Monday, November 18, 2019

The God of Promise

She was in seventh grade when her mom, my sister in law, called me. Dylan was in trouble. Again. She was fighting in school. It was hard for her to ask but Kathy forced the question to the surface. "Can Dylan come stay with you and Steve for awhile? She needs to get out of this environment." 
We were always a close family. We do what needs to be done so Dylan was packed up and made the trip to the Outer Banks.
I'd like to report that it was easy. I'd like to say "I fixed her." But truth be known she got detention on the very first day of school! My own three daughters while we had our normal mother/daughter conflicts had never equipped me caring for a girl struggling the way that my niece Dylan did. 
In the first few weeks we did have successes. I was tough on her I admit. She was required to use an alarm clock to get herself up. I allowed her one reminder wake up from me. She had to have her bed made, be dressed and have breakfast finished and ready to walk out the door when I left for work.No exceptions. If there was any infractions she would have to go to bed one half hour early for each infraction. 

At night  after homework was done and dishes were washed she would lay on the sofa with her head in my lap so I could play with her hair and she would talk. It was a really sweet time. 

But still she had so much anger and fear and distrust. 

One morning when I was home and she was at school I knelt down by my bed to pray for this sweet angry child. 
God spoke clearly to me "Get a pen and paper and write this down." That had never happened to me before so I obeyed quickly.  I have this paper tucked away but it being 11:30 PM I will summarize now the words I was given to write down.

"Mark this day.How does it look to you now? I tell you the day will come when I will reach out my hand to Dylan and she will no longer strike out like a wounded animal." It was actually a lot longer than this but these words of prophecy ended simply with "Tell Dylan I love her." And yes....these were words of prophecy. I knew it that day. I was sure that they were not my words and I was confident that the day would come when Dylan would be healed.

After about two months things were calmed down and it was time for Dylan to be back with her parents. I'd like to say that that was the happy ending.....but it was not. Things were ok for a time but as she got older her problems got bigger. 

My beautiful niece went down the road that so many go down and she became a heroin addict with all the horrors that that word entails. The addiction was crushing her and crushing her family. I hated what was happening but I knew for certain that the promise of God would be fulfilled. I clung to that and shared it with her mom as the only encouragement I could offer in this nightmare. 

Abraham and Sarah waited a long long time for God's promise to be fulfilled. Sometimes it seemed that maybe it would never happen.

Over the last five years we have all watched Dylan's life unfold and have seen how truly magnificent our Father God is. In her healing not only does Dylan not recoil from the hand of God but she is being used as the hand of God to others who are now living in pain and in fear that she knew so well. 

Today she posted that she and a friend had started a street ministry to the homeless. She has gone through the legal channels to be able to distribute Narcam for those who battle addiction. 
The Bible says "He that has been forgiven much loves much." I would like to think that it also would follow that "She who has been healed much, heals much." 

While this may seem to be the story of a little girl gone wrong, gone right. I'ts really a story about a Father who keeps His promises. 

"We love because He first loved us."     

Sunday, November 17, 2019

I Always Cook when Im Nervous

We moved to the Outer Banks in 1995. It was a big scary move! Steve and I were both raised in Southampton NY. We married in 74 and then raised our daughters for the most part in NJ. 
North Carolina was like another planet. We loved it right away but we were so far from our friends and families. We made a new life in spite of not having the comfort of  an extended family near by. 
And then a miracle happened...

