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Unwanted Gifts

Birth of Jesus Blog Pic

How do you handle it when what God provides is not what you want?  I’ve been meditating on this thought through this season of gift-giving. What do we do when we are given a “gift” that is unexpected?  Unwanted?  Unwelcome?

As I read the Christmas story, I thought about Mary.  Imagine being given the gift of pregnancy when you are a virgin.  Imagine traveling with your betrothed and giving birth in a shelter God provided, but not a clean house. Imagine receiving the gifts of gold, frankincense and myrrh from benevolent strangers, foreshadowing the gift of a Savior dying on a cross. Mary said “I am the Lord’s servant… May your word to me be fulfilled.” (Luke 1:38) She graciously accepted her part in God’s narrative but life was not easy for Mary.

Many years ago God provided our family with a tiny 2 bedroom/1 bath 800 square foot condo.  Mr. K and I had 3 energetic little kids and a cranky cat and I was thankful, but I knew I could be a much better wife and mother if I lived a bigger house.  It was my constant prayer.  I reminded God daily that He could do better and 12 years later, God answered.  We moved to a bigger house and the waiting years created in me an understanding (I am a slow learner) that it did not matter where I lived if my heart was discontented with what I had.

The blessings that God provided were my husband and children, and as much as I thought I was grateful for them, it took the years of waiting to show me how God provided everything I needed.  I learned so many lessons in humility and patience while waiting for God to move us out of our condo.  Waiting time is not wasted time with God.

He is Immanuel, “God with us!”  Through death and divorce, cancer and chronic illness, betrayal and abandonment, Jesus is with us.  Are we willing to receive the gifts God has for us and like Mary, accept what God provides with humility?  Even in grief we can have gratitude because we have a Savior who is acquainted with grief (Isaiah 53:3).  Look closely at what God has provided for you.  May the peace of God be with you as you remember the true Gift of Christmas with a humble and grateful heart.

“For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.” John 3:16

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Marriage is like a Garden

Pom Tree Poster

Invest in your marriage and tend to it with love and consideration. Your devotion will bear fruit in time, like a well-cared for garden. Be aware of the worries of everyday life that slowly nibble away at the strength of your union.  Distracting issues are like little pests and will damage even the most fruitful garden.  May God bless your marriage, my friend!

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Head Tapes

Blog Head Tapes Picture

My kids seem to need a soundtrack from the moment they wake up until they sleep. They play music in the car, while they do their homework, when they exercise and even when they walk through the house. Many years ago there were things called cassette tapes which would be put into a cassette player to listen to some great 80’s music. Now of course, there are all kinds of ways to listen to music with iPods, MP3 players and even cell phones.  As easy and accessible as these forms of music recordings are, old-fashioned cassettes are what I picture when I say to myself, “Stop playing those negative tapes in your head!”

All of us have an ongoing internal dialogue throughout the day.  I talked with a few friends about what they say to themselves and here are some negative head tapes they shared with me:

“I can’t handle this!”

“I’m going crazy!”

“Why me?”

“I messed up.”

“I don’t deserve this good thing happening to me. Something bad will happen now.”

And the ever-popular name-calling, “I am stupid, clumsy, lazy…”

My personal collection includes two hit tapes, “Depressing Thoughts,” and “Anxiety!”  I have found that it doesn’t help to stop playing a negative tape.  What needs to happen is a replacement recording.

Depressing Thoughts

Aside from my daily bible reading, prayer time and listening to sermon messages, there are a few things I do when my spirit is down.  I count my blessings. If I am having negative thoughts about my body for example, I thank God that I have two healthy feet so I can walk on my own.  I have eyes to see and ears to hear and mind that can think.  There are so many other things to be grateful about but that is a start.

Another thing I do when I am depressed is praise God.  I listen to worship music and sing at the top of my voice while I am doing housework or driving. When I don’t have any words, I read the psalms out loud and that eases my sorrow.  Sometimes it takes a few hours, or it may take a few days but that is how I get through my low times.

