Saturday, December 6, 2008


Patience only comes when you spend your time just waiting. You're the only one that's worth the wait I think your great. And writing melodies sometimes seems to ease all the stuff that's built up inside. Patience is what comes when you spend your time just waiting listening for the phone, hoping that I'll get a call. Maybe from some friends wondering how I've been. Wondering if we all could hang out. Bring back the good times. I think that that would be just fine. Bring back the good times. Patience won't you come, oh I feel like life's suspended. I have not become the thing that I have so intended. Put my mind at ease, and I'll write melodies. And I'll sing songs of hope that's to come. So bring back the good times. I think that that would be just fine. Bring back the good times. I won't embrace the things that I have done. Patience waits for what we will become. Oh it's so much more I know, that it's so worth waiting for. (Bleach)

PATIENCE. I'm learning about it. I'm learning to live with it. I'm learning that I don't like it all that much. It hurts. It's hard. It's a lesson about time. It's a lesson that I've been taught all my life, but still haven't learned. PATIENCE. Sometimes, I feel like my life is spinning totally out of control and I have no patience. Right now is one of those times. I'm learning patience the hard way, by having to live with it on a daily basis. Minute by minute, hour by hour, day by day. I have to be PATIENT. It's one of the hardest things I've done - ever. I am learning to keep my mouth shut, my tears in check. I am learning when to let it go, and when to hold it all in. I'm not a star pupil. I still open my mouth when I shouldn't, cry when I shouldn't. Sometimes, I just let it all go and it's totally the wrong time. Sometimes I hold it all in and it's the wrong time. Sometimes, it's never the right time. I'm still learning. I'll get there, eventually. Be patient with me.

In this second week of Advent, as I'm praying for patience, I've been praying for something I don't know if I'll get answered the way I'm praying for. (Been there? Done that?) I'm praying for something that is totally out of my hands. Life is like that. We pray and we pray and we pray for something, and we don't know whether or not our prayer will be answered in the way we hoped for, prayed for. It's not that our prayers won't be answered, it's just when and how that we don't know. I've added a link to my blog ( - "Pray 7x7". You are supposed to pray 7 times a day for 7 different events, for 7 days. I've been praying at least 7 times a day for 7 days, but I've only been praying for 2 or 3 things. Today is as good a time as any to start praying for 7 things, 7 times, for 7 days. I'll let you know the results in next week's write-up. In the meantime, if you want to join me in praying 7x7, please do. If you'd like to share, I'd love to hear how your prayers were answered after 7 days.

Prayer, patience. Worth doing, worth waiting for.

Saturday, November 22, 2008

Bless the Broken Road

I set out on the narrow way many years ago, hoping I would find true love along the broken road. I got lost a time or two, wiped my brow, kept pushing through. I couldn't see how every sign pointed straight to you. Every long lost dream led me to where you are. Others who broke my heart, they were just Northern stars pointing me on my way into your loving arms. This much I know is true, that God blessed the broken road that led me straight to you. I think about the years I spent just passing through. I'd like to find the time I lost and give it back to you. You just smile and take my hand, you've been there, you understand. It's all part of a greater plan that is coming true. Every long lost dream led me to where you are. Others who broke my heart, they were just Northern stars pointing me on my way into your loving arms. This much I know is true, that God blessed the broken road that led me straight to you. Now I'm just running home into your loving arms. This much I know, I know is true, that God blessed the broken road that led me straight to you. God blessed the broken road that led me straight to you.

As I read the lyrics to this song, I think about 2 things. First, my love affair with Jesus. Second, my love affair with my husband. As a child growing up, I was told that Jesus should be the first man in my life. How he could keep me safe along the broken roads of my life. When I got lost, he would push me through. His arms would always be open whenever I needed Him. As a little girl growing up, I dreamed of the man I would marry. How he could keep me safe along the broken roads of my life. When I got lost, he would walk beside me. His arms would always be open whenever I needed him. Throughout my life, one thing has remained constant - and that is the love of Jesus Christ. No matter how far I've strayed from the path, or how broken the road, He was always there waiting for me. I've been lost and I've been found. I haven't always had my husband to walk with me, nor will I forever. But Jesus has been with me since the beginning. He has walked with me and continues to walk with me along life's broken roads. When my life has been at its hardest, Jesus has been the one I've walked with, held hands with. When my heart has been broken, Jesus has been the one I've turned to for healing, for comfort. And although I will never fully understand why life does what it does, I will always love Jesus as the first man in my life. His love is constant and steadfast, unlike any other.

When the road is broken, and you just don't think you can take one more step - keep going. Jesus will smile and take your hand. For no one knows how far the breaks in the road go, but him. He walked down the most broken road of all, and loved us every step of the way...

May your broken road be a blessing... that leads you straight into Jesus' arms.

