Tag Archive | joy

Autumn Prelude

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The squirrels have started to gather in my yard this week … filling their little cheeks with the nuts that linger defenselessly under my trees.

The geese have begun their pilgrimage back to places sunny and warm… I hear their determined cries as they bravely wing their way south.

My flowers are now “September flowers”.

Do you know not what “September flowers” are? They are the flowers that were brilliant and young in June but now they are dismally weary and completely worn out. They are still “my” flowers – but they just look so bedraggled now.

The change of seasons is knocking at my door.

Autumn awaits me while summer scurries silently away without even a polite wave good-bye.

Change … the only thing that never changes is that everything always changes.

Seasons come and seasons go … the years turn insistently to a new page. There is a bittersweet beckoning to the new, which in truth, has been seen many times before.

“Summer and winter and springtime and harvest;

Sun, moon and stars in their courses above;

Join with all nature in manifold witness –

To Thy great faithfulness mercy and love.”

How I have loved the long, spectacular days of summer! How I delight in sitting on my deck and watching the birds dash across my back yard singing and chattering for all of creation to hear!

There is nothing that a glass of iced tea, a back deck and a summer afternoon can’t cure!  Nothing at all!

But summer has bid a dreaded adieu once again to this girl who delights in the brief season of green grass, the buzzing of the bees and those brilliant fireflies sparkling in the evening’s closing chapter.

I must now prepare my winsome heart to welcome autumn.

“Earth’s crammed with heaven and every common bush afire with God.” – Browning

I actually have nothing against autumn – I just shudder when I consider that the months of September, October and November are singing the prelude for the frigid days of winter.

September, October and November have my complete attention as they prepare to play the glorious symphony that uniquely belongs to autumn.  This yearly triumvirate harmonizes in rich tones of glorious color, frosty mornings and pumpkins ripening on the vine.

“You have crowned the year with Your bounty,

And Your paths drip with fatness.

The pastures of the wilderness drip,

And the hills gird themselves with rejoicing.

The meadows are clothed with flocks

And the valleys are covered with grain;

They shout for joy, yes, they sing!” – Psalm 65:11 – 13

But I know what comes after the autumnal prelude … winter comes next.

The stark, cold days of winter always follow the splendor of harvest-time.  Always.

Summer whistles … autumn resounds … and winter is silent. Absolutely silent.

“While the earth remains,

Seedtime and harvest,

And cold and heat,

And summer and winter,

And day and night

Shall not cease.” – Genesis 8:22

Now … I believe that I shall divert from my autumnal ponderings to reach the point of this missive.

Believe me – I am going somewhere with this.  I really am.

How I have loved being a mom!  I have loved the days of holding and rocking … and the years of potty-training and two-year-old tempers!

I delighted in the season of sidewalk chalk drawings … basketball balls bouncing on the driveway … and long afternoons of reading books out loud.

During that season of my life, I couldn’t wait to get up in the morning to plan new adventures … to engage in new activities … and to make up new songs! I couldn’t wait to tell the daily story in which one of my children was the hero or heroine in a fantasy tale woven by their mom.

I found unmatched pleasure in the family games that we played … in the endless questions that they asked … and in the long walks that we took.

It was all just glory to me!

And then came their senior year in high school and I fell into an early melancholy.

I could barely enjoy the memorable events that are unique to one’s last year in high school because I so dreaded what the following year would bring.

I couldn’t live in the present because the future was knocking loudly and unapologetically at the door of my heart.

I couldn’t relish in the defining moments of their last year at home because of the foreboding of what came next.

 

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After crying my way through two entire senior years, I finally took the time to listen to the voice of the Holy Spirit … the One Who never changes.

And He will be the stability of your times,

A wealth of salvation, wisdom and knowledge;

The fear of the Lord is his treasure.” – Isaiah 33:6

When the Lord deposited that valuable verse into my heart, I changed my tune rapidly.  I regretfully realized that my children were never meant to be my stability – only the Lord could provide that.

And so I began to enjoy the season that was a prelude to the greatest change of my life. I loved each senior year that followed and was fully engaged emotionally and spiritually in every event, every memory and in each sweet finality.

Although I miss my children daily and deeply – there is joy in this new season of life that I have never before experienced. My children have become 5 of my dearest friends and each one sings a melody that is solely his or her own.

