At Arm’s Length…

Every once in a while an old post needs to be brought out and dusted off…

Known By Name

This week I’ve been listening to Prince Caspian by C.S. Lewis – the dramatized audio book by Radio Family Theatre. If you’ve known me for any length of time, you know that I’ve had a love affair with Narnia going on since 1980 – at age 16, when I was first introduced to The Chronicles of Narnia.

As I’ve mentioned before – I have been going through a – well, I guess I’d call it – difficult, season of life. I mentioned last week that I’ve been through all sorts of emotions as I’ve gone through this difficult season. The one thing that I have guarded my heart against is this:

Holding my God…

…my Lord

…My Master

…My Sovereign

…My Savior

at arms’ length.

I don’t ever want to be anywhere but nestled deep into the sweet and precious embrace He offers without reserve.

As I was listening to…

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2014 Chicks

Yes, its that time of year again. We decided this year to go back to some tried and true breeds: a dozen California Whites and 13 Cuckoo Marans.
Aren’t they cute?
We ordered from Welp Hatchery again and once again had a very positive experience.
These babies were hatched February 17th, so well start seeing eggs from them in July.

100 Years

His name is John Mark Bennett. He’s my great-grandfather.

He’s holding Helen Omega Bennett.

She’s my Grammy.

She was born 100 years ago today.

She was feisty.

She was beautiful.

She loved deeply.

She was determined.

She was intelligent.

She believed in righteousness.

She believed in justice.

She was hilarious!

She would laugh until she cried, and then she’d sigh and say, “Oh me!” shake her head and smile, and go on her way with a big smile on her face.

She could make just about anything grow.

She was a dedicated teacher – passionate that children be given every opportunity to learn!

She loved God with her whole heart – and dedicated each and every one of her days to be His first and foremost.

She listened to J. Vernon McGee on the radio pretty much every single morning.

She took great delight in every moment she got to spend with her children, grandchildren, and great-grandchildren.

She lived her life ready to meet her Maker and looked forward to that amazing Reunion in Heaven that was hers on June 23, 2006.

She was a history buff.

She loved a good comedy.

She loved a road trip!

She was an amazing artist – she loved to paint watercolors, draw, and sketch.

She was a quilter – and considered it a great privilege to finish some of the quilts that her own mother and grandmother had started.

She would take me into the department store when I was a little girl, tell me to point out a dress I particularly loved, she’d quickly sketch it, and then she’d go home and make it for me.

She had a love affair going on with the public library.

She was possibly the worst driver ever!

She literally DID hit the broad side of a barn.

The last time she drove – at age 93 – was memorable – to say the least!

She was granola way before it was cool to be granola.

She made the most amazing pot roast for Sunday dinner after church.

She ate things that would have killed someone with a weaker constitution!

She loved chocolate – and always had a stash.

She adored See’s chocolates.

She fell out of the apricot tree in her back yard and broke her leg – when she was in her 70’s.

She caught a line drive with her shin on recess duty while in her 60’s – and was in a cast for seemingly ages.

She taught summer school sometimes and I remember clearly getting to go with her and thinking I was the luckiest girl in the world.

She used to always make me a roast beef sandwich (from Sunday’s leftovers) on whole wheat bread with a little bit of mayo and a generous bit of mustard, always wrapped up in waxed paper when I’d go to summer school with her.

She LOVED Disneyland.

She LOVED to take her grandchildren to Disneyland.

She was faithful, available, and teachable – her entire life.

She was an amazing friend.

She had the most amazing memory – she could remember and recount for you things that she experienced as a very, very young girl.

She adored her Papa.

She had a particularly soft spot for her sister – 19 years her junior.

She treasured her nieces and nephews, great-nieces and great-nephews.  Each a precious blessing to her heart.

She was fascinated by her own family history – and how her family was a part of the fabric of what made up this nation she loved so very deeply.

She was incredibly proud of her brother, the Ace who flew in WWII – for both the British and the US.

She was brave!

She packed her bags and climbed on a train in Arkansas and made her way to California, where she made a new life for herself.

She went back to college when her children were young and got her teaching degree – when it wasn’t so much the thing to do.