 Nearly sixteen years ago I was standing behind the counter of the post office were I had been a clerk since relocating  to the area having transferred from the Postal facility were I worked up North. I love how friendly people are in the south and was casually chatting with a customer. Noticing that her parcel was addressed to Freeport, NY I commented " My aunt used to live in Freefort." She replied "I lived there for a while but I was raised in the next town over. In Baldwin." This was the town my parents were from! Having no one in line behind her I asked her what year she was born and determined that she was six years younger than my father (who had passed away 3 months prior to our conversation.) and she was about 4 years younger than my mother. So I started naming off my mother's younger siblings thinking maybe she went to school with one of them. None of the names rang a bell.
 Then I said "My mother was as Muller and my father was a Tozzi" At this there was a notable shift in the atmosphere. My customer exclaimed "Joe Tozzi?!!!! Joe Tozzi was my brother!" I honestly went weak.
And that is how I met my Aunt Gloria. Nearly fifty years and more than 500 miles had tried to keep us apart. But God had another plan. Aunt Gloria had never met my father or her 4 half sisters. She only had a memory to meeting her father (my grandfather) once. She told me she had a vivid memory of his gold watch that she admired when she sat on his lap. As she described it to me I instantly knew the watch. In fact my nephew still has it. 
After Aunt Gloria left the post office I was thinking how terrible it had been for her. She had a lot of difficulties in her childhood because of my grandfather. I thought how this could make it harder for her. The next day while waiting on a customer I looked up and saw this little woman who I could now see family in her eyes waiting patiently to approach me. When the line cleared up she pushed a bag of containing home made strawberry jelly over the counter and said " I always cook when I'm nervous." Which was good for me because I always eat when I'm nervous.
In no time at all we bonded. We both fell back in to our Long Island rhythm of speech and humor. We visited often. 
We needed each other. We each filled in a missing piece. Because my father left when I was four I also had not known my father's family. She loved me. I loved her. We 'got' each other. 
Aunt Gloria moved to Rhode Island for several years to be near one of her sons. She lived in senior housing there for a time but we still kept in touch. She would often send me gifts. Boxes of rummage sale ornaments and decorations that she thought me or my grandchildren would enjoy. She loved glitter and tacky. And I love her and that fact that these gifts represented so much more than things.
After her son in RI passed away tragically and her health began to decline she came back to live on the Outer Banks with her oldest son. 
It was so good to be close again.I tried to visit her at least once a week when I was in town and we had many lunch dates and outing and doctor visits. Doctor visits were interesting since I knew more of her family medical history than she did. Some days we just sat in the house is she was tired and she would show me photos and tell me stories. And we laughed. We always laughed.
It was approaching Christmas last year and she asked me to take her shopping. First we went to the Dollar Tree where she was dazzled by every tacky Christmas ornament she saw. She bought a reindeer head band for herself and  I think snow globe for her daughter in law. Then we went to her favorite shopping place The Christmas Shop in Manteo. There she  was like a child. Finally she grew tired and bought some nice chocolates for her son.
This was a Friday afternoon and I was heading out of town for a few weeks. 
Then I got the call.
Aunt Gloria had a stroke and was not expected to live. A few days later I sat by her side in the hospital. I talked to her. I prayed with her. I cried. 
To everyone's surprise she did not die. Her condition however did not improve enough for her to go home and she was moved in to a nursing home. 
For the next seven or eight months I spent my Friday afternoons visiting her in her new home. I could tell she was 'still there' but as hard as she tried speaking she was only able to get out an occasional."Oh shit!" or sentences that would trail off.
Now it was my turn. After years of  hearing the same stories over and over I now knew them well enough to tell them back to her. I was leave a sentence dangling and many times she could fill in the last word. She would always smile at the right places in the story.
We played bingo. Kind of. We took snap chat photos.I fed her ice cream.We went outside to sit in the courtyard. When I ran out of things to talk about we just sat.
Towards the end Aunt Gloria was nearly non responsive. It was then that I started listening to old hymns on my phone with her. I would sing along and I would always pray with her before I left. 
One afternoon I went on YouTube and pulled up an old Billy Graham sermon. As he got started preaching he said "Open your bible to Luke." Then he said "Raise your hand if you brought your bible." At this Aunt Gloria (who had been laying there silent and still for our visit) shot her hand straight up in the air! 
Every time I left I told her that I was not sure if I would see her again on earth. I told her she was my favorite. I told her that I knew we would be together again. Then I would ask the Lord to welcome her home. And He did.
This long story is to say that I miss her. A lot. Especially when I see tacky Christmas ornaments. And reindeer headbands. Especially on Friday afternoons.      
Aunt Gloria and I had a miracle relationship. Our story could only have come from the hands of a loving  Father. My heart is filled with gratitude.

