and pleasing yourself, you have the green light to please others. On the other hand, if you must choose between pleasing others and pleasing God, do not proceed. Simple. God would never make empty desires of others a priority over His perfect plan and perfect ways.

Like an 8 year old bird dog taking care of a 6 month old bird dog in training, those who are strong have an obligation to the weak. We must use our strengths to strengthen others. We must use our powers as leaders to serve others. Whose good will you seek today?

Blessings!

 

ONE EYED RUBY

Our precious Ruby was irresistible from the start.  One Eyed Ruby. We referred to this particular hedgehog as such since, well, she had one eye. I shall explain.

Not only was Ruby cute and had a way to make any human being want to hold her and love on her, but she was also a fighter. Ruby went through a lot in her three little years. As a newborn, she and her siblings endured a move to a new house. If you know anything about hedgehogs, one thing you never do is disturb a momma and her babies. Unfortunately, the timing of their birth and moving day inconveniently coincided. Momma got nervous the first night in our new home and decided to carry around the runt of the litter…which happened to be Ruby. For what seemed like hours Ruby’s little body dangled from her mom’s mouth as she nervously attempted to adjust to the new environment. Fortunately, this episode ended and life went on as normal.

Because Ruby had dazzled us with her charm, we spoiled her over the years. But it wasn’t just her cute walk, adorable mannerisms, and likeable personality. It was her endurance that impressed us from the beginning. She patiently went through minor DIY surgery when she had an infected quill. Her response? Patience and trust…and a lick of “thank you” on the finger of her surgeon. She endured having her eye poked by a fellow hedgehog roommate…hence, the term “One Eyed Ruby”. Her response? Adjustment and trust.

She endured becoming ill with Wobbly Hedgehog Syndrome (a neurological disease common to some hedgies). Her response? More adjusting and trust…and a surprisingly strong will to live.

One Eyed Ruby adjusted to each obstacle that came her way. She did so with persistence, confidence, and a continual love for her humans. She loved to be held. She loved to listen to us talk to her. She loved to turn her igloo upside down and see how messy she could make her cage each morning…just to show us how strong and capable she still was. In fact, Ruby was so much of a survivor that I began to think she could possibly outlive all of our hedgehogs.

Unfortunately, our precious Ruby passed away recently. Although I am relieved that she no longer has to endure the hardships that come along with her disease, it is always difficult to lose a pet. It is especially difficult to see a fighter finally give in and surrender. However, Ruby’s character and will to not just survive, but to live an abundant life, taught me so much over the past several years.

“For everything that was written in the past was written to teach us, so that through the endurance taught in the Scriptures and the encouragement they provide we might have hope.”- Romans 15:4

So much rich information lies in this one scripture. But let us focus on one point in particular. The “endurance taught in the Scriptures” can be found in numerous places. Take a look at Romans 5:3, Hebrews 10:36, or James 1:2-3. What about Revelation 2:3 or Romans 12:12? Need I even mention Hebrews 12:1 or running the race so as to get the prize as mentioned in 1 Corinthians 9:24? I think you get my point. Endurance is not just recommended, it is necessary.

How is it that you continue to care for that elderly parent? How do you make yourself tromp into that difficult work environment every morning? That “terrible twos” toddler that makes the “strong willed child” seem like the tooth fairy? Endurance, my friend. You have it and you may not even know it.

For those times when finishing the race seems an impossible task. When the hardship overwhelms you and giving in seems the next logical step… What then?

I dare not minimize the pain or the difficult situation anyone may encounter. But I also cannot minimize the power of the word of God and the hope that is available for all who seek.

“…the endurance taught in the Scriptures”…”the encouragement they provide”…

Quite possibly the very thing you need in your valley is simply the hope available in the living word of God. Cry out to Him as He calls out to you. Let Him quiet your soul as you breathe in the words written on those thin delicate pages of your bible. Enduring and finishing your race is only possible when you communicate with your Savior.

Precious One Eyed Ruby persevered to the end of her race. Won’t you continue to run yours?

Blessings!

 

 

SAME OLE SAME OLE

This photo captures the true dynamic of our growing family.

Jemma is our new German Shorthaired Pointer puppy. She is precious, extremely smart, and outrageously curious about the other animals. Then there is Moses, our 8 year old German Shorthaired Pointer. He is precious, extremely smart, and outrageously…used to the other animals. The Dog Whisperer would be quite pleased to see the calm and submissive Moses comfortably surrounded by hens.

Moses became the submissive dog he is because of our cat. He learned to be gentle with small and vulnerable rodents because of our rats. He became best friends with a pet rabbit. He learned how to respect those prickly hedgehogs. And the chickens? Watching them grow from freshly hatched chicks to fully feathered cuties quite possibly made him the most patient and self controlled bird dog ever. 

So to see how relaxed and unamused he is lying among the chickens is no surprise. To see Jemma enthralled with curiosity about the fowl she was bred to retrieve is no surprise. She has not yet been down that road of expecting the unexpected like her older counterpart. She has not yet learned the meaning of “these pets are part of the family too” like Moses has. She is getting there…

Oftentimes, we find ourselves a little too familiar with, well, life. We lose the zeal of waking each morning to a new day. We forget what it was like to be passionate about learning God’s word. We become complacent in our walk and a little too comfortable with the same ole same ole. 

Like Moses, a bird dog who cares not if hens are pecking the ground at his paws, we go through life unaffected by what used to stir passion and curiosity. The joy of our salvation hides among the cloud of indifference. 

How do we prevent this from happening? There are lots of answers to this question. In my own life? Thankfulness. 

Sounds too simple, huh? Sounds like a five dollar quote on the front of the picture frame you re-gifted last Christmas? Maybe. But when I breathe in the freshness of 40 years worth of days my Lord has given me, I stand amazed. When I ponder the protection, the provision, and the priceless memories, I am immediately curious about the next 40 years. 

Hopefully Jemma will soon be able to roam freely with the feathered pals outside. Her curiosity and zeal for the newness of the situation must first be quenched. May our thirst and passion for the joy of our salvation never be quenched!

“Enter his gates with thanksgiving and his courts with praise; give thanks to him and praise his name.”

-Psalm 100:4

Life gets hard. Let me re-state that. Life gets ugly and downright unbearable at times. That’s when we cry out …”Restore to me the joy of your salvation and grant me a willing spirit, to sustain me.”-Psalm 51:12

Blessings!

FEATHERS AND CHAINS

Precious. That describes her. Ellie is our white Sultan hen. She is a bit…spoiled. She is the most gentle hen we have had…actually, she is the most gentle pet we have had, period. She makes sweet sounds when she is confused and makes sweet sounds when she is happy. Ellie is, indeed, as sweet as chickens come.

We noticed that Ellie was a bit different than the other hens when we first brought her home last year. She and our new silkies were separated from the rest of our flock for about a week to ensure that there were no diseases or sicknesses. From the first day in her temporary pen with the silkies, she showed us that she was unsure of who she was. In fact, on day one she would lay an egg. Day two she would begin to crow. Once she and the silkies were placed with the rest of the flock, however, the crowing ceased.

When we had brought Ellie home we also noticed the craziness of her feet. She had an extra toe and the rest of her toes and claws were crooked. We bathed her, trimmed her nails and some foot feathers, and she looked much better. Still, Ellie was more reserved than the other hens. She walked slowly, did not forage much, and she did not scratch at the ground looking for bugs. She preferred to be held or to observe the others finding tasty worms and lush green clover. Once in a while she would find some morsels and gently pluck them from the ground.

Over the months, Ellie became very dependent on us…well, me. (There is a reason for that). Her precious ways have always called out for me to carry her along with me while I do yard work. Her mere presence begs for me to snatch her up, cuddle her, and show her some extra attention. When she and the gals are free ranging, she has always lingered near my feet or waited for me to “assist” her with difficult situations…like stepping over a mud puddle so that her pure white feathered feet did not get dirty. When the coop door was opened in the morning and the rest of the gang excitedly ran down the ramp to freedom, Ellie would wait at the entrance door for someone to pick her up and place her with the rest of the flock.

I will admit, my inability to resist her cuteness had caused me to unintentionally teach her to become somewhat incapable…so I thought.

Recently, I noticed Ellie limping. Concerned that it could be a cut or bumblefoot, my pet expert of a daughter did a thorough foot exam and determined a clean bill of health. So we tried something else. A more dramatic foot feather trim. We had always known that the feathers on her legs and feet made it somewhat difficult for her to walk quickly and scratch the ground. It was now getting to the point where a more dramatic feather trim was inevitable.

Needless to say, Ellie’s lack of confidence had been no lack of confidence at all! Her desire to be assisted in difficult situations was not her inability to cope with life. All she had needed was a simple tool to help. “Feathers B Gone” was just the thing she needed.

We often think ourselves incapable or unable to be all that God has called us to be. We don’t think we are bold enough, mature enough, or knowledgeable enough. You know, those needless interferences or obstacles that have you believing that jumping over that mud puddle is an impossible task. Maybe a past failure, a past relationship, or a past decision. Maybe a personality trait, an endless to do list, laziness, or a nagging health issue. Whatever that obstacle may be there is a truth to be found in scripture that could ease your mind and set you free.

“And God is able to bless you abundantly, so that in all things at all times, having all that you need, you will abound in every good work.” (2 Corinthians 9:8)

While this verse officially lies in the context of generosity being encouraged in us, it remains true for all areas of our life. In ALL things…at ALL times, and having ALL that we need…God has given us the tools to be effective in our walk, victorious in our walk, and able in our walk. Too many times we allow something I like to call “junk” to stand in our way. When all the while, God has equipped us more than enough.

What is it that is keeping you from the abundant and influential life you were meant to live? Is it a lack of self value or is it merely something tangible standing in your way. Allow Christ to weed out those obstacles. Give him the permission to snip away those feathers…those chains…holding you hostage to the ground.

With Ellie, it was cumbersome feathers meant to add beauty and warmth to her scaly feet and legs that were actually holding her back. Once the feathers were trimmed and she was set on the ground, she instantly became the confident hen she was intended to be. She now walks with no limp, forages with no restraints, and leaves the coop with no reserve. Maybe a feather trim is all you need.

Blessings!

GROW OLD WITH ME

Repost of older post

Growing older with my husband has to be the most romantic story that could ever be written. 

I love the infrequent gray hairs that appear in his beard from time to time (can’t say the same about those grays that appear on my head though). I love the memories that invade as I look at photos of the younger versions of us on the beach. The deeper voice, the wiser eyes, the slightly thinner hair. He is more attractive to me now than he was at 22. 

Now we hold hands because we want to. Some day we will hold hands because we have to. Now we make smooth harmonies with our voices when we sing. One day we will laugh when our voices crack harmoniously. 

The life we have lived together in less than two decades has given us plenty of material for an autobiography…a long one. Being one in life has been a once in a lifetime thrill. Our once twenty something abs will soon be eighty something…abs. And I can’t wait to see how good we try to make eighty look. 

Yes, growing older has its positives.  But let’s be realistic. The flights of stairs get us a bit winded. The alarm clock gets louder. And the doctor visits become more frequent. Carefree is a thing of the past and a fun time often involves just going to bed early. 

Funeral homes become too familiar.  Loss becomes a part of life and pain shows its face in a variety of ways. We long for the days of old- when childhood innocence kept us far from adulthood problems. 

Whether it’s being reminded of evil in this world when we turn on the news, or experiencing heartache in our own lives, it is clear that getting older has its challenges. In fact, one might say that the burdens of life get heavier with age. 

There is a reason we yearn for relief from trials of this life. There is a reason we groan and a reason we despise the loss of family and friends more than ever.

“Meanwhile we groan, longing to be clothed with our heavenly dwelling, because when we are clothed, we will not be found naked. For while we are in this tent, we groan and are burdened, because we do not wish to be unclothed but to be clothed with our heavenly dwelling, so that what is mortal may be swallowed up by life.” 2 Corinthians 5:2-4

Do you find yourself craving that unseen and unknowing place? To shed, not only this fleshly shell, but also this fleshy world? We await eternity with expectation. We groan for the renewal of all things. This is normal. 

Why? Because we were made for eternity. For those who are in Christ, our spirit cries out for Him and for the home that was meant for us. 

Until we are called to that home let us keep on keeping on. Hold hands because you feel like it, or hold hands to keep you standing. The harmonies we will one day sing will far outweigh the tears we cry here. Your autobiography will be written at last.

Blessings!

IF THE WORLD HATES YOU

They were inseparable. One could not be apart from the other. The Polish and the Polish/Silkie mix…Frank and B…formerly known as Florence and Beatrice.

Last year, we brought home two tiny baby chicks. Learning from our past experiences of being guaranteed hens and finding out several months later that they are roosters, we paid the breeders to have the baby chicks checked by a veterinarian. This would ensure the gender of the chicks. So we did.

It felt wonderful finally bringing home our adorable baby hens knowing for sure that they were, in fact, hens. For the first several weeks they stayed in our house until they were old enough to join the rest of the flock. From the moment we saw them we knew that their bond with one another was one that could not be broken.

As they grew and joined the rest of the flock they remained best friends. They followed one another around. They cried for the other one if they were separated even momentarily. It was difficult to give human affection to one without the other one begging to be held, as well.

But, alas…You know how the story goes…at least in the Mayfield home. Once upon a time, a family brought home baby hens. They grew and grew…until one day…the hen crowed. The end.

Long story short, Florence was renamed Frank.  Round three of our famous hen to rooster story. Even still, Frank and Beatrice remained best friends. Frank became more protective of Beatrice, though, and found that he also needed to protect our other hens. Frank followed the girls around to at least attempt to guard them from any potential harm. His puff of head feathers prevented him from seeing the skies above him, though. He did not care. He had a job to do.

Then one day,..one fateful day… Beatrice crowed. Surely this was because she adored Frank so dearly that she merely thought she was supposed to be just like him. It was an innocent crow…Hens crow sometimes. Right?

True, hens can crow in certain situations. Unfortunately, a few more days would reveal spurs on Beatrice’s legs and a newfound attraction to the hens. Beatrice was renamed B. And the saga continued.

After several days of B showing off her…um…his manliness, Frank had finally had enough. He slowly began to change his attitude toward his best friend. B would follow Frank and Frank would peck him. B would cry for Frank when he was not nearby and Frank would ignore the pleas. B continued to want to be near Frank. Frank, however, moved on.

Honestly, it was heartbreaking to see two best friends who were so tightly bonded in their younger weeks and months, become so at odds with one another. Let me restate that. It was heartbreaking seeing one of them want to be best friends more than anything in the world…and the other one does not want the same thing. What had been inseparable was now changed by a complicated and unexpected turn of events. Watching B try to remain best pals and watching Frank reject him, sometimes in a very rude rooster kind of way, was very sad.

 “If the world hates you, know that it has hated me before it hated you. If you were of the world, the world would love you as its own; but because you are not of the world, but I chose you out of the world, therefore the world hates you.” (John 15:18,19)

Feeling rejected? Despised? Left out? B has been there, done that. Even more, Jesus has been there, done that. Read the gospels…rejection. Read today’s newspaper…rejection. Watch TV…rejection. In fact, just go somewhere today and you will see it, feel it, experience it. The world rejects the truth and holiness of Christ. How do I know?

A true follower of Christ would be blind not to see it. I remember praying in a public school. I remember discussing the birth of a Savior at Christmas time…in a public school. “One nation under God” was stated boldly…in a public school, ballgame, and event.  A couple of decades later, however, there are lawsuits, protests, and organizations set against such truth.

A couple of decades later, what was once black and white, good old fashioned truth, has become muddled in a mixture of confusion, deceit, and lies. We see clearly now that the world, in a very evident way, has rejected the Lord.

If you are a true follower of Christ, one who boldly lives out and speaks out your faith, then you will feel it too. The rejection of Christ will roll over to rejection of you. Maybe you have already experienced it. Maybe it wasn’t a lawsuit filed against you for wearing a scripture on your shirt at work. Maybe something more subtle. Loss of a friend or ridicule perhaps? Are you the crazy “bible thumper” at work or school?