She didn’t love spiders.

She did love the first chocolate chip cookie out of the oven.

She was incredibly into politics.

She was one of those people you should NEVER begin a discussion on politics with!

She could get good and riled up – know the term “spitting nails” mad? Yeah – that mad.

She often sang while she painted or worked in the garden, or puttered around the house.

She loved hymns.

She had a beautiful singing voice.

She personally cared for my Grandfather through a long, very difficult illness.

She was never afraid of a challenge – and always willing to learn something new.

She taught me that even though reading was difficult for me to learn, that I could not only learn to do it – but to do so exceptionally well.

She taught me how to believe that I could do just about anything.

She encouraged me to set aside preconceived ideas and follow wherever my Savior would lead me.

She wrote me a letter once a week – for decades!

She LOVED to talk on the phone with me.

She told me – innumerable times – to NEVER settle for second best.

She always wanted to know what I was knitting or crocheting.

She encouraged me to pursue art – in whatever form brought joy to my heart.

She encouraged me to look at the people that God had placed in my life – to look around, and to choose to love. No matter what.

She believed that God appointed each and every day of each and every life and considered each and every person to be a gift from God.

She was little – less than 5 feet tall – but that never stopped her from accomplishing what she set out to do.

I miss her so.

She was one of my dearest friends – and well, still is.

I know – with absolute certainty – that she’s having the BEST time in Heaven. She used to tell me the stuff she wanted to ask about when she got there. And she had a few issues she wanted to discuss with God!

Until the day I die I will thank God for the incredible gift of my Grammy.

I will never forget the day – in 1985, shortly before my Grandfather died, and it seemed as if Grammy was killing herself taking care of him – asking God specifically to please – if I was ever to marry and have children – please, let my children know my Grammy.

I will praise Him for the fact that my children did not know her passingly – but knew her deeply.

I will forever treasure the memory in my mind’s eye of Grammy in her long flannel night gown at the kitchen table with the kids before school, reading the Bible story book to them, and praying for them before they started their day.

I will take up where she left off – praying for the generations that descend from her – that they will know God and love Him and commit to obey Him all the days of their lives.

I will ask God to help me to grow up to be like my Grammy – a woman of faith, a woman of integrity, a woman marked by a love that has nothing to do with myself – but everything to do with HIM.

And I will look forward to that day – whether He returns for his Bride, or He calls me home first – when after that first welcoming to the true HOME of my heart in the arms of Jesus, my Grammy will be there – ready to hug me, and kiss me, and will have an excited gleam in her eye – ready to show me the ropes of Heaven.

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What is that Smell?!

What do you do at 10:50 pm the night before you have to be up at 4:15 am the next morning to get ready for work?

You take the cucumbers, onions, and peppers that you sliced up a little while ago….

…and then you…..

Boil up some brine….

Shortly thereafter at least one person in the house will say, “What is that SMELL?!”

I can admit it – it is pretty potent!

And then you put ’em all together and….

Voila!

Beautiful bread and butter pickles.

YUM.

Night night!

Have you ever noticed?

John and I have committed to once every other month making a large batch of soup for a ministry that serves the homeless in downtown Portland.

It’s not much.

The need is so great.

But, it’s something that we can do – and do joyfully.

Honestly – it’s kind of fun – I get to experiment with all kinds of fun soups that the boys would NEVER in a million years eat – and are all sorts of fabulous – and someone will actually enjoy and appreciate them. I love that.

Today it’s white chili.

I’ve never made it before. What with being allergic to chicken and the boys being opposed to any form of bean – yeah, not high on the menu planning priority list. It smells great, and was – frankly – really easy to throw together. Now it will just simmer while we wait for the very nice lady from church to come pick it up and deliver it to where it needs to go.

John and I have mentioned to one another countless times how ironic it is that whenever it is our turn to make soup for this ministry some event or the other – or just the fact that I’ve worked less than 40 hours since the last of September – these are the times when we find ourselves in our most dire financial need.

Isn’t it funny how that happens?

And it’s not like it’s once or twice it’s happened.

