Mary Was My Age

free image cross_jesus_wood

Last night we saw a dramatic presentation of Jesus’ arrest, trial, and crucifixion. It was seen through the eyes of several witnesses. One of those witnesses was Mary, Jesus’ mother. The actress, playing the part of Mary, stated she was “old.” Now I know old is a relative term, but it didn’t sit well with me. So I started doing the math.

Tradition states in Biblical times a Jewish girl could be betrothed as young as age 10 or 12. We do not know how old Mary was during her engagement to Joseph, pregnancy, and the birth of Jesus; but, based on common knowledge of the culture at the time, we could guess somewhere between 10 and 16.  What we do know is Jesus was crucified when he was 33. So I added 14 (possible age of Mary at Jesus’ birth) and 33 (Jesus’ age at time of death) and got 47. 47! That’s my age! (That’s NOT old!) But that’s not my point.

When I started thinking of that blessed mother as someone my age, something clicked. There was Mary at the foot of the cross watching her son die. My heart sunk. For Mary, He wasn’t only (as if Jesus could be described as “only” anything) the Messiah; He was the baby she had nursed and the child she had raised.

What if that were my son on the cross? The pain would be excruciating.

I wonder if Mary clung to the hope she had that Sunday was coming. That Jesus’ death, burial, and resurrection was the hope for the world. That all Gabriel and Jesus had told her would come to pass.

As I walk through trials and hurts of life, I cling to the hope I have.

It may be Friday . . . but Sunday’s a comin’!

Transplant

Don bought me flowers. More pointedly, he purchased two hibiscus shrubs, each displaying one beautiful flower. New house. New yard. New plants. We loaded them into the van and drove them home.

We waited a day to transplant them, taking time to contemplate the perfect spot. Within those 24 hours, the ninety-degree heat took its toll and each lost its flower, its prettiness, its initial attraction. By the time we shoveled a hole and buried the roots, they were thirsty. So we watered; and watered some more.

We still water.

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As we water, I watch as many of the lower leaves turn from a deep green to yellowish-green to yellow. Every time I walk outside I pluck a newly-turned yellow leaf from the foliage hoping to stimulate and strengthen the plant, hoping to see new growth, new blooms.

I was told transplanting is hard on plants (it’s called transplant shock), but with proper care (trimming, watering, patience) they should bounce back and flourish again.

I am a transplant–most recently uprooted from IL and implanted in FL. As the transfer affected my new plants, so has the upheaval affected me. It seems my flowers have fallen off and my leaves are yellowing. My roots are searching for new ground to grasp. I am thirsty.

There is an appropriate time to prune and pluck and re-evaluate oneself–a time to go back to the Creator and ask to be cared for. This is my time. I’m on my knees. I’m in the Word. I’m worshiping. I’m listening. I’m waiting. My roots are long and healthy and I have plenty of deep green leaves, so I know I will eventually bounce back and flourish again.

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Maybe the sight of a big, bright yellow flower on my hibiscus shrub will inspire a small bud in my life.

Run on the Right Path

Fear motivates, and I run. What from?

A ghost? A memory? A potential confrontation?

A hard situation? . . .

People?

Instead of staying, I run. Instead of facing, I hide.

My desire: stop running from something. My choice: run to Someone.

When running from something, my head turns back. My eyes gaze on potential danger. My feet falter.

When running to God, my head stays forward. My eyes focus on Him. My feet uphold. The threat of peril disappears & safety abounds.

The environment persists. The situation continues. The potential confrontation lingers. But much has changed. Trust motivates. Truth triumphs. God prevails.

I am free to persevere through the trial as He leads or follow Him down a different road.

path 1

Can I clearly see the resolution? Not always. But the path is unobstructed. As long as I follow Him, my feet are secure and the answer is in His hands.

path 2

Corners are less menacing.

path 3  path 4  path 5

The unknown feels adventurous.

path 6  path 7

God’s guidance reassures—a friendly Presence.

path 8

And, while tomorrow’s answers may be a mystery, the ultimate destination remains the same—Paradise.

paradise

When faced with difficult situations, do you run from them or face them head on? What would it look like if you chose to run to God instead of running from something?

Back-out Barbie Battles Princess Barb

Identity_crisis

My back went out.

That four-word sentence contains much meaning and significance.

I struggled with chronic back pain for nine years. Then in March 2011 I underwent back surgery. Until recently I would have said (and might still say) I was miraculously healed. I was the poster child for this type of surgery.