Friday, October 31, 2008

I Can Only Imagine

I can only imagine what it will be like when I walk by your side. I can only imagine what my eyes will see when your face is before me. I can only imagine. Surrounded by Your glory, what will my heart feel? Will I dance for You Jesus or in awe of You be still? Will I stand in Your presence or to my knees will I fall? Will I sing hallelujah, will I be able to speak at all? I can only imagine. I can only imagine when that day comes, and I find myself standing in the Son. I can only imagine when all I will do, is
forever, forever worship You. I can only imagine. (I Can Only Imagine by Mercy Me)

I can only wait. I can only wait for my time to come when I will walk by Jesus' side. I'm not ready to go just yet, though. There are still SO MANY THINGS for me left to do. My time on the earth is not yet complete. My God-given mission has not been found or determined - YET. At least, I don't think it has??? As for those that are walking with the Lord tonight, tomorrow, and all the days thereafter, what a joy, honor and privilege to be where they are right now. My grammie is there, as well as my other grandmother and both grandfathers. I was blessed in my life to have known, loved and been loved by all 4 of my grandparents. My grammie, though, will always hold the most special place in my heart. I remember when I was old enough, I used to spend the weekend with her at the "High Rise". We would go out to eat and then shopping with her friends, and play bingo or cards in the evenings. She taught me how to crochet and knit, and how to do plastic canvas... that woman could craft ANYTHING! (She made me Campbell Soup kid dolls, Raggedy Ann & Andy dolls, and some you wouldn't believe... Mom, remember Uglina? the nylon doll with the curly hair? - I have them all!) As for me, I just started learning to knit again a few years ago (thank You Don for buying me the book), but I haven't been able to keep up with it. Up until the Prayer Shawl Ministry started, I wasn't ready to give up the couple milk crates of yarn I had been holding onto for the past 10 years. The yarn was my grammie's and I loved it all, and the memories it evoked.

It's hard to let go of those who have left us behind and the things they left behind for us. I kept boxes and boxes of my Grammie's craft things because I wasn't ready to part with them just yet. I would sit down and just go through them remembering all the fun we used to have doing one craft or another. Or just remembering being in her apartment and the menial things we used to do - like cleaning her room, or winding her old mantel clock. I remember she had this old Contour chair and I spent many a night sleeping on it, much to her dismay! How she would make me lumpy mashed potatoes (from scratch, of course) with lots and lots of butter. And that woman could make a mean chocolate fudge! The best I've ever had. On this All Saints Day, take the time to remember the good and the bad times with those you've loved and lost. For some, the loss is so recent. For others, it may be years, but it feels like yesterday... Take the time to imagine how they are walking and talking by Jesus' side. Are they holding hands? Are they laughing out loud? Are they on their knees praying? Are they singing Hallelujah at the tops of their lungs? I can only imagine...

Saturday, October 25, 2008

The Measure of A Man

This world can analyze and size you up, and throw you on the scales. They can IQ you and run you through their rigorous details. They can do their best to rate you, and they'll place you on their charts. And then back it up with scientific smarts. Bur there's more to what your worth, than what their human eyes can see. Oh I say the measure of a man is not how tall you stand, how wealthy or intelligent you are. Cause I found out the measure of a man God knows and understands. For He looks inside to the bottom of your heart and what's in the heart defines he measure of a man. Well you can doubt your worth and search for who you are and where you stand, but God made you in His image when He formed you in his hands. And He looks at you with mercy and He sees you through His love. You're His child and that will always be enough for there's more to what you're worth than you could ever comprehend. You can spend your life pursuing physical perfection. There is so much more, more than ever meets the eye. For God looks through the surface and He defines your worth by, what is on the inside. ("The Measure of A Man" by 4Him)

I attended a Memorial Service yesterday for a man I had never met. I went to support my friends in their time of grief and loss. I didn't expect to cry, to laugh, or to feel as if I had lost someone as well, but I did. As I listened to the stories of this man as related by his sister-in-law, the shared times of his brother, son, daughter, and granddaughter, I caught a very small glimpse of what this man was like. I was moved to tears by the accounts of this man who was now spending eternity with Jesus. As I listened to the brief account of this man's life, there was no mention of what kind of house he lived in, what kind of car he drove or how much money he made. Those weren't the important things that he should have been remembered by, nor were they. He was remembered as a loving husband, father, uncle and grandfather. He was remembered as a man who loved the outdoors - to fish and to hunt. He was remembered as the big brother that took his younger brother to see Air Force One hidden underneath blankets in the back of a truck. He was remembered as the grandfather that attended the Military Ball and surprised his granddaughter. He was remembered by the man he WAS on the inside, NOT the things he had on the outside.

