Monthly Archives: October 2014

Tired of Today’s Crazy Daze? — “Olden days” Answers from Granny’s Abundant Life

IMG_0682I wish I could chat on the back porch or pick vegetables in the garden again with this beautiful lady.  She was 70 when I was born. Until the last couple years of her life (she lived to be 107.5), I never thought of her as  old — she was simply Granny, and I loved her with all my heart. Everyone who knew her did.

One of the last times I saw Granny, she asked if I had rose bushes — she thought I should. Sadly, I couldn’t say yes.  At the time, I thought I was too busy  to spend much time in the yard. My gardening wasn’t in the same league as hers — or my beautiful mother’s.

Now I’m an empty nester, and I know there’s much to learn from Granny — her life, her  dinner table, garden and her roses — and that just maybe, I should have made time to apply the values, priorities and principles I so admired– even way back when I had young children. It’s never too late to learn worthy things from a life well lived.

Granny hadn’t been  widowed very long when I was born. I’m sure she was lonely sometimes, but it wasn’t apparent to me. People were always at her house; she was vibrant, interesting and overflowing with love and caring. She didn’t let her struggles define her.  I never heard many complaints about her own circumstances or the actions of others. To the contrary, there was a contentment about her that was very appealing. Even in the challenges of her later years, there was a graciousness about Granny that allowed her to accept her limitations with humor and peace.

still in school at 102
still in school at 102

A teacher at heart, she was well into her 90s when she volunteered to read at the elementary school.  I’m sure she never thought of herself as “old on the inside.” Certainly not as obsolete or without value and purpose. Kid’s from all over town called her Granny — and loved her. I think they knew she sincerely cared for and enjoyed each one of them.

I always felt that way too. She wrote me regular letters in college, and when I moved nearby as an adult, she lovingly gave love and garden memories to my children and all their generation. She valued the simple things and lived a full  life, much of it doing what others might consider mundane tasks. Her attitude and the joy she brought to her chores made them the heart of a beautiful life.

She cooked a big “dinner” (the noon meal) almost everyday and always had a table full of lively guests to enjoy fresh vegetables from her garden, cornbread, sweet tea… Everything was full of flavor — never lacking in protein, carbs or fat. Granny was back and forth to the kitchen — one of the most serving people I’ve ever known, but not in a “Martha” kind of way. Granny was a deliberate and attentive “Mary,” and time with her never felt rushed or stressful.

Granny's dining room and roses
Granny’s dining room and roses

Whether on the back porch with it’s chearful oil cloth and box fans or in the dining room with sterling silver and her best china and linens, dinner was about being together — often visiting for an hour or so after dessert. We were in south Georgia without air conditioning, but it’s  funny, I’ve never associated being hot with Granny’s house. I’m sure I was hot, it just wasn’t significant enough to remember.

Her house was big and rambling on small town Broad Street. When I would visit, I would let myself in the front door (which had no lock) and call out as I walked toward the kitchen. If she wasn’t there, I went right out the squeaky back door and into Granny’s garden.  As a little girl, I thought her whole house and especially the back yard was a magical place… and I never grew out of that feeling.

I can see her now — doubled over working in a sleeveless, cotton dress (she never owned a pair of pants), yard shoes, and a baseball cap to shield the sun. She’d look up and push away wisps of curly hair that spilled from her bun (she never cut her hair either). She would smile like I had made her whole day by visiting.  I was never an interruption, despite her earnest work. She made me feel special, loved and wanted — and she always encouraged me in all my activities.

IMG_0673There were all sorts of  vegetables in her garden, but  her roses… they were her pride and joy.

In the days when weddings were in churches and receptions in the fellowship hall, Granny provided buckets of roses for many a bride.

Toward the end of her life, Florida State asked her to ride in the homecoming parade, as the oldest living graduate of FSU (FSCW in her day). Always humble, she declined, and they sent her a beautiful arrangement — roses, of course. During one of our last visits, she tenderly reminisced about how much TLC roses need and the privilege and rewards of tending them. Another curious thing — I don’t remember there being a lot of roses in her house; I think she gave most of them away.

IMG_0677She was a smartsimple, humble, beautiful woman. She loved Jesus and read her Bible — but didn’t preach or wear her religion on her sleeve; it was a natural part of all she was.  She lived her faith and shared His love. She loved His creation and walked and talked with God in their garden.

She read books, kept up with the news, had hobbies and loved her family. But the purpose of everything she was, learned and did seemed to be to give it away. She was active in civic clubs and the church, but much of her philanthropy was unofficial and without a tax deduction — simply loving and serving whoever God entrusted to her by putting them in her life.

IMG_0684Granny never flew on a plane or saw anything outside of driving distance. She worked hard, but never “worked out” or “counted calories and carbs.” She drank a touch of wine when it was offered but didn’t take vitamins or drink green shakes. She ate small meals throughout the day and stayed actively engaged in life right up to the end.

