Friday, November 12, 2010

God and Cinnamon Rolls

There's something you should know.  I love to bake!  I mean I really...really...really love to bake!

There are few things I enjoy more (as my ever expanding waistline will attest).  And it doesn't really matter what recipe I'm putting together.  For me, the best thing about baking, other than sampling all of the goodies, is sharing what I make with my family and friends.  Just knowing that I might be able to make their day a little brighter with something sweet brings me joy.  I love how the smell of spices hangs in the air, especially around this time of year.  It is one of the things that makes my house feel like HOME.   


I also find that, for me, baking is therapeutic.  Whether working the dough for cinnamon rolls, or cooking the fudge icing for a sheet cake, the act of creating something pleasing gives me a sense of calm, clears my mind, and gives me a perfect opportunity to talk to my Father.  I love that I don't have to wait for a more "appropriate time" to have those conversations.  He loves me right where I am, no matter where that is.  I don't have to get all dressed up, or have it all together (which is great, because I definitely don't!)  He knows me better than anyone, and loves me still, even with all of my quirks (and believe me, there are quite a few of those).

I guess we are all a whole lot like these cinnamon rolls you see here.  The Lord takes all of the ingredients of our lives...our hopes, our dreams, our experiences, our gifts, our faults...everything that has made up our lives until this moment, and He mixes them all together.  He kneads the dough (you and me), stretching and pulling...forcefully when necessary.  Then He allows us to feel the heat, so that we can become more.  So that we can grow.  Don't get me wrong...I am certainly not claiming that we are perfect.  Or something finished.  Or something complete.  Not yet.  But the day that we see Him face to face, the timer will go off, and if we know Him, we will be in the sweetest place imaginable.

"How sweet are Your words to my taste, Sweeter than honey to my mouth!"  Psalm 119:103

Sunday, November 7, 2010

Life On Purpose

How do you go about your daily schedule of activities?  Do you go through your day taking everything as it comes, or do you begin your day with a plan and modify your plan as the day necessitates?  I was reminded recently, through an email from my Daddy (yes, grown women can still call their fathers "Daddy" :D), how important it is to live each day with purpose.  Now, this may seem like common knowledge to you, and usually it is to me, too, but for the last couple of days, I have felt a little disconnected from the usual order of things.

I'm not really sure why.  Maybe it is because I have been distracted wondering when my brother will finally begin his chemo.  (He was supposed to start it this week, but for some reason the medicine still hasn't arrived at the pharmacy.)  Maybe it is because I haven't been feeling up to par physically...but doesn't everybody get "the crud" this time of year?  Maybe it is because I found out that my mother-in-love had to put her dog down on Thursday.  Or maybe it's just because I need more chocolate.  Whatever it is, I have definitely been out of sorts, and sadly, I know that it has affected my attitude.

Thankfully, I got the email from my Daddy.  He has been sharing pages of a book he is reading that discusses having hope in the midst of dealing with cancer, in order to help us keep a good attitude so that we can help my brother stay optimistic.  (I know...ironic, right?)  After reading the selection he had shared, my focus seemed to sharpen quite a bit.  It made me think about how I live my life on a daily basis.  Do I get up ready to tackle the day, or do I wake up nursing a pitiful attitude because I have too much to do?  Do I go about my day with purpose, or do I just do what is needed to get by?  As you can see, it gave me a lot to think about.

It lead me to the Word, where I was reminded once again of the wonderful plan the Lord has for my life (and for yours).

I knew you before I formed you in your mother's womb. Before you were 
born I set you apart and appointed you as my spokesman to the world.
Jeremiah 1:5 

Isn't that amazing?!!  The One who spoke the entire universe into existence had a plan for your life before you were even conceived.  If the Lord loves us enough to have an amazing plan for us before we even exist, our lives must have an awesome purpose! 

I want my life to count, not for my own fame or recognition, but for the glory of God.  I want to use each moment that I have to serve Him.  I want to grow in my walk with Him, learning more about His character, and becoming more like Him with each passing day.  I want to live life on purpose, and not take one second for granted.  The time we have on this earth is a gift from our Heavenly Father, and I want to look upon this gift with all of the joy and wonder it deserves.

Teach us to make the most of our time, so that we may grow in wisdom.
Psalm 90:12 (NLT)

Funny how often the view changes along with our perspective.

