Looking Back: God’s Faithful Love

Looking Back with Joy

I’ve spent a lot of time looking forward lately. Retirement adventures. Moving to a new state. But yesterday was my oldest daughter’s fortieth birthday. Usually, I spend her heaven day, September 13, at my favorite place, San Clemente beach and pier. Since we move only 3 weeks before then, I took the day off from packing, packing, packing, and spent the day looking back.

Van went with me. We told our favorite Kimberly stories. The one about the time Van insisted she clean out her car before he helped her put in a new window, only to discover underneath the trash piled in the back seat, grass grew from the floor boards. A bag of rat food, mostly seeds, sprouted.

The time her sister, Erin, doing the dishes, said she needed Kim to finish clearing the table. “Go help your sister,” we cajoled, “We don’t want to see your face until the dishes are done.” And, since she still needed to clear the table, she came back with a paper bag over her face.

Happy stories. We laughed with tears streaming down our cheeks.

Looking Back on God’s Faithfulness

“Despite our sin, God gave us a beautiful gift,” we agreed. We hadn’t planned on getting married when we did. I needed to finish my senior year at UCLA and then do a fifth year to earn my teaching credential. Van wanted to get rid of some debt.

Instead, I got pregnant. Our plans changed in an instant. Not quite sure how to proceed, we talked to our youth pastor. “You’re already married in God’s eyes,” he said. First you need to talk to your parents and let them know. You also need to talk to Dr. Thomas, the senior pastor. Then we’ll talk again. We made an appointment and went to do what Jerry told us.

My walk with Christ was fairly new. I had never spoken with Dr. Thomas, who seemed larger than life to me. But his response to our situation taught me much about the love, forgiveness, and compassion of Christ.

“Go and sin no more.” No intimacy until the marriage vows. “Even though in God’s eyes you’re already married, you demonstrate your commitment to a new beginning.”

“No white dress.” A white dress symbolizes your purity, and an off-white dress will show your forgiven before God.

Use the chapel instead of the main sanctuary. Again, a symbol. Our wedding would be small, still a celebration, but only our family and closest friends. People who supported us and showed how God comes along side at all times.

All of that sounded easy. We only had 3 weeks before the wedding; due to my college schedule, I wanted the ceremony to be at the end of the second week of classes so I’d have all the syllabi but not miss any midterms given during week 3.

But then, Dr. Thomas told Van he had to go in front of the people involved in his two ministries-choir and college group-to publicly confess his sin. I wasn’t a member of the church, so I didn’t have to do this. Just Van.

On Sunday morning, I sat with our college friends, while Van stood in front of them. He told our story and asked for forgiveness. As he finished, Dr. Thomas-the only time I ever saw him in the college Sunday school class-stepped forward. “To all of you, I remind you of Jesus’ Words, ‘Let he who is without sin throw the first stone.’ I never want to hear another word about this. You know the story now. Van and Debbie are forgiven. There will be no gossip. Treat them as the loved and forgiven brother and sister in Christ they are.”

And just like that, we felt the weight of sin and fear disappear. We never heard another word, except congratulations and celebration.

As Van and I spent time looking back on our beginning, we both realized the wisdom of Dr. Thomas’ choices for us. We learned the importance of confessing sin and being truly cleansed from all unrighteousness. Instead of starting our life together under a cloud of whispers, we could face our new life with security in unconditional love.

Looking Back on God’s Love

God is always good. We gained not just one beautiful daughter, but two. Erin arrived 20 months after Kimberly. In five months, we celebrate 41 years of marriage.

I never have to be afraid to go before God. He always welcomes me with open arms. There may be consequences, but forgiveness is complete. I can walk forward with confidence and celebration.

And so can you.

Linking this week with Tea and Word Tuesday God-sized Dreams Moments of Hope Glimpses of Beauty, Monday Musings, Inspire Me Monday, Ra Ra Linkup, Trekking Thru, Tell His Story, Writer Wednesday, Woman to Woman, Porch Stories, Coffee for Your Heart, Chasing Community, Heart Encouragement, Tune-in Thursday, Salt and Light

 

Speak, Lord, Your Servant is Listening

Speak Lord, Your Servant Is Listening in a New Season

It’s a new season for me. A new chapter, retirement. Next week, I move to a new city and state. I’ll be part of a new community and a new church. As I prepare to move, I pray, Speak Lord, Your servant is listening.

It’s easy for my task-oriented mind to make lists of all the things I think I want to do and try. My mind runs in a hundred different directions, contemplating possibilities.

But I hear God telling me, “Wait. Slow down! Don’t be in such a hurry to plunge in.” I remember my verse for this season,

In his mind a man plans his course, but the Lord directs his steps (Proverbs 16:9).

