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ARE YOU A BRANCH THAT BENDS OR SNAPS?

IMG_0444I took a walk in the woods yesterday in search of specific branches to make fall wreaths. It is not uncommon to encounter deer, turkey and rabbits along the trails that run through the wooded area which is one of the reasons I love my property and the wetlands that surround it.

My youngest grandson, Fischer, accompanied me on the walk. I looked for branches while he searched for a strong and sturdy walking stick; the kind of stick he could bang against trees and fight off imaginary animals. Every once in a while I would stop, clip a few branches with my pruning shears and continue down the trail. Eventually Fischer wanted to help me.

“Here’s one Neenee. How about this one, it is really long?” he shouted as he ran ahead of me.
My reply was always the same, “Sorry, buddy, but that one will snap and break as soon as I bend and twist it into the shape I need.”

“How do you know if a branch will break?”

I pointed to a dead oak tree and said, “See how there is no growth on that tree? There are many branches that have broken off and fallen to the ground; they are now filled with rot and decay and will eventually get burned in the fire pit.”

He responded with “Oh” and continued to skip down the path whacking everything within reach of his walking stick. I, on the other hand, continued to seek out branches that would willing bend to my purpose.

As I walked back to the house and dropped my bounty, the following scripture came to mind:

“I am the vine; you are the branches. If you remain in me and I in you, you will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing. If you do not remain in me, you are like a branch that is thrown away and withers; such branches are picked up, thrown into the fire and burned. If you remain in me and my words remain in you, ask whatever you wish, and it will be done for you. This is to my Father’s glory, that you bear much fruit, showing yourselves to be my disciples.” John 15: 5-8

Let us seek to cling to the vine of Jesus so we can be shaped into His intended purpose.

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RELINQUISH OR RENEWAL

IMG_3723This weekend a portion of my business was relocated to Washington State where future orders will be fulfilled and shipped. Washington is a long way from my home office in Michigan and I experienced many mixed emotions as boxes were loaded onto the paneled transport truck.

Each time the dolly rolled up the lift-gate ramp with inventory, I had to mentally relinquish control of everything inside the boxes; and trust me, it wasn’t easy. As shelving racks were dismantled, cartons taped shut and product reorganized, I sensed void and emptiness.

When the final box was loaded onto the truck and the door rolled shut, I knew I had made the right decision. A surge of confidence overwhelmed me as I watched the truck turn out of the drive. A new chapter of my life was about to begin.

There are times in life when we have to let go of things and place them into hands of someone else. We try to take on too much and become weighted down with unnecessary clutter; in doing so, we leave no room for growth.

When we take on too much in life, as we all do, we assume the burden of unnecessary clutter. We leave no room for growth or renewal when we refuse to let go of our weighted cares and place them into the hands of someone else. For me, that someone is Jesus.

“Give all your worries and cares to God, for he cares about you.” I Peter 5:7

To relinquish control requires total trust and confidence in the individual who will assume responsibility for what we impart. Jesus is the most trustworthy cargo carrier in the world. I enlist His carrier services to free up space in my life on an ongoing basis and there are no weight restrictions or limits on the type of cargo He will move or relocate in your life.

If you need to move some personal cargo to free up space in your spiritual life, you can reach a menu of His services in the Holy Bible. Use the search term Grace.

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SISTERS

3139_1074232579462_6883989_nI have only one sibling; a sister named Sharon, but I call her Sharrie or sissy. We are one year and two days apart in age, but our chosen life paths are about as far apart as you can get.

She is a pastor’s wife and that in itself speaks volumes about her. Not everyone is cut out to be a soul mate to someone dedicated to the ministry; certainly not me. My mom was one of those women, but God saved us all when I chose a different path.

My sister has a beautiful singing voice, plays the piano and effortlessly leads worship service every Sunday at church. She loves to hike trails, camp, bake, play practical jokes and hang out at their northern cottage which I have never visited (hint). Sharrie’s laugh is infectious; you have only to sit next to her while watching a comedy movie to witness her ability to unabashedly laugh out loud. She is our daddy’s daughter in that respect.

I, on the other hand, prefer hotels to camping; opt for motorized vehicles over bicycles and never hike more than up and down the stairs of my home. Church members would drop off the rosters if I led a worship service and all my baked goods are purchased at the local grocery store.

No one can keep a secret better than my sister or save money in a pillowcase like she is known to do. When I needed money to buy cigarettes in high school, her pillowcase was the bank that provided the needed cash.

She was the athlete and compliant child; I was the president of art club and a rebel. I married at 18, she married at 27. All ‘no’ answers from my parents were an open invitation to ‘do it anyway’. Anger was my middle name and I could bring conflict to a situation quicker than the blink of an eye. The Bible scripture blessed are the peacemakers did not apply to me.