Anxiety

For anxious thoughts that begin with “What if…” I say to myself, “If it is not happening now, it is not happening,” and that gets me through the moment.  When I feel overwhelmed and think, “I can’t handle this!” I replace it with “This is hard, but I can do it.”  Deep breathing, relaxation exercises, praying and meditating on God’s word are other tools that help in my battle with anxiety.  Challenges make me fret and I may not be able to stop negative thoughts from popping into my head but I am learning I have the control to replace the negative head tapes.

Maybe one day my unhelpful head tapes will be moldy oldies and I will have a continuous new soundtrack of affirming tapes to share like my favorite 80’s classic tape collection!

 

 

 

 

 

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Healing & Wholeness

 

Carl Bloch Painting2

“If I had more space I could get better organized,” I thought for the hundredth time as I looked at my cluttered living room.  Our family of two adults, three kids, and a cat had outgrown our 800 square foot condo and every available nook and cranny was filled with toys, clothes, books, and papers.  “If I was better organized, I would be a better wife and mother AND I’d have more time to serve you, Lord!”  God was more likely to answer my prayers for a bigger home if He knew my motivation was unselfish.

I went upstairs and checked on the baby.  He was still asleep, and with the girls at school, I knew I had at least an hour of quiet time.  I read from John 5 where Jesus heals the paralyzed man by the Sheep Gate pool in Jerusalem, but I was frustrated and I couldn’t concentrate.  “God, I know you want to teach me something, but I’ve read this story for years and I’m just not getting anything out of the Bible right now.”  I closed my eyes and lay my head down on the cluttered desk next to the bed in our overstuffed bedroom.

Praying for the Holy Spirit to help my understanding of the scripture passage, I imagined myself as an overwhelmed paralytic.  I felt the heat of the sun as I lay down on my thin mat.  I looked around the pool at all the other disabled people there.  I needed someone to help me be the first one into the pool so I could be healed but no one would help me.  I was paralyzed for 38 years, so I knew the system and it was not working for me. I thought about the little things that would make me more comfortable, like scooting my mat toward some shade as the sun moved across the colonnade.  Then I had an excellent idea.   I thought a more comfortable and larger mat was the answer.  I was lost in these thoughts when I heard the words, “Do you want to get well?”  I was caught up in my imagination, and I blurted out to Jesus, “I want a better mat!”  Suddenly, I was back in my bedroom.  Jesus asked me if I want to get well and all I wanted was a better mat?!

The lame man in the Bible also did not answer the question.  He told Jesus he had no one to help him into the healing pool when the angel stirred the waters.  Jesus had plans for that man.  He wanted to heal him and change the direction of his life.  I, too, needed healing, not for any physical infirmity, but for spiritual and emotional wholeness.   It was as if Jesus asked me the same question, “Mrs. K, do you want to get well?”  Rather than say “YES!”  I’d say, “Give me a bigger house, Jesus!  That is the answer to all my problems and frustrations.”

What the Holy Spirit showed me that day was that Jesus wanted to give me so much more than comfort and empathy.  Being short-sighted in faith was like asking for a new mat when Jesus wanted healing and wholeness for me. After healing him, Jesus gave the man an action plan, “Get up! Pick up your mat and walk.”  I had an action plan, too. I got up and did the work I had for that day.

That time with the Holy Spirit was a precious milestone in my walk of faith.  I have learned to trust God beyond my circumstances because His desire is for me to be whole.  My Father in Heaven wants to give me bigger and better things than anything I could ask for myself.  But first I have to answer the question Jesus asks all of us, “Do you want to get well?”

