FINAL INSTRUCTIONS

We had an interesting assignment in our small group at church.  In preparation for Easter, we have been studying the chapters in the book of John that lead up to the crucifixion and resurrection, the final days of Jesus here on earth.  In these chapters, Jesus is telling his disciples the important things He wants them to remember after He is gone.  Our teacher challenged us with this thought: If you knew you had only one week to live, what would be five things you would want to say to your loved ones?  That question intrigued me.  

I remember the feeling I had when we dropped each of our three daughters off at college.  Had I done enough?  Did I teach them everything they would need to know?  Those eighteen years that seemed to last so long now seemed to be much too brief.  As someone has said, the days are long but the years are short.  And if I knew I was going to die next week, I am sure I would have those same feelings again.  The years went by so quickly, where did the time go?  Did I do all I needed to do as a mother and a grandmother?  So here are my five things.  Only five?  I might need more.

For my family,

Here are the most important things I want you to know, the things I want you to remember after I am gone:

  1. I love you so much, but I could never love you as much as Jesus loves you.  My favorite job on earth was being a wife, a mom and a JuJu, and I loved every minute of time I got to spend with you, every phone call, and text.  I will not always be here with you.  I know you understand that intellectually, but you won’t really KNOW it until after I am gone.  You will miss me, but you will always carry a bit of me in your hearts.  Just know that I will be waiting for you in Heaven.  I am so grateful that each of you has trusted the Lord for your salvation and that we will spend eternity together.  Until then, it is my desire that you love each other and keep the family close.  Family is important.
  2.  This life is not about your happiness, although I hope you are happy.  It is about your holiness, and I wish that for you above all else.  You will have good times and bad, mountains and valleys.  All of your trials have been custom designed for you by God to make you more like Jesus.  Like a sculptor who is creating a beautiful work of art, God is constantly chipping away at all of those pieces that need to go, everything that doesn’t look like Christ.
  3. While there is much in this world to enjoy, it is not your home.  Remember that you carry a heavenly passport and one day you will get to live there permanently.  In the meantime, you are on mission, an ambassador for Christ.  You will face scorn, ridicule, and maybe even persecution for your beliefs.  The world will call you ignorant, narrow-minded, and rigid.  They will tell you that the Bible is outdated and no longer relevant.  Don’t believe them.  Remember who you are and whose you are.  Try to memorize as much scripture as possible because a day may come when you no longer have access to the Bible.  And remember, you may be the only Bible some people ever see. 
  4. Find a Bible teaching church and join it.  Get into a small group and become a part of a faith community.  Find your ministry.  Get into a Bible study and look for good para-church organizations to join.  
  5. To those of you who are still unmarried, make sure you marry a Believer, someone with a biblical worldview.  Craft a mission statement for your marriage and spend your time doing things that have eternal value.  Decide early that you will go to church on Sundays, and you will never again have that Sunday morning debate.  Are we going to church today?  It will just become what you do.  Learn to tithe early.  Pray and read the Bible together.  Cultivate friendships with other Christians.  Do good in the world and be kind to others.

Whew!  That’s a lot, but certainly not exhaustive.  I could have included things like keep your little part of the world tidy, be a good citizen and vote, plant trees, and back up your hard drive.  But then, you already know those things.  Above all, go back to number one.  I love you so much!

For others of you who may happen to read this, I would love your comments.  What did I leave out?  I look forward to reading your answers.                  

WHAT SHOULD I PACK?

If you have ever traveled with me you know that I am not a light packer.  I like to be prepared for every possible occasion, so this might mean five pairs of shoes, multiple outfits per day and lots of makeup and hair products.  Making decisions about what to pack overwhelms me, so I end up packing way more than I need.  Or use.  I have just never mastered the travel system of three black pieces and a few accessories.  One time I got to Rome and discovered that my luggage was lost.  No change of clothes for three days!  I’m not going to let that happen again, so I bought a new carry-on that can hold enough for a couple of days.

I’ve always called myself a “more is more” kind of girl.  I like stuff and I have a lot of it.  Now I am trying to let go of some of my things and it’s a struggle.  A few years ago, when I was enthralled with Downton Abbey, I began collecting china teacups.  I was excited to find some of the patterns that I saw on the show, but now I wish I never started.  Those pretty teacups are taking up valuable real estate in my china cabinet.  And I never use them.