With all our many differences you might wonder if my sister and I were birthed from the same parents. The God who created the opposing contrasts of night and day also created the opposing contrasts of Denise and Sharon and has allowed our different life experiences to work in unison. Our approach is uniquely different, but our lifelong goal has always been the same; to grow in the grace of Jesus.

My sister complements my shortcomings and remains my biggest cheerleader in helping me reach my goals. She prays, intercedes, listens and forgoes judgment when I make bad choices. When I reach out to her, she greets me with arms wide open; she is a friend in all seasons of life. There are no words I can pen to paper to express how much I love her.

And so, on my sister’s 58th birthday I give thanks for our forever friendship, the differences that join us as one and the many times she has been the beacon of hope in my darkest nights. She always believes in me; applauds my accomplishments and looks up to me, though I’m not sure why. Thank you for being my polar opposite. God knew I needed that in a sister.

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BIRTHDAY THOUGHTS

birthday-shirt-59-happy-birthday-design-specia_designAnd so it is, once again Friday is here. For many, it signals the start of the weekend with plans to head north to their family cottage or perhaps take a final boat ride before autumn comes to a close. My weekend is penciled in for laundry, fall yard clean-up and a birthday celebration; my own.

It doesn’t seem possible that the evolution of time has brought me to another birthday. Where did all the moments, days and months go this year? I don’t mind getting older (I turn 59 this year), in fact, I rather enjoy these age before beauty golden years; what I do mind is running out of time (and energy) to accomplish all the things I dreamed about in my youth.

My dream at age eight was to one day walk the runway of a Miss America pageant. In middle school I wanted to skate in the Olympics, or at the very least, skate in the Icecapades in a glamorous costume that sparkled under the lights. My high school years were filled with aspirations to be a best-selling author and write free verse poetry like Rod McKuen or become a songwriter like Joni Mitchell.

Of course, none of that happened. Instead, I married at eighteen and gave birth to a daughter three years later. Motherhood consumed my days and a long distance family support system left little time to focus on anything more than diapers, bottles and surviving on my husband’s USAF airman salary.

I didn’t finish my college degree until my early thirties. My career was just beginning, while others were already experiencing a lifestyle of the upwardly mobile working class. Throw a couple of divorces into the mix and my timetable of life accomplishments fell in arrears.

And so, on this 59th birthday weekend, I can’t help but reflect on my life journey thus far. I have succeeded above my circumstances in many ways, but certainly fallen short of my youthful dreams. Perhaps, time is the force that has shaped my obsessive, compulsion nature and drives me to prove to myself worthy; to who, I’m not sure.

God considered me so worthy that he died for me; that alone should be enough evidence of my worth; right? Absolutely! This weekend as I celebrate my birthday with family, I pray this scripture over my life:

“But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness. Therefore I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may rest upon me.”
2 Corinthians 12:9 (ESV)

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COLORFUL PRAYERS

IMG_3640There is so much going on in the world and with all the fast and furious news coverage, it can all be draining to the spirit. When the demonic savagery of this Godless world seeks to destroy my hope, I create something and I tend to hum quite obsessively in the process.

My soul is soothed as my hands and mind work in unison to create and re-purpose objects abandoned and deemed unworthy by others. As I work and hum, the light of my Savior’s hope and promises overpower the shadows of darkness this world casts upon me.

Today, as I paint and refurbish a piece of outcast furniture into a beautiful princess chair for my granddaughter, I will replace my obsessive humming with colorful prayers. The princess chair has six different colors and I will lift a prayer before the Throne of God for every color used.

Colorful Pryaers

  • Bright Pink:
    The Haiti Mission trip sponsored by The Rock Church in Fenton
  • White:
    There are plenty of white areas which allow ample prayer time for friends, family and community.
  • Turquoise:
    Our President, congress and senate
  • Apple Green:
    Our US troops and law enforcement officers
  • Light Pink:
    Friends and family of friends battling cancer
  • Silver:
    Praise and thanks for the mercies of God and the salvation gifted to the world through the death and resurrection of Jesus.

If you think you don’t have time to pray, think again. There are so many idle moments that fill our day; opportunities to speak our heart before God even if it’s just an inaudible or whispered prayer. Heartfelt colorful prayers are God’s specialty.

“Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God.” Philippians 4:6

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DUCT TAPE, GLUE AND BOX CUTTER

IMG_3530Three rolls of duct tape later my grandson, Fischer’s, Minecraft costume was complete. The duct tape seams were hidden by Minecraft paper I had Modge Podged onto cardboard boxes. My little buddy was going to be delighted with his homemade Halloween costume. I even lined the costume head and neck area with felt for added comfort.

The outside appearance of the costume would surely bring many oohs and aahs from my grandson’s classmates; the interior of costume was a whole other story. When the costume was removed, the inside was a mishmash of colored duct tape, glue and jagged-edge incisions of a box cutter.

