The Lord IS my Shepherd..

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Not was, not will be, but is, right now, at this moment, in the present, the Lord is my Shepherd. He is always near, not catching up, not ahead of me, but with me.

Today marks thirteen years since Stacey left us to be with Him. Though time has moved on, deep loss remains, without compensation. The Lord shepherded me through the loss of our daughter, continues to do so today, and will be present every day of my future. On October 11, 2017, my Shepherd is comforting me, refreshing me, reminding me of my hope. As He is walking here beside me, Stacey is walking there beside Him.

Today, I will put a period after is—it is enough that “The Lord is.”

lighthouse*Image compliments of gmkfreelogos.com

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The LORD is my Shepherd…

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The Lord—ruler of all, sovereign, supreme, absolute, matchless—is my shepherd. There is none greater, wiser, or stronger… and, yet, He deems to notice and care for this poor lamb with all my foibles.

He alone knows the end from the beginning, works all things together for my blessing, protects me from harm, gives me understanding, leads and challenges and refreshes me. He is the only shepherd who is able to do all this and more. Therefore…

The Lord, loving and limitless, is my shepherd.

*Image courtesy of gospelinlife.com

THE Lord is my Shepherd…

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I don’t have a Lord as my shepherd; I have the Lord as my shepherd. How unfathomable that the one and only, all-powerful God of the universe takes notice of me and desires to shepherd me! Other shepherds vie for leadership—common sense, feelings, fears, insecurity, the need for acceptance or accomplishment, resentment, the status quo—but the Good Shepherd invited me to follow Him. And, since He’s offering, I’m taking Him up on it. I choose Him, the Lord, to be my shepherd.

*Image compliments of espressoenglish.net

My Wall of Fame

Wall2With twenty-six letters in the alphabet and eleven grandchildren, I’m fascinated that none of their first names start with the same letter. Eleven grandchildren with eleven different first initials—and their uniqueness doesn’t end there. Like your children and grandchildren, each one has different strengths, distinguishing qualities and distinctive gifts.

Always on the lookout for ways to build them up, I recently created a grandchildren’s Wall of Fame. Each of their initials is featured on the wall and written on each letter, are five strengths the child especially displays. My desire was to affirm them and show them they’re appreciated for who they are.

It was precious to watch them search for their letter and then examine the words on their initial, sometimes heartily agreeing, sometimes asking the meaning of a word. As children, they didn’t hide their pleasure at being known and appreciated. Adults may be more discreet, but it’s no less important for us to be valued than it is for my treasured eleven.

Wouldn’t it be great if we were more attentive to the qualities of others—each one created in God’s image? And wouldn’t it be even greater if we expressed our appreciation for one another?

“So encourage each other and build each other up, just as you are already doing.”     1 Thessalonians 5:11 (NLT)

Summer is Half Over

summer

Does that rouse feelings of disappointment or elation? For me, this is good news because summer is my least favorite season. However, I was checking my attitude as I laid awake the other night and I made a biblical decision. In line with 1 Thessalonians 5:18, I decided to give thanks in everything—even in summer.

How many things on my list resonate with you?

Watermelon. This has to be my favorite fruit. When I was a kid, eating watermelon included pit-spitting contests—there was no seedless variety. My daughter and I can finish off a small melon between the two of us (seedless, if you please) and a barbecue just isn’t complete without watermelon juice dripping from your chin.

Lightning bugs. If you’re not from New Jersey you might call them fire flies, but we’re talking about the same thing—those insects that fly and flash in the summer night, lighting hearts with their flicker and fascinating children who run in search of jars to hold them captive for awe-inspiring close examination.

Sparklers, sprinklers & s’mores. Kid-fun that’s right up there with lightning bugs. We use any celebration as an excuse for sparklers, any hot day to turn on the sprinkler, and any summer evening for s’mores. I’m strictly a toasted marshmallow girl, but I love to watch the kids make a mess sandwiching them with graham crackers and chocolate squares.

Pedicures. I get, maybe, three pedicures a year: June, July and August, making them a definite summer perk. For my July pedi I was daring and opted for my first blue polish job. Ugh—my toes are aqua! I hate it…but, hey, tomorrow it’s August.

Ice cream cones. Ice cream is pretty much a year-round treat, but put a scoop on a cone and it shouts summer. Ice cream licked from a cone simply tastes different, whether it’s soft serve or hard. My favorite is coconut with dark chocolate-covered almonds. So far, I’ve only found it at Bellvale Farms Creamery in Warwick. Yum! So worth the trip.