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

The Gift of Hope

Don't you just love this time of year?  I sure do!  Fall is simply my most favorite season.  There are so many things to love about it.  The trees are dressed in a glorious riot of color.  Families across the country are celebrating the Lord's abundant harvest and His faithful provision.  Homes are beautifully decorated with pumpkins, cornstalks, and enormous pots of chrysanthemums.  This time of year, my family gathers to snuggle into warm fleece blankets, drink hot coffee (and creamy hot chocolate :D), and watch our favorite movies.  It is finally time for the white bean chicken chili (thanks to a recipe from Paula Deen) to be simmering on the stove, and to have a warm, crackling fire glowing in the fireplace.

Isn't is amazing how the smell of something wonderful can change your whole perspective?  Just knowing that Prince Charming (my oh so sweet, and terribly handsome hubby), and our now all-grown-up children, will have something warm and filling to eat for dinner gives me such a sense of contentment.  It could be chili, stew, or good old vegetable soup, but whatever the meal, it just says "Home".  Add to that some cornbread and this girl is in heaven.

It is also around this time of year that I begin my yearly search through the holiday magazines to find some fresh inspiration for our home's Christmas decorations.  Sometimes I find an idea that will last for years to come.  Other times, I can't find anything new that seems like a good fit.  Either way, the fun is in the search...the possibility that I will find something beautiful.  Isn't it funny how life can also be that way?  Even when things aren't going the way you might want them to, there is always hope around the corner...a fresh perspective that can change the way you see your whole day. 

This is just one of the many incredible gifts from our Heavenly Father.  Hope.  Isn't is amazing how much power is contained in that little word?  So...that is my prayer for you (and me) today.  Lord, help us all to see your gift of hope...and the gift of the One that we will celebrate with such gusto in the next few weeks. 

So, today, I am grateful for hope. 

What are you grateful for today?

Monday, November 1, 2010

Counting My Blessings

As the month of November is getting started, I have been thinking about all of the things this month represents.  Cooler temperatures...a fire in the fireplace...gorgeous fall colors on display in the trees outside my home.  And, of course, I imagine the wonderful sights and smells of Thanksgiving Day...turkey and dressing...sweet potato souffle...mounds of mashed potatoes with gravy.  You get the idea!  :)

This morning, during my quiet time, I came to the conclusion that I don't want to wait until the official holiday to begin "counting my blessings".  This is something that I should be doing every day.  So, I want to take some time each day to say what I am grateful for.  Today, I am grateful for the love of my Savior.  Today, I am grateful to have a family that loves me, and faithfully stands by me when life gets tough.  Today, I am grateful that my brother is alive, and is healthy enough to be able to begin chemotherapy this week.  Today, I am grateful to have friends that love me (in spite of all of my faults).  As the month goes on, I know that my list will continue to grow.  How about you?

What are you thankful for today?

Hope you are having a wonderful Monday! to do laundry (and to be thankful for the clothes...especially once they are clean, folded, and put away! :D)

Until next time, I'll be counting my blessings...and enjoying the view from here :)

Friday, October 29, 2010

Looking for Miracles

Welcome to my little corner of the blogosphere!  While I am really excited to begin sharing my life with you on this blog, I am amazed at how difficult it is to find the right words now that I'm actually getting down to it.  I have so many thoughts and ideas playing "tag" in my mind, but as soon as I sit down and get ready to type, my thoughts change the game to "hide and seek".  I have this problem.  I hate to admit it, but I tend to get incredibly distracted when I have a lot on my mind.  The problem appears to have grown considerably in the past few weeks...all in tandem with a difficult situation that my family has been facing lately.  

You see, my brother has cancer.  To be precise, a little over six weeks ago, he was diagnosed with stage 4 renal cell carcinoma.  Isn't that just an awful name?  The very words make me cringe.  Stage 4...Renal Cell Carcinoma.  How is it that words can look so terribly final?  Think that sounds scary?  Well, you're right.  It is.  The ordinary human name for it is kidney cancer.  (Unfortunately, that doesn't sound much better.)  It's still hard to believe that only two months ago we were blissfully ignorant of this horrible thing that was steadily growing in his body.  And then, all at once we were confronted, not only with the knowledge that he had cancer, but also with the fact that this terrible thing was turning his once healthy kidney into a giant, malignant mass...a mass that was considerably larger than a football.  And if that wasn't bad enough, it had already metastasized (which basically means it had spread) to his left adrenal gland, nearby lymph nodes, several ribs, chest cavity, his liver, and possibly his lung.  Were we blindsided?  Oh yeah.  Overwhelmed?  You better believe it.