By now you may be wondering where I am going with all of this.  I don’t know about you, but I have found it hard to tear myself away from the drama in Ukraine that is playing out before our eyes.  I almost feel guilty for going about my daily routine when there is so much suffering on the other side of the world.  I watch the people, cold and hungry, sometimes walking for miles, while carrying babies and dragging a suitcase.  One suitcase!  What do they put in that one single suitcase?

I ask myself what I would pack in that situation.  What things would be the most essential?  I would probably pack a change of clothes, something sensible and warm.  I would not be concerned about having just the right outfit; warm and dry would do.  What else?  I would probably include essential paperwork and documentation and cash, if I had any.  Medications would be more important than mascara.  Since my electronic gadgets have become so important to me I would pack a cell phone charger and pray for cell service and Internet.  I would really like to take my laptop, but that might need to be left behind.  And a Bible.  I saw one man on television whose home was destroyed and he was crying over his lost Bible.  I get it.  I would hate to go through a war without a Bible.   

A war (even watching one from afar) causes one to re-examine one’s priorities.  What are the things that matter?  These people in Ukraine are going to lose every earthly possession.  It looks like there will be nothing left even if they are able to return.  They will lose their houses and all the contents, things they may have spent a lifetime acquiring.  Their cars have been blown up as well a their businesses and schools.  And those things are not trivial.  I think about family photos and mementos and little trinkets that children have made.  Some people must leave their pets.  And many are leaving behind precious loved ones, men of fighting age and those who are too old or ill to make the treacherous journey. 

So what are my essential things?  My family and friends, my two dogs, and some form of Bible.  My thing that is most precious to me is the one thing that can never be taken away, even if I lose my life: my relationship with Jesus.  That is the most practical thing I can ever pack.  It never gets old, worn out, or depleted.  It doesn’t take up any space, it is suitable for every eventuality, and it can never be lost or stolen.  And if I don’t have a Bible?  I would hate that, but I have spent years hiding God’s word in my heart.  As I watched that man who was grieving over his lost Bible, my thought was, “Now it is your turn to be a living Bible to those around you.”  

May America never experience what we are watching on television.  And may God bless all those impacted by this terrible war. 

“ For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.” – Romans 8:38-39.

PLAYING FROM VICTORY

In my previous blog I wrote about Cooper Kupp, the LA Rams wider receiver who went from being a zero-star college recruit to Super Bowl 56 MVP.   But there is more to the story of this remarkable man.  In 2019 the Rams lost Super Bowl 53 to the New England Patriots.  The score was an embarrassing 13-3.  Kupp had to watch helplessly from the sidelines due to a torn ACL, but he was just as devastated as his teammates as they walked off the field in defeat.  But then something happened 

Kupp says as he was walking off the field toward the tunnel something caused him to turn around.  In that moment God gave him a vision: the Rams would come back somehow and win a Super Bowl, and Kupp would walk off the field as the MVP.  He kept this vision mostly to himself, revealing it only with his wife, because obviously this was not the type of thing you could go around sharing.  People would think you were nuts!  Or a braggart.  But when he talks about it today he gets choked up, giving all the glory to God.  He says he saw it as clear as day.  And when this postseason began, Kupp says he began to play differently.  He believed.  “It was written already and I just got to play free, knowing that I got to play from victory, not for victory.”  

 I got to play from victory.  I have been thinking about that statement for days.  What would it be like if we lived our lives from victory and why don’t we?  Because if we are Christians, if we really believe what God has revealed to us in His word, then we know that Jesus has already won, and we get to share in His victory.  What if we didn’t worry about all the millions of things we humans worry about, and just did our best, knowing that we are assured of victory?    

Now just because God gave Kupp a vision of winning didn’t mean it was going to be a piece of cake. There would be setbacks, busted plays, tackles, sacks, and plays that didn’t work.  The opponents would score some points.  And there would be some hard hits with bruised and sore bodies the next day.  And that is just like life.  Even if you are a Christian, even if you believe and trust God and His word, you are going to take some hits.  You may lose ground, get bad calls, and have to endure trash talk.  We are not immune to the sufferings of this life, and we will all experience difficulties and loss.  But playing from victory means we are able to live with the end in view no matter what hardships life gives us.  