So three weeks ago, when I felt a familiar painful pull in my lower back, old emotions and fears rushed back as reality soaked in. Hence, my original statement that much meaning and significance are wrapped up in the short sentence, “My back went out.”

I am uncertain how this will play out. I could be back to “normal” in a month or two.

Or not.

My mind is reeling with questions, my body has a life of its own, and my emotions are out of control. In the midst of this roller coaster, it has been difficult to pinpoint what is so bothersome—maybe because there are so many layers to unravel.

However, I managed to identify one worry: I don’t want to be “that person.” You know, the person who always talks about some issue or ailment he/she has.

“Nice to meet you. I’m Back-out Barbie. I have back problems.”

“I’m sorry, I can’t pick that up. I’m Back-out Barbie, and I have back issues.”

“Could you hand that to me? I’m Back-out Barbie, and my back isn’t cooperating today.”

“My children are unloading my grocery cart for me because I’m Back-out Barbie, and I can’t bend over.”

I don’t want people to whisper, “There goes Back-out Barbie. She’s got a bad back, and her husband and children take care of her.”

Back-out Barbie feels guilt, self-pity, and disappointment.

On the contrary, Princess Barb walks in her identity as a child of God. She knows her hope is in Christ and this world is not her home. Princess Barb immerses herself in her Father’s love and acceptance and, consequently, reflects His love and acceptance to others. They say, “There goes Princess Barb. She looks so much like her heavenly Father. Even in times of distress she smiles and radiates His love.”

The vigorous battle between Back-out Barbie and Princess Barb continues. I don’t know who will emerge moment to moment.

But I’m certain who wins in the end.

“But our citizenship is in heaven. And we eagerly await a Savior from there, the Lord Jesus Christ, who, by the power that enables him to bring everything under his control, will transform our lowly bodies so that they will be like his glorious body.” Phil. 3:20-21

Are you having an identity crisis?

What false identity are you battling?

Something Similar to National Lampoon’s Vacation

beach at night

My beloved husband booked a short getaway for us recently. We needed to be in the St. Louis area Sunday evening, so he purchased tickets out of St. Louis Monday morning traveling to Cancun. I gloated (more than once—CANCUN! baby) about leaving behind the foot of snow and all my responsibilities and basking in the sun and gorging myself at the all-inclusive hotel we were bound for.

What Went Wrong:

Monday morning the flight attendant was late due to weather (freezing rain), so our flight took off late.

When we arrived in Chicago there was a plane at our gate, so we had to wait on the runway. We missed our connection to Cancun by ten minutes.

We were added to the stand-by list for three flights but none of them had room for us. (Yes, flights were flying in and out even though Chicago got 8 inches of snow that day.)

We paid for lunch (pizza), supper (pizza), and a hotel room in Chicago while also paying for our all-Inclusive room in Cancun. (I ate leftover pizza for breakfast.)

I chipped a tooth Monday night.

Tuesday morning our flight out of Chicago was delayed because computers were down.

Don at the airport . . . pretending to be on the beach

Don at the airport . . . pretending to be on the beach

When we arrived in Cancun we were told our suitcase was still in Chicago.

We hailed a taxi and drove 35 minutes to our luxury all-inclusive hotel only to be told our room had been given away and the place was booked. (I had called our booking agency Monday but had not been clued in to the fact that the hotel needed contacted to hold our room.)

The “sister” hotel they sent us to was 25 minutes away.

When we arrived at the new hotel, the lone restaurant open served pizza. (See my previous three meals.)

Our sunscreen was in our suitcase. We paid $35 for a tube at the hotel.

Unbeknownst to me, the red flags on the beach meant the waves were dangerous. The pull was so strong Don had to help me back to shore.

When our suitcase arrived at our hotel (Wednesday at 5 p.m.) it was missing a wheel.

On the way home (Thursday), our connection out of Houston was delayed because of severe storms and the drive from St. Louis was difficult because of high winds.

What Went Right:

The children enjoyed time with their grandmother.

A terrific friend encouraged me during our very long delay in Chicago.

I packed our swimsuits, flip flops, hats & sunglasses in the carry-on bag.

The “new” hotel staff and most of the (numerous) airline employees we spoke with were friendly and helpful.

I took a kindle loaded with books which meant I could read on the beach without my glasses (big font) and no worries of ruining a paperback book.

We eventually received our suitcase. (Don’t laugh – I still have a full suitcase that has been floating around out there since 2006.)

