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

 

Cool, Refreshing Water

It has been SO hot! I know we have not had the extremely high temperatures that many places have, but 90 is very hot for us mountain folk. So, Phil and I took some of our grandchildren to the river.

Getting in the cool water that flows from the Great Smoky Mountain National Park was so refreshing! We brought tubes and some of us floated in the cool wetness, while others stacked rocks, threw rocks, or just played in the water.

It felt so good.

As I floated, leaning back on the headrest of my tube, I found myself reflecting on just how lovely it felt to relax in the coolness of the river.

It was refreshing, something I needed after the heat of the day.

I also need spiritual refreshing from time to time because of the stress (heat) of life.  It builds up, just as heat does, and we can be overcome by that pressure without realizing it.

Jesus addresses this very issue in John 7: 37-39

37 On the last and greatest day of the festival, Jesus stood and said in a loud voice, “Let anyone who is thirsty come to me and drink.38 Whoever believes in me, as Scripture has said, rivers of living water will flow from within them.” 39 By this he meant the Spirit, whom those who believed in him were later to receive. Up to that time the Spirit had not been given, since Jesus had not yet been glorified.

Rivers of living water flowing from within!

This refreshing, flowing, continuous LIFE comes from the Holy Spirit. When I feel overwhelmed, discouraged, even defeated spiritually, I must allow the Holy Spirit to flow in and through me. This living water, the Holy Spirit, is received when we become Christians, and dwells within us.

Just as the cool water of the river refreshes me physically, God’s Holy Spirit refreshes me spiritually.

May we be faithful to let the living water flow.

God’s Expectations

Phil and our first-born

” I could never live up to his expectations.”

How often have you heard this tragic statement in regard to someone talking about a parent? Sometimes a father, sometimes a mother, but equally heart-rending. Living with the feeling that you did not measure up is sometimes debilitating, but always hurtful.

The offending parent may have never verbalized their attitude towards the child, but in this case actions do speak louder than words. Looks of disdain, ignoring a child’s presence or needs,  just being too busy to listen all communicate lack of regard for a child.

Making fun of a child who makes a mistake, whether physical or verbal, is so hurtful. This can not only make a child feel inadequate, but can make a child feel like not trying something new for fear of failure.

We parents and grandparents must guard our speech to prevent hurtful words from wounding our children. Words spoken in frustration and impatience are especially scaring. One of the most harmful responses to a child is comparing that child to someone else in a negative way. “Why can’t you be like so and so…..?”

“Why can’t you be more like your brother?”

I have an older brother who was a high achiever in everything he did. He made excellent grades, was a good athlete, played the trombone, and NEVER got in trouble. Thankfully, my parents made it a point to not compare myself or my younger brother to our older sibling.

My younger brother can fix anything. He was this way as a young child. Whenever he visits, he fixes something. (Oh, about our coo-coo clock…when are you coming to visit?)

My parents expressed pleasure when I won the bubble-blowing contest, praised me for the grades I earned, and more importantly, supported my unique pursuits in artistic expression and theater, things my brothers did not do.

I do not remember a sense of competition in our home – but a realistic expectation that each of us would do our personal best. We are all different, and encouraging those differences seemed important in our family. My brothers may see it differently than I do, being the only girl, I always felt valued for who I was.

What a gift!

Phil and I tried to do the same with our four children, celebrating their differences and unique qualities. I can’t say that there was never competition between them, but it was self-inflicted, not from their father or me. The following Scripture is very meaningful to me –

Psalm 62:5   “My soul, wait thou only upon God; for my expectation is from Him.

It is natural for parents to have expectations for their children.

We must make certain that our children know we love and accept them unconditionally. They must know that our love is not based on whether or not they meet our expectations.  The second part of that verse holds the key – “my expectation is from Him”. We must allow God to form our children according to HIS good pleasure, not ours.

I find this verse, Ephesians 3:20 in the Amplified version, so encouraging –

“Now to Him Who, by (in consequence of) the [action of His] power that is at work within us, is able to [carry out His purpose and] do superabundantly, far over and above all that we [dare] ask or think [infinitely beyond our highest prayers, desires, thoughts, hopes, or dreams]–“

Now I can think of some pretty wonderful things to have happen for my children and grandchildren!

Yet this verse states the fact that what God, our Father, has planned for them is better than anything I can even think or dream!

So – the challenge for us as parents and grandparents is to let our expectations come from God.

Sure Footing

 

Mt. Precipice overlooking the Sea of Galilee

“Just put your foot on the next staple, then move your hands down and lower yourself to the staple below. Keep doing that until you are at the bottom.”