It may look hopeless sometimes; the Rams were behind with only six minutes left to play.  I recently had a birthday, and all my birthdays are now big ones now.  My friend Kay likes to remind me that we are in our fourth quarter.  But if there is anything this football season has taught me, it is how much can be accomplished with only a few seconds left on the clock.  Heck, I might even go into overtime.  As Believers we do not have to be anxious or depressed about our current circumstances because we can see that scoreboard and know that ultimately we will win.  And Cooper Kupp would be the first to acknowledge who the real MVP is.  Jesus Christ left it all on the field for us.

Christ suffered for our sins once for all time.  He never sinned, but died for sinners to bring you safely home to God.  1 Peter 3:18 NLT

YOU ARE NOT A ZERO

An article about Cooper Kupp caught my attention.  In case you didn’t watch the Super Bowl, Kupp is the wide receiver for the Los Angeles Rams who was awarded MVP after the game.  Now I’m not a big NFL fan, but I am a huge college football fan, so what really impressed me was learning that Kupp was a 0 star recruit coming out of high school.  Zero!  We college fans love our big-time recruits.  We want those four and five stars.  But for Kupp, it looked like his football days would end after high school, in spite of the fact that both his father and grandfather played in the NFL.  He didn’t have a single college offer until three weeks after his senior season, when finally, he received offers from Eastern Washington and Idaho State.  Not exactly blue blood programs.  

So how did someone with slim-to-no prospects become a Super Bowl MVP?  I don’t think he believed the lie that he was a zero.   He knew he was more than what the recruiters said he was.  His self-worth didn’t come from Rivals or ESPN.  He knew he could play football in spite of what others said.  His head coach at Eastern Washington was impressed from the start.  Kupp was the hardest worker on the field and he proved that he was worth so much more than 0 stars.   He won all kinds of awards in college including consensus All American and the coveted Walter Payton award.  After college he  was drafted by the Rams who were excited to land him.  Rams coach Sean McVay said he was one of the most pro-ready receivers he had ever evaluated.  Kupp has won numerous awards as a pro and has set all kinds of records.  Not bad for a kid nobody wanted.  

There is a message in Kupp’s story for all of us.  We need to stop believing the lies and start believing the truth about our value.  We are worth so much more than our bank account, what kind of car we drive, or where we live.  The numbers on the bathroom scales or what we shoot on the golf course are only numbers, metrics.  They are not a measure of our value as humans.  We are worth so much more than the number of “likes” on our social media page or how many followers we have. We are not the failures we have had in the past or even the successes we will have in the future.  

We need to cut out the negative self-talk.  Some of us need to stop listening to the voice of a punitive parent (or spouse, coach, or boss, or ex-spouse) in our head.  We are not the grade on our math exam, our GPA, or what the mean girls in the fifth grade said about us.  We are grown-ups now, and we can know the truth about our value.

Here is the truth: we are worth what God says we are worth.  And God doesn’t have any zeroes.  Go to the Bible and read God’s love letter to you.  He tells us how much He loves and cares for us, that He is always with us, watching over and protecting us.  The same God who feeds the sparrows and clothes the lilies, cares for and provides for us.  Because he loves us!   He takes great delight in us and rejoices over us with singing (Zeph. 3:17).  I often suggest to my clients that they meditate on Psalm 139, especially verses 13-16.  And if you only needed one truth about your worth, here it is: God loves you so much that He sent His Son to die for your sins so that you could be in relationship with Him.  He wants to have dinner with you!  (Rev. 3:20). 

Cooper Kupp knows these truths.  Even with all the awards and accolades, Kupp says his greatest joy comes from knowing Christ and living out his God-given purpose in life.  He knows he is not a zero.                            

GOOD GRIEF

Types of tears

This is a repost from 2017, but I think it is timely this holiday weekend when so many are dealing with grief and the empty chair. Sending you all blessings and wishes for a happy Thanksgiving.

Have you ever wondered why we were created with the ability to cry?  I am privileged to sit alongside my clients as they shed many tears.  People are usually embarrassed and tell me they are sorry for crying, but I tell them they never have to apologize for shedding tears.  In my own life, I have gone through a seasons of tears.  There were days when I wondered how I could produce so much water!  Finally I decided to do a little research on crying and what the Bible has to say about it.

According to scientists, there are three types of tears and they all differ in their function and chemical makeup.  All tears are salt water and they drain through our nasal cavity, which is why so many of us have to blow our noses after a good cry.  Basal tears are the tears that we have in our eyes all the time.  They keep our eyes from drying out.  We produce about 5 – 10 ounces of basal tears every day.  Basal tears are about 98% water. 