“Indeed, all who desire to live a godly life in Christ Jesus will be persecuted…” (2 Timothy 3:12)

If you are a teenager walking through the halls of your school and feel as though you are the only one living for Christ…If you are an adult sitting in the break room reading instead of gossiping. If you feel left out, called out, or down and out…take heart. This could very well mean you are one of the few on the narrow road that leads to life. Only a few find this road…and even fewer continue to walk it. Press on, my friend. Your reward is great!

Blessings!

“For the eyes of the Lord are on the righteous and his ears are attentive to their prayer, but the face of the Lord is against those who do evil. Who is going to harm you if you are eager to do good? But even if you should suffer for what is right, you are blessed. Do not fear their threats; do not be frightened. But in your hearts revere Christ as Lord. Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have. But do this with gentleness and respect, keeping a clear conscience, so that those who speak maliciously against your good behavior in Christ may be ashamed of their slander. For it is better, if it is God’s will, to suffer for doing good than for doing evil. For Christ also suffered once for sins, the righteous for the unrighteous, to bring you to God. He was put to death in the body but made alive in the Spirit. After being made alive, he went and made proclamation to the imprisoned spirits— to those who were disobedient long ago when God waited patiently in the days of Noah while the ark was being built. In it only a few people, eight in all, were saved through water, and this water symbolizes baptism that now saves you also—not the removal of dirt from the body but the pledge of a clear conscience toward God. It saves you by the resurrection of Jesus Christ, who has gone into heaven and is at God’s right hand—with angels, authorities and powers in submission to him.” (1 Peter 3:12-22)

 

 

DROP IT!

Moses knows many tricks. He obeys many commands. He has many games he likes to play. Like just about every dog that exists, an all time favorite game of his is fetch. We throw the ball, he runs to get it. He brings it back…

Most dogs would drop the ball at your feet and wait for you to pick it up to repeat the entire process again. Not Moses. After 8 years of playing the game he rarely lets go of the ball on his own accord. We can tell him firmly to “drop it”…and even still he often refuses to do so. Rather, he prefers that we pry it out of his mouth. On the rare occasion that he does drop it at our feet, as soon as we reach to pick it up, he will quickly grab it before we can touch it.

Do we not do the same with God? We plead with him to take away our pain. We ask him to take control of the situation. We say we want his will to be done. Yet we rarely let go. On the rare occasion we do let go, as soon as he reaches to pick it up,  we quickly snatch it away again.

Unlike Moses, though, we complain that he is not helping us. He is not solving. Or He is not answering. We doubt that He heard us or we declare that His will cannot be determined.

How unfortunate a situation when we make it even more unfortunate by refusing to surrender it. To make matters worse, we rarely realize we are refusing to surrender it.

God does not pry our problems from our grasp, though at times, He could choose to do so if He sees fit. At times, I wish He would. Usually, however, He plays by the good old fashioned rule of wanting us to lay the ball at His feet.

“Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest.”- Matthew 11:28

Blessings!

THE “FUR REAL” WORLD

Strawberry Bubblegum was her name. She was as sweet as her name. Bingo was another one. He was as entertaining as a good game of Bingo. They looked very different than all the other rabbits. Years later I would find out why.

When I was a little girl, we had many pets. From cats and dogs to guinea pigs and rabbits, there was never a time I can remember not having some sort of creature to occupy a lot of my time. Rabbits were among these creatures. Lots of them. In fact, my dad had converted a very large walk in dog pen area into a rabbit “neighborhood.” Rows and rows of cages lined the walls. I remember feeding them, visiting them, and befriending some of them.

One of those friends eventually became known as Strawberry Bubblegum. I loved strawberry flavored candy. I loved bubblegum. I could not decide which name would be better so I combined them. One of my sisters befriended a rabbit who would become known as Bingo. I always wondered why my parents only allowed us to play with these colorful rabbits and not the plain gray ones.

Years later I would find out that the rows and rows of rabbit cages were actually a business. The “off limits” bunnies were for selling. I had always just assumed that our family really just wanted to have a lot of rabbits…like 150 of them. Oh, the innocence of a child. My parents never told me why we had so many bunnies. They knew I would try to pull a Fern…the little girl on Charlotte’s Web who rescues a pig named Wilbur from the grasps of becoming breakfast for her family. They knew me too well.

Looking back, though, I wince at the fact that those furry balls of cuteness were to become possible meals for other people. Country living was sometimes a reminder of how intense nature and the real world can be. I also look back and think how odd it was that we housed our pet rabbits among those that were for sale. When I became privy to the purpose of our huge stock of bunnies, I wondered what conversations were had between them as they lay in their pens at night. I wondered if the “other rabbits” knew how different their fate was from that of Strawberry Bubblegum and Bingo.

One home for rabbits. Two very different futures for two different groups of cuties.

Hosea 14:9 says, “Who is wise? Let them realize these things. Who is discerning? Let them understand. The ways of the Lord are right; the righteous walk in them, but the rebellious stumble in them.”

One situation, two types of people, two completely different outcomes.

This scripture tells us there are two different types of people: those who are righteous and those who are rebellious. One situation: the ways of the Lord are right. Two outcomes: walking and stumbling. How can one situation create very different results between two groups of people?

Hosea speaks of the “righteous” who walk in the right ways of the Lord. So rare was this group of people in his day. So rare is this group of people in our day, as well. He also speaks of the rebellious who were very abundant in his day…and are abundant these days. Now we have our two groups established. Our one situation remains. The ways of the Lord are right, true, and real. Regardless of the group in which one falls, both groups of people have been created by one creator, one God, in one world.

The question remains, how can one situation create very different results between two groups of people?

There is enough of saving truth clear in God’s Word to guide those humbly seeking salvation. Those who are earnestly seeking truth, maturity in their walk, and a heart for the things of God will find what they are seeking. “You will seek me and find me when you seek me with all your heart.”- Jeremiah 29:13. Therefore, these people will walk and not stumble. As a result -“…those who hope in the LORD will renew their strength. They will soar on wings like eagles; they will run and not grow weary, they will walk and not be faint.”- Isaiah 40:31.

On the other hand…the same salvation offered, the same truth revealed, the same creator loving them…the rebellious stumble. Why? While there is enough of clearly stated truth in the word of God, there are just enough difficulties to confound those who curiously look for difficulties, rather than practically seek salvation.

What I mean is that there are portions of scripture that do not completely make sense to some, me included. It is not because God’s word contradicts itself. It is not because God’s word is right in some places and wrong in others. No mistakes are made by the creator of all things. It is by my finite and limited mind that I do not understand all things in the word of God. Who am I to think that my thoughts can compare to the living God?! But I will continue to seek understanding through the word of God, nevertheless. Then there are others, who find what does not make sense to them and they run with it. “Aha!” They think the infallible word of God is no longer truth. They reject it and want to bring others down with them. They debate truth, they confuse good with evil, and they, in turn, fall.

Another reason the rebellious stumble while the righteous walk? Those in opposition to God and his truth will always oppose truth that opposes their views. They are offended at anything opposed to their sin, or above their self-wise understanding.  Think of yourself prior to your own salvation. Was this you? Is this you?

I have heard it said that the same sun softens wax and hardens clay. Oh that we would all have a heart of wax and not clay.

Whether we like it or not, we are living in this world. Like my 150 rabbits, we are all in the same pen. What will be your outcome?

Blessings!

 

 

 

SITTING ON THE SIDELINES

I will be real with you. I must admit that one of my favorite things about homeschooling Reece is the freedom we have to enjoy the fun stuff when the crowds are sparse. Let me explain.

Grocery shopping actually becomes less of a nuisance at 10:00 in the morning instead of 3:15 in the afternoon. Midmorning in the waiting room in a doctor’s office allows me to actually obtain a chair rather than stand awkwardly next to that stranger talking loudly on her cell phone.

Furthermore, an indoor water park is a marvelous fun filled experience. But even greater is the experience when one does not have to wait in long lines for the water slides. Lines, themselves, are basically non-existent in such a place when that water park is visited when everyone else is sitting in a classroom. When regular school is in session, the fun times begin for a homeschooler.

Don’t get me wrong. School for a homeschooler is never neglected, but merely delayed for a more convenient time. Oftentimes, a homeschooler feels as though she can never escape the grasp of the educational environment. Much like the sometimes cursed blessing a work at home parent may feel. Nevertheless, I much prefer the joys that homeschooling brings our family.

So when Reece decided to spend her Friday at a water park and her Saturday making up schoolwork, it was no big deal. When she gets to take along a fellow homeschooled buddy, even better.

I sat reading a book and basking in, for once, just “not doing something”. I scarce remembered how that felt. But it was a joy for me to be able to do so as Reece and her pal spent the day adventuring through the wet canyons and steep cascades known as water slides. As I sat reading, sipping my ice water, and watching them gleefully become 7 year olds again, I realized something.

One of the surest ways to know you have reached the point of unselfish parental love… is to be able to sit on the sidelines delightfully and contentedly. Had you asked me 30 years ago if I would be able to sit at a table sipping ice water and enjoying a good book while the rest of the room ran through waterfalls and splashed happily in the lazy river, I would have energetically replied, “How would anyone be able to do that?!” … and then I would have cartwheeled away to the next water slide.

I used to wonder how my parents could have so much fun simply witnessing my sisters and I have so much fun. How could my mom prefer to spend a day shopping for my clothes rather than searching for an outfit for herself. How could they prefer snapping photos of our smiling faces and waiting at the exit for us to finish our topsy turvy roller coaster ride. Why are they still so content to simply be content with a smile on our faces?

Sacrificial love knows no happiness greater than the happiness of the one loved. As I sat enjoying my alone time, I far greater enjoyed Reece and her friend enjoying themselves so much. I must have been thoroughly enjoying the moment so much that I blindly and happily agreed to purchase her a mouse sized portion of Dippin’ Dots for the price of a gallon of yumminess at Meijer. Now that’s sacrificial love.

Even still, you must agree, a parent finds no greater happiness than when they find that happiness displayed on the face of their child.

“How abundant are the good things that you have stored up for those who fear you, that you bestow in the sight of all, on those who take refuge in you.”- Psalm 31:19

“If you, then, though you are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father in heaven give good gifts to those who ask him!”- Matthew 7:11

I could quote many verses to you that prove that God is the giver of good things. He delights in those who delight in Him. He loves us so much that, literally, He gave us the ultimate gift in the form of a Savior.

Yes, I can quote verse after verse to prove His sacrificial love, because, well, that is the nature of our God.  That is the sum of all that is displayed in Scripture.

That joy I feel when there is a sparkle in Reece’s eyes…when the dimple on her cheek becomes deeper as her smile becomes bigger…the squeal of excitement…the laughter coming from the other room as she hangs out with her cousins or friends. The elation she displays when she is in her all time favorite place…with horses. These kinds of things are the cherished times when I can be on the sidelines, yet feel as though I am the star of the game.

I imagine that our Heavenly Father, in all His glory, must experience these same types of thoughts on a far greater level.  The inventor of love, the author of joy, the creator of laughter…He crafted that dimple in my daughter’s cheek…He made sure the sparkle in her eye was bright enough to make my own eyes sparkle.

“Every good and perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of the heavenly lights, who does not change like shifting shadows.”- James 1:17.

Blessings!

A PROPER BURIAL

We buried him about three weeks ago. After a week long struggle, Clark, one of our beloved hedgehogs finally passed away. As with all of our pets we bury, Clark was given a very dignified memorial “service”. Reece prepared his “casket” with two fleece hedgie pouches. She even adorned the casket with a purple “burial cloth” tied in a bow since, in her words, “purple is the color royalty”.

The hole was dug, the funeral proceeded, and life went on with one less cute face looking at us in our hedgehog room.

Yes, life went on. And then…

Yesterday Reece ran inside the house to inform me that something had attempted to “dig up Clark”. I went outside and found that the still somewhat freshly laid dirt, now had a hole in it. The purple burial cloth could be seen stretched from the hole onto the top of the grave as though something had dragged it from the earth below. I imagine a possum or raccoon must have been the culprit due to the small diameter of the hole. With all the rain over the past few weeks, Clark’s grave site had probably been prime territory for lurking predators seeking an easy meal.

Out came the shovel again. Out came the latex gloves. And out came the more secure new “casket” for Clark. After digging around the probable location of his body, I finally located poor Clark and the old “casket” that had housed his body. I don’t know which was more difficult. The burial… or the “re-burial”.

As I poured the dirt over Clark for the second time, I was reminded how “not fun” it is to bury a beloved pet. I was also reminded how easy it is for the right kind of prowling nose to locate a scent, even one that we would assume is buried and gone.

“Anyone you forgive, I also forgive…in order that Satan might not outwit us. For we are not unaware of his schemes.”- 2 Corinthians 2:10,11

Like the lurking grave robber that attempts to dig up a beloved pet, Satan thrives on something called “digging up our past.” This is one scheme that he has become quite successful at with born again Christians. He knows that the child of God is a new creation in Christ. He cannot stand the fact that a soul that is saved, is a soul that is renewed. He agonizes over the power of forgiveness, redemption, and renewal. And he hides his face when our Savior clothes us with robes whiter than snow.

So he does the only thing he knows how to do. He tries to outwit us. His schemes quite often involve trying to remind us of a past that God told us was forgiven and behind us. You know, the “baggage” that used to weigh you down? The sin that used to entangle you? The lifestyle that used to control you? The enemy has invested in a little backhoe known as “the old you” to dig as deep as he can go. When he finds that past, he will do all he can to use it against you.

He will dig up that old grudge, that old sin, that old hurt, and that old way of life. He will try to remind you of the addiction, the relationship, and the betrayal. He wants the stench of bitterness, regret, pain, and entanglement to haunt us and to torment us. Have you ever seen a child of God so unable to just let go? That is Satan’s plan at work.

He won’t always leave obvious clues such as an outstretched royal burial cloth to display what he is trying to do. There won’t always be evidence of fresh dirt around the grave to make us aware of his goal. More often than not he is very subtle, very sly, and very sneaky. That memory that began as a mere passing thought? He wants you to dwell on it. He wants you to remember what it was like to feel that hurt…or take that drink. Remember what it was like to be bound with that unforgiveness? Remember how you always gave in when that temptation came around?

“Remember,” whispers the enemy. “Don’t let it go,” he says. “Why would you ever think that it was all in the past?” he tries to convince you. Oh, and that voice that tells you “You never changed. You never broke free. You never really were forgiven”… That’s the enemy too.

The enemy knows what to say to cause confusion. He knows just what to say to rattle our nerves. He is a scheming slanderer with many tricks in his possession. Trying to bound us up in a negative past is something he has become very good at. Many Christians have been wounded by his tricks. His goal is to render them useless and ineffective for the kingdom of God. Unfortunately, so many become easy prey.

So how do we guard against this? How do go on the offensive to take preventative measures rather than having to defend ourselves? Read more of 2 Corinthians 2 and see that one way is made clear. Paul is reminding the church in Corinth of the importance and necessity of forgiveness. Apparently, one of their own had previously been caught in a grievous sin (1 Corinthians 5:1-11). He encouraged the church to forgive and restore the fellow believer so that Satan would not have a foothold in order to take advantage of the situation.

If you are a born again child of God, you have been forgiven of that past, whatever it looks like. Maybe it is time you forgive yourself. Is that a foothold Satan is using? Have you thought that surely God is big enough to forgive, but you are not strong enough to forgive yourself? If this is the case, take heart. Freedom is on its way when you view your past in light of the Lord’s mercy rather than in light of your weaknesses. If the perfect and holy God who sets the standard for perfection offered mercy to you, then it only makes sense that you, imperfect and unholy in and of yourself, should be merciful to yourself.

Hopefully, Clark can finally rest in hedgie peace once and for all. This time the hole was dug a bit deeper. The casket was a bit more secure. And some stones and bricks were even stacked on top for extra precaution.  In the same way, we must not allow the grave digger named Satan to dig up our forgiven past. Let us not be outwitted by our real enemy!

Blessings!

WHERE IS A CAT WHEN YOU NEED ONE?

For several days we heard it. Movement. Tapping. Jostling. 

We thought that surely it was nothing more than just normal  “noises” that a house tends to make at times. 

Then the noise became more confined. More specifically located. And more like…eating. Last night, we found Ralph.