And may I just say … I love each melody that they contribute to my life.

So … autumn … bring it! 

I welcome you, harvest season, with my arms open wide and a heart that is completely yours! I will drink of your fruit and will dance in your beauty!

 

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Life has taught me that even that which has been formerly dreaded brings a rare treasure all of its own.

I will rejoice in the golden days of autumn because He, indeed, is the stability of my times.

Thanks for listening to my heart this week. As you know by now, my heart is truly not a perfect heart but it is a heart that is filled to overflowing with gratitude for the life I have been given and for the people who walk with me. And, it continues to be a heart that is relentlessly chasing after God and all that He is!

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Four Words to Change Your Life

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I often drive by myself across the country!

Now, not many woman of my age are brave enough to undertake such an epic pilgrimage but I find myself fully engaged in the experience.  I am invigorated by the scenery, encouraged by the music I am playing, strengthened by the books on CD to which I am listening and fascinated by the weather that I am encountering.

Last year, in early January, I was once again driving across this great nation from southern Oklahoma to my home in Western New York.  I was only a couple of hours into my 20-hour drive when I wondered if I should continue or not … the weather was wintery and white.

I have found that on this frequent trek, I often stop at the same hotels, the same restaurants and the same gas stations.

Or, as my grandmother would observe, “The same old … same old!” 

I am definitely a creature of habit if nothing else!

One of my favorite places to stop on such a journey is Cracker Barrel!  The bathrooms are spotlessly clean and the food is always mouthwatering in this country girl’s estimation.

Honestly – what is there not to like about Cracker Barrel?!

I was battling a terrible cough and cold on this particular day and the weather was cold and icy.  I decided to take a break, stop at my oasis of choice (that would be Cracker Barrel!) and run in to go to the bathroom.  I honestly didn’t feel well at all and wondered if I just needed to stop for the night.

I was tired of being by myself and weary of the weather and my hacking cough.

As I walked out of the bathroom, an elderly, toothless woman was walking into the ladies’ room.  She grinned at me but her daughter quickly ushered her past me.  I held the door open for them and the cheerful grandmother continued to grin at me as they walked by.

Do you want to know what kind of grin it was that I encountered from this wrinkled face? 

It wasn’t a grin that merely was born in her facial muscles but it came from the very depths of her very soul.

As she passed by me with a limp and a smile, I noticed that her coat was too big for her and that her daughter was impatient with her. But I continued on to the hostess in Cracker Barrel intending to order a hot tea to go.

When I finally had my hot tea in hand and decided that it was time once again to brave the elements, I found myself exiting the restaurant at the same time as my new, yet ancient, friend. Her daughter was in front of her racing to the car and ignoring this sweet yet fragile piece of humanity. I walked beside her, quietly visiting with her, until I opened the door of her car for her.

I closed our conversation with the words, “Well … have a good day!”

She looked at me, grinned once again, and declared, “Thanks … I always do!”

Her daughter slammed the car door and roared out of the parking lot as I stood there shivering in the frigid temperatures.

I’ll never forget her words, “Thanks … I always do!”

 

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Do I always make it my goal to have a good day regardless of what I am going through?

Do I always attempt to make every day a good one when people don’t treat me well, when the conditions are inclement and when my circumstances don’t quite fit the life I want to live?

Oh! That the words of my life would be, “Thanks!  I always do!” 

Do I always endeavor to have a good day when I am by myself, when the journey is long and when I am coughing up disappointment?

“Thanks! I always do!” 

Those four memorable words refuse to leave my heart; I have thought of those four life-changing words so often over the past year.

“Thanks! I always do!” 

What does it take to make every day a good day?  What are some simple disciplines that you and I could incorporate into our ill-fitting, impatient life?

Will you indulge me as I share a short but sweet list with you today?

Here are some things that you and I might consider if our goal is to turn every day into a really good day!

I like to call it my “Thanks! I Always Do!” list.

1 – There is nothing that impacts your life like who is in your life so choose your friends wisely and prayerfully.

 

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2 – Take the time to fall in love with the life you have been given! Enjoy the scenery as you travel through your epic existence!

3 – Listen to music and even sing along! Turn your life into the rich and rare melody of your favorite song! Remember that music can turn the worst day into the best day!

4 – Remind yourself daily that it is not about what life has to offer you but it is about what you have to offer life!