“just” –  does that word cause you to pause?

It should. One person’s “just” may be a significant challenge for someone else. As in “just tell him “no” – when you want your child to stop doing something that may be dangerous. Depending on the child, that may or may not be a simple solution.

Something that challenges me down to the very fiber of my being, may be “just climbing down a cliff” to someone else.

While in Israel, the main quality of the topography that Phil and I noticed were the rocks. (This is besides everything being very dry unless it is irrigated.) Rocks were everywhere. In the ancient sites and ruins we visited, the buildings were constructed of rocks and are therefore still visible. This makes perfect sense because rocks are in such abundance and people throughout history use what is available to construct dwellings.

After seeing rocks everywhere, it should have come as no surprise that our group would be asked to descend a rock formation.

Yet, Elaine and I WERE surprised!

We had hiked up a steep slope through brown grass that was sprinkled with flowers, startling in their beauty because everything around was so brown. The end of our climb was a spectacular panoramic view. This mountain was called Mt. Precipice.

I looked up the word precipice  – it means – a very steep rock face or cliff, typically a tall one. The name was so appropriate and should have been a clue of what was to come.

After our guide James pointed out the significance of the surrounding landscape and what Jesus would have seen during his time, we saw where we would be hiking next, even where we would be spending the night. (FAR in the distance!)

James then said, “We are just going to descend this cliff. It is a bit tricky, but we will help each other.”

The path James led us to was straight down!

You can see from the photo that I am not exaggerating. We were told that morning  before we left that there were some “rocky bits” and “one strenuous part.” We had been on rocky bits the whole trail. I should have know that when James said “strenuous” it really would be. There were large iron staples embedded in the rock face to hold on to and step on as one climbed down.

I watched as the others started descending first. I was so proud of Elaine! What a trooper! She went down from hand/foot hold to hand/foot hold, step by step.

As I watched Elaine descend, I knew I could as well. She went before me, making sure each of her steps was on sure footing.

Elaine’s example gave me courage and encouragement to make the descent myself. My biggest concern was making sure my foot was securely on a staple before I put my weight on it and went down to the next staple. I wasn’t sure I could see the next staple.

Phil went before me and when I needed it, he guided my foot to the next staple. Once I felt the staple under my foot – sure footing – I was fine.

Needless to say, we all made it down in one piece.

I have thought since then that this is a picture of our walk with God and how important the Body of Christ is. In life we come to those times where we are on a precipice, we are not sure where to go, or how to face what we see ahead. It may seem that there is NO WAY forward. Yet if we look around, God often provides someone who is going through something similar – right before us – and that person can support and guide us along the way.

Seeing Elaine descend successfully, then having Phil guide my feet, prevented me from being paralyzed by fear or being left behind on the mountain.

In Psalm 37:23-24 it says –

23 The Lord makes firm the steps
    of the one who delights in him;
24 though he may stumble, he will not fall,
    for the Lord upholds him with his hand.

In Psalm 40, David encourages me –

I waited patiently for the Lord;
    he turned to me and heard my cry.
He lifted me out of the slimy pit,
    out of the mud and mire;
he set my feet on a rock
    and gave me a firm place to stand.
He put a new song in my mouth,
    a hymn of praise to our God.
Many will see and fear the Lord
    and put their trust in him.

We can encourage one another as we walk with God, encourage each other to keep out feet on the Rock, our sure footing.

Don’t Give Up

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This camellia is just beautiful right now! I was lamenting the fact that it is blooming so early and that a freeze or frost might kill the blooms.

Phil said to just enjoy it while it lasts. Stop worrying about what MIGHT happen.

So, I am trying to do that. I have no control over the weather, or how that weather effects our plants. It has been unseasonably warm this February and things are budding out and blooming earlier than I can ever remember.

This camellia is a bush we transplanted from Phil’s Aunt Priscilla’s home after she passed away at 95. We had given her this plant for her 80th birthday (I think) and she had taken special care of it. She fertilized it regularly and pruned errant limbs as needed. When Phil’s family was getting ready to put Aunt Cil’s house on the market, we went to collect some items with special memories for Phil.

Phil decided he wanted the camellia bush, so he got a shovel and began to dig it up. The roots were much deeper that he anticipated and it was quite an effort to finally dig it out. We were not sure that it would make it, if there was enough root still attached to maintain life when transplanted in our yard.

So, we brought the plant 146 miles from Moravian Falls to Dillsboro and took great care in transplanting this camellia. Phil dug a large hole, put in rich, composted soil from the garden, and then planted the camellia, watering it generously.

