A Trip to the Dentist

This is on my “Top 10 Things I Dread” list. When the throbbing toothache came, I did not suspect I would have a new crown and have spent $1200, all by noon the next day.

But to my surprise, my costly trip to the dentist turned out to be quite enjoyable, thank God. He is so into the little things.
First I asked for a neck pillow to create my relaxing spa space. As I sat in the chair waiting for my mouth to numb, I decided to enjoy God right then and there in the messy middle of life.
I began praising God (not outloud) and asking Him to help me make this time count for Him. Then I opened my prayer app on my iPhone and prayed for everyone on it.
When the dentist started drilling, I started singing a song of praise, aware that God heard me, even though my mouth was otherwise occupied. I thanked God for springtime, family, friends, and a sprinkling of His 1000s of blessings for the day.
I purposely focused on Him instead of my surroundings, i.e. the dentist. I took note that others had gone through pain and suffering far more challenging than this-my sister Pam and her bout with chemo, and my sister Becky for sure. Then I considered Jesus. Thank you, Lord. This isn’t so hard.
So I just relaxed and enjoyed God. I embraced life just as it was. The 2 1/2 hours flew by – it seemed like 15 minutes. Seriously. God is so good. Why don’t I focus on Him and ask for help more often?
Last night I began worrying and complaining to myself about the $1200 we’d just spent (might have said “wasted”)
Then I sensed God ‘s Spirit within asking me, “Would you be worried if you had plenty of money? ”
Me: “No if we had lots of money, I wouldn’t be worried at all. It would be fine.”
God: “Then relax. I’ve told you that you would have more than enough for your lifetime. So trust me. I’ve got it.”
Me: “I do trust you God. Help me trust you more. ”
And again I relaxed and focused on His faithfulness, even thanking Him for dentists who keep our teeth going strong. I went back to fixing dinner, no longer anxious, even smiling.
I am still learning to turn my focus on God 24-7 even after a lifetime living with Him and remembering…God is good all the time.

Big Red Is Dead

truck  It was a spectacular grand finale. Big Red hit an ice patch, skidded sideways, spun 360°, plowed through a ditch, rolled over and landed on its wheels in a farmer’s field. What a ride! Don had a front row seat. Thankfully only Big Red was totaled. Don walked away with only a sore back.

Big deal, you say– it is only a truck. But Big Red wasn’t just any old truck as you can see from this story from my upcoming book,         YES, THERE’S MORE.”

 Big Red

On a Friday morning, October 10, 2008, Don prayed this simple prayer: “Lord, give Cathy a fresh story she can use for her teaching on ‘How and Why Should We Pray’ at the Alpha Course on Sunday.”

That evening I was heading home from our granddaughter’s volleyball game on a road we rarely travel. In the twilight I glanced at a truck with a “for sale” sign sitting in a field. The thought popped into my mind, “That is Don’s truck.” I sensed it was God’s voice that I’ve learned to recognize over the years, a “knowing” that resonates within me, often with a unusual thought that comes seemingly out of the blue.

Don’s current pickup had 250,000 miles, and we had been on the lookout for a newer one for about a year. Of course, it couldn’t be just ANY truck. It had to be a F350 diesel, 4x 4, one-ton pickup with crew cab, in good shape, around $10,000.

The next morning I told Don at breakfast, “Oh, I found your truck.”

He laughed, “You what? Is it a F350? Is it…”

I interrupted, “All I know is that there’s a big red pickup in the cornfield a few miles up the road, and I think God said it is the one you are looking for.”

 Don was more annoyed than convinced, but after twisting his arm, he reluctantly drove up to take a look. There it was, everything he was looking for, a F350 diesel, 4×4, one-ton pickup with crew cab in good shape.

He dialed the phone number on the sign, and the seller turned out to be the Mennonite pastor who as a stranger to us a few years back, had helped organize a crew of guys to raise Don’s shed when it blew down. It sounded like God was orchestrating another GodStory.

The next obvious question was “So can we afford this? Lord, show me the mo.” The sign on the truck window said $11,500. Maybe we could borrow any shortage because this was a rare find, the truck he wanted at a price he could afford.

We had extra money in the bank from a large job Don had just completed. When I tallied up our bank accounts, adding the $323 bank deposit lying on the table, I shook my head, “No way! $11,581.27.” We had more than enough.

We called the pastor who had blessed us and blessed him back with his full asking price. Then we gave thanks to our God who cares, who speaks, who orchestrates the details in our lives in such a way that we hear, “I love you. I am present, answering your prayers, working on your behalf.”

On Sunday night I passionately taught on “How and Why Should We Pray” with fresh faith and fire as I shared the story of how God had answered Don’s prayer and provided a truck that we planned to buy Monday morning.

The following Sunday night we drove Big Red to Alpha. I ended my talk with this question, “Did God answer these prayers so miraculously because Don and I are special and He loves us so much? Yes and No. Yes, we are special in His eyes. But no, it wasn’t just because we are special. It was also for you. He wanted YOU to hear this story and know that YOU are special. He is illustrating the kind of loving Father He wants to be for each of us.”

