Monday, April 28, 2014

Got questions?

Retirement. Most people dream of the day they can stop working and enjoy their lives by doing whatever they choose, whenever they choose; but retirement brings huge changes to the lives of people who have found security in their daily routines. I speak from experience. I never dreamed that I would retire so early in life but, through unexpected circumstances, that's exactly what happened to me. The first few weeks were exciting! I was free at last! Then the months began to follow and the excitement wore off as all my family and friends continued to work. I found myself often alone and lonely during the day...and that's when the questions began to creep in. Did I do the right thing in leaving my job? Could we make it on one income? Should I volunteer somewhere? Why do I feel so useless? What am I supposed to be doing with my life right now??? Silly questions to some but they were important to me.

Those questions also brought about doubt. Satan began to tantalize me with the fear of the "what ifs." What if your husband gets injured on the job and can no longer work? What if he dies suddenly? What if you're left all alone with your family so far away from you? What will you do then? How will you survive? What if the bills mount and you're unable to pay them?

People all over the world have questions. What about those mothers whose babies are born prematurely? Through tear filled eyes, they watch their tiny infants hooked up to machines that breathe life into them. They sit beside their isolettes day in and day out waiting for the word that they can take their babies home. They wonder day to day if their child is going to survive or if the next breath will be their last. Their souls cry out in deep agony, why??? What about the young woman who is suddenly thrust into widowhood when her brave soldier is killed in action? I'm sure she has many questions for God. What about the single parent who struggles to make ends feed a family of four and wonders where their next meal is coming from when there's no more money left in the bank account? What about the Olympic athlete who suffers a tragic injury that totally shatters his career in the blink of an eye? So many questions but God in His great mercy doesn't condemn us for the asking. 

Does God get angry when we ask Him questions? No! Look at Job...Job asked some pretty tough questions of God. He even asked God why He didn't let him die at birth! Can you imagine asking God something so bold and blatant? I would be scared to death that He'd send a huge bolt of lightening to strike me down! But God didn't do that with Job. He allowed him to ask as many questions as he wanted to ask.  God remained silent and let Job fire away. Did God answer each of Job's questions? Not really. But what He did do is tell Job that He was God and Job was not!

If God had answered each of Job's questions, do you think Job would have been able to wrap his head around the answers? Sometimes it's better for us not to know God's plan for us. That's how He teaches us to trust Him and have faith in Him. We're always going to have questions because we're human and I think God understands that, afterall...He created us!

In the book of Romans, Paul gives us an answer that we can hold on to when he says "Oh, the depth of the riches and wisdom and knowledge of God! How unfathomable (inscrutable, unsearchable) are His judgments (His decisions)! And how untraceable (mysterious, undiscoverable) are His ways (His methods, His paths)! 34 For who has known the mind of the Lord and who has understood His thoughts, or who has [ever] been His counselor? 35 Or who has first given God anything that he might be paid back or that he could claim a recompense? 36 For from Him and through Him and to Him are all things. [For all things originate with Him and come from Him; all things live through Him, and all things center in and tend to consummate and to end in Him.] To Him be glory forever!"

In other words, God is God and we are not. With that being said, we will continue to have questions. He knows we will want to know the answers. Sometimes He will choose to give us the answers but most times He will not. We must learn to rest in the fact that He is holy and just. He knows what is best for us. He knows what we need and when we need it. He is in control. 

Will I still have questions for God? You'd better believe it! Will I be afraid to ask some of those questions? Probably...but, I know God won't condemn me for asking. He is loving and patient and understanding...just the way any Father should be. I am thankful that He expects me to be an inquisitive child even though I'm rapidly approaching 60. God is the same as He was yesterday, the same as He will be today, and the same as He will be tomorrow. If He didn't throw lightening bolts at Job, then He won't throw them at me either! So go ahead and ask the hard questions, it's okay! God is on your side. He understands and He already knows what you're going to ask anyway. After all, He IS God.  