She never dyed her hair or had a professional mani-pedi. In my memory, she didn’t wear a stitch of makeup, and her dresses were not the latest fashions. She was ahead of her time in not liking stockings. Her legs usually had scratches from the garden and her face was wrinkled with laugh lines. Yet — without any qualifiers — I think all who knew her would call Granny beautiful and her life abundant.

Remembering Granny, I think maybe we spend too much time today searching for ways to reduce our wrinkles, waistlines,  gray hairs, and discomfort. And trying to increase our lifespans, our “friend” lists, leisure, and wardrobes. Maybe the good life is simpler and a whole lot more than what the world says we should go after. Granny certainly proves the most beautiful part of any woman is found in seeing her heart and soul.

IMG_0686The olden days are attractive to a lot of us — hence the popularity of magazines like Real Simple and the trend toward minimizing. But the reality is that times are different. I’m not suggesting we garden in skirts, avoid airplanes and throw out all our makeup!  It’s worth noting that adapting to changing times is an important indicator for happiness and longevity. Granny’s life span included a lot of acclimating and re-acclimating. Nor should we start saving bacon grease to season our veggies or shun modern medical advancements. I bet Granny would use olive oil today, too.

But could it be that we give the common idols of today’s popular culture way too much time and attention? Are we running so hard and trying to do and be so much in our crazy busy world that we have no time for other people?

IMG_0680What can we learn from all the beautiful people (past and present, of all ages) who model abundant life? I think they share many traits (in bold above) with my Granny — traits we can emulate and intentionally develop when we slow down — resist following the culture of the day —  and seek real relationships, beauty and abundant life.

 The hymn to sing at Granny’s funeral was easy — In the Garden by Charles A Miles

  1. I come to the garden alone,
    While the dew is still on the roses,
    And the voice I hear falling on my ear
    The Son of God discloses.

    • Refrain:
      And He walks with me, and He talks with me,
      And He tells me I am His own;
      And the joy we share as we tarry there,
      None other has ever known.
  2. He speaks, and the sound of His voice
    Is so sweet the birds hush their singing,
    And the melody that He gave to me
    Within my heart is ringing.
  3. I’d stay in the garden with Him,
    Though the night around me be falling,
    But He bids me go; through the voice of woe
    His voice to me is calling.


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God, You want me to do WHAT?

What is God currently asking you to do that makes NO SENSE given your situation?  Are you fully engaged and with Him in it? Or did you tell Him, “I can’t?”  Are you thinking Unattainable! Inconceivable! Insurmountable! Hopeless! Or are you fearful, hedging and saying something like, “I will as soon as ____ happens?”

IMG_0597May I suggest, if you don’t hear God calling you to something WAY beyond your comfort zone and your ability to make it happen, then maybe you need a little more time being still, to listen to Him and read the Bible? He wants to use you in impossibly important ways. Your family and those you encounter day to day are entrusted to you. Only God knows how He will choose to use you.

The stories of Moses, Noah and Gideon are great examples that suggest God wants us living beyond what we can do using our own resources. He wants us living toward that which is impossible without His divine power.  It’s a zone of trust when we’re afraid, impossible odds and incredible feats. Many times the way is uncomfortable and difficult. It requires vulnerability,  humility and an admission of incompetence, so that it’s obvious that He orchestrates any good that is accomplished.

It’s also a place of great joy and growth. A place to remember He defines who we are.

Writing this blog is one such area for me. God hasn’t let up; I feel He wants me to continue writing about what He’s doing in me, despite my discomfort in sharing. It’s always scary clicking “publish.” I would prefer to live a “facebook life” where my smiling highlights reel is on display, and my backstage struggles and deficits are off the grid. Instead, God called me to vulnerability, authenticity, and the risk of writing publicized “duds.”

IMG_1929My technological challenges are also highlighted. Pink Reflections represents all the web building skills I possess. My blogging “success” so far is measurable primarily in my obedience. I thought maybe I should help it along… I  spent the morning reading the posts of a few big time bloggers — humble people with well-known names — trying to garner tips.

What I learned from my blog stalking is how very different I am from many well-known writers. They are eloquent, often educated in theology, and seemingly far along in a life of faith. They can take even the mundane details of their days, see God — and through them teach us to be more like Him.  They are inspired, prolific writers, preaching, teaching and leading conferences. They love Jesus, and He uses them to produce impressive and helpful stuff.

While I’m happy for them,  I’m also a little bit jealous of their giftedness and their blessings. Many times their words touch me beyond measure.  Othertimes, it seems they live so far outside my experiences, that I struggle to relate and apply their thoughts to my “real life.” Or — I finish reading their posts with more regrets than encouragement.

