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….

 

 

 

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

My Father’s Daughter

DSC_3658

“I’ve walked with God my whole life, I’m ready to go be with Him.”

These were the words my father spoke when the oncologist asked Dad if he knew what he was facing.

Three days later, my father passed on into the presence of the Lord. It seemed to go so fast for us, his loved ones. Dad died on February 10th and at Christmas, just two months before, he had been his vigorous self. He was turning wooden bowls, playing ping-pong, checking his plants in the hallway sunroom.

He was 91.

Dad walked with God.

I miss him most when I walk around our yard now. His handiwork is everywhere. The calla lilies Dad planted are blooming in their pure white glory. The butterfly weeds he started from seeds have spread and are full of orange tipped butterflies, just like the blooms.

“Gayle, you have to come see this.”

“Dad, you’ve got to come see THIS!”

“We must go get your Mother.”

These were the conversations we would have beginning in spring and continuing until a hard frost. We would walk around the yard, weed, deadhead, and glory in the beauty and handiwork of God’s creation.

Dad and Mom would count the number of different kinds of flowers in bloom at one time. He so enjoyed the variety and unique qualities of the various species.

I miss Dad.

Yet, I am left with wonderful memories and so many beautiful plants.

My father also left me with His greatest influence on my life – his love for his Lord and savior, Jesus Christ. Dad quietly, yet openly, lived as a Christian.

He loved God.

He loved his family.

He loved others.

He loved God’s creation and was a steward of all living things.

As I tend the flowers, I am reminded of the lessons Dad taught me about life –  botanic life, and more importantly, life everlasting.

I am my father’s daughter and I am so blessed that Dad led me to follow Jesus, just as he did.

May we leave this same legacy for our children and grandchildren.

5 Years…really?

Beautiful Daughters

Beautiful Daughters

I saw the date on my first blog post the other day and it hit me…

I have been writing this blog for 5 years!
(plus two weeks)

I started “blogging” because I was challenged by a Bible teacher and friend with Jesus’ mandate to His disciples…go make disciples.

“Who are you discipling?” I was asked.

I had to think a bit and I realized that I was sharing what I hoped was Godly insight with several young mothers, including our three daughters.

  • But was I discipling?
  • Was I being intentional?
  • Was I prayerfully, thoughtfully sharing what God had deposited in me over the years?
  • Was I just “shooting from the hip” so to speak – sharing whatever popped in my head.

 

I realized that God wanted me to be VERY intentional – that if my daughters and other young mothers were going to be drawn to be like Jesus through me, I must take this role prayerfully and seriously.

So, through the help and encouragement of our daughters, I started blogging.

I am an artist and teacher.

I am not a writer.

But with the gracious editing of my husband, Phil, also known as Mr. Spellcheck, Mr. Grammar, Mr. Punctuation, Mr. Proof Reader…need I go on?  – I have written once a week (almost) for 5 years.

I must say in all truthfulness that God has shown me so much about myself through this journey – the main point being that in my weakness – He is made STRONG!

God is faithful.

I thought I would share that very first post from April 23, 2011.

Dear Beautiful Daughters,

We often hear young women who stay at home with their children say things like,

  • “I’m just a mom.”
  • “I just stay home with my kids .”

Using the word “just” seems to minimize the value of the most important responsibility you will ever have. As women of God we are to serve Him first and foremost. Once He blesses us with children, God has entrusted us with those He loves with an everlasting love and He wants us to be faithful in our service as mothers.

If we ever doubt the absolute importance of our ministry as mothers we must read Matthew 19:14. Jesus said “Let the little children come to me, and do not hinder them, for the kingdom of heaven belongs to such as these.”

If our Lord thought that children were so important, shouldn’t we?

In Matthew 18:2-4 we read “He called a little child and had him stand among them. And He said: “I tell you the truth, unless you change and become like little children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven. Therefore, whoever humbles himself like this child is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven.”

I love this next part – it blessed me so much when my children were little – verse 5 ” And whoever welcomes a little child like this in my name welcomes me.”

Amazing! Every time I welcome my child into my arms, snotty nose and all, I am welcoming Jesus!

Being a mother to your children is the GREATEST job you can have at this time in your life. It is more important then working on Capitol Hill, as an RN, teaching special needs children, or any other career.

Be thankful if your husband supports you in staying home with your children while you are able. Tell your husband how much it blesses you and do that often. Men feel great pressure to provide for their families and your appreciation will mean so much.
…with love and thankfulness for the blessings you are in my life.

So, I will continue to write as long as I sense that God has given me something to share. I still have so much to learn, I invite you to join me on this journey.