Thursday, April 24, 2014

Jesus sticking out all over

The greatest compliment I have ever received was from a dear friend who told me one day that she saw "Jesus sticking out all over me." At first I wondered what she was talking about and the puzzled look on my face must have led her to explain herself. She told me that I was so full of the love of Christ that it was evident in my eyes, my face, my smile, my actions...just all over me! I thought about it for a few minutes and was extremely happy to know that my love of Christ was flowing from my inside to my outside. As I looked toward my friend, I couldn't help telling her about a story I'd heard as a teen. The story begins with a little boy attending a tent revival. At the end of the service, the preacher gave an invitation telling folks they needed to ask Jesus to come into their hearts. The little boy walked down the aisle toward the preacher and when he got close, the preacher bent down to speak to the boy. "Did you ask Jesus to come into your heart tonight, son?" The little boy began shifting back and forth shuffling his feet as he looked toward the ground. “Well, I’d like to,” the boy said,"but I got to figurin’….I’m so little and Jesus is so big – He’s gonna stick out all over!” Smiling at the congregation, the preacher said, "that's the point son, that's the point!"

Most people have heard Christians talk about asking Jesus to come into your heart. It's a simple way to help others understand the concept of salvation. When someone does accept Christ as the Lord of their lives, Jesus immediately comes to dwell within them. Jesus said, “In that day you will know that I am in my Father, and you in me, and I in you.” (John 14:20) In other places in scripture we learn that His Holy Spirit is within each believer (John 14:17) and His word is to fill our hearts and our minds (Luke 8:15, Psalm 119:11). With all that Jesus in us, He should be oozing from our very pores!

So why don't we see Jesus coming out of all the believers we know? Don’t get me wrong, I do know some people that seem to ooze Jesus on a daily basis. Most of the Christians I personally know don't. Why is that? What gets in the way and how can we change it? It seems to me that we have prioritized the things of the world and put them over the things of the Lord. That greatly hinders the flow of Christ in our lives.1 John 2:15-16 he says this, “Do not love the world or the things in the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him. For all that is in the world–the desires of the flesh and the desires of the eyes and pride in possessions–is not from the Father but is from the world.”

In the Bible, the apostle John warned Christians that many who claim Christ are not really His followers. He admonished them to be ready to examine their faith to see whether or not it was genuine. He wanted them to understand that Christ followers show evidence of their faith in the way they lived. He explained that we are to love God the Father and His Son, Jesus, more than we love the world.

Often times, we care more about what people think of us than what God thinks of us. We are quick to cover our own mistakes and slow to defend what others see as mistakes on God’s part. We are slow to forgive others even though we've been greatly forgiven ourselves. For many of us, the only thing that's coming out all over us is pride and selfish desires.

My number one desire is that Jesus would continually flow out of me. I want others to see how grateful I am for all He's done in my life. I want His love to flow out of me like an endless river. I want my words, my deeds, my actions to reflect Jesus and Him alone. In fact, I'd prefer if others would only see Jesus and not even see me.

Oh look! What's that I see? Is that Jesus sticking out all over you too? If He's filled you completely with His love, His mercy, and His grace, it can't help but leak out of you! Don't let your pride get in the way and block the flow...let others see Jesus in you today!

Wednesday, April 23, 2014

Are there "high places" in your life?

During Bible times, high places were usually natural elevations in land such as hills or mountains, but sometimes they were man-made places such as tall towers or buildings. These were places where people worshiped or made sacrifices. Most prophets worshiped the one and only True and Living God atop these mountains or hills. The Canaanite "high places" were notorious for pagan worship where pagan idols were worshiped and wicked practices often occurred. When the Israelites entered the Promised Land, they were commanded by God not only to have nothing to do with high places, but to destroy them because they would be corrupted by their presence - a command that was largely disobeyed, to their regret.

  As they were about to enter the land promised to the descendants of Abraham, Issac, and Jacob, God instructed the Israelites to demolish the idolatry in the land:

"And The Lord said to Moses in the plains of Moab by the Jordan at Jericho, "Say to the people of Israel, When you pass over the Jordan into the land of Canaan, then you shall drive out all the inhabitants of the land from before you, and destroy all their figured stones, and destroy all their molten images, and demolish all their high places; and you shall take possession of the land and settle in it, for I have given the land to you to possess it." (Numbers 33:50-53 RSV)

Only two kings in Israel and Judah's history followed God's command to tear down the pagan high places of sacrifice. What was it that motivated them to carry out God's order when so many of their predecessors and successors did not? What can we learn from their example in order to tear down our own spiritual high places in our hearts?