My life verse is “The thief comes to rob, kill, and destroy, but I have come that you might have life in all its abundance.” John 10:10 Wouldn’t you know it? We found Big Red in the cornfield on 10/10.

RIP Big Red.  Your earthly mission is accomplished. I wonder what is next.  YES, THERE’S MORE.

Here We Go Again

bjgred“I just rolled my truck. Could you come get me?” Don’s voice was shakey, hopefully  due to the 5° Wednesday cold spell. I bundled up and drove a couple miles down our icy road where I spied Big Red standing in the field. The front windshield, tools and truck bed contents were strung out all over the ground.

I was relieved to see Don slowly walking toward me. He explained, “I hit an icy patch and my truck began sliding out of control. It spun around 360°and the next thing I knew I was through the ditch and everything went flying as the truck rolled over. It landed upright in the field. But I think I’m fine.” His back was hurting and I was shaken, but we both felt calm and peaceful. God had walked us through a lot of trials like this one over the years.

A passerby had called 911, and soon an ambulance whisked Don to the ER. The X-rays didn’t reveal any major damage, but the doctor warned him to expect some serious pain for a few days.

We texted family and friends to pray for swift healing and a good outcome from a seemingly bad day. Don’s back pain lightened as the prayers and encouragements flooding in:

“’Wow, what an incredible story of protection…Crazy-life is so fragile…He’s a walking miracle AGAIN…So happy he’s able to snore tonight!… His typically over-engineered ladder rack may have saved his life!!! Made a nice roll bar…He looks really good for rolling a truck…Yikes! Angels all around…Oh my. Thank you, Jesus for sparing Don again…There’s another chapter for Grandma’s book…What a rough way to get a new truck…Don, Don, Don.

Not only were the texts comforting and impactful; they helped us put things in focus. It slowly dawned on us how God had protected us from a day which could have ended much differently. Instead, we lay together in our warm bed, holding hands and thanking God, as we drifted off to a good night’s sleep.

I was hoping Don would take it easy the next day. Fat chance. With only a couple of pain pills, he was back working in his welding shop all day. It’s hard to keep a good man down.

“I will praise you, Lord, with all my heart; I will tell of all the marvelous things you have done. I will be filled with joy because of you.” Psalm 9:1,2

We all have bad days. Do you have a story where God orchestrated a good ending to a bad day?

 

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Bumping Bullet # 2

So how is it going in your tight space called “a home” with your people to bump into called    “family”? As I blogged about “Bumping Into Each Other,” I had a couple more “bumping bullets” to share that Don and I have learned over the past 50 years together.

Bumping Bullet # 2:  Learn to really talk to each other.

I’m not referring to chatting about events and issues but digging a little deeper to share how you feel inside about them. I suggest you talk together and agree to both take turns to listen to and share how each of you feels and thinks about a situation. I’m sure you have heard that God gave us two ears and one mouth for a good reason. Often I’ve found that a disagreement is diverted when we take the time to find out what is really going on in the other person’s head and heart. In our case, we’ve learned we often don’t know why the other person has a certain view until we dig a little and ask clarifying questions.

Here’s a little exercise my friend Ben shared a few years back.  I challenge you to test drive using “The Daily Four” and take turns with this sharing and listening exercise for a week and see what happens.

The Daily Four

  • What are you feeling?
  • What do you appreciate about your partner?
  • What are you thankful for?
  • Then pray together even if it is a sentence or two.

Sometimes amazing as it may seem, trying a little  something different works and draws us closer together!

If it doesn’t work and you are at a standstill or your partnership is going downhill, don’t hesitate to get a little outside help. Try something new, read a good book or article and share with it with each other or get help from another couple, a wise friend, counselor or pastor if you need it (and we all could use help at times). I agree with whoever said that “insanity is doing the same thing over and over and expecting different results.”  Do whatever it takes. There is a lot of life ahead to live.

Bumping Into Each Other # 1

God placed us in a tight space and called it “a home” and gave us people to bump into and called them  “family.”    I think it was part of His design to help us learn to love other people as we bump into each other in ways that reveal how much we love ourselves and want our own way. It is in this “family space” that we have the most  opportunities to grow love.  Isn’t it sometimes also  the hardest place?

This year my hubby Don and I are celebrating fifty years of living in our tight little space called “family.” Our kids left to make their own spaces over twenty years ago. Don and I still bump into each other daily, and we still are learning how to love and prefer each other daily.

If you live with someone, may I suggest 3 ways to make the bumping  smoother and even more fun along the way. Here is Bumping Bullet # 1 — I’ll share more later.

Bumping Bullet #1. Be someone your partner can trust.

God often reminds me of this Bible verse: Her husband can safely trust her & she will greatly enrich his life.”  from Proverbs 31.