Reflexive tears are those that protect the eye from irritants, such as smoke, onions, or dust.  The sensory nerves in your cornea send a message to your brainstem that in turn sends hormones to the glands in the eyes that produce tears.  These tears contain a bio-chemical called lysozyme, an antibacterial protection for the eyes.  

The third type is emotional tears.  Most scientists believe that only humans are capable of producing this type of tear. God created us with this unique ability among all His creatures.  I think it is interesting that Jesus (God in human form) also wept (John 11:35; Luke 19:41).  These emotional tears are the ones I am most curious about, and it turns out that they have special health benefits.  Dr. William Frey, a biochemist at the Ramsey Medical Center in Minneapolis, has done extensive research on tears.  He discovered that emotional tears contain stress hormones that are excreted from the body through crying.  Dr. Frey’s research suggests that when we are under stress, even good stress, our bodies produce stress hormones which are necessary for a fight-or-flight response.  However, over prolonged periods of time, these hormones can be dangerous to our health.  Dr. Frey proposes that tears are the body’s mechanism for releasing these built up toxins.  Crying is beneficial to your health, and research shows that stifling emotional tears can elevate the risk of heart disease and hypertension.  Psychologists believe that those who are experiencing grief do better through talking and crying, rather than holding it all in.  Sometimes having a good cry is the healthiest thing you can do.

The Bible has a great deal to say about crying.  In fact, there are almost 700 references to crying and tears in Scripture.  One thing stands out loud and clear: God sees our tears.  David says in Psalm 56:8: “You keep track of all my sorrows.  You have collected all my tears in your bottle.  You have recorded each one in your book.”  Tear bottles were used in ancient (and in some more modern) times during mourning.  They were used to collect the tears of the bereaved and often buried along with the deceased as a sign of respect.  

God collects our tears.  He knows when we are grieving, hurt, sad, frustrated, and angry.  He even knows when we cry tears of joy.  He sees every tear that falls.  And He records all these tears in His book of remembrance (Malachi 3:16).  God keeps a database of all our sorrows.  And He promises to wipe away all our tears when we get to Heaven (Revelation 21:4), where death, sorrow, crying, and pain will be gone forever.  

We take comfort in these things.  We are so fearfully and wonderfully made (Psalm 139:14), that even our tears have a purpose here on earth.  But when we get to Heaven there will be no need for tears.  God Himself will tenderly wipe them away.

He will wipe every tear from their eyes. There will be no more death or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away.  Revelation 21:4 (NIV).

CLOSE YOUR EYES

In my last post I wrote about the spectacular fall I had at OU during a football game.  It was one of my more attractive moments!  Since then I have been getting some physical therapy for balance, and part of the therapy involves proprioception, that I also mentioned in my last talk.  Briefly, our bodies have specialized nerve endings in our joints and muscles that send messages to the brain about the position and movement of our body parts.  For example, close your eyes and extend your arm out to the side so that it is parallel to the floor.  Now, with eyes still closed, bend your elbow 90 degrees toward the ceiling.  You were able to do that without looking because your proprioceptors were able to tell your brain the position of your arm.  Your brain was then able to move your arm properly without the benefit of sight.  

Part of my balance therapy requires standing on a squishy foam board and performing movements with my feet, head, and arms with my eyes closed.  These movements challenge all of my lazy balance systems at the same time.  This is more difficult than you might think.  Apparently balance is a “use it or lose it” mechanism.  And one of the best ways to strengthen it is to confuse it by making it unstable and then removing eyesight.  I can tell you…I don’t like it!  I want to be on firm ground with my eyes open.   

As I was performing these movements yesterday I was thinking about how much life is like that.  We want to be on firm footing and to be able to see where we are going.  We want to know what is ahead and figure out how we are going to handle it.  When life removes our familiar supports, when things are unsteady and the future is uncertain, we don’t like it.  At least I don’t.  And this is where walking by faith comes into play.

Walking by faith means we trust God’s promises even when we can’t see where we are going.  It means we trust in the goodness and purposes of God even though we may be going through severe and frightening trials.  The Bible encourages us to walk by faith and not by sight (2 Cor. 5:7).  We keep our eyes fixed on the eternal things that we cannot see now, and not on the temporary things that we can see (2 Cor. 4:18).  We have hopenot hope as a wish, but hope as a secure anchor that we can trust when we are going through stormy seas.