If you're at all familiar with the history of Israel and Judah, then you probably know that most of the rulers were pretty ruthless.The good rulers were small in number. They tried desperately during their reign to reverse the evil their predecessors had introduced to their kingdom. They smashed idols and killed false prophets. They renovated God's temple and reintroduced true worship to the people.
Of the 39 rulers in Israel and Judah after the time of Solomon, only eight of them (all exclusively from Judah) attempted to make things right. Only eight saw the depravity around them and decided to do anything about it. And in the books of 1 and 2 Kings, only eight kings are described as "doing what was right in the eyes of the Lord."

But those kings had failures too. The overwhelming majority of Judah's eight righteous kings have their histories tarnished by one common shortcoming: They failed to take down the high places. Before entering Canaan, the Israelites were commanded to "utterly destroy all the places where the nations which you shall dispossess served their gods, on the high mountains and on the hills and under every green tree. And you shall destroy their altars, break their sacred pillars, and burn their wooden images with fire; you shall cut down the carved images of their gods and destroy their names from that place. You shall not worship the Lord your God with such things" (Deuteronomy:12:2-4). Instead of obeying this command, the Israelites adopted these pagan high places as additional centers for worship.

Some of them were honest attempts to serve God, but they were on man's terms. God mentioned only one location where He wanted His people to make sacrifices and that was in His tabernacle. (Leviticus:1:2-3). The Israelites' way of responding was to continue to use the high places. It was as if they were saying, "Okay, but...what about here too?" God had spoken! He had issued a decree! His people broke it by choosing to continue worshiping at the high places. Their disobedience resulted in sin.

We aren't told why six of the eight righteous kings of Judah left the high places standing. Perhaps they didn't see them as a serious problem. Maybe they were exhausted from the effort of eradicating the other forms of sin rampant in their country and decided not to bother with the high places.
Whatever their reasons, we can look at the recorded history and learn that stopping short of destroying the high places was not enough in God's eyes. Their stories are all tarnished with what equates to, "They did what was right before God, except..."

So what does this mean for us? We're not kings and we don't have the ability to tear down the "high places" of our world today. Did God make a point of recording this fault of the kings for no reason at all? I think not! God tells His children, "Your body is the temple of the Holy Spirit, [which] is in you, [which] you have from God, and you are not your own" (1 Corinthians:6:19). As God's temple, it is our duty to stay wholly dedicated to Him and not allow ourselves to build any spiritual high places in our hearts.

The Israelites fell prey to the idea that they could serve God through any means they wanted -in any way they wanted—that they could serve Him along with other gods or in locations of their own choosing. So they went to the high places, with "every man doing whatever is right in his own eyes" (Deuteronomy:12:8). Without continued vigilance on our parts, we, too, can fall prey to that idea.

What high places do you have in your heart? Take a close look. What altars have you set up there, and what gods are you serving at those altars? Maybe you pay homage to money and possessions...Maybe you've chosen to set yourself up as an idol, allowing God to only touch certain areas of your life...And what ways do you worship God that detract from how He wants to be worshiped? Maybe you've fallen into vain repetition in your prayer life or present your works to Him as if they are earning you your salvation.

The only two kings in history to follow God's command to tear down the high places left us an example to follow for dealing with our own spiritual high places. Hezekiah, the first of the two, made such an impact that the Bible records, "After him was none like him among all the kings of Judah, nor who were before him" (2 Kings:18:5). Hezekiah "removed the high places and broke down the sacred pillars, cut down the wooden image and broke in pieces the bronze serpent" (2 Kings:18:4). Why? What prompted him to do this, when the kings who had come before had fallen short?
To Hezekiah, nothing mattered more than God and His commandments: "He trusted in the Lord God of Israel...[He] held fast to the Lord; he did not depart from following Him but kept His commandments" (2 Kings:18:5-6). So when he saw the high places standing in defiance of that same God, the only logical action was to tear them to pieces. What matters most to you?

Many years later, Hezekiah's great-grandson, Josiah, would take the throne. He found that those before him had rebuilt the high places and reintroduced Israel to idolatry. How did he respond? He "made a covenant before the Lord, to follow the Lord and to keep His commandments and His testimonies and His statutes, with all his heart and all his soul" (2 Kings:23:3). Josiah's priorities were clear. God came first, and Josiah devoted himself to following Him. His whirlwind campaign to rid the land of all things pagan (see 2 Kings:23:4-25) was a natural consequence of devoting himself to God. 