5 – Discover your gifting and calling and then live enthusiastically in that place!

6 – Remind yourself often that it is impossible to live in a place of selfishness and joy at the same time.  Absolutely impossible.  Selfishness and joy are mutually exclusive – they cannot exist in the same heart or in the same home.

7 – Every day is a sacred gift given to you by your Creator – a day that is both holy and beautiful.

8 – Until further notice … celebrate everything!

Thanks for listening to my heart this week.  As you know by now, my heart is truly not a perfect heart but it is a heart that is filled to overflowing with gratitude for the life I have been given and for the people who walk with me.  And, it continues to be a heart that is relentlessly chasing after God and all that He is! 

An Unquenchable Song

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Oh!  How I try not to be deemed as old-fashioned!

Oh!  How I ache to be at least in touch with the needs, the thoughts and the trends of the younger generation!

Oh! How I desire not to come across as out of date … out of touch … or over that infamous hill.

But let’s face it – at this age – I do indeed have a lot of years of living under my belt.

At this point in my life’s journey – I know a thing or two about life … about marriage … about parenting … about choosing well … about waiting … about wisdom … and about prayer.

At least I hope I do.

I try to dress fashionably youthful yet not come across as that older woman in teen-age clothes.

I like to think that my style is “timeless” rather than “yesterday”.

I sincerely attempt to sprinkle my speech with well-chosen colloquialisms of the day without seeming inconsequential or sarcastic.

I am certainly not “hip” … but neither am I antiquated.

I often read what my 20-something daughters and their friends are reading so that I will keep my fingers on the pulse beat of those incredible people known as “millennials”.

I follow young moms … young authors … young pastors … and young thinkers on all types of social media.

I even know what Reddit and Tumblr are … do you?!

However – I do believe that the place where the numerous years of my life is perhaps the most obvious is in my choice of music.

Sigh …

I am a musician and I have raised all of my children to love music.  Three of my five children majored in music in college.

We McLeods know our music

I will be the first to admit, however, that I am hopelessly outdated, old-fashioned and vintage when it comes to the music that I enjoy.

First of all – I’ll take a waltz over hip-hop, a sonata rather than rap and a concerto over electronica any day of my life!

Chopin, Gershwin and Debussey are on my playlist rather than Beyonce, Maroon 5 and Drake.

(As a matter of fact – I don’t even know who Drake is. I had to look up who had the #1 song on Billboard.)

And, when it comes to Christian music, it’s true …  from time to time I do enjoy Bethel, Hillsong, and gifted contemporary musicians such as Lauren Daigle.

However, the Christian music that truly inspires me is at least decades old!

Music has always had the rare and rich ability to touch my soul in the very deepest place of me.

My heart aches with unmatched joy when I hear these lyrics:

“I’d rather have Jesus than silver or gold … I’d rather be His than have riches untold.

I’d rather have Jesus than houses or lands:  I’d rather be led by His nail-pierced hands.”

I am forced to the altar of my heart as I evaluate those challenging lyrics.  Would I?!  Would I really rather than Jesus than silver or gold?!  Would I truly rather be His than have riches untold?

And the whisper of my heart cries … I would!  I would rather have Jesus than anything!

And then, there are times that I sit and reminisce over the legacy I have been given due to a family that valued the church and loved the Lord. In those sweet moments, I can still hear my father’s voice singing:

“Jesus, Jesus, Jesus, sweetest Name that I know!

Fills my every longing – keeps me singing as I go!” 

Oh, Dad!  You were right!  Jesus is the sweetest Name that I know! He fills my deepest desires and He has never failed to give me an unquenchable song! 

And I must admit that one of the unarguable perquisites in judging a song to be a truly great composition is that it must hold solid theology and undeniable truth in every line –

“Great is Thy Faithfulness – Oh God, my Father.

There is no shadow of turning with Thee!

Thou changest not – Thy compassions they fail not!

As Thou has been thou forever wilt be!” 

I want to know Jesus better because of the songs that I sing.  I want to declare Who He is over my circumstances as I sing my songs of faith that the saints in every generation have sung before me. 

And, finally, who can resist the triumph that springs forth in an ordinary person’s soul when these words are proclaimed with the power of the accompanying melody:

Joyful, joyful, we adore Thee! God of glory, God of love!

Hearts unfold like flowers before Thee, opening to the Son above!