Here is my true confession: I hate trials and I would rather not have to walk by faith.  I want to be able to look ahead and see good things…many more years with my husband, happy lives for my children and grandchildren, a good report in My Chart, a lower number on my bathroom scales and a higher number in my bank account.  But I often say, with all the moving parts in our large family, if everyone is at a good place…don’t breathe.  Because life can change in a moment.  Trials happen, and those trials require faith.  And walking by faith through those trials develops my trust muscles. 

This much I know: God is a good God…all the time.  Even when things don’t look good, I know I can trust my good God.  His purposes toward us are always for good, not only for my good, but also for His bigger plans down the road that I cannot see right now.  And not only is He good, he is a way maker, and a promise keeper. He makes a path for me, and goes before me and behind me.  He is my anchor.  

Your road led through the sea, your pathway through the mighty waters— a pathway no one knew was there! Psalm 77:19 NLT

THE BABY SHOWER

Last weekend we had a baby shower for my granddaughter who is expecting her first baby.  This little girl who is on the way is a much longed for and planned for baby.  We are all excited and looking forward to welcoming her into the world.  And when she gets here she is going to be well equipped!  It takes a lot of gear for a tiny baby!  And it’s all so big and takes up so much space!  I told my granddaughter she and her husband might need a bigger house.  

It was so much fun watching her unwrap all the cute baby girl things, and to see all the interesting and useful gadgets new parents want today.  I think most of us do the best we can as parents based on what we know.  But the “best” I did fifty years ago would probably get me reported to child protective services today.  My seat belt was an arm thrown across a child riding in the front seat.  And my car seat was a flimsy metal and plastic thing with a toy steering wheel on the front that would impale a baby in a wreck.  But that was the best at that time.  We didn’t know.  As parents we all have hopes and dreams for our children, and we want the very best for them.

Did you know that God planned for you and had hopes and dreams for you?  Before God ever created the universe, before He ever said, “Let there be light,” He was thinking of you.  The Bible tells us in Psalm 139 that God has a book for each of us, and in those books He recorded every moment of our lives before time even began.  I think of it as my big planner in heaven. God was thinking about and making plans for us, and writing them down in our planners. The same Psalm says His thoughts about us cannot even be counted; they outnumber the grains of sand.  He has been thinking about us since before time began.

God knew the day we would be conceived, the day we would be born, the day we will die, and every day in between.  And all those thoughts He was thinking?  Those are His plans for us, our purpose for being alive on earth.  And He showered us with gifts, especially the gift of salvation, again, before the beginning of time.  Just as my granddaughter is gathering everything she needs for her yet-to-be-born baby, God had everything we would ever need to carry out our purpose in place long before we were born.  

Have you ever thought about why you are living at this particular time in history?  God has the answer recorded in your book.  That answer is your purpose for being here.  And He even promises to come along side us to help us carry out those plans.  However, we have a choice.  We can live our lives our own way, go about our business, and never even consult Him about His plan for us.  God won’t force us to carry out His plan.  But what if we miss out on the best life we could ever experience?  

You might be thinking that you don’t have time to carry out some grand plan because you have a job to get to, laundry to fold, children to care for, and groceries to buy.  Well those things could very well be God’s plan for you today.  Not all of us are called to be a Billy Graham or a Mother Teresa.  And not every day is going to be a grand mountaintop day.  But if you ask Him, He might just help you carry out a special assignment in the midst of your daily routine.  Or He might help you do the mundane with grace and love.   

Revelation 21:4 tells us that when we get to heaven, God will wipe away all our tears.  I have a friend who believes that some of those tears will fall when we see our books opened up, when we see what God had planned for us that we missed.  Even after all these years I have to remind myself every morning to consult God about my day.  I certainly don’t get it right all the time, but I want to.  I don’t want to miss out on my purpose.                  

LETTER TO MY 18-YEAR OLD SELF

It’s May again and graduation ceremonies are happening all across the United States.  Students walk across the stage to receive their diplomas while proud parents snap photos and cheer as if graduating high school were the most amazing feat ever accomplished.  This year we have two graduates.  Jack graduated last Saturday from OU, and Ellie Grace will graduate from high school tomorrow night.  These events have given me a chance to think about what life is going to be like for these seniors.  So with that in mind, I am recycling a blog I wrote a few years ago, with some minor tweaking.  