As we go through life, it's important to remember that how we respond and relate to other people is so much more important than the material things we possess or don't possess. When we go to heaven, our personal possessions don't come with us. They are left behind for other people to handle, dispose of, etc. Rather, it's what's in our heart and soul that presents itself to God the Father. He knows every day of our living life who we are and what we are. He knows what's in our hearts and our souls. He can see beyond the makeup, the fancy clothes, the expensive car, and the big house. He can see beyond the empty refrigerator, the torn clothing, the non-existent bank account. He knows whether or not we love Him, whether or not we are angry with Him, whether or not we are telling the truth. He knows it all. What do the people around us know? Do they know how we feel about God? about them? about others? Does the way we live our life show people that we are more than just what's on the outside? Do we live our life the way that God sees us - with mercy and love?

Saturday, October 18, 2008

We are the Body

It's crowded in worship today. As she slips in trying to fade into the faces. The girl's teasing laughter is carrying farther than they know. Farther than they know. But if we are the body, why aren't His arms reaching? Why aren't His hands healing? Why aren't His words teaching? And if we are the body, why aren't His feet going? Why is His love not showing them there is a way? There is a way. A traveler is far away from home. He sheds his coat and quietly sinks into the back row. The weight of their judgmental glances tells him that his chances are better out on the road. But if we are the body, why aren't His arms reaching? Why aren't His hands healing? Why aren't His words teaching? And if we are the body, why aren't His feet going? Why is His love not showing them there is a way? There is a way.Jesus payed much too high a price for us to pick and choose who should come. And we are the body of Christ. Jesus is the way. (We Are The Body - Casting Crowns)

Jesus - Alive and in Persons. If you haven't driven by the church this week, that's the message posted on the display out front. I wonder if Dan knew when he chose that saying that the message this week was going to be - "We are the church; the body of Christ; the church's one foundation." I wonder if he knew how many things were going on at the church this weekend that are a direct reflection of that statement: Jesus - Alive and in Persons. I wonder if he knew that we all need that reminder every now and then?

Did you know that this weekend is the 3rd & 4th grade Bible sleepover. Thank you Mel & Jill for spending your Friday evening and Saturday morning with our children. You are a blessing and we Thank God for you. Did you know that the Friendship Team will be making soup Saturday morning beginning @ 8 a.m. to deliver to the friends they have been spending time with? Thank you Friendship Team for your wonderful gift of ministry to those who are unable to spend regular Saturday or Sunday worship time with us, their brothers and sisters in Christ. Thank God for you. Did you know that the Pig Roast is tomorrow evening? Have you bought your tickets? You can buy them at the door if you haven't! Thank you to all the people that have or will have baked pies, made cookies, cakes, cooked anything, sold tickets, made posters, etc. for the Pig Roast. Did you know that there are several women spending a weekend in fellowship at Olmsted Manor this weekend, sharing stories, laughter, and maybe even some tears together? Thank you to the women who are participating and the families that have shared their wives, sisters, mothers, daughters with other wives, sisters, mothers and daughters for a special weekend. Thank God for you. Did you know that Youth Group meets on Sunday evenings? Thank you Cherie for your gift of service to our youth. What an inspiration you are!

I know there are many other things going on this weekend that I don't know about, or forgot to mention. What's important is the message we're sending as a church, as Christians: Jesus - Alive and in Persons. We are the Church. We are the Body. We are the Church's Foundation. May our arms reach out to others in need, in love, in fellowship. May our hands reach out with compassion, with friendship, and with healing. May our words be spoken loud and clear to teach, to console, to express concern and caring. May our feet always move in the direction that Jesus is taking us - even if we don't feel like it's the right way. May our love show everyone that there is a way because WE ARE THE BODY and JESUS IS ALIVE IN EACH OF US.

Friday, October 10, 2008

Today is a NEW DAY!

Have you ever doubted what you're made of? Have you ever fed your fear? Have you ever seemed disconnected? Has your laughter ever turned to tears? It's alright, it's alright. You're not the only one. Have you ever made a silly faux pas? Or kissed another dream goodbye? Have you ever found out when time ran out, You needed one more try? Oh yeah, it's OK, God brings in a brand new day. Another chance, another choice. Another hope, another possibility. All right, OK, no more time for yesterday. Open your eyes and you'll find, it's a new day, it's a brand new day. So wake up, wake up from your bad dream. Ooo, you gotta clear your head. There is opportunity knocking when you're hanging by a thread. It's alright, a new sun's gonna rise! Oh yeah, come on! No more fear, it's a new day. No more worry, it's a new day. No more doubt, it's a new day. Just believe it, it's a new day! It doesn't matter where your life has been. Just trust in Him. And let a new day begin, come on! Alright, OK. Don't you worry bout yesterday. It doesn't matter what you've done wrong. It's gone, gone, gone, gone, gone. Everything's gonna be alright. Another chance, another try. Open your eyes cause the sun is about to shine. Open your eyes and you'll find... it's a new day, it's a new day. It's a new day, come on, come on. It's a new day, it's a new day. It's a new day, come on, come on. It's a new day, come on! (Joy Williams "New Day")

