Campfire Thoughts

 

We camped this weekend. It was incredible to meet the campers around us. There were retired couples who have loads of time to travel from place to place. They had very interesting and unique stories. There were working people who were taking advantage of a long weekend away and who were often seeking a safe outlet for the frustrations or joys of their lives. There were families who were vacationing with their kids. Kids being kids they were more than happy to regale us with lots of family history!

We all happened to converge on one particular campground at the same time. We will probably never see these people again, but for one night we occupied the same space in the world.

We speak with our new friends of our adventures, the good, bad and ugly. We introduce our families and meet theirs. We sit around a campfire and share whatever version of S’mores is popular at the moment. We gladly and enthusiastically talk of our “toys” that are along with us, whether they be Harley’s or side by side’s or horses or of course, our faithful dog companions. You name it, we love to share those stories. It is humans connecting in a comfortable, enjoyable and un-encumbered environment.

How often does that happen?

As we talk with these kindred campers, we have the perfect opportunity to share exactly where our hope lies and why it lies there. Do we do it? It is hard to step over that line sometimes because you know that there is a very real possibility that the conversation will not be welcome, and that would be, well uncomfortable.

However, is it worth being uncomfortable to plant a seed of gospel in a life that might be devoid of that? Or maybe the seed has already been planted and you will be the water and sunshine that makes that seed sprout, is it worth it then?
Maybe the reward we are seeking with a weekend away should not lie so much in the fact that we get to light a campfire, as it should be we get to light a fire for Jesus. The true joy lies in watching that fire take off and burn!

Dottie
…………..and so I ride

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God’s Curriculum

When God chooses to show us the truth of our lives He does it in a lot of different ways. Sometimes it is subtle and gently, sometimes it is spread over a period of time and other times it is swift and certain. Then there are the times the lessons are so raw and pure that there is no mistaking the lesson.

We are so good at shouting our unhappiness when things are not to our pleasing. The popular saying is “don’t sweat the small things”, well we sure seem to sweat a lot of stuff that, in the grand scheme of things, don’t make a bit of difference.

The practice of overdramatizing, exaggerating and blowing things out of proportion is rampant. If we are busy making mountains where there are only mole hills our focus is not where it belongs.

In all actuality aren’t we looking at it backwards, shouldn’t we be relying on God to make mole hills out of the mountains life hands us?

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What about learning the simple art of being content? If we are truly living for God, if we are talking and listening to what God is telling us and living as God wants us to,  aren’t we exactly where we are supposed to be?

Look at the money we spend on self-help books, on plastic surgery, on meaningless trinkets. Look at the time we spend trying to change and manipulate things into what we believe will make us happy and give us the feeling of contentment we seek.

I love this bit of wisdom I found in a book by Robin Meyers. Contentment is not just a ‘peaceful, easy feeling’ or a way to rationalize laziness. It is a deep, easy-breathing wisdom that knows what can and can’t be changed, and more important, knows when to do and when to wait. The contented person watches the world closely, but does not stare it down. She enjoys things, rather than trying to possess them or straighten them out.”

Maybe it’s time to put that energy into learning to be content in all the circumstances of life that we find ourselves in, maybe its time to accept the truth of what God says. Maybe it is time to want what we have, to quit comparing our situations with another’s, and to accept where we are and be content and even thankful we are there and recognize that place is where God has placed us and that place is  where we are supposed to be.

Compare not yourself with anyone else, lest you spoil God’s curriculum” Baal Shem Tov

God is the only provider we need. Philippians 4:19

God supplies every material need we have. Matthew 6:25,32-33

God supplies our deepest inner need to be loved. Jeremiah 31:3

God supplies our spiritual needs. Ephesians 1:3

God does all this for us………..freely. Romans 8:32

Dottie

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Dance Lessons

I never know where God is going to take me when I sit down and open His word. This morning was no different, I need to get used to the feeling of, “today is the day God is going to teach me something”. I just didn’t realize I would be getting dance lessons this morning.