I graduated from what was at the time the largest high school in Texas.  The Bryan Adams class of 1964 had almost 1000 members.  Now it is a whopping 57 years later!  It hardly seems possible.  With so many graduates, graduation was a long and boring affair.  I don’t remember who gave the commencement address and I certainly don’t remember what was said.  I was probably too busy thinking about the all-night party that was to follow.  I wish I had paid attention because someone probably worked hard to impart some words of wisdom.  Although I thought I knew everything, I could have used some sage advice.

If I could speak now at my own graduation ceremony, what would I say to my 18-year old self?

1. The first thing I would say is “Look around.  Embrace this evening.  This is the last time you will all be together.”  At 18, I did not realize that people would move away and not return.  And I did not know that young people would die.  There was a war at the time.  Young men (and women) would sacrifice their lives in the service of their country.  Even though you all will be going off in different directions, stay in touch with people who matter.  Those friendships are worth keeping.  Sadly, at this point in our lives our classmates are dying.  Death was not even on my radar at 18.

2. Nurture your faith.  I was a baby believer at 18.  I knew I was going to Heaven, but I did not realize the claim that Jesus had on my life.  If I had developed a better relationship with Him I could have saved myself a few wrong turns.

3. Don’t be in such a hurry.  Enjoy your late adolescence and early twenties.  But at the same time, life is short.  This is the time to make careful preparations for the life you want to have.  Make deliberate choices instead of just drifting.  Live life intentionally.

4.  Life is too hard to live alone.  Stay close to your family.  VISIT YOUR GRANDPARENTS.  They will not be here forever.  Choose your spouse carefully.  Invest time in the lives of your children.  Someday they may be choosing your nursing home. 

5. Choose to live a life that makes a difference.  There are many different ways you can do this, and your path will be different from mine.  Leave the world a better place.  Spend some of your time on earth doing things that have a lasting significance.  Consider what you want your legacy to be.

6. Use your money wisely.  Be a generous giver and save for the future.  Don’t let the pursuit of money consume you.  Invest early in a retirement account because the goal line will keep moving.  

7. You are going to have some failures, but they do not define you.  Setbacks and roadblocks can help you find your true north.  

8. Keep learning and growing.  Never lose your curiosity.  The world is a big place.  See more of it.  Read good books.

9. Take a few risks.  You are capable of more than you think.  When you know what you are supposed to do, don’t listen to the naysayers.  

10. And finally, although I would not have understood this in 1964, I would give myself this important advice.  Someday you are going to have something called a hard drive.  Always back it up.

Remember also your Creator in the days of your youth, before the evil days come and the years draw near when you will say, “I have no delight in them.”   Ecclesiastes 12:1 (NASB). 

The Red River Death March

This morning I was remembering an event that happened at least twenty years ago—maybe longer. We had taken a trip to Santa Fe and Red River, New Mexico.  That area is such a beautiful part of the southwestern United States and an easy drive from Oklahoma.  We have been there several times, and enjoy the beautiful scenery every time we go.  The memory that popped up this morning is what we now fondly refer to as “The Red River Death March.”  Did that pique your interest?

So I had this bright idea that Jerry and I would take a day hike.  To say that he wasn’t interested would be an understatement, but he reluctantly agreed.  We got a map of the various trails in the area and picked out one that we thought would be doable.  Now I need to preface this story by telling you we had absolutely NO experience in hiking.  But how hard could it be?  So we set off in our sneakers with one plastic water bottle each.  Unprepared.

We walked for a bit, maybe about forty-five minutes or so, on a fairly even trail.  “This isn’t too hard,” I thought.  “I wonder how far we have to go.”  Eventually we saw a large open area…it was a parking lot!  Well that was strange.  What was a parking lot doing on the trail?  Then we saw it.  A sign.  “Trail Head.”  What the…?!  You mean we haven’t even gotten on the trail yet??  And we could have driven our car to this point?  Jerry was already suggesting we call it good, but oh no.  By golly, I wanted to hike this trail.

So off we went, already a little tired.  The trail began to ascend as we walked up the mountain.  Now I am pretty sure this was designated an “easy” hike, maybe “moderate” at most.  But a long hike for me was once around the mall.  Again…unprepared.  Up we went, the altitude getting higher, the air getting thinner, huffing and puffing and one of us grumbling.  By now Jerry is NOT a happy camper!  At one point he even threated to turn around and leave me, but that was something he would never do, so we kept climbing higher.  

