Grateful For the Hard Times

Have you learned how to have a heart of gratitude? According to researchers, there are specific things you can do daily to cultivate a grateful heart. Some are obvious. Some not so obvious. But all are oh, so important.

Like learning to recognize God’s presence in everything. And by everything, I mean EVERY THING. The good, the bad and the ugly. No matter what, you have never walked alone.

Think back. Look for it. You’ll see.

A few years ago, my son was in the hospital for brain mapping for his seizures. I was there with him for a week, because they needed a family member familiar with his seizures to press a button every time one happened. Little or big. I loved getting to know my young adult son on this intimate level. We talked, we laughed. When he had visitors, I’d step away for a break. For the most part, we were captive room mates. It was a strangely enjoyable time.

We had spent family time with my older brother just a few days before entering the hospital, and he had promised to visit Chris that week. It was quite a drive, so nearly every day I would leave him a message describing the traffic, say I knew he had to get up so early for work, and he should wait until the weekend to come visit. All was well.

Except it wasn’t. When my brother didn’t show up to visit Chris by Friday evening, I called him several times. No answer. I called his neighbor, who said the car was in the driveway, but lights were out in the house. I called my nephew, a police officer, to ask what I should do. He immediately drove there, and looking through the window, could see my brother lying on his bed. He was gone.

I know what you’re thinking: WHAT could possibly be good about this situation? How can you be thankful for your brother being found lifeless in his bed?

Clearly, I’m not thankful for the death of my brother. What I am thankful for is the orchestration of all the surrounding events:

* God chose to call my brother Home in the gentlest of ways. He simply took a nap after work, and didn’t wake up. I’m grateful.

* I was helplessly locked in to a commitment of being in the hospital with my son. If I hadn’t been there, I would have driven out to my brother’s house and I would have found him. I’m grateful to be spared from that.

* My nephew is a police officer in the adjoining city and when he called the dispatcher, he knew her. He knew the protocol of what to do in this situation and said to me, “Tami, God arranged for this to happen when I could take care of it for you.” I’m grateful for him and his good heart.

* Officers arrived & they had a common ground with my nephew. When they looked through the house and found no evidence of foul play or suicide, they reported it as such and the mortuary was called to pick up my brother, and not the coroner. This never happens in Los Angeles county. I’m grateful.

There is more, but I think you get the picture. As I think back on that night, I see God’s handwriting all over the situation, and I am grateful.

Since then, I’ve entering into times of beautiful blessing as well as hardship. I see God’s hand in that, as well. And I am grateful.

So very grateful.

Look at your life. Think back. Take some time to see how God connected the dots in your helpless and even hopeless situations. Never once, did you ever walk alone.

I hope you’ll see.

There is so much to be grateful for.

To Ponder………..

Do you know what it means to ponder?   I guess it’s an old fashioned word, but according to the two dictionaries I looked at, ponder has a much deeper meaning than just to think about something,

Ponder: to weigh in the mind; consider or examine carefully; to meditate; to reflect seriously; to think upon.

We think about people and circumstances all the time, and that can be beneficial or not. I’m sure you’ve heard the old saying “stinkin’ thinkin'”. Even the Bible says  “as a man thinks, so is he.” (Psalm 23:7 KJV)

Philippians 4:13 says; whatever is true, noble, right, pure, lovely, admirable….if anything is excellent or praiseworthy….think on these things.  That certainly is a good way to govern our thinking and speaking.

However, to ponder is to go much deeper…..kind of like meditation, which I have written about before.  As a cow chews the cud, swallows it, brings it up again several times before taking it in for total nourishment.  That cow, or other cud chewing animal, is taking in a little bit of nourishment each time she swallows the juice or cud before she completes the “ponder, or meditation” with a swallowing of the whole.

I think we can ponder a subject, even the same one, our entire lives.  And if you have a one on one relationship with you Creator, pondering can be a way of communication or prayer with Him.

Imagine what Mary, the mother of Jesus, was pondering.( Luke 2:19) What an awesome responsibility she had to carry in her womb the Son of God and to nurture Him as a child to adulthood, and to know what He was going to go through to save the world.  That goes beyond my human understanding, and is one of those “God Things” I accept by faith!  There’s no way to figure out how God did that…..but I believe!

All I want you to receive from this writing today is to allow yourself TIME TO PONDER the works of God….not just His creation but also His work in human hearts and lives. It’s OK to sit quietly and look at God’s Creation, or to consider or examine carefully a matter, asking Him for wisdom so you see clearly the way to proceed.