I really HATE going to bed at night. Sometimes, I'll stay up late just so I can do that extra load of laundry, or wash the dishes, or check my e-mail, or try and do one of the other 101 things I didn't get done that day. Sometimes, I'll just stay up and BE. Just do nothing. Sit on a chair and veg in front of the TV. But, when I really start to think about it, I know that after I go to bed, and when I wake up, I will have a whole NEW DAY ahead of me. A day full of time to do the things done I didn't get to yesterday. Who besides me really cares if I don't finish that load of laundry? Who besides me cares if I the dishes sit for one night? Who besides me cares if I don't check my e-mail every 10 minutes! No one! My family cares that I am spending time with them much rather than running around like a chicken with my head cut off trying to get things done. (I'm known to do that.) I know that each day is a NEW DAY. Each day is a BRAND NEW DAY full of exciting opportunities! A day full of new things - the changing colors on the trees, the birth of a baby bird, the new bud on a flower, the fresh smell of rain on the grass... And I can't spend every day worrying about the "what if's"? What if the laundry basket gets full? What if the dishes pile up? What if I don't get the vacuuming done? What if? What if? What if? Today, like every day, is a NEW DAY and I intend on starting each one with a clean slate.

Every day, no matter what you didn't get done yesterday, that was yesterday and what's done is done, and that's OK. Every day no matter what you feel on the inside, God loves you. Every day, no matter what you see on the outside, the sun does rise. Every day, no matter what problems you carry with you, God is walking beside you on your journey. Every day is a NEW DAY and you can do anything!

Today and every day is a NEW DAY. How are you going to celebrate TODAY?

Friday, October 3, 2008

Where does it hurt?

I'm down on my knees again tonight. I'm hoping this prayer will turn out right. See there is a boy that needs Your help. I've done all that I can do myself. His mother is tired. I'm sure You can understand. Each night as he sleeps, she goes in to hold his hand, and she tries not to cry as the tears fill her eyes. Can You hear me? Am I getting through tonight? Can You see him? Can You make him feel all right? If You can hear me, let me take his place somehow. See, he's not just anyone, he's my son. Sometimes late at night I watch him sleep. I dream of the boy he'd like to be. I try to be strong and see him through, but God who he needs right now is You. Let him grow old, live life without this fear. What would I be living without him here. He's so tired and he's scared. Let him know that You're there. Can You hear me? Can You see him? Please don't leave him, he's my son. (Mark Schultz song - "He's My Son")

I was born with a hole in my heart, more specifically - an Atrial Septal Defect (ASD). An ASD is a type of congenital heart defect in which there is an abnormal opening in the dividing wall between the upper filling chambers of the heart. In most cases ASD's are diagnosed and treated successfully with few or no complications. My hole was found early on by my pediatrician (Dr. Silverstein) and when I was five years old, I had open-heart surgery to repair the hole. (Thank you Children's Hospital of Pittsburgh!) During my time in the hospital, (I don't remember how long I was there, maybe several days?), I remember lots of little things - the taste of "cotton" in my mouth as I was "going to sleep" before my operation. Wearing socks to bed for some strange reason. Playing with some of the other little girls who were in the same wing as I was. This cute little yellow pajama set I wore while I was there that had cheerleaders on it. The newspaper coming to take my picture, and that I was fine until I saw my parents through the window of my room door and then I went berserk! I remember that I couldn't see my brother because he was too young, at 11. I remember this yellow stuffed dachshund dog the doctors and nurses signed before I left, as well as everyone I could find to share it with at home when I got back. I held on to that dog for a long time. I cherished that dog. I remember all those things. If you ask my mom or dad, I'm sure they would remember a lot more, different things, things difficult for a parent to remember, not because of the time that has passed, but because of the memories themselves. The one memory that I know both my parents could tell you about, that I didn't find out until much later, is that one time when my dad asked if anything hurt, I told him... my heart hurt. My heart hurt. I don't know if I had just come out of surgery or was going in, but to have your 5-year old child tell you that their "heart hurt" had to have been one of the most excruciating things in the world for my dad to hear. I don't know. I just don't know what I would have done. Got down on my knees and prayed? Walked away so they wouldn't see the tears streaming down my face? Screamed and yelled because I was totally helpless to do anything to make the hurt go away? I just don't know.