Melt the clouds of sin and sadness – drive the dark of doubt away.

Giver of immortal gladness, fill us with the light of day!” 

You might judge me as “old” due to the music that sings perpetually in my soul … but I believe that it is music that has kept me young!

The unmatched song that continues to dominate the soundtrack of my life has given me a spring in my step and a sparkle in my eyes.

How about you? What is your favorite song?  I’d love to hear from you … and sing a stanza or two together!

Thanks for listening to my heart this week.  As you know by now, my heart is truly not a perfect heart but it is a heart that is filled to overflowing with gratitude for the life I have been given and for the people who walk with me.  And, it continues to be a heart that is relentlessly chasing after God and all that He is!

What it Takes to Make a Difference

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If you have read my blog more than a time or two, you know by now that I am a list-maker … a list-lover … a list-idolizer.

Lists simply help me to organize the thoughts that tumble haphazardly through my brain; they enable me to give boundaries to the roller-coaster emotions that fly helter-skelter through the caverns of my heart.

Lists … I love them.

And may I just say … there are lists in the Bible!  If it’s good enough for the Holy Spirit … it’s good enough for me!

“But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control” – Galatians 5:22

This week … I am making yet a new list for you and for me.

And … have I got a list for you!

This is a life-changing, wonder-working, destiny-setting, mind-blowing list that will turn you into the person you always wished that you were but sorely knew how often you fell short.

This list will enable you to become the friend that you always wish you had been … the spouse that you always wish that you had … the parent that you dreamed about becoming … and you might even become the disciple of Jesus’ dreams!

First of all, the reason that I made this list is because I realized that at the core of anyone of us, what we truly desire in life is to make a difference.

Sure … stamps in the passport would be nice … a substantial savings account wouldn’t be turned away … education never hurt anyone … but the most valuable and sustaining desire that any of us have is to simply make a difference.

I long to be remembered after I leave planet earth for a kindness done.

I deeply desire to live beyond the dash in my tombstone with the invisible legacy that I have graciously bestowed in the lives of my family and friends.

I want acquaintances who don’t even know my name to say, “Remember that girl with the smile? Didn’t she just walk in a room and light it up?”

I want to cross my finish line and hear the Lord say, “Carol! You did good!!  You were a blessing to history! You made a difference!”

So … what does it take to make a difference? Do you have to have your picture on the front of a well-known magazine?  Must you be the host or hostess of a daily TV program?

Must you write a book that is a perpetual best-seller in order to be recognized as a truly impactful person

Is it a pre-requisite to travel to China and feed the hungry for in order for you to be considered for induction into history’s “Hall of Fame”?

I think not.  I think that perhaps the quest to make a difference begins with the simple yet eternal habits that one establishes in life.

So … here it is … you asked for it … well … maybe you didn’t ask for it but you are getting it anyway!

What It Takes to Make a Difference : Living Beyond Your Dash

1 – Smile.  The world is aching for someone with your smile.  Smile at babies … at strangers … at your family … at your enemies … at your best friend … at your spouse.

Smile in line at the grocery store … smile at the mailperson … smile at church … smile at stoplights … smile at work.

 

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2 – Say something kind to someone every single day. When you lay your head on the pillow at night, if you haven’t said something kind to someone, get out your phone and text someone a word of encouragement.  Then, turn your phone off and go to sleep!

“What is desirable in a man is his kindness.” – Proverbs 19:22

3 – Be faithful.  If you say you are going to do it, do it.  Don’t make up excuses or try to wrangle your way out of a commitment.  Just do it.

4 – Tell the truth.  Don’t exaggerate, fabricate or fictionalize your words.  Be a man of woman of integrity every day of your life.  You will never regret it.

5 – Give something away once a month.  Buy a mug for friend … a book for a child … a bakery goody for a widow … a gift card for your pastor … a flower for your neighbor.  If you can’t afford to buy it – look through your stuff and find one of your favorite items and give it with joy! Your generosity will out live you!

6 – Laugh often and laugh easily.  Don’t be Scrooge, the Grinch and Cruella deVille all rolled into one prune-faced Christian.  Be a delight to be with! Be the kind of person that others just can’t get enough of.  My friend, John Mason, calls this being a contagious Christian!  I’m in … how about you?!