Join me this week in reading the 111th Psalm, and ponder His works!  Ponder what He is doing in your heart and life, or in that of a friend or a family member…….in a situation that seemed impossible, and yet God is turning it around for good, as He promised.  It’s always amazing to me to look back and see why God “did it His way” and not my way!!!

When you ponder the works of God, you will feel like weeping, laughing, shouting, or praising Him.  When you ponder His works, He will speak truth to you!!!

Thy Word

THANK YOU, LORD

In reading the Scriptures listed under the thanksgiving title in the concordance, I notice that most of them begin with an admonition to be joyful and sing!

Well…….I like that for sure!!!

When I am weary or discouraged and I start singing, or listening to praise music….the joy and thanksgiving in praise wells up within me.

I love God’s creation of animals and natural places in our world. Do you think they thank God for their existence? Ha! That may be taking it a bit too far! However, the “trees of the field clap their hands”  in praise to God, and, if we don’t praise Him, even the rocks will cry out!!! He provides food and water for His animal creations! The seas roar and the stars sing!

These alive plants and animals……all of earth and the heavens know who their Creator is. And God cares so much for His creation He even knows and cares about the little sparrow that falls.

HOW MUCH MORE HE CARES FOR YOU!!!

GIVE HIM THANKS…..FOR HE IS GREAT, AND GREATLY TO BE PRAISED!!!

Psalm 100  “Make a joyful shout to the LORD, all you lands! Serve the LORD with gladness; come before His presence with singing. Know that the LORD, He is God; It is He who has made us, and not we ourselves;  We are His people and the sheep of His pasture. Enter into His gates with thanksgiving, and into His courts with praise. Be thankful to Him, and bless His name, for the LORD is good; His mercy is everlasting, and His truth endures to all generations.”

Karen at Cannon Beach ~ Haystack Rock

Karen at Cannon Beach ~ Haystack Rock

VALLEY THOUGHTS

Where I am now living there aren’t any geographical mountains….so there aren’t any valleys. It’s flat in Florida! Most of my life has been spent in places where I could at least see the mountains in the distance. I love the geographical mountains and valleys.

Some valleys are beautiful and lush with greenery due to the water run off from the surrounding mountains……but when the sun is low it casts long shadows and darkness comes sooner than on the mountain top.

One of my favorite old songs to sing is  “Peace In The Valley.” Everyone seems to identify with the Hope we have for the future when Jesus comes back to earth to set up His Kingdom. “What A Day That Will Be”…….so many songs we hear and sing give us encouragement that everything will be perfect “In The Sweet By and By”!!!

But what about peace right now…in our hearts, minds, thoughts, homes, neighborhoods……in our world?

In the 23rd Psalm, David says…”yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow….”  But, is there peace in the valley of our lives…..where those dark shadows hide our clear sight? We want to live on the mountain top all the time…but that’s not reality.

When we find ourselves in the valley there are many thoughts that trouble us. We want security, right? I know I have questions about tomorrow…..how about you?

We want to control our own lives, but we know we are subject to many circumstances we cannot control. We look back through the years and think about the rewards we worked for but somehow never realized. There were times we wanted revenge for being mistreated or left out. Some of you have felt abandoned, isolated, forgotten, or criticized, maybe by your own family.

Have you found yourself wandering in a dark valley of rejection or hurt today? Or in a valley of pain and poor health, or financial devastation? That “valley of the shadow of death” could be physical, mental, or spiritual.

Be encouraged today that it is possible for you to live on the mountain…..but you must be determined to climb out of the valley by reading God’s Word, memorizing some verses, praising and praying to God, asking for help, filling your mind with praise songs and hymns. Yes, it takes some work and determination…..just like a mountain climber in the physical world!!!

This poem written by Annie Johnson Flint speaks to reality..

God has not promised skies always blue, flower-strewn  pathways all our lives through. God has not promised sun without rain, joy without sorrow, peace without pain.

But God has promised strength for the day, rest for the labor, light for the way. Grace for the trials, help from above, unfailing sympathy, undying love.

Walking in Freedom part 2

About a month ago in March, I went on a mission trip to Mexico with my church. We went into Tijuana to work with our church plant and share the great news about Jesus and the new church.

I had no idea what to expect on this trip.

No one did.

God moved in ways I couldn’t even come up with!