What are you devoted to? Seek out every obstacle that stands between you and God—and when you find them, follow the example of Hezekiah and Josiah. Smash them to pieces. Tear them down. Grind them to dust. Obliterate every trace of all opposition to God, every speck of resistance.

Spiritual high places are much harder to destroy than their physical counterparts. We can't destroy them on our own, but only through turning to God. By prayer, fasting, Bible study and meditation can we expect to tear down what separates us from Him. For "the weapons of our warfare are not carnal but mighty in God for pulling down strongholds, casting down arguments and every high thing that exalts itself against the knowledge of God, bringing every thought into captivity to the obedience of Christ" (2 Corinthians:10:4-5). Don't let those high places remain in your life. It's time to start tearing down those walls!

Tuesday, April 22, 2014

Hope for a hurting heart

Pain. No one likes it. Pain can be a small, nagging feeling or it can be a deep, throbbing sensation that consumes our entire being. Which is worse, physical pain or emotional pain? That's a hard question to answer since physical pain can often be measured by degrees. Physical pain is usually on the outside of our bodies and we can learn to ignore it or distract ourselves from focusing on it. Physical pain can be calmed by medication or other remedies...but emotional pain, that's a different story.

Emotional pain is an "inside pain." It usually effects the mind, the heart and the emotions. Mental anguish, resentment, bitterness, and even a dryness of the soul can hound us. These pains can often cause us to fall into a spiritual vacuum. While we can describe physical pain to a physician, only the Great Physician can know our inside pain.

God in His great wisdom often allows us to experience inner anguish. When we experience "inside pain," we're forced to deal with the problem because those inside pains bombard our thoughts continually. God can use "inside pain" to capture our attention. He can use it to purify us in ways that physical pain can not.

Have you ever had an argument with a sibling or mate? Have you ever felt that nagging feeling deep in your spirit that you needed to apologize? Often pride kept you from going back and immediately making things right, but God, in His gentle, loving way kept pricking your heart for days.

Inside pain can be purifying if we remember the verse in 2 Corinthians 10:5, "...take every thought captive and make it obedient to Christ." Those feelings of worry, fear, anxiety or spiritual dryness can all be used to help us learn to deal with the real issue at hand. When we deal with those issues, we're learning to be obedient to Christ.

Maybe you've recently remembered an unkind word spoken against you...maybe a hurtful situation arose between you and someone you love...maybe it's a situation over which you no longer have any control...whatever it is, choose not to carry it alone. Give that situation over to God in prayer. 1 Peter 5:7 tells us that we are to cast ALL our anxiety upon Him because He cares for us.

If the inside pain is the result of an unconfessed sin or unresolved conflict don't wait any longer! Bring that wrong attitude into the light of God's Word. Ask for forgiveness and allow the healing balm of God's love to wash over you. If you are willing to humble yourself, God will accept you with open arms. You'll find that nagging, inside pain melting away. Jesus is the only one who can offer a cleansed heart and pure mind. He doesn't want us to have troubled hearts. He wants us to live in joy and peace.

Examine yourself and see whether the pain you're experiencing is a true physical pain or if it might be an "inside pain." Jesus was acquainted with grief. He understands. He wants to heal you but you have to be willing to do your part, too.

Whatever the reason God's allowing you to go through a painful situation, trust Him that His ways are not our ways. If He's allowed you to travel a painful road right now, maybe it's part of His perfect will to cleanse and purify you making you more Christlike. Remember, He loves you like no other and even times of trial at His hand are for our good. Introspection is a good thing when you're looking inside your own heart and spirit for things that are unpleasing to God. He wants you to experience freedom from the pain of unforgiveness, bitterness and hurt.