7 – Don’t talk about yourself.  Ask questions of others. I have learned that others are far more interesting than I will ever be.  Be an involved listener rather than a self-absorbed talker.

8 – Figure out what you do well … and then do it! If you are a writer, write.  If you are a gardener, garden well. If you are a servant, serve others with gladness.  If you are a giver, give liberally. If you are a mentor, gather young friends around you. If you are good with money, help others who aren’t.  Live in your sweet spot in life!

9 – Scatter joy wherever and whenever you goI would much rather be known for having too much joy than too little, wouldn’t you?! When you are going through a trial, it is then that your joy becomes the most valuable commodity that you own.  Don’t let anyone steal your joy!!

 

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10 – Read your Bible every day and apply its principles to your life.  Your Bible is God talking to you!  It is your Creator revealing His heart to you!  It is the will of God unfolded on the written page!  If you want to live a great life … then read the greatest Book ever written!  The Bible is not a “flat” book but it is a Book of miraculous transformation. The miracle begins the instant that you open it and begin to read!

11 – Pray more than you worry. Praying is NOT “worrying on your knees”.  Prayer is worship … it is communication … it is declaring the promises of God!

What’s on your list of how to make a difference?!  I’d love to hear from you!

Thanks for listening to my heart this week.  As you know by now, my heart is truly not a perfect heart but it is a heart that is filled to overflowing with gratitude for the life I have been given and for the people who walk with me.  And, it continues to be a heart that is relentlessly chasing after God and all that He is!

The 5-Minute Prayer Experiment

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I have 5 grown children who have all left me!
  The nerve of those kids …

They are now pursuing their gifts and destiny in the only Kingdom that really matters.

They are figuring out life for themselves without their mamma’s daily input or opinions.

They are on a journey of joy … of pain … of challenge … of significance … of success … of failure … of hope … of love.

Now, I certainly hope that what my 5 children learned while living at home has given them some type of road map for the journey of life.

I hope that they haven’t forgotten to pray … to read the Word … to be kind … to sing … to play … to dream … to make meaningful priorities … to be unselfish … to trust God.

That timeless saying is really true –

“A mother holds her children’s hands for just a little while but she holds their hearts forever.”

But … that’s not really what I wanted to talk to you about today.  I actually want to talk to you about prayer.

So – allow me to segue …. Or perhaps I should just begin again!

I have 5 grown children who have all left me!  The nerve of those kids …

The hardest days of the year to be away from all of my children is on the day of each of their births.

(You know – I am not sure that birthdays are for the person who is born on that particular day as much as it is for the mother.)

A mom remembers the joy … the pain … the challenge … the significance of the day of each of her children’s births.

A mom remembers and cries … and smiles … and sighs … and aches … and prays.

My youngest was born when I was standing on the threshold of 40 and she has been one of the greatest miracles of my entire life.

After giving birth to 4 of the most dynamic, energetic and creative human beings ever born, I was given the gift of one more.

Her birthday is May 30 and this year I wasn’t with her on her birthday.  She was celebrating with friends and some of her siblings in the city where she lives which is thousands of miles away from me! (The nerve of my kids!)

What I often do on the day that commemorates the birth of one of my children is to spend extra time in prayer for the one whom my heart is celebrating.

There ain’t no heart like a mama’s heart!

There ain’t no prayer warrior like a mama prayer warrior!

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I pray for the birthday child’s walk with the Lord and for wisdom in all of their life decisions.

I pray that they will be kind and that others will be kind to them.

I pray that they will climb mountains with diligence and experience valleys with humility.

I pray that they will think like God thinks and experience the joy of His presence.

I pray that they will be people of honor and of integrity.

This year, as I was ending my prayer celebration in honor of Joni, my youngest, I began to think about whose birthday was next.  I realized that the next birthday that belonged to a member of the original Clan McLeod was on September 2 … which was basically three months hence.

And then, I had the instant realization, that these two birthdays were separated by a mere 3 months … a little over 90 summer days.

A light bulb went off in my spirit!

The Holy Spirit spoke to me in that moment,

“Carol – what if you prayed for specific needs in all of your children’s lives for 5 minutes a day for the next three months?  It will take you 25 minutes a day – 5 minutes for each of your 5 children.”

The Holy Spirit continued His prompting …

“Carol – would you want to do a “5-Minute Prayer Experiment” with me?!”