I feel there are multiple steps to be able to walk in freedom. The first one I mentioned in my blog “Walking in Freedom,” which to summarize is to allow Jesus to enter the place of shame or guilt or anger or whatever it may be and picture him there with you. I did this for a certain area of my life and recently Satan tried to bring me back to that place again, but I pictured Jesus grabbing my hand and walking me out of the situation. It was freeing.

The other part to freedom, I feel, is surrendering all that you are to God and letting him come into every crack and filling it. I experienced this for the first time when I told God out loud “I SURRENDER EVERYTHING TO YOU!” And then I experienced so much joy that I began to laugh and rock back and forth uncontrollably. It was incredible and very freeing.

My friend Brea has been deaf in her left ear her entire life of 25 years. She has been praying for God to heal her because she believes he can. In Mexico, God said, “Now is your time.” Brea went up to the pastor during worship and told him her story. He began praying for her and I felt I needed to go up and pray for her too. Me, the pastor and other girl named Rachel were laying hands on her and praying for her. The power of God was so mighty and powerful that she was bent over as the pastor was laying hands on her ear. He told her she had something inside of her that was holding her back so he prayed healing and freedom over that area of her life. She fell on her knees and we continued to pray for her. Rachel was praying over Brea in her left ear, and Brea told her to pray again. Brea began to scream and exclaim, “I CAN HEAR! I CAN HEAR!” And we all jumped up, started cheering and crying and praising and giving glory to God!

 

God healed her!

 

She said before she heard Rachel pray in her ear, she heard God say to her, “You are my child.”

That is walking in freedom. Free from the bondage.

God wants to free you from bondage. He wants you to walk in the freedom he has given us.

“And where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom. And we, who with unveiled faces all reflect the Lord’s glory, are being transformed into his likeness with ever-increasing glory, which comes from the Lord, who is the Spirit.” 2 Cor 3:17-18

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(Me and Brea in Mexico)

What Does Praising God Smell Like?

Walking through my neighborhood this time of year, I am often caught off guard by the intoxicating scent of citrus trees in bloom. It happens when I least expect it. I turn a corner and wham! I’m hit with the most luscious smell on the planet. Instantly, I’m taken back to childhood days of spending spring break in Palm Springs with friends and family from Portland where we lived. When you’re from the Pacific Northwest and have endured months without sun, the annual pilgrimage south to The Land of the Sun is a very special thing. The memories I have from those weeks spent in the sunshine & splashing in the pool with dear friends could fill a book.

Catching that scent always causes me to linger, to walk a little slower. I want to savor each breath. Sometimes I’ll even pick a blossom from the tree and carry it close to my nose for the rest of my walk.

I’m so grateful to be able to stand in my back yard with my neighbor’s orange tree just over the fence. Photo: Tami Romani

It’s hard to describe the feelings this scent evokes in me. Happy memories of beautiful smiles and laughter. Walking with my daddy to get a sweet roll in the morning. Falling asleep to the hum of the adults talking, laughing and playing games into the night. Those were happy, happy times for me. The scent of citrus trees in bloom takes me back with a joyful giddiness normally reserved for the splendor of Christmas morning.

I’ve always heard our praise is like sweet incense to God; that he inhabits the praises of his people. Think back to something that makes you feel like I do when I catch the scent of a citrus blossom. It’s amazing for me to think this is how God feels when I offer praise to him. Can you imagine?

I find myself seeking out that scent every day during spring, and longing for it the rest of the year. What if this is how God feels about us? When we offer up our praises to him, is he grinning with a joyful giddiness that we have given him something really special? When we neglect to praise him, does he long for that sweet scent to gently inhabit his senses?

Each time I smell that glorious fragrance, God gently reminds me that’s how he feels when I praise him.

My Heavenly Father Watches Over Me

Today, sitting outside on our front porch, I was captivated by two little birds building a nest under our eaves.  

They sang beautifully as they worked, coming back with some small twig for their nest. Nothing spectacular, just a small effort. Yet it brought out a beautiful song of Praise. 

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There are so many little birds you would not think they would gain the Heavenly Father’s attention, yet Jesus said NOT ONE of them falls to the ground but what the Heavenly Father sees it – making each one significant in His eyes. 

I began to sing, “My Heavenly Father watches over me. Though billows roll, He keeps my soul, My Heavenly Father watches over me.” 

Is God interested in insignificant me? Yes. He is. 

He sees us when the billows of life rage around us, and He keeps us. We are not insignificant to our Heavenly Father. 

Written by Gladys 3/30/04