Good Work

Three of our grandsons helped load fire wood Saturday as part of Cullowhee Methodist Church’s service to the elderly in Jackson County. Volunteers cut wood, split wood, load the wood on trucks, and deliver it to folks all over the county.

What a blessing!

It is a blessing to those who receive wood, and it was certainly timely with the cold snap we are experiencing. But, it is a great blessing to all who work serving as well. I was so pleased to see four generations of folks represented among the volunteers.

Serving has no age limits.

Which leads me to the purpose of this post – good work.

Work can have a negative connotation for our children and grandchildren. “I have a job for you” is a statement that is often met with wails of distress from children who would rather be playing, reading, using an electronic device – anything but work. That same statement, “I have a job for you”, has a totally different response from someone who has been out of work and is LOOKING for a job.

Meaningful work is very important for us as humans. It gives us a reason to get out of bed each morning. We need a purpose.

In Ephesians 2:8-10 Paul is explaining to the Church that we are not saved by the works we do, yet God does have work for us to do.

 For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God— not by works, so that no one can boast. 10 For we are God’s handiwork, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do.

God has prepared good work for each of us! Our attitude toward work is an example to our children and grandchildren.

  • are we thankful for our job?
  • do we see our job as a way to serve others, or just for a paycheck?
  • do we do our best at work, or just enough to get by?
  • are we honest, faithful, and joyful at work?

Working alongside our children and grandchildren is the best way to show them the blessing of work. These boys have worked with their Mom and Dad in the Hope Garden, a community garden which helps those in need.

Good work can be fun, especially when done together. Milkshakes afterward don’t hurt….

 

 

 

Bulbs – Potential That Requires Patience

Now is the time to plant bulbs.

But you won’t see any results for four months at least. Bulbs are NOT for those who want instant gratification. Bulbs require patience. They must be planted before really cold weather so that the bulbs “harden” which allows them to bloom in spring. I waited too late one year when we lived in Cullowhee and in the spring only leaves came up – no blooms. The next year though – surprise – they did bloom. That was a test of patience.

You may look closely at a bulb, but you cannot tell what color the future bloom will be. You must have faith in the packaging, or be willing to be surprised. For those of us who love those first blooms in spring – it is worth the wait.

Bulbs are like children.

The similarity is more than the fact that parents must wait 9 months before a baby is born. Even after birth, maybe even more after birth, one must wait to see how a child or children will grow and develop. Sometimes it seems to go very fast, other times changes occur at an agonizingly slow pace.

There is a reason some of us are called “late bloomers”….

This growth process requires patience. Just as weather patterns affect the timing of bulbs blooming, children’s growth is affected by life circumstances, health, environment, a myriad of factors. Just as I can’t control the weather, I can’t control all the influences on my children’s lives. I work hard to make my garden as accommodating to the growth of the bulbs as possible, but many factors are out of my hands. Rain, temperature…

As a mother, and now as a grandmother, I work to create a nurturing environment that encourages healthy growth for our children. So Many circumstances are out of my hands.

I must be patient.

I remember our daughter Abigail telling me that she and her daughter, Rachel, had planted sunflower seeds in early summer. Rachel kept asking – “Where are the flowers?” A life lesson in patience. They did finally bloom!

In James 5: 7-8, James is encouraging the early Christians to be patient as they wait for Jesus to return. We must be patient for that glorious event as well! Patience is a fruit of Holy Spirit dwelling in our lives and a quality we must nurture and exemplify.

Dear brothers and sisters, be patient as you wait for the Lord’s return…

Consider the farmers who patiently wait for the rains in the fall and in the spring.

They eagerly look for the valuable harvest to ripen. You, too, must be patient.

May we be examples of patience in the midst of this “instant” world.

 

# In My Garden With God – 23

 

Scattered Seeds

I was out raking up leaves and the dead parts of plants this afternoon. It was such a beautiful day! I came across the seed pods from butterfly weed and marveled again (as I do each year) how many seeds burst forth from one pod!

The silk carries the seed off in the breeze to find a resting place to germinate, if conditions are agreeable. Human intervention sometimes helps, or interferes – depending on one’s viewpoint. I usually take a handful of silk and seeds and find a sunny spot with loose soil and bury a few. I did so today.

Below is a picture of the butterfly weed in our yard when it was in bloom this summer – with the butterflies it attracts. It fascinates me when a butterfly the same color as the flower lands on one of the blooms.

Plants are finishing their growing cycle this time of year. If we weren’t familiar with this cycle it would be easy to assume that plants were dead or dying. Leaves fall off, no new blooms open up, stems turn brown and brittle.

Yet think of all the potential life there is in that small seed!

Sometimes our lives are like plants. We seem to be doing well, growing, producing flowers and fruit. Then situations and circumstances change and it seems that everything that was so full of potential and growth has now become dead and useless. The winter of life has arrived.

Jesus addresses this very issue in John 12: 24, 25. I like how the Message interprets these verses –

24-25 “Listen carefully: Unless a grain of wheat is buried in the ground, dead to the world, it is never any more than a grain of wheat. But if it is buried, it sprouts and reproduces itself many times over. In the same way, anyone who holds on to life just as it is destroys that life. But if you let it go, reckless in your love, you’ll have it forever, real and eternal.

There are times in our lives when we must let go of things or situations – in a sense let them die. Yet, that is often the very chance God has to renew that area of our life – even reproducing many times over what we thought was dead. Letting those seeds spring to life!

Just as I rake and throw away the old dead foliage in our yard, I must allow God to enter every area of my life and get rid of the old dead attitudes and habits so NEW life can take root.

 

In My Garden With God #21

A Legacy Lives On

It has been a year since my Mother passed on to her eternal reward. As others who have experienced this loss, you know how you miss your mother every day. So many thoughts pass through my mind, and an instant response is “oh, I need to tell Mother”. I see something and I think, “oh, Mother would like that.”