I was literally breathless with anticipation to see what I, prayer and the Holy Spirit could accomplish to strengthen my kids’ lives in only 5 minutes a day over a period of roughly 90 days!

The next day – I found one scripture for each of my children that I would be praying over them over the course of the next 2,160 hours.

I was in!!  All the way in!

So … let me tell you how this works …

Every day from May 30 through September 2, 2018, I will spend 25 minutes in prayer; this will consist of 5 bursts of 5 minutes each.

Sometimes it is when I am walking … sometimes it is when I am unloading the dishwasher … sometimes it is when I am folding clothes … sometimes it is when I am driving.

Sometimes I pray out loud and sometimes it is an inner prayer.

I pray the Word over each of my children and I pray for specific needs in their individual lives.

5 minutes a day.  All summer long.  90 days.

The minutes fly by and the presence of the Lord is tangible!

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I am expecting God to intervene in the lives of my children and I am beginning to realize that expectation is the breeding ground for miracles.

A mother’s prayer is a powerful way to impact the lives of their children even after they are grown and gone.

Our grown children can run away from our words but they can never escape our prayers so our strategy should always be to talk less and to pray more!

It’s not too late for you to join me and the Holy Spirit on this journey!  Why don’t you take the month of August and pray 5 minutes a day for your children or for those people that you love the most?

I’d love to hear all about your 5 Minute Prayer Experiment!  And just know .. while you are praying for others … I will be praying for you!

“Prayer is the breath, the watchword, the comfort, the strength, the honour of a Christian.” – Spurgeon

Thanks for listening to my heart this week.  As you know by now, my heart is truly not a perfect heart but it is a heart that is filled to overflowing with gratitude for the life I have been given and for the people who walk with me.  And, it continues to be a heart that is relentlessly chasing after God and all that He is!

Kindness Matters

JoyForTheJourney

We live in a broken world, don’t we?

Politics are a mess … the media doesn’t always tell the truth … people are mistreated … the laws need changing … entertainment is warped … the list could go on and on and on.

We live in a broken world.

Do you want to know what I believe?

I believe that the reason God placed YOU in this world is because it is broken and it needed someone just like you to heal its brokenness.

We all know what John 3:16 days, “For God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish, but have eternal life.”

That’s a “WOW!” Scripture of the very best kind!  God loved … He gave … we believe … we live!

However – do you know what John 3:17 says?

“For God did not send the Son into the world to judge the world, but that the world might be saved through Him.”

Jesus didn’t come to judge us … He came to save us!

He came to save us from sin, from politics, from opinions, from waywardness, from confusion, from pain, from hatred, from war, from anger, from sickness and from death.

I also know that often He needs to save me from myself.  Isn’t that the truth?!

He came to save us and to give us a new way of living … of thinking … and of processing life!

You see, when we partner with Him in loving this broken world … miracles happen!

 

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The world doesn’t need another Christian with an opinion – it needs a Christian who will be kind.

The world doesn’t need another religious person to judge it – it needs a gentle word and a loving smile that will serve as a source of encouragement.

This doesn’t mean that we accept the sin and gloss over the compromise – what it means is that we are kind in spite of it.

Your opinions will never change this world – but your joy might change it!

Your judgment will never revolutionize this world – but your heartfelt goodness might do the job!

Your negativity will never deliver this world – but your kindness might make an impact!

Can I tell you a story?

I’ll try to make it short and I really don’t mean to glorify anything that I have done … I just want to remind you that kindness matters.  It matters very, very much.

It was the summer of 1996 and our family home was on a busy street in a small town in North Carolina.  I would often sit on the porch while my boys played basketball in the driveway and while my little girls decorated the sidewalk with all kinds of amazing chalk designs.

One day while we were outside enjoying an August afternoon, I noticed two young men walking up our driveway. I immediately recognized them as Mormons because of the way they were dressed and due to their clean-cut appearance.

I judged them before they even opened up their mouths.

They chatted with my boys for a while about Michael Jordan and about who was going to have the better team that year – UNC or Duke – and then they marveled over my daughters’ sidewalk masterpieces.

I knew that I was next.

As they paused on the front steps, I pondered what to say to these two boys whose belief system was so very different from mine.

They smiled and introduced themselves and asked if they could have a minute of my time.

Being the softie that I am, I said, “Sure! Join me on the porch.”