Thursday, November 14, 2019

What Does Jesus Look Like?

When my children were growing up I used to sometimes sit with them and watch Mr. Rogers.While many were making fun of this man because of his low key and simple manner I found that many times he was speaking to my inner child. His words were healing. 

I watched (alone) his show talking about divorce and sobbed finally allowing the long gone four year old me to feel the weight of my father leaving. 

This man never spoke with words about God but he carried with him always the fragrance of Christ. 

When my oldest daughter Gretchen at two years old started experiencing very frightening nightmares about a vicious dog.These dreams continued for three nights with her waking with blood curtailing screams. On the 4th night we included prayers before bed asking God to help her to sleep peacefully. And she did. But a few nights later she tiptoed into my room and announced that she had another dream. My spirit sank until she said "No. It was good. This time Jesus came and He let me pet the scary dog." Then she returned to her bed and went back to sleep. The next morning we talked more about her dream. I asked her "What did Jesus look like?" and without missing a beat she said "He looked like Mr. Rogers." 

Let us all live lives of kindness that even a two year old will see Jesus in us. 

Sunday, November 10, 2019

Thirty Days of Gratitude- Shane

This morning when I woke up and looked on my weather app  to see that the temperature was a chilly 46 degrees and sunny. My first thought was "What a great running day! I wish I had signed up for the half marathon today!" I still surprise myself with these crazy thoughts.
I knew right away that I wanted to post on Face Book a 30 days of gratitude that I was thankful to be able to run.
As the day continued that thought kind of evolved and grew and took on a completely new element. I began to think about the people that I had connected with because of the running and the sense of belonging and purpose and understanding that I now had with these people.and how grateful I am for them.
 I think of my daughter Gretchen and the first time that she and her running partner Brandi ran ten miles. It blew my mind that that was even a thing. Like "Who runs ten miles??" And then my other daughter Melody ran a marathon. That's like a crazy long way to run! But she had. It really was a thing.
I thought of Calavina and how I ran my first 5K with her. I thought of my running partner Pat and all the miles and stories we have shared.
I thought of my pastor Frank running that first time on a dare. Barefoot. In the dark. Running that mile even faster than Brandi because he is competitive and was not going to let his sister beat him.
I thought of Sarah and her infamous speed work that we all dreaded. Sarah always with a smile and positive words of encouragement.
Then I thought of Shane. When I started running at age 57 he owed and operated the local running store. Of course I was not a 'real runner'. But I did know that maybe I should trade in my sandals for actual running shoes. Shane did not make me feel like a 'lesser than' because I was old or out of shape or slow. He hosted group runs each week that allowed me to spend time with lots of runners.
I was slowly be melded into this community or subculture of people.
Runners have their own lingo, their own costume and customs . They talk about things that are generally not discussed with others without any shyness or hesitation.  ("Did you poop this morning?"is not an unusual questions among runners espically on a race day.) But I digress....
This is really about a post about gratitude. This is a post to say that I am grateful for Shane Miles.
He has taught we a lot about running and given me the courage to actually say that I am a runner. He has also demonstrated to me and to the world that running is not always about running only.  Running is about having the courage, the fortitude, the strength and the guts to keep on going even when everything inside you says  you can't continue.
Shane is a fast runner. Stage four colon cancer has slowed him down. Ever time Shane goes for a run his example is telling me "Don't be afraid to do hard things." I have watched as this disease has progressed . Shane has run with chemo dripping in his veins. He was run with a colostomy bag. He has run with physical conditions that would take most people out of the race. In fact...they never would have signed up.
Shane has been open and candid about his struggles with this disease. He has not allowed a shroud of secrecy give more power to the cancer.
Life is about running the race or dropping out of the race. It is about allowing or not allowing difficulties to overtake us.
When you run a race each mile has it's own personality. Elevation, temperature, humility, dew point and  hydration are all factors in the run. But the one thing that will ruin a run every single time is mindset. If you say" I can't." Then you can't. If you say "This is too hard." Then it will be too hard. If you say " I could never do that." Then you never will.
Shane has to choose every signal day how he will manage the new day. I too need to decide how I will live my life today. Will I walk when I can not run? Will I crawl when I can not walk? Will I push on through the hard miles or will I choose to quit.