We spent 43 glorious hours at an all-inclusive resort with breath-taking views and enormous amounts of food.

cancun sunset  cancun sunrise

The weather in Cancun was perfect.

The food was yummy. (Yes, I eventually got something besides pizza.)

All of our problems were minor and inconsequential in the grand scheme of things.

No one was injured or in an accident.

I spent five days alone with my husband.

don and barb in cancun

We both maintained positive attitudes (mostly) and a proper perspective. (We know people living in countries without clean drinking water.) We also got along well and worked together to troubleshoot problems and help each other during the stressful times.

God blessed us with the means to take a luxury vacation (plus some unexpected extras).

Don and I recognized all along that these were first world problems.

Lessons Learned:

Pack the 3-1-1 items (including sunscreen) even though it is an extra step through security.

Don’t wear embroidered jeans through TSA security screenings. They set the alarms off every time.

Joy is found in the little things.

Cultivating and maintaining a relationship with our loved ones is more important than having a perfect vacation.

God is magnificent. I was awestruck by the beauty of the ocean, sun, moon, beach, flowers, trees, etc.

God is in the business of refining. He uses grandiose landscapes AND minor irritations to purify us.

God is in control.

I am grateful for God’s attention to detail and desire to maintain a close relationship with His children. After our last flight, Don overheard one of the pilots telling another airline employee that something on one of the wings was broken and hadn’t been working during our flight. Wow! That puts it all into proper perspective.

cancun beach

Loss and Sympathetic Grief

Loss and Sympathetic Grief

A friend of mine tragically lost her four-year-old niece a few days ago. When I first learned of the calamity, my heart sunk, grief rose, and tears flowed. No four-year-old should die.

I have never met the parents of this precious child, but as I processed the information and my emotions started to surge, I thought, “I wish there were some way I could transfer some of this young mother’s anguish to myself, to siphon some of the heartache.” If only hearing of the death of this beautiful girl moves me so profoundly, how extensive is the pain and sorrow of her parents and grandparents and aunts and uncles?

full of grief

Yes, I wish pain, grief, and sorrow could be measured like we measure water. And when it was on the brink of overflowing, it could be poured into someone else; thereby reducing the amount of distress felt by the original sufferer.

pouring water

I desperately want to help and at the same time recognize there is not a thing I can do (physically) to ease the discomfort, the agony.

Pain and grief are a part of life. No one can walk through it for someone else. That leaves those of us watching at a loss, feeling inadequate and ill-equipped (which probably explains why I skip out on most funeral services).

I believe God created me with an “extra-sensitive” feelings button. I easily “rejoice with those who rejoice” and “mourn with those who mourn” (Rom. 12:15). But the mourning feels unproductive and “less than.” If I had a measuring cup that magically reduced the hurting person’s misery by the amount of pain I feel for him/her, I could bear it easier.

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But while I own no magic measuring cup, I know of One who can bear the pain—One who has borne the pain. Jesus is a “Man of sorrows and acquainted with grief” (Is. 53:12).

My sympathetic grief need not be fruitless because I have access to the One with the answers. I have a direct line to the One who heals. I can throw myself at the throne of grace and ask for mercy to be poured out on the victim of grief. I can ask God to be the Vessel in which they pour their aches and pain. I can hope God’s healing will eventually come. I can rest in the promise that His complete healing will eventually come to those in Christ.

This is my prayer for this young couple and family still reeling in shock.

This is my prayer for those of you suffering from loss or unbearable pain.

Magnify the Lord

This post was written by my beloved husband, Don Winters. He inspires his congregation each week through his Midweek Connection. This one spoke to me, and I hope it inspires you.

“O magnify the LORD with me, And let us exalt His name together.” Psalm 34:3

The magnifying lens in a telescope does not change a planet in any way. The lens only makes the planet clearer and larger than how you previously saw it. As God’s people, we are called to magnify the Lord. Our worship and our very lives should bring clarity and enlarge people’s picture of God.

When the world looks through the lens of our lives, what do they see?  What do they think God is concerned about? What breaks His heart? What is worth fighting for?

We need Christians that magnify God rather than self. Does this mean we need to be perfect? No! We need to be authentic, humble, and repentant. This type of person magnifies a transforming God who is full of grace and mercy. The world actually needs us to return to the Gospel.

Does your life give people a clearer and bigger picture of God to those around you?

Snowflakes

Snowflakes