This poem may speak to you today:
Lord Jesus, King of Pain,
Thy subject I;
Thy right it is to reign:
Oh, hear my cry,
And bid in me all longings cease
Save for Thy holy will's increase.
Thy right it is to reign
O'er all Thine own;
Then, if Thy love send pain,
Find there Thy throne,
And Help me bear it unto Thee,
Who didst bear death and hell for me.
Lord Jesus, King of pain,
My heart's Adored
Teach me eternal gain
Is Love's reward
In Thee I hide me; hold me still
Till pain work all Thy perfect will.
~William Bathurst

Wednesday, April 16, 2014

As seen on TV

While visiting my mother at the nursing home recently, I observed many elderly residents who were either in wheel chairs or bedridden. The ones who were ambulatory were very frail and weak, barely able to get around. As I watched them, I realized that even though they were in poor physical condition, many of them still wanted to maintain as much of their independence as mother included.  

My mother is among the bedridden residents and without someone in the room to help her, she is often unable to reach things she needs. While we were visiting, we could easily hand her things as she asked for them, but what would she do when we were gone? The more I thought about it, the more I realized that we had to find a solution. 

Later that day, when I was home cooking dinner, I heard a commercial on TV for a new product called a Grabber. I listened intently as the announcer explained the usefulness of this remarkable new tool. It could help reach things up high or down low. It had suction cup grips and while it looked very unattractive with its oddly shaped metal, it seemed to be a handy gadget. I made a mental note to find out where to buy one. 

The next day I was out doing some shopping. As I rounded the corner, something caught my eye.  I saw one of those grabbing tools they'd advertised in the commercial! It was marked with huge red letters across the top "AS SEEN ON TV" so I knew it was the one they'd been talking about. I took it down from the display and tried it out.  I tried to reach something that was on a higher shelf...the suction cups worked quite well when the metal arms were extended outward. I took a box and placed it on the floor beside my feet and then tried the tool again. It took a few minutes to grasp and pick up the box, but it was do-able. Neat! This might be a worthwhile investment. 

At the register, the cashier rang up my purchases and gave me a strange look when she came to the grabber tool. "It's for my Mom," I explained, as an embarrassed blush spread across my face. "Yes, many elderly come in to buy these," the cashier responded. 

On our next visit to the nursing home, I presented my mother with the grabber tool. I showed her how to use it to reach things she needed. She tried it several times and was quite pleased with it. This inexpensive tool was going to afford her a little more independence. As I watched her using the tool, I thought about how God uses us. 

Often times, I think God has to mold and shape us into useful tools that He can use. He may take hurt, bitterness, or pride and use those to shave off areas in our lives that need to be refined. He may use challenging circumstances to mold is into more caring and loving tools of His mercy. Whatever He designs us to do, He will bend and twist and shape us into the perfect that's able to accomplish His purpose and His plan. What a joyful thought to realize that we are chosen tools of God and we are perfectly suited for His use. 

"In a large house there are articles not only of gold and silver, but also of wood and clay: some are for noble purposes and some for ignoble. If a man cleanse himself from the latter, he will be an instrument for noble purposes, made holy, useful to the Master and prepared to do any good work." 
2 Timothy 2:20-21

Even a Grabber can be a noble tool when placed in the Master's hand. Noble is defined as "grand, splendid, magnificent; having greatness of character and excellent qualities." Wouldn't it be a joy to be one of God's chosen vessels for noble use? I know my mother appreciated and now treasures this weird looking metal tool because she knows how helpful it is to her. It allows her to extend her withered and frail arms enough to reach things that fall out of the bed onto the floor. Having just the right tool for just the right job makes a huge difference! What will you allow God to use you for today? Will you allow Him to mold and bend and shape you in a vessel for noble use? It might be fun to see what He'll use your willing heart to do in the lives of others!

Sunday, April 6, 2014

The best kept secret's hard. Have you ever struggled and worried because your life wasn't going the way you wanted it to go? Do you feel that way right now?

You have legitimate needs and desires. You know what would make you happy and you pray for it with all your might, asking God to help you get it. But if it doesn't happen, you may feel frustrated, bitter or disappointed.

Sometimes you do get what you want, but then you find it doesn't make you happy after all, just disillusioned.

Many Christians repeat this cycle their entire life, wondering what they're doing wrong. I should know. I was one of them.  Did you know there is a secret that can free you from this cycle? It's really easy to understand and to do! All you have to do is trust God. Yes, that's God. Ah, you say, that's no secret!