As women, we are all our Father’s daughters.

 

No New Year Resolutions.

Nana and Minions

I’ve been thinking lately about getting older. You have heard the phrase – “you are only as old as you feel”.

Not true.

When I got two Minion DVD’s for Christmas from grandsons, which by the way are really funny, I feel like one of the kids. Yet – I am still 63.

The reality is that I have been 63 for a week now and I ain’t no spring chicken.

  • I am the oldest (in age) faculty member at Smoky Mountain High School.
  • We opened presents starting with the oldest first – which was ME.
  • I got a senior discount when we went to see the Hobbit on Saturday night.
  • I fall asleep when I sit down and start to read in the evenings…and afternoon.
  • I was the last one up the hill on our family hike, but I enjoyed every minute.

The flip side of this aging coin is that I was also one of the younger individuals around when we visited my parents at their retirement community the week before Christmas. My father is 90 and my mother is 86, so 63 was inconsequential. It is a blessing to see these neighbors of my parents and hear about the activities they are involved in. My father has taught 7 people how to turn wooden bowls this year and both parents traveled to Brazil in September to promote an English language system with which my mother volunteers.

This thinking about age has led me to ask the question – “What next, Lord?”

It seems as though the previous stages of my life where relatively clearly laid out.

  • I went to school 13 years and graduated from high school.
  • I went to college and got a degree and teaching certification.
  • I got a job teaching.
  • I got married.
  • I had children.
  • I was able to stay home with our young children.
  • The children grew and I went to work part-time.
  • Our children became college age and I went to work full-time.
  • My active mothering role has ended – the children obtained jobs, some got married, some have their own children.

What next, Lord?

The above list leaves out the essential dynamic of the purpose of all those things I have done in my 63 years… I desire to live my life to bring glory to God.

In thinking about a New Year’s resolution, I realized that I did not need to think of something do to challenge myself to “improve”, “overcome something”, or “transform” my life.

I need to be faithful in the things that God has already given me to do.

Titus 2: 3-5 –

“3 Likewise, teach the older women to be reverent in the way they live, not to be slanderers or addicted to much wine, but to teach what is good. 4 Then they can urge the younger women to love their husbands and children, 5 to be self-controlled and pure, to be busy at home, to be kind, and to be subject to their husbands, so that no one will malign the word of God.”

Those of us who are older women  have a clear mandate. I am so thankful for the faithful, godly women that have taught me over the years including my grandmothers, my mother, Sally Fesperman, Sue Makinson, Elizabeth Elliot and others.

May we all be faithful to be an example to the younger women God brings into our lives in 2015. God Bless you!

 

Play Your Part

Lord of the Rings

Hobbit Characters – in full costume!

I am so excited because this weekend I will be attending a play with three of our granddaughters  – “Alice in Wonderland”.

I enjoy live theater and especially enjoy a well done play starring children. Our daughters were in several plays while growing up and it was so much fun watching them be transformed into someone else on stage. Children can be so spontaneous and exciting to watch and little ones always provide comic relief.

I have also ventured forth myself and tried my hand at acting. I was in several plays in high school, one in college, and three as an adult. I remember one play I was in called “Quilters”. I was struggling a bit with my lines and asked our daughters to read the other parts so I could practice. They didn’t really enjoy doing this but they humored me. We repeated my speaking parts over and over.

So – that worked real well!

These pre-teenagers memorized all my lines after “helping” me for about an hour. Every line I “dropped” thereafter they called me on it! How humiliating. (I did fine during the play – the one line I messed up – my fellow actress rescued and only my daughters knew)

It is a lot of work  – yet there are many rewards to participating in theater.

One is learning to play YOUR part.

Once given a part in a play, the actor must stay in that role – no matter what. If a piece of the set falls over, one must stay in character and work through the scene.

The show must go on!

Each part is important – even if one does not have speaking lines. Those who work behind the scenes are important as well. What would a play be without the sets, costumes, and props? Not nearly as enjoyable.

It is also important that each person play THEIR part – not someone else’s part.

What a mess that would be if one actor decided they wanted to say someone else’s lines and come on stage whenever they wanted! There is a phrase that describes actors who steal the limelight – it’s called “upstaging”. It means that someone is taking the attention that rightfully belongs to another.

God has given each of us a part to play in His Kingdom.

Each part is important!

We have places to be, things to say – or not to say, actions to take, etc.

God is the author of our lives and the part He puts us in is just right for us.

I have a friend and co-worker who leads the choral music program at the school where I teach. She directs the musicals that our school puts on each year and does an AMAZING job!