Finally we were rewarded.  We reached the end of the trail and there was a beautiful lake surrounded by pine trees. The view was worth the sore muscles, although I’m not sure Jerry was enjoying is as much as I was.  I would have loved to have sat on a rock for about an hour just to enjoy the beauty, but by now we were about 2 ½ hours in and the weather was beginning to change.  A light misty rain had changed into ice and or course we had no jackets.  We needed to get back down the mountain before dark.     

Well we discovered that going down uses an entirely different set of muscles than going up.  Oh yay!  More places to be sore.  And the trail was getting slippery.  At one point I went skidding down on my rear!  At least I was making good time.  Did I mention Jerry was not happy?  Finally we reached our car, exhausted, sunburned, wet, and tired.  But we had bragging rights!  We survived The Red River Death March!  And now we can laugh about it.

As I was remembering our hike this morning, I thought about our walk through this life.  There are times when it is easy and we can just enjoy the journey.  But there are other times that may be steep, slippery, and uncharted.  We had better be well prepared for our life walk.  I can’t even imagine doing it without God.  My preparations include staying in the Word, being prayed up, and hiking along with a group of other Believers.  At my age I can look back and see all the trails God and I have walked.  But there is still an unknown trail ahead, and time is getting shorter.  Night is coming.  The one thing I know for sure is that I don’t have to walk alone and I can trust Him.  My verse for this year is Psalm 77:19.  I just keep putting one foot in front of the other as God reveals the path.

Your road led through the sea, your pathway through the mighty waters— a pathway no one knew was there!

Little Acorns

I was doing a little work in my flowerbed this morning and pulled up this little Water Oak.  I think people call trees like this “volunteers” because they just sprout up on their own, without being planted.  It is fascinating to see that it is still attached to the acorn.  I was reminded of the saying, “Great oaks from little acorns grow.”  I like this saying, and think about it whenever I am beginning a big task.  But this morning I was thinking about our own little acorns…our grandchildren that are too quickly growing into oaks.

I know I sound really old here, but where did the time go?  It seems like only a short time ago when they were all little, and now the youngest is finishing elementary school this month.  I am especially thinking of the two graduations we will celebrate in the next few days.  

Tomorrow will be Jack Foster Day as he graduates from OU.  Oh how we celebrate this graduation!  The tiny acorn that was once a preschooler has now completed college.  But then overnight he will turn into an acorn again as he begins his working life, and he is stressing a bit about finding a job.  To Jack I want to say, don’t worry about your first job.  Trust me, it will not be your last.  It used to be that people got a job, worked at it for thirty years, got a gold watch, and retired.  But things have changed.  In our current age, people change careers (not just  jobs) three times during their working lifespan.  “Just get a degree,” we told him.  A degree is a ticket.  You will figure it out.  

When I was forty-eight I enrolled in two classes at what was then Tulsa Junior College.  I wanted to get the degree I never got when I was young.  There was a verse from the Bible that was a source of encouragement to me, and I share it today with Jack:

Do not despise these small beginnings, for the LORD rejoices to see the work beginZech. 4:10

My small beginning was a little acorn that grew into a Ph.D.  Jack, just put one foot in front of the other and trust that the Lord will lead you to the place you need to be.  I can already see the might oak you will become.

Our other graduate is Ellie Grace Herrold who graduates from Bishop Kelly next Friday.  We have watched you blossom, Girl!  There are so many wonderful experiences ahead as you enter Belmont University in the fall. You have exciting plans, and I can’t wait to watch them unfold.  I have shared many verses with you in the last days…I want to make sure I tell you everything I am supposed to share with you.  So this one more verse I give you as you spread your wings:

May he give you the desire of your heart and make all your plans succeed.  Psalm 20:4            

We cover all our children, grandchildren, and our great-grands in prayer…even our unborn little girl.  We have a lot of moving parts in our family, and some of our acorns get more prayer than others depending on what season they are in.  I am so grateful that I can trust a God who loves them even more than I do.  To all of them, my prayer for you is to stay in God’s Word.  That is the way for an oak tree to grow and flourish.

But they delight in the law of the LORD, meditating on it day and night.  They are like trees planted along the riverbank, bearing fruit each season. Their leaves never wither, and they prosper in all they do.  Psalm 1:2-3

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