IMG_1176How ordinary I am — in my living and my writing. For a familiar moment I was doubtful and discouraged, “Does God really want me doing this?” Then it occurred to me, that possibly the typical messiness of my world is just what God wants to use. Maybe, He wants to reach someone who relates to my struggles, imperfection and mistakes, and also sincerely loves God and desires Him to transform them. Or maybe it’s all about Him molding me? He gets to define success in all His plans and purposes. My role is to say yes in faith to His call, then to work diligently with the confidence that God will do what He sets out to do.

I wish I had “gotten it” and begun my journey of surrender at an earlier age. I also wish I had the vast knowledge-base my seminary professors possess. The truth is that God didn’t create me to be like any of  them — or the singers, doctors, farmers, accountants, lawyers, builders, mechanics, engineers and countless others who do great things that simply aren’t in my tool box.

Even worse, I can no longer retain and retrieve all I once knew! It’s as if I have a mental library with bulging and overflowing file cabinets that make up my brain. Only a small amount of what I once knew fits in the file marked “immediately retrievable.” I imagine other cabinets marked  with labels such as requires a prompt, only accessible at 3 am, must retrieve hard copy, image only, and lost till heaven.

IMG_0659Today’s world keeps the information overload coming — like drinking from a fire hydrant. I’m constantly needing to make more space. These extensive files seem useless at times — like everything’s on microfish in an electronic world.

So what else do I have to offer in my weakness? My God-given, common gifts are the things people point out to me that take me by surprise. Because they are so much a part of me, I don’t recognize them as unique. My spiritual gifts are the things God gave me as His child — specifically for the purpose of edifying the body of Christ. You have gifts too. Our gifts and our faith  are all we need — in addition to Jesus — to succeed in the impossible things God created us for and calls us to.

IMG_0609God had a plan for us from the beginning. Psalm 139:13-14 says “For you formed my inward parts; you knitted me together in my mother’s womb. I praise you, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made.”  God knew us before we were conceived – and He loved us.  He also has had a plan for our lives since the beginning: “we are God’s handiwork, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do.” (Ephesians 2:10)

More great news… we can start fresh each day, no matter what mistakes and regrets our past holds. In Isaiah 43:18-19 God says ““Forget about what’s happened; don’t keep going over old history. Be alert, be present. I’m about to do something brand-new. It’s bursting out! Don’t you see it? There it is! I’m making a road through the desert, rivers in the badlands.” 

IMG_0603God knew us better than we know ourselves — and He loved us just the same. He uses everything to make each of us  a unique “me” and to achieve the purposes He has for our lives. That takes so much pressure off! It’s all up to Him. We just add faith and obedience when He calls us.

God asked you to do WHAT??? You CAN do it with HIM! “I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.” (Phil 4:13) I would love to hear from you! What is God calling you to do? Please share His faithfulness in your life to encourage the rest of us.

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Prayers that Move Mountains and Why they Matter to a Sovereign God

Do you pray with confidence and assurance that your prayers will be both heard and answered by God, Creator and Ruler of the universe? Do you believe your faith-filled prayers are a critical part of God’s plan? These are BIG ideas we often dismiss as impossible.

IMG_1557In Matthew 21:20 “Jesus replied, ‘Truly I tell you, if you have faith and do not doubt, not only can you do what was done to the fig tree, but also you can say to this mountain, Go throw yourself into the sea, and it will be done.'” How does this verse apply to the life of a modern day Christian? To you and to me?

“Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you. For everyone who asks receives; the one who seeks finds; and to the one who knocks, the door will be opened.” (Matthew 7:7-8) These similar yet deepening repetitions suggest Jesus wants to impress us with an important truth: that we can and must expect answers to our prayers.

They also emphatically point to His understanding of our hearts, and how doubt and distrust toward God are our natural responses. He knows how easily we can check the box “time spent in prayer” without having vulnerable hearts and without any real expectation of a specific answer — even though we believe God is the Hearer of our prayers. Grabbing hold of the promise of answered prayer isn’t a half-hearted religious work — it’s spiritual and very intimate.

IMG_1358At the outset of His instructions to those learning to pray, God asserts that prayer is effective and profitable. “Therefore I tell you, whatever you ask for in prayer, believe that you have received it, and it will be yours.” (Mark 11:24) If we are asking and not receiving– the problem isn’t God’s faithfulness to His promise, but something is amiss in our prayers. “You do not have because you do not ask God.  When you ask, you do not receive, because you ask with wrong motives, that you may spend what you get on your pleasures.” (James 4:2-3)

To be clear, I’m not a believer in the name-it-and-claim-it prosperity gospel. Sometimes God’s answer is a refusal, because the request is not in alignment with God’s Word. He will redirect our petitions, but He doesn’t leave His seeking children in uncertainty as to His will.  Secondly, any honest prayer in relationship with the Father through Jesus is good, and He will use it for His purposes. There are many kinds of prayer. He wants us to pour out our hearts to Him. Here,  I’m exploring prayers of tremendous faith, because I have avoided them.