Speak Lord, Your Servant Is Listening about How and Where to Serve

What if, instead of the familiar-working with kids, GriefShare, visiting the sick in their homes and the hospital-God has something new for me? Speak Lord, your servant is listening. Whether You want me to serve in the familiar or something brand new, speak, Lord; I want to hear You.

Maybe that’s why I’m so excited about my front porch and the Turquoise Table. I’ve never been one to reach out to my neighbors. Talking to strangers is not part of my comfort zone. But already, I crossed the street when I saw my new neighbor outside on my last visit. Introduced myself. Listened to him talk about his family and church.

One thing I know-I want to listen to God. Walk in the light He sheds on my path. First, I think, I need to simply be there. Listen to others. Build relationships. Not do, just be. Who is this retired Debbie? How will I be different? The same?

Speak Lord, Your Servant is Listening about Walking with Her Husband

My life with Van will be different too. We’ll have more time at home together than we’ve ever had in our 40 years of marriage. We’ve never been this just us. Erin and the kids will be further away. Except for Judy and David, my sister and brother-in-love, we don’t have community. It’s a new beginning. A blank page.

I don’t want to run off without Van. Or he without me. I don’t expect to do everything together, but I want us. Praying. Planning. Exploring. Deciding. As a team. Together saying, Speak, Lord, your servants are listening. 

Linking with Five Minute Friday, Grace and Truth, Faith of Fire, Dance with Jesus, Fresh Market Friday, Counting My Blessings

 

Realizing the Truth: Set Free Indeed

Free to Visit but Not Participate

Free from packing today; we’re in a stage where what we need to pack is what we need while we stay in the house. So this morning I decided to bake some oatmeal chocolate chip cookies and drop by the school where I taught seventh grade English and History for twenty years. School, the world where I always feel I belong, where I’m comfortable and at ease. I know what to do and how to do it.

The counselor, Beth, both loved and hated my 365-day-a-year Christmas countdown. And even though I made her a year long calendar counting down the days until Christmas (Today? 130 days until Christmas. Share the joy!) I wanted to give her a small token of my love and appreciation of her and her support of me through joy and sorrow, success and failure. The small Christmas ornament said Joy, which I knew would remind her of her silly friend. I wrote a note on the back,

Free

Free to Listen

I planned my visit to coincide with lunch so I could say a last goodbye to colleagues. Sure enough, as I swung into the parking lot, someone pulled out, on their way to lunch.

Free

Out of habit, I walked through the staff door. But immediately, I saw differences. Usually, when I walked into the office, Joanne greeted me. Like me, she retired in June, so someone I didn’t recognize sat in Joanne’s chair. I must have looked like I belonged, because she didn’t question who I was or why a person she didn’t know came through the staff door. I smiled at her, and stopped at Judy’s desk. We chatted, catching up on family and summer. Again, I realized changes. Instead of worrying about all I needed to accomplish in a precious 40 minute lunch period, I gave Judy my full attention, listening without watching the clock.

Done chatting, I walked past the teacher mailboxes. My eyes automatically flitted to the middle of the rows. Oh, I thought, I don’t have to check my box. I don’t even have a box!”

I opened the lunchroom door. A chorus of hellos, how are you? greeted me. Hugs. Gratitude for the cookies. I settled into my chair and listened to the conversations. Getting ready for back-to-school night. Learning names of students. Juggling family and work. All of it made sense. None of it applied to me.

I was in this world of school. Comfortable. Familiar. I could empathize. Listen. But I didn’t belong here anymore. Retirement set me free to spend my time differently

Free Indeed

Now, instead of racing out the door, answering the same questions over and over, I drink another cup of coffee. My time with God doesn’t get cut short. In the quiet of my offie, I listen to His voice while He speaks to me through His Word. He reminds me of how truly free I am. Free of the wages of sin and death (Romans 6:23).

Just like I’m free from the fetters of school, I can walk by the things of the world. I don’t have to stop by the things that weigh me down, keep me from peace and joy. I can listen for His voice and follow Him.

Of course, this didn’t happen at retirement. Freedom comes the minute Jesus becomes Lord of our lives. Walking in this world I knew, but no longer tied to the demands of teaching, reminded me because the Son set me free and I am free indeed (John 8:36).