Fischer didn’t care about the inside appearance of his costume; as long as the outside looked impressive to others. What he didn’t realize is that once the costume was removed there was no way to hide the patchwork of ugliness found on the inside.

I wager each of us has worn an impressive costume in life in an effort to hide the hurts, scars and sins we don’t want revealed. I will be the first to step forward and say, “I have.” In fact, my life closet includes several different costumes for various occasions. IMG_3532

There are more duct-tape, glued and box cutter incisions in my life than I care to count or talk about with anyone other than God. His grace and mercy covers the scars, hurts, losses and sins I hide from others. Day by day He renews me from the inside out and strips away the many impressive layers of my multiple costumes.

What costumes do you wear to hide what’s beneath the exterior surface you present to others?

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Perhaps your life is duct-taped because of alcoholism or drug addiction; or held together with glue from the scars and pain of a divorce, or the loss of someone you love. Duct tape comes in my colors to fit every life moment that we try to patch up or hold together on our own.

I encourage you to talk with God. He doesn’t just patch us up; He restores, recreates and renews us into His likeness. And just for the record, God doesn’t wear costumes.

“Now the Lord is the Spirit, and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom. And we, who with unveiled faces all reflect the Lord’s glory, are being transformed into his likeness with ever-increasing glory, which comes from the Lord, who is the Spirit.” 2 Corinthians 3:17&18

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A PICNIC TABLE AND TWO BOARDS

The footbridge to the other side was gone.

The footbridge to the other side was gone.

Poppy and I took our grandsons to Tyrone Sunken Garden in Fenton this morning. It’s a little known quarry garden behind Tyrone Memorial Garden cemetery. It is the cemetery where my husband’s brother, sister and parents are buried and the cemetery where we will one day rest.

It had been awhile since I last visited and I was saddened to find it in such disarray. The foot bridge that once crossed the babbling brook was gone and the only way to cross to the other side was to balance on a few wooden planks that had been placed atop a picnic table bridge. It was a bit precarious, but we managed to cross over.

The East side entrance to the sunken garden.

The East side entrance to the sunken garden.

When we reached the other side we were greeted with a path of trampled weeds and mucky soil; probably why it’s named sunken garden. The muddy mess that oozed up between my toes and covered the tops of my grandson’s sneakers didn’t detour us. The curiosity of the grandkids kicked into high gear; they were on an unplanned adventure and diggin’ it (this is where you interject a round of applause for Neenee because it was my idea to explore this place).

The main area of the wagon wheel shaped garden was mowed, but most of the quarry stones that encircled the property were hidden beneath overgrown weeds and gnarly branches. It lent a mysterious appeal to the wooded surroundings that further intrigued my eleven-year old grandson.

The West side entrance to the sunken garden.

The West side entrance to the sunken garden.

As our shoes trenched through the beaten foot paths, we explored the engraved stones of the garden. To the East and West, granite pillars stand guard over the circular arena and the engraved quotes on the face of these gateways indicated the builder embraced wisdom and knowledge.

After 30 minutes in the garden we headed up the slippery incline to our parked vehicle. As we walked, we stopped to pick up beer cans and trash left behind by under-age weekend drinkers. Sadness encased my heart at the lack of respect shown to this special garden and the inspiration that was birthed in the heart of its founder who labored to make it a reality.

Grandson, Carson, sitting in the center of the garden.

Grandson, Carson, sitting in the center of the garden.

I wonder if God ever feels that way about humanity. He gave birth to salvation by sending His son, Jesus, to die on the cross. He labors to guide our heart into His garden of eternal life. Yet, many trash and trample upon God’s gift of grace; they willfully scribble graffiti upon the rock of their salvation.

The founder of the garden twice traveled the world. He had the distance from the garden to places he had traveled cut into the quarried stone.

The founder of the garden traveled twice around the world. He had the distance from the sunken garden to places he visited cut into the quarried stone.

And so, after my visit to this longstanding, little known, garden with my grandsons, I presented to them a life lesson (as I am known to do). The short of it: don’t expect everyone to embrace or show respect for what is important to you. The long of it: be diligent and labor to fulfill your dream regardless of the obstacles.

There will always be people who will make an effort to trample down, trash and squash our dreams. It is up to us to find a way to cross over the deep waters and fulfill the spiritual desires of our heart; even if it means using a broken down picnic table and wooden planks to get to where God wants us to be.

Each US state is represented in granite.

Each US state is represented in granite and forms a circular shape around the perimeter of the garden. A wagon wheel pattern of hand cut stones branches out from the center.

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Fischer surveys a historical hitching post for horses.

Carson along the winding bank of the waters. He was looking for artifacts.

Carson along the winding bank of the waters. He was looking for artifacts.