While they were settling themselves, I went into the house and brought ice-cold lemonade out for my five children and for these two young men.

It also gave me a minute to pray.

After I came out with red plastic cups and with store-bought cookies, I settled myself back on the porch swing and let them take a gulp or two of the refreshing beverage.

I chatted with them for a few minutes about where they were staying, where they were from and how hot it was in North Carolina in the summer time.

I then took a deep breath and then said, “Look – I know that you are Mormons and that you have come to talk to me about your faith and to try to convince me to believe like you do.  But I never will.  I believe that Jesus Christ is the only Son of God and the Savior of the world.  I believe that He died on the cross to forgive me from my sins and that it was a complete work.

I really don’t want to argue or debate with you but I know that you are far away from your moms and I am a mom.  So – if you need anything while you are here – let me know. If you need to do laundry, or need advice or just want to hang out with a rowdy family – you are welcome here.”

One of the boys looked at me and sheepishly said, “Can you give us the name of a dentist? I have a really bad toothache and don’t know what to do about it.”

I got up from the porch and called our family dentist who was also a believer and made an appointment for the young man who was far away from home. I also told the dentist what my strategy was and told him to bill us for the appointment.  My sweet dentist said, “Carol – you can’t afford to do that.  The first appointment will be on me and then we will see what we can work out.”

The young men left that afternoon after shooting a few hoops with my boys and I assured them that they were always welcome to just stop by.

After that afternoon, I often saw them on their bikes, in the grocery store and just around town. They would engage with my children and would always chat for a minute or two with their North Carolina mom.

Then Hurricane Fran hit my small town during the first week of September.

We were without power for over a week while other parts of the community didn’t regain power for nearly a month. My town looked like a war zone with trees scattered all over streets, houses and cars.

One day, shortly after our power came back on, my two young friends from Utah came walking up our driveway.  They looked hot and bedraggled.  When they told me that they still didn’t have power and wondered if they could do a load of laundry, we welcomed them into the cool of our delicious air-conditioned home.

They did their laundry, took showers in the kids’ bathroom and then I fed them dinner right along with our kids.  We didn’t talk about religion or about differences but they told us about their younger brothers and sisters. We laughed and talked and ended the evening with a rousing game of Uno.

Several days later these boys appeared at my front door again with notes from their moms thanking me for being kind to their boys.

I never saw them again. But I was honored to love these boys who were so very different from me.  It was the plan of God for me to be kind to these young men whose worldview was in direct contrast to mine.

I don’t know if they ever came to Christ or not but what I do know is that their world was touched by the love and compassion of a believer.

Oh – I could have argued with them!  I could have put them in their place theologically but I felt called to love them in spite of our differences. Sometimes words are cheap but actions will always be priceless.

This world may seem broken to you and to me but it becomes a place of miracles and of wonder when we respond like Jesus would respond.

 

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So – rather than spew opinions on Facebook this week … just be kind.

Rather than judge your neighbors … be good to them.

Rather than criticize the media … pray for them.

Restore the wonder to this broken world!  It is, after all, what Jesus would do and it is why you are here!

We live in a wonderful world simply because you and Jesus are in it!

Thanks for listening to my heart this week.  As you know by now, my heart is truly not a perfect heart but it is a heart that is filled to overflowing with gratitude for the life I have been given and for the people who walk with me.  And, it continues to be a heart that is relentlessly chasing after God and all that He is!

Summer’s Song

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I absolutely delight in the lazy, crazy, hazy days of summer!

Do you?!  Surely you do!

I am addicted to sunshine … to fresh cut grass … and to a slight breeze blowing through my windows at night.

I love the buzzin’ of the bees … the sound of the neighborhood children laughing on my street … and I love having a quiet time on my deck in the early morning hours with a steaming cup of coffee in cradled in my hands.

I love the hanging baskets that I see out my kitchen window … the flags flying proudly from nearly every porch in my neighborhood … and I even love the dandelions that audaciously poke their heads up through my well-manicured lawn.

Summertime … I wait for it all year long!

Summer is a time for enjoyment, for growth and for beauty.

Let me share with you how I incorporate all three – enjoyment, growth and beauty – into my summertime routine.

Enjoyment!

First of all, I am determined to enjoy every day of this fleeting season of summer and not to let one gorgeous day fly by without my acknowledgement of it.