It happens every single time we’re scheduled to make soup.

Yes, the rent is paid. Some of the bills will have to wait. There’s not much gas in the cars. No, there’s no money for groceries.

We’re not likely to starve to death any time soon – ha! If things got really scary, the boys may well break down and actually want to eat beans! I’ve been canning – and beans we have!

It used to really stress us out – “Ugh! Time to make soup! What are we going to do?” And we’d go through the pantry looking for things that could be pulled together to make a nutritious and delicious soup.

Nowadays – we just kind of smile and look at each other and say, “Time to make soup.” It’s almost a challenge to see who can spot what God has or will provide (just in the nick of time, of course) to make that big old pot of soup possible.

Have you noticed that in your own life?

That God asks you to trust – even when it doesn’t seem like the practical thing to do?

There are things we could do.

We could back out – not follow through with the commitment. But then we’d miss out on getting to see the amazing things that we get to see God do each time.

We could freak out. Been there, done that – doesn’t accomplish much.

Lots of options of responses.

But there’s one thing we choose to do…

Only You
by David Crowder Band

Take my heart, I Lay it down
At the feet of you whose crowned
Take my life, I’m letting go
I lift it up to You who’s throned

And I will worship You, Lord
Only You, Lord
And I will bow down before You
Only You Lord

Take my fret, take my fear
All I have, I’m leaving here
Be all my hopes, be all my dreams
Be all my delights, be my everything

And It’s just you and me here now
Only you and me here now

You should see the view
When it’s only You
© 2003 Six Step Records

Ever notice how much better it is when you choose to stop – acknowledge that God is HERE – right now… No matter what the circumstances are? In the midst of it all – whatever it all is. No matter how afraid you could or should be? No matter how great the need or perceived need?

…that He does what only He can do…

He shows up.

Without fail.

To envelop with His incredible peace.

His unmatched love.

His beautiful mercy.

His matchless grace.

Ready to do just what needs done.

Ever notice what a delight it is to just step out and obey?

…feeling pretty honored to be a child of the King this afternoon.

Refuge

Hear my cry, O God;
Give heed to my prayer.
From the end of the earth I call to You when my heart is faint;
Lead me to the rock that is higher than I.
For You have been a refuge for me,
A tower of strength against the enemy.
Let me dwell in Your tent forever;
Let me take refuge in the shelter of Your wings.

Ps 61:1-4

I’m not one much for resolutions.

Pretty much, I tend to fail at them somewhat spectacularly.

Nothing like substantial failure to really boost your self esteem, you know?

I’ve found the most effective changes have been just to choose to do something – and then :gasp: – do it.

I know – wild, right?

For years I tried to give up Coke. Tried and tried and tried – failed and failed and failed. One day – May 29, 2007 to be exact – I did. Without much fanfare or fancy footwork – just being prepared – having a plan, and saying out loud that I was gonna do it – well – it worked. I haven’t had a single Coke since – or any other soda. Not saying I don’t want one now and then – but not going there.

Literal MONTHS ago I starting to have this nagging persistent longing to do something that I began doing as a teenager – and a new creation. A very wise, very loving, truly incredible woman (Roberta Wollen) dared me to commit to memorizing scripture. You know – the Bible. You know what? I actually did it. Lots and lots of it.

Without fail – not one second of the time, effort, or resources required to do so has ever been anything but an investment that has returned about a bazillion fold blessing in my life.

One summer, when I was on staff at Sambica, a friend decided to use the Topical Memory System and invited me to join in. A-M-A-Z-I-N-G. Super – phenomenally – amazing.

Then, when I was in Bible School, one of our professors required us to memorize whole chapters – each week! – for his class. My first thought was IMPOSSIBLE! I was carrying 18 credit hours, working nearly full-time, was volunteering at church, and taking care of my Dad who was terminally ill. Funny thing how that impossible requirement was not only possible – but clearly remembered – all of these years later. Can you recite Psalm 103 from memory. I can – and only thanks to that professor!

So… I’d been thinking thoughts like, “I really ought to start memorizing again.” and “It would be so good for me to memorize more!” and “If I had an ounce of discipline in my body, you’d think I could devote it to at least memorizing some scripture!”