I don't always know "where it hurts" when one of my own children does get hurt. I don't always know how to make the hurt go away. I don't always react the way I should, because sometimes there are no words, nothing to do or say that will make the hurt any better, except time and an ice pack if that's what is needed. Sometimes, my girls can't tell me where it hurts, or how it hurts, just that it does. Isn't that good enough? To know that they're hurting and that they need you. And somehow, just somehow, you need to make the pain GO AWAY. What can I do to make this sometimes invisible pain go away? Tell my children how much I love them. Hold them until the tears stop. Pray. Pray to God that even though I don't know what kind of pain they have, or even where it is, that He does and that He can make them feel better. We can't always make the hurt go away, and we can't always tell someone else "where it hurts". But, God knows. He knows every hurt that we've had. He knows why we're hurting, where we're hurting and how long we've been hurting. Don't be afraid to tell God "where it hurts" and to let Him heal you...

Saturday, September 27, 2008

Are you in there?

"Is the face that I see in the mirror the one I want others to see? Do I show in the way that I walk in my life, the love that you've given to me? My heart's desire is to be like you in all that I do, all I am. Do they see Jesus in me? Do they recognize your face? Do I communicate your love and your grace? Do I reflect who you are in the way I choose to be? Do they see Jesus, Jesus in me? Well it's amazing that you'd ever use me, but use me the way you will. Help me to hold out hearts of compassion and grace. A heart that your Spirit fills. May I show forgiveness and mercy, the same way you've shown it to me. Do they see Jesus in me? Do they recognize your face? Do I communicate your love and your grace? Do I reflect who you are in the way I choose to be? Do they see Jesus in me? Well I want to show all the world that You are the reason I live and breathe. So You'll be the one that they see when they see me. Do they see Jesus in me? Do they recognize your face? Do I communicate your love and your grace? Do I reflect who you are in the way I choose to be? Oh, do they see Jesus in me?" (Joy Williams song)

I remember as a child, I used to have a full-length mirror in my room mounted on the wall by my closet. When I would play "dress-up", I would stand there and look at myself all dolled up in my "costumes". As I would get dressed for school, I would twist and turn to see how I looked at every angle. I used to pucker my lips and pretend I was kissing a really cute boy. I used to look at myself and see all the imperfections; all the things I didn't like about myself. Most of all, I used to put on my mom's wedding dress and dream about the day I would wear it for my wedding (and did). I didn't look for Jesus in my mirror. I didn't think about my reflection being Jesus-like at all. At the time, I was more concerned about how I "looked on the outside", not if others saw "Jesus in me".

As I've grown (in height and years), I know now that I should have been more concerned with what others saw "in me" than how I "looked on the outside". It's not easy, though. For as much as I'd like it to always be Jesus' face when people look at me, it's not always the face that they see. I get angry with my husband, my children, and other people, and Jesus' face is NOT what they see. I lose my patience and yell at my husband, my children, and other people, and Jesus' face is NOT what they see. I make mistakes and say things I shouldn't and Jesus' face is NOT what people see. However, I hope that when I tell/show my husband, my children, and my friends that I love/appreciate/respect them, that they see Jesus' face projected through me. I hope when I write these weekly offerings, that Jesus' face is evident in me; at least evident that He's working IN me. Jesus is in each one of us. And it's important that we let others see that. But most of all it's important that WE SEE JESUS IN OURSELVES.

Saturday, September 20, 2008

It's Not Fair

(This one's for you, mom...)
A very old man lay dying on his bed. In death's doorway, he suddenly smelled the aroma of his favorite chocolate chip cookies wafting up the stairs. He gathered his remaining strength and lifted himself from the bed. Leaning against the wall, he slowly made his way out of the bedroom, and with even greater effort, forced himself down the stairs, gripping the railing with both hands. With labored breath, he leaned against the door frame, gazing into the kitchen. Were it not for death's agony, he would have thought himself already in heaven. There, spread out upon newspapers on the kitchen table, were literally hundreds of his favorite chocolate chip cookies. Was it heaven? Or was it one final act of heroic love from his devoted wife, seeing to it that he left this world as a happy man? Mustering one great final effort, he threw himself toward the table. The aged and withered hand, shaking, made its way to a cookie at the edge of the table, when he was suddenly smacked with a spatula by his wife. "Stay out of those," she said, "they're for the funeral."

IT'S JUST NOT FAIR. No, it's not. Life isn't fair. No one ever said it would be. Jesus didn't die on the cross for us because it was "fair". He died for us because of his amazing love for us. Is it fair that some people have everything, while others have nothing? Is it fair, that when the power went out on Sunday night (during the Steelers game, mind you), that although we had power back by late Monday afternoon, our neighbors just a few hundred yards down the street, didn't have theirs back until today? No, it's not. Is it fair that all the little kids get picked last for kickball in gym class? Or, that in high school, if you're not part of the "popular crowd", you just don't belong. No, it's not. Is it fair that when you're lying on your death bed, and your wife makes your favorite chocolate chip cookies, you can't even have just one? No, it's not.