But in actuality, the secret lies in putting this truth into practice, by making it such a powerful theme in your life that you view every event, every sorrow, every prayer with the unshakable conviction that God is totally, spotlessly trustworthy.

That's where we mess up. We want to trust in anything rather than in the Lord. We'll trust in our own strength and abilities, in our employer, in our money, our doctor, even in the airline pilot. But the Lord? Well…

It's easy to trust in things we can see. Sure, we believe in God, but to allow him to run our life? That's asking a little too much, we think.  The bottom line is that our wants may not agree with God's wants for us. After all, it's our life, isn't it? Shouldn't we have the say over it? Shouldn't we be the one who calls the shots? God gave us free will, didn't he?

The world tell us what's important: a high-paying career, a head-turning car, a drop-dead-gorgeous home, and a spouse who will make everyone else green with envy.

If we fall for the world's idea of what matters, we get trapped. The new car, relationship, promotion or whatever didn't bring you the happiness you expected, so you keep searching, thinking "Maybe next time." But it's always the same, because you were created for something better, and deep down you know it.

When you finally reach the place where your head agrees with your heart, you're still hesitant. It's scary. Trusting in the Lord can require that you abandon everything you've ever believed about what brings happiness and fulfillment.

It requires that you accept the truth that God knows what's best for you. But how do you make that leap from knowing to doing? How do you trust in the Lord instead of the world or yourself?  

The secret lives inside of you! The secret is the Holy Spirit. Not only will he convict you of the rightness of trusting in the Lord, he'll help you do it. It's too hard for us to do on our own!

Because the Holy Spirit knows you better than you know yourself, he'll give you exactly what you need to make this change. He's infinitely patient, so he'll let you test this secret—trusting in the Lord—in little baby steps. He'll catch you if you stumble. He'll rejoice with you when you succeed. It's going to take effort to trust. Let me give you an example...have you ever played a game as a child where you were blindfolded? Maybe someone led you around from room to room and you had to guess where you had to trust that they wouldn't run you into a wall...or maybe you were blindfolded and told to fall backward while someone was there waiting to catch had to trust with all your heart that they would actually stay there and be ready to catch you and not let you fall, didn't you? That's how it is with have to be willing to trust that He is always going to be there, even if you can't see or feel Him...He's there!

As someone who has gone through cancer, the deaths of loved ones, broken relationships, and job layoffs, I can tell you that trusting in the Lord is a lifelong challenge. You never finally "arrive." Each new crisis calls for recommitment. The good news is that the more often you see God's loving hand working in your life, the easier this trusting becomes.

When you trust in the Lord, you'll feel as if the weight of the world has been lifted off your shoulders. The pressure's off you now and on God, and he can handle it perfectly. He is trustworthy!!! 

God will make something beautiful of your life, but he needs your trust in him to do it. Are you ready? The time to start is today, right now.

Friday, April 4, 2014

Behold, I make all things new!

Moving from a house I'd lived in for over 20 years wasn't easy for me especially since we were moving to a much smaller place. When my husband told me that it was time to downsize, I felt fear suddenly rising up inside my heart. Little did he know that I'd grown quite comfortable and secure in our current home. I knew every inch of that house inside and out. I knew which door was opened or closed by the specific squeak it made; I knew where someone was in the house by the sound of the floor boards creaking beneath their feet...yes, I knew every inch of this house so well, that I could easily walk through it with my eyes closed. How was I going to pick up and move over 20 years of memories and familiar things in less than a month?

I was determined to be obedient. The Bible tells me that I am to submit to my husband and so, I submitted my will to stay to his will to leave. I began packing one room at a time and ask I packed, I cried. I cried because I was leaving the home I loved so dearly. I cried because I wasn't quite ready to move away from all of my family. I cried because I was afraid to journey into parts unknown (even though the city we were moving to was just over an hour away from our current location).

As I packed, I knew I wasn't going to be able to take a lot of the material possessions we'd accumulated over the years. Our new home was much smaller. I decided to make three to keep, one to donate/give away, and one to throw away. Each item would fall into one of the three categories and would help me select the things that I really wanted to take with me to our new house. Starting out was hard! As I came to an item, I asked myself which one of the three categories it fell into and at first, I didn't want to get rid of a thing! But as I continued, it became easier to purge. I looked at things that I'd loved for years and thought to myself, do I really need that anymore? 9 times out of 10, I could answer NO.