Now, let's fast-forward.  Three weeks later, he had a surgery called a radical nephrectomy.  In plain English, it means that they removed the cancerous left kidney, the associated tumors (there were two), the left adrenal gland, and the associated lymph nodes.  (It makes me tired just to think about it!)  So many things had to be done to his body just to give him a fighting chance. 

I know this is a lot of information, and you may be wondering why I am telling you all of this.  Is it to get your pity?  Nope.  Is it to make you believe that life can be awful?  No way.  (Although, at times, life can seem that way.)  Is it to stir up your emotions?  Absolutely not.  Bear with me, there is a purpose, I promise.   

I am sharing this to let you know that God is matter what.  

Does that sound crazy to you after reading everything so far?  It wouldn't surprise me if it did.  You see, the longer I walk with the Lord, the more I am amazed at the miracles He shows me everyday...especially when life gets really tough.  You may have noticed them in your life, too.  They're the little things that might be easy to overlook if you aren't actively seeking God's face, because they are actually a reflection of Him, undeniable evidence of His hand upon our lives.  I shared all of the cancer stuff with you so that I might also share the glimpses of God in the midst of it, the unmistakable fingerprints of my Savior reminding me that He is still there.  (Please understand that I rarely use that word..."miracle" normal conversation.  It seems much too large and powerful to use for anything even remotely ordinary.  But during the past few weeks, well...let's just say that the Lord is doing a mighty work!)  

God is moving.  He is at work in the middle of everything we are dealing with on a daily basis.  There is just no getting around it!  During all of our grief and suffering, I have seen the Lord bring reconciliation to estranged family members...people who haven't spoken to each other in years.  And now, during overwhelming circumstances, they have found one another again.  They are showing love by showing up...and by being a supportive part of this fight.  Can you see the miracle?  I sure can.  I have watched my brother lay down a life-long addiction to cigarettes (totally cold turkey) in order to be able to have this surgery.  Miracle?  Definitely.  I have also seen my brother miraculously healed of areas of cancer that, only a week earlier, had spotted his liver.  Those same spots had simply disappeared.  Another miracle?  You better believe it.  But wait!  That's not all!  He was also downgraded from Stage 4 to Stage 3!  The miracles just keep coming, and we are grateful for each and every one.  I know that the road ahead is long, and potentially very difficult.  But I can't escape the truth that, in everything, God is good.  Even though we may have to endure pain and suffering...He is still good.  Do I wish there were no pain in this life to deal with?  Of course, and I'm sure you feel the same, but the reality is that we live in a fallen world.  Sin has tainted what was once perfect and unblemished.  

"Therefore, just as through one man sin entered the world, 
and death through sin, and thus death spread to all men, because all sinned"  
Romans 5:12 

The flawless beauty of God's creation changed due to the cancerous growth of sin in the heart of man.  As a result of this, death has spread to all men.  But please don't stop now, because that isn't the end of the story!  

"The thief does not come except to steal, kill, and destroy.  I have
come that they might have life, and that they may have it more abundantly."
John 10:10

The Lamb of God, Jesus Christ, has come that we may have LIFE!  I don't know about you, but that just sets my heart on fire!  Even in a fallen world, we can live an abundant life in Christ.  That bit of information is a lot to take in.  But then, so is this...

"But God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that 
while we were still sinners, Christ died for us." 
Romans 5:8 

"While we were still sinners"!  How cool is that?!!!  I am so glad that there is One who is the Great Physician, completely capable of doing surgery on our lives to deliver us from the disease of sin.

I know that we still have much in front of us on this road.  You may be going through something just as difficult, or perhaps more so.  If you are, please know this...God loves you.  There is nothing you can't face with Him by your side.  When things get difficult or overwhelming, remember what His word says:

"The Lord is my light and my salvation: Whom shall I fear?
The Lord is the strength of my life: Of whom shall I be afraid?
When the wicked came against me to eat up my flesh,
my enemies and foes, they stumbled and fell.
Though an army may encamp against me, My heart shall not fear,
Though war may rise against me, In this I will be confident.
One thing I have desired of the Lord, That will I seek:
That I may dwell in the house of the Lord all the days of my life,
To behold the beauty of the Lord, and to inquire in His temple.
For in the time of trouble He shall hide me in His pavilion; 
In the secret place of His tabernacle He shall hide me;
He shall set me high upon a rock."
Psalm 27: 1 - 5

Until next time, keep looking for His miracles in your life.  They have a tendency to show up when you least expect them!