First we noticed the dog treats scattered throughout the cabinets. Then we noticed a few “surprises” Ralph left behind for us. Then we found Ralph munching loudly on one of the dog treats Moses holds so dear.

Out went all the dishes to be washed. Off went the bottom plastic piece of the dishwasher. And out came the blueprints titled “How We Will Capture Ralph”. 

A homemade mouse trap is all that will do. There will be no mouse murders in the Mayfield house. Strategically and quietly, Reece and I stalked and staked out Ralph and his habits last night. We remodeled a popcorn box into a tempting haven of treats and peanut butter. We figured a respectable ramp leading up to a balcony overlooking the now empty cabinet below would be a suitable new home for Ralph…once he stepped onto the delicately placed peanut butter cloth hiding the trap door…At least until he is relocated to the field by our house. 

Late last night I returned to ground zero to see if our plan had succeeded. That’s when I found him. Reginald. The jolly sound of munching could now be heard from two separate locations at ground zero. Ralph was found munching happily under the dishwasher. And…surprise! The drama just got more intense. His buddy, Reginald, was found munching in our cookie sheet cabinet. He looked at me like a deer in headlights with the bacon strip dangling from his tiny jaws as if to say “I can explain.” 

The water line tunnel leading from the sink cabinet, through two cabinets, and to the dishwasher serves as a secret passageway for the two pals. Needless to say, the stalking, the staking, and the strategies are continuing today. One of the pals thought he would be smart and drag the peanut butter cloth off the balcony trap door last night. He left behind a note that read “Thanks for the house warming gift. But you really need to fix that gigantic hole on top of the house because I almost fell in.”

The other pal was seen leaving the premises early this morning. New blueprints and plans of action are now needed. 

So what in the world is the spiritual application with this story? 

“Fear of man will prove to be a snare, but whoever trusts in the LORD is kept safe.”- Proverbs 29:25 

The fear of man is something we have all experienced at one time or another. The fear of man does not just mean that we actually are fearful that someone will hurt us in some way. To fear others, oftentimes, means that we try to please man more than we try to please God. Let’s take this type of fear into consideration.

It begins when we are able to clap our pudgy baby hands. We do something outrageously perfect such as sitting up on our own or reaching for a toy. Our parents joyfully exclaim how proud they are and encourage us to do it again. We learn cause and effect. We learn that our actions have the potential to get a hand clap or a “hooray”. We love the response we get from the adults as they coo over us. 

Our need to please others continues through our childhood. Good grades, blue ribbons, and college acceptance letters make us feel special and bring smiles to faces. Friends and peers approve of you when you help, give, or, oftentimes, give in. 

We continue our need to please others throughout our adult life with the same purpose as a one year old waiting for the audience in the room to burst into applause. Some people are the ultimate people pleaser. Some people have a healthy balance. And there are a few who seek only to please themselves. 

A healthy balance is probably the way to go. But when we seek to please others more than God, we must beware. Beware of the snare.

Like a tiny mouse caught in a trap, our need to please others becomes the tasty treat we seek so desperately. It can enslave us so greatly that it becomes our primary goal in life. It can become like a snare that deceives us into thinking that the approval of others is the standard by which we should judge ourselves. Something as small as what to wear…to something as big as sharing our faith…If we allow the approval or disapproval of others be our standard for living, we have allowed the enemy an invitation to speak into our life.

God is a holy and righteous God who only allows holy and righteous people into heaven. If we judge ourselves by the standard of others, we seem to be doing pretty well. Murder? Never. Adultery? No way. But God only judges us by the standard of a holy and righteous God. A little something called the Ten Commandments is a good place to start. Have you murdered? No. Have you hated? At one point… I’m sure the answer is yes. Have you committed adultery? No way. Have you lusted? Let’s be honest. Our holy and righteous God will not allow you into His holy and righteous kingdom. Because the standard is not your best friend’s cousin who is in jail for theft. The standard is Jesus Christ.

Speaking of Jesus, we can be grateful that our holy and righteous God knows that we are not holy and righteous in and of ourselves. It is Christ in us that makes us worthy to enter heaven. It is Christ in us that makes us worthy to be called a child of God. And it is He alone by which all can be saved. If you ask me, no approval of others compares to that of the only one who can set us free.

It is your choice. Approval of man will send you falling into a popcorn box. Pretty soon, the peanut butter will be gone. The approval of God will set you free in a field of safety where the sustenance is endless. Ask Ralph and Reginald in a few short hours. They will tell you which they prefer.

Blessings!

REECE AND HER “PHD”

Weeks of baking, making decorations, planning parties, and drinking hot chocolate in the light of the Christmas tree are over. Weeks of singing Christmas songs, watching Christmas movies, making gingerbread houses, and preparing for the best day of the year are now…over.

Once the cousins, grandparents, and aunts and uncle leave our house, Reece immediately obtains her PHD. Unfortunately, I’m not talking about an advanced collegiate degree. I’m talking about her own version of “Post Holiday Depression.” The “After Christmas Blues”. The “I waited for this day all year long and then, boom, it’s over.”

For the next few days after Christmas, Reece will let out random, yet extra long sighs. She voices her disappointment in the annoying passing of time with comments such as “only 364 more days”. An almost solemn tone in her voice remains for several days until the new year. Don’t get me wrong. The “reason for the season” is always in the forefront of her mind. But even still, PHD has a way of infecting wide eyed Christmas loving kids all over the world.

It is no secret that our family loves that time of year. As soon as the last Thanksgiving meal bite is eaten, it is time to prepare for the best birthday ever. Red and green overtakes every other color in our house. Reece begins her annual “Christmas Craft a Day” tradition when she creates some sort of new decoration or recipe each day. The homemade countdown calendar goes on display and Moses can sport his snowman sweaters and Santa shirts proudly. Even the chicken coop and rabbit pen have no choice but to participate in the festivities as they fall victim to the Christmas decorating fairy.

Yes, the season of hope is cherished in our home. And why wouldn’t it be? The birth of our Savior should be more celebrated than any other birthday of the year. So I proudly admit that there are never too many gingerbread houses on display and there is never enough “O Holy Night” harmonizing through our home.

We were determined to ensure that Christmas 2016 would be extra special for Reece. The past two Christmases left a couple of tainted memories for her. A mean spell of mononucleosis hit her two years ago. And last year, our beloved rooster, Floyd, was killed by a hawk on Christmas day.

I am happy to report that Christmas 2016 was extra special. But it also made it extra difficult to see December 25th pass. Hence, we lightheartedly labeled Reece’s condition PHD. She has recovered well the past couple of weeks. Her annual New Years celebration slumber party with her grandparents and cousins usually has a way of becoming the “next best day” of the year. The fact that we agreed to leave the smaller tree in the living room as a “Valentine’s Day” tree has also given her a new countdown and daily motivation for baking and crafting.

Hope. I would say the antonym of this term would be disappointment. We hope for good news. We hope for good days. We hope for a lot don’t we? We also get disappointed a lot don’t we? I think that is one of the reasons I love Christmas so dearly. It is a reminder that in spite of disappointment, hope remains. The greatest picture of hope we could possibly have came into the world two thousand years ago.

“Therefore, since we have been justified through faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have gained access by faith into this grace in which we now stand. And we rejoice in the hope of the glory of God. Not only so, but we also rejoice in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance; perseverance, character, and character, hope. And hope does not disappoint us, because God has poured out his love into our hearts by the Holy Spirit, whom he has given us.” Romans 5:1-5

There are several facts we can take from this passage. We can take joy in our trials. Why? God redeems them for our good.  He has a way of taking suffering and turning it into purpose. He has a way of taking problems and turning them into solutions.

Another fact-In the midst of our troubles the grace of God allows us to seek Him more. This, in turn, produces in us a perseverance that can only come about through difficult times. Think of a season in your own life when you endured…and survived. Are you the same person today because of it? I doubt it. Your character was enhanced. Your wisdom was increased.

And then…there is hope. Hope comes about when we endure and our character is built further. Hope in our strength, hope in our life, and most importantly, hope in an eternal destiny awaiting us. Unlike a worldly hope, this hope will not disappoint us. Through God’s grace, we can look beyond our current troubles to a hope in our Savior and a hope for His return. As we wait, the Holy Spirit comforts us in our trials and the presence of God is ushered in.

So as Reece recovers successfully from her PHD each year, the hope of future Christmases remains. We could all use a little hope throughout the year couldn’t we? My hope is that we cling to the hope that will never disappoint.

Blessings!

BAD NEWS BIRD

Female of saffron yellow finch

He came to us at some point over the fall. The one eyed brown finch we came to know as Bob.

The row of large shrubs directly adjacent to our chicken pen has been home to a family of finches for some time. Moses, our bird dog, spends much of his outdoor time stalking them and hoping to scare them to another home. However, they incessantly have made it clear that they do not intend to leave. In fact, they have become so much at home that they make frequent visits to the pen to mingle with our hens. The hens are quite tolerant of them and don’t seem to mind the company.

It was this past fall that we realized that, not only were these birds mooching off the food and water in the chicken pen, but they were also incredibly comfortable being around us humans. When we go into the chicken pen it is not uncommon to almost step on one of the little guys. They rarely fly out of the way but merely step aside when we walk by. They spend the middays lounging inside the coop itself. They can be seen perching on the roost or sitting in the nesting box as though they were meant to do so.

I am almost certain their intent has been more than to integrate themselves into the culture of chickens. I believe they are convinced that they are, indeed, chickens.

Not too long ago we noticed Bob. While walking past the row of bushes we noticed one of the finches quietly perched on a small branch. Like always, he did not fly away. But we also noticed that one of his eyes was missing. He took on the name One Eyed Bird. Very original, I know. He did not, however, become known as Bob until days later.

Let me explain.

Moses often gets himself into situations that he regrets. This past spring he located a nest of newborn baby rabbits by our house.  We are not sure how it came about, but long story short, Moses was found “babysitting” a tiny furless bunny. Had he excitedly and regrettably pawed the rabbit from it’s nest? Somewhat likely. But the fact that the bunny was now laying directly on top of one of Moses’ paws was a clear indication that something suspicious had occurred. When confronting Moses, he innocently and gently nudged the baby rabbit then looked back at me as if to say “look Mom. I’m taking care of him for you.”

Such a similar situation occurred with Bob a few days after we met him. A weak and nearly lifeless Bob lay directly in front of an all too quiet bird dog. Moses insisted he was not the culprit even though all evidence pointed to him. Needless to say, Bob became our daughter’s indoor patient for the next few days.

Reece nursed him back to health with lots of love, VetRX, probiotics (for poultry), and nourishing water with added electrolytes. (There is no halfway of doing things in this home).

Sunday morning came and it was unanimously decided that Bob was ready to be set free again. The plan was to do so when we returned home from church that afternoon. Unfortunately, plans changed. When we returned home we found that Bob had apparently drown in the tiny children’s medicine cup filled with the nourishing water meant to cure him. Face down and feet up, he was probably unable to pull himself from the cup while trying to get a drink. Talk about an ironic and sad turn of events.

Oftentimes, despite our best efforts, life happens. What is that certain something in which you have invested so much energy? Who is that certain someone in whom you have invested so much heart and time? The result?

An uncertain and unexpected outcome. Disappointment. Heartache. Betrayal perhaps?

“And immediately, while he was still speaking, Judas came, one of the twelve, and with him a crowd with swords and clubs, from the chief priests and the scribes and the elders. Now the betrayer had given them a sign, saying, “The one I will kiss is the man. Seize him and lead him away under guard.” And when he came, he went up to him at once and said, “Rabbi!” And he kissed him.” Mark 14:43-45

No one has experienced the feeling of betrayal more than Jesus. Investing three years into the lives of 12 people. Day in and day out, Jesus not only delved into their lives, but he also allowed them to delve into his life. They saw him happy, they saw him sad. They saw him laugh at their jokes and they laughed at his jokes. They saw him tired, hungry, and disappointed. They saw him in his righteous anger. They probably asked him questions about his childhood. Maybe he shared with them that he actually felt nervous the first time he taught in the temple as a mere child.

The fully God and fully human Savior of mankind had, no doubt, learned what it was like to show vulnerability to others. To trust others with a fully human trust. (It will always remain a mystery to me how God the Creator was also so incredibly human those 33 years).

Because Jesus was, well, God, he also knew which of his disciples would ultimately betray him. Yet he chose to continually invest his time into the one who would ultimately betray him. Why? I will leave that for another post.

But don’t let this minimize your perception of how much it must have hurt Jesus to realize this fact. Don’t let his “all knowingness” tempt you into thinking that the hurt was not as real. The fact that Jesus felt deep hurt just as we do is evident in several occasions recorded in scripture. He weeped over the death of his friend, Lazarus. He turned over tables when he saw the unholy treatment of God’s holy place. He cried out in anguish as the pieces of bone and metal from the Roman soldier’s whip tore into his back.

Yes, I think it is safe to say that Jesus knew suffering. He knew disappointment. And he knows what it is you are enduring at this moment. There was a stripe on his body representing that sickness. There was a tear in the Garden of Gethsemane for that heartbreak. There were a few nails on that cross for that sin.

He knew what coming to earth would mean for him. He did it anyway.

Do I wish we could have proudly released Bob the bird from his cage that day? Of course. Would I have allowed Reece to turn our craft room into a veterinarian clinic had I known Bob’s ultimate fate? I had no choice.  Bob reminded me that we often step out in blind faith…and that is ok.

Blessings!

 

 

 

 

CHRISTMAS CAROL

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REPOST FROM PREVIOUS POST

Boom!

This is not uncommon to hear at our house. Not a firework. A bird. Let me explain.

Apparently, I keep my windows way too clean. It is almost a routine occurrence that a bird will be joyfully flying along and then fly head first into our windows or doors. If I happen to be in the right spot at the right time, I am able to witness the remnants of feathers slowly drifting to the ground.

This one particular day several weeks prior to Christmas, I heard that all too familiar “boom”. I looked out the door…Nothing. How odd. A  few minutes later, we found her.

We named her Carol. A cardinal at Christmas…very fitting. I am a sucker for the injured animal soul. In fact, show me someone who is more of a sucker and I will show you two…my husband and daughter.

As soon as they found her on our deck, limp and barely alive, the race was on to save her life. We did not expect her to make it. Her neck was seemingly broken. Her will to live, though, not crushed. Yet, what to do with a bird with a broken neck? Electrolytes, of course! (Reece’s idea). Because every home has powdered electrolytes specifically made for feathered friends…ok, maybe not. Maybe only homes like ours.

On went the latex hospital gloves generously offered to Reece from a nurse during a hospital visit. She must have known the necessity of these gloves that would come forth for the cause of all animals. A stethoscope. Gauze. Thorough documentation in a notepad. Yes, if this experience does not get Reece into vet school in about 7 years, I will be highly surprised.

In addition to Reece’s efforts, we determined that it may be suitable to involve experts in the field.

Enthusiastically, phone calls were made to local nature centers and rescue facilities. Being sure they would thank us for our heroic efforts and rush over to behold that which we had kept alive, we were a bit unsettled by what they told us. “Let nature take its course. There is nothing we can do.”

It was up to Reece.

“Then they cried out to the LORD in their trouble; He saved them out of their distresses.” – Psalm 107:19

It is no secret that God is fully able to rescue us from all our troubles, all our distresses, and all our trials. He is fully able to rescue us from death, from sickness, and the enemy.

The key to our rescue? Crying out to him. He is ready, waiting, and desiring to be the one you turn to. He graciously awaits the moment when you surrender everything to him. We tend to hold on to a lot of our “stuff” and only give him a fraction of it.

Friend, he wants it all. All your burdens, he will carry. All your tears, he will bottle up. All your heart, he will guard. You must let him.

Had Jason and Reece not walked by Carol that day on the deck, that could have been her last day of flying. Had she resisted the efforts of her rescuer to mend her wounds and nurse her back to health, her days of freedom could have been non existent. Because she allowed the rescuer to do what rescuers do, we proudly set her free after about a week.

Our Christmas cardinal comes back to visit us still. We recognize her because of her slightly crooked stance. I am sure her identifiable uniqueness reminds her that freedom only comes with surrender.