I think I surprised myself at the number of boxes I'd set aside to donate or give away. Even my husband commented on how many things were in that pile. "Are you sure," he said, and emphatically, I answered, "yes!" It was getting easier and easier as I continued. I could hear my grandmother's voice in the back of my mind saying, "honey, you know, less is more!"

When we arrived at the new house with all the boxes I'd packed. I was shocked! With all the things I'd gotten rid of, how could I still have this many?! Every room in our new house was filled to the brim with box upon box. As I began unpacking, I began a second purge and lo, and behold, I was able to get rid of even more.

As I went through each box, I no longer cried. I suddenly felt a freedom! I was feeling much lighter! God was removing my desire to hold onto the old things and was creating a desire in me for new things. Now I don't mean that in a strictly material sense because I'm not a materialistic person at all, so please don't misunderstand...God had blessed us with a brand new house and yes, it was much smaller, but we didn't need a huge house any more. All the kids were grown and it was just the two of us.

Our home was brand spanking new...everything glittered and gleamed with the newness! And as I unpacked, I began to feel an overwhelming sense of not wanting to put things that reminded me of my old life in this new house. Suddenly a verse of Scripture popped into my mind! "...Behold, I make all things new...." Revelation 21:5. Now I know that God intended that verse to help us comprehend the new work that He was doing in the lives of believers, but it was as if He was saying, it's okay. I understand how you are have a new home and you don't want to put old things in it because this is a new start...a new beginning.

It really was a new beginning for my husband and I! When we'd married over 21 years ago, I already had 4 children and a home. My husband walked into a "ready made" family and instantly became a father. For 21 years, we had never been in that home alone. There was always someone there with us...children, grandchildren or friends. The realization that it was going to finally be just the two of us hit me square between the eyes and scared me to death. I don't know why, but it did! All I'd ever done for since I was 18 was be a mother. Being a wife always came last.

They say hindsight is 20/20 and that's very true! As I look back, I know that being a wife should have come first and being a mother and grandmother should have come after that. Blending families is always a hard thing to do and sometimes you just have to "make it work" in any way you can. That's exactly what we did...we made it work. But now God was impressing on my heart that it was time for my focus to shift. It was time for me to be a wife first and be a mother and grandmother second. This is where the fear crept in. I didn't quite know how to be a wife first.

Most of our boxes are unpacked now and we're beginning to settle into our new home. I'm slowly but surely learning how to be a wife first as my husband and I are able to sit down and talk without interruption...we're able to go out to dinner and enjoy each other's company...we're finding that God indeed is making all things new! Can you have a honeymoon after 21 years of marriage? I think you can when you allow God to show you that He has ordained this time. He is restoring the years we devoted to the kids and giving us this season to just enjoy each other.

You'd have to know me to understand how difficult it is for me to shift my focus from being a full time mother to being a full time wife. My children have been my world for so long that I can't remember a time when I wasn't a mother. Now instead of dinner conversations being interrupted by an excited child, the phone will ring and one of the kids will tell us about their day. It's not quite the same as it used to's different and new. Where the house was once full of activity and noise, now it's extremely quiet. This will definitely take some getting used to, but I think I may learn to like it! God continues to remind me that He is making ALL things my heart, in my mind, in my soul. I know that He wants to teach me to be an excellent wife and though my children aren't close by any longer, I'll always be a mother. I'll always drop what I'm doing to answer that phone call and hear one of their sweet voices on the other end of the line. My husband knows that it's going to take some time for me to learn to put him first, but he's seen evidence that I am really trying.

As I unpack the last box today, I am amazed to find our wedding album. How appropriate, God! You always amaze me! I hear His voice reminding me of our wedding vows and how that special day 23 years ago was filled with excitement and newness. Looking around at my new house, I realize that I'm going to have to learn the sounds of it....learn to walk through it with my eyes closed....learn every nook and cranny...and I will...with time. "Behold, I am making all things new..." says the Lord. He is! He is giving me a new perspective! A new joy! A new outlook on life! Thank you, God, for loving me despite my short comings and my downfalls. Thank you for loving me through the silliness of tears for what once was in the past. Thank you for being willing to teach me to be a good wife and for allowing me to start fresh and new.