I am studying Matthew today and 19:6 was highlighted in neon. “So they are no longer two but one flesh, what therefore God has joined together let no man separate.”

I have come to think of marriage as a piece of artwork all in its own. It is a dance that has a rhythm and a beat unique to the two dancing. Sometimes the beat is soothing and makes me feel like I could fall into it and rest forever, sometimes it is a fun, rapid beat that energizes me and sometimes it is heavy metal that is chaotic and hurtful to the senses and cannot be sustained for long. However, it is continual and goes from one song to another. Sometimes we dance in perfect harmony and sometimes we collide and step on toes and even fall. Sometimes the one who is supposed to be leading gets lost in the music and we twirl and spin around without any guidance or knowledge where we are going.

I like to think that marriage should not be about falling, that falling isn’t the end all”, it probably should not even be about stepping on toes or the occasional collision as the beat goes on so to speak. What if marriage isn’t so much about “dancing happily ever after” so much as learning to extend goodwill to our partner and presume goodwill from our partner? Maybe it should be about learning to step out of the “its not my fault I don’t know that dance, or I hate that music” frame of mind into the taking responsibility for our actions frame of mind?

WOW, there’s a thought. Let’s take some dance lessons so we can appreciate other types of music.

It is important to remember in this institution called marriage that God designed it from one end to the other. God made man; God made woman, God made the music we dance to. He didn’t make us the same He didn’t give us the same taste in music and what’s more, I cannot believe that he did that mistakenly. He didn’t make one partner who was right and one partner who had no musical sense whatsoever, He made two partners that were simply “different”.

This brings me back to Matthew 19:6. “So they are no longer two but one. I still believe we are to maintain that we have different (not wrong, simply different) outlooks but we are to operate and function as a single unit, in harmony. The next part, “what God has joined”- WOW, wait a minute, how did we miss that because we certainly overlook it quite often. Do we, and the world in general for that matter just ignore that explosive statement, how did we let that one slip by……………….God joined us with our spouse?…………..doesn’t that make it a holy union? Maybe it is time we start treating it as such?

“Let no man separate”. Ok, this is a compact little nugget that holds a wealth of meaning also. I think that we tend to take this too literally. I think we tend to think it means a third party or other earthly interferences. Maybe we need to look at this statement in a little different light, what if we take it more personal? Couldn’t the statement, let no man separate, include ourselves? Uh oh, I knew there would be a life lesson for me today in here somewhere.

Maybe we need to take responsibility for making our marriages what God intended them to be, I don’t mean to exclude God but to at least do our part. Maybe we need to start taking responsibility for our actions, our thoughts, our deeds, in effect, our marriages. There are all kinds of music out there, all kinds of dances, none right, none wrong, all simply different. Learn them all so that when the time comes we need to dance to different music or dance a two-step instead of a waltz, we can. Sometimes it takes no more than an open mind and the habit of extending or presuming goodwill.

It seems to me that if we remember only one thing, that we should remember that GOD JOINED MY SPOUSE AND I. That should make it worth any length we have to go to in our marriages, and should make it worth any sacrifices we have to make. We have something special, something worth working on, something worth getting a little uncomfortable for or something we can risk looking a little silly for.

We have a holy union arranged by our Father.

Period, it really is that simple.

DottieImage

The Ultimate Purpose of Marriage

Just when we think we have all the answers, the question changes! I am still thinking about God, and marriage and how the two work together.

What if marriage really isn’t about you and your spouse as much as it is about you and God?

Maybe we have been thinking about this marriage thing in the wrong way all along, (hence the huge divorce rate). Maybe God uses marriage to make us both happy and holy and we just forget about the holy part.

How often do we say about our spouse, he or she is my soul mate, he or she makes my life complete? Maybe God wants to be the one to complete us and He never intended our marriage partner to be the one we look to for that particular fulfillment?  Isn’t that really just idolatry? I know it is strange to think of our spouse that way, but it seems to me that if we let God complete us, the rest of marriage would fall into place more easily. I think that maybe our fulfillment and reason for being should be God and not our spouse and in turn, that would make us a far better partner in our marriage.