-Blessings!

A CAT TALE

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Sitting in my treehouse reading a book to a litter of kittens. This was not an unordinary thing for me to do as a little girl. When I was nine years old we obtained our first cat named Lulu. For the next few years, Lulu would ensure that we would never go “kittenless”. As a child, this was alright with me. I was pretty much obsessed with cats at the time.

Many of my childhood memories surround various balls of cuteness. From a cat named Buffy who would give her life to save her kittens, to a cat named Templeton who loved to eat corn and also thought he was a dog…I could probably write a book on the out of the ordinary adventures that unfolded throughout the years. And I was always certain that there was no one who existed who loved cats more than I did. In fact, I was also confident that there was not a cat that did not love me.

Until Aaron came along. While in college, I would meet my future husband. Then…I would meet his cat. The first time I saw her (yes, “her”, in spite of the male spelling of her name…long story)…The first time I saw Aaron I was sure that the “cat loverness” in me would instantly cause her to love me. I was very wrong.

For the next several years, while dating Jason, Aaron never ceased to remind me who was the first woman in his life. She made me rethink all the years that I had been an avid cat lover as a child. She was…let’s see…Evil.

Many times, she cornered me on a flight of stairs threatening to attack if I walked past her. She would “appear” in a doorway and stare maliciously  when Jason and I watched a movie. Her growling threats were ominous and her extremely rare quirks were unmatched. I must say, to date Jason, was to endure his cat.

Most newlyweds worry about finances, mortgages, or having enough furniture. I worried about sleeping arrangements. Many nights I would feel lurking paws and beaming eyes hovering over my pillow. I imagined she was pondering my accidental suffocation. Over time, these nightly “meetings” dissipated and she settled for a place at the foot of the bed.

It was as though she knew she had lost. She was no longer the “woman in his life”. Her situation did not change. In fact, it became even more out of her control once our daughter was born. She gave up. The final white flag was raised. The ominous creature who was banned from a local veterinarian office years prior, was now softening into a gentle, although still very quirky, friend. Aaron would not only become a perfect household pet, she would become an almost necessary part of our family. I found myself slowly, slowly, slowly bonding with her.

Like Aaron’s early territorial battle, our own situations can become rough, to say the least. They become out of our control. They can cause us to feel helpless. How often do we beg God to take us out of the storm? How often do we pray that the burden be lifted? And how often does God say “not yet”? Many times, He just seems to remain silent.

“Then he got into the boat and his disciples followed him.  Suddenly a furious storm came up on the lake, so that the waves swept over the boat. But Jesus was sleeping.” – Matthew 8:23-24

Sound familiar? You follow Jesus faithfully, as did the disciples. You spend time with him. You go where he goes. Then a storm comes and Jesus decides to sleep. Why? Why is it that the God who set mountains into place and hung planets in space does not offer a little help once in a while?

My friend, please note. God is never silent. He is never unaware of your needs. He is never ignorant of your hurt. And for goodness sake, he never refuses to offer help. Then what possible explanation can we give for the times He seemingly leaves us in dire circumstances?

When God is not changing your situation He is wanting to change your heart.

Read the rest of the story. In fact, read the rest of the book of Matthew! The disciples learned something about Jesus they never would have learned otherwise.  “He replied, “You of little faith, why are you so afraid?” Then he got up and rebuked the winds and the waves, and it was completely calm. The men were amazed and asked, “What kind of man is this? Even the winds and the waves obey him!”-Matthew 8:26-27.

They learned that Jesus had the power and authority to cause even the winds and waves to bow at his feet. But I imagine that they also learned a little something about trust.

I will say it again. When God is not changing your situation He is wanting to change your heart. Maybe He is wanting you to learn how to trust Him. Maybe He wants you to learn how to endure. Maybe He is teaching you how to love stronger, live more humbly, or recognize what is important.

A stubborn, arrogant, and threatening three year old cat softened into a stubborn, arrogant, and loving family member. She lived 13 more happy years of her life in the same situation, but with a changed little cat heart.

Your seemingly never ending season of suffering will one day subside. Until then, dig in your heels and let your soul be taught and your heart be changed.

Blessings!

LEAPING FOR LIMBS

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“Ready, set, stay”! What a tricky thing to say to a dog who is ready to pounce. How deceptive a last word of an, otherwise, familiar phrase.

But there it is. The one word that changes the entire result. The command that challenges the familiar and one that tests the true focus and obedience of a dog.

Our German Shorthaired Pointer, Moses, has his fair share of tricks he has learned over the years. One such trick involves running and leaping as high as possible in an attempt to reach a tree limb. Moses is able to run about as fast as a cheetah. He has also been known to jump higher than any dog should be able to jump. When we discovered this talent, we would encourage him to obey our request to run and leap only when commanded to do so. We would say “ready, set, go”! He would then run like the wind and leap as high as possible to reach a tree limb. 

Over time, however, we realized that he was performing not because he was listening, but because he was able to predict what we wanted. He had become so accustomed to this game that it was no longer a test of his skill but just a display of his athleticism and memorization. That is when we decided to test his listening skills by changing a keyword in such a familiar phrase. We wanted him to obey rather than to just perform.  

As you can imagine, it took quite a few tries for him to comply with this request successfully. After some confusion, surprised looks, and do overs, Moses finally learned to literally listen before he leaped.

When commanded to “ready, set, go” he would run and do his thing. When told to “ready,set, stay”… there he would sit until commanded otherwise. 

What a difference one word can make. 

Deuteronomy 4:2 says “Do not add to what I command you and do not subtract from it, but keep the commands of the Lord your God that I give you.”

Pretty clear, huh? Scripture tells us on several occasions to be careful to obey what is written. It warns us to take heed before we disrespect the written word of God by adding to or taking away from it. We are to do what is commanded of us, nothing more, nothing less. 

For those who make it a habit of using scripture to make life more convenient, I say to you be careful. To attempt to adjust scripture to mean what you want it to mean is to walk through some dangerous territory.

We see it all the time though don’t we? Society has called what is unholy holy. Our world has trampled on the meaning of righteous living. I dare say that many pulpits are filled with pastors who will water down truth so as to not offend others.

Is it any wonder that our nation is in the shape that it is in today? We should not be surprised that it seems as though the hedge of protection around our country is slowly being lifted. Because maybe, just maybe, it is. 

Adding to or taking away from scripture has dire consequences. It creates lukewarm churches, lukewarm Christians, and ineffective living. On a larger scale it has created false religions, deceived people, and caused judgement when there could have been mercy. 

Listen closely to what the Lord speaks to you through scripture and through prayer. One word can make all the difference. 

“And if anyone takes words away from this scroll of prophecy, God will take away from that person any share in the tree of life and in the Holy City, which are described in this scroll.”- Revelation 22:19

-Blessings!

HANGING WITH THE HENS

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Some people take a long bath. Some people prop their feet up on the couch. Others take a run or a long walk. After a long day of work people often have a ritual that helps them to ease back into the comforts of life off the clock. 

What do I do when I get home from work? I hang out with chickens. After doing a million necessary things first, I then do what I recommend everyone should do after a day of hustle and bustle.  I am officially beyond in love with our little flock of hens. The five of them know just how to remind me to slow down and enjoy life. 

After throwing ourselves into the needy palms of the world each day, there is nothing like sliding into the comfort of serenity we call “home”. My home happens to involve a miniature petting zoo, which happens to include a chicken coop and five spoiled hens.

There is something about having chickens that cannot be understood by someone without chickens. Working in the garden, the yard, or whatever else your outdoor agenda involves, becomes less of a chore and more of an enjoyment with feathered friends nearby. Want to hang out by the pool? How about some friendly feathers to soak up some rays with you? Maybe it’s their sweet little noises. Maybe it’s their funny mannerisms. Maybe it’s just a whole lot of things about them that make me love being around them.

But there is one established fact that is undeniable when it comes to chickens. They are purposeful.

They mow the grass, pull weeds, eat pesky bugs, fertilize the ground, and supply protein filled eggs (with a third of the cholesterol of store bought eggs, by the way). They make awesome lap pets and even allow cuddling when you need it. That mosquito that just landed on your arm? Never fear. The quick reflex of a beak will take care of it in a flash.

Purpose. We all seek it. We want to know what our purpose is in our family, our job, our church, and our life. I am confident that the most used word in the human language would have to be the word “why”. It is not enough for us to do, be, think, believe,…We must know why. Try telling a three year old the grass is green. She will want to know why. When you tell her that is just how God made it, she will ask why. When you tell her He thought green would be pretty to look at, she will want to know why. We want to feel like we are here for a reason.

“Remember Jesus Christ, raised from the dead, descended from David. This is my gospel, for which I am suffering even to the point of being chained like a criminal. But God’s word is not chained. Therefore I endure everything for the sake of the elect, that they too may obtain the salvation that is in Christ Jesus, with eternal glory.”- 2 Timothy 2:8-10

The apostle Paul clearly lived a life full of purpose. To suffer? Well, that came along with it. To be imprisoned? It just came with the territory at that time. His purpose was to spread the gospel of Christ. His purpose was one that led him to miraculous encounters and deadly experiences. His purpose was, how do I want to say this…OUR purpose, as well.

It is not enough to believe. It is not enough to have faith. It is what you do with that faith that matters. Are you hoarding the good news of salvation through Christ or are you living in a way so that “they too may obtain the salvation that is in Christ Jesus”?

How satisfying it is to own a pet with purpose. One who offers more than just companionship and snuggles. One who knows there is work to be done and does it. If you are among the few fortunate souls who have truly surrendered their heart and life to Jesus, then your task is clear.

“How, then, can they call on the one they have not believed in? And how can they believe in the one of whom they have not heard? And how can they hear without someone preaching to them?”- Romans 10:14

Blessings!

CONFESSION TIME

Written by my husband, Jasonold-car-15464561

Confession: I used to steal cars.

In fact, during the summer of 2001, I actually stole 3. And words cannot describe the adrenaline that one feels when getting into a car… that is not yours and hastily pulling away. There’s really nothing like it.

I should probably clarify something off the bat. I worked as a repo man for a few months when I was younger. And “stealing cars” is a term given in the repo business when the bank or dealership requests that a vehicle be retrieved without the owner’s approval or prior knowledge. It’s perfectly legal. In fact, just prior to “stealing” a car, I had to first contact the local authorities to let them know who I was and what I was about to do, just in case the owner tried to call and report the vehicle as stolen.

There was certainly an element of danger involved when stealing one. And honestly, though the pay was less, I much preferred retrieving a vehicle where the owner was aware and a prior agreement was made for me to just stop by and pick it up.

Though I only worked as a repo man for a few months, I learned a few valuable life-lessons that I’ll never forget. I want to share a few of the lessons I learned:

1) Always try to show kindness and compassion to those who are hurting or struggling.

Though I witnessed a lot of pride, I also witnessed a lot of humility. Some people couldn’t fight back the tears as they handed over their keys. I learned that whatever a person is struggling with, the struggle is real to them. May God help us if we ever become so hardhearted that we’re no longer moved by another’s pain. When given the opportunity, I would always try to encourage the people I’d meet. Though words won’t remove the reality behind one’s pain, it almost always helps to ease it, if even but temporarily. The world could use a little more kindness and compassion.

2) “Everyone” has a story.

Often when retrieving a vehicle, the owner would feel compelled to tell me their story. Many of them seemed genuine and legitimate, such as “loss of employment”, “divorce”, or “unexpected medical bills.” But out of all the stories told me, I never once heard someone say,

– “I got myself into this mess.”
– “I have a spending problem.”
– “I never learned how to budget my money.”
– “The bank offered me the loan, but I knew I really couldn’t afford it.”

I never heard anyone take personal responsibility. And that always bothered me. Because if I’m suffering an adverse consequence of some kind, it’s more than likely due to a poor choice that “I” made. And I’m adult enough to admit that. I haven’t always used good judgment. I’ve messed things up. My fault. Not yours or anyone else’s. Mine.

Wouldn’t it be nice if everyone took personal responsibility for their mistakes instead of making excuses or redirecting blame?

3) You can’t judge a book by it’s vehicle… or, something like that.

You would be mistaken to think most of the vehicles repossessed came from lower income families. Some were, but many were not. I remember receiving a work order for a gentleman I actually knew in the legal community. He was a lawyer and lived in a very nice home. And yet there I was at his house attempting to retrieve the late model luxury car he could no longer afford.

Here’s something for us to remember: Just because someone wears a suit and tie doesn’t mean they’re wealthy. Just because someone drives a luxury car doesn’t mean they can afford it. And just because you see someone who appears to have it all together doesn’t mean the life they’re hiding isn’t crumbling around them. Let’s not be so quick to assume. Be gracious and kind to everyone.

And for what it’s worth, I think the world could use a few more people who are content with who they are and what they have.

4) I learned that perspective is everything.

One of the most memorable moments I had in retrieving a car came at the home of a middle-aged black gentleman. He came to the door soon after I rang the bell. He knew who I was and why I was there, and he came to the door with his keys in hand. He kept the conversation short, but I’ll never forget his words. He told me:

“My wife and I were going through a difficult season in our marriage. We were separated for several months and about to get divorced. I acted a fool and let things get out of hand. But the LORD called me back. And when I came back, He fixed me and my marriage. I almost lost my wife, but we’re back together. And that’s the most important thing right now. This… This is just a car. It can be replaced. And if the LORD can fix me and my marriage, everything else will work out just fine. We’re going to be OK.” And as he handed me the keys, he told me, “the LORD is good.”

He had it right. The LORD “is” good- even when you have to give your car back to the bank. And everything “will” work out just fine. Seasons come and go. If you’re experiencing a season of pain in your life, be encouraged, it won’t last forever. But likewise, if you’re experiencing a season of peace and calm it won’t last forever either. But regardless of what season we’re in, the LORD is still good, and with Him in control, it all will be just fine.

So there you have it. Confessions of a repo man. Just be sure if you tell someone that I used to steal cars, you tell them the whole story!

~ Jason Mayfield
Brushy Fork Baptist Church

BIRTHDAY CAKE

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                   Yes, chicken feet

A birthday cake.

It represents more than mouth watering sugary goodness. It symbolizes so much more than a way to tell someone “hey, I’m glad you were born.” In the right context it can evoke emotions that would normally be created from watching a Hallmark movie. In the proper setting it will remind a person just how fleeting this thing we call “life” really is. 

The birthday cake. 

From the time Reece turned one, I have viewed the cake as the primary focus of her parties. This year has marked the fifteenth time I have made her birthday cake. The fifteenth time I have planned her party…or shall I say…her event. And the cake has always served as the centerpiece from which all decor and schedule of events derives. 

It began somewhat accidentally. When she was going to turn one I found a cake pan shaped like Noah’s Ark and figured that surely I could do it. Surely I could pull off making the cake myself. To my surprise and delight, I did! By the time I placed the last frosted ear on the giraffe I was hooked. From then on, every birthday for my daughter would cause me to go into full event planning mode. 

One year 18 little princesses got makeovers and prepared themselves for Cinderella’s ball. Another year fifteen little dog trainers “showed” their dogs and were judged at the “Eastminster Dog Show”. A few birthdays later, 20 little pre-teens received a mysterious fancy dinner invitation only to find out they would become part of an investigation for a mysterious pet rat kidnapping. Making a movie, attending a sock hop, a surprise pool party…sigh. 

As she becomes older it is becoming more clear to me that my party planning days will soon come to an end. Instead of pretending to get ready for the ball she will one day get ready for her groom. (Even though she insists her busy life schedule will leave no room for a husband).

Yes, the birthday cake. Once it was adorned with a three dimensional farm scene. One day it will just be a cake with too many candles on it. One thing will never change. Being her mom has been and will continue to be the greatest gift I could have ever imagined. Her personality has no match. Her talent has no limit. She has taught me how to be a mom and how to love more than I thought possible. 

Hopefully she knows that beyond the exhilarating stress of carrying out her parties each year, I view each of her birthdays as a sacred day. The day I realized that every one of my heart beats were not just for me but also for a gorgeous 6 pound 10 oz new human being that depended on me for everything. The day I realized how heart wrenching it must have been for God to let go of His own Son on the cross. The emptiness I already feel when I think of her heading to vet school fails in comparison to God’s experience of His own loss. 