In short – feeling pretty much like it was unattainable – and maybe – well – okay, I’ll say it out loud – like all of the physical crap I’d been through since my stupid ibuprofen fiasco may well have affected my ability to memorize. And so much easier to just assume that – than to actually break down and do it.

Lazy, lazy girl.

So – one day at the library I came across a book – and much contrary to the method I normally employ (research online, decide if I will commit the time to read it, if I’ll like it, know something about the author) to choose books to read – just grabbed it off the shelf.

God’s kinda sneaky sometimes.

Sometimes he takes away your carefully constructed methodology to give you a chance to look up long enough to meet His loving eyes and remind you of His love…

and Faithfulness.

And why He calls you me to do stuff to start with.

I should maybe interject here I didn’t get into this book to start with. But I trudged through a couple more chapters and then – whammo – yeah – got sucked in. Enough so that I promptly got online and ordered the two follow up books in the series through the library!

Long story short – the theme of this book was God’s way of reminding me that His Word is nothing short of living breath in a life that so has no strength to draw breath on it’s own – and so desperately needs His.

So – I’m gonna do it.

I’m gonna start memorizing again.

And I’m gonna start with the verses up there at the top in Psalm 61. I was reminded of them in an old recording (How the West was One double album) and it really spoke to my soul. So I’m starting there.

I wish I had a more organized plan – but I’ll be honest – I don’t.

I’m typing up the verses, printing them out on a 3 x 5 index card, putting them on the window sill above the kitchen sink, and until I’ve got them down word for word, there the card will stay.

That I can – and will do.

So – not a New Year’s resolution – as a return to a healthy practice of my youth – that I should never have stopped with!

Join me, if you’d like.

This is the day…

 

This is the day that the

Lord has made

,
I will rejoice and

be glad in it!

Ps 118:24
 

I was born at 11:59 am on December 31, 1963.

47 years ago.

Dang, time flies.

I’m gonna be honest here – 2010 will not ring in as one of my all time fave years. I would not choose to go through a lot of the stuff that I went through this year – given the choice.

But here I am – by the grace of God. (If you were around during this past year – you know that there was more than one occasion that there was no given that I would, indeed, be here!)

Do you ever stop and think about that? The grace of God?

This year – if nothing else – has taught me to do just that.

And so – for that reason – I will thank God for it.

Today I choose to say: “Lord, this day is yours – as am I.”

I want that to be my goal for each day of the coming year.

Thank You God, for seeing me through.

Thank You for the year that is to come.

May You – my God and my King – be glorified.

So much to get done!

So many places to go!

Things to bake…

Gifts to wrap…

Kitchens to clean…

A veritable whirlwind of everything but what it’s all about…

Funny how easy it is for me to get distracted.

To feel that the truly unimportant is what should order my day… my thoughts…

Come Immanuel – God with us – and still this heart.

Teach this distractible heart to recognize your quiet whisper.

Help me to never forget WHO should always be my motivation – in all I do – no matter the season.

We need a little grace.

I can admit it – I read what some might term “fluff.”

Okay -sometimes I opt for the really deep stuff. Typically, however, when there’s no big stressor going on in my life – or, when God kinda hits me upside the head with something I simply MUST read.

But most of the time – I opt for something that will make me laugh, smile, maybe cry a little – and always will urge me to walk closer with my Savior.

Sue me.

I know – it’s “in” to be a super deep thinker.

I’m all for it.

But – dang it all – I need to read something that doesn’t ADD stress to my life, okay?

In 2007 – right knee deep in Mom’s illness – when I was more or less house-bound with my sweet Mommy, I needed something to read in my few moments of quiet – snatched, as they were, as rare gifts.

I must have been searching online when I came across an author I was unfamiliar with. Her name is Susan May Warren.

We’re BFF’s now – Susan and I.

Ahem – right. Not. But hey – I’ve read a whole lot of her stuff now, and I pretty much have NEVER come away from reading one of her books without feeling gratitude for having invested my time there.

There’s nothing worse than getting to the end of a book and regretting the time spent.