Barbecues. I’m not a cook but I can make salads so this is my favorite hosting venue. Everybody seems relaxed at a BBQ, spilled food waits for scavenging squirrels, and conversation mixes with easy laughter. And…even I can cook a hamburger.

Iced tea. I make the best iced tea. Period. When the kids were living home, I had to restrict them. We were going through a gallon a day so I insisted they drink a glass of water before guzzling my precious tea. Now they all use my recipe and I love having a cold glass of tea that they made.

Books. There’s reading, and then there’s summer reading. The lazy days without schedules and the stress-free atmosphere make reading in the summer delicious. I devoured the 550-page Poisonwood Bible without feeling guilty about spending hours engrossed in reading because, well, it’s summer.

I admit, this exercise in gratitude has improved my attitude, even if I still find air conditioning to be the best thing about summer. My outlook is more positive, I’m appreciative, and my heart’s lighter.

You are my God, and I will give you thanks; you are my God, and I will exalt you.      Psalm 118:28, NIV

And when I do, the benefit is mine!

What do you like about summer?

*Image from fastweb.com

The Discussion

I wasn’t exactly feeling smug. It was more like I was trying to justify my prayer life. I think I pretty much pray without ceasing, praising and pleading throughout the day. I realize that intercession is a spiritual gift I’ve not been given, but I also acknowledge that we are all expected to pray. Then I got real and had to admit that many of my prayers are sentence fragments, but that’s okay, right? I mean, God knows my heart and understands what I mean better than I do. If you think that sounds like an excuse, you’re right because a greater dose of honesty admits that most of my prayers seem to be incomplete phrases. These were my thoughts—and then I saw the picture.

discussion

It popped up on Instagram, labeled The Discussion. The photo showed a couple on vacation, sitting across from each other in deep conversation. The picture touched me because, unlike usual vacation photos that capture playing and pampering, this one illustrated the real value of time away with one you love—conversation. Let me digress.

My husband and I share Mondays together, his day off. We usually allow ourselves the luxury of sleeping in and then go out for a late breakfast before taking a long ride. Whether we travel Seven Lakes Drive, ride to the Jersey shore, or wend our way up to Sussex, what makes this day special is uninterrupted, unrushed discussion. We have time to let the outflow of our hearts spill out—which is what the discussion photo captured.

As I looked at The Discussion with appreciation, it abruptly became a gentle means of conviction in the hands of the Holy Spirit. If I would not be happy without open conversation and deep discussion with the one I love, why do I accept a mediocrity of words with the One I love? Why do I content myself with fragmented sentences when He has offered me a chair at the table for a lengthy discussion? Even if He knows what I think, He wants to hear me say it, just as I want to hear words from those I love.

I transparently share this because I hope that you, too, will pull up a chair and settle in for a discussion. Let’s make time to sit with the Lord and allow our partial phrases to develop into meaningful conversations. May the next snapshot of your prayer life be labeled The Discussion.

A Timely Snow Day

I have a hand soap in my bathroom called Snowflake. A few weeks ago I picked it up and considered replacing it with Fresh Pear because who wants to think about snow? But, although it was an unseasonably warm day, the hand soap did start me thinking about snow. And then I wanted to blog my thoughts but, as I said, who wants to think about snow?

Right about now, if you’re living in North Jersey, you are definitely thinking about snow so, woo-hoo! I get to blog about it. My thoughts are neither remarkable nor original but, on that day, for me, they were profound.

I love a snow day. I love being housebound. I love sipping a cup of hot coffee as I watch my husband clear the snow without my help. Whether you share my passion or dread the digging out, you have to agree with the me about the beauty of a fresh snowfall. It’s so quiet and so white, unspoiled, clean, glistening. It seems to gentle the world and transport us to a peaceful place.

On the day of the hand soap quandary, it was thinking about the whiteness of snow that impressed me. I washed my hands with what was supposed to smell of snowflakes, knowing that it didn’t wash away all the germs. It certainly didn’t wash away wrinkles and for sure didn’t wash away the sin within. The thought of Jesus forgiving me and turning my sins from red to white overwhelmed me. To think that I am made unspoiled, clean, glistening like the snow. Instantly I am in a place of peace, no tire tracks marring me, no dirt kicked up from the plow, no pebbles embedded in me—I’m pure white. I have to admit, I can scarcely comprehend that depth of forgiveness or that thorough a cleansing.

This afternoon, before the traffic resumes and the quiet disappears, pause at your window for a few minutes to take in the beauty and purity of the fresh fallen snow.

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“Come now, let us reason together,” says the Lord. “Though your sins are like scarlet, they shall be as white as snow…” Isaiah 1:18

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