Thank you Shane for the lessons I am learning  as I watch you run.
I continue to pray for you as you navigate  this difficult season.Thank you for inspiring us all. And teaching is that to be a runner is not about what you do but about who you are.

Thursday, October 24, 2019

Do Not Fret

October 10, 2019

Do Not Fret

As I sit on my front porch and write this, I am reminded of the Bible verse that says that the birds of the field do not worry because God has supplied all they need.
They do not worry. But they do work. They cannot sit on a branch and expect food to come to them. They have times of plenty when the feeder is full or the summer seeds abound but also times of scarcity. When the snow falls. When ice forms on the surface of the water. Much more work and energy are required to sustain them during these times.
Birds can be fearful of something new. When I hold out my hand offering the choice seeds it will take time for them to know that I will not harm them. After just one bird learns to trust my hand others will follow knowing that this choice seed is so easily available.
At the same time, I am so encouraged and even joyful when these tender creatures approach me. I want so much for them to come near to me and finally to be comfortable in my presence. I know I can not nor would I want to force this.
So it is with our Father. He holds out His hand with the choicest of blessings. He will not force us to come and eat from His hand. He will delight in us coming near. He will be joyful in sitting with us and feeding us the very thing we desire and need.
He will continue to extend His hand to us patiently waiting for us to abandon fear and embrace trust.

A few weeks ago, I had the opportunity to travel to my hometown of Southampton, NY. While   there I walked in a wild life park with my niece Trina. She brought with her the ‘choice’ bird seed and as we walked the birds came and ate from our upturned palms. Since coming home, I have spent a good deal of time on my front porch with the choice seed in my hand reached out softly beckoning the chickadees to come. They chirp to me and hop on near by branches but they are not yet ready to fully trust me. But I will continue to offer.
While I sit, I also recognize that at the same time I am desiring these birds to come that in that time I am also coming closer to my Father. I am coming to eat from His hand. I am delighting in the choicest of blessings and He is delighting in me coming to Him.

Sunday, October 6, 2019

Nearly a decade ago I began writing this blog. As with many things in my life I was strong for a while but then slowly, carelessly I gave in to my undisciplined life and rarely thought about the writings I penned over the years.
The other day one of blog posts showed up in my Face Book time line. I went back to the post and realized that the words I had written where strangely familiar and at the same time as if I were reading them for the first time. I also realized that when I write I am writing to find some truths or answers or insights for my own understanding. I write to sort out out my thoughts, my fears, my doubts and to give voice to my gratitude. My blogs stand as a memorial to things that God has brought me through. I write so I don't forget.
So tonight I set forth my plan. I will take the time to be quite enough to write. I will write for me. I will also write for my grandchildren. I'm excited to be approaching another birthday...this will give me more purpose.
Grandmother's Heartbeat I look forward to spending time with you.

Monday, March 14, 2016

The Fragrance of Christ

Six days before the Passover, Jesus came to Bethany, where Lazarus lived, whom Jesus had raised from the dead. Here a dinner was given in Jesus’ honor. Martha served, while Lazarus was among those reclining at the table with him. Then Mary took about a pint of pure nard, an expensive perfume; she poured it on Jesus’ feet and wiped his feet with her hair. And the house was filled with the fragrance of the perfume. But one of his disciples, Judas Iscariot, who was later to betray him, objected, “Why wasn’t this perfume sold and the money given to the poor? It was worth a year’s wages.” He did not say this because he cared about the poor but because he was a thief; as keeper of the money bag, he used to help himself to what was put into it. “Leave her alone,” Jesus replied. “It was intended that she should save this perfume for the day of my burial. You will always have the poor among you, but you will not always have me.”