And, we KEPT watering it. My father took it upon himself to make sure it did not dry out, which would kill what roots were left.

The leaves on the plant gradually dried up and fell off. (For those that don’t know, camellias are an evergreen shrub, they only shed leaves as new leaves push-off the old ones)

Soon, there was only three brown stems where there had once been a lovely, full shrub.

Well, we left it that winter and hoped that maybe new growth would poke out in the spring.

Nothing happened.

No new leaves.

So, later in June, I decided that I would plant something else in the place of that camellia. I started to dig around the bottom of those dead looking stems and …

SURPRISE!

There was a new stem starting to poke up from a root next to the old, main stem! I was so excited, I called Phil to come over and see that puny little stem.

We took great care then to water, protect, and nurture that fragile little stem. Now, four years later, it is a vigorous bush with lovely pink blooms as you can see from the above photo.

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In Galatians 6:9-10 Paul says this –

So let’s not get tired of doing what is good. At just the right time we will reap a harvest of blessing if we don’t give up. 10 Therefore, whenever we have the opportunity, we should do good to everyone—especially to those in the family of faith.

Notice Paul is encouraging the Christians in Galatia to NOT GIVE UP!

We must be careful not to give up on

  • our children
  • our grandchildren
  • our teenagers
  • our parents
  • OURSELVES

Paul encourages us that at “just the right time” we will reap the harvest – or see the results.

IF WE DON’T GIVE UP!

God’s time is not our time.

God is God.

I would have missed the blessing of these beautiful blossoms if I had given up on Aunt Cil’s camellia.

We will miss God’s blessing if we give up on those we love and care about.

And, may we do good to everyone.

 

Be an Ambassador

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My daughter Hannah and I had the privilege of staying two nights in the home of the Ambassador of the Republic of Haiti in 2006 when we were visiting Washington, DC.

We had a lovely visit and even went to a celebration of Nigeria’s Independence Day at the Nigerian Embassy with our host and hostess. I saw the most beautiful dresses there that I have ever seen!

How did we happen to have this amazing opportunity?

Well, the story starts in 1956 when I was 5 years old.

I grew up in an old farmhouse that evolved into a house in a neighborhood four blocks from Wheaton College, Wheaton, Illinois. My parents housed students from Wheaton College to help pay their mortgage.

One of those students was a brilliant young man, Raymond Joseph, from Haiti. He was studying at the college and would always greet us in the mornings and evenings in French as he passed by us to his room upstairs. He had the most beautiful smile and was always interested in what my brothers and I were doing.

Raymond Joseph went on to study at the University of Chicago and later worked as a reporter for the Wall Street Journal and worked as a leader in the Haitian opposition movement of then dictator, Francois Duvalier.

You can imagine my surprise when I got a telephone call 55 years later from Raymond Joseph!

He was calling from Washington, DC where he was living and serving as Ambassador to the United States from Haiti. Raymond had been in touch with my mother and she had given him my phone number. We talked for a long time catching up and reminiscing.

He said that if we ever came to Washington, DC we were welcome to stay with him.

Don’t ever say that to the Woodys – we will come!!!

We had the most delightful visit. Ambassador Joseph had his limo pick us up and drop us off for a tour of the Haitian Embassy. We talked at length about the issues facing his homeland and his efforts to work for progress and real change for his people. His love for Haiti and his people was evident in his home, his office, and all he shared with us.

The definition of ambassador is – an accredited diplomat sent by a country as its official representative to a foreign county.

Raymond Joseph was an excellent ambassador. He represented Haiti well from 2005 to 2010.

The recent appointments of ambassadors for our new administration has prompted the above memories and also started me thinking of our role as ambassadors for Jesus Christ.

II Corinthians 5:20-21 says –

20 So we are Christ’s ambassadors; God is making his appeal through us. We speak for Christ when we plead, “Come back to God!” 21 For God made Christ, who never sinned, to be the offering for our sin,  so that we could be made right with God through Christ.

What a beautiful message of reconciliation!

We, God’s children, should be representing our Heavenly Father in such a way as to make others who aren’t Christians desire to become part of God’s kingdom.

Are we being good ambassadors?

Do our children, grandchildren, friends, co-workers, anyone we come in contact with – do they see a Jesus in us who loves them so much He died for them?

  • Do others see grace or condemnation?
  • Do they see joy or sadness?
  • Do they see faith or fear?

God is making His appeal through us!

May we be faithful ambassadors of the kingdom of God.