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Untangled

Many years ago, my little girl struggled to untangle her favorite necklace.  Her tiny 6 year old fingers couldn’t undo the knot in the chain.  I said, “Give mommy your necklace and I will untangle it for you.”  She said, “I want to do it myself!”  She worked at it and did her best, but as hard as she tried she could not untangle the chain.  After some time, she came to me and said, “Mommy can you help me?”  I gladly took the necklace from her and used the tweezers to quickly untangle the tight knot as she watched.  Minutes later she was happily wearing her necklace again.

As I worked on the necklace, I realized there were many times I had a tangle in my life that I struggled to undo in my own strength.  Surely hard work and perseverance would get me what I needed!  But there are times when God allows situations in my life that are beyond me.  Rather than struggle and fret and get angry, I need to humble myself and give my tangle over to God.  This is a far easier thing to say than to do, but this is what I have learned.

There is a difference between giving up and giving it to God.  My daughter could have taken her tangled necklace and thrown it down in frustration.  She would have lost the pleasure of wearing a favorite necklace and also the time we spent together as she watched me work.  Giving my tangles over to God does not mean I stop working hard and doing my best.  Giving things to God means I let go of my demand to have plans go my way.  In time, God will bring beauty out of a mess.

God uses my humility to develop a relationship with Him.  By coming to me, my daughter acknowledged her inability to do something for herself.  That gave me the opportunity to show her what I could do for her.  I have been blessed by God’s amazing answers in situations I thought were impossible.  Thinking of it another way, I wonder how many blessings I’ve missed out on because I insisted on doing things my way and not getting anywhere.  Humility increases my faith in God and deepens my relationship with Him.  As a result, I have had encounters and opportunities I never would have experienced if I had maintained my stubborn desire to handle tangles my way.

As always, the best encouragement comes from God’s word.  “He guides the humble in what is right and teaches them his way.” (Proverbs 25:9)  As a loving Father, God wants to strengthen my faith, but even more than that, He wants a dynamic relationship with me.  When I give Him the tangles of my life, He teaches me to trust Him to do what He can with all that I cannot.  And a trusting and loving relationship is even more beautiful than any untangled necklace.Necklace Phil  4:13

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The Best Time of Our Lives

Honeymoon

When Mr. K and I got engaged some well-meaning married friends told us “This is the best time of your lives!”  Mr. K and I were puzzled at their insistent declaration.  We wondered, “If this is the best time of our lives, why should we get married?”  Well, we did get married and it was bliss!  We loved being home together in our tiny little apartment in Pasadena.  Mr. K always capped the toothpaste and put the toilet seat down.  I learned how to cook.  We were a match made in heaven.

We laughed at the idea that our engagement was the best time of our lives.  Married life rocked!  Sure, we had difficulties like not having enough money, but God always provided for our needs.  I finished college, Mr. K got a raise, and we talked about starting a family.  It was around this time that our 17 year old nephew died in a tragic motorcycle accident.  The next few years passed in a blur of mourning.  When we started our family, time seemed to speed up even faster.

Looking back, I don’t agree with our friends telling us our engagement was the best time in our lives, but think I understand them now in a way I didn’t then.  What they meant to say was while we were engaged we didn’t have many responsibilities or worries.  There were no kids to feed and clothe and discipline.  There were no house payments or home improvement projects.  Our time was our own and we were free to revel in the euphoria of our young love.  And yet…

The years of our marriage brought us a depth of love greater than anything we could have imagined. We supported each other through the births of our three kids and a heartbreaking miscarriage.  We experienced the joys of church leadership and the betrayal of those we called friends.  The financial stress and strain of mortgages and college tuitions were balanced by the sanctuary of our home and the laughter of our family.  Through it all we were each other’s best friend, lover, and confidant

The best time in our lives was not defined by a lack of responsibility but rather by the shared triumphs and trials that made up the whole fabric of our marriage.  What our married friends should have told us all those years ago when we were engaged was, “This is the easiest time of your lives.”  Or better still, they should have taken us out to dinner and said “Congratulations!  The best is still to come!”

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