What’s more, if we really are looking to our spouses to be our God, how are they ever going to live up to that? There is no way they can; if we are looking to our spouses to be our God, we are setting our marriage up to fail.

Maybe just maybe, God guides us into marriage to help us on our journey to eternal existence with Him?

I say this because I am trying to reason this out; if happiness was the goal in marriage we would do as millions of other couples do, get a divorce as soon as happiness seems to fade into the mundaneness of real life. Or what about being in marriage only for what we receive, primarily love and attention, divorce would soon be imminent because as humans our attention span is limited at best and we are a pretty selfish bunch. But when you stop to think about it, isn’t that what is happening in the world? The divorce rate is astonishing and it could just be because we have our thoughts on ourselves and not what God intends our marriage to be.

I think that when trouble comes, and it will, we need to put on our grown up panties,  suck it up and jump on the road to finding eternal happiness, jump on the road that leads to life with the only one who can give us complete wholeness, purpose and eternal life. If husbands and wives have a common destination the journey can’t help but be a whole lot easier.

I know I have written about this before but it is not an easy concept for me. Apparently I have to get myself out of the way, put my spouse in the correct place in my life and put God in the place where He belongs. I am quick to admit to say that marriage works best when God is involved but I think maybe I had the order wrong before, God should be in the top spot. There is no brighter beacon , there is no greater comfort, there is no better way to complete a marriage than to look to God to do it.

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What about Mary?

“Today in the town of David, A Savior has been born to you. He is the Messiah, the Lord”. Luke 2:11

That is probably one of the most famous and remembered scriptures in the Bible. But lets back up a minute.” A Savior has been born to you” ……..who birthed our Savior? This is an intriguing question to me. What about Mary? Who was she and what was her life like before this momentous event? How did it change after?

Can you imagine? Luke 1: 26-35, lets consider these scriptures a minute. God sent the angle Gabriel to  Nazareth to visit a virgin named Mary. The first thing the angel said to her when he greeted her was, you are highly favored, the Lord is with you. Instead of bringing great joy, this troubled Mary. Gabriel reassured her, telling her not to be afraid, that she had found favor with God. Then he drops the bombshell that she will conceive and give birth to a son and she was to name him Jesus. Gabriel goes on to say that Jesus would be great and called the Son of the Most High, that God would give Him the throne of his father David and He would reign over Jacob’s descendants forever; His kingdom would never end.

Mary wondered out loud how this could be given the fact that she was a virgin. Once again Gabriel spoke mighty powerful words to Mary, saying the Holy Spirit would come on her and the power of the Most High would overshadow her. The Holy One to be born would be called the “Son of God”

This called for a little research on my part into what life was like for a young woman living in those times. Mary lived under her fathers authority and was trained to protect the honor of her father. She could only speak to men when spoken to, she had to dress according to social standings and behave with exceedingly good manners.. Otherwise she would bring shame upon her father.

A woman was to be veiled, to be otherwise could result in divorce, they received little or no education, friendships were limited to other women and they were not taught the Law of God. Women did not eat with male guests and men of the time were discouraged from talking to women.

A husband could divorce his wife without her consent for a variety of reasons ranging from unchastity, burning a meal, or if he simply found someone he deemed more suitable. It was a society that placed women in the same category as oxen, donkeys or other possessions.

At the same time, women managed the household, the budget, cooked, cleaned, reared and educated the children, but seemingly all under the husbands direction.

I read that Jewish men of that time, thanked God they had not been born a Gentile, not been born a slave, or had not been born a woman. Oh my, what a challenging place to live, in fact, I doubt ,many women of today would stand still for such treatment.

Is it any wonder that Mary was “greatly troubled”? How in the world would she ever explain a pregnancy? Why did the angel visit her, a lowly woman? Who in their right mind would believe that she became pregnant by the Holy Spirit?

There were obvious implications for Mary, people might reject her, to be pregnant while engaged at that time, was a scandalous thing. If she were suspected of being unfaithful it could mean being single the rest of her life, being ridiculed and even being put to death. Plus if her father did not believe her and rejected her, she could be forced into a lifetime of begging or prostitution just to survive.