“For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life.” 

John 3:16 has to be the most familiar scripture even to those not familiar at all with scripture. It has become so familiar, in fact, that we often tend to let its meaning and seriousness become dissolved in a spiritual concoction of indifference. When, in truth, the complexity of this verse is beyond comparison to so many other bits of scripture. John 3:16 serves as some of the strongest evidence of how much God loves us and the extremes to which he has gone to show us that love. 

Ponder this today. Ponder the seriousness of what God did according to this verse. Meditate on the divine new birth He offers to those who are willing. And soak in the extreme sacrifice that was made to save you.

A birthday cake reminds us that we have lived 365 more days. God’s Word reminds us we can live for eternity.

Blessings!

FOCUS ON THE FLY

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“Do you see what I see?”

The early morning hunter must have it. The athlete must have it. The heart surgeon must have it. 

None of them, however, have as much of it as a dog on a point. 

Focus.

Moses, my German Shorthaired pointer, has mastered the art of pointing. Striking a pose is what he does best. Westminster judges would surely be impressed. Bird dogs are professionals. Locating a hunter’s prize is what they were bred to do. Directing attention to the prey is what they do best. Moses’ choice of prey? Don’t laugh…Flies.

If you want to see focus come witness Moses point at a fly. No fly stands a chance of survival when it mistakenly enters the interior of our house…or the exterior of our house. A hunter is lurking nearby who will ensure that whatever plans the fly had are short lived.  When he finds it, there is hardly a distraction that can alter his stance. I have watched over ten minutes go by without him ceasing to let go of the staring contest between him and the black speck on the wall. 

At the nonchalant mention of the word “fly”, Moses comes running. “Where is it? I will save you from it”, he claims. His mission and goal at the moment are the primary focus.

“Let your eyes look straight ahead; fix your gaze directly before you. Give careful thought to the paths for your feet and be steadfast in all your ways. Do not turn to the right or the left; keep your foot from evil.”- Proverbs 4:25-27

Where does your life stand at this moment? Where is your focus? Think about your steps along that path before you. Is it a narrow one? Or does its width expand so far that your finite eyes become overstimulated with the scenery?

Remember that ole saying “For wide is the gate and broad is the road that leads to destruction…”? Oh wait, that’s not a saying. It’s a reminder from scripture.

If you are a child of the One True King, you have a mission. You have a purpose. You have a goal. Like a soldier in battle you are equipped to complete this mission. Do not make the mistake of straying from the narrow path that leads to righteousness. Things of the world are often attractive…what the world has to offer is often tempting. But remember this, wandering eyes only bring heartache.

If Moses releases his glance off the fly…If he releases the stance of his point…the prey gets away and the mission is aborted. Keep your eyes focused and your stance prepared for the assignment!

Blessings!

DOG GONE DOG

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He is a dog. I know this. But to have lived with him as part of our family for almost eight years, the term “dog” seems too…primitive. To me he is, well, just Moses. 

Each new day allows him to prove how “un dog-like” he is.  Not too many dogs beg for a microscopic dab of toothpaste on their nose while his owner is brushing her teeth. 

Dogs usually don’t babysit the pet rabbit and give her firm discipline when she begins to misbehave.

Dogs don’t usually purposefully walk into the path of the leaf blower to cool off after his owners mow the grass.

And bird dogs definitely don’t usually submissively play tag with a rooster.

You know what it’s like. Those small special moments you have with your pet that lock your bond with him. He knows your next move and you know what he is thinking. For the doubters out there who think dogs don’t know what you say  when you tell them how much you love them, I disagree. I am confident Moses relishes my praises and my affectionate words.

For him to be so “un dog-like” most of the time, it comes as somewhat of a shock to me when he acts very, well, “dog-like”.

The other night I followed my usual bed time routine. Checked all the doors to make sure they were locked. Then I let Moses out for his last bathroom break of the night. As soon as we walked outside, I noticed it.

The white tail, the long bony legs, and the tall antlers. This wasn’t the first time a deer had been seen grazing in our yard.  Coyotes and other such night time prowlers often come a bit too close to our house for comfort. This was the first time, however, Moses seemed extremely offended that Bambi found our grass forage worthy. 

After completing his business, Moses suddenly realized the presence of the visitor. Usually a warning chase to the end of the yard is satisfactory enough for Moses. This night, however, he intended to make sure the deer left the county. 

After disappearing for what seemed like minutes, Moses made his way back to the front porch. His posture and his eyes begged for me to tell him how impressive he truly is. He proudly pranced back inside probably hoping I would brag about his daring chase. Instead, I scolded him for leaving our property.

Events such as deer chasing remind me that this bird dog is a… bird dog. Take away the cuddles, the lap sitting, the soul searching eyes, and the submission to a hedgehog, and you have the real deal… a bird dog. His true nature does not often parade itself. But when it does, I am reminded that his pure bred tendencies still exist.

Does this remind you of…you? You try to do right. You try to live a life holy and pleasing in the Lord’s sight. But then you mess up again. You have been forgiven of a past, but it won’t stop reminding you that it used to own you. You try to do what Colossians 3 tells us…

“Put to death, therefore, whatever belongs to your earthly nature…You used to walk in thee ways, in the life you once lived…You have taken off your old self with its practices and have put on the new self, which is being renewed in knowledge in the image of its Creator.”- Colossians 3:5-10 (summarized)

And then you mess up again. It seems like with each small victory, the enemy is right there to whisper to you how unworthy you are, how unholy you are, and how hopeless you are. In fact, in the eyes of many,  for you to act so “un Christian-like” so much of the time, it comes as a shock to them when you act very, well, “Christian-like”.

 It’s time for a refresher course on your true identity. If you are indeed saved, you need to look at this checklist below. The whispers of the enemy can be hushed by the shouts of God’s perception of you.

You are God’s child (John 1:12)

You have been justified (Romans 5:1)

You are Christ’s friend (John 15:15)

You belong to God (1 Corinthians 6:20)

You are a citizen of heaven (Philippians 3:20)

You were chosen before the creation of the world (Ephesians 1:4,11)

You are forgiven (Ephesians 1:8)

You have purpose (Ephesians 1:9)

You have hope (Ephesians 1:12)

You are included (Ephesians 1:13)

You have access to the Father (Ephesians 2:18)

You can bring glory to God (Ephesians 3:21)

You can forgive others (Ephesians 4:32)

You are not alone (Hebrews 13:5)

This list could almost be never ending. I could continue. Look in the bible. God does continue. One of my personal favorite ones is that I am promised eternal life (John 6:47) I once was lost but now I’m found.

Until we shed this flesh, and our true self, our soul, is in heaven, we will continue to struggle with this flesh. We will make mistakes. We will fall short. Like a bird dog acting like a bird dog, we will act very…human. Thank goodness our goodness is not what it takes to get us to heaven. It is only by redemption through Christ’s blood that we are called children of God.

“So that being justified by his grace we might become heirs according to the hope of eternal life.”- Titus 3:7

Blessings!

HOMEMADE BILLY CLUBS

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Perfect fingernails. That is the first thing I remember noticing on her as I held my newborn baby. When I examined her tiny hands for the first time, I made note of the perfectly manicured fingernails untainted by the harshness of the world to which she was now introduced. It would not be long before those tiny fingers would begin to prove themselves useful and ready for adventure rather than just pretty and squeezable.

I did not realize, at the time, that one day these fingers would glide meticulously across the keys of a piano, perform a homemade surgery on a rooster’s foot, and know right when to release the pull of the string on a recurve bow.

And then…those fingers started giving me clues as to the kind of girl this newborn would soon become.

It started with the seemingly innocent restaurant scenarios. I recall sitting at tables in restaurants holding her in my lap. The first thing she would do is reach out for the utensils wrapped tightly in a napkin. I would unwind the napkin to locate the rounded edges of a spoon to keep her occupied. She would persistently push away the “safe to play with” object and immediately attempt to reach for the jagged edges of a steak knife. She would do whatever she could to try to prove to me that her petite framed 8 month old personality would one day be a larger than life, thrill seeking, danger chaser. I became a professional “knife push awayer” because of her.

As Reece grew older, she began to show more signs of her love for weaponry. My dad introduced her to pocket knives and the art of whittling. She was allowed to play with knives before she was allowed to cross the street. I never dreamed that by the age of six, my second grader would have a small collection of homemade wooden arrows and spears displayed in her princess playroom. I remember confiscating her pink pocket knife from her Cinderella backpack on her way to school one morning. She innocently had assumed she would need it in case she came across a bobcat on the playground or found the perfect small branch to carve.

Around the age of 8, she found out she could shoot an arrow at a target at first aim. Foam targets, fake deer, and hand guards were on her Christmas list that year. Not too much time elapsed before a BB gun, throwing knives, and a hatchet were added to such lists.

One thing is for certain. She is somewhat hardcore. There have been times she has been found up in a willow with a bow, holding an ax under a homemade fort camouflaged by branches, or climbing up her tree rope aiming her slingshot.

“How to Survive Anything” books…”Country Wisdom and Know How” books…she has read them almost as thoroughly as her animal books over the years. While most kids were asking for a new bike or new video games, she had other plans of a good time. “One day I really want you to just drop me off in the wilderness so I can see if I can survive and make it back home. I know I could do it.” Many parents would laugh that off. I did too…at first.

The other night before bed, I walked past her room as she sat on her bed reading a book. Quickly realizing I had probably startled her, I backed up and peeked into her room. She quickly laid down her book and said “You scared me! I thought I was gonna have to pull out this.” As though she had done it a thousand times before, she pulled a knife from its sheath that had been tucked under her mattress. At the same time, I noticed what looked like a wooden Billy club look alike leaning on her night stand next to her bed. She explained that Grandaddy had made it for her. When I asked why she had them by her bed she stated in a matter of fact way, “you never know when you will need them. You have to be prepared.”

I should know by now to be “unsurprised” by scenarios such as this.  This is the same girl who has, many times, sought permission to shoot an intruder with her bow if the need were to ever arise. This is the same girl who, as a preschooler, gave her parents the best escape route in case of a home fire rather than learning it from her parents.

“Therefore be on alert, for you do not know which day your Lord is coming. ‘But be sure of this, that if the head of the house had known what time of the night the theif was coming, he would have been on the alert and would not have allowed his house to be broken into.”- Matthew 24:42,43

Whether you are a believer, a doubter, or just plain out of the loop that Jesus is returning, it does not matter. The truth is…it is true. His arrival is a sure thing. It will happen. It will happen soon.

There are numerous places in scripture that remind us of the importance of being ready. He will come like a thief in the night, meaning that no one will know when it will happen. But only those who have confessed Jesus as the redeemer of their sin and the ONLY way to the Father will be excited to witness His arrival.

Live each day like it’s your last. Take advantage of the time you have been given. Stop and smell the roses. These are good recommendations from well intentioned people. But these recommendations are not as thorough as they should be.

Many people have sought to live their day as though it was the last. They spent it by ensuring that their day was filled with laughter, good times, and hugs for loved ones. But had they suddenly collapsed from a fatal heart attack their last day would have merely ushered them into hell. Sound harsh? I hope so. Sound like old time fire and brimstone preaching? Maybe. But I would be doing a disservice to my readers if I let them keep reading without reminding them of their need for the one and only savior of their soul…Jesus Christ.

Go on and breathe in the beautiful aroma of a rose. Your Creator created it. Take your day by the horns and ride carefree into the wind. Your Creator loves it when you enjoy yourself and bring joy to others. But please be ready. Your Creator will be back and He wants you to spend eternity with Him.

Throwing knives, arrows, hatchets…a few of the necessities a girl would need to face either a burglar in the house or a bear in the wilderness. But even greater than these are the weapons that truly count. Ephesians 6 gives us a list…”the belt of truth, the shield of faith, the breastplate of righteousness, shoes of readiness, the helmet of salvation, and the sword of the Spirit.”

Be prepared!

“Look, I am coming soon! My reward is with me,…Blessed are those who wash their robes, that they may have the right to the tree of life and may go through the gates into the city.”-Revelation 22:12, 14

Blessings!

AS LONG AS YOU HAVE A DOG

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Several years ago while driving in the car with Reece, we pulled up to a stoplight next to a humble and broken down house. The house looked as if it had been deserted, and if it had not been, it was undeniably not well attended to. When I looked closer I noticed the small dog pacing the fence in the back yard. Apparently Reece noticed it too.

What she said at that moment was so profound that I made sure I copied it to that part of my memory called “Things Reece Says That I Cannot Forget”. 

She matter of factly stated, “You know,… it wouldn’t matter if I was poor… as long as I had my dog.” 

The innocence and simplicity of the statement made me smile. The wisdom and complexity of the statement made me ponder it for the next little while. 

Because she is basically obsessed with animals, I did not doubt she truly meant her statement. She has always surrounded herself with pets and listening to her future plans, this will only dramatically increase. Her sweet little ways have always intrigued me. Her thought processes have always reminded me that she is beyond her years.

I was reminded of the small envelope I found in her end table drawer years prior. In her four year old writing and spelling, the envelope said “For thu Por Pepl”. Inside the envelope were a few dimes, pennies, and a one dollar bill. At an early age she was well aware that there were others who needed her hard earned preschooler allowance more than she needed it. So she took it upon herself to create a plan for her first offering.

I was also reminded of my precious niece who obviously has the same heart as my daughter. While walking in a parking lot with her parents several years ago, she saw someone who looked as though he could use a smile and a meal. My niece walked up to the man and gave him what money she had.

When Jesus taught that we should become like the little children, He sure meant it. A child like faith, an untainted compassion for others, and a content and heart felt attitude of giving.

Those who call themselves Christians yet fail to have compassion on those their Savior created,…well, the two just do not coincide. Proverbs 14:31 says “Whoever oppresses the poor shows contempt for their Maker, but whoever is kind to the needy honors God.”

Many times in scripture God reminds us of the ways in which we can put our faith in action. Giving to the poor, attending to the needs of the prisoner or the widow and orphan,…the list could go on.

“If a man shuts his ears to the cry of the poor, he too will cry out and not be answered.”- Proverbs 21:13

If we expect God to hear us in our time of need when we pray, then we must also hear and respond to the needs of others. This may not always be a need that can be met financially. What about time invested, a helping hand, or a shoulder to cry on? What about mercy? 

Another aspect of giving of ourselves, whether it be financially or not, is ensuring that what we do have does not control us. In Matthew 19:21, Jesus speaks with a man who prides himself on keeping the commandments. But…Jesus brings to light the state of his heart. (He is good at that). “Jesus answered, ‘If you want to be perfect, go, sell your possessions and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven. Then come, follow me.’ When the young man heard this, he went away sad, because he had great wealth.”

Do we roll our eyes when a friend calls us needing a moment of our precious time? Do we hold on to the grudge to which we think we are entitled? Do we find our hands shaking as we reluctantly hand over that five dollar bill to the man with the sign?

If so, take heed. We may be building our earthly bank account and forfeiting the treasure in heaven in which we should be investing. The mindset of a girl with her dog. The envelope for “thu Por Pepl”. What treasure are you seeking?

Blessings!

 

 

HER HORSE AND CROWN

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It’s that time of year again. The dreaded days children across the nation would rather not face. The moments of carefree poolside hangouts become interrupted. The lack of alarm clocks and lack of backpacks will soon be no more.

The dog days of summer will continue for kids everywhere…but…they will be stuck inside a cold classroom rather than climbing trees. Their bed times will come sooner and their morning routines will become rushed once again.

I remember being one of those kids. The end of June marked the official countdown as summer vacation could be heard laughing maliciously as it started to slip away.

Now, as an adult, I dread the official beginning of a new school year even more. Why? Her.

My daughter keeps getting older despite the fact that I have begged her over and over again to not do so. She keeps getting smarter, more talented, and more beautiful as each year rolls by.

Now, the freshness of holding my 3 month old has turned into the reality of having a “3 more years until college” daughter. She used to play dress up in her princess dress and crown. Now my princess just dresses up. She used to read books about animals. Now she writes books about animals. She used to dream of having a horse. Now she…still dreams of having a horse and riding like the wind. (I often joke with her that God will have her horse and crown waiting for her in heaven so she doesn’t need a horse now. She doesn’t think it’s as funny as I do.)