I feel challenged to authenticity in my prayer life. God’s asking me to explore what’s true about my actions and my heart for prayer? My faith? If I believed all Jesus says about my prayers — would it not change everything?

IMG_0641-224x300I’ve been guilty of weakening God’s Word around prayer by adding and applying my faulty human wisdom to it. God wants us to be confident in prayer. To pray like a child, trusting and believing. It is easier for my flesh to submit to “whatever happens,” without risking specific prayers and specific answers, than to take time to yield to the Holy Spirit — to be searched and purified so that I can pray His will with faith.

Admittedly, I’ve been contented with “politically correct prayers.” I knew God wanted me to pray, but I didn’t always understand why. I believe part of prayer’s purpose is to align my will with His. Sometimes I was confident of where He led me. Other times, not so much — so I rambled prayers that made sense from my best human understanding.  It’s hard enough discerning HIs will in my own life, how could I consistently know His will around the lives of others?

Intercessory prayer has been confusing and even frustrating to me at times. But I knew, for some reason God understood (but I didn’t), I was to pray earnestly for others. My MO was to pray in broad, sweeping stokes of obedience. I covered a lot of bases, asking for safe things like salvation, wisdom, peace and blessings. For security I always added a qualifier, “These are my wishes, God, but your will be done.” It felt right, surrendered, and submissive to pray this way. I’m not saying these were “wrong” or “bad” prayers, but definite answers to specific prayers of great faith were the exceptions, not the rule in my daily experience.

IMG_5530If I’m honest, the Bible verses suggesting I’d receive whatever I asked for in prayer felt like arrogant impossibilities.  I was praying prayers of submission and prayers of trust in God’s wisdom — but my life was sorely missing prayers of child-like faith. I had no picture of knowing God’s will confidently enough for my prayers to impact His hand. God is beginning to teach me otherwise.

God has a special will for the prayers of each of us. Just as we can’t do all good things, we can’t effectively and boldly pray for all things. We must ask Him for guidance in prayer. Sometimes I seek God’s will only in my inner feelings and convictions through the Holy Spirit. Other times I rely strictly on the Word. I’ve found I have the most confidence in prayer when I spend enough time to marry the two. When I am abiding in Him, listening to the Holy Spirit, and allowing the Word to dwell and abide in me, I learn what God wants me to pray for, and His will in the situation.

It takes a lot of intentionality to keep my heart and life under His influence day by day.  I regularly lose my focus on Him, and my spirit (and prayer life) wanders.  The desire of my heart in alignment with Him is weak and often not visible in my actions. The world wins my attention and affections way too often. But the joy of those faithful prayer times, when His will is clear to me, is addictive. I turn back to Him time and time again.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAOnce God reveals His will to us, what is the practical purpose of our prayers? God is Sovereign. We get confused as to what that means. We think that what God wills must inevitably take place. He’ll do what He deems best — so why pray? Through God’s prompting, reading the Bible and classic writings, I’m beginning to understand how my erroneous thoughts and resulting confusion have limited my faith.

God wills a tremendous amount of blessings to His people that never come to them. Despite his earnest will and perfect love, they cannot come, because we do not will it. We were created with free will: one of the Bible’s great mysteries. I don’t pretend to understand it, but it does seem through our salvation and the indwelling of the Holy Spirit, our free will is also renewed and redeemed. We can align our will with His, when we die to self.

God has chosen to make the execution of His will, in many (not all) things, dependent on the will of man. Much of God’s will that is revealed in His promises will only be fulfilled as our faith accepts it. Prayer is the catalyst by which otherwise inert blessings come to pass. Faith is the power by which God decides how much of His will shall be done in us.

IMG_0599With the advantage of hindsight, I can see these truths have been operating in my life for a while. When I have sought God for Who He is, clung to Him and His Word as my sufficiency, and asked for very specific things — He has blessed me beyond my imagination. Seeing His hand in my life gives passion to my faith and makes me want more of Him. I have experienced this child-like faith mostly when I was so broken that I knew God was my only hope for life. But isn’t this our condition everyday?

It’s God’s very Nature to love and to bless, but He leaves it up to us to pray and petition where the blessing is to come. What an honor! I’m learning  in baby steps through joyful faith, not grit, to add bold prayers of faith, once I know His will, to my conversations with God.

Of course I’ll never fully understand God or prayer while on earth — both are way larger and more mysterious than my mind can comprehend, but growth is always my goal. I welcome your thoughts, experiences and comments below. We can all learn from each other. It’s also a great time to mention I would be honored to pray for you — specifically. Just ask! 😉

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