Linking with Porch Stories, Coffee for Your Heart, Chasing Community, Heart Encouragement, Tune-in Thursday, Salt and Light  Grace and Truth, Faith of Fire, Dance with Jesus, Fresh Market Friday, Counting My Blessings

 

 

The Importance of a Clean Heart

Clean Amongst the Chaos of Moving

I dusted and vacuumed today. Big deal, you may think. Except, we’re in the midst of packing everything we plan to move to Arizona. Piles of stuff waiting to be boxed up sit all over the house. Only nail holes remain where pictures once decorated the walls. Tiny pieces of paper, torn to wrap china and crystal, dot the floor. Things we don’t want wait in different piles, until either Van or I make a run to Goodwill. And everywhere I look, I see the dust and grime of life coating tables, chairs, and floor. Oh, how I long for a clean house!

Clean     Clean

I toy with the idea of waiting until all the boxes are packed and nothing is left to do but clean, but I find it hard to sit still and relax. Just a little order along with the chaos is all I need. Maybe it’s my need for control, but I always function better when things are neat and tidy, even if it’s mostly on the surface. So today, I take a little time to run a dust cloth over the table tops, vacuum high traffic areas, make sure the sink sparkles. As Mom would have said, the house got a lick and a promise.

Clean

Create in Me a Clean Heart, O God

Believe me, I’m a much more pleasant person to be around when things look straightened up. So I sigh with satisfaction, able to relax a little better despite the clutter that is a necessary part of moving.

God calls me to keep order in my relationship with Him, too. When sin clutters my heart, I put distance between myself and God. Nothing goes well. My stomach churns and my mind goes in circles, searching for peace that refuses to come.

King David said when he kept his sin close and refused to admit it to himself or God, his bones wasted away and his strength was sapped. But as soon as he admitted his sin to God, he received forgiveness. (Psalm 32). The sin he chose, that he pretended offered happiness, instead robbed him of joy and peace.

But I can’t give my relationship with God a lick and a promise. To be at peace, I must do a thorough cleaning. God wants my whole heart.

My sacrifice, O God, is a broken spirit;
a broken and contrite heart you, God, will not despise.

Psalm 51:17

The Benefits of a Clean Heart

God calls me to draw near with a sincere heart. When I do, I receive the full assurance that faith brings, having my heart sprinkled to cleanse me from a guilty conscience (Hebrews 10:22).

Oh, yes, the benefits of a clean heart far outweigh any clutter of sin, no matter how I may try to convince myself the dirt can wait; I’ll get to it soon. Once I truly surrender to God, I can rejoice and sing. The Lord’s unfailing love surrounds me (Psalm 32:10-11).

Linking this week with God-sized Dreams Moments of Hope Glimpses of Beauty, Monday Musings, Inspire Me Monday, Ra Ra Linkup, Trekking Thru, Tell His Story, Writer Wednesday, Woman to Woman, Porch Stories, Coffee for Your Heart, Chasing Community, Heart Encouragement, Tune-in Thursday, Salt and Light

My Special God Place

My Favorite Place

If you ask me what my favorite place is, I’ll answer the beach. San Clemente to be exact. There are few places that fill me with as much joy. The sight of the many blues and greens and grays the water holds. Palm trees reaching up into a sky so blue it takes my breath away. Pelicans soaring and diving. Kids shrieking and laughing as the water laps at their toes. The water lapping and crashing on the shore. Seagulls crying “Mine! Mine! Mine!” I spend part of the day sitting in my chair, breathing in the sights and smells, reading, staring at the beauty everywhere and thinking my own thoughts. Then I wander, sticking my toes in the water and feeling the champagne like bubbly foam. Finally I gather my things and go to the restaurant on the pier to watch the sun sparkle on the water, leaving a trail of light as the sun goes down, turning the sky brilliant shades of pink and orange.

Place

Place

Place

At this special place, I feel close to God. I see Him everywhere in His creation. He fills my heart to overflowing with praise and thanksgiving. When I feel downhearted, I head to the beach. Somehow, in the depths of sorrow or anxiety, I focus better on the truth of who God is. I listen more closely when I meet God at the beach.

Finding a New Place

Soon I’ll leave the beach behind. No ocean in Arizona. Lakes, yes. They hold their own beauty. But it won’t be the same. And that’s OK. God doesn’t call me to one place.

That’s one of the beauties and mysteries of God; unlike me, He isn’t limited to time or place. Wherever I go, He’s there. Even when I get stuck in traffic, God is there. Reachable. Listening.

I don’t have to be at the beach. Standing at the kitchen sink. In front of my computer. Sitting on my front porch. On the shore of the ocean or in a kayak on the lake, God is with me.

I look forward to exploring my new community. I know without a doubt someplace will become my special God place.

Where is your special God place? I’d love to have you share with me in the comments.

Linking with Five Minute Friday, Grace and Truth, Faith of Fire, Dance with Jesus, Fresh Market Friday, Counting My Blessings