Yet I am so thankful for all the wonderful memories I have and treasure. Esther Barker lived 90 blessed years!

Mother loved Bible study. While visiting our daughter Hannah recently, I started working on my study of Hebrews while I was waiting for the rest of the children to wake up. Our granddaughter, Adella, asked me what I was doing and when I told her, she went and got her Bible and said she would help me. She certainly did! After looking up a passage and reading the question, Adella came up with very good answers.

I noticed Adella had highlighted verses and I asked her about that.

“Mom said I couldn’t underline in my Bible any more so she gave me a highlighter to use instead.”

After seeing where Adella had underlined, I understood my daughter’s concern. (she had drawn lines right through the words instead of UNDER the words) Adella showed me her favorite verse in Psalms and I showed her my favorite verse, Romans 12:2.

I had forgotten my Bible in the car, so I found Hannah’s old Bible. She had used this Bible while in college and she had written many notes and underlined verses special to her.

So, the legacy Mother left of Bible study and loving God’s Word is living on in myself, our three daughters (who all attend Bible studies) and on to the next generation as well.

Psalm 119 states –

73 You made me; you created me.
    Now give me the sense to follow your commands.
74 May all who fear you find in me a cause for joy,
    for I have put my hope in your word.

103 How sweet your words taste to me;
    they are sweeter than honey.
104 Your commandments give me understanding;
    no wonder I hate every false way of life.

105 Your word is a lamp to guide my feet
    and a light for my path.

We are blessed!

Love is What Matters

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I had the privilege of attending the Women’s Conference at Ochre Hill Baptist Church recently. Hosted by Ochre Hill, individuals and churches throughout the county were invited.

Samantha Blanton and the ladies from Ochre Hill did a wonderful job making all who attended feel welcome and celebrated. There were several powerful testimonies as women shared their stories of God’s grace as they moved from Beauty to Ashes.

I was deeply touched by Mamaw Beck. She is a Godly woman, 88 years of age, who has raised a family in our community. One of her children is a former co-worker of mine, Lewis Beck, who is a tribute to Mamaw’s skill as a mother. She has served her church for many years by keeping the nursery. It is obvious to anyone who sees her with children that the children love her and seek her attention. Mrs. Beck still keeps the nursery at 88!

She is not someone who says – “I did that when my children were little, let someone else do it now.”

As part of the conference she shared the following –

I love these children. Someone asked me if I didn’t want to read them a lesson. I told them, no, I just love them. I want these children to love coming to church to worship God, so I just love on ‘um.”

Isn’t that what Jesus did with children?

Mark 10:13-15 NKJV     13 Then they brought little children to Him, that He might touch them; but the disciples rebuked those who brought them. 14 But when Jesus saw it, He was greatly displeased and said to them, “Let the little children come to Me, and do not forbid them; for of such is the kingdom of God. 15 Assuredly, I say to you, whoever does not receive the kingdom of God as a little child will by no means enter it.”

Jesus wanted the children to come to him. He STILL wants children to come to him. I am blessed to know people in our community who value children just like Jesus does, those people love children with Jesus’ love. Tammy Youmans, Courtney Umphlet, Alexis Dills, Luisa McMahan, and Kelly Brown are just a few of the many in our community who lead young ones to Jesus.

I am especially blessed how four churches in our town all come together and offer one Bible School. What a great example to our children and our community to see the Body of Christ working together in unity!

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Here are children ready to share what they learned during their week of Bible School. They played games, learned Bible verses and songs, and made things. They also were loved. Programs, activities, and curriculum all have their place.

Love is what matters.

That is just what Mamaw Dot and Jesus do.

Letter from My Father

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I am going through old papers. You know, that box in the back of the closet with papers I have saved for years, but never look at?

Well, I am so thankful I did not give in to my first impulse and throw it all away. I have thrown away some, (why in the world did I save it in the first place?) but I found a treasure, something that really touched my heart.

A letter from my father.

Carol Strobeck and I were in Hawaii for Christmas break of our junior year of college. We had the wonderful opportunity to visit the family of a college friend, Pam Grindle, whose parents lived in Hawaii during the winter months. (their home was in Alaska)

My father wrote to me and it is such a snapshot of his personality – warm, funny, personal, and thoughtful. My father had spent time in Hawaii during WW II while training on his way to the Pacific theater. He eventually served on Guam, Okinawa, and other small islands in his role as a weather man for the Air Corps of the Army. He had such wonderful memories of Hawaii and he was so pleased that I had the opportunity to go there.

As I recall, my father only wrote to me twice, so I am thankful I saved this letter from 1972. (I was 20, 47 years ago!)

Here is part of what my father wrote –

I wonder if you felt like I did in the islands. I think I can describe. When I first experienced the beauty and the general atmosphere of the place I felt a gentleness and softness of the atmosphere that seemed very delicate and wonderful. I often think that the feeling of enjoyment I sensed when I first took in the beauty of the islands was just a slight introduction and foretaste of what God has been preparing for you and me and all of us in the form of Heaven for our eternal reward.”

It is not surprising to me or anyone who knew my father that the natural beauty of Hawaii stirred his heart. He devoted his life and career to studying and teaching the wonder of God’s creation.

My father lived with eternity on his mind. He went on to his eternal reward in 2016 at 91 years of age. Now he has more than the “foretaste” of Heaven, he is experiencing the reality.

But, as it is written,

“What no eye has seen, nor ear heard,
    nor the heart of man imagined,
what God has prepared for those who love him”— I Corinthians 2:9

 

The greatest gifts my father gave me, besides his unconditional love, was his love for God and his contagious love of nature. I caught both extravagantly.

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