Time.

It was but a breath ago that someone told me not to blink. Now that I have opened my eyes, the 6 pound bundle of cuteness has become a size 6 shoe display of beauty.

The things she has taught me over her almost 15 years far outnumbers what I have taught her. However, there are a few things I hope to continue to teach her before my young teen becomes not so young anymore.

In addition to touching as little as possible while in a public restroom, there are other important nuggets of insight she has learned over the years. Obviously, the greatest of all being her need for a Savior. Out of everything you teach your children, if you are a parent, please teach them this! But Proverbs 1 reminds us all of the need for something else, as well. Something that will carry our children through as they walk with Christ in this crazy world.

“The proverbs of Solomon son of David, king of Israel: for gaining wisdom and instruction;…for giving…knowledge and discretion to the young…”- Bits and pieces of the first few verses of Proverbs 1. (Please read it all!)

My prayers for my daughter over the years have been and will continue to include things such as safety, health, a strong relationship with Christ, favor, a Godly husband, success, confidence, and a strong heart for others and the things of God. But let’s read Proverbs and take note of the things God wants for us, as well. Wisdom, knowledge, understanding, discretion, to name a few.

It is no secret that we should all seek wisdom as we would seek after treasure. In all that she does, I pray my daughter have the mind of the Lord and that only comes by seeking His wisdom.

But when I read Proverbs 1 recently for the umpteenth time, the word “discretion” jumped out at me almost as much as the word “wisdom”. A good definition of discretion is “the quality of having or showing discernment or good judgment”. This good judgment and discernment comes when we have sought after wisdom wholeheartedly. “In all your getting, get wisdom,” reads another portion of scripture. Once wisdom comes, other beneficial traits will be added to ones character. Hmm. Sounds like something our world certainly could use.

Among the long list of desires for my daughter, wisdom and discretion cry out to be at the top. She can become the successful “vet/animal expert author/ Animal Planet star/ everything else on her long list of future accomplishments” woman she sets out to be. I will be so proud of her when she does. But when she does so with the mind and heart of Christ and seeks His wisdom and will…I will be overjoyed.

So since my prayers for her to remain a toddler have not worked, I suppose these other prayers will have to do. I’m confident God would rather answer those prayers anyway. It won’t be long before she receives her cap and gown. But to receive her horse and crown, oh, what a much greater accomplishment.

Blessings!

 

TOPSY TURVY MEMORIES

My 30 year old gymnastics mat I will not let my husband throw away.
My 30 year old gymnastics mat I will not let my husband throw away.

The world was my gymnastics mat. A piece of flat ground was meant for one thing. A back handspring. The objective of elementary school recess? To display my skills. The main event at slumber parties? Why, Slumber Party Olympics, of course!

Middle and high school years did not change me much. Standing in cheerleading formations gave me a prime opportunity to release the need to randomly flip at a moment’s notice. The most exciting part of a basketball game? Taking turns tumbling onto the court with a series of flips during the player announcements.

My parents tell me I was somewhat “hyperactive” as a child. That probably explains the desire to want to turn flips literally everywhere I went. My pets were my audience as I performed my routines in my yard. I was confident that they were quite proud of my agile cat-like moves. The thrill of using those topsy turvy skills was something on which I thrived in my younger years.

I can replay those moments in my head so clearly that my muscles and bones now almost follow suit. I remember the pressure of the hard floor on my usually aching wrists. I remember the sound of the mat catching my feet. I remember always saying to myself…”I want to ALWAYS be able to do this.”

Wow. How dramatically did the extreme of my outlook on the world as a gymnastics mat change in a short period of time. Not due to an injury, but due to, ok, I will say it. Age. (And lack of practicing). The span of time to go to college, get married and have a child, was all it took to suddenly realize that I would NOT ALWAYS be able to do that. Life can sure humble us, can’t it?

King Uzziah had it made. Take a look at 2 Chronicles 26:1-15 and you will see that everything he did prospered. Here is a tidbit. “He did what was right in the eyes of the Lord…He sought God…As long as he sought the Lord, God gave him success.”- verses 4-6

There was not a city he could not conquer, nor a tower he could not build. His army was ready and waiting. The fertile land was productive. In every way, King Uzziah was the type of king a people would want. He had the favor of God because he had the mind of God. (Which is what America needs in a president, by the way).

Until it happened. His power led to his pride. His pride led to his downfall. Keep reading verses 16 through 23 and you will see just what happened when he lost proper focus. “King Uzziah had leprosy until the day he died…” (verse 21). Due to a series of prideful and sinful moments in his life, he suddenly became a king remembered as a leper rather than a king remembered as a hero.

Whatever our successes, talents, or achievements are, let us not make the mistake of arrogance and self reliance. Let us not have a lapse in remembering the source of our strength and our blessings. And let us not get out of the practice of whole heartedly following Christ. “Every good and perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of the heavenly lights, who does not change like shifting shadows…” (James 1:17).

Now if you will excuse me, I must go find my gymnastics mat.

-Blessings!

 

Repost of previous writing

DIMPLES AND ICECREAM

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I am not exaggerating when I tell you that literal sparkles form in my eyes. I become overwhelmed by the close to heavenliness of it. In those few moments complete bliss just…happens. 

Eating ice cream. It’s a weakness of mine but it is also the strongest proof that I should have been a food critic. 

The perfect flavor of ice cream is useless without the perfect texture of ice cream. I will not eat my favorite flavor unless it’s form and texture meet my standards. 

But when you get the perfect combination of flavor and texture…all is right in the world. If you know me and have ever enjoyed an ice cream date alongside me, you understand my intense passion for it. 

Moving on. 

Most people would dread the morning routine entailed in my household. A dog, a rabbit, numerous hedgehogs, and chickens…the work involved prior to heading off to “work” is quite time consuming. Years ago I would have rolled my eyes each morning knowing the rushed routine ahead of me. These days, I delight in it. 

There is something about morning dew splashing onto my flip flopped feet as I make the trek to the chicken pen. There is something about hearing the chatter of four feathered cuties behind a closed coop door telling each other it’s time to head out for a morning forage. As Moses makes his rounds around the yard, feeding, cleaning, watering, and making my own rounds in the yard occur.

In the midst of the hastiness, I tend to slow down and admire the new blooms on the flowers heaped throughout the yard. I give a slight “yay” when I see the new strawberry that has grown. I stare at the gourd plant that grew another inch overnight and is wrapping its new growth around the wire of the chicken pen. There is something satisfying about tending to the responsibilities that go along with having furry, feathered, and prickled pals. 

Delight. Yes. The ice cream, the mini farm, the nature…these are all things in which I take delight. The completed painting that follows a few hundred strokes of the paintbrush. The extreme and loud laughter that rings out when the entire family is together, and the dimple that forms on only one cheek when my precious daughter smiles… These are things in which I take delight. 

Merriam-Webster defines delight as “a strong feeling of happiness : great pleasure or satisfaction or something that makes you very happy.” 

My definition? Getting lost in something that brings you so much joy. My mom’s indirect definition? It’s a strawberry milkshake that makes you daydream. 

We have many things that bring us happiness and some things that bring us absolute delight. 

What brings you delight? What puts the twinkle in your eye and the hop in your step?

Psalm 37:4 says “Take delight in the Lord, and he will give you the desires of your heart.” 

So what does it mean to delight in the Lord?

When we find true peace in Him. When we find fulfillment in Him. Our satisfaction and worth will come from Him when He is our delight. 

There is a promise that attaches itself to taking delight in the Lord. Scripture says He will give us the desires of our hearts. That must mean you will finally get that boat… Or that record deal! 

Nope. Well, not unless that is the desire of His heart, as well. 

It is when we truly “delight” in the eternal things of God, our desires will begin to look like His and we will never go unfulfilled. In fact, when we delight ourselves in the Lord and in His will, God will place desires in our hearts. He then goes about fulfilling those desires. 

So that mint chocolate chip ice cream…that masterpiece painting…that gourd that has reached the top of the pen… Even the dimple that forms with laughter…Nothing except the delight we find in our Savior will fulfill us. 

Ice cream will fill. Christ will fulfill. There is your new T-shirt.

Blessings!

A GIRL AND HER GUN

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It is a scene that is all too common at our house. Soaring red tail hawks.

Their headquarters are just yards away in the massively tall trees lining the cornfield. Their screech is usually the only warning we get before they make their way directly above the house. Other times, we have no warning but notice them merely because we keep our eyes on the sky quite often.

After losing our beloved Floyd to one of these last Christmas, we stand guard closer than ever when our chickens free range. This day was another one of those days.

Reece and I were chicken sitting as foraging and free time was being enjoyed. Moses, our bird dog, who often meanders close to the chickens since he identifies himself as their brother, was also nearby. When I heard the predatory call, I looked up to find the red tail hawk merely yards above our heads. Waving my hat and hollering at it did not seem to deter it this time. The presence of Moses did not seem to startle it. I told Reece to stand guard with the hens as I hovered over our tiny roosters. But when I looked over Reece was nowhere to be found. 

Just when I was expecting the winged assailant to nose dive for its prey, I heard the click click click of ammunition being dropped. I turned around and saw my daughter cocking her BB gun and starting to take aim at the sky. 

“What are you doing?! You can’t shoot it!” I told her half shocked and half unsurprised. 

I was reminded of past times she had asked my permission to shoot a burglar with her bow if one tried to break in the house. I was reminded of my 7 year old curly locks innocent looking cowgirl attempting to shoot birds out of our tree with a homemade whittled sling shot. I was reminded that the tiny frame on this little girl has never stopped her from doing big things. And I was quite confident that shooting a large hawk out of the sky would not be beyond her capability.

Continuing to take aim, she matter of factly stated, “no one is going to mess with my chickens.”

After reminding her that it was a federal crime she reluctantly lowered the rifle. Thankfully, the red tail decided to move on to find other prey. And thankfully, the BB gun went back into the shed.

Taking matters into our own hands. 

A hefty fine or something else could have resulted from my  daughter’s cute, yet persistent and serious attempt. There are other times, though, our autonomous actions can have far worse consequences. 

Those times we take matters into our own hands. We react with passion before we react with thought. We seek not the help or wisdom we need before heading off the deep end. 

“Do not say, “I’ll pay you back for this wrong!” Wait for the Lord, and he will avenge you.”- Proverbs 20:22

It is very difficult, at times, to wait on the Lord. Yes, we hear this quite often. “Wait on the Lord and He will give you the desires of your heart….Wait on the Lord and He will answer you.” But what about “Wait on the Lord and he will avenge you”? Do we think this one through? Do we wait on the Lord for such occasions.

This one may take some practice. It is natural for us to want to handle a situation the way we think is best. It is often our natural tendency to react and overreact. And like a momma bear following only instinct, we often take action with little or no wisdom from the Lord.

“Plead my cause, O Lord, with those who strive with me; fight against those who fight against me. Take hold of shield and buckler, and stand up for my help. Also draw out the spear, and stop those who pursue me. Say to my soul, “I am your salvation.” (Psalm 35:1)

When someone has wronged you, deceived you, hurt you…pay back may seem the next logical step. But more times than not, pay back is not sweet. When a situation becomes difficult…our quick fixes usually turn out to be quick destroyers.

If God can save us from eternity in hell, he can surely deliver us from our enemies, through our problems, and out of our mess ups.

Wait for the Lord… and the red tailed predator will soon fly away.

Blessings!

THIS CRAZY LIFE

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“It’s a rainy 3:30 in the afternoon.

After spending most of the day so far working, homeschooling your ninth grader, grocery shopping, finishing paperwork, keeping the house clean and organized, and tending to other needs of the day, you think you can finally get a shower and prepare for the marriage counseling session you and your husband are leading that evening. (long sentence, yes)

After breathing a sigh of, “wow, what a busy day again,” you feel a droplet fall on your head.

You realize you are standing on wet carpet and under a leaky ceiling.

Buckets, towels, ladders, more buckets, phone calls to husband telling him the ceiling is leaking. Outside in rain boots five sizes too big, wading through a flooded patio…standing on the forbidden top rung of the ladder, holding an umbrella, “de-leafing” the gutters. Back inside to manage the leak, back outside to continue to “de-leaf”.

T minus 45 minutes to counseling session. You dig a trench/moat in the chicken pen to keep the water from pouring into the chicken run. One of the chickens is nowhere to be found. Finally, the gutters are de-leafed, the ceiling leak managed, the rain continues. Sigh.

T minus 30 minutes to counseling session. Go upstairs to shower. You realize a rooster has just finished being bathed in the master bathroom. He is now basking in the warmth of the blow drier. Because of the personality of your daughter and the almost commonness of this day you think to yourself, “that is not weird at all.”

Husband comes home. Rain tapers. Clock ticks. It’s shower time.

Despite the poor sentence structure of the above explanation, I have hopefully given you a taste of my life.

I have always thought of myself as “normal” in the sense that I grew up, went to college, got my degree, got married, had a child, got a career, etc. However, my “normal” now looks different than the expected normal 15 years ago.” 

The account above comes straight from my “about” page on this blog. But it perfectly describes life. It also may look similar to your own life. One thing is for sure. The older I get the more curvy this highway gets. 

“And whatever you do, in word or deed, do everything in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him.”-Colossians 3:17

We have a choice. We can despise our stress and seemingly never ending to do list. Or we can face it head on making the most of the time we have been given. 

This life was meant to be interesting. . It was meant to be abundant. And it was meant to be lived on the field, not on the bench.

Blessings!

QUILLS UNITED

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Completely irresistible. Even a non-animal lover would not stand chance against the power of adorable that radiates from these faces. 

It’s that time again: spring hedgies! The litters we have for sell this time have to be the cutest and friendliest we have had so far. This time around I am having a difficult time letting each one go to a new home. They truly have me wrapped around their quills.

One masked bandit face is enough to create a sense of “I have to squeeze him” type feeling. But there is nothing quite like lifting up their hide house only to find seven sibling baby hedgehogs asking you why you stole their hiding place. To gaze upon the prickly group, it is almost impossible to choose which one you will cuddle first. Yes, the power of one is irresistible. The power of more than one? Well, unquenchable perfection. Together they possess unstoppable cuteness.

Can you tell I am a bit taken with hedgehogs?

The power of unity is evident in so many aspects of life. A country united is a country that stands. A family united is a family that stays strong. It is evident that to be united in a cause can break down barriers, move mountains, and make things happen.

Why would it be any different with prayer? Yes, God hears us as we pray as one person. He answers and he moves on our behalf. But how much more when…

The book of Daniel screams for us to take notice when it comes to prayer. Time after time we see that when Daniel prayed things happened. Shall we witness a time when Daniel recruited others to pray with him? We shall.

In Daniel 2, King Nebuchadnezzar, the king of Babylon was greatly troubled by a particular dream. He called in diviners, sorcerers, and mediums to interpret it for him. This was his first irrational action. The second irrational action involved him expecting them to tell him, not only the meaning of the dream, but the dream itself. Talk about a “guess what I’m thinking” kind of game!

When they could not do this impossible task the king issued a decree to have them and all the wise men executed. This meant that, along with the diviners and sorcerers, Daniel and his pals, who had been exiled to Babylon, would also be put to death. 

Seems like a time to panic now, don’t you think? 

How did Daniel respond to the threat he faced? He asked the king for more time to interpret the dream. Stall tactic? A ploy? Not quite. Daniel’s motive for requesting more time was a way for him to be able to spend time in prayer. 

He needed time to pray and to seek God’s help. Making this request of the king was bold, but necessary. 

“Then Daniel returned to his house and explained the matter to his friends… He urged them to plead for mercy from the God of heaven concerning this mystery, so that he and his friends might not be executed… During the night the mystery was revealed to Daniel in a vision. Then Daniel praised the God  of heaven…” Daniel 2:17-19

When Daniel determined in himself to seek God in the matter, he did not go about it alone. He needed an army to battle with him this time. Prayer opens the eyes of our hearts so we can see our circumstances through Godly lenses. And praying with someone else strengthens the prayer even more. 