I have thought about the fact that year after year she directs different students in different plays – yet the results are always excellent. Linda knows what role is best for each student. It may not be the one who “looks” the part – it is often the one who can “act” the part. It is theater after all. I think a major part of Linda’s success is putting the right student in the right role. That is a true gift.

We may question why God has put someone – even ourselves – in a certain role. God knows what each of us is capable of.

More importantly God knows what He is capable of through us.

I Corinthians 12: 12-21

12 The human body has many parts, but the many parts make up one whole body. So it is with the body of Christ. 13 Some of us are Jews, some are Gentiles, some are slaves, and some are free. But we have all been baptized into one body by one Spirit, and we all share the same Spirit.

14 Yes, the body has many different parts, not just one part. 15 If the foot says, “I am not a part of the body because I am not a hand,” that does not make it any less a part of the body. 16 And if the ear says, “I am not part of the body because I am not an eye,” would that make it any less a part of the body? 17 If the whole body were an eye, how would you hear? Or if your whole body were an ear, how would you smell anything?

18 But our bodies have many parts, and God has put each part just where he wants it. 19 How strange a body would be if it had only one part! 20 Yes, there are many parts, but only one body. 21 The eye can never say to the hand, “I don’t need you.” The head can’t say to the feet, “I don’t need you.”

These verses clearly demonstrate the fact that God has a role for each of us – and that role is important.

If I am a mother – I must be the mother – not the “best friend” of my child.

If I am the grandmother – I must be the grandmother – not the mother when the mother is present.

Lord, help us play the part you have given us by the power of your Holy Spirit.

Amen.

 

 

Finishing the Race

Gandalf 3

DON’T LET ANYTHING STAND IN THE WAY

“I met with my pastor today and I told him I want you and Elaine to sing at my memorial service.”

My eyes filled with tears as I realized Sally knew her time here was coming to an end.

“I am deeply honored that you would ask me, ” I choked out.

This was the woman who had visited me 24 years ago right before my mastectomy to encourage me that cancer was not a death sentence. Sally had experienced a mastectomy and chemotherapy just the year before and became a volunteer with Reach for Recovery.

Sally was also an operating room nurse and the next week as I was rolled into surgery, Sally was one of the nurses on duty. She asked if she could pray with me and I replied, ” please do”. Sally prayed that I would be calm and sense God’s love as I went through surgery. The last thing I remember is thinking that when the surgeon made the incision love would pour out because I was so filled with God’s love through the prayers of Sally and many precious friends and family.

That was 24 years ago and after two more battles with cancer, Sally went on to be with the Lord.

“I don’t want anyone wearing black and being mournful,” Sally told Elaine. “I want the service to be a time of worship and blessing because I will be with Jesus.”

It was that indeed!

Sally’s memorial was a celebration of a life that radiated the love of Jesus everywhere she went. Sally had touched so many lives in so many varied ways through her ministry as a nurse, her singing and playing the guitar at nursing homes, her participation in the Community Orchestra playing the flute, playing tennis and bridge, and many hours of service through the churches she attended over the years. Sally was a talented woman and was so generous in using those talents for the Lord.

I am blessed to have been in a Home Group with Sally for the past several years. Her late husband, Arden, and she were committed members of our Home Group and they loved to worship and pray together before he died.

Sally continued to participate and she loved to worship and pray for her children and grandchildren. We prayed for healing for Sally and she expressed her faith in God as her healer – always confirming her trust in God’s will.

I will never forget watching Sally as her physical condition worsened, she remained strong in faith and Spirit. She confessed that God was faithful and that she was ready to go to meet Him when it was her appointed time. As a nurse, Sally knew the medical implications of what she was facing, yet she also know God was in control.

Last weekend I was watching our grandsons play outside and noticed how the youngest one tries to keep up with his bigger brothers. If there is an obstacle in the way – he climbs it.  He doesn’t want anything to stop him from being right there with his big brothers.

Isn’t that the way we should be with God? We must not let anything – cancer, separation, heartache, even a loved one’s death stand in the way of following Jesus – the author and finisher of our faith. Sally was like that  – cancer did not separate her from God’s love. Paul says something about this to Timothy when Paul realizes he is near death.

2 Timothy 4:6-8  (NLT)

6 As for me, my life has already been poured out as an offering to God. The time of my death is near.

7 I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, and I have remained faithful.

8 And now the prize awaits me—the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous Judge, will give me on the day of his return. And the prize is not just for me but for all who eagerly look forward to his appearing.

Sally fought the good fight.

Sally finished her race.