Do you know what IS fair? Doing something with all of you - heart, mind, and soul regardless of when you're picked, or what crowd you belong to. What's fair is playing the game of life as best you can regardless of the cards you've been given to play with. We don't have a choice who are mothers/fathers are going to be (or who they're NOT going to be); we don't get to choose if we're going to be short or tall, blond or brunette, black or white, or what color our eyes are going to be. We don't get to choose if we're going to get cancer, or Alzheimer's, or any of the other diseases that make us question "Why me?". We don't get to choose who's going to die or who's going to live. Those are things we don't get to choose. But, we do get to choose to live each moment as if it were our last. To live for today, and every moment that's in it. That's fair. We have been given the most amazing opportunity by our Savior, Jesus Christ, to do it RIGHT and to the BEST of our ability. We've been given LIFE. And in that life, we've been given 365 days every year; 24 hours every day; 60 minutes every hour; 60 seconds every minute for an unknown length of time. And even though I don't know how many days/hours/minutes/seconds I have left, I'd say that I have a fair amount of time to tell my husband how much I love him at least once every day. I love you, Don, even more than the day I first fell in love with you. I'd say that I have a fair amount of time to tell my girls how proud I am of who they are, and what they are becoming right before my eyes. Allison & Ava, I am so proud that God has blessed me to be your mother. And even more proud to watch as you learn about and love Jesus more and more with each passing day. I'd say that I have a fair amount of time to spend just 10 minutes alone every day with my thoughts in prayer. I'd say that I have a fair amount of time to spend 30 seconds to say "Thank you" to those who have been instrumental in helping me become the woman I am today - Mom and Dad, Gramma Bentley, and God to name just a few. I'd say that I have enough time to know that although not everything in life is fair, I can do my best to make what I've been given - fair enough for me.

Sunday, September 14, 2008

You can't judge a book by its cover

I LOVE to read. I LOVE to read EVERYTHING. Mysteries, science fiction, inspirational, non-fiction, fiction, romance, drama, you name it. There aren't many books I won't read. But you know which ones I enjoy the most - Reader's Digest Condensed Books. First of all, there are 4 books all together in one handy-dandy book! How great is that? Secondly, if you take the cover off the book, all you see is a plain, hard cover. No indication of what's inside. No titles, no authors. No preconceived notion of what type of story(ies) you're going to be reading. Because it's Reader's Digest, you know the books inside are going to be really good, things you can sink your teeth into. But, if you look at the cover without the dust flap - it's just another book. No frills, no thrills. No indication if you're going to find a murder-mystery to the tune of Agatha Christie, or perhaps a law story by John Grisham. Or, maybe a great adventure down a winding river in a raft and the hero gets tossed overboard, and... You don't know what you're going to get until you get past the outside plain, hard cover. You just don't know. You know the old saying, "You can't judge a book by its cover."

The same is true of course, for people. I'll never forget the first day of registration for Marching Band at Slippery Rock. My parents were with me and when I gave my name and high school at the registration table, the girls' faces lit up and they said how excited they were I was there. I felt great, at first. I was already accepted by these people and the only thing they knew about me was my name, what instrument I played and where I went to high school. The only thing was, it wasn't great, not at all. They didn't know ME. They didn't bother at that first introduction to take off my dust jacket to see what was underneath. They didn't know who or what I was under the high school I came from, or the instrument I played; they knew me for what they saw on the outside. They didn't know how I felt to be there, in a strange place, with strange people, virtually all alone. They were only excited to meet me because they knew the school I came from had a strong competition marching band and a great band instructor. They had pre-judged me based on the colorful high school cover I had wrapped around me. At that first introduction, no one bothered to look beneath the dust jacket to see the soft, plain cover of the real me underneath.

We are so quick to judge people based on the outside cover that they wear, that we often miss out on opportunities to meet amazing people. We've all done it. We're not perfect. We're not supposed to be. Only God is perfect and He knows we're still learning. So, the next time you walk into a book store, instead of looking at the covers on the books, go to the section you like, whatever it is, and just pick up a book and start reading. Ignore the cover, ignore the author, just grab a book, open it up and start reading. You don't even have to start at the beginning. You may find you don't like it at all, or you may find that you love it and don't want to put it down. No matter what happens, at least you have taken the time to look beyond the dust jacket and see what's truly important - the content inside...

Sunday, September 7, 2008

Broken and Beautiful

Several months ago while putting together the media for this service, I stumbled upon this blog through a different website I was looking at (Christian band - tremendous music/tremendous group. We have several cd's that we'll loan you if you'd like to hear them - just ask. Or, you can find them on youtube - Selah) Anyway, this blog drew me in completely and immediately. I'm not one for reading people's thoughts online, but I have become addicted to this one. The writer is the wife of one of the members of Selah and she shares a very personal journey about her life and the struggles she's gone through/continues to go through after the death of their youngest child who died 2 hours after birth this past April. And most recently, the loss of their 3-month old nephew to SIDS.