I have many thoughts about these verses. I see a much bigger picture than what is shared in this short passage. It could read "Days before Jesus was crucified Jesus came to Bethany. " Or "While Jesus was visiting with the once dead now alive Lazarus..." Really, for those of us who have been Christians for any length of time it is so easy to quickly read familiar passages and not absorb the impact of what they say. For me the thing I keep coming back to it the fragrance. " and the house was filled with the fragrance".

I am a big user or essential oils, I use them for  nontoxic house cleaning. I use them in my shampoo and I diffuse the air. I use them to replace most commercial personal products. I use them in toothpaste and to ward off germs and bugs and to treat  sore muscles, head aches, head lice and sleeplessness. I have some oils of the more common variety that while still very beneficial such as lemon or lavender.   I have some that are much more valuable such as frankincense and myrrh.  Some have sweet aromas and some have very woody or even pungent fragrances. All of this oil come from the essential or life blood part of the plant. The oils I use are without any syntactic additives making them honest and real, a true representation of the plant from which they were harvested. (Hear me out. This is not a sales pitch.)

One thing is certain. People I encounter know I am an essential oil person. I do talk about oils for certain but even more it's the fragrances talk for themselves. Some people are attracted to the fragrances some are offended or  even repelled. Either way there is always some reaction. 
People at church will hug me and comment on the oil. Many times they will walk into a room for come down the hall and comment that they knew I was near by the fragrance. Because it is so part of my regular life I don't even notice the smell. Often, very often, people will come to me and ask questions about the oils and I am always happy to share with them. Some will tell me they hate patchouli or they love patchouli. Some will accept without reservation the benefits of the oils and some will utterly reject the concept as fad or irreverent.

Can you see where I am going with this?

When Mary anointed Jesus with oil the whole room was filled with the scent. Jesus Himself carried the scent on His body. When He walked through the streets people could smell the sweet aroma. Jesus Himself stated that this was the anointing of His body for burial. The fragrance of His anointing stayed with Him. He is referred to as "the anointed One". 
But here is what I am really 'chewing on': Mary. The sister of Lazarus. When she wiped the feet of Jesus with her hair she carried in her body his anointing. She carried with her the very precious fragrance of Jesus. When she walked through the crowds they could would know that she had been with Him. She would be a reminder to them of Him. 
So I'm thinking ever deeper here. Essential oils are very powerful and are actually rapidly absorbed into the blood stream. So also the anointing of Jesus is not a surface thing only. This anointing of Christ goes beyond our minds and intellect and becomes in essence the very life blood that keeps us alive and pumps our very hearts. 
Just as there are cheap oils that have synthetic additives so there are 'cheap' counterfeits in the holy anointing world. There are teachings that leave out the life blood that are void of the Holy and living Spirit of God. Teaching that may smell pleasant but have no power to heal. There are teachings that start our smelling sweet and turn rancid in time. Sunday, some days believers are not authentic.  The Word says "You will know them by their fruit." Without the life blood there is no life. There is no fruit.
If we are to carry the fragrance of Christ it must be the costly expensive fragrance. The fragrance of the arrest, the beating, the death, the burial and the resurrection of Jesus. To carry His anointing we must be willing to live as He did. As the oil was poured out so must we be poured out. 
It's expensive.
 Some people will reject it.
Some people will be repulsed by it.
Like Judas some will think the cost is too high.
It's not about smelling good.
It's about honoring Jesus. 
It's about carrying His fragrance. It's about others knowing as soon as they walk in the room they they are with someone who has been in the presence of Jesus.
I want to carry that fragrance.