Matthew 18 reminds us that where two or more are gathered in His name, He is there. Authority and power exist full force in a prayer of agreement. While prayer connects us with God’s plan, unity in prayer certainly moves the heart of God. Daniel knew this. Read the rest of the story. God revealed, not only the interpretation of the dream, but also the dream itself. This battle was won.

If you come across a group of adorable masked bandits, beware of their power of cuteness. You will not stand a chance. When you come across a mountain that needs moving, gather your forces. That mountain will not stand in your way. Unity in prayer is power in prayer.

Blessings!

GROW OLD WITH ME

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Growing older with my husband has to be the most romantic story that could ever be written. 

I love the infrequent gray hairs that appear in his beard from time to time (can’t say the same about those grays that appear on my head though). I love the memories that invade as I look at photos of the younger versions of us on the beach. The deeper voice, the wiser eyes, the slightly thinner hair. He is more attractive to me now than he was at 22. 

Now we hold hands because we want to. Some day we will hold hands because we have to. Now we make smooth harmonies with our voices when we sing. One day we will laugh when our voices crack harmoniously. 

The life we have lived together in less than two decades has given us plenty of material for an autobiography…a long one. Being one in life has been a once in a lifetime thrill. Our once twenty something abs will soon be eighty something…abs. And I can’t wait to see how good we try to make eighty look. 

Yes, growing older has its positives.  But let’s be realistic. The flights of stairs get us a bit winded. The alarm clock gets louder. And the doctor visits become more frequent. Carefree is a thing of the past and a fun time often involves just going to bed early. 

Funeral homes become too familiar.  Loss becomes a part of life and pain shows its face in a variety of ways. We long for the days of old- when childhood innocence kept us far from adulthood problems. 

Whether it’s being reminded of evil in this world when we turn on the news, or experiencing heartache in our own lives, it is clear that getting older has its challenges. In fact, one might say that the burdens of life get heavier with age. 

There is a reason we yearn for relief from trials of this life. There is a reason we groan and a reason we despise the loss of family and friends more than ever.

“Meanwhile we groan, longing to be clothed with our heavenly dwelling, because when we are clothed, we will not be found naked. For while we are in this tent, we groan and are burdened, because we do not wish to be unclothed but to be clothed with our heavenly dwelling, so that what is mortal may be swallowed up by life.” 2 Corinthians 5:2-4

Do you find yourself craving that unseen and unknowing place? To shed, not only this fleshly shell, but also this fleshy world? We await eternity with expectation. We groan for the renewal of all things. This is normal. 

Why? Because we were made for eternity. For those who are in Christ, our spirit cries out for Him and for the home that was meant for us. 

Until we are called to that home let us keep on keeping on. Hold hands because you feel like it, or hold hands to keep you standing. The harmonies we will one day sing will far outweigh the tears we cry here. Your autobiography will be written at last.

Blessings!

NEAR DEATH EXPERIENCE

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When I was a kid we had about as many animals as our home does now. From dogs to Guinea pigs, from cats to rabbits. So what difference would one stray dog make?

We never claimed Henry to be ours. More importantly, Henry never claimed us as his. We must have had a quiet understanding that once Henry was finished using us he would move on. All parties involved were okay with this. 

Henry was a mutt that made his way to our home one day. I was too young to remember many memories with him. I do remember when he died…. And then can back.

Let me explain. One hot summer evening, possibly the Fourth of July, my family and some friends of my parents stood at the edge of our yard letting fireworks off in the field behind us. Henry sat by us mingling with the crowd and seemingly having a dog gone good time. 

Whether it was due to the sound of a particular firework remains a mystery to this day, but suddenly, Henry collapsed. Stopped breathing. Died… We thought.  Not breathing, I remember him being gently shaken by the adults to see if he would respond.

There was then talk of burying him. This was more than my little heart could stand.

Then it happened. After a few minutes of lying lifeless on the ground, Henry stood to his feet…er…paws. 

Was it a seizure? A trick? Or did Henry have a so called near death experience? 

No one knew. All I knew was that I was content to have him stick around our home some time longer. 

If you haven’t already then you more than likely will… Or maybe you are now…I’m referring to your “near death” season. The one that took you to the depths and had you and everyone around you believing this was the thing that would overcome you. 

Maybe it was an addiction, or the divorce…loss of a child, disease, insecurity, depression,… You fill in the blank. 

Mark 9:26-27  “The spirit shrieked, convulsed him violently and came out. The boy looked so much like a corpse that many said, “He’s dead.” But Jesus took him by the hand and lifted him to his feet, and he stood up…”

The boy in the scripture had been fighting his battle since childhood. It literally almost took his life according to verse 21- “It has often thrown him into fire or water to kill him”. His deliverance came when Jesus showed up. (That tends to happen).

 But don’t miss this. After the spirit came out the boy looked like a corpse. Those around him assumed he was dead… 

Your “fill in the blank” season will or already has left you for dead as well. Maybe even now you are as a corpse. Listen. It is not God’s desire that you be left in this pit. He is telling you to get up! And the neat thing is that He is offering His hand. 

-Blessings!

DOG, CHICKEN, OR HUMAN?

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This is not a hen. She looks like a hen. She lays eggs like a hen. But I have a hunch she is a dog…or a person.

She comes when she is called. She begs for food…human food. She jumps into our lap. She snuggles under our arms. She has been known to fly into our arms out of jealousy as we hold a fellow chicken.

Gertrude.

What is possibly the most striking about Gertrude is not her dog-like obedience and snuggles, but it is her human-like impatience.

She will whine if we walk past the pen without opening it. She will even whine if we walk past the pen without talking to her. Her whine is not hen-like but, rather, sounds like a begging toddler in a toy store. If we hold food in our hands, she will jump to retrieve it rather than wait for us to place it in her dish. She impatiently begs and whines as we sit down until we make our lap available to her. Whining, snuggling, begging, obedience, impatience…

Yes, she is either dog or human. I have not decided thus far.

God is getting something ready in your life. How do I know? Waiting.

We all have to wait. Life is full of waiting and it begins from the time we take our first breath. We cried while we waited to be fed as babies. And we cry as we wait for things as adults.

We wait in lines, at stoplights and in waiting rooms. We wait for mail, for good news and for answers.

We wait on the Lord when we lift up prayers and we wait when answers don’t seem to come. I have prayers I’ve been praying for several months and some I’ve been praying for 15 years. And if you know me well you know I am the most impatient person you will ever meet.

Waiting is not my game. But God sure does make sure I’m not sitting on the bench during this one. Even today I have asked God yet again “why can’t I hear you answering me? Why are you so quiet? Why hasn’t this (fill in the blank) come to pass?”

Finally, I stopped long enough to listen to what He was screaming at me the whole time… “I’m getting it ready”. And with the history I have with Him I have a hunch it’s going to look way better than I ever dreamed.

My prayer is that you claim this in your life. Be relieved that He usually answers prayers differently than you thought they should be answered. And as you wait, get ready. 

Isaiah 30:18 “Yet the Lord longs to be gracious to you; therefore he will rise up to show you compassion. For the Lord is a God of justice. Blessed are all who wait for him!”

-Blessings

SHORT AND SWEET

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“In the beginning God…”

“Amen.”

I have been wrong before but I’m going to step out on a limb and claim that God could have stopped there.

He could have told Moses to write those first four words of Genisis 1:1 and commanded John to jot on the scroll the last word of Revelation 22:21.

It would have been enough. The story would be complete and he being deserving of all worship, honor and glory would remain. All evolution theories put to rest and all naysayers put to shame. All questions answered, all doubts hushed, all fear crushed and all sin redeemed. Why?

Because…God.

Because in the beginning was the Word (Jesus) and in the end is the Word (Jesus). Because not only is He Alpha, but He is Omega. He is First and He is Last and He is “I AM”. 

I could be way off here, but I can assume the arrogance of pride and sin possibly urged God to write a little more. Maybe? The need for mankind to have it all laid out, reasoned out, thought out… Well, hence the rest of Genesis 1:1 through Revelation 21.

Knowing that man would ask for confirmation, validation and verification He thought it wise to create the ultimate composition- in the matter of fact statements from Exodus… In the poetic eloquence from Song of Solomon… In the dramatic exclamations from Revelation.

God assured that all finicky readers would be given Truth explained in their written genre of choice.

So there it is. Short and sweet. The Mandy philosophy of the reason for 66 biblical books in simplest form.

My challenge for the day? Read them!

Blessings!

THE PIANO

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This is a re-post of an older devotion I wrote earlier this year.

I sat in the living room last night as Reece practiced piano in the next room. She often plays where we can hear. And we enjoy listening. Sometimes, however, she will put the headphones on while she plays.

Last night she was wearing the headphones. I went about checking my email and catching up on some work. Then the sound of her pressing the piano keys made it’s way to the forefront of my awareness.

I observed her as she glanced at the keys briefly and ever so slightly swayed to a silent rhythm. No notes could be heard. No sounds strung together creating a sensible melody could be heard…at least by me.

To Reece, on the other hand…it all made sense.

I was aware of a thumping on black and white keys, but she was attuned to the aesthetically pleasing music. I was only hearing the gentle muted pounding of keys, she was hearing Prelude in C.

What was muted to me was being heard clearly by her. Two people, same piano, same keys- but only one of us could hear.

Oh, what a parallel this is!

We hold a newborn baby and tearfully thank God for the new life. Yet, we hold the hand of our dying loved one and cry out in confusion as to why God would take this life.

It doesn’t make sense does it? A six year old boy being murdered in his bed as he sleeps. A tornado ravaging one home and sparing the next. Why God? Why did this happen?

Why the cancer? Why the car accident? Why the miscarriage?

When someone asks me why God lets bad things happen, I always want to give them a wise and spiritual explanation. Not to make myself look wise and spiritual. But because, as humans, we think everything has to make sense.

We think SURELY God makes sense!

All the while, our logic is but a muted tapping on a silent piano.

But God…yes, The Creator, majestically and melodically composes His song as the angels sing in choir!

The beauty of this music is simply beyond our ears.

God is orchestrating a melody so magnificent, so divine, and so beyond our understanding. We now only hear the muted gentle pounding of keys.

One day the curtain will be pulled, our eyes unveiled, and our ears opened. We will hear the song and it WILL be beautiful!

“For now we see only a reflection as in a mirror; then we shall see face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I am fully known.”- 1 Corinthians 13:12

-Blessings!

 

PULL OVER!

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Back country road. High heels. Painted nails. New summer dress. Freshly curled locks of hair. 99% humidity on a muggy Sunday morning.

She stops at the top of the hill and gets out of the car. Sweat already begins to form on her forehead as she rushes to the front of the car to retrieve him. She picks him up and gently places him in the tall weeds next to the ditch.

After the deed is done, she gets back in the car and continues down the other side of the skinny hill on the back country road. Hair now frizzy, high heels muddy, painted nails smudged. Summer dress sweaty…. and probably a tick somewhere.

But it was worth it.

I will admit, the subject in this story was me several years ago one Sunday morning before church. I will admit that the subject continues to be me, my husband, and my daughter on many occasions. When a rescue is necessary, the Mayfields are there. The words “pull over” are frequently used words in our vehicle.

Turtles. We rescue turtles. No, not an actual “rescue” involving a turtle farm…although, that sounds like a suitable new adventure. We rescue turtles from the brink of disaster. We ensure that our hard shell friends arrive safely to their destinations.

When you drive along and come across that turtle in the middle of the road what do you do? Most people avoid it and drive on. Some people, yes, I will call them evil, will do what they can to NOT avoid hitting the turtle. If this is you then I hope extreme guilt and remorse is forming in you this very instant.

But there are a select few that will do what they can to save the turtle. I proudly admit that we fall into that category. Whether it be located smack in the middle of the road, or on the threshold of safety, we will pull over and help the little guy make his journey a bit faster and safer. The deed becomes more tricky when it involves a snapper, but when a hero is needed, a hero we will become.

There is just something about a turtle that has always intrigued me. They seem to be the most humble of creatures. They take their time with everything they do. (Guess that comes with being a turtle). Want to live a simple life? Try being a turtle. No hurries. No scurries. And with a hard armor protecting you like that…no worries. Unless, of course, you find yourself in the middle of traffic. Like a game of slow motion Frogger, turtles seem to find themselves in these predicaments too often.

That’s where we come in. Although, Reece informed us that we must always place the turtle on the side of the road to which it is headed. Seems logical doesn’t it. Why thwart his plan? But the real reason is because turtles do not backtrack. Once they take a particular path, they will apparently not go back the same way. And when a turtle is crossing the road it is not to just get to the other side. He is on a journey to water, even if he cannot see it.

Well, those latter facts would make great material for another spiritual parallel. But I will save that for a future post. I have something else in mind for this one.

In the book of Romans, among other places, Paul relays his thoughts about difficult seasons in life. Who better to give us an exclusive on trials than this guy? From shipwrecks to hunger…from prison bars to tortures…Paul knows what it is like to have life come down hard. Yet, in the midst of it all, he is able to keep perspective and to remain faithful to his calling.

“Not only so, but we also rejoice in our sufferings because we know that suffering produces perseverance, perseverance character, and character, hope. And hope does not disappoint us, because God has poured out his love into our hearts by the Holy Spirit, whom he has given us.” Romans 5:3-5.

Had Paul’s life been smooth sailing, his ministry would not have been the same. Had every one of his problems been immediately taken away, we would be reading his accounts with a different perspective. But because of his endurance, his faithfulness, and his pursuit of fulfilling his calling, we gain hope. I am sure that many souls have entered the kingdom because of this man’s influence.

We learn much about ourselves and our Lord in the valleys that we cannot learn on the mountains. We learn to endure only through challenge. And only when the artillery is aimed at us head on, can we learn to move forward as a soldier in battle.

The road of the most resistance is usually the road of the most fruitfulness. To come out the other side of our problems is to be made stronger. To quote spiderman’s uncle, “with great power comes great responsibility.” In the same way, with great trials comes great results. This is when we can breathe in that sweet relief that becomes heavenly air because we know that we fought the good fight.

There is purpose for us. There is purpose in our trials. We must keep moving forward in our pursuit.

Like the turtle, stay humble, keep your armor on, and be willing to be helped along in your journey when needed. You will eventually find your water.

Blessings!

 

 

 

GOING FOR THE GOLD

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A Golden Retriever, a bird dog, and roller blades.

My daughter purchased a new pair of roller blades two days ago. She couldn’t wait to get home and try them out. She leashed Moses and began to take off down the road. How adorable it is to watch a dog pull his best friend. How convenient for Moses that his pal can now go as fast as him.

Out of nowhere came the retriever.

This particular Golden Retriever, let”s call him Reggie, has a reputation for cross country running through everyone’s yard but his own. Bandana around his neck and a dangling tongue, he usually appears unexpectedly from nowhere. His bark is incessant when he wants to talk.  His curiosity with everyone’s business but his own is relentless. He proudly tromps from his driveway into the road daring a car to come close to hitting him. 

The other day was no different. As Reece and Moses rolled away, Reggie took notice. He began to run headlong toward the traveling duo. The excitement of the wheels rolling down the road must have been enticing to him. The fact that Moses had the privilege to partake in such an important endeavor must have made Reggie envious. He wanted to play a role in this excitement.

As I watched from too far away to be of any assistance, Reggie did not slow down the closer he came to them. What happened next was a sight to behold, as he either wanted to be involved or he wanted to outdo them. 

Upon reaching Reece and Moses, Reggie leaped over Moses like an Olympian high jumper. Had it been in slow motion, his form would have been a perfect 10 and Moses would have been seen gazing wide eyed and in awe of such an athletic display.  His landing, however, was not a perfect 10 as he side swiped the ground and rolled..rolled…and rolled into a ditch. Not just a slight incline of a ditch, but the kind of ditch that makes you a little nervous as you pass by. I am almost certain Moses gave a satisfied smirk.

Not even attempting to recover from such a dazzling display of clumsiness, Reggie crawled out of the ditch and back to the road. He gave a quick shake, looked to the ground, and slumped away slowly to his home, tongue dangling from his mouth. 

Pride comes before a fall? Such a literal saying in this case.