In one of her blogs, "The Past and the Pitcher" she talks about how in one of her "books on grieving the loss of a child, the author suggests smashing a piece of pottery as a form of therapy." Not quite sure why, she broke the pitcher, on her front porch, at 10 o'clock at night... Afterwards, God spoke to her and told her to put it back together again. So she did. As she started putting the pitcher back together again, (imagine a porcelain pitcher shattered, jagged edges pricking at your fingers, no idea where to begin, all those pieces), she talks about how she started thinking about her past and the mistakes she made and still regrets. Things she thought she had forgotten about, but had only buried for a time. As she was putting the pitcher back together, she "began to realize that this pitcher was my life, and every piece was part of a story that He had chosen to put together."... "Every nook and cranny whispered to me, until at last it stood in all its imperfection." She was now mended and filled with His spirit.

I can't imagine the time it took to put that pitcher back together again. I don't know that I could have done it. I do know that I was crying uncontrollably as I was reading about it because I've been there - broken and in jagged pieces. Have you? Have you been broken and then put back together again by someone who cared enough to take their time, to share their love and healing touch? It's a wonderful thing. It's a beautiful thing. It's an awakening. It's a chance for a new beginning.
Each of our lives is one big pitcher - full of cracks and sometimes broken in a thousand pieces. The thing is, there is always someone there to help us put the pieces back together again. His name is Jesus. He will never let us forget how beautiful and worthy we are even in our brokenness. He will help us to put the pieces back together and move on, move forward. He knows where all the cracks and breaks came from, and it's okay because He loves you. He died for you. When your pitcher is broken, don't think of it as just another break, but an opportunity to begin anew. Let each gap in your pitcher be a reminder that "there is the potential for more of Himself revealed in you." Let each piece be a reminder that you've been given a fresh start and He will be with you each and every time you are broken and beautiful.

Sunday, August 31, 2008

Getting out of my way

I can't tell you how hard it has been to write tonight. I've started and stopped. I've cut and pasted. I've deleted only to undo. I can't seem to make any thoughts clear in my head. Why am I having such a hard time writing "It's not about me". Maybe because there are times (sometimes more often than not), when I feel that it is "all about me". For 23 years, I was Tiffany Anne Bentley, daughter, sister, friend, healer, consoler, listener, swimmer, musician, designer, burger-flipper, editor, designated driver, babysitter, etc. For the past 11 years, I have been Mrs. Tiffany Anne (Bentley) Boardman, wife, mother, daughter, sister, friend, healer, consoler, designer, sitter, creator, writer, head and shoulders, knees and toes. Who am I? And why can't it be all about me? Because, it's not all about me. There are people I've met in 34 years that have needed different things from Tiffany Anne Bentley Boardman. They have needed their wife, their mother, their daughter, their sister, their friend. They have needed their listener, their burger-flipper, their designated driver. They have needed me, or various parts of me. The good and the bad parts of me.

It's not about me. It's about giving of myself so others can see/feel/touch/smell the love of someone who has saw/felt/touched/smelled the love of God. It's about the people around me that I interact with every day. It's the people I pass by on the street, on the road. It's the people whose names I once knew, but have since forgotten. It's for the friends I've lost, and the new ones I've made. It's for those who I will never meet, but know that their lives have been touched because of something I've helped to do for them. It's about God. It's about Jesus. I live with myself because deep down inside, I know I don't always put me first. Often times, I am the last person I think about. I know that sounds cliché, and probably self-righteous, but when I exercise, I wait until the girls and Don have gone to bed so I can spend more time with them. When I sit down to write, I do it after the girls and Don have gone to bed (most of the time), so I can spend more time with them. I'm certainly not a saint, nor am I proclaiming to be. I do stay up late for selfish reasons, too. When everyone's gone to bed there are no pressures, no interruptions. I can sit and type, play games, pray, talk to myself and I don't have to think about anyone else. I can have that bowl of ice cream with chocolate syrup and peanut butter and only have to face the guilt of myself. It's not about me. It's about how God uses me.

Sunday, August 24, 2008

Just do it... and see what happens

I've been wanting to lose a few extra pounds (okay, 20 extra pounds) for the past 4 years (See my darling Ava - now 4 years old!). I've prayed, I've begged, I've cried, I've walked, I've laughed, I've bought bigger clothes! Nothing! I haven't lost any weight! Not surprised, are you? Me either. So, one day a few months ago, May maybe, I decided to do something about it. I started to... Exercise! That dirty little word we all dread to hear, dread to say, dread to do. E - X - E - R - C - I - S - E. There, I've said it and spelled it for you! Do you know what's happened/happening - I've lost a few pounds. My clothes are starting to fit better, my body's starting to tone. I am seeing results. I have been exercising 4-6 days a week on the Nordic Track and doing Tae-Bo (remember Billy Blanks and his fitness craze a few years ago? A little kick-boxing, regular boxing, aerobics...) since May. It's driving me crazy let me tell you, because I do not want to have to wait to lose 20 pounds. I don't like to wait for anything. (You will not find my name under "PATIENCE" in the dictionary.) Guess what, though - I've found that I actually - dare I actually write these words down for future use against me - ENJOY it! Shhh, don't tell anyone!!! I have actually found that I enjoy exercising and I miss it when I'm not able to do it.