However, with a dignity and grace that I respect, Mary answered, “I am the Lord’s servant, May your word to me be fulfilled.”

Period, it was settled in her mind.

Seriously, how does one cope as Mary did, she was soon to be the Mother of the one who redeemed us all. She was to give birth to a perfect and hold child. She was pregnant with holiness and purity but yet she could not answer the questions  and disbelief that surely had to be pounding at her from all directions.

I heard someone mention that Mary was the only person who has ever shared a vessel with God. That is a wondrous thing. We have no idea what it is like to be able to say that, let alone do that. She literally carried the Lord our God in her earthly and delicate body. That gives a whole new meaning to the term “Holy Glow”

Mary had to have struggled with the task set before her, there had to be joy yes, but just as often fear, uncertainty and a feeling on being unworthy.

It is amazing to me to ponder the fact that God chose Mary to carry within her a holy child that was to save the world, that those two heartbeats were harmonized,  for 9 months Mary’s heart and Jesus’ heart beat as one., what an incredible gift!

In giving this gift to Mary, God gave us all a gift.

Thank you God!

Marry Christmas.

Dottie

The long goodbye?

Special moments in life are few and far between, so when something special is thrown your way, grab it, hold onto it, breathe it in and wrap yourself around it so when that moment passes you have the memory to sustain you.

Special moments have nothing to do with money and everything to do with love. I was given special moments with my parents and my sister and her family this weekend.

Holidays can be a bittersweet time and filled with sadness for families of a parent with Alzheimer’s. This holiday was starkly different than the home-grown holidays of the past in my family. It is a different time in everyone’s life and though my mom and dad are different now, they are still my parents, they still love me and I still love them.

The  one thing that has not changed is the way they love their children.  I know they love it when I come to visit but I feel like I am the real winner here because the love is unconditional here, the love is not withheld and the love is spoken honestly.

In Ephesians 6:2 it says to “honor you Father and Mother” It doesn’t say honor thy Father and Mother when times are good, when their bodies and minds are not failing them and when it is convenient for you. It says “Honor they Father and Mother”, period.

It is interesting to me that it says honor and not obedience, to honor is  to give them respect and having an attitude of esteem for them. Honor means to revere, prize and value. I give them respect not because I have to but because they are who they are and they love me.

I hear “your Dad just isn’t who he used to be” when I walk into the manor where my parents live. Well, I respectfully disagree with that statement. He is exactly who he used to be. His situation has changed, his health has changed and his temperament has changed because of the disease but he is still the same Dad who I have always loved.

Each time I visit home I find my parents changed. The changes tend to be startling and obvious and it would be easy to think they are not the same parents I once knew so well. However, they are still the same parents, my parents.

If anyone deserves sainthood it is my Mom for what she does for Dad even in the nursing home setting, She never has a moments peace except late at night.

She has found ways to cope with the changes in their lives, she sews. She actually has set herself up a little cottage industry of which I am incredibly proud of her for. She took the situation at hand and found a way to cope with it.

The incredible thing is her physical health is far worse than my Dad’s, yet she fights for her independence and wins!

I cannot think that this is what she dreamed her retirement would be, who would? Hopes and dreams of travel, good health and leisurely retirement are suddenly not what they are living. But what I admire and respect is how she took the situation and made it bearable. There is a lot to learn from this wise woman. If my Dad has a cowboy spirit (and he does) my Mom has a wonderful put one foot in front of the other , fighter spirit that cannot be broken.

She is the little lady in the wheelchair buzzing around the manor spreading joy, a smile and respect  to the other residents here. She doesn’t let them forget they are people worthy of recognition, worthy of a hello and a conversation. That makes me smile and makes me more than a little proud of her.

The other person that deserves much respect is my sister who spends more time caring for our parents than anyone else. She never complains, she always does it with a smile and at this moment she is my hero.

So although I call the holiday bittersweet upon reflection it is a wonderful holiday because I get to celebrate it with people who love me and who I love more than anything in this world.