To be humble or to be humbled. Big difference. 

I prefer being humble rather than having someone else humble me. Usually, humility without a choice ends up rolling us into a ditch. To have God humble us can be even more, well, humbling.

Luke 14:11 says “For everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, and he who humbles himself will be exalted.”

It is no secret that God finds favor with those who keep a humble spirit. It is no accident that He speaks of humility and the need to be humble countless times in scripture. Could this be because pride came before the ultimate fall…Satan?

To be humble does not mean to think poorly of oneself. It simply means to not think of oneself more than we ought. Putting others first. Seeing oneself in light of grace rather than in light of entitlement.

Humility allows us to see the worth of everyone. One of the many beauties of being humble is that God ensures we are lifted up. Another one of those principles that seem backward to human minds, yet make perfect sense in the kingdom of God.

Humility. The fall into the ditch could have easily happened to anyone else…had they been attempting to leap over a moving obstacle in the direct path of a steep incline called a ditch. We often find ourselves in quite similar predicaments when we delve headlong into the land of pride. It is not long before it comes to an abrupt and clumsy end.

The moral of the story? Stay humble. Put others first. Keep roller blades away from your Golden Retriever.

Blessings!

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NOT AGAIN!

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It happened again. Round one, we thought it was a once in a lifetime event. Round two, we thought we surely had set a record. Now?

Round three. Not again!

Last year we began our chicken journey agreeing to let Reece have four hens. No roosters! In order to obtain the exact breed she required we bought two hens first. A month later we bought the other two.

As time went on, it became evident that one of the first two hens was, in fact, a rooster. A few weeks later it became evident that one of the hens from the second pair was, in fact a rooster. Two out of four guaranteed hens were crowing, stand tall, proud roosters.

Several weeks ago we bought two more hens from a breeder. Due to our track record, we paid a bit extra to have our breeder professionally gender these gals by a vet. What a relief it has been for weeks knowing our darlings were female.

Then…

Our polish hen, same breed as our precious rooster we lost on Christmas, has thrown us a curve ball. She…he…is crowing. She…he…is developing tiny spurs. She…he…maybe there is still a chance for…she. 

Oh my. Just our luck? Our destiny? Roosters were meant to live at the Mayfield’s? Call it what you want. We are calling it just another reason it is never boring around here. 

As we search for two more hens to add to our flock, we are quite aware that we have a good reason to prepare for another surprise. In a few weeks I may be writing another post titled “Ahhhh!”

In all the uncertainties of life it can become quite tempting to lose trust. Trust in people, trust in situations, and even trust in ourselves. Our disappointments and negative experiences often give us an outlook on life that leaves us bitter. We get let down, beat down, and burnt out.

 “Lord,” Martha said to Jesus, “if you had been here, my brother would not have died. But I know that even now God will give you whatever you ask.”- John 11:21-22

The story of Lazarus is one of intense disappointment, among other emotions. A dear friend of Jesus, Lazarus, becomes ill and passes away, even after Jesus hears of his illness. Lazarus’ sisters, Mary and Martha, had been sure that once Jesus found out his friend was ill, he would surely come to his rescue and heal him.

That is not what happened. Jesus waited two more days before he went to his friend. By that time, Lazarus was gone.

Martha was telling of her grief and disappointment in Jesus’ late arrival. She believed that Jesus was able to heal her brother while he was sick, yet still alive. But he did not.

If we did not understand that Jesus is perfectly compassionate and all knowing, we would doubt his love for his friend. If we did not know that Jesus is all powerful, we would doubt his ability. If we did not know what happens in the rest of the story, we would see the story of Lazarus as one of intense disappointment and heart ache.

But we do.

“Jesus, once more deeply moved, came to the tomb. It was a cave with a stone laid across the entrance. ‘Take away the stone,’ he said. ‘But, Lord,’ said Martha, the sister of the dead man, ‘by this time there is a bad odor, for he has been there four days.’  Then Jesus said, ‘Did I not tell you that if you believe, you will see the glory of God?’ So they took away the stone. Then Jesus looked up and said, Father,I thank you that you have heard me. I knew that you always hear me, but I said this for the benefit of the people standing here, that they may believe that you sent me.’  When he had said this, Jesus called in a loud voice, ‘Lazarus, come out!  The dead man came out, his hands and feet wrapped with strips of linen, and a cloth around his face. Jesus said to them, ‘Take off the grave clothes and let him go.”- John 11:38-44.

We can study the emotion and compassion Jesus displayed in this account. We can study the miracle he performed. Or we can study the faith that was eventually displayed in the sisters. But what we can also remember is that it is never too late for the Lord to move. Although our situation looks grim, the Lord sees it as something else, an opportunity.

Had Jesus instantly healed Lazarus, people would have witnessed his healing. Had Lazarus never become ill, people would not have witnessed a thing. But because Lazarus died, people witnessed Jesus’ ability to defeat death. Once again, we become acquainted with another aspect of his character. We learn something about him that we would not have learned otherwise.

You will learn something about the Lord you will never learn otherwise. And it can only come through this situation you may be facing now.

Whether an experience is as serious and heart wrenching as that of Lazarus, or as lighthearted as a hen turning out to be a rooster, disappointment happens. Trust God. He loves it when opportunity knocks!

-Blessings!

ONCE UPON A TIME

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Tears flowed down his face as she walked up the aisle. The look on his face told her that he was the luckiest man alive. His bride to be was now at the threshold of becoming his bride forever.

Family and friends stood to their feet as they witnessed a union of two people meant to live life together. The beauty of the moment and the moments that followed would forever be etched into wedding photos, a wedding video, and both of their memories.

I was that bride. I remember every moment, every face present, and every facial expression on my husband to be’s face.

It was evident that emotion had overtaken him even before I reached his side. This, of course, created some emotion in me. Even our pastor friend who was marrying us was attempting to hold back a messy and salty waterfall.

Our wedding video shows clearly two people devoted and in love. It shows him looking at me and wiping his eyes. To attempt to apologize for the emotion he mouths the words “I’m sorry”. The video shows me mouthing back the words “that’s ok” as I was thinking to myself what a fairy tale moment this was. What a display of a man’s pure emotion!

What the wedding video does not show is what happened from the groom’s perspective. And it doesn’t show what happened directly following the wedding party’s exit of the ceremony….The reveal.

As we walked out of the church, the groomsmen smiled at me for the first time. I gasped as I was made aware of what would forever be a different kind of wedding memory. I was suddenly made privy to…Billy Bob teeth.

Apparently, those tears of joy that had been falling from my groom’s eyes were something else. They were tears of trying to hold back laughter in front of a church full of family and friends. Prior to this bride being walked down the aisle to be united with her groom, the groomsmen had put on their own show. Walking with each unaware bride’s maid,  they each greeted the groom and pastor with a smile that only could be seen by the groom and pastor. Each smile revealed a lovely mouthful of…teeth. The last groomsman to greet the groom and pastor was the best man who revealed a perfect gold tooth.

This suddenly new explanation for the emotion displayed by the groom had this bride giving dirty looks to each culprit involved. My husband assured me that, yes, he was overcome with awe at my beauty and presence. But the tears… well… had the tooth incident not occurred, those tears would have been meant for me.

Oh…precious memories. Sigh. I can honestly say some things are not what they seem by merely replaying a few moments from a wedding video so many years ago. But I can also say…that it was an extremely hilarious way to begin life together as one. It would serve as a prelude to years of blissful happiness and continuous laughter in our marriage. I admit, the tooth incident was a grand plan and it definitely makes for a terrific story.

Many times things are not always what they seem. Usually it is due to the perspective we have. It is due to our thinking about our situation. To truly mature in our faith we must allow the Holy Spirit to change how we think.

Perspective is an understanding of something because you are able to see things from a larger window of reference. It means being able to perceive how events and situations are related and then making a judgement on their importance. Basically, it means seeing life from God’s point of view.

“And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose.”- Romans 8:28

We have heard this verse countless times. We can often become guilty, however, of using this verse to ensure ourselves and others that God has promised all things will work out the way we want them to work.

Perspective.

“Many are the plans in a person’s heart, but it is the Lord’s purpose that prevails.” – Proverbs 19:21

The fact is that God has this, so called, “eternal” way about him. Not surprising, huh? He views our experiences and situations in light of “forever” rather than in light of “time.” We tend to do the very reverse.

Where are you in this moment of your life? Is it a mountain top time for you or is it a valley low for you? Are you faced with a particular choice? Are you at a crossroads? Have you waited for an answer to a prayer and it has not seemed to come?

Perspective. Is yours an eternal one? Do not deceive yourself into thinking that good only comes when it looks like something you envision…like something…logical. Like a groom in awe of his bride. Sounds pretty reasonable, don’t you think?

A church filled with people, a bride, and a groom. Something from a fairy tale. Oh, yes, my kind of fairy tale.

Blessings!

 

 

 

 

TOO CLOSE FOR COMFORT

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I suppose it’s normal for humans to bond so closely to animals. After all, our pets see more of the “real” us than most people do. 

Humans have grown so comfortable around animals that we tend to push the limit at times. Prime example; those humans who think it necessary to come home to the pet leopard everyday. 

Yes, comfortable has often crossed the “out of their mind” line when it comes to certain animals as pets. But I need not fault anyone for their passion for animals. After all, we have a less than normal household ourselves. 

I do, however, take issue with certain animals becoming too comfortable with humans. Dogs? No way. Rabbits? Of course not! Hedgehogs! Uh… Not a chance. 

But it is the others that alarm me. Like the coyote that walks through my yard in the middle of the day. Or the hammer head shark that swims up to my daughter in less than waist deep water. It’s those that remind me that “too close for comfort” is a wise old saying.

On a recent vacation, we stayed at a wonderful condo community. One of the highlights of this location was the fact that it was secluded and surrounded by a wildlife sanctuary. So it was not that surprising when we pulled up and saw two eyes and a scaly head peering out of some swampy water next to the parking lot. What turned out to be a 7 foot alligator just had to be seen more “up close and personal”. 

So, being the adventurous daughter, the curious husband, and the mom who wants to make sure daughter and husband don’t get eaten, we are,…we got out of the car and walked to the water’s edge. Somehow, the fact that we were in a man made condo community made us forget that alligators are faster than humans. 

Upon reaching the water’s edge, Reece yelps as she realizes she was inches from stepping on a baby alligator. It whipped it’s scaly tail through the tall grasses as it, no doubt, went to mommy to tell on us. 

For the remainder of the week, our gator pal could be spotted sunning herself on a bank or secretly peeking at the world from under the water. The staff admitted that they would have to relocate the gator soon. It was becoming too comfortable around humans and they did not want it to go knocking on any doors. 

More often than not, comfortable can pave the way to negative consequences. Like when your husband catches an exotic fish with his bare hands, calls you and your daughter over, and says “pet him…he won’t hurt you…” Then you read the next day that what was actually a puffer fish he had caught is poisonous and contains enough toxin to kill 30 adult humans. Yeah, that kind of negative consequence. 

Scripture warns of the danger of getting too comfortable. It also tells us why we should, instead, rejoice in our discomfort. 

James 1:2-4 says “Consider it pure joy, my brothers , when you face various trials, because you know that the testing of your faith develops perseverance. Perseverance must finish its work so that  you may be mature and complete, lacking in nothing.”

Finding comfort and rest in the Lord is wonderful and attainable. But being too comfortable and, well, lazy in our walk, can be a stumbling block. It can rob us of divine power and our need to depend on God. It can take a lack of problems and muddle a stress free life into a weak and routine soul who loses sight of true sustenance and provision. 

The early Christians had to rely on God for their every need. Christians in persecuted countries rely on God for their every need. Christians in third world countries rely on God for their every need. Christians in America today do not rely on God enough or, in some cases, at all.

Fast food is not the only place we find artificial comfort in convenience. There are drive through churches promising to assist you in making your Sunday morning routine as convenient as possible. Get up and put on your Sunday best because it’s what you’ve always done. Feel good about yourself because you listened to a sermon and didn’t lip sync the worship songs. Put a few bucks in the offering plate then go back home. Don’t get too involved or someone may ask you to do something like teach a class or feed the hungry. Let the church leaders and missionaries do the dirty work. You have a real life to live don’t you?

Comfort. 

I will admit. I thoroughly dislike stress and hardships. I pray often for escapes from the fire. I would love to wake up each morning with complete assurance that all is well. 

However, it is the hardships that strengthen me. It is the fire that refines me. And my assurance is found only in a risen Savior who has moved the mountains He created to give me eternal rest. 

Read Hebrews 13:14 and see For this world is not our permanent home; we are looking forward to a home yet to come.”

So, what’s a few hammer head sharks, 7 foot alligators, and toxic puffer fish in light of eternity? 

We must not despise our discomforts. Just as importantly, let us not grow lazy in our complacency. 

Don’t get comfortable. We aren’t home yet!

Blessings!

 

IF IT WALKS LIKE A DUCK

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The title was “Reptiles”. The second title was “Birds”. These were the first  simple reader books our preschooler was able to read independently. We should have seen it coming then.
We should have really seen it coming when she was able to name almost every breed of dog in first grade. When the “Encyclopedia of Rainforest Animals” created a huge grin on Christmas morning…even more than her Barbie convertible. When we found ourselves asking a 6 year old advice about our overweight cat is when we should have realized it.

THAT GRUDGE

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-Another writing from my handsome husband.

For those who know the story, Esau despised his brother Jacob for taking his birthright and robbing him of his fathers blessing. (Genesis 27.) Because of this, Esau had firmly decided that after his father died, he’d take his brothers life.

Can you say, “grudge!?”

Esau had every reason to harbor those feelings towards his brother. His brother clearly did him wrong. Jacob catches wind of his brother’s intent to take his life and he took off running. It’d be a good many years before they would meet again.

Fast forward several years to that encounter. Jacob learns his brother is pursuing him for a meeting of some kind. Obviously, flashbacks of all the wrong he’d done his brother and those threats upon his life rang loudly.

So Jacob attempts to appeal to his brother in advance of their meeting by offering “restitution” of sorts… Sending his brother Esau a gift of 200 ewes, 20 lambs, 30 female camels, 40 cows, 10 bulls… Oh and 30 donkeys.

That’s a lot of attempt to “smooth things over.”

In essence Jacob was saying, “I took your birthright and your blessing. God has truly blessed me. I’m sorry. Please accept this large gift as restitution, and spare my life.”

But interestingly, Esau didn’t want the gift. Why? Genesis 33:9 is Esau’s response.

“I already have plenty. Keep what you have for yourself.”

And he did have plenty. In fact, the chapter starts out mentioning Esau had 400 of his men with him!

That’s when it hit me… Though Jacob stole Esau’s birthright and blessing, God STILL greatly blessed Esau. And he must have truly been blessed, because who would turn down 40 cows and 10 bulls. That’s a lot of steak!

Esau had been so upset with Jacob for taking so much from him that he had wanted him dead. He had held a grudge against Jacob for no telling how long.

We hold grudges towards people who have hurt us- deceived us, and/or taken from us something we feel we were entitled to. And we hold that grudge against that person until we feel they make right with us. That seems to be the condition of our letting it go.

But through Esau’s story we learn something quite valuable. When people wrong us, we shouldn’t wait around for that person to restore back to us. Why? Because God is good, and He is just. And just as God would take care of Esau after Jacob wronged Him, so He will also take care of us.

It’s freeing when our hope is no longer in people to make right but in the Lord who sees us. And trust me, if you are His, He sees.

He takes care of His own. And He wants to be the one to right the wrongs others have done to you. And He will. Just as God restored back much of what Jacob had stolen from Esau, so the same will be with us.

If you’ve been wronged by someone, try to let it go. Instead, have faith that God sees and will act justly. He can be trusted. I believe if that other party has, or begins to have a heart for God, then at some point you’ll meet your “Jacob” again. And by the time that day comes, my guess is God will have already have blessed you greatly- perhaps to the point where restitution from the one you held a grudge against will be the last thing on your mind – just like Esau.

So, are you holding a grudge against someone? Let it go!

(Genesis chapters 27, 32 and 33)

Jason Mayfield, Brushy Fork Baptist Church