When you are with other people, can your partner trust you to build him/her up or do you tend to tear him/her down?  Do you choose the relationship over being right, what is best for the relationship, or what is best for yourself?

How do you enrich your partner’s life each day in ways that he/she enjoys?

Honor Your Spouse (#4 of 7)

photoWe often bump into each other in that tight space called family. It’s a great space to learn how to be less self-centered and how to honor others.  I’ve been working on honoring my hubby for almost 50 years and this is still a daily challenge: Her husband can trust her and she will greatly enrich his life.”   Proverbs 31

Here are two things I try to do daily to honor my hubby.

1) COMMUNICATE

Communicating with each other is hard work but essential if you want to enjoy doing life together.  I encourage couples to practice, read good books and articles, get help from a friend, counselor or pastor if you need it (and we all do at times) but whatever it takes, get this skill down and just do it.

Here’s a little exercise I challenge you to test drive for a week to improve your communicating. Each day take turns sharing the daily four together:                The Daily Four

  1. What are you feeling?
  2. What do you appreciate about your partner?
  3. What are you thankful for?
  4. Pray together.

2) SERVE

I love to do special things for Don to enrich his life.  I’m going to toss out a few sample from my week.  Warning: you must be YOU. You need to express honor in your own creative ways.

  • Don loves to eat.  Even when inconvenient for me, a good meal on the table every day says “I love you” to my man.  I love to cook. Could it be due to all those 1000+ meals when he said, “Thanks, that was really good?”  Hmmm. Be right back — better check on those pork chops on the stove.
  • About halfway through lunch I’ve started putting down my fork (a good thing) and picking up a book (right now it is Heidi Baker’s “Compelled by Love.”) I read an excerpt for us to enjoy together.
  • Don also loves football. After years of trying, I still don’t love football, but I do sit by him for Monday Night Football. (He listens to the game on headsets and I read a book on my Kindle.) Just sitting near scores points.
  • At the grocery store I picked up three cartons of Breyers Light Vanilla which I rarely eat. Ice cream is a staple for Don on the list above bread and milk, so I make sure the freezer is well stocked.
  • I also picked up some mirror chalk (thanks for the idea, Tim & Talor.) This week Don and I started leaving each other encouraging notes on our mirrors. You can see in the picture above his note to me this morning. Honoring.

These are just a few things that came to mind. You can think of a lot more.  The main thing is …  Just do it!

          Love each other with genuine affection and take delight in honoring each other.  Romans 12:10

K.I.S.S. Keep It Simple, Sister/Sonny (# 3 of 7)

Chugging up the Amazon River on a medical boat, I heard God gently whisper “simplify” as I observed the lives of  the river people. I saw fathers fishing with their sons in hand carved canoes, mothers cooking their daily manioc on an open fire outside their 8×10 thatched homes as their children laughed and played in the dirt. I met believers who had very little by American standards but who were enjoying loving God and serving others. Sitting on the back of the boat, I jotted down “simplify” in my journal, with a fine duck sitting beside me, tethered by a rope around his leg. The duck, soon to be dinner, was a gift of thanks to our friend Becky, a missionary nurse, for pulling an absessed tooth.

As I returned home to my busy lifestyle, I was determined to obey God’s voice and simplify our lives.  Seventeen years later, this is still a work in progress.  As an avid multi-tasker, I find “simplify” not a simple thing to do.

Presently I am focusing afresh.  1) I  am learning to say NO to stuff. Do you ever really want something only to discover that when you purchase it, it doesn’t satisfy you very long? Instead you become aware that you not only own it but it now owns you– your money, your time, your focus.

2) I am learning to say NO to activities, a challenge for this “doer.” When asked to do good things over the years, my default answer, often spoken far too hastily, has been YES unless God says NO. Recently, I felt God prompt me to answer NO unless He says YES. I don’t respond nearly so quickly and am less prone to overcommit.

I began writing this simple blog last Friday but had to abandon it when my day wasn’t lining up with my message.  This was also THE day that I got out all the bins of Christmas decorations and began planning elaborate holiday events in my head.  I could picture God chuckling as He watched me try to write on simplifying while hanging Christmas decorations at the same time.  It was a practical K.I.S.S. lesson.

I did note a little progress.  I didn’t pull out everything in the bins and I did nix having two holiday parties before they even made it to the calendar. I realized I hadn’t arrived as I stared at the two, yes two, wall plaques and a chair pillow that shouted in bold letters, “SIMPLIFY,” but I HAD given away my other large SIMPLIFY plaque last year when I cleaned out my office

The present challenge is to keep it simple over the holidays. As I focus on finishing the first draft of my book by the end of the year, it is simple: I can’t do every good thing out there and accomplish my main task.

I wonder what my life would look like if I really internalized simplifying.  I suspect that it would be richer and more satisfying. “The thief comes to rob, kill, and destroy, but I have come that you might have a rich and satisfying life.”  — Jesus   John 10:10

How about you, are you willing to K.I.S.S. ?