I thank God that I have this time to spend with my family and I will be here to help them celebrate the holiday’s in a fashion that makes them smile.

They say Alzheimer’s is indeed a long goodbye………………….but isn’t that just life, whether you have a disease or not?

Thank you God for this holiday that I got to spend with my family. I think I shall make sure my Mom and Dad know this time with them is precious to me and for my sister…………………well, I  think we will just go shopping!

 

Dottie

 

Be Thankful!

Be Thankful

We all have so many things to be thankful for. Our families, our kids, our parents, our cozy homes, nice vehicles, good jobs, great friends. Those are things that jump right out at you and let you know life is good. There is so much more to be thankful for though, the things that don’t jump out at you, the things we take for granted.

I have to give a huge shout out to my sister Cindy Fischer. She is one of the silent heroes of our society and I don’t know where I would be without her. She is the main caretaker of my Mom and Dad both who are critically ill.
She takes care of them with courage, grace and dedication and never, ever have I heard her complain. Believe me, being a caretaker to aging parents is a thankless job but to her I am grateful.

I am thankful to my parents for giving me the kind of childhood that most only dream of. When trying to think of one thing bad about my childhood years, there aren’t many. But there are lots of special memories. My childhood was all about family, a rural, country school, 4-H, selling sweet corn to have spending money, the county fair, being on the school volleyball and basketball team because it was fun, taking turns spending the night at schoolmates houses, riding my motorcycle over to see the neighbor boys, lol, chores in the morning and evening, church on Sunday then a Sunday drive, swimming in Holyoke because there was a heated pool there and stopping at the “Sweet Shop” for ice cream on the way home. . Those are memories I am thankful for.

My parents made holiday’s special, magical even. Santa was always celebrated in our house, there were presents under the tree, meals were huge, (chili, chicken noodle soup and oyster stew for Christmas Eve and turkey all the trimmings for Christmas dinner, and the whole family was always there. There were celerations at the school where the whole school, parents, grandparents, everyone showed up, brought covered dishes and box suppers to be auctioned. Santa was always present at school also, we got sacks of apples, oranges and hard Christmas candy. The students showed their talents in a skit or by singing for the parents and grandparents. To say I am grateful for these memories would be understating it.

Summers in Ashland with my grandparents and cousins and aunt and uncle hold many, many special memories for which I am thankful.

I have the greatest staff in the world at work. They have stood behind me through some tough, tough times, always giving the extra 1000% that is needed and doing it with a smile on their faces. Without them we would not have survived the last year. To say thank you hardly seems adequate.

Do you know how amazing it is to have a job that isn’t just a job. It is who we are and what we do. To be able to be involved with the incredible families we are involved with everyday is the most incredible experience ever.

The immeasurable comfort of having true friends that live with truth, honesty, courage and dignity as a way of life.

A marriage that is based on God’s truth and a husband I adore with every ounce of my being, kids that I love with my whole heart.

So God, to you I give the glory. You have blessed me in ways that cannot be counted and I forget to say thank you.

Dottie

Be Thankful
~ Author Unknown ~
Thanks for not having
Be thankful that you don’t already have everything you desire.
If you did, what would there be to look forward to?

Thanks for lacking knowledge
Be thankful when you don’t know something,
for it gives you the opportunity to learn.

Thanks for difficult times
Be thankful for the difficult times.
During those times you grow.

Thanks for limitations
Be thankful for your limitations,
because they give you opportunities for improvement.

Thanks for challenges
Be thankful for each new challenge,
because it will build your strength and character.

Thanks for mistakes made
Be thankful for your mistakes.
They will teach you valuable lessons.

Thanks for exhaustion
Be thankful when you’re tired and weary,
because it means you’ve made the effort.

Thanks for setbacks
It’s easy to be thankful for the good things.
A life of rich fulfillment comes to those who
are also thankful for the setbacks.

Thanks for troubles
Gratitude can turn a negative into a positive.
Find a way to be thankful for your troubles,
and they can become your blessings.