Hence, my love of Mrs. Warren’s work!

Was at the library the other day and stumbled across a title that I’d somehow missed previously, and checked it out – without a clue as to what I’d find. (And amazingly – the first in a series! Woo Hoo!)

(If you click the picture of the book cover, it’ll take you to the author’s web site – and a chance to read the first chapter!)

And I don’t want to give the book away or anything, but the thing that God brought over and over again in this book were the themes of forgiveness, grace, and mercy.

How I need them.

How others need them.

How I don’t deserve them – but then, who does?

Yet He gives all three without expiration date, limit, or our need to merit it.

Okay – so maybe it’s not fluff, after all.

Reading this book this week was more like a big long drink of much needed water after a hike through a stretch of wilderness.

:sigh:

Relief.

A refresher.

And not to offer a spoiler or anything, but here’s a little something that I’ve gone back and re-read several times since I finished the book.

Grace. Accountability and forgiveness in one shot… God’s perfect plan, worked out through the sacrifice and love of His Son. For what purpose? To show God’s love to the world. To draw men to Himself, so they could worship Him, enjoy Him, delight in Him, so He might shower them with His unfathomable love. A love that brought the dead to life, that gave children to the barren, that reunited man with his Creator, and that resurrected hope and fulfilled dreams.

God was so worthy of her delight. Suddenly the verse… spoken to her the night she’d sat crumbling … rushed through her mind. “Take delight in the Lord, and He will give you your heart’s desires.”

The first step in delighting in God was delighting in His forgiveness – something … she’d never, not even once, allowed herself to do. Why not? Because she didn’t deserve to delight in a forgiveness that was easy. Somehow, she couldn’t get past the idea that forgiveness had to be earned, had to be painful.

But hadn’t she been forgiven because of Christ’s payment for her sins? And that gift had certainly been painful for her Savior. To not delight in His forgiveness was to betray Jesus’ excruciating sacrifice for her salvation. No wonder she felt so bereft. Not delighting in God’s forgiveness was like opening up a priceless gift, setting it aside, and demanding to pay for it. It cheapened the gift and offended the giver. What she should be doing is throwing herself into the arms of her Savior.

Grace.

It goes on – but you really just need to get the book and read it for yourself.

Nothing like this little reminder – right in the midst of this season when the focus is on everything but the heart of what it’s all supposed to be about.

Just what I needed!

It’s just awkward…

You’re on the freeway, you take an exit, and oh…

There’s a panhandler at the exit.

Just waiting to make eye contact with you.

Hoping you’ll roll down your window and hand some cash over.

What do you do?

How do you feel?

It’s awkward.

I feel conflicted.

I wish I could help! But we can just barely make it ourselves.

And if I could hand some cash over – is it the right thing to do?

Do you ever wish you just had a really practical, real-life way to do something?!

I do.

Enter my friend Linda – she’s pretty cool. (I’m always awed how God brings the most amazing people into my world to bless my heart – Linda is one of those that I definitely think immediately when I see her smiling face: BIG HUGE AMAZING BLESSING, THAT GIRL!)

Saw Linda this weekend. A mutual friend said, “Oh good! I have some things for you!” And said mutual friend handed a gallon sized zip lock full of all sorts of travel sized toiletries over to Linda.

Being the nosy girl that I am, I said, “What’s that for?” (Gosh, I AM nosy, aren’t I?)

Linda smiled and said, “Well, I have this friend who told me that she was really heartbroken over how many panhandlers she encounters when she’s out and about, and so she decided to put together little care packages to hand out when she encounters someone. So I thought, ‘I can do that’ and started doing the same. I put a few toiletries, maybe a few dollars, and keep them in my car. Then, when I encounter a panhandler, I’m prepared!”

BRILLIANT.

And so my friends – what do you think of that?

I think it’s something I could do. Gosh – I’ve got tons of travel sized toiletries hanging out around here. I could put some things together in little quart sized ziplocks, maybe throw in a buck or two out of my change jar. I could keep those in the car.

I’m inspired!

How about you?

Got any plans to step out of your comfort zone?