Waiting around for the weight to come off just wasn't cutting it. Telling myself how badly I wanted to lose the weight didn't do it. Sitting around on my bum watching TV every night wasn't doing it. Looking in the mirror every morning at myself didn't do it - although it did scare me on most occasions! Eating chocolate for breakfast, lunch, and dinner didn't do it. So, I had to "Just do something and see what happens."

Remember "Action speaks louder than words." The same goes for our lives, if we want something to happen, we can't just sit around and wait for it to happen on its own. We can't will it to happen, we can't expect someone else to make it happen for us. We need to "Just do something and see what happens."

Sunday, August 17, 2008

Great is your faith

A few years ago, while at Creation, Don & I were visiting the many vendors and stopped at "Remember Me". They sell charms, necklaces, rings, earrings, etc. The first time I was there, I bought a charm called "I Know". If you look sometime around my neck, you'll see it there on a silver chain. It's kind of funny looking, like a flame in a jar. What it really is is a tear in God's bottle and it represents His compassion. The writing included with the charm says this: "He captures each tear that drips down your face, and tenderly places them into His bottle. When you cry, you are not alone. When you think no one could possibly understand the pain you feel...He knows. He is right there beside you, collecting those precious drops. A weary mind, tears you sow down your cheek the pain it flows tattered...on your knees you go He'll hold your face and say, "I Know". If you've ever seen me in church on a Sunday morning, you'll see that I shed many, many tears. The thing is, I know that He knows...

Most recently at Creation this year, I bought another charm from Remember Me. This one is a hand with a cross cut out of the palm and its name is "Believe". The writing with the symbol says "This symbol represents child-like faith. Fear not, only Believe. Do not doubt, extend your hand, touch my own, you'll understand I've been here, lovingly real despite the questions that you feel like a child. Trust in ME to lead and guide continually, I'll never go, I'll never leave. All you need is to believe." I was immediately drawn to this symbol because I so often feel like my faith is child-like - complete, innocent and pure. Although I do have questions, my love and faith are stronger than my fears. Although I may not always trust in Him to lead, I have felt His guidance in my life. Just recently, it seemed like everything was going wrong, and I couldn't foresee the end. It wasn't that I was having major problems, but just lots of little problems all at once (I know you've all been there, and some of you are probably there now). However, even in those struggles, I never let go of my faith. I didn't question "Why me", although I often wanted to. I did shed many tears into His bottle, and prayed many prayers, but most importantly, I extended my hand, asked for guidance and Believed with the innocence of a child that He would get me through. He did.

Sunday, August 10, 2008

Out of the boat

If you've ever gone canoeing, you know how awkward it can be getting into and out of the canoe. First of all, you're standing on this dock that is constantly moving because it's just floating in the water. Then, the canoe you're trying to get into is below the dock's ledge and you have to step down to get into it. (All the while, the dock and the canoe are just floating in the water and you have NO stability whatsoever). You have a bulky life jacket on, an oar in one hand and you're trying to keep the canoe from drifting away from the dock so you don't end up "kerplunk" in the water. All the while, the people on shore are laughing at what a spectacle you are making of yourself. Not to mention the people on the dock who are cheering you on this whole time (and they call themselves your "friends")...
Finally, you get settled in and you're off! On the water, the waves have settled into a dull ripple, and the wind is just a soft breeze lightly tousling your hair. The sun's warmth is on your face and you are basking in the glory of it all. Oh, what a beautiful day! There's nothing better than being on the water where no one can reach you. All your troubles melt away and it's just you and your thoughts. For a while, everything is calm and peaceful and you're having a wonderful day, but as all things do, they must come to an end. You see storm clouds in the distance and you know you need to get back to shore.
The only problem is - how are you going to get out of this boat you had so much trouble getting into? The same way you got in, with grace, dignity, a lot of laughter, and most importantly, help from your friends.
No matter how awkward the boat you find yourself in, how rough the storm appears, know that Jesus as your friend will be there to guide you to safety and OUT OF THE BOAT. Like Peter did, we often ask Jesus to command us to GET OUT OF THE BOAT into life's toughest battles, then we lose our faith and ask Jesus to save us again and again. When are we going to just GET OUT OF THE BOAT without asking Jesus to command us? We already know that He will NEVER leave us alone in the choppy waters to drown. He is our best friend and He will get us SAFELY OUT OF THE BOAT.