I go for long walks outside in the summer warmth and I revel in the glory of God’s creation.

I listen every morning for the birds outside my open windows.

I watch the menagerie of animals that stroll across my backyard in the evening hours … bunny rabbits … very brave chipmunks … sweet mama deer and her twin fawns … and a critter that I have yet to identify!

I water my flowers diligently and find such simple pleasure in snipping off the dying blooms while waiting for the new ones to come alive.

We often eat dinner on the back deck and silently drink in the wonder of God’s brilliant creation known as “summer”.

I enjoy every single day of summer as if it were the last day of summer!

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Growth!

Due to the fact that my schedule generally eases up during the summertime, I am also diligent about creating a space for personal growth in my life.

In addition to my daily quiet time, I choose one book of the Bible and just swim in it!  This year – it is the Book of Hebrews.  How I love this epistle whose authorship is still contested to this day. Was it Paul?  Was it Priscilla?  I’m not sure but I know that whoever wrote it knew the God that I know today in the 21st. Century!

I love the strength of Hebrews … and the theology of Hebrews … and the Christ of the book of Hebrews.

“And He is the radiance of His glory and the exact representation of His nature, and upholds all things by the world of His power. When He had made purification of sins, He sat down at the right hand of the Majesty on high.” – Hebrews 1:3

I can barely come up for air as I delve into the depths and richness found in this book that presents history and life from God’s perspective.

I also have a long list of books that I read during the summer. This year my list includes:

Hearts of Fire – The Voice of the Martyrs
The Grave Robber – Batterson
The Making of a Leader by Dr. J. Robert Clinton

Martin Luther by Eric Metaxas
Caroline by Sarah Miller

Now … I don’t just grow intellectually and spiritually during the summer but I also “up” my exercise routine.  Instead of walking a mere 3 miles a day, my goal is 3.5 – 5 miles per sweaty, sizzling day and I love it!!

I also try new recipes during the summer that use fruits and vegetables that are only available during June, July and August.  Here is one of my favorite new recipes that I just discovered on Memorial Day and I have made it 4 times since! Let me know how you like it –

Summer Squash Casserole

12 Cups of Summer Squash cut into bite-size pieces
1 cup chopped sweet onion (I use Vidalia)
2/3 cup of salted butter, divided
1.5 Tablespoons sugar
1 teaspoon salt
½ teaspoon black pepper
2 eggs beaten well
1 sleeve crushed round butter crackers (Ritz)

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Lightly grease a 13x9x2 inch baking dish; set aside

Place squash in a 6-quart Dutch oven with enough water to cover. Boil over high heat until fork-tender; approximately 10 minutes. Remove from heat and drain well. Return squash to Dutch oven but not to stovetop; set aside.

In a small skillet over medium heat, cook onion in 1/3 cup butter until onion is translucent. Pour over cooked squash.

Add sugar, salt, pepper, and eggs to squash. Stir gently to combine.

Pour mixture into prepared baking dish. Top with crushed crackers.

Melt remaining 1/3 cup better in the small skillet over low heat. Drizzle over crushed crackers. Bake until golden brown. Approximately 1 hour.

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Beauty!

I look around my home and my eyes linger around my yard during these delicious months and I wonder what I can do to make a more beautiful dwelling space around me.

Do I need more throw pillows on the couch?

Could the guest bathroom use a new hand towel or two?

Can I weed around the front tree to make the yard look neater?

Does the back deck need a fresh coat of paint?

Should I plant flowers around the mailbox?

I also look at me and wonder what I can do to improve what people see …

Do I need a new hairstyle? A pedicure?  To lose 10 pounds or more?

Do I need to smile more?  Listen more attentively?

I know that I need to cultivate the fruits of the Spirit to a greater degree … that will certainly make a more beautiful me!

Enjoyment … growth … and beauty! Those are my words of summer!

I hope that you will join me in jumping into summer and splashing in the joy of every hot day with childlike wonder!

Have a watermelon for dinner … buy some popsicles for the neighborhood kids … open your windows so you can hear the song that only summer sings.

Thanks for listening to my heart this week.  As you know by now, my heart is truly not a perfect heart but it is a heart that is filled to overflowing with gratitude for the life I have been given and for the people who walk with me.  And, it continues to be a heart that is relentlessly chasing after God and all that He is!

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